Category Archives: Songs


Worst Love Song Ever

It appears there is nothing in the news this weekend except Ebola.

The name of the virus itself is actually quite lovely to the ear. But actual conditions on the ground in West Africa have robbed it of whatever beauty it may have had.

Even so, certain voices can’t stop saying it. Why? Because with an election less than two weeks away, a single threatening word that suggests disorganization, incompetence and panic is like music to some ears.

Under different circumstances, perhaps there would have been a lovesick song dedicated to our girl … Ebola.

The most riveting name I ever heard:
Ebola, Ebola, Ebola, Ebola …
A  campaign that can work in a single word!
Ebola, Ebola, Ebola, Ebola …
The midterms will hinge on Ebola!
Although it’s hard to catch
I’m sure I’ve got a batch
in me.
On Fox News they’re crying Ebola!
Just listen that spiel
they hardly can conceal 
their glee!
Say it loud and the children scatter.
Say it soft – it’s electoral patter.
They’ll never stop saying Ebola!


What single word gets your attention?

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On The Road, Again

In the past on this page we have discussed where we are from and where we’ve lived. Baboons can be both wanderers and stay-at-homes. It can be a surprisingly tough mental exercise to walk back through your biography to list the places you’ve lived in the proper sequence, and for how long at each stop.

Likewise, each state of the union has a specific history of who happens to live there and from whence they came. Only demographers and other numbers geeks can find much enjoyment in looking over the columns of figures that tell those stories.

For the rest of us the info-graphics experts at the New York Times have developed 50 fascinating charts that display the data as strata – a cross section cut from each state’s census showing the last century’s changes in where residents were born.

Some of the curious things that appear:

Based on your personal history, you can get a sense for how common (or uncommon) you are in your current environment when birthplace is the sole yardstick. Back in the 1970’s I was part of a sliver (3%) of Illinoisans born in the Northeast. Now in Minnesota, my kind are still a rarity at a mere 2%. Rare as hen’s teeth. Precious as gold.

Sometimes we have to go out of our way to feel special.

After looking at this I’m left with the impression that people accumulate in specific places based on a variety of economic forces that drive them there. Because certain individuals may be rooted in place while others are entirely footloose, there is a variable and distinct human geology that defines each state.

Or maybe it’s just the wind.

Where are you headed?  


No Turd, No Canine

I love a good study of something that can’t be measured, which is why I fell immediately for some sparkling new research I saw yesterday about jealousy in dogs. It is even more wonderful than another obscure bit of science that I used to love about contagious canine yawning.

It’s not that I’m fickle, but after caring so much about what dogs must think when I yawn at them, I do need something fresh to occupy my mind and keep the excitement alive.

This latest experiment is just so charming.

Researchers emotionally provoked thirty six dogs by having the owners, in the presence of their pets, give attention to three different things – a book, a moving, barking toy dog, and a pumpkin-shaped Halloween candy bucket.

The book was read aloud. The toy dog and the bucket were talked to and petted like they were real animals.

The actual dogs were not interested in their human’s interaction with the book, but had a negative reaction when their owners coddled the fake canine.

A certain amount of butt-sniffing was done with regard to that toy dog. There was no similar behavior around the Jack-O-Lantern bucket because neither dogs nor science can tell us where a pumpkin’s butt is located. Is it on the bottom or at the stem? Time to fund another study.

At any rate, the canines showed a significant amount of alarm when it seemed like there was a new (phony) dog on the scene.

The conclusion: Dogs get jealous.

An alternate conclusion: Dogs get embarrassed for you when you act like a plastic bucket and a scentless stuffed dog are really alive.

But if dogs do get jealous, they will need songs to soothe them through their pain. My nomination: Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

No one loves you like I do
You’re my man, and I’m “Old Blue”
But then you picked up a new dog at the store
Between me and that pup
You know I loved you more.
So it took me by surprise when I snuffed
and found out your new pet was stuffed
Don’t you know that no turd means it’s not canine?
Fundamental to the design.
Let me tell you no turd means that’s no canine!
That’s the news that comes from behind.
Honey Honey, yeah.

What’s your favorite song about betrayal?

Screenshot 2014-07-04 at 5.32.18 AM

Freedom Underground

On this Fourth of July in our nation’s capitol, thousands will celebrate the American Way of Life and look to the sky in wonder. But they would be just as awestruck if they could see what’s going on beneath their feet, where a massive project is underway to dig a drainage tunnel that will help clean up Washington D.C.’s rivers, the Potomac and the Anacostia.

The capitol city is separating its storm and sanitary sewer systems, a $ 2.6 billion twenty year project to prevent the overflow of raw sewage into the rivers – something the Twin Cities achieved in 1995 but a calamity that still happens regularly in our federal city to the tune of about 3 billion gallons each year.

When I think about the privileges we share as Americans, I recognize that much of it comes from the founders and the military and the sacred documents and all the other things we regularly celebrate on the Fourth.

But a lot of it also has to do with infrastructure.

A country left festering in its own sewage cannot advance the health and welfare of its citizens, so when we’re being grateful for our peace and prosperity let’s remember to thank the people who keep our own poop out of the streets.

Just as Francis Scott Key swiped an old drinking tune and wrote new words to celebrate an icon of freedom that was partially obscured by darkness, I propose we sing an ode to this completely invisible but oh-so-necessary subterranean tunnel project.

It’s not that weird. Key’s original lyrics feature three extra verses that we never use, and one of them already includes the word “pollution.”

Down where no one can see, out of mind out of sight,
excess leakage is bailed from the rivulets streaming.
It’s as airless as Mars, and with even less light.
But we’re digging our way to a future that’s gleaming.

In the laser’s red glare, tunnel builders know where
they are heading tonight, although we’re unaware.
Oh say does that underground excavator still pave
through the sand of under D.C., and the loam of the brave?

Who deserves an ode?

Anniversary 2

Sweet Adeline, Surprisingly

Today’s post comes from Clyde in Mankato.

When Harmon Killebrew died two years ago, I mourned a bit for my mother. She was a dedicated and savvy baseball fan. It occurred to me that Harmon’s death took away the last popular cultural link to my mother, who greatly admired his play and demeanor.

Then a few days after that my wife asked me, “Who was the Italian singer your mother was so gaga over?” “Jerry Vale,” I answered. Ah, there was one more pop culture link to my mother.

However, Jerry Vale died last weekend.


Now to describe my mother as gaga over anything seems a large stretch, but in fact she was exactly gaga over Jerry Vale, not dissimilarly to Elvis fans. When I was in junior high I was puzzled and embarrassed by her response to a Jerry Vale song on the radio, which was quite common on KDAL radio in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

My mother’s name was Adeline, but no one ever called her Sweet Adeline, not even my father, who could be quite tender and loving to her, in deep contrast to his normal pattern of behavior. My mother turned into some other person when Jerry Vale sang, a person I never otherwise saw. It was not only his voice, but she freely admitted it was also the handsome face. Today I realize how delightful and just simply human was this sharp contrast in her character.

Ten years ago my son, who loves and collects all forms of music, told me he had discovered the perfect Italian crooner. He wondered if I had ever heard of Jerry Vale. I treasure that moment of the wheel turning all the way around.

My father also had his contrast in character that embarrassed me back then. Looie was usually a coarse, harsh, angry, insensitive man, exactly like the father in my novelized version of my childhood. That same man loved to dance. He danced (meaning the old time dances like waltzes, polkas, and schottisches) with great relish and accomplishment.

Anniversary 2

A group of people in our neighborhood, Knife River Valley, held monthly dances in an old school house. My father’s favorite was the broom dance, a form of musical chairs while dancing. If you were left without a partner after the music stopped, you had to dance with the broom. My father’s turns with the broom was graceful, in tempo, and unselfconsciously funny. Oh, how embarrassed I was! Luckily I later grew old enough to be left home alone or with my sister.

What unexpected contrasts did your parents have in their character? Or you?


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Relationship watchers across the galaxy are deeply upset and universally disappointed over the unexpected break-up of asteroid P / 2013 R3.

“I’m devastated”, said Haley Stalker, a pop culture romance maven who got word via Twitter that there had been another major parting of ways.

“After TomKat and Bennifer split so suddenly I promised myself I was done following stars. “They’re so unstable! P / 2013 R3 wasn’t flashy, but solid as rock, or so I thought”.

Friends of P / 2013 R3 were equally nonplussed. Telesto, speaking for all the moons of Saturn, said “We’ve all seen comets dissolve and meteors just vaporize, but asteroids have always represented commitment and solidity. We thought P / 2013 R3 was literally set in stone.”

The dramatic dissolution was caught on camera by a paparazzi named Hubble S. Telescope, who has a history of taking photos that show heavenly bodies in a brutally realistic light.

We may never know why P / 2013 R3 couldn’t hold it together, but the pain of parting has been captured over and over again in songs like this one:

What are some of your favorite break-up songs?



Finally, something to bring us all together – the searing pain of wintry weather. It seems like just about every part of the United states is experiencing some form of frostbitten misery this week.

It’s enough to make even the most self-indulgent winter-smug Minnesotan finally feel understood. And while we’ve been trained not to say it, the temptation is irresistible. Especially if it can be sung:

Though the weather outside if frightful.
Winter suffering’s insightful.
Don’t believe us? Well now you know!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

While it’s true we don’t get typhoons here,
and we’ve just a few baboons here,
there’s calamity in the snow!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

Though we surely complain enough,
You’ve reacted like you didn’t care.
Mother Nature has called your bluff.
Now there’s frostbite everywhere!

Feeling sympathy’s not verboten.
We are all part Minnesotan.
Hypothermia leaves a glow!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

Ever say “told you so”?