Swan song?

中国日报网 2015-12-04 11:32



Swan song?

Reader question:

Please explain “swan song”, as in this sentence: “Every performance of Ms. Whelan this season is another swan song.”

My comments:

Literally Ms. Whelan dances for a few times this season and will be forever gone.

Wendy Whelan, that is, the leading dancer of New York City Ballet. From our quote, we can see that it is from a story about Ms. Whelan’s dancing and retirement. She did retire in October, 2014.

She’d been at her job for 30 years and was about to hang up her Pointe shoes after the playing season.

That’s why every performance you see is another swan song, or last performance.

“Swan song” means last performance. Why?

Well, according to Greek legend, the beautiful swan bird cannot sing like a goose or quack like an ordinary duck, but it does sing out loud before dying. Hence, the concept of a swan song, something one does before going out of existence.

Actually, swans can sing and certainly sing better than the quack-quack duck. But legend being legend, plus people like the idea of a swan singing for the last time so much that the expression prevailed. Wikipedia says “swan song” “had become proverbial in Ancient Greece by the 3rd century BC”.

Another question. If the swan song is the last, i.e. final song, then why is Ms. Whelan’s performance another swan song? How can you have more than one last song?

That has to do with the fact that she had been contracted to dance more than once during what is called the playing season, playing season as against the off season. Ballet shows are seasonal, as is consistent with seasonal changes in nature. In agriculture, for example, people grow crops, harvest them and have some time to rest, also giving the earth time to rejuvenate.

Ballerinas do likewise. Anyways, Ms. Whelan will give a series of performances during the last playing season and quit the business altogether thereafter.

In this sense, all her performances are seen as swan songs.

Look at it this way, Ms. Whelan is so loved that she deserves to sing more than just one swan song.

And Lucky New Yorkers, too.

All right. Here are media examples of “swan song”:

1. As the Earth continues on its never-ending journey, orbiting around the sun month after month and year after year, our evening view of the Shamokin heavens is turning away from the bright winter constellations and toward the less than awesome spring star patterns on the rise in the east. The bright winter constellations are still hanging in there in the west, but this is their swan song. Next month, most of them will be gone below the western horizon, and we won’t see them in the evening again until late next fall. Many amateur astronomers, including this star-watching lover, agree that until the summer constellations like Cygnus and Scorpio make their appearance, we are officially in the spring doldrums of evening stargazing.

Despite the fact that we're kind of in the stargazing doldrums, it’s still worth your time to make the stars your old friends. For one thing, it’s a heck of a lot more comfortable out there and the mosquitoes haven’t even begun warming up in the bullpen.

- Stargazing times are changing, RepublicanHerald.com, April 3, 2011.

2. A brokenhearted swan at a zoo in Nizhny Novgorod has died of lingering depression after his partner was killed by a visitor at the start of the year.

The male swan, named Gvidon, began shunning the company of other birds and eating less after his partner Tsarevna (Princess) died in January, the Limpopo Zoo said Thursday in an online statement.

Gvidon was placed under 24-hour veterinary observation and was hospitalized when he grew weak, but vets were unable to save him and he died last Thursday.

“Gvidon literally didn’t want to live without his beloved Tsarevna, and his swan-song has come to an end,” the zoo said.

Tsarevna died of a heart attack on Jan. 29 after a visitor fed her a piece of bread with a sewing needle inside.

- Russian Swan Dies of Heartbreak After Partner Killed by Zoo Visitor, TheMoscowTimes.com, March 05 2015.

3. Have you ever had that friend who the rest of the group just says: “Oh, that’s just so-and-so.” They’re late for everything; they skimp out on dinner and bar tabs; you don’t trust them with you significant other… But you keep making excuses for them because of what else they bring to the table or how long the friendship has lasted.

Eventually, it hits everyone that, hey, maybe that friend is just an a-hole. No one else gets those same excuses made for them, right? So what is it about that one friend?

For the Lakers and many fans, it appears we’re reaching that point with Kobe Bryant. For the last two decades, you’ve overlooked some chemistry issues, borderline selfishness on the court, and a manipulation of the various offensive systems at only his benefit because, you know, he’s Kobe. All the other stuff was worth it.

Now, at the end, though, those habits are rearing their ugly head, and at the detriment of the Lakers’ future. Tuesday night in Philadelphia was the absolute worst case scenario of his farewell tour taking priority over developing the rest of the roster. Or so we hope.

Look, if I was Kobe I might look at the current state of the Lakers and say something like:

I’ve been carrying this franchise for close to two decades. Now, I’d like to go out guns a-blazing. These kids have the foreseeable future to develop and the rest of these vets probably won’t be here after this season. Oh, and Byron is totally cool with whatever I tell him to be cool with.

There’s also the issue of the habits Kobe has formed as the driving force of the Los Angeles Lakers for so long. Kobe might actually think this is yet another situation he could shoot himself out of. It’s crazy to think, but old habits die hard, right? Almost every other form of adversity has been solved through shooting, why would this be any different for the Clint Eastwood-esque character who took said shots? He’s said as much in the past, Kobe might actually think he’s helping.

Back to Byron, in a semi-short aside… And this is all hypothetical:

His quotes have reached an incredible level of insanity as he’s tried to keep this locker-room from outright mutiny against either Kobe or Scott, himself.

There’s no surer way to get fired than to screw up the dynamic between him and Bryant. Once he loses that relationship, it’s over. Say what you will about the priorities the franchise should have, but if the team is losing and the youth isn’t developing, the front office can at least explain it away with growing pains.

If Kobe’s poor play continues, Byron calls him on it and Kobe decides it time to hang ’em up before all those home games pass, and the ratings fall off a cliff (as they have post-Bryant injuries recently), Scott fails at what feels like his top priority.

Basically, no one expects Scott to last past this year anyway. The only way to make it even that far is to appease the all-time great at the end of the line. It might just be this is the only feasible way to handle the situation.

For Kobe, the last two games might not necessarily be the best gauges as to his intentions the rest of the season. The question could be floated out there as to whether he cares about this team beyond his farewell tour, but the issue should only be asked about, not concluded upon. The first game occurred at home after an emotional farewell to the game he loves. The second came in his hometown. Of course he might force things a little.

Byron’s intentions and Kobe’s inability to balance his swan song with the betterment of the team do kind of absolve the Lakers’ youth of dealing with the situation they’ve been dealt. Scott and Bryant both probably expect Clarkson, Russell and Randle to deal with what’s been given to them. It’s a point of view lacking in nuance, but it’s still where the more old-school ideology comes from. Is it ideal that the kids deal with this? Not even remotely. Will it change anytime soon? Probably not, unfortunately.

- Is The End of Kobe Hurting The Future of The Lakers? ForumBlueAndGold.com, by Anthony Irwin, December 2, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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