Friday, March 21, 2014

The More Things Change
The More They Remain the Same

This witty little ditty, written in 1955, 
and later made popular by The Kingston Trio in 1959
proves that conclusively

They're rioting in Africa;
They're starving in Spain;
There're hurricanes in Florida,
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering 
With unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans
The Germans hate the Poles

Italians hate the Yugoslavs
South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don't like anybody very much!

But we can  be thankful and tranquil and proud
That Man's been endowed with a musrhoom-shaped cloud,
For we know that some one on some lovely day
Will set off the spark, and we will all be blown away.

They're rioting in Africa
There's strife in Iran
What Nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man!

~ Sheldon Harnick (1955)
Sheldon Harnick - American lyricist and songwriter (born 1924)


  1. Timeless, and consequently still in my repertoire. ;-)

  2. FT,
    I know that you don't care for this genre of music, but you can turn down the sound and see only the lyrics. "Eve of Destruction" was first released in 1965.


  3. The lyrics for "Eve of Destruction":

    The eastern world it is explodin', violence flarin', bullets loadin'
    You're old enough to kill but not for votin'
    You don't believe in war, what's that gun you're totin'
    And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin'

    But you tell me over and over and over again my friend
    Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

    Don't you understand, what I'm trying to say?
    Can't you see the fear that I'm feeling today?
    If the button is pushed, there's no running away
    There'll be none to save with the world in a grave
    Take a look around you, boy, it's bound to scare you, boy

    But you tell me over and over and over again my friend
    Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

    Yeah, my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin'
    I'm sittin' here just contemplatin'
    I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation
    Handful of Senators don't pass legislation

    And marches alone can't bring integration
    When human respect is disintegratin'
    This whole crazy world is just too frustratin'

    And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
    Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

    Think of all the hate there is in Red China
    Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
    Ah, you may leave here for four days in space
    But when you return it's the same old place

    The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace
    You can bury your dead but don't leave a trace
    Hate your next door neighbor but don't forget to say grace

    And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend
    Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

  4. Well, thanks, AOW, but Sheldon Harnick's witty little ditty tickles the funny bone -- or should. It's all tongue-in-cheek. Yes, it deals with a serious topic, but in a light-hearted manner. Once again --- poking fun at deadly serious things is an effective way to neutralize the buildup of anxiety that can paralyze the psyche.

    Good satire is healthy, and scenes of comic relief in the midst of terrible tragedy have been around at least since Shakespeare.

    Even gallows humor has its place, though it hardly takes the sting away from imminent death.

    The verse you were good enough to provide seems lugubrious to me. Yes, it gives a true enough picture of the SICK-sties mentality at its worst, but it offers no uplift, and seems almost eager to promote despair.

    Once we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves --because, despite all our tremendous accomplishments, in the aggregate we really are a vain, illogical, very silly species -- we will have lost Civilization altogether.

    This dour, literalistic, humorless, charmless approach to life, as though existence were an unending migraine headache is the ugly, unwanted "Gift" leftist thinking has bestowed on the West.

    Under this dreadful influence the only music we hear is a dirge.

    Surely you've noticed how peevish, belligerent, captious and cynical leftists are? It's tragic that so many who think of themselves as conservative these days have been infected with the sour, petulant, perpetually disapproving, finger shaking insolence and defeatist attitude that characterizes the Left. It's gotten so bad that many who by rights ought to be with "us" are continually taking pot shots at the few prominent individuals out there who do everything in their power to advance the cause of Conservatism.

    One thing's for darn certain sure: Man cannot live by didactic, moralistic applications of pure Reason alone. The only reasonable assumption I would dare make about humanity in general is that it is NOT governed by REASON.

  5. Reminds me of Tom Lehrer. Oh so popular, pithy and mediocre.

    Satire written from a position of privilege, a position of comfort is virtually defused.

    Should we laugh at our foibles? Surely. But try to avoid simplistic caricature.

  6. Funny, I'm listening to Lehrer through my headphones right now. Surely the privileged have as much right to create satire as anyone else? See also Loudon Wainwright III, Peter Cook, Jonathan Swift for God's sake?

  7. Thank you, Jez, for saving me the trouble.

    I've been one of Tom Lehrer's greatest fans since he emerged in the late 1950's. A truly brilliant man -- with a delicious sense of humor. A wit worthy to be placed in a niche in the Pantheon of satirical Humorists along with Jonathan Swift, Noel Coward, Ogden Nash, Anna Russell, Joyce Grenfell, Frank Baker, Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore, Sheldon Harnick,et al.

    Must investigate Loudon Wainwright who has been nothing more than a name to me so far.

  8. By the way, Canardo, I'm morally certain Tom Lehrer is a fellow leftist. He must be -- he's Jewish and taught at Harvard -- but I never let that stop me from appreciating the brilliance and originality of his comedic art.

    Now, if you want to pan someone who worked along these lines -- or tried diligently to for years anyway -- we could talk about the tediousness of Mark Russell's periodic recitals of what-passed-for political satire for too long a time.

    In their day The Capitol Steps, however, were more satisfying.

  9. In ducky's world, only society's penniless "discontents" should have a voice. All others are contemptible poseurs.

  10. J'ai peur vous avez raison, Thersites. Oui, vous etes toutes correct.

    Ach ja! Sicherlich haben Sie ganz Recht.

    All Hail, the Rule of the Great Unwashed!

    But, could that be any worse than what we must put up with today?

  11. "Eve of Destruction" was the genre of music that dominated the air waves when I was growing up. I was 13 years old when the song was released. Definitely a lot of dirges!

    It is a good thing that I had some balance with regard to the music I loved during my growing-up years: classical (particularly choral), Sinatra and the other "Mafia crooners," time-honored movie themes, and -- yes -- rock and roll.

    If I had listened to dirges all of the time or most of the time, I'd have grown up an extreme pessimist!

    BTW, my point in citing "Eve of Destruction" is that gloom and doom has always been and will always be with us.

    Today we are plagued with a lack of sense of humor, aren't we?

    I've been spending more time reading some fiction -- what I consider good fiction. I recently read a book that made me stand and cheer several times; book review at my site next week.

  12. But, could that be any worse than what we must put up with today?

    This IS what we are putting up with today (the perverted ideology held by the duckman/ Obama "progressive" Left).

  13. Not at all Farmer but really, compare this mediocrity to someone like Randy Newman.

  14. Good GOD, Thersites! I'm sorry bit I feel compelled to be blunt.

    That sounds like SHIT, because it IS shit. There's no other word adequate to describe it.

    Canardo, of course, is out of his mind. The mental, moral, spiritual, intellectual and AESTHETIC perversion of our age may yet drive me into total seclusion.

    Thoreau's vision of rustic simplicity seems more appealing each day.

  15. Well, FT, Tom Lehrer is largely forgotten. Poisoning Pigeons in the Park really isn't cutting satire.

    Newman will make the cut.

  16. FT,

    I find it troubling that you wish to seclude yourself from the world simply because it does not conform to your ideal.

    I know that you are much older than me (PLEASE do not take that as an insult), so I can imagine that you understand, all too well, the absurd futility of it all.

    I don't agree with Ducky's assertion that satire is not quality if it is from a position of privilege, but does that qualify Ducky as being "out of his mind"? What's more, why do you feel qualified to judge who is and is not "out of their mind"?

    Please keep in mind that I'm not a relativist, but honestly: who among us can say that we've truly turned away from the shadows and toward the sun light? I know we all like to think that we have, but I think the sad reality of the human condition is that we'll be ever fixated on the shadows to some extent. I think the key is to figure out whether we're stuck on the shadows because it is what we prefer, or if it is because it's all we're capable of seeing.

  17. You mean this is satire?
    I always thought it was a great idea >;-)

  18. Petronius Arbiter wasn't from privilege? Who knew?

  19. All creative endeavor and seminal achievements have been accomplished with the blessing of solitude.

    Not denying that action and the cooperation of others has not been a factor, but the processes of DISCOVERY, DEVELOPMENT and PLANNING take place in the realm of Mind, Soul and Spirit -- away from worldly distractions.

    No symphony has ever been written by a committee.

    Great architectural achievements began with the VISION of an INDIVIDUAL.

    The BROOKLYN BRIDGE is the product of ONE MAN'S VISION and detailed PLANNING. John Roebling dictated daily instructions to the construction workers from a sick bed. His wife acted as courier and brought the daily instructions he wrote to the men.

    EVERYTHING worthwhile we've ever done has come about because of the capacity of MIND to perceive, develop and plan in seclusion. Without VISION -- we'd still be living like mollusks on the sea bed or plankton floating aimlessly with the currents.

    None of the great paintings and sculpture were produced as a result of team work. No significant poem or novel is the result of cooperative group effort.

  20. What makes ANYONE qualified to judge ANYTHING?

    Now THERE is a query worth contemplating!

  21. I shall be 73 in mid-April. Age confers no special wisdom on anyone, but experience IS a great teacher -- IF one keeps his eyes and ears open. ;-)

    You may -- or may not not -- have noticed that I persist in railing against LITERALISM. In my view it dulls the mind. Facts and figures are fine as far as they go, but it is the areas BETWEEN the bits and pieces of data that frame, and unify masses of information and give it interest and meaning.

    Without an ability to read between the lines -- i.e. to be aware of nuances in the language, unstated implications, and the tone and spirit in which the work is conceived -- we really have very little.

    In wanting everything to be plain, simple, matter-of-fact, cut-and-dried, patently obvious, neatly laid out in squares and thus devoid of subtlety and shades of mood and texture, we deprive ourselves of the possibility of experiencing awe, wonder, joy, mirth and exultation.

  22. "... I can imagine that you understand, all too well, the absurd futility of it all."

    I understand no such thing, and refuse to entertain such a defeatist attitude. "In that way madness [really does] lie."

    Not to wax trite, but there have always been more weeds than flowers, more mosquitoes than any reasonable picnicker would like to deal with, more hard work that needs to be done than opportunities to experience ecstasy, more poor than rich, more common people than rare, etc. etc. etc. After all, even a beehive or lowly anthill is ruled by a "Queen" supported by a complex structure of underlings who live to do her bidding. The Queen is clearly singular; the underlings form a multitude.

    The world always has and always will be "a stinking mess," so what? It is not our job to try to reform it to suit our own ideas of what is desirable; rather it is our duty to find a path through the wilderness that leads to something WE, as INDIVIDUALS, find precious, worth our loyalty, devotion -- something to which we can COMMIT ourselves with fervor and endless fascination.

    George Bernard Shaw, whom many on the Right have been encouraged to believe was a "bad man," because he believed in Fabian Socialism and was for a time an advocate of eugenics, wrote these words, which I've always found as refreshing as a Spring Tonic:

    "All this struggling and striving to make the world better is a great mistake; not because it isn't a good thing to improve the world, if you know how to do it, but because striving and struggling is the worst way you could set about doing anything."

    "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you're thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

    ~ G. B. Shaw (1856-1950)

    Life is NOT an exercise in futility, unless we give way to cynicism and the bitter carping, captiousness, bilious rhetoric, and relentless negativity of Marxian gadflies who may be defined -- as far as I am concerned -- as The ENEMIES of BEAUTY, JOY, CONTENTMENT and FULFILLMENT.



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