Archive | December, 2012

Salvation Songs, part 3: Nobody’s Fool.

21 Dec

1.

Middle school is a strange time for music. You don’t have tastes, not really, just hormones and the hangover of your parents’ ideas.

And, of course, your friends.

My best friend at the time—and still one of my closest, although I never see him—was Jason Elzy. He was a dynamo in the pop music world. He started reading Variety when he was 12. He tracked singles. He knew pop musical trends at 13. He bought comedy tapes; he bought Chris Rock’s comedy tape years before his first HBO special. He was a boy ahead of his time.

Jason would tape singles off the radio. He made these into a series he called “assorted singles[1].” He made it somewhere near Assorted Singles 20.

At my house we had kids’ praise, Michael W. Smith, Baptist hymns and Amy Grant. In the car with my dad we had golden oldies. I had one conduit to pop music, the frenetic soundtrack and backbeat in my heart and head, and that was Jason.

Like me, secular music was banned in Jason’s house. By his dad. His mom let him listen to as much as he could stomach. I benefited immensely.

This was in the glory days of MTV. Before the reality shows, before the grind. Just music videos, all the time. We didn’t just watch it, we absorbed it. We percolated it. We marinated in it.

Jason had wider tastes than I did; he introduced me to Big Daddy Kane, Young MC, LL Cool J, and, regrettably, the Fat Boys. His tastes ran to hair metal, though, and in Pensacola he was the king. Unlike everyone else, he would go backwards into a band’s back catalog, buying their earlier tapes and studying the music. He would make arguments for earlier glory, although I rarely bought it. (He insisted that Def Leppard had good records before Hysteria. I thought he was crazy.)

He also bought singles. I would listen to his tapes, either with headphones or through the speakers when his dad wasn’t around. We were around each other so much that we had tons of time to do this sort of thing and I took advantage of the freedom by imbibing as much secular music as I could. (We also played with M.A.S.K., Muscles, G.I. Joe, and basketball.) Not my finest hour, musically. I loved “Last Train,” by Cinderella, “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” by Def Leppard, “Deeper Shade of Soul,” by Urban Dance Squad, and “Sometimes She Cries,” by Warrant.

But my absolute favorite was, oddly, Kenny Loggins’s “Nobody’s Fool.”

2.

This was the title song to Caddyshack II, not that I knew it at the time. I spend two or three months listening to this four or five times in a row, every time I went to Jason’s house. It was a compulsive, pathological attachment; the song crowded out other music.

(Sadly, this puts the song in the pantheon of most listened to songs in my life, alongside “Home Sweet Home,” by Motley Crue, “Whipping Boy,” by Lagwagon, “Don’t Know What You Got,” by Whiskeytown, “Nantes,” by Beirut, and “The Seed,” by the Roots.)

Re-listening to it, it’s a strange song. The verses are dated, cheesy and vaguely sexual; I didn’t like this style of music, even then. The guitar lines are cheap, derivative and cloying. You can’t hear the other instruments at all. There’s a drummer, but what’s he doing?

And yet, the chorus simply rocks. It’s the type of fist-pumping arena anthem that feels timeless, irresistible, like a piece of cheap birthday cake crusted over with confectioner’s sugar. Even now, it gets me.

3.

I moved on, eventually, into other, equally lame areas of pop music. But I kept this power ballad near and dear to my heart.

Jason moved to Kentucky in eighth grade. We stayed friends. He attended the University of Kentucky after graduating. We drifted apart. Then he began visiting me in the summers. He became more relaxed as I grew introverted and uptight. He outgrew the detritus of our childhood faster than I did. Yet, the essential balance remained. Our friendship was rekindled. He moved to L.A., got into the music business, became a hotshot publicist. I fell into movie junket work, and visited him twice. We stayed in posh hotels. We ordered room service. Our childhood friendship blossomed into something richer, and stranger, as we had an immense foundation of shared stories, jokes and references that no one else knew. We can fall into this comfort zone with just a few second’s worth of conversation, even after months and months of no contact.

Fifteen years after I spent those weekend nights blasting “Nobody’s Fool” into my ears, he got married.

I was in the wedding party. We spent the day in the hotel room, listening to music while Jason paced a little bit, worrying over the details. His computer had some 12,000 songs, and we each tried to pick the perfect song for the occasion, sipping on cans of beer. We played quality stuff for a while, before the mood of the room turned nostalgic and we made our way to the power ballads of our youth.

The wedding was amazing. The weather was perfect. At the reception, Jason picked theme music for each member. We waited in the hallway until our name was announced. I was fourth in line. The doors opened, and Kenny Loggins’s feathery voice welcomed me to the party. He hadn’t forgotten.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2EccP4yjn0


[1] He still has them.

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Salvation Songs, part 2: Arms Can’t Stretch.

13 Dec

1.

I’ve had two reliable sources of great mix tapes: Jeff Butler and Tommy Heffernan. Jeff had superior equipment, Tommy had a vast knowledge of musical esoterica. Jeff leaned towards guitar rock. Tommy favored new wave. Jeff gave me a greatest hits of Queen. Tommy juxtaposed The Talking Heads with The Smiths.

I still have the tapes they made me, all of them[1].

My cousin Keith has emerged as the mix tape source in my adult life. More about him later.

But once, just once, I was given a mixtape from a friend kind of out of nowhere, and on that tape was a song that changed my life.

Christian Bauer was and is a music maven. He loved, breathed, lived for music, and found a way to collapse conversations into his comfort zone. I met him through soccer, we were both into punk—we both liked Screeching Weasel, Blink 182 and Lagwagon—but he had much more adventurous[2] tastes. He had a wide palate, dipping into all manner of musical subcultures.

We went to different high schools, and I was a year older but we were friends. He was smart and into ideas. I was interested in the world and read a lot. I remember he asked me once, when he was 17, how someone could pray all the time, constantly. “What would it look like?” (He was referring to Frannie and Zooey.) I said I didn’t know. He pondered. My attention drifted.

It’s hard to know how others view you, but I think he saw me as decent and generous with my emotional space.

Anyway, he made me a tape. I still have it. It’s titled “Something to fall back on.” He drew a picture of a smiling guy on the front. Some of the music was what we at the time called Emo Screamo, which has no real contemporary equivalent. Some of it was indie rock. Some of it was punk. And then, the first song on the second side, was a track by Hot Water Music: “Arms Can’t Stretch.”

2.

I used to go to punk shows at the Nite Owl, a shitty little rundown bar at the edge of a busted out shopping mall. Along with Sluggo’s—and later a tiny place called Section Eight—it was Pensacola’s only punk rock venue. (The mall has since converted into a Lowe’s. Or might be boarded up by now.) The Nite Owl had a stage, a reliable sound system, some pool tables and ratty gutter punk furniture. It drew huge all-ages shows. I saw Good Riddance, Face to Face, and Less than Jake there, among dozens of others. I loved it.

One of the perennial favorites was a band named Avail. They were amazing live, just stunning. They were a forerunner to the hardcore sound—a type of music, no longer around, that saw its heyday with Earth Crisis and The Henry Rollins Band and Hatebreed and, to a lesser extent, Pantera, and then dismantled into emo and death metal. I bought their cds. The music was okay but the magic wasn’t there. Avail’s magic was on the stage. I saw them a number of times.

Opening for Avail, when I was 19, was the band Hot Water Music.

3.

They’re a great band. The music is at times simple and comforting, but they have two singers and use them in tandem to great emotional effect. They also have a dynamite live show, but I was distracted and didn’t pay close attention.

I was in a difficult, unhappy period. I had a crushing avalanche of introspection. I essentially switched from an extroverted happy guy into a brooding, self-directed dude[3]. It felt like a malignant presence had invaded my thoughts. Placed into the new context of college, in a new city, I was unsure of who I was. I didn’t feel like I belonged with the soccer players on the team, and I didn’t have outlets to make new friends. I drank too much. I lost weight. I listened to whiny punk and power pop. I didn’t like myself. I didn’t enjoy my own company. I didn’t know how to talk to people. I didn’t know how to talk to girls. There’s more[4]. My buddy Jeff was in Georgetown, living a life I wanted. Robert and Chris stayed in Pensacola. I felt alone and isolated and lonely. It sounds silly and quaint at this telescoped distance, but at the time I missed my friends, and I missed them terribly. I missed my family too, although I wouldn’t have admitted the sickly ache to anyone, including myself.

A second level of dislocation. I didn’t like Montgomery. More provincial than Pensacola, which seemed impossible. No live music. No punk anywhere. Thick-accented people who belonged to a Deep South culture I had somehow averted.

I was all over the place politically, a hybrid of libertarianism and old-school republicanism, as well as a mish mash of religion. I suffered from a collision of Southern Baptist, old school religion and burgeoning Gnostic notions trickling down to me through the eons via literature. The mystery religions of the ancient world were alive, and I was electrified by their contact[5].

I felt alone, alone, alone, alien in my own body, disconnected from my own thoughts and the miserable surroundings. But I had that tape. Something to fall back on.

4.

Yes, back to Christian’s mix tape. The first song on the second side. A song by the band I had seen back at the Nite Owl.

“Arms Can’t Stretch” is a love song, but I interpreted it at the time as a paean to life itself. It’s a soaring, rapturous song. It sounds of its time, there’s a touch of the 1990s to it, but it also sounds cosmic and timeless. There’s a spiritual strand in the lyrics.

I listened to this song constantly. Play, rewind, play, rewind. Along with “Modern Love” by David Bowie and, strangely, “Whipping Boy” by Lagwagon, I had a precise soundtrack of three songs.

One night I drove up to Athens to visit my cousin, Keith, at the University of Georgia.

We bopped around the campus, then around downtown, talking, talking, talking. We ate pizza. We walked. It was a calm night. We saw one of Keith’s friends witnessing to undergraduates. We passed the bars and the buskers. We made our way back to his dorm around 2 in the morning. He had a corner room. We were wiped out. I was happy, emptied out of negative feelings and at peace in a way that only the best of friends and the closest of companions can bring.

“I’ve got a song for you to hear,” he said.

And he put this on.

http://grooveshark.com/#!/search/song?q=Hot+Water+Music+Arms+Can’t+Stretch


[1] Although many of Tommy’s tapes are now playing through the speakers of my brother-in-law’s car.

[2] and at times more sophisticated.

[3] I’ve always been an uncomfortable mixture of both.

[4] But I won’t go into it; haven’t you learned by now that writers lie by omission?

[5] There’s a story here, and it’s a good one, but I’m sticking to the topic as much as possible.

Salvation songs, part 1: Michael Bolton.

6 Dec

1.

I bottom out, musically, every couple of years. I sort of look around and think, is this it? Is this the music I’m going to listen to for the rest of my life? (This usually follows some type of mini-existential crisis and period of disaffected self-loathing.) And then, inevitably, some musical meteor will streak across the firmament and save me.

A song written just for me. Transmitted through an invisible stream of auditorial alchemy. As if ordained by God.

A salvation song.

They aren’t always good songs. Sometimes they’re terrible. But they’re the right songs. I’ve been revisiting my musical history, looking to mine some of these out for a new reoccurring set of entries.

Here’s my first.

2.

I was a classic rock guy for most of my youth. My dad listened to oldies in the car. He was a British Invasion kind of guy, opting for the Beatles over the Stones. He liked the Dave Clark Five, The Lovin’ Spoonful. Like most kids, I absorbed his tastes. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was my favorite tape. I listened to it on a constant loop. The White Album was next, and then Abbey Road[1] and The Magical Mystery Tour. My tastes were unequivocally classic rock, but not yet sophisticated. I liked Ricky Nelson and Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and Gary Puckett, Kenny Loggins and Queen. A little Pink Floyd. A little Motown. It was a fuzzy stew of guitar, drum, bass and horn. I couldn’t really hear the difference between good and bad. I liked it all.

Secular music was mostly banned inside the house by my mom. So it was oldies in the car with dad until I got a little black boombox for Christmas. And then it was tapes and tapes, the tinny speakers close to my ears so I could listen without my mom catching me.

This was me at 11 years old.

3.

At 14 it was Jellyfish and the La’s, Live, R.E.M. and college radio, with a soupcon of Mudhoney and Jane’s Addiction, a band I absolutely loved. At 16 I was punk (and power pop) with occasional descents into metal. I shaved my head, went to punk shows and eschewed popular music.

But before punk, before hardcore, before the counterculture, but after the classic rock of my father, I had a brief two-year fling with pop. It happens to everyone. Around 12, pop culture seeps in. Like most new teenagers, I was an incubator and a crucible for the pop strands circulating in the cultural ether. This was in the early nineties, and I absorbed massive doses of sugary confection. I absorbed  the good and the bad[2].

MTV was an enormous presence in my life. It was forbidden in my house, so when I stayed with my buddy Jason we overdosed on it, gazing at hours and hours of Yo MTV Raps and Headbanger’s Ball and videos, videos, videos.

This was at the end of the glam metal decade. Poison’s “Unskinny Bop,” Nelson’s “Love and Affection,” Def Leppard’s “Love Bites,” all vied for my affection.

And, yes, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Cinderella, Biz Marke, Janet Jackson, The Black Crowes[3], Warrant, Bel Bev Devoe, Boys II Men, Heart, Billy Joel (who was no longer cool)[4].

I have immense affection for this group of songs. Dee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart” still rocks. Aerosmith’s “What It Takes,” has a special place in my heart. And Depeche Mode’s “Break the Silence” makes regular appearances in playlists and mix tapes.

But amidst all this cultural detritus, one song stands out. And an essential feature of a salvation song is you don’t pick the song, the song picks you. So, please, no judgment, or not too much anyway. Drum roll please. The song: “How Can We Be Lovers if We Can’t Be Friends?” by Michael Bolton.

4.

Yes. The Michael Bolton.

Mock me all you want, I don’t care.

I don’t know why this song about a troubled relationship resonated with me, but resonate it did. I trawled the radio dial. I memorized the words. I sang along. I belted the lyrics out with joy. My friends would point at me when it came on, give me the head nod saying, Yep. That’s your song and it’s on right now. I returned the gesture to Jason when “Heaven,” came on. All of my friends identified with one of these songs. Ryan was “Unbelievable.” Britt was “Everybody plays the fool.” I was Michael Bolton.

Bolton’s voice—if you can separate it from his cheesiness—is rich and strong, chesty with a natural reverb. His hair is amazing; he has luxuriant curly locks but is also somehow balding. He’s rocking the fashionable European mullet, years ahead of his time.

His sincere outbursts of raw emotion—you can see the pain ripple across his face; he’s really suffering—and his awesome microphone work, the intense background singers echoing his let’s save the relationship sentiments, the song caught in my thoughts. I loved it, even when I found out the chorus was not “How can we be lovers if we can’t be happy friends,” which I was certain it said.

About two-thirds of the way through, the song reaches a point of emotional transcendence, when Bolton belts out, “We can work it out!” It gave my 13-year-old self shivers.

In retrospect I don’t know why I glommed onto Michael Bolton. I stuck around with him for a few more songs until he released a cover of “When A Man Loves A Woman.” I smelled a rat and moved on.

I never bought the tape. I can say that much. And I used to be embarrassed by these early songs, but now I own my past. I still hold this song it my heart. Watch the video below, and prepare to be saved.


[1] I still don’t quite understand the adoration this record inspires.

[2] Mostly the bad.

[3] “She Talks to Angels” is another song that has made the cut to my adult life.

[4] I knew, even then, that Color Me Badd was pretty lame, although “I want to sex you up,” is a pretty catchy song.

The Taste of Others, part 9: That low down, dirty rotten Seuss.

5 Dec

1.

In the history of children’s picture books, Dr. Seuss looms large. He’s the most famous author in the picture book canon, and arguably the most important. His body of work is equal parts zany, earnest, allegorical and political. His middle books—including The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks and If I Ran the Circus—are silly, funny, interesting, verbose and slight. They’re anarchic, confident, fluid and a great entry into literacy for children.

His early books, including The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and Bartholomew and the Oobleck are more intricate, light-hearted illustrated fantasies that have dated well. These, too, are good children’s books, although the smudgy pencil drawings lack the clean elegance of his later books, and the pacing and plotting are for older readers.

Dr. Seuss is an amiable companion, big-hearted, talented and palatable, a kind old gentleman with a penchant for cornball jokes.

But before he was Seuss, he was Geisel. And Geisel was a serious student at Dartmouth, a doctoral candidate at Oxford, and a political cartoonist of the first order[1]. He dabbled in erotic art, too, before hitting his stride with children’s books. His early manuscripts were received with scorn, and he was rejected some 30 times before he finally saw one of his children’s books in print.

Behind Seuss’s silly imagination was Geisel’s keen political mind. He wrote some very fine political children’s books. His best are The Lorax, The Butter Battle Book and The Sneetches (a short story in a collection).

So I was curious, how does Seuss, the great children’s book author, fare against the hordes of angry amazon reviewers?

2.

Not well.

The Butter Battle Book is his most allegorical, and therefore most political, book. Seuss creates two societies that are very similar, only one butters their bread on the top, the other on the bottom. This cultural difference erupts into a never-ending war that escalates when two ambitious border guards begin a game of one-upmanship. They build bigger and bigger weapons, until they have an ultimate nullifier, a tiny egg that, when dropped, will destroy everything. It ends with the two old guards each threatening the other with the ultimate weapon. It’s funny, insightful and absolutely devastating, and it encompasses the madness of the Cold War as well as anything I’ve read.

Let’s see how people respond. Again, I stopped editing these to my house style. Grammatical and spelling errors abound.

The arms race is the thing that won us the Cold War! Ask anybody!

The arms race is the thing that won us the Cold War! Ask anybody! It was the only sane policy.

Title: Like most celebrities, Dr. Seuss is a little too simple-minded

As a writer and a creator of children’s stories, Dr. Seuss was absolutely brilliant; there is no doubt about that. But his childish view of the Cold War, at his age, is unforgivable. Likening the difference between freedom and Communism to the difference between the location of butter on bread is frustrating, and demonstrates once again how our American celebrities are unbelievably idealistic and out of touch with the realities of the world.

(This next one is great, but again I can’t tell if it’s a joke. Probably not.)

Untitled: 

This book does nothing but mock the all mighty military machine that made this country great. Nothing in this country has done in the past 200 plus years beats the resounding victory we scored against those cold and calculating communists during the Cold War. We beat those commies at their own game. How dare anyone mock the greatest accomplishment of the greatest president we have ever had. This book is nothing but Marxist Philosophy.

(This reviewer has many axes to grind and a skewered view of history, a combination that makes for enjoyable reading.)

Title: Trivializes a serious matter.

While I love Dr. Seuss, I cannot believe that he trivializes the Cold War in the way that he does with this book. The much hated “arms race” was a race to protect ourselves and was a race that we not only won, but a race that also brought down the Soviet Union. Ironically, we won it because we outspent the Soviets. We outspent the Soviets because capitalism creates wealth. The fight between capitalism, which allows freedom, and the crushing weight of communism, which ideology has systematically killed more humans than any other in the last century, is not boiled down to something as simple as butter on bread. Buy one of his other books-the non-political type.

3.

The Lorax is Seuss’s masterpiece. The art is superb, the message simple. The Lorax’s face, when he flees the environmental disaster left behind by the Once-ler, is sad and moving. Like Butter, The Lorax is a direct attack on the impact of unchecked capitalism. The Once-ler’s enterprise is unsustainable, destructive, and amoral. He pursues his profits with reckless abandon. He justifies and rationalizes every terrible thing he does, and any argument to the contrary he squashes with circular reasoning of jobs, money, profits, demand, and markets. And the disastrous world the Once-ler is creating unfolds before the reader’s eyes. It’s a tough little book, haunting and elegant.

There’s the environmental component—and the book’s ecological message is more relevant than ever—as well as the situationist belief that capitalism takes our desires, repackages them, and sells them back to us. You see this when the Once-ler sells a thneed to a faceless consumer.

The criticism of this book is, in some sense, legitimate. It is a cautionary tale. But who thinks it’s a good idea to starve the brown barbaloots? Or fill the streams with foul-smelling goo? Or choke the Swomee Swans with smog?

The mustachioed protector and speaker for the trees.

The mustachioed protector and speaker for the trees.

Title: hypocritical

Dr. Seuss, turned holier-than-thou by his elevated status in society, decides to preach to us about the evils of industrialization. Does he realize that the many millions of copies of “The Lorax” were all made in factories, using paper that came from trees? (Um, he’s dead.)

(This reviewer is annoyed that the book isn’t funny. He/she doesn’t agree with any of it either, but that’s besides the point.)

Title: Seuss had a bad week

Dr Seuss is supposed to be funny. Even books that tackle serious issues like Sneetches, are still hilarious. Even Butter Battle was still cute (for adults). But something went terribly wrong with the Lorax. The Lorax is heavy handed, preachy, and depressing.

For a man who successfully satired racism and nuclear war, pollution ought to be a cake walk. To be fair, perhaps the Lorax reads differently to someone left-of-center politically. We’re not, so we tend to disagree with much of the modern environmentalist agenda. However, good comedy transcends politics. You don’t have to agree with it to laugh at it. Unfortunately, we weren’t laughing, and we never even tried it on our kids.

(This next reviewer sneaks a pro-Lorax review in by pretending to write one-star review. Just trolling the one-star reviews has proven complex; when I first saw this, I missed the satire as I skipped over the end.)

Title: Crazy Environmentalist HOGWASH!

Right on, all of you people who have given this book a negative review! What a terrible book to give to a child! Who does Dr. Seuss think he is, anyway? – Trying to teach young people about our moral obligations to future generations, and environmental stewardship… it’s appalling. Doesn’t anyone care about the struggling, rich, conservative business owners (Like the proud, pro-capitalist, two star reviewer Jeffrey Gray); desperately strip mining our mountains, clear-cutting our forests, polluting our streams, for their own personal wealth and gain? What about THEM? Never mind the fact that the current rate of extinction on this planet is estimated at one species every 20 minutes! Who cares that if everyone on earth were to live like the average North American, it would require 4-5 more planets to keep up with the drain on natural resources! I mean, the Bush administration has been trying so hard to keep facts and figures like these from the public that they’ve even gone to the extent of changing and editing scientific reports on climate change for our own well being… and positive reviews of “The Lorax” are the thanks they get?

If more children were to read this tripe, they might actually begin to understand our inter-connectedness to all living beings, and accidentally inherit a world with a sustainable future. Is that really what we want for our kids?!

Maybe the Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, and Humming-Fish should think twice before settling in to a perfectly viable habitat with such vast economic potential. (Wink.)

Peace.

4.

And now, just for kicks, here’s a bonus review of Horton Hears a Who, one of Seuss’s best and most innocent stories. Horton is so innocent, there’s only one, one-star review, and it’s priceless. It reveals how people often see what they want to when peering too closely.

Title: Anti-Abortion?

This isn’t a kids book at all. The message behind it is one of choice, making reference to a woman’s right to choose through horton and the planet. I don’t care what your views on abortion are (anti or pro), you shouldn’t let young children read and decyfer the hidden meaning. Dr. Seuss was a nut job and a child corrupter, don’t support his work.


[1] You can see his political cartoons in the book, Dr. Seuss Goes to War. They’re great, when they aren’t blatantly racist.

The Taste of Others, part 8: Goodnight quality, goodnight decency, goodnight future.

3 Dec

(I’ve written three more of these, and then I’m moving on.)

This genuinely surprised me. The amount of vitriol aimed at Goodnight, Moon, a sweet, soft, lullaby of a poem feels disconnected to reality. There’s an undercurrent—more prevalent with canonized novels but present with children’s books, too—to try and puncture a classic because it’s a classic. I don’t think anyone would criticize this tiny little music box of a book otherwise. Still, Goodnight Moon seemed to irritate a number of reviewers. These got my hackles up, as Simone loved this book when she was a baby. There’s something comforting about it. There’s an undercurrent of decency. Why anyone would say mean, dismissive things about it is mystifying. Some of these are hysterical, especially the last two, and they all reveal all types of things about the reviewers’ values. I’ve put my comments, which I’ve kept to a minimum, in bold-face type.

I haven’t edited these to my house style; it seemed like a waste of time, although I despise some of the mistakes. I can only take solace in the fact that the mistakes aren’t mine. Anyway, read on.

250px-Goodnightmoon

Title: Not sure why this is a classic

I’ve heard people rave about this book, but after reading it to my infant, I’m left a little stumped at why it’s so popular. The story isn’t exceptionally good or well written. The illustrations aren’t particularly good. Some parts of the book rhyme, and some don’t, which is a bit inconsistent. Some parts don’t even make sense (i.e. “Goodnight nothing.” ?????). The only good thing about this book is that it is a board book and a good size for smaller hands. One other good thing is my infant likes to chew on it. 🙂 This book was included in a baby wash and lotion set that was gifted to us. I would not buy this book for myself, and I would not recommend this book to a friend. However, it’s just okay if you can find it for 10 cents at a yard sale or thrift store.

(The book is supposed to be calming, soothing. Yet this next reviewer seems to think a book with the title Goodnight, Moon should read like The Hunger Games.)

Title: Where’s the story? Where’s the HOOK?

Man, those other 1-star reviews were right: this book sucks! I tried to read it to my son when I first got it, and he was like “Dad, I’m playing Halo! Get out of my apartment!” Oh well, one down. Maybe my other kids’ll like it, or so I thought…

After that, I went and tried to read it to my youngest daughter and guess what? She fell asleep halfway through! It’s so boring that it put a 6 month old to sleep. What a ripoff!

Finally, I read it to my 3 year old daughter, and she was more impressed by my The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee! In a moment of genius, I replaced the word “Goodnight” with “Three Wolf” in the story, and it was like a flock of angels came down and ripped an awesome power chord- rocking my daughter to sleep.

(This is a very strange review. The reviewer wants you to think he/she is calm and rational, but then says some very bizarre things. The key is that this person took the time to write a lengthy review about a book with little real criticism, other than it was boring. He/she traffics in generalizations, instead of pinpointing the flaws.)

Title: I fell asleep in Target!

Well, almost! What an absolutely over-rated book. I wanted so badly to like this book. My son is only 18-months-old and we own over 125 books—a mixture of newer books and vintage classics. I went to Target to specifically get THIS book, and you wouldn’t have believed the look of shock on my face as I finished the last page.

I nearly fell asleep standing there reading it. I guess it serves its purpose then, huh? So, yeah, if you are merely trying to get your kid to fall asleep, then PLEASE DO get this book because it’s guaranteed that your child will Bore N’ Snore within about 2 pages.

Just a simple book (simplicity is great in most cases, sadly not this time) about a bunny saying goodnight to the objects in his room. Every other page is done in black and white illustrations. Can’t believe this actually got published with all the competition out there.

It really is a shame…good childrens’ books are getting harder to come by these days as far as newly written ones go. As far as older classics–I would never classify this book as one of them.

Oh, and by the way…negatively rate me as much as you want…I find it funny that people give negative ratings when people give plenty of information on the product, but simply because they disagree they have to say it wasn’t helpful. Whatever…have fun 🙂

(Here’s another weirdo. This reviewer wants to do a close reading of the book, which is really a kind of sweet nonsense poem in the spirit, but not the style, of Lewis Carroll. A reader this literal shouldn’t read poetry at all, or fiction either. I love that the reviewer’s child is so advanced, yet the reviewer’s basic grasp of grammar and writing is so weak.)

Title: Huh?!?!

I have a 26-month-old who is on par with 5-year-olds for his vocabulary. He loves books, and mostly longer books that tell a story. I saw this at the library and decided to see what the hype was about. I was so confused as to why this is rated so high. My son asked me “Mama, what’s mush?” Um…..I didn’t know what to say. What is mush? Is that even a noun? I know mushy is adjective of course. Then the “old lady” aka a rabbit – so confusing! My son again asked “what’s an old lady?” Well an old lady ISN’T a knitting rabbit. He clearly knows what a rabbit/bunny is. He knows what a noise is, since he always asks “What’s that noise?” when he hears something. At the end when the author writes “Goodnight noises everywhere” makes no sense.

All in all, I think this book is confusing and detrimental to a toddler’s vocabulary. So glad I didn’t pay for this one and I recommend you don’t either! There are books out there that are so much better and valuable!

(This is review is almost sweet, but also bizarre. Of all the books to find scary!)

Title: Pictures are scary

I got this book because of the rave reviews. When I read this to my 1st child and I think he was about 18 months old at the time, he was scared looking at the pictures. The sleepy ‘rabbit’ looked so small in the huge room and there where shadows everywhere.

My child could be very sensitive because he was scared when I read ‘Cat in the Hat’ because the story is about a stranger in the house with the kids! I think at that time, he was between 1 to 2 years old.

(An absolute gem of a review.)

Title: Teaches children flawed natural order

This book, though highly regarded, sets the stage for something awful in childhood development. It teaches children to anthropomorphise (and on top of that show respect to!) all sorts of random aspects of creation. I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to have my child concern himself with pleasantries to objects. The room serves us, not the other way around! It should thank us for building it and giving it a purpose, not expect us to wish it well at night. It’s this type of nonsense that will have my child on the dole after dropping out of high school.

The Taste of Others, part 7: Everywhere gays!

2 Dec

Everywhere Babies is a simple little book showing babies doing simple things with their families. Marla Frazee—a wonderful illustrator, and my second favorite behind Demi; All the World is a standout in the picture book world—does the artwork. The book shows different kinds of families, including same-sex couples. The babies are cuddled, sung to and rocked to sleep. The book’s tone isn’t political; it’s sweet. Of course, just including same-sex couples enrages some readers. The context doesn’t matter, only the concept. For people who weren’t raised in a religious household, the anger over the gay thing can seem so strange—really, why does someone in central Florida care what two men do up in Maine? They key is the sense of cultural decline. Southern Baptists in particular feel they are waging a war against relativism in the popular culture, and that any slippage in any arena is a setback for the Lord’s cause. They’re uptight, self-serious and easily angered, and therefore the perfect readers for this series of entries on the taste of others.

Most of these one-star reviews say they want a warning on the cover. What that warning would look like isn’t at all clear. Warning: this book has depictions of sinning gays! Or, Beware: This book might, maybe, perhaps, one day turn your baby into a gay!

I haven’t altered or edited these at all. These get increasingly hilarious.

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Title: not for my conservative family

The pictures are cute, the text is sweet, but the book pictures several same-sex couples, which I don’t think is appropriate for such young children, at least not for mine. There needs to be some note to the book that informs that the book has pictures of the alternative families.

Title: Illustrations with Same Sex Couples

While the illustrations of the babies are adorable, I found the pictures with same sex couples to be inappropriate for my young children. I am glad I got the book from the library; it will be very easy to return!

Title: Everywhere Homosexuals

It’s gross that people are trying to introduce this sexual lifestyle to children at such a young age. There should be a warning on the cover.

Title: “concerned mom”

On the surface, this book is charming—the illustrations are masterful and the simply rhyme is captivating and heartwarming. However, there are at least four depictions of same-sex couples. Only three of these couples are pictured with babies. So, the ‘families-are-diverse and we need to reflect that’ argument doesn’t even work here. These pictures are not even subtle. We’re not talking two men walking together—there are two men with their arms around each other. And two women lying on a bed while one rocks a cradle. As the illustrator herself notes on her website, ‘Children read pictures. They really do.’ I don’t wish eternal damnation on the authors as another reviewer suggested (although I think that review is a publicity stunt). I simply want them to keep their agenda to themselves and not try to force it on my preschoolers (the target audience, by the way).

Title: Not so innocent

I agree with the prior reviewer. Although subtle and easily overlooked, the homosexual undertones of the few sketches surprised and disappointed me. Although this may be “politically correct” it is NOT biblically correct and not something I would want my children to think is OK. If you are trying to instill Christian values in your children, be very discerning as to what they are exposed. The things we may overlook…our children may not.

Title: Watch Out!

This seemingly innocent book about the beautiful things that babies do and what a joy they are to be around includes lesbian and gay parents in its illustrations. My daughter LOVES babies, so I thought this would be great! In fact, the words of the text are fabulously cute rhymes, BUT I do not need her to be exposed to these alternative “families” at such a young age. Thus, I do not recommend this book for anyone wanting to celebrate the innocence of babies.