I’ve got a new Think Again column, which involved quite a bit more work than usual, by the way, called "The Continuing Scandal of Howard Kurtz and The Washington Post," here. And my Moment column, "Why Jews Vote Like Puerto Ricans (and not Episcopalians)" is here.

and Hurray for Tom Tomorrow: for giving Mr. Bearded Librul his goatee back!

(Let’s not keep fighting about this, Dan. He’s much handsomer this way…)

Some Alter-reporting:  I ran into Joe Scarborough on my way out of the book party for Harry Evans the other night. HE was coming in. Handsome fellow, tall, and in awfully good shape, and I worry he would make a really attractive Republican presidential candidate if he took on the (really, really) crazies and beat them for the nomination. So I asked:

Me:  "So Joe, you running for president?"

Joe: "Me, no way. I’m having too much fun doing what I’m doing…"

There you have it, sports-fans.

Alter Pet Peeve: If you see two people talking at a cocktail party, don’t walk up to them and start talking as if they were not talking before you got there. It’s incredibly rude and everybody thinks it’s OK. It’s not. Wait to be drawn into the conversation.  Or if you insist on doing it, go ahead, what do I care. Just don’t do it with me.

This week on Moyers:

While politicians and the media war over "the public option" and "bending the cost curve," acclaimed actress-playwright Anna Deavere Smith gives voice to questions of life and death, sickness and healthcare.  Bill Moyers speaks with Smith, whose one-woman play "Let MeDown Easy"–nine years and more than 300 interviews in the making – has been applauded for spotlighting the real-life personal stories of people facing illness and mortality.

 Alter Review Box-set Bonanza:

Sal on "Dolly" and "Ya-Yas" Eric on Up, Monster’s Inc boxes, the Kevin Smith bluray box, and the Dead Winterland 77 Box. Also Eric Christian McBride, live at the Vanguard Tuesday night.

"Dolly," the new 4 CD Dolly Parton box from Legacy, covers a lot of ground. This is a good thing.  Dolly, like so many other wildly successful artists, is known for her hits. But what this excellent new set proves is that there is so much more, especially if you’re not enamored with some of the cornball tunes associated with Dolly.  Let’s face it, Dolly Parton IS a bit of a cornball, but she is an incredible songwriter, fabulously likeable, and an entertainment legend.

The earliest material on Disc One shows Parton trying to find herself, going from stripped-down rockabilly to a 60’s girl group feel to the country & western sound that defined her career, with almost a dozen tunes that feature her first partner in crime, the late, great Porter Wagoner. Most of it is quite strong, with "It’s Sure Gonna Hurt" standing out for me, essentially a rewrite of Dion’s "A Teenager In Love."

The classics are all here, "Jolene," "Bargain Store," "I Will Always Love You," as well as some of the fun, but cheesier hits like "Nine To Five," "Here You Come Again," and "Everything Is Beautiful."  But it’s everything in between, including the killer, folky demo "I’ve Known You All My Life," which, if you didn’t know, could be an early Bangles tune. There are only 7 previously unreleased tracks here, and unfortunately, this box does not include anything from her recent trilogy of fantastic bluegrass records on Sugar Hill. But as boxes go, it is solid and really all you need…and those 3 great bluegrass records on Sugar Hill.

The box is big and beautiful. The hardcover book is pretty. The iron-on tattoos are cute. The sound quality is fantastic, though no better than what has been released before. The bonus material is great, though available for years on easy-to-come-by bootlegs. The Ike & Tina and B.B. sets are a lot of fun. So why does the new Rolling Stones "Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out: 40th Anniversary Box" bother me so much? Well, it just seems unfair. How quickly would Stones’ fans rush to buy the Ike & Tina or B.B. sets? In this economy, my guess is not so quickly. What do we really want here? The DVD with the short Maysles film and the officially released bonus songs. Right? Wouldn’t the smarter move have been to incorporate the additional tracks into the existing album and release it as CD/DVD set for $19.99?  Now, we have to pay $49.99 for five songs and a DVD. If the collectors item aspect is important, then at least put the 5 songs on the same CD, and make it a 2 CD/DVD set for $15 less.

Just sayin…



Have you seen "Up?" I watched the Bluray the other day with the kid and we loved it. I don’t know if you will love it quite as much if you don’t have a bluray, but I think it’s the most impressive bit of animation I’ve ever seen. The story’s pretty moving too.  Ed Asner is just perfect as the grumpy old man, though the boy-scout is a little more annoying than I would have liked.  Turns out this guy, Pete Docter, also wrote Wal E, which was also wonderful. The version I got is four cds. I really can’t begin to tell you what’s on all of them; a new short, a digital version, conversations, directors, a few alternate endings, which are kinda fun, games, really, it’s a jungle out there. There’s a similar four disc bluray of Monsters Inc, which is good but not great from a grown-up’s perspective.  Though almost anything with Billy Crystal is bound to be funny. It’s about a utility company,  Monsters Inc as it happens, that generates energy from the fright of children. A nice little girl shows up and well, things happen. This has a filmmakers roundtable, and a whole mess of other stuff too.

Once you send the kids to bed, may I recommend the new bluray box of three Kevin Smith masterpieces, Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and the greatest of all of them, "Chasing Amy."  These movies are insanely great, though Jay and Bob is only pretty good. A friend once compared Smith to an American Rohmer, and if you don’t like potty-mouthed humor, you probably think that’s completely nuts, but many of us don’t, and don’t appreciate your haughty attitude, either. What do these films come with?

Again, lots of stuff, making of documentaries, interviews, various Smithania, with which even those of us who are pretty devoted fans could live without. Some of it is really fun, though, and it will quench the thirst of the thirstiest of those who cannot bear the idea of these movies ever ending.  Really, just looking at the list, it its actually a bit nuts how much stuff you’ve got on these dics. A person could spend an entire Thanksgiving weekend….What else do we have?

How about ten cds of live Dead from their BEST in this opinion, period. Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings presents three complete shows at the end of their tour, which I saw, by the way, at the Palladium, when I was 17, and we get 9 full discs, 68 tracks of beautifully recorded and nicely packaged prime Dead, with cool cover art, and photos, etc. There’s tenth disc too, of another show included just to round out the number. I like it better than Winterland 73, but that’s because it was my time…

If that’s not enough, there’s new two cd release from the Jerry Garcia Band in 1975 (during the Blues for Allah recording) and when he was just putting this project together. IT was done at the Keystone in November of that year and has Nicky Hopkins on piano. It sounds a lot like the rest of the JGB releases to me, but then again, my obsessive does not hold up against many when it comes to Jerry.

I caught the early show of Christian McBride’s "Inside Straight" quintet at the Village Vanguard, which was pretty much dedicated to their playing of their new cd " KIND OF BROWN," on Mave aVenue records. It’s a nice, old-fashioned kind of outfit, with melodies and stuff and some fine playing, by Steve Wilson on sax and the amazing vibraphonist Warren Wolf, one of McBride’s former students.The band was formed two years at the Vanguard, which was McBride’s first ever appearance as a band leader, following a career of playing with the likes of Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, etc, in what was supposed to be a one-time thing, but clicked and here they are.

 As it happens, the second tune on the cd "Song for Kareem," was also the second song of the night, which was kinda too bad, as Mr. Abdul Jabar did not make it down to that crowded cellar until about five songs in. He allowed no fuss, was not introduced, just sat and listened, on the day of the announcement that he was fighting leukemia. They will be there through Sunday night. (Speaking of exciting sightings at the Vanguard, did I mention the time I saw Vaclav Havel, Henry Kissinger and Lou Reed together at an Eric Reed concert there? I swear. Ask me about it next time you see me…) Oh, one more thing about Christian McBride. Don’t believe a thing the dude says. When he asked the crowd who wrote the theme from "Alice" which he played, and which I never heard of, for a free cd, I took a wild guess and said "Marilyn and Alan." When someone else called out "Bergman" as I was finishing, he said he wasn’t giving it to anyone. I don’t care, I get it free anyway, but what’s the deal with that? How is that the kind of fine, upstanding behavior to which young, aspiring jazz bassists can one day aspire. (I would have been fine if he had given it to the other guy, but, nothing? Really?)

Also, also, this year is the 41st Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival.  I didn’t get to go, but which is too bad, because it sounds incredible. They had Wayne Shorter Quartet, Chick Corea & Gary Burton, Brad Mehldau, Marcus Miller, and Bela Fleck.  I will get to see Chano Dominguez at Jazz Standard beginning on Dec 3-6, performing a newly commissioned work, "The Flamenco Side of Kind of Blue," which people tell me, was also a big deal….