Previous month:
July 2020
Next month:
September 2020

Advice from College Students


I was wandering around the website of the college paper I edited in 1973, The Tech. To say things have come a long way would be an understatement. While I would have loved to run the advice column Various Stages Of Undress, it took until 2010 for my old newspaper to get up the nerve to run explicit sex advice. One of these columns made me proud of myself.

Also check out the more wide-ranging Auntie Matter, from 2018.

More on Bob Blue

Daniel Dern wrote to tell me he already owned the Ballad of Erica Levine, and to provide a pointer to a double CD of Bob Blue’s Work. I ordered it. I’m sure his other works are as wonderful as the two I plugged last week, the ballad and Their Way.

As for Daniel’s opinion of Erica Levine: “While I might have heard Bob Blue sing it (presumably on WUMB-FM, etc.),  I'm more familiar with Frankie Armstrong's version” of the song. I've heard her a bunch of times (not for >20 years, sigh). She was, IIRC, one of the first to popularized Peggy Seeger (Pete's sister)'s song, "I Was Gonna Be An Engineer" (note, it's a British song, engineer = somebody who works a machine). She also did a remarkable album with Dave Van Ronk of songs by Berthold Brecht.

In case you've lost track, at least 3 Brecht songs are in the popular/rock music (i.e., beyond the Great American Songbook) repertoire:
The first, of course, is Mack the Knife.
The second, Pirate Jenny.
And the third, from The Doors, Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar).

This concludes today's musical trivia.

This and That

RIP Gail Sheehy

I loved her. Her books and articles were important in my life. She was an amazing journalist, and a talented popularizer of social science.

Gail Sheehy, Journalist, Author and Social Observer, Dies at 83 - The New York Times

Political Must Read
Bidding for Reelection Amid Crisis and Fear by Richard C. Gross

Dan Rather Commentary

Rather recently tweeted, “There are times I get online, see the latest news, and wonder how we are living in a world where Kafka writes for the Twilight Zone starring the Marx Brothers.” And then he posted a lengthy facebook entry which cements him in my heart as one of journalism’s greats, a worthy successor to his sainted CBS predecessor, Edward R. Murrow. I had the pleasure of sharing a small seminar with Rather once at MIT: he is intelligent, funny, clever and both witty and sharp-witted. I love the way he uses metaphors from his Texas youth. Here is his lead:

“The lies flew like a fertilizer spreader in a windstorm.  The flood lights illuminating the White House backdrop couldn't outshine the darkness of a broken historical precedent. The packed, maskless crowd mocked the reality of a murderous virus engulfing the nation.”

Correction: Erica Levine author

Last week, I misattributed the Ballad of Erica Levine. Fortunately, Clark Smith caught it: “Just for the record, Erica Levine was written and originally performed by Peter Alsop. Great Song. Another along the same lines is It's Only a Wee Wee. Check it out.” I couldn’t agree more: check it out. This correction now also appears in the original item. Sometimes I don’t bury my mistakes.

West Wing Reunion

If you love West Wing as much as I do, take note (thanks Daniel Dern):

also see

Advice to my Grandson Redux

As I mentioned before, I am writing a book of advice for my grandson, in case I’m not around to provide it in person. I have shared this with some friends, who’ve provided some smart modifications.

--------begin excerpt----------

First, let me note that a feminist friend of mine told me, “Don’t teach your grandson that he’s the one who has to propose, to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage. Women have an equal right to propose.” She’s right of course, but even as recently as when your mom (2016) got married, it was the man who asked.

One thing for sure, based on my extremely painful experience: when a woman says “I’m not ready to get married,” no matter what else she says, no matter how wonderful she is, if you’re looking for a permanent relationship, don’t walk away: RUN AWAY.

My advice in this regard is:

  • Don’t propose unless you’re sure you know the answer.
  • In my experience the longer the proposal is considered, the better. My first fiancée said yes immediately. That was my shortest engagement. My second took a day to say yes, and that didn’t work out either. Your grandmother took a month between my proposal and her affirmative response. You know how that worked out.
  • Promise me, whether I am dead or alive when you read this, that you will NEVER say “This is it!” about a relationship that is any less than nine months old. The amount of pain you may prevent is unfathomable.


If you are in a committed relationship (not a fling, but a relationship you think might last), and you find yourself regularly having secret (from your significant other) meetings with a woman and talking—just talking—to her seriously about anything, IT IS A WARNING SIGN. I did this once, and I had it done to me once. One or two meetings are one thing. Meet for weeks and it is a warning sign you should not ignore: you are not ready for a serious monogamous commitment. I hope to all that is holy that you never do this and never have it done to you. The deceived partner’s pain is beyond description. At least mine was.

-------------end excerpt------------

Perfect Films Redux

Wow was David Mamet right about four perfect films.

Just watched Dodsworth last night. We loved it! They sure as hell don't make movies like that any more. Boy, actors sure talked fast in movies in the 30s. We tried turning on closed captions. There aren't any.

The acting was excellent, the script amazing (I assume all the good lines came from the novel or the play, but since the screenwriter wrote the play he was plagiarizing himself).

Although I try to maintain a strict 9:30 bedtime, I was up until 10:15 because I HAD to see how it ended. My respect for Mamet just increased, which is amazing considering how high it already was.


Wet-Assed Pussy (WAP)

I am not a fan of rap, nor am I a social media butterfly, so it took a journalist chat group to bring WAP (I looked up the acronym to save you the trouble) to my attention. I enjoy any Culture War issue that sends conservative analysts to their fainting couch, clutching their smelling salts. As a group, there is a succinct description of their analysis: as we second-wave feminists used to say, they are a bunch of Male Chauvinist Pigs. Just when you think the species has gone extinct, it rises, zombie-like.

To paraphrase United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart from 1964, “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.” Is this song porn? No. Is this song raunchy? I’d say so. Is it explicit? Without question. Is it the end of American Civilization? No, that’s Donald Trump.

At first, I hesitated to even mention this; I note that a British Comedian has been cancelled for calling the song into question. I fully support the artists’ right to write, sing and release this song.

The most succinct and accurate summary of the controversy comes from my third-wave feminist daughter Rae, who notes:

---Rae starts here--------

The people who like/support this video say:

* Male hip hop artists can sing about sexuality without penalty but because Megan thee stallion and Cardi B are women they can't sing about sex and that's what's causing the ‘controversy.”

* This video is an anthem for female women expressing their sexuality and enjoying sex

* This video is important because it's all women and there are no men in it.

People who dislike this video say:

* It's vulgar in language and image.

I think the opponents aren't fans of the genre and are losing the culture war. Whether or not you literally agree with all the lyrics, the point is their right to rap them. Calling the video "porn" could be seen as condemning a woman's sexual autonomy especially when there have been similar depictions of women in male rap videos. Why weren't those videos called porn? Do men in the video somehow legitimize it?

--------Rae ends here-----------

Then she pointed me at this first-rate analysis: With “WAP,” Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion Honor Women’s Pleasure.

One other analyst noted, “I'm mostly surprised people can still be surprised.  It seems like some version of this reclaiming of female sexuality be a female rapper happens every couple of years. I guess it needs to happen more often so it stops being newsworthy.  I think it just blew up this time because of Kylie Jenner making it go viral.” [Jenner makes a cameo appearance]"

Bob Blue: Their Way, Erica Levine

Back in 2000, I heard Garrison Keillor sing a brilliant parody of My Way entitled Their Way, about the awfulness of Academia. Something reminded me of it a year ago—probably hearing My Way—so I searched for it. Since I was using the wrong title, I couldn’t find it. I still haven’t found Keillor’s version, which I prefer, but this week I stumbled across the real thing and was overwhelmed with a need to share it. It was written by a retired teacher, Bob Blue.

My favorite lyric:

And so, my fine young friends, now that I'm a full professor
Where once I was oppressed, now I've become the cruel oppressor.

Correction: Correcting authorship of Ballad

Also, don’t miss this stunningly beautiful feminist anthem, Ballad of Erica Levine. I am fairly certain I never told any woman that she was mine, but this song does a lovely job of dispatching that MCP phrase.

Thank you Clark Smith for this fact check: Erica Levine was written and originally performed by Peter Alsop. Great Song. Another along the same lines is It's Only a Wee Wee. Check it out.