Saturday Odds & Sods: The Winding Stream

The Hailstorm by Thomas Hart Benton, 1940.

It’s been a scorching hot and depressing week in New Orleans. The Alton Sterling case is too close to home for comfort. The reaction from some white Gret Steters has been dispiriting while not altogether surprising. Apparently, it’s okay for a white dude to pack heat but not a black dude. The distinction eludes me. Additionally, the events in St. Paul and Dallas have cast a bloody pall over the week. I don’t usually let the news affect my mood but these events have. If you missed it, please read Doc’s post No Lives Matter. It sums my mood up quite well.

The good news is that I wrote most of this post before the appalling police shootings in Dallas. The combination of that city’s name and the word sniper has some bad juju for many of us. The post was already rather somber, so let’s get back to what passes for normality at First Draft.

The heat has been oppressive even by NOLA standards. When you step outside, it hits you in the face like a damp washcloth. It’s August level heat and humidity, and my body hasn’t even adjusted to the high 80’s let alone the mid-to-upper 90’s. There’s a huge difference between the two. When it’s 95 here the “feels like temperature” goes as high as 105-110, which is like Phoenix, AZ only wet, wet, wet. Dare I make a Wet Willie joke? Nah, I’ll skip it since it could get obscene and I’m not in the mood.

We spent some time outside last Saturday at a one-year-old’s birthday party. I found a shady, comparatively breezy spot, and in the feline manner staked it out as my own. My friends pointed out that cats seek out sunbeams but I hissed and declined to move.  The birthday girl is named Luna and one of the Spanksters made a piñata that looked like the image from Georges Melies’ landmark 1902 flick A Trip To The Moon:

Piñata by Lara Desmond.

It was decided that it was too beautiful to be smashed to smithereens, so it’s now hanging on a wall at Luna’s folks crib. As Mad Men’s Weird Glenn would put it, Nice digs. Have I mentioned lately how much I miss Mad Men?

This week’s theme song is something of a bucolic antidote to my urban angst. It was written by AP Carter and has been recorded by oodles of artists. It’s also the title of a recent documentary about the Carter Family but more about that anon. The first version is by the original Carter Family: AP, Sara, and Maybelle. The second version features Carlene Carter, June Carter Cash, and a grand total of four generations of Carters:

Old-time Country music can be so comforting, in between tales of drunken depravity; of course, the Carters weren’t in to that sort of thing. They were traditionalists in the best sense of the word. On that note, it’s traditional for us to go to the break at this point.

Before moving on, let’s listen to Carlene’s ode to her Grandmother, Maybelle:

Here’s Mother Maybelle with the tune that inspired her granddaughter:

Since I’ve spent a lot of time on the Carter Family, we’ll begin with a feature that usually comes near the end of the Saturday post. They’re my rules so I reckon I can break them like a piñata. Smash.

Documentary Of The Week: I wasn’t feeling well the other day and noticed that Beth Harrington’s 2014 documentary, The Winding Stream was on Netflix. I went for it even though it’s the sort of thing I’d customarily save for Dr. A. since so much of it is set in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Sorry, sweetie.

The Winding Stream is the story of the Carter Family with a rather heavy emphasis on the Cash tributary of the stream. I get that: more people know Rosanne, Johnny, and June than the rest of the Carters. The best bits, however, involved AP Carter’s children Janette and Joe and their successful efforts to keep his musical legacy alive with the Carter Family Fold. I do wish we’d seen more of June’s daughter Carlene and less of her step-daughter Rosanne but that’s just me. Don’t get me wrong: I love me some Rosie but Carlene *is* a Carter and looks more like Mother Maybelle all the time. I guess it’s what happens when you drop off the musical map for 16 years while Rosanne was working it.

Another thing I like about the film is the poster:


I give The Winding Stream 3 stars, an Adrastos grade of B, and an old-timey thumbs up. Yeah, boy.

While we’re on the subject of documentaries, let’s talk about the man who revolutionized the genre, Alex Gibney.

The Documentary Factory: Alex Gibney is responsible for some of the finest documentaries of the 21st Century about a wide array of topics from Enron to Scientology to Frank Sinatra. Perhaps it’s unfair to call his company a factory, it’s really more of full-blown studio. Eat your heart out, Harvey Weinstein. Vulture’s Boris Kachka has the details. 

Inside MasterChef: Every summer Gordon Ramsay and his co-hosts put some amateur chefs through their paces. I’m a sucker for Ramsay who’s a fabulous teevee performer and one of the funniest men in food business. He’s not as caustic and bombastic on MasterChef as on Hell’s Kitchen but he can still call a dog’s dinner a dog’s dinner.

I recently stumbled into  some MasterChefy stuff at a food blog called Celebration Generation. Its proprietrix, Marie Porter, was a cheftestant on Season 4. She didn’t last long but it was long enough to capture the flavor of it in a rather hair-raising post about the experience; as well as a follow-up guest post by Season-2’s Ben Starr who was one of the fan favorites that year. I recall rooting for him myself. He didn’t win but finished fifth, which is a perfectly respectable showing. I don’t remember whether or not he was ever called a donkey by Gordon Ramsay but, if so, he should wear it as a badge of honor.

Here’s a clip featuring Ben:

Gordon Ramsay is one of Britain’s leading exports to America so let’s shift gears and take a closer look, Guardian style, at why the Remain campaign failed to keep the UK in the EU. You knew I couldn’t leave the subject of British politics completely alone, right ?

Inside A Doomed Campaign: The Brexit vote has wreaked havoc on the British political scene. It’s destroyed and/or damaged countless careers, led to considerable intrigue, and, most depressingly for me, nearly blown up the Labour Party. I’m anticipating a split between the Corbynite Dudebros and the Center Left pols who know that the current leader cannot win a general election. It won’t be the first time Labour has split but it could be the most damaging. Labour’s big tent appears to be shrinking.

Back to Rafael Behr’s piece about how the remain campaign laid such an egg. Here’s Behr’s concluding, despondent graph:

Stronger In became the holding company for a liberal centrist political concept that had been transmitted in varying forms through the rise of New Labour and the ascent of Cameron. This had been the bastion of political orthodoxy for a generation, but its foundations had been corroded. Parliament’s status never recovered from the expenses scandal. The financial crisis led not to a redistribution of power and greater economic security but to austerity, coupled with apparent immunity for the elite from any consequences of their prior mismanagement. The unique opportunity of a referendum was to give voters the option of punishing a generation of politics, regardless of party allegiance. Those who chose a different path are now left without leadership, barely recognising their own country; the stateless tribe of Remainia.

What a fucking mess. It could lead to the death of Labour Party as we know it, and of the United Kingdom itself. Let’s close this segment on a more uplifting note by linking to a transcript and recording of a fiery speech to the parliamentary Labour party by former leader Neil Kinnock.

Speaking of gloom and doom, it’s time to circle back to the Carter-Cash clan with two songs about deaths in the family. The first one by Rosanne is about her father’s passing and the second by Carlene about her sister’s death:

Saturday Classic: In 1994, Johnny Cash was approached by hotshot producer Rick Rubin to do an album that would take the Man in Black back to his roots. The resulting album, American Recordings, was Cash’s biggest hit in many years and won a Grammy as Best Contemporary Folk album. It’s stark, dark, and intense like Cash himself.

That’s it for this somber and somewhat morbid edition of Saturday Odds & Sods. Sometimes, you’ve just got to keep it real as the kids said at some point in time. I’m not sure when. I am, however, sure that I’m fond of Tim Burton’s Batman and the wonderful actors who played the Joker and the Caped Crusader. I think you know who they are. I’ll let them turn out the virtual lights.

Nicholson-Keaton Meme