austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

They're the ones who fix the game

(Wrangling with minor computer issues. Shall be back to normal soon, undoubtedly to produce a four-day spectacular on the uninteresting problems.)

Turner Classic Movies has a neat feature Friday overnights -- that is, properly speaking, Saturday morning -- called TCM Underground in which they show movies which meet only a very loose and forgiving definition of `classic', one which encompasses things like Ed Wood mind-staggering experiences. Last weekend I caught an hour or so of a movie I'd never heard of called Machine Gun McCain, and I was the more surprised never to have heard of it since you'd think with the current election decade it would have been used for a flimsily constructed YouTube video making fun of not very much, really.

I can't really say much about the quality of the film. It seems to be a heist movie, and that's a genre I really don't get into because unless it involves Sammy Maudlin I just don't care if someone makes off with all of Danny Thomas's money. Plus I was, out of respect to my father, who's deaf except for the television when I'm watching it, keeping the volume quite low and relying on the closed captioning when I wasn't worrying about other things. But it did star Peter Falk, so I saw a great number of images of Columbo frowning at things until the stock footage of gas stations blowing up comes in. I think some of these gas station explosions also blew up in the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 experiment Laserblast.

At the closing credits they struck up ``The Ballad of Hank McCain'', with such resounding lyrics as ``No one knew better than McCain/ They're the ones who fix the game/ They're the ones with the loaded dice''. Aware that I had a rare chance to stock up on a lyric which could prove handy in case I choose to write about politics this year I went to Google to find the full ballad.

What I discovered was that -- probably not surprisingly -- all the lyrics places appear to copy off one another. That's always been implied, of course, by the absurd Javascript annoyances such pages inflict on people who try looking up their stuff. But I know they must be copying off someone since the entire first page of Google searches, from a good number of `different' hosts, all ran the first lyric as ``No one knew better than the king''.

I'll grant that someone might have heard ``McCain'' as ``The King''; lyrics are often hard to decipher. But the Ballad has about one in every three lines end with ``McCain'', whereas the printed lyrics all end ``the king''. Didn't the original transcriber think it odd that a song called ``The Ballad of Hank McCain'' supposedly didn't have Hank or McCain in the song? Or that this supposed ``the king'' is matched up with words like ``game'' or ``pain'' or such that rhyme or at least have the same vowel sound as ``McCain'' but nothing near ``King''? And why is it that a mistake -- even an obvious one -- stands such a good chance of driving out correct information?

Trivia: In 1799 Daniel Boone moved across the Mississippi into Spanish Louisiana and took an oath of loyalty to the King of Spain. Source: The Fabric Of America, Andro Linklater.

Currently Reading: Challenge To Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945 - 1974, Asif A Siddiqi.


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