They're playing my song again

I was thinking about the nature of pop music and how it changes a lot from time to time, by which I don’t mean instrumental trends, or what kind of beat or who’s laying it down, but the formula itself, which changes less often than those little details. 

Bearing in mind it hasn’t been my primary form of music since I was a child, I still think, looking back over it all, that what I did sing along with in the 70s was not materially different than what my oldest daughter (again, briefly,) sang along with in the mid-late 90s. But when I overhear a “top pop” song lately, it’s something else altogether. I first noticed it when the neighbor next door would have on what seemed like a station that played only Disney Channel interstitials, while the kids were in the pool. The formula was even more basic and narrower in scope, and super artificial.

I would have accepted this:
 
But what they played is what kids around my youngest son’s age (20) on down to around 10 will have adapted their ears to, unless they grow up, as he did, never really hearing it at all. At least there’s a lot more variety for their parents to share with them and for them to discover on their own through the internet. Some will develop broad tastes swiftly, others wlll settle into one thing or another and stay there, at least for awhile. My son listens to: Radiohead, Interpol, David Bowie, and some classical music. But he’s pretty young, and might add in another band some day.

When a song comes along like “Funk You Up” did a few years back, everyone pays attention because they got it just right, combining new and old elements that most of us respond to; in this case it was nostalgic with a contemporary edge. But that isn’t happening very often lately. I don’t think that means it won’t anymore; this era is just not one of the…better ones for it.

My middle son listens to current alternative music and that has recently taken a rather banal turn, to my ears. (Sorry, Brendon.) That waxes and wanes, though. The youngest millennials, like him, probably take comfort in it. I’m waiting it out. 

Back to me! I listened to pop music most heavily from ages 3-13, and you know, during one of the best eras for it; 1968-1978. It would be silly for anyone to dispute that, so we won’t try. It had everything pop music was meant to have, and the best examples of it are still good to listen to now. The novelty songs from that time haven’t aged so well, of course, nor the ones meant for what were then called “teenyboppers.” I liked some of those at the time, because I was a child. They weren’t the ones I obsessed over, though. 

Here are some songs that I either craved hearing as much as possible, or that I did own and so I would put the record on and let it repeat for an hour or more, with brief explanations as I remember them now. Laugh as much as you like.

"Reuben, Reuben," by whoever…(but this is a hilarious version featuring Patsy Cline)

When I was 7, my grandma gave me a record player for my birthday, with a box of children’s records. It was a green and white carrying case, and you opened the lid to set it up to play records. I had it til I was 16. I adored the song "Reuben, Reuben," and played it over and over again. Also, "Buffalo Gals." Such fun to sing along to.

"Brandy," by Looking Glass (turns out the lead singer would have been cute if he got a proper haircut)
I think this is one of those deals wherein the band played something different from their usual repertoire, it hit big, and they had to suffer with it thereafter. Too bad. I related hardcore to this song at age 7 or 8, and pretty much all along for years afterwards. If I confess I also had a thing for "Delta Dawn," you might just feel sorry for me or think I was a strange child, and as that was established long ago, let’s leave it.* 

I grew up thinking I would wear a braided silver chain and mourn happily for the man who loved me briefly and then went away. I just now realized I’ve sort of written it into my NaNoWriMo stories about Lena Spano and Lily Palm. Hmm. Well, anyway.

"On and On," by Stephen Bishop (this was an okay haircut for back then; at least it framed the face well)

I had the album containing this song when I was about 12. But mainly I played this one song on an endless loop while lying on my white ruffled organdy canopy bed, thinking about what it would be like to go somewhere with a beach and be very alone and sad, alone in the middle of a vast space with an atmosphere that seemed just right for it. Also, it made me Sinatra-curious. It's a more clever song than you might have noticed.

You Should Be Dancing (live) by the Bee Gees (this is not the same recording, which was better; is contained in link below)
The live version from Here At Last…the Bee Gees Live, which I played while dancing on the stair landing in our house, with my neon disco light flashing that I earned through the junior high magazine (or maybe the wrapping paper) sales they forced us to do. The stair landing was about four or five feet square, so, you know, about the size of a real disco floor in some places, and it was my special spot. I snuck down to it to watch Carol Burnett when I was supposed to be in bed when I was 8 or 9, and it’s where I fell asleep with the new puppy, Monty Python, when we first brought him home when I was 11, and where I answered the phone when I won tickets to a Royals game from a radio station, which started me and Mom going to games regularly for about three years starting when I was 13. It’s likely I was listening to this song when I took the call, but I did love a lot of the album, and learned to love the rest of it later on.

"Anybody Wanna Party?" by Gloria Gaynor

I was about 14, and played this for an hour at a time on my parents’ cheap stereo in the living room, until my mom asked me to stop for awhile. It was the 12 inch “disco version,” and I’d dance to it at first, then lie under the speakers and just let it move through me. 

 

There’ve been other songs I obsessed over since then, but the last pop hit that caused "emotions" was about 20 years ago. I listened to it when I was alone in the car, and sang along until I was sobbing.
But now I’m back to thinking about what kind of man I’d enjoy loving from a distance while wearing my cool silver chain with the locket and serving up drinks to a mostly faceless crowd. I suppose it’s who I was always meant to be, at least until we get to have androids made to order. 

 

 *What in the...ugh, ew. Don't ruin this for me. Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.00.03 AM


Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur

Ad nauseum

The thing I didn't count on was how many people believe stuff that is objectively false as well as illogical. I mean, I know people aren't logical, and they lead with their hearts, and make grand assumptions based on tiny bits of unverified information or hearsay. It’s a tiresome world we live in. But I didn't think if you presented them with original sources and carefully worded explanations they'd still just rather believe whatever they started with.

Qui totum vult totum perdit

I bet a few people reading this think I don’t mean them, only the ones they disagree with. That’d be wrong. We’re in the mess we’re in after that wholly fear-based presidential election a couple years ago not just because of the people who didn’t bother to show up or because of the ignorant stigginit crowd. Too many people couldn’t handle a candidate who did not pass their individual purity test, though I can’t see how they could have managed life up to now if it depended on seeing the American president as personal Messiah. 

Omnia vanitas

But it isn’t just about what happened then; it’s ongoing and it’s growing, and I see it in my friends who call themselves liberal and/or progressive as well as those who say they’re independent. The people who refuse to see what’s happening right in front of them as our president tweets away our democracy are not really much different from the people who believe everyone outside their ingroup is capable of great evils they themselves are certain they’d never perform. It’s a natural defense mechanism to huddle together in fear of "the enemy."

Argumentum ad populum

A small amount of knowledge leads people to think they are more expert on a subject than they can rightly or honestly claim. The web and social media have created a populace filled with certainty about every topic they come across. If someone they like says things are a certain way, that person is automatically credited with authority they haven’t necessarily earned. As a result, some people think that enemy is everyone they don’t know, as well as everyone who doesn’t agree with their current outrage of the month. 

Panem et circenses

That’s at best immature and distracting. It’s creating false divides between us; moats flooded with suspicion, arrogance, bad science, and petty, energy-sucking arguments that go nowhere. And so here we are, one side cannibalizing each other while the other side looks on with sordid glee as though they’re at the monster truck rally of their dreams. When you provide the bread and circuses, the emperor doesn’t have to.

 Memores acti prudentes futuri

The name-calling saddens me. The seething tribal behavior from people who claim they’re on the correct side of history frightens me. The petulant demands for unquestioning conformity to every loudly voiced opinion are intellectually dishonest, and that angers me. If you think these behaviors are not complicit in creating a hoi polloi willing to believe that you and your ideals are the true enemy rather than the greedy, grasping administration that has hugged their prideful pretensions while stealing their wallets, (or, conversely, that there is a limited amount of resources and freedom to be had and someone getting a fuller measure means you getting less,) there is nothing more I can say. 

Alea iacta est.

 

PS: here's a cheat sheet.

Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
anything said in Latin sounds profound (it’s a joke, see)

Ad nauseum
“i’ve said it all before but it bears repeating now” 

Qui totum vult totum perdit
he who wants everything, loses everything

Omnia vanitas
all is vanity

Argumentum ad populum
argument to the people 

Panem et circenses
bread and circuses

Memores acti prudentes futuri
mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be

Alea iacta est
the die is cast (interesting history note; this is an incorrect translation of a Greek phrase meaning “let the die be castlet the games begin, which is less determinate than the Latin expression.)


Living in Zenith

“Being a man given to oratory and high principles, he enjoyed the sound of his own vocabulary and the warmth of his own virtue.”
 
Half an hour spent with “social media” this morning was enough to renew the simmering and dismissive rage of three or four Sinclair Lewis novels, but it does no good. I have neither the talent nor the tenacity to do what he did 80 and 90 years ago, and what if I did? People rarely recognize their own folly; preferring to focus on that of others. I railed for months last year about Buzz Windrip, but I have a tiny voice and this is a real big world.
 
Along a more pleasant train track of thought, it’s symphony season, so I have a reason to be at interesting restaurants once a month for the next few. First up was Zula, my personal favorite, a rare treat, and just diagonally across Washington Park from the reopened Music Hall. I took pictures of our shared dinner, not to impress anyone, but to reenjoy later as I like. He goes out to eat as a matter of course and told me I should order whatever I like since I don’t, so I chose the yellowfin tuna crudo, haricots vert with escarole and this and that, romaine hearts with a very nice dressing, beef tartare, and duck breast with sweet potatoes and French lentils. LdfkgjLdfkgjLdfkgj
 And I had two Corpse Revivers #2, as well. A sumptuous treat.  Ldfkgj
Over at Music Hall, the symphony played Pelléas et Mélisande, with a dreamy minimalist setting for the singers.
 
We both needed a touch more from that set and the singers’ movement, to be honest, to make a point or two more clear. But the music was lovely, the reconstruction of the building is lovely, and it was just a lovely evening all around. I sigh with pleasure at the memory of my beef tartare, breaking the lovely golden yolk on top, and the giddy sensation of swallowing a perfect food. Here is a filtered photo I took in honor of my old cookbooks with their creepy attempts at elegance. 20171021_191744_Film4
Back to the real world online, this month’s particular demand for social justice is taking a new ugly turn. And the people who don’t take it seriously will never take you seriously if you employ tactics you decry in others.
 
All of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of thought, dress, painting, morals, and vocabulary.
 
Oh, but you think the pressure to conform to society comes only from people who can’t see things your way? The new stereotyping is driving me mad, personally. It’s more rigid than ever through the machinations of people who purport to be freeing us from it all. For one example among several: we don’t need sixteen more labels than we had before. We just need people to stop narrowly defining the ones we already have. That includes both you and the people you think are wrong. History and anthropology would teach you that a few other cultures worked this out a long time ago, if you’d take the time to learn some of it.
 
The demand for equality for everybody and the recognition that we are not all the same, but that’s really okay, will not be met as long as Smugness and Ignorance battle each other on top of messy straw heaps. “She did her work with the thoroughness of a mind which reveres details and never quite understands them.”
 
And that’s all I have to say about that except here's something personal. I have a neighbor with a 40 foot flag pole atop of which waves a fading American flag. He never lowers it, but never mind about that for now. Beneath it for months last year waved a big black Trump flag. I shuddered every time I went outside.
 
He also had a beautiful maple tree in the front corner of his lawn, which he maintains to a heightened perfection the likes of which only a Toro ad man could conceive of, and earlier this summer during a storm, a limb broke off that tree and it was cut up and removed. A week later, the entire tree was gone. I was so sad, wondering whether euthanization was truly necessary or if he just couldn’t bear the imperfection of it.
 
Or maybe he just liked the excuse that he wouldn’t have to vacuum leaves as often. I don’t know. I haven’t asked him.
 
He’s got a whole life story, you know. He isn’t just a Trumper, and we are all made up of much more than our individual parts can ever suggest. Maybe his ideas about society are all rotten, but he always waves if we’re both out getting the mail at the same time, so he’s also a person, like I am, who likes to acknowledge other persons around him, and maybe someday we’ll exchange something more than pretty politenesses. These days, a black POW/MIA flag that we used to see pretty commonly sits beneath the weather-worn American flag. 
 
This final quotation is from Walt Kelly instead of Sinclair Lewis. I can imagine my neighbor, as a young man back from performing his Service to Our Country, reading Pogo and wondering how to get back to the halcyon world of his childhood.
 
Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly…Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.

To Tell the Truth

This morning on To Tell the Truth, we saw the first woman to sail alone across the Atlantic, ten years earlier. I have a pretty good batting average for choosing the correct one as they walk onto the stage combined with their reaction as the votes are shared. But the reasons the panel choose who they think is the true person vary from great sense to nonsense. Today, Peggy Cass chose the same one as me, but her reason was that the lady was so incredulous at all their questions, she must think they’re boobs. And she was the right one. I picked her because she looked like she’d spent time in wind. Also, she wore a black dress and pearls. The others were trying to look like tough women don’t bother.

ANYWAY. I had this little scenario going in my head during which a small gaggle of 14 year-olds were watching this show together at a sleepover, during a school break, perhaps, and talking about which panel member was dreamy. First, of course, none of them were what you'd think a 14 year-old would find “dreamy.” But girls will be as they are. A girl begins by gushing a little about Bud Collyer, because he highly resembles her Algebra teacher, Mr. Sullivan. The other two squeal and rock back with laughter. He’s so old! But Linda says, “No, not really so old. I’m sure he’s younger than Dad…” And the other two laugh some more. Bud
Pat says, “Well, that’s much too old for you, Linda. Besides, Johnny Carson is much more…” I should find a word that girls might use in 1962…they spoke so strangely back then, didn’t they? “…much more handsome, although ancient.”

Sharon jumps up and says, “You don’t think he’s ancient, you want to kissss him!” She grabs a cushion off the sofa and hugs it to her face, twisting around and making smooch noises.

Linda grabs another cushion and jumps around with it, saying, “Oh, Johnny, you’re so gorgeous!”

Sharon laughs and says, “She calls him Johhhhnn!”

Linda drops to the floor hugging her cushion and says, “Johhhhnnn, darling!” Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 9.21.27 AM
Pat looks disgusted and says urgently, “Be quiet, you two! I don’t want Bobby coming in here and pestering us!” Bobby, of course, being Patricia’s 12 year-old brother. I suppose he ends up face down in a jungle swamp in a few years. Or maybe he gives up his lifelong interest in aviation engineering to study finance and gets to stay at college until well after his number comes up. But that’s another story. 

The girls squeal and scurry to replace the cushions and sit back down, and Pat says, “If you dare mention that name at school, Linda, I will tell every single girl we know that you dream about kissing Bud Collyer!”

Linda replies indignantly, “I never said I want to kiss him! He just reminds me of Mr. Sullivan…” She stops, realizing what she’s said.

“You want to kiss Mr. Sullivan!” Sharon yells gleefully.

“Shhh,” Linda and Pat both say, “Be quiet!”

Sharon says, “Okay, okay, besides, I’ve Got a Secret is next, and Kim Novak will be on it tonight. I want to see what she’s wearing.” Her cheeks are a little pink, worrying if that sounds casual enough to the other girls, but they don’t notice.


Domestic Doings, W songs, and a bit of eccentric serendipity

It all started because we were out of cat food, and also Kroger had a huge bakery surplus yesterday, heavily marked down. But I mean, I didn’t know we were out of cat food while at the store. I just got the bread, and some other things.

There was a sliced sourdough loaf and a package of brioche buns. And I got them out to ponder this morning, when the cat started meoling at me. I realized she had no food, so I pulled out leftover roast chicken from a few days ago, and managed to get some dark meat from it. The dark meat has taurine in it, which cats need. And so I decided to make stock from the remainder of the chicken, and put it in the stock pot, but as I was pulling out celery, carrots, and half an unpeeled onion from the refrigerator, it occurred to me I hadn’t cleaned in there since the beginning of the year! It was not a good situation, because that is wrong. You can’t treat a refrigerator like a clothes closet you throw things into when you’re feeling lazy or out of sorts instead of hanging them up. So I put the stock to boil and began emptying the refrigerator. Soupstock
And while I was doing all this, I put the iPod in my little kitchen stereo and started with Anya Marina’s “Waters of March,” which is the best version of that song, though they are all great, because it is the best song. I was really busy cleaning, so it just kept playing through W songs and I thought, well, that’s fine. I will have W song day. Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 10.26.53 PM
I got to thinking about how, eighteen months ago, my grocery budget was more than I needed, and things are now dwindling fast, but condiments last so long, even if the pantry gets low, I will still have five different kinds of mustard in the refrigerator. Life is odd that way. Refrigerator
Because of a miscommunication, we have more eggs than anybody maybe ought to have, so I thought I’d use some in bread pudding with the brioche buns. Then I remembered I forgot to add a chicken neck to the pot, so I got one from the freezer. My freezer door has a bottle of gin and several chicken necks in it. Life is also like that, if you are me.

Speaking of which. My friend Karen recently ordered a whole bunch of old Playboys for me, from what I figure is their peak period, the mid 60s right before Penthouse started up and changed things. They have come so far in three packages, and today’s had several from 1963. I stopped to flip through one and saw there was a review for the movie Mondo Cane. I decided to set it aside and remember to read that later, because I had to take someone to work. Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 10.43.10 PM
When I returned, I ate a sandwich while watching The Joey Bishop Show, as one does, and lo and behold, there was Andy Williams singing “More!”



That song is from Mondo Cane. A neat bit of serendipity. And I must say, though I like Darin’s version best, and not so much Sinatra's, Williams did it exactly like I imagine it was written. But then of course, he would, wouldn’t he? Here, if you're interested, from a concert.

The second episode of the show for today featured fun talent show-type performances from several members of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Here's some of that.


Now I have a clean organized refrigerator, and lots of soup stock, and not any bread pudding yet, but that’s all right. If you are working with a strict kitchen limit, it’s important to stay organized and keep track of your inventory. You have more scope for creativity that way, and also it’s depressing and overwhelming to deal with chaos on top of budgetary concerns. No one needs that. You might get home from taking a second someone to work and discover the dog got out without his collar on, and when you get home from finding him, the last thing you want is to have to weed through Ziploc bags and old sour cream containers in order to find your dinner ingredients. Something to bear in mind.

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 10.43.19 PM


Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song

“You’ve told that story before.”

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t sure he’d heard it.”

“Well, you bring it up and I think somehow it must still bother you.”

“To be sadly honest, it’s probably just me getting older and forgetting.”

“But there must be something lingering or you wouldn’t think about it.”

“I never do think about it. Something I see like this cartoon will trigger the memory, and since the cartoon is so similar to the joke he told which started the whole thing, it reminded me. That’s all. I’ll remember not to retell it aloud anymore.”


How to tell a person who is much younger and still inclined to heightened emotional perception that quite a lot of what you think about is just triggered by keywords or pictures, linking themselves to the past like a phrase someone says which reminds you of an old song? Because each link is a little different, you don’t always realize before speaking that it is merely the same non-fascinating story to someone else. And that is, I suppose, why some older people bore some younger ones so often. We still make new stories, new memories, but we relive many of the old ones as our brain works to keep everything fully accessible and operational by alerting us to parallel situations. It's strengthening pathways, keeping us on top of things. Cufflink
It’s unlikely I’ll repeat that tiny tale again, but it is a certainty I will repeat others.

I never had the luxury of learning to be patient with my parents as they aged. My mother did not age much past where I am now. And I moved far, far away from my father, so I didn’t see the developing process. I saw the conclusion of it, and regretted the loss of all that space between. The Dad-shaped hole in my life isn’t because of his death, but because of the fifteen previous years we were apart. Pocketwatch
I am not sure my kids will see the aging process in me as something enriching for their own lives. That worries me a little. But everyone forges their own path as they can. I am preparing now to understand impatience I might face, but I also expect to not be treated like a child, or a fool. My thoughts are already a little slower sometimes, but they are also a whole lot deeper. Not deeper like discussing Kant and Heidegger. Deeper like soup that simmered for a good long time and has developed layers of flavor, nuanced richness, satisfying comfort. I hope I get to simmer for many more years, because there’s still a lot to take in and to share. Pocket