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And You Know Something is Happening But You Don't Know What it is.

When one year rolls into another, every blogger with even an ounce of social responsibility prepares a summary of the prior year‘s great events. Bloggers with more than an ounce actually wait until the year is over before posting their list, in case something happens during the final days of the old year. For example, the 2004 tsunami that took a quarter million lives struck December 26. Those impatient bloggers who just couldn’t wait and had to be the first ones out with their list missed it completely.

We at the Whitepebble Historical Society positively reek with social responsibility. That’s why the final days of 2007 were firmly in the can before I posted my list, just in case something should happen in those last few days. As it turned out, nothing did.

Now….the big Rochester event of 2007 is that Mr. Jones died, the same Mr. Jones that Bob Dylan sang about in Ballad of a Thin Man:

You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, "Who is that man?"
You try so hard
But you don't understand
Just what you'll say
When you get home
Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

 

Turns out that Mr. Jones was a real guy and he lived in Pittsford, not ten miles from my house. I had no idea. Until I read it in the Democrat and Chronicle Nov 13th, that is, and found that  Jones was a dorky kind of kid back then, a know-it-all most likely, and probably from the suburbs, ill-prepared to interview the inscrutable Dylan, yet given exactly that assignment by Time magazine back in 1965 at the Newport Film Festival. The young intern probably pitched a lot of  pseudo-hip questions at Dylan, and Bob threw it all back in his face the way he likes to do or at least used to.

Mr. (Jeff Owen) Jones went on to do a lot of things, the D&C reported, even working at that newspaper for awhile.  All his relatives said nice things about him at the funeral, how he was a regular guy and all, and how he finally settled in as a film professor at RIT (I wonder if he was at the concert) before he died of cancer at 63.

Regarding Dylan’s 40-year-old portrayal of him as an over-educated fool, the stuff music critics were made of back then (and now?), Mr. Jones had long been philosophical. After all, he reflected, Dylan was right enough: something was happening back then and no, he didn’t know what it was. Dylan appeared with electric guitar the next night at the folk festival, roughly the equivalent of farting in church. Wasn’t it just after that he released Like a Rolling Stone, the greatest song of all time according to Rolling Stone Magazine? Besides, Mr. Jones wasn’t even that uncool. He drove a Volkswagen. And he played the harmonica himself, just like Bob!

Jones’ death can’t be good news to the singer/songwriter. Weren’t they around the same age? And aren’t I not too far behind them? Bob is conscious of his mortality. Aren’t we all?

I see people in the park forgetting their troubles and woes
They're drinking and dancing, wearing bright colored clothes
All the young men with their young women looking so good
Well, I'd trade places with any of them
In a minute, if I could……..

The sun is beginning to shine on me
But it's not like the sun that used to be
The party's over, and there's less and less to say
I got new eyes
Everything looks far away

Highlands, from Time Out of My Mind, 1997

After putting this mortality interpretation on Dylan's words, I came across a source in which Bob denies that's what he meant. Rats! It reminds me of that scene from Up the Down Staircase (the book) in which a kid gets an 'F' for misinterpretting a poets' words. He tries hard to change his grade, but to no avail, even when he brings the poet himself to school and the poet says yes...the kid was right, that is exactly what he meant by his line! The kid's only bittersweet consolation is to know he's changed school policy; from then on the school only asks questions about dead poets.

And so I too am going to leave my interpretation right where it is. You'd think a songwriter would be able to interpret his own songs!

Other things happened in Rochester last year too, at least I think they did, but the reason I led with Dylan is because I have learned that if you want readership to go off the charts, you mention him. At least that’s what I discovered in October when I went to his concert at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Gordon Field House and posted about it afterwards. One of those Dylan fan sites picked up the post and I got over 1000 hits in a day. The only other time I even came close to that was when some anti-Witness forum site latched on to my blog and all participants had to take several looks and bat it around for days on end. Only, whereas feedback from my Dylan post was positive, feedback from the sorehead site ran more along the theme of  “can you believe this jerk!?”

I told Moristotle about my findings and he promptly put it into practice, sprinkling Dylan throughout his posts, whether it fit or not. I did the same for awhile, referring to Richard Dawkins and Bob Dylan, Ronald Reagan and Bob Dylan, Pope Benedict and Bob Dylan, and so forth. And now I’ve allowed him to top my 2007 great events list. Will lightning strike twice?

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Comments

Moristotle

Yes, indeed, readers of Tom, I did try mentioning Dylan (and others) after Tom's anecdote. I have no encouraging results to report.

The other day, though, I got a lengthy comment (in fact, the very longest I HAVE EVER got, to quote a memorably delivered phrase from some Bob Dylan song or other) on a post of several months ago. Did IT mention Dylan, you might wonder? No it did not. The subject was the death penalty, and the commenter was some wingnut religious fanatic who condemns all opponents of the death penalty as being disobedient to God (some of whose "holy books" wax hot and heavily on putting people to death for one thing or another). Believe me, this guy was all for it, starting with the adulterors and fornicators, and continuing on quickly with the blasphemers and ass-coveters.

By the way, I am not what you'd call an opponent of the death penalty. The post in question merely reported my decision, after years of wavering back and forth on the subject, to finally make up mind to never again approve the death penalty. That is, it's personal, not an activist stance.

The "bottom line" (if there is one) seems to be that a given post might be "discovered" by some assiduous Internet peruser whose search engine happens to deliver a reference to it because of a phrase the post happens to use. I wonder how far down on the aforementioned guy's Google list the reference to my post appeared....

No doubt, random mentions of Bob Dylan or Richard Dawkins or Jesus Christ or The Prophet Muhammad might win a post a mention, but only wingnuts are going to go far enough down the find list to discover it.

Moristotle

By the way, your post is as good an occasion as any for me to unburden myself on something I've been thinking about (again, THIS "holiday season"): how so many people send out their "Christmas [or "holiday"] newsletter." My wife and I have never done that and we frankly usually don't enjoy reading other peoples', which tend to be repetitive and banal. It seems like most of the newsletters this year started the way most of them did last year and the year before: "How did the year pass so fast!? Time seems to be going faster and faster."

I admit that I USED to like to read the "top stories of the year" sort of thing, but not for a while. The "milestone" of writing one year on our checks one day and the next year the next day has long seemed to be a very artificial distinction (in the same league as our making a bigger deal about a birthday because the celebrant's age is a multiple of ten or twenty-five).

Philosophically, for instance, a "new year" begins every instant. It just seems to me inauthenticate or shallow to lend so much purely symbolic significance to things that are not actually significant. And symbolic of what?

At best (perhaps) people are just desperate to identify things to have a party about or celebrate (as journalists are forever trying to discover a sellable pretext to write a story).

My personal approach is to celebrate each moment as much as possible, each person the same, etc., etc.

I know, I'm pretty insufferable, am I not?

tom sheepandgoats

No, I don't think so.

"My personal approach is to celebrate each moment as much as possible, each person the same, etc., etc."

As you may know, for various reasons JWs pass on birthday celebrations. In explaining themselves, sometimes they use phrasing pretty much like yours.

So it you're insufferable, then we are as well. Of course, that clearly could not be the case.

As for stumbling across a post written long ago, I get that a lot too. Lately I've gotten numerous hits on Start Your Own Religion

http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats/2007/10/start-your-own-.html

by persons who are apparently searching for something else,

Screech

I was that boy in High School who misinterpreted a poem. Really sucks to have put a lot of thought into an essay only to fail because you looked for symbolic meaning in something that is government run. Lesson learned.

BTW: I wrote that the poem was about coming of age and going from a person who depended on others for everything to an independent adult. The school said it was about a butterfly. Maybe I should be a music critic?

tom sheepandgoats

I'll take your interpretation over a butterfly anyday. Sounds to me as if your school was pretty shallow.

Moristotle

It gives me the warm fuzzies to have that authenticity in common with you and your fellow Witnesses, my dear friend Tom! Now, if I (and we all) can keep from getting all puffed up about it!

Moristotle

Today happens to be my birthday, and a friend sent me a bunch of quotations, this one of which I particularly like and thought that you, too, Tom (and you, too, readers of Tom), might like:

"Real birthdays are not annual affairs. Real birthdays are the days when we have a new birth." - Ralph Parlette

tom sheepandgoats

Here is a South African exile living in Toronto

http://annesudevos.blogspot.com/

who is either one of our people or has respect for us. She gave a list of 10 reasons she does not celebrate birthdays. #1: JWs don't celebrate them and some of her best friends are JWs. But also....this is priceless....if she is living right, she anticipates living forever & never dying, and so celebrating birthdays is more or less pointless. If she is not living right, then each birthday is one more milestone on the wrong path, not at all worthy of celebration.

Alas, this person is a writer and she apparently culls her blog from time to time so that only the best of the best remains, a modest stand which probably more of us should imitate. She posted it last year but I can't find it anymore. In fact, I can find only a few of her writings. Too bad....they are quite good

Moristotle

Tom, that's priceless: "if she is living right, she anticipates living forever & never dying, and so celebrating birthdays is more or less pointless."

There are apparently a number of people on the planet who anticipate living forever; maybe some of them will! [grin]

At any rate, I suspect that if the woman who wrote that still believes it, she has a lot of fun doing so.

By the way, my wife baked me an incredibly wonderful pie for my birthday. I took photographs of it and posted a couple of them on my blog today. Believe me, it tastes fully as good as it looks!

Screech

My school shallow? Of course. I haven't seen too many education institutions in my part of the country (Arizona) that respects (as an institution) creative or individual thought. It seems to me to be all about memorizing facts. Which is a pity because as I grew up and learned on my own the things they tried to force-feed me, I found them quite interesting. Yet good little employees and citizens don't ask questiosn, they just do what they're told. So it makes sense to me that things are done the way they are.

tom sheepandgoats

"as I grew up and learned on my own the things they tried to force-feed me, I found them quite interesting"

Similar experience here too, Screech. Chapters of Daniel re succession of world powers (esp chapt 8) peaked an interest in history, which was dormant during school. It led me to check out An Outline of History (H.G.Wells) to explore that time period, then expand both prior and after. That led to looking at more specific histories of certain periods, including a heightened appreciation of current events.

Awake In Rochester

I didn't know that Mr. Jones was a real person, much less that he lived here. Small world.

So how did your experiment work out? Did you get more hits by mentioning Dylan?

tom sheepandgoats

AIR: Bombed out completely! I was surprised, too, since like you, I really thought is was a fascinating item and a worthy addition to Dylan memorabilia. There was, to be sure, a modest bump in hits, but that often happens. My first post on Dylan, where I reviewed his concert at RIT, registered so many hits I nearly drowned.

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