"I am an American aquarium drinker / I assassin down the avenue." Wilco, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"---
A lesson in perspective, provided by the musical genius of Wilco. One of the greatest songs from one of the greatest rock bands is "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart." The heart of the track is what I've described as the "things falling in the studio" percussion, which I consider a pretty apt description of what four-armed drummer Glenn Kotche does during this song (it's even more amazing live, as Wilco is generally). A lot of other things are happening, as tends to in Wilco songs, but the other thing that always grabbed me was the lyrics. Half of them are non-sensical ("Take off your Band-Aid because I don't believe in touchdowns"), but they made sense because of how I interpreted this song.
This morning, however, Kottke.org pointed me to a cover of the song by Chicago-based "100 percent soul" group J.C. Brooks & The Uptown Sound. First, a disclosure: I usually hate covers, and I really hate cover/tribute bands. Short of karaoke and O'Douls, it's the worst thing that can happen in a bar. But I do like covers which become a whole new song, and these guys do that in spades. Not only do they reinvent the music, they provide a completely different take on the exact same lyrics. Here's how (videos for both songs are embedded at bottom):
Wilco's version: The narrator is broken-hearted, and basically spending his days and nights stumbling around drunk and bemoaning what he lost and fearing what would happen if they reconciled. Reminders of the lost love surround him. The incoherent mumblings are the deep thoughts of a drunk man trying to make sense of what seems to be an interminable situation. The way Jeff Tweedy sings it reinforces this perspective, because he sounds like a man who lost his footing and can't/won't regain it. When he "assassins down the avenue," he is wandering aimlessly, imaging himself as strong when really he's very weak.
Brooks & Co. version: This guy's a hunter, prowling parties and clubs for his next lover. Part of what makes him so attractive is his brutal honesty: He is, absolutely, going to break your heart, which actually makes him more attractive to the ladies. This isn't the guy you marry, this is the guy you have fun with and never introduce to mom. Even the expressions of regret are hollow ("What was I thinking when I said it didn't hurt?") more along the lines of, "Baby, you know you're the only one for me." When he "assassins down the avenue," he is strutting to an infectious groove, and the ladies flock to his extreme self-confidence.
So, perspective is important, and everyone has a different take on the same message. This weekend, Utahns got a significant taste of this, thanks to a very unusual Page 1 editorial in the Deseret News from Mark H. Willes, overlord of the Mormon media properties. Read the whole thing, because this could be the single most important thing written about immigration this year for Utah. Put simply, this was the LDS Church position on immigration. (For anyone who disputes this, do you really think that an editorial on the front page of the D-News and written on behalf of all of the Mormon media properties wasn't approved by Thomas Monson himself? I would bet my house on it.)
For anyone opposed to Arizona-style reform, there's a lot of meat: Families should not be broken up if some of the household is illegal; the economy is dependent on illegal immigration; immigrants have made American what it is today; compassion is key. There's also a few paragraphs reminding people that Mormons were once unwanted immigrants themselves.
For supporters of tough immigration policies -- read, the majority of legislators -- there are enough holes to wiggle through to justify some of the harsher proposals. Willes agrees that something must be done about immigration, and Utah should be creative. Well, the Arizona law is creative. Willes also gives a lot of attention to the deportation of illegal immigrants who are felons, as well as the need to push the federal government to deal with the problem.
It will be interesting to see how legislators interpret this message, and how legislative leadership deals with some of the harsher legislation in the 2011 session. My suspicion is that LDS leaders are going to push legislative leaders to encourage restraint, but that there is going to just enough energy from the ultra-conservative legislators -- the same ones who already ignore the LDS Church on abortion and gay civil rights -- to push at least a couple of these through to Gov. Gary Herbert, who will be staring at another election (and mad delegates) in 2012. All in all, it's going to be a hell of a legislative session.
Speaking of aquarium drinkers, here's a round-up of nice little nuggets of info from the weekend that I missed until today, since there's not much actual news that happened today:
* Liquor Reform: Ahh, how about an issue where the LDS Church holds no sway? The liquor stores may be privatized, which would actually suck. The quote that stood out to me, from Randy Simmons, a USU professor on the privatization board: "My guess is there would be push-back from the LDS Church if they tried to completely privatize, including the wholesale side." So, the state/LDS Church would still control what is sold, and a private business would act as middleman. That would mean prices for liquor would rise, because the state isn't going to drop their warehouse prices. So even other benefits, such as more stores or longer hours, will not mean things are better overall.
* Gay marriage reform: Again, nothing here that the LDS Church cares about. Okay, so there's not really any news, but I highly recommend you read this column by Mark Morford, the greatest columnist currently writing. Then, read this column about when S.F. legalized gay marriage. Then, read every single one of his columns, or at least read his book.
* 2012: Hey, no Mormons here, unless you count Mitt Romney, who apparently now drives a Chevy and entered one of the great rural debates: Ford vs. Chevy. Since it's his wife's, however, he's dismissed by all sides.
* Twin Towers mosque: A genuinely non-Mormon issue. Newt Gingrich & Co. are bitch-slapped a couple of different ways for their crying about the mosque in NYC. The New Yorker describes the neighborhood and the building at the heart of the controversy, while a grad student/blogger gives Newt an historical ass-whipping. (Again, h/t to Kottke).
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