Music Writing: Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, and Gov’t Mule

Recently, for No Depression, I wrote a review of a newly released box set compiling Elvis Presley’s masterful final recordings in the famous Jungle Room of Graceland. Read the essay for my take on Elvis’ unique gifts, his late in life musical accomplishment, and his development of the genre, rhythm and country.

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Shortly after reviewing Elvis, I reviewed a Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band concert at the United Center in Chicago, and used the performance as an opportunity to reflect on the power and importance of hope. Read it at Salon.

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Finally, I crown Gov’t Mule the “best band in the world,” after watching them perform a single set in Rosemont, Illinois. Read my explanation for how Mule surpasses everyone else in the genre, and elevates rock ‘n’ roll to art at No Depression.

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New Essay for Salon: America’s Great Mistakes – The Stupid and Unnecessary Wars in Vietnam and Iraq

In a recent essay for Salon, I break through the cacophony of maudlin discussion of military “service” and “sacrifice,” to ask the taboo questions: Serve what? Sacrifice for what?

There is no longer any debate among reasonable people that the wars in Vietnam and Iraq were unnecessary, unjust, stupid, and destructive. Both wars created widespread death and devastation for reasons that remain painfully mysterious – The advancement of cold, self-interest that never materialized? The edification of cold war, and later, neoconservative theorists?

Read the entire essay on the fatal and permanent consequences of America’s imperial ambitions at Salon.

New Essay at Salon: Barack Obama Reclaimed Patriotism for The Left

In my newest essay for Salon, I examine how Barack Obama, making brilliant use of his own life as metaphor, confiscated patriotism from the reactionary right wing, and claimed it as property of liberalism. As central to the American spirit and story, Obama emphasized diversity, and the enlargement of opportunity and liberty. He injected Whitman’s poetry into politics, making it clear that America is full of contradiction, and that it contains multitudes.

Read the essay at Salon.

I will explore Obama’s transformation of patriotism from conservative vice to liberal virtue, among many other topics, in my upcoming book, Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing).

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New Essay at Salon: The Party of Myth and Nostalgia

One of the most nauseating aspects of the US Presidential election is its nostalgic focus on Baby Boomer issues of manufacturing employment and “abandoned factories.”

The maudlin litany of boomer reminiscence for “how it used to be” manipulates many people, because it implies that most jobs are lost to trade, when in reality they are lost to automation, and gives lazy thinkers the illusion that the jobs are “coming back.” The jobs are never coming back. The 1960s ended a long time ago.

Worse than the political manipulation is the cultural misdirection of focus away from imperatives of the future. Young people are not longing for the reopening of textile mills. They want debt-free education, job training, and easier access to home ownership and entrepreneurship. Pathetic and sentimental weeping over manufacturing gets them exactly nothing, and betrays the future in service of the past.

I write in greater detail on the subject for Salon.

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New Essay for Salon: Military Violence and Scandal

One of the most hideous scandals of American culture is the continued indifference toward the high rates of rape in the United States military, and the regularity of domestic violence in military homes.

The universal application of the honorific title of “hero” to combat veterans is one, among many, cultural obstacles preventing honest scrutiny and deliberate action to reduce pain and suffering among military women and the wives of military men.

Read my essay on the subject at Salon, and pay particular attention to my summary of the truly heroic life and work of Stacy Bannerman, the leading advocate for military spouses who fall victim to domestic violence.

Announcement: Writing Commentary for No Depression

I am happy to report that I will now, on occasion, write essays, reviews, and commentary for the “journal of roots music,” No Depression.

In my inaugural contribution, I review the new record from Chicago-area Southern Rock band, The Righteous Hillbillies, and in doing so, appraise the value of pure rock ‘n’ roll.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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New Essay for Salon: Communicator-in-Chief

In a recent essay for Salon, I examine the presidential role of communicator-in-chief and offer a comparison of Barack Obama’s rhetoric and Donald Trump’s incoherent babble of bigotry.

While Obama attempts to delineate the complexity of the world, Trump reduces everything to its simplest form, and presents himself as the god-like solution to every problem.

Read the essay, and also note that my forthcoming book, Barack Obama: Invisible Man, will include significant analysis of Obama’s communicative style.

New Essay for Salon: Our United States of Fear

In a recent essay for Salon, I fight back against the culture of fear now dominant in the United States, paying particular attention to the hysteria surrounding college campuses. As an instructor at two different universities, I have never once seen any suppression of free speech, and I consistently find inspiration in my students. The data, largely unreported, confirms the veracity and universality of my experience.

Read the essay for a little sanity.