After last night’s performance, I imagine not a few Toronto-area basketball fans had nightmares of Paul Pierce spending the rest of the decade as a freelance cagey veteran/gunner-for-hire who—no matter what else happens during the long NBA season—emerges every April to hit shots that drive a stake through the heart of the Raptors’ playoff hopes as time is running out in close playoff games.
Doris Burke (arguably the best color announcer covering the NBA) said it best after Pierce did it again last night: “That is a baaad man, #34.”
Oh, what the heck.
Here’s a Saturday night song from the 1950s when South African blacks weren’t allowed to drink. Hugh Masekela popularized it in the 1960s. “Khauleza“* was what the young boys assigned to watch for the police coming to raid the shebeens of South Africa’s townships would cry out so that everyone (and their booze) could get away safely.
*As translated loosely by Masekela in this clip, “Khauleza” means something like “Hide the booze; here come the police!“.
In Dreaming In Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love & Language, Deborah Fallows uses her training as a linguist to open a window on her three years of living, working and traveling in China. It’s a little jewel of a book, or, more accurately, a collection of little jewels beautifully arranged together, like a well-crafted ring setting, so that the final effect is greater then the individual pieces.
Each of the book’s fourteen chapters begins as an exploration of a Chinese word or phrase that mattered in Fallows’ daily life and experience in (mostly) Shanghai and Beijing, and then opens up into a meditation on the beauty and complexity of Chinese history, culture and contemporary society.
For example, one chapter centers on a famous bit of wordplay, a poem by 20th century mathematician, philosopher, musician and linguist Chao Yuen Ran. “The Lion-Eating Poet In The Stone Den” is composed of 92 characters, each pronounced as shi (which sounds like “sure” in English). Here it is in spoken form, with the text displayed:
“The Lion-Eating Poet In The Stone Den” leads Fallows to a more general exploration of syllables. Chinese only uses about 400 (compared with the 4,000 or so used in English); thus, Chinese syllables tend to have multiple meanings. (English syllables do, too. Think of “there”, “their” and “they’re”. But not as many as Chinese.) Chinese is a playful, inventive, resourceful language and Fallow’s appreciation for it gives her (and the reader) a deeper appreciation for the Chinese people.
Amii Stewart’s 1979 version of Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood” was her first single. Not only does it satisfy this little blog’s First Rule Of Cover Songs* (the way the rhythm guitar turns the beat around and Stewart’s thrilling high notes take care of that), it also went all the way to #1 on the pop charts.
(Young folks may rightfully get a chuckle out of Stewart’s costume. In her defense, it wasn’t just her. Outrageous clothes were kind of a ’70s specialty. And yes, it’s true: we were so poor back then that music videos could only afford one special effect.)
*You’ve got to bring something new to it.
Hey, if we’re going to talk so casually about “Eddie Floyd’s classic ‘Knock On Wood‘”, maybe we should play it.
In addition to being the songwriting backbone of Stax Records (Floyd wrote hits for everybody—Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor), Eddie Floyd had a solo career of his own that was kicked off when Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler convinced Stax president Jim Stewart to release Floyd’s version of “Knock On Wood”, a song Floyd and Steve Cropper had originally written for Otis Redding.