K-Tel Classics: Bush Years!

K-Tel Classics: Bush Years!This week over at The Nation Reed Richardson wrote, The Beltway Media Gets the Iraq War Band Back Together. It’s a good article and well worth reading. But I was struck with something specific he wrote. He noted that it was like deja vu from 2002. “The experience is almost reminiscent of those old, late-night K-Tel commercials selling compilation albums of songs by bands long since forgotten, and for good reason.” That does bring back memories, “Original hits! Original stars!”

So I started writing an email to Reed, and it got totally out of hand. Hence, this article:

K-Tel Classics: Bush Years!

Unforgettable politicians saying unforgettable things. Including…

  • George W Bush with, “My answer is bring ’em on!”
  • Dick Cheney with, “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”
  • After more than a trillion dollars, who doesn’t love Paul Wolfowitz with, “There’s a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn’t have to be US taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”
  • Douglas Feith’s great, “There have been linkages between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda going back more or less a decade.”
  • Condoleezza Rice with, “But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
  • Colin Powell’s brilliant UN innuendo, “First, it strikes me as quite odd that these tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds US requirements for comparable rockets.”
  • Donald Rumsfeld’s classic, “You go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

But if you act now, we’ll throw in other hits like:

  • George W Bush with, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”
  • Dick Cheney’s all time classic ballad, “You shouldn’t be my friend if you don’t want to be shot in the face.”
  • Karl Rove’s entire 2004 campaign song, “Vote against the fags so we can destroy your Social Security!”

Just $4.99 on LP, $6.99 on 8-Track!

But if you are like me, you don’t have to be reminded. But for most of the people in the mainstream media, maybe they ought to buy a couple of copies.

Chris Christie to be Indicted?

Chris ChristieI don’t hate Chris Christie because he’s fat. I actually feel sorry for people who are fat. To a large extent, I don’t think they have too much choice. Although I will admit, Christie allowing his weight to get as out of control as it did doesn’t speak especially well of him. But I have the same kinds of tendencies for letting my own life get out of hand. So I understand. But someone like Christie who has such public evidence of his imperfection would cause most people to have a bit of humility. But of course it doesn’t have that effect on Christie.

That’s what gets to the core of why I hate Chris Christie. He’s a jerk. He’s a bully. He’s a guy with lots of power and he abuses it. In my perfect world, we would put people like Chris Christie in jail. All the drug addicts could go on their merries and they could be replaced by people like Chris Christie and Dick Cheney. Well, Cheney should die soon enough—in fact, he should have died a long time ago. Who knows how many people died for lack of healthcare while Cheney has gotten all his extra healthcare that no one deserves—much less a man so directly responsible for the deaths of many thousands of people. But enough about Dick Cheney.

It looks like we may get to see Chris Christie in jail after all. Scott Raab and Lisa Brennan reported today, Exclusive: Prosecutor Is Closing in on Gov Christie. It’s a fun article. It starts by quoting Christie in Utah last Saturday saying, “It’s over, it’s done, and I’m moving on.” That’s good PR, I guess. But with the new information, it sound a bit more like, “You ain’t never gonna get me, copper!”

US Attorney Paul Fishman has been quietly building a number of cases that circle around Christie. Much of it is not especially illegal, just sort of the typical stuff that we know that goes on when a bully is put in charge of anything. And at this point, nothing makes it quite to Christie. But the big news is that Fishman seems to have David Samson. You may remember him as the walking and talking conflict of interest who Christie trusted because he talked to him and Christie just has the power to know when people are telling the truth. Except when he doesn’t. According to one of the authors’ sources, “They’ve got him cold. He got sloppy, arrogant, and greedy.”

It all sounds like typical case building. From David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly, they’ve got Samson. Will Samson rollover on Christie. Well, he’s 74 years old and reported suffers from Parkinson’s disease. If he doesn’t rollover on Christie, he’s going to die in jail. So it’s looking pretty good that we will see Christie in jail. It’s an experience he richly deserves.

“Meritocracy” and the Geico Gecko

Chelsea Clinton

I have nothing against Chelsea Clinton. In fact, when she was growing up, I felt a bit sorry for her. The modern right-wing media echo chamber had only just come of age and its hatred of the Clintons went all the way down to the young girl. As I remember it, Rush Limbaugh seemed to take some relish in pontificating about her looks. That’s nothing especially surprising from that well known misogynist, but Clinton was only a young teen at the time—and one who her parents seemed to take care to keep out of the spotlight. So I’m inclined to like her.

But I was less than thrilled when she was hired by NBC News two and a half years ago. It was an especially ironic choice given that her mother had written a syndicated column when the younger Clinton went off to Stanford University (Of course!) asking that journalists leave her alone. But instead of using her history degree to do something useful like write books or teach people or even do original research, she decided to be on air “talent” for Brian Williams’ pathetic Rock Center where she did “serious” reporting like this interview with the Geico gecko:

Now friends, don’t get me wrong. I like fun. But this is a pathetic excuse for what someone who had literally every advantage in life has decided to do with her life. And now, according to Politico, we learn that for the first two years of her time interviewing animated corporate spokes-characters, she was paid $600,000 per year. They recently changed it to a month-to-month contract so I’m gonna guess $50,000 per month. Or is that too low? After all, she doesn’t have the job security that she had before.

Ain’t it great to live in a meritocracy?! Remember when she graduated from Stanford with honors and how that was a big story? Is it genetics? She has two smart parents after all! Or could it have something to do with the fact that she had every advantage growing up; she had the best teachers; and in college, she didn’t have to work one or two jobs?

Of course, NBC News doesn’t come out of this looking rosy either. Remember when they hired Jenna Bush for the Today show? But it is sad that America has an aristocracy that runs around telling us that we don’t have an aristocracy. You can do anything you set your mind to—if your father was President of the United States. And what do you set your mind to? Interview an animated gecko.

Chelsea Clinton by Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Some Decent Songs in Frozen

FrozenI just watched Frozen. It’s about what you would expect. Well, that’s not exactly true. The script was certainly far less carefully crafted than most animated features. And it does seem to be falling into what seems to be a trend in animation: plot padding. There is far too much action for action’s sake. Scenes go on far too long with nothing happening even as the story leaves enormous amounts of material unexplained. And its attempts at humor are obvious and blunt.

But unlike most animated features, Frozen does not just have songs in it; it is a musical in its own right. It would be quite easy to turn this into a Broadway musical. And shockingly, I think it would work. Unlike most dramatic songs these days, the ones that fill Frozen are mostly quite good. “For the First Time in Forever” and “Fixer Upper” really stand out as catchy without being cliched. Of course, there are also songs that are straight genre like “Love Is an Open Door” and “Let it Go” which could have easily have been written by Elton John and Tim Rice. But not every song can be a winner, and many my favorite musicals have only a few standout songs.

The songs were written by the husband and wife songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. I’ve never heard of them before, but then I don’t stay up on this kind of thing anymore. I get the impression they haven’t worked much together before Frozen, so that may have added a little spark to the work. I don’t expect great things in the future, not because they aren’t talented, but because musical songwriting is a field that will accept just about anything passably professional. Great art need not apply—or even reasonably interesting tunes or lyrics.

It would be nice if musicals could move in some different directions. I’ve thought for a long time that there is room for very small musicals. And maybe they are out there being done and I just don’t know about it. You know: something like The Fantasticks, but with the ability to use the songs in new ways and to not be limited to a certain kind of song. To some extent, I think Godspell (see my discussion: Godspell Positive Vision of Christianity) fit that bill, at least for that moment. And then, we got a whole bunch more of that.

It seems to me that when it comes to a musical, almost everything is off limits. Certainly there’s a reason for that: people like them as they are; they are popular. But given that you could produce a musical with exotic music and a challenging plot for almost nothing, I wonder that people don’t. I wouldn’t expect to see such things on DVD, but maybe at Berkeley Rep? Maybe if one-tenth the effort that goes into making Shakespeare vital went into making interesting musicals, we’d have a revolution. Meanwhile, I’m just pleased when a Disney musical has a couple of catchy tunes and nothing that really offends me.

Oh How Nick Drake Come and Go

Nick DrakeOn this day in 1948, the great singer-songwriter Nick Drake was born. He was a very depressed guy. This has special meaning to me, because most people think of me as a depressed person. This is not especially true. What I am is an extremely anxious person. But having been on anti-anxiety medication for the last month, I have found that they have made me depressed. I’m glad to have the anxiety gone, but I’m not sure the swap is worth it. I’ve always had manic-depressive swings in my life, but this constant feeling of depression is extremely unpleasant. I feel like I have for the first time in my life a very good idea of why people kill themselves. This is unrelenting and I don’t think that the anti-anxiety meds are long for my life.

Nick Drake was a brilliant songwriter, who played the guitar beautifully, and had one of the most haunting voices you will ever hear. He released three albums but none of them ever really took off. After his third album flopped, he went back to living with his parents. Some work was done on a fourth album but that was it. One night, he took an overdose of amitriptyline, a really nasty anti-depressant. I doubt very seriously that it was suicide. But the one thing I’ve noticed is that when you are depressed, what you really want is to sleep. And amitriptyline will put you to sleep. Until reading about his death, I didn’t know that it was such a dangerous drug.

Here is the song “River Man” off his first album, Five Leaves Left. It’s kind of mysterious. I think it is about how people and their affection flows past you like a river. It’s a lament. But you don’t have to listen to the lyrics; it’s just beautiful:

This second album Bryter Layter was more upbeat, probably because of the accompaniment by Fairport Convention. Although it is probably his most accessible, I find the niceties of the music get in the way of the songs. It works best on “Northern Sky”:

And then came Pink Moon, which is his most depressing album and undoubtedly why I like him so much. The whole album is only 28 minutes long and the whole thing is on YouTube (at least for now), if you want to listen to it. But here is the title track that defies description; you just have to listen to it:

Happy birthday Nick Drake!