From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (7)—Nobody's Home

Click here to read the introduction to the Round and Square series "Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin'..."
[a] Nobody's home  RF
There is something especially painful about vacancy. As students of misery (and that is what we are when we read a good deal of poetry or listen to most country music), we learn to make distinctions. In some songs there is at least a little twinge of revenge or anger or payback. While it doesn't necessarily make us feel good, there is at least a sense of vibrancy that—way back in the recesses of the subtext—give us a little hope for the subject of the lyric.

[b] Empty  RF
There's not much of that here. Clint Black's song of utter vacancy is, well, pretty empty. There are brief attempts at levity on the part of the hopeless (I mean the term in the strict sense) narrator ("the same old pickup truck that the same old bank still owns"), but it is hard to find even an emotionally neutral line in the song.  I'll leave it at that for this week (since I have promised not to analyze the lyrics much in this particular set of posts).Think about the different "threads" of misery, though. Clint Black is an exceptionally prescient songwriter on these topics, and we'll cover more of his music as the year wears on.

Nobody's Home
—Clint Black
(Clint Black)

Move slowly to my dresser drawers
Put my blue jeans on
Find my cowboy boots, my button down
Strap my timepiece on my arm

Grab my billfold, my pocket change
Just a mindless old routine
Then it's out the door and down the street
But it's not really me

I still comb my hair the same
Still like the same cologne
And I still drive that pickup truck
That the same old bank still owns
But since you left, everybody says
I'm not the guy they've known
The lights are on, but nobody's home

Cup of coffee in the morning
Its just food for the brain
But I've been numb since our last goodbyes
I haven't felt a thing

But now there's pains in my head 
And pains in my chest
I think I'm losing my hair
I'm a half a man with half a mind
To think you didn't care

Repeat chorus

Since you left, everybody says
I'm not the guy they've known
The lights are on, but nobody's home

The lights are on, but nobody's home

Let's take a look now at a set of lyrics from the eminent Tang poet Li Shangyin. It could be translated as "Cool Thoughts" or "Cold Thinking." I sort of like the brooding tone of "reflections," though. Remember (again), that the lyrics are meant to be juxtaposed with the country song. They are not meant to strike the same notes.

Cold Reflections
Li Shangyin (Tang; c. 813-858)

You have departed; the river waves lap at the threshold
Cicadas are silent on branches drenched in dew.
Lingering longing right here, now
Leaning, staring blankly—time to move 
The North Star recalls a distant spring
Messengers from your southerly abode have no news
On the far horizon, tangled thoughts and dreams
I want to doubt that you have found another

                       李商隱 (唐 c. 813-858)

[c] Longing  RF

Sunday, June 19th
We'll break the misery just a bit next Sunday. The lyrics won't be upbeat, by any means, but they will refer to a certain kind of "father figure" from the country past. Tune in for Meetin' Hank.

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