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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Bright Week           Saturday, April 21 2001

Dark themes and decadence

Many thanks to "Frodor" for his response on the discussion of decadent music; I think it's worth kicking around and will repeat his comments here, as they're short:

I don't feel they are decadent; however, most of the songs of the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, are black. Boy named Sue (tries to kill father), I walk the Line (resisting temptation), Ring of Fire (perils of love), Delia (an Appalachian death song).

I agree that the Man in Black majors in black themes in his music, and I also agree that dark or black themes, in themselves, are not decadent. I proposed that the final criterion for what's decadent is the direction of the music: "up" or "down." To me, there's no doubt that "A Boy Named Sue" is an upper (even if it's a song I never want to hear again, said with a grin)! I see Johnny Cash's whole style as up, upbeat, life-affirming, even when it admits that evil desires like murder are part of life. Certainly "resisting temptation" ("I Walk the Line") is an "up" affirmation of meaning in life. (The opposite, taking temptation lightly and giving in lightly implies that there are no consequences; in other words, in the end everything is meaningless.) Orthodox monks often say that one of the best ways to persevere in the fight with temptations, sin, is to keep our minds "in death"; "visit the cemetery," they often suggest. But these are exercises meant to gain eternal life, in the hope that the remembrance of death may "scare us" into finding the narrow path leading to life. It's the same thing only different, as they used to say in Blacklick Valley.

The Eminem/Elton John duet at the Emmys Show last month (until recently downloadable on Napster...now, no songs by Eminem or Elton John are found), is about suicide, but the conclusion of it is "grief" about the suicide, an affirmation that suicide is tragic because life is worth living. So the song is up, not down, one of the many exceptions that I said can probably be found in rap/hiphop.

After my mother's mother died, Mom started occasionally singing what is perhaps the most morbid song I've ever heard, A Letter Edged in Black (which I found on Napster—yes!—in a rendition by one of the "four Hanks" that Jim Martin extolled earlier). It wallows in grief and should not even be heard by a five-year-old as I was at the time (the closest my mother ever got to abusing me)! But although it's wallowing in thoughts of death, its point is that the loss experienced in the death of a loved family member affirms the sweetness and preciousness of life.

Earlier, I threw in the opinion that progressive jazz in general is decadent. In that case, unlike the other examples, the smell of death isn't in the lyrics (any song can be "jazzed"), but the music. As the styling has no resolution and thus implies that there is no unity, resolution, or meaning in life, it argues for the pointlessness of it all. (In my humble opinion.)

I'm no professional in philosophy, much less musicology. Much of my former life involved teaching church-sponsored seminars on "meaning vs. meaninglessness" in pop culture, so this isn't exactly new territory either. I'm saying this not to claim expertise, but to show that at least these questions have been concerns for some years. Usually, I formerly applied them to the movies...this "interpretation" of pop music is new ground that I'm enjoying turning.

Other business

I made a quick guess about the stars of the "Eddie Duchin Story" yesterday, naming Montgomery Cliff and Kim Novak. To which Frank Charney comments:

Jon, You have tested my movie trivia again. The "Eddie Duchin Story" starred Tyrone Power and Kim Novak back in 1956. My Microsoft Cinemania 97 CD that I bought at a discount computer show supports this fact.

Which brings up another story about Tyrone Power. I recently met an older lady, sister-in-law of a Revloc friend, originally from Cresson. She has an autographed picture of Tyrone Power when he spent his honeymoon at a fashionable hotel in Cresson back in the thirties or forties. As a youngster, she skipped school that day and waited several hours outside of the hotel to get her treasure trove.

Best wishes, Frank

Which means I was pretty close. Not only did I get Kim Novak right, Tyrone Power and Monty Cliff were interchangeable, right? (Kidding, but I'll bet they were, more than once, up for the same part.)

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Darting Chicken

Juan was driving down a country lane in his pickup when suddenly a chicken darted into the road in front of him. He slammed on his brakes, but realized that the chicken was speeding off down the road at about 30 miles an hour. Intrigued, he tried to follow the bird with his truck, but he couldn't catch up to the accelerating chicken.

Seeing it turn into a small farm, Juan followed it. To his astonishment, he realized that the chicken had three legs. Looking around the small farm, he noticed that all of the chickens had three legs. When the farmer came out of his house, Juan said, "Three-legged chickens? That's astonishing!"

The farmer replied, "Yep. I bred 'em that way because I love drumsticks."

Juan was curious. "How does a three-legged chicken taste?" The farmer smiled. "Dunno. Haven't been able to catch one yet."

Sent by Mike Harrison


If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everthing in its place, but have not love, I am a housekeeper, not a homemaker.

If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love, my children learn cleanliness, not godliness.

Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh. Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window. Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk. Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.

Love is present through the trials. Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive. Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood.

Love is the key that opens salvation's message to a child's heart. Before I became a mother, I took glory in my house of perfection. Now, I glory in God's perfection of my child. As a mother, there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is love.

—Author Unknown

Sent by Zan
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