Parts & Labor’s ‘Knives and Pencils’

Continuing my streak (now at 2!) of posts that are not primarily about global warming:

Michael DeHaan is someone I had not heard of before a few days ago, but now he’s a hero of mine twice over. He heads an open source software project, Ansible, which is focused on creating a simple configuration management and deployment tool. Having beaten myself into a pulp trying to use Puppet for that purpose, I am very taken with the design intention of Ansible, which seems to consist largely of “do the things Puppet (and several other tools) do, but do them simply and straightforwardly, without sucking incredibly hard.”

Ansible is unlikely to interest much of the readership, I realize. But what I really wanted to post about was the Parts & Labor song “Knives and Pencils,” which I learned about from a recent post on Michael DeHaan’s blog, What I’ve Been Listening To Lately. DeHaan, it turns out, is a fan of J√≥nsi’s Go album, along with several other things I really, really love, so when he mentioned Parts & Labor’s MapMaker album in the same breath, I knew I had to give it a listen.

Wow. Just wow. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but man, this stuff is absolutely for me.

Here are the lyrics, as best I can make out. (I bought the album, which included a lyrics sheet, but the actual lyrics of “Knives and Pencils” depart from the sheet somewhat, and I’m making some guesses in the middle section.)

a slow prince handed knives and pencils
carving up his maps
landscapes drawn in blood and stencils
borders traced in black

his handlers tell him
that the sun will shine
on his paper country
just give it time
the soil below does not see his lines

we will occupy our time
by occupying yours
burn their gardens burn their gardeners
we’ll settle for his wars

his keepers tell him
that the sun will shine
on his paper country
just give it time
the soil below does not need his lines

the maps that you and I have made
will all fade

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