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Do you like 'Little Boxes'?

DigiTrad:
BURY ME IN MY OVERALLS
FROM WAY UP HERE
IF YOU LOVE ME
JUST A LITTLE RAIN
LITTLE BOXES
LITTLE BOXES RE-VISITED
MAGIC PENNY
MAGIC PENNY
ROSIE JANE
THE BANKERS AND THE DIPLOMATS
THE BOY SALUTES
THE MONEY CROP
TURN AROUND


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No Closing Chord - Tribute to Pete (4)
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Lyr Req: The Little Land (Malvina Reynolds) (16)
World in Their Pocket (Malvina Reynolds) (4)
Lyr Add: Andorra (Malvina Reynolds) (4)
Origins: Morningtown Ride (Malvina Reynolds) (40)
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Lyr Req: The Man in the Mask (Malvina Reynolds) (3)
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Lyr Add: God Bless the Grass (Malvina Reynolds) (23)
Malvina Reynolds - World Gone Beautiful (4)
Lyr Req: Let Us Come In (Malvina Reynolds) -Seeger (3)
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Lyr Add: Alone (Malvina Reynolds) (1)
BS: Whats the point of Andorra (43)
Lyr/Chords Req: Morningtown Train (M Reynolds) (6) (closed)
Tune Req: Turn Around (Malvina Reynolds) (4) (closed)
Lyr Add: Little Tourists (Little Boxes parody) (12)
Lyr Add: Faucets Are Dripping (Malvina Reynolds) (5)
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Two new Folk Sites (Malvina Reynolds!) (7)
Lyr Req: No Hole in My Head (Malvina Reynolds) (7)
Help ...'The Magic Penny' (10)
Malvina Reynolds tribute (26)
Tune Req: If You Love Me (Malvina Reynolds) (5)
Lyr Req: Battle of Maxton Field (Malvina Reynolds) (9)
(origins) Origins: I Don't Mind Failing (Malvina Reynolds) (7)
Lyr Req: Morningtown Ride (Malvina Reynolds) (12)
Lyr Add: Peace Isn't Treason (Malvina Reynolds) (3)
Need a Song - Morningtown Ride (5)
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Tune Req: It Isn't Nice (Malvina Reynolds) (4)
Lyr Req: male version of 'Turn Around' (M Reynolds (6) (closed)
Lyr Req: Pied Piper (Malvina Reynolds) (6)
Lyr Add: The New Restaurant (Malvina Reynolds) (3)
Lyr Req: Bury Me in My Overalls (Malvina Reynolds) (20)


MGM·Lion 08 Sep 09 - 05:36 AM
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GUEST,Chris B (Born Again Scouser) 08 Sep 09 - 05:47 AM
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Subject: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:36 AM

I have just started another thread about tune of this song [Folk Borrowing From Pop]. There is more to say about the words of the song, however; so rather than introduce 'drift' so soon into my own thread I am starting another.

I have never liked it [& was once fortunate enough at a London party to meet Malvina Reynolds & have the opportunity to tell her why]. It seems to me to be an ill-natured and unwarranted attack on the legitimate aspirations and lifestyles of a perfectly respectable and hardworking segment of the community who have not, so far as I can see, done anything to deserve such contempt and obloquy — wtf should 'doctors and lawyers and business executives' be expected to put up with being denounced as being 'all made out of ticky-tacky and all look[ing] just the same'?]

I know I am viewing the matter from 3000+ miles away; but our communities, and our housing-estates, over here are not that much different. Why this attack on these ordinary hardworking citizens and their chosen lifestyles?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:41 AM

I agree MtheGM, but Little Boxes has always been a perfect model for the inverted snobbery / sneery middle class condescension that haunts 'folk' and as such, a good reminder of the mindset we're dealing with.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: autoharpbob
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:42 AM

I liked it enough to nick the tune and put my own words to it - thereby removing that which offends you so much!

Little Boxes

Little Boxes, full of medicine
And homeopathic remedies
Little tablets, pills and capsules
Analgesics for my pains.
There's a white one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
There's the one for high cholesterol
And the one that keeps me sane

There's the tinctures and the linctuses
And the Deep Heat and the Actifed
Stuff in spray cans, dropper bottles,
Tins and boxes everywhere.
Then there's Germolene, and there's Vaseline,
And Cetirizine and Glucosamine,
Stuff to make me lose some bodyweight
Or to stop me losing hair.

Simvastatin, Ibuprofen
Antihistamines and simple aspirin
From the doctors and the health store
In their childproof jars and bubble packs.
Then there's minerals and multivitamins
St Johns Wort and cod liver oil.
For diarrhoea or constipation
There's Imodium and Ex-Lax

Every illness has an answer
Every ache and pain an antidote
Take some pills until you rattle
Rub some cream on, twice a day
I guess doctors won't be happy
Till the whole world are hypochondriacs
But there's no pill can stop you dying
And there must be a better way.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: alex s
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:43 AM

1960s contempt for the conservative lifestyle? Or maybe, as Billy Fury put it so succinctly - "Jealousy".........


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Chris B (Born Again Scouser)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:47 AM

Well said glueman. Mind you, I hadn't even thought about this song in years until MtheGM mentioned it and I imagine that's true for a lot of people.

I think the attitude we're talking about goes a long way beyond folk music (or 'roots music' or 'world music' or whatever it's called this week). I think it can be found right across the subsidised arts world among people whose livings depend to one extent or another on the taxes of exactly the sort of hard-working, decent people they take such pleasure in taking the piss out of.

Mind you, I still have a laugh at the thought of folk singers playing songs about saving the planet on Brazilian Rosewood guitars.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:48 AM

Delighted to be getting such support so quickly. & I thought your version was superb, AHBob - you are a credit to us autoharpists [tho I must admit I haven't played mine for a while].


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:56 AM

Whitsun Bank Holiday 1964 - The lads in the Swahili Coffee Bar in Weston Super Mare did a rewrite - Little Tourists - which I stll churn out now and then !


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:04 AM

Well, I haven't heard it - but I suspect that Weston-S-M might just DEPEND on its tourists in the way that we all DEPEND on those doctors & lawyers...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Acorn4
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:12 AM

I think you've got to take the song in the context of the time it was written. The song was a very valid questioning of accepted norms, though it does seen very dated these days.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:28 AM

The lads in the Swahili Coffee Bar in Weston Super Mare did a rewrite - Little Tourists

Snide comments from people without a mirror, I expect.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:28 AM

I always thought the song was more about the sterility of the kind of dispiriting urban sprawl architecture known as Tract housing.

Also known as 'cookie-cutter housing', a style of housing development in which multiple identical or nearly-identical homes are built to create a community.
Tract housing developments may encompass dozens of square miles but only makes use of a very few designs in order to reduce labour costs

housing developments near Markham, Ontario.

I'm also reminded of Alex Glasgow's song -

Take your Mary Baker City Mix and mix yourself a city to a plan,
Full of instant plastic palaces, homogenized, untouched by human hand.
Add a central plate glass precinct where pedestrians can stroll around and cry
As they see the blackened embers of an older and more richer city die.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:41 AM

Yes, but Little Boxes doesn't only denounce the architectural merit of the houses, but goes on to denounced the people who live in them — & that is thoroughly bloody disgusting, to my mind... which is why I OP'd this thread.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:03 AM

Well you see MtheGM I actually find the parody in the DT which equally pokes fun at an alternative life style amusing whch, in its own way, is just as 'conventional' as playing golf and drinking dry martinis.

Don't you think 'denounce' and 'throughly disgusting' is a tad OTT - the song pokes fun at conventional life styles which fit people into little boxes from birth onwards and ensures 'they all grow up the same'!

LITTLE BOXES RE-VISITED
(Dick McCormack)

Little Boxes on the hillside
Little Boxes filled with macrame
Little Boxes on the hillside
Little Boxes all the same

And the women all wear over-alls
And grow organic vegetables
And their jewelry comes from Pakistan
And it all looks just the same

And the men are into leathercraft
Or else they're into pottery
And they're getting their heads together
And their head are all the same

Little Boxes on the hillside
Little Boxes full of Escher prints
Little Boxes on the hillside
Little Boxes all the same

And the children go to daycare
Where the girls all are aggressive
And the little boys are nice and passive
So they all grow up the same

And they all read Kurt Vonnegut
And Carlos Castanada
And they all ski in Colorado
And it all comes around the same

Little Boxes on the hillside
Little Boxes full of Kliban cats
Little Boxes on the hillside
Little Boxes all the same

Little Boxes on the hillside
Little Boxes full of spider plants
Little Boxes on the hillside
Little Boxes all the same

@parody
Copyright Dick McCormack

Anyways, if it's good enough for Pete Seeger ....


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: matt milton
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:09 AM

Yeah it's quite unpleasant, and a bit of an own-goal in many ways. It epitomizes that rather adolescent sneery and superior attitude that the left, or anarchists, or activists of every stripe are guilty of at their worst.

I think it's a song that demands to be rewritten. I only heard it for the first time recently, and I reckon it's easily recuperable. A contemporary version could definitely withstand a few self-directed lines about complacent singers with guitars, for instance. Trust-fund dropouts and the like...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: matt milton
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:20 AM

"Anyways, if it's good enough for Pete Seeger ...."

I was kind of surprised that Pete Seeger was associated with that song. It's uncharacteristic of him. Like Utah Phillips, Seeger's generally too savvy to bother with that kind of puerile sneeriness. Middle-class children slagging off their parents for being square. Most people grow out of that.

The civil rights marches were, of course, entirely composed of hippies and anarchists. Not a single doctor or lawyer in there. Oh no.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Stu
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:28 AM

Well, I'll stick up for it.

I think it's a comment on the vacuous nature of modern life. People following pre-ordained career pathways, aspiring to nothing beyond the material and settling for a life of 2.4 children and unswerving loyalty to the status quo. They never think outside their little boxes and perhaps suffer some existential angst as a result that keeps them consuming.

I think back to the huge housing estates some of my mates lived on where I grew up, Dad off to the golf club on a Sunday morning, mum cooking lunch, living rooms with a huge telly and no books. Given I grew up in that aspirational middle-class mindset I can see exactly what she means.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:31 AM

I grew up with an outside bog, no bath and cold taps. A nice clean warm box on a hillside would have been a dream.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:45 AM

I think it's a comment on the vacuous nature of modern life.

It was written 47 years ago...

You're dead wrong anyway: Dad off to the golf club on a Sunday morning, mum cooking lunch, living rooms with a huge telly and no books. simply never existed.

Ed


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:45 AM

An outside bog, no bath and cold taps? Luxury! Now, when I were a lad...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:58 AM

When I was young and foolish and used to listen to Little Boxes (never sang it myself), I always thought it was more about the fixed mindset of middle, corporate America as portrayed in American TV shows and TV ads of the time. The 2.5 children, the plethora of white goods in the kitchen, the perfect, sweet family unit unsullied by individuality or anything other than keeping up with the neighbours and the status quo.

Which is what rebellious, non-too intellectual, folk-oriented young people thought in those days. It was really a case of kicking against the pricks and rebelling, blah blah. I can't bear the song now as I think it trite beyond belief, but I think it had a certain resonance in those earlier days.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:59 AM

Well having looked up the lyrics, I'd be inclined to second Emma B's reading about private housing estates pumped out on a production line, which appear to appeal to a certain peculiarly sterile mindset. One, which actually appears (to my mind in any event, if the estates they've filled my own village with are anything to go by) to be at least as prevalent now as it may have been when origionally writ. Not sure I'd run with the jibe about "doctors and lawyers" though (Cue: "some of my best friends" etc. disclaimer), because these same houses occupants tend to echo Sugarfoot's description of "no books". Even so, I don't find the song unspeakably awful in any way.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:04 AM

"You're dead wrong anyway: Dad off to the golf club on a Sunday morning, mum cooking lunch, living rooms with a huge telly and no books. simply never existed."

Sure it does.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:05 AM

"the fixed mindset of middle, corporate America as portrayed in American TV shows and TV ads of the time. The 2.5 children, the plethora of white goods in the kitchen, the perfect, sweet family unit unsullied by individuality"

Like the image of America portrayed in Pleasantville?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: olddude
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:08 AM

I don't find the song offensive, it is like anything else a time and a moment to the author. Rows and rows of houses all exactly the same. The urban sprawl. I find it no more offensive than "red velvet steering wheel covered driver" that one would think is a slam on all older people. It is a moment in time frozen by the author. I never liked little boxes ... But there is no doubt the impact she had on folk music. If I like the song I will sing it, if I don't I just ignore it.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:18 AM

I think that, as with so many other things, you had to be there. This song meant a lot to me when I was thirteen years old. About the same time that Peter, Paul, and Mary had the big hit with "Blowing In The Wind". It speaks to the collective post-Depression post-war denial that anything rather bad had just happened or would ever happen again, as long as Senator McCarthy and his ilk were committed to their righteous crusade. Many people who'd grown up in the Dirty Thirties and come of age during WW II in North America were putting themselves, their selves, into little mental and spiritual boxes on purpose--the identical houses are only a very apt symbol. A few people of that generation, like Reynolds and, say, "the Beats", could see this, and so could us kids, which is why we were so eager to become hippies and live in shacks in the woods just as soon as that way of life was invented. And I don't think people in the UK can really understand this song--their experience of the war was too dire. Also Brits don't have the vast tracts of undeveloped land one finds (found) in California, so the scale of the ticky-tackiness is smaller--real estate development in the UK is almost always a matter of RE-development, usually with the local council taking an active interest rather than, as in the States, with a few local concillors simply taking graft.

All that being said, I've had "Little Boxes" on my mp3 player as part of a folk compilation lately and I find it unlistenable for all the reasons MtheGM and others cite. One ought to pity rather than revile the doctors and the lawyers and the business executives.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:20 AM

Malvina Reynolds's song "Little Boxes," made its debut in 1962.
It ridiculed the architecture of Westlake Daly City Califonia and gave us the expression ticky-tacky.

Nancy Reynolds, daughter of Malvina Reynolds, explains: quoted at wiki

"My mother and father were driving South from San Francisco through Daly City when my mom got the idea for the song. She asked my dad to take the wheel, and she wrote it on the way to the gathering in La Honda where she was going to sing for the Friends Committee on Legislation.
When Time Magazine (I think, maybe Newsweek) wanted a photo of her pointing to the very place, she couldn't find those houses because so many more had been built around them that the hillsides were totally covered"

Tom Lehrer (a hero of mine) desribed it as "the most sanctimonious song ever written," but this criticism would be totally buried by later developments in the late 60s, when removal to the suburbs became a polite synonym for "white flight"


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:27 AM

When I was about 15 years old, I included a reference to "little boxes made of ticky-tack"* in some speech or the other to an audience of African Americans as part of some Junior NAACP program.

I recall that the audience seemed to really like some parts of my speech, but was silent after my "little boxes" line that I had expected would be a zinger line that would elicit laughter or applause or something.

Giving it some thought directly after the speech, I realized that I hit too close to home (if you'll excuse that expression) with that line because some of those attending that function were probably proud new owners of those recently built houses. Part of my reason for including that reference to that song was to chide people for being self-satisfied and not reaching back in their comfort to help others. But I remember feeling bad that "little boxes made of ticky-tack" line kafter my speech because I was sneering. And I realized that my motivation was jealousy since I lived in the city's public housing project and I would have preferred to live in what would have been definitely a couple of steps up from that.

I've often thought about that speech. Because of how I felt afterwards, I realized that "sneering" doesn't become me, or at least I don't want it to. And since then I've tried to check myself out when it comes to why I want to say the things that I want to say.


*I'm very sure that I used the phrase "ticky-tack", not "ticky-tacky". That's interesting because something or someone being "tacky" (meaning "cheap") was and is still a common colloquial expression in the Black communities in which I've lived.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:38 AM

Like so much counter-cultural protest music it was informed by a position of affluence. For the dark heart of America enjoying itself, the Beach Boys have few equals. Nihilism with cool licks and harmonies. Worth a bagful of Little Boxes.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:42 AM

'Tacky' is a word much used over here too, Azizi: not racially or American specific, I don't think.

Emma B, I always admired Tom Lehrer also; but hadn't heard before that he was on my side over this song, & thanks for pointing that out — "sanctimonious": right, that's the word OK.

Matt Milton, I too was always surprised that Pete S should have so much associated himself with such a song.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:43 AM

In the same year (1962) Jacques Brel (another musical hero) performed his song Les Bourgeois
which mocked people who ridiculed the bourgeoisie in their youth only to become the same as them as they got older.

'So they all grow up the same' :)


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:53 AM

Jacques Brel could eat the morning newspaper and crap a better song than Little Boxes.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:53 AM

something or someone being "tacky" (meaning "cheap") was and is still a common colloquial expression...

Some here may be interested in the etymology of the word "tacky".

"[Tacky] is an American term dating from the 1860s (even older in its meaning of a poor quality horse or poor farmer) that only seems to have made inroads over here [in Britain] in the last few decades and which is still regarded as informal. And nobody seems to know where the word in that sense comes from, which is unsurprising as the whole history of tacky and its root noun tack is enough to confuse anyone.

The oldest usage of tack is that relating to the nail, which derives from an ancient Germanic word that is also the origin of the modern German Zacken, "prong; tooth", which entered English via the Old French tache, "fastening, nail". This seems mostly to have had the sense in English of something small or slight in the nail line, a fastener that is used to affix only a light object or to hold it temporarily...

There are related obsolete usages in, for example, coal-mining, a tack there being a temporary prop or scaffolding. Our other main sense of the adjective tacky seems to be derived from this slightly derogatory meaning, referring to some stuff, such as paint, glue or printing ink, which is not quite dry and which tends to stick, but only lightly.

So there is a recurring undercurrent in these senses of something insubstantial or temporary. Could it be that the peculiarly American sense of tacky grew out of this feeling of lack of substance or value? It would not be so far fetched.

There are, of course, other senses of tack, of which the one relating to horse harness and the like seems to be an abbreviation of tackle, a word which derives from another Germanic root relating to any sort of equipment, as the OED comprehensively puts it, "apparatus, utensils, instruments, implements, appliances; equipment, furniture, gear". It seems to have been used like our gadget, thingummy or gubbins: a generalised hand-waving kind of term. It was particularly applied to the cordage and other equipment of ships' rigging, from which another sense of the abbreviated form tack was generated to mean the process of turning the ship's head across the direction of the wind.

This maritime connection is suggested by some authorities as being the origin of that pair of nineteenth century words hard tack and soft tack, since both are naval terms: hard tack for ship's biscuit and soft tack for bread. It could be that the other sense of something inferior attached to tack could also be playing a role, since they are basic rations which fill the stomach but do not engage the taste buds. But, just to complicate things further, the words tuck and tucker for food rations also seem to derive from the same Germanic original as tack, so there may be yet a third thread to take into account."

http://www.worldwidewords.org/topicalwords/tw-tac1.htm


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:55 AM

I'll never forget my first trip down US 101 after I moved to the Bay Area--I knew immediately that I was seeing the sight that had inspired Ms. Reynolds. Few songwriters have captured a vision as well as she did--and with such penetrating wit.

The development is called Westlake and is located in Daly City, immediately south of San Francisco. It was conceived, designed, and built by one Henry Doelger, completed around 1959. He grew up poor, and lacked formal education, but had ambition and a vision, which made him a sort of poster child for the generation that first moved to the suburbs. In fact, he built a home for himself there.

My family bought a brand new ticky tacky house, in a considerably more prosaic setting, and we saw ourselves, complete with our cookie cutter dreams, in that song. We liked it.
The Little Boxes as they are today .


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:07 AM

Thanks for that picture M.Ted. The great thing in it that they do NOT all look just the same. It's a big, diffuse estate indeed; but whoever designed it has been at pains to vary the colours, shapes, window-patterns &c of the houses to avoid the "all look just the same" FK.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Jeri
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:08 AM

In a Wikipedia article on Malvina Reynolds, her daughter Nancy Reynolds wrote:
"My mother and father were driving South from San Francisco through Daly City when my mom got the idea for the song. She asked my dad to take the wheel, and she wrote it on the way to the gathering in La Honda where she was going to sing for the Friends Committee on Legislation. When Time Magazine (I think, maybe Newsweek) wanted a photo of her pointing to the very place, she couldn't find those houses because so many more had been built around them that the hillsides were totally covered."
If you look at Daly City's website, there's a link to 'Westlake Book' about Little Boxes: The Architecture of a Classic Midcentury Suburb.

There are all sorts of reasons to get offended and I'm sure people here will eventually explore all of them, repeatedly, but criticizing 1950s era American architecture isn't something that seems very worthwhile.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:18 AM

Thanks Jeri — but, to quote another well-known song: Which side are you on?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:36 AM

Hi, Michael.

I didn't mean to imply that that word "tacky" was racially specific. However, I'm sure that there are some cultural differences in what some economic classes consider to be tacky. And I believe that there probably are some racial differences between what people within those economic groups consider to be tacky. Also, that what is defined as tacky is probably also influenced by people's age.

Let me share this example: I remember on occassion when a young African American mother whose two year old son was on my foster care caseload came to the agency for one of her twice monthly visits with her child. After hugging him she expressed to me (but not in these words) that she was appalled that her son's [African American] foster mother had dressed her son in a shirt with a figure of Mickey Mouse on it. She said to me "Miss Azizi, you know I don't play that. She has my son wearin Mickey Mouse!.

I knew where she was coming from, since among Black Americans (and non-Black Americans?) calling something "Micky Mouse" meant that it meant that it is the epitome of tackiness (for instance a "Micky Mouse watch or-in that instance-a Mickey Mouse shirt). And, for some reason or the other, "Mickey Mouse" also can carries a connotation of being a "sissy" (meaning the opposite of manliness/macho"). I think that that young mother meant both of these meanings when she complained about the shirt her son was wearing for her visit.

And yes, I did feel that it was ironic that the mother was focusing on what her son was wearing-tacky or not. I thought it was a nice looking shirt which went well with the pants and his tennis shoes (which the mother also complained about because they weren't made by some brand name company. But I realized that 1. many women with children in foster care often find petty things to complain about regarding their children's foster parents because they need to vent, and they need to feel that the foster mother could never be as good a parent to their children as they are. (which I know is ironical, but I think it's what they feel) and 2. bringing changes of clothes for their children (which is what I suggested that this mother do if she didn't like the clothes that the foster mother puts on her son) helps give birthparents some feeling of control in this situation, where clearly they have lost so much control.

**

There are 16 definitions for "mickey mouse" on http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mickey+mouse. Here's one that is similar to one definition of "tacky":

3.Mickey Mouse
To build or repair something shoddily and with substandard materials.
Who built this Mickey Mouse thing anyway?

-snip-

Here's another definition for "mickey mouse" that is the same as the word tacky's "cheap" definition:

1. mickey mouse
Substandard, poorly executed or organized. Amateurish.
Who's in charge of this mickey mouse operation, anyway?

-snip-

For what it's worth, #16 definition pf mickey mouse refers to homosexuals. But I'm not going to quote the sentence example that was given.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Stu
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:37 AM

"You're dead wrong anyway: Dad off to the golf club on a Sunday morning, mum cooking lunch, living rooms with a huge telly and no books. simply never existed."

You're dead wrong Ed - this is from personal experience.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:45 AM

Incidentally, if you like   "Little Boxes", you'll love There's A Pawnshop on a Corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from Guy Mitchell, back in 1952.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Charmion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:55 AM

I live in a house constructed of spit and sawdust (well, actually plywood with vinyl siding) in 1998 by a speculative builder. It is one of 16 that all look just the same, in a wee development of freehold townhouses in downtown Ottawa. Across the street is a brick condominium development comprising some 25 townhouses that also look just like each other. At the end of the street is a co-operative of several rows of townhouses with board-and-batten facing that -- amazing! -- all look just the same, except for the variations in paint colour. South of our street is a large district of brick-faced public (i.e., council) townhouses constructed during the 1970s, also all looking just like all the others.

Our neighbourhood, Lower Town, was bulldozed during the 1950s when Ottawa went on a spree of urban renewal. Today's tidy rows of townhouses, each with handkerchief-sized front and back gardens, replaced Victorian rows of two-up, two-down workers' houses with pot-bellied stoves for heating and privies at the bottom of the garden for sanitation. Not all had electric light, so the residents used kerosene lamps. Fires were frequent, and nasty diseases were common. My mother and her sister grew up in that neighbourhood, and like many of their generation they cheered the arrival of the bulldozers. My mother is long dead, but my aunt thinks Lower Town has improved immensely.

Personally, I love my modern spit-and-sawdust house. The windows all open and shut as they are supposed to. The floors are flat, the walls are plumb, and the corners remarkably close to square. Doors don't stick, although I occasionally wish for better quality hardware. The plumbing works with delightful efficiency.

And the uniformity of the basic structure is misleading. Outside they're all the same, but inside the houses are as different as the families that live in them. The ticky-tacky exterior is mere camouflage.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Acorn4
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:59 AM

We moved onto a new estate last year - it's quite a fair sized box, but builders these days do try to vary the design - I suppose 'chocolate box' would be a good description - slightly different shapes and colours but basically the same thing.

Once again, I've no particular liking for the song,or no particular dislike, but you can pull any song to bits if you've a mind. If they'd put in bankers rather than doctors or lawyers would we be thinking differently.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 10:00 AM

As per the pictures, MtheGM, keep in mind that you're comparing Westlake to to the sprawling tracts that have come in the years since, and not to the verdant rolling hills that they had been only a couple years before our beloved Malvina immortalized it in song.

It is a jarring experience to drive down a familiar road and suddenly see townhouses on hillsides that were covered with trees the last time you saw them--


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 10:04 AM

I happen to live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The street scenes have changed from those shown in that YouTube recording/photo collage whose link is given above. But I'm here to let everyone who is interested know that there still are a few pawn shops in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (though I don't believe that any of them are in the downtown business section).

The "clock" referenced in the song-which is affixed to a department store on the corner of two of the main streets-is also still there. And, so far, even though the department store changed names some years ago, "under Kaufmann's clock" is still where lots of people arrange to meet those who might be unfamiliar with the city's downtown area.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 10:16 AM

I actually had a choice between posting that clip and one that showed an old Victrola, Azizi, and I thought you'd like the pictures.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 10:38 AM

It's a song that's of its time.
I was 10 years old when it was current and, to me, it was just another novelty/comedy song like the others I heard during Summer Holidays on the BBC Light Programme(mostly on 'Housewives Choice'). My favourites were 'Right Said Fred' and 'Gossip Calypso' by Bernard Cribbins, 'That Noise' by Anthony Newley, and 'Transistor Radio' by Benny Hill. There were a lot more, many of them masterminded by one George Martin in his doldrum days at Parlophone before the Beatles came along.
It was also during this period that I first heard Flanders and Swann, a life-changing revelation for me and, I know, so many others.
So to return to the point, 'Little Boxes' never struck me then as a song of protest.
It does now, of course, but only as a song of very mild protest..


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MissouriMud
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:09 AM

I spent the 60s in the Bay area in college and law school and the Daly City residential areas were definitely a subject of derision.Daly City was one of the first large planned residential developments in the country and it looked different from what most of had ever seen before. The houses were not identical - but they were similar enough that when one passed them driving on the highway they all looked the same and very box like, except for the pastel colors - there was a pink one and a green one and a blue one and a yellow one etc. We all joked that after dark it would be impossible to find ones house, assuming that one could only differentiate them by color - ie the eighth green house on the left. Also for a suburban setting (at the time) the streets were set out in a grid which put the houses in perfect rows all evenly spaced which contributed to the image of sameness. All of this was exacerbated by the fact that the development was on a hillside so that it's full expanse was splayed out in plane view of the adjacent highway - so you got the full visual impact as you drove by (which is all we ever did).

What the houses were made of one couldnt tell from the highway but they had the appearance of being made from less substantial stuff than what we had been brought up in, looking like cardboard models you would get for a train set. While these days we are very used to "housing developments" with large blocks of housing all based on similar floor plans (although now a days developers take more care in having different front options and windier streets) made out of plywood and sheet rock, back then we were not and it was indeed a jarring sight.   

My recollection is that it was more middle class than low income housing, so that the people who lived there were "people like us" - as we students were aspiring doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants etc. So the area gave rise to the internal reaction - "is this what the future holds for me?" which was a lot different looking than the vision that a lot of us had of our future lives. It definitely made you feel that "when you grew up" you wanted to live in a place that seemed a bit more special and had less sameness.

These days Daly City doesnt really look very different than a lot of places and most of us ended up living in some sort of "planned residential community" at some point after all so in retrospect the derision may have been unfair. However the song definitely resonated with us at the time in the sense of embodying our feeling that we wanted a different dream than ending up in a place with that much similarity - we wanted life to be special and to live in a special place. So to me the song was always about middle class sameness - similar in a way to Mellencamp's Pink Houses in terms of asking "is that all we get?". Perhaps derision that was heaped on Daly City did encourage developers to try thereafter to make affordable suburban housing a bit more varied looking


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Jeri
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:13 AM

Which side am I on? I grew up in a community that had some ticky-tacky houses and I saw loads of them. They're cheesy.

Keep in mind that if you dislike making fun of mass-produced, popular things, you must never make fun of B******er beer, American Idol and whatever it is in the UK, McDonald's, Walmart.

What I find most offensive is that you're equating a fortysomething year old piss-take on housing popular in America fortysomething years ago with "an ill-natured and unwarranted attack on the legitimate aspirations and lifestyles of a perfectly respectable and hardworking segment of the community". People are not equal to the stuff sold to them, and to think they are is stereotyping.

Not only that, but saying today's American 'segment' is the same as the 1950s American 'segment' is leaving the whole pop culture reference out and... stereotyping of people. It's all "middle class Americans bought crap back then and we know they still do, but we shouldn't make fun of the disadvantaged." I never had one of those houses. My family lived in the house my grandparents built and couldn't afford the ticky-tacky houses that the doctors, lawyers and engineers could. I didn't have much of a problem making fun of people with more money than I had and for the choices they made. Luckily, most of the people I've met who lived in those 'little boxes' had a bit of a sense of humor about them.

And in any case, the cookie-cutter houses are a bit different these days:

Now the boxes on the hillside are sold cheap at 300K
And they all got foreclosed on as the interest rate rolled
There's a sign on the front lawn that says a house is for sale again
And other signs on other lawns and none of them say 'sold'.

Cuz there's taxes on the houses and the houses are in New Hampshire
And no one can pay the taxes unless they rob a bank
There's a closed one and a closed one and another one that's almost done
And the banks own all the mortgages and that's why they tanked

(I know--f I had a day job, I wouldn't give it up.)


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Rog Peek
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:19 AM

I just never liked the song. Not for any political reasons, didn't like the tune, so never really listened to the words.

Rog


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: bobad
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:21 AM

When I first drove by Daly City, back around 1971, the song immediately came to mind, not having known that this was the inspiration for it.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: catspaw49
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:32 AM

Sure....who doesn't? Nothing like a tight fit and all.................say what?   Oh..............song huh? Never mind........


Spaw


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:41 AM

I took exception to it musically; but as commentary it was spot on. And no, it is not an attack on a class of people with aspirations. It is an attack on a civilization that commits itself to ugly. The agreements between the developers, the city managers, the architects and buyers that uglification is an optimum path is the pathetic target of Ms Reynolds sardonic lyric, not the desire of people to live somewhere.

The homes of Daly City and of other fast-flow developments in the 60's from New Jersey to San Diego were built on an equation of speed and profit over aesthetic. Like the worst of British row-housesa the problem is not that they were inexpensive but they suffered from the most moribund kind of pedestrian vision in their design.

Settling for cookie-cutter existence is a bit of a sin.


A


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: PHJim
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:42 AM

I wonder how Malvina would like the "Weeds" commercial.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:52 AM

'what I find most offensive is that you're equating a fortysomething year old piss-take on housing popular in America fortysomething years ago with "an ill-natured and unwarranted attack on the legitimate aspirations and lifestyles of a perfectly respectable and hardworking segment of the community".

I know it's an old song Jeri. But I have known it from the start & always felt that way about it. However i didn't have Mudcat to air the view on then. & the responses I've been getting on here are mainly of my way of thinking you must admit. If you look at my OP above, you will see this thread grew from another I had just posted about the TUNE ['Folk borrowing from pop'], which reminded me how much I have ALWAYS hated the bloody song, not just lately as you seem peculiarly accusing me above: so i wondered if i was alone in this. From Tom Lehrer on,[see ref to his ur-view of it in one of postings above] it seems I'm not! I explain in the OP that I made two separate threads, one on words and one on tune, to avoid 'drift'.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:56 AM

'that uglification is an optimum path is the pathetic target of Ms Reynolds sardonic lyric, not the desire of people to live somewhere.'

Oh, so it was ok for her to say that the people who lived there [Drs, lawyers, biz exexs] were likewise all made out of ticky-tacky & all looked just the same, was it, Amos? Personally, as you will gather, I think not...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: olddude
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:58 AM

How about

Hey , don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got till it's gone
They paved paradise to put up a parking lot


Joni Mitchell

and the difference is ?

I swear if we could not find something to argue about we would invent it.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: matt milton
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:03 PM

Pete Seeger's songs 'Garbage', 'Cement Octopus' and 'Bless the Grass' are much better. They avoid any sneeriness while still describing a problem. Utah Phillips' 'All Used Up' is also a good case in point. Or pretty much ANY song by X Ray Spex.

Purely AESTHETIC dissatisfaction with capitalism is always naff, a bit Sting, a bit Prince Charles.

Those cookie-cutter doctors, spending all those years learning how to make people well. Robots!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:04 PM

Every since my childhood friend came home from summer camp singing it I've hated the tune of this song. Hearing that pawnshop song just reinforces that opinion. The melody is trite and sing-songy, Lawrence Welkian.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Songbob
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:08 PM

Popular culture has a lot to answer for.


Bob


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:11 PM

I think Joni Mitchell was making a completely diff point olddude; and she didn't go on to make rude, belittling remarks about the people who parked their cars in the lot, did she? Even if they did pay a dollar-&½ to see the trees in the tree-museum, it's the people who charge the money who her targets, not their victims.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:18 PM

Just curious to know how many American posters (considering it's about a particular American development) are offended by the song? As we Brits are (in the main it seems) much more bothered by issues pertaining to 'class'.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:22 PM

Those cookie-cutter doctors, spending all those years learning how to make people well. Robots!

This is an inappropriate comparison; doctors are not on public display, blasting across public landscapes. Engineering and science benefit from correctly applied uniformity, but human souls do not thrive on it unless it is very sensitively designed. Which is almost an oxymoron. Viva la difference. There are some cultures which capitalize on the similarities between people and the "we're all the same as one another" mentality to keep large numbers of people under control within tolerable limits. Allowing individual expression in housing, for example, is heavily frowned on in some complexes which have codes you must abide by not to disrupt the normality of appearances.

My opinion--and I think Malvina's--is that this is a tragic compromise of the commons and should be resisted where it may.


A


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: olddude
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:40 PM

when you listen to almost any song there is something in it that doesn't fit perhaps. Most song writers write in the moment. I am sure the little boxes pressed her buttons at the time. I wrote a song called "Chasing the Wind" in it is a line "when it comes to a city girl a cowboy never wins" does that mean I dislike city girls. It was a song about a make believe breakup and nothing more. I think we can find that in almost any song if we look hard enough.   This song is just bad. Never liked the melody, liked the lyrics even worse. To me it is not worth playing however it is probably much gentler than anything on the radio today. That is where the objection should be directed. Have you heard the gansta rap references to women. That should press everyone's buttons I think. Not a 50 year old song that has been long forgotten. I hear young HS school kids throwing the N word around because of their rap hero's ... to me that is sad ...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: matt milton
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:40 PM

"Little boxes, all the same.
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky"

Damn right it's an inappropriate comparison. One made by that crass and stupid song! Which is why I said what I said.

Sure, the song's a product of its time. But funnily enough, there were people around then, the same age as the person that wrote that song, who were a lot more sociopolitically astute who would never have dreamed of saying anything that crappy.

You're talking about the song as if it is simply complaining about cheap housing unnecessary despoiling a countryside. But that's not even the half of it.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:44 PM

The melody is deliberately trite. The song is a satire--it isn't supposed to be nice--it is supposed to use the razor of wit to expose the truth.

And yes,, doctors, lawyers, and business executives have become cookie-cuttered commodities. You and I know that they are human beings (actually that, "We are human beings"), and Malvina Reynolds knew it too, and that was her whole point--the machine that pounds out cookie cutter houses does exactly the same thing to people.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: open mike
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:44 PM

if you see that photo that shows these houses for miles...
you might begin to understand what Malvina was referring to.

of course they are not all exactly the same -- as the verse
says there are pink ones, and yellow ones, etc.(paraphrasing)

It was a statement of the times and I find it tells a very
good story. I can[t imagine anyone taking offense at it.

I am guessing there is not such an example of urban sprawl
in UK since most who find fault with the song are "Yookers"


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MissouriMud
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 12:47 PM

I have always assumed that Malivina intended the song - words and melody - to be in the form of a children's song, so yes it is a simplistic trite melody with simple words.   Basically asking non adults (or others who have not yet achieved "success") is this what you really dream to achieve - in a pointed way that is admittedly critical of those who had achieved it. To me the song is dated and doesn't hold up that well but not overly offensive. It criticizes what some people felt was middle class success.   Probably could have been done more subtly but in the 60s we often criticized other people's life choices - in speech or in song - quite directly. Is there really something wrong with songs that are critical of other people?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: matt milton
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:04 PM

"And yes,, doctors, lawyers, and business executives have become cookie-cuttered commodities"

No more so than 1960s folk singers.

I'm guessing what most people find objectionable to the song is its huge arrogance.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:08 PM

I loved that film about all those American wives,having a nice day ,as they passed each other in the supermarket,What was it called?,something wives.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: TonyA
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:08 PM

'Little Boxes' doesn't criticize middle class success per se, but rather the scourge of the U.S. suburban housing development, and through that the social irresponsibility of any successful middle class people who chose to use their wealth to support such a blight.

The problem of the suburban housing development is not the bland sameness of the houses, but the degradation of both the city and the countryside, and the alienation of city dwellers from the natural world as the borders of cities are increased exponentially, plus the extreme demands it places on fossil fuels due to the long distances that suburb dwellers have to travel and the impossibility of serving such a widely spread population with public transport (not to mention the long distances that utilities and services have to travel to supply the suburban house), as well as things like the loss of valuable farmland and the transformation from a walking, interactive lifestyle to one of car-driving, social isolation, and lack of exercise, and let's not forget the racism and general misanthropy and egotism that motivated and are encouraged by the move to the suburbs, and the militant imperialism needed to supply such a culture with the resources it so wastefully consumes.

But it's difficult to express all that in a song, so people tend to focus on the sham aristocracy in the visual appearance, as Kurt Vonnegut did also, describing a development of "three thousand dream houses for three thousand families with presumably identical dreams."


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:21 PM

'Not a 50 year old song that has been long forgotten. '

Oh, right, olddude. That's why I've got, so far, close on the 100 hits on this thread in one day...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:23 PM

Tony is capturing the actual motivation of the song more closely. The problem it seeks to underscore is one of human compromise, walking away from individual commitments to integrity and aesthetics and individual soul for the sake of mass low-dollar building, very profitable to the builders, very costly to the souls, and subscribed to by the managers of the cities, counties, and states where these rather ugly housing developments sprang up.

Compared to the housing scarcity extremes of the 40's, when people sometimes had to live in converted chicken coops because housing was so scarce, I suppose the Levittowns were a great success. But it was antithetical to human values which in the long run mighntprove to be more important.


A


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: olddude
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:34 PM

I think it is because most are like me, haven't thought of the song in decades until you posted it ... but ask yourself this, when is the last time you heard it performed live by anyone? or on the radio, even folk radio? if so I sure haven't but maybe it is played .. I can't think of where however. I cannot honestly think of when I ever heard it performed live by anyone but Pete a zillion years ago


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:41 PM

Sadly, the demand for 60's Folksinger Cookies has fallen below the demand for Zucchini/Chocolate Cheese Cookies.

I stopped at a traffic light the other day, right behind a car that was the same make, model, and color as mine. Then a third car, exactly the same, pulled up on the left. The driver of ahead pointed at me, then the car next to me, and then shrugged his shoulders--we all laughed--which is about all you can do--


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:42 PM

Off the topic here, but the mention of Garbage in an earlier post reminded me of a time at Festival back in the 70s (can't remember if it was Whitby - my first thought - or Sidmouth; both UK). A visiting American lady sang Garbage and at the chorus was met with resounding shouts of Rubbish, our common English word for the stuff, but somewhat unnnerving for the singer.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: olddude
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:44 PM

What someone should do is write a song about every car on the highway that looks exactly alike. I can't find my stupid car half the time when I park it at the shopping center, all the same little boxes with wheels. I am part of the problem i think


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:48 PM

stepforth wives,and they all had silicon enhanced busts and shiny white teeth,and dyed hair and they all were spoke the same,and they all looked after their golf playing husbands,have a nice day.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:51 PM

The Stepford Wives
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

    For the 1975 film see The Stepford Wives (1975 film), for the 2004 remake see The Stepford Wives (2004 film).

The Stepford Wives
First edition cover
First edition cover
Author         Ira Levin
Country         United States
Language         English
Genre(s)         Horror novel, Satire
Publisher         Random House
Publication date         September 1972
Media type         Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages         145 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN         ISBN 0-394-48199-2 (first edition, hardback)

The Stepford Wives. is a 1972 satirical horror novel by Ira Levin. The story concerns Joanna Eberhart, a photographer and young mother who begins to suspect that the frighteningly submissive housewives in her new idyllic Connecticut neighborhood may be robots created by their husbands. The novel has been viewed by some as a satire on stereotypical American housewives, as well as a study on feminism.

Two films of the same name have been adapted from the novel; the first starred Katharine Ross and was released in 1975, while a remake starring Nicole Kidman appeared in 2004. Edgar J. Scherick produced the 1975 version (as well as all the sequels) and was posthumously credited as producer in the 2004 remake.

The term "Stepford wife", which is often used in popular culture, stemmed from the novel, and is usually a reference to a submissive and docile housewife.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Jeri
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:52 PM

That's why they have that alarm/panic button thingie on the electronic door unlocker.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: olddude
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:54 PM

I have used that Jeri many times. It works great for locating your own little box with wheels


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MissouriMud
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 02:33 PM

I agree that the song is about compromise but I think it is about more than just housing.   It is about the group/individual values of becoming like everyone else - going to a university to think the same, coming out a lawyer or doctor or other acceptable profession, joining the country club, drinking the trendy drink and raising your kids to perpetuate the same thing - rather than becoming an impoverished itinerant folksinger, forest ranger, astronomer, or other such end that was what you really wanted to be but lost sight of along the way. The houses were just a pretty "easy to get" metaphor using a striking visual image of a real situation.   

It was cute little zinger of a song that has lost a lot of its meaning and perhaps relevance as a criticism of post WW2 US blahness, particularly if you can't visualize that hillside.   It is hard for me to sing now because I became a lawyer that lived in a housing development, sent my kid to summer camp and university etc .. How Bourgeouis! I still personally like the song, even though I dont sing it and it isnt played much these days - - it reminds me of the arrogance and idealism of my youth when I could act like I could change the world and control my own destiny - so basically the song now is about me and I dont mind the criticism.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: pdq
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 02:37 PM

San Francisco is 46.7 square miles at the top of a peninsula.

Land there has always been a scarse comodity and pricy.

The expansion south into South SF, Daly City and Pacifica (all San Mateo County) was done using as little land as possible.

The areas that are the subject of "Little Boxes" often had some sideyard. Many parts of "The City" have "zero lot line" housing meaning no sideyard at all. The constructuion style in San Mateo County, at that time and in that place, was reasonable under the circumstances.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 02:37 PM

When that panic thing goes off, I can't tell which direction the sound is coming from, and I panic.

When it comes to things that are all alike, we haven't gotten to the performers whose songs are all alike. I am not sure how many there even are, because they are all alike.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 02:45 PM

At least people who aspire to social conformity are being honest, what totally perplexes me are the regimented armies of "non-conformists" and "subversive" cliques that every generation pumps out on it's production line, prior to assimilation into more honest forms of conformity: We're Individuals!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Bill D
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 03:41 PM

Somewhere I have slides I took about 1970 from a plane window of that hillside with multi-colored "little boxes". I can well see how the image would inspire a song like Malvina wrote. I'm sure even SHE did not assume that the generalizations of the song fit everyone who lived there, but it sure made a statement about 'taste' and what often accompanies such taste.
I wonder if similar thoughts ever came to folks minds about Levittown, NY.

Why yes... I see from the article they did:

"Levittown" is also used as a derogatory term to describe suburban areas that appear overly-sanitized and constituted largely of tract housing--in other words, geographic areas that lack the apparent culture and vitality of an urban area. Later popular culture unease about the impact of these "Levittowns" on American cultural life would give rise to the idea of a damaging 'suburbia'."


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: ClaireBear
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 03:44 PM

In California in the fifties there was a certain desperate need to conform. My sisters who were in high school then (about 40 miles south of Daly City, in a very wealthy community) wanted nothing more than the matching pastel twinsets and ankle socks that all their friends wore -- but of course, the friends all had more money than we did. The individuality "forced" on my sisters by our relative lack of prosperity included Mexican peasant blouses, homemade skirts, Latin American shawls -- things that, growing up ten years later, I would have reveled in precisely because they would have allowed me to demonstrate my difference from that crowd.

I think that what Malvina Reynolds was commenting on was aspiring to lose oneself in the crowd, surrendering one's personal likes and tastes in a frenzied effort to look, sound and quite possibly think just like everybody else. It had little to do with architecture and profession, and everything to do with conformity.

My tuppence.

C


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 03:46 PM

I've watched only Season One of the Weeds television series, so I don't know for sure what they use for the opening sequence for later years - but I gather that they used a variety of artists.

This link (click) will lead you to a variety. Here are some of the more notable ones:

This Englebert Humperdinck Impersonator says that during the second and third seasons, the song was performed by almost thirty artists including The Submarines, Rise Against, Linkin Park, Regina Spektor, The Decemberists, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elvis Costello, Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, Tim DeLaughter, Mark Gunnery of Riot Folk, Randy Newman, Billy Bob Thornton, The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, Mates Of State, Persephone's Bees, Man Man, Joan Baez, Ozomatli, Rob Thomas, The Individuals and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
Another quote from The Impersonator:
    Little Boxes was written by Malvina Reynolds in 1962. The song, as sung by Womenfolk, is the shortest single ever to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 at 1 minute 3 seconds (1:03) in length. Many big-name vocalists have recorded this song, including Pete Seeger in 1963.



EmmaB and Jeri quoted Nancy (Reynolds) Schimmel, Malvina's daughter, above:
    "My mother and father were driving South from San Francisco through Daly City when my mom got the idea for the song. She asked my dad to take the wheel, and she wrote it on the way to the gathering in La Honda where she was going to sing for the Friends Committee on Legislation.
    When Time Magazine (I think, maybe Newsweek) wanted a photo of her pointing to the very place, she couldn't find those houses because so many more had been built around them that the hillsides were totally covered"


I suppose many of us in Northern California have our "Little Boxes" areas that we think best typify the song. For me, it's Pacifica, on the Peninsula just south of Daly City and San Francisco. Highway One north from Santa Cruz is a gorgeous drive, hugging the hillsides just above the rocky shore. It's wild, beautiful, dangerous country. Then you go 'round a bend and see hillsides covered with little stucco houses in pastel colors, and the natural beauty has been covered over by concrete and asphalt and stucco.

Yes, people have to have a place to live - but why can't they build on flat land? Wild areas like Pacifica should be reserved for low-density housing, or for open space.

Much of Marin County, north of San Francisco, almost suffered the same fate. Luckily, about a third of the county is parkland. Sometime Mudcatter Riggy Rackin lives in that area and has taken some wonderful photographs of Marin. My favorite place in the whole world is Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County (Click here for more info). The area is within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, an easy commute to San Francisco; and yet it's a wonderland of wildflowers, elephant seals, and whale watching. It was slated for development, and there are still foundations of houses that were built along the beach. Preservationists were successful in saving the land in the 1960s, and it's still there for everyone to enjoy.

Sure, there are "little boxes" developments all over the world, but few are in areas as beautiful as the Northern California coastline that Malvina wrote her song about. I'm glad that the "wild-eyed California bleeding-heart liberals" were able to prevail and preserve much of the coastline for public enjoyment. Many of us were inspired by Malvina's song.

Do I like "Little Boxes"? Well, I have to say that there's a sameness to the song that gets annoying if you hear it too often. I think that's part of Malvina's genious - she captured the annoying sameness of the houses in her song.

-Joe, proud to live in beautiful Northern California-


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 03:52 PM

"An outside bog, no bath and cold taps? Luxury! Now, when I were a lad..."

It's interesting that many people are so uncomfortable with admissions of poverty that they play artificial violins or put on imaginary Yorkshire accents.
For years poverty was something I was ashamed of and kept secret, then when it was distant enough to admit, it's brushed off as an inverted boast. It wasn't fun, it was grim and demeaning and those Little Boxes would have been a marvel in comparison.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:07 PM

Really enjoying reading the American posters comments on this thread. I think that the general "Yookers" reaction (to quote Open Mike - is that what you call us lot?) possibly say's more about the UK's ongoing sensitivity over class, than anything genuinely contained in the the song itself. I really appreciate threads like this, when they provide an intimate insight into others personal stories, history & culture.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:14 PM

"For years poverty was something I was ashamed of and kept secret,"

I don't think one needs to be 'in poverty' to feel ashamed of failing the affluence worthiness test. When I was in school (latter years of Juniors), one of the childrens favourite games was "What have you got?"
Not having a swimming pool or pony or even a microwave, I failed the worthiness test and of course was a "Pikey" or "Gyppo". Never did get must of a taste for "aspirational" thing since.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:23 PM

In 1962 I interpreted the song as being about conformity rather than architecture.

If I remember correctly, in 1962 the conformity that the little boxes represented was viewed as a symptom and/or cause of some serious problems within the society that gave birth to it. Some people felt that society was headed in the wrong direction and the only thing that could result in a "course correction" was non-confirmity. Next thing we knew there were the hippies.

It all made sense at the time.

Russ (permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:30 PM

Yes it's all relative I suppose Crow Sister, it's just now we're all middle class (like hell we are) poverty has been consigned to the history books - except where it hasn't of course.
I never got the aspirational thing either. We live on a nice road but 'only' in a Victorian cottage, though with a large garden backing onto woods admittedly. The new house people generally drive BMWs, 4 x 4s, Mercs and the like, while the really big houses on the road, Edwardian 7-bedders in their own grounds, drive 15 year old Skodas or beaten up Polos.

When you can afford whatever you like the desire fades. Easier not to desire it and live the lifestyle I say.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: sing4peace
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:41 PM

The first time I heard Little Boxes, I was nine years old, living at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. I was already feeling very concerned about the coerced conformity I saw all around me. I had never seen Levittown but I knew a box when I saw one - physically, spiritually, economically, artistically....

I remember sitting in my dad's car, listening to the radio as I waited for him to finish his errands. I heard a woman singing with a voice unlike any of the "pretty girl" singers that one is most likely to hear on any given day out of any given radio. This was a characteristically unique voice singing about a system where people are born, live, learn, breed and die in boxes that differ only slightly from each other. I burst into tears. I was so grateful that there was at least one other human being out there who was as disturbed by the cookie cutter mentality as I was.

Years later, I produced a tribute to Malvina Reynolds at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, RI. (July, 1993). Pete Seeger was our M.C. and it was recorded live by WGBH - Boston Public Radio. Sixteen different acts performed two songs each of Malvina's to demonstrate the wide range of her wit and poetry and the contemporary social relevance of much of her work. When Pete introduced Little Boxes at the end, he told the same story described earlier in these posts -by Nancy (Reynolds) Schimmel, Malvina's daughter . Pete then added that Malvina later came to have some regrets about writing the song as she encountered people for whom Levittown was a personal dream.

Because of the way the song impacted me that day sooooooo long ago, I have never forgotten how a single song is capable of reaching into our psyches and souls and completely altering -or reinforcing - our viewpoints.

Malvina, like most good writers, had opinions that evolved over the course of her career. She was just as quick to examine herself (Somewhere Between) as she was the vagaries of the corporatocracy "The World In Their Pockets". For those who are not too happy with the never ending military contract stimulus plan known as War, Inc. you might get a kick out of her "We Hate To See Them Go".

I think Malvina Reynolds was one of the more astute political songwriters of the sixties and seventies. Too bad that Little Boxes got all the attention. She also wrote some beautiful ballads too - check out "I Wish You Were Here".

In my opinion pigeonholes are for the birds. I'm pretty sure that's what Malvina was getting at. At least that's what I got out of it when I was nine years old.

To MtheGM: Are you advocating a lyrics policing squad to ensure that only "correct" lyrics are allowed? I see a lot in your posts where you engage in the same sort of "them and us" thinking that you are accusing Malvina of doing. It's a wonder anybody ever writes anything or dares to perform on stage considering the critic's galleries and their razor sharp correcting pencils.

To Matt Milton: Pete Seeger did not write God Bless the Grass - it was written by Malvina Reynolds in 1964. He didn't write Garbage either. That was written by Bill Steele in 1969. I don't know the Cement Octopus song so I can't help you there.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:42 PM

At least people who aspire to social conformity are being honest

Well, perhaps and perhaps not; there is a certain dishonesty in taking on the average as your own, whether from fear, laziness, apathetic indifference or disingenuous desire to manipulate. I think, however, it is not a dishonest act in itself, but rather a solution to prior dishonesties about who one really is, and what one really sees.


A


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:46 PM

"The new house people generally drive BMWs, 4 x 4s, Mercs and the like, while the really big houses on the road, Edwardian 7-bedders in their own grounds, drive 15 year old Skodas or beaten up Polos."

I recognise that picture well..


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:48 PM

I've never heard the term "Yookers." What I have heard is "Yoopers," who are residents of the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. But I suppose it works somewhat to have residents of the UK as "Yookers" - and then residents of the US would be "USers" or "Yoosers"???

I think I'll stick with "Yoopers" and forget the udders.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:49 PM

I reckon Little Boxes is one of those instances of 'two nations separated by a common language'. The US in the 50s and 60s probably outdid the UK for conformity - which is saying something. I don't believe we Brits could have generated Senator McCarthy, even our fascists like Mosely were a half-hearted, narcissistic bunch compared to their european counterparts.

We're a pretty bloody-minded lot as Mudcat is evidence to.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:46 PM

When we moved to the new estate in 1958, (England, South Yorkshire) the houses were all built to the same design, and were painted in one of four colours - yes, pink green blue or yellow.

My father, returning from work the first day, walked into the next house up the road that was the same colour as ours.

I never equated the song 'little boxes' to our situation, because the only heavy pressure to conform came from the schools.

I wanted to be an astronaut - they wanted me to be a shorthand typist, or assistant to somebody male.

At least our roads were not laid out on a rigid grid pattern - that always srikes me as really sad.

Having seen some American TV over the years, 'little boxes' has always struck me as a perfect description of certain aspects of what we are shown of American society.

I remember a film in which a young woman decides not to marry a man who bought her a car as a wedding present, exactly the same brand, model and colour driven by all the wives of his set. I could not see any problem with that.      

Anne Croucher


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Genie
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:46 PM

To answer the question asked in the thread title,
hell, yes!

In fact, Malvina Reynolds's lyrics are so perfectly descriptive that, back in 1968, when driving up the California coast from near LA and approaching Daly City, I looked up at the hills and spontaneously exclaimed -- without knowing of Reynolds's inspiration for the song --
"Omigod! There are the little boxes made of ticky-tacky!"
There the were, in little rows like train cars, all looking the same except for there being a few different pastels (pink, blue, green, yellow).

I later learned that those rows of boxy pastel houses in that Daly City development were, indeed, the ones referred to in the song.

And, especially at the time, the rest of the lyrics were pretty much spot-on too.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Peace
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:05 PM

"Cement Octopus" was written by Malvina Reynolds.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Peace
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:05 PM

As to the question asked in the thread title: Yes I do!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Joe_F
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:17 PM

I never lived in such a development, but I lived thru the period in which they were built (b. 1937 -- too young to be a beatnik, too old to be a hippie), and I can remember some of the circumstances & the literature. The mass production of housing was to a large extent a rational response to a situation in which little housing had been built during the depression & almost none during the war, and the veterans came home & started families & wanted housing, and the economy had recovered & people had money again. Some of the consequences well deserved criticizing & satirizing: see Riesman's _The Lonely Crowd_ & Keats's _The Crack in the Picture Window_.

The uniformity of housing developments was also, of course, symbolic of the conformism that was rampant in the decade after the war -- the idolatry of Society. Independence of mind was widely thought to be impossible (you were either conforming to a subculture of deviants or merely being perverse) or a symptom of mental illness. Fortunately, there was also a great deal in American culture that was at odds with the glorification of cowardice (Emerson & Thoreau were still read in the schools), and it couldn't last. On the fringes, besides "Little Boxes", there were Mad Magazine & the scathing sf stories by Kornbluth & Pohl. So then we had the silly '60s, which were a relief from the stuffy '50s, which were a relief from the bloody '40s, which were a relief from the dirty '30s.

(For me, incidentally -- and perhaps even for Malvina Reynolds at the time -- the primary meaning of "tacky" is slightly sticky, like paint that hasn't quite dried, or an asphalt road on a hot day.)


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:49 PM

I live in a mostly prefabricated box that is on a hill, due to the tennants association rules, it is neither green, nor blue, nor pink, but in fact a bland beige. And I was a business executive.

But my I suffered my greatest pain in my back yard one pleasant Sunday afternoon, when I realized that a)there was charcoal burning everywhere, B) we did, in fact, have a TV in every room.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:00 PM

Loved that song when I was a kid.
Then as got a bit older liked it more.
Gonna find it on Spotify and see if that still applies.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:23 PM

Well, listened to a few covers and yup still like it.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:24 PM

Always reminds me when buying raffle tickets:
There's a pink one, and a green one, and a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made of tacky paper and they all lose just the same.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:43 PM

It had been a while since I'd heard it so I had a listen on You Tube. I don't like it - it's just a little too smug. I do understand the sentiment - for a while little 'planned communities' were springing up around here like mushrooms until the real estate crash mercifully put a halt to it. In some cases I felt they were real eyesores. But I don't care for the song.


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Subject: ADD??: Charlie the Midnight Marauder
From: Don Firth
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 09:57 PM

This came out sometime in the late 1950s as I recall. The Limeliters. Except for the first verse, which is spoken (as if cominng through a police radio), it's to the tune of "The Old Settler's Song" or "Rosin the Beau." Perhaps it makes it's point a bit more graphically and amusingly than "Little Boxes," which never particulary rang my chimes. . . .
CHARLIE, THE MIDNIGHT MARAUDER
(Bagby / Davis)

The Limeliters

Calling car 41
Calling car 41
Investigate a code 7
At 116 west 14th St. and report
Looks like Charlie's at it again

Oh Charlie was raised in the city
He scoffed at the suburban life
Til satan disguised as a salesman
Bewitched and bewildered his wife

She heard of the pleasures of rural life
With barbecues under the trees
And so for a mere forty thousand
He purchased their dreamhouse with ease

He rose before dawn every morning
To dreamily fall into line (yawn)
And follow that bumper before him (Beep Beep)
To be on the job before nine

His dreamhouse of crumbling stucco
Was more like a nightmarish load
His weekends were spent in hard labor
He dug and he pruned and he mowed

One night an electrical failure
Blacked out every street in the tract
Our hero drove up in confusion
But couldn't locate his new shack

Each crackerbox looked like the one next door
As far as the eye could see
He cursed to himself as he pondered
Now where in the world can it be

He searched til a door looked familiar
Than tried out his key in the lock
The door open wide and he entered
Poor Charlie was on the wrong block

He strode to the couch of his sleeping love
He kissed her and backed off in fright
The girl he had kissed was a stranger
Who screamed and ran out in the night

They caught him a few minutes later
Still rooted and shaking with fear
They called him the midnight marauder
And put him away for a year

And put him away for a yea-ea-ear
And put him away for a year
They called him the midnight maurauder
And put him away for a year

When a salesman is touting suburbia
He's doing it purely for pelf
Remember the story of Charlie
And tell him to move there himself

And tell him to move there himsel-el-elf
And tell him to move there himself
Remember the story of Charlie
And tell him to move there himself
Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 11:18 PM

So I've been to bed. Up at 0400 our time - to find my thread has achieved well over 100 hits in one day. I never dreamed it would hit such an obvious nerve.

All very well for olddude & jeri & others to say I'm raking over old stuff no-one cares about any more; for Sing4Peace to enquire if I am advocating censorship - a 'lyrics policing squad' [I haven't advocated anything, just asked a question & ventured my own opinion as to the answer: if one can't do that without being accused of being a lyrics-cop, then what is this Forum for, eh, Mr Sing4Peace?]. But words like 'smug' & 'sanctimonious' [quoting Tom Lehrer, no less!], reports of Malvina R having later regreted certain aspects of the song [but did she ever apologise explicitly to the poor abused docs & lawyers & biz-execs - somehow I think not!]:- I say again, did I ever hit a nerve!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 03:13 AM

A nerve? Bit more of a Madeleine moment (or should that be cookie) to me. All the personal stories, which recognise the pastel painted picture of a highly conformist post War America, and the conditions which generated that, are wonderful.

As far as the Urban Sprawl thing is concerned, I suspect that the US posters are correct there. The only development to equate with it that I can think of is Milton Keynes. Which while I know little about the place myself bar it was an initiative to cope with 'London overspill', was always rubbished as a plastic toy town by my elders.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 03:37 AM

"poor abused docs & lawyers & biz-execs" - I think they'll get over it!

On the whole like Little Boxes. I relate especially to what sing4peace said: "I was so grateful that there was at least one other human being out there who was as disturbed by the cookie cutter mentality as I was". A similar thing happened to me with Pulp's "Sorted for E's and Wizz" which attacked the drug-driven rave culture that seemed to be the new conformity for my age group at that time.

Cheers,
Doctor Pete.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 04:48 AM

I'm glad you at least seem to have got over it Dr Pete. & indeed I am sure they will all have survived Ms Reynolds' unprovoked onslaught relatively unscathed: if she had said such things about me I know a flying-fuck is what I would not have given. But ytf should they have had to? - what had they done to deserve being thus dissed, apart from choosing to live in a form of dwelling that Ms R chose to get all sniffy and smug and sanctimonious and arrogant [all words used above by other posters including a quoted T Lehrer, not by me] about - that still seems to me to be the question.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:54 AM

The BBC in the early sixties seemed to regard 'Little Boxes' as a children's song. It was frequently featured on 'Children's Favourites', presumably because of its simple sing-along style.
Of course in those days it was not customary to analyse any song that came along to within an inch of its life.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 07:01 AM

ARCHITECTURAL MASKS

I

There is a house with ivied walls,
And mullioned windows worn and old,
And the long dwellers in those halls
Have souls that know but sordid calls,
   And daily dote on gold.

II

In blazing brick and plated show
Not far away a "villa" gleams,
And here a family few may know,
With book and pencil, viol and bow,
   Lead inner lives of dreams.

III

The philosophic passers say,
"See that old mansion mossed and fair,
Poetic souls therein are they:
And O that gaudy box! Away,
   You vulgar people there."


Thomas Hardy
http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/3168


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 07:19 AM

"they will all have survived Ms Reynolds' unprovoked onslaught relatively unscathed:"

I think your sounding a bit hung up on the 'this is a diabolical attack on good hard-working citizens' now. From reading the responses to the thread, it seems to me that the 'doctors and lawyers' (as well as their children) who get "put in boxes", are not being personally attacked in the song, as much as being described as being victims of strong social pressures and expectations (particularly prevalent at that time) to conform to a virtually pre-ordained style of existence. As some here have commented, the Hippie movement would appear to have provided those who went on to reject that particular style of existence, a means of escaping being "put in" those ready made boxes.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: matt milton
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 07:38 AM

nice quote, Piers Plowman! Hadn't read that before. The title's a bit overkill, but as riffs on the old 'don't judge a book by its cover' go, it's nice and concise, while cramming in some nice satire on old money, the pretensions of the middle class (in their "villa") and the myopia of the "philosophic passers by" (ie Malvina Reynolds).


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 09:40 AM

Well, Crow Sister, if someone described a group I belonged to as being 'all made out of ticky-tacky and all look[ing] just the same' [why? coz we all dress decently in suit·&·tie for work or what?], then I should regard it as an onslaught and a personal attack & not an expression of empathy and pity for the intolerable social pressures being put on me.

Wouldn't you? Honest, now...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: sing4peace
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 09:52 AM

MtheGM -

Thank you for picking a topic that would allow us to have a conversation about Malvina's music. That is the point of topical songwriting - to get people talking.

I don't think it is necessary for Malvina (or her daughter) or anybody else to apologize to doctors or lawyers or business executives for attempting to address the creative prison of conformity. I believe in free speech and artistic license- even when I disagree with it.

By the way, it's not MR. Sing4Peace, it's MS. Or you can just call me Joyce. I wonder why you assumed I was a man.

JK


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 10:08 AM

I genuinely doubt I would feel all that distressed about it. Yes, hand on heart.

But then the kind of social pressures I've experienced are rather different to those being described by some of the posters here. Possibly ones more akin to those described by Doctor Pete there. Which, along with "aspirational" forms of consumerism, I've also managed to eschew. But then, I had plenty of options, and choices available to me. Ones which didn't automatically cast me as some kind of social deviant for not dressing in a suit. As I've also said below, I suspect that class sensitivity, is possibly more of a British default than an American one, be it snobbery of the upright or inverted kind. And as such I think it's possibly important to be careful not to superimpose ones own cultural baggage, on a piece of fairly superficial satirical pop commentary concerning another culture.

And to finally answer the OP question. As it happens, I think the song is pretty dreadful. Though the images it conjures, appear to have provoked quite a lot of recognition in some of the US posters. And for that reason alone, I find it rather interesting.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 10:10 AM

i think someone should write a song about the stepford wives,and then: one about cardboard boxes,and the poor sods living in them.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 10:32 AM

'I believe in free speech and artistic license- even when I disagree with it'

So do I, Joyce, but that doesn't make me a censorious copper if I choose analytically to specify my grounds for disagreement - does it? Otherwise, as i say, why have a Forum at all? & if i feel it has caused needless offence to a recipient I don't regard it as censorship to suggest that an apology might be forthcoming: esp, in this instance, as we are told above [by someone quoting daughter, IIRC] that M Rnlds came to 'regret some aspects' of the song; which would I presume be the personal rather than the architectural, wouldn't you agree?

Sorry about the 'Mr': see note on HeadUnderArm thread + PM I have sent you...

Best Michael


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 10:42 AM

No. It's reverse snobbery and smugness.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MissouriMud
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 11:25 AM

I honestly don't think there is anything wrong with art- whether it be music, literature, paintings, movies etc - occasionally casting aspersions at people who live normal lives, based on that very "normalcy". I happen to think I lead such a life and done mind being the subject of criticism for it. Perhaps the US is different then UK in the sense that many of us in the US have this ideal/image of ourselves being free and independent (the cowboy) when in fact in may ways we arent (the Marlboro man addicted to cigarettes), and so it doesn't seem to be that out of place for someone to remind us of that dichotomy. I recall a scene one of the oscar winning and critically acclaimed movie "The Apartment" showing the identically dark suited Manhattan ad-men commuters literally as sheep - no one seemed then(or seems now) to feel it was offensive, in fact it was considered great humor. It is part of making fair comment on social values you disagree with - there is always "collateral damage" to those who (or whose values)are the subject of the comment. I would hate to think we have gotten so sensitivity sensitive that we can't poke fun at or criticize lawyers no matter how cool they are.

I think the song is fine, but a bit dated in its imagery and perhaps a bit too narrow in its focus for my current tastes. The US is a more varied diverse place than it was in the late 50s. There is still room for criticism of issues like conformity, and those who conform, but the images would need to be more current.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 11:39 AM

"are not being personally attacked in the song, as much as being described as being victims of strong social pressures and expectations"

Think I agree with that Crow sister.
Also see the song as perhaps still relevant today as a veiw of middle England.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 12:45 PM

"No. It's reverse snobbery and smugness. "

There ain't no such thing as reverse snobbery (nor reverse discrimination, for that matter.) It's just a matter of what you choose to be snobbish (or discriminatory) about. And I think that mindless conformity is something worth sneering about.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 01:11 PM

I am reminded by that "mindless conformity something worth sneering about" of a brilliant cartoon of which I have the original, which my late wife published when she was features editor of 'The Teacher' newspaper 35 years ago:- A pair of pupils dressed in the then foolish acme of teenage fashion are passing the door of the Staff Common Room as a staff meeting is ending. One of the group of emerging teachers - all identically clad in suits and ties, all bespectacled, all smoking pipes [this was then] and carrying briefcases - sez to a colleague-clone, 'Isn't it funny how they can never shake off the influence of their peer group?'

So - to which other but similarly conformist clone-group did Malvina Reynolds belong when she perpetrated the song? Self·righteous humourless lefties, I should say.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 01:14 PM

'Self·righteous humourless lefties' ?
I'm not sure just who is being most 'sanctimonious' here!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 01:15 PM

... and then it got sung around by others of the same, like P Seeger...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 01:18 PM

Oops sorry, Emma B - forgot it was Against The Law to fail to accept the Lefty Consensus on this website. Ah well - off Down The Garden To Eat Worms again...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 01:27 PM

The idea that perceived conformity tells the whole story about an individual is something I find distasteful. I find it nearly as distasteful as the concept that obvious non-conformity in appearance and lifestyle mean a person is more intelligent and interesting than others. Nearly sixty years of living have given me a perspective on this. I can only hope that Malvina eventually had a similar epiphany.
I have never liked the song.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Amos
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 01:31 PM

Yeah, in the larger picture it is a bogus criterion, but at the time and int he context it was a serious sociological symptom, or seemed so.

Besides, it is a funny song, meant to be sung with a grin.


A


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 02:01 PM

'Oops sorry, Emma B - forgot it was Against The Law to fail to accept the Lefty Consensus on this website'

MtheGM why not just lose the 'holier than thou' mind set you have demonstrated throughout your point scoring on this thread and have a wry smile at the parody I posted earlier which, if nothing else, demonstrates that the 'lefties' you are so quick to identify and criticize at least have the ability to take a rise out of themselves from time to time unlike some more pious brethren!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 02:20 PM

I had a wry smile at it when I read it Emma. It was a good funny parody. But, sorry, I don't see how it affects my main point. What point-scoring? I OP'd this thread as a question - & if you count up I think you will find more Noes the Yeses in the answers, mainly 'scoring the same points' [if that's what we are doing] as me - look at LonesomeEJ, e.g. 4 postings back. Do you think I can't 'take a rise out of myself sometimes' too?

Demonstrate an instance of my attitude being MERELY 'holier than thou', please, & an instance where I have been MERELY point-scoring. I believe in the Socratic 'know-thyself' principle & I shall be interested to read what you can come up with.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 02:30 PM

'What point-scoring?.... & if you count up I think you will find more Noes the Yeses in the answers'

LOL. OK - I take it all back - you obviously can take the piss out of yourself :)

Now have fun counting, I'm out!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 03:38 PM

I suppose I'm a "lefty" too... at least I am a liberal Democrat. My sister lives in an area that was a development back in the 60's, and the houses are not all the same or made of ticky-tacky. For that matter, we live in an area where the houses were developed in the mid-50's in a new neighborhood. Gosh, am I really a conformist? I never found the song offensive, but I suppose at times I have been mildly irritated at the unholier than thou attitude I hear. I like my neighbors. They're good people. Several of them bought their homes here in the 60's at the time Melvina wrote the song. No concern about their feelings being hurt. I doubt there's a person in town besides myself who has ever heard the song. It's certainly nothing to get wound up about, one way or the other.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Elijah Browning
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 03:40 PM

Greetings from the ultimate in "little boxes." I am writing to you from a small cubicle without privacy in the basement of a large glass and steel corporate building in Northern Illinois. On the shores of a lake a few miles away are row upon row of identical houses. Neighbors know each other only if necessity demands and that is often only if anger has preceded. Yet behind these rows, on the shore of the lake, back in the woods, is the unmarked grave of Joseph Beilhart. Joseph Beilhart, a scarcely known spiritual philosopher, with a small group of friends and family, established a commune that continued for many years after his death, built a large and comfortable home where they all lived together, and believed in the early 1900's, in the American Midwest, that marriage had become a form of female servitude which they were not going to accept. How did the locals of the area react? With compassion and acceptance regardless of their differences. That wasn't the case in other Midwestern locations. It doesn't mean they were more tolerant in Northern Illinois. It just means you never know. Despite Hurst newspapers' efforts to denounce them, the local community often attended his meetings and partook in social events at the "Spirit Fruit Farm." Mr. Beilhart was an amazing man, strangely close to Buddhism in his philosophies via his meditations into Christianity, and he promoted a very loving form of non-resistance. The community is long gone. I've been fascinated by this group and have pulled together a large amount of research on them. It is ironic that the very location of such a successful experiment in social living should be the same location where the individual is now lost in a sea of modern uniformity.

And yet, in this same group of houses lives a family with daughters close to the age of our own. They recently had a new baby, and we watched their daughters till the mom was out of the hospital. When we had a similar need, they reciprocated. We know and they know that should anything happen to either of our families, help is just a phone call away. To them, it is a safe place to raise their children and provide them with a good education. There home is their choice, and I think they'd laugh at being called "victims." It may or may not be the best choice, for them, for the world... Eco morality is another thread entirely. See you there.

Our own home is on a street that wasn't there fifty years ago and our house looks very similar to the rest of the houses around us (except for the Tibetan flag hanging over our door). Insulation vs. exposure is a constant battle within all parents. I challenge anyone who says they have the perfect formula, and if you have a perfect formula, expect chaos to make its introduction. It boils down to this. The human soul can never be contained in a box, physically, philosophically or metaphorically, and any time you are sure you know how "those people" are, radical republican to mainstream liberal, one of them will pop up and prove you wrong and break your box. Stereotypes will prove valid to every test except when attempting to apply them to human beings. And social efforts to contain are often the weight that strengthens the muscles of deviance.

I have a strong desire to visit Mr. Beilhart's grave and am making plans to do so. The grave and the location where the house stood is now in woods that are privately owned. There are No Trespassing signs posted. Figuring out a way to get on the side of the sign that Woody said "was made for you and me."
Gotta go. Boss coming.
Love,
E.B.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 04:06 PM

"I think they'd laugh at being called "victims.""

I'm more than happy to retract that term. I agree, it's way too strong.

But I also think, at least from what I've gleaned from some of the commentary here, that post war America was a time where not conforming to the ideal stereotype, was perceived as rather subversive.

I think it's easier to feel comfortable in one's box, whatever shape that be, if it is the right shape. And for that, one needs to feel able to make a choice. Even if 'counter-culture' is just another 'box' (and I agree, that we all wear some kind of uniform, including hippies), at least there is some self determinism involved, and these days it's much easier to make choices without being labeled 'commie' or 'subversive' or 'freak'.

As such, I think I can understand just how liberating the hippie movement must have been, for those who found expected conformity to stereotypical ideals of social normalcy, no kind of choice at all.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 04:31 PM

I have enjoyed this thread, but, sadly, the original poster has begun to turn on the people who troubled to drop in to visit. When the leader forgets the rules, it's time to find another game to play.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:42 PM

Sorry, M.Ted; I hadn't realised it was against 'the rules' for the OP to take any further part in the discussion he had initiated, but that he was required by the sacred rules of hospitality to treat all contributors the same, as honoured guests in his home.

I am going to stand in disgrace in the corner for an hour...

But before I go, where can I find a copy of these 'rules' you rubricate, please, so that I will know better in future?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:42 PM

Elijah Browning, you are quite a perceptive and articulate fellow. I enjoyed your post very much.


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Subject: ADD: Sick World (Malvina Reynolds)
From: pdq
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 06:12 PM

...more charm from "Granny" Reynolds:


"Sick World" (a.k.a. "The World Is So Sick.")

(Malvina Reynolds)

The world is so sick it can never be saved,
The world is so sick it can never be saved,
The world is so sick it can never be saved,
It's built a bull-dozer that's digging its grave.

The world is so sick it can never be well,
The world is so sick it can never be well,
The world is so sick it can never be well,
It's splitting the atom to blow it to hell.

The world is so clever, so busy and wise,
The world is so clever, so busy and wise,
It's twisting its words so they all come out lies,
It's forging the iron to put out its eyes.

The world is so sick it can never recall,
It's weaving the noose that is hanging us all,
The people, the critters, the big and the small,
It's weaving the noose that is hanging us all.

So don't blame the kids if they're angry and wild,
So don't blame the kids if they're angry and wild,
So don't blame the kids if they're angry and wild,
This world is no place for an innocent child.

[words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1964 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1992.]
[Malvina Reynolds songbook]


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Amos
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 07:21 PM

WHile I can appreciate the sentiment, I must say that is not a very useful exposition, is it?


A


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: pdq
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 07:34 PM

...here is a great picture about...

                                                          conformity and "Little Boxes"


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Amos
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 08:06 PM

Great picture, PDQ!


A


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Declan
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 08:11 PM

I quite like Castignaris, but amn't so fond of some of the other small accordions.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 10:21 PM

The rules, Michael, are the ones that all good mothers teach their children--courtesy of Dr. Dave and Dee's Manners . Pay special attention to #2 , #3, #6 and #10, you need to work on them.

10 Basic Manners for Kids

1. Waiting their turn and not interrupting other people when they are speaking. No one can be heard if there are too many voices at once. Gently tell them to wait until someone is done speaking, and then ask their question. Be sure and give your child your full attention when you are done speaking so as to reinforce the positive behavior of waiting his/her turn. While children are patiently waiting, hold their hand or put your arm around them to let them know you are aware of their presence.

2. No name calling. Even if it's in "fun," name calling hurts. Instead of labels, ask children to explain what the behavior is that bothers them.

3. Always greet someone when they come over to your house. Depending on your level of formality, you can teach your child to shake hands with adults who come over, but it's not necessary to shake hands with other children. However, your child should always say, "hello" or "hi" when someone visits so that the guest feels welcome.

4. Say, "Please" and "Thank you" often. It shows respect and appreciation. In addition, if they are thanked, then say, "You're welcome".

5. Clean up after yourself. Whether at home or at a friend's house, always pick up after yourself. It's their mess, so they need to clean it up. If children leave a mess, then remind them that they need to clean up before the next activity can begin, and stick to it.

6. Good sportsmanship. After playing a game (sports, cards, board game), no matter the outcome, be pleasant. If your child wins, tell him/her to not gloat or show off, but to be kind. If they lose, don't sulk or get mad, but be a good sport and tell the other child(ren) "good game" or speak well of them.

7. Take compliments courteously. If someone praises your children, teach them to be gracious and say, "thank you" and avoid putting themselves down or pointing out flaws.

8. Opening doors for others. When going into buildings, allow elders to go first and open the door for them. When preceding others into a building, don't let the door slam in the face of those behind, but hold the door until the person behind can grab it. Also teach your children that if someone holds the door for them, then remember to say "thank you."

9. Exiting/Entering etiquette. Elevators: allow those in the elevator to exit first before entering the elevator. Same with buildings or rooms - if someone is exiting the building or room through the same door you are entering, let them exit first.

10. Respect differences. When people do things differently from your family because of diversity in culture, race, or religion, then teach your child respect. Point out how interesting it is or how different families do different things. Families have their own traditions or rituals, and it is important and has meaning for that family.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: pdq
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 10:42 PM

Like Joseph Eichler, Henry Doelger's work is unique and highly respected in some circles. See biography...

                                                                              here


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 10:57 PM

M.Ted - thank you for taking the trouble to post The Rules. But they are explicitly & avowedly for children, not for adults. Do you never have the sort of serious discussion with guest or host about differences of opinion [political, e.g.] which is accepted as part of give&take of adult social intercourse? There can often be a certain heat generated, but no intention on either side to offend and rarely any offence taken in such exchanges. I should be interested if you could point out where I have outraged such accepted adult social conventions - as distinct from the ones for children you cite. If one can't occasionally express difference of opinion then what is this Forum for? And how in any event can one 'interrupt' on a chatroom site like this, where one can't rejoin at all until the other guy/gal has finished posting?

I hope it will not be too much of a breach of hospitality for me to aver that I find your views on this matter - ah; how to put it? - er - let us say, 'less than convincing'...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 12:54 AM

Beyond the name calling("lefty" and "humorless" are considered very damning indictments hereabouts), you've tediously insisted that people take sides on an issue that isn't even clear(it sounds to me like the houses, not the people, are ticky-tacky)(and it isn't even clear what ticky-tacky is!), brow-beaten those who disagree with you, and generally carried on as if the sky was falling. Very unbecoming of one who is supposed to be shepherding a discussion.

And, on behalf of some purely conjectural doctors, lawyers, and business executives, you have demanded an apology from a person who has been dead for thirty years. That's awkward, if nothing else. And all this without ever having seen the "Little Boxes"--

And the pig got up and slowly walked away...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 01:13 AM

I haven't demanded an apology right now Ted: I have pointed out that she was said by those intimate with her to have admitted privately she ultimately regretted certain aspects of her song; & I commented a pity that she didn't say so publicly and apologetically THEN - it was obviously the personal not the architectural she regretted. I know i haven't seen the Little Boxes, tho i have seen the pix & can see where she was coming from; but I have made it clear that it is, again, the personal, not the architectural, parts of the song I find so distasteful. I still don't agree that my tone was more than normally the sort of vehemence one would expect in an adultly conducted argument on a felt topic: I just don't accept your accusations of browbeating [browbeat? moi? why, how could anyone ever be scared enuff of little-ole-me anyhow ever to feel browbeaten?].

What can you mean, it sounds to you that it's the houses, not the people, who are ticky tacky? - "And the people in the houses all go to the university, & they are all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same. There are doctors and lawyers and bizniz executives, & they're all made out of ticky-tacky & they all look just the same". That's what it SEZ. Weren't you listening!? [Aw shucks - there I go, browbeating AGAIN! - back down the garden for another worm-feast...]


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 01:55 AM

Any-old-how, Ted, who said it was the OP's business to 'shepherd a discussion'? - that's not how I see my function as OP at all. One OPs a thread to put a point of view, not to be an "impartial chairman":- if one of those is needed, I have no doubt Joe Offer will step in, in his trademark red type, to tell me to 'CoolItBuster if you don't want your thread deleted'. Meanwhile, I opened my thread to discuss the matter with all who wished, not to be the GoodShepherd. I think it ill becomes you to tell me what my function should be on my own thread. Who is 'browbeating' who?, I should like to know.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 03:05 AM

Ditto Lonesome E.J. there BTW. Lovely post Elijah Browning.

"Joseph Beilhart, a scarcely known spiritual philosopher, with a small group of friends and family, established a commune that continued for many years after his death, built a large and comfortable home where they all lived together, and believed in the early 1900's,"

Wasn't there something of a flush of those kinds of 'alternative' spiritual (albeit essentially Christian) communities at that period?
I'm sure Kellogg himself created one. I wonder what the general ferment was that inspired them?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 06:36 AM

sorry to interrupt this thread with an off point question - but does anyone have all the lyrices for the Mary Baker City Mix?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:05 AM

Sorry guest I can only remember the first 2 verses

Take your Mary Baker City Mix and mix yourself a city to a plan,
Full of instant plastic palaces, homogenized, untouched by human hand.
Add a central plate glass precinct where pedestrians can stroll around and cry
As they see the blackened embers of an older and more richer city die.

In the Mary Baker City Mix the teak lined supermarkets meet your eyes
Where the open market stood you'll find the atmosphere is now deordorized
And the bacon buttie stall has disappeared and in its place you'll find a bar
With high speed brunch and crispy lettuce yoiu can eat from heat sealed wrappings in your car

BUT!

this is one of 25 songs on a CD SONGS VOL 1 & 2 Alex Glasgow (which I came across) while trying to find the rest of the words and contains such humourless leftie tracks as
As Soon As This Pub Closes
and
My Daddy Is A Left-Wing Intellectual

and, of course, Close The Coalhouse Door


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:13 AM

Was it not you, MtheGM who said: if i feel it has caused needless offence to a recipient I don't regard it as censorship to suggest that an apology might be forthcoming: esp, in this instance, as we are told above [by someone quoting daughter, IIRC] that M Rnlds came to 'regret some aspects' of the song; which would I presume be the personal rather than the architectural, wouldn't you agree?"

As to the song, it is about the houses--here is the verse:

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there's doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

The point recurring point being that it is the boxes that are made of
ticky tacky that all look just the same--one could read it either way, of course,
owing to the fact that, from a writer's point of view, the scansion in such ditties
takes precedence over clarity of meaning--

My tea is done, and I have lost the chance to nap before getting my son ready for school,
but I am glad that I hadn't endeavored to explain the Hardy verses to you--


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:29 AM

"and contains such humourless leftie tracks as
As Soon As This Pub Closes
and
My Daddy Is A Left-Wing Intellectual

and, of course, Close The Coalhouse Door"

Aye, I'm sure we've all been lampooned at some point in the history of modern song-writing. Thinking further on a question earlier posited, I imagine if I were to seek it out that I could find something fairly fittingly cutting written all about 'me', by someone like Jarvis Cocker, Momus or Morrissey.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:32 AM

many thanks Emma B


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 08:28 AM

Quite possibly there will now be a rash of apologies from songwriters who have made points in their songs and then had second thoughts about said points. Might run into hundreds, if not thousands, of apologies.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 08:45 AM

Well Ted, I can't accept your interpretation of that verse only applying to the boxes not the people they contain — a pronoun like 'they' clearly refers in English grammar to the noun most nearly preceding it — nor your assertion that I seem to have said she should have apologised now,when anyone can see she can't; when you admit I had referred back to the time she accepted she had some regrets.

See my response to Emma B's at 2.20 on 9 Sep, & her subsequent copping out of arguing further — as I feel you have done to my challenge to show whom & where I had 'browbeaten'; when all I had done was maintain the position I had stated in the OP against opposition which had occurred — & I repeat, why shouldn't I? when it's my thread — you haven't, as i asked, provided any precedent for the view that an OP should be a neutral chairman rather than an active participant in the thread he himself has started; or for your view that such participation constitutes 'browbeating'. I thought you were, as I said, being peculiarly prescriptive in your statements as to how i should conduct MY thread.

So, I ask again, who could have felt 'browbeaten', & where, by anything I have said?

And if you find such terms as 'lefty' & 'humourless', in the context of an adult discussion, so offensive 'hereabouts' where you are, I must say you must be such a sensitive lot 'thereabouts' that I can't imagine how you ever get thru the day.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Emma B
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 09:39 AM

'How i should conduct MY thread' / 'I repeat, why shouldn't I? when it's my thread'

I'm sorry sunshine, whatever proprietal assumptions you may make and seek to impose there's no such thing hereabouts - these threads have a habit of taking on a life of their own however controlling you may wish to be.

'See my response to Emma B's at 2.20 on 9 Sep, & her subsequent copping out of arguing further'

I sincerely meant that you could 'count me out' out of your childish point scoring of who was for your statement or against it; in no way do I 'cop out' of any argument that serves any purpose; but, I had hoped this was an adult discussion not a game for a retired hack -   I hope you are not too 'sensitive' to find such a term offensive

and
a hearfelt 'thank you' to Elijah Browning for raising this thread somewhere else.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 10:15 AM

Well, Emma, it seems to me a bit pathetically Private·Eye to fall back on the word 'hack' when addressing any journo, 'retired' [& is that perhaps a bit ageist!] or otherwise; but I daresay I shall survive, as they would say, the Shock·Horror - tho, again as they would say, it might be thought a bit of the sort of abuse that would only be resorted to by a Boring·Old·Fart.

But - serious question[s] - at what point does trying to defend one's position become: a. *mere* point·scoring, &/or b. [Ted, can you hear me talkin' to yah] 'Browbeating'? I should sincerely like to be told. As I say, I believe greatly in the Socratic injunction to 'know thyself'. If you won't come clean & tell me & give some examples, then, I say again: I don't care what anybody sez, you are copping out.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 10:17 AM

oh, er, almost forgot — S U N S H I N E ....


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Elijah Browning
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 10:42 AM

Thanks for the kind words, but I always figure out a way to screw up where it counts. In my grand rhetoric, I got his name wrong! JACOB Beilhart was the man's name. Posthumous appologies, sir. Some researcher I am...

And yes, he started with Post, Kellog and the Seventh Day Adventists but found extremism in any form to be too inflexible to be practical.

WWJD if he saw what's become of his last resting place? I have a feeling he'd tell all his neighbors what lovely homes they have and invite them for a picnic by the lake.

Off subject for sure, so I'll leave this link and leave it at that. PM me if you're interested in more.
Go to Sept. 5, 2009 post
Thanks,
E.B.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 11:47 AM

Incidentally, EmmaB - I wasn't claiming any particular rights in the content of the thread just becoz I had happened to OP it: I was just wondering why you & Ted were so intent on PRESCRIBING & DICTATING to me how I should conduct myself within it, when surely that was something for me, as OP, to judge for myself. No-one still has managed to indicate any regulation or convention or precedent of impartial chairmanship, of 'shepherding of contributors', being required of an OP.

You seem to me to be one of those who delight in turning any thread on which you post snotty and ill-natured: you are deficient in any sort of cordiality or courtesy, but your tone appears to be perpetually truculent & irritable & sarky & snarky. There seem to be rather a lot of such around on Mudcat. I just wonder what satisfaction all of you get in carrying on like that.

Sunshine ...


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 12:21 PM

"You seem to me to be one of those who delight in turning any thread on which you post snotty and ill-natured: you are deficient in any sort of cordiality or courtesy, but your tone appears to be perpetually truculent & irritable & sarky & snarky. There seem to be rather a lot of such around on Mudcat. I just wonder what satisfaction all of you get in carrying on like that."

Project much?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 01:03 PM

Eh?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 01:09 PM

This, MtheGM, is exactly what I was talking about. You're being absolutely tedious!

Stop and think--why does this silly point drive you to such excesses? Doctors, Lawyers, and Business executives have never cared about it--if they had, they would have made themselves heard long ago.

Assuming that they are in fact accused of being ticky-tacky, they are accused, as a class, of many many more terrible things on a daily basis. Also, it is hardly a libelous accusation. Mediocrity, as a great writer once said, is not a major sin.

You had the good fortune to speak with Ms. Reynolds about it, though have not chosen to share how she responded to you.

Most of us never have a chance to air our grievances face -to-face in that manner, and, since that, which must have occurred at least forty years ago, did not satisfy you, you should come to terms with the fact that you will never find satisfaction on this point.

Furthermore, since you have invested your self so deeply in this issue, a further outrage awaits you. The fact is that this song is enjoying a sweeping revival. Many new recordings have been made(more, in fact, than there were when it was initially popular)--so history has taken it under its wing, and it has been embraced by new generations--

And before leaving, I will suggest one last time that, in making and defending your point, you have made characterizations that are far more offensive than the one that you
objected to, and that, not your opinion, is what we are talking about here.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 02:49 PM

Well, obviously, Ted, I am going to find your contributions pretty tedious too, so we are even there - the way you keep accusing me of browbeating and offensiveness & so forth but when urged for examples you only repeat the accusations with no attempt at specification: look at your last para for example of what I mean.

But I honestly do hate quarreling - whatever you may think, I am not a contentious person; rather something of an obsessive taxonomist: I am aware of this as a fault in myself, & do try to control it, & my dearest wife used to be very good at judging when to tell me when to shut-the-hell-up but alas she is dead and things will I suspect have got worse since she left.

So, please: Pax - enuff quarreling which I genuinely don't enjoy. OK?

As to my brief conversation with MR: I didn't mean to be evasive or make a secret of it. It was, as you say, long ago; but as best I recall: I made my point, in what I hope were mild and civil tones, about, didn't she think her view on ordinary lifestyles maybe a bit unwarrantedly severe and contemptuous?; she replied in reasonable tones that I wasn't the first to have said so. It was at a friend's party where we were both guests and had neither of us any wish to sour the occasion; so we just smiled slightly, left it at that and drifted off to talk to other people. & that was the sum of our acquaintance.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:00 PM

I am afraid that my bemused and droll tone has not been as evident as I thought it was--my own tendencies are toward being slightly tongue-in-cheek most of the time. I thought the fact that I   I am also afraid that if you miss it, which is more likely in print than in person, I can come across as murderous rather than mirthful.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:03 PM

Ant truth to the rumor that TickyTacky was the copyrighted name for a product developed by Boise Cascade in the early 60s, which consisted of a melamine-coated polyethelyene extrusion building material, found to be resistant to weather, able to function as a structural support, bulletproof, but unfortunately to also cause cancer in lab mice?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:12 PM

"Tacky"--meaning in poor taste or without quality --has a long history in ENglish.

tacky

    "in poor taste," 1862, adj. use of tackey (n.) "small or inferior horse" (1800), later "hillbilly, cracker" (1888), of uncertain origin.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Elmore
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:15 PM

If the song is about conformity, we could use a little conformity these days; conformity on establishing an honest to God health care system, conformity on ending war, conformity on being compassionate.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:16 PM

Sorry, that went off before I was finished--the "I thought the fact that I" should finish,"posted manners for children would have been I tip off that I meant that things should be taken somewhat lightly. We'll leave it there. No hard feelings intended.

I wish you my most sincere condolences on the loss of your wife. It cannot be easy to lose
your partner, and I wish you the best, both in managing the pain of your loss, and in building a different sort of life without her.

As I get older, I realize how much I need my wife's companionship, and her moderating influence, even in the smallest things. I wonder how she has put up with me, and than God that she has.   In that spirit, I hope that you can take comfort in the many memories that you have. All the best.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:19 PM

That last for you MtheGM--in only a few seconds, those others managed to pop in--the miracle of instant global communication--


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:58 PM

I'd forgotten Little Boxes was a BBC children's radio favourite, thanks whoever it was upthread for giving it a context. Ed Stewpot Stewart's voice with Sparky the Piano and Puff the Magic Dragon bookending it.

Where would we be without FolkLite? Did the singer look like the chap who presented Fingerbobs? I do hope so.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 05:01 PM

..not forgetting The Runaway Train of course. And he blew, blew, blew, blew, blew.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 05:43 PM

...Yes unless I have something really big to put in them!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: pdq
Date: 31 Jul 10 - 06:07 PM

Here is a story about one of Henry Doelger's designers...

                                                                                                             Ed Hageman


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 31 Jul 10 - 09:12 PM

I am not going to bother to read the thread since it is not song I am overly fond of. Do I like the song? No. I don't hate it either. It seems smug to me. Most people, given a choice between a ticky tacky house and a beautifully crafted house of their own design and/or input would choose the latter. They have other considerations, such as putting a roof over their family's heads. mg


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 31 Jul 10 - 09:13 PM

I've always liked Little Boxes. It's a great description, to quote an earlier post, of "People following pre-ordained career pathways, aspiring to nothing beyond the material"

I know that when I was growing up becoming one of the "doctors, and there's lawyers, and business executives" defined our worth---and if you weren't aspiring to become one of those, there was something wrong with you.

I must confess that I also love Dick McCormack's (Sept 9/08) post, because it's another group that defines success as having certain rigid paramaters. (mind you, there does have to be something wrong with anyone who doesn't love Kurt Vonnegut).

It's a terrific song, cleverly written, and now I'm inspired to learn it!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Roger Knowles
Date: 01 Aug 10 - 03:58 AM

No


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 01 Aug 10 - 04:56 PM

I liked the beginning of it, but it got played far too often and then the criticism of the people in the boxes started to jar.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 01 Aug 10 - 05:01 PM

To answer the thread title's question: Not very often!

The mind numbing melody is the perfect companion to the message, which to my family and friends who sang it in the 1960-70s was, "resist monotony, beware the encroaching cookie-cutter world." Being far from California, as we sang it we no doubt pictured the then-new suburb of Kanata (west of Canada's capital) where the colour rule was not pastels but brown and more brown, where the painting of other colours on exteriors was quite forbidden at the time (I don't know about now). Perhaps we were even a little envious of those who got to drive past a whole palette of 4 count 'em 4 colours in an otherwise repetetive view!! It's good to know the source of a song but usually once it's written and out in the world, it wears new meaning for each person who hears it.

As I recall it wasn't only monotonous housing developments on our minds; we were equally suspicious of pervasive sameness in clothing, music, political thought, in everything not just architecture. Something else too: this song made us think about the conflict between the need to be fit in and be like everyone else versus the need to express individuality. So at the same time we were poking fun at the 'burbs we understood the comfort & safety those 'burbs purported to offer.

Obviously the lyrics don't rub me the wrong way as they do so many. In my world back then the song held commentary on at least the two levels I've described. I haven't sung it in ages--there are so many others I'd rather sing because, damn, that tune grates after a mere half-verse!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 04:12 AM

Well, I've owned two of those California stucco houses in my lifetime. One we bought in Fresno in 1976, and it had almost the same appearance and floor plan as the house my ex-wife bought in Sacramento in the 1990s. We painted the house soon after we moved in, so it didn't stay pastel for very long. There must be tens of thousands of houses in California with that floor plan. Urban planners call them "snout houses" because the garage door sticks out closer to the street than the rest of the house. When you drive down the street, all you see are garage doors. But hey, it was a fairly comfortable and serviceable house.

The other stucco house was in a small tract, and I haven't seen any houses like it outside that tract - so that one didn't have the sameness of the Fresno house.

But the Daly City houses Malvina sang about, were an extreme example. They were built on land that had once been breathtakingly beautiful, and they were of very poor quality and extreme sameness.

The California land developers sold the people a bill of goods. They could have and should have made much better use of the precious land in this beautiful state. I just can't see the song as snobbish. The developers did a dirty deed, and they deserved to be criticized. They destroyed miles and miles and miles of the Golden, Rolling Hills of California - and it's a shame.

And yes, there is much of that sameness in the people of urban California. When I worked temporarily in Los Angeles in the 1990s, I was amazed that so many well-paid, professional people had no life outside their job, their commute, and their time spent with their personal trainers. Why bother earning all that money if you don't have a life?

The people Malvina described in "Little Boxes," don't live in little boxes any more. They live in big, expensive boxes, which is why they can't afford the time to sing or hike or enjoy unstructured time with their children. The opening of Weeds, which uses the Malvina Reynolds song, is a perfect depiction of modern, urban California.

That's why I moved away from Los Angeles.

-Joe, in the Sierra Nevada foothills-


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Allan C.
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 05:13 AM

I, for one, find it amusing and appropriate that this thread is currently sharing the list with a thread titled, "Song that's so bad it's brilliant".


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Gail
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 06:55 AM

A few years ago I bought a new house on a new development and friends living in another part of town sneeringly called them Lego houses.
They themselves lived in a 70 year old house, one of thousands of identical terraced houses in hundreds of identical terraced streets. Somehow they thought the age of their house was enough to exempt it from such criticism. Just like some songs.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 09:28 AM

Sure, I like little boxes.   But I never know what to put in them!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 01:15 AM

Same problem, Uncle Dave. I have a fairly large pile of Altoid boxes that I've accumulated over the years. Metal, seem to be well-made and durable, too good to simply throw away.

Oughta be good for sumpin'. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 01:18 AM

I keep my Altoid boxes with my 35 mm film canisters, Don. Some day, I'll find a very good use for them. Both, of course, are made of ticky-tacky.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 02:44 PM

With a little ingenuity, there are various uses for Altoid boxes. This may not be ethical, but you can use an empty Altoid tin to carry around a supply of M&Ms.

Or in the sad event of your goldfish passing away, if you can't bring yourself to flush it down the toilet, you can use an Altoid tin as a coffin and bury it in the potted ficus.

Or (my favorite!) if you have enough Altoid tins (and I'm sure I do), with the tins and a roll of duct tape, you can make yourself a suit of armor.

Don Firth

P. S. With this last option, you may never actually have to engage in combat. Your adversary might simply laugh himself to death!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Snuffy
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 06:42 PM

But what did you do with all the Altoids?


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 09:26 PM

Hmm. . . .

There seems to be some controversy about the efficacy of this method, Snuffy. I would say this calls for some extensive research. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,Patsy Warren
Date: 04 Aug 10 - 06:26 AM

It was one of those little songs along with 'Tubby the Tuba, Sparky' etc. that I listened to on the Ed Stewpot radio programme and I did like it and didn't pay too much attention to it until the early 70's when housing developments started to spring up in nearly every availlable bit of green-belt land space all looking the same with postage stamp sized gardens.

Milton Keynes springs to mind now when I listen to it which was a new 'invented' town. When firm that I was working for moved there we the employees had an option to move with the firm to a new housing development in Milton Keynes the other option was redundancy. I am sure it is a really ok place now but we looked at the plans and not many people went for the idea. The prospect of concrete cows did not appeal to many either!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Apr 16 - 04:21 AM

Refresh re 'Worst Song Ever Heard' thread


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 04 Apr 16 - 11:57 AM

Maybe. But I prefer useful pots for putting things in.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: AlbertsLion
Date: 05 Apr 16 - 12:17 PM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM8JhvfoqdA

Simply brilliant!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Greg F.
Date: 05 Apr 16 - 12:23 PM

Was always fond of the song, but THAT'S BEYOND BRILLIANT!! Malvina would have this version!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Greg F.
Date: 05 Apr 16 - 12:24 PM

Ooops. "would heve liked".


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: GUEST,silver
Date: 05 Apr 16 - 03:17 PM

I have loved "Little Boxes" from first hearing - it was the first time I heard Pete Seeger, and indeed my introduction to American folk music. The bounce and good humour in Pete's voice on that record is priceless,

Thanks, M.Ted, for the link to "There's a Pawnshop..." Like that one,too. Incidentally, Swedish entertainer and satirist Karl Gerhard (1891-1964) used that tune for his song "En katt ibland hermelinerna" (A Cat among the Ermines) in 1955. Also rather sneery towards certain haughty ladies. I have always wondered why it reminded me of "Little Boxes".


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Apr 16 - 06:10 PM

little boxes is a great song,ITS ABOUT CONFORMING.I am surprised at mike who is the epitome of non conformity.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Apr 16 - 02:52 AM

Nonconformist? Moi! Jamais de la vie!


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: Thompson
Date: 06 Apr 16 - 03:16 AM

My mother nearly fell down laughing the first time she heard Little Boxes, and rushed me over to hear it. We'd just come back to Ireland after living in America, and the description of the Hitler-Youth-like 'little boxes' marching across the hillsides of Los Angeles in lockstep, made of cheap, nasty materials with people inside living identical lives seemed very funny, back in Dublin with its mix of Georgian houses, 3-bed semis, Queen Anne 'fisherman's cottages' by the sea, Corporation houses generally lacking in style but built with materials and workmanship so superb that it enraged private sector builders - well…

It's a song about privilege - the doctors and lawyers and business executives - and about how people are fooled by that privilege into accepting an inferior life. It's funny, but it's wise.


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Subject: RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'?
From: theleveller
Date: 07 Apr 16 - 04:29 AM

Although I never particularly liked it as a song, it did seem to sum up what was happening in Britain in the 60s, when estates of jerry-built 'executive' homes were being thrown up by the likes of Wimpey on green-belt land across the country and long-established communities of council tenants in terraces were being forcibly rehomed in brutalist monstrosities like Quarry Hill flats in Leeds.

I was fortunate that my eccentric parents resisted the temptation of these new houses (being in the building trade, my father railed against the shabby construction) and lived in a prefab (which everyone seemed to love) and rented accommodation until they'd saved enough for a deposit on a wonderful but ramshackle old house with few modern amenities, in a South Yorkshire mining village. So, whilst my school friends lived in centrally-heated comfort in new houses on the estate behind us, my brother and I had a marvellous, if chilly, childhood free-ranging amongst crumbling stables and ancient apple trees outside and spiders, mice, woodworm and ghosts inside.

My father was constantly trying to restore the house (or perhaps stop it falling down) and installed original Georgian fireplaces and panelling saved from the fires on demolition sites that he encountered during his work as a travelling salesman for a timber company. One day he arrived home with an early seventeenth century grandfather clock strapped to the roof of his car. It had cost him a princely £5 and it's the only family heirloom I have to this day, having refused to buy otherwise excellent houses because the ceilings were not high enough to accommodate it. I've restored many a crumbling ruin myself, including 15 years' work on the station house I now live in. No, I've never been one for little boxes made of ticky-tacky.


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