1 June 2004
General Lee speaking
This Caren Lissner story can't possibly be excerpted, so:
The other day, I took a walking tour of Dorothy Parker's old haunts, and afterwards there was a small lunch at the Algonquin. Some people were talking about Dorothy's friends hanging out in speakeasies, and several people said that Prohibition was the dumbest thing ever.
"That's how the mob made their money," one woman said.
You know what? The other 11 were just damn culturally illiterate.
Now if we could just remind the politically illiterate that Prohibition was the dumbest thing ever.
Presumably less than Hung
Those poor deluded people! I am unsure if they are in on the joke or they were deprived of oxygen in their mother's womb. It was wrong to sit and laugh at these quite possibly simple-minded singers but I found that I couldn't take my eyes off the tube! It held me in an evil grip! Thankfully I do not have a tv that gets reception in my house so I will not be tempted to watch this horrible show again. Of course, I may just find myself at my parent's house for the finale, but that would be purely coincidence.
Inasmuch as I've never been impressed by anyone I've seen on American Idol, not even William Hung, I rather doubt I'll be paying much attention to this batch of sub-karaoke warblers, and I thank Donna for doing the dirty work for me.
Just the artifacts, ma'am
Before Freddie cuts in he does that constantly, you know here's the chorus:
Johnny get angry, Johnny get mad,
Give me the biggest lecture I ever had,
I want a brave man, I want a cave man,
Johnny, show me that you care, really care for me.
Hard to imagine that Hal David, wordsmith for such eloquent songs as "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" and "Don't Make Me Over," would ever have come up with something like that, but hey, it was 1962, and you can't do everything with Burt Bacharach at your side. And besides, Sherman Edwards' melody is perfectly tailored to a (presumably) teenage singer to whom angst is more important than range.
Joanie Sommers (née Joan Drost) was actually twenty, but no matter: she had Sweet Sixteen all over her lovely face. I know this because right in front of me, I've got a copy of the original sheet music for "Johnny Get Angry," published by Tod Music, Inc., and the reason I have this is because Dawn Eden, who has a smile even bigger than Joanie's, was kind enough to send it along as part of her effort to reduce her volume of pop ephemera from "Crushing" to "Overwhelming."
Thanks, Dawn. If I never seem to wish that I were dead anymore, it's at least partially because of you.
For your eyes only
Somehow this just struck me as hilarious. The Bare Buns Family Nudist Club in northern Virginia has a collection of Frequently Asked Questions, and most of them are pretty much like the questions asked of other clothing-optional operations.
Except for this one:
Question: I have a government security clearance. Will I risk losing it by attending your parties?
Our membership includes people who work for the FBI, the CIA, Secret Service, and the Pentagon. Although some generally poorly informed people consider our activites controversial, the things we do are legal and wholesome, and the government's security people know that. The only way you could become a security risk through your participation in nudist activities is if you are so overly secretive that you think that you must at all costs prevent your parents, your employer, or someone else from finding out, which might make you subject to blackmail.
This doesn't mean that you must tell your family, friends, co-workers or your pastor that you've visited a nudist club, but that it would be OK if they were to somehow learn about your new interest.
When securing or renewing their security clearances, some people list the officials of our club as character references; the people who are investigating them seldom bat an eye when we confirm their participation in wholesome, family clothes-free activities.
I can't wait for this to come up in a Congressional hearing. "Yes, Senator, I did remove all my clothing, at an undisclosed location."
2 June 2004
Tanks a lot
One of the signon screens at AOL last night screamed GAS PRICES AT RECORD HIGHS. Of course, if you apply an inflation adjustment, it would take prices around $3 a gallon to qualify for the "record," but even apart from that matter of economics and/or semantics, the price at the pump has dropped five or six cents here on the Lone Prairie; prices as low as $1.72 have been sighted around town. (Independent reports can be found here.)
This doesn't mean the worst is over by any means, but the AOL report does suggest that Big Media is more interested in scaring up a story by scaring its customers which, these days, scarcely qualifies as news.
Standards of vagueness
"Dangerously vague," said Judge Phyllis Hamilton when she ruled that last year's "partial-birth" abortion ban is unconstitutional.
True Blue Gal Deb reprints the pertinent legal language, and wants to know what's so vague about it. And Judge Hamilton also objected to the absence of an exception to save the health of the mother. Saving her life, of course, is covered in the first paragraph, but I suppose it's necessary to protect her self-esteem and her emotional stability as well.
I fail to see how anyone, with the possible exception of Scott Peterson, benefits from this ruling.
On the upswing
[I]s life better for you now than it was five years ago, and do you credit the government at all?
2. There are two ways in which the government has contributed to improving my existence: tax policies that put a few extra coins in my pocket, and foreign policies that put the interests of this country above the interests of the soi-disant "international community."
"How very strange," muttered Simon and/or Garfunkel, "to be seventy."
They'll get there fast enough. Meanwhile, Dear Old Dad goes ten percent beyond, turning seventy-seven today, and while it would be starry-eyed in the extreme to say he's in the best of health, he doesn't seem to be deteriorating much, either.
Still, I worry. Emphysema has turned his lungs into a wasteland, and he's tethered to an oxygen source. He can walk fairly well, sometimes better than I can, but he can't walk very much, simply because that plastic lifeline will only go so far. And while he wasn't a traveling sort of fellow maybe all those years in the service took the Wanderlust out of him it's hard for me to accept the fact that he'll likely spend the rest of his life in those same three or four rooms.
What matters, though, is that there is a "rest of his life"; with Mom gone twenty-seven years now, and the surviving children spread across town, he's the unmistakable center of the family, and were it up to me, he'd stay there as long as possible.
And he has one secret weapon: the woman he married after a decent interval of widowerhood, who is still by his side and always will be. I pretend to chafe at having a stepmother my own age, but I have no doubt that without her, he'd never have lasted this long.
To both of them, I raise my glass, and towards the sky, I raise my hopes.
In Oklahoma parlance, an Eighty-Niner is someone who was actually on hand for the Land Run on 22 April 1889, which resulted in the founding of Oklahoma City. More recently, the name was applied to the city's minor-league baseball club, which is now known as the RedHawks.
3 June 2004
That's how this business goes
Once again, you know the words:
I am the morning DJ at WOLD
Playing all the hits for you, wherever you may be
The bright good-morning voice who's heard but never seen
Feeling all of 45, going on 15
Actually, Harry Chapin placed this station in Boise, Idaho, where stations whose call letters start with W are conspicuous by their absence, but no matter: the real WOLD, a daytimer in Marion, Virginia on 1330 kHz, has, according to 100000watts.com, gone silent pending a sale.
WOLD-FM (102.5 MHz) continues.
Gladly, the cross-eyed bear
For its first three-quarters of a century, the City of Oklahoma City managed to get by without an official seal. In 1965, Mayor George Shirk announced a competition to design a city seal; this is the prize winner, designed by Larry Thompson, who got $500 (a fair chunk of change in '65) for his efforts.
Listening to everything
"Partly cloudy," said the Weather Guys, and so it was, but I figured enough stray rays were filtering into my back yard to justify grabbing a few, and so I did.
Away from the street, it's fairly quiet; the first noise I heard was the sound of a dozen birds taking off once they heard the back door opening. Well, fine, be that way, I thought; normally they tend to sit there and stare, or if they sense that yard work is about to be performed, they wait for some fresh surfaces to explore, but generally they don't split all at once.
In the absence of flapping wings their chirping session usually ends around sunrise I tuned into some of the other noises around: the high-pitched buzz of the resident insects, the wind (down around 8 mph, which is way low for here) rustling the leaves above me, air conditioners cycling on and off, and the occasional passing vehicle with the stereo turned up to a Spinal Tap-like eleven.
Then there was that loud crashing noise from a house on the next block, which definitely broke the mood of the moment and left me wondering if maybe I'd stayed out just a few seconds too long. Nothing at least, nothing on this side of the fence lasts forever.
Dude, where's my bicycle?
And to commemorate this august (though it be June) moment, a list of his criteria for moviegoing:
Generally, I'll watch anything that has any or all of the following: 1. Inventive use of profanity; 2. Laughable nudity; 3. Art chicks in emo glasses who think they're on a higher plain intellectually than the pathetic people around them.
Somehow I suspect his DVD shelf has far more diversity than mine.
4 June 2004
Politicians do love to count jobs, and it's always amusing to see their counts come back and bite them.
Senate candidate Kirk Humphreys has been boasting that 54,000 jobs were created in Oklahoma City during his stint as mayor; his press secretary has since conceded that this figure is inaccurate.
The correct number, says Rick Buchanan, is 38,000.
The correct number, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 16,332; if you add in the entire metropolitan area, you can get to 38,000, but it's unclear to me how Humphreys, as mayor of Oklahoma City, contributed a great deal to job growth in Shawnee or Norman.
Things I learned today (2)
Every day is a learning experience, or ought to be, and here's what I'm finding out:
No other description needed:
5 June 2004
Well, somebody's getting a break at the pumps: the price in Iraq is running around five cents a gallon for the cheap stuff these days.
Iraq being short of refinery capacity at the moment, the US government is buying gas in the region at around a buck-fifty and delivering it to filling stations at further expense. I assume they figure they'll make up the difference in volume.
From CaribPundit comes this story of a movement in Guyana to raise the age of consent, currently twelve, following the attempt of a 37-year-old businessman to marry a 13-year-old girl over the objections of her mother.
This hit me harder than I thought it would, and I know why. About ten years ago, I had a pen pal of 14 or so; we were both fans of Roundhouse, a comedy-plus-music series that aired on Nickelodeon for three years. I still have a photo of her somewhere. But it would never have occurred to me to visit her, let alone try to lure her into the sack. (The show was eventually cancelled, we fell out of touch, and surely she's forgotten me by now.)
This is undoubtedly related to the vaguely-creepy feeling I get these days from the Playmate of the Month, who almost always proves to be younger than either of my children. Maybe I'd feel differently if I'd been brought up in Guyana, but I doubt it.
I'm whipping down the Lake Hefner Parkway at the speed that was legal half a mile ago fercryingoutloud, and the Blossoms, Darlene Love and all, pop up on the speakers with the 1961 semi-hit "Son-In-Law," a smart-alecky response to Ernie K-Doe's enormous hit "Mother-In-Law," which goes something like this:
He's gone all night and he's got no job
Don't comb his hair, he's such a slob
You can find him on the corner with the rest of the mob
My no-good son-in-law
Exactly the person, in other words, who might muse, "If she would leave, that would be the solution." "Son-In-Law" stalled at #79 in Billboard, which is actually pretty good for an example of that now-forgotten genre, the answer record, the song that takes note of the plaintiff's top-charting plea and details the case for the defense.
Most of the time, it's obvious what's being answered, as it is with Wendy Hill's "Gary, Please Don't Sell My Diamond Ring." Seldom did answer records chart very high, though Jeanne Black's "He'll Have to Stay," which refutes Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go," made #4.
But for the greatest answer record of them all, we have to reorient ourselves toward early-Fifties country music, and a fellow named Hank Thompson, who besides selling sixty million-odd records, starred in the first-ever TV variety show in color (live from Oklahoma City, even) and recorded the first-ever country live album (At the Golden Nugget, 1961).
Thompson's signature song, a tremendous hit in 1952, was "The Wild Side of Life." He didn't write it Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters put it out a couple years earlier but Thompson made it his own. It contained this chorus:
I didn't know God made honky tonk angels
I might have known you'd never make a wife
You gave up the only one that ever loved you
And went back to the wild side of life
Songwriter J. D. Miller saw an opening here, and Kitty Wells was coaxed out of semi-retirement to hurl Hank Thompson's words back at him:
It wasn't God who made honky tonk angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong
A situation that has changed little in half a century, I might add. "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" sold a million, a first for a female country artist, and a rare example (well, rare before Loretta Lynn) of a woman in Nashville actually talking back. And just to make a point, Kitty followed it with an answer to Webb Pierce's "Back Street Affair."
The answer record has largely been supplanted over the years by the tribute recording, often overlaid with entirely too much attempted irony: see Dread Zeppelin, or Rolf Harris' attempt to tie down "Stairway to Heaven." Which means we probably won't hear a 21st-century equivalent of, say, Jon E. Holliday's "Yes, I Will Love You Tomorrow," which isn't the least bit amusing, or the Romeos' "The Tiger's Wide Awake," which is.
(Note: There were a couple of MP3s linked here; they were taken down after 36 hours to avoid the wrath of the Recording Industry Association of America, which objects strenuously to this sort of thing, even when the recordings are not available commercially and likely never will be.)
A moment of silence
On the marquee at La Baguette, a French restaurant a couple miles from me:
6 JUIN 1944
They didn't need to say anything else.
6 June 2004
Wrapping up MAPS
After ten years, the Metropolitan Area Projects Citizens Oversight Board is ready to close the books. The once-fractious board voted to put itself out to pasture this week.
MAPS itself was remarkable: a single, massive upgrade of public facilities, financed by a one-cent sales tax for 5½ years. When MAPS was put to the voters in 1993, the city suggested that the projects would spur some $150 million in private investment; during the period the tax was collected, revenues and accrued interest totaled over $350 million, and the private sector so far has kicked in around $1.5 billion. In a city previously considered somewhere between sleepy and moribund, this is a turnaround on par with the '69 Mets.
One worry I had was that things were going to cost even more than the city had projected and the entire scheme was going to wind up in the hole. The final financial report shows about $450,000 still in the kitty, which will be devoted to project upkeep. And that penny sales tax expired in 1999; voters were sufficiently impressed with the results it got to reinstate it in 2001 for "MAPS for Kids", a scheme to upgrade public school facilities in the city, which is projected to cost some $620 million, 70 percent of which will go to schools within the Oklahoma City school district and the balance to schools in suburban districts which serve outlying parts of the city.
I could be cynical and ask what they're going to do in 2008 when the MAPS for Kids tax expires surely they'll think of something, right? but for now, I'm waiting to see whether the improvement in facilities is enough to jump-start the process of improving the quality of education.
Welcome to Life. Here's your eraser.
I know this feeling well, some of it, anyway all too well:
I'd like to remove the entries that refer to men I've dated to take away nearly every one of them, in fact. It's hard to look at the photos of me happy on the arm of someone special and think about how much I miss that feeling. But I can't do it at least, not now, when I'm not dating anyone. It's too much like tearing pages out of a diary. More than that, it feels dishonest, even Communist like rewriting the history books.
There are no entries here which deal with women I've dated, because there are no such women, at least since this site opened in 1996. But there are plenty of items which for one reason or another make me cringe: really badly-argued premises, bathetic whining, desperate attempts at bandwagon-jumping. Were I anxious to make a good impression, I'd scythe away the lot of them.
But I don't. I can't. For better or for worse, this is the document of my existence, the one reference work by which I measure what progress (if any) I have made, and stripping it of things which might embarrass me will inevitably reduce its usefulness in conducting those measurements. Of more than three thousand pages that have accumulated on this site over eight years, I have deleted a total of four, and those four not only had essentially no redeeming social value whatever but could have made life difficult for other people as well.
And if by some fluke I do actually date someone, I'll post about it. Just don't hold your breath waiting.
And now they're hooked
Joanne Jacobs points to this story in The New York Times Magazine which details the semi-detached suburban sexual encounters of contemporary teenagers, and there's something vaguely, maybe not so vaguely, impersonal about the entire process:
[I]f you want it to be a hookup relationship, then you don't call the person for anything except plans to hook up. You don't invite them out with you. You don't call just to say hi. You don't confuse the matter. You just keep it purely sexual, and that way people don't have mixed expectations, and no one gets hurt.
I rather think Dawn Eden might disagree with that last bit.
And Dr. Drew Pinsky, he who hosts the "Loveline" show, sees a downside, particularly for girls:
'It's all bravado. Teens are unwittingly swept up in the social mores of the moment, and it's certainly not some alternative they're choosing to keep from getting hurt emotionally. The fact is, girls don't enjoy hookups nearly as much as boys, no matter what they say at the time. They're only doing it because that's what the boys want.''
And what the boys wanted, when I was growing up, could be graphed on a baseball diamond. No more:
''We need to establish an international base system,'' Brian said. ''Because right now, frankly, no one knows what's up with the bases. And that's a problem.''
Jesse nodded in agreement. ''First base is obviously kissing,'' Brian said.
''Obviously,'' Jesse said.
''But here's the twist,'' Brian said. ''Historically, second base was breasts. But I don't think second base is breasts anymore. I think that's just a given part of first base. I mean, how can you make out without copping a feel?''
''True,'' Jesse said. ''And if third base is oral, what's second base?''
''How does this work for girls?'' asked Ashley, the 17-year-old junior. ''I mean, are the bases what's been done to you, or what you've done?''
''If it's what base you've gone to with a girl, you go by whoever had more done,'' Jesse told her.
''But we're girls,'' Ashley said. ''So we've got on bases with guys?''
''Right, but it doesn't matter,'' Jesse said. ''It's not what base you've had done to you, it's what bases you get to.''
Kate shook her head. ''I'm totally lost.''
''See how complicated this is?'' Brian said. ''Now if someone asks you, 'So, how far did you get with her?' you have to say, 'Well, how do your bases go?' ''
7 June 2004
As the fish drown
AmeriDebt, a credit-counseling operation which ran massive advertising campaigns before running afoul of the Federal Trade Commission, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The firm, which stopped acquiring new customers last fall, is continuing to serve its existing customer base; at least five states have filed suit against them, charging that AmeriDebt misrepresented its services.
In the maw of the machine
I knew I was in trouble when I managed to miss completely the third page of disclosures and whatever on the clipboard.
But I put that out of my mind, shed everything metallic, and was duly crammed into the business end of this gargantuan contraption that, had it been colored something other than Industrial Beige, would have fit nicely into an episode of Looney Tunes with music by Raymond Scott.
At first, I shrugged it off. They handed me a pair of headphones, and tuned me into the local classical station, and the processing began.
It did not help that the radio station took this opportunity to introduce us to a Dutch composer about my age who apparently operated under the assumption that the real problem with Schönberg was that he was too goddamn melodic. And I'm lying here on too narrow a slab yeah, yeah, I know trying desperately not to twitch while my synapses are playing a suite from Herrmann's score for Psycho.
The station switched to Mozart, and it didn't help. By now my pulse was in triple digits, and I would have been sweating profusely had not every drop of liquid in my body, with the exception of the quart that had mysteriously backed up in the bladder, been diverted to relieving a mouth dry as the Mojave. Four or five or a hundred and twenty passes who knew? and I was literally screaming yet somehow still inaudible: "GET ME OUT OF THIS THING!"
In 1985, a petroleum tanker drove over the top of my car. By comparison, I took that calmly.
They say that fear eats the soul. I'd be really surprised if there's enough left for a snack.
Thank you for calling City Futilities
About 3,000 Oklahoma City utility customers got an unpleasant surprise this month in their water/sewer/garbage bills: $581.84 listed as "Balance In Dispute." I got the impression, talking to the harried but sort-of-smiling clerk, that 2,900 or so of them had called in today to complain.
She did say that it was safe to ignore it, but if I went ahead and paid it, they wouldn't complain a whole lot. I suppose they wouldn't, inasmuch as $581.84 (it's the same amount on all the affected bills) is about a year's worth of service at this address.
(Update, 8 June, 4:50 pm: The City is now claiming 10,000 bills were so affected.)
8 June 2004
The Cornerstone Baptist Church in Stafford, Virginia lacks something you'd think might be essential to a congregation of this denomination: a proper baptismal pool. Previously, they had been borrowing the facilities of other churches in the area. But Rev. Todd Pyle, ever-resourceful, hit upon a solution, and one with Biblical antecedent at that: hold baptisms in the Rappahannock River, at the Falmouth Waterfront Park.
Officials at the park were less than delighted, and tried to break up the ceremony, claiming it might be offensive to others using the park.
Perhaps surprised by the level of outrage their action generated including objections from the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute and the state branch of the ACLU [link is to a Microsoft Word document] park officials promised to reevaluate their policies. Meanwhile, Rev. Pyle is looking for another place to conduct the ceremony.
(Via Tongue Tied)
Whole lotta shakin' goin' on
Okay, maybe not that much. But Oklahoma is riven with fault lines, and they vibrate fairly frequently; yesterday, an hour and a half before sunset, a 3.0 temblor (temblette?) rumbled its way through Ardmore.
The most earth-shattering quake ever recorded in Oklahoma struck El Reno in 1952.
Where will we put all these people?
Apparently the question of whether Oklahoma City has enough downtown hotel rooms has been settled: the Big 12 Conference announced today that the 2007 basketball tournaments will be held in OKC, the women's in the Cox Convention Center, the men's in the Ford Center.
The girl with the thorn in her side
You can make all the arguments you want about supporting anti-Bush or anti-America musicians and artists monetarily. I don't care. I prefer to live life enjoying those things that bring me pleasure, even if it means that Morrissey or the Beastie Boys or Johnny Depp gets a couple of bucks out of my paycheck. If I were to toss out every album and/or cd of every musician that behaves like a jerk or says stupendously stupid things, I'd be left with barely anything to listen to or watch.
Amen to that. Dixie Chicks, anyone?
(Update, 4:25 pm: More specificity in the opening.)
9 June 2004
Gone to pieces, bits and pieces
This started with retroCRUSH's 50 Coolest Song Parts survey, which is based on the perfectly reasonable notion that "sometimes there are pieces of songs that are cooler than the song itself." With a nod to Michele, who's already worked up a list, here are some of my favorite fragments. The criterion for inclusion is simple: does it make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, even now, however many years later? These do.
Feel free to contribute your own bits.
I learned to never judge Ronald Reagan, and to give leaders the benefit of being an active citizen who can differ with them but treat them with the respect both leaders and citizens deserve. As I've grown older, I've felt increasingly that he really has had no successors on the national scene that "Reaganism" had turned into another name for the kind of conservatism which conserves less and less and less every year. I hope that people make the benefit of his death a renewed sense of hope and openness and of idealism with open ears and a sense of the pragmatic and to look for those qualities in their candidates, whatever their politics may be.
This "no successors" idea explains much about occasional Republican efforts to engrave Ronald Reagan's name on every conceivable flat surface and his image on Mount Rushmore: there is, I've often suspected, an inchoate feeling within the GOP that while there are political victories still within reach, the party has already peaked, and in the absence of Reagan is destined for a slow but inexorable decline.
Of course, this notion ignores the prodigious capacity for self-destruction that exists in the Democratic party, and the fact that the Democrats don't have a Ronald Reagan either. (They did at one time, but they drove him away.)
Still, a "renewed sense of hope and openness" is what Ronald Reagan was all about, and if we can recapture some of that in the wake of his death, we all benefit.
Days of our lives
Not long before I discovered blogging, it occurred to me that future biographers will have a rough time. As much as all of our transactions are documented (somewhere), there isn't much by way of personality flavor. Writing about Moby Dick in college, I read through hundreds of pages of Melville's personal letters, and sometimes, buried in a laundry list, would be some indication of his personality.
I think blogs will more than answer that gap.
To some extent, yes. Unfortunately, I wasn't blogging in, say, 1960, and while I made a couple of fitful starts at a journal (don't you dare call it a "diary," even if it is) during the Sixties, nothing much remains; I am left to reconstruct those days from unreliable memory and unrelated ephemera.
It would be nice to have something like this.
As if to knock me down
No one seemed particularly anxious to accept my nonexplanation of why I wasn't dating, as affixed to this piece, and I can't say I'm especially surprised.
The fact is, whatever ideal I have kicking around in the back of my heart is ill-defined at best; I have a few desiderata that can be translated into words, but after so many years of vague, inchoate yearning, I don't think it's possible for me to be too specific about the object of my
On the other hand, some people know exactly what they're looking for.
10 June 2004
The weather station at Will Rogers World Airport reported more rain yesterday than during the entire month of May.
Admittedly, this May was drier than usual, but this is yet another example of the feast-or-famine nature of Oklahoma weather. And the punchline? Even with this deluge, we're still down about 3.5 inches for the year.
And come August, we'll be wondering where all the damn rain went. Count on it.
Going like ninety
It's the 90th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, this week hosted by Ambient Irony, and, well, it could be verse. Miss it at your peril.
Serenity wants you to know that just because she's a woman, it doesn't mean she has to, um, take things sitting down.
I am duly impressed, and, as she says, knowledge is power.
In 1956, the Maddox Brothers and sister Rose issued a single called "The Death of Rock and Roll." America's most colorful hillbilly band gone apocalyptic? Not necessarily. After a couple of false starts okay, half a dozen or so they get down to business, and it sounds like this:
Well, I've got a woman
Way over town
She's good to me
Not exactly the words of Ray Charles, a year and a half earlier, but it's the same song, and while the collective Maddox tongues were firmly in cheek, they perhaps sensed that their blend of bluegrass and boogie was becoming obsolete, and this was the very stuff that was going to displace it.
Not that "I Got a Woman" was all that auspicious in and of itself. A thinly-disguised rewrite of a gospel song ("There's a Man Goin' Round Takin' Names"), it topped the rhythm and blues chart, but Ray had already been to the Top Five with "It Should've Been Me," a Memphis Curtis number that hewed much more closely to R&B conventions. And the white segment of the nascent rock and roll audience wasn't quite ready for Ray and his rawness and his decidedly non-Pentecostal passion built on gospel chords; it wasn't until 1957 that he got a pop hit, and when he did, it was a reworking of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home," issued as "Swanee River Rock."
After seven years at Atlantic, Ray Charles moved to ABC-Paramount, which promised to leave him alone and to let him keep his own masters, both among the most unheard-of contract provisions anyone had ever heard of. His debut for ABC in 1960 was a remake of Titus Turner's "Sticks and Stones," but Ray had lots of surprises to spring on us. While he'd written most of his own material at Atlantic, from now on he would be looking for previously-recorded songs that he could make his own.
And considerations like musical genre were secondary at best. During 1961, for instance, Ray hit big with "Hit the Road Jack," aimed at the pop market, and "One Mint Julep," an example of big-band jazz cut for ABC's Impulse label. And in 1962, he moved into country music with the seminal Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music album. And while Ray didn't sound particularly country or at all Western Dave Marsh once asserted that Ray's version of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" was "no more country than The Rite of Spring" his claim to "modern" is indisputable.
The big hits petered out in the late Sixties, but Ray kept making music because, well, that's what he did. And he never, ever took himself too seriously; in the Eighties he did a series of ads for Pioneer's LaserDisc video system, pointing out that while he couldn't vouch for the picture quality, the sound was superb.
And now he's gone, his liver having given out after 73 years. His soul, in any sense of the word, is eternal.
11 June 2004
Getting mighty crowded
About one-quarter of the Oklahoma House will have to be replaced this year because of term limits, including Robert Worthen, who has represented District 87, where I live these days.
During the three-day filing period this week, no fewer than seven people filed to run for District 87; only District 19, in the northeast part of the state, drew more.
One of the four Republicans vying for the seat is Young Republicans official Trebor Worthen, who is Robert Worthen's son, and whose first name is "Robert" spelled backwards. Another is Tina Majors, who ran second in the GOP primary in 2002 for Senate District 40. Then there's Reece Kepler, who scores for Best Domain Name: RememberReece.com. I know nothing at all about Karen Khoury.
On the Democratic side, there's David B. Hooten, who may or may not be this David B. Hooten; Steve Harry, who won the Senate District 40 primary in 2002, losing to Cliff Branan in the election; and John Morgan, who owns a small business and who lives around the corner from me.
There's no Senate race here Cliff Branan's term runs through 2006 so I get to fixate on a House race this time. The primary will be 27 July (right after World Tour '04), with runoffs if needed on 24 August. So far, the only candidate I've met is John Morgan, who, as noted, lives around the corner from me.
I was in a 49th-birthday funk fortunately, it's impossible to do that more than once when I came up with this bit of projection:
Some day, more likely some night, that "finite number of breaths" will be reached, everything will come to an end, and no one will know until two or three days later because some mundane task wasn't performed on time, some phone call wasn't returned, or, most absurdly, because this goddamn Web site wasn't updated.
The decomposed body of a man dressed in pajamas was discovered in an abandoned Tokyo apartment building 20 years after he is believed to have died, police said Thursday.
A Tokyo Metropolitan Police official said construction workers were preparing to tear down the building earlier this month when they found the man's skeletal remains laying face-up on a mattress on the tatami reed mat floor of a second-floor room.
Lachlan says that in a town the size of Tokyo, this isn't all that surprising, but:
[T]here is something ineffably sad about a man dying alone.
How much pain did he endure? Did he die in his sleep? Impossible to know, of course. Still, I cannot escape the image of a man in his final moments, in an abandoned building, with no one there. I can only hope he wanted it this way, and that his isolation was a chosen path.
At least I can reasonably expect my absence to be noted within the first week.
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Erica is baffled again:
I don't know what the hell kind of dream I was just having, but whatever it was made me think I could relieve some intestinal gas by deleting trackbacks.
Under the circumstances, the least I can do for her is send her one for testing purposes.
The divine giggle
"Does God have a sense of humor?" asks Abigail at Lazy Reflections.
First thought out of my head was "Have you ever seen a platypus? Exhibit A."
But that really doesn't answer her question, nor is it particularly kind to the platypus. (I mean, if I need to see an ungainly creature which seems to be assembled from random parts, I need only pass by a mirror.)
And I think really she's already answered her own question, since she admits to being a fan of P. G. Wodehouse, who, in her words, "uses Biblical imagery in such a way as to make it humorous without a hint of mockery."
I'd also point her to this observation by Dawn Eden:
I realize that life is a joke and I'm in on it.
So much of Christianity is about paradoxes Jesus' saying, "Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it," or God's telling Paul, "My strength is made perfect in weakness." There's a cosmic absurdity to being an immaterial soul in a material body, a Spirit-driven creature in a flesh-driven world.
In the twenty-first century, when rapid-fire gags constitute most of what's considered "humor," this notion may seem almost quaint. Still, if you love paradoxes as much as I do, and I really, truly hate them sometimes, it makes perfect sense.
One last bit: Car and Driver once got a letter from a subscriber perhaps, now that I think about it, a former subscriber complaining that the magazine's studied irreverence had gone entirely too far this time. The aggrieved correspondent signed off with: "My God will not be mocked."
The editorial reply: "We wouldn't dream of mocking God. But we'll be damned if He can't take a joke."
Which, I think, pretty much says it all.
12 June 2004
To bang the Drum all day
Two classic films will be screened during this year's deadCenter Film Festival: Sir Carol Reed's The Third Man and Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum. But Festival buzz is all about the one premiere on the schedule: Banned in Oklahoma, a documentary by Gary D. Rhodes about what happened when some censorious doofus got it into his head that The Tin Drum was obscene and managed to stir up a thoroughly embarrassing cause célèbre that gave Oklahoma City a cultural black eye and a bill for half a million dollars in legal judgments for following the lead of said doofus.
An abridged version of Rhodes' documentary can be had in the Criterion Collection DVD edition of The Tin Drum, but this is the first appearance anywhere of the full 54-minute film.
Received wisdom (one in a series)
Bruce works in retail, which gives this observation additional resonance:
"Why do you want what you want?"
The answer to that question should never be "I don't know".
I almost always have an explanation for any purchase I make, although sometimes it's as lame as "It made me feel better."
And I wonder if I'd make more such purchases if I had more discretionary income.
Apparently my haphazard attempts at lawn care are at least slightly appreciated; a neighbor informed me that the yard "looks nice," which is far more kindly an evaluation than I'd give to it.
(Mental note: There is a GFCI-type circuit breaker installed in each of the outside electrical outlet