Saturday Odds & Sods: Better Things

Japser Johns flag
Flag by Jasper Johns.

It’s been a steamy and sweaty week in New Orleans. It’s what we expect in late June; expect but dislike. Yuck. I’ve been consumed with British politics all week and have tried my damnedest *not* to write about it too much at First Draft; to paraphrase an old song, we’re an American Blog. The intrigue and backstabbing is irresistible to a political junkie like me. The whole Boris Johnson-Michael Gove story is like something out of the original, and superior, British version of House of Cards. I wonder if the knife is still in BoJo’s back as a reminder not to trust your “wingman” but I guess that’s a Goven now. I’ll give the Guardian’s Marina Hyde the last word on Gove who turns out to be a Tyrion fanboy:

“In the notorious words of Michael Gove, “people in this country have had enough of experts” But have they had enough of expert shits?”

The column title is just as scathing: In the Tory laundry basket, Michael Gove is the dirtiest item. Marina should really stop mincing words.

The Labour leadership struggle has gotten rather Pythonesque. If they don’t work things out, Labour risks being branded as the neo-Silly Party. The Corbynites are as mathematically challenged as their American brethren and even more vitriolic. They’re adamant that 250k leadership votes for their Jeremy trumps the 9.3 million votes Labour received at the last general election. Holy Fuzzy Maths, Batman.

I hate to quote the lame duck Prime Minister as he limps out the door but he summed Corbyn up quite well at the last Prime Minister’s Questions:

“We all have to reflect on our role in the referendum campaign. I know the honourable gentleman says he put his back into it. All I’d say, I’d hate to see him when he’s not trying.”


“It might be in my party’s interest for him to sit there. It’s not in the national interest. I would say – for heaven’s sake, man, go.”

Snap. Even a posh pigfucker is right some of the time. I guess that makes him sooey generis. I suspect that y’all only laughed at that one if you’re in a generis mood…

Enough talk of what the French used to call Perfidious Albion. Let’s move onto this week’s theme song, Better Things. It’s the closing track on the Kinks brilliant 1981 LP Give The People What They Want. The album starts off on a dark note, and gets progressively bleaker until the opening chords of Better Things signal that it’s safe to come out of hiding. It’s a signal we could all use in the wake of the Istanbul attack and the rest of this week’s news in bleak.

We begin our betterment with the original recording. It’s followed by a version Ray cut with Bruce Springsteen in 2012. Last and probably least is a rendition by Fountains Of Wayne. Actually, it’s a cracking version but I was possessed by the spirit of snark.

How Dar I forget this lovely 1997 cover by Ms. Williams:

Now that I’ve given the people what they want, it’s time for the break. See you on the other side.

We begin with the end of the Supreme Court’s term. I expected it to conclude with a whimper but they surprised everyone with some bang up as well as bang on decisions. The 5-3 Texas abortion clinic decision was greeted with cheers in my house.

Supremes For Breakfast: Led by the divine Dahlia Lithwick, Slate has some of the best SCOTUS coverage anywhere. At the end of each term, they have their own version of the Breakfast Club only without that annoying Judd Nelson bloke. Now that I think of it, Dahlia could be described as the Molly Ringwald of legal analysts. I’m uncertain if she can sing like this:

Actually, they call it the Breakfast Table and it’s an epistolary exchange between Dahlia and some other legal eagles including legendary Federal Judge Richard Posner who’s a real epistle. The most entertaining exchange was when Judge Posner went off on law professors:

I don’t think the Supreme Court is likely to accept advice from law professors on administrative issues, such as whether to have opinions in tie cases and whether to identify the justices voting for or against cert. The court is understandably likely to think that law professors are not in a position to advise on such issues. I also think there’s a growing gap between judges (including the Supreme Court justices) and the academy, which judges tend to think is increasingly distant from the actual practice of law, staffed as it increasingly is with refugees from other disciplines—the graduate students in classics, and history, and anthropology, and so on who upon discovering there were very few well-paying positions in such fields nowadays decided to go to law school and afterward had no time to practice law before getting a law-teaching job.

I’m not sure if I agree with that, but it’s what the kids at some point in time called a sick burn. It also got under the skin of the two rather pompous academics at the table, which is never a bad thing. I wonder if I can quote Henry Kissinger without being accused of supporting his policies by the Dudebros? Oh what, the hell, I’m not running for office, for Pete’s sake: “Academic politics are the worst because the stakes are so low.”

Speaking of forgetting, I neglected to inform you that the easiest way to read the entries is by clicking on the kickoff entry and then “read next entry.” That concludes your entry exam, please follow the Posh Boy to the nearest exit.

Speaking of fuzzy maths and low comedy, the Insult Comedian provided some with his belated response to the Texas ruling: 

“Now if we had — Scalia was living or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that. Okay? It would’ve been the opposite,” Trump told conservative radio host Mike Gallagher.

Uh, the vote was 5-3, Donnie baby. It would have been 5-4 if Scalia were still above ground. His dissent would have been more entertaining. I won’t argle bargle that point with the Donald. This boo-boo means no Breakfast In Bed for the Insult Comedian:

It’s time to leave the world of law and pay a visit to the dugout and see what former Giants ace Tim Lincecum is up to these days.

On The Comeback Trail: Tim Lincecum used to be the best pitcher in baseball but age and injuries have taken their toll on his arm and velocity. The Giants released him last fall but he’s battling back and was recently signed by the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels. Y’all get your name straight. This is making me anti-Scioscial. Where have you gone, Bill Rigney? Rigney was the original Angels manager as well the Giants manager when they moved from Coogan’s Bluff to San Francisco, which brings me full circle to Tim Lincecum:

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 22: Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the seventh inning during Game Two of the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 22, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Tim’s locks have been shorn but the man once known as the Freak is fighting his way back. Jordan Ritter Conn has the details at Bill Simmons’ new joint, The Ringer. Here’s a swell passage from this groovy piece:

His father had engineered his mechanics, and coaches knew not to tinker with the machine. Delivery: quick. Stride: long. Release point: the exact same for the fastball as for the changeup or curve. Lincecum led the majors in strikeouts per nine innings three years straight. He made four All-Star teams. And he did it all with such quiet charm, without ever showing the ruthless intensity that burned underneath. He looked completely human, but threw as if trying to redefine the limits of the species. Physically, he was “The Freak” — Allen Iverson in cleats. With Mission District detachment and Haight-Ashbury hair, Lincecum was so perfectly San Francisco that when he got busted for pot, Giants fans responded by wearing “Let Timmy Smoke” T-shirts. Here was Tim Lincecum, the city’s flamethrowing stoner king.

I wish Timmeh well. It’s hard to make a comeback with the team where you used to be THE MAN, so the move south was a wise one. Hey, at least it’s the Angels, not the Dodgers. It’s time for a Jayhawks song in honor of the Comeback Freak Kid:

It’s time for a new Saturday Odds & Sods feature. I’m just trying to keep up with the crazy kids on Social Media by doing the whole viral video thing. I hope it’s not catching.

Video Clip Of The Week: It’s time to pay a brief return to the wacky world of British politics. After Boris Johnson pulled out of the Tory leadership race, he was blasted by former Deputy Prime Minister and Thatcher slayer, Michael Heseltine:

He was so angry that I was worried that his eyebrows would catch fire from the heat of his Tory big beast wrath. But Heseltine only had the second best eyebrows in British politics until Denis Healey died last fall. Healey was a former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer who was often called “the Best Prime Minister Britain never had.” What he did have was a titanic intellect, a great sense of humor, and truly astonishing eyebrows.


The eyebrows have it. Let’s all go to the movies:

Gary Ross & Free State Of Jones: I’m in the minority on Free State of Jones. It laid an egg at the box office and has been subjected to reviews that run the gamut from scathing to indifferent. I liked it. It was a still and quiet film by contemporary standards but that’s one of its charms for me. You call it slow, I call it classicist. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Seriously, I thought it was elegiac, not ponderous. It reminded me, in feel and atmosphere, of a John Ford film. The comparison also gives me a chance to revive this meme:

John Ford meme

Free State of Jones is more of a Southern as it’s set in Civil War and Reconstruction era Mississippi. It had particular resonance for me as Dr. A and I motored through Newt Knight country on our way home from the Commonwealth of Virginia. I particularly liked its message of racial reconciliation and sister/brotherhood. That’s something we need more of in an era where white supremacists are coming out of the shadows to support Donald Trump for President. I give Free State of Jones 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos grade of B+ and a well-deserved Ebertian thumbs up.

Free State of Jones was directed by one of the most interesting directors working today, Gary Ross. There’s a fascinating article at Roger by Noah Gittel called The Political Idealism of Gary Ross. It’s a must read piece that Roger would surely give a celestial thumbs up to.

Time for some lagniappe.  It’s a CBS Sunday Morning story about Free State of Jones, reported by former New Orleanian Michelle Miller:

It’s Independence Day weekend so it’s time for some Americana:

Saturday Classic: Workingman’s Dead was the first Grateful Dead album I ever heard. One of my schoolmates used New Speedway Boogie as the soundtrack for a short film and I loved it. I checked it out and the rest is history. Repeat after me: “One way or another, this darkness got to give.”

That’s it for this week.In Ray’s words: 

Here’s wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

It’s time to undermine that sunny optimism with a villain meme to conclude the post. It’s Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart in the *original* House of Cards trilogy, which is available on Netflix. He was a proud villain who delighted in the fact that everyone called him F.U.

FU HOC Memejpg