A World in Which I Don’t Have to Watch “The Princess and the Frog”

I always thought that I liked kids, but I have come to the conclusion that this is not the case. If there were no children, no one would have made The Princess and the Frog. If no one had made it, I would not have spent the afternoon watching it. If I had not spent the afternoon watching it, I would feel better about myself. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy it; some of it was very funny and I was on the verge of crying pretty much from beginning to end—and I didn’t even realize that Oprah Winfrey was in it. But that is exactly the problem.

Randy Newman shows once again that talent can be used for evil. The songs—pretty much without exception—suck. But that’s okay. Newman has been writing poor songs on and off since the beginning (think: Laughing Boy) and always since about Toy Story (think: You’ve Got a Friend in Me). It was his score that was so evil. I was emotionally bruised (and worse, but I don’t want to go into details). I should now be made to weep over a dead firefly’s romantic life.

What bothered me most about the film was how it dealt with race. It takes place in 1930s (give or take 20 years) Louisiana, with its accompanying racial segregation and economic stratification. The fact that all the black people were smiling didn’t make me accept the racist expectations of the whites any better—from the implicit racism of Big Daddy LaBouff and his annoying daughter to the explicit racism of the real estate agents. What’s more, I couldn’t get past the fact that Prince Naveen is vaguely Indian and thus brown and thus acceptable to be paired with the light-skinned black girl. Certainly the prince could not be pasty-English white and the girl be Miles Davis black; or visa versa. If this is a film for kids, then perhaps such delicate racial issues should be taken out of it, by setting it somewhere other than 1930s (give or take 75 years) Louisiana.

It seems like a minor thing, but it’s worth mentioning: the animation. This film is what they call “hand drawn”. By this, it seems what they mean is that the base artwork is hand-drawn and then scanned into a computer and then animated the way they always do. Off hand, I would say, “So what?” But there is a difference: it really isn’t very appealing. I guess they are going for something like Lady and the Tramp. The problem here is that Lady and the Tramp is really not that appealing. I’m a Pinocchio guy.

Kids: there were a bunch of them. And they seemed to like it a lot. And they were very well behaved. (When I saw Babe in the theater the little joys were running up and down the isles.) I guess I can accept the occasional Disney movie for their benefit, but why did the dead firefly’s romantic life have to be so sad?

Blue Moon

As I am a big fan of all messed up creative people, let me start by quoting Lorenz Hart in one of my favorite Rogers & Hart songs:

Blue moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.

I only bring this up because Andrea did not know what a “blue moon” was, as of this morning. At that time, she probably read something like Donna Henes’ Article on Huffington Post. It isn’t a great article, but some people are easily impressed.

Henes informs those people who don’t already know that a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. This means, of course, that blue moons are meaningless because calendar months are arbitrary. But as yet another anachronistic unit of measure, the blue moon cycle is very cool: it is an odd period of time (a little less than three years) that is slightly different all of the time.

You may ask, “Why is a blue moon roughly three years in length?” But I would prefer that you not. Why? First, a blue moon is no length at all, but rather an instant. (This is not even exactly right because the moon oscillates by more than two degrees on either side and that means that even though the same part of the moon always faces us, we can see more than 50% of the surface, but I digress.) The three year number is the amount of time between blue moons.

The second reason this question is best not asked is that anyone reading this blog should really know better. But I will explain because I am kind and just. This requires some background.

You do understand that the moon does not go around the earth each night, right? I mean, pretty much the moon stays in the same place (like the sun) and it is the earth rotating at a break-neck speed that makes it look like the moon is going around the earth. In point of fact, if the earth did not rotate, the moon would move from directly overhead, all the way around the earth, and back to directly overhead in 29.5 days (roughly).

Without going into the phases of the moon, you ought to be able to conclude from this that there will be a full moon every 29.5 days (roughly). Unless you are Andrea, in which case, just take my word for it. Because of this, if you are going to squeeze a second full moon into a 30 day month, you’ve got to have your first full moon during the first 0.5 days. For a 31 day month, you have to have your first full moon during the first 1.5 days. This means you will never have a blue moon during my favorite month February when such notables are Christopher Marlowe and I were born.

On average, how often will you have a full moon on the first day of the month? About 3% of the time, right? (Andrea: just take my word.) How many months would that be? About 33, or three years, using 11 months because the sainted month of February is out.

But if all else fails, there is another song about blue moons by the great Pat Alger and Gene Levine:

I got your letter in my mailbox today
You were just checking if I was okay
And if I miss you, well you know what they say
Just once in a very blue moon.

15 November 2013: Added Gene Levine credit to the writing of “Once in a Very Blue Moon.”

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Some time ago, I stumbled upon Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” It delighted me—it is so beautifully written. Instinctively, I picked up my guitar and quickly set it to music. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you really need to read this poem:

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider’d all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.*

Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

Not long after discovering this—even before my dear friend Andrea could ruin it by pointing out that it was foolish youthful sentimentality—I discovered that Sir Walter Raleigh (yes, that guy) had written a response: “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.” It too is a beautiful poem (although Marlowe’s is clearly superior in poetic beauty):

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall,

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten—
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind may move
To live with thee and be thy love.

I don’t have a lot to say about this poem, other than that it says exactly what Andrea would have said had I posted only the “The Passionate Shepherd.” However, it occurred to me that the two poems would work well together as a male-female duet. In fact, the phrasing of the two poems are identical—so I didn’t even have to change the music. Here is the chord structure which would cover two verses:

A / / / | A / / / | D / / / | A / / / |
E / / / | D / / / | E / / / | D / / / ||

And the structure would consist of four male verses (two music), four female verses, two male verses, two female verses, and then the last two verses sung at the same time by both—sort of like “Touch me in the Morning.” This is six verses each. You might have noticed that Marlowe’s poem has seven verses; I omit the verse above that has an asterisk after it.

I am not yet happy with the second part of the melody, but here is the first part (the AADA part). Note that the triplets are not strict (as you can tell from the chord structure, it is kind of bluesy and thus loose). Eventually, I will try to get a couple of kids from the local college to come over and record it and I’ll post it here. But even before that, I’ll post the second half of the melody.

Passionate Shepherd Music Part 1


PhilomelIn Greek mythology, Philomel (Usually: Philomela.) and Procne are sisters. Procne’s husband, King Tereus agrees to escort Philomel to Thrace on vacation. But you know how it is with Greek men: Tereus can’t control himself. He kidnaps and rapes Philomel. But you know how it is with Greek women: Philomel can’t keep her big mouth shut. So she tells him that she has no intention of hiding his misdeed out of some sense of shame; she is going to tell everyone. But you know Greek men: Tereus cuts out her tongue so she can’t rat him out. But you know Greek women: Philomel weaves a tapestry that tells the whole story. But you know Greek wives: when Procne finds out, she kills Tereus’ only son and then feeds the body to him. But you know Greek men: he eats it. But you know Greek myths: Zeus and company change Philomel, Tereus, and Procne into birds.

I have no idea what the point of the story is, except maybe that you shouldn’t trust your husband with your sister. This is good advice.

She Said “No”

What is with these “You’re a loser but I love ya, babe” songs? The classic is Midnight Train to Georgia, but I’ll let that one slide because it is totally kick-ass. What I have in mind is Please Come to Boston. Here is the last verse:

Please come to L.A. to live forever
The California life alone is just too hard to live
We’ll live in a house that looks out over the ocean
There’s some stars that fall from the sky, livin’ up on the hill

That’s beautiful. First, he asks her to come and live forever. Then he tells her that he needs her—life is too difficult without her. Finally, he has a house on the ocean and stars fall from the sky!

And what is her answer? “No. I love you, but not enough to leave beautiful Tennessee. I’ll be waiting here for you to fail and come back with your tail between your knees.”

On second thought, why don’t you just stay in Tennessee and marry a tobacco farmer.