Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Random 10

Not-So-Random Best-of-Pat-McGee-Band-and-Chris-Williams-Get-on-iTunes-and-Download-These-Songs-Right-Now List

1. Identity, From the Wood (though if you can find a 20-minute live version, get that...best PMB song in the catalog)
2. Passion, Revel
3. Shine, Shine
4. Don't Give Up, Save Me
5. Pride (live), General Admission
6. Rebecca (live), General Admission
7. Now (acoustic version), Save Me
8. Eligy for Amy, Revel
9. Straight Curve (live), General Admission
10. On Your Way Outta Here, Revel

Random 10

1. Red Hot Mama (live), Widespread Panic
2. Picture of Jesus, Ben Harper
3. Guns and Cigarettes, Atmosphere
4. Alabama Getaway (live), Grateful Dead
5. Leave, Barenaked Ladies
6. Yesternow, Miles Davis
7. N2U, Outkast
8. Searchin', Green River
9. What Is and What Should Never Be, Led Zeppelin
10. Bomb Yourself, TV on the Radio


Weather, Water, Energy 10-31-06

For Trick or Treat, a staffer for Sen. Inhofe (OK-REPUB) dressed up as an expert on global warming. Got no candy from real experts, apparently. One told him, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts." BURN!!! Meanwhile in ME, two tv stations have been told by their manager to stop reporting on global warming since it's not become a political issue. Burn. . . . More on the recent Stern Report detailing the coming massive econ costs of global warming. Britain, Japan, and France have embraced the report. Australia once again demonstrates its wisdom and leadership by saying "not if China and India don't play, nyah, nyah." Meanwhile, agreements reached for meetings and pro-action at this point? Uh, that would be "none." The budget increases to do research, pilot programs, something, anything about the problem? Well, actually, they're, like, falling. Amazing how cheap talk is. Oh, it's not going to be? But these yahoos will be dead, won't they? (I truly hope not.) . . . At least Canada may get sued for its right-wing retreat on living up to a Kyoto Treaty it signed. . . . Here's a really nice catch by Grist on Bushnev's pretend policy on global warming. Georgi's lauding his goals of reducing greenhouse gas "intensity" rather than "emissions." Long story short--status quo. Read why here. . . . Wonder why OPEC officials were so critical of the Stern Report? "Because they're hurt by energy conservation," you say sagely. Well, what if global warming reduces demand for energy (in winter especially) anyway? . . . Some eyes and ears in the US West seem to be getting it, as shown by this Salt Lake Tribune editorial. . . . Let's close on some good news for a change. Conservationists are saying we can still save our coral reefs despite global warming. The climate effect can be offset simply by ending pollution and overfishing and protecting mangroves. Easy . . . sorry, not so good, after all. Well, at least you can still do good by doing green in your own life . . . or, maybe not so much. I'll leave you now before I can do any more damage.


Monday, October 30, 2006

It begins...

Right on cue.

From: [redacted for privacy]
Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2006 10:38 PM
Subject: Vote Miscount in MO


A friend of our family’s went last Friday to early vote in Maplewood at Sunnen Park. He voted for Claire McCaskill, but each time he, the election worker, and the election supervisor pressed the screen for Claire, the screen said he had voted for Jim Talent.

I sent this info along to a friend that works in Claire’s campaign. I have the name and number of the guy this happened to if you are interested.


Weather, Water, Energy 10-30-06

Greenhouse gas emissions are still going up, not coming down, says a UN report. Care to guess which nation is "by far" the biggest problem? Britain and Germany won praise for cutting emissions but still having econ growth. . . . Is part of that because of the growth of the carbon market (around $22 b. in 2005)? And market advocates are saying deforestation can be stalled through paying to keep woodlands. I have always had two problems with "marketing" pollution, besides the social legitimation it's given--one, the politics of setting limits and quotas (power tends to rule, you know) and, two, the uncertainties as to what amounts are okay to have, rather than just knocking it off altogether. Simply invoking "rationality" and "the market" doesn't quite reassure me since we're dealing with humans, although, if this is the only way to get anything done, it's better than nothing. I guess. . . . Maybe this tiny new ethanol-using engine will have an impact (but don't mention the actual ethanol cost-benefit, according to Grist). . . . Or maybe nuclear will bail us out (but don't mention the water that takes, according to Grist). . . . More proof of global warming? Ponds in Alaska have shrunken dramatically in most parts of the state since the '50s. Or, as Sen. Inhofe might say, maybe people have just been drinking more from them. . . . Al Gore as government advisor on global warming. In Britain, of course. . . . In UT it's considered sensible to make those who use the least electricity pay more for it proportionately than those who use the most. To pay off power plant expansion due to more use. Feelin' comfy about the future yet? . . . Newsweek has a quickie on US cities using parking fees to encourage greener vehicles. (MORON ALERT at end, however.) . . . And Boulder, CO may approve a "Climate Action Plan" that would raise home energy bills to pay for activities to reduce need for greenhouse emissions. "[S]ome in the business community are skeptical." . . . CO, NE, and ID have worked out a plan with the feds to manage water flow on the Platte River. . . . NASA is projecting the impacts on NYC of sea level rises and hurricanes as global warming plays out. (HINT: soggy.) . . . Finally, one of those stories that's funny until someone loses a planet. A report in The Engineering Economist (!) says that the US population's weight gain since the 1960's, being transported around in our vehicles, costs us almost a billion more gallons and $2.86 b. a year. I'll give you a dollar if you've ever had this thought in your life. Yeah, sure.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Chris Williams

Chris Williams, drummer for Pat McGee Band, died yesterday...I don't know how or why, but that's really not all that important to me at the moment. A large part of my identity seems to have formed from following PMB around during college...making stupid road trips, meeting lots of cool people, hanging out with everybody in the band. Any ambition I've had to make music of my own came from following PMB around as well. Chris wasn't as outgoing as some others in the band, but he always said hi when he saw me and went out of his way to ask me how life was going and thank me for coming to the show. He was very obviously a genuine person, and I felt he deserved a mention here. Rest in peace, Chris.


Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XXII

Well, we’ve finally turned the corner on the silliness and gotten back into the meat of the story in “La Fea Mas Bella,” the TelevisaUnivision version of the classic “Betty La Fea.” Yes, we’ve still got puppy dogs and idiot children plus the fun of watching Alicia get to work without her beloved car now, but the plot has moved into the betrayal of Lety by Fernando and the subsequent transformations of both. The show still hasn’t captured the exquisite bittersweetness of the original, but Angelica Vale’s performance of Lety’s grief and misery at the discovery of the betrayal was excellent. The guy playing Tomas also did a good job in proving himself her best friend, although Nicolas in “Betty” at the same juncture was a standard no remake could hope to match. The show apparently will go into late February/early March here, so there’s clearly a lot more to happen (which I’m hoping won’t be as horrendously overplayed as they dragged out the last month and a half). But getting Lety away and recovered, the business problems of Conceptos, her return and the love triangle that will be developed could take up the time profitably. They have a walk a line now of keeping the amusement going in some areas while the darkness of what has happened plays itself out. I’m still not confident they’ll pull it off as well as they need to (the “happy” music that played while Lety was telling off Alicia last week gave me concerns, for example), but the story is just too good to screw up if you have good people in the roles. And Angelica Vale’s turn last week shows she’s up to the task.

As for “Ugly Betty,” I’ve liked the move to humanizing some of the characters, with just the touch of zaniness that has marked the predecessors. I’m hoping they don’t move too fast into a possible romance with the boss. Since they’ve pretty much dumped all the original but the premise of ugly girl out of water, there’s no need to move in that direction yet. I like the signs that the hero can come to appreciate this heroine as someone he can and should respect and value without sex having to come into it, almost like the Bill Murray position in “Lost in Translation.” Let Betty have her triangles with lesser lights and let’s see a mutual friendship and partnership grow with Daniel. That would be its own contribution to the medium, not as important as the original’s but good in its own sake. Then, as they near the end of the show, they can move them together if that still makes sense. The show’s worth your time on its own merits and may be memorable at some point. The ingredients are there. They just need to mix them right and not be too traditional. With Salma (!!!) at the wheel, they have a chance.


Weather, Water, Energy 10-29-06

The Boston Globe has a really good review of a new Canadian movie coming out, its version of "An Inconvenient Truth," only with a twist. This movie features the message delivered by Evangelicals. I've commented here frequently about the ego and tickets-bought-to-Hell by those "Christians" who vote for folks who have been tearing up God's work (OK and Sen. Inhofe come to mind quickly, don't they?). Well, here's a quote from a minister in the movie: ‘‘To harm this world by environmental degradation is an offense against God.’’ Maybe it'll have more credibility coming from him. Anyway, another important movie to watch for and support. And this one has a chance to capture some folks Al couldn't get to. (But don't hold out hope for OK.) . . . Meanwhile, in depressing reality, the BBC runs a couple of stories that get to the heart of what we face. This one tells us of a report of the effect of global warming on Africa, which, having had little to do with it seems likely to reap a lot of the result, saying "Climate change is already affecting people across Africa and will wipe out efforts to tackle poverty there unless urgent action is taken." Think even committed foreign aid will help? This one tells you why that's not likely to happen and illustrates well what economists call "transactions costs" while dumping on usually unrealistic carbon trading systems at the same time (a nice two-fer). But don't say anything to Sen. Inhofe. He'll get upset.


Watching TV on a Saturday night...

...it was a hoppin' night in the Boy/Butterfly house last night...thanks to yet another 11am football game (the scourge of tailgating), all friends and fellow Mizzou fans were on their way back to their homes last night instead of sticking around and going out (a mistake-prone Mizzou loss didn't help their partying spirit any...nor did the massive amount of partying that took place in StL after the Cards' win Friday night...damn Cardinals...they ruin everything)...so Boy and Butterfly ordered take out at Buffalo Wild Wings and settled into a lovely night of vegging out in front of the tellie...I have comments about all of the major things we watched...

1) Texas at Texas Tech football

I don't mention much football on this site (instead I go leave my comments on one of
Alter Destiny's threads each week), but here's something I really need to say...I've always been a proponent of instant replay in sporting events...I mean, what's not to like? In theory, a wrong call on the field is made right in the booth--justice prevails. Again, what's not to like about that?

But as with everything else they touch, the NCAA has apparently botched this relatively simple idea. Every week that goes by, officiating gets worse, replay reviews get more ridiculous and intrusive, games drag on, and somehow, more bad calls are made. I was left absolutely fuming at the refs 3-4 times during the Mizzou/Oklahoma game yesterday (to the point where I called an OU-fan friend of mine to yell at him, "I know OU is owed some makeup calls from the Oregon and Texas Tech debacles, but get them back on your own home field!"), but that was nothing in comparison to the Texas/Tech game last night. A Tech receiver makes a lovely play on a 3rd down, and right before the next play is snapped, somebody in the replay booth independently tells the ref they're reviewing the play (without a coach's challenge), then incorrectly changes the call from completion to incompletion (even though the replay conclusively showed it was a catch). If you're going to be intrusive, at least make the right call. Instead, the refs on the field are completely noncommital (last night two refs couldn't agree on the spot of the ball, so they basically just turned around and looked at the press box for help...and once again the incorrect call was made).

Somehow Big XII officiating, which has always been awful, has gotten worse with the introduction of instant replay. Only the NCAA can create a system worse than the NFL's "Let's have the ref on the field look through a little viewfinder while fans are yelling at him 20 feet away, yeah, this is the best solution" system and made it worse. Congrats.

Seriously, how hard is it to a) have a simple system where a coach can challenge a call, and if it doesn't go his way, he loses a timeout (with no limits of "one per half"...that's stupid in and of itself...if you get screwed twice in a half, you just have to live with the second one?), and get rid of this whole "Big Brother"-style system where the booth can randomly review even the most unimportant of calls (yesterday, the wind blew the ball off the Mizzou kicker's tee on a kickoff, and they spent 5 minutes reviewing whether he had nicked the ball or not...OU didn't even care about this, and they reviewed it anyway); and b) stock the replay booth with people who aren't legally blind?

Ahh...much better...had to get that off my chest...

2) Thank You for Smoking

After a busy Homecoming weekend last week, we finally got around to watching this, the latest Netflix rental. Good movie. Great acting, though Katie Holmes was one again woefully miscast (worse here than in Batman Begins...there, she was just a blank slate, not necessarily miscast). Seriously, 5-6 years ago I was as big a Katie Holmes fan as there was...and even relatively recently, she was quite good in Pieces of April and still showing promise as an actress. Maybe the Scientology thing has painted her in so negative a light to me that I just won't be able to see her positively in anything, but...casting her as a slutty, get-the-story-at-any-cost journalist? I could think of 15 actresses who could have sold the role much better than her. She just has too much "sweet" in her face to pull this off. The good news, however, is that thanks to certain decisions in her personal life, I'm pretty sure it's safe to say she won't be getting any more roles like this in the near or distant future.

That said, this really was a good movie. It both challenged and reinforced stereotypes...it make the Smoking industry look just as evil as they really are while showing that the other side isn't exactly pristine and sin-free. This isn't a movie that will change the world or even change people's minds, but that said, more movies like this need to be made. Even if you don't deliver answers, raising questions and making people think is always a good thing.

3) VH1 Storytellers: Dixie Chicks

We all know about Shut Up and Sing coming out, and even though I've only seen the trailer, it's pretty obvious that this is going to be a pretty good, entertaining movie. If there's good storytelling involved, it could be a great movie. We'll have to wait and see.

That said, the Chicks on Storytellers was pretty good too. I think the thing that struck me while watching this is, these three women are pretty damn normal. They poke fun at each other for their past choices in men, they look pretty vulnerable and emotional talking about family issues, they seem genuinely taken aback and flattered when the crowd showers love at them, and there's just not much "superstar" in their personality. Which makes the stupid controversy that has surrounded them in the last 3.5 years seem, well, that much more stupid.

And in case you manage to be one of the 2-3 people in the world who visit our site and not Atrios', you may not have seen this trailer yet, so...

And while we're at it...

4) Saturday Night Live

Last but not least, our evening once again ended with me nodding off while watching SNL. That had as much with me needing caffeine (seriously, when you crack open your first beer at 9am thanks to an 11am kickoff, that really drags on you come 11pm) as it did with SNL. From what I saw while awake, the Borat opening was quite funny (though I cannot IMAGINE an entire movie of that), Weekend Update was solid, and a few of the skits were predictably terrible. At this point, SNL is the ultimate TiVo show. There will be a few funny moments per show, and you can tell which skits will be terrible within about 30 seconds of their start...meaning you can just skip right through them. So what you end up with is a decent 30-45 minute show.

This season, like many recently, is a season of transition for SNL...Tina Fey's gone, as are four other long-running cast members, and they're left with 11 cast members, many of whom are new to the show. They're doing a decent job, but...

...they're just not being used right. Andy Samberg was part of the great "Lazy Sunday" digital short last year, and he was used very well in a few other digital shorts last year. Even though they obviously weren't performed live, those shorts were the most encouraging thing SNL's had in quite a while. While he's had a part to play in a couple of those shorts this year, he's been put in some skits where he just doesn't belong (why was he chosen to be Ken Mehlman in a skit last night?). That's probably because they don't have too many options and have to use somebody in these skits, but it still doesn't feel like his talents are being maximized. Same with Kristen Wiits. She has a couple of recurring characters, and she really is probably the future of the show, but she's not being maximized either. Really, this is probably because of the new Fey-less writing staff, and I'm willing to give the show some time (especially because of TiVo), but there is quite a bit of unused potential here. And I love Amy Poehler, but even she was completely unfunny half the time.

Granted, I would have been dozing off last night no matter what (I even did during Weekend Update, which was relatively solid), and it's not like I'm taking a daring stand here by saying SNL isn't all it could/should be (actually, I can't find anybody who's saying that it IS all it could be), but...yeah, I guess I just said it anyway.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Fact: Chuck Norris is a Giant Wet Blanket

Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks all the fun out of Chuck Norris Facts. Okay, not all the fun, but a lot of it...

Alleged Chuck Norris Fact: “There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.” It’s funny. It’s cute. But here’s what I really think about the theory of evolution: It’s not real. It is not the way we got here. In fact, the life you see on this planet is really just a list of creatures God has allowed to live. We are not creations of random chance. We are not accidents. There is a God, a Creator, who made you and me. We were made in His image, which separates us from all other creatures.
Dammit, Chuck...we live in the age of irony...where everybody masks their discomfort in the world by trying (and usually failing, myself included) to be funny and wry...Chuck Norris Facts are actually funny, and you just took the fun right out of them. Seriously...

Fact: Guns don't kill people. Chuck Norris kills people. (Now all I'm going to hear is somebody nagging me afterward..."Actually, life and death are completely decided by God and his Son, Jesus.")

Fact: Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits. ("Actually, the only thing I wait for is the return of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ...")

Fact: There is no chin under Chuck Norris' beard, only another fist. ("Actually, I grew this beard out of reverance for Jesus.")

Fact: Remember the Soviet Union? They decided to quit after watching a DeltaForce marathon on Satellite TV. ("Actually, the Soviet Union failed because there was no religion. Only countries that accept Christianity as their state religion can succeed and thrive in these trying times.")

Fact: There are no races, only countries of people Chuck Norris has beaten to different shades of black and blue. ("Actually, we are all one race in the eyes of our Lord and savior...")

Thanks, Chuck.


B . . . B . . . But What If He Planted A Nuclear Device???

I've held back talking about the idiotic "24" talking point about how torture is justified if the captured terrorist has planted a nuke somewhere and you have to find out where before it goes off. This story is a lot of the reason why, the tale of the guy who was tortured into "confessing" links between Sadaam and Al Qaeda. Look where that got us. Other bloggers have gone into great intellectual lengths to debunk the argument, thereby legitimizing it. Let me be crude. It's pure BS. The guy is a suicidal crazy. If he did it alone, he's a suicidal crazy who's going to tell you the truth??? If he worked with others and is suddenly captured, they're going to leave the bomb where it is??? People, read Sartre's "The Wall," for God's sake. This isn't worth two breaths. The people who use the argument are declaring themselves morons. Pull up your balls and use those words in even tones and a condescending smirk. You'll save yourself a lot of time for better things in life.


Weather, Water, Energy 10-27-06

Quick. Which of these three headlines today from Terra World don't belong?

He's not Bushnev, but God, the Aussies have such a tool for a leader. Sorry, "leader." . . . Speaking of fools, the British Environmental Secretary says that his nation will start burying radioactive waste. Only . . . it will take 40 years and has failed before in the face of "public willingness." "Like it or not, it is there and it has to be dealt with," he says. Well, the first part's right. Let us know how that second part turns out, okay? . . . Uh, Mr. Environmental Secretary, out there touting ingenuity. You probably shouldn't read this story on how decommissioning your existing nuke plants is up to $122 b., and that's with plans that experts admit will likely undergo revision. Upward. . . . Wetlands. You remember. Those things we've been busy paving over for developments and highways. Turns out some cities have figured out how to use them to clean up their sewage. Now if Chicago could just do the same thing with its mayor. . . . Climate Progress lauds AZ for taking its future seriously on global warming, but I'm getting a little tired of praise for people doing the things they should have been doing from the start. Better late than never, I guess. . . . And, a couple of hours after eating, allow yourself to read this alert that Sen. Inhofe is using a 30-year-old Newsweek article to prove that global warming isn't happening. Guess who beats both Bushnev and AU's PM as a tool?



We've saved up a bank of Kayle pictures that are too good not to use...


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Weather, Water, Energy 10-26-06

Scientific American has a story about an unlikely culprit in past sudden global climate shifts--the Appalachians. . . . This is nice. A Swiss bank has devised a rating system ranking the world's 1800 largest companies and their products on their contribution to global warming so investors will have better info on green investment. Read the piece. You might be surprised by some if the companies having big (bad) impact. (I was.) . . . Dueling water plans in the CO gubernatorial race. The thing they agree on: the state needs to get its act together. . . . Yet another warning that the world faces severe economic hardship if it doesn't act now on global warming. Love the last line--"The great sticking point. Some believe only a change of president will bring serious action." . . . This won't help. China is lowering its target for renewable energy sources from 20% of all sources to 16% by 2020. No reason was given. Skeptics suggest that it just might drop again as the date approaches. But none of that naysaying on this blog. . . . But London buses are going more hybrid so maybe there's hope somewhere.


Somebody else says this...

...so I don't have to. Erik at Alter Destiny attacks Jeff Suppan and other "celebrities" for going on TV to oppose stem cell research. From the NY Times article...

In a video copy of the ad, produced and distributed by an anti-amendment group called Missourians Against Human Cloning and posted on the Internet, Mr. Suppan’s face appears in the first 10 seconds. He is not wearing a baseball cap in the ad.

"Amendment 2 claims it bans human cloning, but in the 2,000 words you don’t read, it makes cloning a constitutional right," Mr. Suppan says in the ad. "Don’t be deceived."
It was very disorienting for me to pull up MSN.com last night and have a headline of "Battle of the Stem Cell Stars" staring at me with pictures of Limbaugh, Michael J. Fox, and...Suppan. Those three get equal coverage? Somebody who actually suffers from Parkinson's disease has to share a picture with an asshole/drug addict and a B-level pitcher?

Someone else apparently in these commercials is Mike "I promise I never took steroids...my body must be breaking down like this because God wanted it this way" Sweeney. Yeah, that might have made an impact five years ago...when he was actually capable of a) swinging a bat without pulling a muscle, and b) swinging a bat and actually hitting a ball. But nonetheless, Sweeney is an intellectual giant who's been known around Kansas City as a wonderful religious family man. That doesn't make him smart or a good judge of, well, anything. Case in point:

Back in 2003, The Butterfly and I went to a Royals/A's game that happened to be "Babushka Night". The first however many in attendance got a free Royals Babushka doll. During a break between innings, there was a funny segment in which members of the Royals were all asked what the heck a Babushka doll is (it's a Russian nesting doll). Most players had no guess whatsoever, but Sweeney took a stab: "I bet it's Jewish." Your anti-stem cell spokesperson, ladies and gentlemen...

Quick question for you, Jeff and Mike and Patricia and Jesus...I mean Jim Kaviezel: since you're anti-stem cell, I assume you're pro-all things Dubya and pro-habeas corpus slaying. And when somebody talks about the slippery slope of "if you're allowed to take _____'s freedoms away, you could take anybody's away," you roll your eyes and say that that person is paranoid. Well, I haven't read the 2,000 words that Suppan's read (though I'm pretty sure he didn't read them either), but I'm pretty sure that, in a bill whose intent is to find cures for cruel, as-yet-incurable diseases, I'm pretty sure the intent wasn't to secretly legalize cloning and/or creating Frankenstein when nobody's looking. And when you tell me it's a slippery slope, just realize that I'm going to roll my eyes and say you're paranoid.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Weather, Water, Energy 10-25-06

Lots of links tonight, but The Boy has a good series on Dylan below you need to spend your time here on so I'll just bulletpoint them:

  • Via Climate Progress, we hear from PricewaterhouseCoopers that, for the price of a small nick in one year's GDP, we can make the reductions necessary in our energy use, through efficiency and not new tech, to keep global warming at minimal levels. And remember that we're looking at trillions of dollars lost eventually if we don't do it. But PwC is well-known for its socialism and ignorance.
  • Finally might get some progress on global warming. Why? Lawsuits. Planned for car companies, Big Oil, utilities. All we need is Erin Brocovich.
  • 3/4ths of Europe's car brands will fail to meet an EU emissions target. (Ford looks like it will make it . . . there, but not here. What's up with that, you predictable, un-American SOBs?)
  • In England, a proposal to charge parking fees by car emissions. Wow.
  • You think 400 m. wood-burning stoves in developing nations might be contributing to global warming?
  • New, better dating of rock layers makes dating CO2 emissions and other global events of the time easier as well.
  • Climate change-->fungal disease-->dead frogs-->canary in coal mine?
  • Leading electric companies around the world call on gov'ts to adopt new sustainable energy and climate policies. Reaction to possible lawsuits? Don't they sort of have cards in their own hands?
  • One good thing about Australia's frugal new "attack" on global warming? The world's biggest space-age solar station.
  • Revising water management manuals may, may, keep GA, FL, and AL from each other's throats.
  • Think only our states are beginning to fret about water cheating? Try India and China. (Don't they have nukes?)
  • Speaking of China, it's entering a new (Europe-hurting) partnership with Russia to develop the latter's oil industry. Seems Europe hasn't been dealing on Russia's terms. (Just remember you and China don't have that great a history, Vlad.)
  • The British Foreign Secretary predicts more failed states with global warming (and zips Bushnev with praise of state efforts like CA's).
  • More than half of the world's coral reefs (reeves?) could die within 25 years, experts are warning. And blaming global warming at least in part.
  • Short-term coal mining or long-term state beauty? WV officials are trying to find a balance.
  • A crude oil pipeline proposed in ND could harm two major water resources there. Don't you just love these juxtapositions of our topics?
  • LA, on the other hand, may actually get some say on off-shore drilling and protecting its own coasts.
  • An ID court is hearing a case that could shut down water use in the eastern part of the state. Nice example of past decisions coming back to haunt and the hard choices that have to be made.
  • Two HA stories--one on the drought there (don't think of droughts in HA much, do you?) and the other on strategic planning that doesn't hold much hope for energy conservation there.
  • Finally, Al Gore reminds OR of the essential morality of combating global warming. (Question--would a moral nation even have to be reminded?)


So What Does This Say About The Boy?

Research is indicating selection of high-fitness partners as mates (genetically, not on trendmills) doesn't always bring forth high-fitness offspring. Actually the opposite, at least for the opposite sex. High-fitness males produce low-fitness daughters (dare you not to think of Paris H.), and high-fitness females produce low-fitness sons. Forget this is just fruit flies so far or that this proves that Bab Bush was a high-fitness female. The Boy's mother is indisputably "high-fitness." Therefore, . . . .


Deep Thoughts from TV Squad

I like TV Squad's site, usually for its episode summaries but also for quick hits like these. Here, they note how well Lauren Graham did in her cameos on "Studio 60." She really did bring some chem to her scene with Danny and Matt, and she would definitely do Sorkin right. (That didn't come out the way I meant.) TVS speculates how much better she might have done with Sarah Paulson's role, but Sorkin clearly sees that character as angelic. Graham inspires many things but not "angelic." Still, it would be interesting to see her again when her current show finally succumbs to the rigor mortis (if "Studio 60" doesn't beat it to it). . . . And, here, the original author of "Friday Night Lights" offers a learned and deeply thoughtful commentary on his competitor, "Dancing with the Stars," and its viewing audience: "American is getting what it deserves--crappy, stupid artificial reality TV . . . it's distressing that so many people are flocking to a show that's obviously contrived and ridiculous." He didn't notice this until his series started getting whomped? But, uh, . . . ditto.


The Best I've Heard Yet

From Billmon, naturally. Here's how just enough close races will be parlayed into the Repubs maintaining both Houses even if they lose. He goes through some unfortunate crap about how it would take tons of people who couldn't keep their mouths shut to pull off voter fraud (the old "conspiracies can only happen with tons of people who couldn't keep their mouths shut" BS that always gets hauled out to shoot down real conspiracies with just a few people who find it very easy to stay quiet). But get past that and read the analysis. Then you can shock your family and friends when you predict what's going to happen on election night. (And these numbers are close enough overall that it could be very easy to pull off.)


They're Spoon-feeding Casanova (Part Two)

Part One

Contrast the crowd during the acoustic set and the electric set of Bob Dylan's 5/17/1966 show (and any from that tour, really), and you’d think you were listening to two different shows. The audience that was so polite and stunningly quiet during the acoustic set can’t stop buzzing, even as the musicians are tuning their instruments before the first song begins.

Dylan and the Hawks waste absolutely no time in Set #2, starting off with “Tell Me Momma”, which is, musically, the best, most straight-forward rock song in the Dylan catalog, containing a fantastic mini-solo by Robbie Robertson.

Quick aside: a few years ago, I was designing a website for an online web development course, and so naturally the theme of the website was, in so many words, “I’m a music nerd.” In it, I set up my perfect backing band. Robbie Robertson was the lead guitarist, almost completely because of his work on this song. And because I’m sure you’re dying to know this, I believe the rest of the band was Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard on rhythm guitar; Sherman Holmes, Curtis Mayfield’s bassist in the ‘70s, on bass; ?uestlove of The Roots on drums, and Chardy McEwan of Pat McGee Band on percussion.

Anyway, the Dylan that was slurring words and going through the motions before the setbreak is now crisp and excited and practically shouting the chorus (“TELL ME MOMMAAAAAAAAAA/What is it/WHAT’s wrong with yoooouuuu/THIIIS...TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME”). Looking at video footage on Eat the Document and No Direction Home, he’s too excited to stay still...he’s fidgety the whole second set.

The buzz picks up again the moment the song is over. Part of this is frustration with the new music, though apparently some of the frustration was for the same reasons as the booing in Newport: the amps and speakers being used just weren’t meant to be turned up this loud.

Dylan toys with his harmonica for a second and introduces the next song: “This is called ‘I Don’t Believe You.’ It used to be like that, and now it goes like this.” The fraction of the crowd that actually wants to hear the new sound laughs, but it’s pretty subdued. The song itself is a great reworking of a previous acoustic classic. The audacity of messing with a classic offends quite a few people because the shouts and slow-clapping start immediately after the song ends. It will only threaten to get worse after a reworked version of “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” (never one of my favorites), from his debut album, follows.

By this time, though, you can begin to hear a battle beginning, as the “We like the new stuff, besides what did you expect? This is where his music's been going, so shut up and listen,” part of the crowd gets much louder and more boisterous in their cheering. That, combined with only about a 15-second break between songs doen’t give the naysayers a chance to get going. It is only a small setback for them.

“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is next. It’s another fantastic performance, though you can tell that Dylan’s joining in on the competition at this point...with each successive song, his own vocals get a bit less melodic and a bit more shouted. When introducing the following song, “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat” (another one I’ve never been particularly fond of), he gets interrupted by shouts and a bit of slow-clapping. But by now, Dylan seemed to be enjoying the antagonism. You hear angry shouts, and Dylan continues to slowly tune his guitar. Eventually, a supporter yells something inaudible, and half the crowd cheers in response. This only prompts another round of slow-clapping. Dylan, meanwhile, sits back and continues to tune his guitar.

Seriously, how many concerts have you attended where the crowd turned on the performer...and then turned on itself?

I’ve seen it at plenty of Mizzou sporting events, but not at any of the hundreds of concerts I’ve attended.

But at this point the fun is just beginning.

Following “Pillbox Hat”, Dylan and his band are once again taking their time tuning and getting ready for the next song (an unbelievable version of “One Too Many Mornings”) when the slow-clapping and yelling start once again. It grows louder and louder until Dylan starts mumbling something really quiet. Slowly you hear people in the crowd shushing the others so they can hear what he is saying. Everybody stops clapping, and you realize Dylan was just spouting quiet gibberish because he knew it would shut them up, finishing with “(mumble mumble mumble) …if you just wouldn’t clap so loud.” Half the crowd gets the joke, and before the other half can react the band launches into “One Too Many Mornings.” For the people who found his old acoustic songs to be sacred, this might be the biggest outrage. For me, however, it’s one of the best performances of the show. He takes the last line of each verse (“One too many morning/and a thousand miles behind”) and turns it into something of a rock chorus. “And a thousand miles..........BEEE-HIIIIND,” complete with backing vocals. Just a lovely reshaping of a previously lovely song.

But the band is just getting warmed up. If the mumble joke was a sign that Dylan really didn’t care what the crowd thought anymore (I’m sure he did that same thing every night of the tour, but still...), the version of “Ballad of a Thin Man” that followed probably pounded that message home pretty good. One of his bigger insult songs, this version is vicious. “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is/Do you, Mr. Jones?” In this case, half the crowd is Mr. Jones. But that’s not even the most assaulting part of the song. This performance contains pretty much the best rock organ performance I’ve ever heard. Between Dylan lines, Garth Hudson adds the creepiest, most venomous punch to a song I’ve ever heard, and the combo of organ, Dylan’s piano (this was the only song on which he played piano in this performance), and Dylan’s yelled vocals just pierce your heart. It definitely made an impact on one Mr. Keith Butler. After about 30 seconds of tuning and fiddling about on-stage, the cry comes down. He just couldn’t contain himself any longer.

It’s hard to tell exactly when this became the earth-shattering moment it has now grown to be. For one thing, Keith Butler himself didn’t really understand how big a moment it was until relatively recently.

[T]he man who crystallized those feelings by shouting “Judas” remained anonymous until last year, long after the moment had been written into history. He still might have been unknown had he not been struck with a bout with asthma the day before Live 1966 was released in October.

On that night, Butler, now 52 and living in Toronto, woke from an asthma attack and decided to take a walk to get some fresh air. He ended up in a coffee shop, where he picked up the Toronto Sun from the counter and spotted an article that inspired him to find out more about that night in 1966.

The story, by Associated Press writer Scott Bauer, described the impending release of Live 1966, as well as C.P. Lee's book about the concert, "Like the Night,"** and a rarely seen documentary on Dylan's '66 tour called "Eat the Document."

"So I'm on my own, in the middle of the night, in a coffee shop," Butler recalled. "And at the bottom of the article, it said, 'On "Eat the Document" can be seen some footage of people leaving the theater.

'One of them says, "Any bloody pop group can do this rubbish." ' And I recognized the words -- it was staggering. It was an incredible shock ... from 30 years ago and 3,000 miles away, I was reading what I recognized as my own words."


"Can you imagine what it's like as a 20-year-old kid?" Butler asked. "You were just crushed. I was totally embarrassed when he shouted back. I was there with another guy, and that's when we decided to leave."

While Butler tried to forget about the incident, the exchange sent shockwaves through the world of music and came to symbolize the point at which rock entered a new era, opening the doors to a more artful form of musical expression. ***
What is for sure is that the night’s final song, “Like a Rolling Stone,” was anything but “artful.” It was brutal and loud and assaulting...and great. Like a lot of the electric set, it’s not the most pleasant thing to listen to on its face; but then you’re taken in by the energy and urgency of the music...and then you picture yourself in that hostile (in a polite British way) crowd...and then you start to get a rush. And you listen to it repeatedly.

Well, at least I have.

** C.P. Lee’s book, Like the Night, a first hand account of the show, is phenomenal. It’s also quite hard to find. Not surprisingly, I went to eBay to get it. It was worth the work. Here’s an excerpt to entice you. Talking about “Tell Me Momma” and the beginning of the electric set (page 132 of my copy):
It comes crashing in from out of nowhere, taking the listener by surprise and shunting them along on an expressway into darkness. Cold black glass, brackish water that don’t make no tears, fool’s gold teeth, graveyard lips, nine pound hammers and steam drills, the hiss, crash and thud of slow mechanical death. But whichever Mojo Bob’s got ain’t working on the woman and something, she won’t tell him what it is, is tearing up her mind.

Three times Dylan pleads, ‘Tell me momma – What is it?’ and then adds a long suffering – ‘What’s wrong with you this time?’


Musically, Robertson’s guitar work is white hot funk, chunky and spare, reflecting Steve Cropper rather than Mike Bloomfield. This is stripped down adrenaline, demonstrating a complete understanding of the uses of an electric Fender for lead guitar playing. Robbie leads, and the rest of the band, even Dylan, follow. Thirty years later it’s still a frightening opener.

Shock. Confusion. Delight. Awe.

And then – applause. Polite, perhaps a little reserved, but applause never the less.

Thoughts flew around possessed of their own mad craziness. ‘Would he get rid of the band now?’ – ‘Would he play “Like a Rolling Stone”?’ – ‘Would he turn it down?’

After a short moment of tuning Dylan walked over to the microphone and spoke to us for the first time that evening. It would be an understatement to say that people hung on every word.

‘This is called, “I Don’t Believe You;” it used to be like that, and now it goes like this.’

A nervous ripple of laughter spread through the audience and then, before we’d barely had a chance to take in what he meant, a Cuban heeled boot stomped the rhythm onto the floor of the Free Trade Hall and the number got under way.
Kinda puts everything I just wrote to shame, doesn’t it?

*** One last quick aside. Another quote from that Sonicnet article comes from Greil Marcus, author of Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes.

"It elicit[ed] from Dylan not just an angry response but a response that, in its own way, is pure music," said Greil Marcus, author of "Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes." (Marcus' "Days Between Stations" column appears monthly in Addicted To Noise.) "The way he says, 'I don't believe you,' is the essence of shock and disgust and disbelief, but all contained within a kind of cool, which he then immediately loses."
There’s an expanded snippet from Invisible Republic in this Alex Ross article from The New Yorker:

As if he had been waiting ... a person rises and shouts what he has been silently rehearsing to himself all night. As over and over he has imagined himself doing, he stands up, and stops time. He stops the show: “JUDAS!” Dylan stiffens against the flinch of his own body. "I don't believe you," he says, and the contempt in his voice is absolute. As one listens it turns the echo of the shouter's curse sour, you begin to hear the falseness in it, that loving rehearsal — and yet that same echo has already driven Dylan back — "You're a liar!" he screams hysterically.
When I was growing up, berlin niebuhr always used to say of certain journalists and celebrities (Frank Deford being a prime example), “I wish I could buy them for what they’re worth and sell them for what they think they’re worth.” Well, I guess that means the Frank Deford of rock journalism would be Greil Marcus. Come on, Greil. I know you love to listen to yourself talk and all, but... I don’t hear any “shock and disgust and disbelief” in Dylan’s voice, nor was there anything “hysterical” about “You’re a liar.” Come on, he’d been getting yelled at the whole tour. Aside from “Your mother’s a whore,” what was really going to shock him at that point? He took advantage of the energy and tension of the moment, especially if he really did say “Play f---ing loud,” and turned in a historical performance. Isn’t that enough? Did you have to make it sound like somebody shot at him or threatened to kill him? Did you really have to Hollywood-ize the situation by trying to make it even bigger? Who knows, maybe your account is exactly what happened, but...I doubt it. But I digress.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Random 10

Since I'm smack in the middle of two giant Dylan posts, this only seems right...

Random 10 from All Things Dylan Playlist

1. Blind Willie McTell, Live 1998-1999 bootleg
2. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, John Wesley Harding
3. Born in Time, Live 1961-2000 import
4. Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, Live at the Gaslight 1962
5. Oh Sister, Desire
6. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (outtake), Bootleg Series 7: No Direction Home Soundtrack
7. I'll Keep It with Mine, Bootleg Series 2: Rare and Unreleased
8. Visions of Johanna, Blonde on Blonde
9. Shot of Love, Shot of Love
10. Endless Highway, The Band, Before the Flood

Random 10

1. Mama's Got a Girlfriend Now, Ben Harper
2. Financial Endorsement, Gregory Isaacs
3. #41 (Live), Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
4. I'm Waiting for the Day, Beach Boys
5. I Threw a Brick through a Window, U2
6. Heat, Common
7. Gonna Move (Live), Derek Trucks Band
8. Paradise, Bruce Springsteen
9. Diamond Dogs, David Bowie
10. Walk On By, Cake


Weather, Water, Energy 10-24-06

The WWF (either the old World Wildlife Federation or a wrestling combine) has issued a report claiming the globe could suffer an eco-collapse by 2050 if current consumption levels aren't reduced. Basically, they're saying we need another planet or two to keep up at our pace. . . . The US and the EU are throwing in the towel on the Kyoto Protocol, it seems, agreeing to new talks to try to develop new plans. Yeah, good luck with that. . . . Coincidentally(?), the Christian Science Monitor reports that new efficiency standards for appliances by the US Dept of Energy are so low even the industries are protesting some of them. Yikes! (As usual, Climate Progress tells you all the implications.) . . . Speaking of as usual, Terra Daily is on fire with a wealth of stories, one on how global warming will threaten your health with far more than heat strokes, one on how rising seas and dammed rivers (or is it damned rivers?) will likely cause more flooding and expansion of Gulf Coast bays over the next century, one on how the generous government give-aways of emission trading permits in Europe is making those market efforts "pointless" (which was always the hidden joker in the "market solution"--it's called politics), one on the Inhofe-loving Howard government in Australia is launching a $500 m. effort against global warming (yes, "million," which shows how serious they are, but it is the Howard government), and finally, one pointing out that, when weighing the reemergence of nuclear power, we really do need to keep things like, oh, waste storage and weapons proliferation in mind. . . . A nice little story on wind power's present and future in southern CA. . . . This story captures well the politics of air and water policy, this time in CO where the Dem says, "let's set our own standards and be pro-active" and the Repub says, "but . . . but it'll hurt our business." When will these people learn to look down the road a little or just care about their grandchildren? . . . Speaking of CO, Shell says the future is good for shale there (not much news there, but I love the alliteration). . . . And the Four Corners area there is getting into serious air quality planning as pollution becomes more conspicuous.


They're Spoon-feeding Casanova (Part One)

With Bob Dylan’s new album, Modern Times, out for a while now, I’ve been tempted to right a review of it, and I’m not really sure why I didn’t (oh yeah, I’m lazy).

Okay, okay...here’s a one-paragraph review.

It’s not as good as his last two (Love and Theft, Time Out of Mind), but it’s always great to see Dylan having so much fun. He’s obviously laid-back and having a good time, especially in songs like “Someday Baby” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” Songs like “When the Deal Goes Down” and “Spirit on the Water” set a pretty languid pace, one that is continued throughout the album. There are no pantheon songs like Love and Theft
’s “Summer Days” or “Honest With Me”, but it’s still a pretty rewarding listen, especially the few peppy songs. I give it an A-.

There you go.

However, having recently finished Paul Williams’ lovely Bob Dylan, Performing Artist: 1960-1973 (a highly recommendable read, by the way...the perfect Dylan book for people who have already read a Dylan book or 20...in fact, the moment I finished it, I bought Books
#2 and #3 in the series...wonderful story-telling and analysis here), I think I’ll rewind 40 years for this Dylan post. It was 40 years ago this past summer that the most historical moment in rock music took place. Actually, it was a series of moments, but it culminated in one historic exchange:

Keith Butler, random audience member: “Judas!”
Bob Dylan (after continuing to tune his electric guitar for a few more seconds): I don’t belieeeeve you. (part of crowd laughs) You’re a liar! (turns to band) Play f---ing loud!”
It is forever recorded on Live 1966, Part 4 of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series.

You could say that maybe the Beatles on Ed Sullivan was more historic, but hell...the Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC generated almost the same frenzy in the late-‘90s. You can say maybe it was Elvis getting censored (shot from only the waist up) on Ed Sullivan, but The Doors kind of marginalized that moment by refusing to censor their lyrics a decade or so later. The frenzy of teenage girls and the censoring of a pop artist have happened plenty of times since those original TV moments, but the circumstances that led to “Judas!” can really never be duplicated. *

But before we can get to the UK in 1966, we have to step back to Halloween 1964, the night Dylan played solo at New York’s Philharmonic Hall (which happens to have also been officially released, as
Live 1964, Part 6 of the Bootleg Series). Dylan is chatty, happy, engaged with the crowd, making them laugh, inviting Joan Baez out for a few songs, and still apparently finding novelty in his role as Bob Dylan, King of Folk Music. He’s released four albums. His second, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, brought him fame with the success of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War,” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” His third, The Times They Are A-Changin’, showed his complete mastery of the folk music format with songs like the title song, “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” and “With God on Our Side.”

However, by mid-1964, he seemed to realize that he was being typecast. Actually, he probably realized it before, but he was enjoying the success that came with the persona of Bob Dylan, Professional Protest Singer. With Another Side of Bob Dylan (worst title ever), he attempted to bring that persona back toward Bob Dylan, Musician. With songs like “All I Really Wanna Do” (“I ain't lookin' for you to feel like me/See like me or be like me/All I really want to do/Is, baby, be friends with you”), “My Back Pages” (“‘Equality,’ I spoke the word/As if a wedding vow/Ah, but I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now”) and “It Ain’t Me, Babe” (“Go 'way from my window/Leave at your own chosen speed/I'm not the one you want, babe/I'm not the one you need”), and the total lack of political protest songs, he tried to shake the mold from which his reputation was formed and find a space where he was able to write whatever kind of songs he wanted to write. But a lot his audience really didn’t come around all that quickly.

At the Philharmonic on Halloween ’64, Dylan was still playing mostly songs that the audience wanted to hear. He opened with “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and played protest classics like “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues” (a song he was going to perform on Ed Sullivan until the CBS censors said no; so he refused to play Ed Sullivan) and “Who Killed Davey Moore?” early on. Near the end of his set, he brought out Joan Baez for a few songs (including “With God on Our Side”) and brought the house down. But in the middle of the set, he experimented. Among crowd favorites, he sprinkled in new songs like “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “Gates of Eden,” which were much deeper and stranger than folk music was supposed to be. But he always quickly won the crowd back by putting, as he called it that night (being Halloween and all), his “Bob Dylan mask” back on and performing how everybody wanted him to perform. A good time was had by all.

Fast forward to roughly six months later. Bob Dylan is on a solo tour of the UK, going through the motions, singing all of his famous protest songs, getting standing ovations everywhere he goes, and basically hating life, being snide with the (usually ignorant) press, and turning into Bob Dylan, Arrogant and Angry, um, Arse (as documented in
Don’t Look Back). He wants to move on from folk stereotypes (at this point, he’s even recorded a new album, Bringing It All Back Home, Side One of which—gasp!—is played with a band of backing musicians), but nobody will let him. He reached folk immortality by age 22, but now he can’t stand folk music anymore. He gets home from the UK, decides “to quit” (he said this in many interviews, though he never really specified what he was quitting...folk music? Music as a whole?), and vents out 20 pages of bile and anger on the typewriter. As you’ve probably read a million times before, that bile became “Like a Rolling Stone” and totally redefined both his music and pop music as a whole.

Within a few months, he’d recorded Highway 61 Revisited, torched the Newport Folk Festival with a 3-song rock set and eliciting some boos along the way (the conventional wisdom is that people booed because they hated the music, though eye-witness accounts seem to agree that the rock music coming out of the smallish folk music speakers made for a loud, too-much-treble mess and nobody could hear his vocals…and that’s why they booed and yelled), brought future members of The Band (then called The Hawks) on board, and went on tour of the US, drawing both rage and reverance along the way (there was enough rage involved that Levon Helm, the Hawks’ drummer quit the tour, eventually replaced by
Mickey Jones, who is now most well-known for being one of the bearded guys on Home Improvement).

Okay, so fast forward to May 1966. Dylan’s on the way back to England. Highway 61 has been out around six months, and a large portion of his hardcore fans are still hoping that this is just a phase that he’ll grow out of, and eventually he’ll get back to making protest songs. Dylan still placated the audience by breaking the concert into two parts—a solo acoustic first set and a full-band second set. No matter what he did...no matter how uninterested he was in some of the solo songs he played, and no matter how phenomenal the full-band performances were, the same thing happened throughout the UK tour: every solo song was greeted with polite and grateful applause, and most full-band songs were greeted with shouts and the dreaded slow-clap.

It is here that I should bring up Eat the Document.

During the 1965 UK tour, D.A. Pennebaker had followed Dylan around with a video camera and captured footage for what would become Don’t Look Back. So they planned the same thing for this trip of the UK. Pennebaker once again followed Dylan and his band around in 1966...only this time, Dylan would be the one who edited it. What would become Eat the Document was intended to be a one-hour show for ABC, though when ABC eventually saw it they quickly determined that there was no way they would be showing it on their network. I think it made the rounds in tiny independent theatres occasionally, but the main way to see this thing is to do what I did—find a second-hand, grainy copy of it on eBay.

The film quality is quite crappy, but it’s not so bad that you can’t tell what’s going on...and in a word, it’s weird. I understand why ABC didn’t want to show it (especially in 1967), but for a Dylan nerd like me, this is a fantastic thing to watch. First of all, the concert clips themselves are worth the price of admission. It’s easy enough to ignore the weird, random footage of Dylan watching a parade or trying to barter with a guy for his girlfriend...the performances are gripping, even with crappy video quality. Maybe it’s just because I’m a Dylan nerd (lord knows I haven’t tried to inflict this video on The Butterfly or anybody else), but I already had so much reverance for this tour that actually seeing clips of it on screen made me all weak in the knees.

Hmm. I think I crossed the TMI line there. Let’s move on.

The other interesting part of ETD is the series of interview clips of fans on their way into and out of the theatre. A few of the fans love the new music and think he’s changing the world. A majority of the fans, going in, are praying that he sticks to the old stuff and ignores the rock music...and are quite pissy about the “rubbish” they heard on the way out. One of the fans interviewed and commenting on the “rubbish” is actually Keith Butler, a.k.a. Mr. “Judas!”, which is pretty cool to a dork like me. Anyway.

So the tour winds through Dublin and Liverpool and Bristol and Sheffield, and it reaches Manchester on May 17. Thanks to Live 1966, you can experience the show moment-by-moment (there’s also some fantastic footage, of this show and of everything from this period in Dylan’s career, on Scorsese’s No Direction Home documentary that came out last year). What’s amazing about this show is, to me technical quality of the performances themselves just wasn’t all that great (lingering harmonica solos in the first set, melodramatic drumming and super-yelled vocals in the second), and yet I’ve listened to it enough to have even the crowd reactions memorized. It keeps your attention, that’s for damn sure. Then again, I’ve played this album on car trips, and my passengers never fail to fall asleep (even my guitar player, who should be just as nerdy as I am!), so maybe it’s only me.

The acoustic set begins with “She Belongs to Me,” one of his better love songs, and to my ears, Dylan couldn’t sound less interested. His harmonica solo is lazy, lingering on one note for way too long, bending it, then returning to it to linger too long again. But the crowd cheers excitedly and respectfully. It’s almost like he’s trying his hardest to antagonize them, but they’re not catching on. Or maybe he’s just stoned.

“Fourth Time Around” follows, and it’s more of the same. Meandering performance, loving response. Dylan perks up for the next couple of songs, “Visions of Johanna” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” “Johanna” is simultaneously one of his most touching songs and one of his strangest. “Jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule.” “The ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face.” “Louise holds a handful of rain, tempting you to defy it.” Pretty weird stuff considering that the song is basically about a guy sitting in a room and thinking about a girl...but for whatever reason it worked then and it works now. Dyaln’s vocals are much more restrained on the live version, but that almost turns it into that much more of a love song. As for “Baby Blue,” we may never know for sure where Dylan was coming from on many of his songs—so many of them end up taking on 30 or so different meanings—but this one always struck me pretty obviously as a message to his fans. “It’s all over now...Bob Dylan, Folk Musician and World Saver, is gone. Deal with it...I have.” And because my mind’s already in that place, I always find his performances of this song extra interesting. This one is no different. He’s singing touching lyrics, basically telling the crowd that the guy they loved is gone, and they need to move on with their lives, and they’re responding with nothing but love and affection.

Set #1 ends with “Desolation Row,” “Just Like a Woman,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I’ve always found “Desolation Row” an anxiety attack set to music, but this performance of it has never done much for me...I guess no performance will top the version on Highway 61, with the two guitars and anxious tempo. I literally get a tightness in my lungs and butterflies in my stomach every time I hear it.

Again, I’ve revealed too much.

All three finishing songs are performed well, but there’s a reason I started this post with the Halloween 1964 show. Listen to “Mr. Tambourine Man” as performed in ’64, then in ’66, and you’ll hear a stark difference in crispness, clarity, and engagement. The songs are great enough to carry the performance half the time, but again...it just sounds like he couldn’t be less interested in being on stage, alone with an acoustic guitar.

Then again, maybe that’s not correct. Maybe he couldn’t be less interested in performing these songs for an audience. Maybe that’s the difference. Maybe he’s as wrapped up in his songs themselves as he ever has been, only he hates that people can’t accept both sides of his music. He’s not “performing” for the audience anymore, he’s just performing for himself. Here’s what Paul Williams said in Bob Dylan, Performing Artist:

And finally a song about a songmaker, song of songs, acknolwedgment of the music’s source, a benediction (as “She Belongs to Me” was an invocation), “Mr. Tambourine Man.” When the words begin and the audience recognizes the song and bursts into loud applause, I imagine I can hear Dylan consciously not pausing, not allowing himself to notice, because to do so would be to feel resentment at their enthusiasm (which he knows will turn to catcalls and hostility when he comes back for the electric set), and feeling even a tiny resentment or reluctance now would cut him off from his extraordinary flow of music that’s happening. So he sings on, ignoring the audience, or rather singing his song straight to the “higher self” of each person there, that part that is able and willing to be open to every note, to hear it for the first time, just as though we really were outside of time and space for this moment.
No matter what, the audience laps up every second of “Tambourine Man,” and you can practically hear the standing ovation at the end. They’re in heaven, and as soon as he acknowledges them, he’s in hell. Maybe it makes him happy to realize that, in a matter of minutes, some of them will be too.

(This post got quite long, so I decided to break it up. So ends Part One.)

* I actually got to witness a mini-version of the “So-and-So Goes Electric” controversy when Dave Matthews went to LA, strapped on an electric guitar, and made Everyday (admittedly his band’s worst album) with pop producer Glen Ballard in 2001. Dave Matthews Band message boards were filled with shock and anger and claims that Dave had “sold out”. I was even at the band’s album release show in Charlottesville that year when, 2-3 songs into the set, he broke out the electric guitar to play a song from the new album. Scott Stadium filled with a weird buzz until Dave broke the tension by faking shock and outrage at the microphone (“Oh my god, what does he think he’s doing?” and the like) and went on with the show. Surprisingly, the world didn’t end. This obviously doesn’t even remotely compare to the Dylan situation, as the crowd only ever responded with applause and appreciation, saving their bile for the Internet, where they could complain anonymously. In other words, no slow-clapping, no shouting, no interrupting the performer with complaints, and no “Judas!”


On my drive home...

...I saw a great bumper sticker. It simply said, "World Peace through Military Victory."

Yeah, uhh...how's that working out for you?


Time to Retire

Okay, that's it. "Studio 60" just seems old to me, rehashed plots and characters from Sorkin's mental reportory company of a dozen or so. Last night they introduced their combo Jeremy ("Sports Night")/Charlie ("West Wing") character and tried for the "hallowed vet/wronged writer" hook (and failed). They also did the standard Sorkin "my father doesn't appreciate how talented I am but I still love him" secondary story. The only time the show has energy is when Steven Weber is on the screen. They said Gary Larson decided to stop doing "The Far Side" because people could start seeing how he was doing it. We're seeing how Sorkin does it, like those sentence games where they give you dice with nouns, verbs, and adjectives and have you roll out sentences. He's got about 5 of each type and the sentences are getting familiar. As I said in an earlier post, it's like watching "Ghostbusters II," entertaining but you've seen it before. Unless/until that changes, I don't think it will survive this season.

Speaking of forced retirements, noticed where the Cowboys finally benched Drew Bledsoe. This is a guy whose name is in the same record lists as Unitas, Namath, Fouts, and Marino. Notice any similarity? All were statues in the pocket (so is Manning, really, the Peyton one). The difference? Their teams protected them and gave them good, smart receivers (Berry, Maynard, et al.). Dallas has a chorus girl front line and receivers who improvise (T.O.) or don't adjust their patterns when the O-line is crumbling like crepe paper. I've seen 3 Bledsoe interceptions this year, all due to badly run routes, yet no one calls for receivers to be replaced. Well, now the idiot throng has gotten their QB of choice and maybe he'll be a dream come true. Or maybe he'll be J.P. Losman. But Bledsoe was treated by Dallas like a prize race horse pulling rickshaws and deserved better at the end of his career. I don't care if he's pissed and not taking it well. He shouldn't. Rabid football fans and owners are among the most mentally and socially retarded people on the planet, and Dallas leads the league in both (even with the Redskins in the league). Don't worry, Drew. You did what you could with what was given you and it was fine.

Maybe Sorkin could do a series on you and save both reputations.