Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chinese proverb

There are three truths: my truth, your truth, and the truth.

(An expert in alethiology might question this statement.  I would agree that whenever two people are involved, there is a "my truth" and a "your truth," and rarely are they exactly the same.  I'm not sure that there really is a "the truth" -- but if there is, it is probably different from either "my truth" or "your truth.")

Friday, April 29, 2011


You know about me, dog
Don't talk about me, dog
And if you doubt me, dog
You better out me, dog . . .
Know you don't like me 'cause
Yo' bitch most likely does
(From his 2006 hit, "What You Know."  Later in the song, T.I. says "all that attitude's unnecessary, dude."  But T.I. probably has more attitude per cubic inch that any other rapper out there.  One final note: my bitch does like T.I., and it really pisses me off.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

George Eliot

The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

(From her greatest novel, Middlemarch.  A few years ago, 125 of the world's most celebrated authors were asked for their "top 10" lists.  Middlemarch ranked #10 -- behind only Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, War and Peace, Lolita, Huckleberry Finn, Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, Remembrance of Things Past, and Chekhov's short stories.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Next to the originator of a sentence is the first quoter of it. . . . 

A great man quotes bravely, and will not draw on his invention when his memory serves him with a word just as good. . . . 

By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote.
(From his 1876 book, Letters and Social Aims.  I like this Emerson guy, who died on this date in 1882.  He makes a lot of sense.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Cure

I try to laugh about it 
Cover it all up with lies 
I try to laugh about it 
Hiding the tears in my eyes 
'Cause boys don't cry 
Boys don't cry 
(The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry," which appeared on the US album of the same name, was released in 1979.  The song inspired the title of the 1999 movie starring Hilary Swank, who won the Oscar for best actress for her performance as a trangendered male who was raped and murdered after his acquaintances discovered he was biologically female.)

Here is the trailer for the movie:

Monday, April 25, 2011

David Moore

[Arcade Fire's] search for salvation in the midst of real chaos is ours; their eventual catharsis is part of our continual enlightenment. . . . It's taken perhaps too long for us to reach this point where an album is at last capable of completely and successfully restoring the tainted phrase "emotional" to its true origin. Dissecting how we got here now seems unimportant. It's simply comforting to know that we finally have arrived.
(From his unbelievably overwrought 2004 Pitchfork review of Arcade Fire's first album, Funeral, which scored 9.7 on Pitchfork's 10-point scale -- one of the highest-rated albums in the e-zine's history.  Almost singlehandedly, the Pitchfork review turned an obscure Montreal band into the darlings of the indie music world and helped them sell half a million copies of the album in the first year after it was released.  Arcade Fire's most recent album, The Suburbs, won the Grammy for "Album of the Year" in 2011, beating out megahit albums by Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum, Eminem, and Katy Perry.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

George Herbert

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part with all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name, who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is the best to celebrate this most high day.
(From George Herbert's 1633 poem, "Easter," which was set to music by composer Ralph Vaughn Williams.)  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ambrose Bierce

The covers of this book are too far apart.
(I started to read that book once.  Didn't finish it.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lloyd Banks

Beamer, Benz, or Bentley
Beamer, Benz, or Bentley
Beamer, Benz, or Bentley
My jeans are never empty
I'm fresh, I'm fly, I'm so damn high
More than 500 horses when I roll by

From his 2010 hit, "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley."  The Bentley Continental GTC convertible has a V-12 engine that produces 552 horsepower and has a top speed of about 200 miles per hour. 

This post inaugurates "Friday Night Rap" on 2 or 3 lines a day.  Until further notice, every Friday night's post will feature rap lyrics (with an explanation, if necessary).  

BTW, rappers LOVE Bentleys.  If you plug "Bentley" into the search box on, you get 138 hits.  There are 15 songs by Lloyd Banks alone that mention a Bentley.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Joseph Stalin

To choose one's victims, to prepare one's plan minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed . . . there is nothing sweeter in the world.
(Joseph Stalin wrote these words to fellow Bolshevik Lev Kamenev in 1915 when they were both in exile in Siberia.  In 1936, Kamenev was one of the 16 "Old Bolsheviks" accused of plotting to kill Stalin and and other Soviet leaders.  After being found guilty in the first of the infamous "show trials," all 16 were executed.  In other words, "Uncle Joe" not only talked the talk, he walked the walk.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Head East

Save my life, I'm going 
Down for the last time
Woman with the sweet lovin', 
Better than a white line
("Never Been Any Reason" is from their album, Flat as a Pancake.  The band originally recorded and issued the album themselves in 1974.  After the initial edition of 5000 LPs and 500 eight-tracks sold out and this single became a regional hit, A&M Records signed the band and re-released the album in 1975, and it eventually went gold.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Patricia Barber

But there's reason to believe 
That spring won't arrive
There's reason to fear 
That when you left, I died
When I look in the mirror,
My face is too white
When I check for a pulse,
I'm afraid of the quiet
(From her 1998 song, "Winter," which I heard her perform last night in a small jazz club in Chicago.  It was the first time I had heard her perform live.  I sincerely hope it will not be the last.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Albert Einstein

The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.
(I was at first skeptical that Einstein actually said this, but there it is on a page entitled "Tax Quotes" on the IRS website.)

They didn't have TurboTax in Einstein's day

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Keith Richards

The last thing I think the [UK government] expected when they hit us with super-super tax is that we'd say, fine, we'll leave.  We'll be another one not paying tax to you.  They just didn't factor that in.  It made us bigger than ever, and it produced "Exile on Main St.," which was maybe the best thing we did. . . . We didn't know if we would make it, but if we didn't try, what would we do?  Sit in England and they'd give us a penny out of every pound we earned? . . . And so we upped and went to France.
[From Keith Richards' autobiography, Life.  Over the past 20 years, with the help of some very smart tax lawyers, the Rolling Stones have paid just 1.6% on their earnings of 242 million pounds.  Sic semper tyrannis!]

Keith Richards and his son Marlon in France

Saturday, April 16, 2011

George Harrison

Let me tell you how it will be,
There’s one for you, nineteen for me,
‘Cause I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don’t take it all.
‘Cause I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
From "Taxman," which was the opening track on the Beatles' Revolver album.  George Harrison wrote the song after realizing that the Beatles' earnings placed them in a 95% marginal tax bracket -- meaning that the "one for you, nineteen for me" line was literally correct.

I thought income taxes were due yesterday -- April 15 -- but because it was a holiday in the District of Columbia yesterday ("Emancipation Day"), the deadline this year in the next business day, which is April 18.  (Although Emancipation Day was officially yesterday, it is being observed today.  Go figure.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Marvin Gaye

Money, we make it
'Fore we see it, you take it . . .
Natural fact is
I can't pay my taxes
Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
[From his 1971 song, "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)."]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

D. H. Lawrence

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

(Lawrence wrote this poem -- titled "Self-Pity" -- in 1929.  I am very, very different from that small bird.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thomas Jefferson

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.
(Thomas Jefferson was born on this date in 1743.  He is not my favorite Founding Father -- I much prefer Aaron Burr -- but he sure got it right this time.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sonic Youth

I just want you to know
That we can still be friends

(Uh-oh . . . the dreaded "we can still be friends" kiss-off line.  From their 1990 song, "Kool Thing," which featured a guest appearance by Public Enemy's Chuck D.  That same year, Public Enemy released Fear of a Black Planet, which is generally considered to be one of the greatest rap albums of all time.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kurt Vonnegut

High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.
(Vonnegut -- who died on this date in 2007 -- is someone I took very seriously when I was young.  How could I have been so clueless?  But this statement hits the nail squarely on the head.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

William Hazlitt

Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end.  There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern -- why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?

(Hazlitt was born on this date in 1778.  He was a master of English prose -- ranked by some critics with Dr. Johnson and Orwell -- but he is little read today, and many of his works are out of print.  It's hard to argue with the logic of the above quote, but it is not very satisfactory advice.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Phil Ochs

It's always the old who lead us to the war 
It's always the young who fall 
Now look at all we've won 
With the saber and the gun 
Tell me is it worth it all? 
(From his 1965 song, "I Ain't Marching Anymore" -- arguably the greatest antiwar protest song of the era.  The attorney for the "Chicago Seven" attorneys called him as a witness during their criminal conspiracy trial and asked him to sing the song in court, but the judge would not allow him to do so.  Ochs committed suicide on this date in 1976.  He was 36.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

When I've painted a woman's bottom so that I want to touch it, then the painting is finished.
(Renoir was one of the great Impressionist artists, and his paintings remain very popular today.  Many of his works celebrate female beauty and sensuality.  He began to suffer rheumatoid arthritis when he was about 50, but continued to paint even when wheelchair-bound despite the fact that the arthritis limited his range of motion and progressively deformed his hands.)

"After the Bath" (1888)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Robert Louis Stevenson

There is but one art -- to omit!  O if I knew how to omit.  I would ask no other knowledge.
(Robert Louis Stevenson was an extremely popular writer.  But he was also admired by great writers as diverse as Kipling, Nabokov, Hemingway, and Jorge Luis Borges.  I once stayed in the room in the Hawes Inn -- an inn that stands at the foot of the Forth Bridge in Scotland -- where Stevenson got the idea for his book, Kidnapped.  The Forth Bridge is arguably the most beautiful bridge in the world, and certainly the most distinctive in appearance.)

The Forth Bridge, which opened in 1890.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Canned Heat

You can shake it
You can break it
You can hang it on the wall
I don't want it, mama, if it falls . . .
My jelly
My roll
Sweet mama, don't you let it fall 
Sweet mama, don't you let it fall

(From their 1970 album, Future Blues.  The singer is Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, who died of a drug overdose just a month after that album was released.  He was 27.  Here's a link to an article that compares Wilson's version of this song to recordings of the song from the 1920s and 1930s.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


The greatest happiness love can offer is the first pressure of hands between you and your beloved.

(From Stendhal's On Love.  After that, it's all pretty much downhill.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Red Sovine

This was my Dad's radio (the little boy said)
But I guess it's mine and Mom's now 
'Cause my Daddy's dead
Dad had a wreck about a month ago
He was tryin' to get home in a blinding snow
Mom has to work now to make ends meet
And I'm not much help 
With my two crippled feet
She says not to worry that we'll make it alright
But I hear her cryin' sometimes late at night

(Country-western singer Woodrow Wilson "Red" Sovine died on this date in 1980.  "Teddy Bear" -- a song about a crippled boy who talks to truckers on his late father's CB radio -- was a number one hit for him in 1976.  It's as maudlin and mawkish as anything you will ever hear, but I'd be surprised if you listen to the whole song without being affected by it.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

J. B. S. Haldane

Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

(From his 1927 book, Possible Worlds and Other Essays.  Haldane was a British geneticist who was once asked by theologians what could be inferred from the biological world about the mind of God.  "The Creator, if he exists, has a special fondness for beetles," he famously replied, referring to the fact that there are over 400,000 species of beetles and only 8000 species of mammals.)

Haldane in the 1950s

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Leon Russell

How many days has it been since I was born?
How many days 'til I die?

(Leon Russell was born Claude Russell Bridges on April 2, 1942, which makes him 69 years old today.  So for him, the answer to the first question above is 25,202 days.  For Leon and all the rest of us, the answer to the second question -- if not the ultimate question for us, certainly the penultimate question -- is unknown.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mark Twain

April 1.  This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.
(From his 1894 novel, Pudd'nhead Wilson.)