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, October 30, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (26)—I Fall to Pieces

[a] Scattered RF
There are plenty of country music icons, and we've considered several of those who have had long and rich careers. From Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn to Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, we have seen several good examples of artists who know a thing or two about extending a career. It requires patience, professionalism, and a good sense of when to sing the song you wrote and when to rely on the enormous talent all over Nashville. And it also requires a little of luck, not the least of which includes being around for a long career.

[b] Memorial RF
It is the what might have been factor that is at work when we consider, for example Hank Williams Sr. and Keith Whitley. Even Elvis Presley. Still, there is arguably not a more tragic and devastating what if? story in the history of country music than the incomparable Patsy Cline. She rose to the heights of fame in her twenties and, at the very peak of fame and influence—one of the first country stars to "crossover" to pop and rock audiences—was killed in a plane crash in 1963.

It is hard even to fathom how good she was. People who deplored country music as a "backward, hick" monstrosity...still loved Patsy Cline. I don't think it is going too far to call her the first "exception" of many who would follow—"I don't like country music, except for Patsy Cline." The song I have chosen for this week is a sad one on its own. "I Fall to Pieces" tells the story of how it is just a little harder to be "just friends" than some people think. Love lasts a little longer, Patsy's narrative voice implores, for people with rich, deep emotions.

[c] Fringe RF
As always, the first video is included for you to "listen to the lyrics"—really to think about them and about Cline's masterful delivery. The second one shows her onstage, and would be fascinating in any case. That it was taped just two weeks before her death makes it even more poignant. We deal, then, with hurting this week in several senses. I never "knew" Patsy Cline's music, but, imagining what she might have sung in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, I still miss her.
I Fall to Pieces 2:52
For advice on how best to "engage" the lyrics, click here.
I Fall to Pieces (Live, 1963) 2:43

        I Fall to Pieces
              Artist: Patsy Cline

              Songwriters: Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran

I fall to pieces each time I see you again
I fall to pieces, how can I be just your friend

You want me to act like we've never kissed

You want me to forget, pretend we've never met

And I've tried and I've tried but I haven't yet

You walk by and I fall to pieces

I fall to pieces each time someone speaks your name

I fall to pieces time only adds to the flame

You tell me to find someone else to love

Someone who'll love me, too, the way you used to do

But each time I go out with someone new

You walk by and I fall to pieces

You walk by and I fall to pieces
[d] Green RF
This week's East Asian poetic selection should not be difficult. Broken hearts combined with dying too young is the very stuff of poetry the world over. As readers of these posts know, the only thing I want always to avoid is the kind of derivative "echoing" of themes common to sloppy thinking, from unimaginative YouTube videos to the vast majority of screensavers. I started out by looking for a long poem "worthy" of a great, and lost, poet such as Patsy Cline. Many came close to what I wanted, but a little poem from one of the more obscure Tang dynasty poets just seemed perfect. Four lines about loss and what might have been.

       Written Upon Returning to the Mountains
       Gu Kuang (c. 727-c. 816)

          My worries: several strands of white hair;
          My livelihood: a stretch of green hills.
          A deserted grove, snow-covered, is waiting;
          On an ancient road there's no one, I return alone.
                                        —Translated by Irving Lo[1]

[e] Alone RF
[1]  Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo, Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry (Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974), 150.

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

Ring of Fire
Johnny Cash's classic is not exactly sad, but it does express a peculiar form of hurtin' that is a little different from what we have considered up until now in our Sunday Hurtin' post. Join us—same time, same station—for another country music icon (and perhaps the second "exception" after Patsy Cline for general listeners—"I don't like country music...but I like Johnny Cash").

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