The Wheel’s Still in Spin

8 Nov

Last Tuesday night, the times were a changin’.

Still, it felt perverse, even a little cruel, for my iPod to shuffle to Bob Dylan as the election results came in.

There is a battle outside.
And it is ragin’.

What does it matter that I don’t like what’s shaking my windows
and rattling my walls?

I have to admit that if the Tea Party had a mind to break into Bob Dylan, it might have found a legitimate anthem (and, in the same breath, seriously tweaked liberal sensibilities) by joining hands around the campfire, kicking off Birkenstocks, and calling to its supporters to

come gather round people, wherever you roam.

I don’t think that happened. But, thematically, it fit.

Actually, I wish the Tea Party would co-opt Bob Dylan to commemorate their success in the mid-term elections.

There’s more to Dylan’s song than a message of social and political inevitability:

Bob Dylan found inspiration for his music in the collaborative work of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, especially The Threepenny Opera, or the Beggar’s Opera.

That’s the musical about what to expect from the abandoned, the destitute. ย 

When I think about cuts to unemployment benefits, food stamps or medical care, I always remember the second act finale of Threepenny:

You gentlemen who think you have a mission
To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position,
Then start your preaching: That’s where it begins.

So first make sure that those who now are starving
Get proper helpings when we all start carving.

I hope that our newly-elected politicians will keep that in mind for the next two years.

After that, who knows?

For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.


31 Responses to “The Wheel’s Still in Spin”

  1. Thomas Stazyk November 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    Well said. When I think of the TP and Dylan I think:

    I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
    I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
    I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
    And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
    It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.


    Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
    Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
    Saying, “Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
    Is there a hole for me to get sick in ?”
    The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
    Saying, “Death to all those who would whimper and cry”
    And dropping a bar bell he points to the sky
    Saying, “The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken.

    Mama’s in the fact’ry
    She ain’t got no shoes
    Daddy’s in the alley
    He’s lookin’ for food.
    I’m in the kitchen
    With the tombstone blues.

  2. Philippe November 9, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    Today it is the Tea Party; during Clinton’s time it was the Religious Right; during Nixon’s time it was the Moral Majority; in the 1950s it was the John Birch Society.

    Have the times really been a changin’?

    Isn’t the Tea Party just an old whine in a new bottle?

    • Thomas Stazyk November 9, 2010 at 12:19 am #

      True, but in those days there was no risk of those people fielding a presidential candidate.

  3. Philippe November 9, 2010 at 3:43 am #

    Looking at my previous comment I note that, as is usual, whenever I pull facts out of long-term memory I misremember them slightly.

    During Clinton’s time it was of course Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority”, not the “Religious Right”, which played the role of today’s Tea Party.

    And in Nixon’s time the Tea Party equivalent wasn’t the “Moral Majority” as I mistakenly said, but of course “The Great Silent Majority”, whose cause was championed by Vice President Spiro Agnew (boo hiss) who was Nixon’s Dick Cheney.

    On the topic of presidential candidates, I’ll make a wild guess and will say that if the Tea Party fields a presidential candidate in 2012, he or she won’t get the Republican Party’s nomination.

  4. Paul Costopoulos November 9, 2010 at 6:17 am #

    I pale in anticipation of Sara’s nomination and it’s possible consequences should those crackpots get her in the White House. But I am confident the majority of USAers have a much better sense and it will not happen.
    Getting Dylan and Weill into the fray is a good idea.

    • Thomas Stazyk November 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

      My optimistic reaction is to agree, but if you look at the history of Germany in the 1920s you’ll find that a lot of people thought reason would prevail as well.

      • Man of Roma November 11, 2010 at 4:20 am #

        Sarah Palin is not Hitler, and the Americans are not the exhausted and humiliated Germans between WW1 and WW2.

  5. jenny November 9, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    Tom — Yesterday, I saw that a German journalist had referred to Sarah Palin as the Lady Gaga of the Right. I’m trying to maintain my p-p-p-poker face!

    Philippe — When you abandon your customary formality of expression with something like “boo hiss”, it makes me smile. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Paul — I am confident, too. If not, you’ll have to show me the way to the next whiskey bar. Oh, don’t ask why…

    • Philippe November 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

      “….your customary formality of expression…..”

      I’d always thought my writing style to be relaxed, laid back.

      However, in my young and impressionable years I immersed myself in the writings of William F Buckley. So it must be that his inimitably formal writing style still influences me.

      I must try to do better.

      • jenny November 10, 2010 at 6:10 am #

        @Philippe: I intended not even a hint of criticism; just my delight when you mix it up a bit with high and low.

      • Man of Roma November 11, 2010 at 4:23 am #

        Phil, your customary formality of expression is perfect (as Jenny agrees too). And we also like your customary changing of both personality and blog ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Iden November 9, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    Sometimes it’s neat how it seems my iPod is psychic. Another testament to the inclination of our minds to always seek patterns. Either that or Apple’s engineers really have something on the ball.

    • jenny November 10, 2010 at 6:14 am #

      Iden: If there can be a mood ring, why not a psychic iPod?

  7. Mark Workman November 9, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    Another excellent, absolutely wonderful posting. Who are the songsmiths of the Tea Party Folk? Good luck on that one.

    • jenny November 10, 2010 at 6:17 am #

      What songs do the Tea Party folk have? The answer is blowing in the wind.

  8. david osman November 9, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    good writing.

    • jenny November 10, 2010 at 6:18 am #

      You are generous, David. Thanks.

  9. Cyberquill November 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    I’ve been collecting unemployment benefits for over a year now. The money just keeps flowing into my checking account. Not once in all this time has anyone bothered to check whether I’m actually looking for work or whether I’m lounging about in a hammock on the beach. (Which one of the two applies in my case is beside the point. The point is that no one is checking.)

    So when you lament cuts to unemployment, food stamps, and other benefits, also consider the fact that in order to prevent large-scale fraud that drains God-knows-how-many billions of dollars out of the system, a KGB-like surveillance apparatus would have to be put in place.

    The big dilemma, it seems, is how to get government aid to people who truly need it while at the same time preventing everyone else from collecting. Just handing out benefits without surveillance seems like a bad idea.

    On the other hand, do we really want increased surveillance? Liberally-minded people in particular have a tendency to scream “police state” every five seconds as it is, so do we want to ratchet it up another notch or simply trust that the amount of freeloading will remain within acceptable limits? And if the latter, as per what understanding of human nature are we confident that it will?

    • jenny November 10, 2010 at 6:26 am #

      First of all, CQ, you are right about the lack of (let’s call it) accountability and about human nature.

      Yeah, I don’t have all of the fine points worked out just yet. As far as UI benefits are concerned, this wasn’t a problem until recently because (at least in Illinois) six months was the maximum duration, so hammock lounging was at your own peril.

      I can also tell you that I have represented at least three people who (unfairly) were denied UI benefits. So, the system is messed up in more than one way, I think.

      Now, to return to your point, surely there is something between zero accountability and KGB surveillance. Right?

      Btw, I never scream. I might murmur “police state”, but every five seconds seems over the top, even for me.

      • Cyberquill November 10, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

        Yeah, I donโ€™t have all of the fine points worked out just yet.

        In my personal experience, this is the most popular response to virtually every follow-up question on anything. Yet it seems to me that all complicated issues are a matter of working out the “fine points.” Espousing overarching philosophies is easy until one starts contemplating the pragmatic minutia.

        Here’s what Obama said on 60 Minutes last Sunday:

        “You know, when you’re campaigning, I think you’re liberated to say things without thinking about, OK, how am I actually gonna practically implement this?”

        This is what I mean.

        Surely there is something between zero accountability and KGB-style surveillance? I hope so. It’s just that I haven’t quite worked out the fine points of what exactly that might be in a country of 300 million plus inhabitants.

      • jenny November 10, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

        CQ, you are killing me.

        I intended, in my response, to skewer myself for “espousing overarching philosophies”.

        My purpose in beginning with “Yeah” was to underscore what a tired cop-out this “I haven’t worked out all of the details” response truly is, and that I am winking as I say it.

        That’s what I meant to do.

        Not the first time I’ve been misunderstood.

        What does Ed Wood say? “Worst post you’ve ever read? My next one will be better!”

      • Cyberquill November 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

        Keep in mind that given the nature of the Internet, people generally don’t read as much as they skim.

        I just heard of an interesting study in the field of cognitive science where it was determined that when “reading” online material, people tend to maybe read the first few lines at the top, and then sort of skim the first three words of every other line for the rest of the article. (Don’t quote me on the exact numbers, but it’s something like that.)

        Bottom line, don’t expect your readers to stop and ponder the subtlety of a prepended “yeah.”

        If I’m killing you again, is it murder or negligent homicide?

  10. dafna November 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    i’m an ignoramus… i’ve never seen “the beggars opera”. will look out for it.

    • jenny November 10, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

      Dafna, you are no ignoramus. Nobody likes this piece in America. I’m not sure why. Consequently, it is not frquently produced. It is very long; maybe that’s the problem.

      Anyway, I’m thrilled that you posted the Tom Waits rendition. What a guy! You might also want to check out Amanda Palmer’s version of Pirate Jenny, a song that Dylan especially admired.

      • dafna November 12, 2010 at 12:09 am #

        Ute Lemper has a really excellent version of pirate jenny song, really gets the “i’m about to go postal” message across. hoopla!

        my theory about people’s musical tastes: there seems to be no middle ground when it comes to poet / mumblers / strong lyrics like dylan and waits, people either love or hate them.

      • jenny November 12, 2010 at 6:28 am #

        dafna: I blog for the music recommendations.

      • dafna November 13, 2010 at 1:58 am #

        …. music recommendation

        jakob dylan + neko case

      • jenny November 13, 2010 at 6:51 am #

        I like it. Thanks, Dafna. He looks like his dad, no?

        And who told you I have a thing for guys with guitars? ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Chris November 12, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Ohhhh, Bob. You gotta figure a song about things changing will continually be relevant. Keeps those royalty checks coming, I s’pose. Brilliant!

    Part of me hopes the Tea Party takes Congress and gets Sarah Palin into the White House, and then the US just completely crashes into the ground. This is, of course, depending on my mood….

    “There must be some kind of way out of here …?”

    • jenny November 13, 2010 at 6:53 am #

      How smart was Prince to write a song called 1999 back in the early 80s? That must have been sweet when the second round of royalty checks came in at the turn of the century.

      I must learn how to think this way!


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