I don’t usually go in for cross-cultural generalizations about the state of the world but for every rule, there’s an exception. And 2018 has been an exceptionally bad year. Hell meet hand basket.
The US, UK, and France have gone to political hell and back in 2018. Our main problem is obvious: a corrupt and deeply stupid president*. In Britain, they’re still paying the price for the Brexit referendum catastrophe, which has resulted in bad leadership in both of the “big parties” and political paralysis. In France, Emmanuel Macron compared himself to Charles DeGaulle once too often, now there are riots in the streets just like in DeGaulle’s day. In 1968, they waved red flags. In 2018, they wear yellow vests. There’s a good chance that Macron will be France’s third consecutive one-term president. Burning it down is not all it’s cracked up to be.
I wish I had solutions for these problems but I’m a pundit, not a prophet. I don’t even have a prophet and loss statement. I can hear them groaning all the way to Bunkie, so it’s time to move on.
This week’s theme song was written in 1969 by John Fogerty for CCR’s Willy and the Poor Boys album. The title has been shortened over time from Don’t Look Now (It Ain’t You or Me) by dropping the parenthetical aside. You may have noticed that I live for parenthetical asides but I can live with the deletion of this one. In fact, it’s a delightful deletion.
We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Creedence original and a 2005 cover by my main man Dave Alvin.
Don’t Look Now is also the title of a fine film by director Nicolas Roeg who died last month. And don’t look now is excellent advice when one jumps to the break: every time I peek, I get dizzier than Tommy Fucking Roe.
We begin our second act with a trip across the pond to a country once known for political stability. This week Prime Minister Theresa May survived a Tory party no-confidence vote mostly because nobody else wants the job right now; not even clownish former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. I feel sorry for May, she’s cleaning up a mess made by David Cameron and his fellow posh boys.
The Fog Of British History, Brexit Edition: The Brexit debate is confusing enough if you’re a Brit but insanely so if you’re not. That’s why I’m posting links to two fine Guardian articles that attempt to explain how things got so bloody messy.
British Euroscepticism: A Brief History.
How Europe Became The Tories’ Eternal Battleground.
Read them. You’ll still be confused but only because the whole damn thing makes no fucking sense. If the Labour Party had a competent pro-EU leader, they’d be back in power. Instead, they’re led by a soft Brexiteer, which sounds like mouseketeer only it’s considerably less fun.
Let’s move on to a more pleasant subject, the music of Van Morrison. The man is another story altogether but his music is sublime.
Van Morrison, Musical Contrarian: Steven Hyden almost wrote a tribute to Astral Weeks at 50 but decided there had been enough written about that album. Instead, he focuses on lesser known works by Van the Man. I concur in his high opinion of Morrison’s middle period classic, Hymns To The Silence. This is one of my favorite tune from that 1991 album:
Only Van Morrison would write a gorgeous mid-tempo ballad with a title like Village Idiot. He’s the ultimate rock contrarian. I wouldn’t have it any other way even if he once yelled at me after a show. Great artist, not a nice man. Here’s how Hyden puts it in his Ringer piece:
Many Van Morrison devotees have tried and failed to wrap their heads around the confounding duality of an artist who can address the most profound mysteries of eternity in one breath, and exhibit the least admirable human traits (jealousy, narcissism, hubris, oversharing) in the next. To suggest that Morrison does this knowingly is probably giving him too much credit — he repeats this self-defeating pattern over and over as his career unfolds, without any apparent insight into his own flaws, a fatal symptom of insufficient self-awareness. His biographer Steve Turner summed up this affliction perfectly in 1993’s Van Morrison: Too Late to Stop Now: “Some people might say, ‘I’ve got a bad temper and I’m trying to overcome it,’ or, ‘I’ve got a bad temper but I don’t give a shit.’ But somebody like Van Morrison would say, ‘I’ve not got a bad temper’ — and probably shout it at you.”
That’s Van Morrison in a nutshell. He’s a cranky bastard who’s too mean to die. In the immortal words of Neil Young:
Let’s take a trip around the world. I promise it won’t take 80 Days.
The Last Curious Man: There’s a marvelous GQ cover story by Drew Magary. It’s an oral history of the late great Anthony Bourdain who was a complicated figure indeed. The combination of a generous spirit and a snarky attitude is a difficult balance to strike. I resemble that remark myself; at least the second part.
Documentary Of The Week: My mother was a bridge playing fiend. She was a Grand Master who tried teaching me how to play but it didn’t take. Sorry, mom.
One side effect of her card playing wizardry was a love of game shows: from the high brow (Jeopardy) to the low brow (Family Feud.) I never became a proper bridge player, but I shared her enthusiasm for game shows.
I recall coming home from school and watching The Match Game with her whenever she wasn’t out real estate agenting. One day after laughing at one of Charles Nelson Reilly’s bon mots, she turned and said to me: “He’s a homosexual, you know.” She liked gay men, partially because they were such good tenants. It’s a good thing that she didn’t have any sloppy gay tenants. It was bad enough that she had a sloppy son.
The new documentary Game Changers is a love note to game shows and their hosts. I got an immense kick out of hearing about such luminaries as Bill Cullen, Allen Ludden, Peter Marshall, Bob Eubanks, and Art Fleming who was Alex Trebek’s predecessor as the host of Jeopardy.
Trebek narrates the documentary and is one of its subjects as is his approaching retirement. I’m still mildly traumatized by that. So it goes.
Here’s the trailer:
Game Changers is streaming at Amazon. I give it 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B.
Let’s move on to our third act aka our regular features.
The Weekly GV: Part of this Gore Vidal quote morphed into the title of a 2013 documentary about the Master’s life and times. I’ve stolen it more than once myself.
What just happened? I forgot but I never forget to introduce our favorite stolen feature.
Separated At Birth: I hope my fellow Trekkies won’t be vexed with this choice of Mark Zuckerberg and Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data.
Data is so much more human looking than Zuck and he has no plans to run for president. What’s up with that? Everyone hates Zuckerberg nowadays. The last thing we need is another rich arrogant asshole in the White House. Zuck that shit…
Saturday GIF Horse: I became quite attached to the image from Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last that I used throughout the midterms. When I saw this tweet, it was love at first sight.
Harold Lloyd climbs up 7-foot-2 actor John Aasen in Why Worry? (1923) pic.twitter.com/y7ScmIYT6l
— Silent Movie GIFs (@silentmoviegifs) December 9, 2018
It kinda resembles the pictures of Little Buddy in the Christmas tree.
Warriors power forward Clyde Lee, was one of my mom’s real estate clients in the late Sixties. Clyde was 6’10” and I seem to recall trying to climb him when I was a kid. Mercifully, he was a nice white goon and tolerated my antics. Rick Barry would have kicked my ass.
Weekly Vintage Music Video: The 1989 video promoting the first single from Eric Clapton’s Journeyman album is one of the silliest ever. And I mean unintentionally silly as in musicians playing electric instruments in the driving rain silly.
Let’s circle back to Van Morrison for our closing segment.
Saturday Classic: KSAN in San Francisco was the greatest underground rock radio station of its era. I was an avid listener and even interviewed some of the DJs for my high school newspaper. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my clips. I was something of a smart ass even then. Anyone surprised? I would hope not.
KSAN had a weekly live music show from Pacific High Studios in Sausalito. In 1971, Van Morrison performed and blew the roof off both the studio and my radio. I was transfixed even after Lou yelled at me to “turn that crap down.” I quickly put on earphones and tried not to sing along.
Here’s that show via the YouTube:
That’s it for this week. Writing about my mom and game shows has put The Match Game on my mind. The last bat word goes to Match Game regulars Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers, Gene Rayburn, and Richard Dawson.