Saturday, August 07, 2010

'FNL': Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton chat

'Friday Night Lights' Emmy nominees Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton reflect on first impressions, lasting friendship, and saying goodbye

by Michael Ausiello
August 5, 2010

Nine words I hoped I’d never have to say: Eric and Tami Taylor have gone their separate ways. I’m not talking about the ironclad couple at the heart of Friday Night Lights but rather their exceptional portrayers, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. Although the show’s fifth and final season has yet to air (it premieres on DirecTV this fall), the cast and crew wrapped weeks ago in Austin, at which point Britton moved back to Los Angeles, leaving Chandler behind in Texas with his wife and their two daughters. Here, in their first interview together since production ended, the actors look back on their five-year work marriage, reveal the secret behind that groundbreaking onscreen relationship, and argue over whom they’re rooting for most come Emmy night.

It’s been two weeks since FNL wrapped. Are you guys suffering separation anxiety?

KYLE CHANDLER: I’m happy as can be.

CONNIE BRITTON: [Laughs] You are not.

CHANDLER: You mean from Connie, right?

Yes. I mean specifically from Connie.

CHANDLER: Specifically from Connie, I don’t think I could be happier. I know she couldn’t be happier because she doesn’t return my phone calls anymore.

BRITTON: [Laughs] I did! I called you back.

CHANDLER: Yeah, you called me a name when you called me back.

BRITTON: I called you Sugar. I only called you Sugar.

CHANDLER: She only calls at, like, between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. and leaves quick little expletives.

BRITTON: Obviously, he’s thrilled about our separation.

All joking aside, you’ve had a professional relationship for five years and it just came to an end. What has that been like for you?

BRITTON: It’s been weird. I feel like it’s been a roller coaster. We actually haven’t really talked much. I feel like we were ripped from each other by circumstance. I don’t know. How’s it going for you, Sugar?

CHANDLER: Since the show’s been over, everything in my personal life has been moving at such a fast pace—so many things are happening—I don’t really think I’ve sat back and acknowledged the fact that we’re not just on hiatus. One thing Connie and I didn’t get to do was go out and drink a half bottle of whiskey together and talk about all the old times and really mourn the loss of the professional relationship, the show, and the end of a five-year period doing something we love so much. So I don’t think it’s sunk in completely for me.

BRITTON: It hasn’t really hit me either because I’ve also been so busy/crazy, which I think is a good thing, to keep preoccupied a little bit. But I feel like we still have to go do that, Kyle. I mean, we sort of did that in Philadelphia. We went and had our champagne.

CHANDLER: It’s one thing having champagne while you have a job. It’s far different having a bottle of whiskey while you don’t have a job. That’s where the country songs come from.

BRITTON: That is so true. So we still need to get together and write a country song.

CHANDLER: That’s right.

Is it fair to say lifelong friendship has been forged here?


CHANDLER: I wouldn’t doubt that.

BRITTON: They’ve built a new house, and he’s already built me a guesthouse. And it’s mine; I know it’s mine. I feel like that’s very positive for the future.

What do you guys remember about your first meeting?

BRITTON: Kyle has a different memory entirely of the first time we met.

CHANDLER: I met you on the street corner, and we went and had sushi that day. That’s the first day we met.

BRITTON: No. No. No. We didn’t have sushi until the night after we shot. The first day we met was in the first scene. I came to your trailer and said, “Hey, I’m going to be playing your wife.”

CHANDLER: We hadn’t shot yet by then.

BRITTON: Yeah, we did.

CHANDLER: No, no. We had not worked together yet.

BRITTON: I think we had.

CHANDLER: Well, I think that you’re crazy.

BRITTON: How did we meet on a street corner? So we called each other and said, “Hey, let’s go have dinner at Kenichi”?

CHANDLER: That sounds about right.

BRITTON: No. We went and had that one scene together and I knocked on your door and said, “Hey, I’m going to be playing your wife.”

CHANDLER: This could go on forever. The battery on my phone’s not going to last. We’ll just agree to disagree. But I’m right.

Let’s forget about the specifics…

CHANDLER: I paid for lunch. I know that.

BRITTON: It was dinner! It was dinner!

What were your first impressions?

BRITTON: He was sitting in his trailer, listening to some goofy radio station, and I think we immediately started making funny jokes or something. I thought he was goofy.

CHANDLER: My immediate reaction on the street corner where we met the first time was…

BRITTON: [Laughs hard]

CHANDLER: …it took about two or three minutes to get a feel for what kind of person she was just because I think it’s safe to say we’re both people…

BRITTON: [Deadpans] I think it is safe to say we’re both people.

CHANDLER: …we’re both people persons. I can gab with pretty much anyone. I think you pretty much can too, Connie. Once we started talking just for a few minutes, we started kidding around with each other. It became obvious it was going to be a lot of fun. Connie has no bulls—. It’s all out in front. She’s a very sweet person, very intelligent, very witty, and loves to play the fool. As soon as I found someone else who liked to play the fool as much as I do, I think we both knew pretty soon it was going to be a fun relationship.

BRITTON: That’s what I meant by goofy. As opposed to if I had walked in and he had been some sort of arrogant, wanting to be bigger and fancier than he was. He’s the most authentic, real person, and you get that right off the bat, of course.

The Eric/Tami marriage was always the show’s strongest asset. Why do you think it worked so well?

BRITTON: You want to go first?

CHANDLER: Yeah, sure. I think the most fun and why we had so much fun—at least for myself—was that it’s the first time I’ve been able to play a married person, with kids, obviously. I’ve never done that in my professional life, so I had a lot of material to draw from. That’s one. Two, [exec producer] Pete Berg was able to tell us—he confirmed this for Connie and I—that the relationship wasn’t going to break up from divorce. We weren’t going to be sleeping with other people, there weren’t going to be drug or alcohol problems. It was going to be a regular marriage, with two people who were dedicated to each other and loved one another. That gave Connie and I the ability to do what married couples really do, which is when big, big, big things happen, people come together and stand with each other. They work their way through it however it happens. But it’s the little tiny things, “Where are the keys?” “I don’t know where your keys are.” “Well, what did you do with the keys?” These little fights that we could create and turn into these explosions. So we had the ability to have all the fun we wanted. To be honest, whenever they wrote us being happy, we tried to find a fight. If they had us fighting, we tried to love on each other. We had fun no matter what when we went to work. That’s what made it very creative, for me anyway. It felt like a real marriage.

BRITTON: I think to add to that—because that’s exactly, exactly right—we established really early on that there was a sense of trust between us. With Kyle, he brought the experience of his marriage into what he was doing. He felt very trustworthy, and that felt very trustworthy. That made me feel like we were safe together. We have often said that we both felt that if we fell backward, the other one would catch us. And in doing that, we were able to relay that level of trust into the relationship as actors.

CHANDLER: I think we both always searched for comedy. I would always search for the point of being right, strong, and firm, keeping in mind that Connie’s dialogue down the line was going to turn, and I was going to have to have egg on my face and be wrong within the scene. That was so much fun, to have Coach be so adamant and then be so wrong and contrite about it. It was just always fun.

BRITTON: I think that sense of humor is important in marriage. A sense of humor gets people through marriage. I think if you’re doing something that’s considered a “drama” you don’t always get room for that sense of humor. That was something that was inherent to both of us as individuals but also in our characters.

Are you both satisfied with how the relationship played out in the final episode?

CHANDLER: Oh, yeah. To have us shooting each other at the exact same moment and then the screen going black. That was genius.

BRITTON: It really is amazing.

CHANDLER: I loved that.

BRITTON: And then it’s incredible that he dies and I live. I think it’s just so fitting.

CHANDLER: Good going, Connie; you just gave away the end of the show.

BRITTON: I’m sure they would have done spoilers.

CHANDLER: We should do a remake of The War of the Roses, you and I, except it would be reality TV.

All joking aside, are you happy with how things ended?

BRITTON: Yes. I thought we got to play some stuff in the end that we hadn’t gotten to play yet in the show. It was very interesting and exciting. I think the last two episodes—not just for our stuff but for everybody—were so great. A lot of characters came back, and they felt like a very true end to the world of Dillon that we had created.

CHANDLER: I absolutely think we went out with a touch of class.

Kyle, who are you rooting for more on Emmy night: Yourself or Connie?

CHANDLER: [Silence]

BRITTON: I can answer that question!

CHANDLER: [Laughs]

BRITTON: [Laughs] You would flip out!

CHANDLER: I just, I don’t know how to answer that one.

BRITTON: I’ll answer for you. He’s rooting for himself, but I know I’m a close second.

CHANDLER: Let me answer your question with a question: Which benefits me more? That’s my answer.

After being overlooked for so long, had you guys given up on the Emmy thing?


CHANDLER: One, it was more people telling me “You should have been nominated.” It never quite bothered me as much as people might imagine just due to the fact that what we did over the five-season period was so incredible, so unbelievably creative and satisfying, it was secondary. It was completely secondary. I never enjoyed doing what I do more than when I did it. I’ve never felt safer with the people around me that I worked with. And not just cast, but crew, producers, writers. The whole thing was such a classy ordeal; it was wonderful. I told someone the other day, this Emmy situation, it’s icing on the cake. If it never happens, I am so satisfied with what we did and proud. There’s an amount of ownership that goes along with it. I was never upset that I did not get an Emmy. That I did get an Emmy nomination, I couldn’t be happier and prouder.

BRITTON: I completely agree with everything he said. We have been so fortunate on this show because people have been appreciative of the work we’ve done. The audiences and people who come up to us on the street out of the woodwork who love the show, the critics, so many people have been so genuinely appreciative of the show. Having the Emmy nomination, initially you think, this somehow is different, but it really changes nothing. It’s just nice to have respect and this standardized acknowledgment. But the truth is, the work will still be the work; it will always be the work. It’s no different having been nominated or not nominated. At the end of the day, our greatest prize and greatest honor was doing this show with the people we got to do it with because it was such an inspiration.

What’s next for you both?

BRITTON: I love TV. I’m not looking to stay anywhere. I sort of just feel like I haven’t quite come to the surface yet. I’m not sure what’s going to be the next move, but I’m enjoying the feeling of a blank palette again. But I do love TV, so I certainly hope in addition to doing film and theater, I hope to continue doing that. I think it might be fun to develop something. There will be lots of options.

There’s a mini-movement afoot to get you cast on the remake of Prime Suspect at NBC.

BRITTON: [Laughs] I’m aware. I love that you have spearheaded that.

What about you, Kyle?

CHANDLER: I’m just playing it by ear.

Scorching Putin

New York Post
August 7, 2010

Red-headed spy Anna Chapman is no longer the hottest thing in Russia. Now it's the 500 out-of-control wildfires devouring thousands of square miles of the countryside.

This conflagration makes California's annual blazes look like Boy Scout campfires. The fires have consumed entire villages and ravaged the critical wheat harvest; now they threaten a key nuclear-weapons-research facility. A huge naval logistics base burned -- along with 200 helicopters and planes.

But the reputation of Russia's new czar, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, may have been scorched worst of all.

Fighting fire with . . . shovels: Outside a Russian village this week.(Getty Images)

Disasters reveal hidden government weaknesses. Hurricane Katrina highlighted the Bush administration's lack of domestic preparedness five years after 9/11, while the Gulf oil spill shone a spotlight on the Obama White House's indifference to working-class Americans. Pakistan's massive floods have paralyzed its corruption-ravaged government.

Now the disastrous forest and peat-bog infernos encircling Moscow have exposed the Potemkin-village nature of Putin's vaunted efficiency. All the czar's men can't even put out a brush fire.

So the conflagrations have been spreading for weeks as an unprecedented heat wave punishes the country. Russia's forest service had been virtually disbanded to plug budget gaps elsewhere, leaving rural areas unmanaged. And, as the news mag Der Spiegel points out, the "new" Russia, in all its old vastness, has fewer professional firefighters than Germany -- and no trained volunteers. Firefighting vehicles are Soviet-era relics.

In the best Russian tradition, the government and its media lackeys played down the extent of the damage until their con wouldn't stick any longer. Now Putin (forget President Dmitry Medvedev) has had to swallow his prickly pride to accept help from "lesser" states, such as Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and distant Italy. And Russia will need much more.

Ukraine has special reason to worry, since the fires are marching through southwest Russia's Bryansk region toward the dead zone around Chernobyl. Scientists fear that radioactive dust could rise from burned-over soil and be whisked across borders by the wind.

Meanwhile, the plague has reached into the palace. With its gleaming city center, Moscow had become the new Versailles, where a pampered ruling class cavorted while the serfs continued to grub through the muck.

Now Moscow (and dozens of other cities) has been poisoned by smog so dense that Red Square looks like the can't-see-your-own-hand London of old Sherlock Holmes movies. Flights have been grounded and citizens warned to remain indoors. June's White Nights gave way to charcoal-gray days in July.

For all Putin's pretense of ruling a still-great power (a ploy for which President Obama fell in his great START-treaty giveaway), what serious military has generals and admirals so dull-witted and alcohol-sodden that they allow 200 military aircraft to burn up on the ground? Gone in one day, that's half the aerial-force losses the Soviets took in 10 years in Afghanistan.

Of course, senior officers have already been given the sack, and more will go. But the rot goes higher, to the level at which Italian suits replace ill-fitting uniforms.

Russia's lack of civil-defense preparedness speaks to the Putin regime's priorities, which always have been recentralizing control of the "commanding heights of the economy," re-establishing Russian domination of the former empire of the czars -- and, above all, remaining in charge.

Only the export of oil, gas and minerals has given Russia an appearance of solvency as its industry rotted away and production collapsed. But government inefficiencies are such that more and more money has had to be siphoned from basic government programs to prop up Russia's image to the world. Only corruption has thrived. (You can take the KGB vet out of the Soviet Union, but you can't take the Soviet Union out of the KGB vet . . .)

As you read this, Russian peasants -- that's exactly what they remain -- are struggling to save their villages with shovels, hoes and bare hands. Many will never see the least help from their government. It's as if Californians were expected to fight wildfires on their own (at least the folks on the Left Coast have working garden hoses).

Putin will remain in charge, of course. He has a death grip on the levers of power. But his popularity with embittered Russians anxious to give the West the middle finger may suffer -- since they found their new czar's favorite digit thrust at them.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Endless War."

Friday, August 06, 2010

Bob Dylan’s Great Travel Song

"When I Paint My Masterpiece" is a great summer vacation song—particularly if you’re heading to Europe, as right about now, a lot of Americans are.

August 6, 2010 - by Brendan Bernhard

In the Bob Dylan lexicon, I think it’s fair to say that “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a song originally performed by The Band and which first appeared in Dylan’s own voice on 1971’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, is not generally regarded as his “masterpiece.” It may not even be regarded as a masterpiece, which is as it should be given its title, although I beg to differ. It is a masterpiece in the genre of what you could call the “travel song,” or perhaps the “time-travel song,” depending on how you view it. However you look at it, it is a great summer vacation song — particularly if you’re heading to Europe, as right about now, a lot of Americans are.

Man on a Bridge (2009) by Bob Dylan

Clocking in at 3 minutes and 22 seconds, “When I Paint My Masterpiece” comes crammed with a traveler’s itinerary. There are names of much-visited cities (Rome, Brussels, Venice), popular tourist sites (the Spanish Steps, the Coliseum), transportation (planes, trains, gondolas), travelers’ bugaboos (crowds, bumpy flights, muscle-strains), as well as the usual standbys (hotel rooms, cameras, sex). And all in three verses plus a two-line bridge! Dylan even sounds as if he has a cold (more than he usually does, that is), another problem that tends to afflict travelers.

The opening quatrain is irresistible. Bluesy piano, slide guitar, drums, and a voice that seems to hover over centuries:

Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble,
Ancient footprints are everywhere.
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stair.

I half-sung, half-murmured those words to myself repeatedly during a recent visit to … Amsterdam, a city not mentioned in the lyrics. There was no rubble, no ancient footprints, but there were those dirty old canals, and endless hooped bridges, to walk beside at night. It was enough: I was on the move, in the Old World, and the song resonated.

But what kind of song is it, and when is it taking place? The opening four lines just about suggest the present, but then Dylan shifts dramatically either into the past or into a very pleasing fantasy:

Got to hurry on back to my hotel room,
Where I’ve got me a date with Botticelli’s niece.
She promised that she’d be right there with me
When I paint my masterpiece.

So are we in the late 15th century or in the smeared and blurry imagination of a 30-year-old rock star as, jet-lagged and no doubt inebriated (“seein’ double”), he walks the nocturnal streets of Rome filled with inchoate yearning? Either way, they’re terrific lines to sing — and who could resist a date with Botticelli’s niece? — if you’re planning to wander and ponder any of Europe’s old capitals yourself this summer.

The second verse begins with some of the greatest, and funniest, lines Dylan has ever written. Todd Haynes tried to juggle Dylan’s multiple personae in his 2007 bio-pic, I’m Not There, but the results seem pedestrian when placed next to the singer’s own work. We’re still in Rome, but it’s Ancient Rome, or more likely the dream of a past life in Ancient Rome:

Oh the hours that I spent inside the Coliseum,
Dodging lions, and wastin’ time.
Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see ‘em,
Yes it sure has been a long, hard climb.

You can say that again! Bob Dylan, former slave and ex-gladiator, who was so adept at his enforced profession of dodging the mighty kings of the jungle that he frankly found the entire enterprise a bore, jeering spectators and thumbs-down emperors in togas be damned. A jaded gladiator. How cool is that? And who else could pull it off?

“When I Paint my Masterpiece” wouldn’t be a Dylan song if it didn’t have its lyrical rough spots, and the last four lines of this second verse aren’t quite as good as the rest. The temporal confusion gets even more complicated, as we now appear to enter the memory (he even uses the word) of Dylan himself, and of his childhood in Minnesota:

Train wheels running through the back of my memory,
When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese.
Someday, everything is going to be smooth like a rhapsody,
When I paint my masterpiece.

This is Dylan the American, finally presenting his passport in a song that has so far seen him dating a Renaissance painter’s niece (did Botticelli know?) and playing at being a gladiator. As if to underline the fact, in the two-line bridge between the second and final verse, he takes a brief time-out to switch locations and cast himself as a tired, ordinary American tourist in the world’s most touristic city. Once again, he’s bored, even more so than when he was dodging lions. He’s the tourist who’s had enough of touring and wants to go home:

Floating around Venice in a dirty gondola,
Oh to be back in the land of Coca-Cola!

In the song, Dylan stretches out those last two syllables as far as he can, and then comes the clincher, the line that, although unremarkable in itself, starts off the final verse and flatly underscores that this really is a song about movement and travel:

I left Rome, and landed in Brussels.

As I walked around Paris (where I saw the Botticelli’s at the Louvre), and then Amsterdam (I was thinking of going to Brussels, but didn’t), this was the line that most regularly popped into my head. I sung it to myself so often it almost became a joke. In a slyly absurdist way, the line is a joke. Just because you leave Rome, why should you “land” in Brussels, as if dropped there from outer space? Why not Madrid, or Lisbon, or Helsinki? On its face a bare statement of fact, it is a witty comment on the random nature of tourism. Why do we choose one place instead of another? What do we hope to discover in Brussels that we couldn’t find in Rome?

There is also a deliberate, matter-of-fact side to Dylan’s delivery of the line that informs us that we are now, finally, coming close to the song’s true present tense, witnesses to the travails of the touring superstar amid the absurdities of the modern world circa 1966 (when Dylan had last been on tour, five years earlier): the media, the crowds, the frenzy, and, running beneath it all, the wistful desire to write the perfect song, to sum it all up and make it all worthwhile.

I left Rome, and landed in Brussels,
On a plane ride so bumpy that I almost cried.
Clergymen in uniform and young girls pullin’ muscles,
Everyone was there to greet me when I stepped inside.
Newspaper men eating candy
Had to be held down by big police.
Someday, everything is going to be different
When I paint my masterpiece.

Seen in the light of this final verse, everything that has preceded it has been a shuffling of imaginary selves and eras, the hallucinatory “travels” of a man who’s too busy rushing from airports to hotel rooms to concert halls to actually do any traveling except in the most hurried, superficial sense.

It’s a feeling with which even we, the unfamous ones, who will not be greeted by fat cops and pre-diabetic media when our planes touch down, are familiar. Tourism is both too fast and too slow. Days lag, then speed up, then disappear. After 72 hours we start to feel as if we “know” a city, or at least a neighborhood; two days later we realize this was an illusion. Then we take off, restlessly moving on to the next stop on our iron itinerary, the plane or train tickets paid for, the hotel rooms booked, our fates packaged and sealed. What’s left is memory and imagination, along with the fleeting, bittersweet recognition (the one that permeates so much of Dylan’s song) that although we might have lived a different life in a different country, perhaps even in a different era, we will soon trade the gondola for the (Diet) Cola and return home on schedule — or else be fined by the airlines.

- Brendan Bernhard is a Contributing Editor to the New York Sun, where he was the television critic from 2006-08, and a former staff writer at LA Weekly. He writes about culture, politics, and sports, and is the author of White Muslim (Melville House), a study of converts to Islam in the West.

Low Volt-age

The Chevy Volt is a vanity car for the well-off, and the government is subsidizing it.

By Jonah Goldberg
August 6, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Let us compare the Volkswagen and the “Voltswagen.”

The original Volkswagen was intended as the “people’s car” (that’s what Volkswagen means). The idea of a cheap, safe, reliable car for the working man was popular before Adolf Hitler embraced it, but as a self-proclaimed man of the people, he made the idea his own. Whereas industrialists and aristocrats didn’t think the common man needed a car (“The people’s car is a bus” was their refrain), Hitler sided with one of his heroes, Henry Ford, arguing that everyone deserved his own ride. He ordered the German Labor Front, the union arm of the Nazi party, to start building a people’s car. When it looked like the car might be too expensive, the Labor Front created a savings program that promised a car for even the poorest workers.

At the 1934 Berlin Motor Show, Hitler proclaimed: “It is a bitter thought that millions of good and industrious people are excluded from the use of a means of transport that, especially on Sundays and holidays, could become for them a source of unknown joy.”

And then there’s the electric-gas hybrid Chevy Volt, a.k.a. the “Voltswagen.” At $41,000, about as much as the average American makes in a year, this is no people’s car. GM, owned by the government and the labor unions, is pitching it to affluent hipsters who don’t need a lot of space for a family. Deloitte Consulting says that the demand for such cars is from “young, very high income individuals” from households that make more than $200,000 a year, which is why the Volt will be rolled out in upscale, trendy urban markets. (Meanwhile the Chevy Cruze, the gas-only version of the Volt, has more room inside and is a mere $17,000.)

Because the Volt’s sticker price might be too high for even that crowd, the government is offering a federal subsidy of up to $7,500 (Californians have a state subsidy, too), which means that working-class people will be helping to pay for playthings for upper-income people.

“Like the EV1 that GM tried to peddle in the California market,” Kenneth Green, an environmental scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, says, “the Volt is a vanity car for the well-off that will be subsidized by less well-off taxpayers at all stages, from R&D to sales and to the construction of charging stations.”

Indeed, the Volt’s price is $41,000, but the cost is much higher. “Government Motors” is already selling the car at a loss. According to the blogger Doctor Zero, if you apply the subsidies that have gone directly into the car to just the first 10,000 vehicles, the cost is more like $81,000 per car.

Of course, electric-car boosters say this sort of thing is necessary to get the industry up and running. (Green responds: “Supporters claim that electric cars need subsidies because they’re still in their infancy. Electric cars have been around for over 100 years. That’s some infancy.”)

But would it be a good thing if we all switched to electric cars? The point is to reduce CO2 emissions, right? But in some regions, we get our electricity from CO2-spewing coal. The more electricity pulled from the grid, the more coal is burned, essentially replacing dirty oil with dirtier coal (which is why some coal backers see much promise in electric cars). Studies confirm that China — which is allegedly “beating us” in the race to a green economy — would produce vastly more greenhouse emissions if it switched to electric vehicles.

The expected response to that is that we need stuff like CO2-free windmills to generate electricity. Don’t get me started on the Volkspropeller.

Regardless, no matter how you crunch the numbers or the science, there’s no disputing that this is a political car, designed to meet the demands not of an economic market but of an ideological one, directed by the collusion of big business and big government. In this sense, the Volkswagen and the Voltswagen have a lot in common.

If the government weren’t taking taxpayer money and spending it on toys for upscale urban liberals (Obama’s strongest base of support outside of black voters and labor unions), there’d be no reason to care about the Volt. If rich people want to be “early adopters” and buy expensive gadgets that help them preen the plumage of their political sanctimony, that’s great. It’s not so great when the government gets involved in wealth redistribution, and it’s outrageous when it involves redistributing wealth upwards.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Gay-vows zealotry from the bench

By Rich Lowry
New York Post
August 6, 2010

It's safe to assume that Judge Vaughn Walker voted against Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California back in 2008. Throughout the trial on the measure in his courtroom, he proved himself as zealously in favor of gay marriage -- if not more so -- than the plaintiffs petitioning to have it declared unconstitutional.

If he voted "no" a couple of years ago, Judge Walker wasn't alone. More than 6.4 million Californians voted against Proposition 8. At 48 percent, that was almost enough to constitute a majority. But Judge Walker presumably got two bites at the apple: First in the voting booth, then from the bench when he invalidated the votes of the 52 percent of people who voted the other way. It's nice to be judge.

Judge Walker's decision is such a raw exercise of judicial imperiousness, he might as well have gone all the way and sentenced the defenders of Proposition 8 to suffer, Chinese-style, a parade of shame through the streets of San Francisco wearing placards emblazoned "I Support Bizarre and Retrograde Social Practices."

The social practice in question is traditional marriage defined as a union between a man and a woman, which Judge Walker finds dangerously passé. Sure, it had a good run during the past couple of millennia or so, but in August 2010, we're beyond age-old parameters of fundamental social institutions -- no matter what a majority of California voters might say, or the voters of the 29 other states that prohibit gay marriage in their constitutions.

From the first, Judge Walker made it clear that he didn't want to rule on the legal merits of the case -- a relatively simple matter of issuing a summary judgment -- but literally to re-litigate Proposition 8. Before he was smacked down by the US Supreme Court, he planned to televise his court's proceedings. Everything signaled, as Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center wrote, his desire "to turn the lawsuit into a high-profile, culture-transforming, history-making, Scopes-style show trail."

In his decision, the judge issued 80 "findings of fact." All said findings and all said facts happen to support his belief that Proposition 8 was so errant that a bolt of lightning should have struck it from the ballot. For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that Judge Walker is right. In that case, he and like-minded people should come up with, say, Proposition 9 overturning the ban and convince 50.1 percent of Californians to support it. How difficult can that be given that, per Judge Walker, every single fact is on their side?

But convincing the voters to change their minds would require some patience and respect for people's moral sensibilities, both of which are in short supply among supporters of gay marriage. It's far easier to convince one judge who doesn't truly need convincing to mint a new constitutional right to gay marriage. The cost of this exercise is the outrageous highhandedness that it entails and that pervades Judge Walker's decision.

He concludes that Californians had no rational basis to vote for Proposition 8. One wonders how he stands living among such a sea of bigotry. As self-appointed arbiter of what's good and right about marriage, child-rearing and gender roles, Judge Walker brooks no dissent. It's "beyond debate" that gay marriage "has at least a neutral, if not a positive, effect on marriage." It is "beyond any doubt that parents' genders are irrelevant to children's developmental outcomes."

All of that has been settled, and if you don't believe it, well, Judge Walker said so. He describes traditional marriage as "an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and marriage." Behold the boundless power of Judge Walker -- even gender distinctions can't survive the awesome finality of his pronouncements.

If the audacious sweep of Judge Walker's decision delights proponents of gay marriage, it also invites a reversal as the case heads inevitably to the Supreme Court. May it be swift and decisive.

Annals of executive overreach

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, August 6, 2010; A19

Last week, a draft memo surfaced from the Department of Homeland Security suggesting ways to administratively circumvent existing law to allow several categories of illegal immigrants to avoid deportation and, indeed, for some to be granted permanent residency. Most disturbing was the stated rationale. This was being proposed "in the absence of Comprehensive Immigration Reform." In other words, because Congress refuses to do what these bureaucrats would like to see done, they will legislate it themselves.

Regardless of your feelings on the substance of the immigration issue, this is not how a constitutional democracy should operate. Administrators administer the law, they don't change it. That's the legislators' job.

When questioned, the White House played down the toxic memo, leaving the impression that it was nothing more than ruminations emanating from the bowels of Homeland Security. But the administration is engaged in an even more significant power play elsewhere.

A 2007 Supreme Court ruling gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate carbon emissions if it could demonstrate that they threaten human health and the environment. The Obama EPA made precisely that finding, thereby granting itself a huge expansion of power and, noted The Post, sending "a message to Congress."

It was not a terribly subtle message: Enact cap-and-trade legislation -- taxing and heavily regulating carbon-based energy -- or the EPA will do so unilaterally. As Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch noted, such a finding "is likely to help light a fire under Congress to get moving."

Well, Congress didn't. Despite the "regulatory cudgel" (to again quote The Post) the administration has been waving, the Senate has repeatedly refused to acquiesce.

Good for the Senate. But what to do when the executive is passively aggressive rather than actively so? Take border security. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) reports that President Obama told him about pressure from his political left and its concern that if the border is secured, Republicans will have no incentive to support comprehensive reform (i.e., amnesty). Indeed, Homeland Security's abandonment of the "virtual fence" on the southern border, combined with its lack of interest in completing the real fence that today covers only one-third of the border, gives the distinct impression that serious border enforcement is not a high administration priority absent some Republican quid pro quo on comprehensive reform.

But border enforcement is not something to be manipulated in return for legislative favors. It is, as the administration vociferously argued in court in the Arizona case, the federal executive's constitutional responsibility. Its job is to faithfully execute the laws. Non-execution is a dereliction of duty.

This contagion of executive willfulness is not confined to the federal government or to Democrats. In Virginia, the Republican attorney general has just issued a ruling allowing police to ask about one's immigration status when stopped for some other reason (e.g., a traffic violation). Heretofore, police could inquire only upon arrest and imprisonment.

Whatever your views about the result, the process is suspect. If police latitude regarding the interrogation of possible illegal immigrants is to be expanded, that's an issue for the legislature, not the executive.

How did we get here? I blame Henry Paulson. (Such a versatile sentence.) The gold standard of executive overreach was achieved the day he summoned the heads of the country's nine largest banks and informed them that henceforth the federal government was their business partner. The banks were under no legal obligation to obey. But they know the capacity of the federal government, when crossed, to cause you trouble, endless trouble. They complied.

So did BP when the president summoned its top executives to the White House to demand a $20 billion federally administered escrow fund for damages. Existing law capped damages at $75 million. BP, like the banks, understood the power of the U.S. government. Twenty billion it was.

Again, you can be pleased with the result (I was) and still be troubled by how we got there. Everyone wants energy in the executive (as Alexander Hamilton called it). But not lawlessness. In the modern welfare state, government has the power to regulate your life. That's bad enough. But at least there is one restraint on this bloated power: the separation of powers. Such constraints on your life must first be approved by both houses of Congress.

That's called the consent of the governed. The constitutional order is meant to subject you to the will of the people's representatives, not to the whim of a chief executive or the imagination of a loophole-seeking bureaucrat.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

No Mosque

The Current Crisis

By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. on 8.5.10 @ 6:09AM
The American Spectator

WASHINGTON -- There is an awful lot of blowzy thought swirling around the proposed mosque to be raised two blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Frankly, I doubt that at any other time in our history, such a debate would be taking place. People would know that when thugs intoning "Allahu Akbar" have slaughtered hundreds of innocent Americans on American soil, it is inappropriate to raise a mosque nearby. The majority of Americans alive today know this. Polling indicates that with them it is a nonstarter. Now the Anti-Defamation League's national director, Abraham H. Foxman, has weighed in on the side of good sense. One hopes this debate is coming to an end.

In the current issue of The American Spectator Angelo M. Codevilla posits two Americas. The first is the Ruling Class: "Today's ruling class," he writes "from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits.… Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector.… Hence whether formally in the government, out of it, or halfway, America's ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not orientated to the government." The majority of Americans comprise the Country Class.

The Country Class or the Country Party has come down against the mosque, and it goes far beyond New Yorkers. It embraces Americans from all over. They oppose the mosque and their opposition is growing. On the other side, the Ruling Class's spokesman is not surprisingly Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, though he could be from Chicago or Boston or Washington, D.C. Apropos of the mosque, he says: "What is great about America, and particularly New York, is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does it say about us?" First of all, we do not welcome everybody, not drugs lords, not Nazis, not Islamofascists. Secondly, we are not "so afraid of something like this." Rather, we recognize it as an affront to the fallen and to the Nation. Ad arguendo, the affront might not be intended by those wishing to put up the mosque, but it will be recognized by others throughout the world as an affront. Possibly it will be recognized as a sign of the triumph of Islam over non-believers. It ought not to go up.

The latest to join with the Country Class is Abe Foxman. He has done so at great cost to himself. He has members of the Ruling Party all around him. Yet even he has been guilty of blowzy thought. He says that "Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational." Likewise, the families that lost loved ones in September 11 are entitled to feelings that are irrational, he claims. "Their anguish entitles them," says Foxman, "to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted." Thus because they object, Foxman would build the mosque "a mile away."

There is nothing irrational or bigoted about thinking that a mosque does not belong at Ground Zero or at the Pentagon or on the Pennsylvania countryside where United Flight 93 crashed. Americans traditionally raise on such sites monuments to freedom, to courage, to the sacrifices of those lost. Now the Ruling Class wants to place a mosque at the site of September 11. It is the only time I can recall the Ruling Class ever being in favor of placing a religious manifestation anywhere. Yet in favoring this mosque, the Ruling Class does put itself squarely in opposition to the Country Class, so it does have a logic to it.

Will the Ruling Class have its way? I have my doubts. The Country Class is getting stronger. It is not opposed to the building of mosques, just not on the sites of where so many brave Americans were killed by people who hated them because they were American. The Country Class will decide the monuments for the brave. The Ruling Class can eat cake.

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. His new book, After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery, was published on April 20 by Thomas Nelson. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; and The Clinton Crack-Up.

Like it or not, Alex Rodriguez is tied to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, not Henry Aaron, in 600 club

By Mike Lupica
The Daily News
August 5, 2010

The ball is over the center field wall at the new Yankee Stadium and Alex Rodriguez comes up on first base hard and puts his hands out, in relief more than anything else, not quite a safe sign but close enough. Now Rodriguez cuts the bag at first the way you're taught and heads for second, heads right into the noise for him at the new Stadium and into his own complicated baseball history, on this milestone day for him in a complicated baseball life.

"It was a relief just to put it past me," Rodriguez said a half-hour after the game.

They asked him about what the past week or so has been like for him and Rodriguez smiled and said, "It hasn't been a lot of fun."

In the moment, though, it is all fun for him. A dream trip around the bases for him. He rounds the bases and the people keep cheering for his 600th home run in the big leagues. They wanted to witness history and now they have. Of course the history is as complicated as everything else with No. 13 for the Yankees, No. 7 on the all-time home run list. Six hundred and counting. Younger than Babe Ruth was when he got to 600.

"An amazing accomplishment," Rodriguez's manager, Joe Girardi, says in the interview room across from the Yankee clubhouse.

Amazing in a lot of ways, starting with what Rodriguez, with the world of talent he has for baseball, once thought he had to do to get here.

They still cheered him big and loud for No. 600 Wednesday at the Stadium, tried to cheer the way everybody used to for home runs like these. They cheered in St. Louis the way the country did when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run to pass Roger Maris 12 years ago, before everybody knew that McGwire's numbers had been artificially enhanced the way his body was.

But they sure knew in San Francisco about Barry Bonds when he passed Henry Aaron, hit No. 756 to become baseball's all-time home run leader, almost three years ago exactly, Aug. 7, 2007. Somehow, after everything, history is still history in baseball. Even stained. Even when the record book is filled with so many stains you think somebody has been spitting tobacco juice at it.

Juice being the operative word.

So this was a Yankee event, all the trimmings, for Rodriguez and the Yankees and the people in the ballpark Wednesday, one everybody had been waiting through 46 at-bats since No. 599. This is the whole ballgame for Rodriguez now, now and for the rest of the way, for as long as he is healthy: Hitting as many home runs as he can and winning as much as he can so that people don't talk as much about the use of performance-enhancing drugs he admitted to last year when he got caught by Sports Illustrated.

He hit one in the bottom of the first, gave a 2-0 pitch from Shaun Marcum the ride that he did. Just not as loud as it would have been if he hadn't admitted to being a juicer, not as loud as it was last year when Derek Jeter passed Lou Gehrig in this place to become the Yankees' all-time hit leader.

Complicated record, complicated guy, one with a world of talent for whom that wasn't enough. He went to the needle the way lesser talents did.

It is why, as truly great a baseball player as he is, he is no better than Bonds, himself one of the most gifted players of all time. Or McGwire. Or Sammy Sosa. He is a Yankee, though. Sometimes you wonder if there should be some sort of formula to decide how many home runs to knock off because of the drug use he says lasted three years in Texas. Maybe we just set him back to 500, where he was three years ago on this day in August, and call it even.

Since we can't throw out the number the way they do records in track and field when runners get help from the wind.

Jeter was waiting for him at home plate in the bottom of the first. They gave each other high-fives, both hands. Then the captain of the Yankees hugged Rodriguez. Complicated relationship, whatever bow they try to put around it now.

The Yankees were up and out of the dugout. Nick Swisher bear-hugged Rodriguez. Jeter would give him another hug in the dugout. Rodriguez would come out for a curtain call. Once the only three members of the 600 Home Run Club in baseball were the great Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, the greatest player, pound-for-pound, of them all. Now Ken Griffey Jr. is in there, too. But so are Bonds, Sammy Sosa, A-Rod.

"Welcome to the club," Barry Bonds wrote on his website.

Yeah. They're in the same club.

Really what you wondered at the Stadium, after the ball had been retrieved and the game had been resumed, is if there will ever be another home run milestone in baseball that will ever matter, truly. Unless you are a fan and you've decided to forgive and forget because the guy is one of yours, the way A-Rod - once he showed he had a World Series in him - is one of theirs now at Yankee Stadium.

"It's definitely a special number," Rodriguez said when it was over.

Not as special as it could have been, without the revelations and admissions of two springs ago. Big day for him at the Stadium, no doubt. Big number. Big, complicated number, for the most complicated guy to ever wear the uniform, all the way back to Babe Ruth.


By Ann Coulter
August 4, 2010

Democrats act as if the right to run across the border when you're 8 1/2 months pregnant, give birth in a U.S. hospital and then immediately start collecting welfare was exactly what our forebears had in mind, a sacred constitutional right, as old as the 14th Amendment itself.

The louder liberals talk about some ancient constitutional right, the surer you should be that it was invented in the last few decades.

In fact, this alleged right derives only from a footnote slyly slipped into a Supreme Court opinion by Justice Brennan in 1982. You might say it snuck in when no one was looking, and now we have to let it stay.

The 14th Amendment was added after the Civil War in order to overrule the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which had held that black slaves were not citizens of the United States. The precise purpose of the amendment was to stop sleazy Southern states from denying citizenship rights to newly freed slaves -- many of whom had roots in this country longer than a lot of white people.

The amendment guaranteed that freed slaves would have all the privileges of citizenship by providing: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The drafters of the 14th amendment had no intention of conferring citizenship on the children of aliens who happened to be born in the U.S. (For my younger readers, back in those days, people cleaned their own houses and raised their own kids.)

Inasmuch as America was not the massive welfare state operating as a magnet for malingerers, frauds and cheats that it is today, it's amazing the drafters even considered the amendment's effect on the children of aliens.

But they did.

The very author of the citizenship clause, Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan, expressly said: "This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers."

In the 1884 case Elk v. Wilkins, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment did not even confer citizenship on Indians -- because they were subject to tribal jurisdiction, not U.S. jurisdiction.

For a hundred years, that was how it stood, with only one case adding the caveat that children born to legal permanent residents of the U.S., gainfully employed, and who were not employed by a foreign government would also be deemed citizens under the 14th Amendment. (United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 1898.)

And then, out of the blue in 1982, Justice Brennan slipped a footnote into his 5-4 opinion in Plyler v. Doe, asserting that "no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment 'jurisdiction' can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful." (Other than the part about one being lawful and the other not.)

Brennan's authority for this lunatic statement was that it appeared in a 1912 book written by Clement L. Bouve. (Yes, the Clement L. Bouve -- the one you've heard so much about over the years.) Bouve was not a senator, not an elected official, certainly not a judge -- just some guy who wrote a book.

So on one hand we have the history, the objective, the author's intent and 100 years of history of the 14th Amendment, which says that the 14th Amendment does not confer citizenship on children born to illegal immigrants.

On the other hand, we have a random outburst by some guy named Clement -- who, I'm guessing, was too cheap to hire an American housekeeper.

Any half-wit, including Clement L. Bouve, could conjure up a raft of such "plausible distinction(s)" before breakfast. Among them: Legal immigrants have been checked for subversive ties, contagious diseases, and have some qualification to be here other than "lives within walking distance."

But most important, Americans have a right to decide, as the people of other countries do, who becomes a citizen.

Combine Justice Brennan's footnote with America's ludicrously generous welfare policies, and you end up with a bankrupt country.

Consider the story of one family of illegal immigrants described in the Spring 2005 Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons:

"Cristobal Silverio came illegally from Oxtotilan, Mexico, in 1997 and brought his wife Felipa, plus three children aged 19, 12 and 8. Felipa ... gave birth to a new daughter, her anchor baby, named Flor. Flor was premature, spent three months in the neonatal incubator, and cost San Joaquin Hospital more than $300,000. Meanwhile, (Felipa's 19-year-old daughter) Lourdes plus her illegal alien husband produced their own anchor baby, Esmeralda. Grandma Felipa created a second anchor baby, Cristian. ... The two Silverio anchor babies generate $1,000 per month in public welfare funding. Flor gets $600 per month for asthma. Healthy Cristian gets $400. Cristobal and Felipa last year earned $18,000 picking fruit. Flor and Cristian were paid $12,000 for being anchor babies."

In the Silverios' munificent new hometown of Stockton, Calif., 70 percent of the 2,300 babies born in 2003 in the San Joaquin General Hospital were anchor babies. As of this month, Stockton is $23 million in the hole.

It's bad enough to be governed by 5-4 decisions written by liberal judicial activists. In the case of "anchor babies," America is being governed by Brennan's 1982 footnote.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Topic of Cancer

First Person

One fine June day, the author is launching his best-selling memoir, Hitch-22. The next, he’s throwing up backstage at The Daily Show, in a brief bout of denial, before entering the unfamiliar country—with its egalitarian spirit, martial metaphors, and hard bargains of people who have cancer.

By Christopher Hitchens
Photograph by John Huba
September 2010

The author at home in Washington, D.C., July 18, 2010.

I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. But nothing prepared me for the early morning last June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse. The whole cave of my chest and thorax seemed to have been hollowed out and then refilled with slow-drying cement. I could faintly hear myself breathe but could not manage to inflate my lungs. My heart was beating either much too much or much too little. Any movement, however slight, required forethought and planning. It took strenuous effort for me to cross the room of my New York hotel and summon the emergency services. They arrived with great dispatch and behaved with immense courtesy and professionalism. I had the time to wonder why they needed so many boots and helmets and so much heavy backup equipment, but now that I view the scene in retrospect I see it as a very gentle and firm deportation, taking me from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady. Within a few hours, having had to do quite a lot of emergency work on my heart and my lungs, the physicians at this sad border post had shown me a few other postcards from the interior and told me that my immediate next stop would have to be with an oncologist. Some kind of shadow was throwing itself across the negatives.

The previous evening, I had been launching my latest book at a successful event in New Haven. The night of the terrible morning, I was supposed to go on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and then appear at a sold-out event at the 92nd Street Y, on the Upper East Side, in conversation with Salman Rushdie. My very short-lived campaign of denial took this form: I would not cancel these appearances or let down my friends or miss the chance of selling a stack of books. I managed to pull off both gigs without anyone noticing anything amiss, though I did vomit two times, with an extraordinary combination of accuracy, neatness, violence, and profusion, just before each show. This is what citizens of the sick country do while they are still hopelessly clinging to their old domicile.

The new land is quite welcoming in its way. Everybody smiles encouragingly and there appears to be absolutely no racism. A generally egalitarian spirit prevails, and those who run the place have obviously got where they are on merit and hard work. As against that, the humor is a touch feeble and repetitive, there seems to be almost no talk of sex, and the cuisine is the worst of any destination I have ever visited. The country has a language of its own—a lingua franca that manages to be both dull and difficult and that contains names like ondansetron, for anti-nausea medication—as well as some unsettling gestures that require a bit of getting used to. For example, an official met for the first time may abruptly sink his fingers into your neck. That’s how I discovered that my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, and that one of these deformed beauties—located on my right clavicle, or collarbone—was big enough to be seen and felt. It’s not at all good when your cancer is “palpable” from the outside. Especially when, as at this stage, they didn’t even know where the primary source was. Carcinoma works cunningly from the inside out. Detection and treatment often work more slowly and gropingly, from the outside in. Many needles were sunk into my clavicle area—“Tissue is the issue” being a hot slogan in the local Tumorville tongue—and I was told the biopsy results might take a week.

Working back from the cancer-ridden squamous cells that these first results disclosed, it took rather longer than that to discover the disagreeable truth. The word “metastasized” was the one in the report that first caught my eye, and ear. The alien had colonized a bit of my lung as well as quite a bit of my lymph node. And its original base of operations was located—had been located for quite some time—in my esophagus. My father had died, and very swiftly, too, of cancer of the esophagus. He was 79. I am 61. In whatever kind of a “race” life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist.

The notorious stage theory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whereby one progresses from denial to rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light. But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read—if not indeed write—the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger? But I understand this sort of non-thinking for what it is: sentimentality and self-pity. Of course my book hit the best-seller list on the day that I received the grimmest of news bulletins, and for that matter the last flight I took as a healthy-feeling person (to a fine, big audience at the Chicago Book Fair) was the one that made me a million-miler on United Airlines, with a lifetime of free upgrades to look forward to. But irony is my business and I just can’t see any ironies here: would it be less poignant to get cancer on the day that my memoirs were remaindered as a box-office turkey, or that I was bounced from a coach-class flight and left on the tarmac? To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?

The bargaining stage, though. Maybe there’s a loophole here. The oncology bargain is that, in return for at least the chance of a few more useful years, you agree to submit to chemotherapy and then, if you are lucky with that, to radiation or even surgery. So here’s the wager: you stick around for a bit, but in return we are going to need some things from you. These things may include your taste buds, your ability to concentrate, your ability to digest, and the hair on your head. This certainly appears to be a reasonable trade. Unfortunately, it also involves confronting one of the most appealing clichés in our language. You’ve heard it all right. People don’t have cancer: they are reported to be battling cancer. No well-wisher omits the combative image: You can beat this. It’s even in obituaries for cancer losers, as if one might reasonably say of someone that they died after a long and brave struggle with mortality. You don’t hear it about long-term sufferers from heart disease or kidney failure.

Myself, I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water.

It’s quite something, this chemo-poison. It has caused me to lose about 14 pounds, though without making me feel any lighter. It has cleared up a vicious rash on my shins that no doctor could ever name, let alone cure. (Some venom, to get rid of those furious red dots without a struggle.) Let it please be this mean and ruthless with the alien and its spreading dead-zone colonies. But as against that, the death-dealing stuff and life-preserving stuff have also made me strangely neuter. I was fairly reconciled to the loss of my hair, which began to come out in the shower in the first two weeks of treatment, and which I saved in a plastic bag so that it could help fill a floating dam in the Gulf of Mexico. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the way that my razorblade would suddenly go slipping pointlessly down my face, meeting no stubble. Or for the way that my newly smooth upper lip would begin to look as if it had undergone electrolysis, causing me to look a bit too much like somebody’s maiden auntie. (The chest hair that was once the toast of two continents hasn’t yet wilted, but so much of it was shaved off for various hospital incisions that it’s a rather patchy affair.) I feel upsettingly de-natured. If Penélope Cruz were one of my nurses, I wouldn’t even notice. In the war against Thanatos, if we must term it a war, the immediate loss of Eros is a huge initial sacrifice.

These are my first raw reactions to being stricken. I am quietly resolved to resist bodily as best I can, even if only passively, and to seek the most advanced advice. My heart and blood pressure and many other registers are now strong again: indeed, it occurs to me that if I didn’t have such a stout constitution I might have led a much healthier life thus far. Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups. On both of these I hope to write next time if—as my father invariably said—I am spared.

Christopher Hitchens is a Vanity Fair contributing editor. Send comments on all Hitchens-related matters to

The 'Low'-Down on Robert Duvall


The veteran actor discusses his new film 'Get Low', a folk tale about an eccentric recluse—and gets a little feisty about 'The Apostle.'

By Mark Moring
posted 7/27/2010 04:17AM
Christianity Today

Ever wonder what people will say at your funeral? That's pretty much the premise of Get Low, a new film releasing this week and starring Robert Duvall as an eccentric recluse living in the hills—while all the townsfolk share wild (and mostly untrue) stories about him.

A Southern folk tale based in the 1930s—and based on a true story of a Tennessee man who lived at that time—the film features Duvall as Felix Bush, a loner who decides to hold a "living funeral" so he can hear what the people are really saying about him. It's a stellar film, with themes of forgiveness and redemption, and features a dazzling cast, including Oscar winners Duvall and Sissy Spacek and Oscar nominee Bill Murray.

Duvall, who will be 80 in January, tells CT that Get Low is one of his favorite movies that he's made. He compares the story with the Horton Foote-written films in which he's starred, including To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies (for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor).

Duvall, who likes to play flawed men because they bring more "drama" to the story, also talked about his role in 1997's The Apostle, a tale rife with moral complexity in which he plays a feisty Southern preacher in need of some anger management. The actor got a little feisty himself when we asked him whether that movie was subtly mocking Pentecostals and charismatics.

You have a history of playing flawed, complicated, broken men. What attracts you to these roles?

Well, they present themselves to me, and those characters make good drama. If people don't have conflicts, contradictions, and faults, then there is no drama there. My favorite part of all time was probably Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove; I also played Josef Stalin in a TV movie. I also always try to find the vulnerable side and the positive side of the character.

Are you attracted to stories that depict faith and spiritual things?

I could be, but I don't go looking for something with a "message," so to speak. If it's there, it's there. When I did The Apostle, that was a personal kind of thing for me to do that.

You wrote, directed, acted in, and financed The Apostle. Why was it so important to you to make that movie?

Years ago [in the 1960s], I was in a little town in Hughes, Arkansas, to do some research on a play. I wandered out one night and I saw this little Pentecostal church, and a woman preacher. I said, "I gotta put this on film someday. I've never seen this." It was a part of Americana—spiritual but also a cultural thing. It took me years and years to get it done, all with my own money and everything.

You observed a lot of preachers while doing your research, didn't you?

All over America. And mostly in black churches. I love going to black churches, and I love some of these black preachers. The best preacher I ever saw in my life was a 93-year-old in a black church in Hamilton, Virginia. What a preacher! He'd make Mahatma Gandhi look like a Nazi. He was so spiritual, this man. A wonderful man.

Some people thought The Apostle was mocking Southern holiness or Pentecostal preachers …

Who said that?

Oh, some Christians wished it had been a more positive portrayal of a preacher rather than a man with all these …

Let me straighten these people out. And you can put it in print. My guy [Rev. Euliss "Sonny" Dewey, the title character] killed a guy out of anger, right? But he wasn't one half as bad as King David in the Psalms, who sent a man off to be killed so he could be with his wife. Every time I read the Psalms I think of that. But on the other hand, I heard that Billy Graham liked the movie, and many, many preachers did. Rev. James Robison of Fort Worth said I could use anything from any of his services to put in the film. So I'm not mocking.

If Hollywood had done this, they would have mocked these people. No, I did not mock these people. I didn't patronize these people. I've been in many, many churches, Pentecostal churches. I could have made these people look bad if I wanted to. So you can tell these people I did not mock these people or condescend at all. Had I done it in a Hollywood movie, we would have patronized these people. That's why I had to do the movie myself.

Why do you think Hollywood has a tendency to mock Christians and preachers?

Well, it's not just Christians. I mean, I'm a Christian. But they mock the interior of the United States of America, the heartland. They don't go out of their way to understand what's really there.

Let's talk about Get Low. I really enjoyed the movie. A fascinating character study. How would you describe the film to someone?

You can look at it from different angles. Some people see it as a love story, about a man who loved one woman his whole life. But there are other things about the movie that make it a very important movie. My wife (Luciana Pedraza, his spouse since 2004) says it's her favorite film that I've done in 15 years, since The Apostle. There are many wonderful things in it, but it's a love story with a lot of basic humanity in it too. It's kind of a southern folk tale, a fictionalized based-on-fact story of a man who had set up and gone to his own funeral.

How would you describe your character, Felix Bush, and do you have anything in common with him?

Well, I suppose I have something in common with him. He's very individualistic, [but] if he hadn't gone into this kind of isolation as a hermit, to do a certain kind of penance, I think he could have been a lawyer, a school teacher, a world traveler, a merchant marine—he could have been many things. I don't know if I am like him, but I could certainly identify with him.

Are you anything like him in regards to keeping to yourself and out of the public eye? You're not in the tabloids a lot …

Well, I can't live without a woman. I have to have a woman, have to have a wife. And Felix decided not to have that, for all those years. But it was a beautiful project to work on for a number of reasons, like the sense of humanity with Felix looking for personal redemption, looking to find peace with himself. It's a beautifully written story.

Robert Duvall and Allan Hubbard in "Tender Mercies"

I hear the script reminded you of the great script writer—and your good friend—Horton Foote.

Yes. The writing and the movie is somewhat like Horton, the great playwright. I did several of his films—Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird and several others [The Chase, Tomorrow, and Convicts in film, and The Midnight Caller on stage]. Horton died last year at the age of 93, and still had wonderful plays off Broadway in recent years. He was one of our great playwrights who was great until his final years. I told him I was going do this movie, and I wish he could've seen it. But he passed away—and there's a story there. As I was giving the final speech to the whole crowd [in the film's penultimate scene], my wife's cell phone rings off camera—and it's a message from Horton's son-in-law that he had just died.

That very day?

Yes. It was like full circle, like he was there or something. It was like we'd gone from To Kill a Mockingbird to that time, because I wanted him to see this movie because it is very much like his writing. So it was very ironic that it happened on that particular day as the camera rolled.

What's the best thing you learned from Horton Foote?

We had a good working relationship. I always said if I only had done his films, and the films of Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Godfather II, Apocalypse Now, The Rain People), I would have had a wonderful career. But I learned from Horton how to have friendship and still be able to work together, through thick and thin and still stay friends. How many friends do you have after 50 years? Not many.

Most of us wonder what people will say at our funerals. What do you think people will say at yours?

I don't know. I always figure from the cradle to the grave, we all have our individual journeys, and maybe my journey was a positive one and I accomplished certain things without stepping on too many toes. I hope I left behind a legacy that people will enjoy. But whatever they want to say, I can't predict.

Do you ever plan to retire?

Not until they wipe the drool! No sir! Michael Caine told me, "You don't retire from the movie business; they retire you." So right now, if they can raise the money, there are several [upcoming film projects] that are as good as anything I've ever done.

Like what?

Well, to play Don Quixote in a movie. I'm also looking at The Hatfields and the McCoys, which is a brilliant script, and one called A Night in Old Mexico. So there's three wonderful projects if we can get the money.

We've got less than a minute left. Any last words about Get Low that we didn't cover?

Yeah. Get Low is one of my favorite films in a long time and a wonderful character. "Get low"—I don't even know what that means. I guess it means to get low for Jesus before it's time. Keep above the ground before you go below the ground.


You'll probably get a different definition from the producers but that's kind of the way that I look at it. And it's a film that we're real proud of.

Well, I'm looking forward to letting our readers know about …

You tell your readers there is no way that I wanted to make fun of the Pentecostal people! If I had wanted to make them look like bad people, I could have, believe me.

OK, I'll do that! Thanks for your time.

Article URL:

Not at Ground Zero

The Editors
August 4, 2010 4:00 A.M.

The story of the proposed mosque at the site of the World Trade Center has been thoroughly misrepresented, as have the parties behind the project. They present themselves as ambassadors of moderate Islam. Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, says the project aims to put the Muslim community “at the front and center to start the healing.”

The proposed Cordoba House, a $100 million, 13-story Islamic cultural center and mosque, would replace the inset building two blocks away from Ground Zero. (AP)

Ms. Khan knows better, because she is also Mrs. Feisal Abdul Rauf, the wife of the main Islamic cleric behind the project. Rauf is no moderate. He presents himself as a peacemaking Islamic Gandhi, but he is in fact an apologist for the terrorist outfit Hamas, which he refuses even to identify as a terrorist organization. Nor is Rauf exactly full-throated in his rejection of terrorism, offering only this: “The issue of terrorism is a very complex question.” While he cannot quite bring himself to blame the terrorists for being terrorists, he finds it easy to blame the United States for being a victim of terrorism: “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”

As National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy has documented, Rauf’s book, published in the West as What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America, had a significantly different title abroad: A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11. “Dawa” means Islamic proselytizing, a process that ends in the imposition of sharia. The book was published abroad with the assistance of the Islamic Society of North America and the International Institute of Islamic Thought, which are two appendages of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization behind much of the world’s murderous Islamic terrorism. The Islamic Society of North America was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism case. The co-founder and president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Awani, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Sami al-Arian terrorism case.

This dispute has been presented as a question of whether an Islamic center and mosque should be built in proximity to the scene of the worst act of Islamic terrorism — and the worst act of political violence — ever committed on U.S. soil. But at least as germane to the dispute is the question of whether these particular parties ought to be doing so. The fact that an apologist for terrorists and an associate of terrorist-allied organizations is proceeding with this provocation is indecent. We have thousands of mosques in the United States, and who knows how many Islamic cultural centers in New York City. We do not need this one, in this place, built by these people. We’re all stocked up on Hamas apologists, thanks very much.

The libertarians among us are wrong to take a blasé attitude toward this, asking, “If their permit applications are in order, why not?” Here is why not: because this is not just a zoning dispute. The World Trade Center is, in effect, the gravesite of 3,000 Americans who died at the hands of Islamist radicals, and to build a mosque on this site — particularly a mosque with Muslim Brotherhood connections — would be extraordinarily unseemly. We will not appeal to the official powers to use the machinery of government to stop this project. We appeal, instead, to the sense of decency of the American Muslim community, and to its patriotism.

Beyond that, Americans should make their displeasure with this project felt economically and socially: No contractor, construction company, or building-trades union that accepts a dime of the Cordoba Initiative’s money should be given a free pass—nobody who sells them so much as a nail, or a hammer to drive it in with. This is an occasion for boycotts and vigorous protests — and, above all, for bringing down a well-deserved shower of shame upon those involved with this project, and on those politicians who have meekly gone along with it. It is an indecent proposal and an intentional provocation.

Top Five Most-Crime-Ridden U.S. Judicial Districts All on Mexican Border

By Terry Jeffrey
August 3, 2010

When measured by the number of criminal defendants charged with federal crimes by U.S. attorneys, the top five U.S. judicial districts for fiscal 2009 were all on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In fact, these five judicial districts are the only five on the U.S.-Mexico border -- covering its entire expanse from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean.

There are 94 federal judicial districts, covering the area of all 50 states, plus Guam, the North Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

In the Southern District of Texas, which covers a stretch of border from Brownsville past Laredo, the U.S. attorney's office filed criminal charges against 8,801 defendants in fiscal 2009. That gave that district the nation's No. 1 ranking for most criminal defendants charged in 2009, according to data published in Table 1 of the United States Attorneys' Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2009.

The 8,801 criminal defendants charged in the Southern District of Texas, in fact, was more than four times the 1,959 charged in the Southern District of New York (which includes Manhattan and the Bronx) and more than six times the 1,377 charged in the Eastern District of New York (which included Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island).

Following the Southern District of Texas as the No. 2 district in the nation for the most criminal defendants is the Western District of Texas, which covers the rest of the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The U.S. attorney here filed charges against 8,435 defendants in 2009.

Denis Poroy / AP

Customs and Border Protection officers stand by guns confiscated along the U.S.-Mexico border before a news conference with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego Wednesday, April 1, 2009.

Rounding out the top five are the districts for Southern California (5,554 defendants charged), Arizona (5,155) and New Mexico (3,769).

The 5,554 criminal defendants charged in Southern District of California -- which includes San Diego and Imperial counties and covers the entire California stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border -- was more than twice the 2,581 charged in the Central District of California, which includes the nearby Los Angeles metropolitan area, but does not touch the border.

Not nearly as many criminals were charged in federal judicial districts along the Canadian border. There were 191 charged in the District of Alaska, 806 in the Western District of Washington, 468 in the Eastern District of Washington, 393 in Idaho, 430 in Montana, 355 in North Dakota, 531 in Minnesota, 567 in the Western District of Michigan, 956 in the Eastern District of Michigan, 925 in the Northern District of New York, 183 in Vermont, 290 in New Hampshire and 182 in Maine.

What is going on here?

The United States Attorneys' Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2009, compiled and released by President Barack Obama's Justice Department, is just more evidence that our government is not doing its job of defending our nation's border with Mexico. According to the Justice Department's own numbers, federal crime is dramatically disproportionate along that border compared to the rest of the United States.

The report also reveals that of the 81,577 defendants convicted in federal court in 2009, 26,538 were convicted in cases the Justice Department categorized as immigration cases. Another 26,399 were convicted in drug cases. That means 33 percent of federal convictions were in immigration cases and 32 percent in drug cases.

"Violence along the border of the United States and Mexico has increased dramatically during recent years," says the U.S. attorneys' report. "The violence associated with Mexican drug trafficking organizations pose (sic) a serious problem for law enforcement. Mexican drug cartels have taken over some of the drug trade in the United States and are working with several gangs, according to a report by the National Drug Intelligence Center titled National Drug Threat Assessment 2009. According to this threat assessment, Mexican drug trafficking organizations represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States and the influence of Mexican drug trafficking organizations over domestic drug trafficking is unrivaled."

Clearly, the surge in immigration crime and drug crime and the concentration of crime at the U.S.-Mexico border are inter-related.

"Illegal immigration provides the initial foothold with which criminal elements, including organized crime syndicates, use to engage in a myriad of illicit activities ranging from immigration document fraud and migrant smuggling to human trafficking," said the U.S. attorneys' report. "Federal prosecution of border crime is a critical part of our Nation's defense, and federal jurisdiction over these offenses is exclusive. Proactive border law enforcement is an important component of our counterterrorism mission because it is known that terrorist organizations utilize cross-border criminal activity as a source of revenue and that smuggling organizations offer terrorists easy access to the United States."

Do you think Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama have read this report? Do you think they will do anything about it?

Top Ten U.S. Judicial Districts for 2009 by Criminal Defendants

Southern Texas ---- 8,801

Western Texas ---- 8,435

Southern California ---- 5,554

Arizona ---- 5,155

New Mexico ---- 3,769

Central California ---- 2,581

Southern Florida ---- 2,514

Southern New York ---- 1,959

Middle Florida ---- 1,780

Eastern Virginia ---- 1,485

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Today's Tune: BoDeans - You Don't Get Much

(Click on title to play video)

BoDeans continue to draw a crowd

Banished to smaller venues in other cities, roots rockers still a big name at Ravinia

By Mark Caro
Chicago Tribune reporter
August 3, 2010

The BoDeans in concert. (Courtesy of Peter Wochniak)

The BoDeans return to Ravinia on Saturday night for the 11th time in 11 years (they didn't play there in 2002, but played two nights in 2004), their enduring Chicago-area popularity a rebuttal to the notion that the Internet and electronic media have rendered regionalism obsolete.

Later this month, the band will perform at a 500-seat club in San Francisco (tickets still available) and a San Diego dinner-theater venue that seats about 350 (ditto). Ravinia boasts a 3,200-seat pavilion and room for another 14,000 patrons on the lawn, and although tickets remain for Saturday's show (with Big Head Todd and the Monsters), the band has sold out the place in previous years. In fact, Ravinia associate communications director Amy Schrage said it was the BoDeans' jam-packed 2000 show, with an estimated crowd exceeding 20,000, that prompted the venue to start capping its lawn capacity the following year.

Why are the BoDeans still so huge here?

"Because I think Chicago really likes our music," band co-leader Kurt Neumann said on the phone from his Austin, Texas, home. "Really, I don't know what else to say."

Back before rock radio became homogenous and reliant on the say-so of New York programmers, bands typically would rise in their home regions, then spread nationally if they were fortunate. Rock history is studded with acts that thrived locally while having varied success elsewhere: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in New Jersey, the Hooters in Philadelphia and even Styx in Chicago, with WLS-AM championing "Lady" long before the song and band broke out nationally.

Norm Winer, program director of WXRT-FM 93.1 (disclosure: this writer's wife, Mary Dixon, appears on the station's morning show), noted that despite its hallowed reputation now, the Band was primarily an East Coast act in its heyday, so although Martin Scorsese shot the 1978 farewell concert film "The Last Waltz" in San Francisco, that city "was not a big Band market."

Country singer Pat Green currently plays stadiums in his native Texas, where last month he was honored as the decade's most-played artist in the state, yet his 2008 show in Chicago was at Joe's Bar.

Then there are the BoDeans. "We're a Midwestern band, and our following is in the Midwest," Neumann said, noting that Ravinia is an especially natural fit. "I think the BoDeans outside in the summertime is just classic … and Ravinia kind of sets up a great format for that."

"I think the party aspect of it certainly is very popular," Ravinia President and Chief Executive Welz Kauffman agreed, "and if you walk the lawn or even go through the pavilion, you'll see people who were together in college who reunite to go to that concert. People's taste in popular music tends to kind of freeze in college, and those memories they associate with the college experience tend to be with them the rest of their lives."

The BoDeans certainly were a big college band in the late '80s and early-mid '90s as they arrived offering tuneful roots-rock amid a sea of Bon Jovi and Poison. Formed in Milwaukee by Neumann and fellow singer-songwriter-guitarist Sam Llanas, the band released its first album, "Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams," in 1986, and songs such as "Still the Night" and "Fadeaway" received ample airplay from WXRT.

Subsequent albums, with such radio-friendly singles as "You Don't Get Much" and "Good Things" (which both had the flavor of U2 by way of Mars' Cheese Castle), raised the band's national profile, which peaked when the TV drama "Party of Five" made 1993's anthemic "Closer to Free" its theme song. The song's 1996 re-release reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, the only BoDeans song to make that chart.

"Closer to Free" introduced the BoDeans to a new audience — and also resulted in what Neumann called "the worst year of our touring existence" because the band was playing to listeners who didn't really know it, often in shows packaged by radio stations that had no affinity for its music. "You were just this latest pop song, and it was just very bland and very uninteresting to me compared to how we've always (toured), where it's just going town to town playing our two-hour shows and letting people really digest who we were."

Neumann said the common thread where the BoDeans have lasted is radio. "You can't really think of BoDeans in Chicago without XRT," he said. "For a band like us who's not a big pop band, you just need that kind of radio help in a city, or people may not really hear of you."

Said WXRT's Winer: "We've always played them, and wherever they were played consistently from the beginning they've become known and loved — because their music transcends trends."

Chicago isn't the only city that has stuck with the BoDeans, whose new album, "Mr. Sad Clown," has landed the songs "Stay" and "Say Goodbye" on adult album alternative stations and helped maintain interest in the group. (The new "Headed for the End of the World" also has been used to promote the just-released documentary "Countdown to Zero.") Winer checked Mediabase, which monitors nationwide radio play, and found that six other U.S. cities have given more radio spins to the band than Chicago in 2010: Minneapolis, Austin, Madison, Denver, Spokane, Wash., and Seattle. But WXRT, the only local station currently playing the band, has spun the most BoDeans songs this year: 22.

Neumman said Minneapolis and his adopted hometown of Austin remain among the band's biggest markets. Milwaukee, where Llanas again lives following a stint in New Orleans, "has trailed off."

Still, the regional pull has remained strong even these days, when almost any band is accessible via a mouse click.

"I expected with YouTube and all that that some band from Iceland would be super-popular here in Texas right now, but I haven't seen that yet," Neumann said. "It still seems like people relate to their regional music a little more. Our music certainly still resonates in the Midwest, and if computers were able to spread it virally really well, there would be just as big a demand in Russia right now for me, but there's not."

Neumann said he is just happy there remains a demand for his group in the Chicago area. Playing here, he said, is "like going home to your family, people who have grown up with you. They know you. They've been around for 20 years. Some people have seen 30 shows. They've been around for all the records. They've seen lots of incarnations (of the band) and all the ups and downs. It's really more like family as opposed to just going to some place where they don't know so much about you, and you're playing your show, and they're real nice about it, but it's not quite that intimacy that you have with a city who's just always been there for you for so long."

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

Where: Ravinia Festival, Lake-Cook and Green Bay roads, Highland Park

Tickets: $55 pavilion, $27 lawn ($32 day of concert); 847-266-5100

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