Tag Archives: RIP

Cokie Roberts – RIP

About the late Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs, George Will of all people gave the most revelatory obit quote:

Political journalist George Will, who worked with Roberts on ABC’s This Week, said Roberts was not just born to the political class but was a natural inhabitant.

“She liked people on both sides of the aisle and had friends on both sides of the aisle,” Will told NPR. “If you don’t like the game of politics, I don’t see how you write about it well,” he said. “She liked the game of politics and she understood that it was a game.”

She understood that it was a game. To millions of us who are Latino, black, or gay, for whom disenfranchisement and climate change represent irremediable eventualities, treating politics as a game insulates the powerful and condemns us. We’re not allowed to peer behind the curtain, where Cokie and Sam and Chuck and Ed Rendell and Newt Gingrich chuckle at the grift they’ve gotten away with. If politics is a game, then questions of world-historic banality – the banality of appearances – matter, such as where Barack Obama vacations (“It’s what everyone at the beauty parlor was talking about!”). Real problems, like birth control access for people of color, do not. Continue reading

Eddie Money — RIP

“I’m gonna take you on a trip so far from here/I’ve got two tickets in my pocket, now baby, we’re gonna disappear,” the late Eddie Money promised on his signature hit “Two Tickets to Paradise.” Laugh if you will, but “Two Tickets to Paradise” is a meathead’s “Born to Run,” written by the son of a cop who wouldn’t know a polysyllabic word if it came wrapped in a bottle of Jack Daniels. Maybe the two tickets in his pocket are condoms — would it surprise you? During the Carter era, Edward Joseph Mahoney churned out a string of AOR smashes: “Baby Hold On,” “Maybe I’m a Fool,” “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.” Despite the bluster those titles and his husky howl exposed him as a lovelorn chump who wants marriage, commitment, and the other things he learned in Brooklyn. Eddie would do whatever if you asked him nicely, including wearing a New Wave skinny tie because why not.

Paradise got more expensive as the eighties dawned. Other than “Shakin’” and “Think I’m in Love,” the exquisitely titled No Control (produced by Tom Dowd!) marked the beginning of a commercial downturn. Then Money released “Take Me Home Tonight” in the summer of 1986: a song that flaunted its recycled parts with all of Money’s blowzy confidence. No one would’ve cared had another singer with a voice as ragged as Eddie’s but as committed to received emotions not belted “Be My Baby” as the chorus ended. Ronnie Spector, take a bow, for her appearance on “Take Me Home Tonight” remains one of the era’s more addled moments and a sure sign that the boomers were going to temper the years of their obsolescence into terrifying swords. Its parent album Can’t Go Back proved a quiet blockbuster: two heavily played followups (the wistful “I Wanna Go Back” and “Endless Nights”) that refashioned him into a second-string MTV presence through the grunge era. Remember “Walk on Water”? “Peace in Our Time” (quieter than a Big Country single with which it shares a title)? “The Love in Your Eyes”? Top thirties all, with “Walk on Water” his second of two career top tens.

As late as 1991’s “I”ll Get By” Eddie was still $$. Then commercial death came to Eddie Money, as it must to all men. Average talent and looks weren’t enough in a new era in which the zippy and the dippy mattered less than the projections of angst he had avoided like a bad party. Yet the hits stayed evergreens, as his steady touring on the oldies circuit proved. He even starred in his own reality show. In a Rolling Stone interview last year, Money sounded at peace. “The kids aren’t in jail, they’re not in rehab, nobody’s wrecked the car this week and there’s still milk in the refrigerator. I’m having a good month.” Savor the last sentence — wisdom that eludes greater artists.

Koch brothers influence: eye-on-the-sparrow bludgeoning

Thanks to Charles and his dead brother David, the Kochs are responsible for encouraging the pathology of anti-science. In Florida, where politicians pay lip service to Protecting the Everglades, their front organization Americans for Prosperity has opposed any regulation of the fossil fuel industry. Charles Pierce highlights a recent example:

In 2018, the city of Nashville proposed to build a $5.4 billion rapid-transit project involving high-speed rail. To pay for it, the city proposed to raise four taxes, including the sales tax. Which is about when someone lit up the Koch Signal. The Kochs hate rapid transit. It keeps people from buying cars, which run on the fuels that make the Koch family rich. They also produce the asphalt for the roads on which those cars run. Acting through a Koch-funded astroturfing operation, Americans For Prosperity, the Kochs lavishly funded the opposition and killed the plan. This kind of eye-on-the-sparrow bludgeoning is a measure of how thoroughly the Koch money has infected our politics all the way down to the local level.

Jane Mayer’s Dark Money has chapters devoted to their perfidy. Read it. An excerpt:

The Kochs continued to disperse their money, creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names, and this made it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington. In 1990, Citizens for a Sound Economy created a spinoff group, Citizens for the Environment, which called acid rain and other environmental problems “myths.” When the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigated the matter, it discovered that the spinoff group had “no citizen membership of its own.”

That’s what the Kochs do or did: ratfuck democracy in the name of plutocrats. I love the idea of ballet and marrying a man whom I’d take to the ballet, but ballet would suck when I have to roll up my pants to wade into the theater.

Peter Fonda RIP

A symbol more than an actor, but film actors are symbols anyway. Film actors often incarnate their times. It was Peter Fonda’s luck to star in Easy Rider, the epochal road film he also co-wrote. For him there was little of his older sis Jane’s intelligence and anxiousness; he projected a languor that millions of people took for a generational comment when the performance owed much to Brando and a previous decade’s idea of cool. But film actors do this too: that is, connect lines and establish a genealogy that directors and screenwriters can’t have known. Continue reading

David Berman — RIP

No critic is a sage, so David Berman revealed himself to me as a poet first. When I found his collection Actual Air for a buck in the reduced section of my satellite campus bookstore exactly a decade ago, I bought it on a condescending whim — “how good can a poetry collection by a rock guy be?” Then I read “Grace”:

As one who, reading late into the night,
When overcome by sleep, turns off the light
And yields whatever he can sense by sight

To what the gates of ivory or of horn
Will send him, sightless as a child unborn,
To goad, amuse, remind, reveal or warn,

So may I turn a light off and embrace
With resignation, better still with grace,
The dreamless sleep that all awake must face.

The toughness of these tercets — their understanding of art as a supreme fiction that makes sense of air, light, life — reminded me of Wallace Stevens, after whom Berman named the volume. Thanks to Berman’s laconic, self-effacing drawl, Berman under the Silver Jews moniker released a few albums that are the American equivalent of The Fall: an American vernacular accommodating itself to absurdity indistinguishable from tragedy.

Their masterpiece American Water (1998) is too well-named. The album’s first line — “In 1984, I was hospitalized for approaching perfection” — tipped the hat to an approach as attuned to the rhythms of the vernacular in American poetry and song as Cole Porter and John Ashbery. Collaborators and fellow travelers like Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich understood that Berman was the real thing: skeptical of the transcendental likes of Patti Smith and Allen Ginsburg, Berman drew upon wryness as a muse, as a way of moistening his confessions. Over the slow static progression of “Blue Arrangement,” Berman and Malkmus praise the “Protestant thighs” of a paramour who inspires a prolixity increasingly uncommon in Amerindie. Berman, unlike words-first guys, believed in melody. Perhaps the melody inspired the following verse:

Sometimes I feel like I’m watching the world
And the world isn’t watching me back
But when I see you, I’m in it too
The waves come in and the waves go back

Perhaps he sensed the high tide of those waves waiting to take him.

John Paul Stevens — RIP

For as along as I was alive, the Supreme Court was John Paul Stevens’ court. The justice with a devastating interlocutory style and one of the last to write the first draft of his own opinions well into his eighties, nominated by the most conservative American president since Calvin Coolidge, ended up well to Gerald Ford’s left by the time William Rehnquist replaced Warren Burger as chief justice; and very well to Antonin Scalia’s right after the latter replaced Rehnquist as associate justice, and Anthony Kennedy replaced Lewis Powell. Ronald Reagan nominated them all, and it’s amazing to think of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch as scalphunters. Continue reading