February 05, 2007

Tell the tale of the Jewess and the Mandarin Chinese boy.

Two music posts in a week; how gauche. But I've been listening to the album Her Majesty, The Decemberists so much lately that it's probably just about that point where my sheer obsessiveness will generate a blog post with or without the cooperation of my better judgment.

It's hard even to say whence comes my obsession -- at any given moment there are so many good reasons to go and listen to "Shanty for Arethusa" again that they overwhelm. Pirates! Accordions! Chimbley sweeps! Gymnasts! Packet boats filled with spiced rum and tea leaves! Words like "lino" and "knickers"! A singer who crosses the usual indie-rock demilitarized zone of no singing talent and strikes boldly into honest-to-god speech impediments! Inexplicable homages to Los Angeles and to Myla Goldberg, the author of the excellent novel Bee Season, oddly out of place as acknowledgements that the Decemberists aren't actually living in 19th-century England or at least in 19th-century trade waters nominally controlled by the British but actually infested with brigands! Though any song about Los Angeles that refers to the charms of its ladies of the night and then scolds them gently that I, or at least the song's narrator, "can see your undies," demonstrates a sufficiently shaky understanding of the general state of 21st century prostitution that it's almost plausible to imagine it written by a naive and well-intentioned visitor from 1850s Suffolk. Or whatever. Undies?

Upon hearing the line that forms the title of this post, I originally misheard it as, "Tell the tale of the U.S. and the Mandarin Chinese, boy." It seemed a somewhat prosaic instruction for a Decemberists song -- give me a summary of the history of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, and turn it in, typed and double spaced, tomorrow -- though there was always the possibility that it had somehow to do with the Boxer Rebellion, a rather more satisfyingly Decembery subject. I don't, however, recall the Boxer Rebellion involving accordions to any notable degree.

I came home early from work today because I wasn't feeling well. For a paranoid moment I diagnosed my mild stomachache as indicating that, in a terrible twist on my dire malediction from two posts ago, it was actually I who had gotten Norovirus. But on further thought it seems quite unlikely.

It's probably scurvy.

Posted by dianna at February 5, 2007 04:48 PM

You know, as someone who has never heard of the song or group, I feel I simply have to express here that when I first read the title of this post, I was expecting quite a different sort of entry.

Posted by: Lisa at February 5, 2007 08:45 PM

Ah, you know such a tale? How delightful. You should tell it to me sometime.

Posted by: Dianna at February 5, 2007 09:26 PM

Alas, I had been hoping that you could tell it to me, since it sounded rather interesting. But I, for one, know of no such tale.

Posted by: Lisa at February 6, 2007 12:20 PM