Wrapup: We have a new "Think Again" column, picking up on the food fight between the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and The Huffington Post's Nico Pitney and the larger issues we think it raises here and my new Nation column, "How Bold is Barack?" is here.
I did a celebratory column on Al Franken's victory for The Daily Beast here.
Oh and I appear to have started a twitter account, here, but don't get too excited about it yet.
My profile is http://twitter.com/Eric_Alterman is that right? We'll see, I guess.
Me and MJ: Well I guess this is the week to tell your "When I Met Michael" stories. I got closer to Michael than almost anyone, to tell you the truth, or at least closer than most people of the age of consent. In fact, it would be impossible to have been closer to Michael with clothes on than I was, especially since the guy had such a phobia of people and their germs.Well, Michael got my germs. Here's how. The night before the Clinton inauguration, I was invited backstage at the big concert at the Capitol Center, where Jackson and a bunch of other big stars performed. When it was over, and everyone was standing around, Clinton came by to say hello to the talent. (He was particularly taken by Kenny G at the time, as I recall.) Anyway, MJ, as he is now called, was wearing that insane Sergeant Pepper outfit of his and when Clinton and the secret service came down the narrow corridor where everyone was standing around, I was (rather rudely) pushed directly into Michael and held there by the Secret Service guy until the president got done saying "hello" to everyone, which in Clinton's case takes a really long time.
I can't say I enjoyed it. Michael's skin was gray; a color I had never seen on a person before. His nose looked like it belong on a baby piglet. And he was clearly not in the mood for an extended body slam from yours truly, as I was already past thirty at the time. I don't remember if we actually exchanged any words afterward. Despite Michael's undoubted horror, he was pleasant about the whole thing. My guess is that it made no impression on him at all. That's it.
Hard working Sal on the new Levon Helm, the Woodstock re-releases, the Rod Stewart re-releases and the new Cheap Trick.
Levon Helm-Electric Dirt
2007's Dirt Farmer was Levon Helm's first proper solo release in 25 years, and a fine return it was. Helm's voice barely showed signs of his battle with throat cancer, and the acoustic, rootsy repertoire was a perfect place to pick up in the studio. The same cast members, including many of the musicians from Helm's live Midnight Rambles at his barn in Woodstock are back, this time kicking it up a notch with Electric Dirt. I know this may be hallowed ground, but I haven't enjoyed a record by one or all members of The Band, since The Band, as much as I have been enjoying this one. Robertson's solo releases were ambitious, but years later sound dated. Danko's were spotty. And even Band classics like Stage Fright & Cahoots aren't as much fun.
Helm's voice is even better and stronger. The arrangements range from a New Orleans' brass romp, like the opener "Tennessee Jed" to the funky shuffle of "When I Go Away." Helm is an underappreciated drummer, and NO one does a funky shuffle like he does. Electric Dirt is a joy from head to tail.
The Woodstock Experience
Nothing says "celebration" like repackaged goods. Forty years after the event, SONY/BMG knocks out 5 complete live Woodstock performances, each coupled with a classic album from the time. You get the Airplane's Volunteers, Johnny Winter's Sony debut, Santana's debut, Sly & The Family Stone's Stand and Janis' Kozmic Blues. Not a bad idea, I guess.
It's great to have complete performances, especially the Sly & Santana sets, which really cook. Packaging is better than average. But I can't help but think at a $19.98 list price, that a simple single CD of just the complete live performance for $9.99, may have been the way to go. But what do I know? I went out of business in 2005.
Rod Stewart Deluxe
One of my favorite pastimes is ripping Rod Stewart. The Faces are one of my favorite bands of all time and Stewart's run of solo records for Mercury in the early seventies is as good as rock and roll gets. But man alive, did he lose his way or what? From the successful disco dreck to the successful and unbearably unlistenable string of standards collections, Rod has become lazier than Homer Simpson. Not his work ethic, per se, but his lack of interest in creating something original.
Before that decline, there were two very fine releases, Atlantic Crossing and A Night On The Town, Rod's first two LPs for his new label Warner Brothers. Rhino Records has once again impressed the reissue world with 2 CD deluxe editions of both. Disc One on each feature remastered versions of the albums proper, as well as a bonus track or two. And Disc Two on each features an alternate version of the album. The alternate versions are worth one listen or two, as they don't really offer much. If anything, they offer less. But the sets themselves are beautifully packaged and offer plenty of information for the curious, especially Atlantic Crossing, which includes Rod's only work with The MGs.
Cheap Trick-The Latest
Cheap Trick The Latest is the latest from Cheap Trick, and is arguably their best in twenty-five years. Released on a "need to have" basis--pre-orders were taken for the initial pressing--The Latest does not stray far from what made this legendary group from Rockford so appealing. Almost every track is a quick blast of pop perfection. But what does stand out about this record that seemed to be missing from so many of their recent releases is the quality of the material. The songs sound less like parodies of what the boys have been doing for years and more like actual songs. The record sounds like an "album," not just a bunch of songs recorded over time and slapped on a CD, just to get a CD out.
I admit not being not being too impressed upon first listen. The opener, a barely two minute lullaby, "Sleep Forever," is nothing more than interesting. It's short, but...so what. BAD way to start. It's followed by a not bad Slade cover, and two more songs that sound too much like the parodies I just mentioned. THEN, the record takes off. From "These Days," a big ballad that wouldn't seem out of place on Bruce's The River, right until the last track, another ballad, "Smile," that puts such over-produced nonsense as "The Flame" to shame, "The Latest" is Cheap Trick, stronger than ever. Sandwiched in between? Killer riffs and killer choruses, sung by one of the greatest voices in rock and roll, Robin Zander.
Long time Cheap Trick fans will not be disappointed. And those who only know the hits, THIS is better.
This week, Bill Moyers Journal gets insight from three leading publicthinkers who taught a unique course--"Christianity and the U.S. Crisis"--at Union Theological Seminary, the oldest nondenominational seminaryin the country. Renowned scholars Cornel West, Serene Jones, and GaryDorrien offer a fresh take what our religious traditions and our coreethics and values as a nation say about America's politics, policy, andthe challenges of balancing capitalism and democracy. "This is asociety that has stoked and celebrated greed virtually to the point ofself-destruction. We can't just go on saying, 'Well if we can justpatch this thing up and get back to where we were, things will be allright.' And none of us believe that, so we also have to talk about whatwas wrong with the system to begin with that had outcomes that you can'treally justify morally," says Dorrien.
My friend and personal hero Charlie Savage dug this one of a document dump. Now it's self-evident from the document itself that the Supreme Court will be presided over for the next 30-odd years by a guy who was born a boring 50-year old senior associate with a stick the size of El Capitan up his ass. (Thanks, Democrats, for giving us Chief Justice Howard Sprague.) The real delight here is that, in his attempt to prove himself the most insufferably pedantic sycophant in the history of representative government, he...gets...the...Latin...WRONG. "Vox clamans in terris"? A voice crying out in the earth? That would be the wailing of thousands of dead Jesuits pointing out that the quote is "vox clamantis in deserto" -- a voice crying out of the wilderness. (Among other things, it's the motto of Dartmouth College, despite the generally held suspicion that the school's motto is actually "Sockless Drunk In The Wilderness."). I'm serious, Scalia must be rolling on the floor over this.
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Beyond the message in the jackassery featuring Dana Milbank and ChrisCilizza, has anyone noticed that the latter continues to be afrequent guest on MSNBC while Milbank had been there and moved to CNN--which he claimed had been in the works, although, interestingly, itfollowed a column in which he turned around a comment by Barack Obamato make it unfavorable, to the disgust and consternation of KeithOlbermann and anyone else who believes in accurate...uh, accurate...oh, yeah, JOURNALISM.
But their lack of awareness is the key issue. They appear insomething for the internet, the subject of their displeasure. Theyshow up regularly in Washington Post blogs. They regularly appear oncable television, which, like the internet, has contributed to thedecline of the kind of journalism they claim to practice by producingthe 24/7 news cycle that President Obama rightly deprecates.
It is reminiscent of, of all things, an episode of Murphy Brown.Murphy was shadowed by an actress who was going to play a journalist,then offered a part in the show, and embarrassed herself. Then ConnieChung came on to remind Murphy that we are journalists and shouldn'tdo this sort of thing. The only person in America who didn't get thejoke, it turned out, was Connie Chung. Now we can add Mountebank andFizzy to the list.
Name: Seàn Rowlette
Hometown: Brighton, MI
How is it that in the ongoing argument regards America embracingUniversal Healthcare (ala Western Europe and some of the moreadvanced nations across the globe) that no one has noted the SilverLining in all of this?
I'm referencing America's big three auto companies.
Embracing Universal Healthcare would allow America's automakers tobe free of that financial burden.
The employees (few as they are these days) would still have healthbenefits, Ford, GM and Chrysler would enjoy greater profits,finding themselves on a more favorable footing going forward in thisglobal economy.
Sadly, Obama has yet to come to the realization that what mostAmerican's need, above everything else, is a good paying job.Manufacturing jobs that can't or won't be moved overseas, employmentopportunities as engineers, technicians and managers.
We sent jobs to Japan, and Japan prospered. We sent jobs to SouthAmerica and South America prospered. We sent computer engineeringjobs to backwards countries all over the globe, and they prospered.
The average American never had a chance.
Perhaps its time for America to put Americans' first. If notnow, when?