"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Is Tiger Woods’ dad a racist?
BY SUSAN ZAKIN
Your article on Earl Woods should have been titled “Is
Earl Woods a Bigot?” By definition Earl Woods can’t be a racist. These days, racism is most commonly defined by
folks who work in the movement to fight racism as race prejudice combined with the application of power. By that definition, no black
person, including Earl Woods, can be a racist. That said, Earl Woods could be a bigot. He could have prejudices about various people, including
Scots — he wouldn’t be the first — but I agree with the author in that I don’t think his quips about Scottish weather are bigotry.
The mainstream media’s obsession with finding bigotry in people of color is
approaching the ridiculous. Jesse Jackson still suffers for one remark he
made 15 years ago, which he has apologized for numerous times. White
members of Congress make bigoted remarks about various groups (gays, the
NAACP, Muslims, women) on a regular basis and are allowed to mumble
halfhearted apologies and walk away. Nitpicking, you
say. No — it’s very important that white America come to terms with the fact
that when we talk about racism, we have met the enemy, and he is us.
– Eric Oines
Oh, please, somebody stop this train before it gets to Sillyville! How
many people know there is crappy weather in Scotland? How many of us would
be out there, swinging a silly metal club at a little white ball in bitter,
biting cold and windy weather when we could be sitting inside, warm and
toasty, listening to jazz and drinking rum? Race has nothing to do with
that. Common sense sounds closer to the truth.
I think the author said it best herself: “the tone of white frat boys whining
about affirmative action to excuse their own mediocrity.” These people have probably been festering for a long time, waiting for Tiger or his dad to say something so that they can use it and vindicate Fuzzy for his comments.
Will white men ever stop being angry? Maybe that is the key to equality. Or
do we all have to be angry, too? Sounds too ridiculous to me.
– Brenda Brody
If Earl Woods had been white and made his comments about Africa instead of
Scotland, he would have been crucified in the media, so the answer is yes,
he is a racist. That Susan Zakin does not understand this and indeed
further compounds her hypocrisy with the sexist and racist crack about
“angry white frat boys” shows she has no business being a serious
– John Dinkeloo
My magical movie mystery tour
BY CAMILLE PAGLIA
At last, Camille Paglia has clarified her bewildering claim to have the
mind of a man. Turns out she doesn’t have the noggin of your average
Joe six-pack, though, but that of a “pre-Stonewall gay man.”
Putting aside the unexpected revelation that all pre-Stonewall guys
thought alike, it occurs to me that Paglia’s time travels can be a
source of great comfort for us post-Stonewall gay guys. For example,
who knew that the guy who was dragged outside and thrown into a paddy
wagon for having the crust to enter an illegal gay bar could soothe his
pain by reflecting on Rosalind Russell’s wacky brilliance in “Auntie
Mame”? Even better, on his first Christmas away from the
family that no longer wanted anything to do with him, a pre-Stonewall
gay guy had only to attend a Marilyn Monroe movie in an empty theater
and join the pagan celebration of female sexuality to make everything
Paglia’s startling insight will change everything. I mean, who could
have guessed that the discussion in pre-Stonewall gay bars centered on
an effete, snobbish bitch fight in academia over structuralism that has
absolutely no relevance to the real world? Man, oh man. Us modern gay
dudes got rooked.
– Bernard Gundy
Only the Shadow knows
BY JAKE TAPPER
The tragedy is that Bob Woodward — one of America’s great investigative
journalists and a man who made history with his Watergate reporting — now
wastes his talent on inconsequential, inside-the-Beltway accounts of
I reluctantly concluded after interviewing Woodward for my 1996 “Frontline”documentary “Why America Hates the Press,”
that he has become little more than a stenographer
to power — a palace scribe. His reporting is almost irrelevant to the rest of the country.
Did anyone actually manage to read his book “The Choice,” about the
Clinton-Dole race? It was stupefyingly dull and almost completely devoid of
meaning for anyone outside official Washington. Remember the hook for that
tome — that Hillary consulted Eleanor Roosevelt in a “seance”? Now that was
a real contribution to our understanding of the American political system.
Tapper makes a passing reference to Woodward’s book on Dan Quayle, but
neglects to mention that the book is so shallow and such an embarrassment –
it was a pathetic attempt to convince readers that then Vice President
Quayle had matured in office and was worthy of serious consideration for the
presidency — that it has conveniently disappeared from lists of Woodward’s
Some day I hope Woodward will return to the days when he pierced the
secrecy of the Nixon White House, the Supreme Court and the CIA. Until then
I’ll skip his “insider” accounts of Washington talking to itself. As Jake Tapper’s friend says, “Who cares?”
– Stephen Talbot
Presidents since Nixon have lived in the shadow of Watergate. Indeed, as
Woodward wrote: “The presidency has changed.” But so has the press. So,
judging from his “larger thesis,” has Woodward.
When Woodward and Carl Bernstein exposed the abuse of government power
known as Watergate, reporters followed a simple rule: A public figure’s
private life was private, unless public responsibilities are affected.
Today, Woodward asserts, presidents must tell the reporters everything “from
policies to their personal lives to foreign policy to pardons.” Policies
are public, so are pardons and foreign policies. But private lives?
Woodward is not alone. His paper, the Washington Post, played a
major role in giving the nation a year of Monica. Michael Isikoff’s keyhole journalism garnered various journalism awards, but never linked President Clinton’s dismaying personal behavior with his public responsibilities.
“This was not Watergate,” Isikoff wrote in his book. Indeed it wasn’t.
– Peter Donhowe
Editor, TV & Politics Watch
Jake Tapper is correct to focus on the accuracy of Bob Woodward’s work. Insofar as public figures are concerned, a reporter really has only one obligation, which is to get the story right. Woodward has done this, so there simply is no “ethical” case against him, period.
I consider Woodward to be a national asset. Without him, we might not have a historical record in our age of shredders, spin and cover-your-ass. I’m glad he’s on the scene, and that he does his work without regard to those jealous ants who occasionally try to throw stones at success.
– Charles Pluckhahn
Inside the Starr chamber
BY JACK HITT
One scarcely knows what to make of it when Jack Hitt characterizes Kenneth
Starr’s distinction between the office of the U.S. presidency and its
present occupant as “curious.” Is this not the stuff of elementary-school
In making judgments about the impeachment debacle, there is a principle
that might profitably be kept in mind. The process of impeachment
ostensibly exists in order to keep in check presidents who misuse the power
of the office — not to check the freedom that every person, president or
not, has to lie, dissemble or abuse the truth for personal gain, an art
which Bill Clinton has plainly mastered. Such acts are the small beer of
Washington political life, the grease that keeps the political wheels
If Kenneth Starr, the media (including Salon) and the U.S. political
establishment generally were not hopelessly in thrall to the image of the
president’s penis, they might have opened their eyes to the real and
substantial (not to mention impeachable) abuses of executive power that
Bill Clinton has committed for personal gain. Among these are the criminal
attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan which took place in the aftermath of the
African embassy bombings. But it is little wonder that such a thoroughly
compromised president can remain in power when he has publications like
Salon around to blur the distinction between the man and the office.
– Lorne Beaton
Hitt misses the point as he paraphrases Bob Woodward’s latest book, “Shadow,” to find
more ammo to harangue Ken Starr. Hitt may even have a point that Starr made mistakes; even Starr admits to this. Yet it was not Ken Starr that caused this mess
and it was not Ken Starr that even started the impeachment process.
Hitt should realize that Ken Starr’s mistakes — made in an effort to do his job
against a White House spinning in an all-out effort to stop him — will never be
as bad as Clinton’s.
I guess only the Shadow knows.
– Ira S. Stevens
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)