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.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (21)—She Thinks I Still Care

[a] dulcim-care
George Jones lays on the irony in big glops of covered-up self-reference with "She Thinks I Still Care." He sets the tone with a series of "just because x" lines, and dips ever deeper into the waters of missin' with each new image. Yup, just because you rang her number "by mistake" probably do still care.

It is a relatively lighthearted misery we study today. As heartaches go, this one is easier to handle than, say, "I'd Be Better Off in a Pine Box." Still, country music as a genre seems to do this sort of thing better than many others. Perhaps it is from an awareness of being made fun of by music aficionados with other tastes (how could anyone ever come up with the setting for George's song in the YouTube video, below, without it?)... Add to that awareness the equally vibrant theme of the clueless male that we have already encountered in several Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin' posts, and you have a kind of macho-innoncent lost in the jungles of emotional pain.

Take a listen (see the "advice" below), but do check out the video itself after you have been through the lyrics.

       She Thinks I Still Care
          Artist: George Jones
          Songwriters: Steve Duffy, Dicky Lee Lipscomb
          Just because I ask a friend about her
          Just because I spoke her name somewhere
          Just because I rang her number by mistake today
          She thinks I still care

          Just because I haunt the same old places
          Where the memory of her lingers everywhere
          Just because I'm not the happy guy I used to be
          She thinks I still care

          But if she's happy thinkin' I still need her
          Then let that silly notion bring her cheer
          But how could she ever be so foolish
          Oh where would she get such an idea

          Just because I ask a friend about her
          And just because I spoke her name somewhere
          Just because I saw her then went all to pieces
          She thinks I still care
          She thinks I still care
There are many angles we could pursue with our East Asian poem today. We are not trying to replicate themes, of course, but I was surprised by the number of shi 詩 ("poem") and ci 詞 ("lyric") texts that were relevant. I am just going to dive into one of my favorite oddities in the rich Tang dynasty (618-906) poetic tradition. George Jones is a long way from these sentiments, at least on the surface, but that is the whole point of what we do every week on Hurtin', Leavin, and Longin.

       Poem on Losing One's Teeth
       Han Yu (768-824)
          Last year I lost an incisor
          and this year a molar, and now
          half a dozen more teeth fall out
          all at once—and that's
          not the end of it either.
          The rest are all loose, and I know 
          there's no end till they're all gone.
          The first one, I thought
          what a shame for that obscene gap!
          Two or three, and I thought
          I was falling apart, almost
          at death's door. Before, when one
          loosened, I quaked and hoped
          wildly it "wouldn't." The 
          gaps made it hard to chew
          and with a loose tooth I'd
          rinse my mouth gingerly.
          Then when at last it fell out
          it felt like a mountain collapsing.
          But now I've got used to this
          Nothing earthshaking. I've
          still twenty left, though I know
          one by one they'll all go.
          But at one tooth per year it will
          take me two decades, and gone,
          all gone, will it matter
          they went one by one
[c] Toothless RF
          and not all at the same time?
          People say when your teeth go
          it's certain the end's near.
          But seems to me life has
          its limits, you die when you die
          either with or without teeth.
          They also say gaps scare 
          The people who see you. Well
          to views to everything
          as Chuang Tzu noted: A blasted 
          tree need not necessarily
          be cut down, though geese
          that don't hiss be slaughtered.
          For the toothless who mumble
          silence has its advantage, and 
          those who can't chew will find 
          soft food tastes better. This is a poem
          I chanted and wrote
          to startle my wife and children.[1]
                           —Translated by Kenneth O. Hanson

[1]  Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo, Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry (Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974), 172-173.

Liu Wu-chi and Irving Yucheng Lo. Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974.

Sunday, October 2nd
Untangling My Mind
Clint Black and Merle Haggard teamed up to write one of the deepest ballads to mental confusion and loss ever envisioned.

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