Thursday, January 25, 2018

Before You Wrap the Leftovers

Two Greetings


1A—If you say, “Good morning, little schoolgirl . . .” and you’re carrying a guitar—you’re under contract.

1B—If you say, “Good morning, little schoolgirl . . .” and you’re not carrying a guitar—you’re under arrest.

2—If you say, “Hey, little girl . . .”—you’re Jack Jones winning the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male.

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Greeting number 1 (A & B) is my bad joke riffing on the famous blues song recorded by, among others, Muddy Waters.

Greeting number 2, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David(1) is an unintentional bad joke of a song that competes for top spot in the Crappiest Song League, Sexist Division.

The song is entitled “Wives and Lovers—here are the lyrics:

Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your make-up
Soon he will open the door
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger 
You needn't try any more
For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I'm warning you
Day after day, there are girls at the office 
And the men will always be men
Don't stand him up with your hair still in curlers 
You may not see him again
Wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
He's almost here
Hey, little girl, better wear something pretty
Something you wear to go to the city
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music
Time to get ready for love
It's time to get ready for love
Yes, it's time to get ready for love
It's time to get ready, kick your shoes off, baby

There are three groups that are insulted in this 1960’s bundle of stereotyped sexism. 

The first—and most obvious—are stay-at-home wives. They have achieved their great goal—a ring on your finger. But they have turned into frumpy, disheveled little girls, who can be summoned with a demeaning Hey, be lectured to about how to please their husbands, and—most importantly—be warned that there are girls at the office

If the women who don’t work are insulted, so too are working women, the second stereotyped group. Unmarried, they are not submissive weaker halves to their hubbies; they are wanton(2) hussies, Loreleis, who, coldheartedly, lure faithful husbands onto the rocks of extra-marital dalliances. 

And that brings us to the third insulted group: men— And the men will always be men. Are these 1960s men counter-Harvey Weinstein types who have such a low libido that they have to be lured into making love at home by the hair-curlered drabs turning themselves into sexpots who can rival those man-eating typists—Hey, little girl, better wear something pretty
Something you wear to go to the city
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music?

Or are they spineless creatures who, forgetting their vows, let uncombed hair turn them into workplace predators?

*

I was quite surprised in doing research for this post to learn that “Wives and Lovers” had preceded Marabel Morgan’s best-selling book The Total Woman: How to Make Your Marriage Come Alive by a decade. That notorious tome proclaimed, "It's only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him.”(3) As Wikipedia puts it, the book was famous for “instructing wives to greet their man at the front door wearing sexy outfits; suggestions included ‘a cowgirl or a showgirl.’” This idea was expanded (apparently by a reader) to include greeting hubby while swathed in Saran Wrap. 

It was 35 years after The Total Woman was published that blogger “Bonnie” at “Peculiar Beauty” related that her search for the origin of the Saran idea led her to 
“Perfect Bodies Equal Perfect Sex” on Christianity Today. Teri Looney (which would totally be my pen name if I wanted to write about keeping sex alive in Christian marriage) writes:  "I remember feeling queasy the first time I heard the idea: if your love life seems stale, send the kids to a neighbor's house, prepare a candlelight dinner, and greet your man at the front door swathed only in Saran Wrap. First of all, Saran Wrap isn't cheap and I'm a size 12. Second, do I really want to send my husband the subliminal message that I'm just 'leftovers'? And third, what happens if I get too close to those candles?”(4)

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Saran Wrap as a sexual come-on. Even Mel Brooks (as the 2000-year-old man) didn’t think of that:

[Carl] REINER: In the 2,000 years you’ve lived, you’ve seen a lot of changes.
BROOKS: Certainly. 
REINER: What is the biggest change you’ve seen?
BROOKS: In 2,000 years, the greatest thing mankind ever devised, I think, in my humble opinion, is Saran Wrap. You can put a sandwich in it. You can look through it. You can touch it. You can put it over your face and you can fool around and everything. It’s so good and cute. You can wrap it up. I love it. You can put three olives in it and make a little one. You can put 10 sandwiches in it and make a big Saran Wrap. Whatever you want. It clings and sticks. It’s great. You can look right through it.”(5)

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(1) They also wrote "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head,”  "I Say a Little Prayer,” "Walk On By,” "What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “Alfie,” and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"

(2) Bad speller that I am, I first typed “wonton”—I like that image better.





Friday, January 19, 2018

The Clank of Music

Today on “Hockey Central at Noon” on sportsnet.ca the question was raised, “Who is your hero?” That got me thinking—not about my heroes—but about expanding my discussion about crappy (but famous) songs and poems. I think soppiness is the major offense that I focus on when deciding what goes on my list. 

The hero-cum-soppiness drivel is most evident in “Wind Beneath My Wings,” written by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley and most famously unleashed to afflict the public in the rendition by Bette Midler. Here’s some of it:

Ohhhh, oh, oh, oh, ohhh.
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that's your way.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
Did you ever know that you're my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.
It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
But I've got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.

Here I am on top of the world—but of course it’s all because of poor overlooked you. I nominate this as the epitome of humblebragging. It even tops that bone-achingly foolish internet abbreviation “IMHO,” which, of course, has nothing humble about it. 

The song ends with a faux-religious touch:

Fly, fly, fly high against the sky,
So high I almost touch the sky.
Thank you, thank you,
Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.

*
While we’re on the spirituality trail, here’s a song that almost literally put me off the road. Back when I had my Austin Healey Sprite* I would sometimes take a spin along back roads with the top down, listening to either WMCA or WABC, the two major pop/rock music stations in the New York area (only AM radio in the car). On one sunny Saturday as I was driving along, the DJ announced that he was going to play a new release. OK. The sound dispersed into the countryside as I half-listened to a song called “Honey.” Here’s part of the lyrics:

And Honey, I miss you
And I'm bein' good
And I'd love to be with you
If only I could

One day while I was not at home
While she was there and all alone the angels came
Now all I have is memories of Honey
And I wake up nights and call her name

Now my life's an empty stage
Where Honey lived, and Honey played and love grew up
And a small cloud passes over head
And cries down on the flower bed that Honey loved

(Written by Bobby Russell)  

“While she was there and all alone the angels came”—did I really hear that? I jerked the wheel and the Sprite pulled toward the right. It can’t be that a grown man would describe death as “the angels came.” Even a slow 5-year-old wouldn’t buy that. I spent more gasoline driving around aimlessly for the next hour in order to confirm what I heard (I knew the station would repeat the new release during that time). Unfortunately, yes; what I had heard, I had heard. Angels!

*

While we’re on the subject of Bobby Russell (AKA Robert L. Russell and Robert Russell), let’s be crabby about his apples. He also wrote “Little Green Apples”:

Sometimes I call her up at home knowin' she's busy
And ask her if she could get away and meet me
And maybe we could grab a bite to eat
And she drops what she's doin' and she hurries down to meet me
And I'm always late
But she sits waitin' patiently and smiles when she first sees me
'Cause she's made that way

And if that ain't lovin' me
Then all I've got to say
God didn't make little green apples
And it don't snow in Minneapolis when the winter comes
And there's no such thing as make-believe
Puppy dogs, autumn leaves 'n' BB guns

God didn't make little green apples
And it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime

There’s our man God again. Not sending down angels to drag wives away to their death this time, but playing Johnny Appleseed. Are we out of Kindergarten yet?

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Today in the Guardian there was an article entitled “Five classic songs that got sex right.” But that’s for another day.
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Friday, January 12, 2018

Gas, Masked

We’re almost two weeks into the new year; how are you making out with your resolutions? Are you hitting the gym every day? You haven’t sneaked some chocolate brownies, have you? And the smoking: no cigs this year so far, right?

OOPS. Sorry I asked. 

Actually, I’m not. Because there’s a point I wish to make: If people can’t self-regulate for their OWN benefit, how can we expect them to self-regulate for the benefit of others?

*

Many years ago I owned an early electronic chess set. For many moons while pitting my talent against the black box, I was ever being reminded that I was no Bobby Fischer.* Having one’s head handed to one on a regular basis was no fun.

Until one day when I tested a new opening combination. On my fourth move I adventurously thrust my knight deep into enemy territory, captured the machine’s knight (or bishop, I don’t recall after all these years), willing to see what the exchange (for capture of my horse was a certainty) would open up. To my amazement the machine declined the exchange, making an irrelevant move in some distant corner of the board. What was that all about? What fiendish ploy was being perpetrated? To my eyes it made absolutely no sense—because now it seemed I had mate in one! 

I made the move. Checkmate! I won—or was it that the machine had lost? How was it that it had gone so far astray as to not see what was in front of its eyes? Surely, it must just have been a blip, an anomaly, momentary brain fade. I decided to test it out. I made the same opening moves, and the machine countered with its same moves. I struck again with my knight, and held my breath. Would the doomed knight be removed from the board this time?

No. The machine made the same (wrong) response—and so my knight once more slew the dragon of the black box! And again—and again—and again.

And then I quit. Since the chess set no longer stopped me, I lost interest, and I put it away in its box and buried it deep in some closet.
*

Consider speed limits. You hate them, right? You want to drive soooo fast, but that sign says 60 or 40 or 25. You can follow your desire and go soooo fast, but that police officer with his badge and his radar gun doesn’t care what your heart’s desire is. Whether you like what the sign says or not, you are expected to obey it or suffer the consequences.

During the push for civil rights legislation a half-century ago there were pundits and politicians who argued that equal rights legislation should be preceded by a change in the hearts and minds of the recalcitrants. As my roadside illustration exemplifies, the way to achieve social goals is by regulating actions not waiting for an explosion of Road to Damascus moments to change the internal mind sets of the recalcitrants. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion.Well, there’s half-truth involved here.Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart.But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated.**

*

“The Deaths That Come When an Industry's Left to Regulate Itself”

The headline of an important article in The Atlantic about the attempt by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to adopt standards for portable generators.*** As the article notes, “Portable generators release more carbon monoxide—which is particularly dangerous because it is odorless and invisible—than most cars.“ In the last dozen years those generators have killed an average of 70 people per year. Although the CPSC has been pushing the portable generator industry to address the issue of adopting standards for its products, 
the portable-generator industry fended off regulations that would have required it to reduce the carbon-monoxide emissions of its devices. . . .The industry lobbied hard, and also wielded an arsenal of delaying measures and misdirection, not to mention occasional strong-arm tactics to enforce industry discipline.

It appeared late in 2016, however, that industry regulations would finally be forthcoming. As the article notes, “The commission voted in favor of a rule to force manufacturers to lower their generators’ carbon-monoxide emissions. The vote was 4–1, with one Republican joining the majority of Democrats.”

However, after Donald Trump succeeded to the presidency, he nominated the only commissioner to vote against that rule, Ann Marie Buerkle, to be acting chair of the CPSC. “She is a government regulator who doesn’t appear to believe in government regulation,” according to The Atlantic. Buerkle claims that voluntary standards are “a better way to go.” (It seems that Buerkle isn’t all that fired up about regulating against monoxide poisoning. Which product hazards are her priorities? Buerkle says: “Fidget spinners are a big deal.”)

*

The Cookie Jar

If mama won’t slap your hand for sneaking cookies from the cookie jar, you’re gonna keep doing it.

The world has been the cookie jar for anti-social, anti-consumer, anti-environmental industries for too long. They act with about as much self-regulation as a five-year-old with chocolate-chip cookies in his sights, or an adult toward his resolutions two weeks into a new year. 

*
In sporting endeavors the rule is: “If they can’t stop it, keep doing it.”

The same in life.
*

“It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.”
MLK, Jr.

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*And thank goodness for that, for I haven’t ended up as much of a whacko.