November 10, 2005

What song is playing in your head today?

Some commenters are saying that my post title "Always look on the bright side of life" has got them thinking that Monty Python song in their heads.

Funny, I've got a song stuck in my head this morning. It's Lou Reed's "I'm So Free":
Oh, please, Saint Germain
I have come this way
Do you remember the shape I was in
I had horns and fins

I'm so free
I'm so free

Do you remember the silver walks
you used to shiver and I used to talk
Then we went down to Times Square
and ever since I've been hangin' round there
I get this song in my head every time I read United States v. Ballard:
Respondents were indicted and convicted for using, and conspiring to use, the mails to defraud. 215 Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C. 338, 18 U.S.C. A. 338; 37 Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C. 88, 18 U.S.C.A. 88. The indictment was in twelve counts. It charged a scheme to defraud by organizing and promoting the I Am movement through the use of the mails. The charge was that certain designated corporations were formed, literature distributed and sold, funds solicited, and memberships in the I Am movement sought 'by means of false and fraudulent representations, pretenses and promises'. The false representations charged were eighteen in number. It is sufficient at this point to say that they covered respondents' alleged religious doctrines or beliefs. They were all set forth in the first count. The following are representative:
'that Guy W. Ballard, now deceased, alias Saint Germain, Jesus, George Washington, and Godfre Ray King, had been selected and thereby designated by the alleged 'ascertained masters,' Saint Germain, as a divine messenger; and that the words of 'ascended masters' and the words of the alleged divine entity, Saint Germain, would be transmitted to mankind through the medium of the said Guy W. Ballard;

'that Guy W. Ballard, during his lifetime, and Edna W. Ballard, and Donald Ballard, by reason of their alleged high spiritual attainments and righteous conduct, had been selected as divine messengers through which the words of the alleged 'ascended masters,' including the alleged Saint Germain, would be communicated to mankind under the teachings commonly known as the 'I Am' movement;

'that Guy W. Ballard, during his lifetime, and Edna W. Ballard and Donald Ballard had, by reason of supernatural attainments, the power to heal persons of ailments and diseases and to make well persons afflicted with any diseases, injuries, or ailments, and did falsely represent to persons intended to be defrauded that the three designated persons had the ability and power to cure persons of those diseases normally classified as curable and also of diseases which are ordinarily classified by the medical profession as being incurable diseases; and did further represent that the three designated persons had in fact cured either by the activity of one, either, or all of said persons, hundreds of persons afflicted with diseases and ailments;'
Each of the representations enumerated in the indictment was followed by the charge that respondents 'well knew' it was false.
It's a case about how you really don't want the government delving into the question of whether religious beliefs are false.
The miracles of the New Testament, the Divinity of Christ, life after death, the power of prayer are deep in the religious convictions of many. If one could be sent to jail because a jury in a hostile environment found those teachings false, little indeed would be left of religious freedom.
The conviction is upheld, however, because the trial judge excluded this evidence and asked the jury to decide only whether the defendants believed these things. But how do you think about whether they believe something without thinking about whether it's believable? Justice Jackson dissented, in an opinion that's one of my favorites, containing a delightful snark about judges:
I do not know what degree of skepticism or disbelief in a religious representation amounts to actionable fraud. [William] James points out that 'Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible.' Belief in what one may demonstrate to the senses is not faith. All schools of religious thought make enormous assumptions, generally on the basis of revelations authenticated by some sign or miracle. The appeal in such matters is to a very different plane of credility than is invoked by representations of secular fact in commerce. Some who profess belief in the Bible read literally what others read as allegory or metaphor, as they read Aesop's fables. Religious symbolism is even used by some with the same mental reservations one has in teaching of Santa Claus or Uncle Sam or Easter bunnies or dispassionate judges. It is hard in matters so mystical to say how literally one is bound to believe the doctrine he teaches and even more difficult to say how far it is reliance upon a teacher's literal belief which induces followers to give him money.
UPDATE: I've changed the link for the "I'm So Free" lyrics and changed "horns that bent" to "horns and fins." One of the commenters said he thought it was "horns and fins," and that was what I'd always heard too. There are lots of lyrics sites, but how do they know the lyrics? They aren't really authoritative. I'm changing the spelling of "Germaine" to "Germain" too, even though both lyrics sites have the "e." A Google search convinces me that "Germain" is correct. But who is Saint Germain? I assume the references are to the Count of St. Germain: "a courtier, adventurer, inventor, amateur scientist, violinist, amateur composer, and generally mysterious gentleman."


Sean E said...

"Dora, Dora, Dora the explorer
Boots and super-cool exploradora
Grab you backpak!
Let's Go!"

But then, I have a four-year-old.

bill said...

playing in my head? Today it's been John Wesley Harding's version of Hamlet.


Ron said...

Court cases that inspire songs in your head? What's next, autopsy reports that inspire dance moves?

I should talk; Franz Ferdinand (several riffs from several songs all jumbled together) is in me noggin with Fred and Ginger doing "Let's call the whole thing off" from "Shall We Dance!" At the same time! Between the jangly guitars and the hoofing, it's no wonder I'm going nuts...

vbspurs said...

Court cases that inspire songs in your head? What's next, autopsy reports that inspire dance moves?


P.S.: On my blog, I have a javascript for a digital watch. In the area where I was supposed to put my location, I placed "Sunny Side of Life".

It's not a common song anymore. Sometimes you hear an elegant version on Turner Classic Movies. When I heard your similar song reference above, I suddenly got its wistful lyrics back in my mind.

"Looking for
A silver lining
Try to find
The Sunny Side of Life"


bill said...

Sean - did you ever notice Dora never says please or thank you? Based on much she shouts, she's probably hard of hearing as well as rude. She's still better than "Franklin, the whiniest turtle in the world."

Get the Pee Wee Herman show and teach your 4-year-old the Pee Wee Herman dance.

Sean E said...

"...did you ever notice Dora never says please or thank you?"

Come to think of it you're right. Yet in her Book of Manners, she lectures the Grumpy Old Troll about it!

The worst thing about Franklin is the Bruce Cockburn theme song (Dammit, now I have "If I had a Rocket Launcher" in my head).

Dang. Just noticed a typo in my initial comment: "Grab you backpak!". I'm making Dora sound like Jaime the Science Friend.

Henry said...

Sean E -- oh that strikes a chord.

I've tried to get my son to listen to my renditions of Moon River and That's Amore but all he wants is Coming Round the Mountain (thank you Nancy Cassidy). And if the Wiggles are on the car tape player, he doesn't want me singing along at all. "I can't hear!" he shouts.

So, for now, my daughter gets the songbook songs. Until she can talk, I suppose.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I've been listening to Sam & Dave, so I'm glad to have "Soul Man" going through my head instead of Dora the Explorer.

Henry said...

Oh, and to answer Ann's question -- well now "That's Amore" is playing in my head and I'm not sure what was playing before.

Probably "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants which is a general "getting things done" song for me.

Joseph Angier said...

That's a song that's popped into my head almost every day for over three decades (probably because I did use to hang out in Times Square). But I always thought that Uncle Lou was saying that he had "horns and fins" - an unlikely mix of species, I know, but one that rhymes better with "the shape I was in." What does Ballard think?

Ann Althouse said...

Joseph: I thought it was "horns and fins" too! Is it? I don't know whether to trust that dumb lyrics site more than my own ears. Neither lyric makes much sense to me.

Ann Althouse said...

If Lou is reading, he should email me.

Dave said...

Song that's in my head now?

"Baby one more time." Britney Spears.

sbutler said...

I've had a song from March of the Wooden Soldiers in my head all day. The one they play when they start up the soldiers...

No idea why.

Mike said...

The wheels on the bus go round and round
round and round
round and round.

the wheels on the bus go round and round...

you're all very welcome.!

Troy said...

Ann et al. Here's a good sight for clearing up lyrics. DOn't know if Lou Reed is on here, but it's worth a look-see.
Excuse me while I kiss the sky! Many thought Jimi was expressing a homonormativelip exercise. They also clear up the old Manfred Mann "douche" controversy.

wildaboutharrie said...

Oh, mmmbeer, you have a toddler also?

As for Ann's post, my family is Catholic and never put much stock in faith healers. second cousin had lupus, went to a healer, and was cured. She waited till she was well for a few years to tell anyone, just in case it was a fluke.

This was around 15 years ago, and she's still lupus-free.

brylin said...

Let's see. 1972. Times Square, NYC. Lou Reed. Transformer. How about "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" being more appropriate for Mr. Ballard? Sounds like someone's NYU days?

vbspurs said...

"Baby one more time." Britney Spears.

Oh, you bastid!

Make it stop, mum, make it stop...


vbspurs said...

St. Germain is a very common Parisian appellation.

The area around the Sorbonne (St. Germain du Pres), the local Parisian football club (Paris St. Germain), etc. etc.

I wonder if Lou found his first love in Paris.


mr. weg said...

"playing in my head? Today it's been John Wesley Harding's version of Hamlet."

Isn't that John Wesley Harding's rendition of Martin Carthy's version of Adam MacNaughtan's Hamlet?

bill said...

Mr Weg, yes. In my original comment, the mp3 link is to the JWH website and explains how he came to his version and the lyrics link takes you to MacNaughtan's original lyrics.

Mary said...

I've been to St. Germain Wisconsin. Big summer flea market. Beautiful area.

"Located within minutes of Boulder Junction, Eagle River, Minocqua and Rhinelander Wisconsin; we are in the center of it all."

XWL said...

In a post called 'what song is playing in your head' following a post called 'always look on the bright side of life' how could it be possible that nobody mentioned the song from "Life of Brian"

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad,
Other things just make you swear and curse,
When you're chewing life's gristle,
Don't grumble,
Give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best.

Always look on the bright side of life.
Always look on the light side of life.

If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten,
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps,
Don't be silly chumps.
Just purse your lips and whistle.
That's the thing.

Always look on the bright side of life.
Always look on the right side of life,

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin.
Give the audience a grin.
Enjoy it. It's your last chance, anyhow.

Always look on the bright side of death,
Just before you draw your terminal breath.

Life's a piece of shit,
When you look at it.
Life's a laugh and death's a joke it's true.
You'll see it's all a show.
Keep 'em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

Always look on the bright side of life.
Always look on the right side of life.

Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life!

(honestly, as soon as I saw the title for the post about the chinese prisoner I heard whistling in my head.)