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Friday, December 4, 2015

Matchbook Mystery

Let's begin with a favorite tune, performed by the incomparable impressionist, Guy Marks:

video:Guy Marks, "Loving You Has Made Me Bananas"

The central phrase of this moving song is absquatulated from the obverse of  matchbook covers:
Ok, they used to say "close cover before striking", but "strike gently" is good too, especially if someone uses matchbook literature in future song lyrics. Gentleness is a strength in this modern world and one hopes everybody, if stricken at all, will be stricken gently and emerge wiser, kinder. Or it could refer to some aspects of martial arts like Kung Fu and Feng Shui, but I am not sure. I am content to live with the mystery, but this I cannot understand:

I have been a father since 1970 and a grandfather for 10 years, so the caution under the reverse striking strip is impossible. Decidedly there are certain children one should keep away from: ones with crazy business in their eyes who head-butt when they hug; those that leap up onto your lap with one knee out. But on the gentler side, I spent many years walking back and forth at all hours with babies crying into my left ear and singing "Old Man River" to them.


Video: Robeson, "Old Man River"
Daughter says she still gets unaccountably sleepy hearing magnificent Paul Robeson recordings or any tunes from "Show Boat".  The crying is probably why my left ear failed first --left-handed parents probably have the right ear go. I mean, they're right there on your shoulder. But high frequency hearing loss and tinnitus eventually claim both ears, which is why I left a fortune at a hearing doctor's office this week. There's no economy in a cheap audiologist.

By no means should the new matchbook warning be taken as absolute. Yes, protect your hearing, but never deprive children the privilege to screech in your ear. They need that to grow good. If you want to raise them up to good ideas, better futures, you must make auditory sacrifices and, when they come round to thanking you for being a good parent, remember to smile, nod, twinkle at them and say, "Hah?"

27 comments:

  1. I had completely forgotten the song "Loving You Has Made Me Bananas". Wow! Thank you for reminding me. I did not wonder about why the hearing in my right ear is less than the left. You gave me a good reason. I will have to pass it on to my left-handed offspring too.

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    1. Thank You, Emma. We support baby bottoms across our bodies with our strongest arms, which pitches their vocal parts against the opposite ear --a noble and loving way to lose a bit of hearing.

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  2. Sound advice!
    As one who is tone deaf and who cannot carry a tune, I resorted to my English grandmothers method of a series of "Now, now, now there. Now, now, now there…" accompanied by a gentle pat on the back. Maybe it was the metronomic quality of the mantra, "Now, now, now there…."
    Yea, my hearing too has begun to go round the bend.

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    1. "Sound advice", indeed! I sprang for 2 hearing aids Wednesday --waited a bit overlong. Medigap insurance furnished a nice discount, so it's doable but we'll have a frugal Yule this year and I rather dread hearing myself sing again.

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  3. What a fantastic post, Geo! You've managed to cheer me up - - and lately that's a near impossibility. I love both videos. Only problem is that "Ol' Man River" didn't make me sleepy (my insomnia is hopeless).

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    1. Thanks Jon. Maybe it's the slow, rolling cadence of the song that made babies conk out. The underlying message, though, of social injustice --which Robeson conveyed with his eyes and voice-- is something that keeps us grown-ups awake.

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  4. Hi Geo - no children and thus no hearing loss! But interesting to read about - I shall pass on said advice appropriately at times suitable to recipients of new borns.

    The Health and Safety 'police' are a pain ... such stupid instructions around ... for goodness sense - let's bring back common-sense into life ...

    Good luck with said hearing though ... the aids seem to be quite effective, which I'm sure many are very grateful for ... but babies and war noises probably don't help, as in this era - discos .... pays the docs though!!!! cheers Hilary

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    1. You're right about ubiquitous health and safety police. I just noticed our shampoo has "directions for use" and "warnings", Good heavens, our toothpaste does too!

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  5. My husband got his expensive hearing aids a few years ago. Unfortunately, he was so used to saying "huh", that when I speak or ask a question, he still replies, "huh". This does not happen when he converses with others. I can relate to Guy Marks song.

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    1. I don't look forward to hearing EVERYTHING again. Will I get used to it or will it make me bananas?

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  6. Very sorry to find out you are still having problems with your hearing. How miserable! I hope things get better soon. Nice memory though about singing 'Old Man River." Truly a great song and Showboat has always been one of my favorites.

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    1. I've always marveled at the Kern and Hammerstein song, but it was Robeson, portraying a steamboat stevedore, who focused the world's attention on it.

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  7. To see those matchboxes the way you did - and Norma who took a photo to make it clear to the more vision-oriented - is funny!
    The gentle approach is the way one should treat children - though their ears are wonderful keen-eared to be able to distinguish whether you mean "no" as "no - and I'll fight for that" or "No - but I am to tired to do anything". I always thought about these alternatives before I said "no" (and I am for reasonable boundaries).
    as to hearing they found out that I am oversensitive concerning hearing - that is not always a grace....
    Good that you have heairing-aids now - husband has very tiny ones, and I insisted: I don't want to have to repeat every question/answer three times - and I do not want to fetch the habit of speaking very, very loud -- with everyone... :-)

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    1. Dear Brigitta, truly, much of learning language is a study of emphasis conducted in early childhood. Norma has a very soft voice and I look forward to understanding what she is saying again. She, like you, does not like to speak loudly.

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  8. Being told to keep away from children?
    I don't think I can get away with that.

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    1. Agreed, considering many people used to be children themselves.

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  9. So THAT's what my husband is practicing for ... except it's only me he is practicing on, with his "hmm's?" and "huh's?" ... My theory is that he's been listening to me for so many years that it's worn out that range in his auditory receptors.

    I used to sing "Swing low, sweet chariot" to lull our babies to sleep. Happily, I didn't really know the words, so I just hummed everything after the first line, and they grew up without complexes..

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    1. Well there's coincidence. Frequency selective presbycusis is practiced in our home too!

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  10. The world offers many strange and sometimes contradictory suggestions to us, doesn't it? Approaching my nearby sandwich shop yesterday, a sign ordered me "don't walk" and was even accompanied by a stern voice. I sheepishly went home and got my car to drive instead, even though it was a nice day and I would have loved the exercise. It was perplexing, because I could have sworn just the day before I was ordered to "walk" at the same location.

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    1. I'm familiar with that intersection. You'd think crossing instructions would be more consistent.

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  11. Some years ago, Smarticus gave me the perfect plush animal to go with that first song. It's a little white monkey, wearing red satin trunks and snazzy sunglasses, and holding a banana in his hand. If you squeeze him a tad, he wolf whistles, and says, "I go bananas over you!"

    Good explanation about the hearing loss! I held many a crying baby over the years, and for such long periods of time, I often switched shoulders, giving the wee ones equal access to my now compromised ears. Makes sense! I hope you do well with the hearing aids. When my grandmother got hearing aids in the fifties, she was so bothered by the sudden influx of noise, she kept taking them out or turning them off so she could retreat back into the comfort of her more quiet world.

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    1. Thanks Susan. Picked up my hearing aids yesterday and am pretty happy with them --they're frequency tuned and have a masking option that eases tinnitus somewhat. I keep them in my grandpa's old Bakelite box, the one he kept his Atomeer hearing aid in when I was a kid. The devices have come a long way since then. I know you're an avid museum-goer so I'll alert you to The Hearing Aid Museum, 49PistonCourt,Stewartstown, PA.

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    2. Um, I've never heard of that museum before... :)

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  12. I'm a fan of any post that features Paul Robeson - remarkable man. All-American football player and class valedictorian at Rutgers while being the only African American student enrolled at the university. Played briefly in a very young NFL. Law degree from Columbia. It just goes on and on, one of the most humbling bios you'll ever read and that's BEFORE you get to the music. Not too good at being a faithful husband. That's just about the only flaw.

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    1. Indeed, Mr. Robeson was a man who dedicated himself to excellence, in athletics, academics, performance and pursuit of social justice. His flaws were private. Thanks Squid.

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  13. I'm prone to getting water in my ears, which causes partial deafness. I find it relaxing, but miss the birdsong, and music. Martialling our Tae Kwon-Do Xmas party tonight, so today's deafness is a kindness. Life must be easier when you can choose times of low hearing, so I believe your expense will prove worthy :-)

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    1. So far so good, Lisa! Unfortunately my high-frequency hearing loss has left some neurons whistling annoyingly among themselves. Hearing aids encourage them to do something more useful. Enjoy the party and have a wonderful holiday.

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