Friday, May 5, 2017

Odds And Ends, Early May 2017

1) So the House Republicans delivered on their Obamacare repeal. And almost anybody that has anything to do with actually treating sick people, including the insurance industry, says it is an awful piece of legislation, going to doom lots of people to sickness and (no hyperbole) death, and provide a windfall tax break for the few thousand of megawealthy people in this country that don't need the money.
This country is now closer to the Zimbabwe of Mugabe than it is to an actual democracy. In just one generation, dating from the election of 1980, we have turned from a flawed society that was still genuinely devoted to providing the best possible outcomes to most of its citizens to one that is governed almost exclusively for the benefit of the wealthy, and designed to both repress and marginalize most of the other people in the country. And I have been convinced, and only become more so with every passing week, that the only way true change will happen is by revolution, violent revolution. And since functional democracies almost never result from revolutions, the Great American Experiment is in its death throes.
2) And so I find small pleasures in large passions, to keep from driving myself to impotent rage. And one of my passions is the Rangers, who won easily again last night to tie their series against Ottawa at two apiece. There's a nagging voice inside my head that tells me the series should be over already, and that it is not a good thing that Tanner Glass has more points in the playoffs than Kreider, Hayes, Miller, and Vesey, all forwards on the first and second lines that have played all ten games, do. On the other hand, the path forward is there; Ottawa certainly can be beaten, the Penguins await sans Crosby and playing Fleury (who for some reason has problems with the Rangers in the playoffs) in goal, and there's nobody left in the West that's scary. But there's a part of me that doesn't want to win the Cup, too; it would make it next to impossible to cashier Alain Vigneault, whose decision-making grows more incomprehensible by the week.
There are some parallels here to my favorite Ranger team of all-time: the 1978-79 overachievers that lost in the finals, then imploded shockingly fast for such a young team. The two biggest ones are that there is no one on this team that is consistently offensively effective (yet somehow they get the pucks in the net anyway), and the expansion draft looms over this team like an sword hanging from the ceiling. They're not going to lose four players, and they're unlikely to move five more for one player, which more than anything killed the 1979-80 and beyond teams; half the team was gone by the next November. But changes are coming, and it's hard to imagine that Vigneault and nominal GM Jeff Gorton are going to get this right. So enjoy it while you can.
3) I've discovered the joys of aux cords and playing music from my phone in the car. It didn't make the final cut of my favorite songs I counted down a few years ago, but there is one song out there that gets covered by more or less everybody, including the guy who wrote it and first performed it, and with rare exceptions, everybody does it really well. The song is All Along The Watchtower, and there have to be a hundred, if not more, different versions by almost as many performers, on You Tube, including a bunch by Bob Dylan himself. One of the many things that I have loved about Dylan over the years is his ability to rework and reinvent his own songs into something completely different as time passes, and another is that he will absolutely give credit when it is due. Both of these traits come into play with this song. Dylan's original version, released in 1967, was acoustic and haunting, effective in its own way, even spooky. But then Jimi Hendrix covered it and made it an absolute rock anthem, and much of what is out there is inspired by Hendrix' cover.
Including Dylan's. Dylan has been quoted as saying that Hendrix "got it right" with Watchtower, and most of his own versions over the years that have made their way into his concerts are closer to Hendrix' versions than his own. But he continues to tinker with it, and the buffet of cover versions on You Tube begins with the variety of Dylan performances. The three I am very enamored of are the House of Blues performance from 1996, the live "rare" performance put up by someone named Elston Gunn, and the joint performance with Bruce Springsteen. The Gunn video, in particular, really shows off Dylan's creativity at reworking it, the performance is driven by a drumbeat so heavy that it sounds like a relic of the Studio 54 era. But it works.
Neil Young has made the song a staple of live performances of his own for years, and there are at least four out there are completely golden. No one but no one enjoys playing guitar like Neil Young, and he lets it fly on this song without exception. Many of the usual suspects have covers on You Tube, and there are some that you wouldn't expect. Dave Matthews Band has one, and while I really don't like it, it is a different take and if you are a DMB, it might work for you. And the most surprising great cover out there is John flipping Mayer, of all people. Mayer's cover version is essentially a cover of Hendrix' version, and Mayer is good enough with a guitar that he pulls it off, repeatedly. Simply amazing for someone whose original work I really don't care for.
4) Project Keep Busy continues this weekend. I am taking my neighbor to work in a few minutes, and meeting with a sponsee at 10, going to see my brother and going to a celebration. Tomorrow I having breakfast with Right Said Fred, a good friend I haven't sat down with in a long time, and going to a different type of celebration tomorrow night. I have to shop, I have to clean, I have yardwork to do if the weather permits, and before you know it, it will be Sunday and I will be complaining about going to work again  after a too-short weekend. But it beats sitting around thinking too much, and it beats a whole other bunch of alternatives I can think of.

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