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Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?

DigiTrad:
BURY ME IN MY OVERALLS
FROM WAY UP HERE
IF YOU LOVE ME
JUST A LITTLE RAIN
LITTLE BOXES
LITTLE BOXES RE-VISITED
MAGIC PENNY
MAGIC PENNY
ROSIE JANE
THE BANKERS AND THE DIPLOMATS
THE BOY SALUTES
THE MONEY CROP
TURN AROUND


Related threads:
Mrs. Clara Sullivan's Letter background (3)
No Closing Chord - Tribute to Pete (4)
Help: Everything Malvina! (76)
Lyr Req: The Little Land (Malvina Reynolds) (16)
World in Their Pocket (Malvina Reynolds) (4)
Lyr Add: Andorra (Malvina Reynolds) (4)
Origins: Morningtown Ride (Malvina Reynolds) (40)
Do you like 'Little Boxes'? (202)
Lyr Req: The Little Mouse (Malvina Reynolds) (3)
Lyr Add: 1st Amendment Banjo (Malvina Reynolds) (4)
Lyr Req: The Man in the Mask (Malvina Reynolds) (3)
BS: Little Boxes revisited (8)
Lyr Add: God Bless the Grass (Malvina Reynolds) (23)
Malvina Reynolds - World Gone Beautiful (4)
Lyr Req: Let Us Come In (Malvina Reynolds) -Seeger (3)
Malvina Reynolds C.D.'s? (12)
(origins) Origins: Turn Around (Reynolds/Greene/Belafonte) (31)
Lyr Req: Magic Penny (Malvina Reynolds) (12)
Malvina Reynolds (16)
Lyr Add: Alone (Malvina Reynolds) (1)
BS: Whats the point of Andorra (43)
Lyr/Chords Req: Morningtown Train (M Reynolds) (6) (closed)
Tune Req: Turn Around (Malvina Reynolds) (4) (closed)
Lyr Add: Little Tourists (Little Boxes parody) (12)
Lyr Add: Faucets Are Dripping (Malvina Reynolds) (5)
Lyr Add: Lambeth Children (Malvina Reynolds) (1)
Two new Folk Sites (Malvina Reynolds!) (7)
Lyr Req: No Hole in My Head (Malvina Reynolds) (7)
Help ...'The Magic Penny' (10)
Malvina Reynolds tribute (26)
Tune Req: If You Love Me (Malvina Reynolds) (5)
Lyr Req: Battle of Maxton Field (Malvina Reynolds) (9)
(origins) Origins: I Don't Mind Failing (Malvina Reynolds) (7)
Lyr Req: Morningtown Ride (Malvina Reynolds) (12)
Lyr Add: Peace Isn't Treason (Malvina Reynolds) (3)
Need a Song - Morningtown Ride (5)
Origins: We Don't Need the Men (Malvina Reynolds) (11)
Song sought for Lupercania(?) (8)
How about that Malvina Reynolds? (5)
Tune Req: It Isn't Nice (Malvina Reynolds) (4)
Lyr Req: male version of 'Turn Around' (M Reynolds (6) (closed)
Lyr Req: Pied Piper (Malvina Reynolds) (6)
Lyr Add: The New Restaurant (Malvina Reynolds) (3)
Lyr Req: Bury Me in My Overalls (Malvina Reynolds) (20)


Roger the Skiffler 16 Dec 18 - 09:05 AM
Mr Red 16 Dec 18 - 03:44 AM
Stilly River Sage 13 Dec 18 - 08:08 PM
GUEST,Nancy Schimmel 13 Dec 18 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,Grishka 23 Aug 13 - 11:44 AM
GUEST,Grishka 23 Aug 13 - 11:40 AM
dick greenhaus 23 Aug 13 - 11:03 AM
GUEST,henryp 23 Aug 13 - 09:16 AM
Uncle Tone 21 Aug 13 - 01:32 PM
GUEST,Grishka 21 Aug 13 - 01:26 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Aug 13 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,MtheGM 21 Aug 13 - 12:18 PM
dick greenhaus 21 Aug 13 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,Grishka 20 Aug 13 - 06:02 PM
dick greenhaus 20 Aug 13 - 05:00 PM
sciencegeek 20 Aug 13 - 03:47 PM
GUEST,Stim 20 Aug 13 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,BigDaddy 20 Aug 13 - 03:30 PM
sciencegeek 20 Aug 13 - 02:52 PM
Joe Offer 20 Aug 13 - 02:25 PM
Steve Parkes 20 Aug 13 - 01:37 PM
Steve Parkes 20 Aug 13 - 01:33 PM
Leadfingers 20 Aug 13 - 10:38 AM
sciencegeek 20 Aug 13 - 07:16 AM
Phil Edwards 20 Aug 13 - 04:47 AM
GUEST,Grishka 20 Aug 13 - 04:44 AM
Joe Offer 20 Aug 13 - 12:44 AM
Phil Edwards 19 Aug 13 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,Grishka 19 Aug 13 - 06:32 PM
GUEST,Stim 19 Aug 13 - 06:21 PM
Greg F. 19 Aug 13 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,Grishka 19 Aug 13 - 05:14 PM
GUEST,Stim 19 Aug 13 - 05:09 PM
Jeri 19 Aug 13 - 05:00 PM
Greg F. 19 Aug 13 - 04:53 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Aug 13 - 04:46 PM
Jeri 19 Aug 13 - 04:17 PM
Joe Offer 19 Aug 13 - 03:44 PM
GUEST,Grishka 19 Aug 13 - 03:41 PM
GUEST,Stim 19 Aug 13 - 03:38 PM
Uncle Tone 19 Aug 13 - 03:29 PM
Joe Offer 19 Aug 13 - 03:06 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Aug 13 - 02:44 PM
Joe Offer 19 Aug 13 - 02:05 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Aug 13 - 02:00 PM
Uncle Tone 19 Aug 13 - 01:25 PM
MGM·Lion 19 Aug 13 - 01:17 PM
sciencegeek 19 Aug 13 - 01:11 PM
Bill D 19 Aug 13 - 12:56 PM
Uncle Tone 19 Aug 13 - 12:46 PM
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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 16 Dec 18 - 09:05 AM

"Slight" thread creep. As I take my medication in the mornings this seems to run round my head:

"Little tablets, little tablets
Little tablets taste of icky-yucky,
Little tablets, little tablets, little tablets every day.
There's a pink one and a white one and a red one and a yellow one
And they all taste of icky-yucky
But I take them all the same."

I'll get me (white) coat.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Mr Red
Date: 16 Dec 18 - 03:44 AM

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boxes

I always liked the song. Even knowing it was inspired by American architecture, one only has to look at UK housing, particularly from Victorian vintage through to 1960s Britain and beyond - to understand the message. Thankfully I now live in an area that has grown more organically, yet my 25 year old house** is one of a dozen all of a kind, in an extension of a cul de sac with more "of a different" origin all the same. The road curves so the layout is anything but linear, which affords some variety. In the end it is the people that make the community, and these days there is precious little of that!

**yea yea red brick, but only the first storey.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 13 Dec 18 - 08:08 PM

I remember learning that song in music class in middle school back in the 1960s. The term "ticky-tacky" entered my vocabulary at that time and when used, people understand exactly what is meant. Your mother did us all a great service.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Nancy Schimmel
Date: 13 Dec 18 - 03:07 PM

Tacky was a word before the song, but Malvina (my mother) invented ticky-tacky, and was quite pleased when it got into the dictionary. I used to drive that same road and noted that not only did the houses "all look just the same" but they all had similar lamps in the same position in their picture windows. That's what she was writing about.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 11:44 AM

Henry, that gives an entirely new meaning to the expression "jejune writing style"!


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 11:40 AM

Perhaps you, Dick, by refusing to give reasons ;) ? I am sometimes critical, which is the opposite of snobbish, as I tried to elaborate. Sometimes I cannot help sounding patronizing, against my intention, like most Mudcat posters; this is due to the forces of brevity.

Pointing out non-optimal aspects of existing songs is not an end in itself, but necessary in order to improve our understanding in general, and to encourage good practice in the future. You are welcome to disagree - please mention your reasons, if possible.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 11:03 AM

GUEST Grishka-
Who's snobbish now?


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 09:16 AM

From DT

"Malvina Reynolds, who lives in Berkeley California, where the
hillsides are bulldozed, terraced, and emboxed, has written a
song before breakfast almost every day for the last seventeen
years, and this is one of her best."

I wonder what time she had breakfast.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Uncle Tone
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 01:32 PM

I still think a song must be taken in context with the times in which it was written.

I mentioned Gold Watch Blues above. Obviously those lyrics don't make any sense whatsoever in the 21C. But it's message of 'don't conform', 'get away' 'be yourself', 'don't be pigeon-holed' is pretty much identical with Little Boxes.

I tend to sing the two songs together.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 01:26 PM

Dick, indeed, a song is not an essay, that is what I wrote. Nevertheless, they have in common that they can sound "snobbish" (or "sanctimonious" or like manipulative propaganda), either on purpose or unintentionally, but need not necessarily. A lyricist who wishes to convince the unconvinced, and to gain a reputation among sensitive audiences, had best avoid that sound. Even angry or sharply satirical songs need not be "snobbish" in the sense of indiscriminate and apodeictic. Tom Lehrer knew that.

The problem is not restricted to social comment in the narrow sense. Quite a number of songs state some fact such as "Milk bottles are made of plastic nowadays" and directly continue "- doomsday has come". Those of us who like plastic milk bottles will not be convinced, and may in fact think "that snob should be glad to have milk at all, even brought to his door every morning without being woken."

As I wrote, the listener or reader of lyrics and other poetry must do more work than the reader of an essay, but so must the poet.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 01:08 PM

What is the working class today? And in what area and context?
In Calgary, I suppose the working class is mostly in the 22 percent visible minority, immigrants who work in health care, in the stores, restaurants and jobs that do not require certified training (most trades require technical school or certified apprenticeship). Houses in the areas where they have their communities are at the low end of the scale, about $225,000. Those who develop the skills move out to the suburbs or cut-off areas with the rest of us.

Most of what has been posted here, including this, belongs in the BS section.

Most houses today are replaceable. In my neighbourhood, a lot that cost $7000 in 1960 is now at $500,000 or more, the house counting for little. New people are moving in. A current practice is to tear out the house and build a new one that suits.

Is this practice prevalent in the suburbs in the hills of Los Angeles County?
What were the lot prices in the suburbs of LA in 1960? What are the lots worth today?
"Ticky-tacky" houses perhaps, but easily replaced. And the owners sell and move on to other locales for work or retirement or rebuild the house.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,MtheGM
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 12:18 PM

I suppose you can personalize this an make it into some sort of snooty condemnation of the working class
.,,.

'working class'?????

Doctors & lawyers & business executives are not quite what we would call 'working class' around these parts.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 11:32 AM

There is a difference between a song and a position paper.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 06:02 PM

I'm not sure how any song of social comment can avoid being snobbish.
Quite easily, Dick, exactly as an essay of social comment can. It must make sufficiently clear whom and what exactly it criticizes, and mention (or clearly imply) good arguments exactly to the point. It is snobbish to attack irrelevant features of opponents and to omit argumentation, e.g. "These would-be politicians do not even know how to knot a tie!" or "These ticky-tacky lawyers send their kids to summer camps!"

Song lyricists can leave some of the work to the listener, but should make sure to set them on the right track. "Little Boxes" sends confusing signals.

There is of course more to good rhetorics, and even more to good songwriting. MR definitely had some artistic talent, but was perhaps too quick with her writing to pass the test of time completely unblemished. Of course, many others were and are worse (- yes, I am also thinking of Mudcatters, whose names I won't mention).


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 05:00 PM

I'm not sure how any song of social comment can avoid being snobbish. I guess it's a matter of whether the songs snobbishness coincides with yours.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: sciencegeek
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 03:47 PM

thanks, Stim...

our team just was just discussing two development projects under review... talk about how much sh*t can you cram in a 5 pound bag...

the only open space are the federal wetlands that they left alone to avoid needing a permit from the Army Corps... so we are left with only stormwater compliance thanks to the Clean Water Act. big whoop there...

and thanks to being out in the suburbs, they can't get anywhere without a car.. or cars if a family. Another ant colony of commuters.

my mantra... how many more months until I can retire.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 03:36 PM

Good luck, sciencegeek, you need it.

Our county had a well thought out master plan that politicians have gutted by granting developers large scale exemptions, and when that wasn't enough, simply looking the other way while developers exceeded height, density, and egress regulations.

The terrible thing is that most buyers don't realize that the construction materials that support the latest amenities won't last the term of the mortgage. And when the realtor shows them the properties on Saturdays and Sundays, they don't think about what the two lane highway, which was constructed when the area was farm land, looks like at 7:00am, when 1200 families are heading to work and school...


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,BigDaddy
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 03:30 PM

"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" - R. King


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: sciencegeek
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 02:52 PM

may I add that it is not just better urban planning that is needed, but a whole education in cluster development, open space preservation and well thought out infrastucture placement.

They now have college courses that use the building practices of the 1950s & '60s to illustrate what not to do. Better late than never, I guess. But these are not the folks who end up on town planning boards.

This thread is starting to look a lot like the issues that my job has to deal with... lol.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 02:25 PM

I suppose you can personalize this an make it into some sort of snooty condemnation of the working class, but I never got the impression that Malvina was snooty - and she was a powerful spokesperson on behalf of the working class. I think the message of the song, is that there is a need for wisdom in urban planning. Well-planned developments need not cost any more than the ticky-tacky ones, and they're better for community and they're better for the environment. I know there are political forces that try to denigrate urban planning, but it's a very necessary and constructive function that needs to be done done wisely.
One very important topic in urban planning today, is providing housing for the homeless. There are ways to construct affordable housing that is pleasant, pleasing to the eye, functional, and durable. It takes imagination, but imagination costs very little.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 01:37 PM

And as an aside, here are some houses made of cast iron! There was a shortage of bricks after WWI; this method of prefabrication turned out to be too expensive.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 01:33 PM

Blicky for Leadfingers:
For a little light relief , something I posted in 2006 !


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 10:38 AM

http://www.mudcat.org/Detail.CFM?messages__Message_ID=1809682 for alittle light relief , something I posted in 2006 !


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: sciencegeek
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 07:16 AM

Q...

you keep harping on no other options for returning GIs...

well, my dad served in WWII and came home to Astoria, NY where he met & wed my mom. They lived in a small apartment in Jackson Heights, saved their money & bought land out on the eastern end of Long Island. It took a couple years & we lived in a converted chicken coop while they built the home I grew up in with help from friends & family.

That's what people used to do... and they sometimes used home kits from SEARS and others. And they scrimped to save enough to send their kids to college... often with scholarships. And some, like my uncles, used the GI Bill to fund their own college educations to become an engineer and a geologist.

MR may have written about California but the trend spread across the country and it could easily apply to any number of housing tracts that sprang up like mushrooms. The song appeals to anyone who was or is appalled by both ticky tacky construction and seemingly mindless conformity.

It appeals to me because I rebelled against most of the BS that people wanted to impose upon me merely because I was born female. And because I knew how to build a house that would be sound and last for generations.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 04:47 AM

For what it's worth, here's a rough translation of Victor Jara's version. See my previous comment for the bit about polystyrene. The general referred to was René Schneider.

PRETTY HOUSES

The pretty houses of the rich suburb
Pretty gardens behind their gates
A lovely carport at the side
Just waiting for a Peugeot.

Pretty pink ones, pretty green ones,
Pretty white ones, pretty blue ones
The pretty houses of the rich suburb
All made of polystyrene!

And the people from the houses
They smile as they pay visits
Off they go to the supermarket!
Everyone has a TV.

Some are dentists, some are landlords,
Some are traders in import/export,
Some are lawyers, some are landowners,
And they all wear nylon suits.

The play bridge, they drink martinis
And their kids have little pink faces
And with other little pink kids
Off they go to high school

A little later, Daddy's little boy
He goes to the university
To begin his serious studies
Of the complexities of society.

He smokes cigarettes in his Austin,
He plays with bombs and with politics,
And assassinates generals
He's a gangster of subversion.

And the people from the houses
They smile as they pay visits
Off they go to the supermarket!
Everyone has a TV.

Pretty pink ones, pretty green ones,
Pretty white ones, pretty blue ones
The pretty houses of the rich suburb
All made of polystyrene!


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 04:44 AM

If I now understand correctly, MR was talking about truly wealthy persons in 1962, who did not insist on quality material because they did not care. So we have the allegations
  • Conformism, lack of individuality
  • Choice of profession according to income and prestige
  • Lack of taste; going for show value, however short-lived
  • Neglecting durability and quality of living, even though they could afford it.
That makes sense. Those who feel offended because they live in inferior housing for economical reasons, can be replied that they are not targeted, because (typical) Californian doctors and lawyers are not in that group.

Remains the mixture of allegations resulting in stereotyping. In this thread and the other one Do you like 'Little Boxes'?, many valid points are put forward against such stereotypes. Songwriters had best focus on one issue at a time, such as criticizing conformist prestige-seekers. Even if the latter are likely to prefer showy building material to durable one, and choose certain professions, this must not be the primary accusation, and had best not be mentioned at all in a short song. There are much better reasons to criticize that life style.

As I wrote above, the pioneers must be granted some licence, particularly for a song that had an impact on the non-musical world to the better. Nowadays, lyricists must be careful.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 12:44 AM

I worked for a couple months in Denver during my last year of employment, 1999. Within the limits of Denver City and County, it's a wonderful town, full of interesting architecture. Once you cross the city limits, you're in California - a collection of suburbs packed with oversized, opulent, cheaply-made houses with SUVs in the driveways (because people kept their garages full of "stuff" - unused, overpriced toys, mostly). I went up to one house and rang the doorbell. When I pushed the button, the whole wall pushed in. It was vinyl siding, with nothing behind it for support - but the houses all looked very prosperous. That's the kind of neighborhood where houses start looking shoddy after 15 years, and there are neighborhoods like that all over the U.S. There's no room for interaction between neighbors because the driveways and streets are full of vehicles. That's the type of neighborhood depicted in the Weeds introduction. It may look opulent now, but it won't last long.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 06:47 PM

Now, if the song is about really affluent persons (in 1962), as Jeri confirms, why would they live in prefabricated houses of shoddy material?

I think we can read too much into one word, at least when that word is "ticky-tacky". I don't picture the houses the song's describing as cheap or shoddy in construction. It's more that they will have been thrown up quickly, designed for show rather than architectural merit, and all with the same lack of taste. As I understand it, the point of saying "they all look just the same" is precisely that they aren't meant to look the same - they're each designed as somebody's dream house, but they all look the same because all these people are having the same dream.

It's actually much easier to answer the question about building materials in the Chilean context. Victor Jara didn't translate the "all look just the same" line directly; his version says

Las casitas del Barrio Alto,
Todas hechas con recipol

Or:

The pretty houses of the rich suburb
Every one made with Recipol.

Quoting a poster on the Word Reference forums:

"Victor Jara is speaking about a constructive technique used in the richest suburbs of Santiago involving a core of expanded polystyrene, covered with a metallic grid and concrete that allowed for an extreme control in the shape of houses, but that was extremely expensive in the '70s, since it involved, at the time, importing all the polystyrene and paying high importing taxes. This fact alone restricted this constructive technique to those suburbs. "

So there you go - modern, light-weight construction techniques, making it possible to build large houses with unusual designs, were being used by the Chilean 1%. Their houses were made of ticky-tacky, but it was expensive ticky-tacky. But I don't know if anything similar was being done in the Californian outer suburbs that Malvina Reynolds originally wrote about.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 06:32 PM

If you are happy to be perceived as a conformist made of ticky-tacky, who am I to object. MR was definitely critical of that property, since she used a clearly pejorative word (or re-coined it into a noun, from an adjective of known pejorative meaning).


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 06:21 PM

I think you miss the point,Grishka. We live in a time of mass production-more and more people live in the same houses, wear the same clothes, eat the same food, and more and more, our lives seem to fall into that pattern of sameness, too. That's it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Greg F.
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 06:05 PM

Some people would take offense at the sun rising.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 05:14 PM

Thanks for your long explanation, Joe. Now, if the song is about really affluent persons (in 1962), as Jeri confirms, why would they live in prefabricated houses of shoddy material? Is that only meant allegorically, like "All flesh is but grass; all human masonry is but ticky-tacky"? Thus Q, Lehrer, the Wiki author and many other critics misunderstood the song with its pejorative word ticky-tacky?—
I think that the song "Little Boxes" actually helped to change California urban planning for the better, and much of the sameness of California housing tracts has disappeared.
It may even have had a worldwide effect - quite an achievement! Nevertheless, the song is not primarily about disastrous urban planning, but about its grateful (?) customers: these turn out "all the same" themselves, giving up their individual personalities. This, Jeri, is certainly a criticism, thus a reason to take offence. I do not think Mudcatters such as Stim would recognize themselves in that description, since they do have "a life" and individual hobbies. (Besides, Stim, I do not think that in any society "everyone is going to wind up getting pretty much the same thing", not even in the former Soviet Union, let alone in California.)

If we assume the "real ticky-tacky" hypothesis, I imagine parents working hard, and living in modest housing in order to save every dime to send their children to good universities. But the song seems to suggest that the parents have those lucrative academic professions themselves, which contradicts the hypothesis. I tend to agree with Jeri that there is a little mistake in MR's concept.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 05:09 PM

You're wrong about those houses, Grishka. In fact, the building materials are much cheaper than those used at the time Malvina Reynolds wrote the song. Drywall and particle board and PVC have
replaced most of the more durable building materials in the big developments, and what may appear to elegant, solid exteriors are generally thin layers of facing,stuccoor PVC siding. Hardwood floors tend to be expensive options, with carpeting over poured concrete flooring or particle board being pretty much standard. And lots of veneer.

Though these houses may seem solid and imposing, they often begin to deteriorate even before they are finished.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Jeri
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 05:00 PM

How did Levittown get involved in this?


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Greg F.
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 04:53 PM

Levittown was a breakthrough.

Q, you ever been to either of the Levittowns or lived there? I've done have. Levittown is and was a nightmare.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 04:46 PM

Ticki-tacky doesn't exactly describe the million dollar houses I know.
Anyway, your price scale is wrong; most of those houses were built for under $50,000 (although with loss of dollar value, and increase in lot (land) value) that would equal perhaps $1 million today.

Example, my house cost $30,000 and would go on the market now for $900,000.

My question hasn't been answered- what other options did these GI Bill and other returning servicemen have? Plus burgeoning population as mentioned. California had an additional problem- influx of people continued.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Jeri
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 04:17 PM

We've had this discussion before. Personally, I think it's stupid. You like the song, you don't like the song, or you don't care. You won't change anything, though.

Reynolds apperently wrote the song about Daly City, which means McMansions.
The Wikipedia article talks about the thread being about suburbia, middle class housing, and includes a picture of Levittown. This, AFAIK, was because that's how a Wikipedia contributor understood it.

It may not be what Reynolds intended, but it doesn't matter. People have to try pretty hard to be offended by the song. The people living in the little boxes made of ticky-tacky knew they were living in little boxes made of ticky-tacky, and folks used to joke about it when I was a kid. My mother used to sing the song

The only really dumb thing, as in stupid, as in it makes no fucking sense whatsoever is thinking that people who lived in those relatively inexpensive houses could afford to send their sons and daughters to law school or med school. Disconnect. This should tip people off she wasn't writing about people who would have been happy with a home, period.

It might be a good idea to change or add to the Wiki.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 03:44 PM

The song is about California doctors and lawyers and business executives, living in their modest million-dollar houses. They have no life. They work long hours, commute long hours, and then go home and sleep. They don't know their neighbors. Their chief social contacts are their "personal trainers," with whom they spend several hours a week "working out."

I had to do government security clearances on these people, and had to go through the motions of going to the neighbors and knocking on doors to find people who knew them. More often than not, none of the neighbors knew each other, even when they had lived there for years.

Now, obviously the song is a caricature, as is the opening sequence from Weeds. Yes, there are many neighborhoods in California when neighbors know each other and interact and work to better their communities - there are even neighborhoods where people gather to sing folk songs. But there are California neighborhoods, particularly neighborhoods of high-income people, where the inhabitants fit Malvina's caricature very closely.

I think that the song "Little Boxes" actually helped to change California urban planning for the better, and much of the sameness of California housing tracts has disappeared. But there still is a need for more variety. Thousand-house tracts are still built in California with a selection of only five floor plans. The first house I rented in California was a three-bedroom house in Fresno, with the kitchen in the middle front, between the garage and the living room, a family room behind the garage, and three bedrooms and two baths behind the living room and kitchen/dining area. The first house I bought in California had the same floor plan, but it was a bit smaller. My second house was two-story home in Sacramento and quite different, but there were houses across the street that had the same floor plan as the two houses we had 200 miles away in Fresno. And after we got divorced, my ex bought a house in Sacramento with the exact same floor plan as our two Fresno houses - my son lives there now, and it's like "deja vu all over again."

In certain places in the US, urban planners have made a move to do away with "snout houses" - houses where the garage door is in front of the rest of the house, creating a neighborhood where all you see is garage doors.

So, I think that "Little Boxes" is a valid and valuable commentary on American urban planning. Certainly, it exaggerates to a point, but can't exaggeration be a valid tool for songwriters and storytellers?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 03:41 PM

Joe, in the video you linked to, the houses do not look as if they were made of cheap or inferior material at all, and individually designed by good architects. "All the same" only applies to the overall spirit.

The song is obviously about a different type of settlement, and probably about a time when real estate was much cheaper than now, as opposed to good building material. Golf clubs and dry martinis were not too expensive either. Thus the song does not seem to mock at the truly affluent, but those who are making their way up, by conformism, networking, make-believe of wealth and competence, and choosing professions with highest chances of real wealth and prestige. (Particularly the clichä lawyer's brain is filled with formalistic stuff at the expense of personality.)

Some groups may have felt wrongly subsumed: Those who lived in the same settlements but with different mindsets, and university people like Tom Lehrer who chose their science for its own sake and with individualistic plans.

Is my impression wrong (not knowing the west coast myself)? If so, what else made Lehrer and others despise the song?


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 03:38 PM

"Little Boxes" was social satire--not to be taken anymore literally than Monty Python or Luis Buñuel or "A Modest Proposal". As to being dated, Grishka, you're wrong--as evidenced by the fact that it is the theme song of a very popular television program.

Underneath the somewhat annoying melody and childishly repetitive lyrics is a profound message, which is that when you try to create a society that gives the greatest good to the greatest number, everyone is going to wind up getting pretty much the same thing.

One day, not so long ago, I took a walk down my street and stopped to chat with my neighbor whose house had the garage on the right instead of the left, with blue minivan instead of a tan one, parked next to a blue sedan, not a grey one right in front. He was wearing tan cargo shorts from target and a black polo shirt. I had the black shorts with a white polo shirt. We chatted about our kids school, and summer camp...Any of this sound familiar?


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Uncle Tone
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 03:29 PM

Right.To get back to the MtheGM's statement about the song

Quote:

I can't see how the song itself can be described as anything other than 'snobbish'. One thing that has always astounded me is how the great egalitarian martyr &-all-that P Seeger could have brought himself to perform such an ill-natured attack on such respectable and indispensable members of society as doctors & lawyers. Where would we be without them, for crying out loud! What's 'ticky-tacky' about them?

Unquote

If he thinks this is an attack against doctors and lawyers, or even housing, he misses the whole point of the song and grossly maligns MR and Pete Seeger. In fact to make such criticism as an english person against what is so obviously an indigenous American song is really out of order.

The song is about breaking away from what is expected of you. Instead, doing what you want to do. Being free. It's very much a song of the american 60s.

To bring the sentiment back to the UK it has the same message as Mick Softley's Gold Watch Blues (and is just as dated now).

To claim that MR's song is 'snobbish' Is either mischievous or markedly uninformed.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 03:06 PM

Q, "Little Boxes" wasn't about Levittown. It was about the silly, pretentious, extravagant housing that costs a million dollars a copy now - housing that completely covers the environmentally delicate hillsides of the San Francisco Bay area. These houses regularly slide down hillsides or fall into sinkholes, or burn in wildfires, or collapse in earthquakes.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 02:44 PM

Joe, where would you find affordable housing for a burgeoning population and returning vets- many of them with GI Bill educations and mortgaged to work in the professions and business, from plumbing concerns to nuclear research. Most of us went to the suburbs, and put 10 percent down.

Levittown was a breakthrough.

On analysis, her little ditty is silly.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 02:05 PM

OK, folks. This thread is about a song, and about the circumstances behind the song. In general, song threads have been sacrosanct here at Mudcat, and have been quite free of personal invective. Let's keep it that way.

My stepson just moved to an apartment on Lake Merced, near the campus of San Francisco State University. He's within walking distance of the Westlake development in Daly City, so we've been spending time in Daly City in the process of moving him in. Daly City doesn't look like the "little boxes" Malvina is singing about. I thought that Pacifica was the subject of her song. If you drive California Highway 1 north from Santa Cruz, you go through some of the most beautiful terrain in the U.S. There are two lighthouses, lovely little towns, and treacherous places where the highway hugs the edge of the cliffs over the ocean. Then you round the bend into Pacifica, and the beautiful terrain is covered with houses that all look just the same. These aren't working-class houses. They're not quite McMansions, but they're the homes of middle management. There are other areas around San Francisco that were rugged, beautiful hillsides that were remarkably beautiful in the winter and spring. Those hillsides are covered with expensive houses now, all with big SUVs in the driveways.

There were the neighborhoods Malvina was singing about, the ones with packaged pretentiousness and artificial opulence. She wasn't singing about little, no-money-down houses for soldiers returning from WWII to get jobs and start families. Those soldiers didn't play on golf courses and drink dry martinis - and they didn't become doctors and lawyers and business executives. Malvina is singing about the McMansions that sprawl over the beautiful hillsides of the San Francisco Bay Area. The opening credits of the Weeds television program portray this McMansion ethic very well.

Here's an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvGd8vwWLpE&list=PLFBEA5C8D8536B1F0

-Joe-

This is a music thread. The argument is now officially ended. As I often told my children, "I don't care who started the argument, and I don't care who's right or wrong - I'm going to stop the fight right now!" I'll delete any personal invectives that are posted from now on.

(i.e., anything that is not about the song, gets deleted.)


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 02:00 PM

"Not the only alternatives"

What else was there that was available?

This can be blue-skied to death.

I was a vet of WW2. I found an affordable, comfortable house in a new suburb, put up by a reputable builder. Prairie dogs were displaced and land was re-contoured for housing, but for me and many thousand vets newly educated (GI Bills) and with a job, or with a loan for a start-up business, and a "start-up family," I had no alternative except to live poor in a cheap flat.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Uncle Tone
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 01:25 PM

@ Bill D "I will not engage in more useless debate with you, as you seem to be far too taken with your own smugness"

No. Unfair. You challenged. You asked. I responded, honestly.

What I would like to know is what is MtheGM's authority, and what he has actually contributed that makes him such a knowledgeable critic (in his own mind) of other peoples' opinions.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 01:17 PM

Many thanks for your support, Bill. Congratulations on making that evasive person come so far out from behind his defensive anonymity. He actually appears to be a man of some considerable [& admirable] achievement (tho, as you observe, not entirely free of smugness about it!) ~~ as well I find after a bit of research on previous threads, as being 6'4" in height. So I wonder what can possibly be his motivations for being so peculiarly spiteful & vindictive. Ulcers, perhaps?

I wonder too what can possibly have originally caused so much animus against me on his part. Hasn't even had long to acquire it either; unlike you, who have been here since the date you mention 17 years ago, and me, for exactly four years, he only joined last December. But I don't propose to lose any sleep puzzling over it. Nor to open this thread again, or read any further posts he might put up elsewhere. He clearly has nothing to say that can be of any possible interest to me.

Meanwhile, my formal complaint to the Cat authorities as to his gratuitous offensiveness remains. Haven't heard back from them yet, but live in hopes to do so in due course.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: sciencegeek
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 01:11 PM

"These tracts were the only solution for those who wanted something better than a small apartment; room for their children and pets, a garage for the car, compatible neighbors.

It is unfortunate that they had to expand into the countryside, displacing the natural environment, but no alternative was available."

No... they were not the only alternatives... but they were the ones that made the biggest profit and benefitted short term gains. Big difference. And the battle continues as more and more marginal land is all that is left. And we use "new housing" as a parameter of fiscal health.

And the folks who moved out from the city still expected the same types of services they got back in the city. And also had to commute back to the city were the jobs were... minus the tax base that shifted to the suburbs.      

As an environmental analyst, my job deals with the legacy left by the ticky tacky housing mentality with its get rich quick now and ignore the future consequences.   

One final observation as to the lack of foresight, not to mention common sense, found at the time. The 1960s experienced a long term drought in New York State... which caused a number of ponds to shrink as the water table dropped. The clueless wonders in the local towns only saw "new land & tax $$$"... so they promptly approved buidling lots on land that used to pond margins. Well, it shouldn't take a genius to guess what happened when the drought ended and water returned.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 12:56 PM

"He is a patronising prat."

I'm sure he will immediately be taken to task by your tactful analysis.... *giggle*

Me? I am just a lowly member of a folk sociey (here in the ignorant colonies) for the last 35 years (served on the board for several years.) I have attended & helped organize 2-3 local festivals every year for all that time, and sung & played at many of them.

More to the point, I have posted at Mudcat since Nov. of 1996, and watched silly insulting twits come & go. I have little patience for gratuitous nastiness... as you might guess.

I have made my point... I will not engage in more useless debate with you, as you seem to be far too taken with your own smugness.....besides, Michael is quite capable of speaking his own piece, should HE care to.


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Subject: RE: Help: Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) ticky-tacky?
From: Uncle Tone
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 12:46 PM

...Oh I nearly forgot. I started Cottonmill Clog Morris and Ramrugge Morris with Colin Bargery (both NW) in Hertfordshire and I was founder chairman of the Unicorn Federation of Folk Clubs in Herts, Bucks, Beds, Northants, Cambs, and North Middlesex until Martin Banks took over.

You did ask.

Tone


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