The official site has been keeping up with the various encomiums and remembrances on the web. For my part, here’s the list of my 50 favorite R.E.M. songs that I posted in 2005, along with the R.E.M. archives and reviews of Around the Sun and Accelerate. To be honest, I feel like the band has been flirting with U2-covering-themselves territory on the last two albums, but, as a whole, I’ll stand up for their often-maligned later work — Up in particular.
Growing up in the South in the 80’s and 90’s, R.E.M. was ubiquitous. I remember Life’s Rich Pageant accompanying elementary school hayrides, everyone wearing their “Turn You Inside Out” concert tees to school in 8th grade, and crooning “Losing My Religion” with what passed for my high-school band at GSSM. To many of us down in “South Carolina-ravaged South Carolina,” they — and the nearby Athens, Georgia scene — represented a smart, cosmopolitan, and activist left that was still distinctively rooted in the South. Basically, they proved that being southern and being progressive were by no means mutually exclusive.
When I got to college, R.E.M. let their hair down, shook off the earnest stylings of Out of Time and Automatic for the People and decided to release a Monster. It, along with the Beastie’s Ill Communication, are basically the reasons I spent my early sophomore year shorn. (This was taken a few months later.)
And in November of 2004, a few days after Dubya was re-elected, I caught REM as the Garden, where, for the first and only time, they opened with “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” It summed up the moment, precisely.
As the AJC’s Jay Bookman puts it, “it might almost be funny if it wasn’t so sad.” In Georgia, indulging in xenophobia has backfired mightily for Nathan Deal, the state’s Republican governor, who is now desperately trying to get probationers to fill the agricultural labor gap his draconian anti-immigrant bill has created.
“The pain this is causing is real. People are going to lose their crops, and in some cases their farms. The small-town businesses that supply those farms with goods and services are going to suffer as well. For economically embattled rural Georgia, this could be a major blow.” And sadly, when it comes to deep, self-inflicted, and totally unnecessary economic wounds wrought by Republican idiocy, the Peach State here is just the canary in the coalmine.
As a mental health break of sorts, the Daily Mail catches up with an orangutan and bluetick hound who’ve become best buds back home in South Carolina. And for those parents already bored with Go the F**k to Sleep, the pals, a la Owen and Mzee, “have released a picture book capturing their unorthodox friendship.“
“Here was the Delta Republicans’ historic task: negotiating terms of surrender to the Constitution, then reframing that Lost Cause as honorable, the better to preserve their insular plutocracy — perhaps their gravest sin in the first place — in order to integrate themselves more snugly into national and international circuits of corrupt wealth. Haley Barbour, who received his first Republican patronage job in 1970, is a true son of this confederacy.“
In the wake of Haley Barbour’s highly dubious misremembering of civil-rights era Mississippi, historian Rick Perlstein skewers the GOP poobah and presidential hopeful to the wall. “At every important turn in the story, Barbour emphasizes how little he remembers of this most intense period imaginable in his beloved home town — it really was no big deal, he insists…He’s a middle-aged Southern conservative. That is what his job is: to opportunistically ‘forget.‘”
“‘He was really a pioneer, demolishing the magnolia and mint juleps view of slavery,” said Eric Foner, a professor of history at Columbia. ‘And the Reconstruction book was in the same revisionist mode, sweeping away myths. Among serious history scholars, nobody is going to go back before Stampp.’” Kenneth Stampp, 1912-2009. (By way of Ted.)
So, the big political story of the week: the strange disappearance and eventual mea culpa of my home state governor. As I said here, I try to avoid posting on sex scandals as much as possible — In a perfect world, all of this private behavior would be off the table for both parties. Still, regarding this imbroglio, my feeling about his press conference yesterday was very akin to Gary Kamiya’s at Salon: “[T]his was not another blow-dried, prefab confession. It was unscripted. It was so intimate it was almost unwatchable.“
Now, I disagree with Gov. Sanford quite a bit politically, obviously. I was impressed by his op-ed on Obama during the SC primary last year, but he lost a lot of goodwill with me with his grandstanding on stimulus funds a few months ago. Regardless, whatever the moral hypocrisy and dereliction of duty involved in this case, it’s just sad to see a guy so obviously lost in the wilderness of amour fou. For whatever reason, he didn’t have the usual politician’s armor on at all yesterday, and it was painful to watch somebody writhing on the horns of a dilemma of the heart so publicly. He screwed up, big time, and his behavior is indefensible on several levels. Still, I have to admit, I sorta feel for the guy. (And, while I think John Dickerson’s recent hectoring in Slate was a bit much — particularly since he usually revels in the manufactured controversies and studied glibness that characterize so much useless political coverage these days — to my mind nobody deserves the godawful nightmare of having one’s mash notes published for all to see. That’s just a special kind of Hell.)