Monday, July 27, 2015

"I Think We're Alone Now": Who Did It Best?

"I Think We're Alone Now" came out with several covers in different musical eras since it first came out in 1967.  Considering the theme in the song, and the sensitivities of some people looking for Ole Devil under beds and music stages, I'm surprised that there were not more objections to a song celebrating teens or tweens making out!

The original one was written by Ritchie Cordell and originally performed by Tommy James and the Shondells, a group out of Niles, Michigan.  This group scored a number of hits during the 1960's, including the odd Crimson and Clover.  Unfortunately, the You Tube music of it that I found was just a series of stills.

Here's Tiffany's version from 1987.  This one has a nice music video of her performing at a mall in Utah and other settings.  She should be considered the patron saint of mall rats.  She got a number one hit on Billboard and this was her most successful song:

And here's the Girls Aloud version from 2006, it's kind of glitzy and with a different arrangement:

Okay, what version of this song released at about equal intervals in the past do you like best, and which do you like least?  Please cast your vote below and, if you feel like it, why you voted that way.
I'll be away for about two weeks or so for a trip.  Also, I find it hard to find things for a humorous commentary and I don't want to fall back on old Boudreaux jokes.  I hope to return and post funny things or at least posts that don't suck. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Sociology of Baseball Annies

First some  quotes from Annie Savoy, the fictional character from the movie Bull Durham and the prototype of said women and where the term came from:

"There are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball."* 

"I am, within the framework of the baseball season, completely monogamous."

"Walt Whitman once said, 'I see great things in baseball.  It's our game, the American game.  It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.'  You could look it up."

Baseball annies are a generic term used to refer to baseball groupies, a phenomenon occasionally seen around lower-level minor league parks.  Some of them are, quite frankly, underaged; but there a few annies that spend their whole sexual careers in the minors.

Rachel, a doctoral-level sociology student at the University of Coastal Florida, needed a dissertation topic that would also give her academic career a liftoff or at least a bed of roses to lay in when she got that Ph.D.  She believed in planning ahead!  So she first took an overview, and decided that participant observer research was likely to disproportionately obtain notice.  After all, noted users of this technique in the past studied street corner boys, blue collar workers hanging out in bars, small town social class structure, and even drug pushers.  And darn it, those types of studies can be darned sexy!  Why not be sexy!  Hey, that would land her an assistant professorship!

So Rachel spent a Spring and Summer in the minors, following the fortunes of a small-town minor league team in Georgia called the Mudhens.  She got a small grant for that, expertly using opaque academic language to hide what the research was about.  Academics are devious with their language; they know how to muddy the waters.

The team roster had a youngish roster, as most bush leagues do; paying their players near-starvation wages and traveling in worn-out buses.  And a few older coaches to fill out the maturity factor.  Rachel chose her baseball game wear well: spandex, or short shorts, halter tops, trainers or gaudy heels, and the omnipresent baseball cap for the local bush league team.  With young men in their '20's, you need the signals to be obvious.

Anyway, I won't bore you with the gory details from the numerous postgame couplings in which she acquired data.  Players were easy to get to know; and they were so grateful!  Besides, they were a lot more fun than older professors, creepy drug lords, or ambitious Atlanta bankers; and, unlike them, players were used to showering after work!

Some interesting factoids she managed to accumulate:

1)  Baseball annies tended to have a sense of sisterhood, rather than viewing each other as rivals;

2)  Team owners seemed to regard them as paradoxical stabilizing factors, plus the annies do buy game tickets!

3)  Very few baseball annies were monogamous as the fictional and estimable Annie Savoy was;

4)  Annies would share lodgings when the team would go on road trips.  There was a mutual respect for privacy whenever a baseball bat rested on the wall next to the door.

5)  Coke was their drink of choice; only yahoos drink Pepsi;

6)  Most baseball annies were as knowledgeable about baseball as Annie Savoy was.

Needless to say, Rachel's chosen dissertation topic was well-read by the sociology faculty, many of whom were not on the committee.  Alas, there were no pictures of her collecting data in the field, but here is one:

And she got a first-rate offer from a top-of-the-line Big Ten university in some cold Northern state too far away from the data collection source.

*Actually, there are 60 beads.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Writing the Great American Novel

Buford Wilson, a literally-inclined young man in his late twenties, aspired to be an author (not a writer), and was not short of ambition.  Specifically, he wanted to write The Great American Novel.  Now that hypothetical work shows the place and culture of America in a specific time.  It should be a fictional work that quintessentially defines the American Experience.  A lofty goal, for sure!  He even read the great Russian literature of the 19th century to experience great literature, guys like Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekhov, Gogol, and Dostoyevsky.  

And he had lots of ideas to story on:  He could write about a sea voyage to hunt whales that goes to failure; but he could not get past the first line, "Call me Starbuck."  It made him crave coffee.  

And he wondered about a book set in the American South; but maybe it would be a p.r. failure if he used the n-word in it.  Besides, who cares about teenagers that don't fit in?  Well, he had ideas galore!  Same for one about a screwed-up candyass who got kicked out of boarding school and hung around The Big Apple.

For example, he could write about a Southern family gone to seed, with an intellectually-challenged son, a Harvard-educated son, and a maid being narrators.  Or what about a story about a young and mysterious millionaire on Long Island with a hang-up on a girl named Poppy!

He had a germ of an idea about a guy that deserted from some foreign army, got a girl pregnant, and fled to some place or other, possibly Spain.  There he could participate in that idiot adventure, the Running of the Bulls.  But he thought that that book was too pregnant with clichés.  [Memo to self: rent an apartment in Clichy, and hang out with showgirls until the sun rose.]

However, the literary agent he signed on with gave him a tip for getting started: write something that would sell, like a steamy historical romance or a crime novel.  And nothing set in English moors, with a tragic Gothic romantic theme.  In effect, a bodice-ripper!  Really lay on the sex!

So, in abject reaction to that advice, Buford continued to study Russian intensely.  He could at least write the Great Un-American Novel.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lenin in the Center of the Universe

The Fremont district of Seattle defines itself as "The Center of the Universe."  It is a neighborhood where weirdness rears its interesting head.  Or backside.  Sometimes body painted cyclists altogether in the altogether ride on the day of the Summer Soltice.  [Allow me a maidenly blush.]

Would you be surprised to find a troll there?  Naturally, it's under a bridge.  Beware, Billy Goat Gruff!

And V. I. Lenin, of all people, has a seven-ton statue there.  He was originally in Slovakia, taken down and discarded in the Velvet Revolution, and bought by a local who thought it had artistic merit.  (I'll leave it to your own aesthetic taste or otherwise whether you agree or disagree with this.)

But Lenin is a festive guy.  Sometimes he's decorated; such as appearing in drag or celebrating Halloween or Christmas:

This brings to mind The Great Lenin Hoax.  According to FYI, Lenin was to be sold in a Going Out of Business sale.  Just what you need: a stuffed dictator!   Fear not!  The sense of humor is alive and prospering in this Land of the Free.

But what is the p.c. reaction to this tomfoolery?  Is it cutting the old boy down to size, or is the continuing presence of his statue an affront to right thinking?  Kind of makes representations of some ex-Confederates look less dire, doesn't it?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Operation Jade Helm 15 and When Prophecy Fails

I'm sure you have read about Operation Jade Helm 15 and the commotion it has raised in the Southwest, especially Texas.  Bilbo recently proposed some viable suggestions for making a lemonade out of this lemon.  There's more to it.  Whether you take it as nutters on the loose who got worked up about nothing or the vigilance by concerned citizens, it also bears interest from a social psychological point of view.  

Specifically, this has to do with the theory of cognitive dissonance.  This refers to a situation in which there exists a contradiction between a belief and what is found to be reality.  Specifically, if a group believes that a military training exercise will lead to a curtailment of civil liberties, confiscation of firearms, and martial law but those dire events don't come to pass, the believers should experience cognitive dissonance.  And they will find some way to reduce that dissonance.  But how?

Many years ago, social psychologists Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter studied the social processes of a group that believed that the world was coming to an end through a flood on a specific date (December 20, 1955) but they would be carried off by a flying saucer.  The date came, and the flood didn't happen..

False alarm, folks!  In did not end, either with a bang or a whimper.

Anyway, Festinger had an idea that this would happen; what he was concerned with was how the group took that non-experience afterward.  Was it: (a)  Gee, it didn't happen, our bad.  And feel like a bunch of boobs* afterwards.  Or (b)  We just got the date wrong; our calculations are a little off.**  Or how about (c) Our faith warded off the end of the world.  As explained in their book, When Prophecy Fails, they chose to view their efforts and faith as being instrumental in having the God of Earth not cause the flood!  Out of this naturalistic study and experimental studies done later, Festinger, Reinken, and Schachter formulated a theory of cognitive dissonance to deal with how people handle this absence of fit between their expectations and what will happen! 

Now I'm totally expecting Operation Jade Helm 15 to be a non-newsworthy event.  Not like Kim Kardashian's keister!  So how are the concerned citizens of Bastrop and other places in Texas going to react to this disappointing non-event?  My prediction is that this motely group of loons will decide that their organizing scared the bejeesus out of the U.S. Army and caused it to back off!  And that way they can give each other high fives and feel like the cat's pyjamas and hold a victory parade down Bastrop's main street!  Someone might even sell t-shirts with the message: "Operation Jade Helm: First Place" or "Texas 1 Army 0, or "I Survived Operation Jade Helm".

Then someone will point out that some earlier training exercises went unnoticed.  And they will wonder what dastardly deeds occurred during those earlier operations.  Like, what about the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1940?

*Not that kind.
**Like the Millerites in 1844.

Can that be a threatening slogan?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Cowgirl and the Geek

Since too many mamas took Willie Nelson's advice not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys, lonely Wyoming cowgirls found the odds of finding a suitable mate to suddenly be stacked against them.  Cowgirl Melinda experienced that dilemma.

However, she was resourceful.  

She went into a suitable bar in Rawlins and checked over the scene.  Damn!  It was a hipster bar!  She never saw so many beards and non-haircuts since she stumbled on a mountain man wannabee gathering (less threatening than a Grateful Dead concert).  She could tell the straight 'uns; they looked her over.  Then she moseyed up to the bar.  A nice-looking guy wearing a string tie sidled up to her and offered her a PBR.

Madeline, finding him promising, accepted his offer (whatever a PBR was) and was surprised that it was an unfamiliar beer.

He introduced himself as Jack.  Nice name, she thought; as long as his last name didn't begin with an S.

He goes, "You come here often?"

Melinda, "Nope.  I'm a stranger in these parts; mostly on the range."

Jack: "A chef?  Oh, how cool!"

Melinda: "No, I'm a wrangler.  I care for cows and sometimes geese.  But sometimes I'm left in charge of the chuck."

Jack:  "That's an unusual specialty: being in charge of an accessory for a drill.  Do you also handle the bits as well?"

Melinda: "Only when it comes to making them steers."

Clearly, there was a bit of culture shock even on the lone prairie.

It increased when Madeline asked him what he did, and he said that he was a technician with the Geek Squad.  "Is that like being a cable guy?"  Clearly, Melinda had a way of starting off on the wrong foot.  

But then it got worse.  It turned out later that he was a vegan; and a glutenophobe to boot.  He also hung around health food stores.  Somehow, Melinda came to thinking, this ain't going to work out.  Still . . . . he knew how to kiss . . . . 

Monday, July 13, 2015

A New Kind of Restrictive Apartment Complex

Hector Chasworth, big league real estate developer from New York, had a new vision for a gated apartment complex in a suburb of Atlanta to appeal to a discriminating class of luxury apartment dwellers in that single metropolis of the South: one that would appeal to the target renter identified in marketing research.  Specifically, this was a category of patrician immigrant who resisted strenuously the concept of the melting pot; specifically, they were assigned to the Georgia offices of their companies and did not want to go native or be corrupted by local mores.

In order to accomplish this, the first order would be to have a restricted access, gated community.  So as to maintain the ambiance, the small retail area would have severe restrictions on what kinds of products can be served.  

Specifically, grits and corn muffins could not be served in breakfast-serving restaurants.  Instead, bagels and hash browns were prescribed.

Scrod and roast beef should be on dinner menus; but no bar-b-q.  Taylor ham is very desirable, as is New York pizza.  Tacos are verboten.

Any stores selling alcohol may not sell Tennessee whiskey; and bourbon sold only on a prescription basis.

Service personnel could be hired only if they do not have an obvious Southern accent.  
Also, they should be carefully taught.  (1) The plural of "you" is "youse."  (2) Never say "Ma'am"; say "Yeah, Lady" instead.  (3) Never offer "sweet tea."  If they want it sweetened, dole them a packet or two of sugar instead.  (4) Converse with customers in monosyllables.

Renters are given a set of apartment complex rules:

(1)  No Confederate flags.  Also, American flags are displayable only on National holidays.

(2)  No flags or other symbols of collegiate or professional athletic teams, including on license plates.  But with one exception: new renters are allowed a year's grace to get car tags to replace the old, tacky ones for the likes of UT, Alabama, Georgia, or Georgia Tech.

(3)  No grilling on the porch.  As a matter of fact, porch sitting is discouraged.  Mr. Chasworth is firmly convinced that porch sitting leads to julep drinking.

(4)  No country music, no zydeco, no bluegrass, none of what passes for music in Florida.

(5)  Renters' automobiles cannot be tricked out to look like NASCAR vehicles.

(6)  Pet owners may not have mutts or cayoodles, only pure breeds.  Boston Terriers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels rate high; hounds are suspect.  Especially hounds that would sun themselves in the driveways or sidewalks should not be seen.

(7)  No front porch furniture, unless certifiably uncomfortable.

(8)  Proper casual dress around the swimming pools and recreation areas is imperative.  Specifically, no cutoff shorts (aka Daisy Dukes), bikinis, athletic team shirts, t-shirts declaring allegiance to a brand of beer, cowboy hats, and other travesties should not be seen.  This is a classy apartment neighborhood!

(9)  No chainsaw-carved large wood decorations for display outdoors.

In short, nothing to challenge or worry this desirable class of renters,  The goal was to make them feel as if they have never left home or have a need to return.  Mr. Chasworth dubbed this prime apartment offering The Hamptons South.  And the short-term renters came as expected, stayed their time in Atlanta, and decamped after two or three years and went back to the North, complete authorities on living in the South and the strange and primitive ways of Southerners.