Moonswept ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new "Think Again" column on the Libby verdict here, called "What About Bob?" and a new Nation column here on Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called "A Consequential Life."

I've been meaning to jump on the bandwagon of "Liberals for Huckabee." I know almost next to nothing about the guy except that I think I saw him on The Daily Show and he seemed awfully reasonable for a guy like him. Neither McCain nor, God knows, Rudy nor, God knows, Romney make any sense to me at all once conservatives figure out who these guys actually are, and so who's left? Not Newt, God knows. And Brownback is too crazy, even for Republicans. So Huckabee it is. Ezra found this. And as the young people say, I'm, like, wow:

There's one issue I want to touch on. A key element of education is music and art education. It's not expendable, extracurricular or extraneous. The future economy of America is going to be a creative economy. I am very passionate about it. Math, science and language scores improve dramatically when the student has music skills. Spatial reasoning is enhanced by music instructions. It is who we are. It defines us as a culture and a civilization. Very few people my age are still playing tackle football, but I'm still playing bass guitar in a rock-and-roll band.

While we're on that topic, everyone go to this concert. (I can't, though. I'll be in New Hampshire.) And give lots of money to Music for Youth.

Has Israel destroyed itself from within? A really depressing article, here. (Thanks to MJ.)

Good news: there's no political columns at all in Time this week, so nothing about which to complain. I guess Charles Krauthammer was out of countries he could compare to Hitler. (Isn't it amazing that this is anyone's idea of a good columnist, much less the idea of the most influential magazine in America?)

Cheney's on the cover. I've not read it yet.

From our sponsors:

You knew this was coming. This is 500 "brains" at work, and the result is the intelligence of a flea.

Alter-reviews:

Suzzy Roche on Moonswept, The Roches' first recording as a trio in over 10 years.

(Note from Eric: I try not to review my friends' work because it's hard for me to be honest about it either way. But I hate to ignore it as well, especiallly in a case like Suzzy's, because groups like The Roches, on little labels, are so heavily dependent on word-of-mouth. Fortunately, I got Suzzy to write the below and I think it's really wonderful and am proud to print it here.) Now here's Suzzy.

It's hard to listen to something that has an unusual form. Moonswept is such a thing. It may take you a while, but if you stick with it, there are layers and layers to this humble recording.

Putting out a new CD at my age requires a lot of nerve. I feel like a woman who's had too many children and she is embarrassed to tell friends that's she is pregnant again, at the age of 50. (Can't that woman get her tubes tied?)

That being said, I love our new CD. I love it for its musical and lyrical idiosyncrasies, its originality and its deceptive simplicity. I love it because we're older now, and yet it reminds me of early childhood, which I thought I had forgotten.

One of the things we wanted to do with this project was to conjure the spirit of "the group" ... so there was quite a bit of "Hey, I'll send you some lyrics, you write the tune" or vice versa.

For us, the arranging of the harmonies and instruments are as much a part of the writing as any other part of the process.

Personally, my own songs on this record came from expressions of other people. For example, the title song, "Moonswept," was inspired by the 80-year-old poet John Ashbury.

I heard him speak to a group of students. They accused him of being politically incorrect in his poetry. He seemed baffled. It was as if the two generations had no way of communicating. I found it touching in the most reassuring way, especially because I was in between those two generations. I jotted down the lyrics to "Moonswept" while watching them go at it.

Another song, "Instead I Chose," came after seeing a documentary about the Donner Party. The only thing I knew about the Donner Party was what I read from my childhood history books ... you know, the cannibal thing. But the documentary told a different story. It seemed they chose an unlucky path, and for the rest of history they would be misunderstood.

Terre and I hadn't seen each other for a while before we started working on "Moonswept," so there was an explosion of creative energy between us for this project. We wrote "Piggy Mask" and "Huh" together. Terre has some great songs of her own on this CD ... "Gung Ho," "Only You Know How," September 11 at the Shambhala Center.

Maggie, the gentle giant, busts through, lending her singular musical perspective to two collaborations, "A Family of Bones" and "Stop Performing."

The CD has some cover songs also. Two from our pal, Paranoid Larry, a political songwriter from New York City -- " No Shoes" & "Jesus Shaves" (www.paranoidlarry.com). There's no one else like Paranoid Larry. We also sing "The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane," an old Ames Brothers song. We used to listen to this song as little kids.

Last, but not least, is my daughter's song, "Long Before." Lucy Wainwright Roche grew up on the road with us, she used to think she was in the band. She'd come backstage after a show and tell us about all the mistakes we made. It's fitting that we should be her first back-up band. (She's the real rebel in the family, being the first on both sides to get a master's degree and actually become a teacher.)

When we made our debut record, Robert Fripp, its producer, said, "You'll never make a cent, but you will influence people." Looking back, I understand what he meant, and I feel that Moonswept goes farther in that direction. A funny thing about doing this kind of work is that as insignificant as something feels, the opposite is also true.

For more, please go here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Peter
Hometown: London, Ontario

I think you're overreacting to the NARM "Definitive 200." Any list that includes genre-advancing, note-perfect artistic statements like A Love Supreme, Redheaded Stranger and OK Computer, not to mention placing Exile, Highway 61 and Nevermind in the top 10, can't be all bad. Still, I agree that there are A LOT of questionable choices. It would have been better, f'rinstance, if they'd replaced Toni Braxton with Anthony Braxton.

Name: Davis Statton
Hometown: Columbia, MD

Oh my. Rubber Soul at 110 and Blood on the Tracks at 157. I scanned it three times and could not find Blonde on Blonde. Sorry. You did say the less said the better.

Name: Robert Stafford
Hometown: San Diego

Eric --

Thought I would allow myself a moment of snark in response to your comments on Baudrillard.

My advanced degree is in ... ahem ... writing. Though on some levels I am proud of this accomplishment, I still tend to recall & often agree with Heinlein's statement that (paraphrasing) "writing is nothing to be ashamed of, but you should do it with the shades pulled down & wash your hands afterward."

When I was studying for this degree, I had two sets of teachers -- those who taught writing workshops, who were, to a person, conscientious, hard-working, practical people who gave great advice on how to write better, and those who taught theory, who gave students cocaine, drove them from their offices in tears, held their office hours in bars (& got students into bar fights there that ended with them in the hospital), had sex with students, showed students films of themselves & their wives "anonymously" wearing masks & having sex as part of an "experiment," etc. -- and this was really just the tip of the iceberg. Nutty, out-of-control, massively entitled demi-gods of their departments. We'll leave the discussion of their embarrassing politics for another day.

The writing teachers never had much use for theory, or if they did, it was usually pre- or on the cusp of post-modernism. The theorists, though, were so far up the French contingents' backside that it was hard to take them seriously.

All of this is by way of saying that, yes, Baudrillard wrote in a style which could, at best, be described as annoying & obscure, but at least he made a hell of a lot more sense than Derrida -- master of stupid, repetitive, tail-swallowing word games, but imho, not the deep thinker his amazingly bad, convoluted writing style might lead you to believe he was.

My two cents.

Name: John S. Ransom
Hometown: Carlisle, PA

I don't agree with you on Baudrillard. You don't think he's talking about something "real" when he discusses "hyperreality"? What about American authors that discuss similar themes -- say, Toffler's Future Shock? Are they full of it too? I think there are a lot of insights in Baudrillard about how to understand the world we live in. I think a lot of American intellectuals have a "blame the messenger'" tendency when it comes to French thinkers: the Americans don't like the world as described by Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault, or Deleuze, and so to help themselves keep pretending it's not like that, they accuse the French thinkers of encouraging or even producing it.

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