Category Archives: mermaids

Blood + Money

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Lotas, age 2

As you thank Abraham Lincoln and Sarah Joseph Hale for bringing you the national holiday you are about to enjoy, save an empty space on your plate for Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan, two U.S. Presidents who (along with Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce) ignored Hale’s entreaties and passed on the chance to institutionalize Thanksgiving.

And as you remember Fillmore and Buchanan, take a gander — if you haven’t already taken the goose — at some recently digitized pieces by 8 great contemporary American artists that we are featuring in the new archival section of the site.

For an August 9, 2009 afternoon show that was to be billed as kid-friendly — and for a Wisconsin native like the Viper, kid-friendly means held in the outdoor beer garden of Mike ‘N Molly’s in Champaign, Illinois — The Viper and His Famous Orchestra sponsored a coloring contest. To accompany our performance of the “Fillmore & Buchanan March” we asked members of our audience to do what they would with two public domain portraits (courtesy of of the eponymous Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan: two of our least remembered, least loved, and best forgotten U.S. Presidents.

Contestants who submitted entries ranged in age from 2 to 46. The entries were judged by Irene Jerving, Sophie Rainey, and Anna E. Staley. Below we present a sampling of the best of the best. Click on the thumbnail for a full-size version of the image.

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Lotas, age 2

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Sage, age 4

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Caroline, age 4

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Charlotte, age 5

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Maeve, age 5

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Ciara, age 15

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Kristin, age 39

Fillmore & Buchanan
by Tom, age 46

If you missed out on the contest, it’s not too late: you can still download and print out the PDF of the coloring sheet, complete it (as you complete me) and mail it to Ryan Jerving / 2171 N. Hi-Mount Blvd. / Milwaukee, WI 53208. When I get a chance, I’ll upload any entries I receive to this space and to our Facebook fan page.

For information on the “Fillmore and Buchanan March” itself (and some recordings and ring tones of various versions), see this site’s blog entries for November 14, 2008 and February 28, 2008.

Das Kapital 2.0

Ask not what The Viper can do for you: ask what you can do for The Viper. And today, The Viper is asking you to contribute some of  late capitalism’s current favorite euphemisms.

One of the songs we’ll be playing at our shows this summer is our old standby, “Das Kapital,” which boils down Karl Marx’s three volumes and 150 years of marxist theory into 3 minutes and 24 seconds of vaudeville patter with a structure borrowed (shall we say “liberated”?) from The Music Man‘s “Trouble in River City” song. That’s trouble with capital “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for “Capital.” Here’s what it sounded like:

click here to download the mp3

Well, it’s 10 years since we recorded this song for our Everything for Everyone CD. And some of the bits in the lyrics that were supposed to sound like crazy ranting seem scarily uncrazy now. In fact, we’re going to have a hard time keeping up with reality.

And this is where you come in. I need your help in bringing up to date the middle “trouble, trouble, trouble” part that starts at 1:58 in the recording above. This is where, like Harold Hill, I ask if the audience has noticed that in their son or daughter’s speech, “certain words [are] starting to creep into their conversation, words like…”  And then I list some of the current “anglo-saxon monosyllables” of which James Agee (in an appendix to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men) once noted that “a careful man will be watchful of, and by whose use and inflection he may take clear measurement of the nature, and the stature, and the causes, and the timbre, of the enemy.” On the recording above, these were, for summer of 1999: “the new economy,” “labor shortage,” “wage inflation,” and “reformer with results.”

I’ve started a list below for 2009, that might include:

  • toxic assets
  • derivatives
  • too big to fail

Now, it’s time for you to add your favorite words and phrases. Either send these as comments or, even better, type them directly in the wiki page I’ve created for this song at (you’ll just click the “edit” button you’ll see on the top of the page, then save when you’re done). The death of the reader is the birth of the contributor.