Tambourine Satisfaction

I could have written “Satisfaction,” but you cats couldn’t have written “Tambourine Man.”
– Bob Dylan, to Keith Richards (allegedly)

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
By Bob Dylan

Driving my broke-down ambulance down Highway 9
Johnny with a bullet wound strapped in behind
The preacher on the radio asked me for the time
And directions to your carnival attraction

The newspaper reporter came down from Bootblack Hill
Said “How’m I supposed to tell any of these Jacks from Jill?”
Then passed me an empty jug and said “Buddy, drink your fill;
Before I have to go and file this retraction”

Oh, I can’t get no satisfaction
No I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try to get you to sign up for any kind of reaction
Oh I just can’t get no satisfaction

When you poured the wine and said “Let me get this right
And tell me how that shirt you’re wearin’ could be so white”
And I told you every shirt’s the same color at night
And you turned so fast I couldn’t see your reaction

Nancy on the shore bidding her sailor goodbye
Came back home to find no one had ever told her why
A sailor would just as soon kick dirt in your eye
As he ever would confess his attraction

I can’t get no satisfaction
I just can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try to get you to sign up for any kind of reaction
Oh I just can’t get no satisfaction

The regimental chief on his way back to the ball
Talked me into giving up my peg and my awl
Gave me a card that said “For a good time, call”
Then ran off to join the rest of his faction

We were throwing dice with a nine-toed freak
Who explained he’d need to see me later that week
“You see, Bob,” he said, “I’m on a losing streak
And the judge, he sent me down for another infraction”

Yes, I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
Because I try and I try to get you to sign up for any kind of reaction
Oh I just can’t get no satisfaction

I woke up in the parlor of Widow Casey Jones
Who gave me a blanket for my back and whiskey for my bones
Took my biscuit roller and traded it for a bag of precious stones
Then went to visit the minister, all laid up in traction

I went to the Union Hall to redeem my ball and chain
And sign the papers to keep you out of the rain
I hung my coat above a portrait of Calamity Jane
And headed out to join the chain reaction

Oh, I can’t get no satisfaction
No I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try to to get you to sign on the dotted line
For any kind of reaction
Oh I just can’t get no satisfaction

***

Mr. Tambourine Man
By Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Let the chips fall where they may, my dear
Because I can go all night
The reason is a friend of mine
Standing there beneath the light

He’s a gentleman of grace and class
And blood beneath his nails
He reads the secrets scratched upon
Your scabby needle trail

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
Shake that wheel for me
I’m not sleeping, and there ain’t no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
Cop a feel with me
In the haze of a drum-skin morning
I’ll keep it tight with you

You strolled in here, a bitch in heat
With Leather Jackie on your arm
And you ditched him in thirty seconds flat
Before he kept you safe from harm

You came aboard the swirling ship
A tar eager to please
Your hands too numb to grasp the rope
That kept you on your knees

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
Shake that wheel for me
I’m not sleeping, and there ain’t no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
Dance this reel with me
In the haze of a drum-skin morning
I’ll keep it tight with you

You’re ready to go anywhere
You’re willing to be lead
They way you lead those ragged clowns
By their tiny little heads

So stand up tall, my wilted rose
For a gentleman with flair
He’ll blow the leaves right off your bed
And leave a smoke ring in the air

He’ll take the diamonds from your sky
And set them on your dainty wrist
Your weariness becomes his mill
Your love will be the grist

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
Shake that wheel for me
I’m not sleeping, and there ain’t no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
Crack a seal with me
In the haze of a drum-skin morning
I’ll make it right with you

A Makeover

I’m ditching the old Nonsuchworks moniker — I got tired of the baffled looks it tended to inspire — and doing business under my own name from now on. With a new name comes a new theme. I’ll probably tweak it or find something different but similar, but a change does seem in order.

New content to come.

Torture

Having finally gotten around to reading Sam HarrisThe End of Faith, I was surprised to discover a lengthy digression on torture as relates to the prosecution of what we still called, in those benighted days, the War on Terror.

It would be inaccurate, I think, to say that Harris stood in favor of torture as such. However, he did argue powerfully that our revulsion to torture is essentially hypocritical, extending as it does from a sort of moral blind spot. Harris’ argument is too lengthy to quote directly, so I will summarize it as fairly as I can.

  1. We are resigned to what we call in warfare “collateral damage,” meaning the unintended destruction of non-military targets and the injury and death of civilians.
  2. The toll in pain and death exacted by collateral damage is as gruesome as that of any other wartime horror: men, women and children are blinded, crippled, mutilated or killed, or suffer thirst, starvation and sickness in the wake of attacks that destroy local infrastructure and services.
  3. The pain and suffering of the collaterally damaged is, in fact, qualitatively of little to no difference to that suffered under torture.
  4. The preceding premises being true, one cannot morally object to one but not the other; anyone willing to accept collateral damage in wartime has no basis from which to declaim torture as immoral.

Harris made this argument to illustrate the limitations and biases inherent in our moral reasoning, particularly the human tendency to respond to individual suffering while remaining relatively unmoved by the suffering of a great many people. There is a component of torture — perhaps the way in which it is reducible in our imaginations to a dichotomy of victim and tormentor, the latter holding the former utterly in his power — that seems immediate and visceral. Yet Harris, while admitting even he found his own conclusions unsettling, was not simply arguing as the devil’s advocate. Those who have read The End of Faith will know that Harris has a very large axe to grind against Islamic fundamentalism; unlike most thinkers of essentially leftist bent, Harris has no compunction about denouncing Islam as a religion of ignorance, hatred and cruelty, nor does he balk at describing its war on the West in essentially neoconservative terms: that is, as a clash of civilizations, a zero-sum game in which compromise or rapprochement is out of the question.

As a person repulsed by the torture that has been carried out by my government ostensibly on my behalf, I was brought up short by Harris’ arguments. Had I been too quick to give in to my instinctive reaction of horror and outrage? How can one argue with any conviction that slamming a man’s head repeatedly into a wall is worse than, say, burning a little girl with napalm while denuding the forests surrounding her village? Is one of these things really worse than the other?

Click to continue reading “Torture”

Coming out of the cannabis closet … all at once

Andrew Sullivan has been running a regular feature on his blog called “the cannabis closet,” in which ordinary, productive, otherwise law-abiding citizens advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana by admitting to their own use of it, thus demonstrating the possibility of using marijuana responsibly and harmlessly.

It’s a clever idea. As Sullivan and others have argued, the cultural stereotype of the marijuana user is the bearded or beaded Deadhead, a guy (or gal) who, one strongly suspects, actually hangs those centerfolds from High Times up in the garage or the basement. The first step toward sensible reform of the marijuana laws is to shatter the stereotype of the addled pot-smoking hippie, disingenuously arguing for the benefits of hemp clothing when everyone knows he really wants to be able to blaze up at the Phish concert without getting hooked by the law. I already knew pot was far more mainstream than that, but even I have been somewhat taken aback by the breadth of the testimonials Sullivan has collected so far. There are an awful lot of folks out there who demonstrate you can keep your shit together and smoke it, too.

Anyway, having been clean for many years now, I don’t have the opportunity to weigh in with my own testimony. But it got me thinking about a marvelous mass protest that would force the issue of marijuana reform on the national radar in a big way. Let me admit up front there is no way in hell this would ever happen. But as a thought experiment, it’s a honey.

According to statistics, about 12.5% of people in the U.S. smoked pot at least once in the last year. That’s roughly 38 million Americans, between the ages of 15 and 64. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the majority of those — say 35 million, roughly equal to the entire population of California — are at least semi-regular users.

Now let’s say that all of those folks picked a day. Could be April 20, could be any old day. And let’s say that, on that day, 35 million marijuana users all turned themselves into the police.

Imagine husbands and wives, grandmas and grandpas, sons and daughters; school teachers, financial advisors, lawyers and librarians; soldiers, firefighters, grocery clerks, real estate agents — hell, maybe even the occasional policeman — all rolling up to their local police station to give themselves up.

I can’t find any statistics on how many people are currently embroiled in the criminal justice system right now. From DUIs and trespassing citations up to robberies and murders, there are undoubtedly a lot of people working their way through the state and federal courts. Now imagine tossing in a few dozen million more, all copping to the same benign offense. The justice system would grind to a halt. Camera crews would record footage of lines leading out of police stations and snaking around the block. Police would be reduced to taking names and numbers and sending people home, the cases subsequently going unpursued due to “shortages of resources and manpower.” And the people watching at home would, I think, be astonished to see how many of their fellow ordinary citizens pursue this pastime, who are considered criminals under our country’s current laws.

That, I think, would change the conversation in a big hurry.

Merry Christmas, Music Biz. Love, the Beatles.

If you’re the type who would care, you probably know: the long-promised remastered versions of the Beatles’ albums will finally be released this year on September 9. (“Number 9” … yes, we get it. Even better if they had come out in October — i.e., the one after 9/09.)

I’ve been following this story — what very little there has been of it to follow — for about three years now, ever since the Apple Computer/Apple Corps trial, when the secretive Neil Aspinall was forced to admit in court proceedings that he was, in fact, supervising a total revamping of the group’s catalog. Questions that had been fruitlessly batted back and forth are now finally answered. Yes, the mono Sgt. Pepper will come out; in fact, all of the albums will be available in mono (except for Abbey Road, which was never released that way). Yes, the music has been cleaned up in a way that, we are assured, adds the punch expected of contemporary rock while still being true to the original mixes’ ambience. Yes, even the original, oddball stereo mixes of Help! and Rubber Soul will come out, which most people will likely not bother to listen to more than once. And while no details of packaging have been released, we know we can get all these goodies in two fell swoops: all of the stereo albums and all the mono albums will be available in two separate box sets.

It was that last detail that really brought it home to me, that illuminated what should have been a patently obvious fact: they are going to sell a shitload of discs.

Click to continue reading “Merry Christmas, Music Biz. Love, the Beatles.”