A Fool in the Forest

A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and yet a motley fool.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7

L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

Les Fleurs du Mal, “Correspondances”

Saturday, December 20, 2003
Here, There and Everywhere

Lacking an original thought in my head at the moment, I maintain weblogging momentum with this cavalcade of links catching my attention in the past few days:

♣ Denis Dutton, perhaps best known as the proprietor of Arts & Letters Daily, has launched a personal site, featuring his published articles and material of interest to students in his courses at New Zealand's University of Canterbury. Worth a look if only for the very fine Eadweard Muybridge animated GIF displayed in the banner. [Link via Virginia Postrel, who is herself musing on what Christmas lights tell us about the economy.]

♣ Yet another "upon closer inspection, homeschoolers appear almost normal" piece, this one out of central Virginia. [Link via Kimberly Swygert's Number 2 Pencil and, belatedly, Daryl Cobranchi.]

Terry Teachout, in a rare feint toward matters political, takes up the engrained inability of politicians and other public figures "to say anything without spinning it":
Back in World War II, shortly before the greasy cloud of spin had settled on the land, Gen. Joseph Stilwell, whose nickname was 'Vinegar Joe,' met the press after having been forced to retreat from Burma by the Japanese. He said, 'I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and re-take it.'

The day any politician of either party makes so blunt a remark within earshot of microphones -- and declines to retract, moderate, or invert it before the day is out -- you'll know the barometer of cultural health in America is moving in the right direction. But don't hang by your thumbs waiting for it.
♣ Brian Micklethwaite urges us all to read The Economist's dissertation on the historically mind-expanding qualities of coffee and coffee houses.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
My Covercraft is Full of Eels

Rick comments on the preceding Armour Hot Dogs item, invoking the Oscar Meyer wieners commercials as well. Then, no doubt under the sinister influence of the pork product peddlers, he offers up a proper futurist wiener dog.

He is also getting "on the bandwagon"¹ in the debate over the best cover versions of songs, joining the growing ranks of those endorsing Devo's version of "Satisfaction." (A worthy choice.) I won't pick any favorites as such, but here are a few cover versions of which I approve that seem not to be getting much mention elsewhere:

Jeff Buckley - covering Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. [This version is clearly superior to the also quite good John Cale version, featured on the Shrek soundtrack; the late Mr. Buckley earns extra points for covering Benjamin Britten's Corpus Christi Carol]
Roxy Music - covering John Lennon's Jealous Guy
Johnny Cash - covering Nine Inch Nails' Hurt
Concrete Blonde - covering Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows
The Clash - covering Bobby Fuller's I Fought the Law
Joss Stone - covering The White Stripes' Fell in Love with a (Boy)
Travis and Fountains of Wayne [tie] - covering Britney Spears' Baby One More Time (neither version readily available in legitimate channels). [Alternate Britney cover: Richard Thompson's version of Oops I Did It Again, also amusingly alluded to here.]
Brian Eno - covering The Lion Sleeps Tonight
U2 - covering Cole Porter's Night & Day. [Alternative for those who prefer Coward to Porter: Pet Shop Boys' cover of Coward's If Love Were All]
Romeo Void - covering Wrap It Up . [A good alternative version of the song can also be found on the first Eurhythmics album]

There, that should keep the conversation going.

¹ In a context entirely other, involving Flannery O'Connor, Mika Cooper asks parenthetically: "(isn't that a vehicle of convenience for instrumentalists too lazy to march, like me?). "
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
The Ad-Ternal Return

One of the by-products of American consumer culture, and particularly of the ubiquity of television advertising, has been the Inescapable Jingle, the little ditty that becomes so implanted in one's mind that once reminded of it it is near impossible to stop it looping and looping and looping in the head. The half-life of some jingles is several decades at least, often long after the original has disappeared from the airwaves.

I have been suffering from this condition for the past several days, the culprit being the old jingle for Armour Hot Dogs. The stimulus, I think, was hearing a radio report describing the hot dogs found in the hovel beside which Saddam Hussein had gone to ground. It is bad enough to be haunted by a cheap advertising ditty, but this one has the added feature that it could not possibly be approved for broadcast today. Consider this litany of offensive images:
Hot dogs! Armour Hot Dogs!
What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?
Fat kids, skinny kids,
Kids who climb on rocks.1
Tough kids, sissy kids,
Even kids with chicken pox
Love hot dogs!
Armour Hot Dogs!
The Dogs Kids Love To Bite!
What a parade of horribles: children with body image issues (the obese and the anorexic), children engaged in dangerous ascents of geological formations without appropriate state-sponsored supervision, children with aggressive tendencies or questions of gender identity, even children suffering from now-arcane and little seen diseases, all culminating in an outright endorsement of animal cruelty. Not to mention, of course, that the Center for Science in the Public Interest instructs us never to approach within a hectare of the product being sold. (Do you know how those things are made? Why, it's more frightening than the legislative process!)
Make it stop, please make it stop.2

1 That portion of the lyric was quoted by the Agreeable Snow Man in Pixar's Monsters, Inc.. Fortunately, he only spoke the words; the accursed thing has to be sung to have its most pernicious effects.

2 Perhaps, since it was his capture that made me think of it, this jingle can be of use in the interrogation of the deposed Iraqi despot? Assuming the Geneva Convention permits such things.
Things That Make You Say Ouch

In the past few days, with little opportunity to post anything original here, it seems this page is becoming a mere portal to legal-oriented posts on my other site. Today: a cautionary tale.