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'Because' isn't a good reason

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I was having lunch today in my favorite pizza parlor, where radio music constantly plays from speakers in the ceiling. The same white-bread station is always on. I use that term because I rarely hear songs performed by anyone other than white people.

One of today's lunchtime songs was performed by Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs. The Maniacs were formed about an hour west of where I live, but Merchant left the band for a solo career. At the time she was popular enough that I was curious about her new career direction, but I lost interest quickly because I never got the sense there was much to her as a singer. She never left me with the impression that she was invested in any of her songs; emotionally, she may as well have been singing advertising copy from the back of the phone book.

I was reminded today just how slight she is because the song on the radio was "Because the Night," which I remember from half a lifetime ago as being the Patti Smith Group's first single. But Natalie Merchant is to Patti Smith as Justin Bieber is to Keith Richards. Merchant was punching way above her weight class.

I have no idea why 10,000 Maniacs decided to cover "Because the Night," but in terms of Merchant's ability to handle the song's celebratory grit, she may as well have been singing "Papa's Got a Brand-New Bag."

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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