Friday, January 29, 2010

Space Oddity by David Bowie



“Why I grow up, I want to an astronaut.”

That was my line to the ever present “what do you want to be when you grow up?” questions during the first ten years of my life. I don’t know if it was Star Wars, Star Trek or just something else but space fascinated me when I was a kid. I have clear memories of playing my mom’s car pretending it was a space ship with my brother and loving the fantasy.

There was one problem. I almost always got air sick when I got on planes. I’ve since outgrown this but it was definitely an issue growing up and eventually I realized that this would be a problem as traveling to space is far more stressful on the body then a commercial airplane flight. So the dream diminished.

The in 1995, I saw Apollo 13 and for a moment I was drawn back into the fantasy of space travel, the heroics, the ingenuity and that dangerous frontier that continued the American tradition of exploration.



During the MTV Movie Awards that year, Apollo 13 was nominated for best picture and when they announced the nominees the music they played behind the image of Tom Hanks looking out into space was “Space Oddity.”

“Though I’ve crossed one hundred thousand miles, I’m feeling very scared and I think my spaceship knows which way to go.”

That was all of “Space Oddity” I heard. I searched through the internet and eventually figured out that it was David Bowie, went out and got a greatest hits collection and was simply memorized by what I heard.

Y’know that whole Madonna reinvention thing, yeah David Bowie did it first. Portraying different characters in his albums and shows, Bowie was as much a modern performance artist as a pop musician. Well, maybe pop musician isn’t quite the right fit, because this man experimented with music sounding not all that different then modern music artist of his time but something about “Space Oddity” connects in a meaningful accessible way.

In “Space Oddity,” Bowie tells the story through the exchanges heard on the communications between ground control and major Tom. The song combines the sounds of a acoustic guitar with ghost-like synthesizers that describe the sounds of the space shipping launching as well as the solitude and mystery of space.

The story starts with the lift-off and develops into a tragedy. For some reason Major Tom panics asks ground control to tell his wife that he loves her. Ground control sees that Major Tom’s “circuits are dead” and lose communication with Major Tom.

Like the situation in Apollo 13, “Space Oddity” captures the panic, the mystery and tragedy that is sometimes involved in space travel. Bowie’s voice can be both detached when he is ground control setting up the launch and also filled with passion and desperation when he is speaking as Major Tom.

“Space Oddity” uniquely tells a story in a way that few pop songs attempt. As weird as it may have sounded at the time with its synthesized transitions and unique subject matter, it captures the wonder and mystery of space travel, which inspired generations.

Kids now don’t seem too interested in space travel. I once took a group of high school students to Kennedy Space Center and while I was fascinated by the tours, other people there who were in my parents generations were almost brought to tears. However, my students didn’t really care.

The world is different now, our country has different priorities. But every once in a while it’s nice to think of the idea of space travel. No so much the reality of it but that feeling I had when I was a kid, the wonder and the adventure. And nothing brings that back like the amazing journey David Bowie takes us on with Major Tom’s unforgettable adventure.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

You’re Still The One by Shania Twain

Taylor Swift was not the first lady in country music I fell in love with. First there was Wynonna Judd. KIDDING!! Could you imagine?!?

I’m talking about Shania Twain.

And no it’s not because she’s hot. Kind of. Ok, when Come On Over came out, her break-out crossover album, I was just like any other high school boy and I totally got that “feeling” whenever I saw things like the opening of the “You’re Still The One” video as she slowly pulls a dress up her bare back.

Even at my hormonal teenage peak, I still recognized that there was something different about her. It wasn’t so much a sensual thing that made her hot, it was her beauty. She exuded grace, charm, and classiness while Britney was playing up the dirty schoolgirl angle.

Now once Shania drew me in and I bought her album and I realized that hey, this lady had an amazing voice. And now that I’m older, I realize how beautifully life-affirming is the music of Shania Twain.



“You’re Still The One” is about the true wonder of love. The love story doesn’t end with falling in love with Prince Charming. That’s only the beginning. The real story, the real struggle that is worth celebrating is being with someone for an extended period and reflecting on the fact that they are “still the one.”

From the opening of the song there’s a laid back feeling of peace and reassurance like the warmth of a morning sun. Mutt Lange, Shania’s producer, who gained fame in the 1980s for producing AC/DC and Def Leppard, beautifully mixes rock music with country sensibility. The instruments may be rock the energy the feel the attitude is most definitely country.

Shania has an effortless quality to her voice. She shades the words with slight scoops and nasal colors that reflect her country roots. The aching in her voice is not so much sensual but passionate. Like her image, Shania’s voice is full of dignity, strength and beauty.

Probably the best display of her voice was when she recorded a track for Elton John’s failed Broadway musical Aida.



There’s some Patsy Cline in her voice, a little Aretha Franklin, and heck even a little Elvis in here voice. All these things combine in Shania with a style that transcends genres.

Few songs focus on affirming relationships like “You’re Still The One.” Most songs are about looking for love or describing love. “You’re Still The One” is something different all together. It’s about reflecting back on a life lived together, a relationship that has grown.

Shania’s star has faded. But I maintain that her stamp on country music and popular music is one of the most significant of her time. Without her we wouldn’t have Taylor Swift (which is a BIG deal people).

I will always love Shania Twain for reminding the world how much more beautiful staying in love is than falling in love. As much as we dream of finding true love, isn’t this idea of having a long lasting love really what we are going for? With this sentiment Shania sings lovingly about a powerful part of our dreams.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Letter To Conan O'Brien

Dear Conan,

Jacob, one of my best friends is at a crossroads. After working for a company for four years he feels it's time to move on. It's wasn't the forced furlough, the lack of a bonus or the cut in benefits that led him to this decision. It was the fact his companies is now making decision that he philosophically disagree with.

He asked if it was worth making a stand. He wondered if he should take a chance to find something else and he didn't how to handle the situation especially if it left him without a job.
And after watching you say farewell on your last night on the Tonight Show, I finally have an answer for my friend.

When you made your stand and told NBC that you disagreed to with their change in the Tonight Show schedule, I expected them to change their mind but they didn’t. Because of this you lost your dream job but in doing so you showed not only your fans but also America what it means to stand up for what you believe in.

People say that my generation at doesn’t stick with jobs, expects too much, too quickly and has no sense of loyalty. I disagree. It's not that we aren't loyal, it's that companies often lack a sense of loyalty to their employees. Loyalty is not a one-way street and many companies fail to realize that they cannot expect workers to be loyal when they are cutting benefits.

In the past week you made jokes about Leno and NBC (which you’ve always done) and some people criticized you for this but hey, you’re a comedian, that’s just what you do. However, when the jokes subsided and you finally decided to speak from the heart, you spoke deeper truths in a way that is rarely seen on televisions.



"All I ask is one thing, this is, I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism, for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what the thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind amazing things will happen . . . it's just true."

Through this difficult situation, you’ve maintained a sense of perspectives and dignity. It would have been easy to end with a message of anger at NBC and “corporate America” and plenty of people would have rallied behind you but you chose the high ground ending your show with a message of optimism, hope and reassurance.

Neil Gaiman is his epic comic series Sandman wrote this dialogue as the king of dreaming was discussing a dream with troubled artist:

"It is sometimes a mistake to climb; it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt. If you do not climb you will not fall. This is true. But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fail? Sometime you wake, and sometimes, yes, you die. But there is a third alternative. Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you and sometimes, when you fall, you fly."

Thanks Conan for teaching us how to fly.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"You totally spoil Buffy!"

I do not spoil my dog.

Yes, we feed Buffy Fromm's, a gourmet holistic dog food and yes, we do mix her kibble with Merrick’s 5 Star Entrees. I mean really you’d get bored eating the same thing EVERY meal so we like to give Buffy some variety in her life.

And yeah Buffy has two beds, one in the living room and one in the bedroom and well there’s also her crate and pen. There are the two puppy classes Buffy went through, the variety of toys:


and treats:


Since its snowing we did get her boots. Look they put a lot of salt down in the streets that we walk Buffy and that stuff is bad for dogs feet. And look, she LOVES wearing them:



And sometimes I do carry her over puddles of muddy slush so she doesn’t get her paws dirty. That’s not so much that she’s a princess but I’m not a fan of cleaning her little muddy footprints in our condo.

Now you may be thinking, “Wow Tang, are you serious? You’ve got her all this stuff and done all these things and you claim that you aren’t spoiling your dog?” Well, I still argue that Diana and I do not spoil Buffy.

A kid is not spoiled because he is given an ipod touch for Christmas. He’s spoiled because his parents have not made him earn that gift through good behavior. Spoiling continues as they lets him play games on it at the dinner table and during church service. The difference is that Buffy never gets a treat from unless she does a trick, or does something like poo or pee where she is supposed to.

The food and the toys are simply monetary investments. The better quality her food, the better her health and the less we pay in Vet bills. The more toys she is used to having and chewing up the less she chews up our furniture. It's a lot easier to buy her a new toy then to get a new couch.

The puppy training classes at Barker’s Behavior (which you really should check out) has made Buffy a great puppy to live with. Dogs need to learn how to respect the boundaries of their owners, how to be polite to other dogs and people and most of all be safe. If we hadn’t went to those classes we would not enjoy Buffy nearly as much as we do now and we’d be like some of those nightmare dogs you see on It’s Me Or The Dog (which is a far superior show to the Dog Whisperer).



As great as a dog Buffy is, she would not be the dog that we love without her training.

Some people think we give Buffy too many walks but hey it paid off, by the age of 6 months our girl was potty trained with less then ten accidents. It’s not like Buffy demands walks of us, this is something we enjoy, do with her and for her and like the food in and investment in her quality of life and hey we could also use the exercise.

The amount of time we play with Buffy may seem like a lot but it's just as much for us as it is for her. We love spending time with Buffy. If we dedicate a day to spending time with her it’s part of what it means to be part of our family and we are happy to do it.

A spoiled dog pees and poos all over the house, does things that they shouldn’t because their owners don’t stop them. Spoiled dogs have no manners, jump all over people and beg at the table. These are dogs who have no respect for other dogs, other people and are basically allowed to do whatever they want. Spoiled dogs are reflections of lazy and irresponsible dog owners, not "bad dogs." Spoiling a dog borderlines on abuse and Buffy for all the love and attention we give her is not one of those dogs.

When I buy Buffy a toy or get her nice food, does she recognize that I’m doing these things because I love her? I don’t know. But it’s a way that I can tangibly express my love to her. Do I need a material gift to express that love? No, but it helps. It’s the same reason we give gifts to people we love. Sometimes it’s not so much the gift but the feeling you feel from the person, the look on their face that makes the gift meaningful.

And trust me the look on Buffy's face when she's happy . . . that would make anyone want to spoil Buffy . . . except for us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Faith by George Michael

Have you ever had a friend who was in a mediocre relationship and just stuck with it because she didn’t think there was someone better suited for her out there? Or talked to someone who feels unmotivated to find a job because he doesn’t think that he can get a better gig?

If you don’t think in a positive way that something better can happen, nothing better ever will. You got to believe that you not only deserve something else but that you can get it. You to got to have to strength. You got to have courage and you got to have faith.

George Michael declaration, “Faith” is perhaps his most enduring songs. The best-selling single of 1988, the title track of the best selling album that year “Faith” is a song that continues to resonate in popular music.



Reinventing himself after the break-up of Wham! (most famous for their bubblegum pop hit “Wake Me Up Before Go-Go”), Michael ditched the neon and big hair and reappeared as a modern version of a 1950s rocker.



[btw, the "choose life" t-shirts have nothing to do with abortion, they were statements against suicide.]

With a slick pompadour, tight jeans, leather jacket, and aviator sunglasses, Michaels represented a new cool and “Faith” like his image drew upon music of generations past.

Starting with a musical allusion to religion, the church organ introduction fades in gradually growing into a peak, like a the sunrise slowing bathing a church in light through stained-glass windows. We expect to organ to resolve but instead it ends in a question mark and after a few seconds of silence we have our answer.

In a world of synthesizers and over-production, “Faith” stands out as an anomaly. With sparse instrumentation, guitar, bass, drums, “Faith” sounds more like a 1950s rock song than a late 1980s pop song. This acoustic and transparent instrumentation gives this song soul, drive and passion.

The lyrics are a brilliant internal discussion. It portrays feelings that people have in relationships with honesty. Look at the opening line, “Well I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body. I know not everybody has got a body like you.” There could not a more honest reflection of physical urges.

This conversation plays out throughout the rest of the song as he reflect on the pain that he has felt “time to pick my heat up off the floor” as well as his desire for companionship “well I need someone to hold me.” Michael concludes that even though he feels like he needs something even if it has hurt him, he will hold strong and “wait for something more.” And that at the end of all, he’s “gotta have faith.”

There’s something beautiful, a feeling like the sun is shining about this “Faith.” In this song there’s hope, a new beginning, reminding us that even though it’s scary to take a chance, it’s also exciting. There is strength and courage reflected in this song through Michael’s vocals but it’s the pure joy that resonates, that reminds us that faith is something to be celebrated, something that inspires us. And that in the rough time in our live you simply got to have faith.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Shed a Little Light by James Taylor

“Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King. . . ”



Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is honoring his beliefs, his methods and his dream. It is saying that we continue to believe that all men are created equal, that violence an inferior way of promoting change and that a world where our children are not judged by the color of their skin but rather the content of their character is worth believing in.

With this day we say that we admire best among us not because of economic success or physical prowess but rather because of service to society. And in honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is believing as James Taylor sings, “we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place that our children can grow free and strong.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is affirmation; it’s a statement of values, a declaration of what it means to be American. This day reminds me that deep in our hearts, we want something better and we are all working together for a common dream.

This day is also a reminder of the nature of change. No great steps in freedom have come about organically. Everything from gaining the right to vote for women and minorities to desegregating schools have come about through the work of tenacious and dedicated citizens who refused to accept the status quo. If there is something in this country that you think is unfair and unjust then you need to do something about it, because if you don’t the worst thing of all will happen:

Nothing

Martin Luther King Jr. Day’s most important message is that we still have a lot of work to do. As James Taylor sings, “We are bound together by the task that stands before us.” There is still discrimination in America. My personal belief is that the battle over same-sex marriage is a Civil Rights issues and if you disagree, I respect your opinion. Beyond this one issue, there are gross inequalities in people’s access to education, jobs and housing throughout America. While I respect individual’s rights to bigoted, the shocking amount of ignorance and stereotyping in our America is a reminder that the Civil Rights act is meaningless if we do not enforce in our every day actions.

“Shed A Little Light” by James Taylor is how I like to think about Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While it reminds us of who we are, the beliefs that bind us and the tasks ahead it is also a celebration of how far we’ve come in such a short period of time in our great country. Yes, “there is a feeling like the clenching of a fist” but there is also the light that washes over “the darkness and the mist, and though the body sleeps the heart will never rest.”

When I turn my thoughts today to Martin Luther King, I feel proud that we value this great man, that we believe in his dream and that we are bound together in hope and love.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Wish It Would Rain by The Temptations

OMG. Ok people, look, just because someone is from Seattle doesn’t mean that they love rain. I don’t know how many times people and said or implied that I love rain because I grew up in the Seattle area, but it seems to ALWAYS come up.

Livescience.com reported a study by San Francisco-based Weatherbill, Inc. They ranked American cities by the amount of rainfall they got and Seattle didn’t even make the top 10. Heck, the first city from the Pacific Northwest to even make the list was Olympia, Washington (#24).

Even if Seattle was in the fact that wettest city in the United States, how do you make the assumption that people in Seattle like rain so much? That’s like saying that I love political corruption because I live in Chicago or that I someone loves unemployment because they live in Flint, Michigan.

So, for the love of everything that is good and holy on this planet, do not, I repeat DO NOT pull the “wow you’re from Seattle, it rains a lot there you must love rain” line next time you meet someone from Seattle. If you pull that line on me, well, you might feel a rain of fury coming from this disgruntled little Asian man.

Now while I dislike rain, I guess I can understand it’s benefits. We need fresh water to live, I love trees and green lawns and sometimes as The Temptations remind us raindrops can hide teardrops. [okay, don't worry everyone, I've calmed down enough, let's talk about music. . . ]


("I Wish It Would Rain" starts 2 minutes in)

By 1967, Motown had established itself as a force in popular music. Constantly developing their sound, Smokey Robinson who was responsible for The Temptations biggest hit “My Girl” (which I discussed in this earlier post) stepped aside and songwriter Norman Whitfield led the Temptations into new musical avenues.

Working with lyricist Barrett Strong, Whitfield introduced funk and psychedelic sounds utilizing sound effects and experimental production techniques. Many of Whitfield’s most well known songs like “Cloud Nine” are fast-tempo explorations of war, poverty, politics and drugs. Whitfield’s ballads showed a different side, sensitivity and a personal experience with love that no one could express better than “The Temptations.”

If David Ruffin’s soulful and joyous performance on “My Girl” doesn’t blow you away (not really sure how that is possible) then his tear-stained vocals and agony-filled delivery in “I Wish It Would Rain” has got to get to you.

“I Wish It Would Rain” has brilliant lyrics. The internal logic in this song is clever as the protagonist hopes for rain so that when he does outside no one knows he is crying. While Whitflield’s experimental effects using actually recorded sounds was cutting edge at the time the true special effects in this song are the Temptations.

The Temptations do the standard “echo the lead singer” job of the back-up singers but there are other time where they take it a step further. In the second verse when their voice cascade on the word “crying” falling like tears beautifully paints the lyrics. This isn’t something that you necessarily consciously notice when listening but it adds layers of meaning to the listening experience displaying amazing craft and musical expression.

Have I ever wished that it would rain? No, never. Do I like rain? No. Does “I Wish It Would Rain” rock my world? Yes. Listening to this song almost makes me forget how angry I get when people ask me about being from Seattle and loving rain. . .

almost.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Party In The U.S.A. by Miley Cyrus

I love “Party In The U.S.A.” and my wife doesn’t.



First off, Diana is not a fan of processed “auto-tuned” vocals and this song features quite a bit of that. I agree that it’s a bit much in this song and we both would much rather hear someone sing straight out, though I’m not sure with Miley Cyrus if it would really sound all that much better.

The main reason why “Party In The U.S.A.” bugs Diana is the chorus. Here's her issue:

“So I put my hands up, they’re playing my song, The butterflies fly away.” Okay, that’s reasonable enough, rejoicing in a favorite tune, it’s all good. Moving on . . .

“I’m nodding my head like ‘Yeah!’
Moving my hips like ‘Yeah!’”

Wait a second, let me get this right. Instead of completing the simile she uses “yeah” to replace a noun or a phrase. Here are examples the correct way to complete this sentence.

“I’m nodding my head like Britney.”
Or
“I’m nodding my head like I’m at a club.”

It’s like she gave up on talking, or speaking English as a whole. “Eh, I got a couple words out and then I just decided it wasn’t worth the effort so I’ll just say ‘yeah.’” Can you imagine if your friends talked like this?

“Go down the street two blocks and make ‘yeah.’”
“You have got to pull it together. This test is ‘yeah.’”

It’s not even an ironic “yeah” like: Oh god that shirt was so ugly and like [sigh] “yeah” not such a good choice.” It’s celebratory for God’s sake. That’s the best you can do lyrically, REALLY, are you serious?

“But Kingsley what about “My Life Would Suck Without You” by Kelly Clarkson, one of your favorite songs ever. That song has “yeahs” all over the chorus. True.

"‘Cause we belong together now, yeah"
"Forever united here somehow, yeah"

But they are at the end of the sentence, the thought is completed and THEN "yeah" is put in as an interjection as opposed to a modifier.

SIGH.

While I 100% agree with my wife’s argument I still love “Party In The U.S.A.”

Songs that are what they sing about fascinate me. “Party In The U.S.A.” is about the power of music is relax us and bring us a moment of bliss in difficult situations and “Party In The U.S.A.” is exactly one of those songs. Yes, it’s not very deep. It’s got that teen pop sheen all over it, but there’s something universal about when Miley describes hearing a song on the radio in a strange new place.

The fact that the same song is being played in Nashville as well as in Los Angeles is amazing if you think about it. It’s like that line in “Somewhere Out There.” “It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky.”



For Miley, that big sky is her favorite song.

Yeah, I can go into the fact in the original recording of this song Miley mentions listening to Jay-Z and then latter said she has never heard his music and now changes that line when she performs it live. I could also go into the whole Disney music machines and the fact that I seriously thought that Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus were two different people until one of my students pointed this out to me. (I was just thought it was cool that two teen artist would do a film together). Sue me for being lost within the illusion.



That wig is pretty convincing.

If Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and the High School Musical (yup, I totally did a post about that film) stuff bug you, fine it’s all good. It’s not meant for you, (unless you are in grade school and I seriously doubt there's any grade schoolers reading this). Kids really enjoy this stuff and I’m all for children enjoying music where the girls aren’t over-sexualized and the image, which I realize is just that, an image, is clean and wholesome. It’s better then the typical rock star “image.”

“Party In The U.S.A.” feels great, yes, it needs some grammar help, and when one of my students uses “yeah” like Miley does I will surely get annoyed, until then, it’s all good to me.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Doubt

The first photo taken of Diana and me, Valentines day 2003

'Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
'O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers;
I have not art to reckon my groans: but that
I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.
Hamlet Act 2. Scene II by William Shakespeare

This Winter marks the seventh year that Diana and I have been together (5 1/2 years of dating, 1 1/2 years of being married). Now I know plenty of people that have been together longer than I’ve been alive but I still think seven years is a big deal.

Have we had an especially difficult seven years? I would say no, we’ve had our share of struggles and challenges but nothing extreme. In our time together we’ve both had good health and have always maintained level of comfort in our lives.

I remember in our first year of dating wondering how I would feel about Diana over time. I would ask myself “Do I want to share my life with Diana?” And every time I’d think about it, my answer would be yes.

After a while, I stopped doubting the permanence of my feelings for Diana and thing that made my doubt in our relationship disappear was Diana herself.

Do I feel the same about Diana that I did when we first starting going out? Of course not. I really didn’t know Diana nearly as well as I do now. That magical spark that I felt when I first started to get to know her has diminished but it has been replaced with is a far more profound and meaningful feeling of connection, trust and love.

There were things that I didn’t know, that I wondered about in Diana’s character. Not that I was assuming bad things about her, I simply didn’t know how she dealt with the challenges of life. As we’ve shared our life together all of those thoughts, those doubts have disappeared and so have my doubts about our relationship.

Many people have asked me when I knew that our relationship was something special, was going to lead to marriage and when I felt ready to make that commitment to Diana. My honest answer is I don’t really when I knew or what it was that made me realize that Diana was going to be part of the rest of my life.

All I know is that last week when I was home by myself I decided to watch a DVD from my collection and every movie that I considered watching I wanted to watch with Diana. Every time someone tells me something interesting I want to tell Diana and every day I wake up, I look forward to the time I'm blessed to spend with my wife.

And after all this time, she STILL finds my jokes funny.

Diana and I, seven years later

Friday, January 8, 2010

Buffy's vacation blog

To Aunt Janet & Uncle Jim,

It took some effort as Buffy was running around your house but I eventually picked her up, cradled her in my arms on her back so I could say goodbye. Staying at your house for five days while Diana and I visited my family in Seattle was the longest Diana and I have been away from Buffy.

As I tried to talk to her, Buffy twisted her head and torso around towards the boys in the other room gesturing, “Kingsley, put me DOWN!! There’s boys over there I need to chase!” I gave her a hug, told her to be good and let her down and she immediately bolted to the back of the house.

In the car, driving away I felt a hollow sadness of having leaving Buffy but seeing the way that she ran off, knowing how much fun she would have and how well she would be taken care of, I couldn’t help but smile.

During our first day in Seattle Diana and I wondered how Buffy was doing but we didn’t feel a need to call. I mean you got Bitsy, your collie, Kibbles and Willow, your two cats and three sons. Diana and I were 100% confident that you could handle anything with Buffy.

Still we wondered . . .

To our surprise we that evening we got an e-mail from Buffy. (thanks for helping her with the typing, she’s not very good with the keyboard).

*****
Dear Mom,

Today was FUN! I goofed off all day! Potty in backyard! Poopy on walk! Long walk! Loving Kibbles! I think Bitsey is cool!


Me and Bitsey with chew toys!!

The boys are fun! I took a nap! I had a minor potty accident and didn't get in trouble! Willow hisses at me but I'm sure we're going to get along great! Love boys! Love house! Love yard! I love snow!

running around the yard with boys!

I love to run in the yard and get Bitsey to run! Love to bark! Love everyone! No time to eat! Didn't eat any legos! Was very interested in catnip! Can't wait to find out what happens tomorrow! WOW!

Although, of course I miss you somewhere in there but right now I'm not thinking of that. Gotta go, Kibbles is calling for me to chase him.

Your girl,
Buffy

*****

This e-mail really made Diana feel great (well, except that stuff about the accident). Being at your house is an upgrade for Buffy. She has a fenced in yard, kids to play with as well as other animals. These are things that we want for Buffy but we can't give her right now. It was clear in Buffy's second e-mail to us that these things meant a lot to her.

*****

I love all Peterson's! I learned that I can whine and go OUT! I learned when I'm called, I can come IN! I don't need to avoid coming in because I know whenever I want to use the yard, I can go! So I spend the day, IN! OUT! IN! OUT! Love outside. Love outside!


sledding. . . yeah not so sure about this

Doggies are all over! They are on the other side of the fence. They bark. I run to the back door for protection! Then I get brave and hide behind Bitsey and get closer to the fence. Then they bark. I run for the backdoor for protection ! Bitsey is my big cousin! Cool! I dug a hole under the trampoline all by myself! Uncle Jim had to clean up my paws. I was a messy puppy but I had FUN! FUN!

Long walks! Treats! SNOW! SNOW! Dogs everywhere, I meet them on my walks. Friends! Schedule, what schedule? (ooops, not supposed to tell you that).

Love boys! So many! Kibbles keeps trying to steal my food. We lock food in my cage and Kibbles puts his long arms in and tries to grab a nibble. He keeps taking my tug of war toy. Bark! Bark!

Kibbles being silly

He tried to take my bed so we had to lock it. (I stole Bitsey's bed. She pushed me away.) Kibbles is great. Great. He loves when I chase him around the house. We had a 3 against 3 game (Bitsey, Kibbles, me) and it was awesome. We sound like horses galloping upstairs. Soon Willow will be my BFF! I'm sure!

Today is beauty day. Have to go. Chris is calling for me.

Love
Buffy

p.s.: Miss you! Bark!



*****

One of the ways that you know that someone meet out with is really cares about you is how they care about things that you love. Your whole family’s care of Buffy during our trip really speaks to how invested you are in Diana and I. That means a lot.

Buffy is very lucky to have a great Aunt and Uncle and we are very grateful to you for taking care of our little girl and embracing her as family. We will definitely be having visits sooner rather than later so that Buffy can spend more time with all of you.

Thanks
-Kings

*****

THX 4 LETTIN ME STAY AT UR PLACE.
I HAD GREAT TIEM PLAYIN WIF ALL OV U AN I CAN’T WAIT 2 COME BAK 2 VISIT. UR HOUZ SMELLS GREAT AN THAR R LOTZ DA THINGS 2 CHASE. YARD IZ GREAT AN I LUV PLAYIN WIF ALL OV U.

I MIS U. TAEK CARE, BUFFY

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Edelweiss (from The Sound Of Music)

I have sing along issues.

I love singing along to songs when I'm in the car or around the house and especially when I'm at dance parties. Oh, and singing along in Rock concerts. EPIC!! But I can't stand it when people sing along at Broadway shows. So when my brother asked me if I wanted to go to a "Sing Along Sound Of Music" event, I had my reservations.

Sound Of Music is without a doubt a great film musical. I take exception to the argument that it is the greatest musical of all time. There's pacing issues in the last third and there isn't much characterization for most of the children. Also there's something kind of creepy about "Sixteen Going On Seventeen."



Really? How is Rolf going to take care of Liesl? Take her to a concentration camp?

Then there's the fact that the last 1/3 of the film consists on no new songs only reprises. Also Sound Of Music features one of the most "mailed in" lyrics in Broadway history: "La, a note to follow so."

Despite these issues, the musical portrays a fantastic and inspiring true story and some of the songs are fantastic. For example "My Favorite Things," is harmonically and melodically adventurous which is why it remains a favorite in not only with musical fans but also with jazz musicians.



The "Sing Along Sound Of Music" is a touring event and I caught it at the 5th Avenue Theater, one of Seattle's historical Broadway theaters. The event featured a really mediocre print of Sound Of Music complete with subtitles for the songs so people could sing along.



However that wasn't it. People not only sang along but participated in the film ala Rocky Horror Picture Show. People booed at the Baroness, barked at Ralph and screamed "use the drapes" as Maria tried to figure out how to make the children play clothes. Oh yeah and people dressed up as nuns, Maria and the children.

I got to admit it was a lot of fun. Despite people singing a long and making jokes, I could enjoy simply watching the film. It wasn't all that different then watching it with a group of friends. I mean it's a three hour film. It's hard to sit through a film like this and not make a joke.

I didn't feel an urge to sing along until Captain Von Trapp picked up the guitar and sang "Edelweiss." There is a kind of musical cheese that surrounds most of the songs in Sound Of Music but there is something genuine and soulful about "Edelweiss."



My wife mentioned that when she watched Sound Of Music as a child she focused on the kids and Maria but as an adult it's the Captain and Austrian plot that really gets to her. I noticed this as well as the scenes about the children really define for the Captain what it means to be Nationalistic.

At the festival when the Captain stops in the middle of "Edelweiss." At this moment questions why he is taking a stand. Then Maria enters in to sing with him, she reminds him of everything worth escaping his homeland for.



It was amazing how the entire audience stoped singing when the Captain hesitated and felt the power of Maria's voice like she was singing with all of us as well. In some ways "Edelweiss" is the simplest song in the musical but its the most complex emotionally embodying the spirit and soul of a country in turmoil as well as the what it means to be a family.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to the "Sing Along Sound Of Music" I highly recommend you go even if you aren't a huge Sound Of Music fan. It's really a magical experience and a great way to experience the impact of the one of the most important pieces of art in our culture.

And seeing people dressed up like "packages wrapped up in string" is simply priceless.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I'll Stand By You by The Pretenders

It was about 11pm when I got the phone call.

One of my best friends had been dumped by her boyfriend and she needed to talk. When she told me what had happened I ran over to her dorm room and we talked through the night. They had been together for a couple years and he told her that he was interested in someone else.

Now this is the first time I had ever been that "first-call friend." This is the friend that you call when there's a crisis. When you are in such a dire situation you instinctually reach towards someone who is close, someone who you trust, one of your best friends. It's really flattering to be that "first-call friend" but it's also difficult because you deal with the initial reaction, the most emotional response and the difficult task of comforting a friend in need.

Now I didn’t really know what to say my friend. At that point in my life I only had one ex-girlfriend and didn't have much experiences in relationships. All I could do that was be there with her and for her and often that’s all we need to do to stand by our friends.



“I’ll Stand By You” is a song by The Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde, lead singer and the main songwriter of the Pretenders was one of the first blue jeans and leather jacket female rock stars. Combining rock swagger with her own independent female sensibility, Hynde proved to the world that women could rock along with the boys without losing their femininity.

Most of The Pretenders music is like “Brass In Pocket,” upbeat mixtures of Rock and new wave.



Then there’s “I’ll Stand By You” one of the most powerful songs about friendship in rock music. A simple song with straightforward lyrics, this song expresses a profound understand of what it means to truly be there for another.

Think about some of the lines in this song:
“Nothing you confess, could make you less”
“so, if you mad, get mad, don’t hold it all inside”
“what you got to hide, I get angry too, but I’m a lot like you.”

Hynde is not trying to change her friends emotion. Instead she accepts her friend, all of their sins and all of their emotions, not just the ones she feels comfortable with.

“I’ll Stand By You” is about what we wish to hear from our friends when we are in times of need and it’s also about the kind of friend that we hope to be when we get a phone call late at night.

One night, you’re going to be that “first-call friend” and when this happens just remember “I’ll Stand By You” and you’ll know exactly what to do.

“Take me in, into your darkest hour, and I’ll never desert you.”

Friday, January 1, 2010

Buffy vs. Snow


The first time it snowed, Buffy was mystified. Giving into her chase instinct she watched carefully as the snow fell to the ground and pounced on the snow flake as soon as it hit the ground. Unfortunately, the snow didn’t stick that afternoon and Buffy was left confused wondering where the snow flake went.

The next time it snowed it came overnight leaving a blanket of white. That morning when I took her out in the four inches of snow, Buffy was pretty confused. First thing in the morning she goes outside and goes #1 and #2 in specific spots outside our condo. Yeah, that didn’t happen so much. This doubled the time it took for our morning walk as she tried to figure out where her spot went. Eventually she gave up and just went in a new place. Works for me, just as long as she’s not going inside.


Over the past couple weeks it has become clear that Buffy loves the snow and the cold doesn’t phase her at all. There was a couple days when it was below 10 degree Fahrenheit (yes, during those days it was colder in Chicago then in Russia and at the North Pole). She was not a fan, but as long as it’s about 30 degrees and above she’s not phased at all.

In a patch of fresh powder Buffy hops around enthusiastically. She walks around like a hound dog with her nose to the ground often burrowing her entire head into to a snow bank.


I don’t know what she’s looking for or why she’s like doing it so much. All I know is that hilarious because every so often after she does this, she starts pawing at her face because she doesn’t like how the snow won’t get off her face. Buffy, that’s what happens when you STICK YOUR WHOLE FACE INTO THE SNOW!! . . . sigh


No, we don’t put a jacket on Buffy. Though she does have a sweater. . . She really loves it, can't you tell?


Buffy has plenty of fur. While her weight gain has hit a plateau out at 11 pounds, her coat has continued to come in. She know has a proud mane and has a REALLY poofy butt. Buffy’s hair has an amazing way of keeping moisture and the snow on the tips of her fur. Even after being outside for half an hour if you reach deep into her coat it is nice and warm.

This is what Buffy looks like with her mane brushed out.

Yes this does add hand-warmer to the many things that Buffy can substitute as. In addition to being a “hand warmer” Buffy can also act as throw rug, lap warmer and slipper retriever (more like slipper thief and hide them around the condo, but hey she’s trying).


We did buy booties for Buffy. We’re a little concerned with all of the salt on the side-walks irritating her paws. She absolutely hates wearing them but hey it’s for her own good. For now we’re just making sure to wipe off her paws whenever she comes in from a walk. It helps her stays clean and is cutting down the cute but annoying doggy footprints that Buffy leaves behind when she comes in from the snow.


I’m glad that Buffy enjoys snow and isn’t bothered by winter because we have a lot more winter coming up. As much as I hate winter in Chicago, seeing Buffy’s pure joy and enthusiasm chasing snow flakes and jumping throw snow drifts which are almost as tall as her is making the winter that much more tolerable and a lot more entertaining.