Saturday, June 18, 2011

Anhedonia: When Nothing Is Fun Until Suddenly It Is

A few days ago I watched the "I Have A Dream" speech because it was a bonus feature for season three of Mad Men. That is a powerful piece of rhetoric. Rivers, mountains, streams. Judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Little Black Boys and Little White Boys and Little White Girls and Little Black Girls all playing together on the playground. Not taking the tranquliizing drug of gradualism. You should watch it. It's practically Shakespeare. So forty-eight years on, how are things going? Has the dream come true?

Tonight I went to a Beatles tribute band doing a concert in the park. Of course the concert had been moved from the park to a tent in a parking lot across the creek and the kids just wanted to play in the park. Depressed, I identified the songs by the opening bass notes, which were the only sound that really carried to where we were. Excitement about the concert became the usual mild anxiety about the children falling off the equipment or being injured by rampaging "big kids". Nothing is fun.

Twenty minutes later I said we could stay for ten more minutes. This is always my job, to put limits on and ultimately end our fun. With one of the kids, I got on what passes for a seesaw these days - big platforms with railings and handles on giant springs. An African-American woman with a little boy asked if she could get on the other end and I smiled and said yeah. We smiled at each other like all strangers who are acting as children's caregivers do. (The Parenting Smile means "See, I'm harmless. We're friendly. I'm one of the good ones.")

"Whee!" we said with our children. And suddenly I flashed back to Martin's speech and all the disappointment and depression about missing the ongoing Beatles tribute band was gone in an instant. I thought, "We're doing it, Martin! We're doing it! It's not perfect and it's maybe a little awkward, but we're doing it! Look, Martin! Look! Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!"

Cynical as I am, I can't believe how honestly good I felt right at that moment. I almost teared up. I was really caught of guard by this feeling of America being better and not just better but also improving - improving in our own hearts and those of the next generation we were seesawing with.

So thank you, Dr. King, for having the dream, articulating the vision, and making sure I would live in this version of America. Now I am going to go watch the next episode of Mad Men. Ha!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Where Will The Twins Finish This Year?

It's time for my annual AL Central prediction. I happened to catch the middle two games of the Twins' four game sweep in Kansas City in person. I saw some of the ineptitude that's nagged them all season. But I saw some things that gave me hope for the Twins as well.

The Twins, who at this point seem to be mostly Red Wings, are finally starting to play like a Ron Gardenhire team. They are getting inside the opponent's mind, bunting, stealing bases, taking extra bases, and playing good basic defense. Starting pitchers are going deep into games. Pavano was amazing to watch Friday night to the extent that I did not even use my free ten dollars on dollar dog/beer night. Yeah, really.

The Twins will get Mauer and Nishi back somewhere along the line and one or both of them will play awesome. Cleveland will collapse. The White Sox will stay mired in mediocrity and finish around .500. For all the excitement over their new players the Royals, God love 'em, are the Royals. The only competition for the Twins down the stretch will be the Detroit Tigers. The Twins will make it a race, but the Tigers' lead will prove to be just too huge. I will then wish Jim Leyland and his team success representing the AL Central against New York, Boston, or Texas.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

True Story

I was in Florida recently and I met some interesting people. There was a family who named their children after letters of the alphabet. I didn't think that was a super idea, but I found their fourth child particularly inspirational.

One morning we woke up to find that a strange, prehistoric looking group of birds had flown over and defecated hair on the extremely large houses we were staying in. Worse, this hair could only be removed by scraping at it with a dorsal fin of the native fish.

Even worse, the fish had to do it voluntarily, which meant alive. Special water-tight suits were constructed to keep these beautiful creatures breathing while they scraped the hair off the homes. One good thing about all of it was the development and implementation of a system of communication with the graceful beings. They're really quite bright and, once they understood our predicament, most compassionate.

Everyone else in the entire neighborhood had gotten their houses clean of the hair except the family I was staying with. It was a fascinating thing to watch and the fourth child of the alphabet nomenclature family became very attached to one of the wetsuited workers and vice versa.

It was the end of a very long day and, as I said, the large house I was staying in was the last one to get the hair scraped off it. The last native fish still working said he was going to call it a day.

We begged him not to stop because we couldn't stand to sleep another night in the house while it still had its disgusting coat of stinky, pterodactyl poop-hair. What finally convinced him to do it? I must admit, I played on his relationship with that inspirational fourth child and said, "


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Bob Dylan, Star Trek Fan

Who knew? Clinton Heylin knew, that's who. Clinton Heylin points out in his superlative book "Still On The Road" that two lines from the 1985 Empire Burlesque version of "Tight Connection To My Heart" are from an episode of Star Trek. He did not specify which two lines so I had to seek it out. This is why the internet exists:

From the episode "The Squire of Gothos":

SULU: Captain, how far do we go along with this charade?
KIRK: Until we can think our way out. Meanwhile, we accept his hospitality.

From the first verse of Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love):

I’ll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out

Awesome. I imagine Bob sitting around, maybe in a hotel room, working on this song that has been calling to him for at least two years. (It was originally recorded for Infidels with different lyrics in 1983.) He happens to catch this excellent episode of Star Trek at just the right time and gives himself that mental, "Yeah!" that you get when you are really pleased with something artistic you've done. He immediately goes to the studio and overdubs the new vocal, now complete.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Walker Brothers Reissue

I have come to accept that I don't really make any effort to listen to "new bands". I DO ocasionally listen to bands that are new to me, whatever era they may come from. As such, I have to mention a really good, cheap reissue of three 1970s albums by The Walker Brothers. They're like Elvis in that they have the best elements of every genre and a big, powerful voice and sound.

Mostly I was interested in this because of the David Bowie connection. Bowie covered the song "Nite Flights" on 1993's excellent Black Tie, White Noise. I also was introduced to Scott Walker's solo work by A. Hon of Honigman and the Missisippi Seven and J. Dogs and so on. I was mostly interested in the Nite Flights album and had wanted it on CD for a long time. I was pleasantly surprised to find No Regrets and Lines are at least as good, if not as experimental.

Mastering is relatively quiet and totally transparent. It sounds like a good vinyl record. The CDs come in cardboard replica LP sleeves all held in a little box with a bonus photo. The page at amazon has that "Only 2 left in stock--order soon (more on the way)" notation on it already. Get it before it goes back out of print and sells at grossly inflated prices!