Monthly Archives: February 2006

“Sheet Metal Jesus”

Story here.

MANCHESTER, Conn. — Thomas Haley was unloading supplies for his job at Hardy’s Hardware when he said something odd caught his eye: the face of Jesus Christ on a piece of sheet metal.

Now, Haley and a co-worker are hawking the holy hardware on eBay, hoping potential bidders will agree that the blurry oil stain on the sheet metal does, indeed, resemble Jesus.

“I mean, it hasn’t done anything miraculous as of yet, but seeing it is kind of groovy,” said Haley, 23. “Just seeing it brightens people’s day.”

Ebay posting here, apparently.

Picture here:

Obvious but worthwhile comments here:

Obvious But Worthwhile Comment I: I wonder when the hordes of Christian fundamentalists (you know, the American Taliban that the New York Times is always warning us about ) are going to descend and attack the hardware store, the Ebay offices, and the Connecticutlian embassies.

Obvious But Worthwhile comment II: I wonder how long the listing on Ebay would last were it a sheet metal image of Mohammed. Hey! Come to think of it, it does look a little like him … hmmm.

It sure can get tricky when you’re hawking images of guys with beards.

Here’s a good one I just found that ZZ Top fans out there might enjoy:


Now that’s freaky.

Walk Around Heaven

During his gospel shows, Dylan generally had his backing singers open for him with their own set, and also gave them some numbers to do sometimes by way of a break in his set. From Stockholm, Sweden, on July 8th 1981, this is Carolyn Dennis ( who as we know Dylan later married) singing Walk Around Heaven All Day.

Oh, Lord up above, Lord please hear me, hear me while I pray
And walk right by, I need you to walk right by my side
And hold my hand, Lord, ’cause my way down here gets cloudy,
I need you Lord, I need you Master, I need you for my guide everyday

We Better Talk This Over

RWB is lucky not to have been blogging heavily earlier in the week and therefore in not having been tempted into committing to a position on this whole U.A.E. ports-management-deal. As of this stage, I find myself absolutely committed to being uncommitted. The only thing clear seems to be that the issues involved are not clear. I note that even Charles Johnson (of the famed “Islamophobic” Little Green Footballs) has just said that although he doesn’t outright support the deal, he is “cautiously OK with it.” Then he goes on to update the very same post with several reasons not to be so “OK” with it. I sympathize; every time I think I have a good reason to think one way or another I read something that makes me think again. Nothing wrong with waiting till all the facts are out in the open, I guess. (What a novel way of making up your mind!)

One of the points “con” that Johnson raises is via the estimable Charles Krauthammer:

The greater and more immediate danger is that as soon as the Dubai company takes over operations, it will necessarily become privy to information about security provisions at crucial U.S. ports. That would mean a transfer of information about our security operations — and perhaps even worse, about the holes in our security operations — to a company in an Arab state in which there might be employees who, for reasons of corruption or ideology, would pass this invaluable knowledge on to al-Qaeda types.

That is the danger, and it is a risk, probably an unnecessary one. It’s not quite the end of the world that Democratic and Republican critics have portrayed it to be. After all, the UAE, which is run by a friendly regime, manages ports in other countries without any such incidents. Employees in other countries could leak or betray us just as easily. The issue, however, is that they are statistically more likely to be found in the UAE than, for example, in Britain.

Well, take that last sentence. Seems like commonsense. However, it occurs to me that Britain—offered here as the point of comparison—certainly has a significant radicalized Muslim population, as we know well (the July 7th bombers included individuals who would have been thought of as anything but likely suicide killers). And now to what I don’t know but am inclined to surmise: The managers of the U.A.E. based company are unlikely to labor under any Western-style “political correctness” strictures. (Do you think that they have to take “sensitivity” classes or are compelled in any way to promote “diversity?”) Also, when it comes to identifying someone with secret radical Islamofascist tendencies, it would also seem a kind of commonsense to think that a manager coming from an Arabic/Muslim background is, if anything, more likely to see through a smokescreen thrown up by such an individual (and more likely to be able to take immediate and un-second-guessed action against them).

So, is the risk really so much statistically greater with a highly-regarded and highly-profit-motivated U.A.E. company, versus a British one, managing port operations?

Well, as said, I’m forcefully undecided on the final answer. I am, however, definitely willing to agree that the 45-day waiting period is a good idea.


With the destruction of the shrine in Samarra this week, there’s no question about how serious the situation is in Iraq. William F. Buckley, who, it must be said, has been anything but optimistic these last couple of years about the effort to create democracy in Iraq, bluntly says today that it didn’t work.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven’t proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

The Iraqis we hear about are first indignant, and then infuriated, that Americans aren’t on the scene to protect them and to punish the aggressors. And so they join the clothing merchant who says that everything is the fault of the Americans.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elucidates on the complaint against Americans. It is not only that the invaders are American, it is that they are “Zionists.” It would not be surprising to learn from an anonymously cited American soldier that he can understand why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites from each other’s throats.

Victor Davis Hanson, who has just visited Iraq, has a different view.

Who will win? The Americans I talked to this week in Iraq – in Baghdad, Balad, Kirkuk, and Taji – believe that a government will emerge that is seen as legitimate and will appear as authentic to the people. Soon, ten divisions of Iraqi soldiers, and over 100,000 police, should be able to crush the insurgency, with the help of a public tired of violence and assured that the future of Iraq is their own – not the Husseins’, the Americans’, or the terrorists’. The military has learned enough about the tactics of the enemy that it can lessen casualties, and nevertheless, through the use of Iraqi forces, secure more of the country with far less troops. Like it or not, the American presence in Iraq will not grow, and will probably lessen considerably in 2006, before reaching Korea-like levels and responsibilities in 2007.

The terrorists, whom I did not talk to, but whose bombs I heard, answer back that while they fear the Iraqization of their enemy and the progress of democracy, they can still kill enough Shiites, bomb enough mosques, and stop enough rebuilding to sink the country into sectarian war – or at least something like Lebanon of the 1980s or an Afghanistan under the Taliban.

It is an odd war, because the side that I think is losing garners all the press, whether by blowing up the great golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, or blowing up an American each day. Yet we hear nothing of the other side that is ever so slowly, shrewdly undermining the enemy.

RWB is neither a classical historian who just visited Iraq, nor the grandaddy of the modern American conservative movement. Yet my two cents is that it’s too soon to declare that “all is lost,” and indeed that it’s exactly the wrong moment to do so. Like the elections we’ve already seen, this is yet another pivotal moment: the forces who wish to precipitate an anarchy that they can exploit have detonated what amounts to their doomsday weapon, in destroying the revered Shiite shrine in Samarra. It was perhaps inevitable that, faced with their own creeping obsolence and defeat, they would play a card as unthinkable as this. There is probably nothing more inflammatory they could do, short of kidnapping al-Sistani and beheading him on videotape.

If this does not precipitate a civil war, then it’s hard to see what will.

There are alternately ominous and somewhat more hopeful posts from some Iraqi bloggers too.

News …

… from Iowahawk today.


Washington DC – The Bush Administration today angrily defended its controversial approval of the Irish company Donnybrook Lads Ltd. to oversee security at the National Strategic Whiskey Reserve in Lynchburg, TN, vowing to veto a new House bill that would force the two-man firm to undergo federal breathalizer testing.

“During the rigorous 7 minute review process, both Seamus and Kevin gave us an express oral promise that they never touch the stuff,” said White House Spokesman Scott McClelland. “Well, maybe just a wee nip at wakes, and on All Saints Day.”


King of Columbia?

Maybe I’m the last person in the world to notice this, but today I realized the strange coincidence of Dylan’s stage logo – that “crown and eye” symbol that is on the stage curtain and various merchandise – and the Columbia Records logo.

Above is the Columbia Records symbol, sometimes known as the “walking eye.” (Used here solely for purposes of illustration; this site has no affiliation with Columbia Records.)

Dylan Eye
Above is the “crown and eye” logo used in Dylan’s concert backdrop and touring merchandise. (Used here solely for purposes of illustration.)

Considering the fastidiousness with which Dylan has had himself introduced on stage as “Columbia Recording artist: Bob Dylan!” during the “Never Ending Tour” – is it likely that the “eye” thing is a coincidence?

I’m curious as to what anyone else may think (although I grant that all this may not be worthy of thought).

Down in Cheney County

From Editor & Publisher: Bob Dylan Tied to Cheney Shooting!

The Armstrong Ranch, where Dick and Harry had their mishap, was a package of land purchased by one John B. Armstrong in the late 19th century with reward money he had earned by capturing the outlaw “John Wesley Hardin.” Of-course, Dylan has his song John Wesley Harding which was the title track of his 1967 album.

All I can say is “Wow.” Already noted, back here by RWB, is that Dylan and Cheney are both Johnny Cash fans, and both were born in 1941. We also know that they both believe in the right to bear arms. Both have also had an interest in military matters (Cheney once took a job as U.S. Secretary of Defense, while Dylan mulled going to West Point in the 1950s).

And of-course, neither one has expressed an interest in running for President in 2008.

Dylan Goes to Denmark?

Thanks to Ronnie for the tip. It’s unconfirmed, but listed at Bill Pagel’s Bob Dates page, and he tends to have an inside track on this stuff. The word is that he may play at the Roskilde Festival in July.

Now, Dylan has played Denmark before (it’s been a semi-regular stop on the Never Ending Tour), and the Roskilde Festival itself on three previous occasions, apparently (again from Bob Dates).

The most noteworthy thing may be that he just played Denmark a few months ago (Aalborg, October 22nd 2005) and it’s kind of very soon for a return visit. It’s also the only date outside the U.S. currently on the radar screen (April dates in California, Nevada and Tuscon have been announced at

In any case … from that Aalborg show last October: Maggie’s Farm. [02/20/2006:link corrected, sorry]

Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.

Like Every Sparrow Falling

Few would question the greatness of the song Every Grain of Sand, from 1981’s album Shot of Love. Even those great many who didn’t get that album acknowledged that Dylan had penned a classic for the closing track.

As quotes go, there’s a relatively famous one from Leonard Cohen, responding to someone’s review of Shot of Love, where the reviewer had dismissed the record as containing “only one masterpiece,” in Every Grain of Sand. Cohen exclaimed, “My God! Only one masterpiece. Does this guy have any idea what it takes to produce a single masterpiece?”

Every Grain of Sand is also noteworthy for one of Dylan’s most conspicuous lyrical revisions. The released version has as its closing couplet: “I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man / Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.” Off-hand, I don’t know that there is a single live version where he sings the couplet that way (though my knowledge is not exhaustive). Instead, in the versions I’ve heard, it’s “I am hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan … .” However, this wasn’t a change so much as a change back, illustrated by the demo version that was released on the Bootleg Series Vols 1-3 (the version with backing vocals by Jennifer Warnes and a distant barking dog). On that, which was recorded in September of 1980, the line is: “perfect finished plan.” So he rethought it for the Shot of Love session, and then thought better of it again.

Oddly, I think “reality of man” sounds better, while “perfect finished plan” expresses the thought better, and finishes the song better in some sense – but who knows if this was part of Dylan’s own decision process.

The Shot of Love version features one of Dylan’s most poignant ever recorded harmonica solos. Somewhere in the fog of my memory I recall hearing a radio interview with one of Dylan’s backing singers (back in the 1980s) where it was said that Dylan himself had in mind to use a saxophone solo on that song. He was entreated by everyone to play his harmonica instead, and thankfully did so, producing the treasured take that was released.

A very nice live version, I think (though without harmonica) is this, which is also the most recent one, from November 27th, 2005 in Dublin, Ireland.

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me.
I am hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

Good News

Dubya says Cheney handled things “just fine.”

Bush rejects U.N. Call for immediate closure of Guantanamo.

Imagine an alternative world, where Albert Gore got a few more votes in Florida in 2000 and was President of the United States. Consider today’s headlines in that case:

Gore says Vice President Joe Lieberman is “crazed Zionist killer.”

Gore rejects congressional Republicans’ call for detention of al-Qaeda terrorists, citing international law and the importance of maintaining good relations with allies in the Saudi and Taliban regimes.

Dang, that was close.

Bob Is Wrong?!

There was a huge flurry of stories in the press to greet the announcement that the new Twyla Tharp / Bob Dylan musical The Times They Are A-Changin’ is definitely on the road to Broadway in the fall. One, however, sticks out above the rest in terms of substance, and that’s from the New York Post: My Back Stages.

It was the same NY Post which originally reported the story (back in August of 2004) that Dylan had approached Tharp about creating a musical based on his songs. Now, the Post talked directly to Tharp about the show that has been created, and dished details that eluded the rest of the media. Namely, that the show will open in New York specifically at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in the fall. And before that it will spend some time during the summer in Chicago for further tweaking. And some stuff on Dylan’s reaction:

Dylan, who saw an early preview, has given the project his blessing and is said, in fact, to be eager to see it on Broadway.

Not only because he likes it – which he does, very much – but also because, according to sources, he’s looking forward to those big fat royalty checks that can flow from a hit show.

The great icon of the ’60s counterculture has already cashed in his catalog to Victoria’s Secret and Starbucks, so why not try to ring a few more bucks out of it on the Great White Way?

Well, a little biting NY Post type spin there; fair enough.

The more interesting stuff is what Tharp tells the Post about the genesis of the musical.

When Dylan, a big fan of “Movin’ Out,” approached Tharp about fashioning a show from his songs, the first thing she did was listen to them – all 1,000 of them, covering his youthful folk period, his heavy rocker middle-age, his Christian revival maturity.

“As is my wont, I did my research,” Tharp says. “I listened to all the recordings and I read everything about Bob I could find.”

A few things jumped out at her.

First, she noticed the circus imagery in Dylan’s lyrics.

She was also struck by two album covers.

One, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” his second recording, portrayed the singer in a sheepskin coat “looking cherubic,” says Tharp.

Another, “Time Out of Mind,” a later album, revealed an older, darker, shopworn Dylan.

“You look at those two pictures and you wonder: Holy moly, what happened?”

From her those observations [sic], Tharp concocted “The Times They Are A- Changin,’ ” a dreamlike fable set in a seedy traveling circus run by a tyrannical ringmaster, who’s at odds with his sensitive young son.

“This show is about the two guys,” says Tharp. “They are split personalities.”

All along, RWB has believed that Dylan played a major role in the basic plot of the show. Could Right Wing Bob be wrong?

Well, I like to take people’s statements at face value unless there’s a compelling reason not to, so I have to assume that Tharp is being honest when she says that she is indeed responsible for both the setting and the themes of this show. And if so, great kudos are due to her, because she certainly seems to have internalized some key elements of Dylan’s own work and created a stage show which reflects them. It was awfully difficult for me to conceive of someone other than Dylan coming up with a scenario like a Captain Arab oppressing his poor son Coyote and Cleo the animal trainer in a traveling circus … and it was hard for me to conceive that Dylan would approach Tharp about doing a stage musical without having some of his own ideas to put on the table.

Nevertheless, so it seems to be, according to Twyla’s own words. Hats off to her. And I can’t wait to see it.

Back to the NY Post:

Variety, while praising the show’s emotional impact, said the “carnival world just never convinces.”

Critics also complained about the lack of dancing and narrative coherence, though several added that if Tharp can fix the show’s problems, it could generate considerable excitement in New York.

Tharp has sifted through the reviews and is going to hone the storytelling and add more dancing.

“Movin’ Out” was in much worse shape out of town than this show is, and Tharp turned that one into a winner. Don’t bet against her this time.