Friday, October 29, 2010

Melanie Safka on songs

"'Brand New Key' I wrote in about fifteen minutes one night. I thought it was cute; a kind of old thirties' tune. I guess a key and a lock have always been Freudian symbols, and pretty obvious ones at that. There was no deep serious expression behind the song, but people read things into it. They made up incredible stories as to what the lyrics said and what the song meant. In some places, it was even banned from the radio. My idea about songs is that once you write them, you have very little say in their life afterward. It's a lot like having a baby. You conceive a song, deliver it, and then give it as good a start as you can. After that, it's on its own. People will take it any way they want to take it."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More bridges

Bobbie Gentry crossing the famous, now defunct, "Tallahatchie Bridge" near Money, Miss.


Reading "A Distant Mirror"...

It seems like if there is one word to summarize the 14th century it would be "despair". The Black Death, a mini Ice Age, the devastation of the Hundred Year War. One thing that is especially relevant to today's world was the rising recognition of the hypocrisy, especially in the failures of the mechanisms of society to deal with these crises, that ultimately made Europe transition out of the Middle Ages into the religious Reformation and cultural Renaissance.

The hypocrisy was present everywhere. In the Church, where despite preaching poverty and chastity, the corruption was rampant. In secular society, where despite the notions of chivalry and feudal responsibility, the knights and nobility debauched themselves at the expense of the peasants, consistently failing to live up to their responsibilities of protecting them. Once again, the parallels to today's world are scary. Perhaps, just as the crises of the Middle Ages finally precipitated a radical social change, the same will happen today.

Driving in through the beastly traffic this morning, I had the opportunity to avail myself of the barrage of attack ads on the radio - elections are just a few days away. Sometimes I wonder if others recognize all this blather for the bullshit that it is, and just cynically wade through the muck or whether people truly are swayed by this rubbish. All these ads sponsored by "Americans against Food Taxes" and other populist sounding organizations, when in reality they are just fronts for big corporate interests. I am beginning to sound like a conspiracy theorist - but I really am beginning to suspect that those guys are onto something...

Having left the Soviet Union as a kid, I didn't experience first hand the Communist propaganda machine, but nonetheless it left an indelible mark on my psyche. The homo sovieticus learned that anything that was said by official mouthpieces was a lie, and in fact the opposite was true. You had to be an idiot not to realize that. Is the same true in this country as well? The only difference being that instead of the Party, the message is controlled by a bunch of corporate oligarchs?

Oliver Stone, where are you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sur le pont d'Avignon

Reading Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror"...

The Papal Palace @ Avignon

E-Kvetcher vs the Wu Tang

I wore my old Wu-Tang Clan t-shirt out on Sunday and had three people stop me and tell me they liked my shirt. Who would have thunk?

PS - My wife pointed out that none of them were women.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Way We Never Were

Reading an interesting book by Stephanie Coontz analyzing the myth of the perfect American family of the past.

One of the things she talks about is the rise of the Liberal European idea of personal freedom that came around the time of the Enlightenment. This was a reaction to the oppression of the monarchy and it defined the notion of individual freedom. However, while it defined the rights of the individual, it didn't really address the social and political obligations of living in a society.

This is something I've always recognized, but she articulates it really well, and she supports with a lot of supporting quotes and stories.

One thing that is interesting is that she brings up gift giving. A gift is an important social construct because it places an obligation on the person receiving the gift. In our society, people feel very uncomfortable if someone gives them a gift and they did not reciprocate, or if the value of the gift received is much higher than what was given. We feel this way because we are uncomfortable with acknowledging this social obligation - it impinges on our sense of freedom. We don't want to be "dependent" on anyone else. However, in a different culture she talks about, reciprocating with a gift immediately after receiving one is considered a grave insult to the giver. It implies that you do not want to take on this obligation and you want to eradicate it right away.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My knees are killing me, as is my back and my arms and my sides - two days ago I was carrying stones around the front lawn of the house and now my muscles are reminding me of this activity. It got me thinking of what a great workout carrying stones can be.

And then it got me thinking of how silly it is to go to the health club and waste all this energy exercising. You'd think that instead of using all this electricity to power treadmills etc, we would be using humans to generate electricity. But no - it would never work in this country. Unless maybe we offered to pay people for producing the electricity? Maybe that would kill two birds with one stone - cheap source of energy and healthier Americans.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


A Jew applies for a job and gets turned down immediately.
"This is plain anti-semitism"
"Not at all. Why should we hire you? We know you'll just emigrate to Israel right away."
"But I have no intention to emigrate."
"Then we can't hire you at all!"
"Why not?"
"We don't hire fools."