Quantcast

Slacker Friday | The Nation

  •  
Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Slacker Friday

The new book is here.

I’ve got a new Think Again column on Sarah Palin and Blood Libel here, called “The Gift Who Keeps on Giving.”

And my Nation column is called “A “Worm” in the Neocon War Plans?” and that’s here.

For the Daily Beast I did “The GOP’s Health Care Kabuki” and that’s here.

I got kicked off Parker-Spitzer last night apparently for Ron Reagan, who writes in his new book that his father probably had Alzheimer's while president. In 2000, the great Charles P. Pierce published a book called Hard To Forget, which was about both his father's Alzheimer's, and how all four of his siblings eventually succumbed to it, and about the history of the disease and the researchers who were fighting it at the time. In it, on page 59, he wrote this, in part:

I will believe this until I die—for at least four years, the United States was governed by a symptomatic Alzheimer's patient. I believe the people near him knew that and I believe that they covered for him in a hundred ways, large and small...I do not envy them their dark miracle or their consciences.

The Reagan people reportedly were furious at Pierce for having written that. (The Alzheimer's community is a talkative one.) But he felt confident in writing because, almost to a person, everyone he talked to in the research community believed it. At a conference in Japan, Pierce told me he was talking to Dennis Selkoe, one of the top guys in the field and mentioned that there was one episode in particular that made him think that Reagan had become symptomatic, and Dennis, without missing a beat said, "The first debate with Mondale." There were always hints. Jane Mayer and Doyle McManus wrote a book called "Landslide" that begins with a young WH lawyer being tasked to research the presidential disability provisions of the 25th amendment. Every memoir—from Lawrence Walsh's to Ollie North to Lesley Stahl's—has at least one instance of Reagan being utterly vacant. John McCain told Pierce that he had seen one in the WH. Many Alzheimer's patients have a catastrophic episode—Reagan had a few, and these were evident during his testimony during the Iran-Contra scandal…among others.

For reasons I cannot imagine, New York magazine didn’t ask me to contribute to this, but this list making stuff is fun. Here’s mine. (For reasons of honesty and expertise, I decided to limit myself to people and events I was old enough to actually experience.)

Mayor: Lindsey
Senator: Moynihan
Governor: Mario Cuomo
Congressperson: Bella Abzug
TV Show: The Odd Couple
Honorable Mention: Mad Men, 30 Rock, All in the Family, Saturday Night Live, The Honeymooners, Dick Van Dyke
Worst: Friends, Seinfeld, Sex in the City
Movie: Manhattan
Honorable Mention: Dog Day Afternoon, Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Taxi Driver, Wall Street, The French Connection, Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour, Inside Man, An Unmarried Woman
Musical: Guys and Dolls, revival (because it’s my favorite musical, not because the revival was so great), Hair (because the revival was so great), Two Gentlemen of Verona (both the original and revival)
Drama: Angels in America
Song: “Take the A Train”
Honorable Mention: “New York State of Mind,” “Incident at 57th St,” “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” “Sugar Hill Rap,” “The Message,” 
Worst: “New York, New York”
Novel: Catcher in the Rye
Honorable Mention: Goodbye Columbus, Mr. Sammler’s Planet

Athletes:
1)    Walt Frazier
2)    Joe Namath
3)    Tom Seaver
4)    Willie Mays
5)    Yogi Berra
6)    The rest of the 69 Knicks
7)    Mickey Mantle
8)    Derek Jeter
9)    Mike Tyson
10) Tug McGraw
11) Reggie Jackson
12) The ’69 Rangers
13) Phil Rizzuto
14) Dwight Gooden
15)  Gil Hodges
16) Buddy Harrelson
17) Ron Darling
18) Thurmond Muson
19) Fran Tarkenton
20) Billy Martin

Columnist: Murray Kempton
Honorable Mention: Pete Hamill, Sydney Schanberg
Worst: A. M Rosenthal
Sportswriter: Roger Angell
Worst: Dick Young
Theater critic: Frank Rich
Music critic: Robert Christgau
Honorable Mention: Gary Giddins
Host of SNL: Steve Martin
Concert: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Madison Square Garden, August 21-23, 1978.
Honorable Mention: The Clash at Bond’s, 1982
Concert I was too young to see: John Coltrane at the Village Vanguard, 1961
Honorable Mention: Allman Brothers, final show at the Fillmore,
Refugee: Larry David
Immigrant: John Lennon
Hedline: “Headless Body in Topless Bar”
Carpetbagger: George Steinbrenner
Annoyance: Donald Trump
Disc Jockey: Vin Scelsa
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Schwartz, Alison Steele
Archtypal New Yorkers: Walt Frazier, Woody Allen, Miles Davis, Patti Smith, Lillian Ross, Jason Epstein, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Tina Fey, Paul Simon, Spike Lee, Bobby Short, Nora Ephron, Martin Scorsese, Robert Caro, Ahmet Ertegun,Tony Randall,

The mail:

Yisrael Medad
Shiloh, Israel

About that Dalal girl and hospital treatment.  Can't she also go east, to Jordan?  Why is it always the seemingly exclusive responsibility of Israel to provide medical facilities and treatment?

Maureen Holland
South Venice Beach FL

"BIRTHS: Sometime between 1948 and 1960, Maureen Dowd"

With that line alone, you may rest on your laurels for the balance of this new year.

Merrill R. Frank
Jackson Hgts, NYC
Dr.,

Who would think one of the beneficiaries of Sargent Shriver’s noble legacy would be none other than Sarah Palin and her family. Due to his advocacy regarding special needs kids her special needs child at least gets a shot at a decent life and is not sent off to some institution to wallow. Her grandchild benefits from the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. If she only knew the value of his liberal legacy, how the many have benefited from it and somehow conveyed it within her wordy jumble. Then again she probably would decry these progressive reforms as socialism or have credited Reagan for their success.

William Miller
Mill Valley, Calif.

“Layla”?  “Layla”?!  Why not just pick “Stairway to Heaven” and be done with it?  Hell, there are at least two songs on Stephen Stills’ first album that are better than “Layla”, and that’s just 1971.

I’ve never understood the whole “Layla” thing.  You want Clapton at his best?  Try “Rain” from Eric Clapton or “Sleepy Time Time” from Live Cream.  Allman?  Please.

Eric, I thought you knew these things.

Eric replies: Dude, you don’t get it so it’s not true? You noticed maybe that "Layla" has an Allman on it too? I maybe could have gone with “Why Does Love Got to be So Sad?” particularly the version I saw (twice) by Clapton with the Allmans, but absolutely nothing at all by Cream touches either one. I like "Let it Rain," who doesn’t, but the above is just silly. I sense a bustle in your hedgegrow, and I’m alarmed now. And the Stephen Stills almost is only ok…

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

Like this Blog Post? Read it on the Nation's free iPhone App, NationNow.

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.