Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new Think Again column here called "Who Really Supports the Troops," about coverage of Bush's destruction of the military, and a new Nation column about The New York Sun called "Potemkin Paper?" here. Oh, and I did a short post on my Fred Thompson worries for the Guardian, here.

Quote of the Day:

"Mr. Connerly said conservatives such as himself, Ann Coulter and David Horowitz rarely make it past the 'gatekeeper' at top universities and colleges." -- The Washington Times.

Quote of the Day, II, from "An Evening with Christopher Hitchens," presented by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Union League Club, New York, May 1, 2007:

Unidentified Audience Member: You know, I just have something to say. You know, I feel like I'm a bacteria here in this process. But what I know is that, as much as I know, I know nothing about the process of God and what have you. But I find your arrogance just overbearing. And I think that --

Christopher Hitchens: I hear that all the time.

Unidentified Audience Member: -- I just -- I think someone needs to say that really, what we know is so little, and you pretend you know so much. And I just find it offensive.

Christopher Hitchens: Well, no --

Unidentified Audience Member: Because I know so little. You know, I've experienced things in study of Buddhism and what have you that have made me closer. But yet, I don't know anything. And I know a lot more than I think perhaps you do. And I really -- I'm just offended by you. And excuse me for --

Christopher Hitchens: Please. It takes a lot more than that to make my cry, or even turn over in bed, actually.

Unidentified Audience Member: You know what? You know what? I would say that -- I won't say it.

Christopher Hitchens: Go on.

Peter Collier [David Horowitz Freedom Center program director]: Okay.

Unidentified Audience Member: I won't say --

Christopher Hitchens: Do not be afraid of hurting my feelings, sir.

Unidentified Audience Member: No, I would just --

Christopher Hitchens: I promise you.

Unidentified Audience Member: I would just say you are probably the most offensive person that I have come across of any --

Christopher Hitchens: That's better. That's much better.

Well, I couldn't care less what you think, as you can obviously tell.

Etc., etc.

Alter-review:

I almost let the week pass without mentioning the new show by Stew, which is called Passing Strange. I saw it at the Public Theater last week. Stew is a middle-aged, middle-class black guy who clearly does not go to the gym, but writes genuinely intellectually challenging and emotionally rich rock 'n' roll ... pretty damn rare in my experience. Truth be told, I've always admired his music more than I actually liked it. And Passing Strange is so ambitious, it couldn't possibly all work. But enough of it works so that it is genuinely enjoyable while always being interesting and sometimes challenging. It's a sung play with a first-rate cast of performers and Stew leading the band and doing the voice-overs. I read here that "the Public Theater commissioned the piece that became 'Passing Strange,' which is a co-production with the Berkeley Repertory Theater, where it had its premiere last fall. As the Public saw it, Stew had the capability to create something that could extend its tradition of experimental musical theater, which began in 1967 with 'Hair,' its first production."

Stew didn't know anything about theater, so he created something that grew organically from his music and personal experience.

My favorite moment: During an audience question-and-answer session in Berlin, where Youth has experimented with ''passing for ghetto,'' he is asked in German-accented English whether ''bleckness'' is the central subject of his work. He answers, with studied silliness: ''Yes and no. In other words, yo.''

Anyway, it's great. And I'm grateful to both Stew and the Public for taking the chances necessary to make such things possible, however imperfectly.

Check it out here.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

"There's a port, on a western bay/ and it serves 100 ships a day."

This Week's WWOZ Pick To Click -- Country Ghetto (JJ Grey). I failed to get up on my roof this morning and holler out how much I love New Orleans.

The success or failure of Fred Dalton Thompson's campaign for president will depend ultimately on the cornpone novelization of him that's already under way. (Chris Matthews has grown quite damp.) The guy was a not-very-distinguished senator, who quit because senatorin' was too damn hard, a skirt-chasing Washington lawyer, and a movie actor. Period. His resumé makes him out to be approximately as macho a figure as Clark Clifford or Alger Hiss. His politics, where they can be puzzled out at all, are almost resolutely More Of The Same, The Same being those policies rejected (in one obvious case) by up to 70 percent of the American people.

Therefore, all of the earnest speculation about his manly-man appeal to the base is based on how much utter bulls**t the man can sling between now and the first primary. He's a performance piece, nothing more. There isn't an ounce of authenticity to him that isn't storebought. He actually is the complete fake that the Cool Kids pretended Al Gore was in 2000. He's even from Tennessee and, it is said, he once dated cute li'l Maggie Carlson, the chipmunk-cheeked lightweight in the moonman glasses who once famously thought Gore was talkin' too smart for the likes of her vaporous self.

Ain't got to worry about none of that with ol' Fred, missy. He talks to you straight -- at $700 an hour. He can speak to The Base? Wonderful. Speaking To The Base is what sent this party up on the rocks in the first place. The best chance he has is if the elite political media will create for him a character he can play on the national stage, the way Dick Wolf let him nearly ruin Law and Order over the past three years. I can't think of a presidential candidate in recent years whose actual life and career is so far removed from the stage-managed image his handlers and their enablers will project on a country they firmly believe is too stupid to know that it's being played.

Oh, wait.

Yes I can.

p.s. -- And here is Exhibit A already. Note that the artful fakery begins right there after ol' Cornpone's name. He "will offer himself as a down-home antidote to Washington politics." (Hey, Michael and Dan, whose home is Fred "down"? Yours?) Ah, to look at the country and see such a nation of suckers. The guy was a lobbyist for 18 years. He'll be a lobbyist again five seconds after either his campaign or (god forbid) his administration ends. If it weren't for "Washington politics," he'd be hustling the Oak Ridge Boys for their representation. If A Face In The Crowd isn't already in every reporter's NetFlix queue, it ought to be.

p.p.s. -- Oh, if you're planning on being a down-home antidote to Washington politics, your first move probably shouldn't be hiring a corruptly appointed U.S. Attorney whose only real talent appears to be in oppo research and vote suppression. Just sayin'.

p.p.p.s -- How easy will it be for Cornpone to dazzle the rubes? Read this transcript and gaze in awe as Howie Fineman tells Alison Stewart how he can read John McCain's "secret language" as to how terrible it is that McCain was forced to whore himself out to the part of his party that thinks Bill O'Reilly is a public intellectual. I swear, you could make a fortune selling these guys bagsful of magic beans.

Name: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: Yankeetown

E:

Your cost-per-victory account comparing the Yankees and Mets actually underestimated the cost per victory for the Yankees. It did not include the nearly $40 million in "luxury tax" (as if runs were a luxury) subsidies that the Yankees pay to support the rest of the league.

So perhaps you have to add to the Yankees' victory totals all of the victories by the Brewers, Royals, As, Mariners, Padres, Devil Rays, Indians, Reds, Blue Jays, etc.

I have never understood why the Yankee payroll should dissuade anyone from being a Yankee fan. It ain't my money.

In fact, it's Billy Beane's money now.

And, I have never understood how fans of other rich, high-payroll, big-market teams like the Red Sox and Mets can complain about the Yankees' spending habits. Didn't the Yankees save the Red Sox from Carl Pavano? Shouldn't the Sox fans be thanking George for that?

Congrats on an exciting spring, Eric and Charles. The Mets and Sox have once again claimed those elusive June 1 Championship rings.

Now, who has Bucky Dent's phone number?

Name: Dave
Hometown: Erie PA

Why stop at a fence? Why not a Great Wall .,.. oh that's right, it's been tried before ... however, we could designate this one The Great Wall of Hypocrisy! It was a sad day for America when the great melting pot of the world became so isolationist.

Name: Jef Hall
Hometown: Oshkosh, WI

Milbank's Iowa comments re pig farmers and Gore seem to echo Candy Crowley's suggestion that Iowans do not know what Green Tea is either (from your sponsor here).

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Since I took a shot at Brownback for being one of the three Republicans seeking the presidency who doesn't "believe" in evolution, I took particular interest in his op-ed in the Times today in which he tried so damned hard to both split the difference between and to forge a dialect from faith and reason. His "reasoning" in the piece, though, betrayed him. His bedrock assumption is that everything happens for a purpose determined by his God. Evolution recognizes the purposefulness of mutation and adaptation, but the purpose is not willed or designed; it's rather a matter of survival. I can see why this irks Brownback; it shakes his premise off of its pedestal. When that happens, gravity takes over -- the force of one body acting upon another; that is, the body of scientific knowledge acting upon Brownback's sincere but misdirected faith-based candidacy.

And did you see those letters in response to David Brooks's shallow and snarky attack on Gore's book? The force and unanimity of the smackdown on Brooks was refreshing.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Hometown:

Eric:

Here's what I think is the most amazin' (sorry, couldn't resist) set of stats about the Mets this year, and I don't think anyone has noticed it.

Mets' record when the now-demoted Mike Pelfrey starts: 1-5
Mets' record vs. the Atlanta Braves: 3-6
Mets' record in all other games: 29-8
(note: one of Pelfrey's losses was to the Braves, and that loss has been eliminated in the 29-8 figure)

Wait, there's more. Oliver Perez was the starter and winner in all three of the Mets' wins against the Braves. So if you leave out all the games that Pelfrey started, and then leave out all the games against the Braves with someone *other* than Perez starting, the Mets' record this year is ... 32-8. Wow.

Of course, this won't help us much if we end up playing the Braves in the NLCS, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it (i.e., after we have Pedro back in top form -- knock wood).

I was watching that two-balk, Reyes-dancing, Benitez-collapsing, Delgado-homering 12th inning the other night, and I thought: Gee, it's fun to be a Mets fan, isn't it?

Name: Lou Cabron
Hometown: San Francisco, CA

What would you do if media in your country suddenly broadcast only propaganda for the President?

I was inspired by how everyone in Venezuela joined together to fight back with everything -- massive public protests, news broadcasts, and even YouTube videos! More here.

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