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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Putting Yourself in the Picture

I was fascinated to watch songwriter Guy Chambers collaborate with singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright on the creation of a new song World War III in Secrets of the Pop Song on BBC4. Together they produced a really soaring melody, a great mood and Wainwright's voice is one in a million. But the lyrics - no! One of the things that turns me right off in songs, books, films - just about anything really - is the creator putting themselves right in amongst it all and telling us they're having problems making it work. In this song, the guys were wanting to move on to something catchy and 'hooky', so Wainright sang 'Don't bore us, get to the chorus' and, contrary to Chambers's instinct, it stayed in. No, no and again no!
When I'm listening/watching/reading something, I don't want to know about its creation. I want to be transported by it; it should be a window onto something else, not onto itself. Take the song 'True' by Spandau Ballet - 'Why do I find it hard to write the next line?' - Why do I care? I don't!
My friend Ellie and I once collected novels in which the protagonist was an author who caught other people reading his work. One, I think, was Jonathan Coe's fantastic 'What a Carve-Up!', another was a Martin Amis, I seem to remember. It can be fun, but it can also be damaging to the whole fantasy that it built up in a work of art. Even Rembrandt's painting of himself painting, though brilliant, does annoy me just a little for that reason.
Is it just me?

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Ahoy, ahoy, sailors!

I've been musing about the names people give their boats and wondering what it says about them. In sailing superstition, it is unlucky to change the name of a boat. If you simply must (and it's not too hard to see why you might feel obliged), you are required to keep the original name carved in wood in the bow of the boat to avert disaster. Sailors really are more superstitious than your granny, honestly.
Boats are all female (she handles like a dream), (she's happiest when I really let her out) perhaps so the captains can chat in those terms over a harbour-side gin and tonic.
There are those cheerful names like Optimist and Sunny Daze, the names that evoke the sea, the river and the local wildlife, such as Osprey, Pelican, Porpoise, and a final category that perhaps sums it all up. There's Last Fling and Still Got It that I've seen; I've no doubt there's a boat out there called Nil Desperandum and another called Keep it Up. It's all a bit of a give-away when you think about it...