“Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” (Doris Day)

Corporate pop music’s 21st century message to young women is easy to parse: (1) you are great just the way you are (you are beautiful, no matter what they say!); and (2) you can achieve anything you desire (you are a firework!). You are an amazing being of unlimited potential–a perfect, undetermined sort capable of perfect choice. This is called “empowerment.” But only three score ago, in the mid-1950s, Doris Day was singing to her young daughter: I don’t know if you’ll be “pretty” or “rich.” Indeed, I know nothing about your future, which is absolutely sealed (both opaque and certain). You may wind up in the gutter, or you may die young. It’s possible that there won’t be a “rainbow” in the sky tomorrow, which tinges the trax with Cold War anxieties (the Soviets had tested their first H-bomb in 1953). The phrase, “que sera sera,” is polyglot, and finds first use in English as a sixteenth century heraldic motto, forecasting, at least, a certain shielded defensiveness.  In short, and “tenderly,” “what will be will be,” and you can’t fight the future. The (tauta)logic is unimpeachable: tomorrow, one can always claim that “what will be” was. At the joining of such faulty realism and our own fantasies of empowerment, however, there must remain fate and chance, entwined, each the condition of the other’s possibility.


Read more "“Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” (Doris Day)"

“The Hungry Intruder” (The Small Faces)

Stan, who’s on a quest to discover the meaning of life (or, at least, the missing part of an evening’s half-moon), explores the outermost limits of hospitality. During his travels, a fly alights on his shepherd’s pie, and asks for a bite: without it, “I could die.” The fly is an “intruder,” and in his hungry haste has overstepped the boundary marking the limit of the stranger. And, of course, flies are often considered pests, as well as carriers of parasites, bacterial disease, and viruses. Stan might be tempted to swat it quick, since the meal may be tainted. But his rejoinder is surprisingly open to the other: “Take your fill, take nothing less.” (Mind you: the fly can’t have it all, because Stan needs to eat, too.) Stan’s reward is a flight on its back to visit Mad John, who may know the world’s secrets. But one already has been revealed: “living” alongside others involves taking your chances. A plague of flies is no fun, but worse would be an ecology without them.


Read more "“The Hungry Intruder” (The Small Faces)"