I did not make this. I am sorry I wasn’t the one to think of it.
This morning, over my coffee, I was reading some articles I’d put off. I’m a fan of SNL, and my friend Theres maintains a TV blog with her own recaps and discussions of various shows, including SNL.
I read through her post on the Travis Kelce episode from a few weeks ago (and she’s right; he was way funnier than you’d expect), but was kinda stunned to discover that the “posed dead body at the funeral” skit was taken from something that is currently being done in New Orleans. See here.
The “wild thread” part of this comes deep in the linked NYT article:
Ms. Burbank’s service was the second of its kind that Mr. Charbonnet had arranged, and the third in New Orleans in two years. But there have been others elsewhere, most notably in San Juan, P.R. Viewings there in recent years have included a paramedic displayed behind the wheel of his ambulance and, in 2011, a man dressed for his wake like Che Guevara, cigar in hand and seated Indian style.
“I never said it was the first,” said Mr. Charbonnet, who mentioned the 1984 funeral of Willie Stokes Jr., a Chicago gambler known as the Wimp, who sat through his funeral services behind the wheel of a coffin made to look like a Cadillac Seville.
I know that name. I know it because Stevie Ray Vaughan had success with a song about Willie the Wimp back in the 80s, and until this morning I was sure it was just a Blues Tall Tale. I mean, who has a “Cadillac coffin?”
Apparently, Willie did.
I. Um. Uh.
(No, really. It’s worth it.)
The other day I was reminded, for some random reason, of a great scene from the 2007 film Charlie Wilson’s War wherein we get a really lovely confrontation between Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s character (and real life CIA officer) Gust Avrakotos and CIA administrator Henry Cravely (whom I’m not sure was real or not) played by John Slattery:
The piece of this that sticks in my memory is the moment, at the end of his rant that starts about a minute in, where Gust finishes his rant with “…and I am never, ever sick at sea.” Weird flex, right? But cool in the moment.
But in seeing this scene again, I remembered that I’d heard it before, from Alec Baldwin back in 1993, in the underrated neo-noir Malice. Here’s the scene; it’s worth going with the whole clip to get context (and a late performance by George C. Scott), but Baldwin’s bit starts at about 3:00. Here, he’s a high-powered and egotistical surgeon accused of malpractice due to arrogance:
There it is again: “I am never, ever sick at sea.”
That’s a weird line — I mean, it’s great, but it’s odd once and super odd TWICE in very similar contexts, which is enough to tickle my brain into a bit of research. Two things immediately came to light:
First, that the line is a reference to Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1878 H.M.S. Pinafore; and
Second, that the screenwriter on both films was one Aaron Sorkin.
Sorkin is a documented G&S nerd — so much so that he wove references thereto into the fabric of his best known work, the award-winning TV show The West Wing. In season two, he even literally ENDS an episode with the main cast singing along to a song from (yep) Pinafore.
This is, absolutely and without a doubt, the Bjorkiest Bjork has EVER Bjorked.
After a long but tiring vacation trip out west, I found myself unwilling to delve into the Serious book I’d brought, so at the Palm Springs airport — a curious place, to be sure; its interior is mostly outside — I bought a random airport thriller.
I chose it against my better judgement, because it was by Harlen Coben. I’ve read him before, and even written about it here; his first Myron Bolitar book was pretty much derivative crap that I’m sorry I spent time on.
Even so, his book was the least stupid looking option on the shelf, so that’s how I ended up reading Win. Spoiler: I couldn’t put it down, and read the whole thing in our flights back from California. The titular Win is Windsor Horne Lockwood III, a side character from Coben’s Bolitar series.
In my prior post, I noted how slavishly Coben apes the superior work of Robert Parker. His hero is a Spenser-type character, surrounded by a Spenser-type supporting cast. Instead of Susan, he has his own improbably attractive and brilliant girlfriend. And instead of the wonderful Hawk, Bolitar’s morally-flexible unstoppable badass partner is Windsor Lockwood — a visually slight, obviously patrician scion of a hugely wealthy family who has, of course, done Sekrit Agent work or whatever, and steps into the fray when ugly things need doing.
But, sue me, those sorts of characters are kind of my kryptonite, and a book with Win as the main character seemed like it might be fun. And it was! Like I said, I read it in essentially one sitting.
This gave me a thought: Had I misjudged Coben? Should I sample him again? I mean, in the interest of Science and all that, of course. So I went over to our local mystery bookshop and picked up another Coben: Fool Me Once, from 2016.
SWEET JESUS THE STUPID IT BURNS.
Fool Me Once is an absolute shitshow of a book. It was hard to finish. It’s stuffed with unearned turns of events and a grossly insulting ending that should have earned Coben a public shaming. Jesus, it’s terrible.
so yeah: skip Coben. Win might be fine, and I guess if he returns to Lockwood I might sample it — but from the library; no way I’m paying MONEY for this guy’s stuff again.
Empty the Pews is a collection of essays from people who have, for various reasons, left religion. Obviously some leave authoritarian cults, but others leave for more basic reasons: the church denies them identity and humanity. The church fails even cursory examination. The church, well, fails.
It’s pretty fine. I thought I’d have time to write more about it, but that impulse has been overcome by events and now probably won’t happen. But it’s a great effort, and one I’m glad I read.
R.E.M.’s Murmur was released forty years ago yesterday, on 12 April 1983.
Even though I wouldn’t find them for another couple years, it’s from this root that all the great music of my youth grows. These songs remain like cool, cool water to me. For the best part of 40 years, a copy of Murmur has never been far away. For more than 20, it’s literally ALWAYS been on my music player of choice.
…I am 100% on board with any caper that involves (a) stealing from an enormous corporation via (b) a secret tunnel.
Somehow, back in 2021, I completely missed the release of The Metallica Blacklist, a multi-artist tribute to the elder statesmen’s 1991 album.
What’s weird about this set, though, is how they settled the “who gets to do which song” debate that I assume underpins every such tribute record. This time, the remit was “hey, fuck it, just do whichever song you want.” This led to (a) a huge collection; it has 53 tracks spread across 4 discs (I mean, if you buy it)… but all 53 of those tracks are versions of the twelve songs from The Black Album.
There are six versions of “Enter Sandman,” for example (including one from Ghost) and a full dozen of “Nothing Else Matters” — including contributions from Phoebe Bridgers, Dave Gahan, My Morning Jacket, Darius Rucker, Chris Stapleton, and a weird all-star recording from Miley Cyrus collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma, Elton John, Chad Smith, and Robert Trujillo. I mean: dang.
The upshot is that this is probably not something you’d sit and listen to at once — I mean, I like this kind of stuff, but even I don’t want to listen to twelve covers of the same song back to back. At the same time, the lack of scarcity brought on by a streaming-first world (again, 53 tracks, so a pre-streaming physical version would’ve doubtless been prohibitively expensive for most folks) means there’s space here for some wildly different, very experimental versions of these songs.
Anyway. Carry on.