what would you say if I took those words away

Paper or Plastic
Short of a few phone calls with friends, I had no conversations on Saturday that weren’t transactional. Spending $7 on a takeout dinner doesn’t count as “human contact” in my book, any more than letting someone board the bus in front of you counts as “making a friend.” You’re pointing to a menu, handing over a few slips of paper, and waiting until your number gets called. A sophisticated machine could replace one or both of the partners in that dance.

I find that solitude – the ability to immerse myself in a city full of people without having to engage them – refreshing, so long as I take it in small doses. I was out late drinking with coworkers, then dancing at the Middlesex, on Friday night. On Sunday I went to see Lynne D’s one-woman show at ImprovBoston, then had a few beers with friends. Last weekend was busy (Halloween) and the coming weekends look to fill up my diary as well. So the break doesn’t hurt.

But there are thousands of people in this city, and every other, who go like that for a week at a time or more. Get up, get on the bus, punch a clock, take your break, punch out, bus home, watch TV, drink, sleep, repeat. The city does not discourage this lifestyle. Dozens of institutions exist to make such a life of populated solitude possible – even easy.

The Wasted Chance That I’ve Been Given
Pop music has not lacked for shitty covers ever, so if I wanted to bitch about that I’d have my choice of targets. But lately I’ve heard enough covers that defy sense, aesthetics or any prediction of What The Market Demands.

Exhibit A: “Careless Whisper” by Seether

That’s what George Michael’s slow-jazz throwback from twenty-five years ago needed – a groan-rock cover with extra shredding. In the original, the sublimely ridiculous line “guilty feet have got no rhythm” makes some sense – the tidal wave of horns and congo drums suggest a nightclub in the 40s, slow dancing with your best friend’s girl, etc. It calls to mind the silver screen. But no one would dream of dancing to a song by a band named Seether, unless standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and headbanging counts as “dancing.” It’s fun, but it doesn’t.

Exhibit B: “More Than Words” by Owen

At least Seether’s cover of a George Michael standard justifies itself by changing the song’s genre. Translating Wham! to screamo is a poor choice, sure, but it’s evidence of thought. But Mike Kinsella’s cover of “More Than Words” adds nothing. It’s one guy with an acoustic guitar, as opposed to the original, which had two guys – Gary Cherone singing, Nuno Bettancourt playing and harmonizing. It has the artistic integrity of a webcam video posted to YouTube, except the fact that I’m asked to spend $0.99 on Kinsella’s version makes it comical.

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