Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Decemberists, Robert Novak, and Ending Government (with ALF cameo)

Last night, in advance of tonight's State of the Union address, I saw with my own eyes a piece of evidence that President Obama is a communist. 

1.  Or at least, I saw the Decemberists in concert again, and one unusually rabid right-wing site I glanced at once listed the Decemberists' performance at an Obama campaign event on the West Coast as evidence of his communism, since they're named after a (politically ambiguous) Russian revolt that the band themselves describe as proto-communist.  (And so an army of unemployed millennials lean back toward thinking Obama may be cool after all, which is the kind of aesthetics-based knee-jerk politics I'm trying to combat.)

2.  Of course, I'm not denying Obama and virtually all your indie rockers and your hipsters are leftists.  In fact, last night, wearing a bit more flannel and sounding a bit more country and jangly, the Decemberists seemed more R.E.M. than usual, which is fine with us Gen Xers (even ones who weren't happy about R.E.M. performing at Bill Clinton's inaugural gala back in the day, since that was evidence he was a Southerner and a closeted "third way" socialist with power pop influences -- well, it was). 

3.  And articles like this one pointed out to me by Gerard Perry (who has asked a couple comments thread questions I should address in tomorrow's entry) show that "science" is not exactly apolitical either (but note: John Horgan is the same idiot who declared the "end of science" in a book by that title a few years ago, so take his declarations of the end of gun ownership and capitalism with comparable grains of salt). 

4.  I also cannot deny that the Decemberists are likely trying to take Valerie Plame's side in their clever song by that title -- which probably makes me one of the few people to go to two Decemberists concerts yet also to be persuaded, in person not too long before he passed away, by the late Robert Novak's account of the whole affair, which is that it was a non-Bush-camp State Department official, Richard Armitage, who revealed Plame as a CIA staffer; the CIA itself who implicitly told Novak it'd be no big deal to report it when he cautiously asked them; and the special investigator who sat on that rather boring account of things, ordering Novak to keep silent about a non-Bush-loyalist being the initial leaker, while going on a meandering hunt for Bush-embarrassing post-leak leaks (and glory). 

Armitage was not even mentioned in the Sean Penn movie about the affair, apparently, and I assume Scooter Libby was made to appear the moral equal of Darth Maul. 

5.  I am not biased in my view of all this, I think, by the fact that I am now not just a Phillips Fellow (for having years ago gotten grant money from the Phillips Foundation) but, due to a posthumous renaming in Novak's honor, technically a Robert Novak Fellow (would that they simply redubbed us Princes of Darkness).  I'll speak to such of my fellow Fellows as choose to rally in NYC on Feb. 18 -- and to listen to the break-out session I lead -- about tips for appearing on TV.  (Note that I am drawing primarily on my experience as a producer.) 

6.  With this blog's "Month of Haters" yielding to its "Month of Lovers" next month, though, I will endeavor to leave partisan rancor -- and even much of the "right/left" talk -- behind in favor of educating one and all about economics, which is the most important thing (catch me trying to do that, in very different ways, in Williamsburg on Feb. 6 and in Arlington on Feb. 12, as noted in the right margin of this blog's front page). 

With Congress once more divided, split largely over the spending issue at a time when welfare-statists are not nearly as confident about what to do next as they pretend to be, it may be time to teach the fundamentals again -- once more treating talk of war or, say, obscene art as distractions.  (And emphasizing econ is by no means to de-emphasize humanity and morals, as this NYTimes blog entry pointed out to me by Ali Kokmen eloquently explains.)

7.  Sounding a bit R.E.M.-ish is a significant chronological leap forward since the Decemberists' previous album, which sounded more medieval, placing it in the prog rock era that began in the twelfth century and ended around 1974.  That prior album, The Hazards of Love, seemed
to me extra-dorky at the time in its faux-medievalism, but "The Rake's Song" from it was the big arena-rocking number last night (and the cute sight of the nerdy keyboardist chick beating mightily on booming drums during it was ultimately a reminder that in the new era I must resist nebbishes who appear secretly capable of murder). 

8.  My concert buddy was rock writer and fellow libertarian Tricia Summers, who, as it turned out, had been present the last time I saw the Decemberists, at the impressive September 2009 show at which their singer pal John Wesley Harding was a masterful host and picked their set list at random out of a rotating bin of ping pong balls, including a twenty-minute encore song.  I did not know Tricia at the time and so had no idea she was there (I love it when that happens, though, reminding us how effective certain cultural filters are at turning out the same crowd members repeatedly, though the time I went to a They Might Be Giants concert and two of my girlfriend's three exes also showed up was a bit much). 

9.  In other rock news, I see that Carrie Brownstein, the guitarist from Sleater-Kinney, now has a sketch comedy show called Portlandia (out of Portland, OR) on IFC.  A TimeOut New York interview quotes her saying that irrational p.c. rules that lead to leaky homemade coffee mugs and the like are ripe targets, which is good to hear.  Christine Ames reports liking the opening song in the first episode about how "the dream of the 90s is alive in Portland." 

Clearly, with nostalgia comedy like that, the millennials will be feeling over the hill soon enough, though it will take them a few more years to stop laughing about it and realize that that feeling never goes away.  Then, teenagers arrive and eat your remains.  That is the natural order of things.  (If we cut taxes and deregulate, though, the resulting biotech boom should make us all immortal, so no worries, no worries.)

10.  Anyway, icky as I find articles in which columnists fantasize about what speeches politicians ought to give, here's hoping tonight's SOTU unexpectedly announces the only fiscal plan that makes any sense at this late point: shut down the federal government entirely, effectively turning the U.S. into fifty separate countries with slightly less overhead (I dub this move "the reverse-Hamilton" -- spread the word).  That will be my modest proposal to the Republican Liberty Caucus crowd on Feb. 12 in Arlington, anyway, so sign up to be there as the next phase of history begins.

P.S. And one last bit of cultural news: until you get as far down the list as Art Direction, I have seen only one of the Oscar-nomination-generating films, and that was Inception, about which I had mixed feelings (rather stiff for a movie about dreams, I thought -- where was the weeping sandwich?  the oddly sexy third-grade teacher?  the cameo by a homicidally deranged ALF who has stolen your foot?).  Such a niche-audience culture.  They're going to have to start nominating dozens of YouTube clips eventually (and the winner, of course, will be: Football in the Groin).

1 comment:

Gerard said...

"...though the time I went to a They Might Be Giants concert and two of my girlfriend's three exes also showed up was a bit much)..."

The worst part about going to a TMBG concert these days is the abundance of young children and families. The last time I saw them perform at Celebrate Brooklyn, sometime after they finished playing 'Older,' I was crowded out of the Prospect Park band shell by scads of snot-nosed pre-adolescents.

I don't blame them, or the parents who brought them to the show, but the band itself. When did They Might Be Giants turn into The Wiggles, and why weren't its fans allowed to cast ballots deciding whether or not this ill-conceived transition was a good idea?