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Foto da Semana 278
"Les Miserables"

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Foto: Maarten Zeehandelaar

What else was there for a shipbuilder's son
A new ship to be built, new work to be done


Who wrote that? I have to look it up, google it, as we say in this century. It’s from the end of the last century, I remember that much. Turns out to be Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner a.k.a. Sting, 1990, album ‘The Soul Cages’, song ‘Island of Souls’. I now learn it is about his father, who died in 1987, an event which gave him a writing block the size of by and about three years. Apparently he wrote the middle song of the album, ‘Why should I cry for you’, first and then the rest just came pouring out.

Thing is, I always thought it was a concept album on the shipbuilding industry, correctly assuming Sting grew up in those surroundings. As soon as the photograph appeared before me I remembered the lyrics above, and also these:

Trapped in the cage of the skeleton ship
All the workmen suspended like flies
Caught in the flare of acetylene light
A working man works till the industry dies


That seems to be the premise of large scale industry: to produce things that look, even when rusty and worn, magnificently impressive, inspiring and larger than life – like an elaborate cover for the sheer human hell that has preceded its birth, or maybe not a cover but something more apologetic – sorry you lot croaked for this, but hey, look at it, isn’t it magnificent? And think of what we can do with it!

They brought Billy's father back home in an ambulance
A brass watch, a cheque, maybe three weeks to live


Even as I write this I am thinking, but look at those ships?! People don’t want some gloomy sod getting in their face about the horrors of their production. I know I don’t. I just wanna look at those magnificent beasts, masters of the seas, the oceans, proud testimonies to what we, man, are capable of. Or at least part of me does, want to forget about what goes into this mastery, what has to perish and die for it. The other part just can’t, forget I mean, and it starts to think about the epitome of what man can make other men and his environment die for. Through more music actually, from a much lesser known songwriter, who used these lines in a sort of prefix to a song:

What is so great about the Great Wall of China
To be calling it great seems unreasonable
Tell me what’s great about the Great Wall of China
Stand next to it, you feel terribly small


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Island of souls [link]

Nothing really begins [link]


Texto por: Peter-Jan Vermeij


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Texto e fotografia –senão declarado o contrário–
Copyright © 2010-2015 Maarten Zeehandelaar.

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