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Friday, September 17, 2010

Stuck Between Stations/The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady's 2006 album Boys and Girls in America takes its name from the opening lyrics of a song on the record called Stuck Between Stations:

There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together

The lyrics, in turn, allude to an incident in Jack Kerouac's classic 1957 novel On the Road.  Following an unsatisfying sexual encounter with a waitress, the book's narrator, Sal Paradise (a thinly fictionalized version of Kerouac himself), muses:

Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk.  Not courting talk--real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment precious.

The line Boys and girls in America is also repeated on another track from the album, First Night.

["Stuck Between Stations" features a second literary reference, unrelated to On the Road, which we'll cover in our next post.]

On the Road (Kindle Edition)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Furry Old Lobster/Jonathan Coulton

Hard to believe that Labor Day Weekend is upon us already.  There's still time for one last summertime fling--how about getting your friends together tonight and going out for some furry lobster?

If only you could.  In his 2005 book The Areas of My Expertise, "Daily Show" contributor John Hodgman explains why the once plentiful furry lobster is off the menu--permanently.  Hodgman provides "A Brief Time Line of the Lobster in America," which reveals that the original "lobster" was a furry creature remarkably similar to an otter. What we call lobsters are actually European lobsters, introduced to New York City in 1890 in a misguided experiment that goes horribly wrong. The city is soon overrun with the creatures, and none other than Theodore Roosevelt is brought in as police commissioner with a mandate to rid New York of the nasty crustaceans. "Discovering that the lobster cannot easily be killed except by boiling," Hodgman writes, "Roosevelt instead diverts the creatures to Maine via a secret canal." In the decades that follow, Maine becomes the battleground on which the Old Lobster and the New Lobster vie for supremacy. Finally, in 1980, the last Old Lobster perishes in the kitchen of a Furry Old Lobster restaurant. "It's a sad story, true," Hodgman acknowledges, "but no sadder than much of history."

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, a frequent collaborator of Hodgman's, set the tragic tale of the Old Lobster to music in Furry Old Lobster, found on his 2006 CD Thing a Week One.

Sing hey hidey ho, where'd the old lobster go?
And his body so furry and brown?
Sing ho hidey hey, have they all gone away?
For we haven't seen many around

It's a sad and wistful sea chanty, or chantey, or possibly even shanty--our dictionary wasn't terribly clear on the subject.  The point is, if you do go out for seafood this weekend and Furry Lobster is on the specials board, you're being had.