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Odds and Ends (Reed’s Away) | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Odds and Ends (Reed’s Away)

Bill de Blasio and his family protest the shutdown of the Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith Hospital (Bill de Blasio/Flickr)

My new Think Again is called “Bill de Blasio, ‘Sandalista’.” Its opening line is “Did Bill de Blasio force his friends to say “Neek-a-ro-wha” once upon a time?”

And the paywall--that’s right a paywall on a press column so the press won’t read it--on my last week’s --um, what was that Elvis line again? Oh yeah. “Yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip papers.”--column, is here Frank Bruni, the Plutocrats’ Pundit

One thing: I’ve felt a little guilty for having my corporate bank account at HSBC for the past year because, as you may know, they were the favored bank of terrorists and drug launderers; they enjoyed this status knowing just what they were doing, and got away with it, because the courts decided they were too big to be forced to follow the law. I also hated the fact that their machines sucked and I could not ever deposit a check unless the bank was open.

Well, they finally got new machines, but guess what? Yesterday, after 14 years as a customer, I got a letter telling me that they were firing me as a customer. Got that? Drug runners, murderers, terrorists, and of course money launderers are totally cool with HSBC USA but writers, well, forget it. They didn’t even give me a reason. I know that this is what people call a “white person’s problem,” but it is also an example of why we should have sent these SOBs to jail.

One last thing: I was sick on Monday and I think I experienced my best day of TV ever.

1) Foyle’s War

2) The second to last Breaking Bad. (Meanwhile watch this.)

3) Ray Donovan from the night before: a much under-rated show with a terrific cast, but I guess James Woods won’t be coming back. (Funny, this show has two great right-wing jerks playing great roles: Woods and of course, the politically horrible, Jon Voight.)

4) A “Boardwalk Empire.”

5) One episode of silly “Web Therapy”--the one with “Fiona, Don’t Hit Me in the Face”, fun, silly show.

6) The final two episodes of “Prisoners of War.” Do you guys know about POW? It’s the Israeli show that inspired “Homeland.” And it’s way better. It’s one of the best things ever. You can only watch it on Hulu Plus, of which I got a month for free. Maybe you can too. I see it also has the entire Criterion Collection there too. Makes it worth it, once you start paying.

So I guess what people are saying about TV being the richest art form of our times, well, I hate myself, but it’s true.

Alter-reviews:

I listened to a couple of books I want to recommend this week. One was the new Jonathan Lethem--who, together with Franzen--is I think the best thing we have going, right now. It’s called Dissident Gardens and you can see a video conversation with Lethem about its reviews here and you can read reviews of the audio, read by Mark Bramhall, here. Warning: I hated the ending. Also, there’s too much about bowel movements (but anything at all is too much).

It’s not on the same level, but still insightful and enjoyable is the short story collection by Tom Perrotta--bard of the suburbs--called “Nine Inches.” It’s not that nine inches you pervert. Then again, it’s not that far away from it, either. It’s a great audio book because with short stories, you’re never in the middle of anything and forgetting where you were. It’s on Macmillan Audio and read by William Dufris. 

So I don’t know what being 83 is all about, but if I can do anything  if and when I’m ever that age, I will want to do something as well as the great Ahmad Jamal writes and most especially plays.  His new album,  “Saturday Morning” is a follow-up to last year’s great “Blue Moon,” and lucky yours truly, I got to see his fine band-- Reginald Veal on bass, Herlin Riley on drums and Manolo Badrena on percussion-- play most of it at Rose Hall last weekend for the show’s first set. For the second set, the band was joined by the Wynton and the rest of the rest of the Jazz@LC orchestra for new arrangements of Ahmad classics. Highlights included “Baalbek,”  arranged by alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, and “Manhattan Reflections” arranged by trumpeter Marcus Printup, and finally  saxophonist Ted Nash’s version of  “Kaleidoscope.”  you can check out the rest of the season here, and find Mr. Jamal’s beautiful last two albums anywhere fine music is sold.

I am also enjoying the nice new package from the Dead. Apparently, on August 27, 1972, just back from “Europe, ’72, they did a show with the newish line-up which included Keith and Donna, but not Mickey Hart, who was busy being bummed out about his dad stealing all the band’s money and of course, Three cds and a DVD, “Sunshine Daydream” has a great set, and a lot of naked people dancing and complaining from the band stand about the heat. It was a trip for the Merry Pranksters and benefit for the Kesey family’s Springfield Creamery--which implies, at least to me, a lot of acid being consumed, and has historically been considered  the most-requested live show in Grateful Dead history.

Setlist includes: "Sugaree, " "Deal, " "Black-Throated Wind, " "Greatest Story Ever Told, " "Bird Song" and a "Dark Star" that runs a wonderful 30 minutes.  3 CD/1 DVD Concert film with all-new stereo and 5.1 audio mixes mixed and mastered to HDCD from the original 16-track tapes. It’s called “Sunshine Daydream”

Speaking of acid trips, Real Gone Music has released a show I went to but did not take acid at--I never actually have taken acid, for those of you keeping score at home, of the Jefferson Starship: Live in Central Park NYC May 12,1975 (2 CD Set). 100,000 in Central Park, many of them in trees. It was broadcast by  unless you were a tree, not much (a constant theme of the concert is WNEW-FM, which had to pay for the repairs to the park. It preceded the release of Red Octopus, and so the material is as much “Airplane” as “Starship,” and the sound quality is high-level bootleg, ie radio rebroadcast.  The line-up is Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, David Freiberg, Craig Chaquico, Pete Sears, John Barbata and Papa John Creach. I’m also enjoying Real Gone’s release of “Fire On The Mountain: Reggae Celebrates The Grateful Dead Vols. 1 & 2.” Both versions have been out of print for a while and it’s perhaps not surprising but certainly gratifying how much sense it appears to make when you listen. Performers include  "Toots" Hibbert, Culture, Joe Higgs, Steel Pulse, Mighty Diamonds, Judy Mowatt, Dennis Brown, Michael Rose, Ras Michael, Gregory Isaacs and many, many others dong the Dead.

Finally, I’m excited about the fact that I’ll be going to the first annual fundraiser event on October 6 at En Japanese Brasserie in Manhattan to support Carlos Santana and The Friends of the Coltrane Home for a benefit that they are doing to pay for the pressing restoration needs of the historic home in Dix Hills, Long Island, of jazz legend John Coltrane and his wife, Alice Coltrane. Coltrane composed A Love Supreme there and 2014 is its 50th anniversary.  The event will include my close personal friend Brother Cornel and also Ashley Kahn, who wrote the book, "A Love Supreme" ably edited by the estimable Rick Kot.  Ravi Coltrane and his quartet will play and I’m guessing so will a lot of other great players. Tickets are $200 and are fully tax-deductible at http://coltranehome.eventbrite.com.

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The mail:

Louis Anthes

Reed,

I really liked the article ["How the Media's Process Obsession Stifles Liberalism and Undermines our Democracy"], both in terms of style—persuasive, critical, analytical—but also the meat of it about "process."

There is an old debate in law school, which I attended, about procedural due process and substantive due process—you likely know about it.  Your article reminded me of that distinction, and the something struck me.

The political system's process has become so dysfunctional that the smallest of processes are themselves of high strategic value. Sen. Ted Cruz can threaten to shut down the government just by talking. Of course, that Cruz procedure can only be effective in a network of coincidental prior procedures that have been already executed to aligning the public calendar with the private agendas of various factions of government. In other words, the GOP House has put Cruz in that position to use his filibuster to achieve collateral political goals.

Journalism, in this context, can't help but focus on proceduralism—hell, the number of emails daily I receive asking me for $3 to defeat Cucinelli or $3 to stop the defunding of Obamacare, you'd think telecommunications and banking and politics are all destined to merge into one seamless code of efficient virtual political gestures.

It is not as if grand themes about freedom and the common welfare and domestic tranquility will substitute for substantive journalism, whatever that could mean in this day and age.

It may very well be the case that politics can only be disrupted in a context where economics merges political communication into a limited, narrow domain of cultural practice.  It may become the case that political disruption—especially in our journalism (I'm thinking of Hunter S. Thompson)—serves to identify what the future calls "progressivism", and their future views on history, or today's progressivism, will make talk about the Constitution itself, procedures and platitudes, all seem a little quaint and more likely just plain irrelevant.

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Chris Hayes takes on the debt ceiling debate. 

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