I was in a record store with Wes, in Oslo or somewhere like that. It was a bright, northern place. The store was a long rectangular room with a counter and smooth surfaces of stone and wood. It turns out it was the U2 Center of Music and Production. Wes was at one end of the room talking to the guy behind the counter. He was talking really loudly, and in a joking way he started giving a long speech. It was a famous speech that U2 had given at a concert. The speech had complicated formulas at the end that would have been hard to learn by heart.I was at the other end of the room and noticed that U2's guitarist, The Edge, came in from a door in the wall. He stood near me listening to Wes, who was not aware that he had an audience. Then Wes went off somewhere, and I went into a large white courtyard with The Edge and lots of people. The people were young and in a really good mood. It was like we were on a tour of the facilities. There were big square buildings surrounding the courtyard—modern, white squares. It was sunny and bright.Suddenly Wes appeared at the top of one of the buildings. Some people pointed and someone shouted out, "Give us the speech!" Wes came out to the edge of the building, like he was on a U2 stage, and gave a repeat of the U2 speech he had given earlier, only this time with his hands outstretched and getting really into it. The crowd cheered and clapped, and The Edge, who was still standing beside me, was smiling.Suddenly though, three men who looked like bouncers, and were dressed in Scottish kilts, ran towards Wes and grabbed him. They lifted him off the ground and held him horizontally. They brought him to the edge of the building and hung him over, and swung him as if they were going to throw him down into the yard, but then pulled him back. Then they pulled a kilt on over his jeans, and pulled down his jeans, and then put him standing again. Then they gave him tickets and things in bags.After this, Wes put his hands out and saluted the crowd.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
20 days in with 11 to go on our parade of 31 Dreamers from around the globe. Our Inauguration Day special kicks off with a little sound clip for you play. Just click on this player to begin:
Today's dreamer is Aoife from the tiny town of Cobh in County Cork, Ireland. Aoife's dream goes like this:
(I really hope that everyone reading this pressed play on the sound clip at the top of this entry. If you didn't, now's a good time to do it.)
For the past three decades U2 have been the world's reigning Irish rock band and they're enjoying extra prominence at the moment in their chumminess with new U.S. president Barack Obama (that's the guy whispering in Bono's ear in the pic at the very top of this post). U2 just played at his inauguration shebang in Washington D.C. (picured here) along with a slew of other musical superstars. In your dream, Aoife, all the components of the inaugural festivities are present. You've got cold weather, big buildings, enthusiastic crowds, tight security, U2 plus a mix of other music, swelling anticipation, and speeches that contain alleged formulas to solve the world's problems—you're either psychic or you're keeping tabs on these proceedings from the other side of the Atlantic. The only thing missing is your president elect—your Obama—and you've cast Wes into that role. Like Obama, Wes is a smart guy with charisma and a sense of humor who suddenly finds himself at the top, giving speeches to crowds of adoring whippersnappers. U2's "The Edge" (with whom you stand throughout your dream) seams to be a sort of David Axelrod figure to Wes's Bono/Obama routine, providing both the guitar riffs and the campaign strategy that are the driving force behind speeches and lyrics alike. It's a brilliant commentary to usher in this new era of a president who has cultivated a status akin to that of a rock star.
Then there are those men in kilts, the mutinous Scottish Secret Service who are going to turn Wes/Bono/Obama into something else. That's what an ascent to fame and power are bound to do. There are things that a person has to give up in the process, bits of one's personality and integrity. So on goes the kilt and off come the jeans. Your president/idol/Wes still professes his loyalty to his people/fans/Aoife and he salutes you. But you saw that struggle—the threat of Wes being dashed to bits in the courtyard below. What sort of deal did he have to make? Will he really be true to his word? Where will those tickets take him and what's in those bags? So many unanswered questions . . .
Aoife, Wes must be quite a guy to serve as the Obama/Bono ("O-Bono?") stunt double of your dreams. Clearly you think the world of him, perhaps so much so that you sometimes find yourself on the fringes of his limelight. You may also perceive him dealing with a lot of pressures that are beyond his control. Many people are sipping from a similar cocktail of excitement and trepidation regarding the new U.S. president. Will he really be the superhero we've made him out to be? Will he be able to fix the messes left to the world by the past 43 regimes? We're told that there's one way to find out: to wait and see. But we can do more than just wait, we can take action ourselves! What that looks like for each American citizen, or for you, Aofie, is not for me to say. But I can point to something that someone else did as a source of potential inspiration. And it involves the band U2.
In 1991 U2's hit single "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was remixed with commentary from American Top 40 DJ Casey Kasem and released as a new single, sinmply titled "U2" and attributed to the San Francisco-based group Negativland. At the top of this post is the "A Cappella Mix." Here is the slightly more controversial "Special Edit Radio Mix"...
Negativland was sued by U2's record company who thought that Negativland was trying to cheat U2 fans into thinking they were buying a new U2 single (look at the record cover below—it clearly says "Negativland" at the bottom!) Negativland were also screwed by their own label and Casey Kasem was none too pleased (no Top 40 for Negativland—boo-hoo!) It was U2's The Edge who was Negativland's first ally, publicly recognizing the mash-up as a clever piece of art in its own right. Negativland documented the whole episode in their book Fair Use: The Story Of The Letter U And The Numeral 2 and as a result of these efforts, we are able to listen to the above MP3s on this blog today.
Aoife, I invite you over there in Ireland to stand on this fine day with the American people and with our beloved Negativland: honor and respect the talents and achievements of the Obamas, the Bonos and the Wesses of the world, but be not afeared to strive for your own limelight. Even if you don't get to be president or make the Top 40, be thankful that no one is dangling you off the side of a tall building. Whatever you do, document it somehow and send it on back to 31 Dreamers.