The persecutor within

It’s been far too long, dear readers! But, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, the month of June is devoted to the Top 20 Pharma / Top 10 Biopharma issue of my magazine. In addition to researching and writing a shit-ton of profiles, I also had to transcribe and edit a bunch of interviews I did with major companies and their outsourcing partners. I hate that process, but don’t trust other people enough to let them handle it. (I have a weakness for Q&A-style articles, so I try to include one or two in every ish.) Late in the process (as in last Monday), one of the pharma companies told me that the person they’d given me to interview had subsequently left the company. In the two weeks between the interview and my sending them the transcript. They didn’t get around to telling me this for 10 days, and offered no solution outside of, “You can’t run any of his quotes.”

I built a lot of flexibility into the structure of this ish, so I can absorb the loss of a two-page article a week or so before press time, but I’m still peeved enough at their crap behavior to put them on my banned list for future publicity, articles, etc. I mean, it’s not like they’re even going to notice this, being a $20 billion company, but I have to have my petty triumphs.

Still, I finished writing my Tops profiles a day ahead of schedule, putting myself in a less stressed mode before tomorrow’s trip to DC for the annual BIO convention. I still have to clean up the page layouts and write short intros for the two features, but those will be manageable. (With a little work done over July 4th weekend.)

During BIO, I’ll be staying at a hotel called the Helix. If my room gets downgraded to a double, I’ll laugh at the cosmic jokester.


This is my first post in a while, and I thought I’d ramble about Bob Dylan. He turned 70 a little while ago, which got me listening to his music. I also found myself watching two of his great videos, Jokerman and Series of Dreams. On Facebook, I pondered whether any other musician has enough built-up history/iconography to freight a video like this one:

“Freight” felt like an odd but appropriate choice, given the artist and the video.

Amy & I also watched No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese’s 87-hour documentary about Dylan. Not being too much of an acolyte, I found a lot of the details and anecdotes illuminating. I thought it was interesting to see a documentary about a guy with encyclopedic knowledge of music made by a guy with encyclopedic knowledge of film. I was surprised at how at ease Dylan was in his interview segments. I was expecting a mystic making cryptic / gnomic pronouncements, rather than a plainspoken older guy. (Which isn’t to say that he was necessarily honest, just that he was speaking plainly.)

I enjoyed the documentary up until the last hour, when I realized it was only going to cover Dylan up to the 1966 motorcycle crash (with a coda of his first post-crash live appearance, in 1968). Don’t get me wrong; it was a really engaging documentary. I loved learning about the schisms in the folk scene, how Dylan evolved from protest-singer to rock star, how his relationships went, both with lovers and other musicians, how he dealt with fame in the early days, how he transformed himself from that kid from Hibbing, MN.

But I realized as the documentary unfolded that that wasn’t the Dylan I wanted to learn about, exactly. See, I was hoping that the narrative would continue into the 1970s (and maybe beyond). I wanted the Dylan who embraced his Judaism, became a born-again Christian, got divorced, recorded Blood on the Tracks, sank, rose. What I wanted, I think, was to find out how he tried to live once he got all the fame and riches, and had no idea what to do. A lot of the documentary involved the matrix of Dylan and his audience: how betrayed they felt over his distance from the protest movement, how shocked they were when he went electric (ha-ha). I would have loved more insight about Dylan when those audiences became stadium-sized and his popularity was more immense. How did he cope?

I guess I’ve always been fascinated by that question, “What next?” It’s because stories so rarely seem to end, so much as just stop. It’s why I’ve always adored Anna Karenina‘s ending, because Levin finally understands that there’s no miracle secret to living a good life. He at last understands the day to day negotiations to try to live better. I think what I wanted from a documentary of Dylan is some idea of how he dealt with his life once he achieved (what he thought were) his goals.

And that made me wonder about the filmmaker. See, Martin Scorsese has confounded my expectations in exactly this fashion before, with The Aviator. That biopic about Howard Hughes focuses on the industrialist’s movie-making aspirations, and ends just before HH’s obsessive-compulsive disorder sends him totally ’round the bend. Sure, there are a few scenes of him losing his grip for a while, but I was much more interested in the Hughes who wore tissue-boxes as shoes, never cut his fingernails, and whittled himself down to 90 lbs. by the time he died. A pal of mine, SF writer and critic Paul Di Filippo, had the same reaction when I mentioned the movie to him: “That’s the Howard Hughes that I find interesting. I wish the movie had started from that point.”

Of course, I understand why Scorsese would focus on HH-as-filmmaker, what with that aforementioned encyclopedic knowledge of film. But as a character, batshit-nuts Howard is much more interesting to me than young up-and-coming Howard. And post-rise Dylan would have helped (me) complete the image of Dylan as an artist and as a man. Or at least it would have put together a narrative sequence, like a series of dreams.

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