Electric Light Orchestra, "Sweet Talkin' Woman"

>> Thursday, June 21, 2012

You hope the permanent ephemera of gossamer pop will cheer you up, right? Even a little.

The ScatterKat, some old friends I hadn't seen in years, and I saw a local production of Marx In Soho the other night, with James Lee Walker II performing Howard Zinn's one-man show. Walker is giving his performance in a local performance space operated by one of the neighborhood restaurants; between the small venue and the fact it was a Wednesday evening, the five of us ended up being the only folks in the audience, but that was kind of okay. Walker started out a little nervous at first, I think, but warmed up and did an excellent job with the material. Speaking of which, the material itself was reasonably good: I was a little iffy about what we might be in for, just because I like the idea of Howard Zinn more than I've often liked his writings--a populist, revisionist historian wanting to look at history from the point-of-view of the common working schlubs is always a welcome thing, but Zinn (especially late in life) sometimes could be a little hectoring, a little fast-and-loose in his claims and conclusions, a little too far into his own particular zone to (ironically enough) appreciate complexities. Anyway, Marx In Soho wasn't hectoring at all and I don't think there's too much to complain about in the script.

The fact we were the only folks there made it possible to have a really nice conversation with Mr. Walker after the show. A genuinely nice, interesting guy and a member of Occupy Charlotte. I wish him well.

But I have to admit I couldn't help feeling a little dispirited during parts of the performance. It wasn't the play that was causing this, not per se, at least; it was just more of my general professional and personal... ennui, maybe, though I'm not sure that's quite it. I was thinking this morning that the problem with trying to speak truth to power--something Howard Zinn and, for that matter, Karl Marx and, really, Mr. Walker were/are trying to do--is this fear I have that power turns out to truth. I don't mean objective truth, if there's any such thing, or even consensual truth, but relevant truth. The kind of truth someone in the G.W. Bush administration (probably Karl Rove) was talking about when he contemptuously referred to the "reality-based community". How do you speak truth to power when the powerful are getting to say what counts as true?

Don't ask me. I just work here.

There's something utterly perfect when all the music in "Sweet Talkin' Woman" drops out and the band sings the refrain a cappella with handclaps. It's spun sugar, a pop confectionery. It doesn't really mean anything, or anything more than there will always be boys and girls. What's a little strange when you pay attention to the lyrics is that they're kind of a downer when the melody is so sunny and shiny--he's living on a dead end street, the operator won't put his calls through, he's thinking about the lonely nights, the sweet talkin' woman's got him running and searching (she's gone so long, where could she be, so sad if that's the way it's over). Nobody has ever sounded happier just to be there despite the fact "there" is at the end of a pier in deep water with suicide currents. But you can, as Roger Waters used to like to say in Wall concerts right before "Run Like Hell", have yourselves a nice clap.

I'm not sure the ephemera is working. Too ephemeral.


John the Scientist Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 2:59:00 PM EDT  

The problem with truth to power types is most of them are speaking *a* truth in order to get themselves into Power (capital and lowercase intetional).

Been there done that, bought lots of t-shirts (including one with a giant hammer and sickle that says" Restructuring to the Regime of Soviets" - "Perestrelka za vlast' sovetam").

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