Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I was eating my salmon teriyaki bento box for luncheon, and was surprised to hear the usual Japanese power pop ballads (and if you haven't heard Ayumi Hamasaki, you really owe it to yourself) replaced with fellow Jewess and gay icon Bette Midler's "From a Distance."

I have fond memories of singing that song as a child, accompanied by my father playing on the "Electric Piano" setting of his Clavinova, and I always imagined it as a sort of idealistic bastardization of John Lennon's "Imagine", that is if John Lennon impregnated Diane Warren; she had an abortion and smeared the blood across a sheet of composition paper and then played the smudges on a Clavinova, but to my surprise, IT'S NOT!

Maybe it's just the mood I'm in. But I don't think so. Here are the lyrics, just to refresh you memory.

From a distance, the world looks blue and green
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
and the eagle takes to flight.
From a distance there is harmony
and it echoes through the land.
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace,
it's the voice of every man.
From a distance, we all have enough
And no one is in need.
There are no guns, no bombs, no diseases,
No hungry mouths to feed.
From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace
They're the songs of every man.
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance.
From a distance, you look like my friend
Even though we are at war.
From a distance I cannot comprehend
What all the fighting is for.
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land.
It's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves.
It's the heart of every man.
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance.

So basically, this song is saying--everything is absolute shit, what with people dying of horrible diseases and starvation and killing each other for no reason. But like so many people you wind up going home with at bars out of politeness, everything looks fine from a distance. And since this is the favorable vantage point from which God is watching us, because apparently God, unlike the paparazzi, does not have a zoom function, there is nothing that He will ever do about it. Therefore, what is the point of God even existing? Or astronauts?

So what I had always thought was a sort of feel-good, swing choir friendly, baby-boomer, just because I have a Clavinova doesn't mean I'm not still a hippie anthem is actually a existential, atheist screed on the irrelevance of religion! Good on you, Bette Midler!

Tomorrow: "Wind Beneath My Wings"--wistful song of friendship, or Ayn Randian paean to selfishness? YOU BE THE JUDGE!

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