Saturday, December 22, 2007

Clowns In My Coffee

Well, Christmas is three days away, and the world is going down the toilet. So I'm not in the mood for a "God-bless-us-every-one" blog entry. But that doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor. So, I'm going to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite mondegreens.
We all have words and phrases that we have misread or misheard over the years, and the phrase "mondegreens" has been coined to describe them. In recent years, collections of mondegreens, particularly phrases in popular songs, have become popular. Some of the most common mondegreens, such as "'Scuze me while I kiss this guy" and "There's a bathroom on the right" have become pop culture phrases in themselves.
Some misheard song phrases have had bigger implications than a good laugh. The FBI investigated The Kingsmen for two years due to rumors that "Louie Louie" contained dirty lyrics. Rumors that Paul McCartney was dead began when a line from "Strawberry Fields Forever"--"cranberry sauce"--was misheard as "I buried Paul." And some radio stations balked at playing The Rascals' "Groovin'" because "you and me endlessly" was misheard as "you and me and Leslie."
I have misheard many lyrics, particularly when I was a child, so mondegreens are near and dear to my heart. Allow me to share with you a few of the mangled lyrics I've picked up over the years:

WRONG: Gimme that old-time pigeon
RIGHT: Gimme that old-time religion
“Gimme That Old-Time Religion,” traditional

WRONG: Through the courtesy of Pistol Pete
RIGHT: Through the courtesy of blistered feet
Theme from “The Flintstones”

WRONG: We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman until the alligators knock him down
RIGHT: We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman until the other kiddies knock him down
"Winter Wonderland," Darlene Love

WRONG: Track two to Texas
RIGHT: Try to detect it
“Whip It,” Devo

WRONG: I had some dreams, they were clowns in my coffee
RIGHT: I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee

WRONG: Someone who would spy on the wife of a close friend
RIGHT: Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend
Both “You’re So Vain,” Carly Simon

WRONG: Eat me on a Friday, that’s all right
RIGHT: Eat meat on a Friday, that’s all right
“The Bitch Is Back,” Elton John

WRONG: I may take a little drink and shout out, "Tripoli!"
RIGHT: I may sink a little drink and shout out, "She's with me!"
"Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting," Elton John

WRONG: My God! A Doberman’s got me!
RIGHT: Montgomery’s got the answer!
“Sweet Home Alabama,” Lynyrd Skynyrd

WRONG: I wasn’t what I confessed
RIGHT: I’m worst at what I do best
“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana

WRONG: Oh, my disco will begin
RIGHT: Oh, I just don’t know where to begin
“Accidents Will Happen,” Elvis Costello

WRONG: Her hair is Harlow gold
RIGHT: Her hair is hollow gold
“Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes

WRONG: She’s bound to put a cracker on my bed
RIGHT: She’s bound to put a blanket on my bed
“From a Buick 6,” Bob Dylan

WRONG: Our only goal’s to reach the rest of the show
RIGHT: Our only goal’s to reach the western shore

WRONG: So now you’d better stop reaping all your ruin
RIGHT: So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins
Both “Immigrant Song,” Led Zeppelin

WRONG: Ma Rainey and Beethoven were wrapped up in roll
RIGHT: Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped a bedroll
“Tombstone Blues,” Bob Dylan

WRONG: So, open the door
RIGHT: Soy un perdador
“Loser,” Beck

WRONG: Jews in Frothingham
RIGHT: Jeux sans frontiers
“Games Without Frontiers,” Peter Gabriel

WRONG: Precious are these eyes
RIGHT: Yeux sans un visage
“Eyes Without a Face,” Billy Idol

WRONG: We can make men’s shorts
RIGHT: Wie du wirklich sollst
“Wooden Heart,” Joe Dowell

WRONG: Come and take my herb
RIGHT: Plowmen dig my earth
“All Along the Watchtower,” Jimi Hendrix
(Note: some of my high school buddies sang this line as “Come and toke my herb” as a joke, but I never heard it as such.)

WRONG: Curse the walls around me, you were such a stupid get
RIGHT: Curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid get
“I’m So Tired,” The Beatles

WRONG: I feel so suicidal, just like dinners fixed at home
RIGHT: I feel so suicidal, just like Dylan’s Mister Jones
“Yer Blues,” The Beatles

WRONG: I was educated at Woodstock
RIGHT: I was educated, got good stock
“Soul Man,” Sam and Dave
(Note: “Soul Man” was released two years before Woodstock.)

WRONG: Brightest building wall
RIGHT: Your pride has built a wall
“Still Loving You,” Scorpions

WRONG: Nature is a whore, cruises on a broom
RIGHT: Nature is a whore, bruises on the fruit
“In Bloom,” Nirvana

WRONG: I would not fight
RIGHT: I’ll win the fight
“T.N.T.,” AC/DC

WRONG: We said goodbye to his girl, cheerio
RIGHT: We said goodbye to his skull, shrill yell
“The Black Angel’s Death Song,” The Velvet Underground

WRONG: Adios, au revoir, I’ll be the same
RIGHT: Adios, au revoir, auf wiederseh’n
The closing theme from “The Lawrence Welk Show”

WRONG: Airmen, airmen, airmen, airmen, airmen
RIGHT: Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
“Amen,” The Impressions

My wife and I ran into a strange mondegreen at karaoke a few weeks ago. Karaoke lyrics often contain mondegreens because many of them are made in Japan by people who may be translating the words phonetically. My wife was singing "Tears Of a Clown," and the line "Just like Pagliacci did" appeared on the screen as "Just like Polly Archer did." She couldn't stop laughing through the rest of the song!
So, to all of you, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Festive Festivus, or whatever you want to celebrate. That means you, too, Polly Archer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Huckabee: Environmentalism led to Columbine

I may be hanging out with these guys on Jan. 20, 2009.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s spotlight grew a few weeks back when he said that God was responsible for his rise in the polls.
This statement cemented his position among evangelicals as their candidate for the White House. It also cemented his position among many other people as a stark raving loon.
Now comes a quote from his 1998 book, Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence, in which he blames school shootings, in part, on environmentalism.
That’s right. You tree-hugging hippies helped create Columbine. Here’s the quote:

Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexual
activism have fragmented and polarized our communities.

I expect odd birds such as Huckabee to blame abortion and pornography for violence in our culture—but environmentalism?
Of course! That’s what goes through the mind of every kid who goes postal in school! They’re doing it because they care about the earth! Fewer people mean less greenhouse gases, which mean less global warming. What else could Ryan Harris and Dylan Klebold have been thinking about? So I suppose, by this same logic, that it’s Al Gore’s fault that our kids are killing each other? Thank you so much for enlightening me, ya jagoff.
If this guy gets elected, I’m moving to friggin’ Canada. It should be fairly temperate by then, if Huckabee’s attitude toward the environment remains unchecked. We wouldn’t want to fragment our communities, even if they’re underwater.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Say It Ain't So, *

The ugly truth is now out, even if it has seemed inevitable for quite some time.
The report by former Senator George Mitchell has been released, and it has linked over 80 Major League Baseball players to steroid use.
It seems sad that there is not more shock or outrage. Instead, this scandal seems like a foregone conclusion.
Baseball was The Great American Game once upon a time. Whoever first called it that is now lost in the murk of history, and the phrase itself is probably headed for extinction, unless some desperate sports publicist tries to resurrect it.
Even if you never played the game--even if you didn't like it--if you grew up in America in the 20th century, baseball was probably a major fixture of your youth.
I know it was for me. Some of my earliest memories consisted of lying in bed on a summer night when I was four or five, as my brother Joe and I listened to a Reds game on WLW. I'll never forget the monaural whirr of those broadcasts. I didn't know much about baseball yet. I thought a home run was the only way to score (the guys just ran around the bases for the exercise), and I had no idea what a shortstop did. But as I heard the names--Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, and the rest of what would later become known as "The Big Red Machine"--I knew that this thing called baseball was something timeless and important. Or so it seemed.
My brothers and I followed the Reds through the World Series years of the '70s, into a long, bad stretch in the '80s. Then there was that great championship season of 1990, with its sweep of the A's in four games.
At some point after that, my interest in baseball started to wane. Perhaps it was because I began to work in horse racing and had less time to follow other sports. Maybe it was due to the 1994 players' strike, which cut a season short right when it was getting interesting. Or perhaps it was the sport's financial inequities, which have turned 26 franchises into farm teams for the other four. In any case, I could sense that something had changed in the sport, and not for the better.
And now you have an obvious cheater holding the coveted home run crown and a report on steroid abuse that reads like an All-Star Game roster, all coming off the heels of a World Series that no one outside of New England or Colorado cared about.
I've heard it said that the top three sports of my grandpa's generation were baseball, boxing and horse racing. They were the most popular sports in the first half of the 20th century, but have each lost their dominance. The reason most pundits cite is that they are too slow for a modern audience that craves constant action. But it should be noted that allegations of cheating have been widespread in all three as well.
I'm not naive enough to think that things were better in the old days. Babe Ruth may have done it on hot dogs and beer, but who's to say he wouldn't have used steroids if given the opportunity? Maybe baseball hasn't gotten worse so much as chemistry has gotten better.
Some may feel that a piece of their innocence was lost with today's announcement of the Mitchell Report--but maybe innocence is overrated.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The conservative's "F word"

During an attempt to convince his evangelical Christian base that he’s not a member of an insidious devil cult after all, Mitt Romney today put forth the proposition that freedom requires religion.

"Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the
windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and
commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone,"
GOP contender said.

This speech, while making Thomas Jefferson spin in his grave, alienated millions of nonreligious Americans, and with good reason. Romney is saying that anybody who is not religious is an enemy of freedom.

My attitude toward Romney’s speech is…eh. I’m not going to vote for him anyway, but I have to wonder just how he defines freedom.

Freedom, once the defining concept behind America, has become the ultimate conservative buzzword. You will not find a conservative who doesn’t throw the word around more often than Mel Gibson did in Braveheart. But what does it mean to them?

Freedom of speech? As long as you agree with them. Go to Free (there’s that word again) Republic or a similar conservative website and tell them, for example, that you think gay people should be left alone. I guarantee you that someone will respond calling you a “rump ranger.”

Freedom of religion? As long as you’re a Christian—preferably an evangelical Protestant. Of course, they’ll let in mainline Protestants, Catholics, Mormons—and even Jews!—but only when it serves their purpose. But the rest of you heathens are SOL.

The freedom of association? As long as it's not with anyone swarthy. Then you could be shipped off on a plane bound for Gitmo.

The freedom to marry whomever you choose? The freedom to have an abortion? You gotta be kiddin’!

I’ve listed the many possible freedoms and crossed each one off that these supposed freedom-mongers do not actually support, and I’ve narrowed down their definition of freedom to one thing.

The freedom to own an assault rifle.

That’s it. That’s what freedom means to a conservative. The right to own a weapon that’s capable of tearing your neighbor’s internal organs to shreds.

Then again, given the Bush administration’s policies toward civil liberties, maybe the conservative concept of freedom is the one defined many years ago by Kris Kristofferson—just another word for nothing left to lose.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Why is America "Sicko"?

Thanks to Netflix, I finally got around to seeing Sicko last week. It goes without saying that a Michael Moore film is going to make you think, but Sicko is Moore’s most powerful statement yet. While his previous films, such as Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, center around a specific event, Sicko is about health care—a topic that affects all Americans. To call it a film about health care might be too limiting, for it is actually about a state of mind that separates the U.S. from the rest of the Western world.

I could say that Sicko is a film that everybody should see, but I am not interested in filling a blog with such banalities. Blogs that say things like “Sicko is a great movie” or “George W. Bush sucks” are a dime a dozen. Instead, I would like to examine one reason why the U.S. resists socialized medicine, which has been adopted with great success by most other Western democracies.

In the movie, Moore visits Canada, Great Britain, France, and Cuba (and, in one of the DVD’s special features, Norway) to show how much more efficient the health care systems in those countries are than the system in the U.S., and how the citizens are benefitted in ways that go beyond health care.

All through the film, I kept thinking about why the U.S. is holding out. Why aren’t the millions of uninsured and underinsured people in this country demanding a national health care system?

Certainly, there are many people who would benefit from keeping the system the way it is, but greed is not exclusive to America. Why have the forces of good won the battle over this issue in other countries, but not the U.S.?

A good part of the blame lies with the media.

The Sicko DVD’s special features include a montage of clips from major media outlets, such as the major TV networks, CNN, and Fox News, which went out of their way to attack the film. The reason? Socialized medicine would cost their advertisers, such as insurance companies and Big Pharma, a lot of money.

Like many people, I grew up thinking that what I read in the newspaper and saw on TV news was generally true. My faith in the media was later shaken when I became a member of the Fourth Estate. It was then that I learned that the media are not objective clearinghouses for the distribution of information, but instead are businesses. No media outlet will publish anything that will cost it money. If a piece of information is not in the advertisers’ best interests, it will not see the light of day.

For decades, the American media have drilled it into people’s heads that socialized medicine is a bad idea, often in novel ways. In Sicko, a record album distributed by the American Medical Association in 1962 is played, in which Ronald Reagan compared socialized medicine to communism.

Other countries have TV, too, but TV does not have the hold on the public that it does in the U.S. I recall a trip I took to Germany when I was 15. While things may have changed there since 1981, I do not remember TV being the focal point of the household as it often is in America. The major TV networks were often off the air for hours at a time in the middle of the day, and I do not recall people watching TV that much. Compare to the U.S., where the results of some “reality show” are found worthy of major news headlines. Without a constant barrage of corporate propaganda, people in other Western democracies are able to evaluate ideas such as socialized medicine for themselves and make informed decisions.

As Al Gore points out in his book, The Assault on Reason, the problem with media such as TV and radio is that the power is weighted toward the sender of the message. There is no effective way for the recipient to respond. You can write or e-mail a TV station, you can scream and throw things at the screen, but it’s hard to alter the message significantly. So, the message goes unchallenged—a message from a powerful corporation that doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

So what is the solution? You’re looking at part of it right now.

The Internet is a place where anybody’s voice can be heard. Anybody can start a blog, and anybody can respond to it. Not only can you talk back to the message I’m sending right now, but I encourage you to do so.