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FRIDAY JULY 5: TIME TO REFLECT
The oppressive heat wave here in New York has abated, it's pure sunshine for the rest of the weekend, and we're off to the inlaws in New Jersey to make the most of it. For what it's worth, this is a reverse journey from the one I made 14 years ago today, when I moved into New York City from my temporary digs in an abandoned schoolhouse in Princeton. I find it hard to believe I've spent most of my adult life here - almost half my life in total. Time has gone so fast. Reason to reflect perhaps: here is another story about Monday's bombing raid on the Afghan wedding party, which makes me sick to my stomach. And my UK book editor Chris Charlesworth, who recently published Timothy White's biography of James Taylor, sent me an obituary he penned about White, a close friend of his. It's sitting with the Guardian, awaiting possible publication; I'm honoured to include it here in the meantime. Please take time to read it. I admire all workaholics; there was definitely a time in my life I was viewed the same way. But when I see people go so suddenly, I'm glad that I take weekends out at the beach, too. Have a great one.
THURSDAY JULY 4: AND THE ROCKETS RED GLARE, BOMBS BURSTING IN AIR...
I have just returned from an afternoon working at our famed food co-op to learn of whatcould well be a terrorist attack on the El Al desk at Los Angeles Airport. Fears of an incident on July 4, the USA's most politically important holiday, have already led to promises of fighter planes flying the skies of New York and Washington DC this evening, as they did, sadly too late, on September 11 and for a few days thereafter. I appreciate their potential protection, just as I appreciate the diligence of the police forces and army on the ground in ensuring that this multi cultural nation can celebrate its freedom - in freedom. I am also trusting that the pilots will not mistake the fireworks displays in New York for potential attacks and bomb us before further checking - for sadly, that's what's been happening in Afghanistan.
News that the USA bombed a wedding party there believing its jets were under attack from the celebratory gunfire on the ground, just days after it was announced that the deaths of four Canadian army personnel were the result of similarly misguided intelligence, horrify me, as they would any decent person who stops to think about it. As those who know me are aware, I firmly supported the war in (not 'on') Afghanistan as an unfortunately crucial aspect of a battle against that crazed minority who seek to destroy the West. I believe that the majority of Afghans welcomed the removal of the Taliban, the expulsion of the Islamist terrorists, and the establishment of something that actually looks like a government - even at the (further) cost of Afghan lives. But their support for their American emancipators is going to crumble if U.S. forces act with such ill-informed impunity.We have a duty to defeat Al-Qaeda, but we also have a duty to protect the innocents. And we cannot decry the deaths of our own innocents if we so readily and unapologetically continue to kill innocents in other countries. If we behold it "self-evident... That all men are created equal," then we have to respect the equality of life in other countries - especially among those who would be our allies in what is sadly an ongoing battle to preserve our freedom. Posted 6pm, July 4.
THURSDAY JULY 4: WHO BLESSES AMERICA?
"If patriotism can be democratic and internationalist, then that's good enough for me."
I wish I could take credit for these words, but I can't. They were written by another English writer who lives in the USA, Christopher Hitchens, and they were included in an inspiring essay published in the December 2001 Vanity Fair, hot on the heels of September 11. The essay was entitled For Patriot Dreams, and it was one of two superb, tear-inducing pieces I read by Hitchens in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, in each of which the English expat eloquently argued his love of the USA. (The other piece was in the New York Times Magazine; I no longer have it.)
|A flag of painted shells at the Sea Girt beach in New Jersey, December 2001. The words 'God Bless America' were written in shells alongside.
As I wrote a week or two ago, Hitchens is, in theory, the left-wing counterpart to his fellow expatriate and right-wing pundit Andrew Sullivan - except that these two writers have gained my respect and trust because they frequently break from party lines to tell the truth as it needs to be told. Hitchens has continually taken to task those on the left who somehow believe terrorists have a moral rectitude, while Sullivan, a devout Catholic, has turned on the right wing's most treasured value, religion itself, as the fundamental(ist) cause of our current war.
Still, it took an essay by an American writer, Ron Rosenbaum, in the New York Observer of January 14, for me to understand the connection between these two inspiring journalists. "It's a little disconcerting, isn't it," Rosenbaum began, "that two expatriate Brits have turned out to be the most forceful, eloquent and influential voices in the American debate over the Sept. 11 attacks and their meaning. " It is, I agreed. And maybe, I thought, that's because it takes distance to offer a clear perspective. Hitchens and Sullivan, like humble old me, are recent immigrants, such as have always replaced any hint of complacency or cynicism in the American psyche with the energy and optimism that built this country in the first place.
But Rosenbaum drew on a more precise reason for their intellectual voraciousness. "Maybe it's not an accident that these two self-exiles from the U.K. have dominated the American debate. Perhaps it does have something to do with their expatriate Brit identity: As part of their intellectual birthright, both are in possession of, both are possessed by, the spirit of George Orwell. Both are steeped in Orwell; both have quoted him during the current crisis. Both have looked on our Sept 11 through the lens of Orwell's July 1940, when he was a lonely voice confronting defeatism on the Right and left in the face of Hitler, at a time when England itself stood virtually alone in defying the Third Reich.....Mr Sullivan and Mr Hitchens seem to be winning the war over the war, the war of words. And . . . It is Orwell's vision - his legacy and example, and the perhaps-unspoken competition for his mantle - that has made the difference."
|A simple message of support from Japan at Ground Zero, January 2002. Thank you.
It would be hard for Hitchens to disagree with the above observation, for he has just published a book entitled Orwell's Victory, in which, amazon.co.uk notes (the book is not yet out in America) "he judges Orwell in the light of the difficult contemporary questions he addressed--what Orwell called the 'power of facing' unpleasant facts--rather than the ideological fashions of future generations." As with Orwell before them, both Hitchens and Sullivan have themselves drawn on the "'power of facing' unpleasant facts, rather than the ideological fashions," and if you come across their names in print or online (Sullivan has his own site and a weekly column in the UK Sunday Times, Hitchen frequently writes for The Nation among others), try and find time to read their words. That their opinions may initially challenge your conventional viewpoint is all the more reason to persist with them: the only real hope we have for lasting peace and prosperity on this planet is for people to let go of their ingrained ideologies and search for a common ground born in common sense.
On an entirely related subject, today is July 4th, Independence Day, a date on which being British in America is at its most relevant. As I have been reminded every single July 4th since I moved here, this is the day America celebrates ridding itself of its British oppressors, and as I have stated every time I've been ribbed on this, I am glad that they did. It is an awkward truth in this age of international uncertainty and America-bashing that the USA remains the only modern country built on an idea, rather than on a single race or religion.and because the British would not allow it to those they ruled in America, it was woven into the Declaration of Independence, which was signed on July 4, 1776.
Independence was first fought for in real human lives in the very neighbourhood in which I now live, at the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27 1776, a re-enactment of which I watched last year just days before the attacks of September 11. There are still but scant monuments to the thousands of 'revolutionaries' who died at the hands of British soldiers that day. Still, if you ever find yourself drinking at The Gate or Loki on Fifth Avenue here - and many people do - take time to visit the replica of the Old Stone House opposite and learn of the heroic sacrifices made in that battle so that the dream of a free America could live on. (And I draw a most distinct difference between sacrifices made in battle and a martyrdom that deliberately takes civilian lives. All war is disgusting, but the Battle of Brooklyn was fought entirely between soldiers and armed volunteers. No unarmed civilians, women or children were involved.)
Myself, I defended the values of the USA in an essay I wrote last Thanksgiving, and I'm not sure I can better what I said then. I prefer instead to quote Hitchens against from that Vanity Fair essay. He spoke for many of us who have discovered a home away from home.
"The pursuit of happiness," he wrote, citing key words from the Declaration of Independence. "Just to name that is to summarize and encapsulate all that is detested by the glacial malice of fundamentalism and tribalism. That's what they can't stand. They confuse it with hedonism and selfishness and profanity and they have no idea. No idea at all." No, they don't.
. . .While Thomas Jefferson's hand-written Declaration of Independence is a lengthy document, the First Amendment is short and sweet. It reads, simply: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Most commonly, people associate those 45 words with Freedom of Speech, but the First Amendment also confirmed the separation of Church and State, another key distinction between USA and most other countries, the UK included. That separation is currently under scrutiny with regards to a third treasured American document, the Pledge of Allegiance, which reads, "I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Since September 11, the Pledge has been re-introduced into many schools (including my son's), though children and teachers alike have the freedom not to participate as they choose. Though for my own part, I prefer the Pledge of Allegiance to the Lord's Prayer, which I had to say every day during my 11 years at school in England, many atheists, agnostics, and indeed, the many Jews, Jehova's Witnesses and Muslims who attend my son's school have a problem with the Pledge's use of the words 'under God'.
It's important to note that the Pledge, written by Frances Bellamy in 1892, did not originally contain those two words; they were only introduced in 1954, by Congress, under pressure by outgoing President Truman, in a concerted attempt to differentiate the USA from atheist Communist countries. But in changing the pledge and introducing "an establishment of religion" into a daily recitation by school children, Congress would appear to have undermined the First Amendment, and it is for that very reason that a Californian parent, an atheist as opposed to someone from a non-Christian religion, recently challenged the Pledge's legality. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which represents nine western States, agreed with him, declaring the Pledge "unconstitutional" just last week. Though any basic interpertation of the first Amendment would seem to suggest they are correct, they could hardly have chosen a worse political climate in which to pass this decision; the outcry has extended from the President (who has attacked it today, July 4, even since my first draft of this posting) through both parties in Congress and on to most editorialists across the Country, and it is highly likely that the Supreme Court will uphold the Pledge as it currently stands. Personally, as a tolerant agnostic, I find that notion a great disappointment: freedom of religion is as interwoven into the fabric of this great country as freedom of speech. You can not have one without the other, and that's why we have the First Amendment. One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
For a better-reasoned argument on the above, read Nat Hentoff's column in the current Village Voice.
To join in the 4th of July celebration from afar, tune into wnyc.org online around 7pm EST.
A happy 4th of July to everyone, everywhere. This entry posted 1pm July 4pm, updated at 6pm
WEDNESDAY JULY 3: THE REZILLOS: BACK ON THE (FLYING SAUCER) ATTACK
Last Sunday night (June 30) at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, New Jersey, I positioned myself front and center of a Rezillos gig for the first time in 24 years where, in absence of anything seriously constituting a stage or a thousand people pushing on my back, I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I stood almost nose to nose with Fay Fife, Eugene Reynolds and the band for a thrilling one-hour set. . . Continue
(My Rezillos live review is far too long to fit onto the iJamming! home page. I've given it its own page instead. Click here for the full review - and plenty photos too.)
WEDNESDAY JULY 3:WHY DOES MY FAVORITE WHO ALBUM HAVE TO BE 'THE WHO SELL OUT?'
To be fair, and to balance some of the criticism I've aimed Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey's way for continuing the Who's tour without John Entwistle and before his burial (scheduled for July 10, btw), here are links to three extremely positive reviews of the show at the Hollywood Bowl on Monday July 1.
Rolling Stone Online.
Orange County Register.
Los Angeles Times.
I don't think any of us doubt that Peter and Roger, along with Zak Starkey and Rabbit Bundrick, and a bass player of Pino Palladino's reputation can put on a superb live concert under any circumstances. That's not the issue.
SHOULD WE HAVE SEEN IT COMING?
"It was. 'Fuck it! We're not gonna let a little thing like this stop us.' That was the way we hadto think. We had to reduce it, because if we'd actually admitted to ourselves the true significance of the event, the true tragedy of the event....we could not have gone on and worked. And we had a tour to do. We're a rock and roll band."
Pete Townshend talking to Greil Marcus of Rolling Stone in 1980 about the Who's decision to keep touring after the death of eleven fans at Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum in December 1979.
WEDNESDAY JULY 3: PUT THE MONEY DOWN
As expected, the Net is alive today with positive reports of an 'emotional,' 'cathartic,' 'cleansing' and 'powerful' show Monday night by 'The Who' (minus their four-days-dead bass player, John Entwistle) at the Hollywood Bowl. It's no surprise that the most enthusiastic reports hail from the most hard-core fans, for blind loyalty is what defines fandom in the first place. As I suggested before, the personal perspective appears to become murkier the closer one stands to the center of this ugly mess, so let me stay away from the quality of the music being played, which I'm sure is indeed fine in its own right, and instead disseminate a theory.
The comment keeps coming up: surely the Who, savvy businessmen that they are, had tour insurance against this kind of circumstance; after all, if you can't cancel a tour for a founding member's sudden death on the very eve of the first date, then when can you? But let's consider for a moment that they weren't insured. Certainly, to get insurance against the possibility of canceling a $20,000,000 tour due to sudden death, the playing members would have to have taken a medical exam. John Entwistle, as it's now been revealed, had a heart condition. He was already 57. And you can easily read into Roger Daltrey's official statement that John lived so hard and fast that his death was not a complete surprise to his long-term playing partners. Let's just hypothesize then, that John failed his physical while Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey passed theirs. Perhaps this would explain why I have heard, off the record and without seeing the written proof, that in the contracts between promoters Clear Channel and The Who, only Pete and Roger were considered irreplacable 'senior members' of the Who on this tour, while John was grouped in with relatively new drummer Zak and long-term keyboard player Rabbit as a 'junior member', officially and legally replacable.
It seems so shocking to think that after almost fourty years alongside Pete and Roger, John would have been reduced to junior status, that you may not be inclined to believe it. (Though it might explain why Pino Palladino was so readily available to replace him.) But for John, The Ox, who considered himself indestructable after so many years hard living, the chance to once more do what he most loved - touring with the Who - would surely have been worth his temporary reduced status on what he probably saw as just a piece of paper between the band and the promoters.
Except that when John did indeed drop dead on the eve of the tour then Pete and Roger, unable to insure themselves against such a possibility and contractually bound to replace him, had no choice but to pick up their guitars and play, just like yesterday...
. . . Unless they were willing to repay their advances and cover the losses out of their own pockets. That seems a harsh call for any of us to make on their behalf, but don't forget, that when Pete decided to break up the Who in 1982, he willingly repaid outstanding record company advances - for both himself and drummer Kenney Jones. For their own parts, John and Roger were extremely upset at losing their livelihood (and their lifestyles), but they each paid back their advances, out of their own pockets, in effect to support their band leader (and songwriter)'s decision to do without them. Twenty years later, Pete may not have felt so altruistic towards either the public or his fellow bandmates (dead or alive), and that's fine. I'm only noting that there was a precedent. And I reiterate that the above is merely a theory. Albeit a highly plausible one.
. . .And if it is true, then I'm not sure Pete and Roger have anything to lose by admitting to it. It justifies their need to go on with the tour, reduces the charges of callousness against them, and even allows for some of that ironic black humor that Entwistle himself was so fond of: by dying, Entwistle forced Pete and Roger to tour without him.
Regardless of how close the above is to the real truth, I seriously doubt that this is the last word you're going to hear on the subject.
An elegantly-written obituary of Timothy White, the Billboard editor who also died last Thursday, can be found here. Thank Chris.
MONDAY JULY 1-TUESDAY JULY 2: THE SHOW GOES ON REGARDLESS...
It's very late right now and Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey masquerading as the Who are on a stage in Hollywood at this moment - and for all I know it could be the most beautiful concert experience of their live and that of the audience too. It won't be for John Entwistle, of course, because he's dead, his body sent back home to England for a funeral which will take place while those who claimed to love him as a brother tour the American summer nostalgia circuit.
I guess my anger hasn't subsided yet, huh? I've spent the bulk of this evening perusing various forums on this subject, over at alt.music.who, at the velvet rope, and on odds and sods, for which you have to subscribe via thewho.net. I've also been back and forth on private e-mails for much of the day with Who fans far and wide, and a few readers of this web site have sparked up a conversation on the ijamming forum.
From what I've seen, reaction to the decision by Pete Townshend to continue with the tour (a decision he credits as his own) is split down the middle. There are many who consider it crass, greedy, disrespectful and in poor taste. Then there are at least an equal number who believe that as guardians of the Who's legacy, Pete and Roger should be entitled to do what they want; this camp also appears to believe that there are enough other experienced people involved in the tour - eg Zak Starkey, Rabbit Bundrick and Bob Pridden - to ensure that what we get is a close enough approximation to the real thing that the shows will continue to be worth their ticket price.
If I can sense any demographic breakdown between these two camps, it's the following.
1) Those who are closest to the eye of the storm - people involved in the tour, those with tickets for the first few concerts - have a 'show must go on' mentality. Those further afield take a far more jaundiced view of it.
2) The 'cynics' (among which camp I'll firmly place my self) are generally older, and mostly saw the Who in its original line-up when they were younger. That doesn't mean that you naturally get more cynical as you get older; it means you have a clearer view of what originally fueled an artistic triumph coupled with an understanding that life later becomes all about money. And there's no real point pretending that this tour is continuing for any other reason, not with $25,000,000 in ticket sales riding on it.
Pete and Roger may be concerned about their own share, they may be more concerned with that of their touring partners and employees, they may be under incredible pressure from management, agents and promoters. But suggesting that this tour is somehow a 'tribute' to John simply doesn't wash. My suggestion for a tribute would have been to gather at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas where John Entwistle died and where the tour was due to start, to have gone ahead with the opening night as a (acoustic?) memorial, given how many friends and family were present, to have left everyone in the room in tears, packed their bags and officially announced the demise of the Who. (Again.) Maybe to return down the line as Townshend and Daltrey, as did Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Of course, that's merely a suggestion.
Having had more time to think, I do want to tackle what I consider the three most frequently posited positive reasons for continuing.
1) Money. Nobody likes putting anyone out of a job. And there's a lot of money to be lost if the tour was canceled. But hey, what's tour insurance for if not for situations like this - a founding member of the band dying on the eve of a tour? Tours get cancelled all the time - promoters are very keen to call them off when ticket sales are low. And given that I recently wrote about it for Remarks Remade, I have to mention that when R.E.M.'s drummer Bill Berry suffered a brain aneurysm while the group was on by far and away the biggest and most lucrative tour of its career, all concerts were postponed until he returned to full health. For that band of long-term friends, nothing else mattered but their partner's well-being. The notion of continuing with someone else never even occurred to them. (And Bill Berry's shoes would have been easier shoes to fill than John Entwistle's.) I assume tour insurance took care of the financial losses, but even if it didn't, it clearly didn't affect R.E.M.'s decision.
2) Half a Who is better than no Who. Or: Younger fans want to see the Who while there's still a Who to see. I don't blame them. I was once among them. After Keith Moon died, I bunked a morning off school in May 1979 to queue up outside the Rainbow and get tickets for the 'comeback' show, the first with Kenney Jones on drums. At least there was an eight month gap between Keith's death and that Rainbow show, time for the Who to gather their thoughts, search out a replacement, and let fans recover from the shock, but that's not really the point: the point is that the Who were tragically disappointing without Keith, and only my youthful enthusiasm convinced me for the briefest of moments that they ever could be anything else. With Zak on drums in the last three years, the Who have come close to recapturing their energy of old, but they could never recapture their meaning. Recent Who shows have been entertaining, surprisingly energetic, and given the distance since Keith's death and the original break-ups, they could almost be judged on their own merits. But they've been primarily an exercise in nostalgia, and the younger fans desperate to experience something that has long lost its context are wrong to think otherwise. Those who remember the Who in context have every reason to feel cheated.
3) It's what John Entwistle would have wanted. Who says so? His son, Christopher, has done, and he's entitled. But Pete Townshend has himself declared in his official statement that "I don't feel I know for certain that John would have wanted us to go on." (Pete Townshend also initially wrote something along the lines of "and I don't think it would have mattered if he did" but later withdrew those words.) I'll tell you what I know John Entwistle wanted. He wanted the Who to keep playing live, while he was alive. Entwistle was angry that the Who slowed their touring down as early as 1974, he was furious that they didn't tour in 1977 and 1978, while Keith Moon was still alive, and he was livid that Pete Townshend gave up on the Who for much of the 1980s and 1990s. When I interviewed John for the Keith Moon biography Dear Boy, on the eve of the 1996 Quadrophenia reformation, the Ox spewed real venom Pete's way for what he viewed as denying him the opportunity to work. This is not to say either party had the moral high ground here, but the irony of Pete Townshend suddenly deciding to keep touring after John Entwistle dies waiting is too great to avoid mentioning.
Pete Townshend's most recent statement, posted at his web site, ends, "We are musicians, entertainers. We can do it. We have the right tools. No worries." That sounds all too similar to the callous statements he made after Keith's death and after the stampede in Cincinnatti. In fact, of the many, many, many viewpoints you can read on the web, two of the most eloquent have come from Ira Robbins, the former publisher of Trouser Press, and one of the most ardent Who fans in the world. (He has, incidentally, declined all opportunities to see the Who live these last three years.) In his initial reaction to Pete Townshend's decision, he warned us to expect Pete to regret it in years to come. "Having followed Pete as a fan and journalist closely for 36 years now, I recognize the pattern. React to a situation in the most awful, self-centered way, later express ambivalence and guilt about his behavior, blithely announce the intention to never do it again and then do it all over again." Having sparked many a younger Who fan (at the Velvet Rope) to defend Townshend's 'fighting spirit,', Ira later challenged that notion as follows: "What they've done instead is to simply go about their nostalgia mongering business as usual, rationalized by the enormous bother it would have been to allow even death to stop a commercial enterprise...that's not fighting on, it's failing to admit unmistakable defeat. "
There are many other comments I've come across today. Some posted direct to me, some on other boards.
"I can't believe that Pete and Roger would be that heartless. John's body ain't even cold and his bandmates plan to continue the party so soon?" . . ."The Who is dead. The abomination touring as the Who is a fraud, an impostor and an example of what happens when one man's ego is allowed to run rampant. " . . ."The one good thing you can say about Roger and Pete is that they aren't two faced, they treated John like dirt while he was alive and they continue to do so after his death!!!! If that's how you show respect for a "Brother" I hate to see what they would do to an enemy." . . ."Well, i must say I think its in poor taste for the band to go on, but, rest his soul, poor taste was always something that John found amusing." . . ."The decision to carry on the tour has upset me more than John's passing on."
But in fairness, the following makes perfect sense too: "if you was pete and roger, would you rather be out onstage every night with us, or would you rather sit at home and have nothing to do but think about the loss of your friend? me, i'd rather keep busy."
In double fairness, I would like to point out that, just as when Keith Moon died, Roger Daltrey, the supposedly inarticulate singer, has emerged with the more eloquent statement. It reads, only in part, as follows:
"I have lost one of my oldest friends in John Entwistle. We have been friends since we were 14 years old and I cannot even begin to measure the loss. My heart goes out to his wonderful family. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that as we get older more and more of our friends disappear from our lives and death is like an ever encroaching shadow on us all.
". . . John made no compromises in the way he lived his life. He did it totally his way. Sad though it is, if he could have written an ending for himself it would have been very similar to the one he had. For those who knew him and his sense of humour they will raise a smile at that. He was a true rock and roll icon through and through and he was so proud that he was famous.
". . . My reason for doing what we are doing now, and it is going to take a lot of strength from everybody, is to celebrate John's life. It seems to me the best way is to play our music - the music he helped to create. The spirit of John Entwistle is intrinsically woven into every song we play. By playing our music I believe we can help ourselves and our fans grieve and begin to come to terms with our loss, huge as it is.
". . .We have to accept that life has to go on. We are only a mirror image of our audience. They too lose people and try to move on with their lives and we have to do the same. It will never be the same, it will be different. But John is ingrained in those songs, and just as you can still hear Keith Moon in our live sound, you will still hear John. His spirit will be with us."
And finally, taking a leaf out of Pete Townshend's own capricious nature of constant position-shifting, I am deliberately posting this now, tonight, while very very tired and far less articulate than I would be in the morning,because a part of me still wants to believe. A part of me wants to be proven wrong. A part of me wants to get up tomorrow and find out that the Who at the Hollywood Bowl on July 1 2002, even without two of its founding members, was the greatest live show of all time. That part of me will be checking in bright and early tomorrow. The rest of me is more than ready to call it quits. Good night.
Monday July 1: (GLAD) IT'S ALL OVER (NOW, BABY BLUE)
Finally, no more alarm clocks ringing at perversely odd hours on a weekend morning. No more bleary-eyed trips to the television to tune into a sporting event taking place on the other side of the world. No more attending smokey bars at dawn hours, trying to to drink before work. No more World Cup. (For four more years.) And I'm going to miss it.
We'd accepted a weekend invite to Fire Island - a car free sandbar off the south of Long Island on which the various communities are essentially isolated from each other by lack of transport (and on which a mini tornado ripped the roof off the house next to us the moment we arrived; talk about a brutal welcome!) - and it came with a caveat that watching the Brazil-Germany Final might prove impossible. Far from it. By a hilariously perverse coincidence, the TV in the house we were staying at recieved only one channel - ABC, the American network showing the game; and the TV in a nearby house that opted to host a World Cup party first thing Sunday morning also received only one channel - Univision, the Spanish network showing the game. So I watched the first half at our own place, given our rental crowd's sleepy nature at that early hour, and the second half over at the 'party' house, which hosted the classic international gathering you can only really get in this country: Bosnians, Spaniards, Iranians, Brits, Hungarians, a number of Americans, and, for my own delight, a German woman in face paint who I ribbed mercilessly throughout her depressing second half. (Hey, if England can't win the World Cup, the best I can ask for is Germany losing the final to a suddenly styish Brazil. Childish I know, and I'm not sure she knew how to take (my) humour, but hey, if you can't stand the heat. . .)
|A caption for those 100% Christian Brazilians:
'Jesus Saves, Ronaldo scores on the rebound '
Like most of the world, I'd wanted Brazil to win, because their style of football - Rivaldo's play-acting aside - is so relentlessly positive. As England and Belgium had discovered in the knock-out games, goalscroing for the Brazilians is addictive: once they get one, they seek out more. This so obviously contrasts with the Italian, German (and maybe even English) style that it would be churlish not to feel happy for them.
To their own credit, Germany knew better than to sit back and defend, and surprised their critics by taking the game to Brazil throughout the first half, making a fine final of it. And though English fans might not like to admit it, there appear to be more similarities between England and Germany in the way they were beaten by Brazil than differences. Try these. Each country had let in only one goal prior to facing Brazil, but let in two on the big day. Each country dominated the first half against Brazil, but it ultimately counted for nothing. Each country featured a world-class goalkeeper who, somewhat cruelly, was made to look stupid/average after being caught out by Brazil's stealth/power. (Seaman caught off his line against Ronaldhino's free kick/Kahn failing to hold that shot from Rivaldo, allowing Ronaldo to tap in on the rebound.) And each country - great footballing powers in their own right - simply collapsed once Brazil went ahead, ending their matches looking thoroughly demoralised. For English fans, there was the consolation of being beaten by the eventual winner; for German fans, the consolation of getting to the Final when no one expected it; and for USA fans, the consolation of getting to the Quarter-Final and putting up a stellar fight against Germany. It will take years to see the long-term effects, but believe me, large portions of this nation's population were galvanised by their team's performance.
The Who: Must The Show Go On?
Being away for a weekend kept me from the computer and a steady stream of e-mails about both John Entwistle's death and the Who's decision to carry on without him. It will probably take all day to read the opinions posted over at alt.music.who and the oddsandsods list, but it's fair to say that there's just as much disgust from long-term Who fans at Pete and Roger's decision to keep touring as there is support for it. I've been gathering opinions from those I respect in this matter to see if the anger I expressed on Friday was purely personal. Initial reactions suggest that it wasn't. I'll post again at the end of the day.
And talking of reformed bands: tomorrow, I'll post a report on The Rezillos first tour of American, some 22 years after releasing one brilliant debut album and promptly breaking up.
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