Friday, October 31, 2014

Julian Cope -- "You Gotta Problem With Me" (2007)

You gotta problem with me
You gotta problem with me

What do you think?  Do we have an interrogatory sentence here?  Or a declarative sentence?  

Is it "You gotta problem with me?"  

Or is it, "You gotta problem with me!"

You gotta problem with Julian Cope?
Whichever it is, "You Gotta Problem With Me" -- from Julian Cope's 2007 album of the same name -- is the new favorite song of 2 or 3 lines.  

You gotta problem with Travis Bickle?
I've listened to it a zillion times over the last week, and I still haven't gotten enough of it.  That's why I'm featuring it in today's very special post -- the last post of the first five years of 2 or 3 lines. 

That's right, boys and girls.  November 1 marks the 5th anniversary of my wildly popular little blog.  Can you believe it?

You gotta a problem with Barry Obama?
The second-best thing about doing 2 or 3 lines the past five years is that I've discovered dozens of wonderful recordings (like this one) and recording artists (like Julian Cope) that I had somehow overlooked.  (The first-best thing about doing 2 or 3 lines is all the fabulous babes.)

You gotta problem with Wendy O. Williams?
I vaguely remember Julian Cope's neo-psychedelic Liverpool band, Teardrop Explodes, which was founded in 1978 and broke up in 1982.

(I can't resist reprinting Cope's response when he was asked in 2000 if the Teardrop Explodes would ever get back together: "Would you ever return to having your mother wipe your assh*le?")

You gotta problem with Vincent and Jules?
And I was very familiar with Julian Cope's cheery little 1986 single, "World Shut Your Mouth." 

But he had dropped off my radar until quite recently.  It turns out that he's released 20 or so albums since Teardrop Explodes exploded.

You gotta problem with Mama June?
The half-dozen or so of those albums that I've become familiar with in the last couple of months -- thank you, Freegal! -- are all very interesting and all like nothing you've ever heard before.

You gotta problem with Kim's ass?
Click here to read more about Julian Cope, who is something of a Renaissance man.

In addition to being a prolific and talented recording artist, Cope is involved in outsider politics -- no one I know is more outsider than he is -- considers himself a shaman, is a fan of Krautrock musicians, and is an acknowledged expert on Neolithic and Bronze Age archeological sites.  (Think Stonehenge, Avebury, etc.)

Here's "You Gotta Problem With Me":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Half Japanese -- "The House I Live In" (1990)

I'm living a secret life
That no one understands
But me

True dat, boys and girls.  (Actually, I would revise those lines slightly:  "I'm living a secret life that no one understands . . . including me.")

I am more transparent than most people, I think.  I write three posts a week every week of the year, plus I'm a narcissist -- so I reveal a lot about myself.

But you best believe I still have plenty of secrets.  I plan on taking quite a few of them to my grave.  (I think that will be best for all concerned.)

Daniel Handler, a/k/a/ Lemony Snicket
What's my secret when it comes to keeping secrets?

Lemony Snicket once said that the best way to keep a secret is to "[t]ell it to everyone you know, but pretend you are kidding."  I follow that advice.

There are a lot of good quotes about secrets.  For example, Benjamin Franklin said this about secrets:  "Three may keep a secret . . . if two of them are dead."

Want to know a secret about Franklin?  He stole that quote from a medieval poem titled "The Ten Commandments of Love" -- attributed by some to Chaucer -- that has this line: "For thee may keep a counsel, if twain be awaie."  (Busted!) 

I could have kept Half Japanese a secret from the readers of 2 or 3 lines, but that just wouldn't have been right.

Jad and David Fair
I only recently became aware of this very odd punk band, which was formed by brothers Jad and David Fair in a small town in Michigan (or perhaps in a small town in Maryland) in 1975 or thereabouts.  

Jad Fair is known for playing an untuned guitar.  But since he doesn't know any chords, playing an untuned guitar doesn't necessarily make any difference. 

Here's how the Trouser Press website describes Half Japanese's "technique":

Rock'n'roll started as a medium in which the three-chord song reigned supreme — until, of course, some wise guys got the idea that four chords, then five (and so on) would make it even better. It took years of such high-falutin' thought before a pair of Maryland-via-Michigan brothers emerged with just the opposite notion, paring rock'n'roll down to no chords . . . .

In the decades since Half Japanese took shape, it's still not entirely clear that "real" chords have ever really entered the picture.  

Many of Half Japanese's songs are quite short.  For example, our featured song is only 1:03 long.

But the Fairs make up for that by issuing albums that are chock-full of songs.  Half Japanese's debut album was a three-LP set with 68 tracks.  Their Greatest Hits album has 69 tracks, none of which were actually hits -- at least not for Half Japanese.  (The Fairs are fond of covering other people's hits, although many of those covers are sort of unrecognizable.)

Here's "The House I Live In," from Half Japanese's 1990 album, We Are They Who Ache With Amorous Love:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kinks -- "Lola" (1970)

Well, I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walked like a woman 
But talked like a man  

The lyrics to this song seem to imply that Lola was a cross-dresser — a gay male who occasionally dresses in female clothing but who does not identify himself as being a female.

"Lola" was released on this Kinks album
Or Lola may have been a transgender woman — that is, someone who was born with a typically male anatomy, but who feels he/she was born into the wrong body because his/her gender identity is female. 

Using paired pronouns like "he/she" and "his/her" is a clumsy way to refer to a transgender or genderqueer individual.

(NOTE:  For those of you who are not familiar with the term "genderqueer" — a group that included me up until about ten minutes ago — it is a term used by some people who identify neither as entirely male nor entirely female, but as some mixture of the two.  Or those who shift back and forth between wholly male and wholly female.  Or those who feel they are without a gender.)

Genderqueer flag
Some people have decried the lack of gender-neutral third-person pronouns in English.  Believe it or not there is a blog devoted to this issue.  Click here if you'd like to read the "Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog."

That blog lists six suggested gender-neutral (or "epicene") third-person pronouns.  

For example, ze has been suggested as a substitute for the nominative third-person singular pronouns "he" and "she."  The objective third-person singular pronouns "him" and "her" would become hir (which is a combination of "him" and "her").  The possessive adjectives "his" and "her" would also become hir.

The possessive version of that pronoun would become hirs (a combination of "his" and "hers").  And the reflexive version would become hirself (a combination of "himself" and "herself").

Ze/hir/hir/hirs/hirself seems to be the most popular gender-neutral pronoun among the transgender/genderqueer community.  But ze sounds a lot like sie, which is German for "she," and hir was a feminine pronoun in middle English — so those pronouns aren't sufficiently gender neutral to suit the author of the blog.

One variation on ze/hir/hir/hirs/hirself is ze/zir/zir/zirs/zirself.  The blog's author doesn't like that alternative either.  Why?

Try reading this sentence out loud: “As ze looked up at the stars, ze realized that this was zir favorite moment of them all.”  The second ze — which follows an "s" — ends up sounding like "he."  And the zir — which also follows an "s" — ends up sounding like "her."

A third option -- xe/xem/xyr/xyrs/xemself — presents the same problem if the "x" is pronounced like "z."

The author's choice is ne/nem/nir/nirs/nemself.  For one thing, neutral starts with "n," so pronouns beginning with "n" are symbolically gender-neutral.

Another good option is ve/ver/vis/vis/verself, although ver and vis and verself are more obviously derived from "her" and "his" and "herself" than nem and nits and nemself.

Finally, there are the Spivak pronouns -- ey/em/eir/eirs/eirself.  Those pronouns were invented by an American mathematician, Michael Spivak, who has authored several textbooks.

By the way, Spivak inserts references to yellow pigs in each of his books.  That's because he and fellow student David Kelly created "Yellow Pig's Day" — an annual holiday that celebrates mathematics and the number 17 — while at a bar during their undergraduate days.

July 17 is "Yellow Pig's Day"
You know, I always thought English already did have a gender-neutral third-person pronoun -- IT.  But for some reason, "it" is not an option for the transgender/genderqueer crowd.

This might surprise you, but it appears there is bad blood between many radical feminists and transgender females.  A recent New Yorker article explained why this is:

[R]adical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women. . . . In this view, gender is less an identity than a caste position.  Anyone born a man retains male privilege in society; even if he chooses to live as a woman — and accept a correspondingly subordinate social position — the fact that he has a choice means that he can never understand what being a woman is really like.  By extension, when trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement.  All this enrages trans women and their allies, who point to the discrimination that trans people endure; although radical feminism is far from achieving all its goals, women have won far more formal equality than trans people have.

Click here to read the entire New Yorker article.

This debate seems to be particularly hot at women's colleges.  The New York Times recently published a long piece about trans students at Wellesley College (the alma mater of Hillary Clinton and many other accomplished women).

Timothy Boatwright (center)
The Times article discussed a Wellesley junior who calls himself Timothy Boatwright:

From the start, Timothy introduced himself as “masculine-of-center genderqueer.”  He asked everyone at Wellesley to use male pronouns and the name Timothy, which he’d chosen for himself. 

For the most part, everyone respected his request.  After all, he wasn’t the only trans student on campus.  Some two dozen other matriculating students at Wellesley don’t identify as women.  Of those, a half-dozen or so were trans men, people born female who identified as men, some of whom had begun taking testosterone to change their bodies.  The rest said they were transgender or genderqueer, rejecting the idea of gender entirely or identifying somewhere between female and male . . .

Two trans male Wellesley students
The you-know-what hit the fan last spring, when Timothy sought election to the student government position of "multicultural affairs coordinator," who is responsible for promoting a culture of diversity at Wellesley.

Along with Timothy, three women of color indicated their intent to run for the seat.  But when they dropped out for various unrelated reasons before the race really began, he was alone on the ballot. An anonymous lobbying effort began on Facebook, pushing students to vote “abstain.”  Enough “abstains” would deny Timothy the minimum number of votes Wellesley required, forcing a new election for the seat and providing an opportunity for other candidates to come forward.  The “Campaign to Abstain” argument was simple: Of all the people at a multiethnic women’s college who could hold the school’s “diversity” seat, the least fitting one was a white man.

Say what?

“It wasn’t about Timothy,” the student behind the Abstain campaign told me.  “I thought he’d do a perfectly fine job, but it just felt inappropriate to have a white man there. . . . Having men in elected leadership positions undermines the idea of this being a place where women are the leaders.”

I asked Timothy what he thought about that argument, as we sat on a bench overlooking the tranquil lake on campus during orientation.  He pointed out that he has important contributions to make to the MAC position.  After all, at Wellesley, masculine-of-center students are cultural minorities; by numbers alone, they’re about as minor as a minority can be.  And yet Timothy said he felt conflicted about taking a leadership spot.  “The patriarchy is alive and well,” he said. “I don’t want to perpetuate it.”

Click here if you'd like to read the entire Times article.

They say you can an old dog new tricks.  But this old dog is incapable of wrapping his brain around the logical tricks that are being taught at Wellesley College these days.

Here's how Ray Davies of the Kinks put it in the band's 1970 hit, "Lola":

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world

He took the words right out of my mouth.

Here's "Lola":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, October 24, 2014

James Taylor -- "Caroline I See You" (2002)

Standing on the stairway
Caroline, I see you

Every time I look at the photographs below, it all comes back to me.

The weekend my daughter Caroline was married on Cape Cod was impossibly perfect -- it was unseasonably warm and calm, and I've never seen a more cloudless and brilliantly blue sky.  The light had a quality I can't hope to describe.

The day before the ceremony
I wasn't as emotional as I expected to be the day of the wedding.   Maybe there were so many people around and so much going on that I had no choice but to focus on the present.

A pre-wedding snack
But twenty-four hours after my daughter Caroline was married  -- after she and her husband had departed on their honeymoon, and after my other children had gone home -- the dam burst.  While I was walking from the house where I was staying to Corporation Beach, I was simply overwhelmed by joy. 

Gilding the lily
It was an unprecedented carpe diem moment for me.  At least as far as my conscious mind was concerned, I was truly in that moment.

Caroline and her husband, Max
When I got to the beach around 6 o'clock that evening, there were several other people there, all waiting for the sun to set.  I pulled out my Blackberry and took photo after photo -- several dozen, at least.

Maybe I was trying to slow time down by concentrating all my attention on that sunset.  

Time does seem to slow down perceptibly when you watch a sunset.  But it doesn't stop.

I didn't want the sun to set, and I didn't want that weekend to end -- but the sun did set, and I had to return to my "real" life the next morning.

I don't think I'll ever really understand what made me feel the way I felt that weekend.  But I'll never forget that feeling.

There's a lot more I could say about that weekend.  But if I can't explain what was going on in my mind and my heart to myself, how can I hope to articulate it to you?

Or maybe I'm just greedy.  Maybe I'm afraid that if I share too more, there won't be as much left for me.

Caroline's bridal bouquet
"Caroline I See You" was released in 2002 on James Taylor's 15th studio album, October Road.

James Taylor's wife is named Caroline, and I assume that this song was inspired by her.

Here's "Caroline I See You":

Click below if you'd like to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kingston Trio -- "Everglades" (1960)

If the skeeters don't get him
Then the gators will

Every time I go to Joplin, Missouri to see my parents, I visit Wildcat Glade, which is one of the few remaining chert glades in the world.

There are only about 60 acres of chert glades left, and about 25 of those acres are along Silver Creek and Shoal Creek south of Joplin.  (Chert -- which is also known as flint -- is a very hard rock.)  

According to the dictionary, a glade is an open space surrounded by woods.  Wildcat Glade has that in common with the famous Florida Everglades -- the vast area of tropical wetlands in southern Florida -- but the two areas are otherwise completely different.

Exposed chert at Wildcat Glade
The chert glades are open areas with very thin soil and lots of exposed rock.  These glades are sometimes called "Missouri deserts" because the soil is too thin to sustain much in the way of plant growth.

Wildcat Glade tree
Prickly pear cactus -- which I'm used to see growing many miles away in south Texas -- flourishes in the the chert glades:

Wildcat Glade prickly pear
When I visited the chert glades, there were plenty of Maximilian sunflowers growing there:

Here's a closeup of one of these wild sunflowers:

I never knew about the chert glades when I was growing up in Joplin.  The chert glades seem to be largely ignored -- I never see anyone when I go for a hike there.  That's probably a good thing as far as preserving this unique habitat goes.

Pools of rainwater collect in the chert
"Everglades" was written by the prolific country songwriter Harlan Howard (1927-2002), who is best known for the Patsy Cline hit, "I Fall to Pieces," which he co-wrote with Hank Cochran.  His other hits include "Heartaches By the Number," which  was a big hit for Ray Price.

Howard, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997, is responsible for this famous definition of a great country song: "Three chords and the truth."

Harlan Howard
One of the first records I remember listening to as a kid was The Best of the Kingston Trio, which was released when I was ten years old.  

I listened to that album countless times on my family's Magnavox console stereo, and I still remember the words to the many great songs on it -- "Tom Dooley," "Tijuana Jail," "Scotch and Soda," "M.T.A.," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "A Worried Man," and many others.

"Everglades" tells the story of a young man who kills a rival in a knife flight and then hides out in the vastness of the Everglades, where he is safe from posses and bloodhounds but at the mercy of mosquitos and alligators.  

When the fugitive is tried in absentia, the jury acquits him:

His running' and hid in' didn't make much sense
For the jury had ruled it was self-defense

But our hero is hiding so deep in the 'Glades that he never hears news of the verdict.  TrĂ©s ironique, n'est-ce pas?

Here's the Kingston Trio's recording of "Everglades":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Young Sinclairs -- "Remember This Song" (2008)

Bright lights, big city
Went to your head

Joplin, Missouri -- where I grew up, and where my parents still live -- isn't a very big city.  Its lights are not so bright that they will go to your head . . . unless you are from a really small town like Carterville or Duenweg or Seneca or Oronogo.

Joplin's donuts are a different story.  I don't care if you're from Kansas City or Chicago or Los Angeles or even New York City -- Dude's Daylight Donuts will still go to your head.

Every time I go to Joplin to visit my parents, getting a maple bar at Dude's Daylight Donuts is high of my list of priorities.

Dude's: open for business
Usually my mother gets up at the crack of dawn and drives to Dude's to get a couple of fresh maple bars for me to enjoy when I wake up hours later.

But my mother fell and suffered a gruesome compound fracture of her ankle just before my most recent stopover in Joplin, so I had to get my own donuts.

No worries -- I hiked to Dude's from my parents' house, which Mapquest says is a 2.18-mile walk.  When I got to Dude's, I discovered that they sold not only maple bars (which are rectangular donuts covered with maple icing) but chocolate bars as well.

I take a back seat to no one when it comes to my love for chocolate, but Dude's maple bar was far superior to its chocolate bar.  

A couple of maple bars and a Dr. Pepper makes an outstanding breakfast.

My walk to Dude's and back took me along the path of the tornado that devastated Joplin on May 22, 2011, killing 161 people and demolishing hundreds of buildings.

The lines of demarcation between the blocks where there was relatively little damage from the tornado and the blocks where every building was wiped out are often surprisingly sharp.

If you stand at the intersection of 22nd and Florida, for example, you'll see that the block to the south lost no houses to the tornado.  But none of the houses in the block to the north of that intersection survived -- every house you see is brand new.

Watch this video to see what I mean:

The same is true at 22nd and Alabama -- just two blocks north of my parents' home.  Only a few of the houses on Alabama just south of that intersection were seriously damaged.  But of the 22 houses that once stood on Alabama between 22nd and 20th streets, only one survived.  Of the 21 that were leveled, only about half about been replaced with new homes.

There are still many striking reminders of the tornado in Joplin.  For example, here are some steps that used to lead to the front door of a house:

Here's another "stairway to nowhere" -- apologies to Led Zeppelin.  (Actually, it's Led Zeppelin that owes us an apology for that song.)

Just outside of the tornado zone is Parr Hill Park, which is home to this "Peace Pole."  It states "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Cherokee.

Peace Pole
Apparently there are a lot of peaceniks in Joplin these days.  My father's doctor seems to be one of them:

(Ever hear of the Second Amendment, doc?)
Thankfully, some of the folks who live in the Joplin area are still outspoken conservatives.  On the highway between Joplin and Kansas City, you'll see an old truck trailer that now functions as a billboard:

(Tell it like it is, my brother!)
Back to Parr Hill Park, which also is home to a dog park.  The sign in the picture below replicates the outline of the fenced area at the dog park -- it's shaped like a bone with a gate in the middle to separate the large-breed area from the small-breed area:

A few blocks away from the park is Big R's Bar-B-Q restaurant, which boasts that "We Have the Meat You Can't Beat."

The restaurant is obviously very proud of that rather tasteless slogan, which appears on the restaurant's signage not once:

Not twice:

But three times:

After I've explored the tornado zone, I usually head for the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center and walk the three-mile loop trail along Shoal Creek.

On one of the approaches to the trail is a house whose owner has his very own firetruck:

Think of the babes you could bag if you had your very own firetruck!

At the north end of the trail loop, you cross Shoal Creek on this low-water bridge:

That bridge gives the heebie-jeebies to a number of my old Joplin friends (all of them female, by the way -- just sayin') even though Shoal Creek is only a couple of feet deep there.   

At the opposite end of the loop, you cross back over the creek on the old Redings Mill highway bridge, which is now open to pedestrians only:

One of the highlights along the trail is Wildcat Glade, one of the few remaining chert glades in the world.  We'll take a closer look at Wildcat Glade in the next 2 or 3 lines

If the lyrics quoted at the beginning of this post sound familiar to you, there's a good reason for that.

In 1961, blues giant Jimmy Reed recorded "Bright Lights, Big City," a traditional 12-bar blues song that became one of his biggest hits.  It begins with these lines:

Bright lights, big city
Gone to my baby's head

Country music singer Sonny James ("The Southern Gentleman") covered "Bright Lights, Big City," in 1971.  His version went to #1 on the country charts, becoming his 15th consecutive #1 single.  

The Animals, Bob Dylan, Johnny Winter, Neil Young, Van Morrison and Them, and Half Japanese are among the other performers to record covered of "Bright Lights, Big City."  (You've never heard of Half Japanese?  Watch this space . . .)

I'm not sure whether Jimmy Reed's original or one of those covers inspired "Remember This Song," which is one of my favorite Young Sinclairs songs.

The Young Sinclairs are a psychedelic/jangle-pop group that formed almost a decade ago in Roanoke, Virginia.  2 or 3 lines will be featuring more of their songs in the future.

Click on the arrow below to listen to "Remember This Song":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: