Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Let the Sun Shine In" - Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Sing

#33 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

Ask at least 5 people to name 10 memorable Flintstones Episodes.   This could replace the Good Times Drinking Game the cast plays in Reality Bites.

In the lists that are formed, nearly everyone will list the episode where Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm become singing sensations with their hit "Let the Sunshine In."  Becoming a singing sensation was a common thread in the Flintstones universe.  I recently experienced my "Modern Stone-Age Melodies" CD coming around in the CD rotation, so I could have written this entirely about "Listen to the Rockin' Bird," the Way-Outs, "The Twitch" or why Hoagy Carmichael was still relevant in syndication. 

Then I really listened to the lyrics of (Open up your Heart) Let the Sun Shine In.  And that's why we're here.

Let's get the plot uncovered -  It is called "No Biz like Show Biz," and kicks off Season 6, 1965.
I'll let take it from there:

Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm develop remarkable musical talent, which is exploited by teen impresario Eppy Brianstone. Soon the tots have no time to their fathers, which prompt Fred and Barney to kidnap them. After a frightening police chase, Fred awakens and realizes the whole episode has been a dream.

Would you like the Flintstones better without the puns?  I know I would.
Probably also on your results list are these Season 6 contributions: Stony Curtis, The Bewitched crossover, the dream where P&B get married, spouse swapping where the Boys and the Girls move in together, and more Gazoo than anyone needed (dumb-dumb). 

You should now ask your survey participants to sing the big hit.  G'head.  Ask 'em.  we'll wait.  They'll burst out the chorus -- in a high Chipmunky mix.  The verses may be lost to them -- buried under the bed with ventriloquist puppets, rubber bed sheets, and the PSA warnings of our upbringing.

The song that P&B sing, which became the closing credits for the show in that final season, were written by Stuart Hamblen, composer of cowboy tunes and Sunday School songs, and sometimes both at the same time. 

The lyrics are
Mommy told me something all little kids [or "a little kid"] should know
It was all about the devil and I've learned to hate him so
She said he causes trouble when you let him in the room
He will never ever leave you if your heart is filled with gloom

So let the sunshine in face it with a grin
Smilers never lose and frowners never win
So let the sunshine in face it with a grin
open up your heart and let the sunshine in

When you are unhappy the devil wears a grin
But oh! he starts to running when the light comes pouring in
I know he'll be unhappy 'cos I'll never wear a frown
Maybe if we keep on smiling he'll get tired of hanging round

So let the sunshine in...etc

If I forget to say my prayers the devil jumps with glee
But he feels so awful, awful when he sees me on my knee
So if you're full of trouble and you never seem to win
Just open up your heart and let the sunshine in 

What.  in the holy.... what.  Not since "If I should die before I wake" have children's verses been more chilling.

"Smilers never Lose, and Frowners never WIN."  My whole life I heard that as "Mothers never lose, and fathers never win."  Do with that whatever you like.

Through the strenuous research it takes for me to sit here on my bed, I have learned that "(Open up your Heart) Let the Sunshine In" had come and gone by 1965 -- it had made number 8 on the Billboard chart in 1959.  This is the equivalent of, say, Butterfly Kisses showing up on the Simpsons.  You're not sure if it's ironic, satirical, or just cheap.  The artists were his very own Sunday School singers, and yes, they are sped up to sound like little kids (who are cartoon rodents)

Most versions I found (and there were many more than I expected) used this lispy-toddler musical style, but you can find it recorded in a normal voice as well.  I have included several covers below.
Flintstones- wooziewoowoo
The Lancers - Andy Williamsy
The Flemming Fold  (despite the olde-tymy look, this is a recent rendition.  The Flemmings are available for hire)
Frente! - I would now like to hear Frente! versions of Smokey the Bear and I'm No Fool.

The robots at Wikipedia claim that the Flintstones episode used a different lyric, but I can not prove it.  These are the identical lyrics on my soundtrack CD, which started this exploration on a recent Saturday afternoon, and I find no other set of lyrics on the Internet -- the only resource I bother with anymore.

The last mystery unsolved, then, is... why is Pebbles wearing green?

And why isn't Ann-Margrock on my CD?   

Monday, April 18, 2011

Strategic Petroleum Reserve

A "barrel" of crude oil is 42 gallons.   The US produces about 9M barrels a day.  Every day.  What freaks me out, though, is that we store 727M barrels  inside caverns of salt.  

And I can't stop thinking about it.
Bayou actually leaching, which means the salt is...melting, or something I might have learned in Earth Science but no longer understand. 76 million barrels' worth are supposed to live there, but they need to be moved, says the Secretary of Energy, or maybe just sold.  Or how 'bout this idea: "Congress has authorized the Energy Department to spend $33.5 million for a replacement, and officials are buying a privately owned cavern - also in the Bayou Choctaw salt dome - with a 10-million-barrel capacity."

A privately owned salt cavern .

West Hackberry: the other reserve in Louisiana.  Pleasantly located near the Hackberry Recreation Area and Lake Charles.  227 Million barrels here.   If you are trying to visualize 227 million of something, there are 300 M people in the United States.  Picture them as squat metal cans.  Hell, just picture that New York street in Tootsie as Dustin Hoffman walking between squat metal cans.  That's freaky enough.

And it's not even the biggest.  254 Million barrels are tucked into Bryan Mound, TX.  Perhaps because it is the biggest, it has the best press.  "... a young mining engineer by the name of Bernard Baruch discovered a salt dome..."  We have a salt dome in  Massachusetts -- but it is not naturally occurring.  (we don't think)

That's actually a sale pile, not a dome.  We wouldn't be able to store our oil barrels in it.
After Bryan passed his last cloud of sulfur, it seemed only fitting that we would turn it into the mattress we stash our mad oil in.

It isn't really stored in barrels, like a nation of hoarders might do.  It's in there loose and oozy -- all the better to "draw down."  This is the best FAQ I found about that.

My favorite Strategic Petroleum Reserve has to be Big Hill - Winnie, Texas.  Not just because its name simultaneously evokes Texas pomposity and aw-shucksiness, but because the Big Hill got B Roll!  Lots of it.  But I still can't get my mind around what the devil a salt cavern is.  I didn't have the bandwidth to launch any of the videos (or the CIA needed more time to capture my IP address).

SPRs are born..and they die.  Competing for an oil reserve is not quite like applying for the Olympic Games.  You have to have the primary requirement of having a salt dome, or knowing how to make one -- which Richton, MS does.  Weeks Island was retired, in 1999, due to sinkhole-related disorders. It reads exactly like the kind of lurking problem on your own job that you might menrion to management and they would say "what do you want me to do," and you would again be grateful that nothing truly important hinges on the response of your management team.

I loved this uniquely American sentence:  "This facility was a conventional room and pillar near-surface salt mine, formerly owned by Morton Salt."  I was determined to find an image of the Weeks Island sinkhole -- it was 36 feet wide in 1995!  I was not successful, but here is some seismic velocity tomography, whatever that is.

related freakouts:
Centralia, PA
Yucca Mountain
The Granite Mountain Record Vault
That hole in Guatemala

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Speaking of family values….

Well, Trick or Treat for you, UNICEF. I tend to come late to "current" events.  Most of my life is lived in "arrears."  I like a little reflection, as you may have noticed. 

So I won't try to express outrage over my latest discovery that the U.S. has never ratified the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child, crafted in 1989.  We're not known for our treaty ratifications.  We're rather famously known for not liking to be told what to do (while we're stomping around in other people's glass houses).  It's just embarrassing whenever we turn up in sentences like, "Only two countries, Somalia and the United States, have not ratified this celebrated agreement."

It is always interesting when the UN declares things "legally binding" when there is no global court, but an honor system is a start. How it does ruffle the hegemonic feathers.  The principles we will stand on, even when we wrote the document itself.  Let's take Somalia off the table for a moment -- their lack of government makes it difficult for them to do much of anything.  Let's set our own house in order.
The Articles of the CRC are surprisingly readable, more so than our own Constitution, and much more so than, say, the King James Bible.  There are 54 of them -- I won't enumerate them all.  Some are "a child is a person under 18," which is already of international debate. 

Others are "this text will be documented in the official languages of the UN, etc."  And in between are things that cover toddlers working in shoe factories and youth having the right to assembly.

The US did participate in the creation of the CRC, and in 1995 signed it with the hand of Madeleine Albright, but does not recognize it as binding.  Freedoms and such, you know.  But then, we also don’t recognize the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  They’re not the boss of us.

Who could be against such a thing, you ask?  Jesse Helms, for one.  “Bag of worms” was his (muddied) term.  Well, you know, f*** him, and the grave he lies in.  Seriously, what was wrong with that guy?

Some of the sticky statements in the plain simple English of the CRC:
“Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age…”  We just can’t get out from under that one, can we?  Since the modern revival of the death penalty in the US, about 20 juvenile offenders have been executed – we wait until they are over 21 to do it.  That’s how we get around being completely reprehensible, but that’s not what the article says, is it?

elian“States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests.”  A statement that may have made a difference to Elian Gonzalez, though we still would have argued “best interest.”

“states shall take appropriate measures …To develop preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education and services.”  Not the agenda at present.

Before we rail only against the Right, we must acknowledge some language that prickles the US Left as well:

Article 6: “States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life. “  That statement may not be so charged in a country where children die from mosquito bites, but them’s fightin’ words around here. angelina-jolie-family

Or this passage, within Article 20 about children “deprived of …family environment”:  “When considering solutions, due regard shall be paid to the desirability of continuity in a child's upbringing and to the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background.” 
Well that’s awkward.

hippiesAnd, as we have discovered, homeschoolers fall on both sides of the ideological divide.  Article 28 appears to make provisions for both paramilitary and hippie curricula, then Article 29 specifies what seems to prefer the latter.

And probably none of us wants the kids to know this is in there:
"Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the alex-p-keaton-thumbchild, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child ...”   

I am not moved to demand the immediate ratification of a not-truly binding Convention that I mostly agree with, just to avoid being on a bench with Somalia.  But I do believe that if we are not going to play along with the body we invented that meets at our house… we might want to keep quiet every once in a while.
General Assembly Hall at UN Headquarters in New York

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Harness your compulsion.

When people comment on my efficiency, I say, "It's just laziness that I make look good."
When they speak about my structured life, I say, "Habit is just disciplined compulsion."

I don't know whether I made either of those up, or if they came out of some German fortune cookie, but to illustrate the compulsiveness of compulsion... I'll tell this story. 

15 years ago when I quit working, and tried one last ditch at earning anything by writing, I went through every little notebook and scrap-store device you think all writers have and pulled out whatever was left there to try to kick-start the juice.  In 1996, the best one could hope for was a column in the local rag, which were already starting to be taken over by Community News.  Self-publishing was expensive, unless you wanted to stand outside the BPL, and it is awfully windy there.

My problem is that I was trained (and let's put that in quotes) in 2 styles - the self-reflective (read: indulgent) novel and the critical essay.  I was so far ahead of my time....

What kept me from writing often was how long it took to do it, and how much I had overdone it in the years leading up to then.  I went back to the fundamentals you learn as a teenaged novelist who subscribes to Writer's Digest and tries everything Lawrence Block recommends -- not because you would ever read what he writes, but because he has published 70 books,  and you have published zero. 

He might advise that Miss Bender tends to write too long an intro.  He has no idea what I throw away.

There are all kinds of writing prompt exercises to get you started.  Writing is writing.  That's the trick.  Get something down.  One of our instructors at the Valley Union Seminary for Bookish Ladies enjoyed giving a phrase to start and a phrase to end, and made us find 3 pages in between.  "And make it take palce in Port-au-Prince," he would toss over his shoulder as he left us there in a circle.

I took these idea snippets I found among the ruins of my artistic life and I wrote them onto strips of paper, which I folded very small, as tightly as I could so they all looked alike, and tossed them into a gift box whose origin I no longer recall, but it says "Lenox" on it and is a pleasing shade of green.

I did nothing with that box.
I did crank out a few stories in the 6 months I was out of work.  Nothing came of them.  Root cause - mine.

You've been following this spot for some time now.  You might have expected I would run out of ideas, or begin to repeat myself.  I don't change very much, and I only have a few channels.  It's been kind of a struggle this year to believe that the world needs any more content.

But the other night, while chasing the mice across the ceiling, which chase included a ladder to the crawl space above the guest room, and moving things from the closet shelf, I found the little green Lenox box.

I knew what it was immediately -- this isn't a mind that forgets what things are or where she put them.  I put it there.  When I moved in 7 years ago.  So why not give it a shot.  What else have you got going on?

There must be rules, of course.  Why go through life blithely stepping on cracks?  I did not require that something must be written every day.  (Or any day.)  Or that ideas had to come out of the box.  If I had an idea on my own, well Glory Be.  I should go ahead and explore it, but if there was a  need of an idea... a need to go to the box....

The rule is, though, if you draw from the box, you must write what you drew.  No knives out of scabbards without drawing blood. No throwing it back, or away.  And since the papers contain complete nonsense to me after 15 years, it might take days to get an essay out of one.

Or, I might just draw this:  "Habit is just disciplined compulsion."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Season Open

This is not my photo.  There is a copyright credit there if you can enlarge enough.  And the spindly fellow I spent some time with this afternoon was not this one -- mine appeared more juvenile, both in appearance and fishing ability.  But he was happy to have me sit there and stare at him while he stared at me, about 4 feet away.

The Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge was not expected to be open this weekend, if the government had gone "essential."  As it is right now, you can't open the national wildlife link, so I'll direct you to the state parks page instead.

This is not where I had started my day today.  I began slightly closer to home at the Davis Conservation land in Sudbury/Stow.  Its own press calls it "passive recreation."  No kidding.  It was not at all challenging, or very interesting, other than the trails being very poorly blazed.  I gave it an hour and pressed on.

By then I had lost most of the cloudless day, and the Great Meadows is/are a breezy bit of wetland.  But still.  A girl's got to get outside.  Especially since it intends to rain the next 3 days and I lost Saturday to housecleaning.

I spent a couple of hours walking the perimeter trail and scoping out the Timber and Edge Trails for future visits.  The redwing blackbirds were in full voice, and in chorus with them some frogs I never saw but could probably figure out on this little scorecard.  I was watching some kind of a bird through my tiny binoculars (not a swallow, though the rangers are very excited about the swallows there) and a passing couple asked, "Do you know what kind of bird that is?"  You must understand that standing in the Great Meadow(s) with binoculars and not being able to answer that question does make you look, to say the least, suspicious. So answer it I did.

"I don't know anything about birds," I said.  We all laughed, and the boy said, "we thought..." "Yes, it's a perfectly legitimate question to ask." I acknowledged.  They left before I could unsheath my hatchet.

The beavers paddle around looking bored.  They have a very dull expression for an animal that is supposed to be so angry. 

Look at this guy, though, he needs a sound effect.


Their stick wigwams are tucked everywhere into the woods, but you never see one building on.  It's Sunday.  They swim.

Giant fish are swimming too, or trying to, but boxed in at every turn by marsh grass and thick reeds.  They leap right out of the water.  You know that move you make when you get your arm stuck in the coat sleeve and the mitten is too big and you just start flailing until you finally yell one of the greatest of blasphemies involving the Lord's imagined middle name?  Yeh, that move.  That's the fish breaking through the reeds.  Then they go, "Man, when I finally get arms....!"  See what I did there -- religion and science in one paragraph.

A global village moment occurred when one the fish ended up in too shallow a crossing and several humans got to throw him back in... only to watch him turnaround and swim back into the shallows.  There's a theology lesson in there too, but I am too tired to expand on it.

I had forgotten about my 60 Hikes in 60 Miles book I had bought at the end of the season last year, so I will try to be more systematic with it this year, as time allows.  It means make an earlier commitment in the day, with sammiches and more water.  Today was just stretching out.

Have a great week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Out of print clothing

Did I already write about this?  I realize it is easy enough to find out, but if I distract myself with that little task, it's another night gone without posting, and after all...
It's National Poetry Month

No one wants Miss Bender to overstep herself into the realm of poetry.  I don't even know good from bad; I just know that  when it is over, you are supposed to go "hm."  Not "hhhmmmm..." which sounds sarcastic.  Just one .. diphthong?  No, diphthongs are vowels.  I remember that because when you see that many consonants crashed together, it is about vowels.   Does any other English word have "phth" next to itself like that?

Do you have any idea where this post is going?  Do you think I do?

It is headed here. 
Vintage book covers on clothing.
[:02 OOH-AAH]
After a long stretch of distressed clothing featuring cartoon characters and 1970s candy (which believe me, I do love) fashion goes nerd-highbrow in sizes for men, women, and children.

If you want to drive your mother-in-law bats, put your toddler in this Aldous Huxley original.  Then name her Hillary Rodman. 

Out of Print Clothing is not just about hipster nostalgia.  Every shirt equals a book donated to Books for Africa as well. 

If your book covers are more of the comic variety, I'll direct you to zazzle, where you can browse for hours on such winners as this style.

CafePress is your source for the pulpier stuff

I seriously spent half an hour choosing one.  It is way past my bedtime.

Not into t-shirts?  Get this meta-whimsy:  literary covers for your e-reader.  It's a book cover for the thing that replaced your book.  These are stocked on outofprint, but are sold by M-Edge, makers of "fashionable and protective accessories for eReaders."  Most of the same designs, so don't wear your shirt on the day you carry your reader.  And at $40 each, you want to pick a keeper that goes anywhere you do.  I learned this lesson while trying to read Memoirs of an Anti-Semite on the T.

Finally, if you would prefer to cover books with t'shirts, than t-shirts with books... click here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Great moments in home ownership: How a bachelor buys an oven

In 15 minutes.

One of my married friends recently sighed, "It must be so nice to handle your money however you want." 

It really is.  What's even better is that I never spend longer in the appliance store than I really want to.  (Hardware is a completely different story, as I have already confessed... here and here.)

Don't worry that I am impulsive.  I had my oven shopping lesson with Dr A and JB -- who actually COOK.  And once you have narrowed down gas or electric, then self-cleaning or not... and you are standing in Sears, there is this aisle (affordable) and that aisle (hahahahaha).

Another friend once said, "I get how a $20 bottle of wine is better than a $12 bottle of wine, but how much better can a $200 bottle be?"

So it went like this: electric/self-cleaning/this aisle/stainless/when can you bring it?  Here's my money.
It's not a new car, for heaven's sake.  If you're bringing it, plugging it in (and more importantly, taking the other one with you), let's sign the paperwork right now.

It was the heating element that went finally, in a spectacular display of molten color -- like so: 
So common... it's on the Internet.

So I have embraced the raw food movement for the next few days, which is not a substantial change over my usual cuisine, I guess.  But I do have all this asparagus I need to....freeze.  yeh, I should just freeze it.  And throw the eggs at the neighbors.  The rest will keep.

And that's what the tax refund is for, after all.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Go write this

I can't remember if I made this up, or if Nicholas Sparks already did.   I am pretty sure I stole the idea from The Notebook, so I would have to change the Alzheimer's angle to something else, like a stroke or Parkinson's.  I also think I stole this idea from Nora Ephron's weirdly popular Heartburn,  into which she wove recipes, long before that became a "thing."  Or anyone had the money to travel around the world eating and praying and Tuscany-ing.

If you want to turn me off of a movie, put "bride" or "wedding" in the title.  Turn me off of a book by putting anything foodie in the title.

But I remember being at a reading.... somewhere... I can picture the room, but I don't know where it was who who I am with.  If you were there, don't be hurt.  Maybe it is my memory that is going.  But the idea I had, listening to this reading of foodie books by foodie people (starting to narrow down how I might have happened to be there) was of a character who has Alzheimer's (or some other reason for not being able to communicate) and what opens her "window" is looking at her old recipe pages.  Her daughters (or granddaughters or whatever) realize that the ones with the most food stains are the ones she used the most, so they will have the most memories.  Then it turns into 1001 Nights.  Or The English Patient.  Or How to Make an American Quilt.  I am starting to also remember why I didn't write  it.

When I was in grad school, I spent some time trying to figure out what "sold."  It seemed like there was plenty of money to be made --  if one could figure out the formula.  I went to a lot of readings (a. they are free, and b. I lived in Boston, so c. they were everywhere) I read a lot of first novels, and I actually tried to pay attention to the Lists and the Revenues.

This memory drove me just now to pull an NYT list from 1989, just to see what it was.   I chose April 16, and am fascinated to see it is a true microcosm of what sells, none of it I have ever been able to figure out how to write, and general can't stand to read.
1 controversial global must-read book club contender
1 same, but less risky
2 pot-boiler franchises
1 hot new sensation - in this case, it was Amy Tan
1 old-school literary mainstay
1 edgy alt-lit of limited, but devoted followers
2 mystery/murder/mayhem
2 grand dames of modern womyn's perspective
1 short story collection from a guy on the radio
2 ill-fated  romances
1 espionage

May I also point out that The Non-Fiction #1 that week was Everything I Needed to Know....  When you start romanticizing American culture as one that used to be well-read, you can prove yourself wrong pretty quickly.

List of people who might be syndicates.  Add Jodi Picoult.

The perfectly engineered best-seller today might involve an autistic pathologist/medical examiner, who solves horrific sexual murders by day and belongs to a secret religious society/vampire coven by night.  And he has an adorable golden retriever puppy he brought back with him from his tour in Khandahar.

This is today's hardcover fiction list.  The NYT has so many lists now, you can hardly trust the numbers.  They've turned into the Grammys.
1 controversial global must-read book club contender
1 for mainstream ladies bookclubs
4  mystery/murder/mayhem
2 espionage
1 grand dame of modern women's perspective, who also has the fortune of being the Picoult factory
1 wartime operations
1 pot-boiler franchise which is also known for its murder and mayhem
1 ill-fated romance, against a backdrop of murder and mayhem
1 fictionalized account of a literary mainstay
1 fantasy/lost manuscript DaVinci type affair
1 fan-lit of limited, but devoted followers

Its plot is, true story, and emphasis mine...
The second novel set in the Old Republic era and based on the “Star Wars” videogame from BioWare and LucasArts.

David Foster Wallace (which at least 1 website thinks I write like) is about to have a posthumous novel.
Which just proves the first theorem in the formula for success at writing.  You have to actually do it.  And probably read more fiction.