I Know This is a Cheesy Song. . .


Yeah, I chose just about the cheesiest song about war you could possibly pick for a Memorial Day-themed post.  I don’t care.

The thing is, the hero in this song dies.  People die in wars.  It’s one of those ugly facts that we just can’t avoid.  It’s why we have a Memorial Day in the first place.  To remember the men and women and service animals that died protecting American ideals.

Some people have co-opted this day as an excuse to wave the flag about all service people, living or dead, but the point of this day is to remember the dead.  To honor them with solemn ceremonies.  To find a way to send thanks to the universe for their sacrifice.  I don’t knock service people; they do an incredibly difficult and dangerous job so that people like me don’t have to.  Because we have an all volunteer military, these people chose this job (we didn’t always, and I am especially indebted to those who didn’t choose to serve but were conscripted).  And a significant number of them never come home.  But Memorial Day isn’t about knee-jerk patriotism, and anyone who says it is ought to be reminded of the horrors of war.

Because it is horrible.  William Tecumseh Sherman got a lot of flack for the total war he waged on the South during the Civil War, but he had a point.  War is hell, and he made sure every living being in his line of fire knew it.  It is violent and ugly and unfair, and it should only be used as the last resort when there is literally no other choice to be made.  Too many times lately, young men and women have been deliberately sent into the line of fire without clear cause or justification.  The “war on terror” isn’t a clear enough directive or reason to endanger anyone’s lives.  You cannot fight a war on an idea, an emotion.  The idea or emotion will always prevail, and you will look like a vicious war-monger.  You want to stop terrorists?  Stop blowing civilians up.  Stop invading countries that have not committed an act of war on you.  (No people, Afghanistan and Iraq did not attack us on 9/11; it was a group of thugs that were actually mostly Saudi Arabian.  Why didn’t we attack that country?  Oh yeah.  Oil.)  Most terrorists are simply criminals.  A street gang with better weapons and religious zealotry.  Al Qaeda and ISIS are basically the equivalent of the Crips and the Bloods.  We should be arresting them and putting them in prison, not waging war on a bunch of innocent civilians.  Too many people have already died on this incredibly futile quest.  It is time to end it.

I am not dishonoring the dead to say these things.  I am honoring them.  Because the ideals they believed they were fighting for were ideals like the freedom of speech I am exercising.  I don’t agree with any war, but the ongoing wars we’ve been waging for the last fifteen years are especially egregious.  All we’ve succeeded in all this bloodshed is to destabilize a significant portion of the planet, damage the environment, waste a LOT of money, and kill a whole bunch of people.  Oh, and there’s the added bonus of the destruction of hundreds of thousands of artifacts from the beginning of civilization.  Way to go, America.

If you have a service person in your circle who died in combat, please light a candle for them.  Display your flag if you have one.  And go ahead and enjoy your barbecue.  But remember that there is a way to stop all the Billys in the world from becoming dead heroes.  Wage peace.

“Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head”


One of the nice things about being on a They Might Be Giants kick is finding myself back in their wonderfully insane world.  It’s hard not to enjoy this band’s oddities and quirks because they’re delivered so joyfully.  TMBG songs might be as surreal and experimental as, say, Pere Ubu, but with the addition of a childlike glee that makes all the weirdness less weird.

Take this classic from their first album.  “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head” is a disjointed collection of one-liners and accordion music that John Flansburgh and John Linnell somehow make seem like the best party ever.  Well, it would be a great party if you’re a nerd like me.

After a few listens, you realize this isn’t a song about some sinister cult that forces people into puppetry as a form of psychological torture; it’s just another coming of age song (a whole sub-genre of Country music).  The absurdity of life, of responsibility, of how out of place you feel as you move from teenager to adult, is summed up with the insolent “Memo to myself: Do the dumb things I gotta do.  Touch the puppet head.”  Who hasn’t felt strangled by the pointlessness of all the things we have to do when we adult?  (I love how usage has turned a boring nondescript noun like “adult” into a really descriptive, if vague, verb.)  Why does the singer have to touch the puppet head?  Who knows, and who really cares?  The puppet head is just another version of Hitchcock’s Macguffin.  It’s the thing that puts the action of the story into motion, but is never really clearly defined and might not ever even be seen.

Kind of like growing up.



I’ve still got that TMBG bee in my bonnet.  Come to think of it, them, Josh Ritter and episodes of the Star Talk podcast (with my personal astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson; he could be yours, too if you start listening) are just about all I’ve been listening to on the iPod for the last week or so.  I don’t know what that means.

Whatever.  Try not to dance as you listen to this song.  I dare you.  And if you can, please explain to me why They Might Be Giants aren’t more popular than they are.

“Your Racist Friend”


Now that my class is finished, I’ve got a bit more time to go back to one of my favorite activities: ranting. (I don’t know whether to envy you poor fools or pity you.)

I’ve actually had a bit of a bee in my bonnet lately (the only one, I swear. . . see what I did there?  No?  Well, maybe you should go back to some of my older jukebox entries.)  So I’ve been listening to They Might Be Giants on the iPod lately, which always makes me smile.  But yesterday it dawned on me that they were, scarily, kind of prescient.  After all, have you gotten a look at the presumptive Republican nominee for president?  Yeah.  This song suddenly has a whole new dimension to it.

I wavered between this song and another frighteningly apt TMBG song, but the nasty bitterness of “Your Racist Friend” won out.  (By the by, I’d like to extend my thanks to the YouTubers who took the time to create videos to match the narrative in both songs.  Really nice work!)  And since the Blowhard hasn’t actually won anything yet, anointing him anything, even in jest, would just play into his enormous ego.

My message to anyone who would come to this craven, narcissistic, misogynistic, xenophobic, spray-tanned slime bucket’s defense is simply this: He is just as awful as he appears.  He always has been.  This man tears down historical buildings and replaces them with ugly phallic symbols (you just know all his skyscrapers and mega casinos are over-compensating for something).  And he is a racist.  He’s made that clear right from the get go.  Some poor deluded fool out there might try to argue he wants to improve our security, but he just wants to pander to the same disgusting ignorance and bigotry that he’s been carrying around his entire life.  I’ll give him this, he’s damn good at it.

I honestly thought he’d have imploded by now.  That the Republicans would’ve shunned him, and then he’d have run as a third-party candidate and confused all the bigots like him trying to decide which hateful idiot to vote for.  (Let’s face it, Kasich was the least objectionable of the bunch, but only because he lacks any sort of personality whatsoever; it’s a miracle he lasted as long as he did.)  But he’s managed to fool bluff hornswaggle convince enough people that he’s got something legitimate to offer this country.

He doesn’t, of course, and I doubt he’ll be able to get enough moderate Republicans and independents to vote for him.  He’ll get enough votes that he’ll be able to say that he’s important.  But he won’t win.  And, hopefully, his mere existence in this political race will wake up enough of the reasonable conservatives (yes, they do exist) to do something about the hideous demagoguery that has been masquerading as the GOP platform for the last few decades.