Political science

Over the weekend, Merlin Mann wrote a post praising Randy Newman. He included YouTube videos of two songs, “Sail Away” and “The Great Nations of Europe.” The latter is similar in style to my favorite Newman song, “Political Science,” which has been rolling through my mind ever since. There are several versions of it on YouTube; here’s one from 1972.

There are so many things to love about this song. First, there’s

We give them money, but are they grateful?
No, they’re spiteful and they’re hateful.

which is such a perfect distillation of conservative thought—a conservative thought we’ve all had at one time or another—that you’d swear you heard someone say it in conversation.

Then there’s

Asia’s crowded, Europe’s too old.
Africa is far too hot, and Canada’s too cold.

When, during the recent eight-year unpleasantness, Don Rumsfeld said we didn’t need the support of “Old Europe” in our Middle Eastern adventures, this is what popped into my head. How perfect is satire when it anticipates it subject by three decades?

Finally, there’s

Boom goes London! Boom Paree!
More room for you and more room for me.

the poetry of which is too easily lost in the humor. Look at what he’s doing here. By using the rhyming words boom and room twice as the emphasis in each line, he ties the lines together in a way that the simple end rhyme of Paree/me couldn’t do on its own. This isn’t the half-line rhyme that Lennon and McCartney used so often, it’s something else—something my impoverished literary criticism vocabulary doesn’t have a word for. But it is wonderful.