Importance of Thoreau

I wrote this post three years ago on January 1, 2018 for Linda G Hill Life in progress #JusJoJan Daily Prompt of “Drama” which was suggested by Ritu and it was originally titled Thoreau A Love For Water.  Thoreau was a minimalist, a person who believed that we could be happier by having less and simplifying our lives.  Thoreau was a disciple of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and he sought isolation and he wanted to be close to nature.  In his writings he suggests that all living things have rights that humans should recognize, implying that we have a responsibility to respect and care for nature rather than destroying it.  He was motivated by an urgent need to find an understanding of reality that could give him a greater intensity and meaning for his life and Walden Pond’s pure body of water gave him the serenity, peacefulness and mystery that he was seeking.

Thoreau taught the idea of civil disobedience which is still important today, that it is morally and ethically important for us to challenge unjust law and authority, and to do so non-violently.  Thoreau wrote, “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth–certainly the machine will wear out… but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law.  Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.  What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”  Thoreau also wrote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Thoreau believed in transcendentalism, the literary movement and philosophical stance that reflection on the soul is important.  Thoreau was nineteen years old when Emerson published Nature, an essay that articulates the philosophical underpinnings of the movement.  Transcendentalism began as a radical religious movement, opposed to the rationalist, conservative institution that Unitarianism had become.  Henry felt that we should take time to think, and not being swayed by conformity, as by finding one’s self are all important ideas that allow you to take a stand in life can and it will help you attain self-confidence.

Thoreau included a chapter in his book titled “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”.  In this section he talks about his place of residence, and then he gets into some deeply philosophical concerns about the meaning of life.  Thoreau tells us why he chose to live by Walden Pond, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau A Love For Water

In 1845, Henry David Thoreau (1817 –1862) American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, environmental scientist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist began a two-year experiment of simple living in which he built himself a hut on Emerson’s land, on the banks of Walden Pond just outside Concord, Massachusetts.  It was Independence Day when Thoreau arrived there, turning his back on what he saw as his country’s depressing materialism, its commercial and industrial soullessness, so he took himself away from all of the drama, off to a life of solitude in a country cabin near Walden Pond.  Thoreau said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau was a boatman, more than he was a woodsman, his life was spent on the river boating, walking and skating.  As a backyard naturalist and river enthusiast, Thoreau was keenly aware of the way humans had altered the waterways and meadows of his beloved Concord River Valley.  He recognized that because he was a land surveyor who had many bankers, lawyers, builders, landowners and elected officials as his clients.  Thoreau was a self-reliant, blunt, hostile to rank and privilege, unwilling to accept any philosophy as true without the test of implementation, and above all fiercely and passionately steadfast in his insistence that government exists for the benefit of the governed, that its power is derived from the consent of the governed, and that each man is the equal of every other man and superior to any government.

In 1854, Thoreau published his major work, Walden, which draws upon each of his identities in meditating on the concrete problems of living in the world as a human being.  It must have been so peaceful for Thoreau to be in a canoe on Walden pond.  Thoreau was a complex man of many talents who was in tune with nature and he found great joy in his daily life looking to nature for ultimate truth while living in the woods by Walden Pond.  He was motivated by an urgent need to find an understanding of reality that could give him a greater intensity and meaning for his life and Walden Pond’s pure body of water gave him the serenity, peacefulness and mystery that he was seeking.

Thoreau said that water protects against the ‘insularity’ of the earth, and reminds us that the earth is not entirely solid.  In the morning he bathed in the pond to wake up, which is the most important thing to do.  Thoreau faced some bad weather during his two year stay at Walden Pond and he thought, rain is good somewhere, for something, even if it causes floods near him, and forces him to stop working for days at a time.  He is so sympathetic partially because he finds such a good society in nature.  Also, he finds the pelting rain, wind, thunder, and lightening very dramatic and beautiful.  He noticed that Walden Pond, had two main colors, those being a far away color and a close-up color.  These are usually, respectively, blue and green, but the ponds can also be slate on stormy days when they reflect the stormy sky.  Thoreau surmises that the pond changes color because it reflects the color of the sand, the sky, the green of the surrounding hills, or some combination of both.  What is most interesting to Thoreau is that a tiny spoonful of the pond water will be clear, when at the same time it appears colored when you look at the pond.

When water is quiet it is as glass.  The fish and bugs make concentric circles on its surface that are beautiful.  Water is the intermediate form between earth and sky.  Unlike the earth, it is affected by the wind and ripples with it.  And, we can look down upon it and examine it.  Thoreau imagines having that opportunity with the air one day, but for now he can observe the water.  When the water reflects the clouds, Thoreau imagines that he’s floating through the air, and the fish look like they’re hovering in air.   Thoreau mentions how Walden Pond appears as if it was shaped by some great hand, since its beauty seems so deliberate.  Thoreau felt that water is the only suitable drink for people and he said that water is the only drink for a wise man and he drank from the pond using a dipper.  Thoreau always directed his visitors to drink from the pond.  He saw that with the first freeze came the first bit of ice on the pond.  The first ice is perfect and clear. You can lie on this new ice before it will support your weight standing.  There are millions of tiny bubbles in this new ice that look like a string of beads.  Thoreau threw some stones that broke through and made big white bubbles.  With an Indian summer (a late warm spell), the ice lost its beauty.  The white bubbles from the stones burst against the new lower layer of ice.  Thoreau philosophized that water has changed the landscape around us dramatically, and may do so again.

Oceans, rivers and lakes have inspired artists and drawn tourists for centuries, but an often-overlooked water feature is the pond.  A pond is a shallow body of water with little or no current that plays host to diverse flora and fauna.  Ponds are often confused with lakes, though there are several characteristics that differentiate the two.  Lakes are fed by multiple streams, a current and have varying water temperature because of the disparity in depth.  Ponds are smaller, they have one water source and are uniform in temperature.

Written for Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

Hypothesis of God

I wrote this 3 years ago for a Saturday Mix – Double Take prompt.  Pierre-Simon Laplace wrote many books and around 1802 a conversation supposedly took place between him and Napoleon Bonaparte.  On the question of the existence of god in the context of the new celestial mechanics models of the formation and operation of the universe, physicist Pierre Laplace said that he no longer needed the so-called hypothesis of god, as he referred to it, in the description of the mechanical operation of the universe.  Laplace illustrated how to calculate the eternal destiny of the solar system according to Newtonian natural law and reportedly told Napoleon, “God is unnecessary to keep the planets in their courses.”  There are, for better or worse, no scientific experiments that prove or disprove the existence of God.  If God exists, He is not part of the physical world that we can see.

In 1974, Billy Preston had a hit song with ‘Nothing From Nothing’, but a long time before that Parmenides argued the philosophical principle that nothing comes from nothing.  Parmenides felt that if the universe had a beginning, then it had to come from something; otherwise, it would have come from nothing, which is impossible, as there is no break in-between a world that did not exist and one that did.

God and Christmas

The holy name of God YHWH, was in the Hebrew language a word that was considered to be too sacred to be spoken by the Jews.  This word was too great or extreme to be expressed, or described in words, it was the Ineffable name, the Unutterable Name or the Distinctive Name of God and it was not to be used.  The four Jewish letters Yod, Heh, Vav and Heh were combined together to make this name, which corresponds to a world and a soul and stands for the four basic stages of the process of creation.  No one today knows exactly how this word is to be pronounced, but YHWH is probably pronounced as ‘Yahweh’.  The Hebrew language consists of 22 consonants (most Bibles list these consonants in Psalm 119 as subheads over every eight verses).  Vowel sounds are indicated by placing various dots or small lines around these consonants.  God gave this name to Himself when Moses inquired of His name.  God told Moses, “I am who I am”, but in most modern translations it is usually written as ‘LORD’ (in capital letters) and it has been improperly translated into ‘Jehovah’.

Holey Socks, Batman!  When I was young my parents wrapped gag presents (underwear and socks) and put them under the tree along with the real Christmas presents, because they thought it was funny seeing the disappointment on my face.  I knew it would happen every year and I always had to open up new underwear, which seemed like such a waste of time for me, as all I wanted was the good stuff.  I wish they were still around as I miss their presence and I could really use some new hosiery and a few new pairs of underwear this year, as that would be wholly appreciated.

Written for Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

Close Encounters

They travel millions of miles to get here, and when they arrive on Earth, their first order of business is to probe the human rectum.  You would think that they could spent their time doing something more productive.  I wrote this multi-prompt post last year.

Inextricably Linked

Are alien anal probes used for shits and giggles, or are these extra-terrestrial beings just trying to get to the bottom of things?  Are these aliens from Uranus, or are they just using anal probes because they enjoy being around black holes?  Why do aliens find it necessary to explore human rectums, is this really part of being an explorer?  What is the actual purpose of this extraterrestrial excremental experimentation?  We can all agree that it is some type of exam and most times the abductee is put to sleep or otherwise disoriented, so it is not certain how long the duration of this procedure lasts.  Some people might consider this to be a perk, but I expect that most will look at this as an invasion.

You would think that since aliens have reached us, that they are infinitely technologically superior, so why do they carry these proctology instruments with them and why does this seem to be their first order of business after making such a long trip?  Did they do this to the ancient people who built the pyramids to make them work harder, or have them believe that they are Gods?  Is this their way of putting a stamp on their authority over people and make them taciturn, so they would follow orders and not ask any questions?  Is it just people that they are interested in, or would they perform an anal probing on a crocodile or a rambunctious reindeer?

Is there a hiatus at some time during the exam that allows the person to recover, or do they just continue the probing nonstop?  One abductee described their experience as if they were being penetrated by a Yule log and they said when it was over there were no Holiday treats.

Written for Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

Donovan Leitch and Paul McCartney

Donovan and Paul had a close relationship in the 1960s for brief periods, and they enjoyed sitting around and jamming together, especially since the Beatles didn’t jam at that time, as they were more interested in making records.  When they got together at Donovan’s flat in Maida Vale the tape recorder was always rolling.  One day Paul pulled up in his 1966 Aston Martin, left the doors wide open, and parked, with a tape blaring, in the middle of the road at an angle so that the traffic was held up.  The result of this get together was ‘Eleanor Rigby’, which was released in 1966 as part of a double A-side single which included ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Donovan contributed the line “sky of blue and sea of green” to ‘Yellow Submarine’.  I wrote this post on December 4, 2018 and it was originally titled Truly Timeless Composition.

Truly Timeless Composition

Donovan Leitch was a neighbor of Paul McCartney and one day Paul stopped by his flat in London’s Maida Vale to jam, and Paul played this tune about a strange chap called ‘Ola Na Tungee’ that contained these lyrics, “Ola Na Tungee Blowing his mind in the dark With a pipe full of clay No one can say.”  Paul McCartney said that he came up with the initial idea for the song ‘Elenore Rigby’ while he was in the music room in the basement of Jane Asher’s family home in Wimpole Street, London.  The Beatles didn’t play any of the instruments on this record and all the music came from the string players, who were hired as session musicians.  Ringo was left out of this song as there is no drumming.  Paul McCartney wrote this song with some help and he sang vocals while John Lennon and George Harrison both sang harmony vocals.  The string section was scored by Beatles producer George Martin and it consisted of four violins by Tony Gilbert, Sidney Sax, John Sharpe and Jurgen Hess, two violas by Stephen Shingles and John Underwood and two cellos by Derek Simpson and Norman Jones.

McCartney came up with the line, “Picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been”, and that’s when he came up with the story of an old, lonely woman.  The lyrics, “Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door” are a reference to the cold-cream she wears in an effort to look younger.  The song tells the story of two lonely people.  First is a churchgoing woman named Eleanor Rigby, who is seen cleaning up rice after a wedding.  The second is the pastor, Father McKenzie, whose sermons “no one will hear”.  The song ends with Eleanor dying in the church and Father McKenzie buries her.

This song was originally written as ‘Miss Daisy Hawkins’, but Paul didn’t think that it sounded right.  He took the name Rigby from a Wine & Spirit Shippers shop in Bristol named Rigby & Evens Ltd.  He spotted the name while visiting Jane Asher, who was appearing in The Happiest Days Of Your Life at the Bristol Old Vic theatre.  Paul originally used the name Father McCartney as the priest and the name Eleanor was after Eleanor Bron, who played the female lead in the Beatles classic slapstick second movie Help!Help! was a spy spoof, where Ringo Starr is chased by a band of cultists from an unnamed eastern cult, because Ringo is wearing their sacrificial ring.  The cult is joined by a mad scientist who wants the ring so he can rule the world.  They’re chased across England, to Switzerland, and finally to the Bahamas before the end.  Ahme (Eleanor Bron) the beautiful High Priestess rescues the Beatles from Professor Foot wearing a pink leather jumpsuit.  The Beatles said Help! was inspired by the Marx Brothers’ movie Duck Soup.

On July 6, 1957 McCartney was introduced to Lennon, prior to a performance by The Quarrymen who were a skiffle group that played at the garden festival of St Peter’s Church, in Woolton, Liverpool.  Paul and John used to hang out in the Woolton Cemetery which adjoins St Peter’s Church.  Lennon had an uncle buried in the graveyard who was named George Toogood Smith and John loved the name, so he would take his friends there to show them.  The cemetery also contains a tombstone that marks the grave of an Eleanor Rigby, which has since become a landmark for Beatles fans visiting Liverpool.  Another gravestone nearby has the name McKenzie written on it.  Ringo Starr suggested that the renamed Father McKenzie be “darning his socks in the night”.  The “Ah, look at all the lonely people” refrain was reportedly coined by Harrison, and the final verse where the lonely Rigby and McKenzie are united through death was suggested by Pete Shotton a member of the Quarrymen and this was later written by McCartney.

Young Paul McCartney lived on a housing estate called Speke, in Liverpool, where there were these old ladies around and he became friendly with one of them.  He used to help her out by going shopping for her.  They would spend their time talking about her life, which fascinated Paul because she was from a completely different generation and she had these great stories about World War II.  Paul realized that she was young once and he was able to relate to her amazing experiences.  He used this relationship to develop the story of Elenore Rigby.

Eleanor Rigby is one of the many lonely people living her life in a pretend world that she made for herself.  She is probably a widow that lost her husband in World War II and she goes into the church courtyard after a stranger’s wedding is over and she grabs the rice to throw, pretending she knows the couple, or perhaps thinking about when she got married.  When she goes home, she sits by the window and smiles out, either hoping to grab someone’s attention, but she does not quite know who is it for, or exactly where she belongs.  Father McKenzie is a preacher that probably enjoys writing his sermons, but his congregation is never thrilled about them, which is demonstrated by the lack of patrons, thus no one hears his words as no one comes near.  He wants to write a good sermon and he wants to look good, not go around with holes in his socks, but one begins to wonder why does he care so much.  Eleanor dies from something, maybe just old age.  The song says that she “died in the church”, but this is used in a figurative sense, as her faith was strong and now she would be with God.  Her name is written on the tombstone, but nobody showed up for her funeral except Father McKenzie.  The vicar probably got down on his knees to pray over her grave, so he got dirt on his hands which he had to wipe off.  Father McKenzie wrote one of his famous sermons for Eleanor, but since he was the only person there, he was not able to deliver it, so no one was saved.

Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Written for Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

Made for Girls by Girls About Girls

I wrote this multi-prompt post two years ago and even though it did get 21 Likes, I am rolling it out again for Fandango’s Friday Flashback.  In the late 1950s and early 60s, one style of music that began to dominate the American music charts and permeate youth culture of that day came from the “girl groups”.  Comprised mostly of three-to-four young females, typically teenagers themselves, the girl groups of the late 1950s through the mid-1960s were mostly African American, although some white groups also scored a few hits.  The Shirelles are often regarded by rock historians as the opening act of the 1960s “girl group era”, and perhaps more representative of the girl group sound that followed in those years.  The singer of this song is trying to figure out what love is all about as she sings, “Tonight with words unspoken, You say that I’m the only one.” 

Is This A Lasting Treasure

In 1958, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ became the first #1 hit by a black female group The Shirelles, topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  It is a pop masterpiece that was ranked at #126 among Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Billboard named the song #3 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.  The Shirelles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.  This song was written by the husband and wife songwriting team of Gerry Goffin lyrics and Carole King music and it became their first #1 hit.  At first this song met with some resistance from radio stations, but not enough to stop it from becoming a huge hit, selling over a million copies.  From the moment Shirley Owens sings her first line the listener is captured.  The melodious backing vocals, swirling violin break and poetic lyrics made the song a hit.

Goffin’s lyrics deftly touch on the doubt that lurks behind all new romances and this is a benignly sexual song with the singer wondering what will happen the day after an encounter with her man, praying that the heat of the moment won’t leave her embarrassed in the morning.  She is nervous and insecure and she feels vulnerable, which are normal reactions to being with someone for the first time, especially for a girl that has decided that she make love not because she is caught up in a moonlit evening.  The woman is amenable to having sex and she seems to know what she is doing, but she could also be a young girl on the brink of surrendering her virginity.  This song was an anthem of female adolescence, a manifesto to women’s liberation that gave a voice to the challenges of being a girl who longed for both love and sex at a time when only bad girls would admit such a thing.  This song features lyrics that were ahead of their time in subject matter and it captures the bitter sweetness of being a sexually liberated woman, as she is going to give it up to this man tonight and coincidentally it was released in the same year as the first oral contraceptive pill.  

In 1957, Kirshner who was from East Orange, New Jersey met Robert Casotto better known as Bobby Darin, and together they went door to door, offering to write commercials for shops and businesses.  On one of their trips, they encountered Concetta Franconero better known as Connie Francis, a New Jersey friend of Kirshner’s who also helped Kirshner.  In 1958, at the age of twenty-one, Kirshner formed Aldon music.  Kirshner an American music publisher, rock music producer, talent manager, and songwriter known as the ‘Man with the Golden Ear’ assigned King and Goffin to write a song for the Shirelles as a follow-up to their previous song ‘Tonight’s The Night’.  King and Goffin had hastily married in 1958 after King became pregnant at the age of 17, while Goffin was still working at a chemical company and they worked at night for Don Kirshner’s Aldon music, in the Brill building, which was the center of the songwriting universe in the early ‘60s.  

The song was originally written with the title ‘Tomorrow’ which was lengthened later.  It remained on the charts for 15 weeks and it was revolutionary in a way, as most popular songs of the time defined women as conquests or aspirations, mere objects of male desire.  There had been very little music made for girls, by girls and about girls.  When the Shirelles were first presented with the song, lead singer Shirley Owens did not want to record it, because she thought it was ‘too country’ sounding for their blend of pop/rock and R&B.  She asked if King and Goffin if they could add strings and turn it into a more up-tempo song, which they did and it went on to become an immense hit.  King’s devotion to the song was so strong that she replaced a subpar percussionist and played kettledrum herself on this song.

Around 1957, 4 girls from Passaic, New Jersey, Shirley Owens (later Shirley Alston), Doris Coley (later Doris Kenner-Jackson), Addie ‘Micki’ Harris and Beverly Lee met at their high school talent show calling themselves The Poquellos (meaning birds) and they did their song ‘I Met Him on a Sunday’.  Classmate Mary Jane Greenberg convinced them to sign with her mother’s Florence Greenberg’s small record label Tiara Records, which was quickly sold to Decca.  Florence Greenberg became the group’s manager, and changed their name to the Shirelles by combining frequent lead singer Owens’ first name with doo woppers the Chantels.  Greenberg started her own Scepter label, where she drafted Luther Dixon, who had previously worked with Perry Como, Nat King Cole, and Pat Boone to work with her Shirelles.  In 1958, the Shirelles’ recording of ‘I Met Him on a Sunday’ climbed into the national Top 50.  Two of their singles ‘My Love Is A Charm’ and ‘Lonely Nights’ both failed to chart and the Shirelles were dropped by Decca by the end of 1958.  Follow up songs, ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’ (1959) and ‘Tonight’s the Night’ (1960) with Doris Coley on lead, reached #83 not making much of an impact on the pop charts, however ‘Tonight’s the Night’ was re-released after ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ became a hit and it went into the Top Five on both the pop and R&B charts in 1961.  ‘Dedicated To the One I Love’ ‎a cover song written by Lowman Pauling‎ and ‎Ralph Bass and ‘Tonight’s the Night’ which was written by Luther Dixon and Shirley Owens were both certified gold in 1961.

The Shirelles were the first major female vocal group of the rock era, defining the so-called girl group sound with their soft, sweet harmonies and yearning innocence.  Their music appealed to listeners across the board, before Motown ever became a crossover phenomenon with white audiences.  Even if the Shirelles were not technically the first of their kind, their success was unprecedented, paving the way for legions of imitators, establishing a musical blueprint that has had an enduring influence not just on their immediate followers, but on future generations of female pop singers, who often updated the style with a more modern sensibility.  In their most exceptional moments, this girl group made words of young love feel like pure transcendent joy and supplementing their matching dresses, stylized hairdos, and lyrics about teenage romance their voices were enough to make listeners shiver and quiver.  A constraint that the Shirelles had to deal with was their songs were all about a girl who meets her dreamboat who has the power to make her life a heaven on Earth.  The Shirelles became the first musical effort to capture the real experience and dreams of teenage girls.  They broke through a barrier that some rock critics put forth about girl groups having to rely on romantic delusion, because of their brave rugged individualism.

In 1963, ‘Foolish Little Girl’, which went to # 4, but it was to be the group’s last Top 10 hit and they have remained largely silent since.  They still had nine more (modest) chart entries in 1963-1964, but the end of their hit-making days was written on the wall, due to the British Invasion and the heavy competition from other girl groups like the Supremes, the Crystals and the Dixie Cups.  The Shirelles broke up in the late 1960s but re-formed later for “oldies” shows and different Shirelles lineups toured the oldies circuit in the ‘90s, though Beverly Lee eventually secured the official trademark.  Micki Harris died of a heart attack during a performance in Atlanta on June 10, 1982 and Doris Kenner-Jackson passed away after a bout with breast cancer in Sacramento on February 4, 2000. 

Tonight you’re mine, completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow

Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment’s pleasure
Can I believe the magic in your sighs
Will you still love me tomorrow

Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I’m the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun

I’d like to know that your love
Is a love I can be sure of
So tell me now and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow

So tell me now and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow
Will you still love me tomorrow
Will you still love me tomorrow

No Mere Rodent

Possums are the only marsupials native to North America.  Newborn possums are about the size of honeybees, and many don’t survive the trip to their mother’s pouch.  Those that do must locate one of thirteen nipples, arrayed in a circle with one in the middle.  As soon as a baby possum starts to suckle, the nipple swells in its mouth, effectively trapping it in place until it has grown big enough to free itself.  Once out of the pouch, the baby possum, along with its littermates, will hitch a ride by clinging to its mother’s back.  This Friday Flashback post that I made on September 25, 2018 actually had little to do with opossums, as it was mostly about a Janis Ian song, but the title of Does An Opossum Have 13 Nipples?, got me many views.  In the spirit of the way that Kevin Bacon can make connections, I will try to connect the title my post to Janis.  In August 2016, Janis was put in Facebook Jail when she published a cartoon for a friend’s birthday that showed an old woman whose entire body was sagging, although she featured incongruously ridiculously upright perky breasts while she was standing naked in front of a mirror with her nipples showing and the caption below said, “Beauty fades, but implants last forever.”

American possums are actually called opossums and the Virginia Opossum usually has 13 nipples, but they may be as many as 17 nipples, which brings us to today’s song ‘At Seventeen’ written by Janis Ian.  At the age of three, Janis was already a prodigy on the piano.  By the time she was in fourth grade she had taught herself to play the guitar and written her first song.  Janis Ian was born Janis Eddy Fink, but in 1964, she legally changed her name to Janis Ian, taking her brother Eric’s middle name as her new surname.  She appeared at a Greenwich Village hootenanny at the age of 14, and after that Ian was offered her first recording contract from Elektra records.  Her seventh album Between The Lines sold 1.9 million copies, catapulting it to #1 on the Billboard Charts and also earning it 5 Grammy nominations, ultimately winning two ‘Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female-At Seventeen’, and Best Engineered Album.  Janis performed her song ‘At Seventeen’ which went to number 3 spot at the Billboard Hot 100 on the first episode of Saturday Night Live.

Janis was 15 when she had her first hit song, ‘Society’s Child’, she dropped out of school at 16 and had been on the road for two years by the time she was 17.  Ian says she was inspired to write the song, during a time when freedom was in the air and anything was possible for her generation.  The gay rights and women’s rights movements had started, and FM radio connected young people coast to coast, but in 1969 the migration took off when the clandestine gay club Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village started to allow dancing and they welcomed drag queens.  Although her childhood was not typical, she knew what it felt like to feel out of place at a young age.  She said that she never went to a prom, but she did go to her 6th grade dance, and she knew what it was like not to get asked to the dance.  The pressures of the music industry and her troubled family life drove Ian to a nervous breakdown at the age of 19.  Janis had to move back in with her mother because she couldn’t afford to keep an apartment while she was on the road.  She wasn’t making much money, but she was starting to concentrate on her career by opening for acts like Loggins and Messina and America.  Her previous album, Star (CBS Records), got critical acclaim, but sold nothing.  She didn’t have a career song yet and many people that that she was going to be just a one hit wonder.

In 1973, the 22-year-old Janis Ian wrote this quintessential angst-ridden adolescent ballad while staying at her mother’s house over the course of three months.  One morning while sitting at her mother’s kitchen table she started reading a New York Times Magazine article entitled “I Learned the Truth At Eighteen.”  This article was written by a former debutante.  Janis had her guitar in her lap and started playing that samba figure (Brazilian jazz tune with a fast rhythm) you hear at the beginning of the song.  She tried to work the first line in, but ‘eighteen’ didn’t sound good to her, so it became ‘seventeen’.  The first lines came easily, “I learned the truth at seventeen That love was meant for beauty queens.”  In the article, the girl said she thought that once she had her coming out ball, she thought that everything would be perfect, that she’d have a boy who loved her, a white picket fence and 2.5 children.  But once it was over, all she felt was lifeless.  Instead of this being the ‘perfect marriage’ filled with sweet vibrations, it was just the beginning of the rest of her life, and it became the end of her former life and now she had to decide what came next.

Janis knew that first verse and chorus was brutally honest and she thought this song was really going to be a good.  She put it away for three weeks because she couldn’t figure out the ending, not knowing exactly what to do with this seventeen-year-old girl that learned the truth.  Then she decided to make it about herself and she used her life experiences that she had between the ages of 12-14, as she grew up quicker than most other girls.  As a teen, Janis knew what it was like to go to bed and wait for the magic moment when she would wake up and be head-turning beautiful.  However, the next morning was always a let-down, as she woke, looked in the minor, and realized what she really was.  Janis wanted to maintain this brutal honesty throughout the song and not turn this into a fluff piece that ended with the girl not caring what she looked like and meeting the man of her dreams.  When she finished, she decided that she was never going to play it for anyone because it was too humiliating.  However, one day she played it for her mom, who was a beautiful woman, and she wept!  Janis asked her mother why she was crying and she said, “Don’t you understand, honey?  That’s my song!”

This song is about feeling alienated while growing up and it carries a message that things will get better after High School.  Janis sings about the social struggles of the downtrodden high school student, reflecting on the chasm between “beauty queens” and “ugly ducklings”.  The pressures of complicated reputations, unrequited crushes and clique clashes that almost everyone encounters during their youth is transformed into poetry, as she mentions “ravaged faces” versus those with “clears skinned smiles”.  The song says that being popular will not solve all your problems.  It is a story about a girl who doesn’t consider herself to be very pretty and she is bitter at the beautiful girls who are out on dates with the football stars.  This girl who’s not so popular describes her experiences at age seventeen.  This song stereotypes love and romance to be only for beautiful girls in social groups, and those who see themselves as ugly will need to “invent lovers on the phone”, so they can enjoy their fantasies that will never come true and they will have to live off of that, since they aren’t beautiful enough for real romance.  It’s about those awkward teenage years when you have so much self-doubt that you are desperately trying to fit in and become popular and you always compare yourself to beautiful rich girls and feel like a nobody.

Beauty is superficial and understanding that sometimes the beautiful people will choose goods looks and money over true love.  This song became a rubric for any teenager who felt like they didn’t fit an accepted ideal of beauty and they had to be alone and unloved, and they were able to find wisdom in the words of Janis who was an outsider to give them dreams and help them to compensate.  The beauty queens marry young, probably to a rich man who she isn’t in love with just for financial security start their families, and fall into roles defined by the expectations of their families and community.  Those who are less popular think she has an ideal life and they envy it, and Janis says that there is nothing wrong with being envious as most likely this girl isn’t going to get far in life because she needs to rely on the rich man that she married.  People are constantly trying to fit in and have perfect hair, clear skin and the latest fashion, but the most important thing in life is being true to yourself.  After high school popularity is nothing as you are basically starting a new life on whatever path you take, which in most cases doesn’t involve your friends or trying to impress people.
All girls make tradeoffs in search of happiness.  The ugly ducklings will regret not experiencing the security and social acceptance that came so effortlessly to the beauty queens.  Eventually these beauty queens will age and no longer fit the ideal of beauty and then they will regret their lack of independence, but ugly ducklings can grow into beautiful swans.

This song ‘At Seventeen’ was a revelation for Janis Ian and she said it taught her so much, as she learned that even cheerleaders and captains of football teams have a hard time.  The beautiful girls had a whole different set of problems that she never knew.  Janis always thought it was easy for guys, but she never was able to walk in their shoes, however her notion of guys was that they were the ones who got to ask girls out for dates and she never considered that they’re also the ones who have to face the rejection when they’re turned down and become humiliated.

Janis said that it was a very tense recording session and she kicked the lead guitarist out of the session because he wasn’t trying very hard to capture the feel of the song, replacing him with a young kid who was “so scared you could smell his sweat across the room.’  This made the other musicians pay attention, and helped capture the feeling of confusion and adolescence that Janis was going for.  It was the first time she felt like she had written a hit.  The melody sounded so familiar, she worried that she might have inadvertently lifted it from another song, so she called three of her musician friends, sang it and said, “Have you heard this before?”  They all said no.

Her manager told her that she was ruining her chances of getting this song produced, because it was over three minutes long.  But it was a great session and they finished what they thought was a killer take, then they realized that the ending wasn’t as strong as the beginning, so they did another and spliced its ending on to the previous take.

Ian said that she knew that she was gay at the age of nine and in the 70’s she started living with another woman.  Ian married Portuguese filmmaker Tino Sargo the former boyfriend of her first girlfriend in 1978, but they divorced in 1983.  In 1993, Ian came out publicly as a self-identified lesbian and in 2003 she married her partner Patricia Snyder in Toronto.  Janis Ian filed suit against a New York-based record company alleging a violation of copyright infringement related to two decades-old live recordings that were made when she played at the Bottom Line.

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say – come dance with me
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen

A brown eyed girl in hand me downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said – pity please the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

So remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity
Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game, and when we dare
We cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say – come on, dance with me
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen

Written for Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

Cheating Today

I have not been in a Fandango’s Friday Flashback in a while, and I found this post that is from two years ago, but it was actually posted on July 30th, not the 31st.  I thought that it was a pretty good post and it was written for Laura M. Bailey All The Shoes I Wear Manic Mondays 3 way Prompt: Ghostly, but it only got 13 likes and 2 comments.  I hope that it does better today.  I also added a new paragraph to the end of this story, which makes me a real cheater, but I don’t think that Fandango will mind all that much, since he is mentioned in the story.  It was originally titled My Blind Date.

This girl gave me two tickets to a concert which featured King Crimson, Procol Harum and Yes at the Academy of Music in New York City and she also set me up with a date.  The show was on November 24th 1971 which was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and she told me that she could not go to the concert, because her family was going away and she had to go with them, but she said that she did not want the tickets to be wasted and that her friend would go with me.  I had heard of and listened to all three of these groups, but I was totally into the Grateful Dead at this time and this music was not very interesting to me, but her girlfriend was really cute and she lived on my block.  My street had this hill at one end of it where the houses were much bigger than the ones from my end and some of them had built in swimming pools in their back yards, so even thought it was the same street, it was like two different parts of town.

The big problem was that I was 18 and this girl was only 15, but I had dated younger girls before and as long as they are cute, I would rather be with them than someone my one age that was not.  King Crimson played some different music and I heard some of their stuff on the radio, but I did not know anything about the group except that they had 3 albums out ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’, ‘In the Wake of Poseidon’ and ‘Lizard’, and I did not know the name any of their songs.  I was a bit more familiar with Procol Harum, as they had 5 albums out and that song ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ was played a lot on the radio and I read that it was the biggest hit of the ‘Summer of Love’ back in 1967.  Yes only had one album out that was called ‘The Yes Album’ and it was getting a lot of airplay and this is the group that my date wanted to see.

I always liked that opening line to the song ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ saying, “We skipped the light fandango” and this was way before I became acquainted with WordPress Fandango.  I read that someone located a missing verse to this and the final missing lines are below:
My mouth by then like cardboard
Seemed to slip straight through my head:
So we crashed, dived straight way quickly
And attacked the ocean bed

The song explores what it means to be wrecked, in more than one sense of the word, as it is a snapshot of a drunken sexual escapade gone awry, reaching its culmination in the oblivion and forgetfulness of sex.  Keith Reid of Procol Harum wrote the lyrics to this song.  Reid said that he got the idea for the title when he was at a party, this starting point allowed him to compose the rest of the song.  Reid said that he was given a piece of the puzzle, the inspiration or whatever that allowed him to fill out the picture, to find the rest of the picture that that piece fits into.  Kind of like having a prompt word to write about.

I have a different take on the meaning of this song and I think that it is about a groupie that wanted to travel around with the band.  In the beginning the band is partying in some club.  “We skipped the light fandango Turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor I was feeling kinda seasick But the crowd called out for more The room was humming harder As the ceiling flew away When we called out for another drink The waiter brought a tray And so it was that later.”  Everything seems pretty easy to comprehend till the next lyrics, “As the miller told his tale That her face, at first just ghostly Turned a whiter shade of pale.”  What the hell did this miller say to make her face become ghostly?  Let’s leave this for now and get back to the rest of the song.

“She said, ‘There is no reason’ And the truth is plain to see But I wandered through my playing cards And would not let her be One of sixteen vestal virgins Who were leaving for the coast And although my eyes were open They might have just as well’ve been closed And so it was that later As the miller told his tale That her face, at first just ghostly Turned a whiter shade of pale And so it was that later.”  Back to my groupie theory, the miller told her that there was no more room for this girl in the entourage, which shocked her.  She knew many of the other groupies that were traveling with the group and she wanted to be with the band and with her friends.  She wanted to be one of the sixteen vestal virgins that would be traveling towards the coast.  The guy singing the song heard her plea, but he was not listening as if his eyes were closed.  And so, it was the latter, she was not going with them.

Everybody knows that there are only twelve Vestal Virgins at a time, each serving 30 years of chastity.  They usually range in age from 8 to 38 with the youngest group of four girls being the novices learning all that they need to know.  The mid-range girls are the actual Vestal Virgins and the older group are the mentors.  I guess I will have to write another post to let everyone know how my date went.

Since the “miller told his tale” is mentioned twice in this song and one of the stories in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is The Miller’s Tale, this should not be ignored.  It is a humorous story where John’s friend Alan ends up sleeping with the dishonest miller’s twenty-year old daughter.  It gets dark, they all sleep in the same room but in separate beds, with John and Alan in one bed, the Miller and his wife in another with the cradle beside it, and the daughter in the third bed.  The miller’s wife gets up to relieve herself, and when she returns, she ends up John’s bed.  In the morning Alan gets in the wrong bed, and he tells the miller thinking that he is talking to his friend John, how he had the daughter three times during the night.  The miller rises from his bed in a fury.  The miller’s wife, thinking that the swearing is coming from one of the students, grabs a club and, mistaking her husband for one of the students, strikes him down.  Alan and John gather their ground wheat and flour and flee the premises.  I am not sure that knowing anything about this story will get you any closer to knowing the meaning behind the lyrics, “As the miller told his tale That her face, at first just ghostly Turned a whiter shade of pale”, unless the miller enjoyed telling people how his wife cheated on him and she always became shocked when she heard this story, thus this made her face turn pale

Written for Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

Bugged Two Years Ago

This is part of Friday Flashback hosted by Fandango and I originally wrote this in 2018 for Saturday Stream of Consciousness.

Squashed Like a Bug

Our hostess for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, the lovely Linda Hill came down with a bug this week which she indicated that it was caused from a reaction that she got from a new prescription she just started taking.  Her doctor changed her prescription and I am sure that everyone is wishing her well and hoping she can get some rest and sleep snug like a bug in a rug, so that she will be better soon.  Some insects are beneficial, but there are plenty of detrimental bugs around.  The good bugs are useful for eating other more destructive bugs, or for pollinating plants.  From a human prospective the good bugs are those that perform valued services like pollination and pest control.  Most bugs that enter my home have put a death sentence upon themselves, as if they are not willing to pay rent, then they are not staying and just before I stomp on them dispatching my foot down on their scrawny little necks with the utmost speed, I say, “You are going to die sucker.”

Beware of the stink bug, they are pretty big, and plenty ugly looking.  They are kind of like slugs in the way that they stick to the outside of your house looking for cozy spot to spend the winter, but other than the smell they are basically harmless, however they can be a nuisance when you get a large population of them.  The bad news is that these big, scary and ugly stink bugs smell if you smash them and the odor that they release will attract more of them.  Don’t squish them, try to kill them using a spray or a trap.

I am pretty sure that insects can and do feel or sense their surroundings, but I am less sure whether or not they have emotions, and I heard that most invertebrates (insects do not have bones) are not able to feel pain, which for me makes it more acceptable to kill them, rather than any other forms of animal life.  I have heard that there are roughly 21 quadrillion spiders living on Earth and that they outnumber humans at a rate of 2.8 million to one, so if I end up stepping on one of those creepy crawly critters, it is no big loss.  It is not like I am going around intentionally targeting them for eradication, but if they are dumb enough not to get out of my way then it would be good riddance for them.  If it became inconvenient to figure out another way to dispose of a bug, then I would most likely smash it, without worrying or trying to ascertain if it is legal or moral.

Just to be clear, I don’t get stimulated or derive any sort of happiness from torturing tiny helpless creatures, but some insects can be dangerous and my first reaction would be that it was better that it happened to them instead of me.  This might be a little shallow and perhaps self-centered, but I feel like there is nothing inherently wrong with thinking that way.  If bad things are going to happen, they should happen to someone else, and it is not like I don’t have any compassion or sympathy for others, it is just that I would be far more grateful if someone other than me got stepped on.  This is a normal, healthy, human reaction.  It is a matter of self-preservation, and the survival of the fittest.  I would never shoot a dog for barking at me even if I didn’t like it or poison a cows just for mooing and waking me from my sleep, but I still think that it is OK to kill certain bugs without real good reasons.

Love Is All Around

Originally written for Linda G. Hill Life in progress One-Liner Wednesday – May 8 prompt.

Attached To Love
We are in the middle of love bug season here in Central Florida and they are particularly bad this year.  While annoying, love bugs are actually beneficial as larvae, because they help to decompose dead plant material.  They get stuck together when they mate and because they are addicted to love, so they mate frequently.  The males hatch first and they swarm feverishly, waiting for the females to arrive and when a female finally selects a mate, they’re usually hitched for life.  The males stay attached to prevent another male from coming in and fertilizing the female.  When a lucky male unites with a female, their abdomens will stay attached for up to 2 days, although mating only lasts about 12 hours.  The male then dies and is dragged around by the female.  The corpse of the male is detached so the female is able to lay her eggs.

Written for Fandango’s Friday Flashback — May 8

March 20 Flashback Friday

I originally wrote this as a One-Liner Wednesday and it was titled Once A Cheater, Always A Cheater.

Someone in a relationship who had sex with another person is 3.7 times more likely to cheat again.  Even among married couples, cheating is relatively common with about 22% of men and 13% of women cheating.  Cheating is so widespread that one-quarter to one-fifth of married people will openly admit to having engaged in sexual infidelity at some point.  Men are more likely to forgive a spouse for a dalliance.  If a couple makes it through the seven-year itch phase of marriage, the odds of a woman cheating fall off significantly, although men are more likely to stray around year 18.  Not only are cheaters more likely to cheat again, but those who were cheated on are more likely to be cheated on again.

Infidelity even occurs in Nursery Rhymes, as Peter is not able to restrain his wife from having sex with multiple male partners, so he decides to kill her.  After killing his wife, Peter decides to hide her body in a large pumpkin.  The moral story behind the story focuses on educating women of the essence of demonstrating faithfulness to their husbands.  Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater, Had a wife and couldn’t keep her; He put her in a pumpkin shell, And there he kept her very well. Peter, Peter pumpkin eater, Had another and didn’t love her; Peter learned to read and spell, And then he loved her very well. Peter carved out this giant pumpkin, and since his wife wasn’t around to cook for him anymore, because of her extra-marital activities, he had a lot of pumpkin to eat.  A better solution might have been for Peter to devise some type of chastity belt for his disloyal wife, then he wouldn’t have to have eaten all of that pumpkin.

Written for Fandango’s Friday Flashback.