Music as a Barometer of Our Times Calls for a Better Man

New Orleans   It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I helped my son open up at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse for the regulars. Once or twice a year it’s “training day” all over for me. I’m help, just not great help, but I don’t mind getting bossed around. It’s fun to see everyone, wish them well. After decades, Mardi Gras is a chance for me to come off the road and get a day off for me and take a Trump relief break.

Alexa is playing alternative country and that’s a nice break as well. We’ve had some problems in country music recently. I’ve loved it for years, but almost had to swear off last year. It had become boring and ridiculous. Last year there was a song that said it all, as someone whose name I didn’t catch sang, “It’s hard to be a woman in a country and western song.” She mourned the fact that it all seemed about going after a girl and driving her to the lake or river in a big pickup truck.

But, maybe times are changing? I heard a song about how the trick of driving across the border was to put a Bible on your dash. A real sign of potential change though for women, and we can hope for their men as well, is a recent release by the group, Little Big Town, called “Better Man” where the refrain continues to “wish you were a better man.” No standing by. No taking the blame. None of what my companera calls “whining women singing.” It’s mournful about losing the man, but it’s clear it simply came down to the fact he just plain wasn’t a better man. That’s a standard we have to be ready to step up and be judged by.

Here’s Better Man:

I know I’m probably better off on my own
Than lovin’ a man who didn’t know
What he had when he had it
And I see the permanent damage you did to me
Never again, I just wish I could forget when it was magic
I wish it wasn’t four am, standing in the mirror
Saying to myself, you know you had to do it I know
The bravest thing I ever did was run

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again
But I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
And I know why we had to say goodbye
Like the back of my hand
And I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
A better man

I know I’m probably better off all alone
Than needing a man who could change his mind at any given minute
And it’s always on your terms
I’m hanging on every careless word
Hoping it might turn sweet again
Like it was in the beginning
But your jealousy, I can hear it now
You’re talking down to me like I’ll always be around
You push my love away like it’s some kind of loaded gun
Boy, you never thought I’d run

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again
But I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
And I know why we had to say goodbye
Like the back of my hand
And I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
A better man
Better man

I hold onto this pride because these days it’s all I have
And I gave you my best and we both know you can’t say that
You can’t say that
I wish you were a better man
I wonder what we would’ve become
If you were a better man
We might still be in love
If you were a better man
You would’ve been the one
If you were a better man
Yeah, yeah

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again
And I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
And I know why we had to say goodbye
Like the back of my hand
And I just miss you and I just wish you were a better man
We might still be in love, if you were a better man
Better man

And, if those lyrics aren’t enough of a surprise, then here’s a big one: the song was written by Taylor Swift, who now styles herself a pop diva.

There’s some hope for all of us and a Happy Mardi Gras!

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#OscarsSoWhack!

New Orleans   Ok, this is the Trump Era, so why would anybody care about the Oscars, now or ever? It’s a high-priced fashion show and a self-congratulatory industry back pat. Viewership has been going down steadily. The industry seems to be searching hardest for the pulse of viewers globally, especially in China, and, as some critics have noted, has lost its way in telling the great American story, although they certainly have a lot of company in that chorus.

Nonetheless, it’s like candy, no matter how bad for you, it’s hard to resist the significant cultural role the industry occupies and its impact on all of us. And, even juicier, we have a super flub this time for the hardcore, all-the-way-to-the-end viewers, where they were rewarded with another example of the chaos of our times, when for the first time in 89 years, the wrong winner was named for best picture. There’s a circular firing squad of blame and shame now, which is a delightful spectacle in itself, if for nothing else than a pleasant Trump diversion, about how Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway could have gotten the wrong card, and how Dunaway then, in the-show-must-go-on play announced that “La La Land” was the winner, rather than “Moonlight,” which turned out have actually won.

After two years of agitation on the theme of #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy of Motion Pictures was already on their heels for white-listing so many movies and actors in the awards, so both supporting awards were won by African-Americans this year, including the first Muslim to ever win an award it seems. “Moonlight,” which is one of the few movies I have seen recently, was a hard, but beautiful, look at low income families in a Miami project dealing with drugs, poverty, and the long list of issues faced by all, including in this case sexual identity and bullying. In a white male dominated industry this was a pushback moment, which matters, regardless of the mix-up, though it is unlikely to represent a game changer. The industry studies the numbers, and 25% of tickets are bought by African-Americans in the USA, but that has not been enough to tilt the representation, either on employment or thematically, of African-Americans in the industry to date.

My first impulse was to think that Faye Dunaway in a classic Daniel Kahneman moment right out of Thinking, Fast and Slow, might have been so conditioned to believe that “La La Land” would win that her expectations and assumptions tricked her brain into believing she was reading “La La Land,” even when “Moonlight” was the winner. The story now spinning is that the envelope said, Emma Stone, Best Actress, “La La Land,” but Stone says she doesn’t want to get into any controversy, but she has her hot hands all over the envelope that said that. The bean counters claim there are always two envelopes, so it’s possible that was the problem, though I’ll enjoy my own theory for a bit with all apologies to Faye Dunaway, that sometimes, as the President is now teaching us, people see what they want to see, no matter what the facts and reality hold.

Any way you slice it, it’s #OscarsSoWhack!

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Please enjoy John Mellencamp’s Grandview. Thanks to KABF.

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