Monday, January 11, 2010

From 2007

I just found this while delving through my old livejournal site:

I watched The Last Waltz twice this weekend. I think it's great, but the more you watch it, the more certain things stick out. To wit:

1) Can you take yourself more any more seriously than The Band does? Aside from four Canadians trying to ape the one southerner in the band to the point that they're using a Confederate flag as an interview backdrop IN 1976(!), the whole idea of The Band's last live show being some end of an era in American music is pretty weird. I mean, seriously - who gave a shit? They had enough material to fill one good album, and two legendary singles - "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Beyond that it's a ton of awkward filler with ridiculous record names - "Moondog Matinee," "Northern Lights, Southern Cross," etc. Yet Scorsese directs their farewell concert??? This would be like Pearl Jam hiring Spielberg.

2) With that said, the Band are astonishingly good on this. Levon Helms has said that most of Robbie Robertson's backing vocals had to be overdubbed later, but even if just the music is live (and Helm's voice) they rip the shit out of that place. Helms is criminally underrated as a drummer and a singer. When he starts knocking it out at the end of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," it's hard to believe how good he was. He steals the entire show on a night that featured almost every great rock star from the 70s who was still alive.

3) I love Garth Hudson's hair.

4) How awkward is the scene where Richard Manuel starts talking about how much he loves the women on the road???? For one, he looks batshit crazy, like someone who's living underneath the Fallsway with his urine-soaked Beanie Baby collection. Two, all the other members start hemming and hawing and tripping over themselves trying to cover up Manuel spilling the beans...Robertson's particularly great when he gives him the mock friendly pat on the back that really means "Come on brother, keep it together."

5) Is there a way to get a feed of the microphone that Neil Diamond and Dr. John share on "I Shall Be Released"? That has got to sound fucking insane.

6) Speaking of which, what is Neil Diamond even doing here? His version of "Dry Your Eyes" is completely ridiculous. (Which can be good or bad, depending on your feelings on Diamond...he's a completely ridiculous guy.) It was edited out of the final footage, but when he came onstage he said "I'm only doing one song, but I'm doing it good." Then he told BOB-FUCKING-DYLAN "You better be pretty good to follow that" when he went off-stage!! Dylan told him "What do I have to do - go on stage and fall asleep?" Neil Diamond is terrible (but always, always, always a potential knock-out on the unintentional comedy scale).

7) Emmylou Harris...yowzers. She's a queen and has somehow gotten hotter in her old(er) age.

8) Ric Danko is coked out of his mind for this entire thing. It's pretty bad when you're competing with a guy who looks like Mr. Teeth for the title of Least Healthy-Looking Dude in The Band. When he speaks for more than 10 seconds he starts sounding like Jesse Camp.

9) I kind of love that they invited Ronnie Hawkins back out for the big all-star jam at the end THEN DIDN'T GIVE HIM A MIC!!! He just stands there in the middle of the stage, drinking a beer, watching everyone play. I mean, at some point they had to go up to him and say, "Listen, Ronnie, we want you out there...but stay away from the mics, OK?" How awkward must that have been?

10) Eric Clapton's great at guitar...but who really cares? Seriously?

Dear Michael Steele

So today this is all over Michael Steele is all awash in mock rage and indignation because Harry Reid allegedly told someone in 2008 that Obama was especially electable among black politicians because of his light-skinned appearance and "lack of negro dialect," which makes it sound like the source was actually his daughter's anthropology mid-term. Steele huffed and puffed himself up to three times his normal size when he bloozed: "Racism and racist conversation has no place in America," less than seven days after he used the phrase "Honest injun" on Meet the Press, which despite the clear implication, is apparently neither. The difference might be lost on you, but Michael Steele knows there's one. So, just...yeah...take his word for it, or whatever. At this point, Steele induces so many full-body cringes with the shit that he says that I'm not entirely convinced the GOP isn't being run by Larry David in blackface. (That picture isn't helping either.)

In actuality, the only difference between the two statements is that what Reid said is Gospel truth, despite how unseemly it might sound, whereas Steele was just speaking out his asshole once again. (Not that anyone should necessarily be losing any sleep over a line that sounds like it was stolen from Yosemite Sam, but once you assume elected office, the word "Injun" in any context should probably be purged from your vocabulary. Just sayin'.) Reid is 100% right - if Obama looked and talked like Chris Tucker, he'd be managing the Smithsonian's Orange Julius right now. He could have taken his platform from "The Rights of Man" and he still would have been run out of town on a rail. The fact that Obama got elected is directly tied to him not appearing "black" - anyone who seriously argues differently trades their racism in for complete ignorance. And the same goes for Michael Steele - if he looked "overly" black, he'd be on the outside looking in too. It's the ugly truth that racist, not the one acknowledging it.

With the benefit of thirteen months of America's unadulterated racism firmly in mind, it's even more incredible now that Obama got elected than it was when it actually happened. The open hostility nearly everyone not on the Nobel committee has shown to him has been galling, and folks have been lining up to put him in his place before we even figured what place he belonged in. It's like America has suddenly gone - "Wait a minute - we elected the black guy?!" and then got angry about it. How else can you explain someone being practically burned in effigy for proposing Universal Health Care, while the guy who started two deficit-digging wars while collapsing our economy didn't even get so much as a strong middle finger during his eight years in office. How do you explain him being retroactively blamed for the economy and Afghanistan? Maybe it's who I'm related to, but I never felt this base anger, this seething resentment towards any politician, and there doesn't seem to be any cause for it...except for one small characteristic. What's most harrowing is that, while he's revealed himself to be a difference-dividing politician at heart, Obama hasn't publicly fucked anything up too badly; and yet he's still somehow managed to reduce the chances that we see another black president in our lifetimes by about 400%.