Monthly Archives: August 2005

It Ain’t Me, Babe

On an infinitely lighter note: It has been brought to my attention that there is a presence on the web at .

I haven’t perused the site (which appears to be essentially a discussion forum) sufficiently to offer any opinion about the owner’s intentions. It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with Dylan. All that this RWB wants to make clear is that it has nothing to do with yours truly. I wish the usurper RWB well, to the same extent as I wish all strangers well, until they give me reason to do otherwise. The legal team stand ready to abandon their stools at the local tavern and man the judicial ramparts on my order – but as I am not of an overly-litigious nature, it is unlikely that this will be necessary.

The old adage, “accept no imitations,” comes to mind, but I hesitate to voice it, so … let your imaginations reign.

“All the Way from New Orleans …”

A few extracts from Chronicles that seem poignant at this time:

The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds – the cemeteries – and they’re a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here. Going by, you try to be as quiet as possible, better to let them sleep. Greek , Roman, sepulchres – palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay – ghosts of men and women who have sinned and who’ve died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn’t pass away so quickly here.
New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don’t have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There’s something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands. A lazy rhythm looms in the dreamy air and the atmosphere pulsates with bygone duels, past-life romance, comrades requesting comrades to aid them in some way. You can’t see it, but you know it’s here.
Everything in New Orleans is a good idea. Bijou Temple-type cottages and lyric cathedrals side by side. Houses and mansions, structures of wild grace. Italianate, Gothic, Romanesque, Greek Revival standing in a long line in the rain.

A different note from the ever worsening news of the day:

On New Orleans’ Canal Street, dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise. The looting prompted authorities to send more than 70 additional officers and an armed personnel carrier into the city. One police officer was shot in the head by a looter but was expected to recover, authorities said. Blanco said she will ask President Bush for military troops to help keep looting under control.

A giant new Wal-Mart in New Orleans was looted, and the entire gun collection was taken, The Times-Picayune reported. “There are gangs of armed men in the city moving around the city,” said Ebbert, the city’s homeland security chief. Also, looters tried to break into Children’s Hospital, the governor’s office said.

In Biloxi, Miss., people picked through casino slot machines for coins and ransacked other businesses. In some cases, the looting was in full view of police and National Guardsmen.

May God bless those heroes who are out there now saving lives, and may God help those who are desperate and stranded.

High water risin’ – risin’ night and day
All the gold and silver are being stolen away
Big Joe Turner lookin’ East and West
From the dark room of his mind
He made it to Kansas City
Twelfth Street and Vine
Nothing standing there
High water everywhere

Donate to the Red Cross here (high traffic may make it difficult to get to their site at times).

More organizations that you can contribute to are listed here at the FEMA website.

The Murmur of a Prayer

From the Washington Post tonight: Hurricane Could Leave One Million Homeless.

When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans on Monday, it could turn one of America’s most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city’s legendary cemeteries.

From you know who:

High water risin’, six inches ‘bove my head
Coffins droppin’ in the street
Like balloons made out of lead
Water pourin’ into Vicksburg, don’t know what I’m going to do
“Don’t reach out for me,” she said
“Can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?”
It’s rough out there
High water everywhere

The Judge He Holds A Grudge

From Reuters:

The U.S. government on Friday appealed the 22-year prison term for “millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam, saying that the Algerian convicted of plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport deserved a longer sentence because he “plotted to kill hundreds of innocent Americans.”

This is reassuring, to say the least. Imagine if Mohammed Atta had been caught in advance of 9/11, with all the plans for that atrocity, and had been sentenced to just 22 years in jail?

The appeal of the sentence is also an apt rejoinder to the judge who handed down that sentence on July 27th, while making remarks including the following:

“We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel,” he said Wednesday. “The message to the world from today’s sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart.”

By imposing a 22-year sentence on a committed fanatic who would like to commit mass murder against Americans – and was busy trying to do just that when he was caught – Judge John Coughenour ironically helped make the case that we should deal with this kind of foreign enemy by means of military tribunals and, where necessary, firing squads.

Ahmed Ressam was at one time cooperating with prosecutors in return for a more lenient sentence. That cooperation ended, however, and it has to be assumed that he has retreated to the ideology that drove him in the first place. He may have gambled that just by cooperating temporarily he could win the sympathy of the judge, over the objections of the prosecutors. In that he would have been right.

The “message to the world” that Judge Coughenour referred to ought to be this: if you are caught trying to execute a plan of mass murder against Americans, then you will never see the light of day again.

“Kill The President”

If you were watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading the news today, you couldn’t have helped but hear about the recent remarks of the always tactful tele-evangelist Pat Robertson regarding Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He opined in essence that the only good Hugh Chavez is a dead Hugo Chavez. Hugo, of-course, is no fan of his northern neighbor, the United States. Here from USA Today is just a little of what he’s been getting up to:

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, flush with record oil revenue, is sending subsidized oil shipments to Cuba’s Fidel Castro and increasing military spending. Earlier this month, Venezuela announced a purchase of long-range surveillance radars from China. The U.S. has accused Chavez of funneling arms to leftist rebels in neighboring Colombia, which he denies.

You might, if you were being generous, equate Pat Robertson’s remarks with that old parlor game conundrum: If you could go back in time, and assassinate Adolf Hitler before he started WWII, would you do it? And would it be right?

No one, however, is being generous with Pat. As the always tactful New York Times reports: Robertson Is Pilloried for Assassination Call. CNN has given the “call” and the reaction to it ’round-the-clock coverage, including covering the response of the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S. live.

So … just asking. Have you heard about Kill Bush .net?

Do you remember when the UK’s Guardian newspaper pleaded for President Bush’s assassination?

Do you recall Checkpoint: A Novel, released during last year’s election campaign, in which two characters discuss various means of killing George W. Bush?

Maybe you remember the play (performed in New York city while the Republican National Convention was in town) called “I’m Going To Kill The President.” Salon called it “one of the most amusing plays currently running in New York.”

One thing I can tell you: If you remember all these things, it is because you read about them in what is known as the “conservative blogosphere.” You sure didn’t hear about them on the “Today” show, and you didn’t get blow-by-blow and breathless accounts on CNN.

And that’s to be expected. Here were examples, merely, of people discussing and/or advocating the killing of U.S. President George W. Bush. Nothing to get excited about. Not like someone contemplating the killing of the psycho neo-commie Hugo Chavez.

(Hey, I just coined that: “neo-commie.” Think it might catch on? Things sound so much nastier when you put “neo” in front of them.)

By The Way

Speaking of Free Republic reminds me that there was this argument there some weeks back, around the time that the news came out about Dylan’s Starbucks deal. Whenever the subject of Dylan comes up on that conservative forum, it becomes a clash between those that dig him and those that don’t, and those who buy into the caricature that the media have constructed around him, and those who understand that that is far from the truth.

On this particular thread, one of the contributors kept coming back with the argument that Dylan is a hopelessly inconsistent individual who has blown with the wind and backtracked time and again. I must say that I appreciated this response from a perceptive fan:

The idea that Dylan has been this constantly-changing chameleon is also way over promoted by mainstream media types who need a tag to hang on him. Since they always perceived him as wiggling out of whatever label they originally tried to put on him, they’ve settled on this “man of many faces” thing. While it’s understandable if someone unfamiliar with his work would be taken in by this, I think that people who’ve lived with his art for many years (and especially conservative types) are likely to hear a consistent thread throughout.

It’s too much to get into in a Free Republic post but consider, just as one example, a lyric he sang on his very first album:

Well, in my time of dying don’t want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home
Well, well, well, so I can die easy Jesus gonna make up,
Jesus gonna make up Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.

… and the final lines of the last song on his most recent album:

Just as sure as we’re living, just as sure as you’re born
Look up, look up – seek your Maker – ‘fore Gabriel blows his horn

Those lines bookend a career of songs that constantly draw from scripture, sometimes at the most unlikely moments. Yes, he’s changed musical styles, which has kept his music interesting, but he’s rarely gotten far away from an unflinching insight into human nature, an ever-present sense of mortality, and a respect for Biblical truth.

Often people are originally drawn to Dylan’s music for reasons that have more to do with his caricature (leftist politics, anti-war, whatever) but sooner or later, if they stick with it, and as they get older, they have to come to terms with the real essence of his body of work, which I think is those elements I mentioned above. In this way, Dylan’s work is ultimately not so much a part of the “counterculture,” as it is subversive to it. You might arrive to his songs as a 16 year old looking for protest anthems or music to smoke pot to – but if it really gets under your skin, it will one day lead you nowhere so much as right back to the Bible, and to values that outlast the latest fads and styles.

On one level he’s just a rock’n’roll singer – and on another his work has been an anchor in a deadly sea and has helped save more than one or two souls. I should have shut up long ago, but I just couldn’t let the canard of the “no consistent philosophy” lie. It’s been lying long enough.

Could’na said it better.

Nothing That I Wouldn’t Do

Thanks to reader T.D. for this link to an article in the American Spectator by one Mark Gavreau Judge. In it, the writer makes the case that rock’n’roll in an inherently conservative art form – due to the very orderly nature of its musical structure. He seems to be saying that this does – or should more often – make it appeal to those of a conservative mindset. It’s a fanciful argument, to say the least – I don’t think you can draw any line between the repetitive structure of a pop song and political conservatism, or any other ideology – but it’s a reasonably diverting article nonetheless.

He also dwells on the way that great popular love songs can reflect off of a religious notion of God’s divine love for us. In particular, he mentions Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love as an example. I can’t help but wonder if he’s read Ronnie Keohane’s writing on the album from which that song comes – Time Out Of Mind – or if he himself is getting near her same conclusion, i.e., that that song is in fact sung, effectively, in the voice of the Lord – the Good Shepherd singing to His lost sheep.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

Since reading Ronnie’s writing led me to hear the song this way, I’ve never been able to hear it any other way. That line, “I could hold you for a million years,” is to me an example of something Dylan could never say if he were voicing a human being’s love for another human being. He knows better. It brings to my mind one of Dylan’s more interesting statements from the stage – on April 17th, 1980 in Toronto’s Massey Hall (as referenced here on Bjorner), he said this right before playing Saved:

I saw the newspaper last night that The Who were playing in, I think it was Vancouver last night. Peter Townshend, he apologized to all the fans, he said to them “We’ll never leave you alone again.” You just think about that for a minute. There is one who will never leave you alone, I just don’t think that it’s Peter.

“Never” is a long time not to leave someone. And “a million years” is a long time to hold someone in your arms. Dylan, I think, knows very well when those words apply, and when they don’t …