From Velvet Underground to Lost in Space

Hot news and politics and cartoons, a new Velvets doc, a "Hallelujah" revelation, and epic live music from VU and Leonard Cohen.

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News & Politics

The Onion: “21 Million Floridians Evacuated After State Deemed Structurally Unsound.”

Stephen Colbert, space cadet?: The late night host is allegedly set to host Virgin's global livestream of the Unity 22 launch this Sunday morning. He was personally invited by friend Richard Branson via Twitter on Thursday. Colbert replied, “I’m in! BLAST OFF!” And Rolling Stone reports this morning, “Khalid has announced that he will be performing a brand new song, ‘New Normal,’ for the broadcast.”

Hunter gets captured by the gain: Wash Post reports, “White House officials have helped craft an agreement under which purchases of Hunter Biden’s artwork — which could be listed at prices as high as $500,000 — will be kept confidential from even the artist himself, in an attempt to avoid ethical issues that could arise as a presidential family member tries to sell a product with a highly subjective value.”

Toyota puts it in reverse: Will quit donating to members of Congress who voted to overturn the 2020 election. The company faced a backlash over its funding of 39 Republican objectors.


Kim ill soon?: Eric Greitens. He is running for U.S. Senate in Missouri this year. Don Jr.’s girlfriend, the nutty Kimberly Guilfoyle, has become his national coordinator. According to insiders, Trump dislikes him and is mad at Kim for working for him. However, here’s the punch line (literally): Greitens was forced to resign as governor three years ago amid allegations that he tied up, sexually assaulted and blackmailed a St. Louis hairdresser with whom he had an affair—yet a recent poll showed him with a 40-point lead over the next closest contender!

That’s wall, folks: Florida man who set up that GoFundMe for Trump’s border wall has been indicted on tax charges.

That Cuomo-Obama ticket: Brian Stelter in his CNN newsletter says he obtained an advance copy of Michael Wolff's forthcoming book Landslide and quickly found his report that Sean Hannity in 2020 “filled Trump's mind with the farcical notion that Democratic party elders planned to replace Biden as the nominee with Andrew Cuomo. He quotes a conversation between Trump and Karl Rove on this topic, where Trump says there's a ‘very good chance’ that Michelle Obama would become the VP on Cuomo's ticket.” According to the book, Trump floated also delaying or even cancelling the 2020 election outright due to COVID. Also: Lachlan Murdoch reportedly made the key Fox decision to call Arizona for Biden, and Rupert signed off by saying of Trump: "Fuck him."

Sailent but deadly: The gap in vaccination rates between counties that voted for Trump and those that voted for Biden in 2020 is only getting bigger with time, updated numbers reveal.

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How do you spell prodigy? You may have seen that Louisiana’s Zaila Avant-garde, 14, just won the National Spelling Bee. But did you know: She is also a basketball ace who appeared in a commercial with Steph Curry and owns three Guinness records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously.

Playing Monopoly: Politico this morning relates, “Biden’s assault on monopolies launches Friday. The White House is scheduled to issue an executive order Friday to promote competition throughout the U.S. economy in the most ambitious effort in generations to reduce the stranglehold of monopolies and concentrated markets in major industries. The order … offers a response to progressives’ criticisms.”

Chinese take-out: In 2019, China imposed a “cyber curfew” barring children/teenagers from playing video games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. This week the Chinese internet conglomerate Tencent introduced new features, called Midnight Patrol that use facial recognition technology to enforce the rule.

But does Mona Lisa still have the highway blues?: A Leonardo da Vinci the Size of a Post-it Sells for $12.2 Million

Stormy weather: Michael Avenatti, former attorney for Stormy Daniels, was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in prison for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening the company with bad publicity.


Lil Nas X gets a wide-ranging NY Times Magazine profile this week.

“Hallelujah” broken?: A new piece at LitHub by Judy Scott comes from her book on Leonard Cohen and muse Marianne and here is fascinating bit on surprising (possible) inspiration for one of the key lines, presumed to be sexual, in his “Hallelujah”: She tied you to a kitchen chair / she broke your throne and she cut your hair:

It was in the context of a discussion we had about the difficulties Marianne had with their relationship. She told me Leonard just couldn’t refuse any request made by a female. She said she thought it all originated in his rather complicated relationship with his mother. She was a very imposing and important person in his life. Marianne said that Leonard confessed to her that when he was a young child, his mother would insist on cutting his hair. When he got a little older and tried to refuse, she would use one of his father’s neckties to tie him to a chair in their kitchen and snip away. Then she’d tell him that, like Samson in the Bible, Leonard was completely in her power and would have to do anything she asked of him.

Marianne was pretty sure that was why he succumbed so easily to female imprecations. He just couldn’t say no.

Since you’re sick of hearing “Hallelujah,” here’s Leonard with an epic “So Long, Marianne,” with his finest band, live in 1979—plus Jennifer Warnes and Sharon Robinson.


Todd Haynes’ upcoming doc on the Velvet Underground just got its debut at Cannes and here is first full review I’ve seen from Hollywood Reporter. It almost has to be far better than his horrid Dylan flick, I’m Not There. But warnings in today’s NY Times review that Haynes’ “creativity” might wreck this film also: “less of a comprehensive documentary and more of a perfume that lingers for a while…no conventional music documentary: For one, it uses hardly any performance footage…Haynes isn’t interested in incorporating a lot of archival clips to bring those lost voices to life….” But from that Hollywood Reporter piece:

In theory, this should be a skewed assessment of the band given that Reed, guitarist Sterling Morrison and enigmatic occasional guest vocalist Nico have all passed away, leaving only erudite musicologist Cale and delightfully straight-talking drummer Maureen “Moe” Tucker to provide hindsight perspective. But the simple fact that someone in the Warhol entourage was almost always filming means there’s ample representation both of core members and of other artists, friends and musicians in their orbit.

Also at Cannes: a new Oliver Stone JFK assassination conspiracy doc. JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass has narration by Whoopi Goldberg and Donald Sutherland.

Just announced upcoming Netflix series drama Painkiller is based partly on my old friend Barry Meier’s book of the same name, about the origins of the opioid crisis and the role of Purdue Pharma. Uzo Aduba will star as an investigator with Matthew Broderick as one of the evil Sacklers. Just yesterday 15 states reached a deal with Purdue to advance a $4.5 billion opioids settlement.



My long ago colleague at Politicks magazine in 1977-78, Michael Pollan, is out with yet another likely bestweller, and the NY Times today reports that This Is Your Mind on Plants (including coffee beans) “elevates a series of big questions about drugs, plants and humans that are likely to leave readers thinking in new ways, writes our reviewer.

Song Pick of the Day

And now. more Velvets, and cool historic video to go with “Beginning to See the Light” from one of the greatest live albums by anyone ever, Live ‘69. They seem to be playing an antiwar protest in the autumn of 1969. Mo Tucker (now a nutty rightwinger) in NY Jets sweatshirt!

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Greg Mitchell is the author of a dozen books, including the bestseller The Tunnels (on escapes under the Berlin Wall), the current The Beginning or the End (on MGM’s wild atomic bomb movie), and The Campaign of the Century (on Upton Sinclair’s left-wing race for governor of California), which was recently picked by the Wall St. Journal as one of five greatest books ever about an election. His new film, Atomic Cover-up, just had its world premiere and is drawing extraordinary acclaim. For nearly all of the 1970s he was the #2 editor at the legendary Crawdaddy. Later he served as longtime editor of Editor & Publisher magazine. He recently co-produced a film about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.