The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Friday, June 24, 2005

BEN FOLDS & THOMAS FRANK

"Landed" again?!?!?

Ben Folds made his second appearance in two months on The Late Show with David Letterman tonight, and for the second time in as many appearances, he played Songs for Silverman's lead single "Landed". I admit, it's a fine song, and I also admit that tonight's version, with it's full string section, was superior to the restrained rendition from April. But to play the same song on the same show twice in two months? Not cool, Zeus, not cool.

I was sooo pulling for "Jesusland". I'm just about done reading Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?, and if you're familiar with both the book and the Folds song I just mentioned, then you know there's a bit of synergy going on. Let's sample some lyrics:
Take a walk
Out the gate you go and never stop
Past dollar stores and wig shops
A quarter in a cup for every block
And watch the buildings grow
Smaller as you go

Down the tracks
Beautiful McMansions on a hill
That overlook a highway
With riverboat casinos and you still
Have yet to see a soul
Jesusland
Riverboat casinos notwithstanding, this is a pretty apt summarization of chapter 2, "Deep in the Heart of Redness". The "beautiful McMansions on a hill" might as well be the corporate paradise of Mission Hills. The "dollar stores and wig shops", and city streets so deserted that you "have yet to see a soul", could very well be formerly-vibrant towns like Emporia and Osawatomie as Frank describes them (pp. 59-60):
Main Streets here are vacant, almost as a rule; their grandiose stone facades are crumbling and covered up with plywood--rotting plywood, usually, itself simply hung and abandoned fifteen years ago or whenever it was that Wal-Mart came to town.

The one business that consistently survives here, whether you're in Osawatomie or El Dorado, is junk stores. This is what people do on Main Street nowadays: they sell old stuff that in a more prosperous era would have gone to the Salvation Army or the trash. Leftover yarn. A bourbon bottle shaped like a CB radio. A box of National Geographics. Whom they sell it to remains a mystery. In each of the dozen or so Main Street junk stores I visited, I was clearly one of the only customers to come through all day.

...And you will start to wonder where the people are. To judge from the activity on the streets, every day looks like a Sunday or a holiday or 5 a.m. Go ahead, park anywhere; yours will be the only car on the block.
The song's second verse, discussing the conservative co-opting of Jesus' name, with "billboards quoting things [he'd] never say", goes well together with Frank's third chapter, "God, Meet Mammon".

I could go on, but I'll close by noting that before Folds, the first guest on Letterman's show tonight was Tom Cruise. I don't care about the Scientology that much anymore, and I've been turned off by Katie Holmes ever since this, but I do have one problem with Tom Cruise, and that is: He's clearly a nit wit. Either that, or he is chronically unable to transfer his thoughts from his brain into cohesive sentences.

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