I’ve got a new Think Again column called "Conservative? Bad? How About Both?" about the shocking decline in the quality of the Washington Post op-ed page here .

For my Nation column, I tried to put the Wieseltier/Sullivan mishigas in a larger context in a column called "Semites and ‘Anti-Semites.’" That’s not a reference to Sartre though, and I almost called it "The Manchurian Magazine" instead, which I think is a clever-er title, but not one that most people would get, so…

Alter-reviews:

By Eric:

I’ve seen four shows in eight days this week. Dave Alvin, reviewed here last week; Nellie McCay doing her tribute to Doris Day at the Allen Room on Wednesday; Clapton and Beck at the Garden Friday; and the new Weir/Lesh concoction called "Furthur" at Radio City on Tuesday. My favorite is still Dave. Clapton and Beck was a total washout and the ticket prices made one feel cynically used. (I paid almost two hundred bucks and was about half an arena away. And I bought the things in the early minutes of the Amex presale.) Anyway, it was an extremely lazy evening for Eric. He did a nice "I Shot the Sheriff" and I enjoyed their duet on "Moon River" but otherwise it was an exercise in lethargy and audience contempt, not as bad as The Washington Post op-ed page, but a universe away from the Clapton/Winwood shows of last year (or whenever…). The "Furthur" show, however was pretty great. This DSO guy on guitar is not only quite good, he sings a bit like Jerry and looks a bit like a young Jerry and has just the right lilt in his performance to lighten up the band and make it the playful thing it once was but long ago ceased to be. Radio City was completely full with happy people of all ages; a very different vibe than the Dead show I saw at the Meadowlands last year that had everybody bummed out. Wonderful Help/Slip/Frank, by the way, which is how I judge these things.

As for Ms. McCay, well, I love her new album, Normal as Blueberry Pie on Verve. It’s Doris Day plus just what Doris needed, a little more sex and a little more humor. I think Nellie loves her because they are both animal rights activists of a pretty obsessive nature. This show had an apparently unrehearsed band and, I can’t believe I’m writing this, a very nervous Nellie. She mentioned breaking up with her boyfriend that day because he went back to his wife for her health insurance. I dunno if this was a joke. But she was kinda all over the place and I think everybody, as a result, had a hard time relaxing and enjoying the excellent musicians in the beautiful setting the Allen Room provides. Still, I’d get the record, were I you and had my taste.

By Sal:

Alison Moorer has been working hard for a long time now. She’s got the voice, the songwriting chops, the style and the look. So why has the big chart topper eluded her for so long? Maybe her new release, Crows will change that.

It’s hard to ignore the similarities between Moorer’s new release and K.D. Lang’s Ingenue, but that doesn’t mean this collection isn’t very good on its own. Allison Moorer’s voice is velvety, and the arrangements are lush. From the beautifully haunting opener "Abalone Sky" to the big, jangly pop of "The Broken Girl," right through the gorgeous title track that closes this wonderful record, Alison Moorer sounds very pleased. She sounds proud to get this music out to us. Ad she should be. This is the strongest record of her career.

Sal Nunziato

www.burnwoodtonite.blogspot.com

By Zoe Zenowich, Icelander and Brooklyn College student:

It’s amazing an island of only about 300,000 inhabitants can produce such an array of musicians. From The Sugercubes, Bjoerk and Sigur Ros, to Emiliana Torrini, GusGus and Seabear, now we have Lay Low. The Icelandic singer-songwriter, whose real name is Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir, took the stage last Wednesday at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall where she sang and played acoustic guitar for a crowded audience. Accompanying her was Agnes Erna Estherardottir who alternated between guitar and a melodica–an interesting, but not quite convincing, alternative to the piano that’s present on the recorded versions of the songs.

Americans have dubbed Lovisa as the Icelandic equivalent of Patsy Cline and Norah Jones, whereas Icelanders favor the sounds-like-Emiliana-Torrini, looks-like-Bjoerk comparison. Both characterizations work, but both also overlook her ability to create a uniquely fresh sound by combining her lightly accented English with American country blues rhythms–rejuvenating a genre of music often overlooked by younger generations, and virtually unheard in Iceland.

At 27, Lovisa has already made it big in Iceland following her 2006 debut album Please Don’t Hate Me, which topped the Icelandic charts, and was on perpetual repeat on national radio for months. But every Icelander knows it’s not hard to be heard in Iceland and anyone with a couple connections and an ounce of talent can become famous. The real test has always been the international audience–and Lovisa appears to be well on her way to accomplishing a deserved following. This week she’s the supporting act for the Dave Matthew’s Band as they play in Scandinavia, and previously she’s played with Animal Collective, Sigur Ros and Emiliana Torrini.

Her New York appearance is in preparation for the North American release of her second album, Farewell Good Night’s Sleep, which will hit stores March 9th. The album was recorded and produced in London by Liam Watson, who is probably best known for working with the White Stripes on their Elephant album. Farewell Good Night’s Sleep includes ten new songs written by Lovisa, and one Lefty Frizzell cover. The sentimental lyrics on love, heart break, and life are far from profound, but the clarity and strength of her voice, as well as an impressive line-up of backing musicians (including Carwyn Ellis, BJ Cole, Ed Turner, Rupert Brown, Matt Radford and Jason Wilson), make up for any lyrical shortfalls. My favorites from the new album are "By and By" and "Last Time Around." Both songs were performed at Rockwood Music Hall and speak less of loss and more of resolution, a theme arguably more worthy of exploration. I can imagine that those at the concert unfamiliar with Lovisa’s music received a misguided impression due to the lack of supporting instruments. But it didn’t bother me; instead it emphasized the strength of her voice. By the end of the show I was hoping she’d sing us an a cappella version of a song or two.

So, check-out Farewell Good Night’s Sleep–the album comes highly recommended, and no doubt will be receiving much deserved attention upon its release.

The Mail:

Name: JP
Hometown: SC

Skeptic of Global warming or not, consider this; you have two sides of the argument. One says "If we try to fight global warming, it will wreak havoc on our economy." The other "If we don’t fight global warming, we will create an uninhabitable planet."

These are, undeniably, oversimplifications of the arguments,but still their essence. So just ask yourself these three questions:

 

  1. Which problem do I believe man has the greater capacity to overcome?
  2. Which problem would I rather be facing?
  3. Which problem would I rather pass on to my children or grandchildren?

 

What would be funny, if it weren’t so sad, is the irony of the fact that erring on the side of caution is usually considered a "conservative" virtue.

I would also like a little more of an explanation on exactly how one concludes that measures to curb global warming are an economic threat. It seems like (at least part of) the argument involves the costs that would be associated with retrofitting power plants, factories, etc. Well guess what…the equipment that would be purchased to curb carbon emissions is not spawned. It is manufactured. If we are able to become the international leader in the production of these goods, could that be an economic benefit? Because, if so I have another name for the countries that are willing to work towards the reduction of carbon emissions. One word that is frequently used in these scenarios is "partner". I would suggest another word is "market."

A little off topic, but don’t the words "conservation" and "conservative" have the same root?

Name: Justin Hower
Hometown: Allentown/WestHartford/New York

Peddle steel, Eric? Um. To peddle is to sell. To pedal is to propel. Accusing Ms. Cashdollar of selling her guitar, not playing it? Cheers.

Name: Richard Fannan
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

 

Ms. Cashdollar (yes, her real name) almost always plays lap steel guitar or dobro (not pedal steel guitar). I’d be real surprised if she played pedal steel behind Dave (and she didn’t the several times I’ve seen her as part of the Guilty Women).

To Joan Clark via Eric:

Now that "myself" has been settled, do you know a way I can get my wife to quit saying "told so-and-so and I?" She’s a smart, successful woman, but she has this little hitch in her grammar that I can’t fix despite years of trying.

This annoys her to no end, of course, so I brew my own coffee. No telling what she might put in it…

Name: John Barker
Postal: Des Moines, IA

As Harry Binswanger is a self-described "pathetic soul" I guess for me to say it would just be redundant. I would like to answer his assertion that there is no argument for altruism. In reality it’s a practical matter, not one of philosophy.

Society simply requires some level of cooperation in order to function. The egocentric world of Ayn Rand is death to society because no one person is capable of being totally self sufficient, yet no one should do for anyone else unless they get the better of the transaction. Any time your ends are at odds with those of another you either win or refuse to play. In short, the only people of value are sociopaths and even they will get nowhere unless there are people available to dupe and take advantage of.

Further, the entire concept of the self made man is fiction. Granted, some of us have more ability and ambition than others. That doesn’t change the fact that all of us are dependent upon others to some extent, and all of us benefit from a leg up from someone else at critical moments in our lives…in short, altruism.

Finally, there is a level on which altruism is actually self interest. Our society has a tradition of support for public education, a tradition that is currently under attack. One more example of the "I got mine, if you want yours go get it" mentality. Fair enough on the surface, but what does society become without universally available education? People who can’t afford it or can’t be bothered grow up to be helpless idiots, that’s what happens. Increasing numbers of people are totally incapable of supporting themselves. They become increasingly desperate and dangerous. Business can’t get the capable workforce it needs. The society becomes ungovernable, and to the extent that democracy tries to work the people are incapable of making intelligent decisions. We deteriorate into a third world nation, having thrown away all the advantages that our forefathers gained for us by…altruistically sacrificing a bit of their own to the greater needs of society.

Besides, doing for others feels good and it’s the right thing to do. So sayeth those who established our "Judeo-Christian tradition" that Conservatives are constantly going on about. Or does that only apply when it fails to interfere with your own self interest?

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

I defer to Brother Pierce since I am far more interested in baseball. But I had to add an Al Michaels note. Michaels used to appear regularly on Tony Kornheiser’s ESPN sports talk show and pimp and pump for conservatives and deliver anti-taxation creeds. Tony the K thought it was pretty funny and totally ridiculous, as I did. But Al somehow did manage to weave in a political statement when, lest we forget, a big part of the politics there was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Hm. Invading Afghanistan. Now, where was I, again?