Monday, December 31, 2018

Miss Toni Fisher – "The Big Hurt" (1959)

Now it begins, now that you've gone
Needles and pins, twilight till dawn
Watching that clock till you return

2 or 3 lines is ending the year on a serendipitous note.

While I was researching the song featured in the previous 2 or 3 lines – “Friends,” by Feather – I saw a photo of the 45 of that song, which credited J. R. Shanklin as the producer.

I Googled Shanklin and discovered that his father – Wayne Shanklin, Sr. – was born in 1916 in Joplin, Missouri, which is where I was born.

*     *     *     *     *

Fewer than 40 people from Joplin have Wikipedia pages.  (I’m not one of them.  There’s still hope, I suppose, but I need to get busy.)

Several of them – NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray, golfer Hale Irwin, NFL lineman Grant Wistrom, soccer midfielder Jack Jewsbury, and baseball players Darrell Porter and Tito Landrum – were professional athletes.  (Wistrom grew up in Webb City, MO, and Irwin’s family lived in nearby Baxter Springs, KS, but both were born in Joplin hospitals.)

A couple of major television stars – Bob Cummings (who had his own network sitcom, The Bob Cummings Show, in the late 1950s) and Dennis Weaver (who starred in Gunsmoke and McCloud) – also hailed from Joplin.

Other notable Joplin natives include poet and Harlem Renaissance figure Langston Hughes, romance novelist Norma Lee Clark (who was Woody Allen’s personal assistant for over 30 years), model railroader extraordinaire John Whitby Allen, and silent-film actress Pauline Starke – not to mention Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead of Blondie comic strip fame.

The next three 2 or 3 lines posts will feature three other notable people that I never knew were Joplin natives.  

*     *     *     *     *

It turns out that “Friends” producer J. R. Shanklin was actually Wayne Shanklin, Jr. – the records he produced usually credited him as “Jr.” or “J. R.”

Wayne Jr. was one of five children born to Wayne Sr. and his first wife, who divorced after eight years of marriage.

Wayne Sr. quickly remarried and had four more children by his second wife.

Later he married his longtime secretary.  They had one child.

Wayne Sr. released an album and several singles in the 1950s, none of which sold very well.  (His first single was titled “Up to My Pockets in Tomahawks.”  Hard to believe that it wasn’t a hit.)

He had better luck as a songwriter.  His most famous song was “The Big Hurt,” which was a #3 hit for Miss Toni Fisher in 1959.  

Some sources claim that Shanklin and Toni Fisher were married at some point, but there seems to be no official record of that marriage.  (Her daughter did marry one of Shanklin’s sons.)

“The Big Hurt” is considered by most to be the first record to use a phasing sound effect called “flanging.”  You can click here to learn more about flanging, or you can just click here to listen to the song.

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, December 28, 2018

Feather – "Friends" (1970)

When we are friends
Digging each other

I have what most people would consider to be an unhealthy personal attachment to all the vinyl LPs I collected between the early 1960s (when my parents purchased a Magnavox console stereo) and 1990 (when I bought my first CD player).

A lot of those records are full of great music, but I could get most (if not all) of those songs in digital form suitable for listening to on my computer on iPod.

I haven’t kept those records for 30 years, 40 years, even 50-plus years to listen to them.  (I do still have a stereo system complete with turntable, amplifier, and speakers, but I haven’t played an album on it in years.)

I kept them because of the memories that are triggered when I look at the covers of those albums – memories of where I was and who I was with and who I was when I played them.

*     *     *     *     *

Like most people my age, I’ve accumulated a lot of flotsam and jetsam over the years.

My plan was to dive into cleaning out all that crap once I left my job, but I didn’t make much decluttering headway in my first year of retirement.  So one of my 2019 resolutions is to devote at least one hour a day to sorting through everything and either selling, giving away, or throwing away everything I don’t truly need.  

The Swedish call that “death cleaning” because the point is to spare your children or other family members or friends the unpleasant task of doing that after you’re dead.

*     *     *     *     *

I did a mini-death cleaning a couple of years ago when my former law firm moved to a new building.

I’m guessing I threw away at least 75% of what was in my old office.  As a result, my new office was tidy and uncluttered.  What little I brought with me was stored away in drawers or shelved.  

The only things on my desk were a spiral-bound calendar/organizer, a cup of pencils and pens, and a stapler.

*     *     *     *     *

Cleaning out my old office wasn’t at all difficult because I didn’t care much about all the paper I had accumulated.  “When in doubt, throw it out” was my mantra.

My home is a whole different animal.  I have thousands of family photos and videotapes, boxes full of baseball cards, old stamps and coins I collected when I was a kid, hundreds of books, and hundreds of record albums.

After pawing through everything, I decided to start the decluttering process by getting rid of my LPs.  I knew it would be hard for me to get rid of some of those albums despite the fact that I will probably never listen to them again.  But I have no sentimental attachment to the majority of my records.

*     *     *     *     *

So I created a spreadsheet and started entering the names of all my record albums.  The plan is to e-mail that list to a few used record dealers and see what kind of bids I receive.

So far, my list has over 300 albums on it.  Most of them are classic rock albums I bought when I was in high school or college.  I’m talking household names like the Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, but also less well-known favorites like Blue Öyster Cult.

I also have a fair number of rock albums from the 1970s and 1980s – including releases by Roxy Music, the Tubes, Elvis Costello, the Pretenders, the Ramones, and X.

I’ve got a few country-western albums as well, some Motown greatest-hits collections, and some miscellaneous compilation albums.

I have no idea how much money all these are worth, but I’ll find out pretty soon and let you know.

*     *     *     *     *

I was pretty picky when it came to buying full-priced albums.  

But my standards were a lot lower when it came to the records in the cut-out bins.  I would often buy a low-priced cut-out that only had one good song on it.  (For you younger folks out there, a “cut-out” is a heavily discounted LP – usually one that didn’t sell well.  The name comes from the fact that the record companies punched a hole in the corner of the album cover to distinguish cut-outs from regular-price records.)

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, regular albums might retail for $4.99 or $5.99.  Cut-outs went for half as much or even less – I still have some decent cut-out albums that cost me only 33 cents at a bargain store in my hometown.

(All the albums whose covers are featured in this post are from my collection of obscure cut-outs.)

*     *     *     *     *

One of my deeply discounted albums is Friends, by the group Feather.  I bought it for the first track on side one – “Friends” – which was a minor radio hit in 1970.  (I don’t think I ever listened to the entire album, and I’m guessing it’s been more than 40 years ago that I heard “Friends.”  If I hadn’t found the album in a box in my basement while preparing to do my death cleaning, I may have forgotten it altogether.)

There’s not much about the record or the group on the internet.  But it seems that “Friends” made its first appearance on the Billboard “Hot 100” on May 30, 1970 – which just happened to be my 18th birthday.  It peaked at #79 a few weeks later, and then disappeared.

I can’t imagine I heard it on the radio more than a few times, but it had enough significance for me that I bought the album when I stumbled across it in a cut-out bin.  

I have a feeling that a girl had something to do with my feelings about the song – maybe I was sitting in the local Dairy Queen parking lot with her one early-summer evening when the song came on the radio and we had a moment.  (A very short moment, and a moment that didn’t really go anywhere . . . but a moment nonetheless.)

*     *     *     *     *

“Friends” is a very good song.

Some reviewers thought it sounded like a Crosby Stills & Nash track.  It does feature close, upper-register CS&N-like harmonies, but it’s much tighter and energetic than most of that group’s recordings.

There were a lot of smartly-arranged, well-produced pop records in the 1960s and 1970s, and “Friends” was one of them.  It was produced by J. R. Shanklin, whose real name was Wayne Shanklin.  (More about him in the next 2 or 3 lines.)

It’s less than three minutes long, and every second counts.  I don’t know how to break down the song into its component parts – I’m not sure what’s the verse and what’s the chorus and what’s the bridge.  

Drummer Dan Greer’s performance is especially noteworthy – he knows all the tricks, and keeps the song moving forward.  I had never previously noticed that there are four measures in 3/4 time at about 0:33 and 1:15 of the song, and it’s Greer’s drumming that makes the transition from 4/4 to 3/4 and back to 4/4 so seamless.

Click here to listen to “Friends.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Irina Menzel and Michael Bublé – "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (2014)

I simply must go
(But baby, it's cold outside)
The answer is no 
(But baby, it's cold outside)

Taking your kiddos to visit the local shopping mall to get an overpriced photo with Santa Claus is one of the great American Christmas traditions.

After standing in line for an hour or so, you and your toddler finally get to the front of the line.  You plop cutie-pie on Santa’s lap and step back so a photographer can snap a picture.

But just as he is about to take the photo, your little darling – who is terrified by the hairy and oddly-dressed stranger who is pawing him or her – bursts into tears,  

*     *     *     *     *

The Washington Post recently reported that some nervous Nellies believe that forcing small children to sit on Santa’s lap is not the best way to teach them about consent and unwanted physical contact.  More and more parents are opting to spare their offspring the trauma of being forced to sit on Santa’s lap.  

This could lead to a decline in enrollment at schools like the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, which CBS News once called “the Harvard of Santa schools.”

The Howard School, which was founded in 1937, offers three-day classes for wannabe Santa Clauses each October.  The tuition is $525 – or $995 if you want to bring along a Mrs. Claus.

Students learn about the history of Santa Claus, how to apply a wig and beard properly, what the newest toys and gadgets are, and the habits of reindeer (among other things).  They are also given accounting and business tips, and advice on how to market themselves.

Four meals are included at no extra cost – including a dinner at a world-famous chicken restaurant and a graduation banquet.

Click here if you want to sign up for next year’s classes.

*     *     *     *     *

Today’s featured song was written by famed songwriter Frank Loesser, who wrote several Broadway musicals and a number of popular songs, including “Heart and Soul,” “Two Sleepy People,” and “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have,” which was famously performed by Marlene Dietrich in the 1939 movie, Destry Rides Again).

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” won the best original song Oscar in 1949, and it’s been a staple on radio stations that play Christmas music for years.

At least it was until a Cleveland station banned it a few weeks ago because “in a world where #MeToo has finally given women the voice they deserve, the song has no place.”

Stations in San Francisco and Denver followed the Cleveland broadcaster’s example – at least until their listeners made their displeasure known.

The Denver station reversed its decision after receiving 15,000 responses to an online poll, the vast majority of which demanded that the song be restored to the station’s playlist.

*     *     *     *     *

“Rape Anthem Masquerading As Christmas Carol” is how one “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” hater characterized it in a tweet several years ago.

But here’s an excerpt from a 2016 Tumblr post by a feminist defender of the song who believes that the tweeter has it all wrong:

Given a cursory glance and applying today’s worldview to the song, yes, you’re right, it absolutely sounds like a rape anthem. 

BUT! Let’s look closer! 

“Hey what’s in this drink” was a stock joke at the time, and the punchline was invariably that there’s actually pretty much nothing in the drink, not even a significant amount of alcohol.

See, this woman is staying late, unchaperoned, at a dude’s house. . . . [S]he’s having a really good time, and she wants to stay, and so she is excusing her uncharacteristically bold behavior (either to the guy or to herself) by blaming it on the drink — unaware that the drink is actually really weak, maybe not even alcoholic at all.  That’s the joke. . . . It is not a joke about how she’s drunk and about to be raped.  It’s a joke about how she’s perfectly sober and about to have awesome consensual sex and use the drink for plausible deniability because she’s living in a society where women aren’t supposed to have sexual agency.

Basically, the song only makes sense in the context of a society in which women are expected to reject men’s advances whether they actually want to or not, and therefore it’s normal and expected for a lady’s gentleman companion to pressure her despite her protests, because . . . if she really wants to stay she won’t be able to justify doing so unless he offers her an excuse other than “I’m staying because I want to.”  (That’s the main theme of the man’s lines in the song, suggesting excuses she can use when people ask later why she spent the night at his house: it was so cold out, there were no cabs available, he simply insisted because he was concerned about my safety in such awful weather, it was perfectly innocent and definitely not about sex at all!) 

So it’s not actually a song about rape – in fact it’s a song about a woman finding a way to exercise sexual agency in a patriarchal society designed to stop her from doing so.

If you say so, sweetie.

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to listen to Irina Menzel and Michael Bublé’s 2014 recording of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Rolling Stones – "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (1969)

We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t, we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse

Are first-class oboe players scarcer then first-class flutists?  (If you say “flautist” instead of “flutist,” you’re either a Brit or a showoff.)

The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s management says it pays its best oboist $70,000 more annually than its principal flutist because the oboe is more difficult to play, and that topnotch oboists are scarcer than hen’s teeth.  

Flutist Elizabeth Rowe
But Elizabeth Rowe, the BSO’s top flutist, thinks she’s paid less than principal oboist John Ferrillo because she’s a woman and he’s a man.  So she’s filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against the orchestra.

Most symphony orchestras are unionized, and they pay their musicians the base salary specified in the collective bargaining agreement.  But the best musicians can negotiate an “overscale” wage – the base salary plus a certain percentage – in the same way that star professional athletes can negotiate a higher salary than lesser-paid than lesser players.

I don’t know much about whether the oboe is tougher to master than the flute, or vice versa.  (I’m a pianist, and we all know that those who play the “king of instruments” deserve to be paid more than those who play lesser instruments.)  But I’m not sure why the BSO chose that as its defense to Rowe’s allegations.  

Rowe’s lawsuit alleges that there are five BSO principals who are paid more than she is – all of whom just so happen to be men.  That does sound suspicious.

Oboist John Ferrillo
But what her lawsuit doesn’t tell you is that there are nine other principals who are paid less than Rowe is – and that eight of those nine musicians are men.  That fact would seem to throw cold water on Rowe’s discrimination complaint.  

By the way, Rowe is paid over $250,000 a year.  That ain’t hay.

But if she thinks she’s being underpaid, she’s free to find an orchestra willing to pay her more – just like a free-agent athlete is free to move to a team that offers to pay him more than his current team will fork over.

But Ms. Rowe doesn’t want to leave Boston and take her talents to another orchestra.  She wants to have her cake and eat it, too.  

I don’t blame her.  But you can’t always get what you want – right?

*     *     *     *     *

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” doesn’t feature the flute or the oboe, but it does have a French horn solo by the multitalented Al Kooper.  (I wonder how much the BSO’s prinicipal horn player makes?)

For some reason, Stones drummer Charlie Watts – one of the truly great rock drummers – couldn’t handle the drum part on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” so Stones producer Jimmy Miller did the drumming on that track instead.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was the first song recorded for Let It Bleed, the Stones’ best album and arguably the greatest classic rock album of all time.  (I personally would give the nod to the first Led Zeppelin album.)

Click here to listen to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, December 21, 2018

I.L.Y.s – "My Career" (2015)

In a Schiaparelli hat
I love her for that

In the last 2 or 3 lines, I told you about a book titled The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margareta Magnusson:

That book is about getting rid of all the crap you’ve accumulated in the course of a lifetime before you die so your kids or others won’t have to deal with it – that’s what “death cleaning” means.  But the author (a Swedish woman who describes herself as being “somewhere between 80 and 100 years old”) includes a number of anecdotes that have nothing to do with death cleaning in her book.

Here’s one of those anecdotes:

Once I was invited to a tea party in Singapore.  Everyone had to wear a hat – it was compulsory!  I had not worn a hat in 20 years or so, and was not really well stocked in that area. . . . And then I saw my wok hanging on a nail above our gas stove.  I put it on my head, taped an orchid on the front brim as decoration, and tied it under my chin with coarse string.  Believe it or not, I won first prize and received a beautiful glass bottle of Schiaparelli’s perfume “Shocking!” for my efforts.  Wow!

*     *     *     *     *

Elsa Schiaparelli – who was one of the most successful fashion designers in the world in the years between the two World Wars – was born into a very prominent and accomplished Italian family in 1890.  Her mother was a Neapolitan aristocrat, and her father a well-regarded medieval scholar.  Her uncle was an astronomer who discovered the so-called Martian canals, while a cousin was a noted Egyptologist who had discovered the tomb of Queen Nefartari.

Elsa Schiaparelli
Elsa’s family wanted her to marry a wealthy Russian, but she ran away to London rather than become his wife.  She eventually married W. F. W. de Kerlor, who claimed to have psychic powers but who was really a con man.  He was deported after being convicted of a crime, and the couple ended up in New York City.

Schiaparelli and de Kerlor quickly found themselves in hot water with the U.S. government, which suspected them of being Communists and anarchists.  The authorities eventually decided that the couple were merely eccentric publicity hounds rather than dangerous revolutionaries, so they were never prosecuted or deported.

In 1920, Schiaparelli gave birth to her only child, a daughter who she nicknamed “Gogo.”  De Kerlor promptly deserted her, and Elsa made no attempt to get him back.  She took up with opera singer Mario Laurenti, while de Kerlor allegedly had affairs with dancer Isadora Duncan and actress Alla Nazimova.  

Schiaparelli with Salvador Dali
Elsa, who had become friendly with Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and other avant-garde artists, moved to Paris in 1922.  She was introduced to Paul Poirot, a prominent fashion designer who became her mentor, and eventually launched a collection of knitwear with surrealist designs.  

Her most famous creations included the “Shoe Hat” (shaped like a high-heeled shoe) and the “Lobster Dress” (a white silk evening dress on which Salvador Dali painted a large lobster.) 

The Schiaparelli  “Shoe Hat”
The Schiaparelli-Dali “Lobster Dress”
Schiaparelli’s Parisian couture house flourished in the 1930s, but she left for New York City when the Nazis invaded France.  She returned to Paris after the Allies triumphed, but her postwar designs were not successful, and she finally closed her business down in 1954. 

*     *     *     *     *

Elsa Schiaparelli had two famous granddaughters – Marisa and Berry Berenson.  

Marisa Berenson was a highly-paid fashion model who became a film actress in the 1970s.  Among the movies she appeared in were Death in Venice, Cabaret, and Barry Lyndon.   

Marisa Berenson in “Cabaret” 
Berry Berenson – her real name was “Berinthia” – was a well-known photographer who also appeared in a number of movies.  She married actor Anthony Perkins.

Berry Berenson was on American Airline Flight 11 when it slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 – the first of the four airliners hijacked by terrorists to crash on 9/11.

*     *     *     *     *

Schiaparelli’s “Shocking!” perfume – which was sold in a shocking-pink glass bottle whose shape was inspired by the torso of Mae West, a client of hers – was introduced in 1936.

Here’s an online review of “Shocking!”:

Scored a full two-ounce vintage eau de cologne on eBay _ this stuff is every bit as dirty and potent as “Bal à Versailles” or Yves Saint Laurent “Kouros.”  Lavish sillage and monstrous longevity.  Lusciously sweet and spicy but not cloying thanks to the herby tarragon, which also muddies the masculine-feminine waters nicely.  The civet . . . strikes a definite sex glands chord.  Wear confidently but in moderation!

I wonder if Margaret Magnusson still has any of the “Shocking!” she won at that Singapore party.  If she does, I hope she passes it on to someone who is able to put it to good use.  

It would be a shame is something with such lavish sillage got tossed during a death cleaning!

*     *     *     *     *

The song I wanted to feature today – “Baby’s Bottle,” from Noël Coward’s 1950 musical, Ace of Clubs – includes the following lyrics:

You can fill her Christmas stocking 
Full of emeralds and pearls
But some Schiaparelli “Shocking!”
Is the way to get the girls

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an online recording of that song to share with you.  So I’m featuring “My Career” by The I. L. Y.s, which was released in 2015 on the I’ve Always Been Good at True Love album:

It sounds nothing like anything Noël Coward wrote but does contain a reference to Elsa Schiaparelli.

Click here to listen to “My Career”:

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Death Breath – "Death Breath" (2006)

I stink to high heaven
Bringing you closer to hell

Looking for the perfect gift for an over-65 friend or family member?

Look no further, because I’ve found exactly what you're looking for:

Only $18.99!
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is not exactly the feel-good book of the year.  After all, its  subject is how to divest yourself of all your unnecessary junk before you die so your kids or others won’t have to face that depressing task after you’re six feet under.

 On the bright side, it’s only 107 pages long – I’m talking small pages with a lot of space between the lines – and takes at most an hour to read.  (In other words, two or three bathroom visits for the average guy.)

*     *     *     *     *

Margareta Magnusson, the author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, describes herself as being “somewhere between 80 and 100 years old.”

Ms. Magnusson (or her agent) must be a close friend or relative of someone high up at Simon and Schuster.  Otherwise, I can’t imagine how this book got published.

Much of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning consists of advice that is so obvious that only a moron couldn’t figure it out for himself.  The rest of the book consists of irrelevant anecdotes and non sequiturs, a few examples of which I’ll provide below.

Margareta Magnusson
For example, here’s an excerpt from the book in which the author tells you how to death clean your clothes:

[S]ort all your clothes into two piles (on your bed or on a table).

Pile one is for clothes you want to keep.

Pile two is for clothes you want to get rid of.

Then look through pile one and pull out the items that require small adjustments or dry cleaning.  The rest you can put back in the closet.

Give or throw away the clothes in pile two.

Are you f*cking kidding me?  Do you really need to book to tell you to do that?

This woman needs to get serious
about death cleaning!
A little later in the book, the author describes what happened the last time she did a death cleaning of her own clothes: 

I managed to reduce my wardrobe by two dresses, five scarves, one jacket, and two pairs of shoes.  A grandchild took a pair of shoes and the rest I gave to the Red Cross.  Wonderful!

Sounds like Margareta Magnusson just saved her kids all of two minutes.  Gee, thanks mom!

*     *     *     *     *

Here are some examples of the irrelevant anecdotes and non sequiturs I promised you above:

Once, about ten years ago, I went on a sailing trip with a family for several days.  Whenever everybody on board was to leave the boat for an hour or more, the cabin door needed to be locked, but no one could ever find the key from when we had last unlocked the door. . . . Beautiful islands were around us, and yet every adventure off the boat began with a bad mood . . . caused by the hunt for the key!  Imagine how a little hook for the key on the inside of the cabin door could have brightened our lives on board. 

(She has a point, but what does it have to do with death cleaning?)

One of my daughters-in-law told me about a little girl in the nursery where she works.  She wanted to draw her best friend.  When the drawing was finished, the little girl turned over the paper to draw the back of her friend on the reverse side.  What a wonderful idea.

(A very cute story, but I must ask once again: what exactly does this have to do with death cleaning?)

Once I was invited to a tea party in Singapore.  Everyone had to wear a hat – it was compulsory!  I had not worn a hat in 20 years or so, and was not really well stocked in that area. . . . And then I saw my wok hanging on a nail above our gas stove.  I put it on my head, taped an orchid on the front brim as decoration, and tied it under my chin with coarse string.  Believe it or not, I won first prize and received a beautiful glass bottle of Schiaparelli’s perfume “Shocking!” for my efforts.  Wow!

(So did the wok survive the death cleaning or not?)

One of my daughters has a sign in her kitchen that reads, “I kiss better than I cook!”  It is an informative and fair warning to her guests – that they might well have an evening of all sorts of surprises . . . ahead of them.

(I wouldn’t mind getting a dinner invitation from this daughter . . . if you catch my drift.)

*     *     *     *     *

Given that the author of this book is a woman, it comes as no surprise that she has a low opinion of men – including her late husband:

In hindsight, I think that doing [death cleaning] on my own might have been a good thing. . . . Had I cleaned with my husband, it would have taken us years.  Men tend to save most things rather than throw them away.  That goes for even the smallest nuts and bolts.  They think . . . that every little thing will be useful at some later occasion.

More from the author about the uselessness of men:

I sometimes wonder how men cope when they become widowed.  Men of my generation often manage poorly . . . . They can barely boil an egg, let alone sew on a button. . . . For a long time, the best solution for widowers has been to get a new wife as quickly as possible – someone to do the laundry and ironing, and to save them from impending starvation.

But the author thinks there is reason to be optimistic about younger males:

In Sweden, many young men enjoy both sewing and knitting; others are fantastic cooks and can combine flavors that make the mouth sing!  And they are not so stupid as to waste time ironing the entire shirt when they intend to wear a sweater on top; they know that only collar and cuffs count.  When these younger men get old, their skills will be of great benefit to them.

*     *     *     *     *

Ms. Magnusson doesn’t know everything there is to know about death cleaning.

For example, she asks this question – “Can I give an old samurai sword to my teenage grandson?” – but fails to answer it.

The most difficult conundrum presented by death cleaning – how to deal with embarrassing possessions – is addressed in a chapter titled “If It Was Your Secret, Then Keep It That Way (or How to Death Clean Hidden, Dangerous, and Secret Things)”:

Maybe Grandfather had ladies’ underwear in his drawer and maybe Grandma had a dildo in hers.  But what does that matter now? . . . Let us each have our small preferences, as long as nobody gets hurt.

But it is perhaps a nice gift to those loved ones who may be death cleaning for us later if we do a little bit of our own cleaning now – to reduce these types of belongings a bit before we leave our present life.

Save your favorite dildo – but throw away the other fifteen!

That is excellent advice – as far as it goes.  But Margaretta’s children will probably be somewhat dismayed to find even one dildo while cleaning up for her after she shuffles off this mortal coil.

What we naughty oldsters really need is a way to have our cake and eat it, too.  But how can we keep the embarrassing items we can’t live without for as long as we are alive, but make sure that they are never found by anyone after we die?

I’m still working on that one.

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to watch a video of Margareta Magnusson explaining death cleaning.  

I’d guess she’s closer to 80 than to 100.  What do you think?

*     *     *     *     *

Death Breath is an old-school Swedish death metal band that released today’s featured song on its 2006 debut album, Stinking Up the Night.

Margareta Magnusson is also an old-school type and Swedish.  I doubt that she’s a fan of death metal, but two out of three ain’t bad.

Click here to watch the official music video for “Death Breath,” which features a zombie, a hot Swedish blonde, and a Volvo.

And click on the link below to buy The Gentle Art of Death Cleaning from Amazon: