Paul Simon- Boy In The Bubble
The excellent Zombielectroniq, who previously had to set me straight about Philip Glass, posted this. It is my opinion -and one I’ve attempted to support in discussing another of his songs with the same themes- that Simon is as brilliant a lyricist as anyone, perhaps most of all for his range of themes and easy evocation of complex ideas.
Some selections from this song’s prescient verses; it was released in 1986:
It was a slow day,
and the sun was beating
on the soldiers by the side of the road.
There was a bright light,
a shattering of shop windows;
the bomb in the baby carriage
was wired to the radio.
These are the days of miracle and wonder.
This is a long distance call.
The way the camera follows us in slow-mo,
the way we look to us all.
The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky.
These are the days of miracle and wonder,
So don’t cry, baby, don’t cry, don’t cry.
Not solely the simultaneity of terrorism and “miracle and wonder” -the great twin hallmarks of our time, representative of asymmetry in political power, amorphous international conflict, fundamentalism and ideology, technology, wealth, and scientific progress- strikes me, but also the reference to “the way the camera follows us in slow-mo / the way we look to us all.”
The seeds of the Internet, of blogging and confessional graphomania and the constant preoccupation with how we look “to us all,” are there: all there, in the camera following us, in the camera we talk to when hurt, pretend isn’t there when putting on the show of ourselves. Then:
It’s: a turn-around jump shot.
It’s: everybody jump start.
It’s: every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.
Medicine is magical and magical is art:
think of the boy in the bubble
and the baby with the baboon heart.
And I believe
these are the days of lasers in the jungle,
lasers in the jungle somewhere.
Staccato signals of constant information,
a loose affiliation of millionaires
and billionaires and baby,
these are the days of miracle and wonder…
Culture is: the athlete transcending form, everyone jumping when a car backfires, the same sort of succession of celebrities decade after decade. The Internet is: staccato, unilateral, monologic information -constant, unending- and our proximity to millionaires and billionaires in their Twitter feeds and blog posts and our sense of connection, illusory as ever. Technology is, as Clarke said, indistinguishable from magic: interspecies, intraspecies, genetic recombination, the future, the future!
All this miracle and wonder, all this violence and atavism: “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry!”