Wednesday, 31 March 2010

and so the Trojans buried Hector, breaker of horses.

Now I bet that when Jeff suggested that I ship Hector and Achilles, he had no idea that out there in the big 'ol 'verse someone had already thought of it. Yes, it would seem sick minds do indeed think alike.
Actually the people out there with too much time on their hands have come up with things far, far...oddder.
Historial Person Slash. Yes, you read that right - like the French Revolution; like George Washington; like Napoleon Freaking Bonaparte!
Fancy seeing what happens when Robespierre and Saint-Just get weary of arranging yet another guillotining and decide that le petite mort will be a lot more fun than all the great big morts they've had a hand in? If that's what your tastes run to - there's plenty of it out there.
I've read angst pieces where Frederick Engels - Engels no less - writes a new Preface to Das Capital, bewailing the fact that Marx never really loved him. And I think we can all fill in the blanks when it comes to what he means by loved...
But really, is nothing sacred? Not even the pure, if drunken, friendship of two of the 19th Century's greatest minds? I'm all for a bit of iconoclasm but really; who needs to read about two big and beardy men getting it on over a bit of intense dialectic? And the pillowtalk - all those sweet whisperings of the use value/exchange value contradiction as embodied in the commodity at the point of production. I'm getting breathless just thinking about it...
These are real people and I'm not sure what we count as the canon when it comes to people's historical lives - makes you think about the role of histiography in a whole new light. That said, there's plenty of slashy moments for the would-be historical shipper - try this from Saint-Just, writing about his admiration for Robespierre - the older, better dressed beloved - “You, who uphold our tottering country against the torrent of despotism and intrigue, you whom I know, as I know God, only through his miracles—it is to you, Monsieur, that I address myself." "...whom I know,..." Know eh? We all know what knowledge for miracles...what could be more miraculous than love across the dropping heads?
But this is a long way from the potential OTP of Achilles and Hector - and even if the Athenians thought Homer was writing history, he wasn't. There is of course plenty of Classical material...Alexander and pretty much anything with the equipment; Hadrian and Antinous...but there's no real slashiness there - those blokes were getting it away with their best point in shipping; they'd long set sail of their own accord.
No, the two great enemies - that is good stuff.
Of course its the Classical Greeks who were the first slashers. There's not a shred of evidence in Homer that Achilles and Patroclus are anything other than close and dear friends - a genuine bromance. It was the Athenians, a couple of centuries later who liked the idea that there was a whole lot more going on in the Myrmidon camp! The Iliad is the original canon and so I suppose if shipping its characters was good enough for Classical vase painters, then its certainly good enough for me.
But I face some canonical problems. First I don't write great hexameter - actually I don't write it at all. And we know that slash is all about the voice and the style. But then the bigger problem - where's the secret meeting? When does Hector slip into Achilles' camp for a bit of pre-killing the other man and then being chased around the walls of Troy nooky? For that matter, is this an angst piece - devastated by the death of Patroclus, Achilles turns for comfort to the arms of the man who killed his lover? There could be could be a nasty little revenge fantasy...but somehow that argues against the OTP. I could go on...
...and while I ponder the possibilities there's a nice little piece on Henry V that I happened upon - "Once more unto the breeches dear friend, I'll fill this gap with my English..." you get the idea.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

if you don't like Hank Williams you can kiss my ass

Ah, one of the all-time inspiring pieces of country lyricism! Up there with Merle Haggard and if you don't love it leave it which my guilty conscience tries to avoid humming despite how damn catchy that riff is.
But its a Sunday and that can mean only one thing in the world of country music...Kris Kristofferson.
I don't know much about Kris, other than that he spells his name badly and that he looked damn fine in a white t-shirt circa about 1970-something. But that's enough. He writes songs about being stoned, about his friends who ODed and about loving and loosing and getting wasted. And if that dates him somewhat then it dates me too.
These days he looks grizzled and grey and like the man who survived. Not anymore like the man who has to justify why he's singing a Janice Joplin song.
I first heard Me and Bobby McGee on a country station late one night in Hamilton when I was 17. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. And those lyrics, sentimental and obvious, still make me cry.
But it keeps making me think; why do we keep having to justify the love of the slide guitar, the delicate sound of a grown man singing through his nose?
And for the life of me, I have no answer.
Johnny Cash has a lovely album of other people's songs called The Storyteller; and I could argue that what I really love is a good narrative. And that the fact that all those highwaymen keep stealing each other songs appeals to my post-modern sensibilities. I like the way the songs and the singers are in constant conversation.
That album contains a cover of one of Bruce Springsteen's greatest songs - Highway Patrolman - Yea we're laughin' and drinkin' nothin' feels better than blood on blood - all his best lyrics are the ones from the songs no one has heard. And it comes from his most perfect album; Nebraska, I can't say that I'm sorry for the things that we done At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun. An awful, tragic (in the true sense of the word) cry to a world that doesn't care.
Which brings me back to being born a lonely singer, and bound to die the same. And Sunday morning coming down;'Cos there's something in a Sunday,Makes a body feel alone.And there's nothin' short of dyin',Half as lonesome as the sound, of a slide guitar.