Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I Love You, Bob Dylan

I was about 12 years old when I fist saw and heard Bob Dylan on the tiny black & white TV in my room; some obscure little show, it was sheer happenstance that I saw it. And he instantly became the poetic and politically musical love of my life. Plus I thought he was really cute, and I think he’s gotten even sexier with every odd and interesting phase he’s gone through over the years, including now. I still love Bob Dylan, craggy old buzzard though he’s become (I’m a craggy old buzzard myself, so it fits). He still has that sweet, sour, vulnerable, thorny, inaccessible-but-please-don’t-leave-me-alone magic about him.

Unfortunately, I think he’s a tormented genius and in many ways a very unhappy man. So I’m feeling bad for Bob Dylan because I suspect he’s feeling sad and confused about having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He’d been nominated for it repeatedly over the years. I don’t know why the Committee decided this was the year, but the reason given for the award is "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” So said Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Nobel Academy, at a news conference last Thursday. She said there was "great unity" in the panel's decision. "Bob Dylan writes poetry for the ear, but it's perfectly fine to read his works as poetry." For the record (no puns intended), the honor comes with $927,740. Monetary coal to Newcastle, I know, but he could do something meaningful with that.

I’m proud of and happy for the scrappy troubadour who one of the Nobel Committee members called "probably the greatest living poet." But, not surprisingly, the Committee can’t locate/communicate with Dylan directly. He’s made no public statement nor sent any private word to them. Someone described as his “closest collaborator” (?) is painting a positive picture of Dylan’s response and the Committee is minimally hopeful the recipient will attend the December 10th ceremony and accept his award. He did show up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, but as soon as he could he fled those events with the speed and stealth of a cartoon super-hero.

I don’t think he wanted those awards and I don’t think he wants this one, because part of him feels unworthy and another part of him thinks it’s meaningless. That’s the sad and confused part and if it’s so, he’s wrong on both counts. Also, it seems some noted novelists are voicing their displeasure. Clueless, sour grapes, I say.

Part of Dylan’s appeal, I think, as well as his personal misery, stems from the fact that he’s never seen himself as a genius let alone the Voice of His Generation (he first said so to Rolling Stone decades ago). He knows he’s got something special and he’s certainly aware of where it’s taken him and what it’s meant to others. Like most artists he has some measure of ego, so I think he somewhat enjoys all that.

But my intuition tells me he also feels it’s ill-gotten gains for a talent that was, as time went on, just kidding – but everyone took it to heart. He once implied during a 60 Minutes interview that he had made a deal with the Devil to get what he got. Maybe that’s why so much of his post-folk and post-folk-rock stuff – the wildly disparate music that came out (and sometimes got lost) amidst all the “Best Of” and bootleg records – was a series of musical searches for God. I think the core thing to understand about Bob Dylan as an artist and a man is that to his great surprise and discomfort, he’s been treated like a God, when all he’s wanted is to find God himself. Dylan talks a lot about God, when he does talk. What spiritual irony!

Bob Dylan spends most of the year touring. When he’s not on the road – which is only for a few weeks here and there – he lives alone in a house in California. I can’t imagine what it looks like. He has a big family but I know nothing about his relationships with them, or his friends, or if there’s presently a woman in his life, or what his hobbies and pleasures might be. He seems to just want to keep moving and keep singing whatever it is he feels like singing at the moment, and try to feel like a real person instead of an icon. His problem is, he is an icon, a real one, and that must be a hell of a burden.

But what do I know? My observations come from a combination of articles and interviews read, and intuitive conjecture voiced. Whatever. Congratulations Bob wherever you are. I hope you’re in better shape than I fear. I hope you’ll go get your prize, make a nice speech, and feel good when you get back to California. Because like it or not, you are one of The Greats – and still needed and wanted and loved. You have been the soundtrack of my life and millions (maybe billions) of others. You told us you (yourself, we, all of us) “gotta serve somebody.” Thank you for your ongoing service.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Political Power of Pussy

After this post I’m not going to say anything more about The Campaign before Election Day, because there’s nothing left to say. I just want to go on the record as being both horrified and amused by the political and media reaction to Donald Trump’s celebrity-entitled pussy grab: his stated attitude and alleged actions. I do have a few things to say about that.

First, I didn’t know pussy was a dirty word; I thought it was slang. So imagine my surprise when the media felt compelled to say “p-word” and spell it “p***y.” Are you kidding me? I suppose I should be grateful they’re not using the moronic “va-jay-jay,” but truthfully, it’s no comfort. I wish we as a culture would (a) grow the fuck up, (b) call a spade a spade, and (c) stop being afraid of language and re-learn how to use it well.

But what you call “it” isn’t important. What’s important is that Trump, for all his exaggerations, distortions, whopper-sized-lies, and overall 18-month-long rant of insults as well as inappropriate and ignorant and evasive statements, was not incorrect about what men who are regarded as “stars” can get away with sexually.

And, there are two separate but equally disturbing/ revealing aspects to PussyGate. The first is: as Donald Trump has repeatedly said of himself (and as the media has said about him): he is not a politician, he is a businessman and a celebrity. Accordingly, I’m less than shocked by his personal sexual history. And if he weren’t within a dick’s-reach of the American Presidency, I wouldn’t care less.

I spent over 30 years in the entertainment business. Most of the men in it, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, would never make the kind of coarse, charmless overtures Trump described in the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape and revealed in his actual behavior – new allegations about which are coming forth every minute. However, these men are very aware that some women find rich, powerful, famous men extremely attractive, and some men use that fact to their sexual advantage. For their part, some conventionally-beautiful women, both in and out of the business, are more than willing to be public arm-candy and private sex partners. That’s the fact, Jack.

This is the world in which Trump was formed and still lives and works. This is where he gained his sense of self as well as his view of women. Trump is one of those Masters of the Universe that Tom Wolfe wrote about in Bonfire of the Vanities. In that world, you can kiss at will, with or without tic-tacs, you can even grab a pussy. In some instances you’ll get what you want, in others you won’t – but you don’t know until you try.

So while in perfect 21st Century politically-correct mode, those outside this world cry Foul! and Sexual Assault! the truth is that the casting couch and the tour bus can lead to the red carpet, the limo, the private jet, the 5-star hotel, and the jewelry store. Giving pussy can sometimes get you diamonds; easier than paying your own American Express card. There are few victims here – just players of both sexes. So spare me the shock and awe.

The every-man-for-his-political-self politicians, as well as the mediocre mainstream media, say “But this is coming from a man who wants to be President.” Yes. A Master of the Universe – a wealthy real estate developer, reality TV show host, and beauty pageant producer who comes from a world where you can grab pussy with impunity and who’s now trying to grab world power. That’s who he is. You (Republicans, media) let the gorilla out of his cage and called him a joke – and now he’s throwing his shit at everybody.

So what’s with the disgusted surprise? This isn’t news. The Master of the Universe spoke inappropriately about sex and women – that filthy act: with blessed mothers and sisters, wives and daughters, decent women who don’t even have pussies, they have va-jay-jays. Trump being a dumb, hateful, racist xenophobe with no policies, no plans, no class, no common decency, and no qualifications whatever, wasn’t enough to rule him out of the running. No, it took sex to make them back away. Give me a break.

Listen. I am not saying that Trump’s language and behavior is okay simply because it’s commonplace. I am not condoning sexual assault, or the disrespectful treatment of women. On the contrary, in a world where millions of women are treated like chattel, marketed like toys, viciously abused by sex traffickers, and have to constantly fight for the most basic rights – to go to school, to make a living, to drive a car, to choose their own life partners, to not be maimed or murdered in the name of someone else’s twisted sense of honor – none of this is a joke. None of this is harmless or unimportant. What I am saying is that, once again, it took a sex scandal to (perhaps!) turn the tide. We are a nation still steeped in our Puritan roots and it pisses me off.

In the final analysis, what powerful men find offensive is the concept, let alone the fact, of a powerful woman. Donald Trump can’t grab Hillary Clinton’s pussy because she’s got him by the balls. If you think Trump’s outrageousness is less objectionable than Clinton’s email…well…what can I tell you? As I write this, I’m listening to Donald Trump say “The Clintons are criminals.” Really? Okay, there’s your choice. Going forward, no matter what else happens or is revealed on either side is going to make the decisive difference. The diehard Trump and Clinton supporters are in place. Now it’s a matter of what all the other people do.

Will those among the incomprehensibly “undecided” manage to reach a decision? Will the Millennials, a remarkable percentage of whom claimed in a recent poll to see “no tangible difference between the two major candidates” (!?) and “just want change” suddenly perceive the difference and vote like grown-ups, or will they release their inner teenagers and vote for the erudite Gary Johnson? Or will they just stay home in scale-tipping numbers? Similarly, will the Blacks and Hispanics who pushed Obama over the top in 2008 and 2012 come out for the stiff white lady in 2016, or will they stay home in equally scale-tipping numbers? Lastly, will The Traditionally Republican Suburban White Women, freed by the privacy of the voting booth, take a chance on the old broad they don’t really like and vote for her instead of the King of Stupidity and Sleaze (Inc.)?

We’ll see. I don’t care what the polls say: this game ain’t over and it can still go either way. You can bet your pussy on it.