Althouse | category: music



a blog by Ann Althouse

I've got 9 carefully curated TikToks for you this evening. That is, these are all things I liked.

1. Some have FOMO, but a lot of us have FOPU.

2. A lobster has been seen in real life.

3. Kayak camping and the coconut crab.

4. The L.A. conversation.

5. What does Dolly Parton think about prostitution? 

6. I remember when I lost my mind.

7. When David Bowie shouted out "It's great to be in Cincinnati..."

8. The different generations react to they/them pronouns.

9. Unclogging the drain.

"In 2014, Mr. Clever was living in a tiny apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, with no furniture aside from a rented Steinway grand."

"At night, he would curl up on a twin mattress beneath the piano, relying on it to block the sun. By day, he would have gatherings with fellow New York University students. At one of them, Ms. Chen — a native of Zhejiang, China, who had recently arrived to study creative writing — played the piano alongside him. The two fell in love."

I love these NYT hunt-for-real estate columns but have never before felt inclined to blog one. But that paragraph was just so great, right down to the name Clever (Henry M. Clever).

The article is "Bidding on a Brooklyn Brownstone, With a Baby on the Way. Which One Did They Buy?/He had his eye on architectural details and rental revenue. She wanted a close-knit community and a space with room for the grand piano that started their relationship. Here’s what they found."

Clever, it turns out, is not a professional pianist. The man who slept under a grand piano is a robotics engineer.

"The splashiest new [Spotify] Wrapped goody is the 'music personality' feature — a Myers–Briggs-esque system that analyzes how you listen..."

"... and assigns you one of 16 flattering categories, such as 'Adventurer,' 'Fanclubber,' and 'Specialist.' It’s a savvy move; whether zodiac sign or Hogwarts house, the kids simply love to be categorized...."

The Verge reports, and I already knew, because, though I am not a "kid," Spotify still wanted me to know where I stood in their system, which is FTVU:


Familiarity and variety... It's not paradoxical once you're familiar with a lot of things, which I, as an old person am. I also wanted to show you this — only because it's odd (and definitely "timeless," if by time, you mean the last century):

"He started playing guitar at 13 and attended the University of Wisconsin, where he performed at coffeehouses."

"He was a student there when he met Bob Dylan, an itinerant folk singer traveling through. 'Dylan crashed with me for a few weeks in Madison on his way from Hibbing, Minnesota, to New York,' Mr. Kalb told AM New York in 2013. 'We had so much fun, I dropped out and followed him.'"

From "Danny Kalb, Guitarist Who Gave Blues-Rock an Edge, Dies at 80/His 1960s band, the Blues Project, won a following with a driving, experimental approach to traditional material that was anything but purist" (NYT).

Bob Dylan, rhapsodizing about blue.

In "The Philosophy of Modern Song," Bob Dylan — writer of "Tangled Up in Blue" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" — gets carried away by the color blue a few times:

About "Volare (Nel Blu, DiPinto Di Blu)" — "To Fly (In Blue, Painted Blue") — he writes:

You get the mental picture, Utopia, and it’s painted blue. Oil paint, cosmetics and greasepaint, frescoes with blue slapped on, and you’re singing like a canary. You’re tickled pink and walking on air, and there’s no end to space.... Supposedly it’s about a man who wants to paint himself blue and then fly away. Volare, it means, “Let’s fly away into the cielo infinito.” Obviously, the endless sky. The entire world can disappear but I’m in my own head.

About "Blue Suede Shoes":

These shoes are not like other shifty things that perish or change or transform themselves. They symbolize church and state, and have the substance of the universe in them, nothing benefits me more than my shoes.... They neither move nor speak, yet they vibrate with life, and contain the infinite power of the sun. They’re as good as the day I found them. Perhaps you’ve heard of them, blue suede shoes. They’re blue, royal blue. Not low down in the dumps blue, they’re killer blue, like the moon is blue, they’re precious. Don’t try to suffocate their spirit, try to be a saint, try to stay as far away from them as you possibly can.

There's other blue in the book — singing the blues, "Blue Bayou," "Blue Moon," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," blue veined, blue blooded, baby blue eyes, Bobby Blue Bland, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes...

Some pages of Bob Dylan's "Philosophy of Modern Song" are photos like this with a couple sentences isolated from the text.

I find that pretty amusing. You can buy the book here. I have the audiobook and the Kindle text, so I'm usually out walking around listening. I like Bob's voice, reading, and the various actors who read some of it are good too. I intersperse that reading with playing the songs. Here's a Spotify playlist of the songs. I have the Kindle so I can find quotes to blog, but in this case, I need the Kindle so I can see the illustrations, and then I also need the Kindle so I can contextualized those captions.

Here, in this case, it's:

She says look here mister lovey-dovey, you’re too extravagant, you’re high on drugs. I gave you money, but you gambled it away, now get lost. You say wait a minute now. Why are you being so combative? You’re way off target. Don’t be so small minded, you’re being goofy. I thought we had a love pact, why do you want to shun me and leave me marooned. What’s wrong with you anyway? I’m telling you, let’s be amiable, and if you’re not, I’m going to wrap this relationship up and terminate it. You’re asking her for money. She says money is the root of all evil, now take a hike. You try to appeal to her sensual side but she’s not having it. She’s got another man, which infuriates you no end. 

But no other man could step into your shoes, no other man can swap places with you. No other man would pinch-hit when it comes to her. How could it happen? I get it, she’s not in love with you anyway, she is in love with the almighty dollar. Now you’ve learnt your lesson, and you see it clear. Used to be you only associated with extraordinary people, now they’re all a dime a dozen, but you have to keep it in perspective. There’s always someone better than you, and there’s always someone better than him. You want to do things well. You know you can do things, but it’s hard to do them well. You don’t know what your problem is. The best things in life are free, but you prefer the worst. Maybe that’s your problem.

Now, what song is he talking about? 

See how he's inhabiting the main character in the song and paraphrasing the lyrics, but he's making the main character "you." He's giving this ridiculous person his say.

I propose a party game based on Bob Dylan's philosophy of song. Prior to the event, get your group to agree on a list of songs that everyone knows. Then, when it's your turn, you do a little monologue as the character in the song, not using the lyrics to the song, but restating the character's circumstances and feelings. Play it like charades, but with talking.

So, what's the song? The best things in life are free, but you prefer the worst. That's hilarious.

The bankruptcy barrel.

I was amused by these "Exclusive Emojis from Elon Musk" drawings from Barry Blitt (in The New Yorker). Please check them all out. I'm just going to focus on one (and not because it's the best in the set of 12):

 The bankruptcy barrel. 

I just want to talk about the image — which I've seen all my life — of a guy wearing a barrel. I understand it means you're so poor you don't have even a shred of normal clothing and your only hope of modesty is wearing this very bulky, unwieldy object, the barrel.

And yet even I, who lived through the 1950s have never encountered a barrel in real life. My mother did sing me the song "Playmate, Come Out and Play With Me" — which Lomax recorded in Kentucky in 1938 — with the lyrics "Holler down my rain barrel/Slide down my cellar door/And we'll be jolly friends/Forevermore."

But do younger people even recognize the object, the barrel? If they do, do they recognize the standardized image of a naked, shoeless man wearing a barrel? If not, they can still probably work out the meaning from the context, but the quality of the envisioned emoji depends on how cleverly and efficiently the image conveys the meaning.

Anyway... I was curious where that standardized image came from and quickly found the Wikipedia article "Bankruptcy barrel"

The bankruptcy barrel is a visual symbol, primarily of the 20th century, used in cartoons and other media as a token of destitution....

Will Johnstone's editorial-cartoon character "the Tax Payer", first published in the New York World-Telegram in 1933 and regularly thereafter, showed the taxpayer reduced to wearing a barrel for clothing. Other cartoonists then copied this theme....

Here's one of Johnstone's drawings:

The bankruptcy barrel. 

Wikipedia continues: 

The use of a barrel as clothing for comedic effect (rather than to necessarily show penury) goes back further; the hapless character is reduced to wearing a barrel for modesty because his clothes have been stolen or some other putatively amusing circumstance has arisen. George Etherege's 1664 comedy The Comical Revenge or, Love in a Tub included a barrel-wearing character....

Wikipedia notes that barrel-wearing happened in a 1987 episode of The Smurfs and in a 1997 Captain Underpants book. So maybe young people today are completely aware of barrel symbolism. 

Finally, Wikipedia notes the similar item, the drunkard's cloak — a punishment used on drunkards: 

The bankruptcy barrel. 

The man on the right is wearing the drunkard's cloak. He seems to be reaching out in his humiliation to the woman. But what is she wearing? The caption tells us it's a brank.

"The splashiest new [Spotify] Wrapped goody is the 'music personality' feature — a Myers–Briggs-esque system that analyzes how you listen...""He started playing guitar at 13 and attended the University of Wisconsin, where he performed at coffeehouses."Bob Dylan, rhapsodizing about blue.Some pages of Bob Dylan's "Philosophy of Modern Song" are photos like this with a couple sentences isolated from the text."This is speed metal without the embarrassment of Spandex and junior high school devil worship."The bankruptcy barrel.

Report "Althouse"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?