Lyric Analysis: The Bangles and 'Walk Like An Egyptian'

THE BANGLES
"Walk Like An Egyptian"

All the old paintings on the tombs,
They do the sand dance,
Don't you know?

You might not know so I’m here to help.  The ‘sand dance’ is a reference to a British music hall act from 1930s performed by Wilson Keppel and Betty.  It was an act that mimicked postures in paintings found on Tutankhamun’s tomb.  In this case it’s a self-referential reference since the sand dance mimics tomb paintings which the Bangles say are in turn doing the sand dance.  It’s a sand dance-ception.

If they move too quick
They're falling down like a domino.

Though it is rare for a single domino to make much of an impression when it falls.  A whole complex line of dominos, plural, however... that’s a sight to behold.

All the bazaar men by the Nile,
He got the money on a bet.

Who got the money on a bet?  One of the bazaar men?  I need context!  Why reference all the men by the Nile if the gambling win of only one is all that matters?

For the crocodiles they snap their teeth
On your cigarette.

Really if your cigarette is all the crocodile got in its jaws you are damn lucky, son.  Stop sticking your head out over the water like an idiot and pay attention to your gambling.

Foreign types with their hookah pipes say
Walk like an Egyptian.

Hookahs are Persian and as the Persian Empire (now Iran) isn’t directly adjacent to Egypt, I’ll allow the ‘foreign’ reference on a technicality.  But it would be more accurate if the hookah-smoker in question was actually the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland because Wonderland is through the looking-glass which is really much more foreign.  

The blond waitresses take their trays
They spin around and they cross the floor;
They got the moves.
You drop your drink then they bring you more.

Clearly it’s one of those dinner theatre restaurants where the staff are part of the performance but one with a hiring policy that is discriminatory against brunettes and redheads.

All the school kids so sick of books,
They like the punk and the metal band.

This song is so rife with cliche and stereotype and cultural appropriation and various and sundry PR pitfalls it’s a wonder it remains so popular today.  I will say this: there is no reason why one cannot like punk, metal and books simultaneously.  Ask Nathan Waddell.

When the buzzer rings,
They're walking like an Egyptian.

Who are all these punks sand dancing back to class sans books?

All the kids in the marketplace say:
Walk like an Egyptian.

I hope it’s a marketplace in Egypt and this is a sort of “when in Rome” reference.

Slide your feet up the street
Bend your back
Shift your arm and then you pull it back.

As far as in-song choreography instructions go, this is much less clear-cut than the Time Warp for sure.  

Life is hard you know
So strike a pose on a Cadillac.

You lil’ rebel without a clue you.

If you want to find all the cops
They're hanging out in the donut shop.

“Do you smell bacon, Garth?”
“I definitely smell a pork product of some kind.”
NO CLICHE LEFT BEHIND!

They sing and dance
Spin the clubs cruise down the block.

This is still in reference to the cops, right?  They’re hanging out in the donut shop before singing and dancing and spinning clubs down the block?  Are they spinning billy clubs?  Is ‘spinning clubs’ some kind of obscure DJ reference I am unfamiliar with due to my advanced age?  Do they spin the clubs as they cruise or just prior to cruising?  See, kids, grammar and punctuation are your friends for good reason.  The value of clarity of expression cannot be discounted.

All the Japanese with their yen
The party boys call the Kremlin

That is some bad life advice right there.  Do not drunk dial the Kremlin under any circumstances.  

And the Chinese know
They walk the line like Egyptian.

All the cops in the donut shop say:
Walk like an Egyptian
Walk like an Egyptian.

I’m not completely up on my cop lingo but I am certain “walk like an Egyptian” is not one of their more popular phrases.  “You have the right to remain silent” sure.  “Freeze, police” yes.  “Do you know why I pulled you over?” definitely.

 

- Corinne Simpson

Nathan's Laserium: Ultron and Opinion

Even though Twitter has this annoying new feature called "While You Were Away" that I dismiss every time I see it, I miss most of what happens. I work far, far away from any kind of internet access and my shifts are 15 hours if you include travel time to and from. And because Twitter lends itself to brevity and has a tendency to allude to stuff rather than actually say the stuff (again, because brevity) I'm always having to play catch-up. Even as I type these words I can see that one simple solution might be to use something other than Twitter as my primary source of information about the world, but no thank you.

I think I have sorted out most of the stuff I care about:

Joss Whedon: No moar twitterz! Writing!

Simon Pegg: Movies are making you dumz! Moar smrter movies please!

Dr. Lepore: Comics are also very dumz! And sexist! Don't read comicssss!

G Willow Wilson: Hey, you're talking about the comic I wrote! Did you even read it? Because my whole thing is feminism and inclusivity....

George Miller: What's Twitter, pray tell? Look I made you a perfect movie that is also a feminist manifesto. A feminesto, if you will.

Taylor Swift: Did someone say Furiosa?

I took my whole family to see Age of Ultron yesterday. My daughters are 6 and 4 and their verdict was essentially: that was the longest, goodest movie ever. My verdict, though this is not a review and who really cares what I think anyways: way better than the comic with the same title, at least. At least it actually had Ultron in it and there was no need for a future Wolverine to kill the past Wolverine or something, and at no time was Captain America crying in a corner in some cave. Also the Hulk fought the Hulkbuster armour so that was definitely worth the price of admission.

It's that price of admission but that is actually kind of my point, which speaks to Simon Pegg's point, I think. It cost about $40 to take my family of four to a Tuesday afternoon matinee, pretty much the cheapest possible time. Oh and something like $17 or $24 for treats. Even taking the lower number, that's $57 to see a summer movie. And this was my clever solution to save money, since my wife and I had planned to see both AoU and Mad Max on date nights. So when you factor in dinner and babysitter, a movie for just two can sometimes approach $200. Yes, the bulk of that is not money to the studios, but it is money out of my pocket. So I have to be strategic in what movies I go see in the theaters.

My favorite movie I've recently seen is The Imitation Game. We got that from the library for free and watched it in the comforts of our own house. There's no way I'd go see that movie in the theater. No need. The big screen is for flashy special effects and stunning stunts. Comedies and dramas don't really lose much in the translation to a smaller screen (but still pretty freaking big compared to what I grew up with). In fact they are better at home in peace and quiet. And prestige television has certainly raised the bar for intelligent entertainment.

But the bottom line, to echo Alan's post the other day, is quit yelling at me for liking the stuff I like. I like the stuff I like! No apologies. If I want to spend nearly $50 to go see Avengers I'm gonna do it. And even more for Mad Max. Which isn't dumbing anyone down. I don't want to go off on Simon Pegg like so many others did, because his desire to see more intelligent movies is laudable. But you can have both. You can have both!

When I was a kid there was no upside to being into nerdy things. I loved Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and comics and action figures long past the point when society said I could, and I often caught shit for that. Even beaten up. So my love for this stuff is hard earned and you can fuck right off if you don't like it.

Ok, the sun is rising or however that lullaby goes. Calming down. Go read A-Force! Go see Mad Max! Watch Bad Blood on YouTube. Hell, even go see Simon Pegg's Star Trek 3 when it comes out, though I'm a little worried about that one- in the same interview where all the quotes about movies dumbing us down came from, he actually said some ominous things about studio meddling that made me think the real reason he said all that stuff is someone came in and told him he couldn't play with the toys he loves the way he wants.

If that's the case, well, I hear ya brother. Don't let the bastards bring you down!

- Nathan Waddell

 

Pick of the Week – May 18-24, 2015

Now that we’ve finished our several week run of Las Vegas Picks, we’re turning our attention to the printed word.  Despite that incredibly pompous-sounding introduction, my Pick of the Week, the 2014 novel Jackaby, written by William Ritter, is actually a lot of fun and a quick read.  I blew through its 300+ pages in a matter of hours. 

Jackaby tells the story of Abigail Rook, a young English woman who has just arrived in the small New England town of New Fiddleham in New England in 1892.  With no money or belongings to speak of, Rook needs to find a job and soon finds a potential position in the employ of R.F. Jackaby, if she can stick around long enough to earn the post.  Jackaby is a self-proclaimed investigator of the unusual, and soon Rook finds herself entering a world she never knew existed.

The Amazon.com page for the book describes Jackaby as “Doctor Who meets Sherlock,” which isn’t a bad description of the story (and, if I’m honest, it’s what got me to read the book in the first place).  Rook certainly would fit in nicely as one of the Doctor’s companions, and Jackaby himself shares characters with both the Time Lord and Mr. Holmes.  The latter similarity is actually addressed in the book.

I obliquely mentioned Jackaby in yesterday’s post about Young Adult novels.  Jackaby made the Kirkus Reviews list of Best Teen Books of 2014, which I suppose puts the novel in the YA category.  I’m not sure that I agree with the designation, though.  Yes, Abigail Rook is young, but she is on her own and has been for a while as of the start of the novel.  By the standards of the time period of the book, she is an adult.  Jackaby, both the book and the man, never treat her as anything less than that.

So why is this book, which I consider to be a supernatural mystery, classified as YA?  I have no idea.  Is the lack of sexual content?  Considering the fair graphic sexual content in Looking For Alaska, a book that is absolutely considered YA, I don’t think so.  And in the end, the classification doesn’t matter.  I read and enjoyed the book.  I’m now recommending it to you.  You just might like it no matter what your age.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

Book Shaming

As I was working on my Pick of the Week for tomorrow (More on that tomorrow, shockingly enough.  And, Spoiler Alert, the Pick is a book.), I ran across the fact that this particular book had been selected as one of the Best Teen Books of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews.  This surprised me because I hadn’t really considered the book to be aimed at teens.  Yes, the point of view character is a young woman, but she’s for all intents and purposes an adult in the novel and interacts with adults.

From there, I fell into one of those Internet rabbit holes where one article leads you to another to another, and ended up running across the debate that has cropped up about adults reading Young Adult books.  This isn’t new.  Similar discussions happened when J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels were bringing in millions of readers, young and old alike.  I’m fairly certain that I uttered a sentence along the lines of, “I know it’s for kids, but it’s really good!” at least once as I tried to both defend my reading choice and convince other adult friends to try the books (I am an entertainment pusher after all).

Perhaps the most pointed criticism of adults reading YA books comes from the article “Against YA” written by Ruth Graham that was published on Slate last year.  In it, she basically argues that most YA books are overly simplistic and view the teenage years without the critical eye or perspective that comes from adulthood. I think that’s probably an overly broad brush to use to paint the entire collection of books that are classified YA, but, even if it’s accurate, I’m not certain that it’s a problem.

Graham says that people read YA for escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia.  Escapism seems obvious.  That’s why most people read anything, watch TV, or go to a movie or show.  I’ll be honest that I have no idea what she means my instant gratification.  In the case of the Harry Potter series, readers had to wait a decade to get then whole story.  Sure that’s nothing compared to the folks reading A Song of Ice and Fire, but it’s far from instant.  As for nostalgia, sure people like remembering the good times of the past, but I don’t think nostalgia is really what’s at play here.

I think of nostalgia as being more of the moment.  For me, seeing a vintage Star Wars action figure takes me back to my childhood playing with those very same figures on the front porch of my parent’s house.  Reading John Green’s Paper Towns, one of my favorite YA novels (The film version will be released July 24, 2015.), didn’t take me back to a particular moment in my adolescence as such.  I could certainly relate to the main character.  More than that, though, the theme of the book, how we tend to see people as we want to see them rather than for who they really are, hit me because I knew that I’d been guilty of the same behavior when I was the protagonist’s age.  I feel that I needed my adult perspective looking back on my own life and mistakes to truly appreciate the events of the book.

My enjoyment of Paper Towns wasn’t nostalgia.  It was identification coupled with a certain amount of “If I only knew then what I know now.”  I don’t think the value of identification can be overstated.  Good writing can make a reader identify with anyone from a 17th Century Russian aristocrat to 41st Century a robot repairman from planet Jellinex.  I may not be an accountant with three kids and a gambling problem who has just learned that she’s dying of lung cancer, but an author can put me in her shoes and make me empathize with her.

YA does provide a short cut in some ways.  We haven’t all been whalers serving under a madman obsessed with bringing in Moby Dick, but we’ve all been teenagers trying to deal with first loves.  Does that make one inherently better than the other?  Absolutely not.  But Graham fears that YA books are somehow hurting literature.  She says of YA, “These are the books that could plausibly be said to be replacing literary fiction in the lives of their adult readers.” 

I have an English degree.  I am all for literary fiction, and the value of reading great works.  I also understand, though, that some books that are considered literature are about as entertaining as your average colonoscopy.  I mentioned Moby Dick a little bit ago.  I hate the book.  Hate it.  Reading Moby Dick was an incredibly painful experience for me, made even more so by the fact that I had a “kids version” of the story when I was young that I loved.  I’m not alone, though.  My mother, a woman with a Master’s in English herself, had the book removed from the English curriculum at the high school where she worked and replaced with something else because it was, in her mind, just that awful.

Let’s be honest.  For the most part, outside of school assignments, people read for enjoyment, not because it’s good for them.  Great literature can and should absolutely be enjoyable.  If you don’t like Moby Dick, put the damn thing down and go try something else.  Maybe Beloved would be more enjoyable, or try A Farewell to Arms.  This isn’t and shouldn’t be like taking medicine.  Life’s too short.

That said, I don’t believe Graham’s assertion that YA is replacing literature in adult’s lives for one second.  It’s not as though literary works were dominating the best seller lists before J.K Rowling came along and ruined everything.  Instead people were reading books by authors like James Patterson, Sue Grafton, John Grisham, Robin Cook, and Charlaine Harris.  These very popular writers produce what one of my college creative writing professors disdainfully called “genre fiction.”  Maybe somebody skipped the latest Alex Cross potboiler in favor of reading Looking For Alaska.  My bet is that Ernest Hemmingway’s fanbase wasn’t affected either way.

If people are reading, I’m not going to quibble too much about what they choose to spend their time with.  Maybe I’ll try to point them to something else that I think that they’d like (Did I mention that I am an entertainment pusher?), but I applaud them for wanting to read at all.  Elitism isn’t going to help anybody.  

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

Lyric Analysis: Billy Idol and 'White Wedding'

BILLY IDOL

"White Wedding"

Hey little sister what have you done?

The cry of every older sibling since the dawn of families.  What have you done, sis?  Why is my G.I. Joe in Barbie’s campervan, naked?

Hey little sister who's the only one?
Hey little sister who's your superman?

I immediately think “Lannister” and I’d apologize but it really can’t be helped.  Imagine Jaime singing this to Cersei and it’s a whole different song, right?  

Hey little sister who's the one you want?

Yeah, exactly.  *shoves Bran out a window*  You know how this ends.

Hey little sister shot gun!

In relation to the white wedding, am I to assume this is a reference to it being a shotgun wedding?  Is she pregnant?  Are they eloping?  Or is Billy Idol literally tossing her a shotgun like “hey sis, catch” and she’s all “lol, shotgun, thanks bro” like it’s no big deal?

It's a nice day to start again.
It's a nice day for a white wedding.

In the context of all the ‘who’s your daddy-ing’ and ‘shotgunning’ that came before, the white wedding here is suspect.  Like I don’t think this will be a Martha Stewart event, you know?  I doubt they’ll make their own table centres and distress lace to look antique for souvenir hankies hand-embroidered with the couple’s initials and a stylized heart.  This one time I watched Martha Stewart and she was going to show how to make a pumpkin pie and I thought “Yeah, I like pumpkin pie, I can get behind this” and she started by saying “First you need to go out to your pumpkin patch and select a pumpkin from the home grown garden you’ve been cultivating in your yard” and I was like “Welp, that was fun while it lasted.”  This wedding, though, I suspect, will not be that.

It's a nice day to start again.

Though, really, it’s never too late to start gardening.

Hey little sister who is it you're with?

Who even is the groom?  I bet so many grooms feel this way on their wedding day.  The bride this and the dress that and the flowers this and the caterer that...  It starts to feel like the people involved may be secondary.  Is that what this references?  I mean who is the little sister with?  Is it the one she loves or one she’s being forced to marry out of circumstance?  Does she even know who she’s with?  Is this a rash decision?  

Hey little sister what's your vice and wish?

My vice is CSI and my wish is Tom Hardy.  I realize the question wasn’t directed to me but if it was I’d have a hybrid crime scene/Tom Hardy wedding fiasco type scenario.  With cigars.  And vampires.  At night.  Upon reflection, I enjoy being single and just pondering these things in an abstract manner.

Hey little sister shot gun (oh yeah)

“From my cold dead hands!”

Hey little sister who's your superman?

Obviously my Superman is Christopher Reeve.  Isn’t everyone’s?  

Hey little sister shot gun!

Not for nothing but I do hope it isn’t a loaded shotgun you’re playing catch with.  

It's a nice day to start again (come on)
It's a nice day for a white wedding

‘White Wedding’ is a prequel to ‘Cradle of Love’, right?  In the Billy Idol storytelling pantheon, I mean.

It's a nice day to start again.

(Pick it up)

The ‘pick it up’ could refer to the shotgun which I presume is laying on the ground somewhere around the altar.  But I tend to think this is a reference to the song tempo instead.  It’s Billy breaking the fourth musical wall and instructing his band to go hard.  So many layers....

Take me back home

This just makes me think of how Prince Harry lived in a small place on William and Kate’s estate for awhile there after they were married.  “Bro, this has been a fun wedding, but man, take me back home” and all three of them pile into the car to go eat pizza on the couch.  Royal warm fuzzies.

Hey little sister what have you done?
Hey little sister who's the only one?

Questions you should have asked her PRIOR to the wedding day... just sayin’...

I've been away for so long (so long)
I've been away for so long (so long)
I let you go for so long

Were you at war, Billy Idol?  What’s the story here?

It's a nice day to start again (come on)
It's a nice day for a white wedding
It's a nice day to start again.

There is nothin' fair in this world
There is nothin' safe in this world

Reasons why Billy Idol’s career as a Hallmark card writer never did take off...

And there's nothin' sure in this world
And there's nothin' pure in this world

Time for a little wedding history lesson.  While many believe the bride’s wearing of white is to advertise her untouched virginal status, it actually has nothing to do with perceived purity.  Brides prior to Queen Victoria wore any color of dress they pleased, with red being an especially popular choice in Europe.  But once Victoria wore white lace to marry Albert, brides everywhere started adopting the white wedding dress as a way to show their status and wealth.  The practice spread until it became the norm.  Likewise a ‘white wedding’ is now a term used to describe a traditional western-style wedding complete with bride in white, groom, bridesmaids in matched dresses, groomsmen standing at the groom’s side, processional music, etc.  Technically, then, Billy Idol’s lament about nothing pure and sure being in the world has little to do with the titular white wedding.  So we must assume his complaint is of a more personal nature, one that betrays his insider knowledge of the couple in question.

Look for something left in this world
Start again

Perhaps this is an admonition to forget the pain of the past and all the broken hearts and trampled dreams one must suffer on the path to finding true love.  Perhaps, after all, this is truly a beautiful wedding ballad.  Billy Idol knows love.  Forget the hurt that came before, look for something new, start over.  Be in love.

Come on
It's a nice day for a white wedding

To misquote Worf, “Today IS a good day for a white wedding!”

It's a nice day to start again.
It's a nice day to start again.
It's a nice day to start again

“Hello repetition my old friend / you’ve come to talk to me again / all your thoughts and words repeating / and on my head again is beating / the sentence that was started in this song / all along / whispers the repeated strain...”  Oh yeah, I worked a Simon and Garfunkel reference into a Billy Idol song.  That just happened.

 

- Corinne Simpson