Arts & Culture Blog
Budget Blues, Dylan's Dilemma and Artist Imprisonment
April 8, 2011
FREAKY FRIDAY: In case you were wondering if the End of Days may really be at hand, the actions of the Republicans in Washington—and Sacramento—confirm the suspicion. Little did we suspect that the trillion dollar budget deficit run up by the Bush Administration and the cost of fighting three wars could be solved so simply: Stop funding for Planned Parenthood, NPR and the National Endowment for the Arts.
That should do it.
Even granting that the whole stunt is probably akin to a last-minute labor negotiation, with a decent probability that the two warring factions will emerge bloody but unbowed, offering mutually insincere tributes to the spirit of bipartisanship, the republic—and particularly its representatives—have a massive black eye as a result of the unseemly bickering.
On the cultural front, it’s also more than mildly depressing that Bob Dylan should choose this historic moment to make his first-ever appearance in the People’s Republic of China—after reportedly conceding to the demands of pre-censorship by his government hosts.
Dylan’s poorly timed Beijing appearance came the same week that dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained as he was trying to board a plane to Hong Kong. The designer of the “Bird’s Nest" stadium for the 2008 Olympics is being charged with unspecified “suspected economic crimes."
It’s a far cry from Dylan’s roots, when he walked off the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963 after they refused to let him sing “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues," a tribute to far-right forces who would be at home in the Tea Party climate of today.
No one expects the dude, at this late date, to re-emerge as some kind of protest leader, but it would be nice if he recognized the repressive nature of the regime he was visiting, as others have, either by refusing to perform at all, or by acknowledging the difficulties they face. (Bjork famously cried out “Tibet! Tibet!" in a concert in Shanghai.)
To put it generously, maybe Bob was just trying to raise the overall level of cultural awareness. Or maybe it was just another gig.
And here’s a PBS story about Ai Weiwei’s detention:
To better days.