Bob on Books Top Ten Posts of 2014!

What a difference a year makes! Last December, I had been at this blogging thing only a few months and had a handful of followers and a little under 3300 views on the blog. I’ve had some surprises over the last year. This month, the blog has had more views (over 5,000) than all of last year. A question about growing up in working class Youngstown turned into a series of posts and its own category on the blog and the most viewed post of the year. In fact, due to interest from a couple Youngstown Facebook groups, strictly speaking all ten top posts for the year were in this category. What I decided to do with my top ten list was to post the top Youngstown post, which had over 10,000 views and then the next nine non-Youngstown posts. So here is the countdown!

#10: Dear Son, We’re Sorry to Inform You… This post was a parable. I’ll leave you to discover the point of the parable!


#9: Privileged, Persecuted, or Participating?  In response to an online symposium, I reflect on three possible postures Christians working in higher education might take toward the university world.

#8 Teddy’s RulesBookriot had an article listing these rules. I include these and reflect on the unpretentiousness of Roosevelt, something present day literati might learn from.

#7 So Whose America Is It Anyway? My response to Coke’s Superbowl commercial with a diverse ethnic mosaic of people singing “America the Beautiful” and the firestorm of criticism it elicited.

#6 What’s Missing in the Diversity Discussion? This is the post that led to the “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” series as I discussed how class is often (not always) overlooked in diversity discussions.

#5 On the Passing of Robin WilliamsMy own reflections on the news that this gifted comedian had taken his life.

#4 Sexual ImperialismA response to highly-rated Gordon College’s possible loss of accreditation because of its statement of sexual ethics.

#3 Freedom of Worship = Freedom of Religion –Not! This post has had an interesting life, attracting little interest at first but eventually becoming one of my “most viewed” posts of the year, despite its awkward title!

#2 Let’s Retire This “Christmas” Song! Just posted a week ago, this post became the second most viewed post of the year. Seems a number of people agreed with my argument that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a song about date rape, has nothing to do with Christmas, and should be dropped from play lists.

Recipes of Youngstown

Recipes of Youngstown

#1 Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — FoodThis is the post that received over 10,000 views. Obviously, we Youngstowners love food, and this post is full of memories of quintessential Youngstown foods.

The irony is that, apart from the “Teddy’s Rules” post, none of these were on reading or books!  A post on Higher Education Books just missed the Top Ten and as more people learn about the blog, the reviews are getting more attention. But it is interesting to me that the more “issue-oriented” posts were your favorites. Oddly, those for the most part are the most serendipitous–they just happen!

At any rate, there’s the list. I need to give a few shout-out’s at this point. One is to the admins on “I Used to Live in Youngstown” and “I Grew Up in Youngstown” for letting me post on these pages. I also appreciate the hundreds of people who have commented and added your memories and insights to mine. I also want to thank my son, Ben, and his blog [BTW] Ben Trube, Writer and Tom Grosh who administers the Emerging Scholars Blog for all the people you’ve sent my way!

Most of all, I want to thank all of you who have stopped by, read, commented, and followed. It would be a whole lot less fun without you!

Look for a special New Year’s post where I preview some plans for Bob on Books in 2015!

Let’s Retire This “Christmas” Song!

We’ve heard the song countless times. A duet between a suave, seemingly caring, and emotionally persuasive male and a reticent female torn between going out in the cold night, her sense that it would not be right to stay for that drink, and the seemingly caring overtures of her male host. The renditions all seem to be “in good fun” with a “wink and a nod”.

The song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has been covered by some of the most famous in the music business. According to Wikipedia, the song was first sung in the movie Neptune’s Daughter by Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams. In the same movie, Red Skelton and Betty Garrett also sing this “with the roles of wolf and mouse reversed” (telling language!). Since then, among others, it has been sung by Louis Jordan and Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis and Carmen McRae, Dean Martin and a female chorus, Ray Charles and Betty Carter (later also with Dionne Warwick), and more recently by James Taylor and Natalie Cole, and Seth MacFarlane and Sara Bareilles.

When you get past the performers and listen to the lyrics, the song is truly disturbing. It is a song about unwelcomed seduction. The female singer says the following at different points in the song, “I really can’t stay”, “I’ve got to go away”, “I ought to say no, no, no, sir”, “I simply must go”, “The answer is no” (notice the intensification of the “No” as the song progresses). But “no” is not accepted as “no” in this song. The man doesn’t lend his coat and escort the woman on a cold night back to her parents. He continues to pressure in these phrases that intensify from “listen to the fireplace roar” to “what’s the sense in hurting my pride” to “Gosh your lips look so delicious” to “how can you do this thing to me?” Even more insidious is the use of alcohol and perhaps a doctored drink (“Say what’s in this drink?”) to break down the woman’s resistance.

All this seems like it is just in “good fun” except that it isn’t. It is the script that is replayed in the acquaintance rape scenarios that occur over and over not only in our society but in many parts of the world. It is a script that doesn’t respect “no”, that doesn’t flinch at using alcohol to impair judgment, and tells a story that has an ending that says, “she really consented after all” as the singers in unison sing “Baby it’s cold outside.”

Another question that occurs to me is, what does this have to do with Christmas? What does a song that celebrates seduction and, implicitly, rape have to do with the Son of God who became the Savior of the world, other than by illustrating what needs redeeming? Even if Christmas is just a secular holiday for you, what does this have to do with any kind of “spirit of giving” other than the fact that “she gives in and he takes” (to put it bluntly)?

What can be done? Well to start, we could ask radio stations to remove any version of this song from their playlists. We could refuse to buy any selection of Christmas music that includes this song. And we could send a message to performers to find some other material for duets. Whatever we think Christmas means, I think we can all agree that it is not a celebration of rape. Let’s retire this song.