28 February 2007

Orange Blossom Special

Official lyrics of Florida’s current state song:

Old Folks at Home
Way down upond de Swanee ribber,
Far, far away,
Dere's wha my heart is turning ebber,
Dere's wha de old folks stay.
All up and down de whole creation,
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for de old plantation,
And for de old folks at home.
All de world am sad and dreary,
Ebry where I roam,
Oh! darkeys how my heart grows weary,
Far from de old folks at home.

All round de little farm I wandered
When I was young,
Den many happy days I squandered,
Many de songs I sung.
When I was playing wid my brudder
Happy was I
Oh! take me to my kind old mudder,
Dere let me live and die.

One little hut among de bushes,
One dat I love,
Still sadly to my mem'ry rushes,
No matter where I rove
When will I see de bees a humming
All round de comb?
When will I hear de banjo tumming
Down in my good old home?

Florida’s legislature is now engaged in a bout of self-flagellation over whether this song is too racially insensitive to remain as the state song. Among other possibilities being bruited is Charles Atkins’ "Florida’s Song," which our new governor had sung at his inauguration instead of Old Folks at Home. The lyrics to this new contender can be found at Charles’ Atkins website.

Apart from the flagrantly incorrect notion that Florida’s blessings will live on after other hopes and dreams are gone, this isn’t too bad, but it’s rather… dull. I mean, twice we have to reference the fact that Florida is on the southern coast of North America? I’m sorry. I’m not a lyricist, but this just isn’t that good.

So I thought, what about that other song, the one that opens with de ribber? De ribber? Seriously? Okay, Stephen Foster wrote that for minstrel shows and all of that, and I don’t want to hear anybody say it was supposed to make listeners realize that blacks were just like everybody else or whatever. It was a comedy piece, more than likely. Foster was a weird duck. But do the official version of the lyrics seriously start with "de ribber?" Sadly, yes. Ridiculous, isn't it? I guess in 1935 the state wasn't terribly concerned with the lyrics being understandable or modern. Let’s reexamine those lyrics, okay?

Way down upon the Suwanee River,
Far, far away,
There’s where my heart is turning ever,
There's where the old folks stay.
All up and down the whole creation,
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for the old plantation,
And for the old folks at home.
All the world is sad and dreary,
Everywhere I roam,
Oh! People how my heart grows weary,
Far from the old folks at home.

Sure is a racist, bigoted song desperately in need of replacement, isn’t it?

I’m sorry, that was sarcasm. I know it’s sometimes hard to get it across in print.

But in fairness, the lyrics are a bit out of date. Florida in 1851 would not recognize Florida in 2007. Furthermore, we might not want to publicize any further the fact that Florida is "where the old folks stay."

Also, I hate it when lyricists try to rhyme "love" with other words that end in –ove but don’t actually rhyme, as in the third stanza (which I only have at the top of this post). Bushes and rushes, too, in the same stanza, really bothers me. And Florida isn’t exactly noted for its bees. I suppose "plantation" is a problem for some people. I tried coming up with a word to replace it, but couldn’t; even replacing "creation" with something else wasn’t working for me. And anyway, every fifth new suburban housing tract is Something Plantation. If the notion of a plantation was so horrible there are a lot of developers who are going to need to redo their subdivisions.

So the old song is a little… old. What could replace the song now?

Allow me to suggest very strongly the good old song “Orange Blossom Special,” which has no lyrics at all. It was written in 1938 by Ervin Rouse and Chubby Wise. I have at least three versions of it among my collection. Most performers add one or two lines of text—mainly something along the lines of “All Aboard!” or “It’s the Orange Blossom Special!” or something like that, but certainly nothing controversial. Rouse and Wise were both lifelong Floridians. The song is quite well known and often regarded as one of the greatest fiddle tunes ever written—I’ve heard it referred to as “the fiddler’s national anthem.” Good musicians like to play it because it’s technically demanding and extremely impressive to the listener.

The song was written to memorialize the old Seaboard Air-Line Railway’s Orange Blossom Special, a train that ran service from New York City to Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Miami. The song may have been written almost 70 years ago, but there are still a lot of New Yorkers who come to Florida resort towns, either to visit or, unfortunately, to settle down. Some of them continue to root for the Yankees even after moving here, which should be grounds for banishment from the state but for some reason isn’t yet.

The song does, however, reflect a meaningful part of Florida history, namely, the continued onslaught of freaking northerners moving down here and wrecking the place (follow my logic carefully and you’ll see that, really, we’re all freaking northerners and we should all leave and return the state to the Seminole… which isn’t actually a bad idea).

Don’t like that? Well, why don’t you suggest something?

27 February 2007

The KFC Cure

Time for a little news of the weird. Occasionally a genuine fruitcake arises in world leadership, who basis his leadership not on actual results but on magic and sorcery. The tiny west African nation of Gambia has elected just such a fruitcake.

President Yahya Jammeh has announced that he can cure diseases. Specifically, asthma and AIDS (they’re quite similar apparently).

How does he cure AIDS? It’s a three-day course of secret herbs and spices, taken orally and applied to the skin. Call it the KFC cure.

Apparently after the treatment some patients have “gained weight” and “shown improvement.” Also, during the treatment some patients “can be going to the toilet every five minutes.” I suppose we shouldn’t be skeptical… but then again, I really think we should.

23 February 2007


Today’s Amusing Wikipedia entry of the day is Mountain Beaver, from which I quote:
The Mountain Beaver (Aplodontia ruf) is a primitive rodent unrelated to beavers and not usually found in mountainous areas.
Don't ever say taxonomy is dull.

20 February 2007

Reason #413

That I don't like my job:

I'm sick. As a dog. A sick dog. I have a sneaking suspicion it's because of the hour-long walk home in the rain at 0315 Sunday morning this weekend, carrying my bicycle (more later), that caused it, but nonetheless it is what it is. I'm sick.

I have infinite sick days, at least in theory (though I wouldn't want to test that notion); however, in order to take a sick day, since my employer has its own medical system, I have to actually drive in to work, sit in the hospital waiting room, and wait for a doctor to tell me I'm sick and I should go home. Of course the morning is usually when you feel worst anyway.

Does this make sense to you? I understand, on a cold, cruel, inhuman level, that my employer can't go letting you take off whenever you want and calling it a "sick day." But that doesn't mean I really get it. I think I'd rather have sick days and be able to take one when I want. I don't need a doctor to tell me I have a cold and should lie down in bed all day and eat chicken soup and sleep. But I have to go have that discussion anyway. Blah.

16 February 2007

A Post


On the same day recently I experienced the following three things:

1. A Republican politician claimed that if a Democrat took the White House in 2008 in would "be a victory for the terrorists." I don't recall which politician, and it hardly matters as the notion of Democratic victories being victories for the terrorists is so overused and absurd it has warranted its own Wikipedia article.

2. I read a quote by Salman Rushdie--no stranger to fundamentalist terrorism--as follows:
The only way to stop terrorism is to say, "I'm not scared of you."

3. I watched "V for Vendetta."

Can you put these three things together? It gave me food for thought, but lately I haven't wanted to... um... do anything. Including post to the blog. But I'm going to start doing so again anyway because otherwise I'm not going to get better. I'm also going back to the pottery studio. There will be pictures!

09 February 2007


I'm in a bad mood today.

Actually, moods come and go a lot lately. I just hate work so much. I can't really get into it properly lest I face some sort of investigation. And that's just part of why I hate work so much.

Not that it matters, since I can't even post to this blog right now (it's 1520 on the 9th) since apparently my blog has been flagged as a "spam blog" by the fucking geniusses at Blogger/Google.

I don't get this. According to Blogger, a spam blog is recognized by the following:
irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text, along with a large number of links, usually all pointing to a single site.
Admittedly much of what appears on this blog may qualify as irrelevant or nonsensical, but we all know what spam looks like and regardless of your opinion of my writing style and ability I do at least put words into a coherent order. I have a lot of outlinks but they hardly all point to the same location. By their own definition this blog shouldn't have even hit their radar screen. Instead they lock it, ask me to sign in, and then they'll have someone get around to examining the blog to see whether it's spam or not.

Normally I don't think of Google as the enemy, but today they are. I didn't need this kind of irritation today. I haven't needed it for a while.

Anyway. There's no point in continuing to write this since you won't be able to read it until they get around to deciding I'm not spam.

02 February 2007

Sure you can land there, but where do you park?

I tell you, the things you miss when you go on vacation. (Yes, I realize this occurred before we actually left. I don't care.)

Friday afternoon, the 26th, a twin-engine Piper Aztec landed on Interstate 75 just south of Tampa. There was a great photo in the newspaper but they didn't put online, apparently.
The engines failed, and, being in a rather densely developed area, the pilots determined that the only safe place to land was on I-75. They picked the northbound lanes. (Did they check the winds first, or was traffic just lighter in that direction?)

Here's a follow-up article. The plane was eventually towed out of the median, to which the pilot had taxied after landing. I love the quote:
As it worked out, people were paying attention and they got out of the way.
Funny but the truth is most pilots have wondered about that at some point in their career. If I had to put this thing down on the only landable surface for miles around--and that happened to be the highway--would people notice and make room? Would they just drive along blindly and not pay attention? Could I taxi fast enough not to get rear-ended? Does the aircraft insurance cover being rear-ended on the highway by an SUV, or is that something my auto insurance has to take care of?

So many questions. And yet this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Six years ago in Pasco County, just north of the Hillsborough County line and not but forty miles from the recent incident, another small airplane landed on I-75, this time in the southbound lanes, and then took off again. I'd like to have seen that. Seems nobody knows who owned the plane or why it touched down. I'd have to guess it was some sort of wager.