Saturday Odds & Sods: Because The Night

Twelfth Night Revelers Pageant Design by Charles Briton, 1871

Carnival is in its early stages but it’s beginning to eat my life. That may sound cannibalistic but I’ve always been fascinated by the Donner Party, so I’m down with cannibals. But I was never big on the band Fine Young Cannibals. I like music with more bite. All FYC ever did was was drive me crazy. Hmm, FYC sounds like KFC and you know what they say about chicken…

Last Sunday was Twelfth Night proper so Dr. A and I attended the launch party of a new business owned by our friends Will and Jennifer Samuels. It’s called the King Cake Hub and they sell a wide variety of King Cake from numerous local bakeries. And New Orleanians are obsessed with King Cake.

The King Cake Hub’s location has added to the local interest: the Mortuary at 4800 Canal Street. It used to be a genuine mortuary and is currently home to an elaborate haunted house every fall. If you don’t believe me, it’s picture time:

I knew Will before he became a King Cake impresario and was a pizza man; not to be confused with Frank Furillo of Hill Street Blues. I wish him well in his new venture. End of semi-shameless unpaid commercial plug.

Henceforth there shall be no more shilling. Isn’t “thou shall not shill” one of The Ten Commandments of Love?

This week’s theme song, Because The Night, has something of a checkered history:

The song was originally recorded by Bruce Springsteen during sessions for his Darkness on the Edge of Town album. He was not satisfied with the song and later declared he already knew he wasn’t going to finish it since it was “a[nother] love song”; the Patti Smith Group was working on Easter in the studio next door, with engineer/producer Jimmy Iovine working on both albums. Iovine gave Smith a tape of the song, she recast it, and it was included on Easter, becoming the first single released from that album.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Patti’s version, Bruce and the E Street live in 2012, and Bruce and Patti teaming up with U2.


If that Bono sighting doesn’t make you want to jump to the break, I don’t know what will. So, follow me, trail along.

I just gave myself an earworm by quoting a venerable Tull tune. Time to expel it:

I’m neither a pied piper nor a mad biker but I *am* too old to rock-n-roll: too young to die. I’ll skip the exclamation point. I’m not sure what the point is…

We begin our second act in earnest with an interview with a man who was not named after our theme song but could have been: film director M. Night Shylaman.

Not As Shylaman As Previously Thought: M. Night caused a sensation in 1999 with The Sixth Sense. Since then his movies have been up and down commercially but always interesting artistically. He recently sat for a candid, not remotely scary, interview with Vulture’s Adam Sternbergh.

Because? Because the M. Night.

Let’s move on to an anniversary worth celebrating.

The Sopranos At 20: Twas 20 years ago this week that The Sopranos debuted. I didn’t have HBO then, and didn’t hear about the show until the next year. A neighbor described the College episode to me and I knew I had to check it out. We rented season one on VHS at Blockbuster (how retro is that?) and I fell in love upon seeing the pilot with my neighbor’s words echoing in my ear, “How can someone obsessed with The Godfather trilogy not watch The Sopranos?” Yeah, you right.

Subsequently, I have watched and re-watched the series many times. I’m glad that the Failing New York Times has assembled a useful guide for those who wish to see Ralphie disrespect da Bing, Junior wander the streets in his jammies, Christopher mug Betty Bacall, and Tony whack a rat whilst touring colleges with his daughter, Meadow. Poor kid. I’m glad she’s fictional. Oh well, at least they didn’t name her Empty Lot. Now that I think of it, that would have been an excellent name for AJ.

I have a few disagreements with Noel Murray’s piece. He hates the Columbus Day episode, Christopher, which happens to be one of my favorite stand alone episodes of the series. The interaction between the wise guys and Native American activists always cracks me up. What can I say?

Murray also likes the dream sequences more than I do. The only one I cared for was the time Tony had a fever dream wherein a fish with Big Pussy’s head spoke to him thereby proving that exposure to Big Mouth Billy Bass can be hazardous to one’s health:

In other Sopranos news, ace teevee critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoeller-Seitz have collaborated on a book about the series, The Sopranos Sessions. There’s an excerpt from the book at Vulture, which is a dialogue between the two former Newark Star-Ledger colleagues. The focus is  on the immortal question: did Tony die or did he just stop believing?

I happen to be a “Tony is dead guy” because the series was all about fate and if there was ever a doomed gangster it was Anthony Soprano. It’s a miracle that such a bad driver lived into his forties. His nickname should have been Tony Crash.

Speaking of Tony’s “death,” there’s a fine Sopranos related piece by Atlantic teevee critic Christopher Orr wherein he quotes this excerpt from Alan and Matt’s tome:

Sepinwall: When you said there was an end point, you don’t mean Tony at Holsten’s, you just meant, “I think I have two more years’ worth of stories left in me.”

Chase: Yes, I think I had that death scene around two years before the end … Tony was going to get called to a meeting with Johnny Sack in Manhattan, and he was going to go back through the Lincoln Tunnel for this meeting, and it was going to go black there and you never saw him again as he was heading back, the theory being that something bad happens to him at the meeting. But we didn’t do that.

Seitz: You realize, of course, that you just referred to that as a death scene.

[A long pause follows]

Chase: Fuck you guys.

Like Sopranos creator David Chase, I prefer that the debate over the final scene continues. Who among us doesn’t love an argument over something that does not matter at all?

Let’s move on to a news of the weird item from the Guardian.

Life Imitates The Godfather: Toto Too? I was drinking coffee the other day when an article in the Guardian caused me to do a spit take that nearly splattered poor Paul Drake:

The daughter of a notorious Sicilian mafia boss has opened a restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris called Corleone.

Lucia Riina, a painter and the youngest child of the late “boss of bosses” Salvatore “Totò” Riina, named the establishment after her father’s home town and the crime family in Francis Ford Coppola’s award-winning Godfather trilogy of films.

A gangster named Toto? I wonder if this was his theme song:

Now that we’ve held the line, it’s time to  take a look at an outstanding true crime documentary series from Netflix.

Documentary Of The Week: The Innocent Man is based on John Grisham’s only non-fiction book. It addresses egregious police misconduct in Ada, Oklahoma, a place that sounds like hell on earth only with tornadic activity. The title should really be The Innocent Men because it details the cases of four falsely accused men trapped in the criminal justice system.

The six-part series looks at two murders committed within a few years of each other. Ada is a small town, which means that everyone involved-cops, defendants, victims, and family members-knew one another. I guess John Mellencamp was right with his whole Small Town shtick even when the townies are Okies, not Hoosiers. As far as I can tell, no cougars were harmed in the filming of the series.

What makes The Innocent Man so good are the small town characters such as grieving mother, Peggy Carter, and psychotic former New York Yankees farmhand, Ron Williamson.

Here’s the trailer:

The Innocent Man is streaming on Netflix. I give it 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos grade of B+, and a vigorous true crime thumbs up.

Crime time is over. It’s time for some regular features.

The Weekly GV: The first person narrators in Gore Vidal’s novels often sound like the Master himself. This was a virtue, not a vice as far as I’m concerned. Who’s wittier than GV?

I lied when I said crime time is over. It’s still raging in our next segment.

The Saturday GIF Horse: There are scads of Sopranos GIFs but most of them are smaller than the Insult Comedian’s mind. This one is not only large, it continues the “Tony is dead” theme of this week’s post:

No shit, Tony Crash. You’re burning in hell. James Gandolfini, however, is in the good place. I’d advise him to steer clear of Chidi and Eleanor.

Because? Because it’s time for our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth: This week’s entry is guaranteed to piss-off people on both ends of the political spectrum.

Holy unmade beds, Batman

I almost didn’t recognize Michael Moore without a baseball cap. At least he doesn’t wear it backwards, which is the stupidest look ever.

Hat Tip: The Political

I’m through jacking y’all around, let’s close things out with some music. Because? Because the Boz.

Saturday Classic: I hope you’re not tired of Mr. Scaggs after last week’s Boztastic Saturday post. This is an audio only recording of a 1976 live show with a backing band made up of the members of Toto, future Little Feat guitarist Fred Tackett, a horn section, and two chick singers. It’s a short but sweet 48 minute set. Enjoy

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith in a blissfully Bono-free image.