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With the talk of obscenity and filtering and right for free speech we've been having, I thought it would be interesting to post an opinion of a famous mathematician who once sang in Kresge. It might seem silly, but Tom Lehrer can pack a lot in a funny song (including a cunning understanding of the current debate -- whereas for him it was magazines and journals, for us -- it's internet).
So, Tom Leher on obscenity: (the initial comments typed up by me from his CD):
I do have a cause though. It is: obscenity. I'm for it.
Unfortunately, the civil liberties types who've been fighting have to fight it on the nature of laws of freedom of speech and the stifling of the freedom of expression. But we know what's really involved: dirty books are fun, that's all there is to it. Unfortunatley, you can't get up in court and say that. It's simply a matter of the freedom of pleasure, which is not the right guaranteed by constitution. Anyway, since people seem to be marching for their causes these days, I have here a march for mine. It's called "Smut."
Give me smut and nothing but
A dirty novel I can't shut
If it's uncut
I've never quibbled if it was ribald
I would devour where others merely nibbled
As the judge remarked the day that he
Acquitted my Aunt Hortense
"To be smut it must be ut-
Terly without redeeming social importance"
Nographic pictures I adore
Indecent magazines galore
I like them more
If they're hard core
Bring on the obscene movies, murals, postcards, neckties, samplers,
stained-glass windows, tattoos, anything! More, more, I'm still not satisfied!
Stories of tortures
Used by debauchers
Lurid, licentious, and vile
Make me smile
Novels that pander
To my taste for candor
Give me a pleasure sublime
Let's face it, I love slime
All books can be indecent books
Though recent books are bolder
For filth, I'm glad to say, is in
The mind of the beholder
When correctly viewed
Everything is lewd
I could tell you things about Peter Pan
And the Wizard of Oz, there's a dirty old man
To any book like Fanny Hill
And I suppose I always will
If it is swill
And really fil-
Who needs a hobby like tennis or philately
I've got a hobby, rereading Lady Chatterley
But now they're trying to take it all
Away from us unless
We take a stand, and hand in hand
We fight for freedom of the press
In other words
Smut, I love it
Ah, the adventures of a slut
Oh, I'm a market they can't glut
I don't know what
Compares with smut
Hip hip hooray
Let's hear it for the Supreme Court
Don't let them take it away
-- Lucy Borodavkina, October 10, 1999
Well, since we're discussing Tom Lehrer (who taught both at Harvard and at MIT) I thought I'd repost the lyrics to one of his more obscure songs -- one that never made it to any of the albums -- that should be especially meaningful to all Cambridge students. It's about riding the MBTA from Harvard Square into Boston.
Sung to the tune of Mother ("M is for the million things she gave me," etc.)
H is for my alma mater Hah-vahd,
C it stands for Central, next stop on the line,
K is for the cozy Kendall station
C is Charles that overlooks the brine...
P is Park (clear throat) Pahk Street, busy Boston station,
W is Washington you see...
Put them all together they spell...
(HCCKKCC... PW... (sounds like somebody spitting))
Which is just about what Boston means to me!
-- Hal Abelson, October 10, 1999