Brilliant Songs #9: James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here” 

Sometimes a particular piece of music hits you as so insightful, so acutely reflecting the issues of your time, that the songwriter seems to be channeling some urgent message the gods require in order to restore a measure of balance and perspective to the insanity that abides, on the events of your historical moment that leave you shaking your head and wondering, “How can this be happening?”

And then, in a kind of doubling down on the songwriter’s vision, the message of his or her song in a subsequent era, rather than fading into irrelevance, instead achieves even more urgency, as the forces that helped shape the original message grow only more dominant and oppressive over time.

And then, as if anticipating the far more divisive and nativist rhetoric that would sprout from the seeds planted in the Bush era, McMurtry scores with this bull’s-eye painted with eerie prescience right on the back of the ...

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The Coming Climate Catastrophe in Words and Song

Only the introductory portion of this post will be mine, and I hope the rest of it will ring loud alarm bells in your mind while also causing you to consider for a moment just how ardently you love this earth, and what you might do to defend it.  Two  different sources here: One is a review in the current “London Review of Books” of “The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future,” by David Wallace-Wells.

I have not read the book but the review itself has put a chill in my bones on this otherwise warming and pleasant summer Sunday morning that will not soon subside. Nor should it, as I trust you will realize soon enough.

The second is from Jackson Browne’s absolutely prescient and heart-rending 1974 song, “Before the Deluge,” written when he was 25 years old, and which I had often sung and hummed along with over the years without ever really picking up on the words’ prophetic power—until today...

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Why Aged People Should Not Be President

Watching Robert Mueller’s halting, tentative, sometimes fumbling responses to being grilled for hours by highly charged (and much younger) congressmembers today, I was struck anew with my increasing conviction that past, say, age 70, people should no longer try to become leaders of their country.

Call me ageist if you will, but my reasoning is not that I don’t think elderly people have much to offer the world (so long as they keep their wits about them). It’s just that ideally, they move into a senior advisory role, a steadying hand, a source of wisdom and historical perspective in the ear of younger, more energetic leaders who benefit greatly from their senior confidantes.

Mueller, just short of 75, looked and sounded somewhat lost a good deal of the time yesterday over a grueling 6-hour stretch as he faced two different committees, half of their members hostile and yelling at him from the get-go, ...

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A Letter to My Liberal Friends

Look, my friends: we need to be smart. Not just “right,” but smart, strategic, and zeroed in, laser-like, on the one overriding, primary, urgent, absolutely necessary objective moving forward: beating Donald Trump in 2020. Maybe that means we get only half the pie we’re looking for in a whole bakery shop full of cherished goals and ideals. Maybe even just one-quarter of a pie.

Speaking for myself, I’d take one-thirty-second of the damn pie; I would take any one reader’s semi-literate step-mother-in-law as president if it means our thin slice denies Donald Trump another four years in office.

No one’s rightness, woundedness, victimhood, vehemence, ego, position, cause, reading of history or plans for the future holds even a dim candle to the bright shiny objective of getting the would-be fascist occupant of the White House out of office next year...

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Brilliant Songs #8: Gretchen Peters’s “Disappearing Act”

Gretchen Peters has been making music for a long time now, and as befits a singer-songwriter who looks in about equal measure around at the world and inside herself for her material, her music changes with the years. This is even as her core obsessions, if you will—seeking a measure of consolation and sense of identity in a fractured, wounding world—continue to propel her creativity.

Last year, at age 61, she released “Dancing With the Beast,” a deeply felt set of meditations on aging, change, depression, family pain, even truck stop prostitution (no, that last one is not autobiographical).

All manner of topics, in other words, that befit an artist who confided to NPR last year in an interview: “I have a theory that there are two kinds of people—there’s people who find sad songs depressing, then there’s us.”

As someone who counts himself quite happily among that “us,” I found t...

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