It’s been another “hot even for New Orleans” week. It was the second warmest August in recorded history; at least we weren’t number one. We dodged the Hermine bullet but apparently not everyone understands the gravity of even a lesser tropical system:
Florida is also where this charming chap resides:
Holy Florida Man, Batman.
If you’re ever in Fort Lauderdale, you might want to give him a holla. I think the exclamation point was over the top but that’s just me. He looks like he mixed cigarettes, meth and Vodka. Ouch.
The college football season starts this weekend. My LSU Tigers are playing the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay later today. It should provide some diversion for all the flooded Tiger fans in South Louisiana. There’s even a comedic sub-plot: some LSU players are threatening to do the “Lambeau leap” after scoring. Les Miles has vetoed the idea and warned his players that they’ll be hitchhiking home if they try it. I’m seriously bummed about this. I was hoping Les would take the leap after our first score. Guess he’s channeling his inner Bo Schembechler this season. I prefer Goofy Les to Serious Les.
This week’s theme song selection started off simply but grew like bamboo. One of my earworms this week has been ELO’s hit song, Showdown. Just for the hell of it, I did a search on allmusic.com and learned that there are oodles of tunes with the same title.
I picked two Showdowns of a similar vintage to the ELO smash hit: one by the New York Dolls and the other by the Isley Brothers. Who among us does not love the flying fingers of Ernie Isley as well as his nifty headband?
Like the Isley Brothers’ Showdown, the Saturday post typically has two parts. We’ll part for the break and then resume the festivities such as they are.
We begin with a look at a cool phenomenon that I was unaware of until scrolling through the Guardian on the small screen. No, not the teevee, my iPhone. I only hope the Irish don’t expect me to pay any taxes…
Annals Of Vintage Base Ball: That’s right, it’s two words, not one. The Guardian’s Brian Kay introduces us to some folks who play base ball as it was played in the 19th Century long before it came and went as our national pastime. The headline calls them hipsters but that’s unfair as it’s a more diverse group and not all of them chew artisanal tobacco:
Day is emblematic of one major quadrant of your typical ballist: a lover of the game. But the sport also counts hipsters in search of something off-mainstream, and conservative types attracted by a sense of nostalgia, a period when gentlemanly conduct pervaded the game. Even those who crave a scintilla of officialdom.
“You get the hipster, Avett Brothers-type guy or girl. You get people who just love history. You get people who just want to be the judge, which is what they called the umpire, out there with their top hat, their vest and their bow tie,” says Jeff Campbell, a 55-year-old who works in historic preservation and who grew up playing base ball on pastureland in rural Georgia, dodging cow manure as he went. “There’s people who are out there for the history re-enactment part. People there for the fun of playing the game. Then there’s also people who really want to study the history of the game and how it changed through the years.” Campbell is behind a new team in North Texas called the Plano Cats, who take their cues from a pre-Spanish-American war team named the Plano Nine. He considers himself a portmanteau of the different types of characters attracted to vintage base ball. “I think there’s a real romance to it, it’s fun to put on the old uniforms, and it’s just kind of snowballed from there.”
It turns out that former Yankee pitcher and Ball Four author Jim Bouton is involved in vintage base ball. It beats the hell out of beaver shooting or popping greenies. He’s still pitching at age 70:
Let’s move forward in time to the 1970’s in my home region, the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a weird time and one of the strangest stories was the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.
Suburban Heiress, Urban Guerilla: The New Yorker’s legal dude Jeffrey Toobin learned that there hadn’t been a book written about the Hearst case in some thirty years. It’s a great story so he decided to rectify that with American Heiress. I have several links for your perusal beginning with an interview with the author by Salon’s Amanda Marcotte:
The debate about Patty Hearst since this all happened has been whether or not she was brainwashed or whether or not she went along with it and then lied about it afterwards. You fall somewhere in the middle.
To be honest, I am more in the latter camp. I think she was an active and volunteer member of the SLA for a great deal of the year and a half she was on the run.
I try to avoid in the book the buzzwords that are associated with the case: brainwashing and Stockholm syndrome, which are journalistic terms more than medical terms. Brainwashing in particular is a concept that came out of the Korean War where there were these prisoners in North Korea who were actively indoctrinated when they were taken prisoner.
The SLA was way too incompetent and disorganized to undertake a systematic attempt to brainwash Patricia Hearst. What they did was they talked to her about what they were doing and they gave her their perspective. [As was true for] other women in the SLA, who all came from middle-class backgrounds and most of them were cheerleaders, it’s unlikely that she would embrace what they said. But I think she did. Lots of people in the ’70s were embracing lunatic causes and I think Patty Hearst did, too.
I think he nails it. There’s an element of farce to the whole story: the crazy claims by the SLA, Patty’s boozy but lovable father Randolph and her Thatcheresque cartoon villain mother, Catherine. It was one of the first stories that led to a media stakeout; in this instance of the Hearst’s mansion in the tony suburb of Hillsborough as well as the first live shoot-out on national teevee.
Time for a brief Adrastos/Zelig story. I grew up not far from the Hearsts. I never met Patty but I had mutual friends with her sister, Anne, and met her a few times. All I can remember about her is that she was blond, grand, and we talked about Citizen Kane, which was based on the life of the grandfather she never met. I wish I had more but what can I say? I was neither a suburban heiress nor an urban guerilla, after all. I’ve never looked good in a tiara.
I have another Hearst kidnapping link to share. It’s the classic 1976 Rolling Stone article by Howard Kohn and David Weir: The Lost Year of the SLA. It’s a great investigative piece that shows how many people were willing to help the SLA hide-out from the law. I guess they hoped that Bill Harris was as funny as Cinque. They were wrong.
Patty Hearst, quite sensibly, refused to go Toobin with Jeffrey. She’d left that river in her past. It’s a pity since she received a full pardon in 2001 and could speak freely. But why answer questions about a past you’d rather forget? I cannot blame her.
We move from Toobin puns to the Gret Stet flood of 2016:
Highwater Blues Redux: The recovery from the Gret Stet flood of 2016 continues apace in South Louisiana. There are some scamsters trying to take advantage of both victims and those who want to help them. I may have more about one of them next week but, like Johnny Mercer, I prefer to accentuate the positive for now.
I’d like to point you in the direction of a swell piece at Poynter by Kristin Hare: The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s newspaper, fought floods to get the news out. The title is self-explanatory but Hare reminds us that some staffers did the same thing after Katrina and the Federal Flood. The Advocate’s staff is laced with former Picayune people, many in senior positions. Anyway, it’s a helluva piece.
Let’s hop in the wayback machine and set the dial for 1918.
Documentary Of The Week: The BBC has been producing some excellent documentaries about the Great War since the 100th anniversary of the war in 2014. The good news for us Yanks is that some of these films are streaming on Netflix.
Cambridge University historian David Reynolds has been writing and presenting documentaries for the Beeb for many years. He’s a helluva performer and an even better analyst. The Long Shadow takes a look at the manifold ways the Treaty of Versailles continues to shape our world. It’s a three-parter and will be an eye-opener for those of you unfamiliar with the history of the Great War. I’m something of a Great War buff myself but I still learned a lot. It helps when the presenter is so entertaining.
I stumbled into The Long Shadow whilst reading Peacemakers by Margaret MacMillan. It’s a fascinating account of the personalities and nationalities that shaped the Paris peace conference. I was particularly enthralled by the section about Greece and its flamboyant Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos. He was one of the stars of the confab and got a better deal for Greece than expected, which led to overreach and eventual disaster in Anatolia. He was a classic Hellenic charmer and bullshit artist who is one of the prominent Greeks my late father claimed kinship to. There *is* a Cretan branch of the family but Greek genealogical records are sketchy at best so we’ll never know for sure. Venizelos did have swell facial hair and even made the cover of Time in 1924:
Back to The Long Shadow. It’s a terrific documentary series and can be found on Netflix. I give it 3 12/stars, an Adrastos grade of B+ and a rousing Ebertian thumbs up.
Speaking of movies, it’s time to pay tribute to an unlikely movie star.
Gene Wilder, R.I.P. There were many tributes to Gene Wilder on social media. Many of them focused on his late third wife Gilda Radner. It’s understandable: she was a beloved celebrity who died too young whereas Gene lived to the ripe old age of 83. It did make me wonder what his fourth and final wife Karen Boyer made of all the Gilda related hoopla. I suspect she was used to it but she stayed married to Wilder for 25 years so I think she deserves her share of condolences. Btw, I had no idea he’d been married four times. Perhaps he whined like Leo Bloom in real life. Ya never know.
Most of the talk about Wilder’s films has focused on his work with Mel Brooks and role as Willy Wonka. That’s why I’m posting these clips from Stir Crazy instead. We bad, we bad:
Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were the ultimate onscreen odd couple. They didn’t take no shit. They’re both missed.
Saturday Classic: Saxophone deity Wayne Shorter was riding high when he recorded Native Dancer in 1974. It was a side project for the co-leader of Weather Report as well as a collaboration with the noted Brazilian musician Milton Nascimiento. Shorter’s old friend and band mate Herbie Hancock was along for the ride. It’s one of my all-time favorite jazz albums, so give it a spin if you’re so inclined.
That’s it for this week. I’m hoping for cooler weather but I’m a realist: summer is a persistent bugger in New Orleans. Our closing meme features the political odd trio of France’s Georges (The Tiger) Clemenceau, our very own Thomas Woodrow Wilson, and Britain’s David Lloyd George. Looks like they’re heading for a Showdown.