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Baby, It’s Colder Inside

I wrote about Frank Loesser’s classic 1944 song, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, last year. His originally private party number portrayed a bit of romantic banter between him and his wife during a vastly different cultural climate. In today’s world, the lyrics don’t parse quite the same, and there have been creepy parodies, and even a “feminist-approved” parody.

According to CNN, one couple rewrote the song – in a serious vein – to remove any hint of coercion:

Singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, both from Minneapolis, said they were inspired to rework the song after bonding over a mutual dislike of the original’s lyrics …

I wonder what they think of Paradise by the Dashboard Light? Anyway, here is their version:

I really can’t stay/Baby I’m fine with that
I’ve got to go away/Baby I’m cool with that
This evening has been/Been hoping you get home safe
So very nice/I’m glad you had a real good time
My mother will start to worry/Call her so she knows that you’re coming
Father will be pacing the floor/Better get your car a-humming
So really I’d better scurry/No rush.
Should I use the front or back door?/Which one are you pulling towards more?
The neighbors might think/That you’re a real nice girl
What is this drink?/Pomegranate La Croix
I wish I knew how/Maybe I can help you out
To break this spell/I don’t know what you’re talking about
I ought to say no, no, no/you reserve the right to say no
At least I’m gonna say that I tried/you reserve the right to say no
I really can’t stay/…Well you don’t have to
Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to get home/Do you know how to get there from here
Say, where is my coat/I’ll go and grab it my dear
You’ve really been grand/We’ll have to do this again
Yes I agree/How ’bout the Cheesecake Factory?
We’re bound to be talking tomorrow/Text me at your earliest convenience
At least I have been getting that vibe/Unless I catch pneumonia and die
I’ll be on my way/Thanks for the great night

“You reserve the right to say no?” “Text me at your earliest convenience?” Seriously? I’ve done romantic banter, but I’ve never come out with something that sounds like the fine print on a service agreement.

Frankly these lyrics read like he wants her to get out, and keeps politely dodging any hint that she wants him to make the first move.

Alaskan Rappers Escorted from State Fair

I like to browse LiveLeak, but I have found that the comments section immediately descends to the worst sexism, racism and/or jingoism no matter what the topic. As an example, there was a video – from somewhere in Asia – of a young man on a scooter wiping out trying to avoid a woman who hadn’t pulled her scooter far enough off the road. Commenters immediately called for her to be raped. That’s just the way it is on Liveleak.

With that caveat about reading the comments, this morning I ran across a LiveLeak video, Alaska rappers stopped while performing at Fairbanks fair claim to be victims of racism by fair management.

While sending video to Facebook, Michael Cofey, whose stage name is Starbuks, very politely asked the fair’s general manager, Joyce Whitehorn, why she had cut their act short, but got no clear answer other than that it was her decision to make. Cofey claimed he and Julian Lillie (Bishop Slice) had sanitized their lyrics to be family-friendly, but some woman claimed they were rapping about, “slashing faces.” Cofey initially denied that, but Whitehorn got tired of being put on the spot and ordered that the performers be escorted out of the fairgrounds. Cofey remained calm and collected, though obviously dissatisfied at how he was being treated.

KTVA 11 News ran the video in, Fairbanks rappers kicked out of Tanana Valley State Fair during scheduled performance.

After Cofey’s video was posted to Facebook, the community of Fairbanks rallied around the performers, Lillie says.

“We’ve been getting nothing but support,” he said. “It’s crazy. It’s people I don’t even know. It’s kinda cool that, you know, Fairbanks would come together and defend us and stand up for what’s right.”

Cofey says he sees Thursday’s incident as insight into a bigger problem.

“It’s really not about rap music,” said Cofey. “It’s about how she treated us. And it’s about how … we gotta wake up. We gotta wake up as a community, we gotta wake up as a country. This is happening every day, everywhere. Period.”

Alaska Dispatch noted the reaction, Online outrage pours in, other acts cancel after Fairbanks rappers ejected from Tanana Valley fair:

As the controversy over the ejection spread, other musical acts have canceled their scheduled performances at the fair, said entertainment manager Isaac Paris.

“There were 17 performances scheduled today and four of them canceled,” he said in an interview Sunday. “I had five cancel yesterday.”

Paris said he was “embarrassed and frustrated” by what had happened and didn’t understand why the performers were ejected.

I’m not an expert about rap, but I used to watch Yo MTV Raps – to the annoyance of an old girlfriend – and appreciated that rap was another mode of expression. I found a few of Bishop Slice’s videos on youtube, and like them. I’ve heard a lot edgier and angrier stuff but you can make up your own mind:

Bishop Slice x Starbuks “I’m From Fairbanks” (Directed By Ife)

Bishop Slice x Starbuks “The North” (Directed By Ife)

Bishop Slice & Ca$his – “Sick Of The Penn.” Featuring Apostle Gabriel Cross

Update 20160822: According to the NY Daily News, the rappers got some appy polly loggies:

Alaskan rap duo Bishop Slice and Starbuks were given an apology after a viral video showed them confronting the general manager of a festival who kicked them off stage during a show.
The board of directors of the fair issued an apology on Tuesday, stating that it “understands the issues involved and the sensitivities expressed by all parties” and promised to pay the group for their full show.

Baby, That’s Cold. Outside.

The Winter call and response song, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 to sing with his wife at parties, but was popular enough that he sold it to MGM. In the film Neptune’s Daughter, Esther Williams sang the ‘mouse’ lyrics to Ricardo Montalban’s ‘wolf’ but later Red Skelton also sings mouse to Betty Garrett’s wolf.

I probably first heard Baby, It’s Cold Outside on the radio sung by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark. I also remember hearing Louis Armstrong cajoling Velma Middleton at some point. Much, much later Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone did a nice version to close the film, Elf.

To my innocent ears it sounded like banter between a couple that were both interested but not yet all that intimate.The woman’s concerns about her reputation were still very real for the 1940s, but just nostalgic in an entertainment culture where most on-screen couples become sexually intimate almost immediately.

In the last few weeks, two versions make the song very creepy. One was on Saturday Night Live, with Kenan Thompson playing Bill Cosby, spiking Tina Fey’s drink. The other was on Funny Or Die with Scott Aukerman eventually tying Casey Wilson to a chair with duct tape, though she escapes and brains him with a fireplace shovel.

Are the lyrics actually creepy? Not to my mind, but they are open to criticism, starting with the first word. In one of the last lines of David Mamet’s case study of gender power dynamics, Oleanna, newly blossomed Carol hears her former prof on the phone with his wife, and directs him, “… don’t call her ‘Baby’.”

Clearly there is a persuader, the wolf, and a persuadee, the mouse, and the degree of persuasion is the object of contention. Yet another parody site has a supposedly ‘feminist-approved’ version of the song where she sings, “I really can’t stay,” and he says, “It’s totally fine. I’ll call you a cab.” But, “faint heart ne’er won fair maiden,” and a lot of what goes on between couples is delicate negotiation, often likened to a dance. I sang, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight to a girl once, and it worked out fairly well that night. But not in the long run.

One line of Cold Outside that always bothered me was, “What’s the sense of hurting my pride?” That makes it seem like the wolf is just counting coup.

I really can’t stay – Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away – Baby it’s cold outside
This evening has been – Been hoping that you’d drop in
So very nice – I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice
My mother will start to worry – Beautiful, what’s your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor – Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry – Beautiful, please don’t hurry
Well Maybe just a half a drink more – Put some records on while I pour

The neighbors might think – Baby, it’s bad out there
Say, what’s in this drink – No cabs to be had out there
I wish I knew how – Your eyes are like starlight now
To break this spell – I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir – Mind if I move a little closer
At least I’m gonna say that I tried – What’s the sense in hurting my pride
I really can’t stay – Baby don’t hold out
Ahh, but it’s cold outside

C’mon baby

I simply must go – Baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no – Ooh baby, it’s cold outside
This welcome has been – I’m lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm — Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious – Man, your lips look so delicious
My brother will be there at the door – Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious – Gosh your lips look delicious
Well maybe just a cigarette more – Never such a blizzard before

I’ve got to get home – Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there
Say, lend me your coat – It’s up to your knees out there
You’ve really been grand – Your eyes are like starlight now
But don’t you see – How can you do this thing to me
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow – Making my life long sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied – If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can’t stay – Get over that old out
Ahh, but it’s cold outside

Baby it’s cold outside

Brr it’s cold…
It’s cold out there
Can’t you stay awhile longer baby
Well… I really shouldn’t… Alright

Make it worth your while baby
Ahh, do that again…

I Do the Rock

Albert giving charcoal lessons
after Age of Limits
Richard says the party’s over
Dmitry needs an engine
Gail is back from China
Raul is talking Greece
Me, I do the only thing that still makes sense to me
I do the Rock
I do the Rock Rock

Sharon and her husband Eric
Selling Gleanings Farm
Try to give their kids abundance
in a rust belt yard
Whipple’s pushing fusion
But it’s really frightfully cold
Me, I do the only thing that stops me growing old
I do the Rock
I do the Rock Rock
I do the Rock Rock Rock

Well, it’s stimulating

John Michael Greer and his beard
sees a slow collapsing
Spengler’s six feet under but his West is still declining
Growth has Limits after four decades
but I’m afraid ecology is just too much responsibility for me
I do the Rock
I do the Rock

Daniel Yergin wrote The Prize
And made a lot of money
Peakists gasped when Matthew Simmons
Lost his bet with Tierney
There’s a Bartlett name of Roscoe
but Albert’s pretty smart you know
I could never calculate so exponentially
I do the Rock
I do the Rock
I do the Rock
It’s stimulating – I’m a keen student

Ken Deffeyes, M King Hubbert
Dennis and Donella
Tom will always do the math
Robert wields his rapier
Ugo on his cliff
Malthus sounding mean
It must be really frightful to predict humanity
I do the Rock
I do the Rock
Obama, Putin, Xi Jinping
Yellen, Lagarde and Merkel
everyday QE inflate us down to our last nickel
ISIL, Hamas and the Sauds
and al-Assad is quite bizarre
I could never get the hang of Islamology
I do the Rock
I do the Rock
I do – I do – I do – do the Rock

Actor and singer Tim Curry had a stroke in 2012. After missing out on a Tony for Spamalot several years ago, in 2015 he got an Actor’s Fund Lifetime Achievement award at a Tony Awards viewing party. I’ve seen Curry live in Travesties, Amadeus and singing on a small stage in Georgetown DC. I’ve seen him in films like Rocky Horror, Shout, Clue, Treasure Island, Times Square, even The Worst Witch, and recognized his voice in Ferngully and a Scooby Doo flick.

After humming this song, I Do The Rock, I decided to update the lyrics with references to the energy depletion crowd.

Imperfect Substitution

I ran across the principle of substitution a few years ago while writing about the ‘flations. When the prices of certain commodities rose due to inflation, American retirees used to receive cost-of-living adjustments [COLAs] from the Social Security Administration. Starting around 1999 (says this AARP PDF), the SSA began to limit COLAs, claiming that retirees could maintain the same standard of living by buying substitutes:

Economic theory states that if the relative prices of goods and services change, consumers will substitute relatively less expensive goods for relatively more expensive goods. They do this in order to maximize their standard of living given their expenditure budget. The implication of this substitution behavior is at the crux of the CPI [consumer price index] debate: the amount of money that would be needed for these consumers to maintain the same standard of living after a price increase is less than it would be if they still purchased the same quantity of different goods (i.e., if they did not engage in substitution). Hence, a COLI [cost-of-living index] would account for substitution from changes in relative prices. However, up until 1999, BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] did not account for any substitution effects.

In 2010 and 2011 it didn’t seem like prices were standing still, but the SSA approved no COLAs at all due to wild energy price changes.

For example, under the current formula, when the price of Porterhouse steak (a good in the ‘beef’ category) increases, the CPI-U and CPI-W consider that a person can switch to purchasing top sirloin (another good in the ‘beef’ category).

Under the proposed ‘chained’ CPI, retirees are also expected to substitute different kinds of meats if steak is too expensive.

… the C-CPI-U accounts for the substitution of chicken, seafood, or pork (goods outside of the ‘beef’ category) when the price of beef increases. Similarly, the chained index will account for the substitution of used cars for new cars if the relative price of new cars increases.

Here’s where the concept of perfect and imperfect substitute goods should come into play – but doesn’t. A perfect substitute good is much the same product; an imperfect substitute means you are giving up something. In practical terms, most processed food is an imperfect substitute for organic food.

Frankly we should be eating less beef, but when we do eat beef, it shouldn’t contain antibiotics, corn, pink slime, or parts of other cows. Likewise chicken should not be grown and force-fed in factory conditions. Seafood should not contain mercury. And some pork is of course more equal than others. All those criteria make for more expensive choices across the board. Chained CPI assumes we can eat just as well buying Jif instead of Crazy Richard’s or Smucker’s Organic, or canned mixed vegetables instead of fresh.

It occurs to me that we are being handed a raft of substitutions in all aspects of our lives. An obvious example is television. When I was a kid you watched melodramas, situation comedies, variety shows, and the news. Melodramas and comedies featured professional actors. Variety and interview shows featured professional entertainers. The news featured professional journalists.

On network TV, sitcoms faded for a while but flourish again. Drama has mostly moved to pay TV. There are a few high-profile dramas left on each network TV station, but they have largely been replaced by cheaper reality programming starring amateur actors pretending to be average people. Over time, the variety and interview show has been replaced by news-like programming and staged interview/freak shows. News is now populated by attractive talking heads, former celebrities, former politicos and comics.

We pay for 200 stations now, and still get commercials but find hardly any more interesting shows than when there were three free network channels, one PBS and one multimedia station showing a lot of reruns. That’s an imperfect substitute.

Music is always changing but the industry calcified after rock and roll. As Frank Zappa noted in the ‘lost’ interview, music executives once took chances on new acts, new stuff. Then the labels brought in a few ‘hippies’ to help with scouting new acts in what they call Artists and Repertoire. Eventually those A&R guys decided they already knew what the people wanted, and used radio playlists and MTV to push those performers. Except for a brief spate of creativity via youtube and vimeo, we’ve had new acts spoon-fed to us ever since. And with Vevo, commercials and license policing, youtube is calcifying as you read this.

As a society, we have essentially substituted credit – what was first called the installment plan, or buying on time – for cash. Consequently we don’t realize the difference between what we can afford now and what we will have to pay in the future.

We are substituting storefront medical centers where medical aides and nurses do most of the work for doctor’s offices. Several years ago, my new doctor sent me to one of those after I fell off my bike. No one there could look at the x-ray and tell me if my wrist was fractured or not. We have substituted running bloodwork and prescribing drugs for diagnosing and treating maladies.

Thanks to internet porn, we have certainly substituted camera-friendly sexplay for intimacy and romance.

And speaking of the internet, we are witnessing the end of net neutrality and the open internet. The substitute internet opens a popup commercial – No, look at this first! – as soon as you visit any sort of site. The substitute internet will favor Disney and Nike and Monsanto and will consign dissent to low bandwidth access, if it is available at all.

Going Back to Saturn

I’ve been hearing Stevie Wonder in my head all morning:

We have come here many times before
To find your strategy to peace is war
Killing helpless men, women and children
That don’t even know what they’re dying for

We can’t trust you when you take a stand
With a gun and Bible in your hand
And the cold expression on your face
Saying, “Give us what we want or we’ll destroy”

Cool Jazz, Rational Cities

The death of jazz legend Dave Brubeck, who died a day short of 92, was widely reported, accompanied by quick clips of the quartet performing Take Five or Blue Rondo a la Turk. Oscar Niemeyer’s passing at 104 made the major obituary sections, and both men’s achievements will probably merit retrospectives in Sunday Arts sections of the major papers. Over five hundred Filipinos died in the recent typhoon, but you’d hardly know that from watching mainstream media news. And my friend Chris reported that his mother died after going to the hospital with a hip fracture — probably from an infection.

I can’t remember where I first heard about Dave Brubeck. My college roommate was a jazz aficionado, so perhaps he had a copy of Time Out. But I always think of a line from Donald Fagen’s tune, New Frontier: “I hear you’re mad about Brubeck, I like your eyes, I like him, too. … He’s an artist, a pioneer, we’ve got to have some music on the new frontier.”

Like almost everyone I’ve heard Take Five many times through the years. I first saw a video of the Dave Brubeck quartet in Ken Burns’ documentary. Compared to other jazz players, Brubeck’s quartet looked like a college chess club playing instruments — four guys with short hair and glasses playing a mathematically intricate composition. I first heard Blue Rondo as a vocal by Al Jarreau on Breakin Away, not realizing until much later that it was another Brubeck piece. I never heard Koto Song until yesterday, but Michael Franks singing, “Paul Desmond on the stereo, we sip the sake very slow …” is ingrained into my memory, and clearly draws from the older piece. Paul Desmond was the quartet’s sax player, wrote Take Five and died at only 52 of lung cancer.

Cool jazz still involves improvisation, but comes across as a more restrained and intellectual version of older jazz forms like Swing or Bebop. Some see a classical influence. Cool jazz seems to be part of a movement that led to Bossa Nova, experimental Free Jazz, World Music and of course the Steely Dan and Michael Franks music that I love. But it also led to more commercial New Age and Smooth Jazz music.

New Frontier goes on, “Well I can’t wait ’til I move to the city, ‘Til I finally make up my mind, To learn design and study overseas.”

I first heard about Niemeyer in art class. My high school art teacher, Mr LaLiberte, had a few of the Brazilier books on famous architects of the era: Wright, Corbusier, Aalto, Van Der Rohe, Gropius … and Niemeyer, who with Lucio Costa had designed quite a bit of the new capital city, Brasilia. As influenced by Corbu, Niemeyer’s modern city featured a palette of ideal geometric shapes. Modern urban critics claim the city didn’t work, but it looked great in the pictures. Niemeyer had virtually disappeared from the discussion by the time I attended college, but he seems to have remained busy.

It isn’t too hard to look at modern architecture and cool jazz and see a connection. We were redesigning and rationalizing a lot of stuff in the mid-20th century — sweeping away what was old, and imposing a rigid order based on what was new and important at the time. Modern cities had to accommodate high-speed roads, airports, and large complexes of buildings. Zoning was cool, so everyone was supposed to live in the residential part of the city, work in the office block, shop in the mall, play in carefully planned parks and attend massive theatres and arenas. Because everyone drove large automobiles to get to these places, there also had to be parking lots, parking structures and underground parking. Older cities were subject to the same rationalization in what poignantly became known as Urban Renewal. Great old neighborhoods were swept away, along with the people that lived in them.

At a lecture at CMU in the late 1970s, some big shot guest speaker said, “the problem with Modern Architecture is that it goes so quickly to third-class.” At their best, cool jazz and modern architecture were very cool and very modern, but the hands of ordinary practitioners often turned out humdrum, commercially-driven efforts. Now we’re redesigning our cities again — trying to get people back into diverse-use neighborhoods. Music has changed a lot, too, but fortunately it requires a lot less infrastructure.