ABBA-Dabba-Don’t

I let out a heavy, appalled groan over the weekend when I read that ABBA was going to release its first new material in 35 years.  I suspect that I was not alone, and that elsewhere in the world husbands who have learned the disturbing news are bracing for the potentially devastating impact of new ABBA songs on their happy households.

Photo of Agnetha FALTSKOG and ABBA and Bjorn ULVAEUS and Anni Frid LYNGSTAD and Benny ANDERSSONIt’s fair to ask why, after 35 years of blessed, ABBA-free silence, the four musicians in ABBA would see fit to inflict another bouncy, saccharine song upon the unsuspecting world.  Don’t the carefully coiffed Swedes in their curious apparel realize that the world has enough troubles?  Don’t they appreciate that only now, years later, are the ears and cerebral cortexes of human beings across the globe recovering from the inhumane punishment of the Mamma Mia! Broadway musical and follow-on film, which itself was one of the most devilish developments in the sad and sordid history of our species?

And that production, at least, was limited to old, familiar ABBA material.  After years of hearing ultrapop songs like Dancing Queen and Fernando and Take a Chance on Me, the ABBA deniers have been able to erect mental defenses against those audio onslaughts and go to their own mental happy place to hear the strains of The Who’s Baba O’Riley or Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love instead.

But, alas, there won’t be any prepared mental defenses against new ABBA material.  We’ll be walking down the street, passing a Starbucks or bakery, and the next thing we know we’ll be exposed unexpectedly to the new material and the shrill tones will become embedded in our brains where they will lurk forever.

The only good news is that ABBA has apparently recorded only two new songs, so the damage will be limited.

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The O.B.P.

The Obligatory Beach Photograph (O.B.P. for short) first became part of Americana in the mid-50s.

With the Baby Boom underway, the American economy growing rapidly during the Eisenhower years, and airlines and superhighways making travel easier than ever before, American families were vacationing in record numbers. Often the vacations were beach vacations, and the father of the family, equipped with his Kodak, took the first crude examples of the O.B.P. When the brood returned home, the neighbors were invited over for a slide show after dinner and drinks, and the O.B.P. was displayed to bored viewers to prove that the beach vacation had in fact occurred.

The O.B.P. quickly became ubiquitous. Camera-wielding travelers tried every conceivable angle, technique, and gimmick, even as camera technology advanced, but the O.B.P. endured without material change. It always featured sun, water, palm trees, and sand, without any significant distinguishing characteristics. After all, tropical beaches look pretty much the same, wherever they are found, whether you see them pictured in a slide show, in home movies, or in family photo albums — but by then, the overwhelming expectation that the O.B.P. would be taken left travelers unable to resist.

With the advent of the internet, blogs, and social media, the audience that was required to endure exposure to the O.B.P. widened, and the first creative variation on the O.B.P. in decades was discovered, when photographers decided to position a beer bottle or rum drink in the frame, or took the OB.P. from a chaise lounge so that their crossed feet would be visible at the bottom of the frame. Usually the post included the expression “aah!”

The O.B.P. is here to stay. Long live the O.B.P.!

Special Wedding Guests

You’d expect a wedding in the Bahamas to be different from a wedding in the Midwest, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when two bottlenose dolphins showed up after the ceremony. The dolphins and their trainers, from the UNEXSO facility next door, entertained the wedding guests with some precision acrobatics, flips, and well-crafted maneuvers. It was pretty amazing stuff.

Aside from a first-class dolphin show, other significant differences between midwestern weddings and Bahamian weddings would include lots of blue water, bright sunshine, guests in sunglasses, conch fritters during the cocktail hour, and potent rum drinks. It’s a good place for a wedding.

Art Is Where You Find It

It’s amazing how a little artwork can make a difference in your perception of a place and bring a smile to your face, besides. Whether it’s a pelican statue carefully perched atop a dead tree, or some colorful nativist paintings in a hotel room, art is enriching. It makes you appreciate the fact that someone cared enough and paid attention to what might seem like little details — but those little details can add such color and flair and turn a nice setting into a really memorable one.

Beachwalking

I’m a big fan of walking in all of its many forms, but I think I may like beachwalking best of all.

Beachwalking has all of the positive attributes of walking generally — fresh air, exercise, feeling your body get into an almost mechanical rhythm while your mind has the freedom to roam wherever it wants to go. But beachwalking has a number of plus factors, too. It’s pleasantly hot, for one thing. There are soothing surf sounds and seagull cries in the background, rather than traffic noises. You’re barefoot, and you feel warm sand between your toes. And if you’re on the right kind of beach, you can walk for miles, uninterrupted by crossing streets or cars or traffic lights or other reminders of civilization. It’s an opportunity to work yourself into an almost trance-like, zen state.

Yesterday I walked for miles on a basically empty beach, plodding along until I came up to a stone jetty and had to turn around and trod back again. I thought about nothing but sand and sea and the distant goal. It was a wonderful journey.

Redefining “Vivid”

Every time we visit the tropics I’m struck anew by the boldness of the colors of the native flora. They redefine “vivid.” Especially after a monochromatic midwestern winter, a short sojourn in the tropics reawakens the visual senses.

Is it any wonder that Gauguin found inspiration on an island? Were ever reds so red, or purples so purple?

Reporting With A P.O.V.

When I attended the School of Journalism at the Ohio State University in the late ’70s, journalistic objectivity was the standard.  We were drilled in the Dragnet approach to reporting — i.e., “Just the facts, ma’am.”  Sure, the facts could be presented in a vigorous, colorful way — that’s what made for good reporting — but the personal opinions or views of reporters were strictly reserved for “opinion” pieces that would go on the op-ed page, and probably would be labeled “opinion,” to boot.

The approach of the professional journalism community to objectivity has changed a lot since then.  I thought about the changes when I read the lead paragraphs of this news article by AP reporter Foster Klug about the meeting between the North Korean and South Korean leaders today:

180425155911-north-korea-south-korea-meeting-2-exlarge-169“In a historic summit more striking for its extraordinary images than its substance, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in set aside a year that saw them seemingly on the verge of war, grasped hands and strode together Friday across the cracked concrete marking the Koreas’ border.

“The sight, inconceivable just months ago, may not erase their failure to provide any new measures on a nuclear standoff that has captivated and terrified millions, but it allowed the leaders to step forward toward the possibility of a cooperative future even as they acknowledged a fraught past and the widespread skepticism that, after decades of failed diplomacy, things will be any different this time.

“On the nuclear issue, the leaders merely repeated a previous vow to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons, kicking one of the world’s most pressing issues down the road to a much-anticipated summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in coming weeks.”

We’ll never know how the story of this historic meeting would have been written in the old, studiously objective days, before point of view journalism was accepted as the new normal.  It’s safe to say, though, it would not have suggested that the meeting lacked “substance,” stated that the meeting involved a “failure to provide any new measures on a nuclear standoff” and was viewed with “widespread skepticism,” and reported that the leaders “merely repeated a previous vow” and “kick[ed] one of the worl’s most pressing issues down the road.”  Imagine that kind of reporting at the U.S.-Soviet summit meetings of the ’60s, or Nixon’s visit to China!  It just didn’t happen.

Is the new journalism better than the old?  Proponents of point of view reporting say it simply recognizes reality, and that forcing reports to be mindlessly objective dehumanizes the reporter and fails to acknowledge that reporters bring a perspective to the story when they report it.  Perhaps, but I’m old school — in this case, literally.  I’d be much more comfortable if Foster Klug, whoever he is, left his perceptions, fears, and other baggage behind and simply gave us the facts — leaving it to us to draw our own conclusions.