Tuesday 13 October 2009

Am I a philistine?

The other day, a friend, a long-haired dude who has since shaved his head, a chap with a collection of hard drives full of movies and music, played a song on his laptop.
"You'll love it," he said.
Or maybe he didn't say anything, but that doesn't matter.
So he played this song. It was, I can now tell you, having asked this other friend who was around at the same time, and googled the line he remembered, Beautiful World by Colin Hay.
I like to go out beyond the white breakers
where a man can still be free (or a woman if you are one)
I like swimming in the sea
The tune was pleasant enough, the dude singing it had a nice voice, but my enthusiasm for it was only tepid. I said as much to my two friends.
"Listen to the lyrics properly da. It's awesome," one or both of them said.
And there in essence was my problem. More accurately the problem with me.
I'm incapable of appreciating songs whose appeal is primarily lyric-based. This I think is connected to my inability to really get poetry. I get funny stuff, like Ogden Nash, but that's about it. Unless you count something like this, the only lines of poetry I've ever stuck on a status message:
Like rattle of dry seeds in pods the warm crowd gently clapped,
The boys who came to watch their gods, the tired old men who napped.
And I surmise that I appreciate this poem (Cricket at Worcester, John Arlott) purely because it describes a cricket scene, i.e., something that's likely to strike an emotional chord anyway. And heck, it tells me clearly what it's talking about.
Unlike, say, this:
Tell her to make me a cambric shirt, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Without no seams nor needlework, then she'll be a true love of mine
I heard this (Scarborough Fair, Simon and Garfunkel) thanks to another friend, a colleague at work who did crazy things with the internet settings to enable access to streaming video, found the song on YouTube and handed me a pair of headphones.
"The lyrics are awesome, right?" he asked me.
I nodded with a beatific smile, not because I thought the lyrics awesome (Honestly, I have no idea what the two dudes are going on about) but because I loved the song for the tune, and how the two voices, one high, one low, in perfect harmony, made me bask in some un-nameable emotion.
Beautiful World somehow didn't manage it, which perhaps isn't the song's failure but mine.
Read here what Mike Marqusee wrote rather more eloquently on a not entirely dissimilar theme. 

Monday 12 October 2009

Pilfered tennis balls

Perusing pilfered tennis balls should, you would imagine, induce in the peruser a wave of complex emotions, ranging from the urge to perform a celebratory jig to a desire to confess in a flood of tears and repentance. Not so in my case, however. All I feel now as I stare at the furry sphere on my floor is resentment.
I pilfered this ball about two months ago, from the cubicle of a reporter who works in the same newspaper as I, but a different department. "You're sure I can steal it?" I asked my friend, who works in the tennis ball dude's department. "Sure," she replied. The tennis ball dude, as you might imagine, wasn't around.
But all the conspiratorial thrill I felt when I dropped the ball in my bag evaporated when I lobbed it at the wall back in my room. For instead of zipping past the outside edge of my hesitantly thrusting bat upon bouncing on the floor, it (the ball) dribbled under its (the bat's) worn oil-hole.
For two months now, it has mocked me with its yellow leer and obstinate refusal to rise above my ankle, even when I've attempted to fling it out of my sight.
It's the very definition of irony, for the first, and only other, tennis ball I pilfered, back when I was in school, was tennis ball perfection, and remained in my possession about forty seven seconds, before my second backfoot punch sent it bouncing out of my balcony grille and bounding enthusiastically in a north-easterly direction, towards a happier place and, I'm sure, a better batsperson.