Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

billy joel

Art Vent Letting the Fresh Air In

May 28, 2008

The perfect illustration contributed by reader Sid Garrison [via] [via]

Why don't you try actually listening to Billy Joel? His technique of songwriting is classically based and quite clever. You might find that you enjoy those ingenious 'earworms'.

After my post of yesterday, Anonymous, in the comments, makes a reasonable enough request, however I’m afraid I can never have a relationship with Billy, musical or otherwise, after he revealed himself in “Just The Way You Are” to be a passive/aggressive control freak.

Let’s analyze the lyrics:

Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are.

Sounds good, huh? Well this is just where he ropes you in because then he says:

Don’t go trying some new fashion
Don’t change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

What’s the message here? Don’t be creative? Stay your dowdy old self? I have a feeling this guy is jealous, afraid you might be too attractive to other men. And further (at least he lets you know this up front), he’s withholding. What fun, may I ask, is “unspoken passion” with a guy who “might not seem to care”? What’s in this for me?

But it gets worse.

I don’t want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone I can talk to
I want you just the way you are.

Oh great! Dumb yourself down for this guy who, since he views interesting conversation as hard work, may not be all that smart himself. Further, he just wants someone he can talk to—not someone who talks back. I suggest he get a cocker spaniel.

I need to know that you’ll always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take ‘til you believe in me
The way that I believe in you?

He wants you to be “the same old someone”? That’s appealing. And what will it take for you to believe in him? How about the freedom to change and grow, bleach your hair, join the Peace Corps, gain weight, lose weight, get a tattoo or another degree, and be whomever you want, whenever you want. How about the assurance that it’s not all about him?

I said I love you, and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.

Girls, forewarned is forearmed. If you meet a guy who says this is his favorite song, run!

And lest you be thinking I don’t have a soft side, I leave you with this:

Who kicked a hole in the sky so the heavens would cry over me?
Who stole the soul from the sun in a world come apart at the seams?
Let there be love...
May 27, 2008
Okay, I got over being tormented by Billy Joel, and this is how, although it’s not a perfect cure—more like the musical equivalent of Methadone, where I still have the addiction but have shifted to something that at least allows me to function. For those who also have repetitive music syndrome, otherwise known as an earworm, it’s worth a go. Otherwise watch it at your peril:

Having, for the most part, recovered my attention span, I read the June issue of Harper’s, which I recommend, first for the immensely readable and dismaying essay, “Our Phony Economy” by Jonathan Rowe, delivered to the Senate Commerce Committee on March 12th, where he explains that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the figure by which the health of our economy is measured, is based entirely on expenditure, irrespective of the reasons for that expenditure, nor is it balanced by healthy advances in other areas.

…Find out what is growing and the effects. Tell us what the growth is in concrete terms. Then we can begin to say whether it has been good.

The failure to do this is insane. It is an insanity embedded in political debate and in media reportage, and it leads to fallacy in many directions. We hear, for instance, that efforts to address climate changes will hurt “the economy.” Does that mean if we clean up the air we will spend less money treating asthma in young kids? The atmosphere is part of the economy too—the real economy…if we burn more gas, the expenditure gets added to the GDP…but there is no corresponding subtraction for the toll this burning takes on the thermostatic and buffering functions the atmosphere provides. (Nor is there a subtraction for the oil we take out of the ground.) Yet if we burn less gas, and thus maintain the crucial functions of the atmosphere
[as well as, I will add, obviating the need for extra expenditure by future generations to cope with the damage], we say “the economy” has suffered, even though the real economy has been enhanced.

By this reasoning, I suppose, a disaster like Katrina could be considered an economic “windfall” (haha) because the GDP measures only the expenditure made to clean it up, not the toll on human life. This is what’s wrong with everything in this country, and how we got to over-valuing the GDP in historical terms, as Rowe tells the story, is a lesson in how almost everything happens—not by edict, but something harder to reverse: the accretion of small assumptions which then become taken for granted.

Also in Harper’s is a discussion, by Gary Greenberg, of five books on neuroscience, which I’m discovering is a special interest of mine, as I’m always trying to figure out how much of “me” is “me,” and how much is governed by chemistry, biology and (something Greenberg doesn’t touch on) media influence.

Because finally, in addition to the well-known “Harper’s Index,” on the last page there’s “Findings” which catalogues in similar deadpan manner the results of various scientific studies. One of them is the horrifying statistic that “as much as one-quarter of Earth’s beach sand is now made of plastic.”

This takes me back to where I began, with the realization that fully one-quarter of my mental capacity is taken up with musical plastic, in the form of commercial music that has seeped in over the years. It’s frightening to consider that in addition to Billy Joel, who I never actually listened to, I can call up the music and lyrics of almost every musical ever written (a genre I actively loathe), as well as the entire catalogue of the Eagles. And we haven’t even gotten to the tyranny of Christmas music. Don’t get me started.
May 24, 2008
There can be no more posts until this certain Billy Joel song leaves my head, where it has been since Thursday. This is what I get for shopping at PriceChopper instead of the Coop, where the music doesn’t interfere with normal brain function. Don’t ask me what song it is, because if I tell, you risk being similarly afflicted. Condolences, however, are accepted.