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, December 25, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (34)—Country-Western Holiday

[a] Jagged RF
In the spirit of the holidays, I have chosen five songs by country-western artists (the last has been featured on this blog before, but certainly went far beyond the genre as the 1950s turned into the 1960s). The number five is hardly here by chance. Classical Chinese cosmology teaches that everything is made up of fives. When I teach students how to think about this challenging concept, I always stress the way in which the "five directions" (add "center"), the "five mountains," or the "five colors" are meant to represent the whole—everything. I would be getting just a little too technical if I spent much time stressing that they do more than "represent" everything. In a special sort of cosmic way, they are meant to be everything. The five mountains are the mountains. The five colors are color. And so forth.

[b] Cosmology RF
If you are wondering where this is going, I want to stress the ancient Chinese idea of the "five seasons." The five seasons (add "center") are the year, and each is its own little self-contained whole of wonder. That is the theme for today's holiday songs. They're all country...sort of. They're all about the holidays...sort of. And they're all, well, cosmic. Sort of.

Take a listen to my pentalogy of songs. They aren't particularly sad, and you should be grateful that I left out a few miserable gems that would have broken your holiday spirit and left your celebrations in tatters (not taters). I have a heart, it turns out (just search "Merle Haggard December") if you want to know where this could have gone).

In any case, we head from Tex to Gene to Loretta, and wrap it up with Patty and the King. They are all about seasonality and a little about Christmas. It is perhaps not going to shock readers of Round and Square that a certain "approach" to the season dominates (there are not very many songs about the holidays that focus on, let us say, other world religious traditions).

Still, these songs should be an enjoyable mix of everything (the "five holiday songs"), and give a pretty good feel for the whole of this time of year.
The Winter Song 2:07

Gene Autry, on the other hand, has a distinctly regional and cultural form of merriment to share. Note, as well, that there is nary a hint of "y'all" in the lyrics. Gene went Hollywood with his enunciation, it seems.

Since Gene Autry brought up one of the major holidays of the season, we'll keep the focus briefly there but zoom out, as it were, to a distinctly wider spatial configuration. "Country" is a lot bigger than "Texas," at least unless you look at the map on Autry's song on the video you just watched. There, the Texas panhandle stretches ever northward, and Amarillo makes it (by morning) into Manitoba. Loretta Lynn channels Coal Miner's Daughter as she tells us all about what Christmas is like in "country."

[c] Frozen RF
Loretta Lynn

We vault forward and backward with our last two songs. Patty Loveless plays upon color imagery and seasonality in a way that would make a Chinese fortune-teller envious. The combination of blue, white, grass, snow, and bluegrass is perfect, and never has there been a better country singer surname than Patty's.

We bring it home on this holiday season of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Islamic New Year (actually in November this year) with the incomparable King. There is a double-coated veneer of sadness in this song, and I always like to think that it is transferable to any holiday tradition, anywhere in the world (it'll be a blue...lunar New Year...without you). In China, they might have called Elvis the "Son of Heaven" (天子) instead of "king" (王) but the idea is basically the same. He's big, and he crosses musical genres.

Sunday, January 1, 2012
We'll start the year out right with a nice dose of measured misery. We'll work back cautiously into full-scale emotional pain, so next week will require only a half-box or so of tissue.
[d] Blue RF

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