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Be amazed!!



Utter lunacy!!

Raving insanity!

Mindless inanity!

Rank inhumanity!

And it’s all on display!

Right this way!

Step right up and bear witness

To the curious plight of the Food-Lockers! . . .

With fruits on the trees

And roots in the ground

And creatures to hunt,

There is food all around.

But these curious people

Do something profound --

The Food-Lockers

Lock it away!

They say,

“You cannot have food without paying!

You need money in order to eat!

So don’t be a slob!

You must go get a job

So you don’t end up begging

For food on the street!”

So the Food-Lockers go and get jobs

And spend their entire lives working like slaves.

And they don’t even see

How they’re helping collude

With the culture that tells them

To lock up their food.

They just blindly accept it,

And crassly conclude

That until they get put in their graves --

They have to make money!

Then they have to spend money!

Then they need some more money!

‘Cause it’s all about money!

But the thing about money

Is that money flows upwards.

So the richer get richer,

And the poor just stay poor.

And the Food-Lockers think

That without any money,

They’re worthless.

The Food-Lockers think

That without any money,

They’re helpless.

And they honestly don’t understand

Why they feel so dejected...

Why they feel misdirected...

Why they feel so alone . . .

And there’s more to be seen!

Look inside, and

Gaze with astonishment

At the ludicrous lives

That are lived by the Box People! . . .

They seal themselves off

Inside boxes they call

“Apartments” or “houses” or “trailers,”

Where they cut themselves off

Watching boxes they call “tee-vees.”

And they pack off their kids

To a box called a “school”

Where they mostly just learn to conform.

And their infants must sleep

In a box called a “nursery,”

All by themselves

Ev’ry night,

While their parents just pray

For the day

When they’ll just go to sleep

And stop crying.

And they honestly don’t understand

Why they feel disconnected...

Why they feel so neglected...

Why they feel so alone . . .

And I promise --

You’ve never seen anything

Like the Dividers! . . .

They divide themselves up into races.

They divide themselves up into classes.

They divide themselves up

By their status

Or wealth

Or religious beliefs

Or political bents.

They divide up their world into countries,

Reinforcing the borders with laws.

They divide into camps.

They divide into groups.

They divide into cliques.

They divide into teams.

And once they divide themselves up,

The Dividers will argue . . .


“My school is better than your school

Because I attend it!”

“My country’s better than yours is

Because I was born there!”

“Mine is the one true religion

Because it’s the one

That I choose to believe!”

And if you don’t agree?

Then you’re WRONG!

And to help them defend

These invented abstractions,

They split themselves up

Into armies and factions

And rail against others’

Supposed infractions

And thunder away

Against others’ detractions

‘Til no one’s immune

From these petty distractions

And ev’ryone’s always at war!

‘Cause the rifts are too deep to ignore...

And they honestly don’t understand

Why they feel disaffected...

Why they feel unprotected...

Why they feel so alone . . .

But there’s something

They all do agree on.

There is one thing that’s keeping them

All in this mess.

The one big assumption

They hold to be gospel.

The big misconception

They’ve yet to redress.

It’s the lie that is holding them hostage.

It’s what strengthens the bars of their cage.

It’s the tacit belief they repeat without knowing it,

Age after age after age . . .

They say,

“This is the best way to live!

This is the right way to live!

This is the one way to live!”  (etc.)

“Look at all that we have!

Look at all that we know!

Look at all we can do!

Look at all that we’ve made!

Look at all we control!”  (etc.)

And they honestly don’t understand

That they don’t have to live this way!

Upon seeing this photo (larger version can be seen here), I thought almost instantly about Norton Juster’s wonderful book, The Phantom Tollbooth.  So it was actually a bit of a disappointment to see that the red letters spelled out “ticket booth” instead of “tollbooth.”  But it’s a beautiful photo, and I found several different views of this ticket booth online.  (It used to be part of the Sky Village Drive-In Theatre in Yucca Valley, California.)


It’s also a very interesting photo.  At first blush, this photograph seems to show a scene of complete  deterioration and abandonment -- but then, upon closer inspection, there are new, shiny cars visible in the background.  Again at first blush, this photograph seems to depict a scene of stark desolation -- but I’ve traveled in the American West a lot, and when I looked past the prevalence of brown in the image, it was easy to see the plentiful green of the trees and the cacti all around.  (It was also fun to spot the ghosted second image of the unplugged power cord hanging from the right eave . . .)

But as evocative as the photo itself is, I never once felt any tugging on my songwriting bone to write a song about the pictured scene itself.  Nor did I spend any time (beyond my initial reaction) contemplating a “Phantom Tollbooth song.”  Instead, I spent some time thinking about booths as a portal from one place to another.  I spent time thinking about how booths are essentially a point through which you have to pass in order to gain access to a new experience -- whatever that experience may be.  And, while imagining the sound of carnival barkers’ voices shouting out their enticements, I tried to figure out what kind of a world I wanted to explore in a song . . .

(Turns out I ended up settling on exploring our own world in this song!  And through the lens of Daniel Quinn’s ideas, as well . . .)

This isn’t the first time I’ve written a song whose lyric spills from the works of Daniel Quinn.  But it didn’t take long for me to decide to use them again to help me meet this challenge.

And this song, I knew from the very outset, would be quite different from the other.  Whereas Whispered In Your Ear was musically minimalistic and intellectually insidious, I firmly intended for this song to be both musically bombastic and intellectually confrontational.  And I knew that a song like that would be a lot of fun (if at the same time an awful lot of work) -- but then I had one other thing weighing on my mind . . .

You see -- this is my “silver SpinTunes song.”  (Yes, I really have written 25 SpinTunes songs now!)  And I was writing this song for the final round.  And on top of that -- this was SpinTunes 7 (which was the iteration that officially eclipsed the old Masters of Song Fu).  So there were all kinds of reasons why this was kind of a “special” moment/song for me.  And because of that, there was this niggling little voice in my head the whole week I was writing that was busy saying, “You idiot.  How many times have you done this?  Written a song that’s so off-beat or weird -- or dystopian yet?! -- that you’re all but guaranteed to take yourself out of the “competition”?  Remember how The Star and I Was There -- and frickin’ Sarah?! -- took you out of three consecutive SpinTunes?  And now you’re writing thisReally?!?” )

I’ll confess -- I did spend a bit of time during Day Two of the songwriting window trying to come up with some alternative (i.e. “more competitive”?) ideas by which to meet this challenge.  But it didn’t work.  Which wasn’t really a surprise at all.  With me, it always seems to work the same way -- when I get done thinking through the challenge, there’s always just one single song that I want to write.  And that’s the song I write.

And this is that song.

And besides -- when it comes right down to it, SpinTunes isn’t really about the competition anyway . . .