Sunday, 26 June 2011

Joyously dumb: My writing and pop music

If you've taken some time to look at my "What is dag-lit?" page, you may have noticed that one of the ways I used to describe dag-lit was "joyously dumb. But what on earth is that meant to mean? It's a bit tricky to explain but I'll try.

Believe it or not, it actually has more to do with music than pure writing. Pop music to be specific. I'm a big fan off pop music. And this is where it gets a bit tricky, because there are lot's of different definitions of what pop music actually is.

When I'm referring to pop music, I'm talking generally about music that's not classical or jazz. It might be rock'n'roll or reggae or have a blues or country sort of edge to it. I tend not to put things into categories so much. I usually refer to it all as pop music.

I suppose that like anything, musical appreciation is subjective. Not everybody likes the same sort of things. And I certainly don't like all "pop music". I'm especially not fond of a lot of the production line, machine-like stuff that seems to be all over the radio these days (then again I might just be showing my age).

Pop music isn't clever like classical or jazz. It doesn't have lots of fancy chords or tricky time changes or all those other complicated things that can be picked apart by music scholars. As a form of music, it's pretty dumb. But to me that's part of its appeal. And when it's done well, it has a kind of magic to it that just takes you away into another world completely. Makes you tap your feet and hum away, and leaves you in a good mood for hours. And that's what I mean when I refer to the joyously dumb.

But there are certain musical artists who (to me at least) are able to achieve even more. These are the writers and performers who can marry pop music with great ideas, themes and lyrics. One of my personal favourites is R.E.M. A couple of great Australian (New Zealand?) examples are the wonderful Crowded House and a more recent Melbourne-based band called Augie March. These bands write really intelligent and intriguing lyrics to music that has all the joyous dumbness of the greatest pop music.

So, at last, getting back to the subject of my writing. What I've just described is exactly what I want to achieve as a writer. I don't want to write sophisticated literature that will be picked apart by academics at universities. I want to write stuff that moves people, and takes them away to a joyous place, like the best pop music. But I want to do more than that as well. I want to be just that little bit smart, to leave my readers thinking a bit as well as feeling good.

But I guess that that, just like music, is totally subjective. I'll leave it to my readers to let me know if I've succeeded.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Goldilocks and the Fashion Police

Once upon a time, there was a lovely little girl named Goldilocks.  She had long hair of gold and a kindly heart.  Goldilocks was always trying to help her friends.  Whenever it rained, she made sure to carry a spare umbrella, just in case someone else had forgotten theirs.  And if anybody accidentally bought too much food at the grocery store, she was happy to carry some of their bags home for them.  Yes, everybody in the town loved Goldilocks.  There was only one thing wrong with her.  She had no fashion sense.

Every time Goldilocks went out, the townspeople gasped at what she was wearing.  Stripes mixed with flowers.  Knee length socks under boots.  The townspeople could not believe the atrocities against fashion which Goldilocks was committing.  They tried to drop hints to her, left copies of Cleo and Cosmo under her doorway while she was out, but it was to no avail.  Goldilocks continued to wear short skirts over denim overalls and green stockings with orange shoes.

Finally the people could take no more.  They organised a town meeting to discuss the situation.

“This cannot go on,” cried the mayor.  “We can’t let her continue flaunting the rules of fashion while we try to go about our daily business.”

The rest of the townspeople all agreed, but no one could come up with a plan of action.  They all loved Goldilocks too much and didn’t want to offend her.

Then one man stepped forward.  A small man, dressed all in black, that nobody had ever seen before.  He stood up on the podium and said, “what we need to do is call in the fashion police.”

“Who are the fashion police?” asked the townspeople eagerly.

“The fashion police enforce the rules of fashion,” replied the man.  “If they ever see anyone breaking those rules, they put them up against the wall and shoot them.”

At first, the townspeople were somewhat dismayed by this.  Without Goldilocks, who would be there to help them rebuild their homes when the cold winter winds blew them over?  And who would give food to the orphans when there was no one else to provide for them?  But the man said there was no other alternative.

“Think of the effect she must be having on your children,” he insisted.  “How would you feel if they all began to dress like her?”

The townspeople knew he was right.  Without any delay, they called in the fashion police.  Goldilocks was tried, convicted of crimes against fashion, and shot, all in the same afternoon.

Now things are very different in that little town.  Whenever it rains, nobody will let you share their umbrella. And if you’ve done too much shopping, you’ll just have to carry those bags home yourself.  But these seem like a small price to pay.  Because since the fashion police came to town, nobody has ever been out of fashion again.

Note: I wrote this story for a short story class after sitting in a train listening to a group of girls criticising the clothes other travellers were wearing. Some of the quotes were taken direct.