Column: off the record…, vol. 11-479

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off the record, from @U2

There's really no way to approach this week's OTR column without acknowledging the significance of this date in so many people's lives.

September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. It began as a beautiful day in Western Michigan where I was at that time and the same could be said for New York City as well. Before the morning had come to a close, almost 3000 lives would be lost as both towers of the World Trade Center would collapse when a total of four planes were transformed into weapons in the hands of terrorists. Two planes headed to New York City to destroy the twin towers. One plane hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the final plane went down in a field in Pennsylvania.

The effects of those events continue to resonate ten years later. On a world scale, the United States continues to have a military presence in the Middle East that was triggered by the events of that day. On a national level, citizens of the United States lost a degree of their freedom as changes were made to laws in order to employ more stringent security procedures. On a local level, the lives of many people in and around New York City were altered forever by the devastation of that day and though there are new towers currently under construction, the skyline has forever been altered.

On a personal level, that day has forever altered me as well. Though I grew up very close to New York City and have many friends still in the area, I'm not aware that I lost anyone on that day that I had known. Still, the tragic and immense loss that occurred struck me hard. I remember sitting on the couch and watching the events unfold while being oblivious to everything else going on around me. I had been taking guitar lessons at that time, but I never went back. For me, it really was the day the music died. I've noticed that my emotions are now much closer to the surface than they had ever been, but especially sadness as I see others dealing with grief. We all deal with grief in our own ways and it's a very personal journey.

Ten years later, I've seen more than a few shows on television dedicated to the events of September 11, 2001. The ten-year anniversary of that day has triggered a large number of video memorials on multiple networks here in the States. As I watched the stories unfold on the screen in front of me, they easily ripped off the emotional scab I still carry from that day and touched me deeply. It also became clear once again that this was a day where the cowardly actions of a few brought out the heroic actions in many. Some of those heroes walk among us today, but many of them willingly gave the ultimate sacrifice as they tried to save as many other people as they could. The needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few or the one, and many heroes lost their lives because they refused to modify their belief just because the circumstances were dire.

Recently, I was listening to a radio show on a totally different topic where the host asked his guest to define "evil." The guest defined it as the total loss of empathy and, as I considered that definition, it struck me as being an enlightened bit of insight on that topic. In a world where it is getting easier every day to build walls around one's self and reason it away as being for protection of one's self and/or family, is it also harder for us to maintain empathy for our fellow human beings? In spite of the good most of us want to be in this world, are we putting ourselves in a position where that is increasingly difficult and then somehow justifying it?

Bob Riley once offered: "Hard times don't create heroes. It is during the hard times when the 'hero' within us is revealed." In a world that discourages empathy for others and rather promotes success of self, it is heroic to reach out your hand to someone else and let them know that you care. I believe we all can be heroes if motivated to do so and that there are many ways in which to fill that role.

Tell me, how do I begin again?

Back in June, Paul McGuinness told Rolling Stone, "If you pile a lot of extra material and packaging and design work into a super-duper box set, there are people who will pay quite a lot for it, so you can budget it at a very high level and pump up the value." As the saying goes, he put his money where his mouth is with the Achtung Baby Uber Deluxe version currently sitting at over $$660.00 USD on Amazon’s site.

What's driving me stark raving crazy about this is who the pricing is hurting. It seems to me that the band understands that, for the most part, it is the dedicated fans who will stand in line all day to see them play live via a general admission ticket. They acknowledge this by making those tickets the cheapest available. I could be off here, but it seems to me that these uber-dedicated fans are also the same fans that would be most likely to purchase the uber-deluxe version of this release, yet it is this group who is getting price gouged for considering this version of the release. The dichotomy of these two business models is not lost on me.

When you add in that the band chose to open up their Glastonbury set as an advertisement for this box set (I hope they wrote off the cost of the show as an advertising expense), I've taken about as much as I can take from the U2 marketing machine for now. I'm waiting for MacPhisto to show up soon on my television hawking this set for the "save-your-soul" price of only $$666.

I must be an acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that

As for me, I'm looking at getting the double-disk release, but only under two conditions. The first condition is that it is actually remastered. We've heard nothing official so far on that front, but my guess is that they are holding back on some of the good news in order to revive those of us who fainted upon seeing the prices they are asking for this. The second condition is that the remaster isn't horribly compressed and/or somehow is of a lesser quality that the original release. Re-releases should be a time when the band can get off the loudness war merry-go-round and actually let us hear something in a manner that is actually ... well ... musical. Come on, boys. It's not like landing a man on the moon!

Finally, there are three things that I find interesting at this time. One is rakes. Another is mysterious men. The final thing is mysterious fruit lying on a bed.

Enjoy your week and don't forget to be a hero for someone.

©@U2/Hebert, 2011.

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