Scene & Herd - A River Ran Through

Scene & Herd

Before stopping by the Atlanta Fly Fishing Festival at Gwinnett Center in Duluth on Saturday, I knew precisely one thing about fly fishing: Brad Pitt looked especially handsome doing it in the 1992 film A River Runs Through It.

I have since become educated.

If, like me, all you know about fishing you learned from the walls of Captain D's, here's a primer.

Fly fishing is so-called because, instead of live bait, fisherpersons coax their prey to delicious almond-crusted, buttery graves with lures that are woven to look like insects (aka flies). River fish like bugs.

The festival was filled with equipment sellers and outfitters who'd take people on fishing trips. The most interesting of the merchants — to me, anyway — were the many flymakers. Fishing flies are artful creations and often quite beautiful. The nicest ones don't so much look like flies as they do insect-sized peacocks. The tools of the fly-making trade include tiny vises, magnifying glasses, and spools of thread. Even though it was a trade show geared at selling stuff, the mood around the fly-maker tables was often collegiate. Someone would walk up to a table and say something like, "Hey, your stuff looks good. Can you show me how you make a Hot Wing Elk Hair Caddis?" "Why, certainly."

In addition to fly-making, there were several demonstrations on how to actually fish. By far the loudest demonstration of the afternoon was by an unrelentingly enthusiastic Bahamian fisherman named Simon Bain. Bain's demonstration was called "How to Cast into the Wind."

Standing in front of an industrial fan blowing at him as he cast his rod, Bain advised students to "not let the wind be our enemy." If the Wright brothers didn't have headwinds, Bain explained, their plane would have crashed.

It wasn't his instruction that made Bain memorable. He yelled a lot for no apparent reason. I videotaped part of his instruction. The one person I showed the video to said, "He must have Tourette's."

I doubt he was clinical, but every minute or so, he did let out an inappropriately loud "HAA!" that, with the help of a PA system, managed to be both thunderous and piercing. That wasn't all. Several times during the demonstration, he'd pause to point at someone standing near the industrial fan and yell, "HEY, SPONGEBOB, HA HA HA!" He would also occasionally punctuate his points by screaming "YEAH, BABY!" in an Austin Powers voice. At one point, he explained to convention-goers that they should visit the Bahamas because it's sunny. He then sang/yelled, "I'VE GOT SUNSHINE ON A CLOUDY DAY!" replacing the second line of the song with "YEAH, BABY!" and then going right back into his casting instruction.

ATLANTA BOUND: Last Thursday evening, the Earl briefly became record geek Valhalla. The reason: Legendary Maryland record collector Joe Bussard was in town to mark the release of Fonotone Records, a magnificent five-CD collection by Atlanta's Dust-to-Digital reissue record label. The Fonotone Records boxed set collects some of the finest records Bussard issued on his Frederick, Md.-based folk music label Fonotone Records.

Bussard is a record collector of the highest order. Not only did he issue a gazillion classic 78 rpm records on his own label in the '50s and '60s, but he also has one of the finest, if not the finest, collections of vintage 78s from the 1920s and '30s, a collection he's been adding to since the 1950s.

Entertainment that evening came in many forms. First, there was a screening of Desperate Man Blues, an Australian documentary about Bussard's life and record collecting. The documentary is terrific, in large part because Bussard's personality is so appealing. He's not a hoarder of antiques or a collectibles merchant. He's an enthusiastic lover and sharer of music. After the film, while the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers performed on stage, Bussard held court at the merchandise table — signing, selling, autographing, talking, and inviting nearly everyone who talked to him to visit his house and check out his records.

OY, BROTHER: On Saturday night at Morehouse College's King Chapel, I saw Tikvah, a multimedia show "celebrating the ties between Jewish Americans and African-Americans."

There was plenty to enjoy and plenty to cringe at. First, the enjoyment. The music was superb. Composed by Burton Beerman and performed by the Red Clay Saxophone Quartet, the best description I can come up with is avant-klezmer-jazz. I will make a point of seeing the quartet when it performs next.

The show's biggest weakness was the accompanying video show. It was shoddy-looking, with slides clumsily overlapping, and helped steer the show into unintentional kitsch. The video was incoherent, going from mid-century photos of Jewish families to images of the performers we were watching performing in other theaters. The group of people I saw it with seemed especially put off by a topless dancer doing a ballet performance of a goose-stepping concentration camp guard. "It was so camp ...," one of my friends said, pausing to shudder at his accidental double-entendre.

SPY MOVIE: Last Sunday, the Georgia for Democracy Film Club hosted a screening of a History Channel program detailing the CIA's overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian government in 1953.

The story of the overthrow is not conspiratorial U.S.-bashing. The overthrow has been written about for decades, frequently by the U.S. participants. Kermit Roosevelt, the agent who led the CIA's effort (grandson of President Teddy), actually wrote about it in his memoir. Recently declassified documents, however, fill in some of the details. For the full story, I recommend reading Stephen Kinzer's All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. As you might have gathered from the subtitle, it's a pivotal event in modern Middle East history and understanding it is crucial to understanding our brewing confrontation with nuclear-wannabe Iran.

The modern implications of the overthrow dominated the post-film discussion, with most questions either directly or indirectly betraying angst at the thought of a U.S. war in Iran. It being a room full of liberals, the conversation also strayed to other topics, including mini-rants about how corporations are taking over everything, federal cuts in student loans, Nazis, and one woman's overwhelmingly Republican retirement community. Liberals just can't stay on topic.

For more of Andisheh's adventures, visit Scene & Herd at andy2000.org.

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