Annals of cultural cluelessness

The grand old city of Baltimore has been suffering mightily in recent times, and now there’s an old-school scandal to add to the roster of municipal woes. Mayor Catherine Pugh has published a set of “Healthy Holly” children’s books, ostensibly to show kids the way to a better life through exercise and diet. From the Washington Post story “Critical Carlos reads ‘Healthy Holly’: Inside the children’s book that has landed Baltimore’s mayor in a political scandal” by Carlos Lozada on the 5th:


(#1) “Copies of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s self-published “Healthy Holly” illustrated paperbacks for children. On April 1 Pugh announced an indefinite leave of absence, just as a scandal intensifies over what critics call a “self-dealing” book-sales arrangement. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)”

There’s the political story, which appears to involve an elaborate influence-trading scheme. There’s the books themselves, which “Critical Carlos” and his three critical children savage in Lozada’s Sun book review as examples of the very worst sort of stilted writing for children. And there’s the title Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow, which, with a stunningly tin ear for English in its various sociocultural contexts, disregards alternative understandings of the noun fruits, the verb come, and the rainbow as a cultural symbol.

I’m mostly after the title here. But it’s all connected.

The beginning of Lozada’s book review:

Hi, I’m Critical Carlos, and I want you to read books like I do! Reading is good for your brain and helps us all learn. If you read enough books, then one day, when you’re big, you can become a state senator, and then the mayor of a large American city. And maybe you can write books of your own, too! The fun part is that you can make lots of money by selling 100,000 copies of your books, or even more, to businesses and organizations that later might need your help. Helping is nice. Everybody wins!

This week, Critical Carlos read “Healthy Holly: Exercising Is Fun!,” by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. She published it all by herself. I couldn’t find the book in stores or libraries. Not even Mr. Internet had any left! Fortunately, Critical Carlos knew someone in Baltimore who had a copy.

For this scam to work, you need little books that businesses and organizations might plausibly buy (at inflated prices) to distribute, and earnest children’s books certainly fill the bill, especially if they feature a black girl as the central character. The project doesn’t require that the books be at all good: that they be tailored to the audience, well-written and  engagingly illustrated, and effective in communicating their message. All of that is beside the point. The point is to move product and rake in proceeds. Any trash will do.

Even so, at first I couldn’t credit the title Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow. Surely it was a joke; after all, in the Baltimore-Washington zone at the moment, there’s a vein of nasty send-ups of the Healthy Holly books, and this was probably just another one of those.

But no; it’s genuine. Ok, a tribute to the Rolling Stones — even atypically pretty Stones — in the title of a book for children is bizarre (what next? Healthy Holly’s Sympathy for the Devil? Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Healthy Holly Away? Healthy Holly Loves Bubbling Brown Sugar?). Even the Stones at their sweetest drip with sex; “She’s a Rainbow (She Comes in Colours)” counts as sweet largely because it lacks a sense of sexual threat — but with its play on the verb come, it conveys instead a sense of ecstatic sexual celebration.

Throw in fruits, interpretable as ‘fags’, plus the rainbow of the Gay Pride flag, and the whole thing is totally snickerfacient.

She comes in colors 1. From Wikipedia:

(#2) “She Comes in Colors” performed by Love; animation by iwait4u

“She Comes in Colors” is a song written by Arthur Lee and released by [American rock band] Love as a single in 1966 and on their 1967 album Da Capo.

Inspiration for “She Comes in Colors” came from the clothing worn by Love fan Annette Ferrell, who was also a friend of Arthur Lee. Love guitarist Johnny Echols recalls that the song “was about this girl named Annette who would come to all our shows wearing these outrageous gypsy clothes.”

… A number of critics have suggested that “She Comes in Colors” was a source for the Rolling Stones 1967 song “She’s a Rainbow”, which incorporates the line “she comes in colors everywhere.

The refrain:

Whoa-oh-oh-oh, my love she comes in colors
You can tell her from the clothes she wears

The verb comes here is some combination of senses 1b and 5 from this NOAD entry, with sense 6 hovering in the background:

verb come: 1 [a] move or travel toward or into a place thought of as near or familiar to the speaker: Jessica came into the kitchen | they came here as immigrantshe came rushing out. [b] arrive at a specified place: we walked along till we came to a stream | it was very late when she came back | my trunk hasn’t come yet. … 5be sold, available, or found in a specified form: the cars come with a variety of extras | they come in three sizes. 6 informal have an orgasm.

She comes in colors 2. From Wikipedia:

(#3) “She’s a Rainbow”, official lyric video

“She’s a Rainbow” is a song by the Rolling Stones and was featured on their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request. It has been called “the prettiest and most uncharacteristic song” that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote for the Stones, although somewhat ambiguous in intention.

The ecstatic refrain:

She comes in colours everywhere;
She combs her hair.
She’s like a rainbow
Coming colours in the air
Oh, everywhere
She comes in colours.

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