Miscellaneous pop-culture items from the last couple of weeks:
— I’m apparently a sucker for half-finished music, as I bought Dylan’s Witmark Demos album a week or so ago, and Springsteen’s The Promise, a collection of stuff recorded between Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, last night. The Springsteen stuff is more polished, but I haven’t listened to it as much (obviously).
— Also in the recent-purchases shuffle play: Guster, Old 97’s, the Thermals, Kings of Leon, and Cee Lo Green. This is, as you might imagine, not the most consistent listening experience.
— I kind of hate Dylan’s “Masters of War.” Does this make me a bad liberal? Actually, I kind of hate all his really strident political stuff from that era. The funnier songs are pretty good, but I just downrated “Masters of War” and “The Death of Emmitt Till” to get them out of the shuffle play, because I find both songs really grating.
— Most reviews make a point of noting that some of Dylan’s demo recordings are accompanied by piano rather than guitar. What they fail to note is that at least in 1962, he kind of sucked at the piano. Maybe he’s learned more since then, but the piano backing for “Mr. Tambourine Man” is this incredibly plodding left-hand-right-hand thing that I could probably manage, if somebody showed me which keys to hit over and over.
— Why is Guster singing to me about Jesus? They’ve never done that before, at least not this obviously. And if they had to include a song about Jesus on this record, why couldn’t they have written one that doesn’t suck?
— Turning to books for a moment, reading a bunch of Winnie-the-Pooh stories to SteelyKid has made me really notice A.A. Milne’s writing tics. Not just the Occasional Capitalisation (note British spelling) of Important Words, but things like the way he constantly has characters say things “carelessly” or in Pooh’s case “humbly.” Those crop up a lot.
— In the illustrations for the Pooh stories, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger are clearly stuffed animals. And yet, Rabbit is drawn like a real rabbit. Why is that?
— Dr. Seuss stories have really been changed by inflation. If the Cat in the Hat got spots on a pair of shoes I had paid $10 for, I’d throw them away and buy another pair. And no circus could possibly make ends meet by charging just $0.10 for a peek at an elephant up in a tree.
That’s about enough for now.