Friday, November 26, 2010

With or Without a Chute?

My son and I have always taken turns trying to impose our tastes on each other. There was that multi-day car trip with him when he was three years old, for example, during which we listened to nothing but a single Ralph’s World CD. In our family we still call that The Nervous Breakdown Trip.

When he got a little older, and when I’d finally had enough of listening to kiddie tunes, I started making him mix tapes with some of my favorite music—lots of Guided by Voices and Young Fresh Fellows. There’s some kind of cheap thrill in having your kid explore your own musical past. Yesterday I had the Jayhawks’ “Tomorrow the Green Grass” on the turntable during Thanksgiving dinner prep. We got to the end of side two, and AJ had two questions: Who was that? And, can you play it again? I was proud.

Dan Chiasson gets at something similar in a recent New York Review of Books blog post. He says his little kids have been asking to listen to Magnetic Fields in the car. “Until you have heard a four-year old boy sing the lines, ‘Should pretty boys in discos/Distract you from your novel/Remember I’m awful in love with you,’ you haven’t approached the full depths of this band’s appeal.”

A while back, with my wife out of town for the weekend, AJ and I were on our own in the house. He was upstairs for a pre-bedtime bath; I was collapsed on the couch with the remote, and and surprised to find “Bridge on the River Kwai” on TV. I’ve never been able to resist this movie. Please, I thought, let the kid take a nice long bath. Let me have a few minutes alone with the tv. Let me at least see the scene at the commando school when the British officer tells Bill Holden that he might as well parachute without any practice jumps, and Holden asks him, “With or without a chute?”

But something funny happened. AJ came down, freshly bathed, and settled in on the couch next to me and didn’t even ask to put something else on. He wanted to watch the movie! So we did. We stayed up way past his bedtime, we watched the rest of the movie, and he pronounced it excellent. We even had a mini-debate about whether it was right for the British prisoners to build the best bridge possible for the Japanese or whether they should have tried to sabotage it. (AJ argued for sabotage, a position that struck me as consistent with his longstanding refusal to clean up his room or do any other household chore unless threatened with extreme Colonel Saito-esque punishment.)

For the record, I did get to see the scene at the commando school. When Bill Holden asked, “With or without a chute?’ AJ laughed. It made me proud, again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Legend Lives On, Slightly Revised

This time last year, I was confessing my continued fondness for Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." I didn't get to hear any mini-marathons of "Wreck" cover versions this year, but I did see this: GL has revised the lyrics to his song. The consensus among Edmund Fitzgerald experts (how many can there be?) about the cause of the wreck appears to have changed. Out is the old theory about the ship taking on water through her hatchways. In is the idea that the ship hit bottom, tearing a hole in her hull. So GL has reworked the relevant line of his song. He used to sing: "At 7 pm a main hatchway gave in/he said, 'Fellas, it's been good to know ya.'" Now it's: "At 7 pm it grew dark. It was then/he said 'Fellas, it's been good to know ya.'"

Maybe I just don't understand the rules governing mounrnful maritime folk, but I'm not sure I like the idea of lyrics being revised for accuracy. George Harrison didn't change his lyrics to "Something in the way she moves/continues to really annoy me" just because his relationship hit the rocks.

In any case, as my friend TH observed: Under the circumstances, a comment like "Fellas, it's been good to know ya," was likely appreciated by no one on board.