Saturday Odds & Sods: The Ties That Bind


Foreward: This post was written and scheduled before the horrendous events in Paris. I think A spoke for all of us here at First Draft. I posted the Free French flag in solidarity with the people of one of the world’s great cities, and the citizens of a country who helped us win our independence. Vive la France libre.

I briefly contemplated delaying this post but decided not to. There’s nothing like a few laughs to ease the pain. In this case, it’s very few laughs but I *can* promise a Vitter free post. Let’s get on with it:

The holidays are fast approaching, which means that some idiot somewhere will do something really stupid like taking offense at a coffee cup. I don’t know about you but I don’t spend a lot time of thinking about either Starbucks or their paper cups. Some people obviously have too much fucking time on their hands. I don’t even go to Starbucks. I like my coffee strong and black, the same way I like my blues artists:

Imagine Wolf ordering frou-frou coffee at a Starbucks. I can’t but perhaps you can. That spoon, that spoon, that spoonful…

This week’s theme song was the *original* title track of The River. I’m not sure why it was changed but maybe Bruce escaped from the ties that bind and went down to the river before driving all night to the Cadillac ranch or some such shit. It point blank beats the hell outta me. We’ll talk about all The River doings after the break. First, it’s time to rock with the studio version followed by a 2009 live rendition:

Now that we’ve tied one on, we’ll do some binding after the break. Book binding? Binders full of women?

Now that I’ve bound you over to read the rest of the post, it’s time for this thing to finally go somewhere. I’m hoping that, like Woody Guthrie, we’re Bound for Glory:

I wasn’t able to find a Woody Guthrie recording of This Train Is Bound For Glory online so the Man in Black will just have to do. I didn’t want to make a big to do about it, after all. I have things to do. De do do do de da da that’s all I want to say to you…

This Train is a traditional song that’s often wrongly attributed to Woody Guthrie. You wouldn’t be wrong if you attributed Woody’s influence on Bruce Springsteen, who is the focus of our next segment. But first, Bruce sings Woody:

Now that we’ve heard the Boss accurately describe This Land Is Your Land as an angry song, let’s go down to the river:

Springsteen’s Most Anxious Album: I got anxious myself when I saw the title of Amanda Petrusich’s perceptive piece about The River. I started humming the theme song to High Anxiety, which, as much as I love Mel Brooks, is something I never do.

The most interesting part of Ms. Petrusich’s analysis involves Bruce’s first big hit single, Hungry Heart:

If “The River” has a prevailing ideology, it’s that life is lousy with binaries: highs and lows, victories and losses, sins and blessings. Musically and lyrically, “Hungry Heart” is the apotheosis of that idea: a goofy, honking pop song about a man splitting on his family, only to find himself even more broken and lonesome. Here, Springsteen posits that lonesomeness—dissatisfaction—is essentially inevitable. The vocals have been sped up, made boyish and round: “We fell in love, I knew it had to end, we took what we had and we ripped it apart,” he chirps. His voice is unrecognizable. Later: “Don’t make a difference what nobody says, ain’t nobody like to be alone.”

Springsteen borrowed the song’s title and chorus from a line in Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” a poem about a broken wanderer, a road dog who just can’t quit, “cannot rest from travel,” even in his dotage, even as his family waits at home. Tennyson seemed to consider him heroic, but his Ulysses is, by any reasonable metric, a tragic dude. He skulks about—“How dull it is to pause”—trying to convince everyone around him that perpetual motion is an antidote to the hard work of being alive. “Come, my friends, ’t is not too late to seek a newer world,” Ulysses preaches. His great purpose, he believes, is “To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars, until I die.”

I love how Springsteen juxtaposes gloomy lyrics with bouncy music. In many ways, Hungry Heart is the prototype for many of Bruce’s best songs. Come on down, Glory Days.

The River is about to be reissued in a monster box set as The Ties That Bind: The River Collection. Sounds like an excellent antidote to listening to Bill-O going on about the war on Christmas or his current feud with George Fucking Will over the timing of Reagan’s Alzheimer’s. Much as I hate to admit it, Bill-O is right about this. Hey, it had to happen. Before we move on here’s a trailer for the reissue:

Speaking of anxiety, I hate to fly. I’ve done it many times but it’s gotten to the point where I’m turning into John Madden; only without the Super Bowl ring, the bus, and the money. I wish I had Madden’s hair but all I have is the paunch and a fondness for the word BOOM.

Where was I? My fear of flying, which is fueled by stories like this one about the disappearance of a small plane in Alaska carrying Congressmen Nick Begich and Hale Boggs of New Orleans.

What Happened To Boggs and Begich? There’s a fine article in the Seattle Weekly by Rick Anderson about a reporter named Jonathan Walczak who has been trying to unravel this 43 year old mystery. Walczak started by looking at rumors that House Majority Leader Hale Boggs was the target of a homicidal bomber because of his service on the Warren Commission. While he signed off on the report, he was known to have doubts about what really happened in Dallas in 1963. Walczak did some digging and ended up rejecting this theory thereby angering Kennedy assassination conspiracy buffs everywhere. Actually, I have no idea what their reaction was, but those people are touchy. Their theme song may well be another tune from The River:

Walczak  focused his attention on the man who married Begich’s widow, Pegge, 16 months after his disappearance, Jerry Max Pasley. The marriage lasted only 2 years but Pasley’s background set off alarm bells. He was a Mafia associate known as a demolition expert good enough to be employed by Bill Bonnano of Honor Thy Father fame. While serving a life sentence for murder, Pasley claimed knowledge of a bomb that was purportedly placed on the plane carrying Boggs and Begich. That’s all I’m revealing here, you’ll have to read the article to learn more.

I’m not sure if I buy Walczak’s tale because it depends on the word of a convicted murderer. It is, however, an intriguing theory about a very foggy historical story indeed.

Speaking of the fog of history, let’s move on to the mystery of former President George W. Bush’s military service or lack thereof.

The Scapegoat: I haven’t had a chance to see the new movie Truth but I *have* read a fascinating article by Michael Mooney about former CBS News producer Mary Mapes. Along with Adrastos hero Dan Rather, Mapes took the fall for:

a 60 Minutes piece she produced in September 2004, reporting that George W. Bush was derelict in his duty as a Texas Air National Guardsman during the Vietnam War, became one of the most controversial stories in modern American journalism. Mapes and her colleagues were excoriated, and when it was over, Mapes was fired, three CBS executives were forced to resign, and Rather, who had become a father figure to her, was pushed out of the anchorman’s chair.

Sitting here at lunch, Mapes is still bitter about the way it all went down. She hasn’t watched 60 Minutes—or any CBS news broadcast—in more than a decade. Both she and Rather still believe they were right, that they were merely questioning power and privilege, and that they were railroaded by a corporate-owned network more interested in currying political favor with the White House at the time. Rather wishes he’d never apologized.

They were railroaded on a train that was NOT bound for glory. I firmly believe the story was true: many other news organizations were pursuing it but that ended with the Mapes-Rather mishigas. The MSM were too intimidated by the Bush administration to do their job. The mere thought of this incident still raises my hackles whatever the hell those are.


It’s time to close on a lighter note. Let’s move from harangue to meringue:

The Genius of the Great British Bake Off: For some reason, it’s called The Great British Baking Show by PBS, but it’s more fun than a ferret down your trousers whatever you choose to call it. The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins takes a long look at a teevee show that’s become a phenomenon in the U.K. and popular with Dr. A and me as well. Sometimes you just want to watch nice people bake goodies in a tent in the English countryside:

Much of the tone of the show – as light and sweet as a sponge – is carried by its presenters, the impish Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, and their end-of-pier, Carry On-style humour. “I’ve never eaten a nun before,” Sue remarked solemnly after the contestants were set the task of making a French choux pastry called a religieuse. If Mel and Sue give Bake Off its wit, the judges – the grandmotherly, somewhat patrician Mary Berry and the flinty-but-twinkly master baker Paul Hollywood – are its twin deities. “Alvin has really got to pull up his socks,” is a typically nannyish remark from Mary, who reacts to baking disasters more in sorrow than in anger; “Queen Victoria would be proud” represents the zenith of her lexicon of praise.

Paul and Mary treat each other with an indulgent respect, across a gaping class divide. Squarely built, Paul has a particular way of standing: legs apart, shirt cuffs tucked once over his sleeves, hands on hips. He employs a Paddington stare through narrowed, Arctic-blue eyes to impart scepticism when bakers head off on the wrong track – daring to introduce gritty pomegranates to a silky bavarois, for instance.

The show has been aired out of order by PBS with the 2o14 season coming before the previous year. It’s one reason I’ve sat on this piece so long that my bottom is either soggy or overbaked: I didn’t want to post any spoilers. The 2014 season is available on Netflix and it’s a woody good time.

Who To Read: I’m sure you all know Amanda Marcotte from her years at Pandagon and  Slate’s XX Factor. After years of wandering about the internet, Pandagon settled down and raised a family at Raw Story. I made the family stuff up but I’m not making this up: Amanda shut down Pandagon at the end of September. But she has not shut-up, she’s taken a gig at Salon as a political writer. I’m glad. Salon has been going downhill in recent years and can only benefit from Amanda’s mixture of good sense and good humor. I’m not sure if she’s driving a Good Humor truck but if she were, I’d buy what she’s selling…

Saturday Classic: The Genius Sings The Blues was the first Ray Charles album I ever heard. For some obscure reason, my parents owned a copy of this 1961 classic. It was quite a surprise because their tastes ran more to Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Peggy Lee. The first time I heard The Genius Sings The Blues it blew the top of my head off.

That’s it for this week. I’ll have more nonsense, music, and puns along with the odd train wreck or plane crash story for you next week. Until then just remember:

Penguin meme

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