by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
December 28, 2006
A PROBLEMATIC YEAR IN REVIEW
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- News flash! This just in. "Pope calls for peace." This also just in: President Bush calls for "surge" of American forces in Iraq.
And this just in, from The Nation's Christopher Hayes, who calls a spade a spade and a "surge" the escalation that it really is: "The fact is that the American people voted in November to end the war in Iraq, and the White House has demonstrated that... it just doesn't care."
Meet the new year, same as the old year.
Before we begin 2007, I'd like to clear my desk of pleasures. Here are some of the things I've loved during 2006 but couldn't quite fit into a column.
First and always, Bob Dylan. In November, in a remarkable bout of synergy, I bought Dylan's wonderful new CD, "Modern Times," about the same time that I finally read his "Chronicles: Volume One."
The new CD has a wicked amount of boogie in it, and for weeks I was driving my car with one hand and snapping my fingers with the other. "The Levee's Gonna Break" especially rocked me. I was like Gene Kelly - "Gotta dance! Gotta dance!"
The book, a memoir, talks about his early, scrounging days in the New York City folk scene, his wife ("The one thing about her that I always loved was that she was never one of those people who thinks that someone else is the answer to their happiness... She's always had her own built-in happiness."), making music with Daniel Lanois in New Orleans, and his life today (he does metalwork sculpture to relax).
Also, how he resuscitated his career after being a "folk-rock relic... a wordsmith from bygone days, a fictitious head of state from a place nobody knows."
With a head full of new music and new ways of doing the old music, he booked three years of small-venue concert tours, coming back to the same places each year. The first year, he figured, he would alienate all his old fans. (It worked). But his old fans would bring their children, who would hear the music with fresh ears and love it. (It worked). They would come the second year. (It worked.) The third year, they would bring their friends and a whole new audience would be born.
That last part didn't work out quite the way he planned. That same month, out of the blue, a friend offered me a ticket to a Dylan concert in Amherst, Mass. The audience? It was half oldsters like me and half youngsters - a very, very nice mix. Dylan was in top form. He played keyboard instead of guitar, standing sideways and, as always, never looking or speaking to the audience. His long-time band was hotter than iron on a blacksmith's forge, and they could turn on a dime. They rocked. I danced. At the end, the little guy was so high he almost curtseyed during the bows. Welcome back, Bob.
In books, I was delighted to find a reissue of "The Dot & the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics," by Norton Juster. This book first enchanted me in 1963. It's about transformation of the self, about art, about a line who falls in love with a dot who is dating a squiggle. To attract her attention, the line learns to bend himself into gorgeous shapes - squares, hexagons, polyhedrons, decagons, "and an infinite number of other shapes so complex that he had to letter his sides and angles to keep his place." In the end, he wins her love. The moral? "To the vector belong the spoils."
I also loved Eileen Christelow's "Letters from a Desperate Dog." Christelow is a popular children's book author and artist who lives in Dummerston. Her story about an artist and his wayward dog, inspired by "the sometimes fractious relationship between her husband, (sculptor) Ahren (Ahrenholz) and her dog, Emma," is light-hearted, generous, witty and enchanting.
In films, OK, the old James Bond, Sean Connery, was a mortal hunk, but his disrespect for women was legendary. The new James Bond, Daniel Craig, in the remake of "Casino Royale," is every thinking woman's dreamboat. Yes, like the others he's improbably strong, brave and athletic, but it's the scene in the shower - hint, it's not a sex scene - that has most of the women I know drooling.
Television has been playing hardball this year, what with anti-heroes like House and the charming friendship between James Spader and William Shatner on "Boston Legal." But I'd like to recommend "Friday Night Lights." If you haven't been watching it, it's not so much about Texas high school football as it is the most heartbreaking and affirming story about real life you can get in a scripted drama.
So now we're off into a new year. One of the first stories out of Iraq will be that the American death toll hit 3,000. Bush may be gearing up to bomb Iran when the weather gets better. And we won't be rid of him for two more years.
So hold your breath and Happy New Year! And we'll miss you, James Brown, the hardest working man in show business. Now, to quote Defamer.com, "Heaven has a sex machine."
A collection of Joyce Marcel's columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com. And write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.