Excellent Long Read: “Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker”

Suspect there may be a few here who also admire this spiritual seeker / musician. David Remnick, in the New Yorker:

Leonard Cohen lives on the second floor of a modest house in Mid-Wilshire, a diverse, unglamorous precinct of Los Angeles. He is eighty-two. Between 2008 and 2013, he was on tour more or less continuously. It is highly unlikely that his health will permit such rigors ever again. Cohen has an album coming out in October—obsessed with mortality, God-infused, yet funny, called “You Want It Darker”—but friends and musical associates say they’d be surprised to see him onstage again except in a limited way: a single performance, perhaps, or a short residency at one venue. When I e-mailed ahead to ask Cohen out for dinner, he said that he was more or less “confined to barracks.”

Not long ago, one of Cohen’s most frequent visitors, and an old friend of mine—Robert Faggen, a professor of literature—brought me by the house. Faggen met Cohen twenty years ago in a grocery store, at the foot of Mt. Baldy, the highest of the San Gabriel Mountains, an hour and a half east of Los Angeles. They were both living near the top of the mountain: Bob in a cabin where he wrote about Frost and Melville and drove down the road to teach his classes at Claremont McKenna College; Cohen in a small Zen Buddhist monastery, where he was an ordained monk. As Faggen was shopping for cold cuts, he heard a familiar basso voice across the store; he looked down the aisle and saw a small, trim man, his head shaved, talking intently with a clerk about varieties of potato salad. Faggen’s musical expertise runs more to Mahler’s lieder than to popular song. But he is an admirer of Cohen’s work and introduced himself. They have been close friends ever since…

Marianne’s death was only a few weeks in the past, and Cohen was still amazed at the way his letter—an e-mail to a dying friend—had gone viral, at least in the Cohen-ardent universe. He hadn’t set out to be public about his feelings, but when one of Marianne’s closest friends, in Oslo, asked to release the note, he didn’t object. “And since there’s a song attached to it, and there’s a story . . .” he said. “It’s just a sweet story. So in that sense I’m not displeased.”

Like anyone of his age, Cohen counts the losses as a matter of routine. He seemed not so much devastated by Marianne’s death as overtaken by the memory of their time together. “There would be a gardenia on my desk perfuming the whole room,” he said. “There would be a little sandwich at noon. Sweetness, sweetness everywhere.”

Cohen’s songs are death-haunted, but then they have been since his earliest verses. A half century ago, a record executive said, “Turn around, kid. Aren’t you a little old for this?” But, despite his diminished health, Cohen remains as clear-minded and hardworking as ever, soldierly in his habits. He gets up well before dawn and writes. In the small, spare living room where we sat, there were a couple of acoustic guitars leaning against the wall, a keyboard synthesizer, two laptops, a sophisticated microphone for voice recording. Working with an old collaborator, Pat Leonard, and his son, Adam, who has the producer’s credit, Cohen did much of his work for “You Want It Darker” in the living room, e-mailing recorded files to his partners for additional refinements. Age and the end of age provide a useful, if not entirely desired, air of quiet.

“In a certain sense, this particular predicament is filled with many fewer distractions than other times in my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity than when I had duties of making a living, being a husband, being a father,” he said. “Those distractions are radically diminished at this point. The only thing that mitigates against full production is just the condition of my body.

“For some odd reason,” he went on, “I have all my marbles, so far. I have many resources, some cultivated on a personal level, but circumstantial, too: my daughter and her children live downstairs, and my son lives two blocks down the street. So I am extremely blessed. I have an assistant who is devoted and skillful. I have a friend like Bob and another friend or two who make my life very rich. So in a certain sense I’ve never had it better. . . . At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order. It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.”…



Open Thread: We’re With Her, Too

This is what being ‘people of faith’ is supposed to look like: These Mormons take their religion’s teachings seriously, and attempt in their daily lives to live up to its ideals. And when it comes time to vote for civic leaders, they look for those who’ve also tried to live by their common virtues, even if their punchlist of “issues” isn’t in total alignment. (As a nun once told me, We’re looking for guidelines here, not for loopholes.) Good for the people in this ad… and for the people on HRC’s media team that put it together!



Open Thread: Mike Pence, STILL Just As Deplorable

pence-cyborg-ohman

(Jack Ohman via GoComics.com)
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Remember, there’s a theory that Mike Pence accepted Trump’s undercard offer because it seemed like a shortcut to the Oval Office. Even if Trump didn’t suffer some kind of medical incident within six months of taking office, he’d surely be bored enough to let Pence act as a godbothering version of Dick Cheney, right? Some evangelicals even professed to believe that God, or someone in a long relationship with Him, planned to call Donald home once the White House was in the bag. (And it’s not as though Indiana voters wanted to keep Pence in the governor’s seat.) Now we all can hope that Mike Pence will be as thoroughly destroyed by the Trump Reverse-Midas Touch as, say, Billy Bush…



Open Thread: Righteous Anger


(Srsly)

“Issues like my ability to milk the angry rubes who can’t understand why beating up women / people of color / gays / their kids is no longer considered acceptable. C.R.E.A.M. for Jeebus!

Note from a hardcore religious-not-evangelical conservative Republican…


Or at least had the good sense to preserve the hypocrisy of ‘plausible deniability’.



Shut Up, Pence; Babies Are NOT Commodities

Not even the healthy pale-skinned newborns you imagine would be “welcomed” by “so many families”. Nor are women’s bodies civic resources, like coal mines or arable lands, where the state can rule on best use for the community.

Good for Tim Kaine for resisting Pence’s bland, anodyne, evil statement. Per Real Clear Politics:

TIM KAINE: Elaine, this is a fundamental question. Hillary and I are both from religious backgrounds. Her Methodist church experience was very informative for her as a public servant. But we both feel you should live fully and with enthusiasm for your faith. But, let’s talk about abortion and choice. We support Roe v. Wade. We support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience and make their own decision about pregnancy. That is something we trust American women to do. And we don’t think that women should be punished, as Donald Trump [said], for making the decision to have an abortion. Governor Pence wants to repeal Roe v. Wade. He says he wants to put it on the trash heap of history. Before Roe v. Wade, states could punish women if they made the choice to abort a pregnancy.

I think you should live your moral values, but the last thing governments should do is to have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices. That is the fundamental difference between the Clinton-Kaine ticket and the Trump-Pence ticket.

PENCE: It is really not. Donald Trump and I would never support legislation that would punish women who made the heartbreaking choice.

KAINE: Then, why did he say that?

PENCE: Look, he is not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton…



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Speaking Up for Truth

Per the Washington Post:

Donald Trump was cut off, chastised and then heckled after he attacked rival Hillary Clinton during what was supposed to be a speech on helping where the government had failed the people of Flint, Michigan.

“Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint, not give a political speech,” said the Rev. Faith Green Timmons, the pastor of the Bethel United Methodist Church.

The Republican nominee quickly stopped, then said “Ok, that’s good, Then I’m going to go back to Flint” and its water crisis that had sickened its citizens.

But the interruption seemed to embolden those in the sparse crowd. One woman shouted that Trump had used discriminatory housing practices in his buildings, causing the celebrity businessman to respond, “Never, you’re wrong. Never would.”

Trump abruptly ended his speech, which had lasted six minutes. More heckling followed him out…

Trump visited the traditionally African American church in the impoverished city to pay tribute to the city’s resiliency. But then, he attacked Clinton, saying “everything she touched didn’t work out.” Timmons then stepped up and interrupted him…

***********

Apart from calling out the liars, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Sad Dregs Open Thread: The GOP ‘Values Voters’ Meet the Alt-Right

Happenings that got overlooked when more important news broke over the weekend… Even four years ago, the Talibangelical “Values Voters” could credibly assure each other they were on the cusp of another Great Awakening. But this year, there’s a cuckoo in the conservative nest. Ed Kilgore, at NYMag:

The relationship between the Republican Party and its most important constituency group, the Christian Right, has often been compared to a marriage of convenience that does not involve a lot of mutual respect or trust.

As a couple of thousand Christian Right activists gathered in Washington for the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit this weekend, it was more obvious than ever that the GOP is straining the loyalties of the faithful. The star attraction, Donald Trump, was, after all, the fifth-place finisher in the presidential straw poll at last September’s VVS.

But like a long-suffering spouse, the Christian Right is sticking with Donald Trump as we head toward Election Day because he is convincingly the enemy of its enemies and is willing to make a few key gestures in the direction of the righteous, albeit in a clumsy and offhand way.

None of the Christian conservative leaders who have made opposition to Trump (e.g., Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention) a matter of conscience were allowed near the podium of the VVS. Still, much anxious rhetoric was aimed at those who are thinking about voting third or fifth party or staying home. Former representative Michele Bachmann characteristically used the most extreme words possible to condemn that temptation, comparing the election to the choice God gave the Hebrews in presenting his covenant with them: “I have set before you life and death. Which will you choose?”…

Nor could The Great Orange Fraud deliver a credible performance of giving a good God-damn, per troublemaking Mormon Buzzfeed reporter McKay Coppins:

Donald Trump dutifully trundled onto the stage at Washington’s Omni Shoreham hotel Friday afternoon to attend to one of his dreariest campaign-trail chores: courting conservative Christians.

“There are no more decent voters or selfless people than our Christian brothers and sisters here in the United States,” Trump read aloud to the audience gathered for the 2016 Values Voter Summit. “I’ve witnessed that incredible generosity all across this land.”

Trump continued like this for the first few minutes of his speech — plodding through prepared remarks as they crawled across a teleprompter screen — but he seemed quickly to grow bored. Before long, he was wandering off-script for several minutes at a time, as though in search for something more fun to talk about.

At one point, after indulging in a lengthy tangent about his recent meeting with a cohort of admiring clergy (“It was a love fest!”), Trump suggested the country was becoming less religious because faith leaders were no longer allowed to endorse political candidates from the pulpit (lest their churches lose tax-exempt status). The candidate’s pledge to change this law and un-muzzle America’s pastors has been a key element of his pitch to social conservatives, one of the few concrete offerings he’s made to them. But even here, he struggled to focus…

Mr. Charles P. Pierce, at Esquire, on the people who chose to be there:

Here’s the roster of speakers at the VVS. You will see people who ran for president. You will see the chairman of the Republican National Committee. You will see some of your favorite star pundits, many of whom are welcome to appear on cable news programs for the purposes of “balance.” You will see many of you favorite star nutballs. And you will see the Republican nominee for President of the United States, who went before this designated hate group and pretended he’s read a Bible any time in his life.
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