Fall has fallen as have the acorns. It’s my fall allergy season with the yellow stickiness of oak pollen augmenting the construction dust that is our lot in life in Uptown New Orleans. Getting around town is not unlike running a gauntlet. We not only have pop-up restaurants, we have pop-up construction. Advance planning is not a big deal here in the Big Easy.
In local sports, it’s the best of times and the worst of times. The Saints have been so bad that all the bandwagon hoppers and newbies are disoriented. They’re used to a winning team but these Saints have conjured up images of by-gone ineptitude, UNTIL upsetting the hated Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. We call them the Dirty Birds and they got roasted. I’m skeptical that it’s a turning point in the season, but ya never know. That’s why they play the games.
My LSU Tigers continue to surprise. Most years Tiger fans have greater expectations than Pip but that was not the case in 2015. Holy pleasant surprise, Batman. It’s been a weird season thus far. We’ve had a home game cancelled because of lightning and a road game moved to Red Stick because of the great Palmetto State flood of 2015. We’re undefeated, largely because of my main man Leonard Fournette. A personage I respect so much that I have thus far declined to pun on his surname. I’m not sure whether to be impressed or depressed by my nearly unprecedented restraint.
This week’s theme song comes from the Pretenders album Learning To Crawl. I thought it was high time that I used one of Chrissie Hynde’s tunes. It’s also high time that I commented on the flap she got into with the social media outrage machine. She wasn’t making universal comments about rape, instead she was blaming herself for something that happened to her when she was young and dumb. Do I agree that women are to blame for getting raped? Hell to the no, but Chrissie has the right to discuss her own life in her own terms even if her views are unfashionable or even retrograde. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar or a pipe is just a pipe. Unless, that is, you’re Rene Magritte:
To quote this week’s theme song, “Nobody’s perfect, not even a perfect stranger.”
Since time may or may not be on my side, it’s time for another musical interlude followed by the break:
We begin with an extended excerpt from the late Jim Dickinson’s memoirs:
The Search For Blind Lemon: Jim Dickinson was roots rock royalty As a musician and producer he worked with Bob Dylan, Big Star, the Byrds, the Rolling Stones, and the Replacements to name but a few. It turns out that Dickinson wrote like a dream as you’ll learn from reading this piece at the Oxford American.
The excerpt is devoted to Dickinson’s discovery of the music that was to shape his life. A good example is this passage:
To further her point [about Elvis], Laura played me a 78 record of Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton singing the original recording of “Hound Dog.” I made her play it over and over, fascinated by the loose groove and the sarcastic lyrics, glossed over in Elvis’s simplified white boy version.
This was one of the gems of arcane knowledge I drew from her father’s record collection. His record collection was mostly vintage Dixieland. The “Big Mama” Thornton version of “Hound Dog” featured the Johnny Otis Orchestra, which sounded like no more than a trio. It was the same song that Elvis sang, but with more lyrics, more story. The groove was incredible. The drums turned the beat over and over like the five chord section of a blues pattern. There were extra beats in the chord progression and irregular word phrasing in the vocal delivery. At the end, the band started to howl and bark like dogs as the song faded out. I loved it. It was my favorite thing I had heard since Will Shade and the Jug Band in Whiskey Shoot. Over and over I made Laura play the intro on that worn-out 78, trying to reveal the secrets of this primitive story in song.
Just a sample of Dickinson’s gift for language and wordplay. Here’s Big Mama Thornton who sounds as if she actually caught that pesky rabbit:
In addition to his skill as a musician and memoirist, Jim Dickinson was also a family man. His sons Luther and Cody are the core of the outstanding roots rock outfit the North Mississippi Allstars:
Speaking of fathers and sons:
Rivers High, Mountain Deep: There’s a terrific article by Jonathan Abrams at Grantland about father and son hoopsters Doc and Austin Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers. What’s not to love about a piece called Ball In The Family? The good news is that Doc and Austin are nothing like Archie and the Meathead although Coach Dad might tell me to stifle at this point…
Austin Rivers was drafted by the then New Orleans Hornets and laid an egg. I was rather hard on him at the time, but he was a shooting guard who was asked to play the point:
When New Orleans plucked Austin with the 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft, it was considered an ideal landing spot for the young guard. The franchise had grabbed Anthony Davis with the no. 1 overall pick, and coach Monty Williams had played with and under Doc. But Austin’s NBA dream turned into a nightmare. “New Orleans just wasn’t anything for me,” he said. “I didn’t fit in. I just couldn’t get adjusted … People think I hate Monty Williams or [general manager] Dell Demps because they brought in guys and I didn’t play that much. I don’t hate anybody. That was nobody’s fault except mine.”
Monty Williams was fired at the end of last season, and Austin Rivers was acquired by Doc to play for the Clippers last Spring. It seems to be working thus far. Father and son tandems are quite rare in hoops history. LSU had the team of Pistol Pete Maravich and his stern father Press. It didn’t work very well. In fact, one of Press’ fired predecessors as head coach, Jay McCreary, was hired as assistant coach in charge of keeping the Maraviches apart. It’s a little told tale that I’m only aware of because Coach Jay was the boss at my student job at the gym at LSU. He was a great guy with the patience of that Bible dude, Job. I guess that’s why I liked that job…
One thing that fascinates me about the Rivers family saga is how shitty people can be to the children of professional athletes:
When Austin began playing the sport, he quickly learned how difficult his path would be, trailing in his father’s wake. He regarded himself as one of the worst players on one of his initial youth basketball teams, and outsiders were happy to agree. “Then, when people said you’re only there because of your dad, it’s almost true,” Austin said. His mother, Kris Rivers, grew accustomed to letting insults roll off her back at her children’s games, and with time, Austin learned to do the same.
But when he was still young, the taunts tormented Austin. “You know how angry that made me?” Austin asked. “How would you deal with it if you’re 9 years old, people are telling you, ‘You suck’? And they don’t give sympathy. They don’t feel bad for you because of who your dad is.”
You know what sucks? People who would pull that shit on a 9 year old kid. Fuck them sideways.
We’ll continue our study of genetics after this shockingly relevant musical selection:
Why Do So Many People Think They Have Cherokee Blood? This is not just a rhetorical question posed by Slate’s Gregory D. Smithers who, since he’s real and not fictional, is unlikely to be related to the bow-tie dude on The Simpsons.
Now that I’ve let the hounds loose, let’s talk Cherokee turkey. I, too, have known people who thought they had Cherokee blood but I have never taken a cheek swab to verify their claims. I’m just married to a scientist, I’m not one myself. There’s actually a basis for this widespread belief:
It is impossible to know the exact number of Cherokees who married Europeans during this period. But we know that Cherokees viewed intermarriage as both a diplomatic tool and as a means of incorporating Europeans into the reciprocal bonds of kinship. Eighteenth-century British traders often sought out Cherokee wives. For the trader, the marriage opened up new markets, with his Cherokee wife providing both companionship and entry access to items such as the deerskins coveted by Europeans. For Cherokees, intermarriage made it possible to secure reliable flows of European goods, such as metal and iron tools, guns, and clothing. The frequency with which the British reported interracial marriages among the Cherokees testifies to the sexual autonomy and political influence that Cherokee women enjoyed. It also gave rise to a mixed-race Cherokee population that appears to have been far larger than the racially mixed populations of neighboring tribes.
That was a pragmatic and sensible practice. It’s also refreshing given our former national pathology about the “miscegenation and mongrelization” of the races. It’s a pity, however, that rampant intermarriage didn’t prevent atrocities against native peoples.
The Smithers article got me thinking about Henry Louis Gates’ PBS show, Finding Your Roots. One of his running gags is how “every brother thinks they’re part Cherokee.” There was even such a myth in his own family as Gates described in a 2014 piece for the Root:
Being “part Indian” was a much discussed and much bragged about aspect of the Coleman family’s collective identity, even if no one was certain when or how these American Indians had entered our family tree, where they had mated with our black ancestors or from what tribe they hailed. I once asked my Uncle David, our meticulous family historian, what tribe we should tell people we were part of. “Cherokee,” he replied, as if self-evident. When I pointed out that the Cherokee lived in what is now Georgia, the Carolinas and East Tennessee, my uncle responded, unflappably, “That’s right—it was the Iroquois.”
Greeks have a counter myth: that none of us has any Turkish genes. Yeah, right. That explains why there are so many dark-skinned Hellenes, he said in a voice dripping with sarcasm. I’ve been known to stir the pot on this issue and tease some of my kin folks about it. Shocking, no? Trust me, some of my relative could pass as 7th Ward Creoles.
Before we move on, lights, camera, action, it’s time for Time by Pink Floyd complete with a crazy, crazy light show:
Now that we’ve established that “hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way,” we move on to a piece by the Guardian columnist and Oxford educated historian, Alex von Tunzelmann, hereinafter AVT:
Reel History Revisited: I first wrote about AVT’s column in my 2014 review of Saving Mr. Banks. She grades historically based films for both accuracy and entertainment value. The feature is so popular that AVT just published a Reel History tome, which, in turn, led to this article: The 10 Quirkiest Historical Films.
It’s a bit of an oddity, not sure if it’s a soddity though, in that it mixes the good-Reds-with the bad- The Conqueror and Listomania–both of which I’ve written about here, and linked to earlier in this long and winding sentence. It’s hard to beat the downright goofy casting of John Wayne as Genghis Khan or Roger Daltrey as Franz Liszt but I’ll take a stab at it.
My choice for wackadoodle casting in what is otherwise a good movie: Sean Connery as Raisuli, a Moroccan Berber rebel, in 1975’s The Wind and the Lion. That’s right, sports fans, it’s Connery with a deep tan and/or tons of makeup but the topper is that he uses his own accent. I’ve heard of Scots-Irish but never Scots-Arab. I wonder if he ever ate falafel haggis? It couldn’t be more disgusting than the real thing…
It’s trailer time:
The movie was written and directed by John Milius who went on to do a bunch of cartoony crap such as Red Dawn, but this flick is inspired by some of the swell post-WW II adventure flicks directed by John Huston. Speak of the devil, Huston is cast as US Secretary of State/Lincoln Biographer/Gore Vidal character John Hay in a story about Americans being taken hostage by the Scots-Arab dude during the 1904 Presidential campaign. In a bit of inspired casting, Brian Keith played Teddy Roosevelt and played him well.
Given Milius’ essential right-wingedness, it’s no shocker that the film thinks that imperialism was swell and that it was a good thing that TR sent Marines to Morocco with the cry of “Pedicarius alive or Raisuli dead” reverberating on the campaign trail. In some ways, Millius out-Kiplings Rudyard BUT the movie *is* entertaining. On AVT’s Reeel History scale, I give it a B+ for entertainment value and a C for historical accuracy. It also has a cool poster:
Now that we’ve visited the Berber shop for a shave and a haircut, let’s talk teevee:
One and Done: Last season I recapped AHS: Freak Show. I enjoyed most of it, but the season ended with a whimper, not a bang. It lost the narrative thread and made less and less sense as the story unfolded. Despite a good group of characters, the producers fixated on weirdness for its own sake and stopped caring whether any of it made sense. All of those vices and none of those virtues are present in the latest installment, AHS: Hotel.
The new series is full of random actions that make no sense whatsoever. We patiently watched the season premiere and waited in vain for character development. This segment should actually be called One 1/2 and Done because that’s how deep into the second episode we lasted.
The last thing the world needed was another vampire show, especially one that puts children at risk. That’s something that I hate. It’s a cheap way to get an audience invested in a show. As for Lady Gaga, she should stick to singing and wearing a meat suit.
Now that I’ve ragged on AHS: Hotel, it’s time to plug writer-director-star Ed Burns’ period cop show on TNT, Public Morals. It’s set in New York City in the mid-Sixties and it’s a helluva ride. One thing that makes it so good is that it’s based on stories Burns heard growing up from his cop relatives. It’s fairly deep into season-1 but you can catch up OnDemand or online. It’s well worth a look.
Saturday Classic: Talking Heads were unlikely rock stars but Speaking In Tongues was their break-out album. It combined the dense textures and tricky time signatures of their earlier work with some diabolically catchy tunes. It’s time to make some flippy floppy but please try not to burn down the house:
That’s it for this week. I tried to keep it short but obviously failed. Guess that makes me The Windy and the Lyin’. I decided to hold that one back for grand finale. Why? I’ll never know.