By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Sweden scored a goal and made a bit of a game of it and the results might have been different if not for the brilliant goalkeeping of Brianna Scurry. In the end the USA prevailed 3 to 1, picking up three points in the tournament.
Later, I asked my wife if she thought the experiment was a success.
“I thought it was just a good excuse to have people over and eat doughnuts. Lots of doughnuts.”
Don’t You Get It?
At Irvine’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (VWA), where Neil Young brought his Greendaleshow Saturday night, a beer costs $10. You cannot buy a bag of popcorn without sugar on it. And patrons are constantly surveilled by security workers who cannot remember that you passed them two minutes earlier. In the lobby, where Del Taco competes with Bavarian Nuts in this broad-spectrum bilking of the music fan, there is a cardboard mockup of a Hummer, the vehicle inspired by “Operation Desert Storm” in the early ’90s and popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who owns five. Tonight, some lucky concert-goer who filled out the form and dropped it in the box will win the transportation vehicle that, according to one local dealer, gets about 8 to 10 miles per gallon.
This might all be business as usual in a nation where we seem to be living in a heightened state of what playwright Arthur Miller called “internal denial” — consider the man-on-the-street interviewers who nearly always find people who support Bush’s Iraq policy even when facts line up against it. But the GreendaleTour is supposed to be a theatrical rock & roll show at least nominally about civil liberties and environmentalism — or, at least, that’s what I gather from its persistent references to the Patriot Act, as well as its closing line, “Save the Planet for Another Day!” It must have been a strange enough show when it played the Greek last July; nothing trips the cornball switch faster than lip-synching actors miming activity on an Our Townset accompanied by chords so soporific they make “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” sound complex by contrast. But here at Irvine’s VWA, Greendale is worse than merely weird. When, midway through the show, a billboard pops up onstage bearing the brand “Clear Channel” and the words “Support Our War,” enthusiastic cheers erupt from the crowd, and Greendale becomes a metaphor for all that’s wrong with America.
Leaving aside the twisted little irony that Clear Channel is actually sponsoring this concert, scarcely anyone in the audience seems to understand that Neil Young is not actually shilling for Bush’s war. Not since Springsteen has an artist been so misunderstood; not since Leni Riefenstahl has the artist been so securely to blame for the misunderstanding. “You can respond to this however you want,” Young says, pointing to the billboard. Chants of “USA! USA!” easily trump a smattering of hisses. Politics have been reduced to fashionable sloganeering, and nobody’s getting the joke.
It’s possible that Neil Young doesn’t really care whether his audience gets his point; it’s possible that he knows nothing of the Hummer contest in the lobby; it’s possible that he means for the flag-waving at the end of the Greendale portion of the show to suggest that peace is patriotic. It’s also possible that the jab at Clear Channel is a noble gesture on Young’s part — a corporation might be footing the bill, but damn if he’ll be censored. But it’s just as possible that Young’s politics, like most of the country’s, are as incoherent as Greendale’s plotline, which somehow involves aging flower children and a man named Jed who shoots a cop. This is, after all, the supposedly unrepentant hippie who supported Reagan through the ’80s. He has sprinkled Greendale’s lyrics recklessly with calls to activism, but they’re all a little soggy: Chained to the golden eagle in the atrium of “Power Co.,” protagonist Sun Green, the young daughter of Greendale’s Green Family (tell me this show wasn’t dreamed up on weed; I won’t believe you), shouts to the corporate throng below. “When the city is plunged into darkness,” she declares, “by an unpredicted rolling blackout/The White House always blames the governor/Saying the solution is to vote him out.” Yes, Neil, those direct-action anarchists are really coming out against that recall!
It’s true, I walk around a lot looking at polls and glancing at CNN, shouting, “People! Don’t you get it?” But Greendale at the VWA made me fear deeply for our collective souls. We are fast becoming the people for whom Miller wrote The Crucible— the Germans who mutter, “Well, they must have done something,” as they witness innocents being carted off to death camps; the folks who refuse to understand that our dependence on oil has enabled a band of entitled brigands to embezzle our country’s resources for the sake of their own financial empires. We cannot connect our own dots, even when we’re nearly blinded by them. But who can blame us? The cultural icon who once wrote an unparalleled lament for peace and civil liberties in 53 perfect words, “Ohio,” no longer bothers to notice that a weapon of environmental destruction is being peddled in the lobby of the same venue in which he’s urging his fans to save the planet. So how can his fans be expected to grasp the notion that he thinks indiscriminate logging is bad? Or does he?
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