The cat in the hat came back, wrecked a lot of havoc

“Half of the song is about somebody trying to get in touch with someone who can sleep on his floor. The other half – you’re on your own.”

The lyrics to The sidewinder sleeps tonight by R.E.M. from the Automatic for the People album:

Baby, instant soup doesn’t really grab me.
Today I need something more sub-sub-sub-substantial.
A can of beans or blackeyed peas, some Nescafe and ice,
a candy bar, a falling star, or a reading of Doctor Seuss;

Call me when you try to wake her up. Call me when you try to wake her…

The cat in the hat came back, wrecked a lot of havoc on the way,
always had a smile and a reason to pretend.
But their world has flat backgrounds and little need to sleep but to dream.
The sidewinder sleeps on his back.

But What does it MEAN? That is if you can even make out the lyrics; the word “Jamaica” appears nowhere in this song, one of the most misunderstood pop texts ever. Making an effort to interpret Michael Stipe’s lyrics in this song, R.E.M. bass player Mike Mills said, “Half of the song is about somebody trying to get in touch with someone who can sleep on his floor. The other half – you’re on your own.”

Here’s The sidewinder sleeps tonight by R.E.M.

Not incidentally, Dr. Seuss was born 108 years ago today. He died on September 24, 1991, about a year before the Automatic for the People album was released.

From MAD: The Idiotical: Dr. Seuss for the Digital Age

The movie Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax opens today.

Shelly Goldstein reads a story about marriage equality, in the style of the day.

R.E.M. meme: Agent Orange and Strawberry pie

I’d eat more pie. I had this conversation with someone at work recently, and I posited the notion that pie is a perfect food.

There was this Rock and Roll Fridays: Questions from Lyrics meme that became defunct in 2011. One of the artists it covered was R.E.M., which also became defunct in 2011. And since Michael Stipe, the lead singer had a birthday this month, on January 4…

1. MAN IN THE MOON “If you believe, they put a man on the moon…”
What public scandal such as Roswell, Kennedy Shooting, Agent Orange, etc do you question?

I’m not familiar with what current scandal exists about Agent Orange. I know that while no one can sue the government or the chemical companies anymore, the Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized certain cancers and other diseases related to Agent Orange exposure. I know there WAS denial in the past. Indeed, I knew a guy who was in constant and excruciating pain, almost certainly as a result of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, who died in January 1983, at a point when the powers that be were less forthcoming about it.

Not so incidentally, there are children in Fallujah, Iraq whose birth defects are being blamed on US weapons.

To the broader question about conspiracy theories, I’m sure there are things we don’t know that are being buried, but I have no vested belief in any particular narrative. It’s more like I wouldn’t be surprised if activities in the area of “national security” are taking place that a reasonable person might consider unconstitutional. Or that there are studies, buried by energy companies, that would call into question the efficacy of potentially profitable activities such as hydrofracking or the Canadian tar sands project. I don’t spend much time, though, on idle speculation.

2. RADIO FREE EUROPE “Radio Free Europe, radio free Europe, calling out…”
Have you ever used a shortwave radio or listened to another country’s radio broadcast?

Many years ago, when I used to listen to clear channel radio at night, long before there was Clear Channel Communications, I could receive, in Binghamton, NY, transmissions from Wheeling, WV and Cleveland, OH, among other Northeast/Midwest US cities, plus some stations that were in French. I was probably hearing one of these in Quebec if they were around in the 1960s.

And when I’m in, or near, Canada, I listen to Canadian radio, just as I listened to Barbadian radio when I was in Barbados in 1999.

3. IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine”
What would you eat if you knew it was the end of the world soon?

Probably wouldn’t change much, except I’d eat more pie. I had this conversation with someone at work recently, and I posited the notion that pie is a perfect food. Meat pies, fruit pies, all sorts of pies.

4. LOSING MY RELIGION “Losing my religion, and I don’t know, oh no I’ve said too much…”
Have you ever said something to someone that was negative about a religion only to find that person was of the faith you were speaking about?

No. Even when I was not particularly religious, I never found it necessary to mock other religions. Well, maybe cults such as Westboro Baptist.

5. NIGHTSWIMMING “Nightswimming, remembering that night…”
Have you ever gone skinny dipping at night, or night swimming in a lake, pond, river, beach, pool?

Yes, in a river, pond, and pool.

6. THE ONE I LOVE “This one goes out to the one I love. This one goes out to the one I left behind”
Is there a song you hear that reminds you of someone in your past every time you hear it?

Are they serious? There are literally hundreds of songs that, when I hear them, remind me of someone.

My college friend Lynn loved Lady Samantha by Three Dog Night, but HATED Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
Any number of songs in my father’s vast repertoire reminds me of him, even if I heard Dad sing it first. Case in point: The Notting Hillbillies’ Railroad Worksong, though they are very different renditions.
Celebration by Kool & the Gang; Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl by Ten Years After; Fantasy by Earth, Wind and Fire; Harvest Moon by Neil Young; Constant Craving by k.d. lang; To Love Somebody by Roberta Flack; and Summer Breeze by Seals & Crofts are among the many songs that remind me of exes.
And then there are classical works that evoke memories, such as Adagio in G Minor (Albinoni), which was played by my choir friend Arlene’s husband (violin) and son (organ) three weeks before she died of cancer; more than two and a half decades later, the music still devastates me.

7. STAND “Stand in the place where you work, now face west…”
What was the last childhood game you played as an adult?

SORRY, with my daughter, this month.

8. EVERYBODY HURTS “Everybody hurts, everybody cries, sometimes, sometimes everything is wrong…”
What is wrong right now?

I’m afraid that there will be even more political posturing in Washington, DC, and it will affect our fragile economic recovery.

9. DON’T GO BACK TO ROCKVILLE “Don’t go back to Rockville, and waste another year”
Where will you never go back to?

I went to Galveston, TX in the mid-1990s, which I rather liked, but I had to come in through Houston, which I thought was a big, ugly city.

10. ORANGE CRUSH “I’ve got my spine, I’ve got my orange crush”
What is your favorite fruit flavor and your favorite way to have it?

Strawberry almost everything – especially ice cream and yogurt.

11. SOUTH CENTRAL RAIN “Did you never call? I waited for your call…”
What was the last call you were waiting for?

It’s almost always my wife.

12. DRIVE “What if you did what if you walked? What if you rocked around the clock?”
What was the last thing you did that took hours and hours to finish?

Cleaning a section of the attic.

13. POP SONG “Should we talk about the weather…Should we talk about the government?”
What was the last thing you said about the weather and the government?

That the government agencies such as the National Weather Service, NOAA, and the USGS that provide services such as stream gauges and mapping to help them predict flooding in low-lying areas should continue to be supported. For budgetary reasons, some of the gauges in my hometown area (Binghamton, NY) and probably elsewhere, may be turned off for budgetary reasons in March. This seems, as the cliche goes, penny-wise but pound-foolish, especially after the 2011 flooding from tropical storms Irene and Lee. Some in Congress want to privatize the NWS, which troubles me greatly.

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