Wednesday, February 09, 2011


There's a lot of schmutz in the world!

In the years since Tom Lehrer sang "Pollution" on TV's short-lived "That Was The Week That Was," nominal efforts to clean some rivers or recycle some of our garbage have been overwhelmed by short-sighted pigs destroying this overpopulated planet.

No polar bears, tigers or oysters in 50 years? Who's to say the human race will be around in 50 years? Oil spills are as toxic and common as Kardashians. You can spot islands of garbage floating in our oceans as if they're franchises of Taco Bell.

While a city dweller may breathe in the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day in air pollution, his country cousin isn't doing much better thanks to coal mines and factories as well as chicken farms and pig farms. Nobody seemed to care when 20 million gallons of hog shit ended up in a river in North Carolina, but even backward states that used to have plenty of room are no longer havens for simple pursuits such as squirrel shooting, armed robbery and rape. Many rural residents are suffering cancers and finding less fresh air and water because of stupid and/or crooked politicians overlooking obvious menaces. A giant pig farm oozing shit and blood into streams and lakes is a problem even a moronic lazy rebel should find offensive.

Remember the last Olympic games? People were much more concerned over China cheating with underage gymnasts, than they were with China's horrendous pollution putting a literal pall over every stadium and event. Some athletes could barely function in that environment. But that's better left unsaid, and unsung. It's been many, many years since Lehrer sang "Polllution" and Joni Mitchell pointed out the paving of paradise or grumbled "short sighted businessmen…nothing lasts for long." Well, why should we be surprised that obnoxious greed-heads turn their backs on pollution or global warming and say it doesn't exist? We have bloggers with Paypal donations and websites decrying every copyright owner's DMCAs, sneering: "Nobody can prove that "sharing" hurts the economy or the artists."

What can one do, except put on a skull-like grin and wait for the end of the world? Germans, so noted for a dark, gross, (if not Grosz) sense of humor, are enjoying the fiercely acidic and cheerfully pessimistic works of Tom Lehrer thanks to an album of translations by pianist-singer Felix Janosa (he's in the photo above, in a hat I hope he realizes is comical). Let's face it, Tom's works do sound even more menacing in German!

"You're right," Max Prendergast said to Emma Peel, "it is a rather brutal language."

Janosa's German-language versions of Lehrer lieder are often funny even if you don't speak the language. Lehrer isn't given enough credit for catchy tunes that are in fact comic parodies. "Masochism Tango" is tangier than its inspiration, "Kiss of Fire," "Vatican Rag" is more relentlessly cheerful than anything Scott Joplin did, and there's no calypso that flaunts its vulgarity as fiercely as "Pollution," here titled "Verschmutzung." So wipe the schmutz out of your ears and give a listen...


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