Saturday Odds & Sods: Rocky Road

Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain

Carnival was alternately exhausting and exhilarating. I love it but I’m always glad when it’s over, especially when the weather is cold and wet. This year was physically difficult for me as I was in pain for the last week of the season. I ended up on the disabled list and stayed home on Mardi Gras day but I don’t regret not resting on Lundi Gras as you can see from this tweet:

Proteus is one of the “old line” krewes and their den is around the corner from Adrastos World Headquarters. They were indeed as drunk as plutocratic skunks. Watching them set up to roll is one of the pleasures of life inside the parade box. Where else can you watch three fake kings-Proteus, Comus, and Rex-toast one another on the street?

This week’s first theme song was written by Nick Lowe and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke for Nick’s 1990 Party Of One album, which reunited him with his musical partner in crime, Dave Edmunds.

It’s disambiguation time: a different tune with the same title. Our other theme song was written by Steve Tilston but I first heard it done by Fairport Convention. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Fairport live followed by the songwriter.

Now that we’ve traveled down several rocky roads, it’s time to jump to the break.

We begin our second act with a piece about the nexus between the Trump regime and Fox News.

Trump’s Puppet: It’s no shocker that Fox News has gone from right-wing news outlet to an unfair and imbalanced propaganda outlet for the Trump White House. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer gives us the details on this disgusting but unsurprising metamorphosis, which is akin to a bedraggled butterfly turning into a caterpillar.

The  Reporter As Juror:  Seth Stevenson has covered many trials for Slate. In 1998, he was a juror in a Washington D.C. murder trial. One defendant, Maurice Douglas, was clearly guilty but his co-defendant, Dominic Gibson, was a different matter. Stevenson was the last holdout on Dominic but, unlike Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men, he folded.

Those of us on the jury had no doubt, from early on, that Maurice deserved to go to prison for a long time. Dominic, however, was a question. I wasn’t even sure he’d taken his gun out of his pocket. Yet our decision hinged not on what he did or didn’t do that night, but on a cruel corner of the law that seemed to leave us no room for nuance or pity. The more we got herded toward a clean resolution, the more our votes tightened around Dominic like shackles. I was the last holdout, searching for some way to grant him mercy. Then I caved, too, regretting my capitulation even as I said it aloud.

Stevenson has revisited the case  in a fascinating article at Slate. It’s a stone cold must-read piece about the intersection of justice and injustice.

Are you ready for another Vulture list? I certainly am.

Sports Movie Listomania: Vulture’s Tim Grierson and Will Leitch have a compiled a list of the 50 best sports movies of all-time. It’s a decent list but a bit too heavy on recent bro-comedies such as Happy Gilmore and “inspirational” fare like Rudy. They did, however, rate the perennially underrated Breaking Away #12,

One of my cavils with the list is John Sayles’s Eight Men Out coming in at #32. This saga of the Black Sox who sold out the 1919 World Series would be way up my own list; perhaps even #1.

As always, the list is light on movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood with only Pride Of The Yankees making the cut. Here are the omitted movies I would include on my own list:

  • City For Conquest features Jimmy Cagney as a boxer trying to make a better life for his Gershwin-like musician kid brother, Arthur Kennedy. Elia Kazan has a memorable turn as a menacing gangster in a movie that mixes genres like a crazy quilt.
  •  Raoul Walsh’s Gentleman Jim stars Errol Flynn as Jim Corbett a handsome pugilist without cauliflower ears. It’s pure Hollywood myth and one of the most entertaining movies of its era.
  • Body and Soul is a great 1947 boxing movie with John Garfield. It was shot by James Wong Howe who inspired the cinematography in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, which clocked in at #2 on the Vulture list.
  • The Champion stars Kirk Douglas as a boxer who’s a narcissistic monster. It’s one of his finest performances.
  • The Set-Up is a boxing noir with a brilliant performance by Robert Ryan.
  • The Stratton Story stars Jimmy Stewart as Monty Stratton a Chi Sox pitcher who lost a leg but returned to pitch in the minor leagues after World War II. It’s so “inspirational and heart-warming” that it’s omission is puzzling.
  • Cinderella Man is a more recent boxing film, with which many of us here at First Draft are obsessed. It features great performances by Russell Crowe, Paul Giamatti, and Renee Zellweger.

I like old movies. Sue me.

It’s time to get regular. Holy shit, that sounded like a commercial one might see during a network news broadcast. Our third act, as always, features our regular features.

The Weekly Quote: The great NYT columnist Russell Baker died at age 93 in January. I’m abashed to admit that I never gave this fabulous writer a proper send off. In lieu of that, here are two quotes from his marvelous memoir, Growing Up:

“We all come from the past, and children ought to know what it was that went into their making, to know that life is a braided cord of humanity stretching up from time long gone, and that it cannot be defined by the span of a single journey from diaper to shroud.”

“The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn’t require any.”

Baker was also known for his stint presenting Masterpiece Theatre from 1993-2004:

“In America, if you’re not on television, you’re not an American,” Baker said on succeeding Cooke. “I’m a huge fan of MASTERPIECE THEATRE, and I thought this was the most honorable way to satisfy that lust to be on TV.”

Our next segment features one of the shows he introduced.

Saturday GIF Horse: Fry and Laurie were still the world’s tallest comedy team when they starred in Jeeves & Wooster. The series was based on PG Wodehouse’s comic novels about an upper class twit and his brilliant valet.

We have two GIFs for your amusement: an excerpt from the opening credits, and one of Fry and Laurie doing that voodoo that they did so well.

Weekly Vintage Music Video: I was not big on Duran Duran but they were superstars in the 1980’s. Hungry Like A Wolf was one of their biggest hits and best videos.

Hearthrob/frontman Simon Le Bon flips a table in the video thereby foreshadowing Theresa Giudice’s table flip in The Real Housewives of New Jersey. It’s unknown if Le Bon called anyone a “prostitution whore.”

In case you’re wondering what I was on about, here are some bonus GIFs:

Let’s close things out with some more music.

Saturday Classic: 1994’s The Impossible Bird is one of Nick Lowe’s finest albums. It beautifully combines his gift for punny titles and heart-wrenching ballads.

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves. Indeed, sir.