Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rolling Stones – "Short and Curlies" (1974)


It's too bad
She's grabbed a handful 
And you can't get away from it all 

Wally Moon was a very good major-league baseball player.  He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1954 – easily beating out future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron for that honor – and played in three All-Star games.

He also had one of the all-time great monobrows – or unibrows, if you prefer:


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A male can get away with having a monobrow.  It’s much harder for a female to pull that look off, but Mexican artist Frida Kahlo certainly did.

Kahlo wasn’t shy about emphasizing her monobrow in her self-portraits:


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I’m not a dermatologist or a doctor of any kind.  In fact, I know next to nothing about medical science or science in general.  

But I do enjoy kicking back with a cold one and having a gander at the “Notable Notes” section of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Dermatology journal.

The previous 2 or 3 lines discusses a “Notable Notes” article titled “Skin Suffocation,” which explains that covering someone’s entire body with paint won’t cause them to suffocate – contrary to what James Bond said in the movie Goldfinger.  

The author of that article, Helena Jenkinson of the University of Texas Medical School, is also the author of a “Notable Notes” piece titled “Consider the Monobrow” which appeared in the July 2017 issue of JAMA Dermatology.  (Is it just me, or does “Notable Notes” sound more like something you would find in Reader’s Digest than in a medical journal?)

A 19th-century Persian painting
Ms. Jenkinson notes in that article that while the monobrow – the scientific term is synophrys – is generally regarded to be an undesirable physical trait by Americans, other cultures have viewed it as a good thing:

[T]he abrou-ye peyvasteh, or “continuous eyebrow,” was once celebrated in Persian paintings and poetry.  In ancient Greece, the monobrow was associated with beauty and intelligence.  Those lacking the feature naturally imitated it by filling in the space between the eyebrows with either kohl or lampblack, a paint made from soot.  A similar beauty practice involving an herbal paint occurs to this day in Tajikistan, where synophrys remains fashionable. 

*     *     *     *     *

If you want to get rid of your monobrow, you can wax the area between your eyebrows.  

Waxing is also a popular method of grooming pubic hair, but a February 2014 “Notable Notes” article titled “Wax On, Wax Off: Pubic Hair Grooming and Potential Complications” warns that waxing the bikini area may “cause deficits in the mucocutaneous barrier that may be sufficient for viral entry and transmission, potentially increasing the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections.”

The authors of that article suggest that doctors advise individuals who wax their pubic areas to abstain from sexual activity for a certain period of time after waxing.  But since pubic hair grooming is usually done in anticipation of having sex in the near future, such advice may not be heeded.

*     *     *     *     *

The editors of JAMA Dermatology seem to be very interested in pubic hair grooming.

The August 2017 of that journal includes an article entitled “Prevalence of Pubic Hair Grooming-Related Injuries and Identification of High-Risk Individuals in the United States,” which presents the results of a study of over five thousand Americans who engage in pubic hair grooming.  


Believe it or not, about 25% of those people reported that they had sustained a grooming-related injury.  Of that group, almost a third had hurt themselves five or more times!

Several of the co-authors of that article are doctors at the University of California at San Francisco’s hospital.  About 3% of the adults who visit the UCSF hospital’s emergency room do so because of pubic area grooming injuries.

Granted, we are talking about San Francisco here.  But that’s still a lot of injuries.

*     *     *     *     *

“Short and Curlies” was released on the 1974 album, It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll.

That album – the 14th studio album released in the U.S. by the Stones – was the last one that featured Mick Taylor.  Taylor had replaced Brian Jones in the band in 1969, when Taylor was only 20 years old.

Mick Taylor
Shortly after Taylor quit the band, rock critic Robert Palmer of the New York Times wrote that “Taylor is the most accomplished technician who ever served as a Stone.  A blues guitarist with a jazzman's flair for melodic invention, Taylor was never a rock and roller and never a showman.”

Here’s “Short and Curlies”:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Shirley Bassey – "Goldfinger" (1964)


Goldfinger
He’s the man,
The man with the Midas touch

I’m sure you remember the scene in the James Bond movie, Goldfinger, where villain Auric Goldfinger kills a young woman by covering her entire body with gold paint.  

“She died of skin suffocation,” the know-it-all Bond explains to his boss, M. “It’s all right so long as you leave a small bare patch at the base of the spine to allow the skin to breathe.”


According to Helena Jenkinson’s note, “Skin Suffocation,” which appears in the August 2017 issue of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Dermatology journal, the skin does in fact breathe.  But the amount of oxygen taken in through the skin is only about 0.4% as much as the human body obtains through breathing.

“In other words,” Jenkinson writes, “one will not asphyxiate from being painted head to toe, as long as air continues to flow via mouth and nose to the lungs.”

In other other words, 007 was so full of sh*t that his eyes were brown.

*     *     *     *     *

Is there any doubt that “Goldfinger” is the best James Bond movie theme song ever?

Shirley Bassey was a popular UK recording artist when she was picked by the man who composed “Goldfinger,” John Barry, to record that song in 1964.  

Bassey and Barry with their
“Goldfinger” gold records
Barry, who eventually composed the scores for eleven James Bond films, had conducted the orchestra that accompanied Bassey on a tour the previous year.  The two had become romantically involved during that tour, which probably didn’t hurt Bassey’s chances when it was time for Barry to choose someone to record “Goldfinger.” 

Barry, who was married four times, must have had pretty good game because the second of his wives was the legendary beauty, Jane Birkin.  (After Barry and Birkin divorced in 1968, she hooked up with singer/songwriter/actor/director/poet/painter Serge Gainsbourg.  The actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg is their daughter.)

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin
Regardless of whether Barry’s decision was made by his big head or his little head, Bassey knocked “Goldfinger” out of the park. 

Particularly noteworthy is the long last note, which Bassey held until she was blue in the face.  (She removed her bra between takes in the hope that doing so would allow her to inhale a little extra oxygen.)

“Goldfinger” was a top ten hit in the U.S., Japan, Germany, Italy, and a number of other countries.  Oddly, it peaked at #21 in the UK.

Here’s “Goldfinger”:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon: 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mountain Ride – "Pennsylvania" (2017)


I’m headed up north
To Pennsylvania

The extraordinarily repulsive political consultant James Carville once described Pennsylvania as Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the middle.

Glen Rock, which is a very small town in York County, PA, is smack dab in the middle of the middle of the state.  In 2016, voters there favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 3-to-1 margin.

The Rail Trail Tavern in Glen Rock, PA
I’m guessing that none of the few Clinton voters in Glen Rock were drinking in the Rail Trail Tavern – which sits just a few feet off the York County Heritage Rail Trail – when I stopped there for a cool one during a recent bike ride.

I haven’t been in a bar like the Rail Trail Tavern in quite some time – say, forty years or so.

For one thing, the Rail Trail Tavern welcomes smokers.  (When’s the last time you were in a bar or restaurant that allowed smoking?)

Smoke 'em if you've got 'em
As you can see from the above photo, the Rail Trail Tavern doesn’t take credit cards, and I was carrying only a five and a few singles when I parked my bike there last Friday and walked inside.  But Yuengling on draft cost only $1.45 a glass, so I had nothing to worry about – hell, I probably could have paid for a pitcher and had enough left over for a generous tip.  

The mug that Yuengling came in was fairly small.  But $1.45?  That wouldn’t buy enough beer to fill a shot glass in most bars where I live.

*     *     *     *     *

Before hitting the Rail Trail Tavern, I had stopped at the Glen Rock Mill Inn, which was a mile or so up the rail trail.

The Glen Rock Mill Inn
The large brick building that houses the Glen Rock Mill Inn is the oldest building in the town.  It was built in 1837 as a woolen mill, and later converted into a grist mill, producing flour and livestock feed for well over a century.

The grist mill’s most famous product was June Bug animal feed.  There’s an old poster depicting a bag of June Bug feed in the Inn’s men’s room:


The Glen Rock Mill Inn opened in 1984, after Cecil and Mary Ann Artrip spent a million bucks renovating it.  It was about 4 PM when I got there – too late for lunch and too early for dinner – so I headed straight for the cozy bar and replenished my precious bodily fluids.  

The Glen Rock Mill Inn's bar
A pint of Yuengling set me back only $3.  That seemed like a real bargain . . . until I found out what the prices were at the Rail Trail Tavern. 

*     *     *     *     *

Glen Rock is located about halfway between New Freedom, PA – where I commenced my afternoon’s bike ride – and Hanover Junction, which is ten miles north of New Freedom. 


On the return portion of my journey, I continued through New Freedom and rode another mile or so until I reached the Mason-Dixon line, which marks the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland.

My front wheel is in Pennsylvania,
and my rear wheel is in Maryland
The Heritage Rail Trail is open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders – so keep your eyes open:


New Freedom is the home of Steam Into History, Inc., a nonprofit organization that operates excursion trains on the tracks of the old North Central Railway, which are adjacent to the rail trail I rode on.

Steam Into History trains are pulled by one of two locomotives.

One is a relatively modern diesel engines that once belonged to the Pennsylvania Railroad:


The other is a replica of a Civil War-era steam locomotive modeled after the one that pulled the train that carried Abraham Lincoln over the North Central’s tracks as he travelled from Washington to Gettysburg to dedicate the national cemetery there and deliver the famous speech that we know as the “Gettysburg Address.”

Here's that locomotive at Hanover Junction:


*     *     *     *     *

Mountain Ride is a bluegrass band that’s based in Chambersburg, PA – which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Glen Rock.

They have a lot of upcoming gigs at local wineries and breweries, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing them perform live soon.

Here’s a video of a live performance of “Pennsylvania”:



You can click here to purchase Mountain Ride’s album, Time to Roll.





Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – "Into the Great Wide Open" (1991)


Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

Here’s something you don’t see everyday – a miniature horse hanging out with a group of human beer drinkers:


(I have no idea whether that animal is a pony or a miniature horse, but an experienced equestrienne of my acquaintance says it is a miniature horse.)

I didn’t see a horse trailer in the parking lot at Gunpowder Falls Brewing — which is where that photo was taken – so I asked the horse’s owner how his four-legged friend had gotten there.

“He rode in the backseat of my car,” he explained.  ‘We got some funny looks at the McDonald’s drive-through when we stopped for some burgers and fries on the way here.”

*     *     *     *     *

The Gunpowder Falls taproom can be found just off I-83 in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania – just a stone’s throw north of the Mason-Dixon line.


It specializes in German-style lagers – the day of my visit, you could choose between a pilsener, a helles, a dunkel, and a märzen.  Unlike most breweries, there wasn’t an IPA in sight (which was fine with me.)

  *     *     *     *     *

I visited Gunpowder Falls Brewing after an afternoon spent biking on the York County Heritage Rail Trail – which follows the right-of-way of the Northern Central Railway.

I parked at Hanover Junction and rode to York and back – that’s roughly a 25-mile round trip.

Historical marker at Hanover Junction
In November 1863, President Lincoln took the Northern Central to Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania, where he changed trains and continued to Gettysburg to deliver the “Gettysburg Address.”

In April 1865, a train carrying Lincoln’s body passed through Hanover Junction and York, Pennsylvania, en route to Springfield, Illinois.  President McKinley’s funeral train passed through Hanover Junction and York in September 1901, as did President Harding’s funeral train in August 1923.

*     *     *     *     *

The most interesting feature of that part of that part of the rail trail is the 370-foot long Howard Tunnel, which was built in 1838 and is the oldest rail tunnel in continuous use in the United States.  

Some sources say that the Howard Tunnel was named in honor of John Eager Howard, a Revolutionary War hero who later served as Maryland’s governor and as a member of the U.S. Senate.  

Approaching the Howard Tunnel
Other sources say the tunnel was named for Henry Howard, a young railroad engineer who oversaw the construction of the tunnel.

All I know is that it’s so dark in the tunnel that you can’t see a damn thing as you ride your bike through it.

*     *     *     *     *

Collusion Tap Works is a year-old brewery in downtown York.  

Downtown York is nothing to write home about, but Collusion was a pleasant surprise.  It was serving no fewer than 24 varied draft beers, all made on the premises.

The Collusion tap room
Collusion offered a half-dozen IPAs – including “Constant Flex” (a Vermont-style IPA), “Fuzzy Scrumpit” (a peach and guava IPA), and “Homunculus” (a potent double IPA).

More to my taste were the equal number of dark, low-IBU offerings.  Among them was a tasty schwarzbier (German for “black lager”), a cappuccino porter, and “Breakfast Cartel,” an imperial brown ale brewed with coffee, chocolate, and maple syrup – it was the closest thing to breakfast in a pint glass that I’ve ever enjoyed.

Collusion's logo
Throw in a Berliner weisse, a sour Norwegian farmhouse ale, and several “beers that taste like beers” (including a couple of wheat beers and a traditional Oktoberfest märzen) and you’ve got a beer list with something for everyone.

*     *     *     *     *

Tom Petty went into cardiac arrest in the wee hours of October 2, and died later that day.  He was 66.

The late Tom Petty
Petty sold more than 80 million records.  An amazing 26 of his singles reached the top ten on the Billboard “Mainstream Rock” charts, and six went all the way to #1.

“Into the Great Wide Open,” which is my favorite song of his, peaked at #4.

Who among us hasn’t been a rebel without a clue at some time in his or her life?
Here’s “Into the Great Wide Open”:



Click below to buy a copy of the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Blackstreet – "No Diggity" (1996)


I like the way you work it
No diggity
I got to bag it up

Psychiatrists and psychologists use “psychopath” to describe someone who exhibits persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, uninhibited, egotism. 

Recent studies in the United States and UK have found that roughly 1% of the general population are psychopaths.  


The number of psychopaths is much higher in the prisons: perhaps 15% to 25% of incarcerated criminals are psychopaths.

The proportion of bosses and ex-wives who are psychopaths is likely even greater.

*     *     *     *     *

Researchers at New York University are trying to identify psychopaths on the basis of their musical tastes.  


Here’s a description of a preliminary study they recently performed:

Psychopaths are often portrayed as having stereotypical preferences for classical music.  We wondered whether this is an accurate representation of this condition and whether psychopaths differ from controls in terms of aesthetic preferences in general.  To address this empirically, we assessed 193 individuals . . . in terms of their psychopathic traits, as measured by the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (LSRP).  We then queried their preference for 260 carefully songs, from a diverse range of genres and sub-genres.  Doing so, we identified a subset of songs that can be used to identify individuals with psychopathic traits.  

It turns out that psychopaths do not, in fact, prefer classical music.  People who scored high for psychopathic traits liked rap music – in particular, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and today’s featured song, Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”


NYU professor Pascal Wallisch is hopeful that his research will eventually allow us to identify psychopaths based on their playlists.

“The beauty of this idea is you can use it as a screening test without consent, cooperation or maybe even the knowledge of the people involved,” Professor Wallisch told an interviewer.  “The ethics of this are very hairy” – you can say that again – “but so is having a psychopath as a boss, and so is having a psychopath in any position of power.”

Here’s a photo of Professor Wallisch.  I wonder what his score on the good ol’ Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale was:


*     *     *     *     *

I don’t remember “No Diggity,” but I sure as hell remember “Macarena.” 

“Macarena” was the #1 song on the Billboard “Hot 100” for fourteen weeks in 1996 until “No Diggity” finally knocked it out of the top spot.


Here’s the official music video for “No Diggity,” which was directed by Hype Williams.  (Williams collaborated on twenty music videos with Kanye West, including the truly amazing music video for “All of the Lights.”)



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wonder Stuff – "Escape from Rubbish Island" (2004)


Yeah, we're out of here
That is painfully clear
We'll make our escape

In the last 2 or 3 lines, I shared the “farewell” message I had e-mailed to everyone at my law firm on my last day before retiring:

Today is my last day at Venable.

I started work here in March 1995, when my youngest child was only five months old.  I had been commuting from my home in the Washington suburbs to a job in Philadelphia every Monday morning and driving back home every Friday evening for a couple of years, and coming to work at Venable enabled me to see my family every day instead of just on the weekends.

It’s pretty simple to explain what Venable has meant to me and my family.  Venable paid for my four children to go to college and graduate school.  Venable paid for the house I’ve lived in since 1997.  Because of Venable, I have enough in my 401(k) to be able to retire at age 65.

I wish all of you continued success and happiness.  I’ll think of you often.

An old law school friend had this to say after reading that e-mail:

I have to say that your retirement e-mail was pretty cold.  It was all about the easier commute and the money you made.  

Imagine your peers at the firm reading it.  How would they take it?  Imagine a young lawyer there reading it.  I could imagine him or her asking, “Is that all it’s about?”

The message my friend took from that e-mail is certainly not the message I intended to send.  

But when I sat down and tried to put into words exactly what I did mean, it turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.  

*     *     *     *     *

Literally speaking, it’s accurate to say that my e-mail “was all about the easier commute and the money you made.”  But many statements that are literally truthful are still misleading.

The point of getting a job closer to where I lived wasn’t to have an “easier commute.”  It was that I didn’t have to spend four nights a week away from my family – including my five-month-old son.  

And the money I made at my law firm was important not as an end, but as a means.   

I was almost 43 when I started working at Venable.  I had spent the previous three years as an in-house lawyer for a young direct-marketing company.  There was a chance that company would take off and I would make a lot of money from the stock options I had been granted.  But that was a very, very long shot.  

I had four kids at the time – the oldest was eleven years old, the youngest was five months.  I wasn’t interested in going all in and hoping I drew to an inside straight.  I needed a job I could count on to still be there five, ten, and fifteen years later.  

Venable provided such a job.  The firm grew slowly but steadily in my 22-plus years there.  I might have done better somewhere else, but I could have done a lot worse.  

My saying that what Venable means to me is a paid-off mortgage and the wherewithal to pay for college and grad school tuition may strike some as being a little meh.   But it was intended to express my gratitude for a job that enabled me to take care of my family.  

My ideas about what it means to be a man and a father – like a lot of my ideas – will seem wrongheaded or at least outdated to a lot of people.  Excuse me all to pieces for feeling this way, but I’ve always believed that a father’s highest priority should be to provide food and shelter and all the other necessities of life for my children.

Good fathers do a lot more, of course.  But paying the bills is job one.   

*     *     *     *     *

My kids are done with college, and they are all employed.  I’m glad that I’m in a position to continue to help them and their kids, but they don’t really need that help – they are self-sufficient adults at this point.  So now I can focus on enjoying my retirement.

My parents grew up during the Depression, and they were very aware that hard times could return.  So they spent as little money as they could and salted away the rest – mostly in certificates of deposit and savings bonds.  

I’m not as frugal as they were, but I’m pretty frugal.  Looking back, I wish I had indulged in a few more luxuries when I was younger and let the future take care of itself.  But that just wasn’t me.  I’m a deferred gratification kind of guy.

I made the maximum contribution to my 401(k) every year I worked at Venable, which left me with enough of a retirement nest egg that I felt comfortable walking away from my job at age 65.  If I live long enough, my decision to be more of a saver than a spender will have paid off.  Of course, that’s a big “if.”  

*     *     *     *     *

My friend’s e-mail asked whether a young lawyer who read my farewell message would wonder, “Is that all it’s about?” – the “that” meaning money.

The question of what my e-mail communicates to young lawyers is one I take seriously because my older son is a young lawyer at another large Washington law firm.

If the message he takes from my e-mail is that he should feel good about his job if it enables him to provide for his family and enjoy his golden years (does anyone still use that term?), I’m good with that.

Of course I hope that his work is intellectually and emotionally satisfying, that he enjoys the company of his co-workers, and that he believes that what he is doing at his job makes the world a better place.  But that’s the icing on the cake – not the cake itself.

*     *     *     *     *

Maybe I settled for too little from my career.  Maybe I should have been a writer or a musician or small-business owner or something else that I would have found more personally fulfilling instead of going to law school.  

Of course, it’s too late to do anything about that now.  I made my bed and I’ll continue to sleep in it.  (I usually sleep pretty well, although not always.)

It would be nice to have written a novel, or recorded an album, or built a successful business with my name on it.  I envy people who have accomplished such things.

But remember what Ecclesiastes says: “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”  Isn’t the desire to leave that kind of legacy simply vanity?

For better or worse, my most significant legacy will be my children and grandchildren.  Anything else that I leave behind pales in importance compared to them.

*     *     *     *     *

With the possible exception of 2 or 3 lines, of course.

In Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, Sir Joseph – he who is “the monarch of the sea/the ruler of the Queen’s Navy/whose praise Great Britain loudly chants” – proclaims that “his bosom swells with pride” when he boards his flagship.

When it comes to my wildly successful little blog, I’ll match my swollen bosom with Sir Joseph’s any day of the week.

But not every 2 or 3 lines post is a gem – as today’s effort proves.

This post has been a struggle.  Instead of continuing to wrestle with it, I’ve decided to throw in the towel.  The more time I spend on this post, the worse it gets.  And I do three of these a week – I can’t continue flailing around indefinitely in the hope that I will eventually be touched by the muse.

As the saying goes, when you find your self in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

I’m not giving up entirely.  My friend’s e-mail raised some very important issues, and I’m going to continue to ponder them.  If I come up with anything worthwhile to say about them, you’ll be the first to know.  But for now, it’s time to move on.

*     *     *     *     *

Wonder Stuff is one of the bands that I only know about only because I interviewed Yum Yum Tree’s Andy Gish a couple of years ago.  (Andy wrote and sang all the songs on that group’s excellent 2007 album, Paint by Numbers.)


Today’s featured song – which is from the group’s 2004 album of the same name – is my favorite Wonder Stuff track.

Here’s “Escape from Rubbish Island”:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Kaiser Chiefs – "Retirement" (2007)


I want to retire
No longer required

I walked out of my law firm office for the last time today.  I’m officially retired.

Gary has left the building
It’s the custom at my firm for departing lawyers to send a farewell e-mail to everyone when they leave.  Here’s the e-mail I sent out today:

Today is my last day at Venable.

I started work here in March 1995, when my youngest child was only five months old.  I had been commuting from my home in the Washington suburbs to a job in Philadelphia every Monday morning and driving back home every Friday evening for a couple of years, and coming to work at Venable enabled me to see my family every day instead of just on the weekends.

It’s pretty simple for me to explain what Venable has meant to me and my family.  Venable paid for my four children to go to college and graduate school.  Venable paid for the house I’ve lived in since 1997.  Because of Venable, I have enough in my 401(k) to be able to retire at age 65.

I wish all of you continued success and happiness.  I’ll think of you often.

*     *     *     *     *

“Retirement” is the final track on the Kaiser Chiefs’ second album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, which was released in 2007.  (For some reason, that album was released three days earlier in Belgium and the Netherlands than in the rest of the world.)

Here’s “Retirement”:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon: