From Iceland — Sour Grapes And Stuff

Sour Grapes And Stuff

Published February 7, 2011

Sour Grapes And Stuff

Dear Grapevine, I am an Australian who has just arrived in Reykjavik for the first time (and have been an avid Grapevine reader from abroad for a while now). I am ostensibly here to study on exchange, but my real goal and ambition is to start an UNDERWATER RUGBY team in Iceland and spread awareness about the sport. 
Underwater rugby is an amazing sport of endurance, speed, underwater-agility and teamwork. It is the only sport in the world that is truly threedimensional you can pass the ball up, down, left, right, forward and backwards! (youtube it!) It is most commonly played in Germany and all the other Nordic countries, except Iceland. 
I was hoping you may be interested in doing a short story for the Grapevine about this “most Nordic of Nordic sports” and why Iceland, a real Nordic high-achiever and benchmark-setter, has been missing out! 
Please let me know if you might be interested.
Kveðja, Bobby Chen
S: 774 7992
Dear Bobby,
Welcome to Iceland! And good luck with starting that ‘UNDERWATER RUGBY team’ you keep going on about. It sounds both interesting and fun, in equal measures. 
Hope you don’t mind us printing your phone number. We thought: maybe some reader out there will be interested in playing rugby underwater for whatever reason, so if we print Bobby’s number then maybe that reader can call Bobby directly and enquire about playing underwater rugby. 
Not sure about underwater rugby being the only truly ‘three dimensional’ sport around, though. Hmm. We don’t follow a lot of sports, but most of the non-video game ones seem to be pretty three-dimensional. 
Also unsure about Iceland being a Nordic high-achiever, either. This is where some KREPPA joke or other could make an appearance, but we’re sort of sick of those. Maybe a handball pun would be in order? 
Anyway, Bobby. Hopefully you will succeed. Underwater rugby seems like a fun, pointless thing, and there are never enough fun, pointless things around. We apologise in advance if you are besieged by crank-callers going “are your balls wet, Bobby?” at all hours. That would be most unfortunate. However, our readers are very sophisticated, so that probably won’t happen. And if it does, your FREE PIZZA will hopefully help you get over it.

Dear Sindri, Where did you learn to write musical critiques? Your assessment of Friðrik Dór’s album was so childish and unprofessional, I’m amazed that you actually have this job. Let me explain:
”Okay, I know how this is gonna sound, but I’m sorry, Friðrik Dór just isn’t black enough to pull this shit off. I’m sorry, there’s simply no other word for it.”
Really? You had no other words to describe the production value or basic sound of this release? Maybe you should be doing something else then, because your blatantly tasteless descriptions really aren’t going to cut it. Throughout reading your poorly crafted paragraph, I couldn’t even tell if you were actually being serious about this statement:
”Who knows, maybe Friðrik will ‘blacken’ with time… I mean, look at Justin Timberlake.”
Lol. You’re so clueless.
Gleðileg jól, Jasmine
Hello Jasmine,
First off, I did “describe the production value and basic sound of this release” in completely race-free terms, as the portion of my review you didn’t quote will show, and I know my paragraphs are poorly crafted: that’s why I’m writing music reviews on mediocre R&B instead of penning soaring, genrespanning epic multinational bestsellers. I did not “learn to write musical critiques” and the reason I have this job is because I wanted it and no one told me I couldn’t have it. I’m sorry if I sound defensive, but bad paragraph construction is a weakness I have, and you kind of struck a nerve. I have no delusions about being more qualified to do this than anyone else, but here I am doing it, despite five years of people I don’t know telling me I shouldn’t be.
Now. My review of the Friðrik Dór album is my honest opinion, and I made use of the Grapevine’s no-punchespulled critical policies to print what I am fully aware of is a somewhat risqué implication: that being raised in a predominantly “black” environment provides one with certain musical sensibilities that are not in abundance in suburban Iceland, a predominantly “white” environment whose musical roots, Norse/Northern European folk music, do not offer much variety when it comes to danceable beats, soulfully ad-libbed vocals and other features traditionally associated with R&B, funk and hip-hop, all of whom trace their origins to African-American communities. This is exactly the kind of music Friðrik Dór aspires to make, and, being neither raised in the environment which established this form of music as a popular genre, nor being blessed with the ability to affect said upbringing in a convincing manner, fails at his first attempts.
Human society needs to rise above the insipid folly that is racism, but still acknowledge the fact that different communities will always produce different people, and we cannot overcome this fact by simply ignoring it and saying “everyone is equal and different” and consider that the end of the issue. I’m not saying everyone who is of a certain skin tone is prone to behaving in a certain manner, I’m just saying that music traditionally associated with white people is not the same as the music traditionally associated with black people. It’s not an important distinction, but it’s there, “politically incorrect” as it is. It’s lamentable, true, and in an ideal world one would not include race as a factor when reviewing music (if Friðrik Dór where black and still made piss-poor R&B, I’d just say he was “lame” and not “white”), but we do not live in an ideal world. Music cannot simply be music: try as we might, we cannot disassociate the artist from his work.
That’s pretty much what I meant. I could have printed the above paragraphs as my review, and in retrospect, I probably should have. I’m just sick of music reviews that use long, complicated words no-one in real life uses to make a point that could just as easily be made with a conversational tone, and if that tone offended you, I’m sorry, but chances are you’re going to stay just as mad at me: just because I made my point in a more literate, round-about way, doesn’t mean you’re going to agree with me.
Thank you for your letter, it encourages me to do a better job next time.
Yours, S. Eldon

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