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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, October 25, 2004

Greil Marcus' Real Life Top Ten used to run in Salon-- even though I estimate that I only understood about a third of it, that's a pretty good average for me with Marcus, and I missed it when it was discontinued. He kept writing it, and I discovered a secret cache of them from the Minneapolis-St. Paul City Pages, from 2003-2004, which I've been sampling for the past few days. Some highlights:

"10) Sarah Vowell reports from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Dec. 21) "Went to visit the Arizona this morning. What really got me was the little marker to the lower left of the wall of names: the vets who survived but wanted their ashes sprinkled in with those of their comrades. Two of them died just this year. Then I took the bus up to the North Shore to watch the surfers. My sister and I always had a thing for surfer movies. There was one called North Shore that came out when we were teenagers in Montana about a kid from Arizona who learned to surf in a wave pool and moved to Oahu where the real surfers looked down on him but then he won them over and got the cute Hawaiian girl.

"Off to watch the sunset and listen to Warren Zevon. Last night I was doing that and the sun dropped below the horizon line just as his version of 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' was ending, thereby proving that if there is a God, he directs really hack videos."

8) Bob Dylan, "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," from Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall--October 31, 1964 (Columbia) Everyone who's heard Dylan perform this number in the 39 years since it appeared on his Bringing It All Back Home knows what will happen when the line "Even the president of the United States sometimes has to stand naked" (as it's sung here) comes up: The crowd will stomp and cheer to show what side they're on, or rather what messy choices they're superior to. But on this night Lyndon Johnson had yet to be demonized. Nixon had not been elected. Ford had not replaced Nixon, or Carter Ford, or Reagan Carter, or Bush Reagan, or Clinton Bush, or Bush Clinton. No one had heard the song before--and it's so strange to hear the line produce only silence, as if it's not obvious what the line says.

2) Kill Bill Vol. 1--Original Soundtrack (Maverick) Not that there's anything less than fabulous here, but the eleven minutes plus of Santa Esmeralda's mariachi version of the Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is almost beyond human intent.

8) John Humphrys, review of Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, The Sunday Times (London), Nov. 9 "Truss writes: 'The confusion of the possessive "its" (no apostrophe) with the contractive "it's" is an unequivocal sign of illiteracy and sets off a simple Pavlovian "kill" response in the average stickler.' I think she probably understates the case when she argues that people who persist in writing 'good food at it's best' deserve 'to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave.' Lightning strikes are altogether too random. There should be a government task force with the single duty of rooting out such barbarians and burning them at the stake."

10) Summer travel tips (e-mail, July 22) Michele Anna Jordan writes from Dallas: "The back of the ticket to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza offers $2 off your purchase of $15 or more at the Spaghetti Warehouse on North Market St."

10) "Eating It" comedy showcase, Luna Lounge (New York City, January 20) Sarah Vowell writes: "As part of MLK day, they asked the audience to sing along with 'Ebony and Ivory,' the white people doing McCartney's part and the black people Stevie Wonder's. This meant a whole room drowning out Paul, followed by maybe one sheepish black guy, the only one in the audience, singing along with Stevie. The point being, even us smart, good-hearted New York wiseacres who cringe at the thought of segregation find ourselves socially segregated by default. I had started out the day reading King's speech to the Memphis sanitation workers, marveling at the way he could call for togetherness without a hint of icky, sappy fakery, and there I was hours later, singing sap. Yet when I was singing my part, singing along with Paul, even though there's hardly a lamer song, I found myself singing embarrassingly loud."

I'd been wondering what Sarah Vowell has been up to. Writting to Greil Marcus, I guess

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