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I have been ripping my CD collection over these past months, and today stumbled upon one of my favorites, Pete Townshend's All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. Despite the somewhat tepid review, I adore the album and find it infinitely listenable and simultaneously uplifting and melancholy.

The liner notes in particular are fascinating, beautifully-written, poignant, and seem painfully apropos to today's world...

I've always felt they perfectly capture the emotional ying/yang of the modern world, specifically the failure of politics, the horror of war and its aftermath, and the inexplicable allure of celebrity -- all of which are touched on archly in the notes. I was born in 1968 -- hardly a banner year for our country (RFK & MLK assassinated, Chicago riots, Tet offensive, etc.) -- and have since lived through a succession of ineffective and dishonest if not criminal presidencies. Excepting Clinton (and to a degree, Carter), I have never been inspired by or proud of an American president in my lifetime. Rather I have been let down, unimpressed, outraged and ultimately saddened in the way the man and his party/cabinet have ignored the needs of our country and instead pursued other less noble goals. Never more so than under The Idiot.

Anyway, read the entire liner notes below if you have a few minutes to spare. (Note to DKos ... I could not find them anywhere on the Net, so no linkie.) As they do for me, I think they'll evince a feeling of lost opportunity and a longing for simpler times, along with a sense of hopelessness in the face of The Idiot and his GOP proxies in Congress and the media ... mixed with righteous indignation and an obligation to do the hard work required to throw the bums out of office and reverse the damage they have wrought.

Keep the faith.


There have always been times like these. The multi-coloured spheres crash and collide, the triangle expands and explodes: eventually there is nothing.

They were being attacked from all sides, everything seemed hopeless. There seemed to be no language in which they could communicate to their adversaries, to beseech them for mercy. At a crucial moment a natural leader emerged. His horse was dry and cool when all others were frothing and bleeding, his leather clothes dusty and worn. His face was keen and firm, lightly lined and weather beaten. The most
remarkable thing about him was his eyes; half shut against the wind blown dust and the noise of guns. The pupils seemed hidden and colourless, dilated so much by the brilliance of the sand-reflected sun they appeared like needle points.

He saved them all by skilful organising and rallying rhetoric. He sacrificed those among them he felt were strong enough to be in the front line, weak enough to become mindlessly obedient in a crisis. When the enemy were finally defeated he led the rest home to safety.

Once home it didn't take long for them to lose their way again. They lost husbands and wives, the closeness and changes of their children and families, the regular contact with old friends and lovers, their hold on normality (particularly vis a vis money), and finally somehow, somewhere, they lost God.

While Hollywood was being born, and fools learned how to behave like stars under a Caligulan sky, blood ran in the European trenches. When the twenties arrived men who are now British grandfathers became free again - no more uniforms.

Back in Hollywood those stars were learning the art and the lessons of decadence while around them thousands starved in the Depression. During the day they circled their cardboard wagons or re-lived biblical stroies as epics. At night they drank freely, smoked, tasted cocaine and made love. The boredom was fundamental.

There was a grey area in humanity between the truly stelliferous beings and the ordinary semi-starving mass who paid their last few coins to re-live an acquaintance with heroism. Most of them were not stars in the true sense; they didn't stop traffic and never cared to. But many of them wanted to touch hearts and be revered, or get close to those who could do that. They worshipped the memory, however distant and hazy, of the man who had redeemed them years before. If unable for any reason to go on attempting to reach out for their ideal they became frustrated. But they had confused real heroism with power, they had become atavistic. There was an ironic justice in force though; had they actually become like one of those pathetic pedestal souls they wanted to emulate - insular and alone - they might have drowned in a very confused sea.


For some the sea runs with oil and gas;
Great stag beetle helicopters plough to and fro
To gantries in the northern oceans.
To some the sea holds fish;
The whale, the mackerel and the ray.
Early morning home and even earlier away.
For some the sea has only a surface;
Reflecting sunrise and sunset, cloud and sky
For viewers on vandalised promenade benches.
For some the sea evokes an idea of God.
Its peace and rages, expanse and magnificence.
All a testament framed by the globe to his majesty
For others the sea is a dumping ground;
A convenient dilutant for sewage.
Rivers artificially halted by the dam
Run underground to pollute their ultimate goal.
For me once the sea was a promise,
A memory of what seemed an endless love.
It proved not to be endless but enough perhaps.
Now the sea is a vast accessible wasteland;
An infinitude in which to hide our cupfuls of tears.
Tomorrow the sea will be the place to dive and swim,
To flow and timelessly drown in Pacific patience.
Then again, the sea will still be the sea.
And me? I will still be merely me.

Stardom was an invention -- like pool, not an exclusively American game -- that took the world by the throat while the USA was still under prohibition. It was a significant concurrence. In the movies there was freedom, celebration and free flowing booze. The movie made the star and the star made movies, but somewhere men with calculating screwed up eyes -- a little like our hero's -- made the real killings. Years later rock and roll, a half grown teacher, tried to create stars. The men with snake-like slits for eyes reaped again, but is the pusher really worse than the junkie?

Everyone needed someone to blame. Some accused politicians, some whole races of people different to themselves, some pointed fingers at established religions. There were some who ended their lives because they felt too ordinary, too much like others; too uniform. Even they were placing blame, but they alone among millions could have been close to the truth.

Most of them looked into the eyes of all the accusers, all the world-righting revolutionaries, and saw a reflection of the very evil those ardent meglomaniacs were determined to expose in others. On the other hand they saw people already convicted of heinous crimes and incredible cruelty whose eyes seemed to laugh quite genuinely. It was almost as though a great burden had been lifted from them. They seemed to be saying that the potential for evil is within - not without. Best to laugh because a smile is the greatest force to hurl against suffering. But look at the smiling cowboy, the natural leader and champion of the downtrodden soul. He smiled as he urged them all to war, "Just once more."

Somehow they arrived alive. Somehow they found the broken bottle trail without help. All stars, great and small, shine under God. It was only impudence and frivolity that conspired to make any one of them try to get higher. A smile is still merely a smile. Anyone for snooker?


I walked between identical houses,
In towns so similar the memory of each blends.
I walked through forests;
God paid attention to detail
But on the surface one forest is much like another.
I walked between identical soldiers,
They belonged to opposing armies.
Armies so similar they fought one another for history.
Those who survived resumed living together.
I walked with children,
Their faces painted and streaked, their clothes preened.
I watched their delight in being alike.
I heard music drift down,
Cello struck vamps of twitching lethargy.
I looked at the heroes
And the junkies in the billiard hall
All the best cowboys have Chinese eyes.


Have a good night, all.

Originally posted to ianvanhoven on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 04:58 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Rec'd for the title alone (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sarahnity, suzq

    A professor I had at University said, "Oh you kids! All worked up about nuclear anihilation. Look if it wasn't this, it was Attila the Hun coming over the hill.

    "You have the opportunity to live longer than most people in history. Live better lives, with more ease. Yes, there's that nuclear chance -- but it's slim.

    "People in ancient history died in droves before they hit 25... Stop with the whining about your current threat."

    Oh, um, yeah.

    And that's your title!

    Be good to each other. It matters.

    by AllisonInSeattle on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 06:01:53 PM PDT

  •  Post your tip jar, now (0+ / 0-)

    (a comment in your own diary.)

    Be good to each other. It matters.

    by AllisonInSeattle on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 06:02:24 PM PDT

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