What Sayeth Bob Dylan About Social Justice? - Nothing!

 It happened like clockwork for forty years. Bob Dylan would release an album and the aging flower children critics would say: “What does Bob Dylan have to say about social injustice?”

The answer was always the same: Nothing.

The man who wrote the injustice and youth rebellion anthems of a generation did so only because the market was eating up that stuff at the time. It was never his cause and he was never rebellious. “I latched on,” he said, “when I got to New York City, because I saw (what) a huge audience there was. I knew I wasn't going to stay there. I knew it wasn't my thing. ... I became interested in folk music because I had to make it somehow."

This is too rich—all the flower children revolutionaries swooning over a messiah who never wanted to save, who wrote what he did for purely mercenary reasons. And all of their own ‘prophets’ so woefully falling short in their own powers of expression. At its core, surely it shows the ‘generation of love’ to be little more than a facade.

It backfired on Dylan. He actually got stuck with being the king of people he didn’t especially care for—just like the people trying to make Jesus king and he evaded their grasp. Dylan wasn’t so adept. "I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of," he writes in his autobiography. "Whatever the counterculture was, I'd seen enough of it," He grumbles on about being "anointed as the Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest, the Czar of Dissent." Instead, he writes that he wanted “to have a house with a white picket fence and pink roses in back, live in East Hampton with his wife and pack of kids, eat Cheerios and go to the Rainbow Room and see Frank Sinatra Jr. perform!”

Despite the most obvious lack of social interest content, flower children are not easily dissuaded. Dylan’s lyrics are complex. They would tease something out of each album so the singer remained the messiah. He got fed up with it at one point and deliberately wrote horrible stuff to throw them off track. “I wrote that,” he said of one dog, “to get the hippies off my lawn.”

While critics held their breath searching for social justice themes, what was Dylan singing? How about ‘Don’t Ya Tell Henry?’

Yeah, I went down to the whorehouse the other night
I was lookin' around, I was outta sight
I looked at a horse and I saw a mule
I looked for a cow and I saw me a few
They said, "Don't ya tell Henry
Don't ya tell Henry
Don't ya tell Henry
Apple's got your fly"

Several verses of catching people in embarrassing predicaments. In each case, they plead: ‘Don’t ya tell Henry.’ Who was Henry? I haven’t a clue, but can it not be connected with another Dylan song of the same time – ‘Please, Mrs. Henry?’ also vaguely off-color, though nothing specific. Just a frolicking romp of a drinking song:

Well, I've already had two beers
I'm ready for the broom
Please, Missus Henry, won't you
Take me to my room?
I'm a good ol' boy
But I've been sniffin' too many eggs
Talkin' to too many people
Drinkin' too many kegs
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
I'm down on my knees
An' I ain't got a dime

Well, I'm groanin' in a hallway
Pretty soon I'll be mad
Please, Missus Henry, won't you
Take me to your dad?
I can drink like a fish
I can crawl like a snake
I can bite like a turkey
I can slam like a drake
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
Please, Missus Henry, missus Henry, please
I'm down on my knees
An' I ain't got a dime

Now, don't crowd me, lady
Or I'll fill up your shoe
I'm a sweet bourbon daddy
An' tonight I am blue
I'm a thousand years old
And I'm a generous bomb
I'm t-boned and punctured
But I'm known to be calm
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
Please, missus henry, missus henry, please
I'm down on my knees
An' I ain't got a dime

Now, I'm startin' to drain
My stool's gonna squeak
If I walk too much farther
My crane's gonna leak
Look, Missus Henry
There's only so much I can do
Why don't you look my way
An' pump me a few?
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
Please, Missus Henry, Missus Henry, please
I'm down on my knees
An' I ain't got a dime

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Real Talent is in Someone Young is Almost Always Cocky and Obnoxious

I checked out Bob Dylan's The Basement Tapes from the library. These are songs recorded in his Woodstock basement around 1967 and never released. Someone spirited out a grainy tape of them and that has sufficed until, 50 years later, a producer type restored the stuff and released it properly.

I love the rendition of 'Don't You Tell Henry' because the song is sung to the accompaniment of the most oafishly inept trombone I have ever heard. "Sounds good!" Dylan happily cries out between verses at the horrid horn - they're obviously having a good time here, and good times are contagious. Somehow, crazily, it all comes together.

I learned also that 'Clothes Line Saga' in the same release was apparently a parody of 'Ode to Billy Jo,' a song all the rage in 1967 - a reference to some horrendous teen tragedy. 'Have you heard the news? The Vice President's gone mad! ... Say, that's too bad' takes on new significance in this light.

Real talent in someone young is almost always cocky and obnoxious. Recall how Amadeus ridiculed the house musician of his patron? In the Pennebaker movie Dylan does a brilliant 'It's All Over Baby Blue' in his lodgings and then-heartthrob star Donovan follows with a simple plucking of his ordinary song. "Wow, that's a great song!!" Dylan gushes. TBC_Brass_Band_Trombone_at_Jazz_Fest_2011

I don't think he is like that anymore; when he speaks of others now, he is unfailingly kind. Though mostly he is lost in a (says my son-in-law) self-absorbed haze of vodka. This is the same son-in-law who claims the ability to watch any performer and tell what drug he is on. "There's something to be said for drugs," he quips upon watching Mick Jagger's mesmerizing performance in the Scorese 'Shine a Light' movie.

In a three hour studio session, most bands would complete a song or two. Dylan would do a dozen written the week before. He'd do no more than two takes, and it was time to move on. If there were bloopers, as there are in many of them, they became part of the song, and later listeners would gripe if covers didn't reproduce the errors.

photo: TBC Brass Band (NOT the trombonist of the post)

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Foo from the Foo Fighters

A brother gave the public talk and, to illustrate how times are changing for the worse, trotted out the Beatles. 'Ah, what harmonious songs, what innocence, they just don't make music like that anymore."

My parents' generation thought them a manifestation of the Devil when they first appeared.

To praise them today and condemn everything since is only to reveal you are a dinosaur. It is but a manifestation of how they stopped making good music they very day I stopped actively listening to it.

I am listening to the Foo Fighters lately and thinking them not bad. Don't forget, not all was the Beatles back in the day. Much of it was immediately forgettable drivel. Not to mention the endless riffs that the potheads would get into - all the rage then, all the rubbish now.

It is gradualism that I can put up with, and even enjoy, the Foo Fighters. I wouldn't want a steady diet of it. But some is okay. Rs-foo-fighters-v3-81f2ff59-0f23-4d7c-94c0-05cd352363db

It is a gift from my kids. I would be stuck in a time warp of oldies without them, as many persons I know are. In their teen years they began rumbling about going to concerts, and I wasn't too happy about it. So I decided to go with them. Music moves on. One must adapt. The lyrics of Ani Difranco are far cruder than those of Bob Dylan. But then, it's a far cruder age, isn't it?

(And I even notice that Beatle Paul McCartney is a guest on one of the Foo Fighter releases)

photo: rollingstone.com

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Bob Dylan Croons With the Best of Them - Who'da Thunk?

So here I am checking out “Fallen Angels,” Bob Dylan crooning the classics, and …. He is amazingly smooth of voice. He reminds me of Jimmy Durante, himself a fallen angel – though not one included in the album. This is Bob Dylan we’re talking about, whose voice has grown so raspy that I imagine he will die halfway through some of his songs, and even when a hear them for the sixth time, I imagine the same.

When fallen angel Frank Sinatra fell many years ago, Dylan’s fellow musicians said nice things about him, the way they have to. What would Dylan say? I wondered. Probably nothing. Or maybe something brief like ‘sayonara.’ Hopefully not something crass, like “another one bites the dust,” but you never knew for sure, for a much younger Bob savaged Donovan and mocked the Time reporter in the Pennebaker film.

Instead, he graciously said “Sinatra influenced me in ways I didn’t realize.” His full-of-himself days are behind him. And now he does a tribute album to that same music, and it is worthy of the genre. Dylan has thus far released five discs covering songs of the crooners.

Sinatra packed out the Blue Cross Arena years ago when in his seventies. He forgot a few lines. “ah, well, what the hell” he shrugged as he chugged along, the fans forgiving, the band not missing a note.

“I am finding these great songs to be a tremendous source of inspiration that has led me to one of my most satisfying periods in the studio. I’ve hit upon new ways to uncover and interpret these songs that are right in line with the best recordings of my own songs, and my band and I really seemed to hit our stride on every level with Triplicate.” [released March 2017] – Bob Dylan

Image result for frank sinatra

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Can You Believe that Someone tried to Apply Isa 57:1 to David Bowie?

The righteous one has perished,

But no one takes it to heart.

Loyal men are taken away,

With no one discerning that the

righteous one has been taken away

Because of the calamity.


Look, David Bowie was a great guy and all. And a memorable singer. Who can forget – uh – um – ah – well, he’s not my generation, otherwise I would remember. Besides, when I went to Pandora, I kept saying ‘oh, he’s the one who did that.’ But you have to stretch it to call him one of the righteous ones.

When he came to Rochester in the 70’s, he got busted for drugs. Cops would never do it today, but at the time the kids were getting out of control, adults didn’t know what to do about it, but figured they had to do something. I remember this on TV. Weird as ever, he replied ‘yes, sir’ to the judge – respectfully, just not a ‘your Honor.’ But then, he was British. Why should he know American decorum? Image

A local businesswoman was there when he was busted in his hotel room. Bowie had taken a shine to her and had invited her to his hotel room after the concert. I think there were several there, not just her. In 2016, she declared she would “tell her story” of what really happened that night. TV teased us for days about what she would spill. But it turned out that the only thing she had to spill is that she was there, which everyone knew already.

“You’re under arrest,” the cops said. “Okay,” David replied.

It actually wasn’t David Bowie he applied Isaiah 57:1 to. It was someone else. I forget who. It may have been Paul Newman, which is arguably more true, since he did leave behind some fine salad dressing and proceeds from buying it go to charity.

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Bob Dylan Riles a Journalist

Bob Dylan took his tour to Beijing, but the authorities wanted to look over his play list first. Maybe there would be some songs they didn't like. So Bob figured he could live with that. He submitted his songs, and the authorities crossed out a few. He couldn't sing Desolation Row, for instance. But so what?.....Dylan's written hundreds of songs, and he mixes them up with each new concert. So he played his show with about 30 songs, like he always does, and the government was happy, he was happy, his musicians were happy, and the attendees were happy, just like my son and I were happy when we went to his Rochester concert at the Gordon Field House.

But columnist Maureen Dowd, from the New York Times, was not happy. “Bob Dylan may have done the impossible: broken creative new ground in selling out,” she fumed. Lately China has taken to jailing outspoken dissidents, she pointed out. They've not been nice to people too assertive in demanding change. But if Bob Dylan had stuck it to them, Maureen thinks, singing famous ballads like “The Times They Are a-Changing”.....Spirit of 60s well, doubtless 1960's flower-power would engulf the country, a new age of Aquarius would descend, and all would be peace and love in China, just like it is in...um...the United....uh...States, the land from which Dowd writes.

Now, Dowd picked the wrong ox to gore, as far as I'm concerned. Isn't Bob Dylan my favorite musical entertainer? But Dowd is a journalist and, yes...I admit it, I have mixed feelings about those folk. Aren't they direct descendents of that kid from school who was always going "to tell"? None of us could stand that kid. This was true even when there were things going down that deserved telling. That kid just had a strange personality, a little too given to sucking up and holding center stage.

Plus, journalists are too often subject to an unreasonable faith that humans, and especially human governments, have the answers to world problems. And that if you just shine the light of journalism upon this or that unsavory circumstance, those circumstances improve. Filling the public's “right to know”.....that's all that is lacking for peace and happiness to prevail! Thus, even good ol Joel Engardio, who's made the most honest documentary examination of Jehovah's Witnesses I've ever seen, left his JW upbringing as a teen, and pursued journalism, because he didn't want to wait for an improved world. He wanted to make it happen now, through journalism. Look, it's true that when you shine a bright light, the cockroaches vanish. But they don't cease to be cockroaches. They just go somewhere else. Put them out of commission, and it's like the Bullet used to say about swatting flies: kill one fly and fifty come to the funeral.

Lee Chugg used to reflect on how Awake's reporting, written by peers, could capture the actual views of whatever peoples it covered. Newsweek would send its own wildly over-educated correspondents into the barrios of this or that country, and the locals would tell them anything they wanted to hear. No one wants to be thought ignorant, and if reporters framed everything in terms of human solutions, political solutions, residents played right along. Probing a certain fellow, (I saw this recently on a BBC item) the man answered that he had faith in God. “Yes, yes, you have faith in God,” acknowledged the reporter, eager to get this useless bit of trivia behind him, but what about politicians? Do you have faith in politicians?” “Some politicians, but not all politicians,” was the reply. Ahh....now we're talking! Human efforts! And the interview proceeded from there, the BBC reporter having established the groundrules. Awake would have pursued his initial answer, taking for granted the general uselessness of politicians.

Common people today tend to liken governments to the unchangeable heavens, just as they did in ancient times. Regularly, that metaphor appears in the Bible. It fit perfectly then. It fits almost as well today. From the heavens back then would descend any sort of weather, blessing you one moment, cursing you the next, and you couldn't do anything about it. It's little different today in most parts of the world. Even in more democratic countries, it is mostly illusion that "the heavens" can be significantly changed, but people buy into that illusion to an astounding degree. I don't think Bob Dylan does. And I don't. And Jehovah's Witnesses don't.

But Maureen Dowd does, I think. Now, isn't Dowd one of those aging flower children from the 60's, you know, the decade of love, who remember fondly those days of war protest, getting stoned, love the one you're with, and bringing down Nixon (whom the Chinese like)? Ahhh...those glorious days when policemen were called “pigs.”* Those reveling youth of the '60's idolized Dylan, and Dowd does not take his betrayal lightly. “The idea that the raspy troubadour of '60s freedom anthems would go to a dictatorship and not sing those anthems is a whole new kind of sellout,” she mutters.

*a taunt that lasted until policemen themselves defused it, turning it into a badge of honor: PIGS = P(ride) I(ntegrity) G(uts) S(ervice)

But in all her Dylan-worshipping fervor, did she never notice that Dylan denied being a god? He never embraced the “spirit of the '60s,” much less try to lead it. Rather, he wrote the songs he did because people ate them up. “I latched on,” he said, “when I got to New York City, because I saw (what) a huge audience there was. I knew I wasn't going to stay there. I knew it wasn't my thing. ... I became interested in folk music because I had to make it somehow." I almost (but not quite) think he regrets doing it, because he was so successful that the beatniks and sycophants back then seized him and tried to make him king. Now, they tried to do the same with Jesus, and Jesus escaped....

Hence when the men saw the signs he performed, they began to say: “This is for a certainty the prophet that was to come into the world.” Therefore Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone.      John 6:14-15

.....but Dylan wasn't so adept. He actually got stuck being king for a few decades, the leader of a movement he never liked! "I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of," he writes in his autobiography. "Whatever the counterculture was, I'd seen enough of it," He grumbles on about being "anointed as the Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest, the Czar of Dissent." Instead, he writes that he wanted “to have a house with a white picket fence and pink roses in back, live in East Hampton with his wife and pack of kids, eat Cheerios and go to the Rainbow Room and see Frank Sinatra Jr. perform!”

Alright, alright. So he did walk off the Ed Sullivan show when Ed wouldn't let him sing the John Birch Talkin Blues (sending Maureen Dowd into an ecstatic swoon, no doubt). He was 22. In a huff over artistic integrity, most likely, and intrigued that his lyrics could so rile a guy three times his age. But in 1974 he said "It's never been my duty to remake the world at large, nor is it my intention to sound the battle charge."

Gasp!......is this to say that Bob Dylan doesn't care about injustice? My guess is that he does, but he also has the presence of mind to know it has little to do with human governments. Is there injustice in China? I don't doubt it for a second. It's the notion that there's not injustice elsewhere that's the rub. Different people suffer different forms of injustice, that's all. Human government doesn't stamp out injustice. Instead, it removes the hat of injustice from this head and puts it on that one. If there are things disagreeable about the Chinese system, there are also things agreeable, so that on balance, it's just another form of human government, with both strengths and weaknesses. Is it gauling to have one's freedom restricted by “guy's at the top?” Doubtless, it is. But the other side of the coin is that expressed by H. L. Mencken: "Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance." Overall, human rulership is a mess. “Man ruling man” is the problem, rather than the specific form such ruling takes.

Or is it that the freedom human governments are able to grant is such a tiny subset of overall freedom that it hardly seems worth getting obsessed about? After all, a relationship with God points one toward freedom from death, and sin. I'll take those freedoms any day to the lesser freedoms humans (unreliably) promise. Oh, I suppose, like Dowd, I should rail about the Chinese authorities, because they are communist, and communists tend to ban Jehovah's Witnesses a lot, and that's who I am. It makes no sense at all for them to do this, but it happens nonetheless. If you want people guaranteed not to rebel or protest, fill your country with JWs. If you want your taxes paid, if you want your laws obeyed, if you want your people to be honest, to work and to mind their own business, fill up with JWs. Let them meet and speak about their faith, and they're happy. All other matters they keep in perspective.

The 1990 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses tells of a Canadian Witness child who was tested with regard to flag decorum. JWs don't salute the flag – an item that riles many a nation. She and another child were summoned separately to the principal’s office, where they found a Canadian flag draped across his desk. The non-Witness child was told to spit on the flag, and she did so, notwithstanding that she saluted it every day. Spitting must be okay….her teacher had told her to do it.  The Witness child was brought in and told to do the same. She would not do it. They tried to coax her. Since she didn’t salute, there’s no reason not to spit, they suggested. She held her ground. No, spitting would be desecrating the national symbol, she explained. Jehovah’s Witnesses respect the flag, though they do not worship it. Results were announced in class. Apparently, it was part of some civics lesson.

Now, the Western media – let us choose Dowd as it's representative – is obsessed with freedom from authority. If the U.S. establishment went down 50 years ago, maybe now is the time for China! Does Dowd swoon over memories of the '60s? Are Woodstock posters hanging in her home somewhere? Look, I lived through the '60s, just as she did. I always thought they were phony, and this is long before I became a Witness. Perhaps they weren't phony everywhere, but where I was, on the campus I traipsed, it all seemed just a big reason to party, to riot, to escape the “tyranny” of anyone who would tell us what to do. I followed fellow students, as did everyone, when they trekked into “downtown” Potsdam NY to vent their outrage over the war and stuff in general. I caught a whiff of pepper gas – man, you don't want to get remotely near that stuff! – when the police turned up. It was a wild party gone bad. Maybe there were sincere, mature protesters somewhere. I assume that there were. But I didn't see them.

Many a young person must have cursed their parents for bringing in the “spirit of the '60s.” For the '60s meant an explosion in STDs. Why is herpes widepsread today? Blame the spirit of the '60s. Look, people have always slept around – don't kid yourself – but it was not till the '60s that the changing world embraced sleeping around as a positive, a value to be passed on to the next generation. The '60s brought in a massive refocus on our “rights.” Not bad in itself, one might argue, but it was accompanied by a corresponding loss of interest on responsibilities. I can well understand how the Chinese government might want to safeguard citizens from that. It's not just old guys who want to secure their place at top of the heap, which is the only explanation Western media can imagine. “Generally the Chinese people are happy,” says one fellow who lives in Beijing, who I found somewhere on the internet, and, for the life of me, cannot find again, though I've tried. “Generally they are proud of China; and generally they think more change and freedom are needed. It will come because most of them want it, but they also want stability. It has been rough here the last 100 years or so, and people value the positive things while seeing the need for more.”

You know, I can't quite picture those government authorities sifting Dylan songs, trying to ….um....separate the sheep from the goats. All Dylan lyrics mean something, I suppose, but judging just what they mean is no piece of cake. Seldom are they political. But if you're a critic who can see things only that way, they can usually be teased for some political meaning. “That which is crooked cannot be made straight,” is the Bible statement regarding human governmental systems which might most readily represent his views. His lyrics are “hard on bosses, courts, pols and anyone corrupted by money and power.” They're “infused with subversion against all kinds of authority, except God.”

God comes out in the clear. Good. Bob's not starry eyed over human government. He knows injustice goes far beyond political systems. I like all this. Bob Dylan's not like Randy Newman. He's more like.....um....well.....me.


Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’     30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!


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Josh Groban and the Watchtower

There's no way I'm falling for this! I absolutely refuse! No! No! NO! Don't try to make me go there.

It's not enough that I made an on-line ass of myself in connection with Randy Newman? And now, do you really think I'm going to do it all over again with Josh Groban? Just how naïve do you think I am? What about that proverb that says “The simpleton believes what he is told: the shrewd man watches where he goes?” (Prov 14:15, Mof) Well, I am no simpleton....I'm shrewd!

On the other hand:

Josh Groban has just released a new CD and just look at the back cover artwork!



Yes! There is that Watchtower sign, plain as can be.

Get it?? The CD is entitled Illuminations, and who do we all know is the light of this world? That's right, Christians! (Matt 5:14-16) And what organization represents true Christians today and spearheads their worldwide Bible educational work? That's right, the Watchtower! Moreover, (now that we're on the scent) what was Josh Groban's previous album entitled? Right again, it was Awake! And isn't Awake  the name of that beloved worldwide magazine published by Jehovah's Witnesses, second in circulation only to the Watchtower, also published by Jehovah's Witnesses??

Proverbs 14:15 be hanged!! What possible explanation could there be other than......

Josh Groban is now our brother! He completed a Bible study in record time, was baptized, pioneers, has graduated from the Gilead School, and is now serving as a missionary in the Yogiberra Islands!!! Praise be to the heavens!!

On the other hand......I am still smarting from that Randy Newman debacle. Ouch! …..I had insisted before the entire blogosphere...all of it!....that Mr Newman, the singer, was a Bible-thumping Christian, or, at least, that he was not an atheist. For didn't he say in Rolling Stone Magazine that being “sixty something, like I am…..I mean, it doesn’t make you want to run out and hold up a banner for atheism.” Wasn't that proof enough? I even dismissed that pig-headed Plonka, with the clever remark (so I thought) “What would you have me believe.....that he "hardly wants to run out and hold up a banner for atheism," but he runs out and holds it up anyway??” But now it turns out....I mean, it's been established beyond all doubt, that he does indeed run out and hold it up....apparantly, whether he wants to or not! His atheism is well-established!

So I am not going to repeat the same mistake with Josh Groban (even though I just have). I mean, there he is on the back cover, and there behind him is the Watchto.......OH MY GOSH!!!! The sign! It's behind him! He's turning his back on it!! Maybe this record cover is all tongue-in-cheek! Maybe his idea of “Illuminations” is walking away from any pre-existing organization that would claim to represent truth! Or since he's walking away from the Watchtower sign and the Watchtower represents Christianity and Christianity represents God, maybe he's walking away from God! Maybe he and Randy Newman are in cahoots! You must admit, that explanation is certainly in keeping with the spirit of today's times. No, Josh! Say it ain't so! Turn around again!

And look at the song titles on that back cover. Third on the list is “Galileo (Someone like you).” Could that be a reference to Galileo's squabble with the Church over his discovery that earth was not the center of the universe? True, it would be a ineffectual reference, since Galileo, like all scientists of the time (indeed, of almost any time, save the past 150 years) viewed his discovery as bringing praise to God, uncovering the skillfulness of his handiwork, and that the Church's opposition to earth's position and shape does not reflect the Bible's view, the latter issuing statements that are accurate.* But Josh Groban might not know that. Few people do.

I tell you, it's impossible to decide. It could turn out either way. Except for the Yogiberra Islands. Maybe, if Josh Groban comes into the truth, he will not do missionary work in the Yogiberra Islands, but will play a Half-Time Superbowl gig instead, as did that other emminent Witness artist, Prince. Or maybe his mama is a Witness, and Josh wants to do her proud, like Joel Engardio. Or maybe I will write to him, all breathless as to that Watchtower sign, and he will say “Oh.....that?......you know, I never noticed that sign was there. Pity. It sort of ruins the view”!

But in the event that Josh Groban is indeed paying a high compliment to the organization and work of Jehovah's Witnesses, I'd better scour past posts of this blog and clean up any unflattering reference to him. I don't think there will be any, since I've always regarded him favorably, even if he's not entirely my cup of tea. And Mrs. Sheepandgoats positively adores him, so that, even if I thought he stunk, (which I don't) I wouldn't dare say it lest Mrs Sheepandgoats come across it in this blog some fine day and I, as a consequence, find myself sleeping in the garage for a month. So I don't really think there's any........wait....WHOA! There's one: Here I am setting up my review of the Bob Dylan concert, and what should I observe but: “I don’t go to many concerts. My wife, Mrs. Sheepandgoats, made me go to an outrageously priced Josh Grobin concert a year or two ago, but other than that, I can’t remember the last time I went to one.”

Look, let's set the record straight right now. It was not outrageously priced. Josh deserved every penny, even though I could have adopted half the stray cats in Rochester for what I paid to see him. But that's not Josh's fault. He would have sang to Mrs Sheepandgoats and I for free, no doubt, but those greedy promoters....well..you know how they are. And my wife didn't “make me” go. I went willingly, of my own free choice, being a free moral agent, and have never regretted that choice for one moment.


*regarding the Galileo controversy:

The Bible is no textbook on science, but when it happens to touch on science, it is accurate. Accordingly, it says this regarding the shape and position of the earth:

[God] is stretching out the north over the empty place, hanging the earth upon nothing;  (Job 26:7)

There is One who is dwelling above the circle [“round ball” MESSAGE; “globe” Douay-Rheims] of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshoppers  (Isa 40:22)

He has described a circle upon the face of the waters, to where light ends in darkness. (Job 26:10)

These accurate statements preceeded modern discovery by over a thousand years.

If that's the case, then why did the Church give Galileo such a hard time? Because they chose to put their stock in verses using common idioms, which we also commonly use, referring to the four corners of the earth, the pillars of the earth, sunrising and sunsetting (implying the sun is what moves), and so forth.

In other words, they (as now, with the Trinity and hell-fire) reached their viewpoint by taking obvious figures of speech literally. And they did so (also like today) so as to be in full harmony with prevailing intellectual thought of the time. Then-current notions about the earth descended from Aristotle and his ilk, and God forbid the Church should show the guts to part with wise Greek philosophers, whose favor they strove so hard to curry.


[Edit: 12/12/2010,   you know, this is as good a place as any to insert the following, as it is also music related, and it deals with rumors that such and such came into the truth. Some will remember that in the early 1970's, rumors swirled that Glen Campbell had become JW. He hadn't, but here is an insider to tell the complete story. It was his guitarist, Red Shea, who had become JW, and apparently drove Glen nuts with his frequent witnessing:



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Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!



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The Pundits, Michael Jackson, and Joe

After his 2003 acquittal on molestation charges, it barely mattered which pundit you read - the verdict was the same: Michael Jackson was all washed up. Yes, his flamboyant lawyer may have gotten him off, those pundits conceded. But the public knew better, and they were fed up. From now on, it was asserted, Michael was a has-been - a footnote, a freak. He was tabloid entertainment, and nothing more. His career was wasted, his relevance was long gone. When he died some eventual day, would anyone even notice or care?

But now it's clear that the only ones irrelevant - the only ones out of touch - were those pundits themselves. One week after Michael Jackson's death, an L.A. police official anticipates his funeral: "We are preparing for an event of historic proportions," he says. When the news first broke, Google had to shut down access to the story, so numerous were the inquiries. I've seen everyone except the governing body doing Michael Jackson moonwalk steps on YouTube!

Those pundits had him convicted on that molestation charge, even if the courts had not. They'd presented him to the world guilty as sin, rescued only by legal spin. But it ought to be manifest by now that the public didn't buy it. That's not to say he wasn't eccentric, if not downright strange, but you don't go to jail for being strange. At least, not usually. As for me, I recalled the prosecutor's star witness was a kid who's family had brought similar charges against others in the past, and had been well paid for it. Now....when you're going into a fight, you lead off with your best punch, and if a veteran paid victim was the best punch they could muster......well, I just figured Michael was the target of overzealous prosecution.

This is not the first time we've seen pundits living on a different planet. Lee Chugg used to marvel how Awake! magazine could capture the real concerns of whatever 3rd world people they were covering, whereas Time or Newsweek could not. The latter would descend as if from a different world - overeducated and privileged beyond words compared to their subjects. So confident that their priorities - that of human, and usually government, solutions - must also be the priorities of their interviewees. So subtlety dismissive of anything smacking of tradition, superstition, or religion. The local folk knew they were dealing with a different, self-aggrandizing breed....and would tell them whatever they wanted to hear. Awake's people, on the other hand, were neighbors - cut from the same cloth - not above or beneath in rank, and they'd come away with the real picture.

Who are these pundits, anyway? From where do they come? Don't they stem from that obnoxious kid in school who was always going to "tell?" None of us could stand that kid. Even though things sometimes went down that really needed telling - still we knew, or at least suspected, that kid had ulterior motives. He just liked to get others in trouble and/or elevate his own importance. And when that kid graduated, he (or she) became a journalist. Oh, they're not all like that, I suppose, but enough of them are that even the genuine ones come under suspicion.

The same pundits who once told us Michael was washed up, now tirelessly tell us that, while his mama was a saintly Jehovah's Witness, his father was an over-controlling tyrant who beat his kids - thus accounting for the singer's woes. Well.....maybe.....but I'm certainly not buying it on their say-so. Frankly, two or three generations ago everybody beat their kids, if by beating you mean spanking and such forms of corporal punishment. It was thought to be an element of discipline. The first to give it up was the strata from which came most journalists, and after passage of time had sufficiently distanced them from the practice, they proceeded to browbeat everyone else over it. Black families were among the last to give it up, and now the practice is regarded as near (sometimes actually) criminal. It's an amazing turnaround in a relatively short time. I'm not arguing to bring it back, mind you, but it's by no means clear that its abandonment has given us a more secure, well-adjusted crop of kids. So no, I don't necessarily buy that about Joe. It's too easy for those on their high horse to cherry pick past events, ignore extenuating circumstances, and portray flaws as if they were absolutely normal routine. Can any of these pundits really identify with raising nine kids in the inner city? In an age where men walk away from large families and responsibility, Joe recognized and nurtured the charismatic talent his youngsters' possessed. Were it not for Joe's "over-controlling," none of those now-idolizing pundits would ever had heard of Michael Jackson.

And as for the "saintly JW mama".....well....of course...aren't we all? Saintly, I mean.

Back when I used to banter with Nate Dredge the Mormon, (oh oh. He's fallen off the wagon, I see - his last post almost 4 months ago) we used to compare our respective 70's child superstars. Mormons had Donny Osmond. We had Michael Jackson. Alas, our guy flew a lot higher than theirs, but as is now clear, it was at great personal cost. I used to imagine he might one day return to the faith from which he had veered. But it wasn't to be. Publications of Jehovah's Witnesses frequently caution that fame in this world is not without price - that the world stands ever-ready to devour those it glorifies. Who would ever think that the most striking example would come someone once within our own ranks?


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Pinks, Purples, Greens, Blues and Cold

I knew summer was close upon us when the Lilac Festival kicked off last weekend. That’s the only way I knew. The weather sure gave no clue. I've seen R-rated weather before, but this was obscene. Joan Osborn performed Sunday and, just like when Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, she became a pillar of ice. I mean, she must have. When guitar strings began superconducting, she swore to herself she would never ever ever come to Rochester again before July. I wasn’t there, so I don’t really know, but if she has any sense, that’s what she did.

And Ricky Lee Jones, the day before, must have been blown back to New York City or wherever she came from. It was gale force winds that day. My son was biking back from Ithaca that day and tells me he had to lean against the wind nearly the whole time. That’s fine until the wind abruptly stops and you must think quick to rebalance. He really should have pulled over. How come I didn't teach him better?

But by Monday, the weather was looking up. Upper 50’s, that is, which isn’t all that great, and with a breeze, no less, but also with full sun. I made plans to get to that festival and, as family head, I ordered Mrs. Sheepandgoats to come with me, but she said ‘forget it.’ Naturally, she cherishes every opportunity to be with me, but it was only 55 stingy degrees, and she has not much use for outdoor festivals until it’s ...say, at least, mid-sixties. Of course, she could wear a parka and tuque. Everybody could, and that would solve the weather problem, but nobody wants to do that. The Lilac Festival is the first "coming out" event of the season - the first real occasion for people watching - and you don’t want to show looking like a weather-grizzled prospector from the backwoods.

See, lilacs are an early blooming plant, right up there with tulips and azaleas - and before rhododendrons, so the festival either must come in early May or shed the name Lilac Festival. Several decades of tradition argues against shedding the name. Just be grateful it's not the Crocus Festival. And Highland Park, it must be said, was truly splendid that day. Brilliant blossoming pinks, deep lilac purples, hues of green, even some yellows springing up everywhere, all splashed against bright blue sky. It's no wonder those ancients went bonkers come every spring. It's glorious to behold. You bring your camera that day, and snap pictures of all you see. Photos are digital, after all, and cheap. If they don’t turn out, you just delete them. Therefore, if you can stand the weather, you come down around suppertime, grab a plate of food from the venders, and munch it down listening to free concerts amidst the beautiful backdrop. Then, you head back home and go about your business. Without ever intending to, I've fallen into a habit of yearly Festival posts. Starting now, therefore, I'm opening a Lilac Festival category.

Monday was cowboy day; all musicians wore cowboy hats. Now, cowboy music would not ordinarily be my first choice, but you have to take what you can get. After all, I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, not some nutcake religious fanatic, and I'm not about to freeze so as to take in the better-known artists of the prior two days. Plenty of Rochestarians are willing to do so, however. We are very serious about our Lilac Festival, and I am told those two frigid days were well-attended. But for me, no. Cowboys it will have to be. A fellow by the name of Jarrod Niemann played at 5:30, putting out a solid show with spontaneity and humor. He didn’t actually wear a cowboy hat (he wore the same hat that he does here) and he doesn't do the twangy country stuff. Strictly a one man show with acoustic (though plugged-in) guitar and no back-up musicians of any sort. It can’t be that easy to hold the stage that way, and chilly weather inhibited audience feedback at first, but he had a strong voice, likeable presence, clever song-writing, and the easy-going confidence to interrupt himself mid-song with obser……are those drug dogs?…..vations appropriate for the…….are those lilacs? Did I tell you I’m allergic to lilacs?…..event. Some honky-tonk and good-time songs, with one or two off-color references which, of course, went right over my head. Not a bad show. If he comes to your town, you might want to see him.

Afterwards, I might have slipped away home, for the sun was thinking about setting, but Jarrod said to stay put for the next cowboy, Jamey Johnson. Of course, I’m used to doing as I’m told, so I hung around, a little reluctantly at first, but in time I was drawn into that second performance, as well. This next fellow had backup. And lots of twang....isn't it steel guitars that do that? Exactly what is a steel guitar, anyway? He planted himself stolidly center stage, immovable (unlike the writhing guitarist to his right) singing anthems with an attitude, as if to say "if you don't like it, leave!" I didn't notice that anyone did. I, too, stayed to the end.

The final two days of the festival returned to the meteorlogical misery of the first two days, so as to achieve symmetry, no doubt. During the next week, the temperature climbed into the mid-80's. ...Sigh....



Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Randy Newman is an Atheist!

OH NO!! It's an unmitigated disaster! The end of my world! Oh, the shame! The dishonor!

I had insisted before the entire blogosphere....ALL of it....that Randy Newman the singer was not an atheist. I mean, I went way, way out on a limb. No! He was a pious, Bible toting Christian, practically a modern-day apostle. His latest CD is Harps and Angels, and he sings of prayer to God right there on the title song!!. Harps! Angels, for crying out loud! Proof!! He is a believer. I emphatically stated it all here, putting my reputation on the line. I did this so as to win a shoving match with Plonka the Atheist.

But now I am perusing the internet and ....gasp!...he IS an atheist! No, it can't be. He is a believer! He is, he is, he is, he is, he is! Just like told everyone on the internet. I am not a liar like Plonka said I was!

Palms sweating, breathing hard, heart racing.....I know, I'll delete that original post.....yeah, that's what I'll do!.....type, type, peck, type.....OH NO! Atheists have jammed the keyboard. I can't delete it!

What can I do? What? I know....I'll just deny it!!.....Randy Newman is not an atheist! He is not an atheist! (but he is) He's not! He is. He's not! He's not.......Not, not, not, not, not,....ow...ow, ow, ow......it's cognitive dissonance!.....I hate that stuff!.....Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch....ahhhhh.....arrrrrggghhhhh!

Wait....what's this? Read closely. Am I saved? I AM! Just read Randy's description on the Michael Nugent Famous Atheist site:

Randy Newman is an atheist American singer-songwriter, pianist and composer best known for satirical pop songs such as Short people and Political Science, and film scores such as Toy Story, Parenthood and Pleasantville. .....When Newman was a child, a local parent uninvited him from a dance, explaining: ‘I’m sorry, Randy, my daughter had no right to invite you because no Jews are allowed.’ Newman had to ask his dad what a Jew was. He then studied comparative religion and became a devout atheist ‘except when I’m sick’. [bold type mine]


(ignoring the "no Jews allowed" comment for a moment, which is grounds for a whole different post)

Yes!!! He is a closet believer! When he is sick he is not an atheist. And what type of atheist is he in the first place? A devout one! HA! Religious, again. And let us not forget the line that began this whole ridiculous series of posts: turning 60 "doesn't make you want to run out and hold up a banner for atheism."

Whew! That was a close call. My credibility almost blew up. Now I think I'd better end this post and close it to comments. Even from Randy himself tries to leave one. He can keep his opinions to himself. I know more about his beliefs than he does.


 Since there's a whole lot of atheists....enough to make a hall of fame for them....I put together a (short) list of famous JWs for our own hall of fame. I tell you, they're impressive enough to make any atheist shake in his boots:



So there!



Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash



Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)