New Year’s Musings: My WSJ Arts Piece on “Cry Me a River” and More on Debit Card Interchange Price Controls

For those of you on the East Coast and in parts of Europe, I hope you weren’t too inconvenienced by the winter weather. We in D.C. were lucky that after we were warned about an eight-inch blizzard (still nothing compared to the two feet we had early this year that paralyzed the city for a week), we got off with a light dusting.

In what should my last blog post this year (though I could always have one tomorrow — ha ha!), I wanted to share with you a piece I had a couple weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal, but this time on the Leisure & Arts page on the journey of a fairly common expression and the song that gave it birth.

First, though, let me give a brief update from my last blog post on my work on the Federal Reserve’s debit card interchange fee price control proposal put out just before Christmas — or what I call “the Fed’s giant gift to big retailers and lump of coal for consumers.” I wrote a piece that went into more detail on the Fed rule for Andrew Breitbart’s, and that article garnered more than 100 comments. Also, the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow quoted me extensively in an article that does a very good job of explaining how the Fed’s price caps on debit card processing for retailers would shift costs to consumers in terms of loss of free checking (already happening in anticipation of this rule), reduced card rewards, and other new fees.  And I recommend an op-ed in The Washington Times yesterday by Professor Richard Epstein explaining why this rule and the Durbin Amendment to Dodd-Frank that it derives from — this country’s first price control scheme to Epstein’s knowledge that sets below-cost prices by design — runs afoul of Supreme Court precedent on 5th Amendment property rights to a return on capital invested.

I’ll be writing much more on this in the weeks to come. Some readers may have also seen an e-mail I sent on this subject last week, in which I said that when some of the most profitable retail chains like Walgreens complain about paying less than two cents on the dollar for the benefits that debit and credit cards bring to them in terms of increased sales and fraud protection, “I have to say, ‘Cry Me a River!”

This actually provides a great segue to my Wall Street Journal arts piece, which is on the phrase “Cry Me a River” and the resurgence of the 1955 song of that title that has inspired and may have invented the phrase’s use.  Some of you know that I reviewed and covered music when I was a staff writer at The Washington Times and Investor’s Business Daily. I still occasionally write articles on music.

But this article was more than that, and I was able write a piece on the origin of a phrase in the English language in the vein of the “On Language” column I so admired by the late William Safire in The New York Times Magazine.

It turns out I’m not the only one who uses the phrase “Cry Me a River” to get a point across. It’s a great all-purpose phrase to express your belief that someone’s complaint is trivial, or that he or she brought one his own misfortune. With the help of able assistants named “Google” and “Google News,” I was able to find the phrase’s widespread use on targets from President Obama to Glenn Beck to Lindsay Lohan to Tiger Woods.

I was also very fortunate to talk about the beauty of the original song — about a jilted lover who gets gratification in an ex’s regret — in telephone interviews with the wonderful pop-and-standards singer Michael Bublé, who uses the standard as an elaborate opening song to his concerts, and the song’s composer Arthur Hamilton. Hamilton wrote “Cry Me a River” as a young songwriter some 55 years ago, and has met many of the its performers from original singer Julie London (his former girlfriend) to Bublé (whose recording session of the song he attended). Mr. Hamilton told me he never heard the phrase before he came up with it for the song, and was at first worried that listeners would confuse the phrase with the Crimea.

Two other points in anticipation of comments: Justin Timberlake’s 2002 hit with the title “Cry Me a River” wasn’t a cover of the standard; it was just an original song with the same title. Don’t know how many Justin Timberlake fans there are among OpenMarket readers (and he actually did a good acting job in The Social Network), but just wanted to clear up a potential point of confusion.

Also, my apologies in advance for neglecting to cite Joe Cocker’s early ’70s acid rock version of “Cry Me a River” that hit the pop charts (and which you can see a live performance of here on YouTube). Space in the piece was limited (unlike in my rambling blog posts), and I thought Aerosmith would provide a better example of the diversity of artists who covered the song. But given the comments of Journal readers to the story, I can see my omission of him was a mistake.

Here again is the WSJ “Cry Me a River” piece. Your comments on any subject to me are always welcome (here or at my email [email protected]) , and have a very happy New Year and great 2011!

Photo Credit: Flickr Photostream