Is it time to replace the national anthem?

5 minute read

July 29, 2020, 10:18 AM

An article from the Daily Mail was brought to my attention a while back about a few people who want to replace “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, ostensibly because author Francis Scott Key was a slave owner.  Replacing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is something that I have had an opinion about for quite some time, though my own opinions about the song as our national anthem have more to do with the song itself, and not for anything that specifically has to do with Key.

First of all, though, for those not familiar, “The Star-Spangled Banner” originated as a poem about the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.  The poem was later given to his brother-in-law, Joseph H. Nicholson, who put the poem to the tune of “The Anacreontic Song“, which is essentially a drinking song that originated in London.  If you’ve never heard the tune with its original lyrics, I encourage you to give it a listen, because it’s a good song.  Nonetheless, hearing the way bands play the tune with such flourish as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and then remembering that it originated as an English drinking song makes me chuckle.

I take issue with “The Star-Spangled Banner” for a few big reasons.  First of all, the song is not about the country, but rather, it is specifically about the flag.  Another problem with the song is that it glorifies war.  And third, we can’t all see a little bit of ourselves in the song.  For the first point, Americans have a very strange fascination with the flag.  The thing about the flag is that it’s all well and good as a symbol that is associated with our country, but it’s only a symbol, and not actually the country.  Thus I find people who get all up in arms about the way people behave in the flag’s presence to be a bit amusing.  Our country is far from perfect.  We have lots of problems that we need to sort through as a country, and the flag is often used to represent the country, like when people kneel in front of the flag as a respectful way to express various concerns about the direction that our country is taking.  But some people treat the flag like it’s a god in its own right, to be worshipped and adored and held on a pedestal, and that’s not at all what the flag is about.  It brings some truth to the meme about the flag that says, “If you don’t stand for the special song, the magical sky cloth won’t freedom.”  Because that’s about how it sounds to someone like me, who views the flag as a symbol, separate from the thing that it represents.  And then as far as the second point goes, we are altogether too eager to declare war on things.  George Carlin put it best when he said, “We like war!  We’re a war-like people!  We like war because we’re good at it!  You know why we’re good at it?  Cause we get a lot of practice.  This country’s only 200 years old and already, we’ve had 10 major wars.  We average a major war every 20 years in this country, so we’re good at it!”  And for some reason, people love to glorify it.  And in regards to the last point, I feel like the song is distant to a lot of Americans.  I can’t see myself at all in that song, being about a battle in a war that happened over two centuries ago, and I see the flag in its standard form most often used as a political statement by factions supporting issues that I don’t typically agree with.  It all feels somewhat distant to me.  It’s not necessarily the way that I would want to see America represented.

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Categories: Music, National politics

Fun with music…

3 minute read

December 20, 2015, 12:41 PM

This past Thursday, among other places, Elyse and I checked out a store called Bill’s Music in Catonsville.  What a wonderful place this was, with professional-grade equipment for sale at professional-grade prices (but you’re paying for quality).  The store has every single piece of musical equipment that you could imagine, including some stuff I hadn’t seen in years, like real xylophones and such.  Elyse actually knows a thing or two about music, unlike me.

The first thing that we discovered was a metallic xylophone (metallophone?).  I hadn’t played one of these since sixth grade music class, a six-week “exploratory” course at Stuarts Draft Middle School.  It was pretty awesome, working not so much with singing, but mostly with musical instruments – primarily xylophones.  We learned some very basic songs on them, and apparently I still remember a couple of them:

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Oh, there’s something about an album…

12 minute read

September 20, 2013, 10:49 PM

How many of you were aware that there was an album made for Today’s Special?  I’ll bet that many people in the United States were not aware of it.  I was initially made aware of it in the late 1990s, and have been able to listen to it in its entirety.  Recall that when I was going to my first polar bear plunge, I was singing along with the Today’s Special album in the car.  Certainly, there’s been a lot of discussion about Today’s Special over the years, with a lot of it coming from this website.  But most of that has been about the television program itself, rather than the various other things that go with it.  After all, the show itself is the main product, and distributed most widely.  Additionally, since the show originated in Canada, produced by a Canadian television network, I don’t believe that any licensed merchandise for the show ever made it to the United States.  Thus I’ll bet that many don’t realize that the album exists, and I’ve definitely never found a review of it anywhere.  So with this entry, I’m going to review the album.

Giving the album a listen, it seems that the album was released around the time as the stage show, which was shown on television as the episode “Live On Stage“.  No songs from episodes dated 1985, 1986, or 1987 appear in the album.  In addition, no songs original to the stage show are performed on the album.  However, where applicable, those songs on the album that were also performed in the stage show were performed based on the stage show version of the song rather than the television show version.

In general, I like the album, as it contains many songs that I have always considered favorites, and also includes a few that I was not familiar with as a child due to editing by Nickelodeon (commercial networks that aired Today’s Special usually deleted some scenes in order to allow time for commercials).  However, there are times that the album really grates on me a little bit, and that comes from the non-song dialogue that’s included, as much of it seems quite out of character compared to the show.
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Categories: Music, Today's Special

“I’ve gotta get up and move around!”

3 minute read

September 17, 2012, 10:42 PM

I think this describes this past Saturday quite well:

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Categories: Music, Recreation/Exercise

“And just where they should stick out…”

2 minute read

August 12, 2007, 6:40 PM

On the way back to DC, I visited with my friend Katie for a few hours. We went out for breakfast, and then just kind of hung around for a bit. Fun times.

Meanwhile, in the car on the way to breakfast, I played Katie the song that Randi Rhodes plays every Friday on her show. Turns out that Katie and her mother enjoy the song, too! And Katie knows the words about as well as I do. Funny moment. We were going along with the song:

You know girls, men aren’t the only people in the world today that have something to give, but it sure looks like it sometimes. Just look around you – men stick out all over the place. Big fat cigars! Big fat stomachs! And just where they should stick out – phhbtt! – where is it?!

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Categories: Driving, Katie, Music

“This is the best elevator music I’ve ever heard!”

< 1 minute read

July 22, 2006, 1:56 AM

First time I’d ever heard the term “elevator music” was actually on The Cosby Show, at the end of the sixth-season opening, when Bill Cosby says, “This is the best elevator music I’ve ever heard!”

I, being eight years old at the time, thought that “elevator music” was a genre, akin to rock and roll or classical, rather than something more practical: Music that gets played in an elevator. Though note that I’ve never actually been in an elevator with music being piped in.

Nowadays, though, I genuinely enjoy so-called “elevator music” when I just want something – nothing in particular – to drown out the silence. Music from The Weather Channel does really well for that. This would be why I hate the voice during the local forecast saying, “Currently in your area…” Then I also have a clip called “elevator music” and a bit of something else that allegedly was played on The Weather Channel.

So yeah, I’m a nerd.

And speaking of the title of this entry, it’s funny… the clip I have on my iPod of the sixth-season Cosby Show theme was from an Italian translation of the show. Thus instead of “This is the best elevator music I’ve ever heard!” it’s something else in a different voice in Italian. I was playing that for Mom on the way home from Harrisonburg once. She was surprised to hear that.

Categories: Music, Television

“I am your knight in black armor!”

< 1 minute read

October 2, 2005, 4:12 PM

Yes, I actually said that to a coworker today when I relieved them on the self-checkouts on the grocery side in our store.

Why did I say it? Well, I bought this lovely black mock-turtleneck shirt last night, and I tried it out today at work. And let me tell you… I looked sharp in that. Imagine for a moment, if you will: Black mock-turtleneck shirt, black jeans, black shoes (my Chucks), and blue Wal-Mart vest.

And in switching out on the self-checkouts with this particular coworker, who’d not had a break in too long, I knew I was a welcome sight.

Plus we must admit – I look good in black. It’s like that song Amish Paradise by Weird Al Yankovic: “And my homies agree, I really look good in black, fool…” There’s another coworker and I who each describe ourselves as the best wearers of black in the store, since we both wear it so well.

Plus I like the look.

Otherwise, while talking fashion, I still don’t understand people whose shoes do not “agree” with the rest of the outfit. This has come to mind because it’s been cold in the morning lately, and so people pull out jackets and such. So you have people wearing long pants, long sleeves, a jacket, a wool hat (in one case), and flip flops with otherwise bare feet. I’m just like, aren’t your feet cold?

Me, if I’m going somewhere and dress like it’s cooler, I’m going the full nine yards, no questions asked.

Categories: Clothing, Music

I got my Hampster Dance CDs…

< 1 minute read

January 7, 2004, 9:38 PM

You wouldn’t think it from looking at me, but I’ve been a Hampster Dance fan for some time now. Something about an altered Robin Hood sound clip that is so captivating, you know? Also how it’s spelled “Hampster” and not the correct spelling of “Hamster”.

So I went on Amazon and ordered “The Hampster Dance Party” and also “Happy Times Ten”. Of course, the true Hampsterdance song is on each CD somewhere, but still, who knows… Hampton and the Hampsters may be the Alvin and the Chipmunks of the new century. Though the Hampster Dance song is still my favorite.

And I like it because I remember when it was a simple internet phenomenon, with the hampsters dancing on screen with a simplified version of the Hampster Dance song. Nowadays, it’s gone commercial and all, but still, I love the tune, and I have six different mixes of the Hampster song on my computer, including a Cotton Eyed Joe remix, which is rather amusing.

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Categories: Music, Netculture

Karaoke is definitely something else…

3 minute read

December 4, 2003, 5:50 PM

D-Hall had their “Breakfast for dinner and Karaoke” night this evening, and it definitely was fun. And I didn’t know about it coming into it, but it still was fun.

After eating dinner, I decided to look through the catalog for songs that I knew well enough to try and sing. Then I thought, Why don’t I try my hand at it? So I really went hunting.

Now all my really favorite songs are oddball songs that most people haven’t heard of, but I do enjoy some mainstream songs. I originally wanted to sing something by Valdy or Bruce Cockburn, but they didn’t have it in their catalog. So back hunting I go. They didn’t have Five O’Clock World by The Vogues in there, and so I finally found two I felt really confident in singing, and went to choose.

I had narrowed it down to the Macarena and Macarthur Park. Both songs I knew quite well. I ended up choosing Macarthur Park, because of what version Macarena was. It was the Bayside Boys Mix, and besides the fact that it wasn’t my favorite version of the song (preferring the all-Spanish versions of the song), the English lyrics were definitely written for a female. I think people would start to talk if they heard me sing:

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Categories: JMU, Music