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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Slacker Friday

Wrap-up: We've got a new Think Again column called "Sotomayor andSCOTUS, Captured on a Carousel of Time" about the punditocracyconfirmation hearings here.And I did a post for The Daily Beast on the recent metzora-making of Joe"The Volcano" Lieberman here.

Alter-reviews:

Sal on Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm

Tribute records more times than not, end up being ill-advised failures,like the musical equivalent of a Cannonball Run movie; lots of easy tohire people phoning in uninspired performances. The worst, in myopinion, being This Bird Has Flown: The 40th Anniversary Tribute ToRubber Soul. Here were 14 mostly unrelated artists, who by the sound of their performances, seemas if they never heard a note of The Beatles, let alone Rubber Soul.No need to name names. The damage is done.

Occasionally though, a tribute record makes some sense. There have beensome winners; 1994's A Tribute To Curtis Mayfield and 2003's We're A Happy Family: A Tribute To The Ramones both come to mind. These records had artists who were clearly inspired by theguests of honor and featured some truly winning performances. Anothersuch winner is the just released Keep Your Soul: A Tribute To DougSahm.

The late Doug Sahm was a giant of all things Texan and his records bothsolo and with the seminal Sir Douglas Quintet, encompassed every genreof music from rock to country to mariachi and blues so naturally, it'sas if those sounds never existed prior to his work. On Keep Your Soul, almost every participant has a connection to Sahm, either has a co-conspirator or messenger. Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, Little Willie G., Flaco Jimenez, Dave Alvin, and Marcia Ball with a reuntitledFreda & The Firedogs all turn in truly killer performances. Thehighlight for me is Charlie Sexton's version of "You're Doin It TooHard." It is 4 minutes of relentless rock and roll. Keep Your Soulplays less like a packaged tribute and more like a fully realizedmusical document of Sahm's work thanks to the love of his friends andfamily. Buy this one.

Here's Pierce:

Charles Pierce
Newton, MA.

Hey Doc:

"I'd rather eat my chili beans/At Jim's or Jack's or John's orGene's/Then take my chances eating down at Smokey Joe's Cafe."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Free Yo Mind" (The Flow Tribe) -- Onceagain, it declined to fashion a public option whereby I get paid to goto everybody's house and tell them about how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: For the life of me, I don't know why we keepscheduling these guys,if they're not going to put up more of a fight. I mean, really, ifGeorge were still alive, this would kill him. Please cooperate this weekend,Mets, and we'll see what we can do about those awful Phillies.

Part The Second: Dear John Boehner. You have been warned. Sincerely, The Metaphor Police.

Part The Third: If there's a reason why Dave Neiwert hasn't been on my TV screen in heavy rotation over the past month, I'd like to know what it is, particularly since the scrambling andass-covering on the right seems to have at its center a certain large and worthless pile of papier-maché erudition. And, in the light of the events of the past few weeks, I think it's helpful to remind us all about what the Great Compiler Of Footnotes once said when Dave called him for not seeing the fascists for the trees:

"Here's my grand theory about this guy (Neiwert). He's made hiscareer hyping the terrible threat from the Posse Comitatus, AryanNations and American Nazi Party and so like the bureaucrats in Office Space whothink TPS reports are the most important thing in the world, he can'tseem to grasp that they're pretty trivial. In other words, he came to hisunderstanding of fascism by following bands of racist white losers inthe Idaho woods while using some Marxist tract or other as a field guide toidentify the various species he encountered. In other words, he'sinternalized every cliche and propagandandistic talking point I set outto demolish in my book. Moreover, his career depends on maintaining hisversion of the fascist peril. So, he's banging his spoon on hishighchair a lot because my book undercuts his whole reason for being."

Pretty trivial, indeed.

I swear, if he were more of a tool, you could use him to spreadmulch.

Part The Fourth: I just spent a couple of days in Chicago and thecity is awash in Olympic fever; Chicago's the US finalist for the 2016Games. I would not wish the Olympics on a city full of my worst enemies but, if Chicago insists on throwing thecivic treasury into the lake, I sincerely hope that Rod Blagojevich is out ofthe slam in time to get in on the deal. F**king golden, I tell you.

Part The Last: Oh, for Gawd's sake. And the Bills still suck.

So I get up early to fly home from Chicago, and I flip on MSNBC.(Why, you ask. Shut up, I reply.) And there's Willie Geist talking abouthow "both sides" are politicizing the shooter from the Holocaust Museumand, in addition to wondering whether or not it's too late to filecharges at The Hague against whoever it was that invented Morning Joe, I also wonder quite seriously what purpose this kind of transparent nonsense issupposed to serve. The shooter was a critter of the modern Americanrightist fringe. It does nobody any good to try to construct a"centrist" narrative by which he belongs nowhere on the political spectrum. (Chris Cilizza tried this on Hardball and Chris Matthews, who seems to have the bit in his teeth over this, shut him down.) This is bipartisan fetishism taken to its lunatic extreme.

Ronald Steinberg
San Francisco, CA

Eric,

Quit complaining about how much things cost. You're giving a bad nameto other Jews unlike you who aren't cheap.

Timothy Barrett
Louisville, Ky

I am closing on a new house today. I'm told that in my area, the homemarket for houses over $400,000 is dead. It's not that people can'tget credit, it's that they already carry significant mortgages andare scared to death that after borrowing thousands more to buy thenew house, they won't be able to sell the current one.

Professionals, medical students, business owners and well-salariedworkers who want to live close to downtown in this quite lovely parkdistrict, populate my neighborhood. The houses date back to the1920's with pockets of postwar subdivision of elder estates and nolonger needed pastureland. One realtor told me that St. Matthews is"still gold". But today I see many more "for rent" signs than "forsale" signs.

Unemployment here is still under 9% and although growing, the pacehas slowed. My unemployed friends have passed the nine-month markand are fast upon the dreaded one-year anniversary. You can fudge aresume by listing jobs from year to year, i.e., worked from 2000 to2008. But a year long blank can cost you even that preliminaryphone call.

They have also dumbed down the resume as much as they can. Lastyear's resume listed all the management positions, graduate degreesand publications. This year's resume stops at the liberal artsschool and employment at Target or Morton's Steakhouse. A recentAssociation of College and Employers survey says that just 19.7% ofcollege graduates have jobs this year as compared to 26% last yearand 51% in 2007.

That's a lot of newbies to compete with for the remainingopportunities. Employers who are adding people are certainlyjustified in hiring pliable young single people with low salaryexpectations and much smaller, and less bruised, egos. Maybe, if I'mlucky, one of these kids will want to buy a house. After all,mortgage interest rates are at an all time low.

John McElroy
Pittsburgh

Dr. A,

If you are me, and live in Pittsburgh, the most livable city inAmerica, and 29th most livable in the world, (see this week's issueof The Economist) then last night you had the opportunity to seeBooker T at the annual Three Rivers Arts Festival for FREE. Granted, Elvis wasn't in town and the Clapton/Winwood tour is not stoppinghere. That being said, residing in the most livable city (home of the Super Bowl Champions and soon-to-be Stanley Cup Champions) and having the opportunity to see a towering figure such as Booker T for free, is awesome.

Keep up the great work Doc!

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