I’ve got a new Think Again column called "Obama’s Commie Past Exposed Yet Again," and it’s here.

I took a seminar at Yale in 1985 when I was getting my master’s with Edward Said on the role of the intellectual. Everyone in the class wore black and quoted Derrida (with whom I also took a seminar, in French, of which I understood very little). Anyway, there was a rather imposing African-American fellow at the seminar table on the first day with a vest and tie, etc., and a big afro. He said nothing for the two-hour class and then at the end, was called and ripped into Said with every three-dollar word I had ever heard and many more I had not. It was like a fantasy come true–going back to school to show off how smart you were now; perhaps the coolest moment I’ve ever seen in a classroom. Then Said said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr. Cornel West," who apparently was an assistant professor in the Divinity School, letting the rest of us in on the joke. The amazingest thing about Cornel is what an original he is; there’s never been anything like him: "Gramsci and Sly Stone both understood…"

Anyway, I mention all of this because of the publication of Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, an as-told to memoir written with David Ritz, who has apparently cornered the market on cool as-told-tos, having done Paul Schaffer’s surprisingly excellent one, and also Lieber and Stoler’s not-as-great one. I’s published by something called Smiley Books and it’s fun.

How amazingly powerful and influential is Jane Mayer? She is so powerful and influential that when GQ picked her as (tied) for the 27th most powerful and influential person in Washington, they put up a photo of some other Jane Mayer… Just saying…

This Week on Moyers:

The Dow’s up, but why are Main Street Americans still reeling from last year’s economic collapse?  With Americans still facing rising unemployment, foreclosures, and declining property values, renowned economist James K. Galbraith on whether we’ve averted another crisis and how to get help for the middle class.  James K. Galbraith is the Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the LBJ Schoolof Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Galbraith has authored six books, most recently The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too.  And, National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser talks about his mentor William F. Buckley, Jr. and today’s conservative movement.

Alterreviews: The New Rod Stewart and John Coltrane boxes by Sal:

ROD

The Rod Stewart Sessions box that was just released is a real head-shaker. I’ve made no secret on both these pages in the past and on my own at Burning Wood, about how Rod Stewart gets under my skin.  An artist, whose first 10 records, both solo and with The Faces are some of the greatest in the history of music, and whose last 10 are some of the worst, now gets his career-spanning outtakes anthologized.  Who is this for? Fans of his first 10 won’t care too much for Discs 3 & 4, and fans of his last 10 won’t care for any of this.  But that doesn’t make Rod Stewart Sessions any less interesting, at least for one solid listen.

Unlike The Beatles’ anthologies or Bruce Springsteen’s "Tracks," there are no real gems here. Instead, we get almost 70 curiosities, some of which work and some that don’t. Hearing staples as "Maggie May" and "You Wear It Well" sounding so tentative, with working lyrics and Rod singing what sounds more like a guide vocal, is almost fun. Almost. It’s actually a bit uncomfortable. We know these songs too well, and silly lyrics like "I don’t mean to tell ya, that I think you look like a fella" make "Maggie May (Early Rough)" unlistenable. There is a version of "This Old Heart Of Mine" that is listed as "with Booker T. & The MGs," except that instead of Booker T’s signature organ, he’s playing a Fender Rhodes electric piano. (There goes that thrill.) An early take of "Hot Legs" has an identical musical arrangement, with a slightly different vocal approach. An alternate of one of Rod’s better later hits, "My Heart Can’t Tell You No," has a subtler string arrangement and a lot more space in its production. All great for one listen. This is the nature of this set. You really need to know the material well to appreciate the differences, otherwise you just won’t notice.

Disc 4 is mostly covers recorded for and mostly not used for a string of not-so-great 90s records. You get 1 Paul Weller, 1 Chris Rea, 1 Elvis Costello, 2 Bob Dylan’s, and a Jellyfish tune, the beautiful "I Wanna Stay Home," and the most offensive thing here, with Rod singing about two keys too high and sounding a little too much like Alfalfa Switzer. Disc 4 itself is not terrible, it’s just Rod, who seems to have given up about 15 years too early, phoning in just about every performance.

As a whole, this is really a nice addition to any die-hard Rod fan’s collection. But musically, there is nothing here that will keep you coming back. It’s like sticking with a so-so book because you think something will eventually happen. And it doesn’t.

COLTRANE: Side Steps

"Over the past three years, Prestige Records has released boxed sets of Coltrane’s numerous sessions from the mid- to late-’50s, each spotlighting a specific dimension of his tenure with the label. Fearless Leader–released in September 2006, in celebration of Coltrane’s 80th birthday–showcases his recordings as a bandleader. Interplay, released in September 2007, contains Coltrane’s early collaborative recordings with a variety of stellar musicians from the same era."

The above was taken from the Coltrane press release for the third set in this series, "Side Steps," a 43 track, 5 CD set showcasing John Coltrane as a sideman between 1956 and 58 with some of Prestige’s other…uh…prestigious artists.

There is some exceptional music here. This is a period where Coltrane was still mostly swinging and it’s hard to find a bad moment. Sessions with Mal Waldron, Elmo Hope, Gene Ammons, and Sonny Rollins  (whose entire "Tenor Madness" album is here, with the great Red Garland on piano) are all included, and Disc Three with Donald Byrd, though not as a leader, has some truly fine moments, especially on the gorgeous "I’ve Got It Bad" and the epic, slow-burning "Soul Junction." Concord is also continuing its wonderful Rudy Van Gelder/Prestige remaster series with:

THELONIOUS MONK QUINTET: MONK (1953)SONNY ROLLINS WITH THELONIOUS MONK AND KENNY DORHAM: MOVING OUT (1954)RED GARLAND QUINTET WITH JOHN COLTRANE: DIG IT! (1957)

The whole package could make some jazz fan a very happy camper come Hannukah….

Sal Nunziato

The Mail

Name: Maureen Holland

Hometown: South Venice Beach FL

Stephen Carver asked a question here on October 23.

"Is there enough news in America to actually support a 24 hour ‘news’ network?"

Yes, Steven. See BBC. And then weep.

Name: William Johnson

Hometown: Middleville

RE: Is there enough news to support a 24 hour news network?

There may not be enough 5 minute stories to support a 24 hour news network, but there are enough significant issues that would do well to have more than the cursory reviews we have now. If we had stories like what populates some of NPR today, or longer then yes I think there is more than enough news to fill a 24 hour cycle. What we don’t have is enough intelligence in the television media to fill a 24 hour cycle.

Name: William Johnson

Hometown: Middleville

RE: Is there enough news to support a 24 hour news network?

There may not be enough 5 minute stories to support a 24 hour news network, but there are enough significant issues that would do well to have more than the cursory reviews we have now. If we had stories like what populates some of NPR today, or longer then yes I think there is more than enough news to fill a 24 hour cycle. What we don’t have is enough intelligence in the television media to fill a 24 hour cycle.

Name: Bob Rothman

Hometown: Washington, DC

To me, what was so outrageous about the Balloon story wasn’t so much the first-day event coverage, but what came after. Yeah, the wall-to-wall coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and of course it was relatively trivial compared to events of more significance, and it showed once again that cable news cares deeply about white people who disappear…but at least it seemed to be a story. A boy seemed to be in danger, floating away, and then when the balloon landed he was missing.

But then when the boy turned up safe and never in danger, it was clear there was no story. Yet the cable folks went on and on about what a great story it was and how dramatic it seemed, and was it a hoax or not, and who was telling the truth and what was the background of the family. Come on, guys, There. Was. No. Story. Nothing to see here. Go home. But no. Sheesh.

Oh, and by the way, I remember seeing 14 Vermeers at the National Gallery of Art in 1998. What was going on in New York then?

Eric replies:

Actually, there were more than that. It was the greatest Vermeer show of all time.I lived in DC then, though it wasn’t 1998 either. It was 1994 , and Washingtonian Newt Gingrich shut down the government so the National Gallery had to raise the money privately to show the Vermeers.

Name: Jim Celer Hometown: Omaha

"Origen Without The Effort"! The man’s a genius. No, better–a writer.