Flag Day, a historical aside

Today is flag day. Garrison Keillor has an article up about the poem, The Defense of Fort McHenry, or The Star Spangled Banner as it would be later known as.


But, you may think, how did that become our anthem?

Well, the music is from a song called “To Anecreon in Heaven” which was the official song of the Anecreontic Society in London. Now I have no idea what this society did in general, but they did drink.

And this song was not a ‘drinking song’ but rather a sobriety test. See, as we know from this year’s super bowl, this is a hard song to sing! So, when a society member wanted another drink, they had to sing a verse IN KEY to prove they were sober enough to continue.

Thankfully I’ve never had to do this, as I can’t stay on key singing “twinkle Twinkle Little bat”

So then what? Well, Key’s brother-in-law somehow noticed that this poem worked perfectly with the music to this not-quite-drinking song he just happened to know and got the paper to print it together. Even Washington Irving thought it was a good idea and reprinted it in his paper.

Next thing you know people are singing it all over.

It would be a be a while before it became our anthem, though. 1889 the Navy decided it would be the official tune played during the raising of the flag. In 1916 Woodrow Wilson ordered it be played at military occasions.

Two years later, 1918 it was played during the World Series, but not at the beginning, rather during the seventh inning stretch. I suspect it was moved to the beginning of the game since we all know you sing “take me out to the ball game” during the seventh inning stretch (which was written in 1908).

It would be 1931 before President Herbert Hoover signed the law to make the “Star Spangled Banner” our national anthem.

But hey, don’t believe me, go look! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Star-Spangled_Banner

Two minor things. One: the flag that Francis Scott Key was writing about had 15 stripes, rather than 13, since at the time we were adding a star and stripe for each new state. Since that would have made the current flag look like a bar code, I for one am glad we stuck with just stars.
Two: there don’t seem to be many Woodrows anymore. Maybe it is time.

Monthly Music – May

This month we have Moby and a bit of Woody Guthrie, sorta. (Yeah yeah, it is June, it is close enough)

Moby – Destroyed (electronic)

I have had a thing for Moby since I first heard “Everything is Wrong” all of those years ago. (Almost too many to say aloud) Since then it has been a steady stream of great albums ranging from the quiet ambient (Wait for Me) to the get up and dance (Last Night).

Destroyed is more in the middle. There are a collection of ambient pieces towards the end, along with some more energetic stuff from the beginning. In a way it is close to the album structure of “Everything is Wrong”.

While I horribly biased, I love it. I’d been a huge “Hotel” kick as of late, and the two together are great.

Billy Bragg and Wilco, Mermaid Ave (folk/rock)

This is an older album (1997) but it is brand new to me, so I think it counts. The album is a collection of songs that were lyrically written by Woody Guthrie. He never got around to writing the music parts, and that is where Billy Bragg and WIlco come in.

The album is folksy for sure, but it is supposed to be. More than a few of the lyrics are political, and topics include the Great Depression to, well, Walt Whitman’s niece.

In the end, I bought it for “California Stars” which is a fantastic song. But I stayed for “Walt Whitman’s Niece” and all the rest.

Monthly Music – April

For April I have a theme: metal bands with female singers. Sure there have always been some rockin’ girls out there, but it wasn’t until Evanescence that I got the taste, really, for chick goth metal.

In This Moment

In this Moment is like the prequel to this adventure. I heard “Daddy’s Fallen Angel” in a rental car far from home and went on a quest to find the album. I had mistakenly thought it was a metal band with a girl back up singer (hey it was a convertible, the top was down…). Instead i get a metal band with a lead female vocalist who can sing, growl, scream and rock. I was pleased. While more traditional metal than the rest of this list, I still recommend.

For the beginner: Because of the vast difference between the first two albums, hard to say. Recommend “The Dream” for everyone, and “Beautiful Tragedy” for those who like their metal chicks a bit more, well, metal.

Within Temptation

This was the start of it all. I started a search on Amazon for “the guy who left Evanescence and I think started his own band, maybe” and somehow ended up here. Within Temptation are a Dutch band (they sing in English) who started in 1996. Easiest way to describe them is like Evanescence, but better. And they’ve been doing it longer too. I put “Within Temptation” into my Slacker Radio (slacker.com) and that started the rest.

Within Temptation’s new album is called “The Unforgiving” and is a concept album with a comic book and short films (music videos) associated with it. The first single is “Faster” and has been blasted out of my open car windows more than once already.

For the beginner: While the new album rocks, I still think that “The Heart of Everything” is where to start.


Nightwish is over the top symphonic metal and I love every minute of it. Finnish, they also formed in 1996. There There have been two female lead singers of Nightwish, but I am a fan of both. Naturally there are others who are more polarized on the issue.

Nightwish does not yet have a new album out, but I had to include them anyway. They have announced a new album this fall, I’ll update then.

For the beginner: This one is harder because of the lead singer change. Recommend “Dark Passion Play” and “Once”


UnSun is a Polish band. They are newer, having started in 2006, but still good. While a bit ligher than Within Temptation and don’t have an orchestra and band of singing monks like Nightwish, they are still

For the beginner: “Clinc for Dolls” is where to start.

The Birthday Massacre

The Birthday Massacre isn’t metal, per se. I’d really classify them as “dark wave” or something (wiki says ‘synthrock’) but they showed up on the Slacker Radio station and I fell in love. More traditional sync goth music rather than goth metal, they still

Bithday Massacre’s newest album is “Pins and Needles”

For the beginner: All of them? Get “Walking with Strangers” or “Pins and Needles” and then if you like, just get the others.