b Papa Dog's Blog: Days of Being Busy

Papa Dog's Blog

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Monday, February 28, 2005

Days of Being Busy

There are two kinds of people in the world. Well, no. I’m quite sure there are more than two kinds of people in the world. But for the sake of this particular facile bit of glibness, there are only two: those who thrive on being busy and normal people like you and me. I used to think I was like you and me, but recent history rather points in the other direction; so if you’re like you and me, I guess that means you’re on your own now. I haven’t yet turned into one of those people who suddenly decide to take up Slavic languages, jet skiing, and ornithology in their spare time – for one thing, I still don’t want to go outside – but I have for whatever reasons been setting myself up for a lot of plate-spinning this past month—and it was a short month, so there was even less time to cram it all in. I just picked up another freelance client the other night and now I think I’m officially at the point where I’m stretched as thin as I go.

When I first started thinking about it, there was a danger this post might devolve into me whining about how busy I am. Then I remembered a quotation that showed up recently in A Word a Day. It’s from somebody named H. Jackson Brown, Jr. Anybody know who that is? Well, whoever he is, he came up with the right quote for this post. It does a little something like this: “Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” It put me in mind of the time I did the tour of Abraham Lincoln’s house in Springfield, IL . I noticed that his home was located just a couple of blocks from the old State Legislature, where he served before becoming the last good Republican President. “No wonder he got so much done,” I said to Ambrose as we walked the short distance between the two. “He had like a five minute commute.”

In other things… I know a lot of you were probably breathing a sigh of relief last week when I finally stopped talking about 69 Love Songs, but I’ve been continuing to listen to it kind of obsessively at work and have been gaining an ever greater appreciation for tracks I hadn’t particularly noticed before. I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t at some point take a moment to mention the sublime contradiction that is Papa Was a Rodeo. This track pretty much summarises what Stephin Merritt et al. achieved in this remarkable group of songs; they found a way to be simultaneously moving and ridiculous. The song is a loopy parody that also happens to be just plain beautiful. Take the chorus, for example: “Papa was a rodeo, Mama was a rock ‘n’ roll band/I could play guitar and rope a steer before I learned to stand/Home was anywhere with diesel gas, love was a trucker’s hand/Never stuck around long enough for a one night stand/Before you kiss me you should know/Papa was a rodeo.” Impossible to take seriously, right? But if you get the album or track down one of those newfangled mp3s and listen to the track, you’ll hear what I mean. They play it with such absolute conviction that the universality of the emotions expressed, the alienation and loneliness, makes it seem kind of incidental that it’s about a drifter spawned by a horse show and a rock band. Here’s a secret for you: to succeed, comedy and drama have to follow a lot of the same rules, paramount among them being that you have to approach the characters and the situations absolutely seriously. However silly the premise, you have to follow its implications logically. So your papa was a rodeo and your mother was a rock ‘n’ roll band? What kind of childhood does that suggest? What kind of fucked up adulthood is going to result? End result: a lovely, moving song that you just have to laugh at. Aw, man. Now I’m going to be humming it all night.


Blogger David Jennings said...

Enjoyed your comments on 69 Love Songs. If you're wanting to obsess on it any more, you may enjoy the 69 Love Songs wiki, which covers the songs one by one.

4:46 PM  

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