# Brilliant satirist Tom Lehrer's catalog now in the public domain

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/10/20/brilliant-satirist-tom-lehrers-catalog-now-in-the-public-domain.html

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What a mensch, this guy.

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The pigeons may disagree but I think he’s a class act and genius.

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Just his work for public kids TV alone would make him a national treasure!
e.g. “Silent E” and “L-Y

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Even his lesser known songs, like Send the Marines, are timeless…

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But isn’t it likely that it’s being archived as we speak, so it will live on forever?

I grew up with “New Math” so the intended humour of it is a little lost on me. His way of doing it in the intro baffles me though. “3 from 2 is 9” …uh wat??

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He’s working a standard subtraction problem: 342-173. Starting with the units place, you must subtract 3 from 2, but you can’t, so you borrow from the tens place and subtract 3 from 12 to yield 9.

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I also grew up post new-math, but the idea is that prior to new math, math was being taught as rules for arithmetic without explaining what they mean.

“3 from 2 is 9, (carry the one)” is describing a somewhat backwards way of doing subtraction where instead of “borrowing a 10” from the next digit, you do the subtraction (2 - 3 = -10 + 9) and carry the -10 to the left. I don’t know if this is actually how subtraction was taught in the 50s, but the idea is to show memorization of tricks even if they result in statements are not actually correct in a general context even if they result in the right answer because of hidden or unstated assumptions.

If you have any other jokes you want ruined, I will be here all day.

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But the way you’re describing it is what he’s mocking as new math, no?

That seems kind of final. I hope he’s doing well.

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I hope he’s doing well, but he’s 92, so final makes sense.

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That said, the “Base 8 is just like base 10… if you’re missing 2 fingers” joke in that song might be my favorite bit of humor ever.

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“So long, I’m off to drop the bomb, so don’t wait up for me”

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Let’s back up a second: are you telling me that Tom Lehrer is still alive?

This is like hearing that Jesus, Gautama Buddha and Confucius have been running an undersubscribed YouTube channel out of an apartment in Dubuque since 2014.

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Tom Lehrer is yet another national treasure. We need a way to recognize people like this, like Japan recognizes people as national treasures.

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As what Americans would call a chemistry major, I am bothered by the random order of elements in this song, but otoh I memorised the first row of the d-block elements to the (very similar) tune of “I am the very model of a modern major general” for an exam one time, and to this day I remember that it’s scandium titanium vanadium and chromium, manganese and iron cobalt nickel copper zinc

(Of course, I can remember the order of most of the s- and p-block elements by other means)

What a wonderful thing for him to do.
Too bad that Disney, et. al., won’t take the hint.
The copyright system in this country is fuxxored & needs to be put back as originally intended:
give the original creators of content a reasonable (7 years) amount of time to profit from their work, & then it goes into the public domain so as to inspire others.
Thanks to (mostly) Disney, what is it now? LIfetime of the original creator plus 99 years or some such tommyrot?