I’ve got a new "Think Again" column called "How to Control Health Care Costs, Conservative Style," about what happened when Bush and the Republicans tried to "reform" and it’s here. (And I did a short post for the Daily Beast on the health care bill, here.)

Ok, now are some Alter-reviews by Sal: The new Elvis Presley box, the new Genesis box, and the new Elvis Costello "Spectacle" DVD/Bluray box.


It’s really hard to get behind the just released "Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight" Presley boxed set. No other artist in history has had their body of work repackaged, reconfigured, remastered, and "re-foisted" upon his fans as much as "The King." All of Beatles’ boxed set naysayers, take note. Aside from this truly annoying fact, it’s hard to fault the music on this 4 CD set. As a matter of fact, this seems like the only set you might need. 100 songs, beginning with his very first recording, "My Happiness" and ending with the remix of "A Little Less Conversation" that became a hit after being used in the Steven Soderbergh remake of "Ocean’s 11," this boxed covers every key track. Yes, it is also nicely packaged, but the question remains, why do this again? I know Elvis would have been 75, and that is a pretty big birthday. But I think if he were alive, he’d have bought this set for all of us, instead of making us pay again.

Eric adds: And yet, for all the people who, unlike Sal, do not have every Elvis cut they might need, or are looking for a gift to give someone in need of not only an education but also a little less conversation and a little more actionwhich is pretty much my favorite song right nowits a lovely package.


The 4th and final (?) box in the Genesis 5.1 upgrade campaign is a collection 5 DVDs starting with a 1982 concert film supporting the then released "Three Sides Live," LP and finishing with a VH-1 episode of "Behind The Music." Also included are three more concert films, the previously released documents of the 1987 and 1992 tours, as well as a film of the "Mama Tour of 1984," which makes its DVD debut. Like the previous sets, the third of which I’d still love to get a hold of, packaging is wonderful and the content is stellar. I am not a fan of the later, MTV Genesis. I pretty much stop at 1981’s "Duke." But for those who prefer Phil Collins over Peter Gabriel, "The Movie Box" is a nice addition, especially the 1981 film, which includes some older chestnuts that the band dropped when the hits started to pile up. I should also point out that the episode of "Behind The Music" has been updated with current interviews. Nicely done.

Elvis Costello: Spectacle

Season Two of Elvis Costello’s wonderful show "Spectacle" began last week, with special guests Bono and The Edge. Here is what was performed for the show:

01. Please EC & The Imposters

02. Dirty Day EC & The Imposters

03. Mysterious Ways EC & The Imposters

04. Stay (Faraway, So Close!) Bono & The Edge

05. Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad Bono with Davey Faragher & Pete Thomas

06. Alison EC, Bono, The Edge & The Imposters

07. Stuck In A Moment You Cant Get Out Of EC, Bono, The Edge & The Imposters

08. Pump It Up / Get On Your Boots EC, Bono, The Edge & The Imposters

Here is what we got to see:

03. Mysterious Ways EC & The Imposters

04. Stay (Faraway, So Close!) Bono & The Edge

05. Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad Bono with Davey Faragher & Pete Thomas

07. Stuck In A Moment You Cant Get Out O EC, Bono, The Edge & The Imposters

08. Pump It Up / Get On Your Boots EC, Bono, The Edge & The Imposters

I guess we’ll have to wait for its DVD release to see the unaired footage…or not.

And so it goes with the first season’s release on DVD. Every episode in its 5.1 glory and barely any additional material, 4 songs, over 650 minutes, to be exact. Really a disappointment. Isn’t this the type of thing DVDs were made for?

That not-so little complaint aside, Costello and his guests ranging from President Bill Clinton to The Police to Kris Kristofferson and Smokey Robinon, sit around for an hour of truly compelling conversation and even more wonderful music collaborations. The "guitar pull" episode featuring Rosanne Cash, Kristofferson, John Mellencamp, Norah Jones was one of my favorite television moments ever. (Check that out HERE.) Elton & Elvis performing the David Ackles’ masterpiece "Down River," is just one more of many highlights of this brilliant series. Even guests like Renee Fleming, a major star but not someone I have much interest in, made for incredible television. The "Spectacle" DVD set could have been my favorite set of the year, but with so few extras, it just annoys me. Sorry for whining, but I’d like some answers.

Eric adds. Like Sal, Im pissed about the lack of outtakes. But Im also pissed about the fact that you cant watch only the music. That would have been easy. Even the crappy RRHOF collection figured out how ato do this. Here they took this terrific TV and then just slapped it on the discs without giving it any further thought. Ill live, but this is really a missed opportunity. (Oh, and I was there for that guitar pull at the Apollo. Its sad to think about whats missing)

Finally, you can check out my 20 favorite records of 2009 here.



Now here’s Pierce.



Hey Doc:

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine. Bring me pine logs hither/Thou andI will see him dine when we bear him thither."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "He Calls That Religion" (Maria MuldaurAnd Her Garden Of Joy) — Angels I have heard on high, most of them doubling on sax, told me to tell you how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Oh, Lord. Here’s a COLUMN presenting the wholly original argument that TV is causing our civilization to go off to hell in a handbasket from the author of the upcoming, The Tyranny Of Cliche. And irony swallows 50 Dilaudid with a stiff slug of Virginia Gentleman, ties an and iron around its neck, and leaps into the river below.

Part The Second: Here’s the latest from the day JOB().

The woman is not kidding, either.

Part The Third: So, while wrapping some presents, I was watching Hardball the other night because I’m in one of my infrequent "Tweety Is Actually A Mensch" periods, and he and Chuck (Grow A Real Beard, Dammit) Todd were talking about the drop that the president had taken in that days NBC/WSJ numbers. And, I swear, the first thing Matthews thought to ask was whether Todd believed the drop was because people believed Obama was "too left." (To his marginal credit, Todd mumbled something about how he believed the decline was not "ideological," whatever that meant.). But, Jesus Mary, almost the entire remainder of the program concerned how the president was being slugged from the left over healthcare. I swear, sometimes watching these dolts is like watching a monkey perseverate with a football. And that, friends, is how one of those infrequent "Tweety Is Actually A Mensch" periods ends.

Part The Penultimate: Throughout this whole mishigas, I’ve been looking for the perfect illustration of what our elite political classes have been doing vis a vis healthcare reform. Well, I found IT. We’re all the John Cleese character, BTW.

"Single payer?"


"Public option?"


"Medicare buy-in?"

"The cat’s eaten it."

Part The Ultimate: My new favorite futile argument for passing the current POS is that, in our politics, simply by passing the aforementioned POS, we forever will have established, banners aloft, the notion that healthcare is a right or, at least, an affirmative obligation of the national government. As a result, we will be freer to move forward as the years go by. This is a fine argument, provided that you were cryogenically frozen in 1958. Let me explain to everyone holding this particular view what is going to happen. The POS is going to pass. The Republicans are going to oppose it and run against it. The Democrats are going to look ridiculous for a year defending it, and the Democrats who most opposed it are going to look the most ridiculous, because it is going to be politically impossible for a Democrat to run against this bill. The prevailing media narrative will prevent it. Millions more American will have health insurance, but millions of Americans will be forced by law to fork over their money, during a grisly recession, to the greediest and least popular industry the country has seen since the railroads were running amok in the 1890’s. These people will go broke a little more slowly, depending on how sick they get. The industry will jack up its rates until we all have to put in new attics. The subsidies will fail to keep up. And then the industry will lie about doing any of it, and the White House will send out a sternly worded letter. The industry will be stopped by the new "consumer protections" approximately as effectively as a butterfly stops a freight train. By the end of 2009, these "reforms" will be thoroughly despised by a healthy portion of the electorate. The Republicans will then use the weaknesses of the reforms to assume control of the Congress, where upon they will leave the mandates in place, gut the regulations, and laugh their way to the bank doing it. And that is what’s going to happen.

Where does this optimism come from? Do the people pushing this argument honestly believe that, once this bill passes, there will be a general political consensus that we are all on the right track together and must continue to move forward to improve a system in which we all are now personally invested? Exactly what United States government have these people been watching for the past three decades, in which the notion of "government" as a political commonwealth has been spat upon and ignored? Fix it later? We can’t bring ourselves to spend money to fix roads and bridges that are falling into rivers, let alone improve what has become the most contentious–and arguably, the most successfully lied about–issue of domestic policy of the past two decades. This bill is going to suck a little until the rest of us aren’t watching that closely, and then the people who hate the whole notion of reforming the "system" of health-care are going to work to make it suck a lot. Bob Cesca is a smart guy, but if he thinks we’re going to add a public option before 2013, I wish he’d tell me where he buys his mushrooms. (So we "mobilize around" the idea. Who’s even going to listen, let alone act on it? The White House? The Democrats? Please.) Ezra Klein has forgotten more about this debate than I’ll ever know, but if he and Paul Starr believe this FANTASY, then they need to get out more.

How can anyone seriously look at the past 30 years of how we’ve governed ourselves and believe that anything will succeed simply because ithas established a new entitlement? Hell, this president is already halfway to signing on to a SCHEME aimed at "adjusting" an enormously popular 70-year old entitlement program that’s beloved by everyone except the bond merchants and financial-service grifters of whom this president is so unnaturally fond. If he’s willing to do that, how firmly is he going to stand behind a brand new one, no matter how "historic" he can convince himself it is? I have no faith at all at this point. The president is going to sign the POS because this is what he’s wanted to do all along. Has there even been a rumor of his displeasure with what Joe Lieberman–his one time mentor–pulled this week? I hadn’t read any and, now, we read that the president thanked Weepin’ JOE, while sending out his gunsels to attack Howard Dean on shows hosted by squinty former wingnut CONGRESS CRITTERS. It is impossible for any thinking human being now to believe anything except that this White House pretty much got the bill it wanted.

And, please, let us not hear any more about the Civil Rights Act of 1957, OK? There simply is not a consistent political continuum between tha tbill and, say, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There is a general historical thread. The latter two laws came into being most directly because enough people were beaten bloody to sicken the nation, and because not a few people–including an incumbent president ofthe United States–were murdered in the streets in the interim. And even if there were a parallel, which there isn’t, this is such a radically different political culture as to render the comparison moot. Put the Voting Rights Act up to a vote today and it would get pecked to death by a thousand Beltway ducks and this president likely would spend several months finding a bipartisan compromise to render its toughest provisions impotent. Pass the POS. Don’t pass the POS. But don’t tell me we’re all moving forward together through a historic moment. Y’all sound like idiots.

From Tom Waits

The interesting thing about vultures is that, well, the reason they spend so much time in the air is because they’re so light because they eat so infrequently. So they’re mostly feathers, so a lot of times you’ll see them doing this and you’ll think Oh, he’s probably going to land soon and eat, but a lot of times he’s thinking to himself How the fuck am I gonna get down there? Now here’s the sad part and imagine if you had to make the same choice yourself. After dining, and frankly most vultures that are injured, this is according to the Bird Rescue most vultures that are injured were injured while dining. That’s kinda sad to be hit by a car while you’re eating, but the problem is that once they’ve landed and they’d eaten a lot, they eat so much cause they eat so infrequently, they eat so much that they can’t take off without throwing up. I know, that’s tough so what a choice, you know, you just had a big meal and you have to lose the whole damn thing just to get back up in the sky again. I think of that all the time when I’m having hard times.

Name: Mark Bagby

Hometown: Bakersfield, Calif.

Eric wrote: "(One of the most famous of them, "Marty," was made into a movie, but by and large, they were lost.)"

Ahem…as were ‘No Time for Sergeants’ (filmed with Griffith), ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’ (with Anthony Quinn), ‘Bang the Drum Slowly’ (with Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty), and perhaps most famously, ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ with its classic Oscar-winning Mancini and Mercer theme song, and starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, both nominated for Oscars as well.

Eric replies: noted

Name: Rory Downward

Hometown: Oakland, CA

Dr A,

It please me greatly to see the Criterion Collection of these TV gems.

Some years back, PBS had a series showing many of the same programs. I was able to watch "Marty", "Requiem" and "Patterns", all of which I feel are far superior to the film remakes. I do not mean to say that the film versions were bad, but in fleshing them out to the theater release lengths, they seem flabby. The could not capture the feeling in up to 2 hours what the TV versions could do in 50 minutes. I wish I had taped them at the time. I’m glad now that they can been see by a wider audience.

As for the R&RHoF, they showed potions of this during pledge breaks last week on PBS. It seem quite a jumble, but that may just have been the smarmy Paul Schafer doing the intros to each some or clip. I do hope that he is not on the DVDs.

Thanks as always.

Eric replies: Well, yeah, he looked kinda smarmy on that broadcast, but his memoir, which came out this year, is really wonderful. I would not have expected it, but it is.

Name: Jeff Weed

Hometown: Denton, TX

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2010

Dr. A, This years class turned out to be a complete catch-up year. ABBA is the newest act on the list of inductees. No artists to debut since the mid-70s made the cut. One wonders if the youth-oriented Fuse music channel that signed a deal to televise the next few induction ceremonies is having second thoughts. They probably expected the Red Hot Chili Peppers to get selected in their first year of eligibility, but that didnt happen. Here’s the full list of 2010 inductees:



ABBAs inclusion is sure to be the most controversial–especially since equally-reviled finalists KISS didnt make it (I kinda wish they had). I think ABBA is actually among the best melodic pop acts of the 70s. I really have nothing against any of the selections. Like you, Doc, Im not a big Stooges fan (I tried, though), but I do recognize their importance and influence. I like Genesis more than you do, though maybe not quite as much as Sal does. The big catch-up was with the songwriters, all of whom probably should have been inducted much earlier.

I’m glad the Hollies finally got their due. Little Stevens advocacy probably helped. Ive read interviews with him saying Hermans Hermits is his next project for induction. I hope he decides to focus on a better group from the eraThe Moody Blues, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, or even The Zombies. Heck, I’d prefer Tommy James & the Shondells, Donovan or The Monkees over Peter Noone and company, but maybe that’s just me.

ALSO: A side note on the illustrious Junior Senator from CT. The late Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.s Journals: 1952-2000 recounts his observant remark to Hilary Clinton that Sen. Lieberman was a sanctimonious pr**k. The then-First Lady agreed with Schlesinger on the sanctimonious part but refrained from additional comment. I’m glad Pierce does NOT refrain from his.