Sunday, January 25, 2009

This, on the other hand, requires no explanation

Great video... or greatest video?

The ferryman doesn't take American Express

When I heard there was a song called "Don't Pay The Ferryman," I reckoned that it had something to do with Charon, the legendary operator of the ferry across the river Styx, who demanded payment for his work. Surely, I thought, the song would bear some sort of life-affirming message, telling the listener not to give up on life (i.e. paying Charon) before time is up.

And then I heard the song, and my theory was thrown into shambles. The imagery is a little creepy, but is not explicitly connected with Charon - a guy on a quest hops the ferry, the ferryman demands his money because "there will be trouble ahead," and Chris De Burgh exhorts the listener not to pay until "he gets you to the other side." Perhaps the ferryman isn't supernatural after all. Maybe he's just a con artist, who takes you halfway across the river, gets his payment, then yells "Sucker!" and jumps off the boat, leaving you to drift onto the rocks and lose 3 oxen and a wagon tongue.

According to accepted canons of construction, doubts about a song's meaning can be resolved by the video. The video's setting appears to be Regency: there's an empty church with a bride in it, which would explain why the subject of the song has been waiting a lifetime for the journey. The ferryman is hooded and cloaked, but I have no idea if that was common during the 1810s. (I am pretty sure, though, that most people in this era did not have Steve Perry haircuts, nor did they emphasize dissent with the "pass incomplete" hand signal.)

The meaning of the song is not revealed until the last scene, in which the ferryman vanishes by means of jump-cut. Apparently, De Burgh has taken it upon himself to create a new bit of folklore. The ferryman is some kind of trickster ghost (but not Charon). He carries passengers across rivers, but as soon as he's paid, he disappears. Naturally, he tries to get people to pay him as soon as possible, so that they can be left to die on the river. But if you follow De Burgh's advice, you'll be safe.

Next week I'll analyze the Edgar Winter Group's unique take on Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hidden truths

Things that lead secret lives, according to the Internet:

• Badgers
• Dentists
• Catalysts
• Books
• Citizens
• Alien volcanoes
• Archie's wife
• Gingerbread men
• Hedge fund lawyers
• Demonic mirrors
• Servants in Niger
• Fonts
• British birds
• Otaku
• Goat parasites
• Manic depressives
• Unicode
• Lapland

(Not including bees, the American teenager, women, or Walter Mitty, as their secrets have become so well-known as to destroy their secrecy.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy new year

On Sunday I drove eight hours from my apartment in Boise to interview for a job in Sandpoint, ID. The interview took place on Monday morning, and on Monday afternoon I drove five hours back towards Boise. Then this happened.

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday wandering around La Grande, OR, waiting for a Greyhound that would take me (sans car, which is now probably gone forever) back to Boise.

And today I found out I didn't get the job.

So how was your week?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When you're sick of browsing Wikipedia to kill time... what I do. Go to the U.K. newspaper of your choice and search for "Obituary." Click on any entry that contains a title of nobility. Find out what the idle and eccentric rich do with their lives. A sample from the obituary of Lady Rumbold:

...when Pauline was a girl of 15, her mother stood back, looked her only daughter up and down and declared: "I don't know how you're going to get through life with those legs."

Dylan Thomas often came to stay (the mantelpiece cleared of ornaments in anticipation of his visits).

Pauline, a natural linguist, never forgot the compliment a man in a Spanish café paid her, when he asked her to give him one of her eyelashes, so that he might make her a belt with it.

She did not consider that ordinary rules applied to her. Visiting the Cotswolds one winter, she was surprised to find all tea-shops shut by 3.30pm. Wanting a cup of tea at four o'clock, she simply walked into a darkened establishment and pressed the startled proprietor's arm: a tray was brought and the lights switched on. This was typical.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Possible future roles for Sean Penn

• Remake of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," in which he is dragged off the Senate floor by NSA goons halfway through his universal health care filibuster and imprisoned without a trial. He dies in prison and inspires a revolution.

• Gandhi, who also cares very much about global warming and abortion rights.

• The Liberation Theology version of Jesus.

Billy Jack.

• Special Edition of "Shanghai Surprise," with a CNN-style ticker at the bottom displaying the cost of the war in Iraq and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.