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.
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.
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.
In my new essay for Salon, I write about the vomitous insistence on religious pandering in nearly every presidential election, and long for the day when a major presidential candidate gives an address to the American Humanist Association.
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?
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.
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.
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.
In a recent essay for Salon, I examined the suicide story of a college wrestler who suffered from multiple concussions, to argue that, in addition to damaging the lives of countless women, the mindless macho culture of many men is also self-destructive.
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.