"Oh, Mickey, como estas? Como estas, me gustas mas" indeed

The recent recording of the National Anthem in Spanish has sparked a political debate – due in large part to the courageous efforts of the White House to spread awareness of both the recording and of a political debate about it – of a complexity not seen since the flag-burning debates of the early-90’s. A number of frequent questions and concerns have arisen, which I thought I might address.

Q: Is it really important that the anthem be sung in English?
A: Absolutely! While it’s true that the US has no official language it is widely accepted throughout the world that English is the “best” language because of its straight-forward rules, consistent grammar and spelling, and the fact that it is the newest language in the world, thus has not gotten clunky and, well, old.

Also, you can’t just change the language of a song! Remember the English version of Nena’s 1983 song 99 Luft Ballons? Wasn’t very good, was it? Should we change the words of Don Ho’s classic song to all English so it goes “'Merry Christmas' is Hawaii’s way of saying Merry Christmas to you”? It’d sound moronic! And let's not even get in to the abomination that was Toni Basil's Spanish version of Oh Mickey.

Perhaps most importantly though, there is the slippery-slope of translating songs; what’s next? Translating books? “Dubbing” movies? Translating religious texts? I shudder to think.

Q: Is our National Anthem really not about the American Revolution?
A: I think we can all agree that the Revolution was a fairly inconsequential skirmish, especially when put in the shadow of the cataclysmic apocalypse that was the War of 1812. Ask any schoolchild about it and he’ll rattle off the names of all those important people involved and talk about the thing, or things, that caused it. The Revolution may have forged the nation, the Civil War may have seen it cleaved and then blissfully reunited, but the War of 1812 showed us the most important lesson of all – that the thing that caused it should be avoided.

Q: Hey, what are ‘ramparts’ anyway?
A: It’s what you get in a gyro along with the feta cheese and tzatziki. Aaaaaaaahahahahaha! Get it? Get it? Hahahahahahahaha!

Q: Isn’t it a bit demeaning that our anthem is to the tune of a British drinking song?
A: Ram Parts?! Come on! Ram Parts! Hahahahahahaha…aha…ah, what do you know from funny.

Q: Isn’t this concern over a Spanish-language version representative of our paranoia at the Mexican influx and a shift in the proletariat power-base?
A: Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s that it is offensive for nebulous moral reasons, but also there is the issue of efficiency – we’re all going to have to learn the anthem in Mandarin in a few years, so a Spanish version is just a waste of energy.

Q: Hey, remember that joke about the near-sighted Mexican who goes to the ball game and thinks Americans are so kind because they all sing, “Jose, can you see?”? Why isn’t that enough for the Hispanic community?
A: Excellent question. It’s indicative of Mexican-Americans incredible greed and insensitivity toward a nation that has showed them nothing but compassion and nurturing.

Q: Did I see on the news that Bush is against the Spanish version but Laura Bush disagrees with him?
A: Of course not. You must have eaten too close to bed time and dreamt it. A terrible, terrible dream.

Q: I’ve always been trouble that our anthem is about war – the only anthem which is.
A: Oh, give me a break. For starters, that’s not a question. But whatever. Look, what should our anthem be about? Puppies? The ideals of Democracy? Ours being the first nation to be forged by philosophers instead of tyrants? Yawn. Sounds snobby. War’s a crowd-pleaser. Got oomph. Plus, if you want to be a pussy about it, what about the fact that it’s not about war? Technically, the song if about after a battle is over. Your argument is a fallacy! It’d be like saying that Away in A Manger is a song about labor-contractions and epidural. Is that what you’re saying? Because I find that appalling.

Q: Isn’t this whole “issue” another attempt to fabricate a simplistic controversy, one lacking in any nuance or options besides the “for” and “against” camps? Isn’t this just the latest in Karl Rove’s tricks to distract the populace from real, complex issues and from scrutiny of this disgraceful, failed administration?
A: Aaaand… we’re out of time.


Oh, yes. Lets.

Well, as I’m writing, the seniors at the high school have just finished their last day. The tradition is that when the bell rings the seniors throw their papers in the air. Of course, they can’t hear the bell, so they just sort of do it. Also, they don’t have their papers, so they go around the school rooting through recycle bins looking for paper. Then they chant “Let’s get wasted.” It’s inspiring.

For some reason they’re playing 80’s arena rock while they do it. Hm. Why? Is it because they, too, would like to “Jump”? Fair enough. Jumping’s fun. As is being shaken all night long.

I tried, just for variety, to bribe the seniors to instead of “let’s get wasted”, chant “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” but apparently they wouldn’t go for it. Too bad. That would have made them stand out. The “let’s get wasted” chant is just so boring, you know? Because, of course, obviously you are. Is it that crucial that the underclassmen understand your intentions for this evening’s celebratory festivities? Or is it the thrill of announcing it in the school? I suppose that’s it. What about chanting something like, “Let’s burn this mother-fucker down”? That’d be interesting and new. No rhythm, though.

I’ve been surprised how many of these seniors I’m pretty attached to. There was this thing earlier in the day in which the staff was required to form a gauntlet through which the departing seniors pass and we clap or high-five or spray them with beer or whatever. It was smarmy and cheesy and forced and ridiculous…but cracked my jaded exterior some because there were actually some many people I was really sorry to see go. It wound up being at points rather touching. It was, of course, tempting after the whole year of being forced to bottle in personal views to yell at them as they went by, “Evolution is real! Bush is a moron!” and so on. It would likely have the same cathartic appeal as “let’s get wasted” does to an 18-year-old. Kind of a “do you know how long I’ve been waiting to tell you that?” feel. Hardly interchangeable, though. The staff chanting “let’s get wasted” would just be depressing. Funny, but depressing.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll write more on this time of year – it always gets me reflective.


You can't spell "Satire" without "tire"

As in, "I'm really starting to tire of this shit."

Sweet fucking Jesus, people. How many times, in how many fonts, shall I state that the "kids Today" bit is satire. SATIRE! It's humor. Please stop sending me your diatribes about my unfair castigation and generalizations of today's crop of adolescents. SATIRE! It uses irony and humor to expose a, in this case, hypocritical attitude of adults toward teens who have, in fact, not changed in general appearance or behavior since we came out of the trees. IF THEN. The only substantive difference between kids today and kids, oh, say, in the Middle Ages is height and intake of high-fructose corn syrup. Yet people are constantly condemning the present crop while using virtually synonymous terms with more positive connotations to describe their own youths.


(Brief pause while Byron mops his brow and puts his head between his knees for a moment)

The part that hurts, the part that breaks my little heart, is the idea that anyone who has read this site at all or, God forbid, knows me would actually think I would give this crusty "back in my day" rant in sincerity. Seriously? People are reading it and thinking I genuinely find meaning in Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me (Right Round)"? Seriously?

It's like this time I was out for beers with my best friend since third grade and, just to mix things up, said "lakheim" a Jewish toast which I am misspelling, and he looked at me for a moment and asked if I was Jewish. What? Yes, I didn't tell you about my bar mitzvah and have been sneaking off to synagogue all these years and am, in fact, a Rabbi.

That, by the way, was sarcasm, a sort of simplified, crude version of satire. You see, I am not Jewish, but by saying that I am to an exaggerated extent, I illustrate the silliness of his asking if I was. When he plainly should have known that I was not, you see. Oy vei.

You know, back in my day we got satire and we read addendums which explained it.