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Have you heard the news? he said, with a grin
The Vice-President's gone mad!
Where? Downtown. When? Last night
Hmm, say, that's too bad!


 


Sunday, December 31, 2006

Lost but now I’m found ...6:14 pm

And it really is a happy New Year. I didn’t see this until now, but relevant to my post a couple of days ago about Queen Esther Marrow’s dog being lost, here is the happy conclusion from Virginia’s Daily Press: Local singer’s dog shows up.

Courtney the dog is back home and safe.

A manager for gospel singer Queen Esther Marrow reported Friday that the performer’s Yorkshire terrier – which disappeared from Orcutt Avenue in Newport News Thursday – was returned. A reward of $500 was presented.

“Queen is so relieved,” said manager Roseanne Kirk, “and so happy.”

I’m a sucker for a nice dog story. I wonder why?

Billie








Happy New Year ...5:56 pm

A very happy New Year to all readers of this website and even to those countless web searchers who accidentally run into it and run screaming away.

’Tis the season to publish e-mails that compliment RWB, I guess, so thanks to Kurt for this recent one:

I don’t remember how I became hip to your site, but I’ve been reading your postings for the last 3 months or so. You’ve put into words what I’ve been trying to say for many years. I’ve been telling my lefty friends, “heh, why don’t you listen to his lyrics, or better yet listen to what Bob has been saying, consistently over the years.” But they just can’t take their liberal veil or transmogrifier away from him, so the result is always the same. Their interpretation, instead of Bob directly.

One issue that has always bothered me about the lib/lefty/hippy interpretation of Bob. Where is the humor?

That is why I love Bob’s radio show. We’ve always known how funny he is, now we get some really good standup every week. And if there is one thing that the hippies ain’t it’s funny (except for some really cool exceptions like Abbie H, kesey and a few others, and in reality those guys had a lot of the beat generation in them.)

He also refers to the post about Gerald Ford and all the times Ford mentioned prayer or God (apparently without being accused of working to establish a theocracy) and he forwards a transcript of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Franklin D. Roosevelt – June 6, 1944

Can anyone imagine the reaction were George W. Bush to write a prayer like that and publicize it to the nation? Maybe he could slip a little bit of it into the next State of the Union, just for laughs. “In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, let us have ‘faith in our united crusade’ against the ‘unholy forces of our enemy.’”

Well, I guess not.








Miller time ...5:14 pm

So, Sienna Miller, the actress who plays Edie Sedgwick in that “Factory Girl” film, says that Dylan has no reason to be upset about the movie which portrays him, under a mocked-up name, as having an affair with Sedgwick (while he was married?) and abandoning her in advance of her death from a drug overdose.

In the same interview she also complains about the media’s “unhealthy” interest in her own private life.

It is annoying, by the way, to see so many news stories on this controversy (like that Observer article or this BBC piece) claiming that certain songs of Dylan’s were written for, or inspired by, Edie Sedgwick, and using weasel-ish phrases like “it is said” or “it is believed” to perpetuate these notions which have no real basis except in gossip. The attempt to nail songs such as Like A Rolling Stone down to specific personages is inexplicable to me, in that it only diminishes the work. But it will go on.








God knows ...1:52 pm

Dylan has a habit of taking a cliché — something that’s been heard and said so many times that it has lost all true meaning — and using it in a song lyric in a surprising or a subversive way, or in a way that reminds the listener what it really meant to begin with. Professor Christopher Ricks has drawn attention to Dylan’s way of doing this. Below is yet another YouTube treasure — a video of Dylan performing the song God Knows in 1994 (professionally shot). In this case the cliché to which Dylan is applying his restorative power is the title of the song itself. The term “God knows” is so often said and heard that it would be easy enough to listen through this entire song without ever thinking that the singer is actually referring to God — to the God of Abraham. The first line of the song actually leads you down that path, i.e. the path of thinking that the song is just a jokey and entirely secular pop rock tune: God knows you ain’t pretty. The second line does not disillusion you: God knows it’s true. The next couplet, however, is actually telling the listener something that the real God would really know: God knows there ain’t anybody / Ever gonna take the place of you.

Having said all that, Dylan changes that opening verse in the performance below. (God knows he’s unpredictable.) Still, it’s a good one.

God knows there’s a river,
God knows how to make it flow,
God knows you ain’t gonna be taking
Nothing with you when you go.








Saturday, December 30, 2006

Busy dying ...6:02 pm

Death comes in threes, it’s often said, and as much as it is inherently a nonsensical statement (with all kinds of people dying all the time in inconceivable numbers) it certainly seemed to have some validity during this strange week — at least through the prism of the U.S. media. James Brown, Gerald Ford and Saddam Hussein. There’s no equivalency on any level between the three men, and yet their deaths and the ramifications thereof have swapped places in the headlines ever since Christmas Day.

So, what? Well, nothing. It’s just been odd, and I’m just saying. I guess it does also provide evidence for the theory that the dying tend to hold on till Christmas, even if it was not altogether voluntary for Saddam.

The volume of attention being paid to the minutiae of that dictator’s death seems unfortunate, in that all his many victims never had any attention paid to the manner of their dying, or the substance of their last words, or the disposition of their earthly remains. The microscope focused on the details of his execution will delight some who know how little mercy he himself ever displayed, but it will inevitably arouse pity in others. Maybe a feeling of pity can never be wrong in itself, being one of the nobler aspects of one’s humanity, but when accompanied by sanctimony and a wilful lack of perspective on the man’s crimes, it’s pretty close to being despicable.

Iraqi blogger Mohammed puts things pretty succinctly and these words might be fitting on the dictator’s tombstone:

Saddam drew his path to hell long time ago … he chose this fate the day he chose cruelty and oppression as a way to deal with his people. He built his reign with blood and terror and vowed to make death the fate of anyone who dared say no to him.

All prospective dictators ought to meditate on that. And all current ones are hopefully losing just a little bit of sleep tonight.








Friday, December 29, 2006

Still waiting ...8:39 pm

Another long-time Iraqi blogger, Alaa, aka the Mesopotamian, says that he can’t sleep as he awaits the moment that he describes as “a tooth for a million teeth.

For the record, when it comes to capital punishment, it’s one thing that I’m pretty much in full agreement with former President Bill Clinton on: it should “safe, legal and rare.”

Addendum 10:24 pm: Done, apparently.








Waiting ...1:53 pm

Iraqi blogger Mohammed on the sense of anticipation in Baghdad at this hour:

It’s very imminent now and might become a fact at any minute.
The situation in Baghdad is tense now and US and Iraqi forces are heavily deployed on the streets.

We’re hearing and reading more confirmations that US military has already turned Saddam in to the Iraqi authorities and I don’t think the government is willing, or able, to keep him in custody for too long.
Rumors are spreading fast through phones and text messages in Baghdad, mostly saying that curfew will be imposed in the city tomorrow. No word about that from state TV though.

Friends and relatives are calling me asking me whether he’s been already executed, some are claiming he already has.
Meanwhile lots of updates are coming through news TV here; al-Arabiya reporter said the noose is already set in a yard in the IZ. Al-Hurra reported that preparations for the execution are underway and no delay is expected.

It’s going to be a long night but it looks like the morning will bring the news Iraqis have long waited for …








Lost dog ...11:40 am

Queen Esther Marrow, who sang with Bob Dylan in the 1980s (Empire Burlesque, Knocked Out Loaded) has lost her dog, in Newport News, Rhode Island Virginia. Marrow has been on tour in Germany and had left her little dog, Courtney, in the care of a friend.

Early this morning, Courtney vanished from the yard of local friend who was keeping her. The friend, who lives on the 1600 block of Orcutt Avenue in Newport News, is afraid the pooch may have been stolen.

“It really tears me up,” Marrow said today, calling from Germany, where she is performing with her group the Harlem Gospel Singers. “I’m just devastated. We think she was taken from right in front of the house. We have a generous reward. There will be no questions asked. I just want my dog back.”

Marrow is offering a $500 for Courtney’s safe return. Anyone who can help find the dog is asked to call 870-0777 or leave a message at 245-4373.

“That little doggie means so much to me,” the singer said. “She is 10, will be 11 years old this January. I love her so much. I pray that this will help bring her back home.”

The dog weighs 8 pounds and is silver, black and tan.

Keep an eye out.

Queen Esther Marrow's dog








Thursday, December 28, 2006

The death of Europe? ...8:26 pm

Relevant to a previous post, and a post I referred to by Clive Davis at the Daily Dish, there is this article by Joshua Livestro (again from the new Weekly Standard) on the seeds of a Christian religious revival in Holland.

Take the almost unnoticed reintroduction of crucifixes and other religious artifacts into the classrooms of Catholic schools throughout the country. Years of gradual but seemingly unstoppable secularization have given way to a reaffirmation of old religious identities. The change is also starting to affect the attitudes of pupils at these schools. In a recent newspaper interview, a head teacher at a Catholic secondary school in Rotterdam observed, “For years, pupils were embarrassed about attending Mass. Now, they volunteer to read poems or prayers, and the auditorium is packed.”

There’s also the remarkable critical and commercial success of a number of openly Christian writers. Holland’s most prestigious literary prizes were awarded in 2005 to books dealing in a sympathetic way with Christian issues of faith and redemption. The Libris Literatuur Prize went to the Catholic author Willem Jan Otten for his Specht en zoon (Specht and son) while the AKO Literature Prize was awarded to Calvinist Jan Siebelink’s Knielen op een bed violen (Kneeling on a Bed of Violets). Siebelink’s novel sold nearly 350,000 copies in its first year, making it the single bestselling Dutch-language book of the past decade–apart, that is, from a new Bible translation published in 2004, which sold more than half a million copies (in a population of 16 million people).

The gist of the story is that while attendance at the mainstream (and now hopelessly liberal) churches has fallen drastically over the years, there is a building hunger in the populace for what someone quoted in the article calls “a new orthodoxy.” (Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. In a good way.)

And for those who say that demographics equals destiny, and then just slam the book shut, there is also this interesting factoid:

Analysts usually focus on the one million Muslim immigrants and their offspring who have made the Netherlands their home since the early 1950s. But in the past decade, Muslim immigration has been overtaken by a larger stream of immigrants, namely Christians from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. An SCP estimate puts the number of Christian immigrants in Holland at around 700,000– and rising fast. Recent immigration reports suggest that for every new Muslim moving to Holland, there are at least two new Christian immigrants.

Read it all. We all should have reason to hope that these things are not just aberrations but rather the beginnings of a trend.








Believing or not ...3:17 pm

Joseph Epstein has an article in the Weekly Standard on presidents with actual beliefs and those without them, and the distinctions between how the govern; he designates George W. Bush as the former type. Correctly, I think.

When George W. Bush addresses the nation with his Iraq proposals in early January, a great many people will be disappointed. They will be so because the president is unlikely to change the position he has held all along: that in Iraq victory, or something that looks to the world like victory, is still essential, crucial even.

How could it be otherwise? George W. Bush is not, strictly speaking, a politician; he came, after all, to politics late. He is instead a believer. It may well be in his nature to believe, as witness his midlife conversion to earnest Christianity. But there can be very little doubt that, on the morning of September 11, 2001, he also acquired political religion. He believes American security is being challenged; he believes this challenge must be met directly and with force; and he believes that he knows what is best for the country which he has been chosen to lead. The question of the rightness of his belief may be debated; but about the sincerity of his belief there can’t be much question.

Four or so years ago, I heard the comedian Jackie Mason mock George W. Bush’s slender rhetorical powers. “He stumbles, he stutters, he mispronounces. He goes arghh, he goes ahhh; he twists himself up in words; it’s hopeless. Unlike Bill Clinton, who speaks with never a pause, never a miscue, never a hitch of any kind. You know, when you come to think of it, it’s a hell of a lot easier
to speak well when you don’t believe a word you’re saying.”

I did a post last night relevant to presidents and prayers. I know that if ever a president needed prayers, it is George W. Bush, and if ever he needed them, it is surely now. The decisions he is making during these days relevant to Iraq are extremely tough ones and they will be extremely consequential ones.








Unfactually Girl ...10:13 am

The entertainment and gossip columnist Roger Friedman writes more about “Factory Girl” today. He likes the movie. He acknowledges that it is very far from being accurate in its facts, but, then, what is truth?

It´s unlikely, for example, that Edie had an affair with Bob Dylan. In the movie, Hayden Christensen, whom I´ve accused of being wooden in the past, does a great job playing a Dylanesque character named Billy Quinn. Dylan didn´t want his name used, but it´s him, right down to the harmonica. Dylan should be flattered. He comes across as hot stuff and never looked better.

But Edie´s real affair was with Dylan associate Bob Neuwirth. She lived with him for two years, but he´s not in the movie. Some books about Edie and Dylan suggest they may have had a fling, but only Dylan knows and he´s not telling.

Dylan, of course, is famous for not owning up to his personal life. He likes to keep secret the number of children he had (after his initial four with wife Sara Lownds) and the names of their mothers. When I reported a few years ago that he´d romanced Raquel Welch in recent times, he denied it even though it was true.

But what is true? Biographical films no longer stick to any truth. Characters are combined, incidents are rearranged. “Facts” are reinterpreted so the plot moves along better. “Fur,” this year´s movie about photographer Diane Arbus, was billed as an “imaginary portrait.”

Well, you might say that that last paragraph of Friedman’s makes a good point, and all the more so in the light of Dylan’s cooperation with the forthcoming Todd Haynes film, “I’m Not There” — which certainly is not going to be following history in any faithful way. However, therein lies the real point. No one is going to watch “I’m Not There” — with multiple actors and actresses playing Dylan at various stages — and think that they are seeing a documentary of any kind. They will be far more likely to realize that they are watching something which is an artistic creation in its own right, and is merely utilizing the character of Dylan and some of the stories of his life as a jumping off point to create a discrete piece of work.

“Factory Girl,” on the other hand, is apparently a film which would have us think that it is telling the real story of real people. And it pretty clearly is doing no such thing.

By the way, I don’t know if Friedman’s assertions above about Bob Neuwirth or anything else are true either — but then, what is truth? (I do think Bob and Raquel would make a great couple, but that’s their business.)

Speaking of the Todd Haynes picture, the publication Jewtastic has this item about Cate Blanchett (who is one of those portraying Dylan in that upcoming film):

“Bob Dylan´s persona is divided into six different parts,” she says. “ I play Bob Dylan when he went electric, so I had the hair. It´s not a biopic. I think when you kind of juxtapose all those different incarnations you get an approximation of him.”

Blanchett also revealed her admiration for the folk rock star.

“‘Cause he´s so elusive, and I´m so in love with him and I´m so glad I never met him – I´d be terrified! My brother-in-law met him,” she says. “He was at a party in LA about 15 years ago and he was talking to this really cool guy. They had shared a joint and after he left, everyone came up to my brother-in-law and said, ‘How do you know Bob?´ and he said, ‘Bob, who?´ He thought he was talking to the gardener!”

I suspect that Dylan would be far more pleased to hear that he was mistaken for a gardener, as opposed to hearing Roger Friedman characterizing him as “hot stuff.”








Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The murmur of a prayer ...9:06 pm

In his inaugural address of August 9th, 1974, the late President Ford said:

I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers. And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many.

He ended his address with this:

God helping me, I will not let you down.

In President Ford’s press conference of 8/28/1974 (which I just witnessed on the C-Span network) he said — regarding any potential pardon of Richard Nixon — that he had asked for “prayers for guidance on this very point.”

He pardoned Nixon the following month.

Many columns and books have been written of late warning of a coming theocracy of some kind in the United States, based largely (it seems to me) on how President George W. Bush has allegedly worn his faith on his sleeve.

Well, based on President Ford’s almost constant invocations of God, and his seeming belief that God was was on his side, and giving him “guidance” of some kind, I think that it’s pretty clear that we’ve been living under an effective theocracy in the United States since 1974. The fact that history seems to regard this raving religious maniac as some kind of Republican moderate is all the more telling.

If this is what the moderates are like, then what the heck are the hardcore right-wing-Christian-nuts like? We clearly don’t know the half of it.

God help us.







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