Saturday Odd & Sods: Don’t Keep Me Wondering

FortApache1

Still from John Ford’s Fort Apache, 1948.

I’m writing this post well in advance of Saturday. It’s not exactly a breaking news post in any event. We’re in Baton Rouge visiting Louise who is 94, slightly ornery, and a lifelong Liberal Democrat. At one point she said something about lighting the Insult Comedian’s hair on fire, but I’m opposed to violence even though the image is not without its charms. She lives at St. James Place, which is a very nice retirement community. The residents all seem to know one another, which makes it feel like high school with walkers. We’ll be home this afternoon for the Fete Francaise in our neighborhood. I need some moule et frites and have to see if our friends Holly and Paul have built a new contraption for this year’s festival.

The weather has improved in New Orleans but the surrounding areas are still battling rivers that are determined to flood. They’re still trying to wash us away, y’all:

I used Aaron’s version because I make far too many Randy Newman references in this space. Speaking of Randy Newman, he played Jazz Fest on a rainy spring day in 1991. As corny as it sounds, the skies opened when he launched into Louisiana 1927. I am not making this up. Since the wall of camp chairs didn’t exist in 1991, Dr. A and I were able beat a hasty retreat and find shelter. The rain only lasted for 20 minutes or so but it makes for a good story, eh wot? Guess I lied about not mentioning Randy Newman again…

This week’s theme song was written by Gregg Allman for the first Allman Brothers LP. It’s a helluva tune and I found three swell versions on YouTube. I’m not a big G dropper so I followed the spelling as opposed to spellin’ on the other versions.

We begin with the Allman Brothers Band live at the Fillmore East:

Buddy Miles was an outstanding drummer and soulful singer who never quite achieved the stardom predicted for him in the Sixties. It’s what happens when you play with Jimi Hendrix, Michael Bloomfield, John McLaughlin, and Carlos Santana by the age of 25.

This next clip comes from the 2010 Crossroads Festival. Derek Trucks, who was in the Allman Brothers Band from 1999 to 2014, invited David Hidalgo and Ceasar Rosas of Los Lobos onstage. The result is magic:

If you’re wondering if it’s time for the break, you are correct. First, I will put you through Them Changes, Carlos and Buddy style:


We begin with this week’s most serious subject: the notorious and fascinating Albert Speer.

The Tip Of The Speer: Albert Speer dodged the hangman’s noose at Nuremberg by admitting to the collective responsibility of the Nazi leadership for its crimes. He was less forthcoming about the personal responsibility that he had for slave labor camps by blaming his odious subordinate, Fritz Sauckel. Speer served a twenty year sentence at Spandau Prison and published two very fine books, Inside The Third Reich and The Spandau Diaries after his release from jail.

There’s a review at the New Criterion by Michael J. Lewis of a new biography, Speer: Hitler’s Architect by Michael Kitchen. Lewis is frustrated that Kitchen fails to spend more time on Speer’s grandiosely awful architecture:

An artist may work for a tyrant, even a tyrant astride a mountain of skulls, without discrediting the art. Sergei Eisenstein and Dmitri Shostakovich both served Stalin, whose death toll exceeded Hitler’s, and yet their works are monuments of twentieth-century art. To create on a lavish scale requires working for men of power, who did not necessarily achieve that power through their moral punctiliousness. And even the most ideologically self-righteous artists are likely to say, like Groucho Marx, “these are my principles, and if you don’t like them—I have other ones.” Thus the Communist sympathizer Le Corbusier could work for Stalin but later seek work from Marshal Pétain. And a Jacobin like Jacques-Louis David could eagerly vote for the beheading of Louis XVI as an enemy of the people, and then go on to paint the most toadying portraits of Napoleon.

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Why is it, one might ask, that there are no architectural drawings by Speer among the book’s illustrations, not a single sketch, not one perspective? The idea sketches that survive for Germania are not by Speer but by Hitler. Hitler was not an architect of terrible originality or distinction, but in a certain sense he was more of an architect than Speer—that is, he was brimming over with ideas for buildings and forms—derivative and conventional to be sure, but fired with all the passion and longings and resentments of his frustrating years in Vienna around 1909. He had the one architectural quality that Speer did not: an urgent architectural imagination. One somehow cannot imagine Speer waking up in the middle of a night with the compulsion to sketch a sudden idea.

This is what makes Speer in the end so repellent, and all the more so because of his courtly good looks and air of easy urbanity; it is that he does not even have the excuse of the opportunist, that he made political compromises in order to practice his art. Stripped of the murderous politics, in which his complicity is now beyond all doubt, there is precious little art left.

One interesting thing about this segment is the confluence of names. There are, of course, two writers named Michael Lewis; the better known one wrote three best-selling non-fiction books Moneyball, The Blind Side, and The Big Short that have been made into movies. There are also two Michael Kitchens; one of whom was the star of the great ITV series, Foyle’s War, which co-starred the wonderfully named Honeysuckle Weeks. I could pun on that name for weeks in the kitchen and elsewhere…

Speer was a defendant in the *real* trial of the century, but that label was usurped by a certain murder trial in Los Angeles in the 1990’s:

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia: I have a confession to make: I’m an OJ Simpson trial buff. Not because it had any deeper significance or was at all representative of the criminal justice system; it was a circus with a clown named Kato. I’m into it because it was such a juicy tabloidy story chock-a-block with fascinating characters such as Johnnie Cochran, Barry Scheck, F Lee Bailey, Mark Fuhrman, Chris Darden and, of course, Marcia Clark.

I don’t recall if the term clusterfuck was in use in 1995 but that trial was a major clusterfuck, shitshow what have you. Ironically, I think the defendant might have been convicted a mere ten years later. The Simpson jury didn’t buy the DNA evidence but by the mid-aughties, juries expected, nay demanded, it. Trial lawyers call it the CSI effect.

Back to Ms. Clark. She’s back in the news because of the FX series The People v. OJ Simpson. It’s a terrific series that manages to humanize some of the people who were caricatured by the media at the time of the trial. Clark’s reputation has benefited as you can see from this excerpt from Rebecca Traister’s oustanding piece for New York Magazine: Marcia Clark Is Redeemed:

The director of the series, Ryan Murphy, had been interested in examining not just the racial dynamics of the trial but also the gendered aspects. The result is a far less judgmental portrait of Clark than ever before, culminating with the show’s sixth installment, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” That episode details the relentless scrutiny of Clark’s appearance, the custody battles waged by her ex-husband in the tabloid press, the dismissal with which the judge and defense counsel spoke to her in front of both the jury and the rapt national audience who followed the trial on television every day for a year. Watching the episode, one can’t help but feel a sense of empathy, and guilt.

“It was the last thing I expected,” said Clark, who has seen the first six episodes of the show. “It was not only a visionary thing for Murphy to do but also very brave. Very fucking brave.” Clark shook her head and looked at me for a beat, to make sure I understood. “Because the sexism—” she cut herself off. “The S-word. Nobody wanted to talk about that.”

How little things have changed. The double standard for women in public life still reigns supreme as pointed out by our former colleague Southern Beale in two awesome pieces about sexism in the 2016 campaign: I’m Not Your Smile Monkey and Don’t Shush Me, Bro.  Many men have a hard time relating to this, but as the husband of a professional woman, I get it. Hell, much of Trump’s support is driven by the fear of a woman President following a black President. It’s hard to be a white boy. #sarcasm

Btw, Clark is not being paranoid when she discusses the sexist coverage of the trial as you can see from these tabloid headlines that were fixated on her hair:

Marcia_Clark_tabloid_covers

We move from Marcia Clark’s hair to the hair-raising tale of a master con man. You may have noticed that I’m fascinated with con artists, especially the subtle ones. That’s why I find the loudmouth huckster running for President as unappetizing as a well-done steak.

An Eyeful Of  The Tower In France: Speaking of con artistry, I am fond of saying to gullible people, “If you believe that, I have some beachfront property to sell you in Nebraska, home of the Cornholers Cornhuskers.” I should try that out on the people who still think Sanders will be the Democratic nominee. Back to history:

Victor Lustig was one of the greatest con artists of all-time. He was such a skillful huckster that he sold the Eifel Tower twice. He obviously never gave a sucker an even break. There’s an excerpt from Jeff Maysh’s book about the lusty con man at Smithsonian.com. Note that Lustig had a cheesy mustache; something that would have made  him immediately suspect in Dr. A’s eyes.

I must admit that I partially posted this piece so I could quote the eyeful tower pun from 10cc’s punny tune Life Is A Minestrone. I have, however, neither leaned on the tower in Pisa nor danced on the White House lawn:

New feature alert:

The Great Movies: John Ford’s Fort ApacheYou may have noticed that I’m something of a frustrated film critic. While I’m glad that I’ve never had to sit through most of the dreck churned out by the film industry, I do like writing about the movies. I’m stealing this feature within the Saturday Odds & Sods feature from Roger Ebert. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

I won’t be grading these movies each time this feature appears. You can assume that they all merit 4 stars, an Adrastos Grade of A, and a hearty Ebertian thumbs up. We begin with one of the best and most interesting artists the US has ever produced, John Ford; even if he issued this stock denial:

John Ford meme

I was in the mood to watch something Irishy last week. The obvious choice was The Quiet Man but I opted instead for Ford’s finest Western, Fort Apache. It’s part knockabout Irish comedy, part action movie, and part art film. One of Ford’s greatest accomplishments was creating a family at the Fort and giving the women of the community a chance to shine in such a male dominated genre. It’s also a film that treats Native Americans as sentient, dignified people, which was rare back in 1948.

By the time of Fort Apache, Ford knew his way around Monument Valley and knew how to use its glorious vistas as shown in the featured picture at the top of the post. Here’s a longer shot:

fortapache4

The acting is sublime as John Wayne and Henry Fonda are cast against type. Fonda plays Col. Owen Thursday as a racist martinet with a stick up his ass. Wayne plays Capt. Kirby York an officer respectful of the Apaches who is infuriated when Thursday transforms his offer of a peace parlay with the Apaches into a trap. It bit Thursday in the ass as he and most of his soldiers are slaughtered in a sort of Southwestern Little Big Horn. And like Custer, Thursday is turned into a hero by the press and army. So it goes.

Fort Apache features the adult screen debuts of Shirley Temple before she became Black, and John Agar before he got down and dirty in The Mole People. I met Shirley Temple Black at an event not long after viewing Fort Apache for the first time. I thought she was good in her role as Fonda’s daughter and asked her why she gave up acting. Her reply: “I wanted to get an education and didn’t feel like starting over after graduation.” There was also that whole On The Good Ship Lollipop thing…

Saturday Classics: All that time spent in the Old West gave me a hankering for some classic Country and Western honky tonk music. Ain’t nobody more country than the late, great George Jones who turns out to be a “people.” Who knew? Seriously, the title tune of this 1966 album, I’m A People, is a hoot.

That’s it for this week. We’ll be back with more hijinks next Saturday. This week’s Bat villain is Tom Hardy as Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. His character may have been the Bane of Batman’s existence but Tom Hardy is one of my favorite young actors. I’ll never turn my back on him even if did it to me.

Bane meme

3 thoughts on “Saturday Odd & Sods: Don’t Keep Me Wondering

  1. I was there for the Randy Newman performance in 1991, can’t remember if it was the same year, but one of the years, the fest had to close early in the day because not only downpour, but lightning. Before it closed down though, I was treated to an acoustic performance by Balfa Toujours – rather an unamplified performance, they had everyone crowd up to the stage, one of the smaller ones, not fais do, can’t remember, been years ago. Beautiful and obviously memorable. I was staying with friends on Gayoso, and I was so wet that I had to wring out my long hippy skirt before I went inside.

    Thanks for the jazzfest memories, plus your other stuff – the writing, the music, the ferret, etc.

  2. Buddy Miles wrote “Them Changes.” Everyone he played with had to perform it. Hendrix also did it with Band of Gypsies.

  3. Peter Adrastos Athas says:

    Indeed he did. It’s a helluva song. Clapton and Winwood did a great version when they toured a few years back.

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