The next commericials up in the increasingly bizarre television marketing career of Bob Dylan are Kaiser Permanente spots -- in which a lovable loser goes through a day of alienated consumption to the strains of 1964's "The Times They Are A'Changin." A shoe store, a record store, a mechanical gym. He talks to no friends, only products. The camera records no romantic vista, no crowds in motion. The loser's concern for his own rinky-dink possessions is his only passion. He yearns for health, but comes up comically short. Soon, we presume, he'll be led to the happy doors of Kaiser, the California HMO, where smiling people are ready to help him along to his eventual death.

The song's final meaning couldn't be more clearly rendered. We are in a cultural moment of terrible stasis; the times call only for small change, or big cash, depending on the nature of your injury. Consumerism has triumphed at the expense of the entire political history of post-war America. Health care reform has sunk like a stone. There is nothing to do but walk through endless malls till our poorly excercised knees crumble into dust. Only a-changing is the degree to which Bob Dylan will insist on upping the ante on his long, sado-masochistic struggle with his folkie fans.

Happy Accident: The lyric and verbal flow of Dylan's "Up to Me" fit perfectly on top of Gram Parson's "New Soft Shoe." We've put together this recording to prove it.

Keep your eye on the Sides list. In a couple of days we'll be uploading rare recordings of Berlin musicians Thomas Zipp and Bara live in their Wedding studios.