May 2012


In watching Roger Waters saunter across the stage during his current presentation of The Wall, perhaps the most striking thing about him is he seems so genuinely affable. Body language, facial expressions and exclamations to the audience suggest he really is pleased to be here and anxious to connect with the masses.

Quite a turn around for a performer/composer who got the idea for this iconic rock opera some 33 years ago after becoming disillusioned with the vast, impersonal, commercialized, egotistic scale experienced by major touring acts. This is a man, after all, who admits to spitting at a fan during a performance back then and who fantasized about lobbing bombs into the auditorium.

The central idea of The Wall — that of alienation, of being constrained by barriers — is permeated with nuance. It’s a psychological statement as well as a political one, sociological as well as personal. And Waters has exploited that flexibility over the years by adding elements. There’s a backdrop, for instance, of portraits and personal details from the never-ceasing roll call of victims of war. Soldiers killed in action, such as his father, are memorialized along with human rights martyrs. Local kids wearing tee shirts emblazoned with “Fear Builds Walls” troop on stage to sing one of The Wall’s perennial anthems, “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.” A motto-inscribed inflatable pig buzzes the floor seats, reminiscent of the one that hovered over London’s Battersea Power Station all those years ago when Waters was an integral member of Pink Floyd. Who could miss the message? War, what is it good for? And, at the root of that, restrain your socio-political minders.

Despite familiarity (and its transition from a Pink Floyd to a Waters production), The Wall still packs quite an impact. The best of the songs combine mesmerizing riffs, melodies, themes and catch phrases with a power and universality that make The Wall a signature work for this era. Critics may caution that its material is overly juvenile, but who among us is not influenced by childhood experiences? And how often do those authority figures of early years morph into the tyrants of adulthood?

Could this be the final outing for Waters’ rendition? No matter, one can well imagine his creation being a fixture for generations to come.

At its conclusion, the bricks that separate the audience from the musicians tumble down with symbolic finality, and Waters and his accompanists file out of sight for a well-earned rest before assaulting the next arena. The scale of the operation is indeed impressive. Quite a contrast indeed with Floyd’s early years when oily bubbles in a slide projector constituted the state-of-the-art light show.   

Meanwhile, we who watch and applaud filter out to buy our $30 souvenir hats and $40 tee shirts. Underlying it all is a faint suggestion that, as in Waters’ long-ago audience-bombing fantasy, “people getting blown to bits would go absolutely wild with glee at being at the centre of all the action.”

Us and them? Maybe that’s just the human lot.

With all the information there is about factory farming you’d think someone would have come out with dog food that is vetted for humane conditions for the creatures that provide the ingredients.

There are, of course, several vegetarian brands of kibble and cans. But even a vegan canine companion has to admit that dogs sometimes hanker for the taste and smell of meat.

Well, if they have to have flesh, at least let it be flesh that comes from an animal or fish that had a tolerable life and at death didn’t suffer more than could be avoided. OK, so I can’t say for sure what is a tolerable life. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve conveyor belts, force feeding, overcrowding and cages and pens too small to allow free movement.

Can I find such a food source? Without scanning the highways for road kill, it’s frustratingly hard. There are several companies that boast of “quality” ingredients, which I’m all for. Who wants their dogs to have to absorb pesticides and growth-enhancing chemicals if it can be avoided?

When it comes down to it though, every company I contacted gave “commercial farms” as the source of their ingredients. By that I assume they mean business as usual. And that’s just not good enough. If these companies put so much emphasis on treating Fido well, then how come none of them are working for better quality conditions for the other creatures that provide their livelihood?

With so much attention paid to celebrity authors, it really deserves credit when a library showcases the local talent. That’s what Lesa Holstine is doing with her Read Local series of appearances at Velma Teague library in Glendale, Arizona.
Styles and topics represented in a recent event ranged from J.J.M.Czep’s pirate adventures to Kris Tualla’s Norwegian romances. Arizona provided rich material for other local writers, including of course my memoir about Marty Robbins.
Read more about it at Lesa’s blog,
Lesa’s Book Critiques http://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com/?spref=tw.
Let’s hope this sparks a trend.