Commentary: People

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Annapolis

Fifteen years as a newspaperman taught me a few select things. One is this: It is the god-given right of every American to resent or even hate his local newspaper. Indeed, it is our birthright to hate any and every news organization, print or broadcast. It is not certain that you will avail yourself of that right, or that you will invoke it consistently if you do, but it is there for you whenever life doesn’t go the way you want. Your hometown newspaper will highlight your most embarrassing utterance at the PTA hearing or detail your company’s bankruptcy, just as it will at some point ignore your daughter’s performance in the school play or miss the zoning hearing at which a porn shop is dropped a block and a half from your son’s middle school. It will herald some political views you abhor and denigrate some politicians you wish to cheer. It will spell your name incorrectly when you are named the Rotarian of the Year and dox you with precision when you are cuffed and processed for...

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People

Within the Acela cocoon

There is something about human beings compacted in a cylindrical tube, hurtling between cities at a high speed, unable to maneuver in any other manner than to, say, grab a beer from the cafe car or visit the rest room. It is lost time. And when you’ve made all your cell calls, and answered the last of your email, and you are still only in Wilmington and another forty minutes from home, the last distractions are the people sitting around you. This fellow was at the four-top table immediately behind me. I clocked him as we left New York, but as he is a busy man, and as most of our previous encounters have been a little edgy, I told myself to let well enough alone. I answered a few more emails, looked at some casting tapes on the laptop, checked the headlines. And still, with all of that done, we were only just south of Philadelphia. I texted my son: “On the southbound Acela. Marty O’Malley sitting just behind me,” then joking, “Do I set it off?” A...

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Memoriam Music People

Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

  If there is an American who has lived a more honorable and creative life in the past century, the name cannot be readily conjured.  Pete Seeger did everything possible to merge the power of popular song to the very idea of community.  

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Music People

“The highway’s jammed with broken heroes…”

He knew. We can say this now with certainty if we ask ourselves one basic question about human nature:  What good does it do a political operative to screw over the opposition if you can’t then tell your boss about it?  Where is the  joy for any lickspittle hack in the office hierarchy if he or she can’t pull off a dirty trick against a political adversary, then walk down the hall and tell the boss just how well you did on his behalf?  What would be the point? I’ve actually found New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bluster and anger to be endearing at times, if only for the plain-speaking insistence on results.  I don’t find anger to be a particularly negative trait when that anger is offered on behalf of others, nor do I regard argument as anything other than a worthy endeavor if the argument is actually about something.  I didn’t agree with Mr. Christie on any number of issues, but I found him credible as a public servant.  He reminded me in some...

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People

Betrayal, thy name is Bourdain.

Okay, I owe Tony Bourdain a good bit of karmatic equity.  The banter in those Treme kitchen scenes didn’t exactly write itself, after all. So I am pretty much trying to say yes to my boy when he calls me and says he’s subbing for Mr. Morgan on CNN and he wants me to guest on a segment with David Carr of the NYT.  I don’t do the talking-head cable shtick often, especially not on complicated issue-talk because the format is too cramped to progress a real discussion.  I’m up for a little nonsense if I have a show that I’m trying to pitch, or if it’s some wordy, hour-long PBS thing where the asides can have asides, but otherwise, no.  And this is quick and dirty.  And I’ve got nothing on air to plug at the moment, and nothing recently published.  But still, it’s Bourdain.  I owe the guy.  And, at the end of the email, noting that the other half of his show is all-foodie talk, he writes: “And cronuts!”Talk about burying the lede...

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Baseball People

Gus Triandos (1930-2013)

Apologies for the lack of activity here so far this year.  As it happened, the filming of the remaining episodes of Treme required my full attention, and following that endeavor, a couple of prolonged illnesses in the family required additional time.  And, well, I owe a lot of script work. If you’ve read the introduction, you know that one of my fears in beginning a blog was that when things got hectic, I would be unable to properly service the damn thing.  Certainly, for the first quarter of 2013, this has been the case. *          *         * What prompts a rapid return is the recent news that former all-star Oriole catcher Gus Triandos has passed away.  There are better remembrances and obituaries of the ballplayer to be had, but I can’t help but provide a small, additional anecdote about the man.  It is a backstage story that deserves some corner of baseball posterity. The tale begins with Richard Price, the noted novelist and screenwriter who was kind enough to grace...

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People Politics

Petraeus, On Further Reflection (R.I.P. John O’Neill)

What follows is lifted from the comments to my previous post on this issue.  I’m reposting it simply because as I was engaged in responding to this particular comment, I realized — even to my own surprise — how close the Petraeus imbroglio corresponds to the the tragic story of my old friend and source, John O’Neill.   It’s worth posting on its own, I think. HENLEYTX11 says:(Edit) November 14, 2012 at 8:04 am Churchill famously said “The price of greatness is responsibility”, which is something Clinton has never accepted nor assumed. His presidency was, and his post-presidency is rife with examples of assigning blame to others for his own personal and professional shortcomings. And I’m writing as someone who worked for him in on a national level in his 1992 campaign. As for Petraeus, I have no doubt that Petraeus did not resing but was forced out, and that his September 14th statement in reference to Benghazi was informed and/or prompted by the knowledge...

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Music People Treme

Levon Helm

I can’t even begin to get good words around how much this man’s voice and musicality meant to me,  and how much his work colored my sense of American music.   From West Helena, Arkansas to the world. We’re now filming the last episode of the third season of Treme.  In the original beat sheet for that episode, there is a story arc in which one of our characters performs with Helm and his band in Woodstock, at one of his legendary Midnight Rambles.  Helm himself had conversations with one of our producers about the possibility.  And having had the chance to attend one such Ramble in his barn there, I wanted it to happen badly.  Those homemade concerts were pretty damn magical, and I relished the thought of using the drama to cast a little more light on Helm and what he meant to roots rock’n’roll. A couple months ago, we got word that Helm had again stopped singing, and, too, we had exhausted a good chunk of our travel budget for the production.  We...

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