How Howard L. Kaplan sees himself: as a guitar-playing frog
Complete lyrics from
that I'm not planning to release on CD
during the remainder of the second millennium
by Howard L. Kaplan
All songs ©Howard L. Kaplan
Performing rights administered by SOCAN
  • The ex-arboureal porcupine blues
  • Walking west on Barton Street
  • The baking lesson
  • From Dover to Calais
  • Low density
  • A note of thanks to Dr. Rees
  • Slow loris (Nycticebus coucang)
  • Talking nicotine blues
  • Low flush
  • Professor Barleycorn
  • The mouse

  • The ex-arboureal porcupine blues

    Here's the situation I want you to consider if you please: (2x)
    Now, it seems that porcupines are accidentally falling out of trees.

    It's been happening for a while, as a search through museums has revealed: (2x)
    One finds lots of skeletons with evidence of fractures that have healed.

    One might hypothesize falling would make them ill (2x)
    Through infection secondary to the self-impalement on a quill.

    Well, that's not the case, for the lubricant that helps a quill glide (2x)
    Through the flesh of an attacker is also a bactericide.

    Now, the fisher is a weasel with a mighty fine coat of fur (2x)
    Who has been extirpated from most places he used to occur.

    The quick, clever fisher is an animal that's able to dine (2x)
    Upon the flesh of the slow but prickly porcupine.

    He goes for the face, which is toothy but is lacking protection, (2x)
    Circling to avoid the tail, slashing from the other direction.

    The porcupine, exhausted, is flipped on its back, (2x)
    Leaving the unprotected belly open to attack.

    When thin branches tempt a porcupine with buds or fruit, (2x)
    Ex-arbouration can be the consequence of their pursuit.

    It's safer to nip off the twigs and eat the treats out of hand, (2x)
    Which tends to leave a lot of stunted, funny-looking trees on the land.

    And those who are managing a forest for its lumber or a park (2x)
    Don't like to have too many porcupines a-nibbling at the bark.

    So, the fisher has been introduced again to play his old role (2x)
    In keeping the tree-nibbling porcupine under control.

    I've a major reference to cite for you before I close: (2x)
    The North American Porcupine, by Uldis Roze.

    Walking west on Barton Street

    I was going for a stroll, Walking west on Barton Street,
    On a tragic, hot, and fateful August day,
    When I chanced upon two women, And their voices were so sweet,
    But they stole the best part of my life away.
       I was pressed into service, though no time I could afford,
       And I spent my next three years on the Karma Co-op Board.

    Many years I'd been a member, Walking west on Barton Street,
    Every other week I'd work there for an hour.
    But these women said to me, And their voices were so sweet,
    That the time had come to take the reins of power.
       I was pressed ...

    Well, I scoffed at their suggestion, Walking west on Barton Street,
    For the Board should be a model of perfection,
    But they said, be not concerned, And their voices were so sweet,
    It was hard enough just holding an election.
       I was pressed ...

    So, I ran and was elected, Walking west on Barton Street,
    And was secretary when we chose our roles.
    Speeches flew, and I got flustered, And their voices were so sweet,
    So I made things up to fill in all the holes.
       I was pressed ...

    Well received was my reporting, Walking west on Barton Street,
    So the next year I was placed in charge of money,
    But the Board thought banks were evil, And their voices were so sweet,
    So I hid the cash in jars marked "Buckwheat Honey".
       I was pressed ...

    In my last year I was chairman, Walking west on Barton Street,
    And I got to learn a whole new set of vices,
    Like deserting wife and family, And their voices were so sweet,
    Staying up at night to deal with weekly crises.
       I was pressed ...

    When my three year term was over, Walking west on Barton Street,
    The new Board said they thought it was a pity
    They'd be losing my good counsel, And their voices were so sweet.
    Would I like to be the head of a committee?
       I was pressed ...

    Should you ever meet the devil, Walking west on Barton Street,
    Do not let her turn your head with phrases clever,
    For the Board returned my body, And their voices were so sweet,
    But my soul stayed in the minutes book forever.
       I was pressed ...


    The baking lesson  See the music; hear the MIDI file

    As I walked through the co-op on a sunny Saturday morn,
    I saw a woman standing there, all sad-eyed and forlorn,
    Between the whole-wheat flour and the fine-ground yellow corn.
    I asked her why a frown should cross the face of one so sweet.
    She said that many days had passed since she had had a treat.
    I said I'd gladly treat her, so she smiled at me and said,
    "Why don't you come to my place then and help me bake some bread?"

    Well, I was feeling nervous as she led me through her door,
    For, though I'd had my kitchen for a dozen years or more,
    A loaf of bread was something that I'd never baked before.
    I asked her to describe for me the method she would choose,
    And show me what equipment and what recipe to use.
    And though she used familiar terms like "oven", "yeast", and "dough",
    It sounded like the strangest bread that I would ever know.

    She set me to proceeding as our appetites increased.
    I worked without instruction for a half an hour at least,
    In hopes the dough would leaven through the action of the yeast.
    But soon it was apparent that a problem lay at hand:
    The dough would not develop on the schedule she had planned.
    And though an expert baker she for many years had been,
    A loaf so lacking gluten she had never before seen.

    I asked her, "Is it hopeless?", and she said, "The problem looks
    Like something I once read about while studying my books,
    Revealing knowledge gained in France, the home of famous cooks.
    You've worked so long already, it would really be a waste
    To call the loaf a failure now.  Here, let me have a taste."
    And saying that, she placed a bit of dough upon her tongue.
    She was an expert baker lass, although she was quite young.

    She said, "The yeast is ample, as you'd know if you would read,
    But yeast alone is not enough to make our loaves succeed:
    The gluten won't develop if we never learn to knead."
    She placed her fingers on the dough.  Her touch was strong and warm,
    And through her gentle kneading I could feel the gluten form.
    And as she was so skillful, it was really no surprise
    When, after a few minutes more, the dough began to rise.

    I asked her, "Shall we bake it now?", and she said, "Surely not.
    I told you of the recipe; it seems that you forgot
    The dough cannot be baked until the oven is quite hot.
    I hope your touch is sensitive; this room is not too bright, *
    But down beneath my oven, would you start the pilot light? *
    We'll let the loaf rise once more while the oven gains its heat,
    And then we'll set it baking so that we can have our treat."

    The loaf we set to baking I was eager to devour.
    She bade me to have patience, and to give my will the power
    To leave it in the oven for the best part of an hour.
    And while I spent that hour doing battle with my will,  *
    She said I was untutored, but I had some native skill.
    And when the course of time that she had set had finally run,
    The top crust cracked, some steam escaped, and then the loaf was done.

    Oh, members of the co-op, here's the moral of my tale:
    It's not enough to have the best ingredients for sale;
    We need to work with knowledge, or our recipes will fail.
    So stand among the flour bins, and state your needs aloud.
    Ask for help with cooking, and you'll gather quite a crowd.
    Choose an expert teacher from among the ones who speak,
    And may you have a baking lesson like I had that week. 

    * These are the lyrics that were used on the cassette.  In the summer of 2002, I decided
    to slightly revise these three lines.  The revised version can be seen in the .pdf file here .

    From Dover to Calais  See the music; hear the MIDI file

    I thought I heard the old man cry
       Blow hard and hover!
    "Rev up the fans; it's time to fly"
       From Dover to Calais.

    I thought I heard the first mate quip
    "Is this an airplane or a ship?"

    I thought I heard a Belgian say
    "Your shopping bags are full today"

    I thought I heard a Frenchman answer
    "It's all so cheap at Marks and Spencer"

    I thought I heard an old ghost scream
    "You'll go the way of sail and steam"

    I signed on board at seventeen
    I had no sea legs; I was green

    I worked these craft from stern to bow
    It's thirty years I've known them now

    In sixty-eight no ships were newer
    I thought my future was secure

    Where will I go, what will I do
    Now that they've pushed the tunnel through


    Low Density

    Well, astronomers say that the sun's a star and the earth is round, not flat,
    And outer space ain't a perfect vacuum -- it's more dense than that.
    But the numbers stating just how dense leave average folk confused,
    So I'm gonna' try a different tack than the one who told me used.
    Now, if you're someone who hears statistics, glazes over, and fidgets,
    Relax!  For I'm gonna' limit these to two significant digits,
    And even those will be explained through images concrete,
    Like deep fried slices of potato or coverings for your feet.

    A small adult who goes in wading, stopping at the waist,
    Makes roughly two and twenty litres water get displaced,
    And that's a standard volume in the chemical profession:
    It holds one Avogadro's worth, at sea level compression.
    It must be warm like a comfortable room and in the gaseous state:
    Then the mass of the gas expressed in grams is the gas's molecular weight.
    A panty hose design balloon if filled from toe to hip
    With H2 gas would hold two grams: that's one potato chip.

    Now, hydrogen can lift things when a large balloon's inflated,
    But it oxidizes much too fast, as the Hindenburg demonstrated.
    So its main role is not a gas, but as a part of water,
    Cellulose and cantaloupes and Chelsea, Clinton's daughter.*
    Most of mass was hydrogen the day the big bang burst,
    And heavier stuff like zinc and iron wasn't there at first.
    Hydrogen and helium formed stars through gravitation,
    Then fusion made the heavier stuff through chains of combination.
     * When this line ceases to be funny, substitute
       "Cellulose and cantaloupes, your dachshund and your daughter"

    A supernova, once collapsed from fuel exhaustion, must
    Explode, dispersing atoms into space as clouds of dust.
    The planet Earth was made from stuff in clouds that formed the sun,
    Old star remnants blown to bits ere our sun had begun.
    The stuff included copper, carbon, calcium (found in lime),
    Nickel, and some ninety more that Tom Lehrer could make rhyme,
    And hydrogen, which chemists study, measuring its particles,
    And thus maintaining tenure as they publish learned articles.

    The universities that we know are all found on this planet,
    And outer space cannot have Yales and Heidelbergs -- or can it?
    There may be some on other planets through the Milky Way,
    But they're far off, where even E-mail can't reach in a day.
    The planets and the stars are rare -- there ain't much mass around.
    Astronomers have done the math, and this is what they've found:
    If you smooth out the mass in space, or so they tell their readers,
    It's like one atom of hydrogen per seventeen cubic metres.

    Now that statistic's not just true of spaces twixt the stars;
    It takes in heavier places, too, like Paris, Polaris, and Mars.
    When you consider all the mass in bright spots in the skies,
    Then most of space is emptier than seventeen implies.
    A cubic metre would be quite a largish storage crate,
    And seventeen would be a room, nine feet by eight by eight.
    But atoms made of hydrogen are too small to be seen,
    Even through a microscope with lenses strong and clean.

    So, think of it a different way.  Aboard a DC-10,
    With quantities of fuel sufficient not to land again
    Till you had cruised for eighteen days, nonstop, both night and noon,
    The miles you flew, if stretched out straight, could take you to the moon.
    Pretend that pantyhose balloon discussed some lines ago
    Were stretched in all directions, with the same shape of the toe,
    The heel, the knee, the thigh, the hip, enlarged without distortion,
    Heel on the earth and knee by the moon, all parts in proportion.

    Now think what's in that small balloon: it's just two of grams of mass,
    The mass of one potato chip, in the form of H2 gas,
    And let it fill that other one, enlarged past credibility,
    The one with its heel by the Beaufort Sea and its knee by the Sea of Tranquillity.
    Atoms spread around so thin would tend to be quite scarce,
    Although a few might stay H2 and cruise about in pairs.
    And so, two grams of hydrogen, spread through that leg-shaped place,
    Is like the average density of mass in outer space.


    A note of thanks to Dr. Rees See the music; hear the MIDI file

    Doctor Rees (colon): I'm writing this letter
    To thank you for what I have recently learned.
    After our talk, I now understand better.
    That would not be so, had you not been concerned.
    Needing more facts, I perused the collection
    The library keeps; I found quite a good book.
    So now, I know much about rectal inspection,
    Though rectums are places I rarely need look.

    When we succeed with this change we've been trying,
    When few folk will smoke, through persuasion and laws,
    We'll see a change in statistics of dying,
    With lung cancer being a less prominent cause.
    Next behind lungs on the list as a locus
    Where tumours develop, in rich lands like these,
    Are rectum and colon, and so we must focus
    On them, in our work of preventing disease.

    Some say it helps to consume much more fibre
    And rarely eat Haägen Dasz, lamb chops, or Brie;
    Those vegetarians I've met in cyber-
    Space out on the Internet tend to agree.
    But, for the millions who won't change their diet,
    Although that would also be good for the heart,
    There is a technique, if they're willing to try it,
    That often ensures no malignancies start.

    The flexible sigmoidoscope was invented
    To enter our guts through the holes in their ends
    Where feces well coloured and gases ill scented
    Both exit the body.  It threads through the bends
    In the sigmoid, the part of the colon just over
    The rectum that's shaped like an "S", and can go
    Inside the left colon.  It's used to discover
    Conditions for which, perhaps, no symptoms show.

    Polyps are growths that should not be occurring.
    The ones in the bowel, when young, are benign,
    But they can enlarge, and there's danger deferring
    Removal, because, when they're old, they malign.
    Most bowel polyps, statistics have shown us,
    Are found near the sigmoid.  A primary care
    Physician can look for them, and, as a bonus,
    Remove them, by using a scope and a snare.

    Fibres bring outside light in to illumine;
    An image is focused on fibres of glass.
    Three millimetres wide, there's enough room in
    The biopsy channel for thin tools to pass.
    One has a loop on its end, which is tightened
    To snare polyps' bases, then current's applied,
    And heat cuts their stalks as the flesh becomes whitened.
    A biopsy's made from the parts that weren't fried.

    And so, Doctor Rees, thanks again for these verses
    That I'd not have written without your request.
    We, who must visit physicians and nurses,
    Should try to keep current with what they suggest.
    As it ascends, up that slippery slope in
    The base of my gut, every three years or two,
    When I feel the flexible sigmoidoscope in
    My rectum, I'll surely be thinking of you.


    Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang) See the music; hear the MIDI file

    This is the tale of a primate,
    Cousin of monkey and ape,
    Who moves too slowly to notice,
    So that his prey won't escape.

         "Slow loris"
         That's the chorus.

    Southeastern portions of Asia
    And islands like Mindinao
    Form Nycticebus coucang's range
    Where the conditions allow.
    Rainforest, fast disappearing,
    Harbours the insects he eats.
    Those that his cousins find stinky
    He just considers as treats.

    Too slow to swing through the branches,
    He creeps along them at night;
    Retinas backed with reflectors
    Optimize minimal light.
    Slow metabolic production
    Leaves him with no heat to spare.
    Though he resides in the tropics,
    He needs thick fur, not just hair.

    Most mammals larger than squirrels,
    Shaped to meet gravity's force,
    Maintain one orientation,
    Though they're reversing their course.
    Slow loris, large as a house cat,
    Short-limbed, and pleasingly plump,
    Climbing a tree or descending,
    Leads with his nose or his rump.

    Lower front teeth, pointing forward,
    Form a rough comb in their arc.
    These clean the fur where encrusted
    And scrape the resins from bark.
    Although the tongue's used for tasting,
    There is a part, underneath,
    Tipped with hard, horn-like protrusions,
    That clean the front-pointing teeth.

    When he has sex, it's the female
    Who must bear both of their weight.
    She hangs beneath a strong branch and
    He hangs from her as they mate.
    Through inefficient nutrition,
    Growth of the fetus is slow.
    Six months' gestation produces
    Young of two ounces or so.

    Near the slow loris' elbows,
    One finds the brachial glands,
    Glands which exude a secretion
    That he rubs on with his hands.
    Mixed with these brachial exudates,
    Enzymes saliva contains
    Cleave key molecular bonds and
    Then lethal poison remains.

    Viewing the loris by daylight,
    Many have long been deceived.
    Viewed under nighttime conditions,
    He's not as slow as believed.


    Talking nicotine blues

    Now, if you're the sort of person who isn't afraid
    To stick your mouth around the nozzle of a can of Raid,
    Depress the button with the tip of your tongue,
    And take up the aerosol into your lung
    To get the full force of the chemical vapours,
    Ignoring the warning on the wrapping papers,
    Then I know an insecticide you might want to try.
    It's commonly available, easy to buy.
    Furthermore, its use considered to be environmentally, medically, and politically correct, for it is a 100% natural product of Darwinian evolution that was, furthermore, known to and used by the aboriginal cultures of three separate continents.  The chemical name of this miraculous, natural, botanical insecticide is "nicotine".

    Now, nicotine's a substance that evolved in some plants
    To make a hungry insect do St. Vitus' dance.
    A bug comes along and commences eating.
    The dose is still small.  The wings start beating
    In simulated flight.  The rate of respiration
    And the heartbeat increase.  And then, a fibrillation
    Causes stoppage of the heart -- if the bug hasn't ceased
    Its nibbling on the leaves as the symptoms increased.
    Now, if nicotine can do all that to a creature whose nervous system reaches its apex in a handful of ganglia collectively weighing less than one gram, just imagine what it could do to a creature that supposedly has more than a kilogram worth of brain.

    In the cells of your brain, as in every other critter
    That is smarter than a sponge, there's a neurotransmitter
    Called ACh, which you've heard of, perhaps.
    It gets squirted into the tiny gaps
    Between the neurons, flooding the spaces
    (Though most is destroyed by cholinesterases)
    To activate receptors on the cell next door,
    Passing on a message to one cell more.
    Now, ACh, or acetylcholine, to use its full and proper name, is not the only human neurotransmitter.  There's epinephrine, and there's norepinephrine, and there's GABA, and there's serotonin, and there's dopamine.  Remember dopamine -- it's going to come back later.  But, in an evolutionary sense, ACh may well be the oldest of the human  neurotransmitters: older than eohippus, older than the dinosaurs, older than the trilobites.  Anything that interferes with the cholinergic system is interfering with  one of the fundamental bases of intelligent life.

    Now, the nicotine molecule, because of its shape,
    Can achieve a kind of biochemical rape.
    The ACh receptor has twists and bends
    And a charge distribution which, in consequence, sends
    A message when ACh touches the cell,
    Or any other molecule that resembles it well,
    And some of these receptors with an ACh trigger
    Have a nicotine response that is even bigger.
    Some of these nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are found in a region of the brain that is supposed to release dopamine -- remember dopamine? it's another neurotransmitter --  when you encounter something important, something like food when you're hungry or sex when you're horny, in order to increase the chance that you're going to encounter it again.  In other words, it's one of the ways in which learning takes place.  Just imagine the confusion and misdirected behaviour that could occur if some of these cells were to start releasing their dopamine just because you'd encountered a few stray molecules of nicotine.

    Now, nicotine's delivery to a brain location
    Is usually accomplished through the oxidation
    Of flue-cured tobacco, burning slowly.
    Its acid smoke fills the alveoli
    (The air sacs in the lungs).  Now, folks inhale
    Because the low pH means the nicotine would fail,
    Being mostly ionized, and not intact,
    To pass through the buccal membranes of the respiratory tract.
    In other words, the lining of the mouth is not a good place to try to absorb nicotine from the relatively acidic environment of cigarette smoke, which is why those people who take this substance into their bodies voluntarily tend to inhale the smoke deep into their lungs, where, ionized or not, the nicotine passes into the bloodstream, gets pumped back to the heart, gets pumped up the aorta, and within seven seconds of its entry into the body has made its way to the brain.

    Now, my song's not yet over because
    I've told you one thing nicotine does.
         But that's not the worst part.
    In those who've developed no tolerance yet,
    It makes the head ache and the stomach upset.
         But that's not the worst part.
    It leaves a stain on the fingers and teeth,
    Obscuring the natural hue beneath.
         But that's not the worst part.
    It causes a mild stimulation
    Through sympathetic nervous system activation.
         But that's not the worst part.
    It increases the metabolic rate,
    And that can lead to a loss of weight.
         But that's not the worst part.
    It increases platelet aggregation
    And the risk of blood coagulation.
         But that's not the worst part.
    It makes the heart beat faster.  If the blood flows less,
    Then that's a cardiovascular stress.
         But that's not the worst part.
    In the fetus of the rat, in a lab situation,
    It alters brain cell differentiation.
         But that's not the worst part.
    The pure, liquid alkaloid, in those who've tried,
    Is quite effective for suicide.
         But that's not the worst part.
    The absolutely, unquestionably, undeniably worst effect of nicotine yet discovered by modern science in the nearly two hundred years since the pure, liquid alkaloid was first isolated and characterized is that you tend to get used to it.


    Low Flush See the music; hear the MIDI file

    We had the renovators at our house one year
    To restore, repaint and renew.
    They tried to fix the toilet where it leaked a bit,
    And the bottom broke right through.
    So we took the opportunity to make a change
    And do something that was green
    And put a low-flush toilet in the very same place
    Where the high-flush toilet had been.

        An ordinary toilet flushes seven gallons,
        A not inconsiderable amount.
        I've got a low flush toilet and a high-fibre diet
        And I make every gallon count.

    The thing about an ordinary toilet that's so strange,
    When you stop to consider it,
    Is not the volume of the water that it flushes
    But the fraction of water that's shit.
    For the ordinary citizen, according to statistics,
    Passes one cup of shit once a day,
    Which is only one percent of the volume of water
    That one flush carries away.

    This fraction's denominator's easy to change:
    All it takes is a wrench and some seals.
    The numerator needs a much more radical revision
    In the average citizen's meals.
    For what's the use of having thirty feet of good intestine
    To stuff with white bread and meat
    That barely leave a residue to push along
    When the work of digestion's complete?

    Now water conservation cannot stop at the loo,
    For out on the western plains
    There are cattle eating soybeans, grass, and corn
    Where it only rarely rains.
    And the scope of irrigation to support those herds
    Is almost beyond belief:
    Some figure half the water that's consumed in the States
    Gets used in the raising of beef.

    Now, water's pretty heavy under gravity's pull,
    Which is why Niagara Falls.
    You can run it through a turbine on its way downstream
    And light houses, shops, and malls.
    But take it from the river for the sake of beef:
    You not only lose its force,
    You need to find power to run the pumps,
    Which means nukes or fossils, of course.

    Now, I consume a diet that is mostly fruits and vegies,
    Whole grains, legumes, and seeds.
    The scale in the bathroom says that I'm not disappearing,
    So it must be what my body needs.
    The fibre keeps my transit time to twenty-four hours,
    The fruit makes me have to pee,
    And I get to spend a lot of time reading on the toilet,
    Which is how I got my PhD

    Now, I know you may be sitting there, feeling quite disgusted
    At these things that you've just been told.
    And it's absolutely true that I am full of shit,
    But it's rarely more than one day old.
    And if you think this is trivial, not worthy of attention,
    I want you to consider this:
    A six-ounce steak is the equivalent in water
    Of a one-thousand gallon piss.


    Professor Barleycorn See the music; hear the MIDI file

    The mother of John Barleycorn, much smaller than my thumb,
    Was listening for the thunder that would herald rains to come,
    Such thunder being a consequence when bolts of lightning pass,
    And heated air explodes within the cold, surrounding mass.

       Students who carouse by night must contemplate by morn
       The wisdom of their studies with Professor Barleycorn.

    So, on a springtime morning, beneath the thunder's din,
    She lay upon her back and let the rain soak through her skin.
    The water swelled the tissues in the desiccated fruit:
    The cotyledon, coleoptile, embryonic root.

    Much fatter and much softer, on a cool but sunny day,
    She gently stuck her toe out to begin her spring ballet.
    This radicle would not grow more than several inches down,
    But secondary roots one day would sprout beneath the crown.

    When by the light of morning she could finally be seen,
    Embarrassed by her nakedness, she donned a coat of green.
    Of all the coloured wavelengths that are through the spectrum spread,
    The chloroplasts reflect the green, absorbing blue and red.

    A creature of some elegance, though forced to live in dirt,
    She added to her wardrobe a surrounding ring of skirt.
    Evolved to cope with herbivores whose front teeth cut and clip,
    The growth point of a grass blade is the base, and not the tip.

    When she had almost reached the height to which she planned to grow,
    She modestly grew gravid; she did not put on a show.
    A plant that need not get its pollen from an outside source
    Is able to develop more consistent seed, of course.

    His mother's head at last bent down.  Her beard was long and rough,
    And Barleycorn himself, grown fat, had turned from green to buff.
    When harvesting for malting barley, combine crews are sent
    When moisture in the seed has dropped below fourteen percent.

    Just like his mother earlier, he soaked and swelled with pride,
    But when he stuck his toe out he was roasted and he died.
    The malting process needs the root appropriately short
    To optimize the amylase that helps create the wort.

    His body crushed and broken, he was soaked again and drained.
    His body sent to feed some hogs, his spirit was retained.
    The amylase and starch within the seed were gently brewed,
    To split the starch to maltose brewers' yeast can use as food.

    The resurrected spirit of John Barleycorn enhanced
    A vat of yeast and water so it bubbled, frothed, and danced.
    The CO2 and alcohol -- the action, not the taste --
    Are from the standpoint of the yeast just metabolic waste.

    Now, of the tale of Barleycorn, there's not much more to tell.
    He went to university, where students loved him well.
    Through alcohol consumption, inhibitions are decreased,
    And reinforcement follows because dopamine's released.

    The cousin of John Barleycorn, a Scotsman known as Will,
    Was fortunate to know a higher education still.
    The boiling point of ethanol being relatively low,
    A fire's warmth can liberate it out of H2O.


    The mouse

    I don't know how to write things down,
    And I can't read it if I could,
    But sometimes, if I make a tune,
    It helps me to remember good.
    The doctors told me make this tune
    For singing in their microphone,
    And make it longer when I can,
    And practice it when I'm alone.

    I saw the doctors yesterday.
    They said they like my song so far.
    I wish it was a real song,
    The kind where people play guitar.
    They didn't know that I could hear
    When I came back.  I took a leak.
    They said I'm eager but I'm dumb.
    I get to see the mouse next week.

    The mouse runs through a little house
    That's full of twisty rooms and halls
    And tries to find a bit of cheese.
    When he gets good, they move the walls.
    The mouse gets lost and hungry cause
    They move the walls.  The doctors said
    Some day the mouse will learn real good.
    They're going to fix the mouse's head.

    The mouse's name is Algernon.
    They put him in some smelly air
    And changed some things inside his head.
    Now there's a place that has no hair.
    And now they move the walls a lot
    Because the mouse can find the cheese.
    The doctors want to fix my head.
    I didn't have to ask them please.

    When I push on the plastic mouse
    Beside the screen, I get to see
    A movie like I'm in the maze,
    But I know that it's just TV.
    At first, I could not win a race
    With Algernon.  It took three days
    For me to learn to plan ahead.
    Now I am faster through the maze.

    They said the TV set that shows
    The maze is not a TV set;
    It's a computer monitor,
    On which I'll learn the alphabet.
    I'll use the mouse to point and click
    When I see  words that I don't know,
    And hear a good voice say them right,
    And what they mean, and where they go.

    So many words I must have heard
    But never learned are making sense,
    And some are words describing words,
    Like "pronoun", "verb", and "present tense".
    Now I can read a printed page,
    Without the mouse, without the screen,
    Without the doctors standing by.
    Today I bought a magazine.

    My memory, though much improved,
    Can't hold my thoughts -- they come so fast --
    So I have learned word processing,
    Which I'd not needed in the past.
    Yet still, I add these verses when
    My schedule lets met fit them in,
    To show the contrast with before,
    Reminding me of where I've been.

    I need to locate journals that
    Aren't at the university;
    I'm trying to interpret change
    In topographic EEG.
    The foci in his cortex when
    We stimulate the optic nerve
    Have grown diffuse in Algernon,
    As I've been able to observe.

    His neurologic deficits
    Prolong the measured latency
    To solve a novel maze.  I have
    Not yet seen such a change in me,
    But it will come within three weeks,
    At which time I must leave this game.
    The sequence of that enzyme's gene
    In mice and humans is the same.

    I've taken the computer mouse.
    I've left some cash to pay for it.
    I'm taking its components out
    While I still have the skill and wit.
    I've something else to put inside.
    I'll bury it when I am gone.
    It just seems right: a mouse shell for
    The stolen corpse of Algernon.

    I know that once I was real smart.
    I knew my smarts would go away.
    I figured out what I could keep
    When I got dumber every day.
    And so I practice real hard,
    And I don't care if it takes long,
    And sometimes someone nice explains
    The big words, hard words in my song.

    Adapted from the story "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, 1959

    All songs ©Howard L. Kaplan
    Performing rights administered by SOCAN

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