John Peel Dead at 65

I’m absolutely stunned. I woke up to the sad news this morning that John Peel died while on holiday in Peru. Just like many of his fans will say, Peel introduced me to a whole new world of music when I was in my teens in the U.K. Without John Peel, I wouldn’t have known about The Fall, or The Smiths, or more obscure bands like Fats Comet, Scraping Foetus off the Wheel, Hypnotone, and (the record I’m still searching for) Colonel Kilgore’s Vietnamese Formation Surf Team.
But what made Peel’s show special to me was not so much the music, but his in between breaks patter. Unpolished but never at a loss for words, Peel was a friendly voice there to guide you through some of the noisy patches of alt-rock. Good at popping pretensions and self-deprecating to a fault, he didn’t try to hide mistakes–like playing a record at the wrong speed, or not knowing when a song would start (“This one fades up a bit” he’d say as the music faded up).
When I had a radio show for a brief period in college, Peel was the model, and his chatty, casual style, like a best friend who couldn’t wait to play you the new records he bought, was quite hard to pull off. You realised it came from years and years of work, total comfort at the DJ station, and a humility that kept his ego in check. For someone who broke nearly every major music genre of the past 30 years, he never wore it like a badge.
I remember his glee over certain records. One was “Sidewalkin'” by the Jesus and Mary Chain. He had just got the single and opened the show with it. He loved it so much, he said that he played it again almost immediately afterwards. Then two hours later he closed the show with it, just like a giddy teenager.
Though I found it hard to listen to him here in CA (even with streaming radio), he is still the yardstick I measure other radio shows by.
After Peel, what else is there?
Goodbye John, you will be sorely missed.

James Wolcott: Feets, Do Ya Stuff

Wolcott’s commentary on the Coulter Pie Attack needs to be quoted in full.

James Wolcott: Feets, Do Ya Stuff
Ann Coulter may be a travesty of humanity, as unacceptable a hank of flesh draped on a hanger ever to be foisted upon an ignorant populace hungry for more ignorance. Her racism, her character slurs, her whirlwind talent for rewriting history, her ability to leave a glossy coat of slime on any issue she discusses (when she licks a stamp, it curls up and dies), these are condemnable.
But credit where credit is due. The skank can shift ass on a dime.
When a pair of hooligans tried to attack her with pies during a speaking appearance, an episode broadcast on cable news today, Coulter didn’t freeze like a deer in the headlights. She showed lightning reflexes, ducking away from the lectern and running backstage on high heels, which any woman will tell you is difficult to do. Because of her quick getaway, the flying pies wildly missed their target, sparing her a humiliating cream pie bukkake facial that would have made the papers and been downloaded millions of times on the internet.
Perhaps she was a dodgeball champion in school, or perhaps her nerves are so permanently on edge she can sense danger while the rest of us are in our usual fog. One can only conjecture. But I do know that if it had been Jonah Goldberg up there trying out new comedy material, he’d have been wearing dessert.


Fla-a-sh, Master of the Universe!

Rather like the minions of the Emperor Ming (or maybe the Emperor Misha), some flacks have a, shall we say, thankless task.
In this election cycle, many woeful things have already occured. And many sad and silly things have been said. This one, however, may win the 2004 Bulwer-Lytton prize for pitiable maundering:
From the Chicago Sun-Times, today:

Already well-known
Axelrod said most voters know what office Obama is seeking and suggested other ads over the next two weeks could include a direct appeal for support.
Keyes has enough money to run television commercials, but his team is keeping mum about when they will begin.
“We’re waiting until we can see the whites of their eyes,” said Bill Pascoe, Keyes’ campaign manager.

“Alan Keyes is making sense!” Well, in Urdu, perhaps.

Man, it must suck to be the press guy who has to go talk to the media for Keyes. Do you think Pascoe drew the short straw today?