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Sea of Heartbreak | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Sea of Heartbreak

We've got a new Think Again column called "CBS and Dan Rather--Doing theRight's Dirty Work," and it's here.

My Nation column, "Where have you gone, William Safire?" is here.

The worst day of the Obama campaign for me was the day I got an emailsaying "Vote Charlie Rangel for Change." My congressman is quite properly a symbol of everything people hate about the Democratic Establishment and they are cowards for trying to sweep this away. If anyone can imagine a bettersymbol of corruption that a guy who can't be bothered to pay taxes onthe resort he owns in foreign country--who gives the excuse that theywere speaking Spanish to him when half his district is Spanishspeaking--writing the goddam tax laws that the rest of us losers have tofollow, I'd be mighty impressed... I wrote this columnin December 2008, things have only gotten worse.

Alter-consumer advocacy:

With Ralph Nader wasting the world's time with counter-productivepresidential runs and unreadable 700 plus page novels, I thought I wouldpick up some of the slack by warning people against scams I've noticed.

1) T-Mobile rebates and S-Wireless: I upgraded my Blackberry at aplace called "S-Wireless" on Broadway and 108th. The upgrade wassupposed to cost only $50 with a new contract after rebates. Of course,after I paid them the $200, I learned I was ineligible for the rebates,and this store had no business promising them to me. Once they had mycontract, however, it wasn't their problem. I don't know if I found onedishonest broker or if this is endemic but in any case, read the fineprint and stay away from "S Wireless." (T-Mobile "communications"eventually got me my $ once I told them I planned to write about ithere...)

2) Third-party Amazon purchase and ImportCDs: I bought the 2008Japanese import re-release of Santana's "Lotus" from "Importcds" viaAmazon. But ImportCDs was lying. It was the original 1991 domesticversion. When I told them, they asked me to send it back at my ownexpense. I did that. They claimed never to have received it. So I'm outthe original price plus shipping and handling twice. It's easy to returnstuff to Amazon but not if you're buying from third-party sellers, likethe liars at ImportCD, whom I see, are looking for another sucker, here.

3) Medico. I get my Lipitor from Medico. The other day, I got sixtypills I didn't request and of course was billed for them. When I called,which is a pain in the neck, they said my doctor had signed theprescription. Thing is, they sent him the request, not me. I didn't wantor need them. The first person to whom I spoke told me to blame mydoctor. Then I got that person's supervisor on the phone and they wereall apologies, and told me to keep the bills, though I'm guessing theymade plenty of $ from my insurance company on the deal.

Now here's Sal on Rosanne Cash's The List.

At first glance, Rosanne Cash's The List may appear to be just anothercovers CD. But it IS Rosanne Cash, so we should all know better. Chosenfrom a list of 100 essential songs given to her by her father, JohnnyCash, the twelve songs selected for The List have been given a smart,fresh, and glorious reading. Thanks to Miss Cash's personal attachmentto the material, producer John Leventhal's brilliant (yes, brilliant)arrangements, and the subtle but very effective use of some big timespecial guests, The List is one of those records that will stay inyour heavy rotation for some time.

As for those special guests, Jeff Tweedy lends his harmony to amore-upbeat-than-usual version of "Long Black Veil," while theomnipresent Elvis Costello does his thing on "Heartaches By TheNumbers." But two standout tracks for me are Merle Haggard's "SilverWings," featuring a gorgeous backing vocal performance by RufusWainwright, that is almost a separate song on its own, and the DonGibson hit, "Sea Of Heartbreak," the duet with Bruce Springsteen and thealbum's first single. This is just perfect, as if the song was writtenfor the two of them. There is a wonderful chord change on the chorusthat I know wasn't on the original. I credited Bruce, since it sounds soperfectly constructed around his voice and something I've heard him doon a number of his songs. I stood corrected by Miss Cash, (via ERA) thatit was indeed the genius (my word) of Miss Cash's husband, JohnLeventhal. (Nice one, John.)

That genius is most apparent on the best moment of The List, anabsolutely stunning version of "Take These Chains (From My Heart)."Leventhal's arrangement, which features his guitar break preceding JennyScheinman's short but effective fiddle solo over just one chord hummingon a Wurlitzer, is absolutely dream-like. All of these songs hit you asif hearing them for the first time, and for that I credit Rosanne Cash,whose soulful readings rarely disappoint, and often break hearts.

Sal Nunziato
Burning Wood

The mail:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Brother Pierce has given us too much to laugh at and attack! I couldspend most of this response pointing out that if I said and wrote inmy class and syllabus the stuff that Peggy Noonan did, I would becarted off to the Nevada State Home for the Bewildered. How and whywould HARVARD tolerate this bilge?

But, more important, in the spirit of my new hero, Rep. Grayson, Iapologize on behalf of Charles Pierce, Altercation, thenation.com,and all media critics everywhere for insulting Sabrett's by lettingPierce suggest that one of its vendors would be so stupid as toapprove Dana Perino's "commentary" (there is no word for it) on thatsorry excuse for a political news website. Sabrett's has higherstandards than that, and I am very disappointed that Pierce does notappreciate that. Even if I do prefer Nathan's.

Name: Steve Davis
Hometown: Harrison, AR

Belated thanks to the Honorable Pierce. (Is this the right channel?)

It takes considerable talent to make it a pleasure to sit in thechoir and listen to the sermon all the way through. It takesbrilliance in the occasional turn of phrase to make the bass sectionlaugh out loud.

As for the Big Dawg, I have some proximity, which is surely not thesame as understanding. I matriculated at Waterman Hall (I was an oldguy) halfway through Bill's first term on his way to being theyoungest ex-Governor in history.

Bill has made a life out of recovering from disappointing. We learnfrom Luke 15 that worker bees like you and me always resent thereturn of the prodigal son. It doesn't help.

Keep it zipped? Who else has a big enough persona to raise a weaknessfor volunteer lubriciousness to the level of a Greek tragedy? Youunderstand, of course, that the Big Dawg has likely declined morevolunteer nooky (the old saying around here was that they would triphim and try to beat him to the ground) than you and I togetherimagined back when Playboy still airbrushed and inked thecenterfolds.

One thing for sure about our damnable, disorganized party, going backin personal experience to Harry Truman, we produce by at least twoorders of magnitude the best ex-Presidents. If he lives long enough,the Big Dawg may yet grow up.

Wait for him.

Name: Amy Billings
Hometown: Portland, Me

I must be some kind of masochist. I've been posting in the commentsection of ABC's The Note almost every day now for months, because Ifeel its important to speak up for Democrats and President Obama inthe MSM, if only to counter the endless stream of lies,misinformation, and slander the right spews across the nation, daily.But just today, after reading yet another Limbaugh quoting Note, andanother promoting a rightwing book, I thought, "I can't take itanymore." My question for you: should I keep trying to counter theNote's rightwing bias by challenging them in the comments section,or, is it better just to boycott them entirely? Furthermore, is MSMjournalism ever going to get better, and if so, is there anything Ican personally do to spead it up, or should I just disengage from allmedia-consumption, stat? What advice to you have for me?

Eric replies: "Well, people?"

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