Defending Bob Dylan and the Mac Guy

C List

What's the difference? I find it interesting in your article "Craigslist Declassified " [by Bradley Campell and Matt Snyders, May 7], you write about the Connecticut Attorney General pressuring Craigslist to get rid of its erotic service listings. I wonder when the Texas Attorney General will do the same to the Houston Press. Are you naive, or do you just not care where your advertising dollars come from? What is the difference between you and Craigslist? I am all for freedom of speech, but as a business, you have a right to select who your advertisers are.

Name withheld by request
Houston

Defending Dylan

An online reader responds to "Interpreting What Bob Dylan Has To Say About Houston," By Richard Connelly, Hair Balls blog, May 7:

Breaking it down: Okay, Richard, jokes about Dylan's voice notwithstanding, you've got it wrong. The second verse does not reference "out back to your loving ma." The correct transcription of what Dylan sings is this: "If you're ever down there on Bagby and Lamar." (Two major streets downtown, not far from City Hall).

Dylan's song, as most folks who know much about American roots music history would realize, alludes to two classic songs by Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly (1889-1949). In this case, Dylan's title line and first verse evoke one of Leadbelly's most famous songs, "Midnight Special" (later covered by countless folkies and rockers in the '60s and '70s). Everyone knows the chorus to that one: "Let the Midnight Special shine its ever-loving light on me."

Not nearly as many people realize that "Midnight Special" is a song about getting arrested in Houston and sent to prison in Sugar Land, where the train tracks ran right past the prison near Highway 90. The folklore was that the midnight train beacon signified early release for the lucky cell-dweller. Leadbelly's song was written while he was incarcerated there.

The first verse of that one: "If you ever go to Houston, you'd better walk right." It was also recorded by Leadbelly with the alternate line, "If you're ever down in Houston, you'd better walk right." I myself allude to it in the title of my first book, Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues.

Dylan's later references to two downtown streets, Bagby and Lamar (see above), also suggest an analogue to Leadbelly's old song "Fannin Street," which could be about either the well-known Houston street or an identically named one in Shreveport, where Leadbelly also spent time. Tom Waits, for one, interpreted Leadbelly to be referencing Houston in that one, as evidenced by Waits's "Don't Go Down on Fannin Street," which opens with the line, "There's a crooked street in Houston town." The chorus to the Waits song also ends with the line "I wish I'd listen to the words you said," indicating that Waits posits his composition as a response to Leadbelly's earlier number about Fannin Street.

What Dylan (like Waits) is doing in this latest number is what he started doing almost 50 years ago: drawing from the blues and folk traditions of American music, remaking old-timey songs in his own quirky image, connecting himself — lyrically and, in his use of blues structures, musically — to the originators of our roots music tradition. Get it?

Roger Wood

PC Guy vs. Mac Guy

Online readers respond to "Why I'd Sleep With The PC Guy Over That Mac Guy Asshole," By Jennifer Mathieu, Hair Balls blog, May 12:

Liking Linux: It's really a misnomer. It's not "Mac vs. PC" but rather "Mac vs. Windows." The PC Guy represents Windows: fat, bloated and none too well-seeing. The Mac Guy — well, you've covered that really well. They should have a Linux guy out there. Runs on PCs or Macs, not bloated, not worried about his "image," not trying to be grungy, stodgy, erudite or anything — just trying to be himself.

Ehud

Too much money: I won't buy a Mac simply because they're overpriced. Apple spends way too much money on advertising and they pass that cost on to the poor lil' consumer.

Cinderyella

What a bunch of assholes: I'm sitting hear reading all of your bullshit while retroverting back to Windows XP. Did I mention I was running Windows on my Mac simultaneously with OS X — oh yeah — with only 2 GB of RAM? Good luck with that Zune — douche. Vista rules!

Chuck E. Conqueso

Mac and proud: Hey, I resemble that Mac Guy. I have Sirius/XM XMU, BBC Radio 1 and the rest, and I have become more of a music snob, more willing to tell everyone that the only real music that is being played is on satellite radio. Call me a douche, but I'm right, damn it.

The only thing I hate about Apples is that you have to make an appointment to buy an effing computer. I'm not buying a car. Just sell me the damn thing already. Oh yeah, and I have to get a new iPod every two years because the damn batteries run out. I love these commercials; they're the most consistently smart and creative out there by far. It totally makes up for those awful GEICO commercials.

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