BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A SLIME?: There's three articles about Al Gore's speech to the MoveOn mob on National Review Online today, all of them fairly ridiculous. David Frum essentially suggests that the former vice president is mentally ill; Byron York assures us that Republican leaders are privately "delighted" that Democrats like Gore are going unhinged; Barbara Comstock joins York in dragging the Cold War cliché "blame America first" out of the mothballs, and also repeats the long-discredited canard that MoveOn "has promoted ads comparing Bush to Hitler." (This should be enough to convince you that Comstock is a partisan hack.) All this for an address that, whatever you think of its specifics, is well within the mainstream critique of the Iraq war.
MoveOn has hitched itself to some awfully silly stuff over the years, but this speech is nothing to be ashamed of. As with the Nancy Pelosi pile-on, it says more about the attackers than the attackee.
One of the pleasant byproducts of Bush's victory in 2000 is that it's allowed Gore to turn into a human being. For the first time since -- his teens? his childhood? -- the fellow isn't trying to become president. To judge from his sudden willingness to speak impolitic truths, it's been a liberating experience. I still can't say I'm a fan of the man, but I no longer believe that it would be unbearable torture to be locked in a room with him.
(Footnote: I don't want to pick on National Review too much, so I'll also note that they have an interesting article on the site today about health insurance deregulation in Maryland. See? I can be positive when I want to.)
THE ANSWER MAN: In the course of knocking the new movie Saved!, I wrote, "The movie offers the liberal Christian theme that Jesus accepts everybody, but the credits include a nod to George Smith's defense of atheism. What's up with that?" The director (or someone posing as the director) e-mails me an answer: Smith's book appeared in one scene, and "a condition for using that book was to have a thank you in the end credits." Now that I've wracked my brain a bit, I do seem to recall that scene, though my memory may be playing tricks on me.
Curiously, Smith himself tells me he was unaware of this agreement, so presumably the party who insisted on the condition was his publisher. It seems odd that you'd have to get permission to include a shot of a book in your movie, but intellectual property law can be an ugly thing.
Also, I wrote an article about Indymedia and blogs for the June issue of Chronicles. It isn't online, and I haven't actually seen the magazine yet, but two people have mentioned it to me so I assume it's out there somewhere.
Cute, with a capital "C" and two "u"'s. Cuute. That's the adjective of choice for that which is appealingly amusing without being great art, inoffensive without being bland, and clever without being jarring. A top is cute. A boy is cute. DreamWorks' animated franchise follow-up Shrek 2 is cute. Look, it's almost June, and it's pleasant to sit in a cool theater and watch the cinematic equivalent of holding a sweating glass of lemonade to your fevered brow. What did you want, a cure for cancer?
That's Violet Carberry reviewing Shrek 2 in the Baltimore City Paper. She later notes that the movie "isn't a neo-Freudian, smarty-pants reinterpretation; it's more like acknowledging that Mister Rogers had a sex life, sat on the toilet, or cursed when he hit his finger with a hammer."
That reminds me of a tale. R. grew up in Pittsburgh, and it seems like whenever we go back there someone tells me a Mister Rogers story. My favorite was relayed by a fellow who once found himself sharing an elevator with Rogers at the hospital. A friend or relative of the TV star was about to have a second surgery, and he was asking a doctor, in that mild-mannered, sing-songy Mister Rogers voice, whether he was the same man who had done the first operation.
"Yes, I was," replied the surgeon.
"Well," said Rogers, his voice unchanged, "try not to fuck it up this time."
The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.
"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.
Carp all you want about the gaps in the sourcing, moan if you must that Iran might not actually want a U.S. occupation force next door. Just think of all the hawks who, if this pans out, would be Iranian dupes. The very concept is clouding my vision. It's like learning that Pat Buchanan is getting money from the Mossad.
It's a disturbing story. If it is true, the dignified response is surely not to revel in it. But until the weekend's over, I'll be doing just that. For fear of the karmic retribution, I will try not to gloat.
Much has happened in the world of radio since this book first appeared in 2001, so anyone hoping to read the very latest about Clear Channel or Pacifica is better off doing a Google search than scanning my tome. Still, flipping through these pages again with hindsight, I think I did a pretty good job of exploring the hidden history of American broadcasting. If nothing else, reading my book might give you some perspective that's missing from those articles on Google. And hey, the thing's cheaper now. Let's not forget that.
I'm not very good at tooting my own horn, so to incite you all to buy the thing I offer these words from other folks, as quoted on the covers of either the old or new edition of the book:
"Rebels on the Air is a joyous, smart, lucid, hilarious, critical and engaging celebration of community based, non-commercial radio in the United States. Jesse Walker vividly captures the people, their visions and achievements, their friends and enemies -- all in a book that is great fun to read."
--Matthew Lasar, author of Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network
"Present-day American radio -- both public and commercial -- has, with its blandness, hidden the bodies of hundreds of idealists who tried to make it meaningful and interesting and alive. Whether it's micro radio, pirate radio, the Citizens Band, or Pacifica, Jesse Walker has done his homework, digging up often funny tales of strange characters who tried, in one way or another, to better the airwaves."
--Lorenzo W. Milam, author of Sex and Broadcasting and The Radio Papers
"Just as lively and packed with information as its subject....Rebels on the Air does a good job of underscoring the crucial role that an array of independent media plays in a democratic society." --Salon
"Jesse Walker's lively book is the first to offer a thorough history of what's come to be known as alternative radio." --Time Out New York
"Without a doubt, this is the most detailed and well-researched book ever published on the history of free radio in America. This includes the most comprehensive history ever written on the modern micro radio movement; culled from personal interviews, the writing is mostly engaging and fast-paced....A must read."
--The About Guide
"Walker goes a long way toward showing the considerable creativity in nonmainstream radio, despite its lack of funds and other problems. An interesting balance to the perceived story of American radio." --Choice
POP MUSIC CORNER: For the last week, Loretta Lynn's new album Van Lear Rose has been monopolizing my home and car stereos. The album's getting a lot of attention because it was produced and arranged by Jack White of the White Stripes, a band I haven't paid much attention to. I'm going to pay more attention to them now, because this is the best music Lynn has done since the '70s; indeed, it's some of the best music she's released in her career. Her voice is in top form, and the songs range from traditional country to something more akin to the Stooges.
I hope to write a longer appreciation of this album later, but for now I'll just say this: I will be amazed if anyone releases a better CD this year.