Saturday Odds & Sods: This Wheel’s On Fire

Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry.

It’s been a difficult week in New Orleans. Dr. A tested positive for COVID and we’re under quarantine. Mercifully, we’re both asymptomatic.

This is an excellent example of how contagious COVID-19 is. As a scientist, Dr. A is careful and cautious in dealing with the virus. She caught it at work, not socializing. If you’re thinking of having a normal Thanksgiving, please reconsider. Anyone can catch this virus if they let their guard down. Help is on the way but it’s going to take time to vaccinate the entire population. Please be careful out there.

This week’s theme song was written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko in 1967. It was first recorded by The Band on their debut album, Music From Big PInk. It’s been covered by a wide variety of artists over the years and was the theme song of the OTT British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.

We have four versions of This Wheel’s On Fire for your listening pleasure: The Band live, The Byrds, Julie Driscoll, and Guster.

I have a confession to make. I’m a hardcore fan of The Band but I’m not crazy about Big Pink. It’s a brilliant collection of songs but they don’t swing like the Band did live. Hence the live burning wheel. I hope this won’t consign me to rock hell as the CW on Big Pink is that it’s one of the greatest albums of all-time. I like it but don’t love it.

Another song from The Band with Rick Danko on lead vocals:

Now that we’ve walked that highway til we die, let’s jump to the break.

Bitch is one of the most overused words in the English language. I rarely, if ever, use it. It fits the first segment of our second act perfectly, so I’ll make an exception. It’s also a damn fine Stones song:

The First Mean Girl: It will come as a surprise to no one that Ivanka Trump is a mean girl straight out of the Tina Fey flick. It’s been confirmed repeatedly in the last four years. She’s always been like that according to her ex-best friend Lysandra Ohrstrom who describes some of their antics and bitcheries in an article at Vanity Fair.

Ohrstrom’s teenage interactions with Donald are as creepy as hell:

He would barely acknowledge me except to ask if Ivanka was the prettiest or the most popular girl in our grade. Before I learned that the Trumps have no sense of humor about themselves, I remember answering honestly that she was probably in the top five. “Who’s prettier than Ivanka?” I recall him asking once with genuine confusion, before correctly naming the two girls I’d had in mind. He described one as a young Cindy Crawford, while the other he said had a great figure.

Though he never remembered my name, he seemed to have a photographic memory for changes in my body. I’ll never forget the time Ivanka and I were having lunch with her brothers at Mar-a-Lago one day, and while Mr. Trump was saying hi, Don Jr. swiped half a grilled cheese sandwich off my plate. Ivanka scolded him, but Mr. Trump chimed in, “Don’t worry. She doesn’t need it. He’s doing her a favor.” Conversely, he’d usually congratulate me if I’d lost weight.

Nice.

I wonder what the Impeached Insult Comedian says privately about the GSA’s Emily Murphy. Maybe she’s stalling the transition to avoid fat jokes.

This is the second time this year that a “best friend” has turned on a Trump. First, it was Melania, now it’s Ivanka. Funny thing that nobody’s turned on any Obamas.

We end the segment with a couple of friendly songs:

Irony is a bitch and so are Ivanka and Melania.

You’re probably wondering about the John Brown featured image. Wonder no more.

The Good Lord Bird: My expectations were not high when I tuned in, but I fell madly in love with the Showtime mini-series on first viewing. I loved it so much that I plan to spend a day binge rewatching The Good Lord Bird.

It’s based on a novel by Joseph McBride that I really need to read. The tone of the series reminds me of Gore Vidal’s American Chronicles, which is high praise indeed.

The book and the series have a fictional character as narrator: Henry a young slave freed from bondage in Kansas by John Brown. For some reason Brown is convinced that Henry is a girl, so he has him dress in a frock and calls him Onion. Onion drives the narrative in the same way that fictional Charlie Schuyler drove the narrative of Burr and 1876. Again high praise indeed.

The Good Lord Bird presents a nuanced portrait of John Brown. As played by Ethan Hawke he’s part mad man, part visionary, and part tender-hearted parent. Hawke sat for an interview with Vulture’s Jen Chaney and said this about the man he played:

I have to tell you, there’s no part I’ve ever had that chewed me up and spit me out the way that this one did. Sometimes you run up to the wall of your gift. There wasn’t anything that I could throw at this part that it couldn’t handle. I felt a lot as if I were the first person to get to play King Lear or something. The part was that rich, it was that dynamic. It needed that many layers. And also, nobody had done it before, so there was no map. I can tell you when we completed it, just the absolute exhaustion that I felt was unlike anything I’ve ever been through.

Hawke’s portrayal of John Brown is as good a piece of acting as you’re likely to see. I can still hear his raspy voice shouting at the sinners and cooing to Onion and his own children. It’s good and hilarious stuff.

Ethan Hawke is also the creative force behind the series as a star-producer much like Burt Lancaster or Kirk Douglas back in the day. High praise indeed.

Here’s the trailer:

The Good Lord Bird can be found wherever Showtime airs or streams. I give it 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A.

The last word of our second act goes to Pete Seeger:

We begin our third act with our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth Casting Edition: We have a Good Lord Bird doubleheader. We go from big beards with John Brown and Ethan Hawke to big hair with Daveed Diggs and Frederick Douglas.

Speaking of big hair, my favorite big hair musical reference comes from this song:

The Movie List: The Good Lord Bird is about the origins of the conflict I prefer to call the War of the Rebellion. There have been many fine films set during before and after that epic conflict. Here are some of them.

My Top Ten Favorite American Civil War Movies:

  1. Glory
  2. Gone with the Wind
  3. The General
  4. Ride with the Devil
  5. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  6. The Conspirator
  7. Friendly Persuasion
  8. Red Badge of Courage
  9. Gangs of New York
  10. Lincoln

Saturday GIF Horse: Who the hell thought it was a good idea to give Lucy a knife?

Charlie Brown Halloween GIF by Peanuts - Find & Share on GIPHY

Weekly Vintage Music Video: Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush with a song that’s still relevant in our Trumpy pandemic laden time.

Let’s close things out with some more music.

Saturday Classic: 10cc’s Lol Creme and Kevin Godley directed Don’t Give Up so it’s time for some Sheet Music via Spotify:

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to Joshua Caleb Johnson as Onion and Hubert Point Du Jour as Bob from The Good Lord Bird.

7 thoughts on “Saturday Odds & Sods: This Wheel’s On Fire

  1. MichaelF says:

    Keeping y’all both in my thoughts. Let us know if you need anything. Glad you’re not showing symptoms and certainly hope it stays that way.

  2. dp says:

    Great post, as usual. Hope you guys stay well. Be safe, and happy Thanksgiving.

  3. mellowjohn says:

    Just finished reading “The Good Lord Bird.” Highly recommended.

  4. Keith says:

    Minor kvetch, Tragic Prelude, the mural headlining this post, is by John Steuart Curry, not Benton. It’s in the Capitol building of the ridiculously red state of Kansas. I’m a citizen of the People’s Republic of Lawrence, a blue spot in a sea of red. Former resident of Lake Chuck La too, for what that’s worth.

    • Peter Adrastos Athas says:

      Yikes. I’m sure you’re right but it was incorrectly listed as a Benton where I found the picture. Just changed it. Thanks.

  5. mark folse says:

    The best Wheel song is still Jerry’s

  6. Tommy T says:

    Criminentalies! Peter, did you test yet?

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