Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Hollies

It's over, well over 
And we can't revive what's past 
It's gone now, moved on now 
But then again 
It didn't have a chance to last 

(From the Hollies' 1972 hit, "Long Dark Road.")

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rolling Stones

And his coat is torn and frayed
It's seen much better days

From their 1972 song, "Torn and Frayed." Happy 59th birthday to me! (I may be old, but I look like a teenager compared to Keith Richards.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sir James Lubbock

We often hear of people breaking down from overwork, but in nine out of ten they are really suffering from worry or anxiety. . . . A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.

Sir John Lubbock, the first Baron Avebury, was a Victorian archeologist who invented the terms "Paleolithic" and "Neolithic" to denote the Old and New Stone Ages.  He also was an amateur biologist of some distinction, and wrote books on hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps) and other natural history topics.  He was a supporter of Darwinism and an advocate of English spelling simplification and reform.  Three of his brothers were top-notch cricket players.  Here's another Lubbock quote: "Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means a waste of time."  Amen to that, Sir John. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ian Fleming

You only live twice:
Once when you're born 
And once when you look death in the face.
The epigraph to You Only Live Twice, the 11th of Fleming's 12 James Bond novels, and the last to be published prior to his death in 1964.  According to the book, these lines represent James Bond's unsuccessful attempt to write a haiku.  Fleming, who was born on this date in 1908, drew on his experiences as a British naval intelligence officer in World War II when he wrote his Bond novels.  Among other things, Fleming was the headquarters officer responsible for the activities of "30 Commando," a group of commandos who were trained to go behind enemy lines and secure documents or items of equipment with intelligence value.  The Age of Heroes is a movie about Fleming and 30 Commando that was recently released in the UK.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lil' Wayne

Safe sex is great sex
Better wear a latex
'Cause you don't want that late text
That "I think I'm late" text
(From his 2008 hit, "Lollipop (Remix)."  Although "Latex" and "late text" aren't perfect homophones -- words with the same sound, but different spellings and different meanings -- they are close enough to appreciate.  Virtuoso rappers like Lil' Wayne can pack clever wordplay like this into their rhymes without interrupting their flow -- they make it sound effortless.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Eddy Grant

Down in the street there is violence 
And a lots of work to be done 
No place to hang out our washing 
And I can't blame all on the sun 
We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue 
And then we'll take it higher 
(The Co-operative Republic of Guyana achieved independence on this date in 1966.  Eddy Grant was born in Plaisance, Guyana, in 1948, but had moved with his family to London long before 1966.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Desmond Dekker

Get up in the morning

Slaving for bread, sir
So that every mouth can be fed
Poor me, the Israelite
Desmond Dekker -- who was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres in 1941 -- died on this date in 2006.  This ska song was the first truly Jamaican song to be a hit in the United States.  I vividly remember hearing "Israelites" on the radio in 1968.  I liked it, but I thought it was one of the oddest records I had ever heard.   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Now I know just what you're looking for
You want me to claim this child you bore
But I know that it was he, not me . . .
Evil woman, don't play your games with me

(From their 1969 hit single.  I'd say this situation definitely qualifies as a bad romance, wouldn't you?)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

NATURE! . . .
Without asking, or warning, she snatches us up into her circling dance, and whirls us on until we are tired, and drop from her arms. . . .
We live in her midst and know her not. She is incessantly speaking to us, but betrays not her secret. We constantly act upon her, and yet have no power over her. . . .
She is always building up and destroying; but her workshop is inaccessible. . . .
She changes for ever and ever, and rests not a moment. Quietude is inconceivable to her, and she has laid her curse upon rest. She is firm. Her steps are measured, her exceptions rare, her laws unchangeable.
She has always thought and always thinks; though not as a man, but as Nature.  She broods over an all-comprehending idea, which no searching can find out.
Goethe was a German poet, dramatist, novelist, philosopher, painter, scientist, and civil servant.  These words were not written with tornados in mind, but they seem apropos as I follow the news coverage of the appalling damage done by a tornado earlier tonight to the town I was born in.

Joplin (MO) High School after it was 
struck by a tornado on May 22, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains -- however improbable -- must be the truth?
From The Sign of the Four, his 1890 novel featuring Sherlock Holmes.  Sir Arthur, who was born on this date in 1859, was not above recycling his best lines.  He used this one at least four other times -- in "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" (1892), "Silver Blaze" (1893), "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" (1917), and "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" (1927).  I repeat myself from time to time, so I sympathize with him.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Salman Akhtar

The lines along which [the shattered vase] had broken . . . will always remain discernible to an experienced eye.  However, it will have a certain wisdom since it knows something that the vase that has not been broken does not; it knows what it is to break and what it is to come together.
(Salman Akhtar is a Indian-born psychoanalyst who has written or edited more than 30 books on psychiatry and psychology, and has also published six volumes of poetry.)
Dr. Salman Akhtar

Friday, May 20, 2011


Can't you tell that I came from the dope game?
Blame Reagan for making me into a monster
Blame Oliver North and Iran-Contra
I ran contraband that they sponsored
Before this rhyming stuff we was in concert
(From "Blue Magic," the first single off his 2007 American Gangster album.  The stuff about Oliver North and Iran-Contra is a reference to the fact that the CIA admitted many years later that it had turned a blind eye to Contra supporters "who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking" -- and that's why Jay-Z says he ended up as a teenaged crack dealer.  "Iran-Contra" and "I ran contra-[band]" are homonyms -- words that have the same sound and same spelling, but different meanings.  Jay-Z's use of "in concert" to mean "working together" instead of its expected meaning -- a live musical performance -- is another example of his skill as a wordsmith.) 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Linda Ronstadt

There have been times when I've prayed for a bus to hit me so I'd have an excuse not to perform.

Linda Ronstadt has won 10 Grammys and an Emmy.  She has released over 30 solo albums, 10 of which were Billboard top 10 albums and 3 of which reached #1.  Ronstadt has successfully recorded pop, rock, jazz, country, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Mexican folk music -- her musical collaborators have included Billy Eckstine, Rosemary Clooney, the Chieftains, Dolly Parton, and Frank Zappa.  No one could deny that she has a truly extraordinary voice -- one critic said she has "the most sterling set of pipes of her generation."  Yet she suffers from stage fright.  (Go figure.) 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tina Fey

Bitches get stuff done. . . . Bitch is the new black.
(From a "Saturday Night Live" bit on Hillary Clinton.  Tina Fey -- born Elizabeth Stamatina Fey on this date in 1970 -- is funny, although not as funny as she thinks she is.  I can't remember seeing a performer who was more impressed by her own performances, or her own cleavage.  She almost always wears low-cut dresses or tops, and obviously thinks she is really hot.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I wrote her off for the tenth time today
And practiced all the things I would say
But she came over, I lost my nerve
I took her back and made her dessert
Now I know I'm being used
That's okay, man, 'cause I like the abuse
I know she's playing with me
That's okay 'cause I got no self esteem
Well, I guess I should stick up for myself
But I really think it's better this way
The more you suffer
The more it shows you really care 
(From their 1994 song, "Self Esteem.")  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keith Richards

We were in Jacksonville, Florida [in August 1975] and we were going to Hampton, Virginia, and [our American lawyer] had heard that the plane was going to be searched when we got there. . . . And so to avoid that, we collected everyone's contraband.  Everyone's guns, knives, drugs, anything that could be considered illegal, and packed it in two suitcases, and I took a private plane from Jacksonville to Hampton . . . with those two suitcases and drove to the hotel. . . . The drive was nerve-wracking.  I was going 50 miles an hour. . . . And then I got to the hotel, I went into a room, not mine, and put it all out on the bed.  And as they came in a couple of hours later they all picked up their stuff.  Annie Lebovitz has a picture somewhere of the treasure that was in those suitcases. 
(From Keith Richards' Life.  This excerpt was written by Mary Beth Medley, who was 27 in 1975.  She handled travel arrangements and other logistical matters for the band's "Tour of the Americas '75."  I saw the Stones at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City about two months before the incident described here.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Keith Richards

I prepared two equal piles of about eight grams [of Merck pharmaceutical cocaine] each for Keith [Richards] and myself . . . . I made two lines, grabbed a straw and with swift action snorted my eight grams. "Now let's see if you can do that."  In my entire adult life I had never, ever seen anyone indulging in a quantity of this magnitude.  Keith looked, stared, grabbed the straw and duplicated my effort with no difficulties. . . .

Pharmaceutical cocaine cannot be compared in any way to cocaine produced in Central or South America.  It is pure, does not bring on depression or lethargy.  A totally different type of euphoria, one of creativity, exists immediately when it is absorbed by the central nervous system  There are absolutely no withdrawal symptoms.
(From Keith Richards' Life.  The speaker is Freddie Sessler, an old friend of Keith's.  The incident took place at Sessler's home in Dobbs Ferry, NY.  Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, baby!)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Keith Richards

Flo . . . was one of my favorites, lived in L.A., one of a band of black chicks.  Flo had another three or four groupies around her.  If I was a bit short of weed or whatever, she would send her crew out.  We slept together many times, never f*cked, or very rarely.

(From Keith Richards' new autobiography, Life.  I don't know about you, but I see a BIG difference here between "never" and "very rarely.")

Friday, May 13, 2011

Jean Genet

Anyone who hasn't experienced the ecstasy of betrayal knows nothing of ecstasy at all.
(From his memoir, Prisoner of Love, which was published shortly after his death in 1986.  Genet was a petty thief and a vagabond who was dishonorably discharged from the French Foreign Legion after being caught committing a homosexual act.  He was threatened with a life sentence after his 10th criminal conviction in 1949, but several prominent authors and artists who were impressed by some of his early writings successfully petitioned the French president to set aside the sentence.  It's Friday, so you're probably expecting the usual "Rap Friday" quote.  But it's also the 13th of the month -- yes, it's Friday the 13th -- which makes it the perfect day to institute "French-day the 13th."  Until further notice, each 2 or 3 lines a day post that appears on the 13th of the month will have a French theme.)

Jean Genet

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Katharine Hepburn

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other.  Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.

(Katharine Hepburn was born on this date in 1907.  She may have had a point.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eric Burdon and the Animals

It's a hard world to get a break in 
All the good things have been taken 
But girl, there are ways 
To make certain things pay 
Though I'm dressed in these rags 
I'll wear sable
Someday . . .
It's my life and I'll do what I want 
It's my mind and I'll think what I want 
(From the Animals' 1965 hit single, "It's My Life," perhaps the most honest and unapologetic rock song ever recorded.  Today is Animals' lead singer Eric Burdon's 70th birthday.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rita Mae Brown

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.
(This quote, which has been misattributed to everyone from Ben Franklin to Albert Einstein, appeared in her 1983 novel, Sudden Death.  If she's right, I've been insane for quite some time.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Robert Johnson

Every time I'm walkin' down the street
Some pretty mama start breakin' down with me

Stop breakin' down
Yes, stop breakin' down
The stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby
It'll make you lose your mind
(Yesterday was legendary blues singer Robert Johnson's 100th birthday.  Johnson died when he was just 27, and his entire recorded output consists of only 29 songs, but he is considered to be the greatest Delta blues guitarist of all time.  Legend has it that he went to a rural Mississippi crossroads for a midnight rendezvous with the devil, who taught him how to play in exchange for his soul.  This song was covered by the Rolling Stones in 1972 and the White Stripes in 1999.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011


And my dear mother left me
When I was quite young
And my dear mother left me
When I was quite young
She said, "Lord have mercy
On my wicked son"

(From their 2006 cover of the 1968 Canned Heat song.  Happy Mother's Day!)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jo Brand

If we aren't supposed to eat animals, then why are they made out of meat?
(Before becoming a comedian, Jo Brand worked for ten years as a psychiatric nurse in various London hospitals.  Her autobiography is titled Look Back in Hunger.  Today is "National Roast Leg of Lamb Day" in the United States.)

Jo Brand dressed as Britney Spears

Friday, May 6, 2011


This is how we used to make the party start
We used to 
Mix Hen' with Bacardi Dark
And by the 
Sixth gin you're gonna probably crawl
And you'll be 
Sick then and you'll probably barf . . .
(From the song "Drug Ballad" from his 2000 album, The Marshall Mathers LP, which sold more copies in its first week of release than any other album in history.  It is the biggest-selling rap album ever, with over 10 million copies sold in the U.S. alone.  I've broken the lines to account for the pauses that Eminem places in the middle of each line -- another way to transcribe the lines would be "We used to . . . mix Hen' with Bacardi Dark."  Click on the highlighted texts to see what http://www.rapgenius.com/ has to say about those lines.)  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Egyptian proverb

Eat the present moment.  Then break the dish.

(This expresses a common sentiment -- carpe diem, and all that jazz.  But this is perhaps the most interesting articulation of that sentiment I've ever come across.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Swedish proverb

Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.

(Those Swedes don't miss much either.  They're gloomy, and they drink more than Russians -- maybe even more than the Irish, which is saying something.  But they don't miss much.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Avec le temps . . .
Avec le temps, va, tout s'en va
On oublie le visage et l'on oublie la voix
With the time . . .
With the time, everything is going away
We forget the face and we forget the voice

(Dalida -- her real name was Yolanda Gigliotti -- was born in Egypt to Italian parents but spent most of her adult life in France.  She was a hugely successful recording artist, selling a total of 130 million records.  Dalida took an overdose of barbituates and died on this date in 1987, aged 54.  An ex-husband and two former lovers committed suicide prior to her doing so.  These lines are from "Avec le Temps," a wonderful song that was recorded by many singers, but her performance is particularly exquisite and heartbreaking.  One has to wonder if the lyrics to this song ran through her mind as she was swallowing all those sleeping pills.)   

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chinese proverb

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.
(Those Chinese get it, too.)

Beijing's "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Russian proverb

There is no such thing as an ugly woman.  However, there is such a thing as not enough vodka.
(Those Russians get it, don't they?)