Saturday Odds & Sods: America

Subway Portrait by Walker Evans.

I spent a lot of time this week researching and writing a piece about the New Orleans newspaper war for the Bayou Brief. It will be dropping in the next few days. That’s why I’m keeping this introduction, well, brief.

This week’s theme song continues the patriotic theme of the week. The left should never have let the right hijack patriotism in the Sixties, which was when Paul Simon wrote America. 1968, the year from hell, to be precise. It was one of many stellar tracks on one of Simon & Garfunkel’s best albums, Bookends.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the S&G original and a brilliant 1971 cover by Yes. It features some of Steve Howe’s finest finger picking and that’s saying a lot.

Now that we’ve counted the cars on the New Jersey turnpike, we’ll jump to the break and bypass Saginaw even though Michigan is nice at this time of year.

It may be relatively cool up north in Michigan but it’s hotter than a firecracker and twice as explosive in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. Before beginning our second act in earnest, here’s a steamy musical selection from Ella and Louis:

We raise the curtain on our second act with some Gret Stet content: a link to an essay by the publisher of the Bayou Brief, Lamar White Jr. in which your humble blogger is mentioned.

Gret Stet Magic: Lamar recently revisited a piece he wrote a few years back for his old blog CenLamar. I was one of his devoted readers before we first met at Rising Tide 3. I introduced him to the NOLA blogging community as a member of my politics panel. Just think: now I’m his vassal and he’s my suzerain. I exaggerate but what’s a bit of exaggeration among friends?

It’s time to toot my own horn with a flattering quote about me from Lamar’s piece. If one does not toot one’s own horn, who else will? Toot, toot, tootsie, don’t cry.

Readers of the Bayou Brief, however, know Adrastos by his real name, Peter Athas, and perhaps one day he can be convinced to write his own analysis of the Fall of the Rising Tide. But for those of us who attended the first several conferences and who read his trenchant, utterly original reporting, there is no question: Peter deserves an enormous amount of credit for cultivating that community and its culture. We are all fortunate (especially me) that he is still writing with the same persistence and gusto.

Recently, a friend and mentor of mine- Lee K. Abbott- passed away. Lee was once called “the true heir to John Cheever,” a compliment that only resonated among those in the world of literary fiction, particularly among aficionados of the short story. Well, take it for whatever it is worth, but I don’t think there is any question: Peter Athas is the true heir to Ashley Morris.

That means a lot since Ashley was a dear friend of mine: I was one of his pallbearers and we didn’t drop the coffin. Ashley was the one who inducted me into Krewe du Vieux. It wasn’t much of an induction, there was no ceremony but it was a landmark in my life. Here’s how I described it in my Bayou Brief piece, Confessions of a Krewe du Vieux Member:

I joined in 2007 through my close friend and fellow NOLA blogger Ashley Morris of FYFF fame. One day as he went on about parade prep, I posed the eternal question: “Who do I need to kill or fuck to join Krewe du Vieux?”

Ashley: “I know a guy. He’s a total asshole but I know a guy.”

Me: “Who?”

Ashley did a pitch perfect Bob Newhart impression:  “That, that would be me.”

It’s not quite like being a made man in the Mafia, but it’s less hazardous except for the whole beer, weed, and power tools thing.

Now that my hand is sore from patting myself on the back, let’s take a trip west to Lafayette. We begin this segment with a Zydeco tune that uses the word toot to great effect:

Gret Stet Oil Baron Smackdown: I’m not sure why they’re always oil barons. Why not a duke or a prince? Beats the hell outta me.

There’s a spectacular piece in New York Magazine by Ian Frisch. The story’s tagline says it all, “Cain and Abel and Oil: Greed, drugs, dirty cops, and the bitter sibling rivalry burning up an $800 million Louisiana family dynasty.”

Juicy doesn’t even begin to describe this article.

Now we’ve gotten all oily and shit, it’s time for a movie review. But first a Boss musical interlude:

Yesterday:  If you’re not into super hero flicks, the pickings are lean at movie theatres. I’m getting a little tired of actors in tights and masks. That’s why I was glad to venture forth to see Yesterday.

It has an impressive pedigree: directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis. I’m more of a Boyle fan but Curtis did write two of the best rom-coms of the 1990’s: Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. Hugh Grant, however, was not in this movie: a little star power might have come in handy.

Yesterday requires considerable suspension of disbelief. It tells the story of a world in which  the music of the Beatles has been forgotten. The filmmakers don’t bother to explain this phenomenon other than staging a world wide power failure that supposedly erased the Fab Four from history. That’s a helluva big eraser, y’all. It does, however, lead to a hilarious Oasis gag. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Yesterday tells the story of a wannabe rock star named Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) who is one of only three people on the planet to remember the Beatles. He starts playing and recording their songs, is DISCOVERED, and leaves his English hometown and charming kinda sorta girlfriend/manager Ellie (Lilly James) behind. Who would leave beautiful Lady Rose of Downton Abbey behind? Only this guy.

Jack finds fame and fortune but gives it away for the love of a good woman; all standard rom-com tropes. BUT the execution is good and the performances are charming including Ed Sheeran as himself as opposed to some random dude in Game Of Thrones. Danny Boyle is quite simply unable to make a shitty movie.

I considered punning on Beatles song titles at this point but instead I’ll link to A.O. Scott’s review in the Failing New York Times and leave the punning to him:

Here’s the trailer:

I give Yesterday 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B-. Dr. A liked it more than I did, but she’s a Richard Curtis fan girl who likes Love Actually whereas I actually only like parts of it:

I hate to end our second act on that mild note of discord. I think a Beatles tune will do quite nicely at this point. This is one our hero tried to play for his parents in the movie but kept getting interrupted by assorted antics.

Harry Michell, who plays one of Jack’s cronies, is a dead ringer for Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook so GT gets the second act’s last word:

That’s GT for Glenn Tilbrook, not gin and tonic.  But it’s an excellent summer drink and sounds good right about now. I bet they make a good G&T at GT’s local pub.

We begin our third act with our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth: I discovered a treasure trove of historical SAB images last month. This is the latest, and the funniest. Glenn Close does indeed resemble the GW of the dollar bill. I had not contemplated such a pairing but it works.

La Close, however, has her own teeth. And she’s been known to bite in such roles as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction and Patty Hewes in Damages. Chomp.

I’ve had the Gret Stet on my mind this week, so let’s feature the greatest baseball player who was born and raised in Louisiana.

Saturday GIF Horse: Mel Ott was also the greatest player in New York Giants history. I’m talking baseball, not the team Eli Manning throws interceptions for.

Ott was from Gretna across the river from New Orleans. Perhaps that’s why he had such an unconventional batting stance. They’d never let him hit like that now but Giants manager John McGrew knew Ottie was something special and didn’t mess with him. It worked. He hit 511 career homers in an era when membership in the 500 home run club was exclusive: for many years it was only Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Mel Ott.

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We stay on the baseball diamond with our next segment.

Weekly Vintage Music Video: Speaking of the baseball Giants, the great John Fogerty is a fellow San Francisco Giants fan. 1985 was a bad year for our team but a good year for Fogerty: Centerfield is quite simply the greatest baseball song of all-time. What’s not to love about a tune that mentions Willie Mays? The video is swell as well.

Let’s hang up our spikes and end this virtual ball game with some music.

Saturday Classic: Yesterdays was the first Yes compilation album. It consists mostly of pre-Howe and Wakeman material BUT it kicks off with the “Classic Yes” version of this week’s theme song, America. It was recorded during the Fragile sessions hence the image on the earlier video.

Enjoy the original Yes lineup of Squire, Anderson, Bruford, Banks, and Kaye:

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to the late, great Ashley Morris in a picture taken by Dr. A after the 2007 Krewe du Vieux parade.