Saturday Odds & Sods: So Far Away

Speciality Drawing by George Herriman, 1936.

It’s election day in New Orleans. It’s time to winnow down the lackluster mayoral field from 3 major contenders to a face off in the run-off in this off-year election. I hope that wasn’t off-putting. Only a mug would try to predict who will be in the run-off with the so-called big three clustered so tightly in the polls. As Dan Rather would surely say at this point: it’s tighter than a tick. Besides, I threw away my crystal ball after it cracked on 11/9/2016.

One more note on the New Orleans municipal election. I did a podcast about it with my friend Ryne Hancock yesterday. Here’s a LINK.

The featured image is a 1936 drawing by the great George Herriman. In hopes of uncovering a title, I asked Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand. It is, in fact, untitled. It was executed by the artist for a fan named Morris Weiss. It’s unclear if he was a Morris dancer. Btw, if you haven’t read Michael’s book Krazy, pick up a copy. It’s one of the best biographies I’ve read in years. He’s funny on twitter too. Believe me.

This week’s theme song was used in the penultimate episode of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, which is one of the most underrated teevee shows ever. There’s only one more episode left in the series but the first three seasons are streaming on Netflix. Check it out and tell them Adrastos sent you; not that they’ll give a shit but it will be good for my self-esteem.

So Far Away is my favorite Dire Straits song. I’m a big fan of wistful lyrics and Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing. This song obviously has both. I’m throwing in a partially acoustic live version as lagniappe.

 Since we’re so far away from one another, let’s bridge the gap by jumping to the break. I hope that made more sense to you than to me. Adrastos thy name is confusion.

We begin our review heavy second act by setting the dial on the Wayback Machine to one of the most contentious and controversial periods in American history.

Documentary Of The Week: Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 18 hour documentary The Vietnam War is a masterpiece. There is so much archival footage available on the war that going through it must have been an exhaustive enterprise. I’m exhausted just thinking about it, but the Florentine Films team unearthed some hidden nuggets to go along with the footage we’ve all seen many times.

I was particularly enthralled by the presence of Vietnamese commentators from both sides. The filmmakers dispensed with the expressions of piety that have suffused past Vietnam documentaries. The Communist side is depicted as ruthless and brutal in a way that the anti-war movement never acknowledged. The South Vietnamese side is accurately shown as hopelessly incompetent, corrupt, and repressive. These were hard truths often avoided by American hawks and doves alike sides during the conflict. They’re were no good guys or bad guys, only victims.

My favorite talking head on the American side was Marine turned anti-war activist John Musgrave. He describes the day he was seriously wounded and nearly died. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and saluted him.

I’m old enough to have picked sides during the war. I was against the war, which is why I dislike the current use of the term  draft dodger by folks on the left. The likes of Donald Trump and Dick Cheney are better described as chickenhawks. They were for the war but wanted some poor bastard from the sticks or ghetto to fight for them. Those who resisted the draft did so out of conviction and deserve to be honored, not called draft dodgers. It was a courageous thing to do; much braver than being a hawk and skulking behind your deferment.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion as to how the lessons of Vietnam can be applied to the current situation on the Korean Peninsula. Here’s my take: competent and intelligent leaders such as LBJ and Robert McNamara bumbled into the Vietnam War because they saw no good alternative. It’s a frightening analogy because the current Oval One is neither competent nor intelligent. Even if Trump had the patience to watch Burns and Novick’s magisterial film, he would surely draw the wrong lessons from it. So it goes.

I give The Vietnam War 4 stars, an Adrastos Grade of A, and a dovish Ebertian thumbs up.

Let’s stay on the subject of Vietnam and pay a visit to Country Joe McDonald.

What’s That Spell? I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag became *the* anti-war anthem almost by accident according to the man who wrote and performed it:

It was time for the second act on the second day of a 1969 music festival in upstate New York, but the band, Santana, was having trouble getting it together. So the M.C. asked a performer hanging around backstage to go out and kill a little time. Reticent at first because his band was slated to play later that weekend, the singer acquiesced after he was handed a Yamaha FG 150 guitar, tied with a rope in lieu of a strap, and ushered onstage.

The audience largely ignored his eight-song set. His tour manager said that since nobody was paying attention, why not do the number he was saving for tomorrow night? The singer walked back out, alone, and called to the masses, “Give me an F!”

That got their attention. They knew the routine. The crowd at Woodstock, half a million strong, rose to their feet and joined in Country Joe McDonald’s antiwar war cry, chanting along from the opening expletive all the way to the “Whoopee! We’re all going to die” capper. Captured in Michael Wadleigh’s Oscar-winning 1970 documentary “Woodstock,” the three rousing minutes of Mr. McDonald’s acoustic version of “The ‘Fish’ Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” became the premier Vietnam War protest anthem.

I recall receiving the three LP Woodstock album for Christmas the year it came out. I played it relentlessly and nearly wore the vinyl out. My mom heard the fish/fuck cheer and was appalled. The good news is that her sole comment was, “Don’t let your father hear that.” It’s time for y’all to hear it:

Let’s move on to a movie “based on a real story.” In fact, one could say it was ripped from the headlines.

Battle Of The Sexes: I recall the real, as opposed to the reel, match between Billie Jean King and self-confessed hustler Bobby Riggs. It was hyped beyond belief. I was baffled as to why anyone thought an athlete in her prime would lose to a mouthy middle-aged con man. Of course, Margaret Court *had* lost to Riggs because she was psyched out by his bluster.

I alluded to the new movie Battle Of The Sexes the other day, so I felt honor bound to see it on the big screen. Not really, I was eager to see it because Billie Jean King is my homey. She lived not far from where I went to high school during the period covered by the movie. And her brother, Randy Moffitt, was a pretty darn good relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants from 1972-1981.

The film is briskly paced and well acted. Emma Stone disappears into her role as Billie Jean and Steve Carrell plays another one of his “jerks with a heart of gold” roles as Bobby Riggs. I particularly enjoyed Bill Pullman as tennis impresario, former star player, and all around sexist creep, Jack Kramer.

There was some unease at the matinée we attended on the part of some old southern people over the depiction of King’s sexual relationship with hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough.) I thought it added texture and context to the movie, especially to the King-Court rivalry. (Margaret Court is currently an anti-gay marriage activist in her native Australia.) The only unease I felt was caused by the closing credits not mentioning Barnett’s palimony suit against Billie Jean, which outed the tennis superstar. I guess the producers didn’t want to end on a sour note. It may be a feminist sports movie but it’s still a sports movie that adhered to many of the conventions of the genre.

I give Battle Of The Sexes 3 stars, an Adrastos grade of B, and a Siskelian thumbs up.

The Stupidest Argument I Ever Had On Twitter: It came not long ago and it was over the Cleveland Indians American League record-setting 22 game winning streak. There were many who insisted it broke the major league record of 26 consecutive wins set by the 1916 New York Giants. Why? There was no night baseball at the time and the streak included a tie, which were commonplace back then. I really pissed some people off when I pointed out they were guilty of  presentism, which is something that plagues social media. I told you this was a stupid argument.

The argument is so stupid that I don’t feel like searching my tweets to post any of them. One thing I recall saying is that Indians fans might not want the major league record as the ’16 Giants finished in fourth place, 7 games out of the money. The 2017 Indians, of course, were eliminated the other day by the Damn Yankees. I don’t believe in curses but I do think it’s best not to peak too early. I’m sure Doc is feeling quite peekid right now. Condolences, man.

One reason I engaged in the argument is that one of the beauties of baseball is its history. It was fun to stick up for John McGraw and his team on the tweeter tube. I also firmly believe that *everything* must be placed in the context of its time both in sports and  history in general. Presentism drives me batty, which is why I engaged in this damn fool argument to begin with. Like the Beatles, I Should Have Know Better.

Saturday Classic: I still have the late Tom Petty on my mind. He and the Heartbreakers did a run of shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1997. This audio-only set mixes TP originals with a wide, indeed wild, array of covers. It’s great fun and must listening.

That’s it for this week. The last bat word goes to the cast of Halt and Catch Fire: