With Last Splash getting a deluxe reissue that record companies don’t often lavish these days, time to commemorate one of my favorite covers:
Why hasn’t a playwright written The Nixon Tapes? Because, as Howard Hawks said about earlier adaptations of The Maltese Falcon, this playwright would be tempted to change the text. When you’ve got dialogue like the following, who needs fictional embellishment?
(The Oval Office, September 13, 1971)
PRESIDENT NIXON: Billy Graham told us an astonishing thing. The IRS are badgering the shit out of him. Some son-of-a-bitch came and gave him a three-hour grilling about how much he, you know, how much this contribution is worth. And he told it to [John] Connally. Well, Connally took the name of the guy [unclear]. But, now look, I’ve just got to get that name out of Connally when you get back. Now, they’ve gone after Billy Graham and he didn’t know it. Now here’s the point, Bob: please get me the names of the Jews, you know, the big Jewish contributors of the Democrats.
PRESIDENT NIXON: And remember [unclear] [John] Ehrlichman, I guess, or somebody.
PRESIDENT NIXON: All right. Could we please investigate some of the cocksuckers? That’s all. Now look at here. Here our IRS is going after Billy Graham tooth and nail. Are they going after Eugene Carson Blake? 1 I asked, you know, what I mean is, goddamn, I don’t believe—I just don’t—”
PRESIDENT NIXON: I just don’t know whether we are frankly being as tough as we ought to be, that’s all.
(The Oval Office: January, 1, 1973)
PRESIDENT NIXON: What about (Edward) Bennett Williams? That’s one of the (IRS) files that should be pulled.
COLSON: Should be.
PRESIDENT NIXON: That’s my point.
(The Oval Office: March 30, 1973)
PRESIDENT NIXON: Is his income tax being checked yet, or have we got our man (new IRS head, Donald Alexander) in yet?
HALDEMAN: We nominated him, but he isn’t confirmed. He isn’t there.
PRESIDENT NIXON: Well, you know damn well he (Weicker) didn’t report this income, so we’ll just say that.
HALDEMAN: Oh, he’ll get around that. He’ll just say it was a campaign contribution.
PRESIDENT NIXON: Oh, I know. I know. But if he didn’t report it as a campaign contribution, he’s broken the law.
(h/t Charles Pierce)
Another poll, this time of Sonic Youth tracks. “Schizophrenia” wins. Some notes:
The austerity of “Candle,” which burns as finely and steadily as the Richter painting on Daydream Nation’s cover, still holds my attention after fifteen years.
Hiring Butch Vig means you get the sumptuousness of “Theresa’s Sound-World,” my favorite Sonic Youth bask-in-sound-for-its-own-sake moment.
I’d swap “Winner’s Blues” with “I Love You, Golden Blue.”
Ack, no more Sonic Youth songs…
2. Catholic Block
3. Kotton Krown
4. Teenage Riot
5. My Friend Goo
7. Winner’s Blues
8. Theresa’s Sound-World
9. Green Light
10. Total Trash
11. Kool Thing
12. Youth Against Fascism
13. Dirty Boots
14. I Love You Golden Blue
15. Rain on Tin
17. Androgynous Mind
19. Death Valley ’69
21. Pacific Coast Highway
22. Peace Attack
23. Pink Steam
24. Swimsuit Issue
25. Cross The Breze
26. Shadow of a Doubt
27. Paper Cup Exit
29 Hits of Sunshine (For Allen Ginsberg)
Zeros and tens are rare enough. I’ve awarded no perfect scores this year. The Wanted’s piece of shit – misogynist and stupid – was an easy pick for worst. Fortunately Miguel-Mariah received one of my two 8′s, Tennant-Lowe return to their roots in anonymous electro-disco but leavened with three decades of attention to dynamics, and “What’s Your Name” ranks among the more startling examples of K-Pop, a genre I’ve had trouble digesting.
Click on links for full reviews.
Mariah Carey ft. Miguel – #Beautiful (8)
Chris Malinchak – So Good to Me (7)
Pet Shop Boys – Axis (7)
4Minute – What’s Your Name? (6)
Talib Kweli ft. Miguel – Come Here (6)
Fall Out Boy – Young Volcanoes (5)
Natalie Maines – Free Life (4)
Ke$ha ft. will.i.am – Crazy Kids (Remix) (4)
Kid Cudi ft. Too $hort – Girls (4)
Laura Marling – Master Hunter (4)
Lauryn Hill – Neurotic Society (2)
Florida Georgia Line – Get Your Shine On (2)
The Wanted – Walks Like Rihanna (0)
The AP story, as Chuck Todd averred this morning, isn’t important because “the American people” don’t care. Of course they don’t: the press has done an execrable job detailing how this administration has violated our freedoms. John Kiriakou and Bradley Manning are doing time. The administration would love to get its hands on The New York Times‘ David Sanger. Digby:
Contrary to what seems to be an emerging narrative about this AP scandal, it is simply not true that the AP and the government are equally culpable. In fact, if there is one person responsible for the detail about the informant getting out, it’s the man who now heads the CIA. And he let it slip during a “talking points” session with a bunch of national security TV commentators.
First, let me just say that the constitutional principle at stake in this AP scandal is so paramount that I’ve been loathe to even write about the details of the case. The idea that the government has the right to do sweeping fishing expedition subpoenas of the allegedly free press without their knowledge or any judicial oversight is mind boggling to me and regardless of the precedent in other cases, I’m simply appalled that any administration would do it. There are ample ways to go about dealing with issues that don’t chip away at the First and Fourth amendment. Unfortunately, this administration is in love with secrecy and covert activity and has turned national security into an intimidation tactic against a free press. It’s extremely disappointing.
The energy I was going to expend writing about Modern Vampires of the City dissipated upon reading Mike Powell’s SPIN review. After all, I do this shit free. Alternately languorous and caffeinated, Vampire Weekend’s third album will test the patience of the skeptical; other than “Diane Young,” it offers no concessions to radio concision like Contra‘s “Cousins.” Singer-guitarist Ezra Koenig and keyboardist/guitarist/conceptualist Rostam Batmanglij use that album’s “Diplomat’s Son” as a model: a reverie dense with instrumental embellishments, found sounds, and time-crossed lyric that nevertheless feels sumptuous and spare. Missteps furthe humanize them. “Hudson” is “I Think Ur a Contra” bad. Koenig often sings beyond his capacity to match the ambitious arrangements — but what arrangements. I haven’t paid attention to the lyrics much because I don’t believe in Yahweh and I’m over thirty but “I took your counsel and came to ruin/Leave me to myself, leave me to myself” is pithy and smart without being arch. Those lines are in “Everlasting Arms,” the beautiful little track in which the band assemble a track commensurate with this pith and those smarts. It starts with rolling drums distorted as if Batmanglij had processed them through keyboards, a quiet organ part, and the faintest of bass plucks from Chris Baio. For the chorus Chris Tomson plays martial rhythms — his comfort zone — and Koenig experiments with melisma. A frightening thought, given his limits, but in a track this behaved it’s a gesture of equipoise. After a quick rhythm strum, Batmanglij interjects a string synthesizer run out of the Songs From the Key of Life playbook. Hysteria meets complacence. “You and me we got our own sense of time,” Koenig offers on “Hannah,” Batmanglij offering hushed, almost frightened harmonies. Now here’s a same sex marriage requiring no federal blessing.
Emily Nussbaum on the constriction of Jon Hamm’s Don Draper:
As the island was to “Lost,” Don Draper is to “Mad Men.” He was a great premise, a mystery we were dying to understand. But, the more the puzzle has been filled in, the more he’s begun to feel suspiciously like a symbol, a thesis title rather than a character: “Appearance Versus Reality”; “American Masculinity as Performance”; “The Links Between Prostitution, Marriage, and the Ad Game.” I’d hoped that the death of Don’s California-stoner muse, Anna, two seasons ago—in one of the series’ standout episodes, “The Suitcase”—would work as an exorcism, but instead Weiner doubled down, adding fresh flashbacks, to the point that even JT LeRoy might think that he was laying it on a bit thick.
Before I admit that I agree, I should confess: this is the first season I watch live, six months after saying fuck it and subscribing to Comcast (since 2009 I’ve watched old episodes on DVD). The cliffhanger experience sets up disappointments that viewing consecutive episodes don’t: if you don’t like one episode, you can watch the next as soon as the first ends.
Florida House Republicans last month loudly and proudly rejected billions of dollars in federal money that would have provided health insurance to 1 million poor Floridians.
Quietly, they kept their own health insurance premiums staggeringly low.
House members will pay just $8.34 a month for state-subsidized health care next year, or $30 a month to cover their entire family.
That’s one-sixth of what state senators and most state employees will pay, and one-tenth of the cost to the average private-sector worker, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s also less than the $25 a month House Republicans wanted to charge poor Floridians for basic coverage such as a limited number of doctor visits or preventive care.
House Republicans, including Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, would not say why the House did not raise its premiums to match the Senate. The premium increase was also part of Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget.
This week’s books.
The film geek equivalent of Cameron Crowe’s Rolling Stone profiles, Peter Bogdanovich’s Who The Devil Made It collects several decades’ worth of interviews with Hollywood’s most famous and prolific directors. Because Bogdo is asking the questions no one gets offended and favorite stories get aired with the insouciance of men who won’t get hired for new projects. Howard Hawks offers eagle-eyed observations on directing Montgomery Clift (stand idle while John Wayne does his thing), adapting good books (don’t try to improve them), and surviving in Hollywood (treat entertainment as if it were art; when questioned treat art like entertainment). Otto Preminger explains how he convinced Darryl F. Zanuck that he and not Rouben Mamoulian should direct Laura and why the gay, flamboyant Clifton Webb was ideal casting. I read it in 1998 but it’s worth another glance when the thought of a big novel makes you sigh. Be warned: Bogdanovich is at his sycophantic worst. Lots of introductions to the profiles include bits like this: “How many times over the years did I go to Hitch’s office for a drink or lunch — usually lunch — always exactly the same lunch for both of us: two medium New York steaks with French fries, a little lettuce and tomato, coffee.” Italics, “Hitch,” and cute in-between-dashes reminder in the original.
Two on a Tower isn’t a big novel, let alone one of Thomas Hardy’s most famous. The original copy at the university library hadn’t been checked out since April 1990, while the Penguin reissue published in 1999 had never been checked out at all. Minor fiction and albums fascinate me. No revelations here, though: it’s an uncharacteristically terse, distracted novel with few of Hardy’s touches except absurd plot contrivances. When a working class astronomer with the fabulous name Swithin St. Cleeve weds the widowed Lady Constantine, he learns that a dead uncle he’s never met bequeathed him eight hundred pounds a year provided he never marries (women distract scientists, Uncle says). Whoops! The novel’s best character is a bishop who appears every sixty pages to drop ponderous remarks and make epistolary love to Lady Constantine. It gets complicated. The fictional Wessex, an essential part of Hardy fiction and poetry, barely exists; the much-vaunted tower, a structure suitable for all kinds of semiotic portent, is no Egdon Heath.
Hag has your number. He better. I ain’t posting my mom’s information on fuckin’ Facebook.
Oh I long for the days when Rolling Stone ran long reviews of terrible albums by good bands:
Blondie’s Autoamerican is a terrible album, but it’s bad in such an arcane, high-toned way that listening to it is perversely fascinating. After Parallel Lines gave Chris Stein a carte blanche, it was only a matter of time until he started living out his fantasies of himself as a deep thinker. Since he could always be counted on to hedge his bets, however, he cannily managed to sustain the illusion that he still cared about rock & roll on Eat to the Beat. That illusion is surely dead now. And Stein is no longer depriving the world of his “genius,” because Autoamerican is his LP all the way. Indeed, it’s such an anthology of intellectual onanism that it’s almost the rock equivalent of a godawful Ken Russell movie.
And Carson got away with “onanism.”
Calling the high school Lycée Gustave Flaubert is In The House‘s worst touch: it’s cute and underscores the irony with the red ink that Germain (Fabrice Luchini, resembling Robert Christgau) as teacher is no longer permitted to use on his student’s essays. The rest of the film is writer-director Francois Ozon at his most assured. A toothy, failed novelist who can’t shut up about the mediocrities in his classroom, Germain meets his match with Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), a wan, delicately boned boy with a snarl behind these rather androgynous features (he looks like you imagine a cupbearer would before being raped by Zeus). Startled by the confidence shown in a composition about how students spent their weekends — Germain has given up on imaginative topics too — Germain becomes Claude’s writing coach. For survivors of creative writing classes the directions are familiar and contradictory: write faster, surprise, don’t surprise, be subtle, be blunt. In these essays Claude describes his infiltration of his best friend Rafa’s household: Denis Menochet, as the hairy, bear-like father oppressed by offscreen corporate entities; and Emmanuelle Seigner,, simmering with lust like Catherine Deneuve in Luis Bunuel’s late sixties films.
Well into the nineties, Claude Chabrol directed movies like this: droll mysteries that while incisive about exposing middle class smugness in ways a Serious Picture wasn’t evaporated after viewing. The pleasure of In The House is watching Ozon sort out the congruities between fiction and reality. Often what is shown lags behind what Germain reads to his curator wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), whose interjections anticipate our own. As much as the Emmanuelle Riva-Jean-Louis Trintignant union in Amour, their attraction consists of a fellowship of literature and art; this intelligent and pungent couple mock the pretensions of their chosen trades but are too average themselves to conceive of alternatives (at one point they actually pay money to watch Match Point). It boasts startling flourishes — like a version of a Claude narrative in which he imagines his father’s Chinese boss scowling as he watches the parents make love — and banal ones, like Germain inserted into those narratives taunting Claude’s authorial decisions. Umhauer is right-on as Claude: his omnisexuality and ambition are indivisible.
A couple of critics have complained about the ending. The Purple Rose of Cairo excepted, I can think of few “meta” movies whose denouements show the verve of their first and second acts. This film could have used another few minutes. But the humdinger of a last shot, as Claude and Germain absorb new fictional possibilities, is erotic, funny, and disturbing as hell.