Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Persistence of Memory

I was taking a shower this morning when I found myself singing the Eleven song from Sesame Street for no reason at all, and with no stimulus to do so. It just popped in my head and I began singing it from beginning to end in falsetto (except for the cows' part, which I rapped in New York city cow, as in the original):
It's a lovely eleven morning
I heard eleven worms yawning
I saw eleven cows sleeping 'midst the buttercups
I said, "How's the cottage cheese?"
And they said, "Oh, dry up!"

Eleven little birdies in the trees
Bright yellow beaks and pinky knees
Eleven chicks hatching
Eleven cats scratching
Eleven's the number for me

Eleven ducklings quacking
Eleven pigs, lips smacking
One two three four five six
Seven eight nine ten eleven
Eleven's the number for me
Don't you see?
Eleven's the number for me!

This got me thinking of what else I remembered, and to my surprise, I remember the Funky Phantom theme song--the chorus at least, but I dont remember the Scooby Doo theme song. There is no reason to remember the Funky Phantom song and not remember the Scooby Doo song, but I had no part in the decision to render the Scooby Doo song locked and inaccessible in my subconscious. All I can come up with was 'Scooby Dooby Doo where are you?' (Apparently Scooby has a middle name: Dooby.) I think Ive seen more Scooby Doo episodes than Funky Phantom episodes, so perhaps Scooby's utter familiarity caused his theme song to be buried deeper than Funky's theme song. Familiarity sometimes renders things invisible, or at least withdrawn from consideration. Live next to an open sewer long enough and you won't be able to notice the shit smell anymore. It's our senses' way of resigning itself to our will. At first, it will tell you to stay away from the sewer by saying, "This place smells like shit. That means germs. Get away!" But if you dont stay away, it will shut the olfactory nerves down as if to say, "Fine. Youre the boss. Stay as long as you please."

I also remember the Hulk theme song, and now that I think about it, it's so whimsical given the Hulk's character that I can't help thinking Stan Lee (or whoever wrote it) was somehow high on pot or bored out of his gourd when he wrote it. The Hulk? Lovable?
Doc Bruce Banner,
Belted by gamma rays,
Changed into the Hulk.
Ain't he unglamorous!
Wreckin' the town
With the power of a bull,
Ain't no monster clown
Who is that lovable.
It's ever lovin' Hulk! Hulk! Hulk!"

I also remember snatches of the Iron Man theme song, the Submariner theme song, and the entire Thor and Captain America theme songs. Captain America's theme is wonderful with its rhymes. The composer was truly inspired. It's almost a tongue twister.

When Captain America throws his mighty shield,
All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield.
If he's led to a fight and a duel is due,
Then the red and white and the blue will come through.
When Captain America throws his mighty shield.
I havent heard these songs in ages, and Im pleasantly surprised that I remember them. There is no possible benefit for me in remembering them, and no survival advantage it could give me. If I try to pick up a chick with, "I can sing the Incredible Hulk theme song," I would most likely not end up procreating, therefore that memory could even possibly be detrimental to the survival of the species. And yet...

In elementary school I have worked hard at memorizing poems and speeches (Henley's Invictus, JFK's inaugural address, etc.), none of which I could recite verbatim now if my life depended on it. And theyre more 'important' in human history and culture than the Spiderman theme song, and yet I have no trouble singing Spiderman, Spiderman does whatever a spider can. How the memory chooses which ones to retain in the 'ready' folder, I have no idea.

If we are the sum total of our memories, then I wonder if I'd still be the same person today if the memory of the Marvel theme songs or the Eleven song were expunged from my subconscious. I'd probably be a lot more dour as those gaps in memory caused by the expunging would be filled by thoughts of dread and despair, because dread and despair are the natural defaults of a living conscious animal. Only higher animals have humor and song and whimsy. They create humor and song and whimsy to fight the dread that threaten to take over. Bertrand Russell wrote "Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built." It's a safe bet that Bert was no fun at parties. He'd have been a lot more fun if he had heard the Hulk theme song in his youth.

We live in troubling times. It's a tough time to raise kids whose memories will be filled with wars and famines and disasters and Britney Spears. But there's always hope. Several years from now, the despair that threatens to eat at their very core will be thwarted by the unbidden memory of...
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? (Spongebob Squarepants!)
Absorbent and yellow and porous is he! (Spongebob Squarepants!)
If nautical nonsense be something you wish (Spongebob Squarepants!)
Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish! (Spongebob Squarepants!)
Spongebob Squarepants, Spongebob Squarepants
Spongebob Squarepaa-a-aants!


grifter said...

More than meets the eye
Autobots wage their battle to
destroy the evil forces of
The Decepticons!

Robots in disguise


Jego said...

That is probably one of the lamest cartoon theme songs Ive ever heard. Maybe it sounds a lot more haiku-ish in Japanese.