Category Archives: Questions

Well, I’ll be damned.

“So let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car.” — Bob Dylan

OK. Let me make sure I’m following this line of reasoning:

Germany is known for great beer, so we should let Germany brew our beer.
Switzerland is known for great watches, so we should let Switzerland make our watches.
Asia is known for great electronics, so we should let Asia assemble our phones.
And Bob Dylan is known for writing brilliant, incisive lyrics that are sharply critical of the Establishment, so we should let him …

sell us a car?


And that heckler in Manchester thought it was bad when he went electric.

Either Bob Dylan has lost his damn mind, or he’s just trolling the hell out of us for giggles, like Johnny Rotten did a few years ago:

Or maybe this is just a sort of belated answer song to “Diamonds and Rust.” After all, on some recordings of her song about her failed relationship with Dylan, instead of ending with, “I’ve already paid,” Joan Baez ends with, “I’ll take the diamonds.”

Maybe advertising Chrysler products is just Dylan’s little way of saying, 40 years later, that he’s content with the rust. </snark>


Sunday Lit Meme: Self-indulgent, overrated crap

In the film Bull Durham, Susan Sarandon’s character asks Kevin Costner’s character what he believes. Costner delivers a lengthy, not-entirely-safe-for-work riff that includes the line, “I believe the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap.”

This week’s lit question:

What author’s novels would you classify as “self-indulgent, overrated crap”?

My first choice would have to be J.D. Salinger. I will cop to a certain bias against authors who write about people I want to slap (F. Scott Fitzgerald, I’m looking at you), and I can’t think of a literary character more deserving of a hot date with the back of my hand than the intolerably whiny Holden Caulfield … but that’s not my only issue with Salinger. After all, most of Jack Kerouac’s characters righteously deserve a right hook to the jaw, too, yet Kerouac’s writing is so brilliant that I’m willing to put up with insufferable wastrels like Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise for a few hundred pages in exchange for the pleasure of basking in their creator’s prose. If Salinger could paint word-pictures like Kerouac or draw me into his world like William Faulkner, I might be willing to put up with his obnoxious brat for a few chapters.

The problem with Salinger is twofold: First, he doesn’t have the poetic brilliance of Kerouac or the immediacy of Faulkner, and second, Faulkner himself couldn’t live up to the hype that’s surrounded Salinger as a result of his eccentricity and his perennial presence on the banned books list.

Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s marvelous when authors win the censorship lottery. Few things delight me more than watching somebody land on the bestseller list as a direct result of some idiot’s attempt to censor him. Salinger’s popularity is a victory for the Constitution. Freedom 1, Dumbassery 0. Sweet. But that doesn’t make Salinger a literary giant. It just makes him a very, very lucky man who happened to sprinkle a few well-placed (and, IMHO, suspiciously phoney-sounding) goddams into an otherwise unremarkable manuscript at an extremely opportune moment.

Bravo for him, but really: The Catcher in the Rye is hopelessly overrated, and while I think Salinger was a marketing genius, I could name any number of authors whose literary gifts leave his in the dust.

What author do you consider overrated?


Is it wrong …

… that I think the Jack Chick tract I found on my windshield this evening is the funniest thing I have seen all week?

I probably shouldn’t laugh at it. It’s unconscionably homophobic, and I absolutely hate it when people use the Bible to justify bigotry. But this thing is so far over the top that it really borders on self-parody. No, I take that back. It doesn’t border on anything. It crossed that border a long time ago and is already deep into the interior of the Land of Irony.

Seriously: This thing looks like what you’d get if The Onion started printing religious tracts.


This was a misprint. It was actually supposed to say: “Whatever is required to get national attention is valid. If that includes lying out of your arse in the name of Jesus to garner support for your own bigoted world view, so be it.”

“It’s that time again!”
“No, Daddy! Noooooo! For the love of everything that’s holy, don’t drag me to the Keane-Eyes Gallery again! I promise I’ll be good this time!”

Check out that perpetrator’s back hair and Cro-Magnon build. And you thought fundamentalists didn’t believe in evolution. Shows what you know.

“Dude, Lot just said his parents are out of town until Thursday.”
Bitchin’, Dude! We’ll stay in your home tonight, Lot.”

Is it just me, or does that guy on the left look like a cross between Leonard Nimoy and Ziggy Stardust? I knew the Teletubbies were gay, and Bert and Ernie have raised suspicions, but is there something I don’t know about Lamb Chop? Because that certainly looks like her on Tonight We Party’s right arm.

Speaking of Tonight We Party, what’s up with that outfit? How does a dress like that even happen? I can just imagine the conversation that led to that:

“Hey, Wally, what do you want to do tonight?”
“I dunno, Beav — what do you want to do?”
“Well, Donna Summer’s in town. We could try to score tickets to her show. Or we could head over to the toga party at Lot’s place. Rumor has it Otis Day and the Knights are going to show up again.”
“I know — let’s do both!”
“Swell idea, Wally! But what shall I wear?”

Something tells me Chick had waaaaaaay too much fun drawing some of these frames.

I’m dying to know who left this gift on my windshield. Was it an earnest would-be missionary blanketing Red Fork with tracts to save our heathen river-rat souls from damnation? A neoconservative operative who mistook the tie-dyed rainbow pattern on my car for a political statement? A wiseacre student playing a good prank on his hippie English teacher? A gay friend with a marvelously wry sense of humor? A secret pal who knows of my fondness for kitschy subcultural ephemera? Who knows?

Ah, the mysteries of life in a red state….



Taking a poll

OK … here is a chance for one lucky reader to win a fabulous prize: I am trying to help some folks put together a possible future event, and I am taking an informal survey to find out what people think about small-town festivals and activities.

I would very much appreciate it if y’all would take a few minutes to answer the survey questions and e-mail me your answers. I will enter participants’ names into a drawing for a prize (to be determined later, but possibly involving a sock monkey).

Here we go:

1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least and 5 being the most, to what extent do each of the following factors affect your decisions about which events to attend on a given weekend?

A. Cost
B. Distance
C. Weather
D. Crowd size
E. Type of activities
F. Proximity to other points of interest

2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, how much do you like the following types of events?
* Car shows
* Cookoffs (please specify type — chili, barbecue, apple pie, etc.)
* Children’s events (please specify your kids’ favorites)
* Craft shows
* Antique shows
* Parades
* Pet events (please specify — parades, costume contests, shows, etc.)
* Carnival rides
* Holiday events (please specify the holiday and the event)
* Information fairs
* Ice-cream socials
* Concerts by local performers
* Art exhibits
* 5K races
* Bus tours
* Walking tours
* Lectures
* Poetry readings
* Golf scrambles
* Home tours
* Educational events (please specify)
* Flea markets
* Circuses
* Petting zoos
* Sidewalk sales
* Other (please specify)

3. What was the best festival you’ve ever attended, and what made it special? Was there anything organizers could have done to improve it?

4. If you could do just one thing to make visitors feel welcome in your community, what would it be?

When you’ve completed the survey, please e-mail it to me at sundayjohn66 (at) mac (dot) com. I would like to have your answers by noon Tuesday if possible. Also, if you could tell me your location and approximate age (under 16, 17-25, 26-35, 36-50, 51-60, or over 60), that would be a big help.

Thanks a bunch,


What’s the significance?

DISCLAIMER: Management assumes no responsibility for any songs or song fragments that may become permanently lodged in the reader’s head as a result of the following post. Proceed at your own risk.

One date. Two trivia questions. Two songs. Ten years apart. One fabulous prize.

Two songs — one recorded in 1967, and one recorded in 1977 — begin with the line:

“It was the third of June …”

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to supply the following information for both songs:

1. The rest of the line.
2. The name of the song.
3. The name of the singer-songwriter who wrote and recorded it.

First person to post the correct answers will win a fabulous prize, to be revealed later this week. Bonus points if you can get the answers without the aid of Google.

(Note to Mom, Dad, and Nerd: Y’all are not eligible to participate in this contest, ‘cos we’ve already discussed the answers.)


Ask the Hippie, Vol. 1, Issue 7: Orion!

This turned up in the comments section of the Hit Me With Your Best Shot page. Lest it fly under the radar, I am putting it up as an Ask the Hippie entry.

Reader Scollay Petry tracked down the song, found out the name of the composer, and came up with this response:

Well I asked my mom about this and she contacted my music teacher at school then the publisher…. She got this response. Turns out James Zimmerman is the writer, living in NYC.


I am writing at the request of Tyson Harper, Editorial Director of the Music Department of Pearson Education, concerning your interest in the song “Orion.”

During her time as a music teacher, Ms. Harper taught this song herself, so she shares my pleasure in knowing that “Orion” has become part of your family’s musical traditions. This song was published in the 1974, 1978, 1981, and 1985 editions of the school music program Silver Burdett Music, Grade 6, published by Silver Burdett Company. “Orion” is Part 1 of a musical composition entitled Orion Suite, which was written by James Zimmerman. This piece had not been published prior to its use in the 1974 edition of Silver Burdett Music, and we negotiated the rights to use this piece through Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer.

Silver Burdett, now an imprint of Pearson Education, no longer retains the rights to use this piece. Were this not the case, we would gladly send you a copy of the song from the Silver Burdett Music, Grade 6, book. I am happy to help you locate the composer and a copy of the song, however, and I suggest the steps described below.

Contact the composer.

James Zimmerman
210 West 101st Street
Apt. 9D
New York, New York 10025

Contact the lawyer, agent for James Zimmerman.

Mr. Donald Aslan
171 East 83rd Street
New York, New York 10028

Since 1982, when we last heard from Mr. Zimmerman, the piece may have been published in publications other than Silver Burdett Music. The Harry Fox Agency, the licensing agency for the music industry, currently represents more than 27,000 publishers. To locate the composer, or a source of “Orion,” click on

HFA Online,

You might also try the “Search” links of either or both of the performing rights organizations in New York.

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.),

ASCAP (The American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers), http://www.ascap/ace (for ACE Title Search Database)

Local colleges with music education departments may have copies of Silver Burdett Music. Should you need to, I suggest you contact one of these for help in locating a copy of this now old textbook series.

We appreciate your interest in “Orion” and wish you all the best in locating a copy of the song. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions.

Susan Greene
Senior Editor
Music Publications
Pearson Education

You can bet that I will be writing to that composer — and his lawyer — and doing my best to sweet-talk him into hooking up with iTunes to get this thing out there and available for all us hippy-dippy-Lorax-reading-ecogeeks who sang it in sixth grade and really want to hear it again.

UPDATE: I am pursuing some leads on copies of the textbook (which should have melody line and lyrics) and/or teacher’s book (which will have the entire accompaniment — not just the melody) and/or a record that could possibly have the song on it. Stay tuned. We might be looking at Christmas in October for the Red Fork Hippie Chick….

UPDATE 2: “Orion” has been found. Click here to listen.


Ask the Hippie, Vol. 1, Issue 6

Someone found my blog today while searching for an answer to the question, “Are tomatoes bad for dogs?”

The answer, according to my test subjects, is an unequivocal NO.

When we lived in Belleville, Scout had easy access to the entire garden. Her normally white fur was stained green all summer from her forays into the wilderness of tomato vines, where she would search for split tomatoes. We had a pact: She was not to touch any intact tomatoes, but if she found a split tomato within her reach, it was fair game.

She ate a lot of tomatoes — and a fair number of bugs. Especially ants. Split tomatoes have a way of filling up with little black ants. Scout didn’t mind. Extra protein, I guess.

Jason and Songdog will also eat tomatoes on occasion, although they are not nearly as fond of them as Scout.

But yes, I think Scout has demonstrated, quite clearly, that a 15-pound dog can consume 30 pounds of tomatoes in a 24-hour period with no apparent ill effects….


A little help from my friends?

The soloist at the church my parents and I attended in the late ’70s and early ’80s used to sing a song that my dad liked a lot. I believe it was based on this poem by Victor Hugo:

Be like the bird
That, pausing in her flight
Awhile on boughs too slight,
Feels them give way
Beneath her and yet sings,
Knowing that she hath wings.

The poem is also translated this way:

Be like the bird which on frail branches balanced
A moment sits and sings;
He feels them tremble, but he sings unshaken,
Knowing that he has wings.

My mom and I have been trying to track down the song — and its complete lyrics — but haven’t had much luck.

If I can find it, I would like to get a recording, the sheet music, or both for Daddy. And if I can put my hands on the sheet music, the soloist at my church would like a copy, too.

Does anybody out there know this song? And if you do, can you tell me who wrote it, what the rest of the lyrics are, or where to find the sheet music?

I can’t remember anything about it, but if I heard it again, it might jog my memory. Every now and then, we’ll sing a hymn I haven’t heard in 25 years, and I’ll suddenly remember what I was wearing, which pew I was in, and what the weather was like outside the last time I sang it. So it’s entirely possible that if I heard the song based on the Hugo poem, my memory could go sifting through the boxes in its attic and pull out something it recorded one Sunday morning many years ago.

That would be wonderful. I’d love to hear Sina’s voice float through my memories.