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Once Every Thousand Years… | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Once Every Thousand Years…

The new “Think Again” column is called “War for the Hell of It: The Sad Decline of David Broder” and it’s here. Apparently David Broder has lost what’s left of his mind and his editors at the Post are unwilling to save the man from himself.

New Nation column, my favorite lyric of the moment, “You Are Only Coming Through in Waves” and it’s about our badly communicating president who doesn’t really understand the atmosphere in which he’s operating, here with a short appreciation of Ted Sorensen.

And I did a “Blame Rahm” piece for The Daily Beast over the weekend.

Oh, and here's this month's Moment Column, The New Religion for America's Jews: Israel.

Asshat?” Really, Rosanne?

This is terribly funny.

Did you know that this Sunday is a Global Day of Jewish Learning in honor of Adan Steinholtz's completion of 45 volumes of commentary on the Taldmud, the first such effort in 900 years (since Rashi) and only the second time ever? Incredible. How many things have only been done twice ever?  What’s left? Well, there’s Don Larsen’s world series perfect game and Reggie Jackson hitting three pitches out of the park for three home runs, and baseball is only, like, one-tenth as old as Judaism. Seriously, it’s an amazing accomplishment. Words fail.  But it’s also a nice reminder that things pass. Rashi, after all, was ten centuries ago...

Want to feel really bad about the prospects for Middle East peace? Read this.

Alter-reviews:

THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW: The Complete Series 17- DVD box set

It’s been a rough week all around. And even when it’s not, there are damn few things in life that qualify as unadulterated good news. Most upsides have a downside. Get what you think you want in life and you will find that you probably didn’t want it as much as you though you did. One thing, however, I can guarantee is nothing but good news is Shout! Factory’s release of the The Complete Larry Sanders Show on 17 DVDs, 89 episodes, 2800 minutes, or so they say. Let’s not waste time arguing what was the “best” show on TV ever. (OK, some nominations: The Odd Couple, The Simpsons, The Wire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mad Men, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bob Newhart, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, The West Wing, The Sopranos, Deadwood. Go ahead, argue if you must.) Let’s just say that Larry Sanders was in there. And it was long enough ago that you can’t possibly remember all the jokes and clever little asides that you might not have noticed the first time. And what an amazing cast Gary Shandling amassed with Rip Torn’s priceless Artie, Jeffrey Tambor’s insanely great Hank “Hey Now” Kingsley, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Odenkirk, Jeremy Piven, Sarah Silverman, etc. (I did not know that Judd Apatow was a co-producer.) Guest stars just begin with Carol Burnett, Tom Petty, Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin, John Stewart,  and an ogle-worthy Sharon Stone. Anyway, The Larry Sanders Show was the hippest TV show . . . probably ever. Late-night would never be the same again. Amazingly, it’s only a hundred bucks at Amazon.  It’ll be one of the best hundred bucks you ever spent. What else will put you in a good mood, over and over, for 2800 minutes for only a hundred bucks. And if you’re my age, you can start again, when you’re done, because you will have forgotten it all by then. It comes with a 60 page viewer guide. Every time I put it on, it improves my mood.  My profound thanks to everyone involved.

What else have I been watching? Well, I got three new blurays this week.

Seen Toy Story 3? Damn thing got me all choked up at the end. It’s a really wonderfully written movie and a great cast too. (Don Rickles? What a great idea.) I thought the Rotten Tomato rating was rather high until I saw the thing.  Anyone who doesn’t like this is a bad person. It comes with filmmaker commentary with Director Lee Unkrich and Producer Darla K. Anderson, and lots of stuff about Pixar, along with a digital copy your kid can download and keep on her computer. I also got the bluray of “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” I really expected to like this because of the reviews. Tony Scott said, “You may want to see it again as soon as it’s over.”  Excuse me but the dude is nuts. The movie blows.  I mean, I’m sufficiently immature to appreciate almost anything and this had some good lines, but I guess I have no patience for “video-game inspired” films. I did not make it to the end… Michael Cera is wasted. There are some extras, like a “making of” video and stuff, if you like video-game inspired movies. I don’t. The really exciting release in the Old Fart category is the six disc bluray release of all three “Back to the Future” films. I remember seeing the original at an 11:00 showing on the same day as the original Live Aid back in 1985. I remember feeling that it was a movie about loving movies—though the pretend Chuck Berry line went a little too far. A guy on Amazon says it “comes off as a Twilight Zone episode written by Preston Sturges.” What could be better than that?  The other two are not really bad. This person in Slate says they are about incest. I dunno. If so, it’s not nearly so incest-y as that Hot Tub movie last year. That was gross. And anyway, so what? It’s only a movie. Nobody’s making anybody do anything they don’t want to do.  Much of the movie series is actually a beautiful evocation of America as we wish it would be, and Michael J. Fox is just perfectly cast for that. (They had a problem with the original release and people are getting them replaced, by the way, so be careful when you buy yours.) There are a gazillion extras, the main one being, “ Tales from the Future:" 6-part retrospective documentary featuring all-new interviews with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Director Robert Zemeckis, and Exec Producer, Steven Spielberg and so many other things you can’t even count them but Amazon has them listed here.

Need some more good news? Here’s some.  Starting on the Day of the Dead (November 1), dead.net, the official website of the Grateful Dead, will kick off 30 DAYS OF DEAD. Every day throughout the entire month of November, the Grateful Dead will post a different live track on dead.net that will be free to download for one day only. The band’s archivist Dave Lemieux hand-picked each of the 30 career-spanning tracks from the Dead’s extensive vault. Each free song download will be a high-quality (320 kps) mp3 and nearly all of the 30 tracks are previously unreleased soundboard recordings.In addition to the free music, 30 DAYS OF DEAD will also include daily and weekly contests. When a new track is posted on dead.net each day at approximately Noon EST, the first person to correctly identify both the complete date (Month, Day, Year) and venue of the performance in the comments section will win their choice of any copy from the Dead’s ongoing Road Trips series.

Now here’s Reed:

Reed Richardson writes:

The C words

Com•pro•mise — [käm-prə-miz] n [Middle English fr. Middle French compromis fr. Latin compromissum.1. In the wake of the GOP takeover of the House, what the Dean of the Beltway press corps now believes President Obama finally must do after two years of getting exactly what he wants on every single piece of major legislation, if he hopes to win reelection in 2012. Ex:

Facing all these challenges at once, Obama did what seemed natural. He turned to his outsize Democratic majorities in Congress and said essentially, ‘Folks, I need you to fix this.’

 

The Democrats on Capitol Hill were eager to respond, but they did so in the way that they always will. Instead of acting promptly and with discipline, they dallied and used the delays to bargain for better benefits for their constituents and contributors.

 

What began as a sound economic stimulus, along with health-care and energy bills, became a swollen expensive and ineffective legislative monstrosity.

 

Somewhere along the way, Obama lost sight of his campaign pledge to enlist Republican ideas and votes. Maybe they were never there to be had, but he never truly tested it.

2. What President Obama actually did to enlist Republican support on every single piece of major legislation, successful or not, from the stimulus, to health care, to cap-and-trade, to financial reform, and most likely will do with the soon-to-be expiring “Bush tax cuts”, but rarely without getting slapped down, rebuffed, or ignored for his efforts by the very party he was trying to coax into governing.

3. What the new GOP majority’s leadership in the House has no intention of seeking with President Obama or the Democratic-majority Senate, a tactic it settled upon nearly two years ago.

Chall•enge — [chal-ənj] vb Middle English chalengen fr. Old French chalengier fr. Latin calumniari.

1. Thanks to Tuesday’s electoral results and Obama’s middling approval numbers, what increasing numbers of the Beltway media and the punditocracy believe the President will draw from within his own party when he runs for reelection in 2012, particularly if he does follow the pundits’ advice (see above definition). Ex.:

But the big issue is compromise. Obama actually wants to get things done. Which means he has to compromise with Republicans and has to risk angering and losing his liberal base. That makes him vulnerable to attack from the left, which is where Dean now stands.

2. What growing numbers of disenchanted Obama voters believe the President should face in 2012 as well, even though those most likely to support a Democratic primary opponent are, demographically speaking, the least likely to vote Democratic in the first place and inexplicably blame the President for his inability to get Republicans to work with him. Ex.:

Nobody wants to work with this guy,’ said Steven Fagin, 45, of Cincinnati. A Democrat and 2008 Obama voter, he cited deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans. ‘We're never going to get anything done.’

 

The survey found that those likeliest to oppose Obama’s re-election include men, older people, those without college degrees and whites. Those groups mostly supported his 2008 Republican opponent, John McCain.

3. Something difficult, like manufacturing a media narrative that Obama must compromise if he wants to win reelection, but that by compromising, he’s also likely to draw a Democratic opponent that could ultimately weaken him and harm his chances for political reelection (cf. also “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”).

Cen•ter — [sent-ər] n [Middle English centre fr. Middle French fr. Latin centrum.

1. A magical place in American politics, existing only in the minds of a few members of the Washington press corps, wishy-washy politicians and opportunistic, mealymouth thinktanks, where everyone gets along and parties love to work together (cf. def. 2 of compromise, also known as "Democrats give in") to enact the very best policies in government that everyone agrees upon always, with comity, also.

2. A fence-sitting position that allows politicians to publicly bemoan “excessive partisanship” while failing to offer up much in the way of alternative solutions. Ex.:

For people that I care about, [this election’s] a wake-up call to not just have business as usual. But to change the process so that we can deliver the kind of results that the American people want. Not far right or far left but practical solutions to our problems.

3. The ideological space where, if there is to be a Democratic challenger to Obama in 2012, I’m increasingly convinced the primary opponent will come from, whether or not the President compromises with the Republicans (cf. “unused campaign cash” and “protests otherwise notwithstanding”).

The Mail

Don Appel
Riverdale, NY
Welcome back, Col. Bateman! You were greatly missed!

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