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'My Friend Came to Me With Sadness in His Eyes' | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

'My Friend Came to Me With Sadness in His Eyes'

My new “Think Again” column is called “Kochs: Life Is Good.” It’s about how much fun it must be for people like Charles and David Koch to give money to organizations that promote their profits and ideology rather than pay their fair share of taxes, and it’s here.

I don’t know what my Forward column is called but it uses the Jennifer Rubin kerfluffle to shine a light on what a raw deal the Palestinians get in the US media and how perhaps—far be it from me to suggest this—it might have something to do with the prominence of so many Jews in the punditocracy and so few Arabs. 

Too late for my column but in plenty of time for your weekend reading, CAP has just published an incredibly detailed report called "Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America" and you can find it here.

I’d write more about this but I have a hurricane to prepare for…

Alter-reviews:

If you’re worried about losing your edge as you age, I’d recommend a visit either to a Hot Tuna show (electric if possible) or a smaller Jorma Kaukonen gig, preferably with Barry Miterhoff on one side of him and G. E. Smith on the other, though the latter two—great as both of them are in their own respective fashions may be—are not the point here. Jorma is. I caught an insanely hot and crowded Jorma show at the Stephen Talkhouse last week and the quality of the playing given that Jorma just celebrated his 70th birthday—and Hot Tuna, somehow its 50th—is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s really simple stuff—decepitvely so, though I find Barry’s playing calls attention to itself more than Jorma’s of late, but finds the essence of multiple forms of music simultaneously. Every show is a kind of minor miracle, when you think about how long it’s been going on. No less surprising, in its own way, is the CD “Steady as She Goes,” Hot Tuna’s first cd in twenty years. It’s not great-great, just great-good—in other words, it’s so unassumingly good that it’s kinda great. Jorma’s singing, like Bob Weir’s is sometimes not really singing. But the thing just hangs together beautifully. Ps did you know Jorma’s Jewish? Unlike Jennifer Rubin, however, he does not appear to keep Shabbos. Read all about the cd here.

It’s actually been a great summer for new CDs by the folks who, up to the past fifty years, have been defining a certain kind of blues-based, country (and sometimes bluegrass-influenced), jazz-informed American music. Dave Alvin’s new album is called “Eleven Eleven.” I don’t know why that is. It’s another really fine David Alvin album, and has this really funny song, sung with Phil, called “What’s Up with Your Brother?”

David Bromberg’s new album, called “Use Me,” is both great and interesting. I saw Bromberg with Jorma last year—great show as you can imagine—and he mentioned that he was going around to musicians he liked and asking them either to write him a song or produce, arrange, etc, one that they thought would work well for him. He got yesses from John Hiatt, Dr. John, Widespread Panic, Levon Helm, Vince Gill, Tim O'Brien, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos and Keb' Mo'. If you like Bromberg, or merely think you might like Bromberg, it’s a sure thing you’ll like this, here.  

Steve Cropper, whose name you might recall from Booker T and the MGs and a bunch of great pickup bands ever since, put together “Dedicated” as a tribute to the Five Royals. I would not have jumped at a tribute to the Five Royals but it turned out to be great stuff. The guests are Lucinda Williams, Bettye LaVette, John Popper, Sharon Jones, Dan Penn, Stevie Winwood, Buddy Miller, Delbert McClinton, BB King, etc, so unless the songs really sucked, it would have to be pretty great. And as it turns out, they’re pretty good too, so it’s close to great. Read about it here.  

I also received a new CD—the first from Nathan Bell in 25 years. The album “Bell and Shore” is among the best unknown albums of all time. This one is deep and dark and you have to focus but it has its rewards and you can read about it here.

The Concert for Bangladesh is making its digital debut on Itunes, GeorgeHarrison.com and TheConcertForBangladesh.com, etc. Normally I wouldn’t mention this—great as it is—but the money goes to the "Month of Giving" campaign for the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF, "providing emergency relief for children affected by drought and famine in the horn of Africa." So I’m all for it. It’s the last time Dylan sounded really great live, and well, you know…A brief video message with information about how to help is available for streaming on georgeharrisonfundforunicef.org. In the US, supporters can text FRIEND to UNICEF (864233) to give $10 to the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF (messaging and data rates apply), or visit theconcertforbangladesh.com to donate and learn more.

The mail:
Michael Green
Las Vegas, NV
Dr. A., I share all of your views about those NY Review articles, but must share a caveat about Elizabeth Drew. I have some Facebook friends whose liberalism I share, but they know as much about politics as, well, Paul Krugman. I made an offer: I would mortgage everything I own to finance a campaign for office. They would move to my hometown, Las Vegas, Nevada, and run on their platform. If they got more than 10 votes, they wouldn't have to pay me back for what I mortgaged. I guarantee you, they would have had to pay. Thus my point about Drew: it is very easy, even for someone who so brilliantly questions Beltway conventional wisdom as she does, to develop a kind of myopia about what will play in Peoria, if I may invoke John Ehrlichmann, who worked for Richard Nixon, who probably would have to be a Democrat today. Also, I couldn't help but think of the old State Department joke about the diplomat who says the way to solve the Middle East is to get all of the Arabs to convert to Judaism. How, they ask? Oh, he says, I'm in policy guidance. Policy planning is down the hall.

Ps. It is not wise for an amateur who likes old movies to disagree with Pauline Kael, especially when she so brilliantly captures Cary Grant. Further, I am reminded of The New Yorker researcher who asked him which leading man he would most like to have been and he said, "Cary Grant"—a marvelously self-aware answer. But in "Arsenic and Old Lace," I think she gets it wrong. Watch it and think of Cary Grant as having what was then considered a nervous breakdown. Consider the undertow of having to confront his fear that he will go as insane as Teddy and, it turns out, his aunts, and his relief at his discovery that he was in fact adopted. It is a brilliant performance.

Frank Lynch
Really Not Worth Archiving
I suppose we must acknowledge an event which happened in MLB today for the first time in its history. A beastball franchise in the Bronx hit three Grand Slams. As a "first" it is obviously a rarity. And worth a nod. But further, in one day this club hit more grand slams than Jim Palmer gave up in his entire career. So pardon me for suspecting that Jim Palmer was not on the mound today facing this club whose name is greeted by horses with as much approval as "Frau Blucher."

So now a brief political discussion, tinged with parenthood. Last weekend we brought our only child to her first year at college. We are fortunate to be able to afford college; not just a state university, but a private college in upstate New York. So many Americans can't, and so many are also putting themselves into debt to do so. (Sidebar here for a hat tip to a book which Elizabeth Warren and her daughter wrote, called "The Two Income Trap." I confess I have not read it all, but all I've read says Continue! Continue! They talk about the deleterious effects which have happened in the inflation of housing prices and college tuition as a result of more people working in families and seeking better education for their children. At all costs. End sidebar.) A colleague had tried to warn me off this school as being ultra-conservative; but my internet searches didn't reveal anything to confirm it... if anything, there was an instance of a conservative professor who'd felt suppressed.

But in the college bookstore (managed by B&N) I saw on their shelves the following:

1. From the "left" (if you will) one of BHO's books, and his inauguration speech

2. From the right (without quotation marks) books by Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham...

NOTHING comparable from the left. Nada. Goose eggs. Big gulp. And I'm thinking, must gift subscription to The Nation. (Dead tree, where the conservatives in her dorm will brand her and ostracize her? Via e-reader? Oh, mirror...)

So end of day parents and freshmen hit a fork in the road and say their goodbyes. We parents were shepherded off to a session led by a school psychologist (very well run, I must say), focusing on development, independence, etc., but that also included a slide show of life in and out of the classroom. And in this slide show, we see the following three non-faculty speakers/lecturers (and no more): Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jon Stewart.

Mirror!!

(We're still getting her The Nation nonetheless.)

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