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, January 22, 2012

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (37)—She's Gone, Gone, Gone

Lefty (Frizzell) has his own take on the matter. She said if (he) ever deceived her, she'd be gone. He guesses that he didn't believe her...because look at the trouble he's in. Take a look at how done gone she is.

He's lost every right to be happy...'cause she left before one tear hit the ground.

[b] Gone RF
Yup, we're heading back into the territory of misery after several weeks of relative respite (a little irony here and a bit of temporal and spatial nostalgia there). Now, we're sad again. She's gone. The only interesting question (his deceivin' probably ain't all that interestin') is why these songs tend to be so gendered. In the history of country music, the scales start to tilt a little from about 1995 onward, but let's not kid ourselves. Except for Hank Williams and his liver-wriggling, heart-rending despair over Audrey, as well as a few other songs, it is men who do the lyrical deceivin'—who sing of their follies, and who aim for the forgiveness of lover...and audience.

This raises my feminist hackles.

Why does it take until the mid-1990s to find an "I am woman, watch me...screw up too" song? Well, partly because anyone who has lived for a decade or so of adulthood knows that men tend to goof things up in this regard a good deal more often than women. Or maybe I'm just thinking about American politics. Whether that will continue to be the case is a somewhat open question, and the projected answer lies more closely with the interpreter's biological, sociological, or theological approach. I am smart enough not to venture an answer here...except to say that it ain't all biology (got that, troglodytes?)...

What bothers me here is the subtext (very common in country music) that it all just sorta happened. He was wrong, but it all fast. He's just a biological creature, and life just sort of took off when he wasn't looking.
[c] Cold RF

Sorry, John Edwards. That just doesn't cut it.

To Lefty's relative credit here, he emphasizes the swiftness, if not ferocity, of his love's judgment. It is rather refreshing to hear that she was out the door before the count of ten, and that she ain't comin' back. Anthony Wiener could have used just such a thunderbolt.

The political roll call from this point onward would take the rest of this post, but I'll just mention Wilbur Mills. I couldn't resist showing my age here, but I was just a shocked kid in 1974 who had never heard of people named Fanne and Wilbur before. I read the news and thought it was trainwrecked page from Charlotte's Web rather than a congressional story of deceivin'.

So, how hard is it going to be to find East Asian lyrics focusing on male screw-ups and the comeuppance they deserve when they are discovered? This should be child's play (of an older-than-one's age sort). Nope. It is surprisingly difficult to find lyrics that tear at the inner tendons of the patriarchal narrative. "I done screwed up and our life's wrecked now" themes are not terribly common in the literature of China, Japan, and Korea. I will save for another post my post-feminist diatribe about why that might be. For now, however, I will simply note that men in China (and Japan and Korea) enjoyed a bit of poetic respite from the tougher questions about their extra-familial relations.

There were not too many Lefty Frizzell's in early-modern China.
[d] Mirror RF

With that in mind, we'll take a look at one of the seedier subplots in the classical Ming dynasty narrative Jin Ping Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase). It is not an uplifting story in the least. Sorry. On the other hand, it turns Lefty's tale on its patriarchal head...for a a thoroughly confusing and exhilarating narrative of patri-phony. This is the beginning of a cheatin' tale like no other ever told. You will have to read the entire one-hundred chapters of the five-volume novel for the whole story, but this is its amorous seed(y).

The Plum in the Golden Vase 金瓶梅  
Sixteenth Century
Taking hold of Hsi-men Ch'ing by the sleeve, with one tug [Dame Wang] pulled him into the room where, addressing himself to the woman, she said, "this is the very gentleman who as kind enough to bring the materials to me."

Hsi-men Ch'ing opened his eyes wide and took a good look at the woman.

          Her cloudy locks rose up like serried hills;
          Her fair countenance evoked an air of spring.

She was wearing a white linen blouse with a peach red skirt and a blue vest as she sat there in the room, working on her sewing. When she saw Hsi-men Ch'ing come in, she lowered her head.

Hsi-men quickly stepped forward and mader her a bow as he uttered a word of greeting. The woman put down her work and returned his salutation. Dame Wang then said, "It was rare generosity on this gentleman's part to give me these bolts of pongee and damask. They've been sitting at home for over a year now without my having time to get them made up. I'm greatly indebted to this young lady, my next-door neighbor, who has volunteered her services in making them up for me. Her needlework is as regular as any turned out of a loom, it's so close and fine. Such a thing is rarely to be seen. Just come take a look at it sir...

...By the time they had finished their tea they were already exchanging meaningful glances. Dame Wang looked at Hsi-men Ch'ing and stroked her cheek with a finger. Hsi-men Ch'ing understood that five-tenths of the glow game had already been achieved. It's always been true that:
          Romantic affairs are consummated over tea, and
          Wine is the go-between of lust.
[e] Towering RF
Sunday, January 29th
Big John
We keep looking for different aspects of sad in these Sunday Hurtin' posts. This is a big, strong, selfless, kind of misery, and it will haunt us next week on Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin'.

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