Monthly Archives: October 2014

Reverend Eli Jenkins Prayer

Cerys Matthews – “The Reverend Eli Jenkins’ Prayer”


Rev Eli Jenkins Prayer Cerys MatthewsUnder Milk Wood is Dylan Thomas’s “play for voices” (i.e. intended for radio rather than the stage), a quite wild and sometimes soaring portrait of the inhabitants of a fishing village in Wales, the fictional Llareggub, depicting both their dreams and a day in their lives.

One of the quieter moments comes at sunset, when the town vicar, the Reverend Eli Jenkins, goes out and says a prayer. The remarkable Cerys Matthews, a woman of so many hats, has just put out a new album with musical treatments of sundry works of Dylan Thomas, titled A Child’s Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs [full review at this link], and below via YouTube is her performance of “The Reverend Eli Jenkins’ Prayer.” Continue reading Cerys Matthews – “The Reverend Eli Jenkins’ Prayer”

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Bob Dylan – “Never Gonna Be The Same Again”

Never Gonna Be The Same Again Bob DylanAlthough it was during the mid-1980s that yours truly happened to become a Bob Dylan fan, listening to his albums from that period has sometimes seemed like a guilty pleasure. While I’d stick up unreservedly for a certain number of those songs, there are those others that just seem silly. Yet, sometimes I kind of like them anyway. One that I probably wouldn’t have thought to defend in solemn company—but really have always liked—is “Never Gonna Be The Same Again” from his 1985 album Empire Burlesque. Well, now I’m correcting myself, and it’s thanks to hearing a solo acoustic version by Ron Sexsmith (on YouTube at this link).

Happening somehow upon Sexsmith’s YouTube channel (discreetly titled “Rawnboy”) made me feel like I’d found something secret and private (hope I’m not blowing the cover). Although he’s a genuine star and one of the finest pop songwriters of the last couple of decades, here he is just sitting in his kitchen and living room and playing things casually into the webcam, like a million YouTube amateurs do. So he’s uploaded a wealth of acoustic versions of his own songs, and a plethora of affectionate cover versions. (You’ve gotta wish everyone you were a fan of would do something like this. Bob, Van, you listening?) And of all the Bob Dylan songs he chooses to sing, it’s “Never Gonna Be the Same Again.” Continue reading Bob Dylan – “Never Gonna Be The Same Again”

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Ebola, God, Just Sayin’

Ebola and GodThese kinds of things tend to be quickly swept away in the major media outlets, so I’m just pausing for a moment to highlight them.

Today Dallas Nurse Amber Vinson was discharged from Emory University Hospital, and declared free of Ebola, which she caught while caring for the patient Thomas Eric Duncan. Her statement on release began like this:

I’m so grateful to be well. And first and foremost, I want to thank God. I sincerely believe that with God all things are possible.

While the skill and dedication of the doctors, nurses and others who have taken care of me have obviously led to my recovery, it has been God’s love that has truly carried my family and me through this difficult time and has played such an important role and given me hope and the strength to fight.

After thanking many specific people, and drawing attention to the terrible toll that this disease is taking on so many people in West Africa, and before asking for privacy, she ended her statement with this: Continue reading Ebola, God, Just Sayin’

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U.S. Ebola Response Resembles a Dog’s Dinner

Dog Ebola Bentley—Except, that is, when it comes to handling the dog. Bentley, the beloved pet of Nurse Nina Pham (who thankfully is now apparently well), has been cared for with compassion, a compassion directed not merely at the dog but at the health care workers everywhere who have to show up and potentially face the threat of Ebola in their jobs, a threat which (despite all the knowing talk about it by countless experts and wannabee experts) still contains plenty of uncertainties.

(The phrase “dog’s dinner” is a quaint one from the British Isles, where I spent some formative years; it’s a way of describing a hopeless mess. The teacher might observe, for instance, that you’d made “a dog’s dinner” out of the copybook containing your homework, right before administering some spontaneous corporal punishment.)

The only things yours truly has written about this Ebola issue were centered on the handling of the dogs (beginning with the quick killing of a health care worker’s dog in Madrid) but that is not because I believe dogs are more important than people, or even indeed that their lives are of equal value, morally speaking, to those of humans. I don’t believe those things, even though I think of dogs as being perhaps uniquely empathetic and lovable animal companions, and even if I love my own dog beyond measuring. Ebola is a tragedy for human beings; at this point it is most dramatically so for those in West Africa, where thousands are dead, many thousands more are mourning for their lost loved ones, and entire communities and societies are either breaking down or at very real threat of collapse due to the damage and stress of this epidemic. Continue reading U.S. Ebola Response Resembles a Dog’s Dinner

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Taylor Swift – “Welcome to New York”

Review Welcome to New York Taylor SwiftBoy, do I love songs about New York City. It’s a helluva town. From the good old “New York, New York,” to the less old “Theme from New York, New York,” from the lovely Dinah Washington singing Rodgers’ and Hart’s “Manhattan” to the rather dorky Paddy McAloon singing his “Hey, Manhattan,” from Paul Simon strolling up Broadway with diamonds on the soles of his shoes to Lou Reed waiting for his man at Lexington and 125th street, there’s so many things to sing about and so many great songs that have been sung.

It’s a challenge today, however, to suggest that one more has been added to the list. Certainly, “Welcome to New York,” the new tune by Taylor Swift, is a song about New York, but that’s where Continue reading Taylor Swift – “Welcome to New York”

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Leonard Cohen Predicts the Future

Leonard Cohen predicting the futureSo, the other day I saw Leonard Cohen (who as previously mentioned has a new album out) being interviewed on a British television program and during it he was asked if he believed he was an optimistic person, and I thought his response to this question was quite penetrating and timely. He said (and good-naturedly, while wearing a slight smile):

Well, you know, I think those descriptions are kind of obsolete these days. Everybody’s kind of hanging on to their broken orange crate in the flood, and when you pass someone else and declare yourself an optimist or a pessimist, or pro-abortion or against abortion, or a conservative or a liberal, these descriptions are obsolete in the face of the catastrophe that everybody’s really dealing with.

At the present moment, I would daresay that those are words that would strike a definite chord with many of us. (By “us” I guess I’d be referring, in the broadest sense, to we who inhabit the most highly developed and consumerized societies of the world, and are presumed to be insulated from massive and generalized kinds of catastrophe.) I’d venture that many of us have a sense of impending disaster in this insecure age of Ebola and of ISIS and (I’d suggest) the impossible-to-grip transformations that the digital/internet age has wrought in our lives in such a short time. And that is not to even mention the many other manifestations of disorder and danger in the headlines.

However, the funny thing is that Leonard Cohen didn’t actually say these words in an interview just the other day. Continue reading Leonard Cohen Predicts the Future

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Texas Hospital Worker Contracts Ebola

So, the sad news today is that a Dallas hospital worker who had contact with the late Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan has now come down with symptoms and been diagnosed with the disease. What should be done? Well, based on the Spanish model, the first thing to do is see if the woman has any pets (in fact she does), and then kill them. This should send a message to all other health care workers who choose to risk dealing with Ebola patients: If you contract it somehow during your work, not only will you have perhaps a 50/50 chance of survival, but your dog/cat/parrot will be euthanized. Continue reading Texas Hospital Worker Contracts Ebola

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Forthcoming: The Lyrics: Since 1962 by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan Lyrics Since 1962 Simon and SchusterOn October 28th, Simon and Schuster will be publishing The Lyrics: Since 1962 by Bob Dylan, edited and with an introduction by noted literary scholar and critic Christopher Ricks, and co-edited by Lisa and Julie Nemrow. It is to be rather different from previous “Lyrics” collections. As the New York Times reports, it will compile not only previously published official lyrics, but also the lyrics as sung on any officially-released recording (and there are a quite a few of them when you think about it) and will also feature alternative lyrics that have never been publicly released. In this way, it promises to be a real and quite large window into Dylan’s creative process. Continue reading Forthcoming: The Lyrics: Since 1962 by Bob Dylan

Is Ebola Coming for My Dog?

Ebola and dogsIn Spain, a nurse’s aide named Teresa Romero Ramos contracted Ebola from a patient (in a manner that has yet to be confirmed). In response, authorities quarantined her husband, Javier Limon, and three other people. And then today they killed her dog, a twelve-year-old mixed breed named Excalibur. The dog was showing no symptoms, and had not been tested and shown to be carrying the virus. (What message does this send to other desperately-needed health professionals dealing with Ebola victims? Just this: If you contract the disease during your work, your pets will be killed.)

In a funny (although not very “ha-ha”) way, this story may be bringing home the seriousness of Ebola to people who haven’t worried much about it. I think most people have indeed paid attention to it, and been concerned, but those of us living in the West have likely been assuming that this is a Third World disease and that the superior health systems in the developed world will be able to handle and contain it. There is some generalized apprehension, yes, but most individuals are likely not fearful for their own lives. (I think that most of us, at least until we get to a certain age, still regard ourselves as more or less immortal, anyway.) However, this killing of the dog is a little different. It is more mundane, more comprehensible: the government decided the dog needed to be killed, and it was (and this despite burgeoning protests and a petition garnering 350,000 signatories). We may find it hard to picture ourselves dying from Ebola, but we can more easily picture the van pulling up and the government agents arriving to drag our dog off to be euthanized. Continue reading Is Ebola Coming for My Dog?

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Bill Murray and “Shelter from the Storm”

Bill Murray singing Shelter from the StormDoing the rounds on various websites is a clip from a new film titled St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray, directed by Theodore Melfi. The clip is remarkable for how little occurs in it: it’s simply the Bill Murray character singing along to Bob Dylan’s song “Shelter from the Storm” like any ordinary Bob-Dylan-loving-doofus might. Yet it seems to strike some kind of chord with people, given the degree to which it is being circulated. And yours truly has found it oddly charming also. I guess it’s because (a) I can sadly picture myself acting in the same way and (b) Bill Murray is just kind of a likeable bum and (c) It’s so refreshing in these dark times to see someone singing while smoking a cigarette. Continue reading Bill Murray and “Shelter from the Storm”