History and astronomy lessons from They Might Be Giant Plagiarists

Check this out, via Corrente, to see a most undeserved tribute to our eleventh President, “Mr. James K. Polk, the Napoleon of the Stump,” by They Might Be Giants.

stars.JPGIncidentally, a close family member of mine has discovered that TMBG has tried this schtick of “borrowing” from textbooks before. When perusing an old astronomy primer (don’t ask!), he discovered that the first line of their song “Why Does the Sun Shine?” was cribbed directly from Stars: A Guide to the Constellations, Sun, Moon, Planets, and Other Features of the Heavens, a Golden Nature Guide (Western Publishing Company, 1951, 1956), shown here on the left (click for larger view). Below, you can see the proof on page 16–note the first sentence in the second paragraph shown here:


That’s OK–writing new song lyrics is hard, so why not turn to used bookstores for inspiration? (Don’t you?)

Three fab dresses and one bad haircut


Because I got so worked up over that post on Wednesday (quel bummer!), I had to take a break to play with my Barbies again.  Here’s another Barbie photo shoot, this one featuring three different sleeve lengths on the same coctail dress model.  (Susan:  do you like any of these, or do you still prefer the black-and-silver number?)  Barbie 1958 is in the red short sleeves, Barbie 1962 is in the blue 3/4 length sleeves, and Barbie ca. 1977 is in the seafoam sleeveless dress.  Barbie ca. 1977 is having a bad hair day every day for the rest of her life.  In my efforts to save the hair, it seems that I have destroyed the hair.  Barbie hair is really difficult to cut in any flattering way, because of the weird design of the rooting.  It’s just not designed for short hair or layering, I’m afraid!  Here’s a horrifying closeup of the damage:


Sunday Barbie blogging, eccentric outfits edition


Thanks for all of your kind wishes about family funerals.  Since I was back in the ancestral homelands, I had the opportunity to play with my Barbies again, and so can furnish you with more photographs of the couture knitwear collection I introduced to you a few weeks ago.  Here, from left to right, are some of the more eccentric items in the collection:  Barbie 1962 is wearing my all-time favorite in the collection, the sparky black and silver coctail dress; Barbie 1958 is wearing the swimsuit, Barbie ca. 1977 is wearing the ice skating outfit with angora trim, and Malibu Barbie 1966 is wearing the caftan.  I’ve got sad news to report:  in the course of dressing up Malibu B., I wrenched off her remaining leg, so she’s a paraplegic an amputee now!  All of them except Barbie 1962 have pretty significant health and/or aesthetic flaws–but more on that later next week.  We’re all getting older, after all.

Friday Barbie Blogging


It’s been a while since I’ve posted any photos of dolls, creepy or otherwise.  Here’s the Historiann Barbie family lineup, from left to right, according to the copyrights stamped on their bums:  Barbie 1958 (the original!), Barbie 1962, Barbie ca. 1977, and Malibu Barbie 1966.  (They’re not in chronological order, because Malibu Barbie is missing a leg and had to be propped  up against the window frame.  Malibu B. has other health problems–like the creeping melanomas that she’ll surely suffer now that she’s in her 40s and still sporting that kind of a tan.)  Barbie 1958’s skin has become discolored by the copper posts of the real earrings she’s worn for 50 years now, and her hair has to be worn on top of her head because she looks rather bald otherwise.  (Note her resemblance to Dare Wright and Wright’s creation, Edith, in The Lonely Doll.)  Barbie 1962 is holding up better than all of them–she’s a survivor.

Something that we girls of the 1970s and 1980s missed out on was the quality, high-fashion Barbie clothing that was the doll’s signature from her introduction in the U.S. in 1959 until the late 1960s.  These Barbies are wearing items from a hand-knitted couture collection from the early 1960s, courtesy of a co-worker of Historiann’s grandmother, whose name is lost to history but whose remarkably detailed handiwork has survived nearly 50 years of children tugging and pulling the garments on and off.  (She must have used Barbie-scale knitting needles!  And these items are less than a fifth of the entire collection, which includes a bathing suit, an ice-skating outfit, a peignoir, a caftan, and multiple skirts and tops.)  Of course, as a child I thought these clothes were dorky and old-fashioned compared to the sleazy, poorly manufactured but more contemporary fashions that Barbie ca. 1977 and Malibu Barbie came with, but then, I used to think Sean Cassidy and Leif Garrett were pretty great, too.

Who do you love?

It’s a little late for Valentine’s Day, but here’s kind of an interesting exercise in testing your emotional preferences for the top four presidential candidates.  Via Pandagon, here’s the Implicit Association Test.  It asks you at the start of the test what your candidate preferences are, and then puts you through a rapid-response drill involving photographs of the candidates and associative words.

Leaving aside questions about a methodology that seems to correlate hand-eye coordination with emotional preferences somehow, and an observation that some of the photos of Obama and Clinton in the test were rather unflattering, Historiann is more than a little disturbed to report her results:  While Hillary Clinton came out as my top candidate emotionally (natch), Huckabee and McCain were dead even with each other not very far behind her.  (I kind of get that with McCain, whose photos as a young Navy officer strongly resemble a close member of my family when he was a young man, but Huck?)  Obama came out at the bottom, much to my surprise–perhaps I’ve been overly influenced by some of his supporters on the internets, who seem to be hatin’ on Hillary more than they love their man.  All of the candidates in my preference profile were fairly closely grouped together, within 2-3 points of each other, so perhaps these relative rankings aren’t important.  It might be fun to revisit this test later in the campaign.

How do your intellectual preferences square with your emotions?  (The test is pretty painless and takes only 10 minutes or less, depending on how speedy you are.)  Any big surprises for you?

We loves teh funny!

sarah-silverman.jpgMy apologies–I don’t know how to embed a video yet into a post.  (My brother-in-law has set this website up, and I don’t think that I’m allowed to have the keys yet for that particular vehicle.  Plus, he’s paying for the hosting, which I think might have something to do with this.)  Anyway, if Superbowl LIXIXIVVICMQ isn’t really your thing, and you’re really, like, “whatevs,” every time you’ve heard the New England Patriots’ winning streak described as “historic,” click here for some real entertainment.  (Warning–not work safe, not family viewing, etc.  If it were, it wouldn’t be so freaking hillarious, right?)  Sarah Silverman = Historiann – 2 years + teh funny. 

"Fasten your seatbelts…

margo-channing2.jpg…it’s going to be a bumpy night.”  Well, I’ll be up late tonight watching the returns from the Florida Republican primary.  (Here’s hoping that primary season ends with a bang a week from today.)

I once taught a four year-old to say that line with pitch-perfect Margo Channing delivery, after she tossed back apple juice from a martini glass.  It was almost as funny as re-enacting with her the scene at the end of Chinatown where Faye Dunaway gets slapped by Jack Nicholson as she cries, “She’s my sister! *slap* She’s my daughter! *slap* She’s my sister AND my daughter!”

Monday morning Desperate Housewives blogging

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful–after all, I didn’t think there would be any new episodes coming our way because of the writers’ strike, and that therefore there would be no resoluton to the tornado cliffhanger as to whether Lynette’s entire family was killed or not–but has anyone noticed how no one on Wisteria Lane has a job any more?  (Aside from the medical professionals, Orson Hodge and the new OB-GYN guy.)  How can they afford it–do they all have incredible disability insurance or something?  Gabby was always the decorative doll, and Bree the more-perfect-than-Martha housewife, but Susan allegedly is a children’s book author, and Lynette was a high-powered executive, but neither apparently even thinks about work any more.  (And I don’t think that Tom’s restaurant is a going concern, either.)  Mike is in rehab, and (SPOILER ALERT) Carlos is hospitaized and blind, so how does anyone pay the bills?  My best guess is that they’re living off of cash they borrowed on a fat re-fi back in 2005. 

The one woman who still apparently has a job is Edie–and is it just a coincidence that she’s the perpetually single “bad girl” always trying to steal other people’s husbands or boyfriends?  (See my entry below about women being demonized for actually expecting a paycheck.)  I think not!

DH follows the formula–perfected by Louisa May Alcott, and updated by Candace Bushnell–of 4 girls or women, each with a distinctive personality type, trying to navigate this modern world.  But at least Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy fretted about the money that wasn’t coming in while Mr. March was serving in the war, and Meg and Jo (as I recall) took, you know, jobs to help Marmee make ends meet (and retain their servant!).  And Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte (until she married) all had jobs–although they never appeared to work at them, or to work out, and somehow they always had plenty of cash and discretionary calories to gossip and drink in restaurants and bars.  But, officially anyway, they had a viable means of support.