Black Holes? Yeah: Racist

Buncha twits tweeted about this NAACP vs. Hallmark story, which really must be watched to be believed. It’s a must-see.

A cynical person might wonder if the NAACP had been holding on to this, uh, race card racist card for three years just waiting for a time when they needed to bolster the credibility of charges of racism.
“Blackness is being made fun of…again!”

Honestly, where have these people been? It’s being made fun of again since…when, exactly? “Amos and Andy”? Ted Danson’s blackface costume?
And the perpetrator of this heinous crime? That edgy, boundary-pushing comedic daredevil known as Hallmark. That’s right, Hallmark made a card that talks about “black whores”. It’s just like them.
Do these people realize how stupid they look? Indeed, are?

More than anything, they remind me of the stories my dad would tell about when he was a kid and he heard about some new dirty rock and roll song. He’d of course immediately go get the single and play it (over and over again) trying to hear the dirty words.
He was always disappointed. But then, he was honest about what he heard.
These guys? They’re nothing more than the modern incarnation of the FBI playing the Kingsman’s rendition of “Louie, Louie” over and over again, trying to hear the dirty words.

First In A Series In Which I Offer Unsolicited Advice To Celebrities Based On Miniscule Exposure To Their Work

Many moons ago, compulsive copyeditor Amba tweeted this delightful little video from the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra. (This is going to be an unusual post for me; I’m actually embedding video.)

Ukuleles aside, the maudlin nature of the song pushes it over into a sort of joyous “singing the blues” (no actual blues involved). These guys sound (and look) like they’re having a great time. Not mocking it, but not wallowing in hyper dark seriousness.
Since I’d been plucking on my uke a bit more lately, I thought I’d check out the song a bit more and discovered the song was originally Bonnie Tyler. Having survived the ‘80s, I knew her from a couple of other songs, and it occurred to me, at that moment, I could probably offer some helpful romantic advice to Ms. Tyler.
First of all, here’s her rendition. (I can barely stand to listen to it, even though the WUO is pretty faithful.)

Wait a second. Catch those lyrics? There aren’t many of them, but you may not have stopped to consider them fully.
It’s a heartache
Nothing but a heartache
Love him till your arms break
Then he lets you down
Wait, love him till what? Your arms break? What were you doing that either of you were enjoying up to the point that your arms actually broke?
Well, anyone can be a bit intense from time-to-time. It’s not like, you know, it’s super-creepy intense with, like, ninjas and angels and glowy-eyed demons and erotic dreams of half-naked underaged boys, right?

Well, it’s important to keep a positive attitude.
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark
We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
OK, but at least there’s no good reason whatsoever to hang out in an abandoned insane asylum right?
All right, I’m getting the picture. Well, maybe you can make up for some of these, um, relationship shortcomings by lowering your standards?
It’s gonna take a superman
To sweep me off my feet
The problem, Ms. Tyler, is that you’re constantly at 10, in a world that’s happiest with things around a 3-4. Guys, in particular, like calm, level-headed women who are appreciative without being overly needy.
Look, try something different. Imagine this guy approaching you:

And just ask yourself, “Am I gonna scare him off?” If the answer’s “yes”, you might want to consider dialing it back a bit.

You’re welcome.

Last Night I Dreamed

Last night I dreamed

That I won a Grammy
It was presented to me
By Debbie Harry
I ran up on stage in my tux
I gulped and I said, “Aw, shucks.”
“I’d like to thank my producer,
and Jesus Christ.”
The audience gave me
A standing ovation
I shed tears of joy
I shed tears of elation
Behind the podium there
Debbie grabbed my derriere
And I’d like to thank my producer
And Jesus Christ.
I took my Grammy, and Debbie
And I walked off stage
We made the cover of Cashbox
And the Random Notes Page
In the weeks that followed
Things went fine for me
An Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy
Bo Derek and Barbara Mandrell
Meryl Streep and Tammy Terell
A Pulitzer and a Nobel
Five gold and one bronze as well
And I’d like to thank my producer
And Jesus Christ.
(Congratulations to Loudon Wainwright III, for finally winning that elusive Grammy.)


Lord, every year we gather here
To eat around this table
Give us the strength to stomach as much
As fast as we are able

Bless this food to our use though
Communication’s useless
Don’t let me drink too much wine
Lord, you know how I get ruthless

Let us somehow get through this meal
Without that bad old feeling
With history and memory
And home cooking revealing

Remind us that we’re all grown up
Adults, no longer children
Now it’s our kids who spill the milk
And our turn to wanna kill them

I look around and recognize
A sister and a brother
We rarely see our parents now
We hardly see each other

On this auspicious occasion
This special family dinner
If I argue with a loved one
Lord, please make me the winner

All this food looks and smells so good
But I can hardly taste it
The sense of something has been lost
There’s no way to replace it

After the meal, switch on the game
There’s just a few more seconds
But I’m so tired, I need a nap
The guest bedroom bed beckons

I fall asleep, I have a dream
And it is the family
Nothing bad has happened yet
And everyone is happy

Mother and father both still young
And naturally they love us
We’re all lying on a lawn at night
Watching the stars above us

Lord, every year we gather here
To eat around this table
Give us the strength to stomach as much
As fast as we are able

–Loudon Wainwright III (video)

Bein’ A Dad

Bein’ a dad isn’t so bad
Except that you’ve gotta feed ‘em!
You gotta shoe ’em and clothe ’em
And try not to loathe ’em
Bug ’em and hug ’em and heed ’em

Bein’ a dad can sure make you mad
Man it even can drive you crazy
Yeah, it’s as hard as it looks
You gotta read ’em dumb books
And you end up despising Walt Disney

Bein’ a dad starts to get radical
When they turn into teenagers
You gotta tighten the screws
Enforce the curfews
Confiscate weapons and pagers

But a daughter or son
Can be sort of fun
Just as long as they don’t defy you
They’ll treat you like a king
They’ll believe anything
They’re easy to frighten and lie to

Bein’ a dad
Bein’ a dad

Bein’ a dad can make you feel glad
When you get paperweights and aftershave lotions
Yeah, it feels pretty great
When they graduate
That’s when you’re choked with emotions

But bein’ a dad takes more than a tad
Of good luck and divine intervention
You need airtight alibis
Fullproof disguises
Desperation is the father of invention

So sometimes you take off
For a few rounds of golf
And you stay away for half of their lifetimes
The result of it all is
Is you’re captured
And hauled up
Before a tribunal for “dad crimes”

Bein’ a dad
Bein’ a dad

Bein’ a dad can make you feel sad
Like you’re the insignificant other
Yeah, right from the start,
They break your heart
In the end, every kid wants his mother

Bein’ a dad

–Loudon Wainwright III
(Link to song with goofy video.)

I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five-and-Ten Cent Store)

I can’t remember when I first heard the title of this song. I think it was a running gag in the B.C. comic strip, though I might’ve first heard it in an old Warner Bros. cartoon. I thought it was a joke. I think the first time I actually heard it sung was in a short-lived action TV series called “Tales of the Gold Monkey”.

It’s not a joke, of course, just a whimsical relic of a bygone era when life wasn’t nearly as good–yet you’d never know that from the popular culture. Not that they didn’t have their sad songs, stories and movies, only that they didn’t wallow in it.

There’s an optimism and sweetness to it that is common in the music of the time. Listening to it now, in the way it was listened to then–say, for example, this recording by Bing Crosby–we have a certain distance from it. Horror movies like Jeepers Creepers and The Shining have used this distance to create alienation, the jauntiness seeming weirdly misplaced. Sometimes–say in the Steve Martin/Bernadette Peters Pennies from Heaven–there’s a manic quality.

Very often, though, it’s simply given a melancholy cast. Think of The Green Mile, as Coffey watches and listens to “Cheek to Cheek”, that zephyr-lightness moving him to tears as those around him contemplate his grim fate.

You can listen to that tune and impose your own emotion on it, as you see fit.

It was a lucky April shower
It was the most convenient door
I found a million dollar baby
In a five and ten cent store.
The rain continued for an hour.
I hung around for three or four.
Around a million dollar baby
In a five and ten cent store.

Most of the brilliance of the song is wrapped up in that one contrast. Today, it would probably have to be a trillion dollar baby in a 99 cent store.

She was selling china
And when she made those eyes,
I kept buying china
Until the crowd got wise.

Of course, it’s just a nicely rhyming cliché about “making eyes”, but don’t most human relationships begin with eye contact? Case in point, Freeman Hunt’s intimidating baby. Or, a look across a bar, if you like. Even just a picture, if done right, can make you feel like you have a window into someone.

The inevitable confirmation comes next:

If you should run into a shower,
Just step inside my cottage door,
And meet the million dollar baby
From the five and ten cent store.

Now, they didn’t dwell on these things much–we’re already 1:20 into the song, let’s wrap up what we’re trying to say.

Love comes along like a popular song
Any time or anywhere at all.
Rain or sunshine
Spring or fall.
Say, you’ll never know when it may say hello
In a very unexpected place.
For example, take my case.

Well, we gotta fill out the 78, so we’ll have Bing do some scatting and repeat the opening versus, but this’ll fit nicely on one of those folded single sheets, with a nice picture on the front and the remaining three sides holding the music. We’ll sell it for four bits.

Can you imagine? That’s how they used to make their money: Writing songs and selling the sheet music. My first piano teacher got one of her songs published that way right about the time she retired. (I was maybe four or five.)

This, like the music itself, is what it is. And whether we cast a dismissive or nostalgic eye on it is up to us.

Just remember: You’ll never know when it may say hello.

Missing You, or Where The Girls Aren’t

Well, Knox was apparently moving (will she still be “Knox” if not in Knoxville?), Freem had a baby (and a tea party) and Darcy chose this inopportune moment to selfishly go on a cruise. To, like, New Zealand or something. She’ll probably come back with a kiwi for a boyfriend and an Austrian accident.

Without Ruth Anne dropping the occasional pun grenade, it’d be a tomb in here. (And I should note that Knox has stopped by and Freem is still tweeting a bit at odd hours.) Troop just finished (what he hopes is his last) tax season. And otherwise I’ve probably just not been very interesting.

But I got to thinking about the Loudon Wainwright, easily one of my favorite singer-songwriters, who wrote this song back when he was on M*A*S*H for the absent nurses:

And I wonder if they miss us,
Now wouldn’t that be funny?
Now that we’re without them
We can hardly stand ourselves.

But my fondness for the ol’ Loudo has always struck me as odd, in that the guy’s life has been almost at the opposite end of the circle from me. He’s always been a ladies man, incredibly devoted to his mother but unable to keep a relationship together, whose kids have, shall we say, mixed feelings about him.

The trajectory of his life (as the listener can ascertain it, which is–one hopes–dramatized) has followed a sort of predictably sad path from cocky, angry, snarky young man to doubting middle-aged divorcee, to old man contemplating his fate.

And perhaps the appeal is in that trajectory. Despite writing very specific songs that no one else can sing (and reducing his commercial viability as a songwriter thereby), they do speak to certain universal truths.

And I see now that Althouse is talking about sad songs, which fits in with this message, sitting on my laptop for the past 6 hours. Loudon has written some of the most profoundly touching music about his parents since their deaths, and I was thinking about this song, “Missing You”, which I believe is actually about his mother:

He don’t stay out any more
No more staying out past four
Most nights he turns in ‘round ten
He’s way too tired to pretend

Sure you might find him up at three
But if he is, it’s just to pee
Some nights he’s awake till two
That’s just because he’s missing you
Just lying there and missing you

He don’t sleep late any more
Up like a farmer half-past four
When that sleepy sun comes up
He’s halfway through his second cup

And his day’s work is done ’round two
That’s when he starts in missing you
Quarter-to-three it’s time to nap
He always says “No nap, I’m crap.”
His motto is: No nap, I’m crap.

Guess he’s just set in his ways
He does the same damn things most days
Seven twenty-fours a week
With lots of down-time so to speak

He hardly glances at a clock
Since his routine is carved in rock
Man’s a machine what can he do?
Just keep on going missing you
Keep right on going missing you

His teeth fall out, so does his hair
But in his dreams you’re always there
A jewel in his unconscious mind
A miracle, a precious find

But in the end he’s all alone
He wakes up and his jewel is gone
There’s a heaven and he knows it’s true
He’s stuck on earth just missing you
And it’s hell on just missing you
Back where he started missing you

And here’s a wan waif singing it a capella.

Ears and Links

About two years ago, the Barbarienne jammed her finger in my ear. Because of her age, her finger was just the right size to get into my ear canal; because of her strength, she jammed it in far enough to scratch my eardrum.

The resultant infection was so painful and persistent that I thought I might actually lose some hearing. It took weeks to clear up fully, but I was back hearing noises in that annoying 16-20K frequency range again in no time.

Which is a propos of nothing except that I recognized the problem sooner this time and didn’t let the infection go too far before going to the local “urgent care”. (Less than $100 and 30 minutes, with almost no paperwork.)

That, and I’ve been accumulating links from around the web but have been unable to cobble together much in the way of coherent posts. So here’s a round-up.

A reprint of a massive 1981 article on Love Canal, and a 2004 follow-up, both at Reason. Massive government screw up plus hysteria equals bad law.

Co-D&D creator Dave Arneson died. It doesn’t surprise me that there’s some rancor and controversy over who did what. Even if TSR hadn’t been dominated by a fairly shady couple, that might’ve arose. I’m glad the two did what they did. Of course, Gygax died at 69 and Arneson at 61, which might suggest the peril of too much gaming.

Vodkapundit tweeted this cute ad for–hell, I don’t even know. Sabre? Saber! Still don’t know what that is. One of these new “body products” they’re pumping out for men. I’m bad at this stuff. I have no products. (I kind of thought “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was not awful, but I can’t imagine personally being more uncomfortable than had I been in that situation myself.)

These body product commercials amaze me, because there seems to be a common thread. In particular, there’s some severe exaggeration of the (formerly subtle) trope that women will pursue you if you spray this crap on you. (Pheremones! Science! 60% of the time, it works 100% of the time!) Like the Axe one where hundreds of women chase one guy on a desert island.

So, here they’re saying, well, you know this isn’t going to happen. What with the shortage of midichlorians on this planet and whatnot. You’re too smart to believe this stuff, right? But, you know, maybe it works a little. Can you afford to take that chance?

Reverse-double-secret psychology? If I thought they were aimin’ it at me, I’d probably be insulted. But, as noted, I don’t buy “product”.

Speaking of sexism, a bunch of people were tweeting this Naomi Wolf article on porn and pubic hair, blunting men’s appetites for sex. First of all, I swear I read this years ago. Turns out, Althouse was blogging how old it was two years ago. And its was just as dumb then. The only thing that can turn a man off “the real thing” is a woman. And she has to work hard at it. (Womens’ studies classes can give a gal all the ammo she needs, tho’.) And then the man is mostly not going to want sex with her in particular. That is, a man has to experience a lot of women like that to really be turned off sex. (I can only assume Naomi Wolf doesn’t know very many men.)

Well, okay, in fairness, entire cultures can probably gear down their people’s sex drives, by interjecting politics between Man and Woman. That might be what’s going on in the developed world. Then again, it might be some other physiological factor.

In any case–with all due apologize to FARK–it ain’t guys going, “She’s got pointy knees,” which is all Wolf’s argument boils down to. Guys put Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth up on their lockers 60 years ago, but they still got busy with Betty and Rita next door.

Twitter doesn’t allow you to tweet that much, so I just linked this delightful commercial. I almost expected a flame or two, but I’m not really on the radar of the perpetually outraged. (Advanced social studies study group question: Compare & contrast this commercial to the previous one, with special emphasis on how “personal products” are marketed to men versus women.)

Frank J asks the critical question of our day: Who is the more perfect leader? Obama or Kim Jong Il? The answer may surprise you. Then again, it may not.

Somebody I follow on Twitter, probably @thecardioexpert, linked this article on cholesterol. I like these kinds of things because the way our media presents things, it’s all “OMG! THIS IS DEADLY! AVOID IT OR DIE!” And it doesn’t matter if it’s salt or asbestos or alar or what. You don’t get a sense of the mechanics. And then you die because they didn’t warn you against eating broken glass.

I haven’t played with this site yet, but it’s about musical instruction and resources. What I really want is to be able to score a piece on the computer–full orchestra–and have it come out with those instruments. I’ve seen a few things that do this, but the output embarrasses me, it’s so bad. Obviously, there’s a limit to how good it can be, but there should be moments when it sounds like something other than a fleet of DX7s.

Then there’s the freaky bird here. Giant eyes–I mean, really giant eyes–are freaky. Reminds me of this guy who has remade Homer Simpson and Super Mario into their human selves. Also Jessica Rabbit, who doesn’t look that freaky. At first I thought, “Huh, typical guy.” Then I realized she’s not nearly as humanized as the other two, plus her eyes are mostly closed reducing the freak out factor.

Lastly, there’s this kinda-SIMS-y, kinda-The Movies-y, kinda-Playskool-y site where you can make your own 3D movies very easily. I haven’t tried it. But I’ve seen worse animation and voice-acting on TV.


Poetry Corner

Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save, where you are how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love that in your will,
Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill.

–William Shakespeare, Sonnet 57

As featured in Adventureland.

So sue me.

It’s spring.