Beautiful sunny day here in town on this first day of the New Year. For some reason my wife scheduled her and my daughter’s guzheng class for 10:00 AM New Year’s day morning. Well, I’m up. But I’m definitely the only one conscious. Boil some water, make some coffee and, queue up something for the headphones, I’m afraid. It's too early for those sounds.
Drop down into a minor hook and I’m off into “Look Out!” Big swinging bop from 1960 by Stanley Turrentine. Later known for commercial soul-backing on disco albums, this recording is straight up bop and its lovely. Yet another Pittsburgh native who was early on a protégé of the man we profiled yesterday, Illinois Jacquet. Rudy Van Gelder’s Blue Note studio there in New Jersey must have been booked every single day in those years. http://www.theguardian.com/news/2000/sep/15/guardianobituaries.johnfordham
I’d mentioned earlier that I was looking forward to the days getting longer every day now. This will continue all the way till June. And that will be another milestone I think I’ll subconsciously be aware of and hope to tick past. 100 years ago this June 28th our unfortunate Austro-Hungarian heir apparent Archduke Franz Ferdinand was popped in Sarajevo ending the perky upbeat, can-do Western world elan of the beginning of the last century and launching one and then another World War.
I always think of Robert Mussil’s “The Man Without Qualities” for a glimpse into that time, the Vienna of 1913, the apogee of charm. It’s idle to put much of anything into a 100-year anniversary, I suppose. 100 years prior to 1914 in 1814, you can’t point to much decisive. The War of 1812 was winding down, the “Star Spangled Banner” was written, and over here Hong XiuQuan was busy being born. Plenty was about to happen but there was nothing decisive that June, for example to suggest a shifting of anything irreversible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1814
And, like they say about 1587, this may also be a year of no significance. http://www.amazon.com/1587-Year-No-Significance-Dynasty/dp/0300028849
Certainly though some rather ominous storm clouds are gathering and I think the swirl is proceeding most obviously right around where I live. (Imagine that, it all seems most pressing, where I actually reside.) And just as Pax Britanica was about to be buffeted sorely, how much longer in this century will you give Pax Americana? Nothing definitive is likely to transpire this year or the next. But this will be the century in which America either learns to further share the arbitration of world power or have it taken from it.
But that’s years off. Or at least month’s off. Well, it won’t happen today. And perhaps it will be a transition that all sides derive greater, and not lesser stability from. Last night we did something we rarely do, we turned on the Television. You need real-time broadcasting to see a countdown. We had on one of the CCTV stations and it was broadcasting New Year’s Eve from Shanghai. There was the silly song and dance routine on the freezing Bund platform where a group of ladies who looked like Santa’s elves sang a banal song called “I Love Shanghai.” Yawn. Come on Sanhainin, that’s New York’s IP.
But then there was a light show on the old British Customs House and HSBC buildings. My stepson had just been down and he said he’d seen them practicing for it. Unabashedly drenched in some sort of Sino-psilocybin, this 4D show was fabulous. I absolutely wished I’d been there to see it in person, flashed up against the old deco buildings, casting them, somehow as larger by far than any of the giants looming over them across the Huangpu.
Necessarily a triumphal march through time, that necessarily marches right past many decades of relevant history, of course, right up to contemporary moon landings, and no I didn’t like all the music or the cartoon character imagery and I know that light shows of some fashion like this have been projected on buildings around the world for years and on and on and on. But it was cool. It was challenging and entertaining. It contained surprises. I found it 独具匠心 I think it would have been more fun than watching the ball drop in Time Square. Good for China. Good for Shanghai. Good for the world. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR9rhbqV6W4
Nothing could have been less 4D-acidic than the Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng’s speech, which followed the countdown. I can’t find a clip of it, but it must be out there. Whoever was in charge of the ‘bread and circus’ countdown production in the Propaganda Ministry certainly tapped into something aspirational. That urge to compete globally for that most illusive of chalice, the distinction of cool. They pushed the envelope and the 4D light show was cool. The mayor was not. Both must be broadcast to the nation and world, as this civilization finds its voice this century.
May these teens we’re in the middle of now, continue to unfold peacefully.