Thank You, Robert Zimmerman

I was born during wartime, and during the first decade of Bob Dylan’s long career. Later that same month, the Tet Offensive began — a major turning point in the Vietnam War. After Tet, the Americans who had been “on the fence” realized that the USA was not going to win that war, and these fence-sitters added their voices to the loud anti-war message already being voiced from the late 1960s counterculture. We took several more years to extricate ourselves from that war, and those years were my formative years.

Early in life, I developed a fascination with the decade of my 1968 birth. The first related thing I studied, in detail, was the music and history of the Beatles. Beatles’ music led me to books about that band, and this added to my reading vocabulary, although, in some cases, my speaking vocabulary lagged behind. This happened with Robert Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, who pops up in many written accounts of the Beatles’ career. In my early teens, I had read many things about a musician with a name that looks like it should be pronounced “Die-lan,” and I had also heard talk about a person with a last name pronounced like that of the actor Matt Dillon. It’s funny now, but I was absolutely mortified when I first realized I had been mispronouncing Dylan’s name, and confusing him with Dillon, the actor. Determined not to repeat such a mistake, I broadened my studies of the counterculture, and educated myself about the real Bob Dylan.

Later, as a senior in high school, I encountered the work of Dylan in another context, when I took AP English. The song lyrics of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” were in our literature textbook. Via YouTube, here is Dylan himself presenting those same lyrics.

I graduated from high school in 1985. Because I read this song, presented as a poem, before actually hearing it, I was prepared to think of Dylan’s work as literature, and not merely as popular music from an earlier decade. When the Nobel Committee selected Dylan for this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, I was both unsurprised, and pleased. Many have criticized this Nobel selection, but it makes perfect sense. The counterculture of the 1960s has a body of literature, and I’ve read quite a bit of it, such as books by Ken Kesey, John Lennon, and Abbie Hoffman, as well as many other writers. This period of astounding creativity produced a unique body of literature, and the time has definitely come to recognize the best of that literature with a Nobel Prize. I know of no one associated with the counterculture who deserves it more than Dylan.

Back in the pre-Google era, of course, we had to go to considerable trouble to get music — much more so than the few clicks of a mouse it takes today. The reason the Beatles came first, for me, is simply that Beatles albums were among the purchases previously made by my parents. Dylan’s music was not among this collection of records. The Dylan album I had read the most about was Highway 61 Revisited, and that led to a funny conversation with an old friend of mine — a guy named Max. Max was perhaps ten years older than me, and was a music aficionado who prized himself on his knowledge of all things Dylanesque. The first time some friends and I listened to music at Max’s house, I asked him to play Highway 61 Revisited, but that particular record was not in Max’s large music collection. Here’s the title track of that album.

You can now buy every track of this album, as a collection of .mp3 files, for a mere $5 on Amazon, but that was not the case back then.


Max ended up going to the local record store (as we called them in the 1980s), and telling the store owner (another old friend) that an 18-year-old kid had asked him to play Highway 61 Revisited, leaving him embarrassed that he didn’t have the requested music available already. The shop owner set him up with a copy, and I (finally!) got to hear it shortly thereafter, for the first time.

Since then, I’ve seen Dylan perform live twice, and I have many friends who are as into Dylan, or more so, than I am. Today, if I post a Facebook status that asks why “the pump don’t work,” one of my friends will answer — “‘Cuz the vandals took the handles” — within mere minutes.

Dylan’s career took many twists and turns, especially during the controversial period when he had been “born again,” as it was put, and he simply refused to perform or record any music which did not express his religious ideas. Many Dylan fans won’t even listen to his music from this period, but I like all the Dylan songs I’ve ever heard. This is my favorite of the songs from that period: “Gotta Serve Somebody.” One need not have any particular religious belief to appreciate a good song.

Dylan himself may not be interested in his Nobel Prize, any more than he knows that I appreciate his work. These things do not affect the fact that he deserves the Nobel, as well as my gratitude. Robert Zimmerman: thank you.

Ten Commandments of the Universe, Set to Music


Because there’s nothing wrong with mixing a little Rolling Stones with your physics, that’s why. 

Music Video: Murder By Death’s “Those Who Stayed” & “I’m Afraid of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”

Music: the first two tracks from the Murder By Death album Like the Excorcist, But More Breakdancing. Please visit their website,, to buy this band’s music and merchandise. While you’re there, I recommend checking their concert calendar, to see if they may be playing near you soon. Murder By Death concerts, which I’ve seen six times now, are not to be missed!

Visuals: rotating polyhedra, all with icosidodecahedral symmetry, generated using Stella 4d: Polyhedron Navigator, which you can try for yourself at The polyhedra shown are, in order of appearance:

  1. The icosahedron
  2. The compound of the icosahedron and its dual, the dodecahedron
  3. The dodecahedron, with all faces the same color
  4. The small stellated dodecahedron, or first stellation of the dodecahedron, in a single color
  5. The small stellated dodecahedron, with only parallel faces having the same color (six-color arrangement)
  6. The great dodecahedron, or second stellation of the dodecahedron, six-color arrangement
  7. The great stellated dodecahedron, or third stellation of the dodecahedron, six-color arrangement
  8. Stellating the dodecahedron a fourth time, to return it to its original form, but in the six-color arrangement this time
  9. The icosidodecahedron, with triangular faces invisible, and pentagonal faces shown using the six-color arrangement
  10. The icosidodecahedron, all faces visible now, and colored by face type
  11. The fourth stellation of the icosidodecahedron (its first stellation is the dodecahedron, the second is the icosahedron, and the third is the compound of the first two, all of which have already been seen)
  12. The fifth stellation of the icosidodecahedron
  13. The convex hull of the fifth stellation of the icosidodecahedron, which is a slightly-truncated icosahedron
  14. The truncated icosahedron which is a true Archimedean Solid, since all its faces are regular
  15. The truncated icosahedron’s second stellation (the first is the already-seen icosahedron)