zmed elegant dining room pack animal

Shiina Ringo, “Souretsu” (“Funeral Procession”)

February 23rd was the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana (or Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana, or KZK).  That date also marked ten years of total Western critical neglect concerning the work.

I am incapable of writing about the album.  I have tried.  I am too in awe of it, it means too much to me.  It is too perfect a thing and I do not want to shame it with the wrong words.

Sometimes I wonder if setting myself on fire in a public place would help.  Would people listen to this record, then?  But I have a low threshold for pain and I am a coward and I am a private person and I know that, should I wind up fortunate enough to control the circumstances of my own death, it will happen quietly and far away from other people and with this record in my headphones.

This is the eleventh and final track.

Shiina Ringo, “Poltergeist”

Red flags, red flags.  At her best, Shiina has always found ways to antagonize her work when it threatens at being pleasant.  This delusionally sweet calliope waltz reintroduces the 2-3 tick-tock that seemed such relief at the end of “Doppelgänger” as a 1-2-3 metronomic taskmaster, a contrast emphasized at the start as an alarm clangs the evocative 2-3 comfort of train tracks.  The rising/falling Mellotron lines sometimes fall out of favor against the strings, and some of that instrument’s high-pitched elaborations can be downright demented. 

February 23rd was the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana. This is the tenth track.

Shiina Ringo, “Ishiki” (“Consciousness”)

There you are, didgeridoo.

By this point in the album there has been so much sound, and there is such an airy momentum, you can start to worry that KZK has become nothing more than an accumulation of itself.

The dedication toward laying an unsettled foundation — the blown-out underneath and edges of “Shuukyo,” the glitchy assault of “Doppelgänger,” the staccato rockabilly pile-on of “Meisai,” the battling distractions of broadcast and feedback of “Odaiji ni,” the antsy orchestra of “Yattsuke Shigoto,” the warbled practical sounds of broken communication under the verses in “Kuki,” the comic call-and-response of “Torikoshi Kurou,” the quivering of the crickets in “Okonomi de,” and the didgeridoo and farty contrabass (and whatever electronic modifications to those there are) here — and the focus at providing relentless interruption leaves a listener unwilling to observe the physics of the album’s internal logic to float away or be swallowed up or in some other way find themselves lost.

But as complete a work as it is, KZK is not hermetically sealed, and the artist does not busy herself at throwing up bored, inscrutable obstructions.  "Ishiki" can seem such a light and friendly piece of work until it hits that glorious, disruptive theater at the bridge — but that bridge isn’t a jarring, random bid to make the song more interesting than it is, it is clearly foreshadowed, it’s a frustrated tangent off the timekeeping cymbal taps at the end of the first chorus.  It makes sense if you let it.

In this album Shiina Ringo has created a work that vibrates at its own frequency, and though her popcraft can provide a pathway — is there anything as easy to grab hold of as that four-note two-step octave drop at the beginning of the chorus? — her goal is never anything as ephemeral as pop satisfaction.  The album’s power comes from the fact it is resolute and cohesive but never resolved.  It’s that perfect word on the tip of your tongue.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana. This is the ninth track.

Shiina Ringo, “Torikoshi Kurou” (“Over-Anxiety”) & “Okonomi de” (“As You Like It”)

It’s very important to acknowledge, among all the other very important things about this very important album, that KZK has a sense of humor.  Especially in the wake of all that heavy lifting yesterday, bringing up Marienbad and stuff, shame on me.  It can be difficult when talking about an involved effort where an artist has curled up into themselves and emerged holding something unique and profound to avoid getting all seriousface.  Blah blah ART.  Cue cream pie.

"Torikoshi Kurou" is funny!

Lyrically, perhaps, it’s pure desperation.  A song about a woman willing to debase herself to hold on to a departing lover, from an artist whose marriage had recently fallen apart.  But the delivery is unmistakable.  Comedy = Tragedy + Muted Cornet.

I’m shocked there isn’t an actual Sad Trombone on this track.  One of the bona fides fans’ll trumpet re: KZK is that SHIINA PLAYS DOZENS OF INSTRUMENTS on the album.  It’s not a way to dismiss the contributions of Shiina’s many collaborators, and certainly her project management skills — corralling those collaborators in service of a personal vision — are more impressive than the fact she also plays the drums on track seven.  But SHIINA PLAYS DOZENS OF INSTRUMENTS is a shortcut to assert her versatility and authorship for people who aren’t already familiar with her artistic voice and who’re wary of an industry where a performer’s personal vision has not traditionally been on display.

Anyway, Shiina plays dozens of instruments on KZK, and maybe half those only appear in a single phrase on this one song.  Which is hilarious, almost a parody of versatility.  Jew’s harp, sure, why not.

There are seriousface important things we could talk about here.  Like how, throughout KZKShiina combines traditional instruments from around the globe, practical elements, classical instrumentation, rock instrumentation, and electronic elements into an organic-sounding every era-encompassing work.  Buddhism blah blah blah something something Jungian breadth.  Or how she’s so good at knowing what to leave out.  The conch, the didgeridoo, the vacuum cleaner, they all have roles to play on this album.  But not here.  One of the things “Torikoshi Kurou” affirms is how Shiina can make dense, layered work accessible.  One of the things I love most about this song is its spareness (the silence and a sigh around fifty seconds in always makes me chuckle); but it is not spare at all, it just works very hard at sounding that way.

But this is not the place for seriousfaceness.

I’m breaking format and doubling songs here because:

(a) Illness and the contracted work week and my natural inclination away from preparation kicked my ass and caused me to fall behind; today was meant to have been the penultimate entry, obviously will not be.

(b) “Torikoshi Kurou” sounds particularly abrupt when isolated, and people who aren’t consuming the album whole deserve some sense of how well tracks flow into each other.  They way there’s carryover but not just pure overlap.  The cheerful male vocal “bum, bum-bum” given various levels of prominence throughout “Torikoshi Kurou” briefly shifts on “Okonomi de” to “bum-bum-bum-bum-bum” before quickly fading away.  The relationship between the different keyboard sounds on the two tracks.  They way both songs bounce, but swing differently.

(c) Despite being the longest song on the album, I don’t have a lot to say (thank goodness, right?) about “Okonomi de.”  I like its little Jon Brion-ish synth horn fills.   I love the soda can, the way the end of the train announcement is echoed.  -kyou, -kyou, -kyou.  I love how the crickets sound against harpsichordish chime.  I love how dry the ehru sounds.  I don’t have a full lyric translation (there’s a little bit here, a quick interpretation here), but words are a luxury/distraction.  The pleasures of this song are pretty simple ones.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana. These are the seventh and eighth tracks.

Shiina Ringo, “Kuki” (“Stem”)

First, empty your cup.

Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana is the work of a woman who had just ended a marriage and given birth to a son.  It is the work of a woman who, on entering the Japanese music industry as a teenager, had resisted its machinery; whose success helped redefine its machinery; who grabbed hard-won artistic freedom and curled up with a billion instruments and a laptop and self-produced a masterpiece.  It is the work of a woman who had realized a persona and a unique voice through to the point where she would decide to abandon them.

It’s easy to find meaning in KZK, but I think it’s easier to demand meaning from it.  The level of artistic freedom and the place in the artist’s biography invite interpretation, and the work displays such a meticulous level of conception and craftsmanship that it can seem posed as a dizzying puzzle.  There may be infinite facets to the music, but you start to think there should be one way to hold it up to the light so that everything will make perfect sense.  Even when you know great music doesn’t work that way.

There is a lot of frustration and calculation in this song.

"Kuki" is the centerpiece of an album arranged symmetrically around it, acknowledges that in its name.  Every other track on KZK has a corresponding track on the opposite side of the album — the first song goes with the last, the second with the second-to-last, and so on.  The song pairs can share instrumentation/personnel, themes, structure, and certain titular attributes (the same number of kanji/characters in the title, same starting sound, etc.).  Some pairs directly acknowledge each other in the lyrics:  As I mentioned before, in “Doppelgänger” (track 2) she sings, “it went away, the poltergeist that took so after myself,” while “Poltergeist” (track 10) responds that “I desire so much I’m losing myself;” in “Meisai” (“Camouflage,” track 3) she sings something like “I miss the taste of the… peach in a dimension called consciousness;” in “Ishiki” (“Consciousness,” track 9), “in my memories an oxidized mouthwash, camouflage.”

How much all this needs to be acknowledged by a listener is debatable.  Shiina’s symmetry can seem like a toy, or a fetish, on some projects something she only keeps in mind while choosing kanji or English translations of titles.  She is not a slave to the affectation; paired songs aren’t edited to have the same running time, for instance.  "Doppelgänger" and "Poltergeist" are very different songs, and if you pull them out and put them together they make an awkward couple.  If every pair directly mirrored each other, half of the album would be redundant.

But there’s no denying that the opening and closing tracks share a weight and tone that gives the album a shape, and there is a cohesion throughout KZK that owes to more than simple flow.  There is balance and there is tension.  Songs recall each other, long for each other, across the expanse of the tracklisting, and there is a binding force in that.

*

"Kuki" is the only song on the album without a partner, and a version of it was the album’s only single.(*) (It was plucked out, the album flowers around it, easy botanical metaphors are available.)

I’ve always thought of “Kuki” as an expressive description of birth from both the child’s and the mother’s points of view, something akin to this sequence in the Tree of Life.  I lazily grab at the combination of the author’s new motherhood, the music’s dreamy mystery, the convenient (and English-sung) diary-style summation: “Entry Number One.”  Those footsteps and the propulsive low string lines, an approach, a push.

Then there’s the album’s structure, its Buddhism, and its title.  KZK opens with a joke about wanting to die (“What I really desire is poison.  You know I’m only kidding.”), hears Shiina moan about life cycles with a new mother’s dread (“Seasons seem to go by so quickly, the flowers bloom and call the bees to them, it goes on like this repeatedly, always bearing fruit and wilting soon afterwards”); it closes with a song called “Funeral” in which a resentment is expressed toward reincarnation.

There is death around its edges, it makes sense to put life at its center.

The album title translates as something like “Chlorinated Lime, Semen, Chestnut Flower,” and it’s been said the first and last items are included because they’ve been identified as smelling like semen.  So you have the sense of a thing, the thing, and the sense of a thing.  And of course that thing is a source of life.

It’s a neat and clean interpretation on which I’ve settled, and I cherry pick what I need from Shiina’s own English translation of the lyrics — bits about being stuck or torn between two worlds, about burgeoning life.  It can be nice to grab hold of a solid subject every once in a while on this record, instead of growing wild-eyed and waving your arms and babbling on about how it’s about existence, man.

But I am probably mostly wrong.  KZK may be exact in its execution but it is not neat and clean.  And of course its difficulties are exacerbated for non-native speakers forced to rely on fan-made lyric translations.  Even the album’s title is in dispute — Shiina used obsolete kanji to phonetically spell out German words; even the spelling of the artist’s name is in play — you will see her surname as Shena or Sheena or Shéna and her nickname as Rinngo or Ringö.  The month before the record’s debut saw the release of a 40-minute short film called “Hyaku iro megane” (“Kaleidoscope,” or “Hundred-Colored Glasses”), which Shiina conceived and in which she appears, which is connected with this song and this album.  It’s something of a ghost story.  Enigmatic, atmospheric, a little bit about obsession, a lot about identity and roles and fantasy and reality.  (It’s been a while since I’ve seen it with a proper English translation, but watching it (1, 2) while running French subtitles through Babelfish does not seem like an inappropriate thing to do.)  No one dies or is born or gives birth in the film.  Though someone may disappear, or may never have existed.

And ultimately there’s probably more of Marienbad than Malick to KZK.  There is something just out-of-reach throughout the album — a longing for missing pieces, the presence of unknowable others, the attempts to reconcile two worlds — life and afterlife, fantasy and reality.  The dissonance of being stuck between stations, well intoned by “Kuki’s” sound effects — lost radio signals, failed modem connections, a half-dialed telephone number.  There may be honest expressions of motherhood, but those could also apply to any act of creation — to the record now in your headphones, to the fame-distorted identity she would soon shed.  Shiina’s inclinations to confound start to feel like the point, like an ongoing expression of artistic frustration.  There’s a door there, and it will not break.

February 23rd will be the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana. This is the sixth track.

(*) Even on the single, with its traditional two CD-era b-sides, “Kuki” was put in the center position instead of the standard prime spot.  And it was surrounded by a song pair from KZK, versions of “Meisai” and “Ishiki,” edited so they do mirror each other’s running times, and reworked so the single disc has a wrap-around beginning and ending that suggests coming in from, and going back out into, rainfall.

"Hyaku iro megane" (2003, Japan, d. Shuichi Bamba)

"Hyaku iro megane" (2003, Japan, d. Shuichi Bamba)

Shiina Ringo, “Yattsuke Shigoto” (ZCS Version)

For contrast.

Shiina Ringo, “Yattsuke Shigoto” (“A Half-Assed Job”)

Oh, you know, just another pop star who lets someone vacuum right through her song.

The practical elements on the record are another embraced contradiction:  Real life is an interruption, but real life is musical.  A lot of the music on KZK is built on interruptions.  Sometimes songs are presented as calls-and-responses between a “live” Shiina vocal and an assemblage of fills — we saw some of that in “Doppelgänger,” it pops up most amusingly in “Yattsuke Shigoto’s” complement, “Torikoshi Kurou.”  Practical elements may compete with a tune — the vacuum cleaner here, the radio throughout “Odaiji ni" — but that doesn’t make them any less musical.  And sometimes, they are necessary:  The TV theme launches this song, the footsteps in "Kuki" provide the beat, the lighter and cigarette at the end of "Meisai" give it its concluding (and obviously sexual) phrase.  (And toward the end of the “Meisai” video, the flip side of the idea is expressed, as a violin is pantomimed with a knife and plate.)

It’s a calculated effort for Shiina to bring the world into her music and to make her music part of the world.  I love Shiina the same way I love Mahler, as someone who creates something grand and expansive and also detailed and intimate.  She uses a vacuum cleaner the same way he uses cowbells.  I always say that this album contains the universe, this is some of what I mean by that.

And it makes this album a pretty amazing thing to listen to alongside the world.  The production is exacting to such extent it creates a zillion facets to the music, and I’ve found it can shine differently depending on how it’s held to the light.  Of course it is an amazing headphone album, but it’s an amazing everywhere everyhow album.  When I finally got it on CD, after having listened to someone else’s rip for months, I was amazed at how much more sound was in the thing.  And I was amazed when I heard the thing blaring out blown car speakers while barreling down I-95.  I can only wonder at what the vinyl has to offer.  I have been listening to KZK, intensely, for more than five years, and I still hear new things in it, all the time.

What are those little rubbery, cuíca-ish sounds under the harpsichord solo?  So much in there.

*

But the world is annoying, and its annoyances can seem soul-destroying, which on paper is what “Yattsuke Shigoto” is about.  The lyrics are a refreshingly blunt rant that go from whining about petty annoyances (phone calls, train times, traffic) to expressing a sadomasochistic relationship with society (“I just wanna be hurt,” “Control me,” “I just wanna be a machine”) before being nullified by it (“Tell me what does it mean to Love? I can’t remember.”).

This is an old song, actually, vastly reworked, as is her wont, and the shift in attitude/arrangement here is particularly interesting.  Shiina’s personal circumstances changed drastically between the song’s first appearance (on tour in the spring of 2000, a live recording was released as part of the ZCS box that fall) and the release of KZK in early 2003.  Over that span, she had gotten married, had a child, and gotten divorced.

The song as originally performed is satisfying in its anger and cynicism.  Even the whistling is cynical.  It’s a song that dismisses motherhood as just another mundane rat race activity (“perhaps I’ll do my job through copulation”).  It is against the world.

On KZK, as a mother, she has remade “Yattsuke Shigoto” as part of the world.  Instead of an antagonistic four-piece band, we have a whimsical arrangement that bounces in orderly fashion throughout a full orchestra.  Musical lines soar and sigh against a driving, staccato pointillism, suggesting full immersion in a world that can lift you up and put you down and sweep you along.  There may be resignation with acceptance, but this is the way things are, this is how you get by, might as well whistle.

February 23rd will be the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana. This is the fifth track.

Shiina Ringo, “Odaiji ni” (“Get Well Soon”)

Transition as hospice, this lovely piano ballad bridges the vibrant fantasy of “Meisai” and the earthly demands of “Yattsuke Shigoto.”  It’s color-coded like the former (red suspicion, greener grass, “the gauze that wraps around my skin is a white lie”), its aggravations lead into the latter.  Waking up is hard to do.

Hard to tell with all the layers and tweaking throughout KZK, but I think the radio here is the first time on the album she uses a practical effect as evidence of the outside world?  Having to compete with the noise around her is part of the point, of course; but as they rub raw against each other down the stretch, I’ve wondered if the distorted fuzz and clang of the guitar is also a wink at those who find her vocals shrill.

February 23rd will be the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana. This is the fourth track.

Shadow Morton, “Dressed in Black” (demo)

A few years ago (five! five years ago!) in a different space I wrote a ramblingish post about the Shangri-Las, comparing a couple sides they cut with producer/writer/mastermind Shadow Morton to versions he recorded with other groups (the Nu-Luvs, Pussycats, Goodies).  Something about how acting was better than singing, something about how casting matters.

Two years later, someone calling himself Shadow Morton left a comment on that post that said:  “GREAT. YOU NAILED IT.”  And even though it is unlikely that that was actually Shadow Morton, I have never stopped choosing to believe it was, because those words made that one of the very few times I have felt any good at all about something I have written

Shiina Ringo, “Meisai” (Live, Baishou Ecstasy Version)

One of the joys of Shiina Ringo’s first solo career is that she arrived an artist both exact and restless.  She would release beautiful, successful singles, then sledgehammer the song on the album version.  She’d tweak, she’d overhaul, she’d push a song from one genre into the next.  As exciting as it is when an artist creates something perfect and unfuckwithable, it can be even more exciting when an artist creates something perfect and fucks with it in a series of very satisfying ways.

When it came time to tour Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana, an album dense with layers and explored through dozens of instruments, most played by Shiina herself, she answered it on stage by going schizo.  A rock band concert tour called “Sugoroku Ecstasy” served up stripped-down pounded-out versions that relied on noise and attack and some pretty amazing drumming to fill the gap.  A lush concert hall version called “Baishou Ecstasy,” conducted by her longtime collaborator Neko Saito (rocking out the violin, here), neatly extrapolated selections from the work to a string orchestra.  "Meisai," hardly the most complex song on the record, halved neatly into rockabilly and this big band swing.

The Baishou versions do not fall along the lines of, say, Michael Kamen’s plodding, lazy rock transcriptions, where an arranger merely emphasizes a four-piece band’s music across a full orchestra.  They’re a revelation, organic extensions of the original material.  It was all in there, already, waiting to be let out.  The Baishou versions can be models of restraint — there is spareness, there is silence — and they can be cheekily irreverent.  This “Meisai” is by turns corny, cool, frantic, and fractured.

In different ways, you could see each concert variation of KZK as a beginning of the end.  Soon afterward, Shiina would abandon her solo career and assimilate into the band that backed her through the Sugoroku shows.  And as thrilling as the Baishou versions are (and it should be noted some found them the opposite of that, considered their extravagance a corruption of her more punk sensibilities) their tone would become a crutch when the singer’s interests careened toward jazz and show-tunes.

Shiina Ringo, “Meisai” (“Camouflage”)

Were I better equipped to do so, this swing track — with those rhythmic and instrumental flourishes, against those visuals — would probably be a good place to consider how Shiina makes Western-inspired sounds distinctly Japanese.  Or this could be an opportunity to appreciate how the woman is as meticulous with her visual presence as she is with her music.  Or maybe something about how the opulence above — all this, for a song never released as a single — serves as reminder that, far from being some obscure cult figure, Shiina Ringo was a chart-topping artist whose first two solo albums sold more than 3.7 million units, and that this weird, amazing work we’re celebrating was a number one album in the word’s second-largest music industry.

But mostly I’ve just always liked this video.

February 23rd will be the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana. This is the third track.

Shiina Ringo, “Doppelgänger”

Of the 3,000 things there are to talk about when talking about Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana, the most important is that you do not have to be concerned with 3,000 things to enjoy it.  Yes, it is an exactingly constructed, intensely dense piece of work.  This track, for instance — as these folks have pointed out — has samples of at least three other Shiina songs woven into it.  Did you need to know that?  No.  It is an album by an obsessive that invites obsession, but it is also an album by an artist with an immaculate pop sensibility.  She is stubbornly opaque, arranging her lyrics behind obscure kanji and even singing backwards (ffs), she can seem gleefully, musically rude, but she also takes pains to make her music tuneful, and these conflicted impulses combine to form a work that is immediately enjoyable and relentlessly relistenable.

And I hold that her willful obscurity opens her music up.  As a person who doesn’t speak Japanese, it helps me to know that even native speakers have had obstacles thrown their way.  I am someone who believes lyrics often run interference between a listener and the music, anyway, but I find it freeing to know there will always be something about this very sure work that I will be unsure about.

KZK is such a complete album because it embraces contradictions and frustrations as necessary.  It is an expansive and very personal album about beginnings and endings, about wholeness and fracture, about home appliances and foreign sounds.  It contains the universe.

Because it is such a complete album, extracting tracks from it is a painful exercise.  It’s not just that KZK has no show-stopping singles on the order of her previous records (see: “Tsumi to Batsu,” “Koko de Kiss Shite”); it’s not a matter of narrative; it’s not just that each song needs the track that flows into it and the one it flows into, and that each song needs its complementary track on the other side of the album’s pole — though the fact that tracks two and ten call at each from across their spots on the record and balance each other out speaks to how it coheres.  KZK is filled with constant momentary pleasures but was clearly conceived as a whole, is meant to be consumed as a single 44-minute, 44-second listen, is the very definition of something greater than the sum of its parts.

(On a personal level, even though this is my favorite record, I could not pick a favorite song from it.  And not because I’ve done that thing where I’ve played favorites throughout the tracklisting.  The album is my favorite song on the album.)

And if you’d like, “Doppelgänger” — which dreamily mulls lyrical opposites, which recites parts of the artist’s past work while calling out to a part of the record that has not yet happened, which longs for wholeness as it glitchily deconstructs itself, which offers momentum to lead you through its bursts of crisis and a pretty tick-tock waltz to which you can limp away after — is about all of that.

February 23rd will be the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana. This is the second track.

Shiina Ringo, “Shuukyou” (“Religion”)

February 23rd will be the tenth anniversary of the release of Shiina Ringo’s masterpiece Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana (or Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana, or KZK).  That date will also mark ten years of total Western critical neglect concerning the work.

I am incapable of writing about the album.  I have tried.  I am too in awe of it, it means too much to me.  It is too perfect a thing and I do not want to shame it with the wrong words.

Sometimes I wonder if setting myself on fire in a public place would help.  Would people listen to this record, then?  But I have a low threshold for pain and I am a coward and I am a private person and I know that, should I wind up fortunate enough to control the circumstances of my own death, it will happen quietly and far away from other people and with this record in my headphones.

This is the first track.

Buddy Guy, “I Smell a Rat”

This is the track that made me fall in love with Buddy Guy.

Have you ever watched the broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors?  Of course you have not.  You are not one hundred years old.  Every year they enshrine a group of artists whose cultural contributions are such an assumption that further acknowledgement seems afterthought.  I am sure it is a fine and right and proper institution, but by definition that also means it is dusty and crusty and not relevant to your Twitter feed.

The problem for me is that they’re now getting to people whose work animated my formative years.  This year’s inductees included not just Guy and Led Zeppelin, who at least had already established themselves before I was born, but David Letterman.  David Letterman, whose show I started taping and watching while I was in grade school.  Tina Fey noted in her induction speech that everyone she cared to know, growing up, was basically a David Letterman impersonator, and boy, that rang true.  It is difficult for me to gauge what percentage of my manner and attitude came from that original Late Night show.  I still settle on his ironically manufactured catch phrases (“Whaddaya want? Wicker?”  “I do and do and do for you kids, and this is the thanks I get.”) as conversational sighs.

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