Home

The Songs I’m Not Defending

2 Comments

Department Of Seasonal Surprises

Is there anything as incongruently optimistic as the appearance of a yellow rose in winter?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Regarding the Baby It’s Cold Outside controversy I’ve a confession to make: up until this year, Baby It’s Cold Outside was just one of those background holiday songs for me. I knew it existed, but I’ve never seen any of the films within which it had appeared, nor had I ever even heard the original or any of the cover versions in their entirety.  I just plain hadn’t paid attention; it was, to moiself, an earlier generation’s “classic,” of which I caught snippets every now and then on radio or TV.   [1]

What with all the brouhaha about the song, I finally listen to it the other day, and found moiself thinking, Is this really what I’m hearing? And so I googled the lyrics.

I simply must go (but baby, it’s cold outside)
The answer is no (but baby, it’s cold outside)…

The neighbors might think (baby, it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)

Yep. I heard what I thought I heard.

 

 

“I don’t know about you, darlin,’ but nothing gets me in the holiday spirit like a retro duet about impending date rape….”

 

 

 

It was a different time;

it’s a relic of our heritage;

back then it was all in fun….

Many are the defenders trotting out these (and more) defenses for the song’s lyrics – about which, BTW, I am not horribly offended (nevertheless…ick).

And I do understand the complexities of judging the art of the past by the standards of the present. Still, I wonder about such things, and how we judge what is OK, and what needs to be relegated to the trash pile of cultural history.

It has long seemed to moiself that far too many people, especially certain Well-Meaning Liberals ®, give sexism a “cultural” pass in situations where they do not do the same for racism:

* The segregation and subjugation of black Africans – e.g. Apartheid –  is wrong and there are no excuses for it!  [2]

* The segregation and subjugation of women and girls in Muslim countries…well, it’s their culture, so hold on a minute, don’t be an anti-Muslim bigot!

I know, I know, it drives me crazy, too.

 

Coon Songs,  a genre of music that presented stereotyped images of black people, were wildly popular in the United States circa 1880 to 1920, so much so that the 1905 song “If the Man in the Moon Were a Coon“, sold three million copies (which would be the equivalent of 11 million copies today). Some of Tin Pan Alley’s greatest composers, including Irving Berlin, were enlisted to write coon songs with such cringe-worthy titles as, “All Coons Look Alike to Me”, “Old Black Joe”, and “Pickaninny Paradise.”  These songs are an undeniable part of our past, and most of them had quite catchy, sing-along melodies.  Would such a defense – It was a different time; it’s a relic of our heritage and back then it was all in fun –  survive if someone should try to revive, say, coon songs as a remembrance or acknowledgement of our legacy?

Coon, coon, coon
I wish my color would fade
Coon, coon, coon
I’d like a different shade
Coon, coon, coon
Both morning, night or noon
I’d rather be a white man
Instead of bein’ a coon
(chorus to “Coon, Coon, Coon,” Max Hunter Folk song collection)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yes, I Want It All

While I’m on the subject of art from the past… Category: Christmas movies. I really like It’s A Wonderful Life ,   [3]  but not for the reasons so many people heap praise upon it – praise I believe to be…well, predictable and even/ultimately shallow.  Because if you think IAWL is the “ultimate life-affirming, feel good holiday classic,” you are missing the point.

The idea that the love and support of one’s family and friends ultimately trumps any financial woes  [4]  is manifested in the movie’s heart-wedgying end scene, by the arrival of war hero Harry Bailey, who toasts his big brother George: “…the richest man in town…”  And I weep like a bitch baby, every time, at that line.

But, that doesn’t change the fact that the movie is dark.

Sure, IAWL is filled with some memorable characters and great dramatic and comic lines – and dreadful/sexist trope or two  [5] – but the darkness permeates it, IMHO, and, despite the Happy Holiday Ending ® George Bailey’s existential gloom is never fully resolved.

 

 

 

 

George Bailey is filled with the frustration of a lifetime of unrealized desires and seemingly unattainable goals, compounded by the guilt that comes from that over arcing/underlying message from your society/culture/religion that whatever you have should be enough to make you happy [6]  or at least content with your lot in life.  And it usually is….but what if you also want something more?

The protagonist’s dilemma was presented as a choice between two conflicting destinies:

(1) George Bailey can have a happy domestic life; or
(2) He can shake off the dust of his one-horse town, hop on a cattle boat and see the world.

It was either/or, not and – to choose one path would be to negate or even erase the other.

But, every time I watch that movie, after that joyous, cinematic denouement, I want an addendum. Just give me one scene, as the credits roll, showing George and Mary hitching a ride on that cattle boat, or rafting down the Zambezi river, or sipping espressos at a Parisian sidewalk café….

 

 

 

*   *   *

Blog Department Of Isn’t It Funny, The Things You Miss

My first official  [7]   Happy Birthday wish came from a friend on the East Coast, ~ 6:30 AM. I was already up to feed the cats, and was delighted, while getting dressed, to see the message.  [8]  I thought of how my parents (back when they were both alive…which probably goes without saying but oops, too late) used to call me way way way early in the morning on my birthday – we’re talking around 5:15 am – and sing the Happy Birthday Song ® to me.

They started doing that when I was in college, and kept doing it for years afterward. Once upon a lifetime I would go running in the mornings, before college classes and then before going off to work, which provided my parents with justification (in their minds) for the early intrusion wakeup calls, which they said were my “fault” in that they wanted to call me before I was up and gone out for the day (yes, kiddies, those were pre-cellphone days).

Sometimes I would pretend to be grouchy about the timing of the calls, such as when my birthday fell on a weekend and, for just once, sleeping in (until 7 am – is that too much to ask?) on my birthday might be nice… And although I always/ultimately loved and appreciated the birthday calls, I also have always loathed that damn tedious birthday song.

On more than one occasion I asked my parents to please sing me something else – how about The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song? Ah, but what I’d give today, to be able to complain about having them sing me that damn song again….

 

 

           

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge [9]  Of The Week

As per an earlier warning post, we will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in our front yard’s festively lit pear tree. Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you be serenaded with the song of your choice on your birthday;
May you be surprised by your equivalent of a yellow rose in winter;
May you judge the art of the past by the past, present, and future;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Even though a portion of it was used in a scene in Grey’s Anatomy, which is Must-See-TV for moiself.

[2] It was indeed the culture of the white/Afrikaners to discriminate against black south Africans…but the world ultimately did not allow them that excuse.

[3] I like it in spite of the ridiculous Clarence The Angel angle, not because of it.

[4] A sentiment I think is usually – but not always – true.

[5] In an alternate reality, Mary is revealed to have…gasp…suffered the worst fate for a woman – without George, she never married, and became an OLD MAID LIBRARIAN!

[6] A Buddhist message from early Hollywood?

[7] As in, on the day itself. There is a committee to certify such things – but , you knew that, didn’t you?

[8] Via Facebook messenger. No Russian hacking involved that I could see.

[9] In our pear tree.

The Blog Post I’m Not Occupying

Comments Off on The Blog Post I’m Not Occupying

Occupy The Antis

No, not the Aunties....

No, not the Aunties….

 

Antis, as in, anti-choice protesters. As in, the ones at Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter

One week ago today, after dropping off her daughter at Audubon Camp, SCM [1] drove past the Lovejoy Clinic on her way back to what was going to be a productive work day at home…until the product turned out to be not what she’d planned. She saw a small but visibly determined group of anti-choice protesters occupying the sidewalks around the clinic entrance, a sight which frosted her butt and prompted her to call moiself.

The possibility of protesting anti-choice protesters was something SCM and I tossed about many months ago, when she’d mentioned that she sometimes saw anti-abortion demonstraters outside the clinic. I had never seen protesters outside of Lovejoy, [2] but told SCM if she ever wanted to offer some spontaneous support to the clinic, I’d be there if I could.

Dateline: last Friday am. My phone rang (??? What? A phone call – no text?), and it was SCM. There were protesters in the sidewalk outside Lovejoy, she was stopping at a nearby office supply store for poster board and Sharpies, and did I want to join her?

Within 35-40 minutes I

–  changed out of my workout clothes [3]
– dismissed my computer reminders (the list of things I was supposed to be doing)

– found sign-substitute paper (alas, no poster board) in my daughter’s art stash
-hastily scribbled three signs
– drove to the corner of NE 25th & Lovejoy.

For the next couple of hours, SCM and I, according to a supportive passerby, “Occupied the protest.”

SCM told me over the phone that two of the protesters were holding signs which read Women Need Support Not Abortion. Therefore, one of my signs had to be

 

support

 

Our counterprotest was more…fun…than I’d thought it would be.  SCM and I had nice time people-watching and conversing on a variety of subjects, despite the periodic interruptions by the Antis, who just had to try to witness to us, every ten minutes. (Really – they were quite regular. I think they used an egg timer).

The Antis were a small group, totaling maybe seven white bodies: four or five women ranging in age from late twenties to sixties, and two middle-aged men. The men patrolled further up the corner sidewalks and seemed to be keeping “lookout.” The womenfolk took turns holding signs, and one of them playing pointman, trying to engage anyone entering the clinic. [4]

I’d had previous experience with anti-choice protesters, when I worked at three different Planned Parenthood clinics in the [5] Bay Area. Those encounters were sporadic and mostly benign. The Lovejoy Antis were not using the Bat-Shit Crazy Screaming Fundy ® approach;  instead, they followed the glowing smile, “You are beautiful – don’t you know you are beautiful…may I ask you/show you something?” method of chat chumming, and Pointman Woman complimented my posters:

Pointman Woman: “Your signs are so funny!”
Moiself: “And yours are so boring!”

I felt my pulse rate gallop the first time one of the Lovejoy Antis tried to start up a dialog with me. Despite their outward, assertively serene manner, I knew what those people were and are: fanatics who believe they are doing their god’s work by invading other people’s private business. Which makes them crazies, IMHO. And in the  Good Ole U.S.A. , everyone with a pulse – including and especially the crazies – has access to guns.

My pulse, however, quickly realized it had gotten a workout for naught, and returned to normal. Turns out the only weapons the Antis were packing were the verbal and intellectual gaffes with which they shot themselves in their own feet. [6] 

footshot

 

҉    Things I Learned While Occupying the Antis    ☼

* The four way stop sign intersection at 25th and Lovejoy is a dicey spot for cyclists and pedestrians. Yo, wealthy NW Portlanders: stop signs mean drivers are supposed to stop, y’all, not cruise through while checking your reflection in the mirror of your Mercedes SL convertibles (admittedly, you who occupied them did look fabulous) or dictating some jive-ass drivel into your burnt orange Blackberrys.

*  It was almost too much fun to watch SCM school the Antis on American religion; i.e., Pilgrim and Puritan and immigrant European (redundant, that) Christian theology and history. We hadn’t planned on speaking with the protesters and did not initiate conversation, but they would make some asinine comment that begged for clarification…and they were not prepared for how incisively intelligent SCM is (and how ignorant they sounded).

* I almost completely underestimated the entertainment value of watching passing automobile riders’ lips move as they tried to read SCM’s and my signs.

* After said lip-readings we received bemused looks and thumbs up, and some rolled down windows and Right on! s – from drivers who showed down and/or stopped long enough at the intersection to read our signs.

 

make that, NOT

make that, NOT

 

* We also received a couple of, er, favorite finger salutes, from a couple of male drivers who drove as quickly as they could through the intersection without even glancing at our signs. When I heard a few choice epithets [7] one of the bird-flippers tossed along with his finger, I realized that he and others like him, who probably drive through that intersection regularly, to and from work or whatever,, and didn’t even bother to look at SCM’s and my signs, assumed we were with them  (the Antis).  Thus, the next time I engage in such a venture, for clarity’s sake one of my signs may be a variation of the classic t-shirt message: I’m NOT With Stupid.

* One of SCM’s signs – The Flying Spaghetti Monster Hates Anti-Choicers – was our litmus test of sorts, for identifying the Cool People Who Get It.

 

shelleyprotesst

 

* Okay, the following is not technically a Thing I Learned While Occupying the Antis, in that it is not news to me. Rather, it could go into the category of a sad fact reinforced: people who think they have the Christian god on their side have no qualms about breaking one of their god’s rules about bearing false witness.

SCM and I saw a police officer park his cruiser on the NE corner of Lovejoy. Meanwhile, the spineless lying asshat one of the male patrolling Antis, whom SCM had seen speaking furtively into his cell phone a couple of minutes before the cop car arrived, high-tailed it around the corner as soon as the cop car arrived.

The officer exited his car and approached the clinic. I called out to him, “You’re at the perfect place if you want to do a traffic sting!” and started to tell him about the stop sign scofflaws, while SCM wriggled with excitement and gushed, It’s not really a protest without the police arriving!” The officer gave us a regretful smile, told us nah on both accounts, and said he wasn’t here about the protest or the traffic, but to check out a call they (presumably the cops) had received. He asked us, rather laconically – as if he already knew the answer but had to go through the motions – if we’d heard anyone yelling for help from inside the building.

yeahright

Of course we didn’t, because nobody had. “You’ve been set up,” I advised him. Officer Nonchalant tried to stifle a cynical grin from spreading across his face as he entered the building to check things out. He exited the clinic a minute or so later, just as I wondered aloud who had made the false police report. Within a minute of the cop car leaving, the spineless lying asshat the suddenly-disappeared- male-patrolling Anti returned to his post on the sidewalk.

* One of my signs was quite popular with drivers who had children in the car. Not only that, the sign seemed to motivate the female sign-holding Antis to change places on the sidewalk, so as not to be on the pointing side of my sign’s directional arrow. People who think they’ve a sacred obligation to tell other people how to live do not want to stand next to you when you’re holding up a sign that treats them with all the seriousness they deserve:

lovejoy1,jpg

 

* Yo, anti-choicers: If you’re going to attempt to proselytize you need to know your religion’s basic terminology. I’m not even talking complicated theological constructs, ala transubstantiation or theodicy or Catholic vs. Protestant soteriology. Jesus Christ up the creek without a paddle! – know your basic vocabulary, or shut yer yap.

Examples: When Pointman Woman declared that “we are all sinners,” I asked her to define sin. She ummm-ed and ahhh-ed before throwing the question to one of her older comrades : “It’s kind of…well, how would you explain it?”

 

facepalm

 

They finally settled on anything that “offends the holiness of god.”

Oh, like my fucking potty mouth?
(from the Department of Things I Almost Said)

During another slow moment on the sidewalk (no clinic patients to pester), Pointman Woman, already tantalized to discover that SCM was a minister’s daughter, asked me what my “faith” was. I offered up Happy Heretic and Avid Apostate, and told her she could use whatever term she found most entertaining. It quickly became apparent – and she admitted, when I asked her – that she didn’t know what either heretic or apostate meant.

Later in the morning another Anti made yet another attempt to engage me with a “May I show you something?” entreaty. She’d already flashed me her (supposed) aborted fetus pamphlet, and she was reaching for a blue velvet lined-jewelry case, which, as I’d seen earlier, contained fetus trinkets laid out in charm bracelet fashion.  I countered with, “May I show you something?” and removed what was intended to be my morning snack – a small baggie of almonds – from my pants pocket.

Moiself: “Would you like to scrutinize my nut sack?”

Anti:      “I don’t understand.” (She looked genuinely confused.) “How does this relate…”

Moiself: “Since you are so interested in policing other people’s bodies I thought you might like to examine an intimate part of mine….”

Anti:      ???

Her expression, to a tee.

Her expression, to a tee.

 

DANG! A perfectly good pun, wasted on a proselytizing pudding head.

Laaaaady ?!?! You’re standing outside a medical facility trying to tell strangers what to do with their reproductive organs and you don’t know what a nut sack is?

 

REALLY

 

Every so often, two or three of the Antis women put down their signs and formed a group to murmur, pray, exchange Jell-o salad recipes or whatever. Once, three of them began to sing the hymn Amazing Grace. SCM joined in – and of course, she knew more verses than they did. [8] Not to be outdone, I chimed in with the Mary Tyler Moore Theme song.

 

 

Possibly The Best Answer to a Question, Ever

We stayed until the Antis left, then entered the clinic. The Ladies of Lovejoy got quite the kick out of our signs and expressed their grateful for our support. We chatted with them for several minutes, trading protester stories and shop talk. [9]  As per the latter, one of the clinicians mentioned that the clinic had expanded their services to include male healthcare, and that she “really enjoys” doing vasectomies. I, of course, had to ask her why she found vasectomies so enjoyable. After working with women’s health all day, she replied, “it’s a nice change of scenery.”

*   *   *

After our counter-protest, SCM and I treated ourselves to sushi lunch in the Pearl district. Driving on home from Portland, I passed a guy, apparently hoping to hitch a ride to the coast, standing by one of the freeway entrance ramps, holding up a sign which read

SEASIDE
PLEASE

I caught myself wanting to yell out the window, that’s a boring sign!

*   *   *

May you take the opportunity to express your Anti-Anti convictions,
may your signs always be entertaining,
may you enjoy an occasional change of scenery,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] She of the multiple slash identities: friend/attorney/fellow writer/wit and snarkstress extraordinaire….

[2] However, it’s not like I’m in that part of Portland on a regular basis.

[3] No time to shower, but I thought my exercise B.O. could be yet another turnoff for the protesters. As for SCM…she is a most tolerant friend.

[4] Actual in-and-out clinic traffic was quite spotty.

[5] Although the clinics I worked at were rarely picketed, and the picketers hadn’t figured out where the back doors were, where the staff entered.

[6] Let’s just pretend that was a smoother application of the shoot yourself in the foot idiom.

[7] Along the “mind your own !#$*! business you #@&$% asshole fanatics” line.

[8] They got the first two verses, then began to mumble/sing, like when you forget the lyrics and substitute whatever you think rhymes.

[9] A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked in women’s reproductive health care, both in a public clinic setting and in a private OB/GYN practice.