the old gray lady

Maureen Dowd Is Still a Smug Idiot (Reason #115)

'I don't care what you do, I don't care what you say, I don't care if you go, or how long you stay away. Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry poor me, anymore.'Unless we just want to torture some people at brunch by reading it aloud in a comical voice, we steer clear of Maureen Dowd’s cat-lady musings in the Sunday paper. But the self-obsessed dingbat’s latest column apparently targeted 69-year-old singer/songwriter Bob Dylan … because, uh, he didn’t perform enough of his early 1960s material when he played a show in China. Dowd wasn’t there, obviously, and apparently has no idea that Dylan has written and recorded hundreds of songs and dozens of albums since she heard “Blowin’ In the Wind” in that Time-Life ’60s documentary she cries herself to sleep to every night, alone, but that didn’t stop her from the usual NYT op-ed columnist practice of writing 500 trite words about it!

Sean Wilentz of the New Yorker responds:

Dowd isn’t angry that Dylan performed in China. She is angry that he apparently agreed to do so under certain conditions, that he didn’t sing “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and that he didn’t take the opportunity to denounce Chinese human rights policies.

I don’t know exactly what Dylan did or did not agree to. (I don’t think Dowd does, either.) But whatever the facts are, Dylan knows very well—as I tried to tell Dowd when she interviewed me for her column—that his music long ago became uncensorable. Subversive thoughts aren’t limited to his blatant protest songs of long ago. Nor would his political songs from the early nineteen-sixties have made much sense in China in 2011. Dowd, like Mr. Jones in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” is as clueless about all of this as she is smug.

About the author

A writer and editor of this website from 2006 to early 2012, Ken Layne is occassionally seen on Twitter and writes small books and is already haunting you from beyond (your) grave.

View all articles by Ken Layne
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  1. MittsHairHelmet

    Saying a Dylan show sucked because he didn't play "times they are a-changin" and "blowin in the wind" is like saying a Bruce show sucked because he didn't play "pink cadillac" and "hungry heart".

    1. KeepFnThatChicken

      Poet schmoet. When Dylan can fucking sing, I'll show up at his shit. Until then, he sounds like cat sex.

        1. KeepFnThatChicken

          I'm saying that "cat sex" often sounds bad, but hey… one man's white trash is another man's pleasure. I'll wear earplugs. :)

    2. 102415

      I saw the LA Hollywood bowl show. Half folk and half what he wanted to play. I was 17. It was awesome. Including the future teatards who paid to come and see what would happen and boo when it did. And now here I am on Wonkette enjoying "Love and Theft". It's all good.

  2. mavenmaven

    Dylan on this current trip to China apparently missed his big opportunity to end the war in Vietnam.

    1. joobajooba

      He saved that for April 10, when he went to Hanoi. Pretty much the same setlist as in China, with the addition of "My Wife's Hometown." A shoutout to Joan Baez, who was in Hanoi for the Christmas bombing?

    1. DustinDeWynde

      I went to Junior/High School with the Grandkids of the Pulitzer Prize Winning woman that friggin' *wrote* 'Harvey'.

      Take the Pulitzers off the table and Maureen Dowd is *still* no Mary Chase.

    1. Fare la Volpe

      Whatever happened to her? Is she still sucking Ronnie's mummified balls, or is she stumbling around in the forest somewhere in a gin-soaked haze?

      1. chascates

        I think in a world of Sarah Palins and Michele Bachmanns the courtiers of the conservative aristocracy lose their appeal and are reduced to sighing at Beltway cocktail parties.

  3. Ken Layne

    B-b-b-ut a famously eccentric artist who Maureen Dowd only knows as an early '60s cultural figure didn't do the exact same things he did FIFTY FUCKING YEARS AGO!

    1. undeterredbyreality

      She also refers to the "2,000 Chinese apparatchiks in the audience taking a relaxing break from repression." Did her brain stop updating information in the early-to-mid 70's? Will Reagan tear down the wall?

      1. zhubajie

        Has she ever been to China? Been to a Chinese restaurant that didn't have a fortune cookie and a place mat with the 12 animals?

      2. Negropolis

        I read it as "Will Reagan, tear down this wall?" and was wondering what alternate universe we were in. Funny what a little ole comma can do.

    2. weejee

      Bet MoDo was one of those who got all pissie at the Newport Folkie Fest in 1965 when Mr. Zimmerman went electric with Mike Bloomfield and Al Cooper.

      1. poncho_pilot

        a shame, too because you can't really argue with Al Kooper. unless you're a terrorist, that is.

    3. qwerty42

      I opened the NYT on Sunday, read maybe a para of that piece and quit. You should have too, Ken. OTOH, …Maureen Dowd’s cat-lady musings… does hit the target.

    4. AJW@[redacted]

      I couldn't understand him even then, before my hearing was destroyed by the Wall of Sound and gunfire. And 50 years ago, he was relevant. Today, not so much(unless he's singing stuff from 50 years ago to the same people he played to 50 years ago).

  4. BaldarTFlagass

    She's probably still pissed off that he went electric at the '65 Newport Folk Festival.

    Edit: Dang you, Sorosbot!

  5. BaldarTFlagass

    Hope he did "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35." China is definitely a market that our Northern California agricultural industry should exploit.

    1. Mahousu

      I'll hazard a guess that Bob Dylan doesn't actually spend much time caring about Maureen Dowd's opinions.

      1. Come here a minute

        I wouldn't have guessed that Bob Dylan would dress up in costume for a "Must Be Santa" video.

      2. Negropolis

        I'll hazard a guess that Bob Dylan doesn't actually even know who the fuck Maureen Dowd is. I envy him for that.

  6. RGHunt57

    In her rush to reprint the usual old-icon-sells-out piece, Dowd didn't bother to let facts get in the way. The Taipei show has already been bootlegged; the last track: "Blowin' in the Wind". (The set also included "Gotta Serve Somebody", "Things Have Changed", "Highway 61", "Desolation Row" and "Ballad of a Thin Man" – hardly a timid line-up.)

  7. JustPixelz

    I saw Bob Dylan in concert a couple years ago. He didn't sing those songs then even though he was under the umbrella of freedom. And if my concert is any guide, most of the Chinese will leave early and wonder why they bought tickets. (Or had tickets forced on them by the Ministry of Seat Filling.)

  8. imissopus

    Did he sing "Maggie's Farm"? That's as explicit a refudiation of collectivization as he has in his catalog. Maybe he made it more China-appropriate. "Ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more…until the State subsumes it into the revolutionary machinery to feed the People's Glorious Leap Forward…" Doesn't quite roll off the tongue, I admit.

  9. GodShammgod

    I wonder if her and David Brooks will be the non-obese, establishment liberal version of K-Lo and Jonah Goldberg.

    1. horsedreamer_1

      I'm just glad that succubus didn't steal all of Aaron Sorkin's mojo.

      In fact, quite the opposite. I'm sure Sork was so able to convey the pettiness & snivelling attitude of Zuckerberg by channelling MoDo.

    1. Lost_Teabaggers

      You know, without going into the whole Bill Kristol being hired by the Times as a columnist (they made up for this by firing him) or Scooters gal Friday pushing blatant lies as legitimate copy…that had to be the single most shameful episode at the Times this past decade (yes, I know about Jayson Blair too…but what he did would get him an award at Fox News). I don't care what inflection Bush was told to use, she literally called an ex-Male cheerleader who went into the National Guard because he didn't have the courage to rupture his own ear drums to avoid a war HE SUPPORTED, "manly" and John Kerry (like him or not, the guy is easily more manly than Bush and Cheney combined) "effete". She also called Obama "effete" compared to said male cheerleader as well….fucking shameful, I mean seriously….that's like calling Sylvester the cat tough and manly because he could inflect a tough guy voice in pre-written speeches…in fact, it's exactly like that.

  10. DemmeFatale

    Hey! I learned guitar just so I could belt out "Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land…etc." when I was told to clean my room!

    Modo: don't criticize what you can't understand…

    (Meh, why should this time be any different.)

  11. pinkocommi

    Radioactive water leaking into the Pacific, gas prices at an all time high, slaying of protesters in the Middle East and Maureen Dowd devotes her column to criticizing Bob Dylan's set list?

  12. EatsBabyDingos

    Yeah, saw him with the Dead years ago, and he sounded like a tasmanian devil with a hairball. But with all the drugs it was one of the best concerts ever. I think.

  13. bflrtsplk

    Mo must be part of NYT's new paywall strategy to lure wingnuts by ridiculing former "counter culture" icons.

  14. hagajim

    Hell – after hearing Dylan on the Grammy's, I'm not sure anyone would really know what the hell he was playing.

  15. Lionel[redacted]Esq

    You know, Ken, you can just make the headline "Maureen Dowd," as the rest is understood.

  16. Callyson

    Meh–compared to the Gail Collins – Donald Trump fight, this is tedious.
    Now, what bitchy comment did The Donald make about Gail today, and what funny reply did she have?

  17. ShaveTheWhales

    I've seen Bobby Z a number of times, including the Oakland show in what, '73, that you had to enter a lottery for, and the Last Waltz, and even once after he found Jesus, and a few times after he changed his mind. I haven't seen him live for at least twenty years, since I involuntarily became a single father.

    But what I remember most distinctly about all the times I saw him is that he played what he wanted to. It's not that he ignored the audience, it's just that their expectations had no influence whatsoever on his set list. A couple of times, this resulted in gigs that I, personally, found to be boring (there was a later one at Oakland that I've always referred to as "Vegas Bob"). But mostly, they were fantastic. I think sometimes people lose sight of the fact that, in addition to being a counter-culture anti-war icon/prophet/guru/whatthefuckever, the guy was a fucking amazing musician.

    He wasn't a technically adept player, and his voice could strip paint, but he could get the players and singers surrounding him up past the boiling point. (He did also knock out a few decent tunes). I never saw Acoustic Bob (except in brief excerpts), but Electric Bob was, with his electric associates, fucking electrifying.

    I have no idea what he's doing these days. Fuck, he's as old as ttommy. I'm afraid music is not currently as important a unifying factor as it has been at times in the past, so I think Dylan's set list in China is appropriate for MoDo (that is, irrelevant).

    In any case, I suspect that several of my favorites — say, "Watchtower", "Hurricane", "Lily, Rosemary", and "Maggie's Farm" — would be lyrical nonsense to even an English-speaking Chinese crowd. But they might still like the music.

    1. Negropolis

      Dylan was on the Grammys a few weeks back doing Maggie's Farm. He didn't so much sing the song as he growled and gurggled it 'till he made it to the end. As a youngin' not so familiar with this guy or what he was, I'm still not sure I "get" him.

  18. zhubajie

    Young people in China these days go for romantic ballads, not protest songs and certainly not rock.

  19. joobajooba

    Ok, this is my playground. Any community college English major could string together a Dylan-goes-subversive theme with this setlist:
    Beijing, China
    Workers Gymnasium
    April 6, 2011

    1.Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
    (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)
    2.It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob on guitar, Donnie on pedal steel)
    3.Beyond Here Lies Nothin' (Bob on guitar, Donnie on trumpet)
    4.Tangled Up In Blue
    (Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar)
    5.Honest With Me (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)
    6.Simple Twist Of Fate (Bob on guitar, Donnie on pedal steel)
    7.Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (Bob on guitar, Donnie on pedal steel)
    8.Love Sick (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
    9.Rollin' And Tumblin' (Bob on keyboard)
    10.A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
    11.Highway 61 Revisited
    (Bob on center stage on harp then keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)
    12.Spirit On The Water
    (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Tony on standup bass)
    13.Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)
    14.Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on lap steel)

    (1st encore)
    15.Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel)
    16.All Along The Watchtower (Bob on keyboard then guitar, Donnie on lap steel)

    (2nd encore)
    17.Forever Young (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel)

    1. Bezoar

      I commend your thinking, and would also suggest:

      Chimes of Freedom, Bob Dylan alone with guitar and harmonica
      The Walls of Redwing

      In general, I bet that Bob Dylan understands that the Chinese know how their society could be improved better than he does.

  20. horsedreamer_1

    MoDo's column seems to be a case of fighting yesterday's war today. Since nobody went after Beyonce, et. al., for playing songs/shows for Ghaddafi's son, we now have to bash artists for playing shows in other totalitarian places.

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