Friday, January 29, 2016

H. P. Lovecraft – "The White Ship" (1967)

Sailing on the sea of dreams
How far away it seems
Sailing upon the white ship

I witnessed death for the first time exactly two weeks ago.  

My 90-year-old father, who had been admitted to the hospital ten days earlier, was unresponsive the last day of his life.  

He had opened his eyes a few times the day before, although it's not clear he recognized me or could comprehend the handmade sign reading "Sarah's going to have a baby" that I held in front of his eyes.  (My daughter Sarah had recently told us she was pregnant.  Her baby will be my first grandchild, and would have been my father's first great-grandchild.)

But he never opened his eyes that last day.  He snored softly, but breathed without apparent difficulty.  The nurses gave him no morphine or other pain medication – he wasn't restless, and showed no signs of discomfort, so there was no need for it.

Edvard Munch, "By the Deathbed" (1896)
A few minutes before he breathed his last breath, a young nurse entered the room and took his vital signs.  My mother watched her like a hawk – she often looked upon the people who tended to him in the hospital with suspicion, ready to protest if they did anything that disturbed his repose, or seemed to cause him discomfort.

I lowered the lights in the room after the nurse left.  I then sat in a recliner on the left side of his bed, holding his hand.  My mother sat in an identical recliner on the other side of his bed, holding his other hand.  

She was exhausted, and nodded off almost immediately.  My mother had accompanied her husband of 68 years to the hospital, staying by his side for ten days and nights.  (She had left his room only once, when my sister dragged her against her will to a doctor's appointment.)  

In the silence of the room, his breathing was audible, but no more so than that of the average person sleeping on his or her back.  Suddenly there was no sound – but after a few seconds, the soft snoring resumed.

August Spiess, "Reunion in Death" (1892)
A moment later, it stopped again.  I put my hand on his chest and felt no rising-and-falling motion, but wasn't sure that meant anything.  His skin did seem cool to the touch, but that could have been my imagination.

I had asked the palliative care nurse the previous day to explain what would happen to him at the end.  (I wanted to know myself, but mostly to be prepared so I could minimize the shock to my mother.)  The nurse told me that he might struggle a little, or might die very quietly – there was no way to be sure.  

She advised me that it wasn't unusual for breathing to stop temporarily once or several times, and then resume briefly before stopping forever.  If I thought that had happened, she told me, I should ask a nurse to check him.  The nurse would listen through a stethoscope for a full minute.  If she heard nothing, she would ask a second nurse to check.

Ary Scheffer, "Death of Géricault" (1824)
I left the room to find a nurse, then stood just outside the door while she listened to his heart and lungs.  When she kept listening – ten seconds, twenty seconds, thirty seconds, and longer – I knew why.  She turned away from him and mouthed "I'm sorry" to me.

While she went to find a second nurse, I called my sister, who had left the hospital an hour or so earlier.  (She had spent the previous night sleeping in a chair in our father's room, and it was my turn to spend the night with our mother.)  I told her what was happening and told her to get back to the hospital as quickly as she could.  

The second nurse then confirmed that my father was no longer breathing – that he was dead.

Willes Maddox, "William Beckford
on his Deathbed" (1844)
The nurses’ comings and goings woke my mother.  I could have said everything was fine and told her to go back to sleep, waiting until my sister arrived to break the news to her.

But I knew the task wasn't going to get any easier.  So I told her he was gone.

I finally persuaded her to leave with my sister at about one in the morning.  She was bereft, and said two things over and over.  First, that she have taken better care of him – she seemed to believe it was her fault he had died.  Second, that she wanted to be with him.

I remained until almost three, talking to the nurses and the hospital chaplain to fill the time until someone from the mortuary arrived and took my father's body away.

As I said above, this was my first encounter with death.  It seemed to me that my father didn't die so much as he simply ceased to live.  One moment he was breathing, and the next moment he wasn’t.

The "H. P. Lovecraft" album cover
H. P. Lovecraft was a short-lived psychedelic band that formed in Chicago in 1967, moved to San Francisco, and broke up in 1969.  Their music will remind you of early Jefferson Airplane and It's a Beautiful Day.

"White Ship," which was released on the group's eponymous debut album, was named after a 1919 story by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, the group's namesake.  It's a beautiful song that happened to turn up on my iPod the when I took a walk on the last day of my father's life.

Here's "White Ship":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Drake (ft. Lil Wayne and Tyga) – "The Motto" (2011)

You only live once
That's the motto, n*gga

As we learned in the last 2 or 3 lines, Maryland has a politically incorrect state song.  So it seems only fitting that Maryland has a politically incorrect state motto as well.

The Maryland state song – “Maryland, My Maryland” – was written by a pro-Confederate poet.  It urges Marylanders to stand with their sister slave states and spurn President Lincoln and his Union scum.

The state motto – Fatti maschii, parole femine, which is usually translated as “Manly deeds, womanly words”– is politically incorrect in a completely different way, of course.  The problem with it is sexism, not racism.

Maryland's coat of arms
For reasons that are not entirely clear, Fatti maschii, parole femine became part of the shield of the Calverts, the English Catholic family that founded Maryland.  It was then incorporated into Maryland’s coat of arms.

Not surprisingly, no other state has an Italian motto.

According to a spokesman at the Italian Embassy in Washington, the motto is derived from a comment made by Pope Clement VII in the 16th century.

Pope Clement VII
The words . . . are generally understood to mean “men do things, and women talk about things.” Another, wordier, translation: “When you need things done, ask a man, because women only talk and don’t arrive to a conclusion.”

Those translations of Fatti maschii, parole femine certainly suggest that males are superior to females.  But I don’t think that the official translation – “Manly deeds, womanly words” – belittles women at all.

“Manly deeds, womanly words” may be sexist in the sense that it stereotypes men and women, but it doesn’t stereotype women negatively.

As I understand it, that translation merely suggests that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus.  Men deal with conflict by taking action – they speak softly, but carry a big stick.  Women, by contrast, solve problems by talking through them.  

Maryland's real state motto
Sometimes, it’s best to maintain the peace through negotiation and compromise.  Other times, you have to take a stand.  Soldiers aren’t superior to diplomats (or vice versa) any more than a Phillips-head screwdriver is superior to a straight screwdriver – different tasks require different tools.

Scientists have shown that there are significant differences between men and women as a whole when it comes to mental health, cognitive abilities, personality, and aggressiveness.  

For example, according to the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, the fact that males are generally more aggressive than females is one of the most robust and oldest findings in psychology.  Scientific studies have found that males of all ages engage in more physical and verbal aggression than females.  Aggressive behavior by females tends to be more indirect in nature — e.g., spreading negative rumors, or gossiping.

Women are stereotypically viewed as more emotional than men.  But some studies suggest that while women are more likely to express their emotions, both sexes experience the same amount of emotion.  

It comes as no surprise to me that a 2014 meta-analysis of 355 studies measuring narcissism found that men score significantly higher on narcissism than women.  The authors of that meta-analysis  noted that gender differences in narcissism represents true differences in personality traits, including men’s heightened sense of entitlement and authority.

Narcissus was a male, after all
It is unclear exactly how much of the difference between the sexes is a cultural phenomenon and how much relates relates to differences in the structure and function of the male and female brains or other biological distinctions, but it seems likely that both nurture and nature are somewhat responsible for the observed differences.

One final note.  Boys cry about as often as girls at age 12, but 18-year-old females cry four times as much as 18-year-old males.  (I don’t know what that means, but it was interesting to me.)

“The Motto” (which was released in late 2011) was a hit for the Toronto-born rapper Drake.  Some have criticized Drake for buying into the “You only live once” mindset, but I think “You only live once” ("YOLO" for short) is a much better motto than Fatti maschii, parole femine.  

Here’s the official music video for “The Motto”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

97th Regimental String Band – "Maryland, My Maryland" (1989)

She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb
Huzzah! she spurns the Northern scum! . . .
Maryland! my Maryland!

As we learned in the previous 2 or 3 lines, many official state songs are obscure and forgettable.  A few, however, suffer from a severe case of political incorrectness.

Stephen Foster
The first great American songwriter was Stephen Foster, who was born on July 4, 1826, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Foster never lived in the South, but many of his songs had Southern themes – including “Old Folks at Home” (also known as “Swanee River” or “Suwannee River”) and “My Old Kentucky Home,” both of which were written for the famous New York City blackface group, Christy’s Minstrels.

Christy's Minstrels
The original lyrics of “Old Folks at Home,” which became the official state song of Florida in 1935, romanticize the peculiar institution of Southern slavery.  In 2008, the Florida Legislature approved new lyrics for the old song.  The most notable change was the substitution of “brothers” for “darkeys.”

“My Old Kentucky Home” was actually an anti-slavery song – inspired by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the ballad was praised by abolitionist Frederick Douglass – but its lyrics also included “darkeys.”  

James A. Bland, who grew up in a family of free Negroes in New York City and graduated from Howard University in 1873, wrote over 700 songs.  The two most famous are “Oh! Dem Golden Slippers” and “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” another minstrel tune that was the state song of Virginia from 1940 until 1997.

If you wonder why “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” is no longer the state song of Virginia, just take a gander at the song’s first verse:

Carry me back to old Virginny
There's where the cotton and corn and taters grow
There's where birds warble sweet in the spring-time
There's where this ol' darkey's heart am long'd to go

The official state song of Maryland – Virginia’s neighbor to north and the state I’ve lived in for the last 30-plus years – is “Maryland, My Maryland.”  That song is set to the familiar tune of “O Tannenbaum,” and its lyrics are taken from a nine-stanza poem written by a pro-Confederate resident of Baltimore, James Ryder Randall, after a friend of his was killed by Union soldiers during an anti-war riot in “Charm City” in April 1861.

The 1861 Baltimore riot
The first verse of Randall’s poem urges Marylanders to “[a]venge the patriotic gore/[t]hat flecked the streets of Baltimore.”  Later, Randall calls for Free Staters to “burst the tyrant’s chain” and support Virginia and her other slave-state “sisters” on the battlefield.

Randall was a poet with a strong finishing kick.  The lines quoted at the beginning of this post are from the song’s ninth and final stanza “Maryland, My Maryland.”  Huzzah indeed!

James Ryder Randall
It may surprise you that one of most liberal states in the country would still have a state song that called on Marylanders to secede from the Union – “spurn the Northern scum,” in Randall’s words – and go to war on the side of the slave-owning states of the Confederacy.  But past efforts to replace that song with one that’s more politically correct have failed.

Recently, a state advisory group recommended that the song’s lyrics be rewritten or an entirely different song selected.  I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the days of “Maryland, My Maryland” are numbered.

In the next 2 or 3 lines, we’ll turn our attention to Maryland’s state motto.  A Republican state senator recently introduced a bill to change that motto because he thinks it is sexist.

The 97th Regimental String Band describes itself as “is a eudaemonious concatenation of jocular harmonists that provides both vocal and instrumental music of the 1800’s.”  Its recording of Maryland’s official state song was released in 1989 on the band’s Tenting on the Old Campground album.

Click below if you’d like to purchase that album from Amazon:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

McCoys – "Hang On Sloopy" (1965)

Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town
And everybody there tries to put my Sloopy down

Here’s a question for the American readers of 2 or 3 lines.  Do you know what your state song is?

Probably not.  Most state songs are obscure and mediocre.

The Nevada state song
Many state songs incorporate the name of the state in the title.  For example, there’s “Alaska’s Flag,” “I Love You, California,” “Our Delaware,” “Here We Have Idaho,” “The Song of Iowa,” The “Song of Maine,” “Maryland, My Maryland,” “Hail! Minnesota,” “Go, Mississippi,” “Beautiful Nebraska, “Home Means Nevada,” “O Fair New Mexico,” “Oregon, My Oregon,” “Rhode Island, It’s for Me,” “Hail, South Dakota!,” “Texas, Our Texas,” and “On Wisconsin.”

If I lived in Alabama, Illinois, Montana, or Wyoming, I’d wish that my state song had a more interesting title than “Alabama,” “Illinois,” “Montana,” and “Wyoming.”  

The Rhode Island state song
Many states have more than one official state song.  New Mexico, for example, has five.  In addition to a state song, it also has a state Spanish song, a state bilingual song, a state ballad, and a state cowboy song.

Massachusetts has a state anthem, a state folk song, a state ceremonial march, a state patriotic song, a state glee club song, a state polka, and a state ode.  The titles to all of them include the word “Massachusetts,” except for the state ceremonial march, which is titled “The Road to Boston.”

Tennessee’s official state art form is songwriting, so it should come as no surprise that Tennessee has nine state songs – more than any other state.  (That doesn’t even include the state’s official bicentennial rap song, “A Tennessee Bicentennial Rap: 1796–1996.”)

The Louisiana state song
One of those nine songs is “Rocky Top,” which is a really good state song.  “Yankee Doodle” (Connecticut) and “You Are My Sunshine” (which was written by a former governor of Louisiana who had been a successful country-music singer) are other good state songs.

But I think the best state song is Ohio’s “Hang On Sloopy.”

“Hang on, Sloopy” is actually Ohio’s official rock song.  The official state song is “Beautiful Ohio,” which is a real snoozer.

Here's the text of the Ohio legislature’s 1985 resolution declaring “Hang On Sloopy” as Ohio’s official rock song in its entirety:


WHEREAS, The members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio wish to recognize the rock song "Hang On Sloopy" as the official rock song of the great State of Ohio; and

WHEREAS, In 1965, an Ohio-based rock group known as the McCoys reached the top of the national record charts with "Hang On Sloopy," composed by Bert Russell and Wes Farrell, and that same year, John Tagenhorst, then an arranger for the Ohio State University Marching Band, created the band's now-famous arrangement of "Sloopy," first performed at the Ohio State-Illinois football game on October 9, 1965; and

WHEREAS, Rock music has become an integral part of American culture, having attained a degree of acceptance no one would have thought possible twenty years ago; and

WHEREAS, Adoption of "Hang On Sloopy" as the official rock song of Ohio is in no way intended to supplant "Beautiful Ohio" as the official state song, but would serve as a companion piece to that old chestnut; and

WHEREAS, If fans of jazz, country-and-western, classical, Hawaiian and polka music think those styles also should be recognized by the state, then by golly, they can push their own resolution just like we're doing; and

The Ohio State Capitol
WHEREAS, "Hang On Sloopy" is of particular relevance to members of the Baby Boom Generation, who were once dismissed as a bunch of long-haired, crazy kids, but who now are old enough and vote in sufficient numbers to be taken quite seriously; and

WHEREAS, Adoption of this resolution will not take too long, cost the state anything, or affect the quality of life in this state to any appreciable degree, and if we in the legislature just go ahead and pass the darn thing, we can get on with more important stuff; and

WHEREAS, Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down; and

WHEREAS, Sloopy, I don't care what your daddy do, 'cause you know, Sloopy girl, I'm in love with you; therefore be it Resolved, That we, the members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio, in adopting this Resolution, name "Hang On Sloopy" as the official rock song of the State of Ohio; and be it further Resolved, That the Legislative Clerk of the House of Representatives transmit duly authenticated copies of this Resolution to the news media of Ohio.

Ohioans can be proud of their state legislature – that resolution represents American government at its finest.

Here’s the Ohio State University Marching Band performing “Hang On Sloopy” in concert in 2013:

And here’s the recording of “Hang On Sloopy” by the McCoys, which reached the top spot on Billboard “Hot 100” in October 1965.  (I didn’t buy many singles when I was a teenager, but I bought that one.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie – "Lazarus" (2016)

Look up here, I'm in heaven
I've got scars that can't be seen

David Bowie died yesterday, two days after his 69th birthday and two days after the release of his 26th studio album, Blackstar (which will likely become the first Bowie album to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard album chart).  

Bowie had been diagnosed with liver cancer eighteen months before his death, but kept his illness a secret.

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust
Sooner or later, everyone who writes about David Bowie (including yours truly) describes him as a chameleon.  That includes Chris Richards, the pop music critic of the Washington Post:

Mourning David Bowie requires tremendous energy because there are so many David Bowies to mourn.  The lost astronaut.  The alien balladeer.  The pansexual glamourpuss.  The rake.  The maestro.  The fashionista.  The freak.  He was humanity’s ultimate and most giving rock star.  A chameleon bearing gifts.

I think Richards got to the heart of Bowie’s essence a little later in that piece:

[P]erpetual rejuvenation was the beating heart of Bowie’s project . . . . Bowie’s trajectory demanded that all pop stars evolve, transform, tweak their personas or invent new ones.  He made reinvention one of pop music’s most essential, appealing and enduring requirements.  

Today I asked a very talented musician I know to rank Bowie on a one to ten scale.  She would give only the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and a few others a “ten” rating, but she would give Bowie a “nine.”  I think that’s just about right.

Aladdin Sane
Bowie was born in 1947 as David Robert Jones.  He changed his stage name from Davy Jones to David Bowie to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees.  

Bowie was a fan of American culture and reportedly wanted a name as “cutting” as Mick Jagger.  So he chose to name himself after Alamo hero Jim Bowie and his eponymous knife.  He later described his new name as “the medium for a conglomerate of statements and illusions” — whatever that means.

2 or 3 lines has previously featured five David Bowie songs, so you can tell I’m a big fan.  I played Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Aladdin Sane, and Diamond Dogs to death when I was in college.  His next album, Young Americans, was awful, but thankfully his “plastic soul” phase didn’t last long.  

I didn’t go to many concerts when I was younger, but I did see Bowie when he brought his “Serious Moonlight Tour” to the old Capital Centre in suburban Washington in August 1983.  That tour kicked off in Brussels and ended in Hong Kong; altogether it visited 61 cities in 15 countries.  The setlist included “Space Oddity,” “Star,” “The Jean Genie,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Young Americans,” “Fame,” “Golden Years,” “Heroes,” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Modern Love,” “Let’s Dance,” and “Cat People (Putting Out Fire).”  

The Thin White Duke
Lazarus, an off-Broadway musical that features new and old songs by David Bowie, is a sort of sequel to Bowie’s 1976 movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth.  

Here's the trailer for that movie:

One reviewer said Lazarus was “unapologetically weird,” which is a pretty good description of Bowie himself.

The only track from Blackstar that is performed in Lazarus is today’s featured song – which is also titled “Lazarus.”

Bowie in 2015 (age 68)
The biblical Lazarus was restored to life by Jesus four days after his death.  Other than Jesus himself, Lazarus is the only biblical figure who was resurrected from the dead.  His resurrection is the last and most remarkable of the seven miracles performed by Jesus in the gospel according to John. 

According to Tony Visconti, the longtime Bowie collaborator who produced Blackstar, “Lazarus” and its accompanying music video were intended as a parting gift to Bowie’s fans.

The "Blackstar" cover
Visconti sent out this tweet after Bowie died:

He always did what he wanted to do.  And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way.  His death was no different from his life – a work of Art.  He made “Blackstar” for us, his parting gift.  I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I  wasn't, however, prepared for it.  He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life.  He will always be with us.  For now, it is appropriate to cry.

Here’s “Lazarus”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Katy Brand – "No Pants" (2009)

When I'm on the bus
No pants!
It creates a buzz
No pants!
I'm ridiculous
No pants!  

I commute to work five days a week on the Metro, which is what we residents of the DMV – that is, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia – call our local subway system.

I rarely ride the Metro on Sundays, but I’m thinking of making an exception tomorrow.  That's because tomorrow is this year’s “No Pants Subway Ride Day” around the world.  

A 2015 "No Pants Subway Ride Day" participant
So if you plan to ride mass transit on Sunday in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Houston, Jerusalem, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Zurich, or one of several dozen other cities, be prepared.  You’re likely to see people who aren’t wearing any pants on your train.

“No Pants Subway Ride Day” is the brainchild of a New York performance art group called Improv Everywhere, which specializes in organizing comedic pranks in public places.  In the ten years since Improv Everywhere created a Youtube channel, its videos have been viewed some 375 million times.

Improv Everywhere’s most popular Youtube video is titled “Frozen Grand Central,” a two-minute video that shows 200 Improv Everywhere “agents” freezing in place for five minutes at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.  It’s been viewed over 35 million times.

Improv Everyone came up with the idea for “No Pants Subway Ride Day” in 2002.  Only seven riders participated that first year.  In 2006, 150 New Yorkers took part.  In recent years, tens of thousands of subway riders in 60 cities in 25 different countries have gone pants-less (or skirt-less).

Let me be perfectly clear about one thing.  “No Pants Subway Ride Day” is not “No Underwear Subway Ride Day.”  (Which is a damn shame, if you ask me.)

If you have questions about appropriate “No Pants Subway Ride Day” behavior, the organizers of the event posted this on their Facebook page:

We know it can be hard not to dance and celebrate a lack of pants, but we encourage people to maintain the original spirit: act as if it’s any other day.  You just happen to be without pants.  Maybe you forgot them.  Maybe you hadn’t even noticed.  Maybe, despite the assertions of those around you, you’re pretty sure you have them on.

Here's a short video about last year's "No Pants Subway Ride Day" celebration in New York City:

If “No Pants Subway Ride Day” isn’t your thing, you might want to save the date for your local “World Naked Bike Ride.”  

“World Naked Bike Ride” has a serious purpose.  From its website:

We face automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way of defending our dignity and exposing the unique dangers faced by cyclists and pedestrians as well as the negative consequences all face due to dependence on oil and other forms of non-renewable energy. 

This year, “World Naked Bike Ride” will take place on June 11 in the Northern Hemisphere and March 5 in the Southern Hemisphere.  

Naked bike riders in London
It’s not clear that there will be an event in Washington, DC this year.  It looks like it’s been several years since there was a “World Naked Bike Ride” in Your Nation’s Capital.

The organizers of the last such event in Washington offer the following advice to those who want to participate in the event without running afoul of local indecent exposure laws, which seem to require only that one’s genitals be covered:   

We've worn a tiny penis/scrotum "glove" in years past with no hassles. . . . Women may obviously go top-free.

(I’ve come up with a half-dozen snappy comebacks that I thought about inserting here, but I’ve deleted all of them.  After all, my children sometimes read 2 or 3 lines.)

Naked bike riders in San Francisco
It sounds like participation in “No Pants Subway Ride Day” is less challenging that participation in “World Naked Bike Ride.”  For one thing, there’s no risk of sunburn or chafing.

But viewed from a spectator perspective, “World Naked Bike Ride” wins hands down, of course.

Katy Brand is an English comedienne and the star of the aptly-named Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show, which aired in 2007-09.  Today’s featured song is her parody of Lady Gaga’s first single, “Just Dance,” which made it to the number-one spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” in January 2009:

Click below to buy episodes of Katy Brand's Big Ass Show from Amazon:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Elvis Presley – "G.I. Blues" (1960)

We get hasenpfeffer
And black pumpernickel for chow
I'd blow my next month's pay
For a slice of Texas cow

(“Hasenpfeffer” is a traditional German stew made from rabbit.)

I recently received an e-mail from a member of the marketing team at Invaluable, an online auction website that is teaming up with Graceland Auctions to celebrate Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday by offering a dazzling array of Elvis artifacts for sale.

The auction, which kicks off tonight at 7 PM CST, has 126 lots.  Click here to check out those lots, and to register and bid.  You Elvis fans can also click here to see other Elvis memorabilia from Invaluable.

If you have $1000 to spend, you might be able to pick up an original script for Live a Little, Love a Little (a 1968 Elvis movie), or a 1959 hand-signed letter from Dale Evans and Roy Rogers to Colonel Tom Parker (who managed Elvis), or the logbook from the Lisa Marie (Elvis’s Convair 880 airplane), or Elvis’s gold record for his 1977 hit, “Way Down.”

An Elvis-owned racquetball bag
For $5000, you can probably grab a stage-worn scarf that Elvis gave to a fan at a performance in Lincoln, Nebraska less than two months before he died, or a check for $1000 that Elvis wrote to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, or an Elvis-owned racquetball bag, or his Remington .22 rifle.

The pièce de résistance of the auction is lot 24, a 1969 custom Gibson "Ebony Dove” guitar, which Elvis played in the famous 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” concert.  That concert was broadcast via satellite to over 40 countries around the world.

For you guitar freaks out there, here’s how the Invaluable website describes this guitar:

There is no more important icon of rock 'n’ roll history than Elvis’ beloved Gibson Ebony Dove.  The Dove is a flattop steel string acoustic guitar with solid maple back and sides, and a solid spruce top.   The double-ring rosette styling with seven and three-ply binding adds an understated elegance.  The black pick guard has a white beveled edge and the adjustable rosewood saddle with mother-of-pearl circles and stylized dove shaped emblems.  The rosewood fret board with rolled edges, split parallelogram inlay is also inlaid in mother-of-pearl with the script “Elvis Presley.”  The crown peghead Gibson logo, also fondly referred to as the thistle, adorns the headstock of the guitar, and a Kenpo Karate decal is affixed to the body.  The Kenpo Karate Association of America decal dominates the front of the guitar.  It is the hallmark of the organization founded by Elvis' longtime instructor, bodyguard and confidante Ed Parker.

The guitar shows heavy stage use, with many scratches and scuffing on the reverse from Elvis' belts and jumpsuits.  The finish shows a small fissure above the karate sticker, and there are several spots of paint loss at the guitar's front edges.  While the fret board shows visible signs of playing use, the mother-of-pearl inlays remain bold and the ornate details are intact.  EX condition overall.

The minimum bid for that guitar is $150,000.  It’s expected to sell for between $300,000 to $500,000.

I’m not going after that guitar, but I may spring for lot 31, which is a handwritten two-page letter to Alan Fortas that Elvis wrote in 1958 when he was in the U.S. Army in Germany.  (Fortas was a member of Elvis’s entourage, which was called the “Memphis Mafia.”)

Here’s the text of that letter, which shouldn't cost me more than $50,000:

Dear Hog Ears,

Got your letter and was glad to hear from you.  Well you know I am bound to be pretty lonely or I wouldn’t be writing a letter.  We are up at a training area for 50 days and believe me it’s miserable.  It’s cold and there is nothing at all to do up here.  I am about 200 miles from Friedberg and won’t be back until the 20th of Dec.  It will sure be a great Christmas this year, “ha.”  I would give almost anything to be home.  You know it will be March of 1960 before I return to the States.  Man I hate to think about it.  Of course don’t say anything about it because a miracle may happen.  Boy it will be great getting out.  I will probably scream so loud they’ll make me stay 2 more years.  

Page one of the letter
I can hardly wait to start singing, traveling, making movies, and above all seeing the old gang and old Graceland.  All I do is sit and count the days.  Well it’ll be over in about 15 months and as Gen. MacArthur said, “I shall return.”  Tell D. J. and Lewis I said hello and to hold down the fort till I get back.  If you see cous, tell him I said ep skep skep skep.  I have been dating this little German “Chuckaloid” by the name of Margrit.  She looks a lot like B.B.  It’s Grind City.  Well I gotta go wade in the mud.

Your Pal, Elvis Presley 

The “Chuckaloid” named “Margrit” [sic] was a local girl named Margit Buergin, who Elvis thought resembled Brigitte Bardot (“B.B.”).  It’s not hard to imagine why he described his relationship with her as “Grind City.”

Today’s featured song is from the 1960 movie of the same name, in which Elvis plays Tulsa McLean, a tank crewman stationed in Germany who dreams of owning his own nightclub when his soldiering days are over.  

Producer Hal Wallis originally wanted Michael Curtiz – who had directed Casablanca, Mildred Pierce, and White Christmas – to direct G.I. Blues, but had to settle on Norman Taurog instead.  

Tuarog was 21 when he directed the first of his 180 films.  He went on to direct eight more Elvis movies.

Here’s “G.I. Blues”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dusty Springfield – "Wishin' and Hopin'" (1964)

Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
Plannin’ and dreamin’

In the sixth century BC, the Greek poet Hesiod wrote of a “Golden Age” – a primordial period of peace and prosperity.  (Not to mention alliteration).

Here’s how Hesiod described the Golden Age:  

[Men] lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all devils.  When they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, and they had all good things; for the fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint.  They dwelt in ease and peace.

That sounds pretty sweet, boys and girls – where do I go to get me a big ol’ slice of Golden Age pie?

Lucas Cranach the Elder's
"The Golden Age" (c. 1530)
According to Hesiod, things went slowly downhill after the Golden Age.  The “Silver Age” came next, followed by the “Bronze Age.”  Things got better briefly during the “Heroic Age,” but turned south again during the “Iron Age,” which was the name Hesiod gave to the era in which he lived.  

Assuming we are still living in the Iron Age, what comes next?  Some of the more pessimistic ancients predicted that a “Leaden Age” would follow.  A more up-to-date name for the Leaden Age might be the  “Age of Global Warming.”

Or perhaps the “Crap Age.”  Personally, I think the Crap Age is what we have to look forward to.

Just ask Palm Apodaca:

I think the Golden Age of 2 or 3 lines took place relatively early in the life of my wildly popular blog – say, 2010.

Why do I feel that way?  Take at a look at the four posts I did about Leon Russell in 2010.  To begin with, all four of them featured really good songs.  In those days, I started with a great song and constructed compelling content around it.  Nowadays, I too often begin with some ridiculous concept or theme and search out a song that fits the bill – regardless of whether it’s a good song or a piece of crap.

Those Leon Russell covered these topics: the bizarre “Mazeppa” television show (starring Gaylord Sartain and Gary Busey) that aired late on Saturday nights on a Tulsa station in the 1970s, Lord Byron's poem about the Ukrainian gentleman who that show was named after, the last month of the life of a beloved family dog, Lt. William Calley and the My Lai massacre, the many famous musicians that Leon Russell played with during his long and glorious musical career, an early-day Doonesbury strip I taunted my college girlfriend with, Keith Richards’ dogs (a golden Lab named Pumpkin and a wolfhound named Syphilis), and Kathi McDonald (a fabulous female backup singer you’ve never heard of).

Leon Russell
My late grandmother used to warn me not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but those were four great posts if I do say so myself.  And there were plenty other good ones back then – and in 2011 and 2012 as well.

Things started to go downhill in 2013, I think.  Since then there have been flashes of brilliance, but they’re getting to be fewer and farther between.

I may be flattering myself to say that 2 or 3 lines is currently in its Silver Age.  I fear it’s skipped the Bronze and Iron Ages and gone straight to its Crap Age.

I’m sure you’re eager to hear what I’m planning to do to shake off the decadence that has befallen 2 or 3 lines and restore it to its former glory.  So here’s what I have planned for the new year:  MORE OF THE SAME.

That’s right, boys and girls.  I’d be kidding myself if I thought that anything was going to change from 2015.  I’m starting off 2016 up to my ankles in quicksand, and I may sink deeper into that quicksand  before getting free and clear of it.

We can hope I’m wrong.  We can hope that 2 or 3 lines will soon return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when every post (like the schoolchildren of Lake Wobegon) was above-average.  

We can also hope that if we dig down to the bottom of a big pile of horse manure, we’ll eventually find a pony.   

Here’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” a Burt Bacharach–Hal David song that was a top ten hit for Dusty Springfield in 1964:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: