Talking Heads, "City Of Dreams"

>> Wednesday, September 05, 2012





This was almost "Wild Wild Life". Which is a great song, but then I'm thinking about True Stories and I'm thinking, "Hey, let's go with some optimism!"

There's a sweetness in "City Of Dreams" that's kind of unusual for David Byrne. He tends, you know, towards the jittery and sardonic. Sometimes I don't even know if he means to be half as snarky as he sounds. But "City" has that lilting tone and those sweet lyrics chronicling a place from the time when dinosaurs whimsically "did a dance" all the way to a postwar presence when maybe we all can just get along. There's sorrow along the way--the land stolen from the Native Americans, the possibility that this place is fading away and will be gone sometime; but even that is expressed with bittersweet yearning. I think maybe Byrne looked at what he was doing with True Stories and realized, in a moment of supreme self-awareness, that with his reputation for irony and cynicism, everyone might think he was making fun of Americana with the tabloid-inspired film, when he was really trying to get at a real outsider's affection for something he didn't understand at all but really did find touching, and so "City Of Dreams" is almost a kind of apology-in-advance, or a way to try to telegraph sincerity.

I have to confess my attraction to a hopeful Talking Heads song probably stems from feeling much the way Chez Pazienza is feeling this week, though I've only been following the highlights of the Democratic National Convention. The reason I've only been following the highlights is that I expect a convention to be exactly what Pazienza expected: "another exercise in stiff and scripted political Kabuki and potential Democratic flailing"; I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the Republican version for pretty much the same reason--these things are all bullshit, or at least they're supposed to be. The personal irony, then, is exactly what Pazienza goes on to put his finger on: that while I expected nothing but the Same Old Horseshit, I keep hearing these clips that warm the cockles of my heart and get me a little riled in a good way, whether it's the First Lady's empathic speech or Ted Strickland's zinger, "Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport: it summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands, and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps" (that's a good one; well-played).

Or, another way to put it: I liked this tweet from comedian Michael Ian Black, "These conventions may be all theater, but good theater can be pretty f-in' powerful." Yeah. It's good theatre alright.

Of course, while powerful, it's also pointless theatre. I don't know there's a lot of hope of us getting along all that well in this, our favorite town; I think I'd like to, but I just don't know if it's really possible for an enlightened gentleman to keep dealing with people who want to parse rape and crack wise about sinking coastlines without eventually becoming as frothingly stupid as some of the people he's forced to deal with every day. If we can agree certain things are true, we might absolutely have a reasoned debate over whether government has a role to play in a particular economic or social sector, or what an ideal tax rate looks like and the best allocation of revenue. Problem is, we're not at a point where we're enlightened, educated folks having reasoned discourse about problems and solutions until our dialectic brings us to a considered compromise: no, because well before we can get to that point, we're mired to the thighs in ridiculous bullshit.

We can't even agree on terms. Today, a colleague hazarded I was a Democrat and I had to correct her--I'm an independent because I'm to the left of the Democrats, and she laughed and said she didn't know that was possible. Then she rhetorically asked if I knew who else was to the left of the Democrats, and answered her own question with, "communists", which is true but of course leaves out quite a lot of the left but also isn't really the problem; the real problem is that most of the centrist Democratic policy these days consists of stuff Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon for fuckssakes wouldn't have had problems with, and we all know what well-known pinkos they were. But I feel like I've gone through all this before and I don't want to get into it again, especially when the Democrats have spent much of the week-to-date sounding shockingly, refreshingly liberal for a change; the real point was that this is an educated, professional colleague, yet we are so far from sharing a same basic vocabulary, we might as well be on different planets. And I'd like to think we might make a little town here?

Well, we'll still have old Talking Heads songs, anyway.





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