The Disgruntled Dylanologist

All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.

“Mountains in the Palm of Her Hand”: Has Sarah Palin thrown it all away?


Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand,

And rivers that ran through ev’ry day.

I must have been mad,
I never knew what I had,
Until I threw it all away.

It’s hard to believe over 40 years have passed since Bob Dylan threatened to walk away from the music business. But that’s precisely what happened in the days following the July 29, 1966, motorcycle accident that nearly claimed the singer’s life.

And while it’s unclear exactly what happened that fateful morning—the details surrounding the 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle Dylan crashed on a road near his home in upstate New York have always been sketchy at best—whatever transpired was enough to force the reclusive singer to reexamine his priorities.

In a way, the examination was long overdue.

By all accounts the ’66 tour of Europe had been grueling. And while Dylan may have had mountains in the palm of his hand in terms of his creative prowess, he was demonized nearly every night, forced to endure irate fans who were determined to deter Dylan’s new musical direction with jeers of “Judas!” on more than one occasion.

But now that the tour had come to close, Dylan was looking forward to spending some time with his new bride, fashion model Sara Lownds, whom he had secretly married the previous November.

Intent on seeking shelter from the storm, Dylan retreated to a provincial farmhouse in Woodstock. It turns out the months that followed turned out to be some of the most tumultuous of his life.

From the moment Dylan had arrived in Greenwich Village in the winter of 1963, he had dutifully carried the torch for the folk movement. And while Dylan had never masked his disdain for the moniker, “voice of a generation,” by the summer of 1966, it was evident that his audience’s insatiable appetite for all things ‘Dylan’ was beginning to take a rapacious toll on him.

The motorcycle accident hardly helped matters.

Overnight Bob was besieged with questions. Was the accident a cover for another drag-addled rock star whose addiction had gotten the better of him? Was the whole incident a carefully calculated publicity stunt designed to increase speculation around Dylan’s next creative endeavor? Would there even be another endeavor?

In the end, however, it wasn’t what had actually happened that early summer morning that kept Dylan’s legions of devoted fans up at night— it was the incessant speculation on what might have happened. Conjecture, it turns out, was the biggest contributor to a rapidly mounting mystique that all but eclipsed the notoriously ascetic artist.

Nearly 40 years later, a new conundrum has captured America’s imagination. But instead of unfolding in the solitary the woods of Woodstock, this one is taking place in the open wilds of Alaska.

Sarah Palin’s July 3 press conference in which she announced that she would resign as governor of Alaska was so surrealistic that one had to wonder if Palin had momentarily mistaken herself as Patti Blagojevich’s replacement on “I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here.”

Bar a complete mental meltdown—something that even her most staunch supporters haven’t completely ruled out—clearly there’s more to the story than the wily politician from Wasilla is letting on. But anyone who patently dismisses Palin’s penchant for the dramatic is missing the point of her decidedly populist appeal.

Ever since she stepped on that stage at the Republican Convention in Minneapolis, Palin has taken to fame like a fish to water. In hindsight, however, perhaps Palin’s aversion to being labeled “a dead fish who goes with the flow” makes perfect sense. After all, when it comes to fame and adulation, nobody drinks it in better than Sarah Palin.

Watching Sarah Palin’s meteoric rise over the last year has been a lot like watching a tightrope walker navigate the hazards of the high wire. Her ability to balance her own ego with the ever-increasing aspirations of Republican Party is a marvel to behold.

Her performance last week, in which she cobbled together a series of incongruous sports analogies in an attempt to explain how abandoning a state in crisis translates to the type of leadership she can offer a nation in peril, was definitely a swing for the fences. In the end, however, Palin struck out big time. Though time will tell how much America’s favorite MILF’s recent muff dive will tarnish her once unmistakable luminous quality.

And so we are left pondering the question: Was Palin throwing in the towel, or throwing her hat in the ring for 2012 political season?

Conjecture has always been a critical component to the ‘Dylan mystique.’ Second-guessing what’s going on inside Dylan’s brain is precisely what makes him such an appealing and enigmatic figure. If the events of last week are any indication, a speculative glimpse inside the mind of Sarah Palin is clearly a far more trepidatious trip.

But even if we were able to unravel Palin’s convoluted, incoherent ramblings, how can anyone expect Palin to move mountains for the Republican Party when she can’t even figure out why she’s walking away from them…


So if you find someone that gives you all of her love,
Take it to your heart, don’t let it stray,

For one thing that’s certain,
You will surely be a-hurtin’,
If you throw it all away.

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July 17, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dylanesque Adieu: “It’s All Over Now, ‘W'”


You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.

But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin’ through
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

On Thursday, January 15, 2009, at precisely 5:03 pm EST, a middle-aged man wearing a dark blue suit, white button-down shirt and a power blue tie stepped through a doorway, and walked down an elegant carpet-lined hallway before stopping behind a waist high podium bearing the emblem of an eagle, its wings outstretched against a royal blue background.

After taking a moment to acknowledge the appreciative crowd, the man smiled, cleared his throat and uttered the following opening salvo, “Fellow citizens, for eight years it has been my honor to serve as your president.”

Exactly 13 minutes, thirty-one minutes later, the man in the dark blue suit with the white button-down shirt and power blue tie turned and walked back down the hallway then passed through an unseen door. And just like that, it was over.

9/11, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Katrina, a collapsed economy—suffice to say, George W. Bush has presided over one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

You’d have thought the networks would have given him more than 13 minutes. Frankly, many pundits were surprised he even got that.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a recap of 2008 in which I paraphrased Bob Dylan’s enigmatic, surrealistic, ‘Desolation Row.’ Considering how well received the piece was, for the last week I had been toying with the notion of using another Dylan diatribe, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,’ to bid farewell to our 43rd president.

When I sat down to write my postscript to the Bush presidency, however, I realized my intended Dylanesque adieu had already been written:

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you.

In those two verses, taken from the first and last stanzas respectfully, resides all the angst, all the anger, not to mention a good dose of mournful lament that American has experience for the last eight years.

But the connection between Bush’s farewell and Dylan’s acerbic adieu goes deeper than the lyrical parallels. Dylan recorded “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” in Columbia Studio ‘A’ on January 15, 1965—44 years to the day of Bush’s final official appearance before the American public.

The saddest part, of course, is that it didn’t have to be this way.

Bush began his presidency with a 50% approval rating. Not bad considering he received less than 48% of the popular vote. But it only got better for Bush. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed to over 90%. It was an unprecedented moment in American politics—the highest popularity rating of a sitting president. Then something equally extraordinary occurred.

After only four months, Bush’s popularity began an equally unprecedented, unrelenting 7-year decline. It was truly as if someone had pulled the carpet out from under George Bush.

That ‘someone’ it turns out wasn’t so much the American public as it was the people Bush surrounded himself. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Brown, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, Carl Rove, Alberto Gonzalez, Hank Paulson: each pursued policies that not only eroded support for Bush and the institute of the presidency, they pursued policies that eroded our faith in virtually facet of the U.S. government.

In his defense, Bush has become the lightening rod into which all of America’s disdain and disgust has been directed. As the Administration’s point man, it’s to be expected that the president would take a jolt or two. Yet considering the unrelenting, unilateral affront the team Bush assembled has made on every aspect of the American experience, it’s amazing Bush has hung on to as much support as he has.

Earlier in the week, George Bush told the press corps, “When I get out of here, I’m getting off the stage… one person in the klieg lights at a time. I’ve had my time in the klieg lights. I wish [Obama] all the best.” And while it came from an honest place, there’s no question there was a Nixonian ring to the refrain, as if to say: “You won’t have old ‘Dubya’ to kick around anymore.”

And while it’s probably not the last time we’ll hear from “43”, it is the last time we’ll have to listen. And I’m not sure who’s more relieved, him or us. But one thing’s for sure— we’re both better off now that it’s all over for ‘W’….

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Windy City Politicians, Rainy Day Women, Senate Candidate #5


They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck.

They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, “good luck.”
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Cigars, it seems, aren’t the only thing they’re smoking in the backrooms of Chicago.

Last week it was reported that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly schemed to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for $1 million dollars.

Again, that’s $1 million dollars for a Senate seat held by the man who was just elected to lead the free world, making him the most recognizable person on the planet.

What could this guy possibly have been thinking?

Maybe in a time when it’s become a national pastime for politicians to see how many zeros they can put behind the next bank bailout, mortgage mark down or cash-and-carry plan for the failing car industry, Governor Blagojevich thought six zeros was a bargain. Maybe Blagojevich thought it was his duty as governor to uphold Chicago’s longstanding tradition of political corruption and scandal.

Or maybe Blagojevich is just an idiot.

Mental competency aside, anyone with a shred decency knows there’s a larger problem here hanging like a hazy cloud of smoke over this whole sordid affair. In one fail swoop, one governor’s half-baked scheme to sell-out democracy somehow managed to further retard the electorate’s already ailing perception of our political system.

To Blagojevich’s credit, this Wiley politician from the Windy City’s North side wasn’t completely impervious to the fact that most people don’t have $1 million cash just lying around. According to FBI wiretaps, Blagojevich would have been willing to have made do with any one of the following:

  • a substantial salary for himself at a non-profit foundation or organization affiliated with labor unions;
  • a spot for his wife on a paid corporate board;
  • promises of future campaign funds;
  • a Cabinet post or ambassadorship

Four, count ‘em four ways to commitment a felony. How considerate of the governor to give his Senatorial suitors so many ways to further debase the public’s trust.

In this season of giving, however, it seems Old Saint Nick isn’t the only one ‘making a list and checking it twice.’ Blagojevich had a list of his own. And that’s where it starts to get really interesting…

According to the FBI, prominent Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi held a meeting October 31 during which Blagojevich claimed he’d been approached by a representative for an unnamed “Senate Candidate #5” who offered cash in exchange for the Senate seat. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Jesse, Jackson, Jr., was that candidate.

Jackson spokesman Rick Bryant says that while Jackson did discuss the Senate seat with Nayak, he never asked him to do—or give—anything. The notoriously talkative Jackson has said even less. Interesting.

It’s also started to get interesting for Barack Obama.

The president-elect also insists he hasn’t had any contact with the Illinois governor regarding his vacant Senate seat. But Obama has yet to give his transition staff the same clean bill of health—and perhaps with good reason.

As it turns out, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s incoming chief of staff, is a rough-and-tumble politico in his own right. But until Emanuel assumes his new position on January 20, he will continue to represent the good people of Illinois’ 5th congressional district. And can you guess who held that job before Rahm? That’s right—Rod Blagojevich.

For the Obama team to expect us to think that the paths of Emanuel and Blagojevich haven’t crossed, and crossed repeatedly—especially considering the fact Emanuel was charged with securing his new boss’s old Senate seat for Obama family friend, Valerie Jarrett—we’d all have to be smoking something.

And while it’s definitely rained on Jarrett’s political aspirations, it seems she’s traded an umbrella for a golden parachute. Just before the Blagojevich scandal broke, Jarrett’s name was withdrawn from the running for the Senate seat. Shortly thereafter, she was named ‘special adviser to the president.’ Interesting.

I would imagine our fair Bob is watching all of this with some interest as well.

From unequivocal disdain of the flatfoots on Fourth Street,

Yes, I wish that for just one time;
You could stand inside my shoes;
You’d know what a drag it is;
To see you

to unapologetic enmity of those who have mastered the art of war profiteering,

Let me ask you one question;
Is your money that good;
Will it buy you forgiveness;
Do you think that it could

Bob Dylan has always held the feet of the media and the men who manipulate it to the fire.

Dylan once famously claimed, “I don’t write political songs.” But in light of the sheer disregard for justice exhibited by Rod Blagojevich, Dylan need not concern himself with chronicling this particular crisis of faith. There’s enough here to launch a thousand politically minded minstrels.

Besides, if you’re looking for a Dylan song to bookend this cockamamie case of political corruption and mind numbing incompetence, all you have to do is turn the clock back 42 years…

Well, they’ll stone you when you walk all alone.

They’ll stone you when you are walking home.
They’ll stone you and then say you are brave.
They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave.

In 2008, however, those words are less whimsical social commentary and more reflective of the massive political drubbing a certain governor from Illinois is about to rightfully endure.

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Old Guard: Can Obama change their way of thinking?


Sixteen years,

Sixteen banners united over the field,
Where the good shepherd grieves.
Desperate men, desperate women divided,
Spreading their wings ‘neath the falling leaves.

First, let me say that I’m not a big fan of politicos. But James Carville—perhaps the most puffed up, bombastic, pretentious politico of them all—got it right when he famously opined back in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

It was the economy in 1992. Sixteen years later, it’s the economy all over again.

The fact that the US economy is in the shitter should come as a surprise to no one. For the past 12 months, we’ve been sliding toward the precipice of the worst recession in 16 years.In the last 60 days, it’s only gone from bad to worse. Thirteen banks have gone into bankruptcy, the top five investment banks have died, the stock market has hit a six-year low, unemployment has reached a 14-year high.

Contrary to John McCain’s reassuring reaction to the September 10 collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fundamentals of our economy were not ‘strong.’ And it certainly didn’t help that McCain borrowed his phrasing from Herbert Hoover, who on Thursday, Oct. 24, 1929, just five days before the crash that would result in the deepest depression in world history, proclaimed, “The fundamental business of the country, that is, production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis.”

As the largest economy in the world, the American financial crisis has far-reaching ramifications. The direction of the U.S. economy doesn’t merely ‘impact’ the global economy; it decides its destiny.

It’s a big idea. It’s also a big problem. And the irony is that the problem isn’t going to go away until we change the way we do business in this country.

Yet despite the proclamations of ‘change’ that were the cornerstones of both the McCain and Obama presidential campaigns, change won’t be coming anytime soon. You already know the reason why.

It’s the economy, stupid.

Historically, the election of a Democrat has meant more jobs for Americans. History, however, is hardly consolation for the 1.2 million Americans who have lost their jobs since January.

It’s not especially encouraging for those who have jobs, either. With most 401(k)s off by an average of 40% or worse, dreams of retirement by the 50+ set have been replaced by the realization that there simply isn’t enough money in their accounts to sustain them for 10 years, much less the 20 years they’re expected to live.

Sure they can stay the course, stick it out, work a few extra years until the anemic stock market turns around. But there’s just something fundamentally wrong with the notion that what was only a year ago considered an appalling indignation by those who have toiled their entire life to build something for themselves and their families is now an umbrage those who actually have jobs would all too gladly suffer.

This past election was about change. A seismic shift, a comprehensive overhaul, a changing of the guard. It’s what we were promised, it’s what we want and, considering the perilous state of the economy, it’s what we need.

Unfortunately, change is not something the Obama Administration will be able to deliver anytime soon. It would mean the old guard would need to step down. But the old guard is like a caged animal tethered to a stake that keeps it from wondering too far from the trough.

And with their retirement pensions gone, the stock market in a perpetual downward spiral, and the potentially some of that $700 billion in bailout money might potential come their way if they just hang on long enough, the old guard is a permanent fixture on the horizon.

Contrary to what the media would have us believe, the rest of the world truly wants America to succeed. For millions around the world, America truly is a beacon of hope, prosperity and opportunity. But Eden is burning. And rather than change the old guard, we need to change their way of thinking.

Because the old guard isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Frankly, they can’t afford to…

I don’t need your organization, I’ve shined your shoes,

I’ve moved your mountains and marked your cards,
But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination,
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Darkness at the Break of Noon: Dylan steps into the light


Advertising signs that con you,

Into thinking you’re the one,
That can do what’s never been done,
That can win what’s never been won,
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.

“Stunning…” “Unprecedented…” “Electrifying…” “Incredible…”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a superlative that hasn’t been used in the last two weeks to describe Barack Obama’s meteoric ascension to the nation’s highest office.

But perhaps no comment has been more analyzed, more categorized or more scrutinized by fellow Dylanologists than the one made by Dylan himself during his election eve show in Minneapolis’ Northrop Auditorium:

“…it’s a brand new time right now. An age of light. Me, I was born in 1941 that’s the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. Well I been livin’ in a world of darkness ever since. But it looks like things are gonna change now…”

Typically, Dylan revels in his innate ability to confound us with his cryptic, enigmatic comments. This, of course, is precisely what’s so perplexing about Dylan’s election eve proclamation. It wasn’t wrapped in a riddle. It didn’t need to be sliced, diced, dissected and redirected. It was strikingly sincere and without pretense.

As Sean Curnyn thoughtfully observed in his blog, ‘Right Wing Bob,’ a few days after the election, it was never Dylan’s intention to confound us. Nor was it his intent to offer a ringing endorsement of president-elect Obama. The notoriously irascible Dylan was simply referring to an Obama campaign button worn by his longstanding bass player, Tony Granier. But that fact was left out of most reports, who were so stunned Dylan had actually spoken that they stripped the statement of all context.

It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.

His entire life, Dylan has constantly reinvented himself to keep the hounding media at bay. Whether it’s changing his name, changing his musical direction, changing his religion—the man who famously opined, ‘he not busy being born is busy dying,’ has given birth to countless ‘Dylans’ over the last 40 years.

In the months leading up to the election, one could argue we’ve seen our share of ‘Obamas’ as well. In the last 18 months alone, Obama has appeared on no few than 300 magazine covers. Ebony, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek. Each caters to a different audience. Each requires a different persona be projected. Yet Obama manages to move from one to the next with an effortlessness and facility that is eerily reminiscent of another Midwesterner who’s donned his fair share of disguises over the years.


To see the many ‘faces’ of Barack Obama, click here.

In the days to come, the searing light the media that has turned on Barack Obama is only going to get more intense and more scrutinous. And as it does, things are going to change for Barack Obama. Things are going to change for Bob Dylan, too.

Forty years ago, a prescient Bob Dylan told the press he didn’t want to deny, defy and classify them. All he really wanted to do was be friends. Of course, being friends wasn’t enough. The press wanted more—we wanted more. The result? We got ‘Bob Dylan.’

And what did Dylan get? A rap he’s been trying to shake ever since— ‘voice of a generation.’

And while it’s not our cross to bear, one can only imagine that the moniker, ‘voice of a generation,’ carries a lot of weight. Certainly, it’s a burden Dylan’s been trying to free himself from his entire life.

Maybe Dylan’s admission that he’s ready to step out of the darkness and into light isn’t some confounding, cautionary tale after all. Maybe it’s not an admonishment at all. Maybe all Bob Dylan was doing November 4 was telling us whose voice he’ll be listening to now that a new generation has spoken…

While preachers preach of evil fates,

Teachers teach that knowledge waits,

Goodness hides behind its gates,

But even the president of the United States,

Sometimes must have

To stand naked.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , | Leave a comment