I was a 13 year old boy when I discovered the music of John Mellencamp. His songs were my usher into the world of writing, art, and creativity. A continual source of powerful inspiration in my work and life, I wrote my second book, Mellencamp: American Troubadour, about his music, and the ideas that surround it. The impact and influence of Mellencamp’s music on my life is so large that, without it, it is impossible to conceive of myself.
On Memorial Day, I had the incredible thrill and honor of driving to Nashville, Indiana to visit John Mellencamp in his recording studio. We sat for a long, fascinating, and fun conversation in the same room where he and his band have made so many of my favorite songs since 1983. Then, I watched he and the band rehearse for their upcoming tour, playing “Pink Houses” and “Paper in Fire.” To add to the pleasure and amazement of the experience, I also met the beautiful and soulful Carlene Carter, and had the opportunity to have a discussion with her.
Mellencamp’s first words to me were, “It is a good book.” That simple, but profound compliment is one I will always treasure (He was referring to my work of biography and cultural criticism, Mellencamp: American Troubadour).
Here is an amusing exchange from our conversation that did not make my essay: After Mellencamp explained that audiences have jeered and heckled him several times throughout his career, he added that, “not once has anyone said anything derogatory to my face.”
“Really, why do you think that is?” I asked.
“Because they know they type of person that I am. Would you say anything?”
Mellencamp laughed. “Well, I’m an old man now. So, you could probably kick my ass. Fifteen years ago, you would have kept your mouth shut.”
In my new column at Salon, I examine the idea of patriotism, comparing the liberal interpretation of American history with the right wing invention of it, and conclude that those who most obnoxiously wave the flag and shout love of country, are largely ignorant of American history and identity.
I had the pleasure of attending the new exhibit on the history of The Rolling Stones, Exhibitionism, in Chicago with my friend – singer, songwriter, guitarist extraordinaire, Kev Wright.
The immersive and interactive experience is essential for any admirer of the Stones, or fan of rock. I was particularly struck by the aesthetic sophistication of the Rolling Stones. From commissioning Andy Warhol to photograph and artistically depict the band to finding inspiration for stage sets in classical philosophy, the Rolling Stones, most especially Mick Jagger, helped cultivate a rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic, at once capturing and projecting the imager and iconography of rebellion, creativity, individuality, and sexuality.
Clearly, I am in the minority. To express admiration for Hillary Clinton has become a radical act. While the accomplished public servant is not without flaw (her cynical support for the Iraq War is still infuriating), the level of hatred and hostility that exists for Clinton is clearly hysterical and paranoid; without any basis in the rational universe. She has become history’s greatest monster, even while a gruesome amalgam of stupidity, corruption, and bigotry occupies the Oval Office.
Bordo, as bewildered as I am by the odd animosity for Clinton, analyzes the 2016 election. With an emphasis on misogyny, Bordo presents a convincing case that right wing paranoia, double standards against women, and mass media mediocrity coalesced to poison the public against one of the most intelligent and qualified candidates for the presidency in the modern era.
The book has its weaknesses. Bordo never acknowledges that Clinton made massive missteps in her campaign, but more important, her argumentation is detached from the the actual lives of many voters, most of whom she admits do not pay close attention to politics.
The roots of misogyny are much deeper, and have a much more personal origin, than idiotic journalism or manipulative campaign tactics.
In my latest column for Salon, I examine how Republicans in government are incapable of governance. After having spent years mocking liberals as overly ideological, naive, and unable to make difficult decisions, conservatives have now drifted so far to the fringes of the right that they cannot implement or administer public policy.
The fiasco of health care reform is an illustrative example of Republican ineptitude.
In his masterful blend of biography and novel, Marilyn, Norman Mailer invented the word “factoid” to describe untrue ideas many people accept as real only because they have appeared in the mass media for many years. “It is possible,” Mailer wrote, “that Richard Nixon has spoken in nothing but factoids for his entire political career.”
Donald Trump, like no other president of American history (not even Nixon), is a factoid politician.