Quantcast

The Altercation Gift-Giving Guide, Part I | The Nation

  •  
Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

The Altercation Gift-Giving Guide, Part I

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called Good Journalism is not “free” and Somebody’s Got to Pay for It,”and that’s here

Alter-reviews:

I had a big music weekend. Saturday and Sunday night I caught the last Phil and Bob (“Further”) shows at the Garden, and Monday night I got to go to the benefit, “One For Woody,” organized by Warren Haynes at Roseland, and featuring the North Mississippi All-Stars, Government Mule and the mighty Allman Brothers Band. The show was a tribute to the late bassist Allen Woody who, like Haynes, played in both the Mule and the ABB, and I guess had a lot of friends. It was a real family night, however, Woody’s daughter, Savannah, sang “Soulshine,” with Government Mule, and Berry Oakley Jr. played with the boys. (Dangerous job, ABB bass player. Kinda like playing keyboards for the Dead, alas.) I caught the second half of the Mule’s set—I never saw them before and they were pretty damn good. They did a terrific “Stay with Me” with Rich Robinson & Artemis Pyle, and the Allmans, when they finally came on, had more guests than I could count, much less identify.  They did Who’s Been Talking (w/Hook Herrera), One Way Out (w/Rich Robinson & Berry Oakley Jr), Statesboro Blues (w/Berry Oakley Jr), The Weight (w/Audley Freed & Danny Louis), Franklins Tower (w/Chuck Garvey, Vinnie Amico & James Van de Bogart—though not, as many people expected, Bob and Phil, who after all, were in town the night before), Southbound (w/Hook, Luther, & Cody) the encore was Whipping Post, followed by an interesting Wish You Were Here (Warren w/ Berry Oakley jr., Gordie Johnson, Danny Louis & Matt Abts) at the end. (Funnily, the second to last song played by Furthur was “Time,” so everybody’s dipping into the Pink Floyd catalogue. Anyway, I walked in the back door with Greg, and he looked just fine with his new liver. (Unlike Phil, Greg does not make a public service announcement on behalf of organ donors—one that actually got me to do it.) And the band was great.  They always are. The Allmans are the most dependable thing in life after Bruce. But it had a real nice extra vibe going owing to this Woody thing, and Haynes and Derek in particular, were on fire.  (Oh, and your correspondent accepts your gratitude for staying up late enough to write about a show where the band in question did not come on until midnight—on a school night.) 

The Altercation gift-Buying Guide, Part I

40: A Doonesbury Retrospective (Andrews McMeel Publishing). This is the perfect gift for anyone who is half-decent in any way. How could anybody not want it? The list price is $100, but you can find it cheaper. It’s worth a hundred bucks, easily. With forty years worth of strips, the organizational issues had to be challenging ones. They’ve divided it by character, which strikes me as correct, because that is at the fulcrum of one’s emotional attachment to Trudeau, and the primary narrative thread though which Mr. Trudeau has become perhaps our nation’s most important real-time historian; playing a role in sanity-saving not unlike Jon Stewart but not only before his time, but for four straight decades. (There is a four page foldout map of–“ the mind-boggling matrix of relationships” that have evolved over the years.) If you were a kid like me, back in the seventies, Woody Allen and Doonesbury were all you had to keep you sane, particularly in the years the Mets sucked (and before Bruce broke). This book is big in every way. It’s so big, it’s hard to hold. That might be a problem for some, though some of us can use it for weight-training.  Seriously, I could spend a lot of time singing Mr. Trudeau’s praises. But Garry Wills has done a better job of it than I could, here. I also like Gerry’s idea that a ”great modern American history course could be taught using this volume of collected strips, stretching from Watergate to Afghanistan.” I might just do it. I’ve even made a few calls on it already. Overall, this is one of the great intellectual/artistic accomplishments of the past half-century, irrespective of category. Do I really need to keep going here? Sorry, I need to get paid for that. Anyway, Amazon has it incredibly cheap, with plenty more info, here.

Another fine gift for a lot of people, though I suppose not everybody, is the new, second edition of The Encyclopedia of New York City (Yale University Press). Again, at just under 1600 oversized pages, it’s kind of hard to lift. And it’s only been fifteen years since the first one. (The Dodgers are still gone, apparently.) This version has 800 entries the old one didn’t, including a bunch, alas, that relate to September 11, 2001. Editor Kenneth T. Jackson, the Jacques Barzun Professor of History at Columbia University, knows a great deal about the city. (His “Crabgrass Frontier” is a classic.) He is kind of dry, I gotta say.  Still, it’s invaluable.  More, here.

Will Frierwald, A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers [Pantheon]. To like this big fat (832 page) book, you gotta like Will Frierwald.  In a direct contrast to Mr. Jackson above, Frierwald is opinionated, and on occasion, outrageous all the time. He is incredibly knowledgeable and engaging even when—particularly when—he makes you want to argue with him. What’s nice about the book is its exclusive focus on the music of the musicians, rather than their personal lives, which are almost always messy and sometimes interesting, but inevitably detract from the music. This book reminds me of David Thompson’s film encyclopedias, which are sometimes nutty but always worth reading. Some of the Amazon reviewers have interesting arguments with the author here.

Jim Derogatis and Greg Kot, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock 'n' Roll Rivalry (Voyageur Press). This book is kinda fun, because of the photos, paraphernalia the two authors collected. It’s undermined, however, by their need to pretend that the Stones were ever anywhere near as great as the Beatles. They were great, but not that great.

Herman Leonard, Jazz (Bloomsbury). The first photograph vintage I ever bought was the back of Frank Sinatra in Monte Carlo (1959) Herman Leonard, and if you ask me whether I believe God exists, I would point you to his “shaft of light” photograph of Duke Ellington, which sits above the desk in my office.  I bought a portfolio a few years later and a bunch of them are up around the house anchoring the collection. So I can’t strongly recommend Jazz, the late Mr. Leonard’s collection, just out from Bloomsbury. Leonard was born in Allentown, moved to the big city in 1948 and opened his first studio in Greenwich Village, where he worked for Life, Esquire and Playboy while recording the jazz scene. In 1989, Leonard settled in New Orleans, living there until Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home, studio and print collection in 2005. (There’s a documentary called “Saving New Orleans” about him, which you can see on Sundance this week.) Alas, the gentleman just died, and probably never got to see this book. He did, however, get the the Grammy Foundation's first grant award to a photographer.  Nice book too. Here

There’s a new seventeenth edition of the Oxford Atlas of the World that according to its press material, is

the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information. Oxford's Atlas of the World is the most authoritative atlas on the market. Full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, the Atlas is filled with maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth's surface. Opening with world statistics and a colorful, instructive 48-page Introduction to World Geography—beautifully illustrated with tables and graphs—this acclaimed resource provides details on numerous topics of geographic significance, such as climate change, biodiversity, energy, and landforms.

It’s great and useful to have, but more fun and interesting for me (and cheaper) is Oxford’s Atlas of World History with 450 maps and 160 illustrations, and is divided into sections on ancient, medieval, early modern, Enlightenment and 20th century history, with easy-to-read two-page entries covering such subjects as "Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire, 100-500" and "The Development of Australia and New Zealand Since 1790." The section on postwar life includes charts showing migration patterns, female enfranchisement, distribution of wealth across the globe and changes in the environment.”   The World Atlas is here and the World History Atlas is here.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (University of California Press) Goodness gracious, this is another character-building exercise. It’s 1,760 pages, and again, big. It’s been an amazing best-seller, which is interesting because the main selling point of this edition is the impressive scholarly apparatus that it comes with, since much of the “autobiography” has been available for quite a while now. This is the first of three proposed volumes. And the autobiography takes up only a small portion. The rest is history, context and scholarly musings on what appears. It’s an impressive package but will not be to everyone’s taste, though Mark Twain certainly ought to be.  More here

(More TK next week)

The mail

Jim Peale
Swanzey, NH

About three years ago, I encountered a lot of objections at the annual Christmas Dinner Family Political Free-For-All by expressing the belief that we'd see a black man as President before we saw a woman in that office.  I based this on my belief that misogyny (or at least discomfort with strong women) ran a lot deeper in American society than did racism.  The treatment of Nancy Pelosi, both as a punching bag for Republican know-nothings during the recent campaigns and as a foil for uninformed boobs after (see Broder, David) just enforces my belief in the underpinnings of my argument.

Bill Dunlap
Lake Oswego, Oregon

Eric:
 When you get the '78 Houston concert, it will give you a three-hour smile. It was the first thing I put on. The sound seemed a little flat at first, but when I blasted it through my aging Ohm I (Eye) speakers (made in Brooklyn) it was great. A personal treat was a photo of Bruce on the same motorcycle I used to ride, a 500cc on/off road Triumph, although mine was a few years older. I complained earlier about having to buy Darkness a fourth time, but now—no problem.

Eric replies: Got it. It’s insanely great, though there’s a magic in the Phoenix night that transcends Houston, albeit ever-so-slightly.

Editor's Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.