Why “Captain Ambivalent”?

As official self-appointed Literary Stick in the Mud, I find that I must make the full case in favor of Dan’s adoption of the stage name of “Captain Ambivalent.”

Ambivalence is a prominent theme in the best of the latest original works of Dan Biemer. Obviously, this theme is most pronounced in the song “Captain Ambivalent” itself. But Biemer’s vacillations are hardly less important in the song “Adriana Lima,” which takes as its explicit subject the unresolved, dueling desires for Amish simplicity versus commercialized technology and eroticism.

Ambivalence takes center stage again in “The Thousand Mile Song.” Implicitly rejecting previous songwriters’ unremitting assertions that acts of extraordinary physical prowess can effectively demonstrate emotional commitment, Biemer’s narrator finds himself gradually less and less interested in the reputed object of his desire, beginning the song with a declaration of willingness to walk 1000 miles for his “love,” and ending with a tepid refusal to perambulate more than 4 blocks for her mediocre charms.

This recurring vacillation–easily observed in both the playing technique and lyrics of Biemer’s more mature, accordion-playing persona–separates this body of work from the majority of the works performed by the persona of Special Guest and his associated characters–who are treated satirically but often express emotionally uncomplicated, often cartoonish characteristics and super powers. In shaking the world, Binky becomes universally admired by blond-haired hands and alien invaders alike; Noh Moshing is unequivocally evil in his denunciation of rock and roll; Special Guest himself is consistent in his goofy yet typically straight-forward behavior. Only occasionally, in songs such as “A Little Bit Country” do we see Special Guest exploring in detail the self-doubt that will later become one of Biemer’s most important topics.

The clearest early foreshadowing of the ambivalence theme is an important, widely covered, and award-winning[1] early work of Biemer –“Heisenberg.” Positioning himself firmly in the tradition of the great physicist, Biemer’s narrator declares repeatedly: “Uncertainty is not just the way I feel. Uncertainty is not just the way I feel.”

Can there be a better argument for the adoption of “Captain Ambivalent” as a stage name?

1. “Heisenberg” won 2nd place in the 2004 Chicago Materials Research Center Sounds of Science Competition.