Monday, June 10, 2013

Upcoming new song collection, and IronyFest

I will be putting out another collection of songs in that unified set once referred to as an "album".

My 11 year old daughter asked me "What's an album?" the other day, and I had to explain about records and record covers and how they were kind of like a photo album so they called them albums. I was about to look up the actual etymology of the word "album" when she sensed my intent and said "ok thanks" and ran from the room.

But because you, dear reader, cannot run screaming from the room, I offer the following from the most wonderful Online Etymology Dictionary:

album (n.)

1650s, from Latin album "white color, whiteness," neuter of albus "white" (see alb). In classical times "a blank tablet on which the Pontifex Maximus registered the principal events of the year; a list of names." Revived 16c. by German scholars whose custom was to keep an album amicorum of colleagues' signatures; meaning then expanded into "book to collect souvenirs." According to Johnson, "a book in which foreigners have long been accustomed to insert autographs of celebrated people." Photographic albums first recorded 1859. Meaning "long-playing gramophone record" is by 1951, because the sleeves they came in resembled large albums.

...and so we have it. So a digital blank tablet will be filled with the principal musical endeavors of the past while since I put out the last one that was resoundingly ignored, due to my marvelous marketing aplomb which consists of doing hardly any marketing at all. Because I refuse to sully my pursuits with such things, you see.   It's been so long since I've written anything, because I've been very busy with all kinds of things which appears to the be the condition that the world wishes all humans to be in.

 There is something interesting about the most recent revelations regarding the various security arms of the United States' of America collection of intelligence from within its' borders in a manner usually reserved for scheming foreigners.

 The revelations come from yet another whistleblower, conscientious leaker, attention seeking nobody, constitutional idealogue-patriot or hated and hateful treasonous leech (depending on one's point of view). It is very disturbing information, really, that all of the big companies that provide information and communication services are involved in turning over information about what goes on across those services to the Gum Mint, in a way very reminiscent of the way that the nefarious Chinese Communist Gum Mint monitors their population's online activities.

 So what the hell is going on nowadays?

My conclusion is that the 21st century so far has been nothing less than an IronyFest thus far. Let's recap:   

  • In the first year of the new century, religious extremists who support a rollback to a medieval social structure break the lying, stealing and killing commandments and use high-technology jet airplanes to destroy modern architecture. Their green cards arrived in the mail shortly thereafter.    
  •  In the first decade, we find out that the people who so carefully ensure that money is lent to people who reliably pay it back are in fact involved in a free-for-all mortgage application blowout where manicurists who claim that you make $300K get a loan that is "robo-signed". In response to that, the financial institutions crack down by raising credit card interest rates as high as possible.
  •  Then, we found that the people who apply the sort of advanced mathematical calculations to package "derivatives" basically pay the people who are supposed to apply the same sort of mathematical calculations to rate the validity of those packages, and we find no real advanced math used at either end other than that applied to calculating what they might be able to get away with, and then that which is used to send signals to their Ivy League shoulders in order to elicit a shrug.    
  •  THEN, we found out that our Gum Mint was doing all kinds of things that seemed like the sorts of things we wouldn't want honest, straight-shooting, fair dealing, God-trusting Americans to do because somebody gave a private in the Armed Forces the key to all of the information about everything sort of embarassing. OK, well: they are operating in a world full of sneaky, hateful people that can't be trusted, so they sometimes have to get their shirtsleeves a little dirty.    
  •  Now, we find that the Gum Mint believes that we honest, straight-shooting, fair dealing, God-trusting Americans that live right here in U.S.A. are sneaky, hateful people that can't be trusted, and they need to collect a lot of information about the phone calls and emails they send, just like the Chinese Communist Gum Mint does.   We found this out because a guy who was hired as a contractor was apparently let in on the scheme, and he told everybody because he thought it was so not right...    
  •  And then, he ran away to China.    

 IronyFest 2000-2100 !!!

[edit] Forgot something, In China, this week there is a holiday. The holiday is celebrated throughout the country and even throughout South East Asia, it has been celebrated for centuries. It is the Duanwu Festival also called the "Dragon Boat Festival", and the "Double Fifth" because it occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. From Wikipedia:

"The sun is considered to be at its strongest around the time of summer solstice ("mid-summer" in traditional East Asia) when the daylight in the northern hemisphere is the longest. The sun, like the Chinese dragon, traditionally represents masculine energy, whereas the moon, like the phoenix, traditionally represents feminine energy. The summer solstice is considered the peak annual moment of male energy[5] while the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, represents the peak annual moment of feminine energy. The masculine image of the dragon is thus naturally associated"

People get in really big canoe-type boats that are decorated as dragons and race them: it actually looks like it is pretty exciting, community-building holiday. People cooperating to paddle these boats as fast as possible.

There are some differing academic opinions as to the reason for the holiday, shrouded in antiquity as its origins are. The belief is that it was always practiced widely, possibly as an ancient celebration, and also that particular historical figures, both who died in water-related suicides, are associated with the holiday. The admiration for these figures caused villagers with boats to race to save the revered figure from the drowning, and then if too late they could at least recover the body to prevent the dishonorable devouring by river wildlife, so they could be buried with the respect they deserved..

The best  historical figure as a candidate for the subject of the celebration is:

Qu Yuan who was a scholar and  high ranking minister in the state of Chu who advocated an alliance of smaller states against the expanding Qin state, However, he was discredited in a false way by a scheming colleague, and was exiled, During his exile, he wrote one of China's most highly regarded collections of poetry. Long story short, Qu Yuan was very wary of the growing power of Qin and opposed any cozying up to this giant. His ruler and other advisers thought otherwise, and so Qu was out. In exile, he wrote the first collection of Chinese poetry with an author's name attached to it.

But while he pondered and wrote poetry in his exile, sure enough Qin had maneuvered politically and militarily to capture the capital of Chu.  His advice not to trust Qin was good, all along, and his exile while it was being ignored was all the more painful. Now that the worst case scenario had played out, his despair became unbearable, and he walked into a river carrying a large rock, drowning himself.
Popular legend has it that villagers carried their dumplings and boats to the middle of the river and desperately tried to save Qu Yuan after he immersed himself in the Miluo River, but were too late to do so. However, in order to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles, and they also threw rice into the water both as a food offering to Qu Yuan's spirit and also to distract the fish away from his body. However, late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that he died because he had taken himself under the river. Then, he asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. 
These packages became a traditional food known as zòngzi, although the lumps of rice are now wrapped in reed leaves instead of silk. The act of racing to search for his body in boats gradually became the cultural tradition ofdragon boat racing, which is held on the anniversary of his death every year. Today, people still eat zòngzi and participate in dragon boat races to commemorate Qu Yuan's sacrifice on Duanwu, the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar
Not exactly sure how dumplings came into the mix as they raced to save Qu Yuan, but this is the story. It is a very, very sad story. The "hero" is heroic not for what he did, or for what he said in his job as an adviser, but for the lasting poetic legacy that he was able to produce while in disfavor. Ultimately, while Qu Yuan's earthly existence was washed away by his river of sadness, and his beloved country was washed away by the tide of politics, his poetry endured and floated above all of it, remaining even into the current age.

This story is applicable in various contexts, but a sad point is that Qu Yuan in his age could do nothing with his clarity and purity of understanding of belief other than to fatally drown it. In our age we should ask, "What should have been different so that Qu Yuan might have convinced the king and saved his country?".


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