I’m feeling uncharacteristically terse this week. Stop cheering, y’all. I can always indulge in some windbaggery another week.
There’s some news on the NOLA white supremacy monuments front. A bill giving the state the right to intervene died in committee at the lege. Remember when Republicans stood for local government? In 2016, they only believe in local governance when it’s one of *their* pet issues. So it goes.
This week’s theme song comes from Nick Lowe’s 1990 album Party of One and has become a staple at his live shows. I selected What’s Shakin’ On The Hill after picking the Paul Klee painting as the featured image. Klee was a Swiss artist best known for his small paintings as opposed to an expansive mountain scene. It made me ask myself, What’s Shakin’ On Klee’s Hill? Beats the hell outta me…
I’ve picked three versions of the theme song. The first is Nick’s original. Followed by two versions by Nick Lowe related artists. First, Paul Carrack was in Nick’s band for several years in the 1980’s. Second, Lowe produced a flock of Elvis Costello albums hence the EC version. Enough exposition, on with the music:
As you may have noticed I am fond of saying so it goes. I picked that up years ago from Kurt Vonnegut. It just occurred to me that it’s the title of a Nick Lowe tune as well:
We’ll see how it goes after the break.
We begin this truncated edition of the Saturday post with a segment about the man I most love to hate: Tricky Dick or, as his fictional fan boy Archie Bunker always called him, Richard E. Nixon.
The Disaster of Richard Nixon: There are four new books about Tricky as well as a review of them by longtime Nixon watcher Robert Kaiser at the New York Review Of Books. Kaiser asks the eternal question about Nixon and comes to the inevitable conclusion:
Is Nixon’s historical reputation doomed forever? These books suggest that it is. Evan Thomas’s highly readable Being Nixon is, inadvertently, the most persuasive. Thomas set out to write a sympathetic account of Nixon’s life. He is persistently empathetic to his subject, but he is also a fine reporter and biographer (of Robert F. Kennedy, Edward Bennett Williams, John Paul Jones, and others). The good reporter gives his readers so many details of Nixon’s bad behavior that Thomas’s intention to write a sympathetic account collapses under the weight of its own facts. You can feel sorry for Nixon as a human being after reading Thomas’s book, but it is much harder to excuse his repeated transgressions—of ethical standards, of the law, of democratic values—and his quite abject reliance on alcohol and drugs. Thomas bends over too far in his effort to forgive Nixon’s misdeeds, particularly his Vietnam disaster and his ugly racial politics.
The other books are hostile to Nixon as am I. His Trickiness was the subject of many loud arguments between my myself and my Republican father. Lou was a delegate to Nixon’s re-election coronation in Miami while I canvassed for McGovern. As Nixon’s seamy side became more apparent, Lou slowly turned against Tricky Dick. He never admitted that he was wrong and I was right. Even then I had no illusions that he would do so. So it goes.
While we’re on the subject of Nixon, I’d like to recommend the movie Frost/Nixon. It was based on Peter Morgan’s play about the Frost interviews and is quite revealing of the character of the 37th Oval One. The silken voiced Frank Langella is brilliant as Nixon. He almost had me feeling sorry for the evil bastard. Quite a feat. I give Frost/Nixon 4 stars, an Adrastos grade of A- and a hearty Ebertian thumbs up.
Peter Morgan is also responsible for the screenplay that finally won Helen Mirren an Oscar for her star turn as The Queen. The same team pulled off The Audience about Elizabeth II and her Prime Ministers. I reviewed the play in this very space last year.
All this Queenly prattle seems to have given me a self-induced earworm. It’s a Nick Lowe song featuring Paul Carrack on keyboards and it *may* well describe Helen Mirren or the Queen for all we know:
Lets’s move on to an article about some Hellenic hellions:
The Athens and Epidaurus festival has seen its fair share of drama in its 61 years. Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti sang there; Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev danced. Through the years of Greece’s military dictatorship, democracy and economic crisis, the annual summer celebration of the arts has inspired and provoked.
This year, however, the festival has succeeded on both fronts before it has even begun – and not, perhaps, in the way its backers had hoped.
The Belgian artist Jan Fabre has resigned as artistic director after local artists rebelled against his plan to turn Greece’s major arts festival into “a tribute to Belgium” and devote eight of the festival’s 10productions to those from his homeland.
“Athens and Epidaurus festival is much more than a festival; it’s a cultural institution and already an international one, said Melpomeni, a stage photographer based in Athens who did not give her surname. “We welcome international participations, not international takeovers”.
I’m not sure how fair the charge of cultural appropriation is but both paranoia and xenophobia are Greek words. I’ve never liked the term cultural appropriation: borrowing in the arts is inevitable. And in the context of music, it’s desirable. There, I said it. Where would I be without the mixture of jazz, blues, and country that produced rock and roll? Call it cultural colonialism or what have you but I’d need a 12-step program to quit rocking:
That concludes the reading list portion of this week’s post. Perhaps I should play a Nick Lowe song with a vaguely literary title:
Documentary Of The Week: Speaking of concise and to the point, this week’s pick clocks in at 49 minutes but still packs a wallop. Goering’s Last Secret is the remarkable story of the war criminal’s anti-Nazi brother Albert. It was tough having the guy who Harry Truman called Fatso Goering as a brother even when Hermann was the second most powerful man in Germany. He *was* heavy as well as Albert’s brother…
Goering’s Last Secret is a fascinating slice of history and is available on Netflix. I give it 3 stars, an Adrastos grade of B and a Siskelian thumbs up.
What we need at this point is one more Nick Lowe song for the road:
Saturday Standards: It’s the year of the jazz trumpeter bio-pic. Don Cheadle cast hmself as Miles Davis and Ethan Hawke is playing Chet Baker. I’m looking forward to both movies, which is why this week’s classic album is Chet Baker Sings. It dates from 1954 and the title is self-explanatory. Enjoy:
That’s it for this week. I told you I’d keep it snappy and I kinda sorta did. I reckon I should close with one of the scariest villains of all time.