Category Archives: Songs

Back In The Saddle Again

My friend Mike Pengra is very good at his jobs. He has several, but for the most part they all boil down to doing the same thing – Mike makes other people sound better.

As a producer, editor, music-picker and scheduler, Mike supports classical music programming at Minnesota Public Radio, and is the lone human behind the robot-powered rootsy music stream, Radio Heartland.

He’s also the drummer in a band called City Mouse.  In the music world, the rock band drummer is a character who is both essential and undervalued, so the role suits Mike well. He makes everything OK and distributes the credit elsewhere. Somehow people feel more competent when Mike’s around, and he’s too kind to reveal that it’s his doing, not theirs.

This is why everybody likes Mike.

Mike and I worked on Radio Heartland a few years back, and for a good stretch before that we were teammates on the weird three-legged stool that was the MPR Morning Show, Mike playing the silent partner like the multi-talented Silvester Vicic and the saintly Nora McGillivray before him.

Mike contacted me a few weeks ago and said a group of demanding baboons had made a bunch of music requests, and he wanted some help feeding tunes to them.

I don’t host radio shows anymore, but I was happy to oblige this time, knowing that as soon as I walked into Mike Pengra’s studio I’d become two times funnier and at least ten times smarter.

And believe it or not, that Mike Pengra magic still works.

You can listen for yourself to a Baboonish Request show today at noon, and again on Sunday evening at 7.



A Song After the Binge

Header photo via NASA Ice / James Yungel

The hits just keep coming in the climate change parade. Most recently a new NASA study predicted that an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Scotland could collapse by 2020.

Favorite quote from the Washington Post story:

“What might happen is that for a few years, we will have the detachment of big icebergs from this remaining ice shelf, and then at one point, one very very warm summer, when you have lots of melting of the surface, the whole thing will just give way, and will shatter into thousands of smaller icebergs,” says the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ala Khazendar, lead author of the new study.

My understanding:  While the ice shelf is already in the water and its collapse alone won’t appreciably lift global water levels, it will open up the way for melting land-based glaciers to flow more easily into the sea.

That’s not good.

The ice shelf in question is called Larsen B, which immediately reminded me of this song about the unpleasant after-effects of an unfortunate and ill-advised binge.

We’re melting the Larsen B
with every added degree.
As tall icebergs fall into the foam.
Liquefy snow.
The glaciers let go.
Well, the ice shelf broke up
Submerging my home.

I hope that our fins evolve
As quick as the ice dissolve.
Antarctica wants to flow
over my home!
Soaking the loam.
That is the point of this poem, yeah yeah.
When the ice shelf broke up,
submerging my home.

Like ice cubes to a drunk
we’re hypnotized by each chunk
a prize, Scotland-sized, floating away.
Sea levels rise
You can predict the demise.
The ice shelf broke up
Submerging my home.

Add some lyrics or describe a night drinking with your grandfather.

Song for a Blue Sunset

Header image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M University

Like everyone else, I’ve started my pro/con list for traveling to Mars.


  • Forced long term travel.
  • Close quarters with near strangers.
  • No breathable air.
  • Certain death.


  • Reduced gravity.
  • No mosquitoes.
  • Blue sunsets.

That last one was verified in striking fashion by the latest photo from Curiosity Rover – an image of a cobalt disc poised over the crisp outline of a mountain range that only happens to be Martian.

It immediately hit me that the first Earthlings to set up camp there would have the opportunity to write a batch of songs about topics that have long been over-explored back home with the distinct advantage of a fresh set of unique experiences.

A blue sunset, for instance.

Then, somewhat less immediately, it hit me that I could only think of three songs that were specifically about a sunset.

  1. Sunrise, Sunset, of course. But it’s a shared billing.
  2. Canadian Sunset is obvious, but it has as many words as Mars has Canadians.
  3. Red Sails in the Sunset comes to mind but it has too much longing for home to be an effective Martian anthem.

Fortunately, the Kinks took care of everything when they did this:

And the beauty part – the song is already about a pronounced distaste for crowds and a fondness for chilly evenings in close company with a special friend – and both are Mars journey prerequisites!

Although the “special friend” is an accessory you  will have to pack or make along the way.

As far as the song is concerned, all you have to do to Martianize it is substitute “What a blue” for “Waterloo”.

Done and done. Going to Mars may not be so difficult after all!

Recall a remarkable sunset.

Tax Day Tripper

Today is tax day, the day when every disc jockey who has control over the playlist is required to spin “Taxman” by the Beatles.

And by “every disc jockey who has control over the playlist” I mean about a half dozen people, worldwide.

“Taxman” is a great song, of course. And it’s the only song about taxes that’s even remotely fun.  Admittedly, the competition is thin in this category because I can’t think of another song on the subject.

Among poets, love is so much more popular, topic-wise!

This is a rage-of-emotion problem.  Taxes and love can both give you the deep blue notes – frustration and longing, blending into misery and finally, despair.  It’s in the realm of exhilarating highs that love really has it all over taxes.

Probably the only thing taxation offers that comes anywhere close to the giddy delight of love is the sudden discovery of a great, rock-solid deduction.

That, and the refund, of course.

Although an accountant might tell you a tax refund is the same thing as forgiveness when it comes to love – a  welcome turn of events but something you would have been better off avoiding in the first place.

Clearly, though, the Beatles could have done more.  The world would have hardly missed it if a few of those love songs had been re-directed into tax deduction ballads.

Perhaps they didn’t look closely enough at the fine print.

Got a deduction. For taking my family out.
Got a deduction. It’s legal, there isn’t a doubt, though.
It was our vacation. I was working too!
That isn’t so wrong! For a scout. A real boy scout!

Business deductions. It’s all about the intent.
Business deductions. Airfare, beach bungalow rent.
It was a big meeting! Talked about the job.
I had to be there! That’s allowed. And I’m so proud!

Of course I claimed it – it’s a Jacuzzi!
Ask my doctor. He made me.
He wrote a prescription – a therapy tub.
An hour of soaking, then I scrub.

That’s what my deductions are.
Not entirely bizarre.
Stretching truth but not too far.
And it helps my asthma.

I’m also claiming an Olympic pool.
Ask my doctor. He’s no fool.
I need the workout. It’s good for my back.
So why don’t you cut me some slack?

That’s what my deductions are.
Not entirely bizarre.
Stretching truth but not too far.
Avoidance miasma!
(Please don’t audit me!)

You can deduct the cost of feeding Sparky.
It is allowed, though most are not aware.

That’s the pet deduction secret.
He’s an asset, not your pal. Whoa oh, oh

Pomeranian or Spitz.
If it’s business then it fits.
That’s what dodgers do.

Make sure Sparky has an income.
If he can be taught to sell, whoah oh, that’s

Put him on the staff today.
On his break time you can play.
Sparky and Old Blue.

Ask my accountant to confirm it’s true.
His partner is a Shih Tzu!

What makes you sing?

Jockeying for Position

Today’s post comes from Minnesota’s 9th District Congressman, Rep. Loomis Beechly, representing all the water surface area in the state.

Greetings, Constituents!

Usually I am obsessed with currying your favor, but please do me this one thing for me.

Stop asking if I support Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.

It’s too early to commit to any candidate. The reason for this is simple – as your Congressman my job is to find the one person who will be the best president for the 9th District, and then suck up to them without reservation.

But until candidates start to outline their positions on all the lake-related issues that face us, like algae, Asian carp, weedy buffers, jet skis mufflers, dock set-up rules, and a comprehensive global bait policy, there’s just no way for me to judge them.

Republicans have it easy. Partisanship makes some responses automatic, and they already know where they stand on the Ready-for-Hillary question.

For everyone else it’s still just a game at this point, with fun pastimes like trying to guess what slogan Clinton will use (“Nicer Than She Seems”, “Why Not This Time?”, “Probably The Last Chance To Do This”, etc.), and what strategies could possibly work as a way to build enthusiasm among those who are not already on board.

I do have a campaign song nomination, although I realize it will never fly because the payoff line is not only a negative proposition, it takes too long to unfold and it doesn’t have enough energy to accompany the obligatory pre-rally fireworks.

But it is clever, undeniably true, and it speaks to one key point that robs Hillary Clinton of political momentum.

Oh, well. Campaign songs usually aren’t good, or true. But at least we can hope.

I once suggested to my staff that we use Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as a campaign theme song because it is universally accepted as great music, but skeptics on my staff pointed out it would not only drain the rally support budget, it would make my remarks following the 2-hour performance seem unimportant and unnecessary.

Which would be an accurate assessment! But not very productive, campaign-wise.

Your Congressman,
Loomis Beechly

If you ran for office, what would you choose as your campaign song?

Death to the Lawn!

Header image: by Anton Croos via Wikimedia Commons

In response to a years-long drought and a diminished snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, California’s governor has put water restrictions in place that most likely mean death to the lawn in affluent communities.

This is necessary and overdue, and I say that with all the smugness that comes from living in a water-rich state and a suburb that is lousy with the type of lawn California must now ruthlessly murder, en masse.

Of course some homeowners will resist, because yard pride is unquenchable and some people are incapable of saying goodbye to the green lushness of a grassy expanse, even though they live in a desert. But even if they succeed in circumventing the new rules, their crimes will quickly become obvious by the strange emerald glow around their property.

Resentful neighbors will tattle, and social media will shame, which means a new class of western outlaw is about to emerge – lawn criminals.

A homeowner named Billy Joe felt partial to his yard.
A dry spell meant maintaining would soon become too hard.
He got his hoses from the shed and took his nozzles down.
His mother cried as he walked out …
Just let the lawn go brown, son
Leave the water off Bill
Just let the lawn go brown.
He laughed and kissed his mom with lips as dry as desert sand.
Our yard is parched. I am aware that watering is banned.
But I dearly love the sight of grass that’s green and lush and grown.
But she cried again as he walked away…
Just let the lawn go brown, son.
Leave the water off, Bill.
Please let the lawn go brown.
He hummed a tune as he hooked up the sprinkler to the hose.
He set the distance and the spray. Judiciously he chose.
A neighbor peered across the fence in that dry western town.
And his mother’s words echoed again…
Just let the lawn go brown, son
Leave the water off, Bill
Just let the lawn go brown.
He cranked the spigot to the max and watched his grasses soak.
The dusty neighbor quietly observed before he spoke.
“This ain’t your day to water, son”. He said this with a frown.
Bill heard again his mothers words…
Just let the lawn go brown, son.
Leave the water off, Bill.
And let the lawn go brown.
Both men reached for a smartphone each had holstered, like a gun.
Though Billy Joe was quick his neighbor was the faster one.
He tweeted photos of the crime – the shame came rolling down.
Soon Billy’s Twitter profile said…
I’ve let the lawn go brown, folks.
Turn the the water off, friends.
Just let the lawn go brown.


When have you flaunted the regulations?

Moon Makers

We’re back in space today, now that I’ve discovered NASA’s audacious plan to give the moon a moon,, which is actually a clever way to practice doing things that will be necessary for the later, longer, much-promised trip to Mars.

But we must always be mindful of the tendency of our great plans to create unintended consequences. My concern with any moon-related adventure is the potential negative effect it could have on an important global resource – our canon of Tin Pan Alley moon songs.

Really, these things are not to be messed with.

Fly me past the moon
So I can fetch the moon a moon
Picked up from an asteroid
as if in a cartoon.

We’ll call it the “Moon of Moon”.
I love to say “moon moon moon moon”.

Any rock will do,
we’re only practicing for Mars.
Rehearsing like teenagers,
who dream of driving cars.

It’s time to be on our way
I want to be plucking boulders

What a gift to give –
a friend to orbit, evermore.
So our moon won’t have to be
as moonless as before.

Let’s make this moon dream come true.
I want to say I’ve mooned you!

When has it been a big production to give a small gift?