Today’s Music Monday selection — “Hypnotize” by System of a Down — marks the date on which the Tiananmen Square protests were violently ended 23 years ago today in 1989 in Beijing, China by the People’s Liberation Army.

"Tank Man" stops the advance of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, in Beijing. This photograph, taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, became one of the most famous images of the 20th century, and an international symbol at the end of the Cold War era.The demonstrations, which had begun on April 15, were inspired by astrophysics professor Fang Lizhi who, upon his return from teaching at Princeton University, began speaking out about liberty, human rights, and separation of powers.

Notably, Fang — who in a 1988 article in the Atlantic Monthly was dubbed “Chinas’s Andrei Sakharov” for his characteristic flouting of norms and outspoken beliefs about thinking individually — died on April 6, 2012. An obituary about him in the New York Times provides an insightful overview of his life and impact.

Fang’s ideas inspired students who initiated protests in December 1986. The chief issues included demands for economic liberalization, democracy, and rule of law. The Chinese government was greatly concerned by these activities and accused the students of fomenting turmoil.

Unrest finally culminated on June 4, 1989 when the Chinese Army was dispatched to Tiananmen Square with orders to clear the square by 6:00 am.  By 5:40 am — after the Army had wounded and killed several hundred students who had refused to disperse — the Square had been cleared.

One of the more iconic images that emerged from this unfortunate ordeal was a picture (included in this blog post) of an anonymous man dubbed “Tank Man” who stood in front of a Chinese Type 59 tank on June 5, 1989 (the morning after the Chinese military forcibly removed protestors from Tiananmen Square).

Hypnotize” — which was the lead single for the System of a Down’s album of the same name, was released on November 22, 2005 — was chosen as today’s Music Monday because Tiananmen Square is mentioned in the lyrics (see below).

Additionally, there is also a portion of the lyrics that proclaim “propaganda leaves us blinded.” According to the Wikipedia article about the song, “Another meaning that can be taken from the chorus is that while reality-distorting political propaganda is rampant, everyday life continues as usual.”

Hypnotize Lyrics

Why don’t you ask the kids at Tiananmen square?
Was Fashion the reason why they were there?

They disguise it, Hypnotize it
Television made you buy it

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my…

She’s scared that I will take her away from there
Her dreams that her country left with no one there

Mezmerize the simple minded
Propaganda leaves us blinded

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl
I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl
I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my…
Girl

Since yesterday was Father’s Day in the United States, today’s Music Monday celebrates the special bond between dads and their kids.

There are many songs that capture this unique relationship, but a song that was always powerful and poignant to me was one of Paul McCartney’s lesser known pieces: Put it There. Released in 1990 as a single to McCartney’s 1989 album, Flowers in the Dirt (affiliate link), the song reached number 32 on the UK singles chart.

flowers-in-the-dirt

McCartney’s eighth solo studio album, Flowers in the Dirt was considered a major return as its release inaugurated his first world tour since his Wings Over the World tour in 1975/1976. The album’s musical quality was widely celebrated, earning McCartney his best reviews in years.

I share the same thoughts as those reviews, having always found the album beautifully written and masterfully performed. Notably, the album has added meaning because I attended the April 1, 1990 show of the Paul McCartney World Tour at UC Berkeley‘s California Memorial Stadium. I even found a setlist from the concert (complete with links to YouTube clips of each song performed)!

Having always found “Put it There” a touching tribute to a unique father/son relationship, the track took on added meaning when I became a dad to my two sons. If you listen to the lyrics (and/or read them — they are included below), you will understand the sweet, yet understated emotion of what the song is communicating: unconditional love.

Sometimes, as the song explains, simply having someone to hold your hand can fix any problem — or at least make you feel better while you confront it. Shamefully, the importance of fathers is often overlooked, but at least in my experience, my father (and, in fairness, my stepmother too) has made all the difference in my life recently.

In my own experience, knowing someone is unconditionally in my corner has made all the difference. My grandfather filled that role for me and I plan to do the same for my sons. Surely as they grow older their problems won’t be as easily resolved as they were as they are as children, but knowing they are loved and supported without question will always be essential to their well being.

Although my connection with my Dad was, unfortunately, interrupted for several years, I am grateful to have a renewed relationship with him. I am also thankful my sons can “put it there” — not just with me, but with my Dad as well.  Likewise, I look forward to continuing this tradition with my son’s children in the future.

And so, if you are thankful for your father, put it there!

Put it There Lyrics

Give Me Your Hand I’d Like To Shake It
I Want To Show You I’m Your Friend.
You’ll Understand If I Can Make It Clear
Its All That Matters In The End.
Put It There If It Weighs A Ton,
That’s What The Father Said To His Younger Son.
I Don’t Care If It Weighs A Ton,
As Long As You And I Are Here, Put It There.
Long As You And I Are Here, Put It There.

If There’s A Fight I’d Like To Fix It,
I Hate To See Things Go So Wrong.
The Darkest Night And All It’s Mixed Emotions,
Is Getting Lighter Sing A Song.

When you first hear the phrases “Miami Heat” and “Oklahoma City Thunder” do you think someone is talking about the weather?

nba-finals-logo

If you do, you would be wrong. As right as that might sound, you would be wrong: On Tuesday, June 12, 2012 the NBA Finals will feature the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) vying for the title.

Full Disclosure: I am a Boston Celtics fan so, since the Heat beat them to advance to the Finals, I am rooting for the Thunder (my enemy’s enemy is my friend). Coincidentally, last year I was also rooting against the Heat and for the Dallas Mavericks (due to my virtual acquaintanceship with Brian Cuban, brother of the team’s owner, Mark Cuban). Maybe I am just not a fan of “heat” in general?

Allegiances aside, as a teacher and writer the aspect to this match-up I find most fascinating is both team names are what is called a “collective noun.”

According to Grammar Girl, collective nouns — of which there are approximately 200 that take a singular or a plural verb — are “nouns that describe a group, such as ‘family,’ ‘orchestra,’ and ‘board.'” Another source further explains “collective nouns, a special class, name groups [things] composed of members [usually people].” Interestingly, Americans generally treat them as single units (e.g. “the faculty is meeting today”), but in England, they are considered plural (e.g. “Cambridge are winning the boat race.”).

According to another source: “the names of sports teams, on the other hand, are treated as plurals, regardless of the form of that name.” Therefore, you would write “the Boston Red Sox are the best baseball team in the world” and not “the Boston Red Sox is the best baseball team in the world” (another disclosure: I am a Red Sox fan). Likewise, when you refer to a team by the city in which it is located, you use the singular form of the noun (e.g. “New York is attempting to sign two assistant coaches Boston hopes to keep.”

Is there are a finite number of traditional plural nouns after which you can name a team? There seems to be a growing trend towards sports teams using names that are collective nouns. Teams from various U.S. professional sports leagues — Arena Football League (AFL), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) — and a few noteworthy college teams whose names are collective nouns include:

  • Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
  • Chicago Fire (MLS)
  • Chicago Rush (AFL)
  • Chicago Sky (WNBA)
  • Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
  • Columbus Crew (MLS)
  • Connecticut Sun (WNBA)
  • D.C. United (MLS)
  • Georgia Force (AFL)
  • Harvard Crimson
  • Houston Dynamo (MLS)
  • Indiana Fever (WNBA)
  • Kansas City Command (AFL)
  • Miami Heat (NBA)
  • Minnesota Wild (NHL)
  • Montreal Impact (MLS)
  • New England Revolution (MLS)
  • New Orleans VooDoo (AFL)
  • New York Liberty (WNBA)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA)
  • Orlando Magic (NBA)
  • Philadelphia Soul (AFL)
  • Phoenix Mercury (WNBA)
  • Pittsburg Power (AFL)
  • Seattle Storm (WNBA)
  • Spokane Shock (AFL)
  • Stanford Cardinal
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)
  • Tampa Bay Storm (AFL)
  • Tulsa Shock (WNBA)
  • Utah Blaze (AFL)
  • Utah Jazz (NBA)

I am not a grammar expert, despite my having earned a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara. However, having been writing since as far back as I can remember, I have a feel for “good” grammar. And, while collective nouns might be perfectly proper, they always sound awkward to me as team names.

From a branding perspective, these types of team names sound odd. I believe a team name simply sounds better as a standard plural noun. Maybe I am “old school” but then again, if you look at the preponderance of team names that are collective nouns they are frequently newer organizationserhaps.

Maybe I am the only one — or one of very few — who noticed this trend towards collective nouns in team names, but it nevertheless strikes me as something about which a discussion is at least relevant.

Speaking of Grammar: regardless of whether or not you are not a fan of either team in this year’s NBA Finals, consider watching the 2000 movie Company Man. According to Wikipedia, the plot of the film is as follows:

In the 1960s, Alan Quimp is a school teacher of English grammar and married with the very demanding woman Daisy Quimp. In order to avoid the constant mockery in Daisy’s family, Alan says that he is a secret CIA agent. Daisy tells everybody, the CIA acknowledges the lie, but due to a coincidence, Alan has just helped and hidden the professional Russian dancer Petrov who wanted to leave Russia. The CIA decides to hire Alan as an agent, to get the credits of bringing Petrov to USA, and immediately decides to send him to a very calm place, Cuba.

A humorous, grammar-laden scene from the film follows — enjoy:

So, in regards to (with regard to?) the information above, who (whom?) do you want to win the 2012 NBA Finals?