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Super Bowl Shuffle | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Super Bowl Shuffle

We've got a new Think Again column herecalled "William Kristol: Journalism's Indispensable Man."

Here are a few arguments I've made recently, with the categories onlyimplied, inspired by all the guessing about what Bruce would play at theSuper Bowl:

1) Born to Run for historical purposes, but Tunnel of Love toactually put on; Wild and Innocent is eliminated by virtue of theinclusion of Wild Billy.

2) When you're alone, you're alone
When you're alone, you're alone
When you're alone, you're alone
When you're alone, you ain't nuthin' but alone.

(Also most impressive violation of grammatical rules in such a shortspace ...)

3) Blood on the Tracks, but the most underrated is a tie between Street Legal and Empire Burlesque, the latter of which not even Dylan thinks is any good.

Another aside: Perhaps one needs to be divorced to pick the above:

4) Blood on the Tracks
Tunnel of Love
Shoot Out the Lights

5) Tough one: I'll cheat because I can't remember which is on Revolverand which is on Rubber Soul so I pick the two of them, both of whichwould easily fit on a single cd. But Abbey Road is an inspired choiceand easily arguable.

6) Exile, Beggars Banquet, Some Girls

7) Rust Never Sleeps, Tonight's the Night, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

8) Anna Karenina; Lost Illusions; The Counterlife.

9) Casablanca, His Girl Friday, All About Eve

10) Manhattan, Diner, Groundhog Day

Good line department:

I keep pushing the Israeli film industry. I saw a bunch earlier thisyear at the Hamptons Film Festival, the Israeli Film Festival, and mostrecently, the Jewish Film Festival, which just ended at Lincoln Center.Two of my favorites--besides The Secrets--which I flogged quite a bitback when we were at Media Matters, were For My Father, which tells the story of a would-be Palestinian suicide bomber who falls in lovewith an Israeli girl who is estranged from her Orthodox family, directedby Dror Zahavi and written by Ido Dror, and The Lemon Tree, a dramabased on the true story of a Palestinian widow who decides to defend herlemontree grove when a new Israeli Defense Minister moves next to herand his security detail decides it represents a potential threat to hissafety, directed by Eran Riklis and written by Ricklis with Suha Arraf.See either one if you get a chance. I liked both at least as much asthe also excellent Waltz With Bashir, The Band's Visit and Beaufort.

But the last film I saw at the Jewish Film Festival was a 3.5 hourdocumentary on the history of French Jews. It was really well made butafter the credits came this killer line that I think should be preservedfor all time. (I paraphrase...)

"The only solution is forced conversion. All Frenchmen must be forced tobecome Jewish. That way, everyone will have a sense of humor andeverybody will have money."

Lifted, in its entirety, from Mickey Kaus:

Bully VictimPosted Wednesday, February 04, 2009 3:15 PM | By Mickey Kaus

Andrew Sullivan writes:

In 2002, we were told, and many of us rolled over, that we had no choicebut to invade Iraq. And that time was of the essence. And that inactionwas far more dangerous than action.

Funny, I remember Andrew as the one doing the rolling. .... [2002 DailyDish archives conveniently inaccessible] ... [Thks to alert kf readerBJH.] ...3:39 P.M.

The Mail:

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky

I just want to address the Mandate Myth manufactured by GOP flaks who want to relive the days of Reagan. They have really lowered the bar and Democrats are happy to play that game with Obama.

But look at this:

Election Electoral College - Popular Vote

2008 Obama beat McCain - 365-173 53.6%

2004 Bush beat Kerry - 286-251 51.4%

2000 Bush beat Gore - 271-266 49.7%

1996 Cinton beat Dole - 379-159 56.7%

1992 Clinton beat Bush - 370-168 53.4%

1988 Bush beat Dukakis - 426-111 53.9%

1984 Reagan beat Mondale - 525-13 59.2%

1980 Reagan beat Carter - 489-49 55%

These percentages of the popular vote don't include any votes for other candidates. It's just who voted for these two and what the winner got of those voters. I agree that spoilers helped in some cases, but I think this is a more fair comparison.

So, Looking at the electoral vote, it is easy to see that, for example, Reagan had a mandate to go conservative after Carter and this majority movement to the right was compelling. Really? With just 55% to 59% of the popular vote? Did the voters really hate the liberal policies of Jimmy Carter that much?

The fact is, that, yes, about half the time, Reagan policies enjoyed majority support during his presidency. But look at Reagan's approval ratings from the ABCNEWS/Washington Post polls at selected notable points during his presidency:

Approve Disapprove
7/30/01 66% 27 (Retrospective)
7/31/00 64 26 (Retrospective) '81-'88 57 39 (Career average)
7/32/87 44 51 Low -- Iran-Contra
7/33/86 70 26 High -- Libya bombing
7/34/83 42 54 Low -- unemployment
7/35/81 73 19 High -- shot by Hinckley

A 57% Career Average popularity poll (actually quite good--I did like Reagan at the time, too, but when more facts came to my attention on U.S. backed wholesale civilian murder in El Salvador and Guatemala with Reagan's full knowledge, he's a mixed bag now.). Reagan is a great example, Franklin Roosevelt would have worked as well. He was equally, if not more, popular. But we didn't have as many polls in those days.

My point is: Could it be that, really, voters just didn't like Carter or Mondale enough? Just like they didn't like McCain, Bush, Kerry, Gore, Dole, Bush, and Dukakis (respectively)? Could it be that our country has always been about 30% moderates, 30% knee-jerk liberals and 30% knee-jerk conservatives all along? But knows a really good candidate when it sees one?

After all, wouldn't I have preferred someone, usually anyone, but Kerry, Gore, Dukakis and Mondale (I actually liked Carter alot). And wouldn't the GOP have preferred to put up a better candidate than McCain, Bush in 2000, Dole, and earlier: Ford, Goldwater, Dewey, Wilkie, Landon (?), Smith (?), and Hoover? Hell, yes!

But those are the candidates we had and each side, mostly, (Goldwater, Kerry and Gore are exceptions, at least, arguably) deserved the losses it got for it's lack of good leadership choices.

But isn't it just a slight movement, sometimes 10%, from one side to the other by voters who are ready for a change of direction. Although I do feel that, Fox News be damned, the center is not what they think it is, it's a lot further left.

Therefore, I think Americans agree upon a lot more than not, like a strong military and cost effective security, smart domestic programs, some help in retirement, alot of help with healthcare, a lot of fairness (American's are big on getting a "fair share") and a lot of government oversight on products (we sue relentlessly), finance and behavior (we really like to dictate behavior).

We aren't all that far apart. Which is generally why our elections are 99.9% violence free and the transfer of power is so smooth that we are the envy of the world.

The pendulum has only swung slightly left of center now. It may well swing slightly right of center again in 8 years. So, how about trying bipartisanship as rule rather than a fresh new direction.

Name: Bob Thena
Hometown: Easton, PA

When the halftime show started with that very hokey silhouette of Bruce and Clemons I was feeling like "Oh boy...is this a Don Kirshner production?" I mean I understand that it was the Super Bowl and all, but geezzz...it only got more silly.

Bruce is a Rock and Roll evangelist on stage. He stalks the stage like a preacher in a tent. I didn't get it for a long time, but I do now. Sunday he reminded more of Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry then the young Billy Graham I saw when I was 8 years old. The fervor seemed faked.

That being said, Bruce is the headliner at Bonnoroo this year. So I intend to drag these old bones to Tennessee, sleep in a tent and enjoy the show.

Name: Ken Severson
Hometown: Lenexa, KS

I read about the GOP's list of "wasteful spending". Most of the items I saw there would employ good sized construction crews. Having been on those crews when I was younger, I believe that money would be doing exactly what we want to do. Help ordinary folks out and get something we can see out of it. As opposed to the bank bailouts or proposed corporate tax breaks the right wing loves. A few questionable items were also in the list but I have never seen or heard of a truly clean bill.

Second, I liked Bruce's halftime show. Its a fast show with little time for truly artistic work. But it was a nice break from the dreck we have seen lately. And it looked like he was having fun. I enjoyed it and so did all the folks I watched the game with. So lighten up.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Hometown: Montclair, NJ

Eric:

You thought Bruce's Super Bowl performance was "embarrassing"? Really? I thought it was terrific, given the built-in limitations of time and setting. Sure, it was corny - but I thought the carnival- barker theatrics that have long been a part of Bruce's onstage persona fit perfectly in the context of a halftime show. He clearly made a conscious decision that he wanted to cram as much of the flavor of a full E Street Band concert as he could into 12 minutes, and I think he did a better job at that than you're giving him credit for.

Besides, this show wasn't for the longtime fans like you and I. I think he did the Super Bowl for two reasons, beyond the obvious "mercenary" reasons of promoting the new album that he cited: To get his music in front of a wider, younger audience that otherwise wouldn't dream of listening to a Bruce Springsteen album, and to do something new, something he's never done in 35- plus years of stardom. Same reasons he's headlining a festival like Bonnaroo, I'm sure.

Name: Michael Bartley
Hometown: Fort Collins

Eric,

I'm a long time reader thankful for your penetrating media analysis. Best of all, just as I'm about to buckle under the weight of another day of media induced Joe the Plumbers terrorist fist bumps, you manage to lighten the load with your reviews. Agree or disagree, I always find you interesting. So, now I'll respectfully disagree with your Springsteen Super Bowl review. Embarrassed? Seriously? Come on, what's wrong with a little ham piled high on a sandwich every once in while? More importantly, your link to Metcalf made my brain swell. Holy moly Stephen will we ever laugh again? I keep hearing about these serious times. Well, seems to me in tough times laughter and joy and a fierce desire to stand and shout is exactly what we need. Or, as Ed Abbey would say, we need to "outlive the bastards." For me, a joyful Springsteen is just the tonic I need in order to fight and live another day.

Name: Bob Fasinski
Hometown: Flemington, NJ

Dr. A,

So if you thought Bruce's performance at the Super bowl was an embarrassment , I would have to ask, what were your expectations? The man who said he was saved by rock and roll, said in the Times, his take on the Super Bowl halftime is that it is a 12 minute party. If you read that, how could his performance be an embarrassment? Not enough energy? Not enough excitement? Or too much of both? What did you want him to do? Thank goodness he did what he felt he should do. Which is take the party to a higher level.

This was no time to do anything other than stoke the fires. He was intense, professional, exciting, playful, and in tune with the moment. Ultimately, he did what he does best, he partied all night long. And I would bet a year of you income that he is in no way embarrassed by his performance.

And that article by Stephen Metcalf? The only thing smart about it was that he didn't misspell any words.

Name: Jim Peale
Hometown: Swanzey, NH

Read, and agreed with much of, the Metcalf piece. I liked the music but wondered what was with the hokey stage stuff. I thought, for instance, that Bruce wasn't a fan of the "Boss" designation. On the other hand, isn't this and the last couple of years an indication that the NFL is finally being run to some extent by people who don't consider Wayne Newton to be dangerously anarchic?

Name: Larry Cowan
Hometown: Temple, TX

Good Choice Bruce. Dr. Isenberg's work, Fallen Founder, shows the difference between a "Just the facts, Ma'am" academic history and popular history as evidenced by Chernow's hagiography, Alexander Hamilton.

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh, NC

"I try to make it a practice of not writing about the cd of my musician friends, because it feels like hack work."

With appropriate notice, it shouldn't be, and I think it would be worth it. With the altogether stunning exception of you barely knowing who Richard Thompson is, your musical knowledge is deep, wide and interesting, no less because you know some of the major and minor players of the day. I'd say, go for it.

Eric replies: Dude, I know all about Richard Thompson. Comenow...

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