Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mitch Miller & the Gang – "That's Where My Money Goes" (1958)

She wears silk underwear
I wear my last year’s pair
Say, boys, that’s where my money goes

According to a government study, men’s underwear costs 29% more than women’s underwear. 

That study, which was issued last December by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, says that finding is based on a comparison of “analogous” men’s and women’s underwear – meaning items that were similar in appearance, fabric type, construction and other factors.  

I’m not sure that a pair of men’s underwear is ever truly “analogous” to a pair of women’s underwear.

Analogous underwear?
We’re talking apples and oranges here, right?  (I might be able to come up with a more apt fruit-based phrase if I gave it a little thought, but it’s probably best that I stick with apples and oranges.)

Men’s underwear is pretty utilitarian compared to women’s underwear, and I would have expected it to be cheaper.  But the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (which we’ll call the “DCA” from here on) found otherwise.

The DCA’s finding may be the result of the stores they chose to shop at.   Most of the stores they visited – including Aeropostale, American Eagle, H&M, and Uniqlo – skew very young.  Also, the DCA shopped for underwear only at stores that sold both men’s and women’s underwear.  So they didn’t visit women’s-only stores like Victoria’s Secret, La Perla, or Journelle.  And they didn’t compare prices at high-end department stores like Nordstrom’s or Saks Fifth Avenue.  (I’m guessing the men’s underwear sold at Nordstrom’s and Saks is not 29% more expensive than the women’s underwear.)

The DCA’s study – which is titled From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumerwasn’t just about underwear (although it would have made much more interesting reading if it had been).  It compared the prices charged by New York City stores for almost 800 consumer products that are sold in male and female versions – clothing, personal care products (like deodorants and shampoos), children’s toys, and so on – and concluded that female consumers pay 7% more on average for products designed for and marketed to women than male consumers pay for equivalent products designed for and marketed to men.

The study’s authors started with mistaken premises and their methodology was faulty, so it’s no surprise that the study’s findings are highly suspect.  (I pity the fools – that is, the taxpayers of New York City – who had to foot the bill for this flawed study.)

For one thing, “The prices recorded for the study data were always the full price, regardless of any sale or discount the retailer offered.”  

So the study is really a comparison of list prices for male and female products – not a comparison of the actual prices paid by male and female consumers for those items.  (If you wanted to evaluate whether real estate prices were going up or down, would you use the sellers’ asking prices for their homes?  Or would you look at the actual sale prices the buyers agreed to pay?)  

According to the study, women pay 8% more on average than men for clothing generally (despite the fact that they pay 29% less for underwear).  But if we had data on the actual prices paid for clothing rather than the list price for those items, we might find out that women actually spend less money for clothing.  

For example, we know that retail stores put winter fashions on sale as the winter season wanes in order to make room for spring/summer items.  “The discounts are normally higher for women’s fashions than men’s,” according to one marketing textbook, “because men’s clothes span several winter seasons, whereas women’s fashions change more rapidly.”  

As a result, the list price for a woman’s winter coat may be higher than the list price for a man’s winter coat, but the store may discount the price of the woman’s coat more deeply at the end of the winter season in order to avoid getting stuck with unsold inventory.

Of course, I don’t know for a fact that the higher regular prices for female clothes is offset by the fact that women’s clothing is discounted more aggressively.  But neither does the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs.  They’re assuming that the regular price for clothing is the actual price paid by consumers, and we know that is far from the truth.

The larger fallacy in the DCA’s finding that women pay more for clothes than men is that men’s and women’s clothing are apples and oranges.  (Yes, I realize that I’ve already used the old apples-and-oranges cliché in this post.)  Apples and oranges usually don’t cost exactly the same in the grocery store.  So why would you expect men’s and women’s dress shirts and sweaters – which differ in a number of large and small ways – to cost the same?

Having said that, I was taken somewhat aback when I read in the DCA report that Levi’s 501 CT jeans for women sold on the Levi’s website for $88, while the same jeans cost men only $78.  I realize that women’s jeans may be tailored somewhat differently than men’s, but it seemed odd that Levi’s would charge different prices for the male and female versions of the same style of jeans.

But it turns out that this DCA finding is quite misleading.

If you visit the Levi’s website, you’ll see that there are 18 different colors of men’s 501 CT jeans available, while there are 26 colors of women’s 501 CT jeans.  The DCA picked one of the male colors and one of the female colors — not the same color, by the way – and compared only the prices for those colors.

Men's 501 CT Levi's jeans
The regular prices of men’s 501 CT jeans vary greatly depending on which of the 18 colors you pick – the regular price may be $68, $69.50, $78, $79.50, $88, or $89.50. 

The regular prices of the women’s 501 CT jeans – which come in 26 different colors – may be $64, $88, $98, or even $148.

But forget the regular prices.  Most of the men’s and women’s 501 CT jeans are being offered at a discount.  You can pay anywhere from $28.90 to $58.90 for the men’s jeans that are on sale.  And you can pay anywhere from $9.90 to $119.90 for the women’s colors that are on sale.

With a little effort, you could come up with a weighted average price for men’s and women’s Levi’s.  You’d have to know how many pairs of each color were sold, then factor in the different prices for different colors.  That would require you to do some calculations, but it’s not rocket science.  

The DCA didn’t even try to come up with weighted data.  (The DCA doesn’t care that much about the truth, you see – they care more about advancing a certain political agenda.)  

The DCA also shopped for children’s clothing, finding that girls’ clothing items cost 4% more on average than comparable boys’ items.  But assuming that girls’ clothing actually costs more than boys’ clothing – which is questionable – does that mean that female consumers pay more than male consumers for children’s clothing?

Of course not.  That’s because children don’t buy clothes for themselves – their parents do. 

For the average traditional family, it doesn’t matter whether girls’ clothes cost more, boys’ clothes cost more, or girls’ and boys’ clothes cost the same.  For families with same numbers of girls and boys, any price differential is a wash — if you pay 4% more for your daughter’s clothes you pay 4% less for your son’s clothes.

Of course, some two-parent families have more girls than boys, while others have more boys than girls.  The parents with more girls pay a little more, and the parents with more boys pay a little less – but each such family has a mother and a father, so mothers don’t pay more for clothes than fathers.  In other words, there’s no gender tax for two-parent families.

What about single parents?  If single mothers as a group had more daughters than sons, and single fathers as a group had more sons than daughters, mothers would be spending more to clothe their children.  But single mothers don’t have more daughters than sons, and single fathers don’t have more sons than daughters.  Once again, the fact that girls’ clothing costs more (assuming that is a fact) doesn’t mean that female consumers spend more on children’s clothing than male consumers.

Maybe parents in the future are able to choose the gender of their babies.  And maybe lesbian couples will prefer girls generally, while gay male couples will prefer boys.  (I’ve seen nothing to suggest that is the case, but it’s possible – right?)  In that scenario, the “gender tax” would rear its ugly head – lesbian females would pay more to clothe their kids than gay males.

But why don’t we wait to cross that bridge until we come to it?

One final note.  I was surprised that the DCA study doesn't quote a single price from Walmart.  After all, Walmart is the world's largest retailer.

But there are no Walmarts in New York City.  That's because the mayor of NYC doesn't like Walmart, and doesn't want them in the Big Apple.  (He doesn't have a problem with Target or Kmart having stores in New York City – just Walmart.)

If the DCA really wanted to help New York City consumers, persuading the mayor to reverse his anti-Walmart stance would do more than a dozen flawed studies like From Cradle to Cane.

Fortunately for the many hardworking residents of New York City who can't afford to waste money, there are any number of Walmarts in the nearby 'burbs.  (According to one source, some 25% of New York City residents shop at suburban Walmarts.)

* * * * *

When I was a child, one of my favorite records was Sing Along With Mitch, which was released by Mitch Miller and the Gang in 1958.  “That’s Where My Money Goes” was part of a medley on side two of that album.

“That’s Where My Money Goes” is based on the old Tin Pan Alley song, “My Gal’s a Corker, She’s a New Yorker,” which was written by John Stromberg around 1895.  

Here’s the “I’ve Got Sixpence”/“I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”/“That’s Where My Money Goes” medley from Sing Along With Mitch:

Click below to buy the medley from Amazon.  (It's only 69 cents, boys and girls – what a bargain!)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

M.I.A. – "Bad Girls" (2012)

Looking in the rear view
Swagger going swell
Leaving boys behind 

I found out a few days ago that my first grandchild will be a masculine grandchild.

Luca Brasi (who sleeps with the fishes) would have been pleased:

I was pleased as well.  But I was also concerned, because boys have it harder than girls these days.

“The human male is, on most measures, more vulnerable than the female,” according to Dr. Sebastian Kraemer.Death, damage and disease are commoner or more severe in males throughout the lifespan.” 

Because of the biological fragility of the male fetus, males are at a disadvantage to females from the first moments of life.  “Everything that can go wrong from conception to delivery is more likely to affect the male,” says Kraemer. 

At conception there are more male than female embryos. . . .  From this point on it is downhill all the way.  The male fetus is at greater risk of death or damage from almost all the obstetric catastrophes that can happen before birth.  Perinatal brain damage, cerebral palsy, congenital deformities of the genitalia and limbs, premature birth, and stillbirth are commoner in boys, and by the time a boy is born he is on average developmentally some weeks behind his sister . . . .

Dr. Sebastian Kraemer
Prenatal life for male fetuses is clearly a struggle – but postnatal life for boys is no bowl of cherries:

Developmental disorders – such as specific reading delay, hyperactivity, autism and related disorders, clumsiness, stammering, and Tourette's syndrome – occur three to four times more often in boys than in girls . . . . Conduct and oppositional disorders are at least twice as common in boys. . . .

Some of these problems are influenced by biology, but the problems faced by older boys appear to be as much the result of nurture as nature.

(Can you imagine the reaction
 if a store sold T-shirts that read
"Girls are stupid, throw rocks at them"?)
“Cultural expectations about masculinity shape the experience of boys as they grow up,” according to Kraemer:

Most at risk are the "boys who don't talk."  They become "ashamed of being ashamed," and try to stop feeling anything. . . . This is not a safe strategy.  The excess of non-fatal and fatal accidents among boys seems to be part of a pattern of poor motor and cognitive regulation in the developing male, leading to misjudgment of risk.  In adolescence the nature of risk taking may change and lead to dangerous experiments with drugs and alcohol or to violence against self and others.  As is now well known, the suicide rate in young men is several times higher than in young women and has risen alarmingly from the late 1970s until recently.

Things don’t get any better for adult men:

Disorders of addiction, particularly substance abuse, are commoner in males.  Even when ill, men may not notice signs of illness, and when they do they are less likely to seek help from doctors.  This tendency will account for some of the excess suicides in males.  In his despair the victim believes that no help is available, that talking is useless.  If baby boys are typically harder to care for (see below) it is arguable that they will be more likely to feel lonely as adults.

The biological fragility of males lasts from cradle to grave, according to Kraemer:

Later in life the process continues unabated.  Circulatory disorders, diabetes, alcoholism, duodenal ulcer, and lung cancer are all commoner in men . . . . Male suicide rates continue to exceed those in females throughout life, and, as is universally known, women survive men by several years in almost all countries, and the gap is widening. 

At this point, I’m not worried about my unborn grandson’s greater vulnerability to heart disease and alcoholism.  But I am concerned by the fact that he will be discriminated against in the classroom when he starts school in a few years.

Erika Christakis of the Yale Child Study Center wrote in Time magazine that a recent study found that kindergarten teachers (over 95% of whom are female) discriminate against boys when handling out grades:

A new study on gender disparities in elementary-school performance — the first study to examine both objective and subjective performance — found that boys were given lower grades than girls, even in cases where their test scores were either equal to or higher than the girls’ test scores.

Erika Christakis
It seems like out-and-out discrimination, except there is an interesting wrinkle: teachers didn’t downgrade boys who had identical test scores to girls if they seemed to share the girls’ positive attitude toward learning. 

In other words, kindergarten teachers don’t discriminate against boys just because they are boys – they discriminate against boys who act like boys typically behave, but not against boys who act like girls typically behave.

[T]he well-socialized boys received a small grade “bonus” for their good behavior relative to other boys, suggesting that teachers may be overcompensating when they encounter boys whose behavior exceeds expectations.  In other words, boys who match girls on both test scores and behavior get better grades than girls do, but boys who don’t are graded more harshly.  Which means that the issue of what to do with underperforming boys just got a lot more complicated.

We’ve known for a long time that boys, on average, struggle with school more than girls do. Learning disabilities and behavioral problems are more prevalent among boys, and high school and college graduation rates are lower. [NOTE: In 1960, about 60% of new college graduates were male.  Today, the reverse is true – 60% of new college graduates are females.]  Boys also receive two-thirds of failing grades and are more likely to find school boring or frustrating.

What’s new is the finding that these gender disparities start so early and appear linked not only to gaps in relatively objective measures like test scores but also to teachers’ assessments of their own students. 

BBC Radio reporter Winifred Robinson – whose only child is a boy – believes that the preferences of English parents when it comes to having boys or girls have changed dramatically over the course of her lifetime:

As one of six daughters growing up in the seventies, girls were so little prized compared with boys that a friend of my father even expressed his sympathy rather than congratulations when my youngest sister, a perfectly healthy child, was born.

Can you imagine that happening now?  I rather doubt it.  In an almost complete reversal of attitudes, today's parents long for girls.

As the mother of an only child, a son, I do not think I am exaggerating in saying that I detected something akin to sympathy when we announced that we had a boy. . . .

Winifred Robinson and her son
At the heart of this new preference lies the fact that all parents want their children to succeed in life – and quite simply, in today's Britain, girls are more likely so to do.

Building on a trend that began more than a decade ago, girls are outperforming boys at every level in education. They get more and better GCSEs and A-levels, win more places at top universities and gain better degrees.

Robinson believes the pendulum has swung much too far:

Imagine for a moment the outcry that would follow – from parents, politicians, the teaching unions –  if girls began to lag behind boys in school. 

Yet there is a widespread silence on the very real problem of boys’ underachievement, as though by raising it we are somehow anti-women. 

Some education specialists even ask if it matters – as though boys’ failure is the natural downside to women’s greater success; as if the current situation represents some kind of natural order where women must go beyond equality and always come out on top. 

Of course it matters, just as it mattered 30 years ago when fewer girls than boys made it to university. It matters because it is unjust, and it matters because it is a shameful waste of talent and one that we can ill-afford. 

As someone who has benefitted enormously from the women’s movement, I deplore the prospect of a generation of disadvantaged young men failing to reach their true potential and missing out on university and the chances it brings.

*  *  *  *  *

“Bad Girls” was featured on a 2 or 3 lines over four years ago.  (You can click here to read that post.)  

That is absolutely mind-boggling to me.  I remember that post as if I had written it yesterday.  

I rarely re-use songs that I’ve previously featured, but the lyrics from “Bad Girls” fit today’s post.  Plus I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share the “Bad Girls” music video with those of you who missed it the first time.  

PLEASE watch it if you've never seen it.  As my son said four years ago, “This is basically the bombest video in history.”  Indeed it is:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, March 25, 2016

Monkees – "I'm a Believer" (1967)

Now I'm a believer
Not a trace
Of doubt in my mind

(I’ve been spending a lot of time this week on a really big-deal post, so I need to phone one in.  I’m sure you won’t mind – surely you’re used to that by now.)

Some of you have questioned things I’ve said on 2 or 3 lines in the past.  Big mistake!   

I would hope that by now all you doubting Thomases and Tamsins out there are now 2 or 3 lines believers, and that there is not a trace of doubt in your minds.

For example, if I were to tell you that “Tamsin” is the feminine equivalent of the name “Thomas,” there wouldn’t be a trace of doubt in your mind that I was right.  (Because I am.)

The following hard-to-believe facts are courtesy of Viralscape.com, a shameless purveyor of clickbait that presents irresistible online slide shows categorized as “Funny,” “Cute,” “Amazing,” “Inspiring,” “Creepy,” and “OMG!”

1.  Hippo sweat is red.  (A lot of people will tell you that hippo milk is pink – but it's not.)

2.  The Barbie doll has a name: Barbara Millicent Roberts.

3.  Vending machines kill twice as many people as sharks.

4.  Maine is the closest U.S. state to Africa.  

Betty White is older than sliced bread
5.  Betty White (who was born in 1922) is older than sliced bread (which was first sold in 1928).

6.  Technically, a strawberry isn’t a berry, but a banana is.  (So are avocados and watermelons.) 

7.  John Tyler, who was President of the United States from 1841 to 1845, has two living grandsons.  Tyler was 63 when his son Lyon was born – his wife was only 33.  Lyon was 71 and 75, respectively, when his sons Lyon, Jr., and Harrison were born – his wife was 36 years younger.  Today, Lyon, Jr., is 91 and Harrison is 87.  (Harrison Tyler lives in a house that his grandfather bought in 1842, and which had also been owned by William Henry Harrison, the President who Tyler succeeded.)

John Tyler and his grandsons
By the way, John Tyler fathered more children than any other U.S. president.  He had eight children by his first wife Letitia, who was the same age as Tyler.  After Letitia died of a stroke, Tyler married a woman who was 30 years younger than he was – he was 54, she was 24 – and fathered seven more children.  Subsequent presidents have had sex in the White House with women younger than Tyler's second wife, but didn't end up buying the cow. 

8.  For every human being now alive, there are over 1.5 million living ants.  (The weight of 1.5 million ants is about the same as the average human being.)

9.  You can’t hold your nose closed and hum at the same time.  (Just try it if you don’t believe me.)

10.  Certain turtles can breathe not only through their mouths, but also through their anuses.  

Box turtle
By the way, turtles don’t really have anuses – like other reptiles, birds amphibians, and certain fish, they have cloaca, which is a body cavity into which the intestinal, urinary, and genital tracts all open.  (Ewwwww!

I was originally going to feature a different Monkees song in this post.  “Hard to Believe” was released on the Monkees’ 1967 album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.  (The title of that album refers to the astrological signs of each Monkee: Mickey Dolenz was a Pisces, Peter Tork was an Aquarius, and both Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones were Capricorns.  I guess they didn’t want to name the album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Capricorn.)

“Hard to Believe” was written by Davy Jones and three guys you’ve never heard of.  It’s not one of the Monkees’ best efforts.  (I hope saying that doesn’t offend anyone.  Some of my readers are very quick to take offense.)

By contrast, “I’m a Believer” – which was penned by Neil Diamond – is a winner.  It held down the #1 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart for seven weeks, and was the best-selling record of 1967.  

Here’s “I’m a Believer”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hilltop Hoods (feat. Pharaoh Monch) – "Classic Example" (2009)

My final four defeats sweet sixteens
Like March Madness

Last week, Matt Norlander of CBS Sports asked all the coaches whose teams qualified for this year’s NCAA basketball tournament to name their favorite musical performers.  

I would have never guessed that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s favorite recording artist is . . . Beyoncé?

Beyoncé with Coach K
That’s right.  Coach K picked none other than Mrs. Jay-Z as his #1 musical seed. 

I was just as surprised to learn that the favorite performer of another grizzled veteran, Tom Izzo of Michigan State,  was Michael Jackson.  

(In my bracket, I had Izzo’s Michigan State squad hoisting the championship trophy.  In case you didn’t notice, Michigan State lost in the first round to Middle Tennessee State – a #15 seed – in what was probably the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  Good work, Tom.)

Not this year, Tom
I have to say that a lot of basketball coaches have horrible taste in music.  

Sean Miller, the University of Arizona’s head coach, said John Mayer was his favorite musician.

Boston was the top choice of Scott Nagy of South Dakota State.

Nick McDevitt of U. of North Carolina–Asheville picked the Dave Matthews Band as his numero uno.

And Link Darner, U. of Wisconsin–Green Bay chose Meat Loaf as his favorite.  

Link Darner's favorite recording artist
It is incomprehensible to me that someone could choose Meat Loaf as his favorite recording artist.  Hey, I like “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” as much as the next guy, but the rest of Meat Loaf’s oeuvre isn’t really up to snuff. 

Classic rock was the most popular genre of music among this year’s coaches – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Chicago, the Cars, Tom Petty, and the Eagles were among the classic rock groups picked by one or more coaches.  

R&B and funk/soul performers on the favorites list included Earth, Wind & Fire (named by three different coaches), the Isley Brothers, and Luther Vandross.

Vandross is the singer of “One Shining Moment,” the song that CBS plays when it rolls a montage of tournament highlights just after the championship game ends.  I doubt that Bill Self of Kansas really is a fan of Vandross’s music generally – he’s just letting the world know he plans to win this year.

Here's the 2015 "One Shining Moment" montage:

Basketball is more of an urban sport than baseball and football, so it’s not surprising that only eight of the 68 coaches picked country artists as their favorites.  Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, and Keith Urban were among the country performers on the favorites list.  Old-school country legend Merle Haggard was the pick of U. of Arkansas–Little Rock’s Chris Beard.  (Good for you, Coach Beard!)

The most obscure group named by a coach was clearly the Front Fenders, a North Dakota band that apparently plays most of its gigs at the Fargo VFW hall.

Here's a picture of the Front Fenders playing at a Fargo wedding.  (Don’t quit your day jobs, guys.)

The Front Fenders performing
at a wedding in Fargo
U. of Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson, who named the Front Fenders as his favorite band, attended the U. of North Dakota.  I’m guessing he got lucky one night after the Front Fenders played at a frat party.)

The most interesting choice from the entire group belonged to College of Holy Cross coach Bill Carmody, who gave the nod to none other than . . .  Johann Sebastian Bach?

Carmody coached at Princeton and Northwestern before taking the Holy Cross job, which may explain why his musical tastes are a little more elevated than those of his fellow coaches.  Or maybe he thought it wasn’t a good idea for the coach of the oldest Catholic university in New England to choose a rapper who’s known for his violent and misogynistic lyrics or a drug-addled hard rock group as his favorite.

Holy Cross coach Bill Carmody
Holy Cross’s record this year was 10-19 going into the Patriot League tournament, where they were seeded ninth out of ten teams.  (The 10th seed, Lafayette, was a truly woeful6-24.)

But the Crusaders proceed to beat the #8 seed, the #1 seed, the #4 seed, and the #2 seed in succession, winning their conference championship and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.  They will likely be back in Worcester in plenty of time to watch the second-round games and study for next week’s classes.

The Hilltop Hoods
The Hilltop Hoods formed in Adelaide, Australia in 1994.  Five of their albums have reached #1 on the Australian albums chart.  “Classic Example” – which features Queens rapper Pharoahe Monch – was released on their 2009 album, State of the Art.  (When Pharoahe raps about “sweet sixteens,” I don’t think he’s talking about college basketball.)

Here’s “Classic Example," which is good . . . really good, in fact:

Click below to buy that song from Amazon:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Barbarians – "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl" (1965)

Are you a boy?
Or are you a girl?

My daughter Sarah – who is due to give birth to my first grandchild in August – had an ultrasound on Friday that revealed the gender of her unborn child.

Sarah asked her doctor not to tell her if she was having a boy or a girl.  Instead, she told the doctor to write either “boy” or “girl” on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope.

Sarah then took the envelope to the neighborhood bakery.  She told the baker to wait to open the envelope until after Sarah left, and then bake a cake with either blue or pink icing on the inside depending on what the doctor’s note said.

The families gathered yesterday for a “gender reveal party,” which apparently is all the rage among the cool kids these days.  (You can click here to read an article about different ways to throw a gender reveal party of your own.)  

Cutting the gender-reveal cake
After an appropriate amount of ceremonial buildup, Sarah and her husband cut the cake.  (Since it is the father – not the mother – who determines the gender of a child, I thought it was only fair that he have the honor of cutting the gender-reveal cake.  But does anyone listen to me?)

As you'll see from the next picture, my daughter's first child is a masculine child:

I'm thrilled that my daughter is having a boy, and so is my daughter.

Luca Brasi would have been pleased as well:

But the three of us may be in the minority.

Here's an excerpt from an article that the mother of a young boy wrote for a UK newspaper:

As one of six daughters growing up in the seventies, girls were so little prized compared with boys that a friend of my father even expressed his sympathy rather than congratulations when my youngest sister, a perfectly healthy child, was born.

Can you imagine that happening now?  I rather doubt it.  In an almost complete reversal of attitudes, today's parents long for girls.

As the mother of an only child, a son, I do not think I am exaggerating in saying that I detected something akin to sympathy when we announced that we had a boy.

It is clear that males generally have a much harder time of it than females.  I'll discuss why life is an uphill battle for males vis-à-vis females – beginning in the womb – in a future 2 or 3 lines.

*     *     *     *     *

The T.A.M.I. Show, the legendary 1964 concert movie that I vividly remember seeing when I was 12 years old, featured performances by the Beach Boys, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Rolling Stones, and . . . the Barbarians?

The Barbarians were from Cape Cod, of all places.  The most striking thing about the band was the fact that its drummer, Victor “Moulty” Moulton, had a hook-shaped prosthetic left hand that he modified to enable him to hold a drumstick.  

Moulton had lost part of his hand when a homemade pipe bomb he was holding exploded.  He was 14.  (No, I have no idea what he was doing with a homemade pipe bomb.)

“Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl,” which the Barbarians released in 1965, had nothing to do with gender reveal parties.  If you were a teenaged boy in the sixties who grew your hair long, someone probably asked you whether you were a boy or a girl – not because that person didn’t know, but because he was making a point.

Here’s “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:      

Friday, March 18, 2016

Endle St. Cloud – "Street Corner Preacher" (1968)

You clinch your fist 
And shake it at the sky
Street-corner preacher!

In the last few 2 or 3 lines posts, I’ve been catching up on some recent news stories.

I’m sure you’ve been wondering when my usual narcissistic crap will rear its ugly head again.  Wonder no more, boys and girls – it’s b-a-a-a-c-k!

Today's 2 or 3 lines recounts a pointless story from my youthful days of yore – a story in which I behave badly, but not so badly as to make the story very interesting.

Which reminds me of something.  When I started work as a young lawyer for a federal government agency in Washington in 1977, I showed a female friend a picture of myself from my senior year of college – when I had hair down to my shoulders, a horseshoe mustache, and a dead-eyed expression.  

Horseshoe mustache
“You look sort of . . . dangerous,” she said.  It was the nicest thing a woman has ever said to me.

Anyway . . . 

In the summer of 1971, three of my high-school friends and I headed out on a quest.  We didn’t drive to Galena, Kansas, that night seeking the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend.  We were in search of very cheap 3.2% beer.

Our goal that night was to drink a gallon of the stuff – a difficult feat that none of us had ever even attempted, much less achieved.  (On a typical night in Galena, my friends and I would stop after downing two quarts of beer – a mere half-gallon.)

We chose to eschew our usual Galena destination – the infamous Nina’s Green Parrot, where generations of Missouri teenagers (and only Missouri teenagers) went to drink beer – because we were rather poor knights-errant, and Nina charged as much as 45 cents for a quart of beer.

Buck's sold more than just Pepsi
Instead, we headed to Buck’s Recreation Parlor, a dingy redneck hangout that sold hunting and fishing licenses and where you would usually find some farmers in bib overalls playing dominoes.

At Buck’s, you could get a quart of a bargain-brand beer – Falstaff, Stag, Pabst, or Hamm’s – for a quarter.  (“A quart for a quarter” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?)  

Given that each of us was planning to pour four quarts of the stuff down our throats that night, going to Buck’s would save us some serious coin.

After driving the ten or so miles from Joplin to Galena on old Route 66, we took a right on Galena’s Main Street and headed to Buck's.  

Street-corner preacher
We were only a block or two from our destination when an amplified voice suddenly boomed out these words:  “AND WHAT ABOUT YOU BOYS?  WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO SPEND ETERNITY?”

A street-corner preacher with a portable loudspeaker had stationed himself in a vacant lot, of which there were plenty in Galena.  (The town had fallen on hard economic times when the once-rich lead and zinc mines in the area had closed.)

Martin Luther once wrote that “unauthorized men preaching on street corners are a sure sign of the devil.”  But defenders of open-air preaching point out that Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles alike engaged in preaching en plein air – as did Jesus Christ himself.

The Sermon on the Mount:
 preaching en plein air
Simon and Garfunkel famously sang that “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.”  When the words of the prophets rang out from the Galena preacher’s battery-powered bullhorn that night, did I listen?  

Are you kidding me?  Of course I didn’t listen.  (I’ve never listened, have I?)

Instead, I went into Buck’s (which we used to call “Uncle Buck’s” for some reason) and got down to business.

A few hours later, my compadres dropped me off in front of my house.  I got out of the car and promptly threw up in the middle of the street.  It was the one and only time I remember throwing up from drinking too much beer. 

(Let me clarify that statement.  It was not the only time I drank too much beer – far from it.  But it was the only time I threw up after drinking too much beer.) 

The next morning, I was none the worse for wear.  In all likelihood, I was back in Galena that night for a little hair of the dog that bit me.

I wonder what happened to the Galena street-corner preacher we encountered that one night almost 45 years ago.  Did he remain faithful to his calling, perhaps finding a church with a vacant pulpit that he could occupy? 

Or did he give in to demon rum – or demon gin, to be precise – and give up preaching, like the street-corner preacher in Endle St. Cloud’s song?

“Street Corner Preacher” was released on St. Cloud’s 1968 album, Thank You All Very Much.  That was the 12th and final album released by International Artists, a legendary independent label based in Houston whose other releases included albums by the 13th Floor Elevators and Bubble Puppy.

Here’s “Street Corner Preacher”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Aerosmith – "Love in an Elevator" (1989)

I kinda hope we get stuck
Nobody gets out alive

I’ve never been to China, and I have no plans to go there.  But if I ever do, I’ll eschew taking the elevator and use the stairs instead.  If you know what’s good for you, you will too.

On January 30, a maintenance crew went to check out a malfunctioning elevator in a residential building in the Chinese city of Xi’an, which the home of the famous “Terra Cotta Army.”

The "Terra Cotta Army"
The crew didn’t manually open the elevator doors to see if anyone was inside – they simply yelled “Anyone in there?” (in Mandarin, of course).  When they didn’t get an answer, they turned off the electricity to that elevator, and went home without opening its doors.  

When the workers returned to the building on March 1– over one month later – and opened the elevator cab, they were in for quite a surprise: to wit, THERE WAS A DEAD WOMAN IN THE ELEVATOR.

The infamous broken elevator
The hands of the victim – who had starved to death – were bloody and battered as a result of her desperate attempts to claw the elevator doors open.  

From the Los Angeles Times:

[Q]uestions remained over how the woman in the elevator could have remained trapped for so long with neither her neighbors or her family realizing it.

The victim was reportedly mentally ill, and her family seems to have concluded that she had wandered off and gotten lost.  They reported her missing to local authorities, but that was the end of it.

Why did it take over a month for the elevator crew to return and fix the elevator?

Blame it on Chinese New Year.  (FYI, this year is the “Year of the Monkey.”  I was born in a “Year of the Dragon,” which pones all the other years.  Chinese birth rates usually go up during such a year because “Dragon babies” are considered to have many desirable characteristics.) 

"Year of the Monkey" greeting card
This year, the first day of Chinese New Year was February 8.  The official New Year’s break in China lasts about a week, but a lot of Chinese workers take additional time off before or after the holiday (or both).

I’m shocked that Chinese workers can take off for an entire month – I thought that privilege was reserved to the French and other decadent and lazy Western societies.  

By the way, taking an escalator in China may not be a good idea either.  Last July, a woman visiting a shopping mall in another Chinese city was “eaten alive” by the escalator she was riding with her young son.  

Once more, I’ll quote an account published in the Los Angeles Times:

The scene can only be described as horrific: on an otherwise unremarkable morning, a woman is riding up a shopping center escalator in central China with her son.  When she reaches the top and begins to disembark, she steps onto a metal footplate covering the machinery.  The plate collapses, dropping the woman into the gears.  She shoves her child into the arms of two mall employees, and is crushed to death.

I’m sorry I ever heard about this incident.  I ride escalators everyday to go down into the Washington Metro subway station where I catch a train to work, and back up to the surface at the end of my commute.  

Maybe I’ll start avoiding the Metro escalators – which are out of service much of the time anyway.  After all, I can always use the elevator . . . right? 

Steven Tyler
“Love in an Elevator” reached #1 on the Billboard “Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks” chart in 1989.  It’s difficult to say whether this song, the music video, or Steven Tyler is more absurd.  

Tyler is sort of an American version of Mick Jagger – actually Dr. Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show may be a closer analogue.

Here’s the official music video for “Love in an Elevator”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: