Friday, March 14, 2008

R.E.M. in Austin

R.E.M. played the SXSW festival in Austin on Thursday night, and you can stream the show at NPR. The New York Times said the band's new album made up "nearly their entire set," but I've only listened to the first third of the show and already heard four good oldies -- "Second Guessing," "Drive," "Auctioneer (Another Engine)" and "Fall On Me."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The REM thing, I don't even know what to say. I think I will ignore it for now.

On the other hand, I am waiting to hear what you have to say about Rev. Wright...

3:55 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

I don't really have anything to say about Rev. Wright at this moment, sorry to disappoint. Perhaps in the meantime you'll think of something to say about R.E.M.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

REM is a terribly overrated band, and their last decent album was Murmur, a good 20+ years ago. But, to each his own. It's hard to argue about taste, but if you can make an argument for REM I'd be curious to hear it.

You usually have fairly passionate, albeit, well thought-out defenses of Obama, so it's surprising that you have no thoughts to share on the Wright controversy, even if it's no more than Obama is just another politician, not particularly different from Hillary.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Kraig said...

I'll respond about Wright---

What exactly IS the controversy? That someone Obama respects said something he disagrees with? If I had to defend all the words that come out of the mouths of all the people I like and respect, I'd have no friends. Obama has disassociated himself from Rev. Wright's remarks---he disagrees. So what's the problem? And while the color of the remarks Rev. Wright made may seem shocking, it's probably more important to look at the substance of his sermons (and there is) and examine why his beliefs and his anger are not as uncommon as we'd like to believe. That's a lot more useful than saying "gotcha" and trying to marry Obama and Wright as some sort of monolithic mind.

5:32 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Anonymous, I agree in spirit with much of what Kraig said. But much more importantly, I've never claimed Obama was a savior -- in fact, I've tried to avoid that type of tone. But I'm not sure that the Wright "controversy" means that Obama is "not particularly different from Hillary." His pastor's statements are not part of Obama's political career. I'd still argue that the Clintons' political views and strategies stand in stark contrast to Obama's. I don't argue, though -- and won't -- that Obama is someone without flaws, questionable people in his orbit, the ability to disappoint, etc. That would be absurd.

I'm not going to play the only game left to Hillary, though, which is to try to zing Obama much like the "Republican attack machine" that lives under her bed (to hear her tell it) tries to zing her, hoping that something will bring him down.

I agree with you that it's hard to argue about taste. Murmur was R.E.M.'s first full-length album, and while many think it's their best, I don't know many who think it's their only decent album. So I think you're in the minority, but to each their own. I won't "make an argument for R.E.M.," because music is music. I'm not sure how much logic has to do with it.

6:29 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Just one more thing, while I'm on the subject: Wright seems plenty loony to me, but there are also some things that seem to be blown out of proportion. The clip on ABC News where Wright is screaming "God damn America" (instead of "God bless America") comes in the context (it seems) of a sermon about the numbers of black Americans who are in jail because of the drug wars. I happen to think the drug wars, by and large, are misguided and punish the wrong people. So I don't think the message (in that case) is all that crazy. The delivery? Sure. But how does this make Wright any crazier than the right-wing talk show hosts to whom John McCain has to humble himself and ask for approval? The latter, in fact, is a much clearer political connection. Anyway, that's all. Perhaps I should have posted about this, after all.

8:20 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Lastly (I promise), this talk wondering about whether Obama agrees that racial separatism is a good idea, because of some of Wright's more extreme rants, seems completely ridiculous to me. Obama was RAISED by a white woman who he dearly loved. Again, I see this issue as 99% nonsense, the kind of thing that would make Hillary Clinton's head explode if it were directed at her by a Republican. But of course, her hypocrisy knows no bounds.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Saxo philologus said...

I confess myself baffled by Obama supporters who can't fathom why the Reverend Wright is suddenly a big deal. The lunacy, the stupidity, and the poisonous conspiracy theory-mongering of his sermons should trouble anyone who hears them. The fact that Obama treats the man as his spiritual advisor and subjects his children to his rants calls his judgment into serious question.
The reverend Wright, with all of his paranoid delusions about the CIA introducing crack into the inner city, chickens coming home to roost on 9-11, the United States of KKK, etc. is not a loose associate of Obama's - he is a close friend and mentor of more than twenty years. Just imagine if George W. Bush had been a devoted follower of Hal Lindsay. Would that have been 'no big deal?' I seem to recall some snickering when he called Jesus his favorite philosopher (and frankly, I approved of the snickering, because the teachings of Jesus are not a satisfactory basis on which to govern a free republic). Well, Obama has imbibed his own brand of Christianism, and it's arguably more virulent than G.W.'s faith, which produced the big-government excesses of "compassionate conservatism" and his morally reprehensible opposition to stem-cell research. Where will Barack's faith lead him? This seems to be to be a very legitimate question.

If Obama's patronage of Rev. Wright's church were pure political theater, I could sort of understand it - by analogy with the need for secularists like Giuliani to pretend to be stalwart churchgoers when campaign season rolls around. But the relationship between them is both close and durable.

As for the fact that Wright's opinions are not exactly out of the mainstream in the black community, this is all the more reason to make it clear that those who espouse these opinions will meet with ridicule . Frankly, there is no need for any of us to "understand" crass stupidity beyond the need to effectively refute it.

Finally, I rather like the song "Ebo the Letter."

4:05 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

I agree with you on some levels, saxo, and I think this actually will get a somewhat longer post in the coming days... thanks for the comment.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty much ditto everything that Saxo Philologus said.

What Rev. Wright has said matters because of the way that Obama has chosen to connect himself with him. He was intimately involved with some of the most significant and personal events of Obama's life, and was a member of his extended political advising committee up until last week. We often ask questions of our elected officials based on their personal and political advisors - ie, speaking engagements at Bob Jones University back in 2004 for Republican presidential nominees, Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, including the history of racial intolerance in the Mormon church, particularly prevalent prior the 1970s. This wasn't just a casual friend or work colleague of Obama's, as Kraig seems to imply - this was someone who Obama has referred to as a "spiritual advisor." Questions should be asked to clarify the role of "advising" that Wright had in Obama's spiritual or moral development - it would be a disservice not to, just as Obama supporters are demanding that Hillary Clinton release her tax records and donor lists to the Clinton library - the information seems pertinent in selecting a future president, a future commander-in-chief. And, the voters deserve a less flip answer than simply "I wasn't present" at the speeches and sermons that are being excerpted on the news and on the internet.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Kraig said...

Obama is planning on giving a major speech in Philadelphia tomorrow that will mainly deal with the Wright issue. In advance of that, I'll just make the following short points and/or observations:

1) I'm curious how Rev. Wright's remarks would "test" if they were performed by a plain-spoken person. That's not to say some of the things he's said aren't stupid, but just as style can disguise the lack of substance, so too can style disguise the presence of it. His speaking style sounds almost like a wild and violent call to arms, and I think that's part of what fuels this. If someone with the personality of, say, George Will, were to be sitting in a roundtable discussion and calmly postulate on some of the same things, I think the intensity of the reaction would be different.

2) What's very important here, and perhaps we'll find out, is whether these sorts of remarks were the norm...or the exception. Obama has said that were he present for these remarks he would have said something to the Reverend and expressed his disapproval. I accept that. Now, if it's demonstrated that the Reverend's remarks were fairly commonplace, then that's more problematic. For the moment, these snippets of sermons seem isolated. If not, then I agree Obama has to explain further why he continued to associate with Wright.

3) "Frankly, there is no need for any of us to "understand" crass stupidity beyond the need to effectively refute it."

Sure, but are you able to effectively sort out the stupidity from the parts that speak bombastic truth? Much of the problem is with the Rev's tone. It's not insane to call the three-strikes-law racist. It's not insane to say that 9/11 was, in part, a consequence of our foreign policy. Let's face it...the Rev's rhetorical style is what's scaring people at least as much as some of his words...and that's a cultural and ethnic divide I think Obama bridges quite well. While I don't want a leader who agrees with everything the Rev says, I do want one who can understand why he has an audience for it...and who understands why you don't.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Le Chat said...

Kraig - Your comments are interesting, but I have to say I disagree, at least in the point that people are objecting as much to the tone of Wright's speeches as to the actual words. To be honest, I have not seen a single clip of Wright's rhetoric. But, I have read extensive excerpts, including huge swaths of language to illustrate the "context" in which various "inflammatory" statetments were made. I think what people ARE objecting to IS the actual language - the inference that the vast majority of the U.S., or at least the "white" U.S. is racist, is purposely oppressing blacks in this country, is purposely planting HIV in the black community, etc. No rhetorical tricks are needed to emphasize the divisiveness, the hatred, and the outright idiocy embedded in some of those statements. Rhetorical style has nothing to do with it. It makes for better soundbites on cable television, but the words can stand alone, and seem just as outrageous, in print.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Kraig said...

I've now seen and read Obama's speech on race...and I couldn't be prouder. I'm not an Obama sychophant, I assure you, but he was simply amazing. In my opinion he answered the Rev. Wright issue as perfectly as one can, and he did so without resorting to simplistic, self-serving, politically convenient soundbytes. He didn't shy away from the issue of race, nor did he attempt to justify the words of Rev. Wright. Obama is not perfect...but his speech certainly way.

The main concern I have now is his electability in the general election. There's little doubt that if the 501c organizations could turn John Kerry into a war criminal, they can turn Obama in a racial separatist. The clips of Rev. Wright are going to run on an endless loop from now until November in a shameless attempt to transfer the misguided words of Wright onto Obama. Sadly, I think that will play a lot stronger than a deliberate 30-minute speech which is on par with something I'd expect to come out of Aaron Sorkin's West Wing.

2:46 PM  

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