99¢ for the first month
99¢ for the first month.

World Enough and Time: Local ironies

Bill Hagen

Ever notice when you first use your new computer with the latest updated software that it is actually slower in loading? You’ve spent more for a huge memory and blazing speed, but have to wait 30-45 seconds for Word to materialize a blank document page! In your clunky eight-year-old computer with its 2011 edition of Word, it took under ten seconds to crank up a blank page.

What happened? Improvements. Improvements to Word that you didn’t need. When it initially comes up, the developers thought you’d want to look at all the page possibilities. They also thought you’d like to see a list of recently created Word documents. It takes a bit more time—don’t you see—to summon all those format and file options! Surely you don’t want to have to go to drop-down menus to find those options.

Yes, I do. All I want is a blank page. Being an older computer user, I am reminded of the old days when you had to go through several menu screens to get to the application you needed. Or even the older days when you had to insert one disk to crank up the operating system and then another to crank up the particular application, and then another to get at the files.

So with your new, much improved computer, you have to resort to work-arounds. It’s so much faster to double click on a document on your desktop, then hit Command-N (for New) to lay a blank page on top of the existing one.

Shopping is full of ironies, of course. For starters, why are you out there at the mall when you could be one-click purchasing from Amazon? Well, it’s cold outside and you hate going to the gym to exercise side-by-side with all the young super bodies. At the mall, you are walking and, even better, surrounded by people who are generally even more out of shape than you are. Then there is the social pleasure of asking a very young clerk about an item and realizing you know much more about it than he or she does.

You may not buy anything, but you feel superior in body and mind.

Then you run into a pricing irony: you’ve looked up luggage prices on the store’s website. But the suitcase in the store is $20 higher than its website’s price. Will the store match the website price? No, you are told, the website is a separate operation. Even though your website will deliver the suitcase and I will pick it up at the store? Yes.

BUT the store will match prices on websites of other stores in the area! Just not its own website! I ran into this irony at two large stores in the Shawnee Mall.

Then there are the small ironies of stories or columns in the newspaper, including this one, that don’t match the headline. My favorite is the car column, entitled “Test Drive.” Since I grew up in the 1950s-60s, when teens were captured by car culture, I always read the column. But have you noticed how little testing or driving or testing by driving there is in a given column? Often the writer seems to have pasted chunks of the manufacturer’s descriptions of features and options, including some of the promotional language.

How comfortable were the seats? Was the electronic control screen easy to use? How much did road noise and road roughness intrude? How responsive was the steering? How well did it corner? Side and rear visibility?

One wants to know: Did you actually sit in the vehicle? Did you actually drive it?

I’ll end with memories evoked by Shawnee Little Theatre’s production of “The Wonderettes.” Since I and everyone else had such a good time at the show, ironies will not be foregrounded. If you sniff any, credit them to the creator of the show (Roger Bean), not the show itself.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” was a resounding success. The shaping of a girl group by Sherri Thompson and the clever on-target choreography by K.C. Goldsby and Trevor Martin, created a wonderful musical evening.

I am old-old-old enough to have been in high school in 1958, the year of the first half of the show. It brought back the memory of how girl groups kept youth music alive, after the first wave (Bill Haley, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly) was receding. The Brill Building teams and Phil Spector turned out melodies and lyrics that connected to teen anxieties and dreams, especially finding and keeping “The Boy” for the girl groups.

Let’s remember they kept pop rock and roll alive at a time many were predicting its demise. Folk music, with such artists as The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Donovan, and Bob Dylan, was ascendant. Calypso was even projected as a successor.

Too, it helped that the groups’ treble harmonizing sounded good on the limited speakers in most cars at the time. If you think about it, early Beach Boys, Beatles, and Dave Clark Five songs tended to that treble range as well.

Of course, girl groups represented a bi-racial enterprise: the writers and producers were largely white—Gordy RIchards’ Motown groups came later—while the girl groups were mainly black. The groups extended the inroads black artists had made on AM stations, and were not restricted to the urban “race” R & B stations.

A white high school girl group in 1958 would be “covering” songs, much as Pat Boone and the Crewcuts did for Carl Perkins and the Penguins. A white “Wonderettes” group was accurate in that most of the high schools were still segregated in 1958; a black girl group on stage for the prom at a white high school would have been unthinkable. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand didn’t host black performers until the 1960s.

The feuding over whether one member should be the lead singer is certainly accurate. No matter what pledges were made in the beginning—“Friends forever”—one voice always seemed to emerge in the solo passages. Often, a lead would go off on her own—Diana Ross, Darlene Love.

The show put me in such a girl group mood that I tapped into Amazon Prime to listen to albums by Darlene Love, The Ronettes, The Crystals, The Shirelles, and the inspiration for the “Wonderettes,” The Marvelettes—who were probably promoted as the “Wonderful Marvelettes.”

Guess what? I realized how few of these leading girl groups’ songs were part of the “Wonderettes” show. “Please Mr. Postman” (Marvelettes), “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “He’s a Rebel,” “Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me” and, to my mind, the best one of all, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” were not included.

With some exceptions, such as “Mr. Sandman,” “Mr. Lee,” ”Leader of the Pack” and “Heatwave,” many of the songs were first recorded by solo artists: Patty Page, Connie Francis, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, and Doris Day. I expect the selections indicate those copyright holders easier to deal with or less expensive than the Phil Spector or Brill-related titles. Or, perhaps, those were songs that would register with a wider audience. Be interesting to see what titles are included in Roger Bean’s other pop musicals.

Still, it was a fine, fine show, a good way to cap off the holiday season. And that’s not ironic.

Bill Hagen is a retired OBU professor. He lives in Shawnee with his cat. Contact him at