Saturday Odds & Sods: Back To Black

Bird Collage by Max Ernst

It was overwrought drama week in New Orleans. Saints fans are genuinely angry in the aftermath of the blown call but things have gotten silly. There’s a futile lawsuit filed by lawyer Frank D’Amico who advertises his services on the tube. He’s getting some free publicity by filing what is best described as a “feel-good frivolous” lawsuit seeking a Saints-Rams rematch. It has as much chance at success as I have of playing in the NBA.

My Congressman, Cedric Richmond, is doing a major pander by threatening a Congressional hearing over the blown call. Hey, Cedric, we’re having a constitutional crisis, and you want to spend time grilling Roger Goddam Goodell?

This week’s theme song was written in 2007 by Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson. Black To Black was the title track of Amy’s final studio album and the sub-title of the great documentary about her life. We have two versions for your listening pleasure:

While we’re at it, let’s throw two more blackened songs into the musical skillet:

Did I really use the term musical skillet? I must be slipping. Speaking of which, let’s slip away and jump to the break.

We begin our second act with a piece from one of the greatest non-fictionistas of our, or any other, time.

Robert Caro On How He Does What He Does: Robert Caro has been working on his Years of Lyndon Johnson opus since 1976. Whenever a new volume is published, it’s my built-in Christmas present. A Caro book under the tree beats the hell out of Karo Syrup in your stocking. I’m not a fan of sticky stuff for the holidays.

Caro took a brief break from the final installment of the LBJ saga to write an article for the New Yorker about, to paraphrase the Temptations song, the way he do the things he do. I realize that was grammatically challenged but what can I tell ya? I was a history major, not an English major.

Caro has talked about writing his memoirs but given his advanced age, he needs to finish the Johnson series first. This article may have to suffice if he doesn’t have enough gas in the tank to write about himself. The man is 83 years old, after all.

As a cub reporter at Newsday, Caro learned an early lesson in research from a hardass editor:

“Just remember,” he said. “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page.”

It’s a lesson than some contemporary reporters should learn. Spend less time on the tweeter tube and more time digging and reading. Turn every goddam page.

Oscar Villains? The concept of “Oscar villains” strikes me as either deeply stupid or silly. But Slate’s Nate Jones takes this nonsense seriously. This year’s “villains” are Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. In the first instance, because it’s a white guy’s look at the African-American experience. In the second instance, because the credited director, Bryan Singer, is a rapey asshole. Btw, Singer was fired and the producers tried to have his name stripped from the credits. At least the pervy fucker wasn’t nominated for best director.

I haven’t seen Green Book but enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody for what it is: your basic biopic. It gets some parts of Freddie Mercury’s story right and other parts wrong. I don’t think of it as an Oscar worthy film. The best part of it is the music and the eerie resemblances of the actors who played John Deacon and Brian May to the real thing.

I used to care about the Oscars but stopped giving a shit a few years ago. I didn’t even watch last year’s show and didn’t miss it. How can they ever top Warren and Faye messing up the Best Picture award?

I understand getting mildly worked up over best picture injustices: mine are Titanic over LA Confidential and Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas. The concept of “Oscar villains” has more to do with social media outrage than anything else. Repeat after me: twitter is not the real world. It’s why I refuse to capitalize it.

This passage in the Jones piece is a real head-slapper:

The Academy Awards have always been the vessel through which to litigate certain debates about film, and past decades’ Oscar villains have usually been those winners that are considered to have stolen the Best Picture prize from a more deserving film. For a certain type of movie buff, this happened in years when the Academy went too intellectual, or too feminine: Annie Hall beating Star WarsThe English Patient beating FargoShakespeare in Love beating Saving Private Ryan.

There was no such thing as an “Oscar villain” in the pre-twitter era. This paragraph is an exercise in egregious presentism as well as dipshittery even if I agree about Fargo and Private Ryan. I happened to like *all* the winning pictures mentioned. Nobody thought of them as “Oscar villains.” They were mistakes; another one was Rocky over both Network and All The President’s Men.

Nobody in 1977 thought Star Wars had a chance to win best picture. It was the pre-comic book movie era and George Lucas was thrilled just to be nominated. In fact, Annie Hall‘s win was a major upset: it was the first comedy to win since The Apartment. And it was almost fifteen years before it was Woody Allen’s turn in the scandal barrel.

Now that I’ve ranted about social media outrage and presentism, let’s move on to a more pleasant subject.

Listomania, Sitcom Style: The Dick Van Dyke Show has a special place in my heart. When my mother and I weren’t watching game shows or Perry Mason, we watched re-runs of this landmark sitcom. Morey Amsterdam was one of my first comedic heroes; so much so that I dragged my dad off to see him at the San Mateo County Fair. There was a picture taken on that occasion but it’s long-lost. I suspect I had a shit-eating grin on my face as I incited Morey aka the Human Joke Machine to crack wise. I vaguely recall kissing his cello but I could be wrong about that. I was ten years old, after all.

The good people at Vulture have compiled another one of their mighty lists wherein they rate every episode of this great sitcom. I had a lot of fun scrolling through Donald Liebenson’s list and concur with Coast To Coast Big Mouth as the best episode. It’s the one in which Laura Petrie outs Alan Brady as a baldy:

It’s time to enter the regular features zone. I’ll act as your native guide so you won’t get lost, Scout’s honor. That was worthless: I was a terrible Boy Scout after a checkered career in the Cub Scouts. I never came close to Beagle Scout, let alone Eagle.

The Weekly GV:  There’s been some controversy over Marie Kondo’s admonition to get rid of books because they’re clutter. I , and the Master, disagree:

Suck it, Marie.

Let’s move on to our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth: Speaking of movie villains, the late Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies was brilliant. The presidency of Franklin Pierce was not-so great. There is, however, something of a resemblance.

I wonder what Pierce’s friend Nathaniel Hawthorne would have made of the Harry Potter books. I think he would have liked them and perhaps even joined a quidditch team.

Pierce’s approach to the presidency is best summed up by a Rodgers and Hart song title, Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered:

Seeing Tony make goo-goo eyes at Gaga has given me an earworm:

You didn’t really think I’d make it through this post without a Queen song, did you?

Saturday GIF Horse: I don’t know about you but I’m excited to see the new movie Stan & Ollie. Hence the Laurel and Hardy animated GIF.

Weekly Vintage Music Video: Some of the best songs had deeply silly promo videos in the 1980’s. That’s the case with this Crowded House hit. The video features our heroes frolicking in a barn of all places. Is there anything less rock and roll than a barn?

It’s time to close things out with some more music.

Saturday Classic: We’re circling back to our theme song with this week’s final musical selection. This album is proof positive that a 2007 recording can be a classic.

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to the Alan Brady Show gang: Rob, Laura, Buddy, Sally, and Mel. Insert bald joke if you must. Buddy would insist.