Friday, February 26, 2010

Potty Training Buffy

When a young boy and girl in Maurice Sendak’s (Where The Wild Things Are) and Matthew Margolis’ children’s’ book Some Swell Pup or Are You Sure You Want A Dog get a dog they encounter the challenges of having puppy. If you have a child that wants a dog you should definitely check this book out as it brilliant expresses what it means to have a pet and the true nature of what a puppy is. This book shows a puppy being cute but also shows the puppy, well being a puppy, chewing on furniture, play biting, yapping and going to the bathroom in the house.

The boy and a girl have a dream the first night after having the puppy and the girl imagines the dog saying to her: “The Girl’s Dream: I kiss your head madam – I shall be your slave forever, love you best, and never bite, chew, or go to the bathroom.”

Sometimes it seems that people forget that dogs need to pee and poo. One of the biggest issues you see on dog training shows are dogs that are not house trained. Maybe it’s because Diana and I are sort of neat freaks but getting Buffy potty trained was the highest on our priority list when we first got Buffy (followed by socialization and bite inhibition).

Leading up to the first day we had Buffy, we read many different puppy training books and the approach that made the most sense and the one that we felt the most comfortable following was Ian Dunbar’s Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy and Well-Behaved Dog. This book describes Dunbar’s philosophy on how to train dogs with positive reinforcement which was a revolutionary idea when he first hit the scene in the late 1970s.
His approach to potty training was utilizing short-term confinement (here’s an excerpt). The idea is that a puppy will not eliminate in their crate, unless the crate is too big, Laff, the morning after the first night we had Buffy I found a towel we gave her as a blanket piled up in the corner of the crate. Inside the towel was a little piece of poo. After that we made her crate smaller and didn’t have that issue. The schedule for Buffy her first couple weeks as Dunbar prescribes:

7am-take Buffy outside to pee
7:10am-Buffy eats breakfast, plays a little bit
8am-take Buffy outside to pee then goes back put in crate
9am-take Buffy outside to pee/poo, then goes back in crate

Well, basically, every hour we took her outside to her pee spot, then she had maybe 10 minutes to play and then she went back to her crate for 50 minutes and the cycle repeated. On average in that first week we were taking Buffy outside to eliminate maybe 14 times. Now every time she went outside she didn’t necessarily go. In those cases we put her back in her crate for 20 minutes and then we would take her out and try again.

Instead of going out every hour after a couple weeks that time was slowly extended however Buffy still spent most of her time in her crate. Buffy did have accidents, probably less than ten and they were all our fault for not taking her out when she needed to go, not hers.

Does this sound crazy? Well, here was the result: when Buffy was sixth months old when she was potty trained and she hasn't have any accidents since then.

Crate training is not cruel, dogs in nature make dens for themselves and like babies, they feel a sense of security in a smaller place. In a crate is the right size, the dog will let you know when it needs to go outside, which is how Buffy has developed a very distinctive whine when she needs to go out. Now not all dogs take to their crate as well as others and we were lucky that Buffy did.

If you do the work and take the time to train your dog as a puppy then it truly does pay off. Your dog has the rest of its life to run around the house and sleep on the bed if you like. Spending the first couple of months with the dog spending most of his or her time in the crate is a small price to pay for having a dog that you can trust to not soil your house or your friend's houses.

Sorry little girl, puppies pee and they poo. It’s gross and picking up after your puppy is not fun, but it’s part of the gig. If you are not committed to house training your puppy and picking up your dog’s poo every day for over a decade, DO NOT get a dog. But if you are, go for it, you won’t regret it.

btw. . . .Buffy Tang has a facebook page!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is "The Purple Reaction"?

When I started thinking about starting a blog, one of the roadblocks was coming up with a name. My initial approach was to include something about music and meaning and I came up with some pretty epically bad ideas. Then Diana suggested “The Purple Reaction” and it was perfect fit.

When I taught high school band at Neuqua Valle High School, the students in the jazz band I conducted came up with the name “The Purple Reaction.” They were inspired by my love of the Northwestern whose colors are purple and white and the fact that many of my dress shirts and ties involved the color purple.

Though some commented that “The Purple reaction” sounds more like a bad rash than a music group, it stuck. It was a fun and inventive name and I’m glad my wife reminded me of this name for the blog. However like great music, “The Purple Reaction” has come to mean more than its origins.

Diana initially suggested the name as a way that I could pay tribute to my students and my life as a teacher and also reflect my love and gratitude to Northwestern University. Shealso pointed out that having a more open-ended name for my blog allowed me to talk about a variety of subjects. While I initially stuck close to music, I now regularly talk about subjects that are not musically related like my dog and deep fried bacon. This blog has become my reaction to my world and that reaction really is “purple.” Let me explain.

The recent Green Lantern comic book series has introduced a color lantern for every color of the rainbow. Each color is based on a certain emotion that powers the ring: red-hate, orange-avarice, yellow-fear, green-will, blue-hope, indigo-compassion and violet or purple which is love. And that is what my blog is all about.

There is a lot of negativity on the internet: on blogs, people’s posts, facebook status updates and message boards. You don’t have to look very far to find someone being negative, overly critical or sarcastic. Maybe it’s the false anonymity of the internet or the fact that it’s easier to type something negative than to say it in person but the internet can be a very dark place. But it doesn’t have to be.

Comic Geek Speak, a podcast and online community is devoted to celebrating comic book culture in a positive way. They host message boards for many comic related websites and podcasts where flaming or negative posts are almost non-existent. On air, their show makes a concerted effort to be positive. Instead of ranting against things they do not like, they provided suggestions and understand the fact that it’s their loss for not liking something.

The Leaky Cauldron a Harry Potter fansite holds yearly charity drives and has raised over $35,000 for Book Aid International a group that raises access to books to support literacy and education in sub-Saharan Africa.

If you’re one of my friends you know that I can be very sarcastic and I have my share of rants but there is plenty of that stuff on the internet and there are far better writers than who are humorously sarcastic on the internet. So I decided to make my blog about love. About exploring what makes things great and why we love what we do.

There are times when I’ve been sarcastic like in my Miley Cyrus post but it’s always with a positive spin. I chose to focus on what's great because we need this energy on the internet and it just make me happier to revel in what is awesome in life.

I’m doing the best I can to make my little corner of the internet a great place to be. Does it really have an effect against the mountains of negativity online? Probably not, but it’s made a difference to me and maybe it has to someone else.

As Virgil wrote, “Love begets love, love knows no rules, this is the same for all.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Radio Ga Ga by Queen

In 1985, during the legendary Live Aid fundraiser concert, at Wembley stadium Queen reminded the world why they were one of the greatest bands in rock music. Now if all you know if Queen in “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the hilarious sing along scene from Wayne’s World you are in for a surprise.

Freddy Mercury standing in front of a sea of people all clapping in unison and singing along to the chorus of “Radio Ga Ga” is one of the most amazing moments captured in Live Aid. Then there is the amazing improvised vocalization game at the end of the song that reminds us that unlike many other lead singers of rock band, Mercury can really sing. I get chills seeing it on a, I can’t imagine what it must have felt like live.

Roger Taylor, Queen's drummer wrote “Radio Ga Ga” contemplating the transition from radio to music videos and the decline of diversity in radio programming. To a whole generation of musicians, the radio was the only gateway to the musical world and this song is a tribute to the power and memory of that experience.

“Radio Ga Ga” is about being nostalgic but it’s also a commentary on what it means to experience music. How different is music when you do not have visual superimposed on songs? What is it like to sit in front of a radio and just listen? Y'know, I’ve never done that. More often than not I’m listening to music when I’m around the house or in the car. It’s hardly every simply just listening to a song, but when I do it is different.

Is there a time when we will get sick of the constant vision as Queen wonders? Well, we kind of have. Music videos are no longer as central as they used to be. Once upon a time artist premiered music videos during prime time on network television. That’s just not case anymore.

When Freddie Mercury sings at the end of each chorus “someone still love you,” he’s speaking to people who feel left behind, who feel outdated, people who feel like they don’t matter. We all have these moments in life when we feel this way in life and hearing this reassuring voice brings us hope. We don’t need to know in our lives that everyone loves us, just one person and that makes all of the difference.

Just because something is old or outdated doesn’t mean that looses its meaning. Most of the games I play on my Wii areVitual Console titles, which are games from previous systems like Megan Man II. Some people still have traditional tube televisions and VCRs and don’t mind that the picture isn’t as sharp and the sound isn’t as clear. Just because a song is over twenty years old doesn’t mean that it’s not important, that it’s not relevant. People still love that stuff.

Even though you've passed on Freddie and you're music is from a generation ago, someone still loves you. I still love you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Easy Silence by The Dixie Chicks

. . . smuggled guns use in cartel hits . . . 3 killed when plane hits house . . . N.J. Man Tells Cops He Threw Baby Off Bridge. . . high school in lockdown over gun threat . . . Snipers Bedevil U.S. Troops. . . abuse, violence, neglect, pain, suffering, life, sometimes it’s just all too much to take.

It all just makes you tired sometimes. The way a dark, cold winter day saps away your strength, the darkness of the world tears at your spirit. Some days I don’t want to turn on the television or even leave the house so I don’t have to face all the terrors that are unfortunately part of the human condition. However, ever I day I get up, go to work do the best I can at my job and even though some days it’s more of a struggle than others I haven’t given up yet and I think I know why.

When the Dixie Chicks released Taking The Long Way, their response to the overblown criticism they received for making a joke about President Bush (W.) during the early days of the Iraq war their lead single was “Not Ready To Be Nice.” This incredible statement of strength and conviction is one of my favorite songs of all time (I reflected on this song and the controversy in this earlier post).

What opened their album Taking The Long Way, was not this forceful and passionate anthem but a personal, soft, love song, “Easy Silence.” This unique and touching statement of gratitude is one of the Dixie Chicks finest and most nuanced works and one of Diana’s, my wife’s favorite songs.

Finding her most personal expression not in belting but singing softly as a mother to her child, Natalie Maines lists of the pressures of the world. Starting with smooth alliteration, “calls and conversations, accidents and accusations, messages and misperceptions.” Maines reflects how these things “paralyze my mind.” The anger in the second verse builds to a need for something to believe in. Where she finds her sanity, her peace, herself at the end of the day is in this “easy silence.”

As Maines lists off all of the things that tear her down there is not so much anger but sadness. The steady guitar strumming creates a feeling of security in the predictability of the beat but also adds a level of tension as it never ceases like the world turning. Violin lines intertwine in the middle range of the instrument as they search for meaning within all of the madness.

At the core of this song is what Maines describes as her "easy silence." This moment is the security of being at home, being held by a loved one. It’s the sanctuary of faith, of hope. It’s knowing that the sun will come up tomorrow and that as much as people fall in the depth of the human heart there are many who raise above and continue to bring light into the world.

In the insanity of the world, the constant information, there is true peace in silence. Being there for someone isn’t so much what you say but your presence, not only physically but mentally and emotionally being there.

When someone is completely there for you and with you they create a place where nothing can harm you. It’s a place that pain can be felt, tears can be cried and where in this catharsis we find the strength to go on.

Through the magic of music the Dixie Chicks have created silence through music.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I’ve Got a Rock 'N’ Roll Heart by Eric Clapton

I’ve never really been big into cell phones. I don’t really care about having the newest one with the camera and the mp3 player and the touch screen and the lotion dispenser. I just want a phone that works, one I can make calls on and send texts. The only times I’ve gotten new phones are when my old one has died but after seeing this commercial for the first time in my life I was excited about a new cell phone.

Yes, the only reason I want this phone is because of Eric Clapton, the fact that it has a the classic Fender Stratocaster sunburst design on the back and because this ad features my new favorite Eric Clapton song, “I’ve Got a Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart.”

So after finding this commercial on and watching this 30-second clip about 43 times I broke down and downloaded the song on itunes. On what sweet, bluesy ecstasy.

This is Clapton pre-“Tears In Heaven” (which I wrote about in one of my first posts). Clapton had great success in the 1960s and 1970s but as the 1980s began, things were not going so well. After battling a heroin addiction and admitting that he was an alcoholic, Clapton went into the studio to produce what he considered most forced album, Money and Cigarettes. You wouldn’t have known this if all you knew from Clapton was the lead single from that 1983 album, “I’ve Got a Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart.”

The instrumental introduction with the organ pouring in like sunlight with soulful guitar licks set a warm and optimistic tone for this song. You know the first twenty seconds of this song how good its going to feel.

Clapton’s voice quietly creeps in describing how serious this relationship is getting. He feels need to warn his love interest before it gets any further how much music is part of his life and with that we have the laid back and inspired chorus that is featured in the cell phone advertisement.

I get off on 57 Chevys,
I get off on screaming guitars.
Ike the way it hits me every time it hits me.
I’ve got a rock and roll, I’ve got a rock and roll heart.

The way the song leads up to the chorus there’s a sense of warning, “there’s something baby that you got to know.” And while Clapton explains the way he feels about music, it quickly switches from a warning to an declaration of love. It’s not so much that these are things to be fearful of but that his woman has to understand how great these things makes him feels.

The best thing about this song it expresses that feeling that Clapton so perfectly sings about. Simply close your eyes, turn up this one and my God it’s the perfect combination of rock, blues. It’s simply righteous. I understand Eric, I don’t want to change either.

Man if that cell phone makes me feel as good as this song I’ll buy a dozen. Talk about the perfect song to for that commercial. God I love music.

Maybe I should have warned Diana about my rock ‘n’ roll heart. . .

Monday, February 15, 2010

We Are The World

“We Are The World” has always held a special place in my heart. As a young music geek, the original 1985 version of this song was a sampling of who was relevant and important at that time. Some of those artists who participated in the original like Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan continue to produce important music however many participants like James Ingram, LaToya Jackson and Peter Cetera are not known now to most people.

This song written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson and produced by one of the greatest producers of all time Quincy Jones never claimed to feature all of the greatest artists of the time. There are many people that you can point to at the time who were absent like Neil Diamond, Madonna, Johnny Cash, who were relevant back then and whose influence is still felt right now. And of course there were no British guys, I know it was “USA for Africa” but c’mon where was Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney?

“We Are The World” featured incredible “dream team” duets like Billy Joel and Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick and Willie Nelson and Springsteen trading ad libs in the end with Stevie Wonder still gives me chills.

This song was a huge success, was a top selling single and a cultural phenomenon. And now twenty-five years later “We Are The World” is back. Lionel Ritchie, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones had considered remaking “We Are The World many times but the tragedy in Haiti provided the greatest reason to make this remake happen.

Ritchie and Jones decided first off that they would get a whole new crop of artist, people who participated in the original were not going to be in the cover except for Ritchie himself and Michael Jackson. As news of this remake broke there was a lot of skepticism in the news. Arap verse was going to be added, artist which many see as not “legit” like the Jonas Brothers were spotting walking into the recording studio and for some reason Lil-Wayne and T-Pain being asked to sing.

And this is what they came up with:

Love it or hate it, this cover of “We Are The World” is very much a spiritual child from the original. There are some legends like Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand and LL Cool J as well as teen idols lot like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Before you go crazy about how theses people shouldn’t be there keep in mind in the original recording, Cyndi Lauper, Springsteen and Huey Louis were more teen idols than anything else.

There are some beautiful moments Josh Groban's classical touch. Tony Benntt is a gentle elder statesman and Mary J. Blige proves that she really is one of the greatest soul singers of her time. Michael and Janet. . . there’s really not words. Wyclef singing for his own people is inspired and Usher singing the bridge with Michael his hero is a fitting tribute. Jamie Foxx doing his best Ray Charles was a fun and I’ll even give Celine Dion props, Fergie on the other hand well. . . whatever.

As much as you may not like Lil’ Wayne, T-Pain and this whole auto-tune thing, it is an important and relevant way that people express themselves through music and featuring it in this song is putting this sound in a times capsule so that people understood that it's part of music. “I’m On A Boat” is good stuff people.

The rap section led by living hip-hop legend, LL Cool J with, Snood Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Kanye West and many others. They wisely to chose to make this section most chant like and focused on the clarity of the rhymes and lyrics as opposed to rapid fire delivery. It’s a declaration of values and solidarity that proves that the art of rap isn’t tied down to the themes of drugs and gangster life.

Quincy Jones opened up the song creating a more dynamic background. The ending in brilliant having the instrumentals drop out and letting Wyclef’s voice echo out. This song rejuvenates the original but there is a rejuvenated dynamic which reflects how much pop music has changed in the past twenty-five years. What remains the same is also what continues to make the pop music relevant: great melodies, powerful messages and beautiful voices.

I don’t what it is about Michael Jackson. His death still feels unresolved for me. Seeing him featured prominently in this new version makes me happy but also a little sad. I don’t think he’s a martyr. I’ve acknowledged the darkness in this life but there were great things that he provided this culture and “We Are The World” is one of them.

The demo of “We Are The World” revels the soul of this song which really is Michael’s view of the world. His intentions musically truly were something amazing. It’s an amazing thing how the 1985 version captured this spirit and I’m glad to see it carried on 25 years later.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall

Me as a high school music theory teacher-T
Female music theory student-F

T-so Allison, what music have you brought on to share with everyone for listening day
F-I have this fantastic song that I love by KT Tunstall called “Suddenly I See”
T-sounds great, tell me a little about it.
F-well, it’s like rock, but it’s got a unique beat and the lyrics are really cool
T-What it is about the lyric that like?
F-I’m not sure
T-Well, what’s the lyrics like, let me rephrase my questions, what is this song about?
F-It’s about a girls whose face is a map of the word.
T- . . . um. . . ok. . . let’s take a listen.

Wow, well. I guess?!? Sigh, some people have a way of taking lyrics literally, but really?

After I got over the fact that my student so literally interpreted the lyrics I really go into “Suddenly I See.” This is one of those great revelation songs, which have been featured in television and film, most notably at in The Devils Wears Prada.

KT Tunstall is a Scottish singer-songwriter, whose break out hit reminds us that there across the pond there is fresh interesting and amazing things happening in popular music. Tunstall voice is carefree but weathered. There is grit in her tone but the her laid back delivery draws you into the world that she weaves.

“Suddenly I See” is not is about a girl who inspires a revelation, but an understanding of bigger things. The “map of the world,” isn’t exactly that but rather a way that Tunstall figuratively describes the character of this woman. Along with the great lines like “she fills up every corner like she’s born in black and white” we get not so much a visual idea of this girl rather the way it feels to witness her walk by, what it feels like to suddenly see the light.

Life is a constant struggle to understand not only what we want to be but also what we are. In describing who we are, the person that we want to be often gets mixed up as the level of self-reflection and strength to truly look within takes more courage than most of us can muster. This song reminds us that sometimes through looking at others, we see into ourselves.

It’s often said that the things we dislike about our parents are the things we do not like about ourselves. In this same vein, the insults we direct towards others are simply reflections of our own insecurities. As painful as this is to think about people, it’s true. The thing is that understanding always makes us feel better about our lives even if it means understanding something that we don’t want to admit to ourselves.

The light bulbs illuminating above our heads feels so good because it means there is less in the world that is in the dark, less that we can’t handle. We fear what we don’t understanding and every little ounce of fear that we diminish from our lives makes the sun shine that much brighter.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Heart of Teen Mom

I finally finished watching the finale Teen Mom, the MTV spin-off show from I’m 16 And Pregnant. I’m one week late because of getting food poising at a Chinese restaurant (yeah just dwell of that irony). After reflecting on the experience of watching the whole series, I’ve concluded that Teen Mom is one of the best television shows that MTV has put on in a long time.

Teen Mom feels like a mix of The Hills, the plotted and scripted “reality” show and MTV True Life a legit documentary series (which has included some of the best television journalism I’ve ever seen like “I’m Coming Home From Iraq”). Now in Teen Mom I realize that there is manipulation in scenes and situations and that the editors have a strong part in shaping the way we view the reality of this show. But it really isn’t relevant to a piece of art how “true” it is.

Maci and Ryan

Just because a movie is based on a true story doesn’t make it a better movie and if a film leans on that to draw viewers in then there probably isn’t a lot there worth watching. No one goes to Hamlet and complains that it’s all made up. I don't watch Teen Mom expecting an accurate, unbiased and objective view of these people. This show is entertainment first. And as entertainment it's fantastic.

Why did I initially watch this show? Because of the commercials that showed Amber hitting Gary after he disrespected her father.

My initial reaction was “wow, this girl is crazy and whacked out, I’ve got to watch this train wreck.” But when I sat down at watched show the “schadenfreude” feeling of enjoying watching these teenage mom struggle through life quickly disappeared and what was left was a sympathetic feeling as the show followed these moms through everyday struggles.

There’s Farrah who simply doesn’t understand that having a kid means that she can’t go out and party. Gary and Amber, who try to keep things together but they simply don’t know how to anymore. Maci struggles with Ryan who simply doesn’t seem to care and then there’s Caitlyn and Tyler a couple dealing with giving up their child up for adoption.

One of the my friends commented what was most shocking about Teen Mom is what people don’t do. It’s like the way that negative space defines form in painting. Farrah doesn’t insist on spending every night with her child. Ryan wakes up to hear his son crying and instead of comforting his son walks out of the house and drives away. Gary doesn't helping Amber get to her GED. But it’s not all negative, Tyler doesn't leave Caitlin through all her depression, struggles and tears and he never gave on her.

Farrah and Sophie

What we saw in the finale of this series was these moms trying to make the best first birthday party they could for their child. It wasn’t about the fathers or even themselves, they wanted to do something for their kid who may not understand or appreciate everything that is going on but these mothers do these things anyways.

Every single mom found meaning in caring for their child at the end of the finale. It was a life-affirming and powerful way to end a show that could had easily simply been exploitive. Instead the show chose to have heart, to believe in these mother.

The mothers are regular people trying to make things work and within these lives true heroics are seen in everyday struggles: Farrah enjoying baby class with her mom, Amber getting a job, Maci putting aside her anger with Ryan to plan a party and of course Ryan proposing to Caitlin were moments that warmed my heart and reminded us that life really is about the little moments that we share with each other.

This show is not so much about how horrible it is to be a teenage mom but rather a celebration of what is truly meaningful in life.

It’s easy to watch this show and be high and mighty. Yeah, seeing some of these situations makes me feel proud that my relationship with Diana, but that’s not really fair. These moms really are teenagers.

I’ve gotten a jokes thrown at me for watching and enjoying Teen Mom. And if you’re someone who has a knee jerk reactions against this show, I don’t blame you. MTV doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record of creating meaningful and relevant television shows. However, Teen Mom is different and I encourage you to give this show a try.

Leah and Amber

I hope that some teenagers watch this show and think twice about the choices they make in their lives and realize what it truly means to be a parents. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but after watching these teenagers amazing journeys, I'm feeling hopeful.

Monday, February 8, 2010

In Defense of The Who

Dear Mr. DeRogatis

What do you think you accomplished with your review of The Who’s performance at the Super Bowl?

After reading, “Out there in the field, fossils barely resemble the Who,” I wasn’t so much disappointed that you didn’t like the Who’s performance but rather the way you justified your opinion.

You started out calling the recent trend of classical rock stars at the Super Bowl half-time show “an increasingly hoary roster.” You called the band at yesterday’s performance “the band that pretends to be the Who.” You criticized Townshend’s hat and sunglasses and then went on criticize the fact that they newest song on the set list was 32 years old, calling the songs over-familiarity a problem. You only gave one musical criticism towards the end of your review when you stated that they were flat and out of sync.

Now, I don’t believe that critic’s jobs are just to bash things and I constantly defend the role of critics in our culture to my friends. I read critics' writings on a daily basis. Your colleague Roger Ebert is one of my favorite writers of all time. But when you write a review like this I understand my friends’ frustrations.

Who would you suggest perform at the Super Bowl instead? You question that there has to be something between “pop pandering of Justin Timberlake and the recent procession of sad old Hall of Famers phoning it in.” You are a music critic and I assume you have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music, so be an expert, pull out something that you liked about past half-time shows, celebrate that and suggest some ideas. Your role as a critic cannot just be to criticize, it needs to also be constructive help artist create better art.

Some of the things you said were not well-thought out strong arguments. You said that the NFL commercial featuring Arcade Fire (who I've raved about in this previous post) proved that the big game’s “commercials are often a lot more entertaining than what happens on the field.”

I agree, that’s true, often the Super Bowl itself is lame, but that wasn’t the case last night. It was one of the most entertaining Super Bowl games I’ve ever seen. I mean c'mon the onside kick to open the second half was crazy good times. So you bring up how the Super Bowl game were boring in the past because if reflected about this year’s you wouldn't be able to make your point.

Yes, The Who is a shadow of the band that they used to be but keep in mind that they are one of the greatest bands of all time. And them being a shadow of their past selves is still a better rock band than most younger bands performing right now.

What is so bad about The Who doing this show for a paycheck? It's not like the people playing in the Super Bowl are doing it simply for the love of the game. Let's be honest, you're a music critic, so you should know that if it wasn't for the all mighty paycheck most of the pop music greatest artists would not be such a central part of our culture. The only reason Bach wrote all that great church music was because he was paid. Let's do our homework.

These rock Gods are old and they do not perform as well as they do in the past. So you can either mourn they have grown older or celebrate and be inspired by the fact they can still rock better than most people half their age. I don't know about you but seeing guys in their sixties rock like this gives me hope that when I'm their age I'll still be doing my thing.

My biggest disagreement with you you is your complaint that the music is old. Yes, I also love Arcade Fire and the NFL commercial with them was awesome but if they performed at half time it would mystified the audience. I hope that newer band will eventually have enough mass appeal to perform at the Super Bowl but at this point, older music that has crossed generations is the most fitting choice for the Super Bowl half time show stage.

This is the Super Bowl, an unofficial national holiday. You don't introduce a strange new food in a Super Bowl party. You serve chili and hot dogs. You don't introduce a new uniform or rule in the football game on this day either and the music should celebrate these traditions by embracing music that may be old but is relevant and important parts of our culture.

You are a music critic, an expert in the field. We need your expertise to better understand and reflect on our cultural experiences. Not acknowledging any of the positive things about the performance except for the stage doesn’t help understand the context of what we saw last night.

What did you accomplish in your review? Well, absolutely nothing. Without solid musical arguments and a educated perspective you came off more as random person anonymously trying to start an argument on a discussion thread than a journalist. You have a job an honorable and important please treat your station with respect and be a professionalism.

If you didn’t like last night performance, that’s fine. But please think about your arguments a little better and please be more constructive. We have enough unreasonable political arguments coming from both major parties. We don’t need this negativity and ridiculousness in music.

-Kingsley Tang

Friday, February 5, 2010

What it means to spay Buffy

We make a lot of decision for Buffy. We chose her vet, her food, which puppy class she was going to take and even her Halloween costume. Sometimes when we are at the pet store, we hold up two toys and let Buffy pick one but more often than not Diana and I have dictated the important decision in Buffy’s life. One of the most important decisions in Buffy’s life we made well-before getting her.

Our dog was going to get spayed.

This decision didn't really phase Diana or I until a week before this procedure was to happen. Part of it was the risk factors in the surgery. Buffy would have to go under which has its and the spay surgery though routine is quite invasive. It’s a lot more than getting tubes tie. It’s more have the entire plumbing system is removed. If you still don’t get what, I mean think about the technical name for this procedure: ovariohysterectomy.

We were also concerned about the 24 hours Buffy would be at the vet. Diana dropped Buffy off at 8am on Friday and we picked her up Saturday at 8am. They do this for a couple reasons. First off to observe Buffy and make sure that there aren’t any complications and second to spare the owners.

A dog coming out of anesthesia is groggy, often nauseous, cannot get up on his or her four legs and with the surgery is often in pain. This sight is sometimes too much to take for owners, Lord knows it would be for me. Regardless of these logical reasons, Diana and I missed her terribly especially at night knowing that our dog was sleeping only half a block away at our vets in a strange place without the comforts of home.

The main thing that Diana and I talked about at length was the fact that we were deciding whether Buffy was going to have kids. This is a life altering decision for Buffy and she had no say in it. She will never raise puppies, know what it means to be around a family of dogs and never get a chance to be a mom.

However there are positives. Buffy never going to go in heat, which takes away a host of other social and physical issues. Her risk of certain kinds of cancer will drop dramatically (this argument is a little silly though, I mean it’s kind of like saying “the plus side of losing your foot is that your chances of stubbing your toe is much less”). And well there’s a bunch of other arguments all over the web, from mood changes and other health issues. Honestly none of them really convinced me that this was such a positive thing to do.

Look, it’s not like Diana and I are irresponsible dog owners. I think we can keep our dog from getting action on the weekends. But what I realized is that getting Buffy spayed isn’t really so much about Diana and I or even Buffy, it’s about something bigger.

As a country, we have an embarrassing and ridiculous problem: there is an excess of unwanted pets. While many people give up there pets for understandable and respectable reasons, most unwanted pets are result or irresponsible owners who either don’t do their homework before getting a dog or let their dog breed and then have unwanted pets. This with the addition of unsold pets from breeders and puppy mills a result of corrupt monetary motivations causes a problem that there is excuse for.

A pet is a luxury. A luxury in our society shouldn’t become a problem, because it’s something at the first place that isn’t necessarily. Now I’m not some super-hippy environmentalist, but I do think cruelty to animals is unethical and complete avoidable and allowing dogs to breeds resulting in puppies that no one is cruel and reprehensible.

Buffy being spayed is saying we believe in what it means to care for a dog. We’re taking the extra effort to do something that vast majority of dogs owners should do. I’m not saying that people breed dogs. Buffy’s breeder Dorothy Christiansen is a fantastic breeder, who takes responsibility for her dogs. Her level of care is such that she makes everyone who gets a dog from her sign a contract. This documents states that if a buyer decided to get rid of the dog they got from her they will return the dog to her and not a shelter so that she can find the dog a new home or else keep the dogs as her own pet. Unfortunately, not every breeder is as responsible as Dorothy because if they were we would have a fraction of the pets in shelters that we do right now.

Buffy’s recovering well. Her first night back she woke up at 4am needing to go to the bathroom, which is the first time since the first night we got her home that she didn’t make it through the night. This isn’t too big a deal, anesthesia usually throws the digestive system off a tad. We’ve been giving her pill for the pain which we are sure is lessening.

Oh yeah, she has to wear a cone of shame to keep Buffy from licking her incision. When you put in on forward, she is quite confused. It’s both hilarious and sad all at the same time. We flipped it down, still does the trick and she can operate like a usually puppy. . . .for the most part. She can’t really scratch her ears with her hinds legs so we’ve been helping her with that.

I don’t think Buffy will even understand why we left her at the vet overnight or why she has a scar on her tummy. She’ll never know why she’ll never have any babies. But I think she’ll be ok. Diana and I will more than make up for it for the rest of her life. And trust me Buffy there will eventually be kids running around that you can more than help Diana and I parent.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hallelujah by Justin Timberlake/Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley/Rufus Wainwright

On January 22nd, the entertainment world came together to raise money for Haiti. Movie stars made pleas for donations and answered phones while pop musicians supplied the music.

Some artists like Madonna performed songs from their past.

Other artists like Jay-Z and Bono composed music specifically for this event.

Some artists like Justin Timberlake covered songs by other artists and it was Timberlake’s performance of “Hallelujah” which is the top selling single from the Hope For Haiti Now album on itunes and is currently the top selling single as well.

“Hallelujah” originally composed and performed Leonard Cohen in 1984 is unique song in popular music. It’s never been a number one hit but it’s a widely covered and loved song that has inspired generations of musicians and songwriters. Known for spending inordinate amount of time writing his songs, Cohen is an artists’ artist, a true craftsmen of music who has written some of the most memorable music of our time. If your life hasn’t been influenced by his music, I guarantee you that an artist that you love has been.

I can’t begin to explicate the lyrics of this song. The allusions in this song are as thick and interwoven as a T.S. Elliot poem. Images personal, historical, religious are spoken through words that are angry, regretful, bitter, depressed and joyful all at the same time.

The fact that I can’t really effectively articulate what this song is about in words is credit to the power of this song. Music can express different levels of emotion all at the same time. This song is a beautiful tragedy, it's a mournful celebrations, and “it’s a cold and broken hallelujah.”

“Hallelujah” has become a tradition, a test, a way for artist to really show if they have “it.” Because of the ambiguity in the lyrics and the colors of emotions that Cohen painted, artists can bring forward different shades through their interpretations. This is something that few artist have effectively done and Jeff Buckley’s interpretations is one of the most successful.

Stripped down and bare, Buckley’s recording features his light tenor that contrasts Cohen’s powerful baritone. Where Cohen sounds like an old man looking back on life, Buckley’s version is a young man making a revelation about the nature of the rest of his life.

Probably the most famous cover of this song is by Rufus Wainwright who’s cover was featured on the soundtrack of Shrek.

Wainwright’s faster and almost detached interpretation adds a sense of wonder to the darkness of this song. when Wainwright sings it almost seems like he’s being uncaring but it’s not so much that as viewing from a distance what it means to be human.

Knowing all of the performances that came before and the responsibility to treat “Hallelujah” with reverence, Justin Timberlake took an enormous chance. If he failed, if his interpretation faltered, and was disingenuous at all it would have come across flat and uninspiring. Instead, Timberlake proved that they were true artists performing “Hallelujah” with great care and artistry.

Is “Hallelujah” the most appropriate song to reflect on all the lives that have been lost and the unthinkable living situations of the survivors? Yes.

When we listen to great music, we associate emotions in the art to experiences in our lives. We relive these moments and reflect on what they mean in our lives. “Hallelujah” somehow encapsulates what it means to struggle, to need, and to celebrate to be alive. It forces us to consider what we value, what we need and what we believe in.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Speechless/Your Song by Lady Gaga & Elton John

Man the Grammy’s just keep getting more painful to watch every year but there is hope.

Unlike the the CMA, the Grammy's seems more concerned with spectacle as opposed to the art of music. The amazing Grammy moments in the past weren't memorable because of insane stage effects or mountains of dancers. They were great because of the music.

It’s always been about the music like Ella Fitzgerald scatting right while presenting a Grammy.

btw, this really is the greatest thing EVER.

And Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand performing "You Don't Bring Me Flowers " for the first time.

. . . yeah, isn’t the greatest thing ever but this performance always gets to me.

These moments featured artists doing what they did best at an amazing level and yes, the music industry has changed. Artists do big stage productions during tours and have high-budget music videos but at the same time, what is meaningful, what is significant is still the music.

Probably the worst part of the Grammy’s was the Michaela Jackson tribute. I mean no disrespect to Michael Jackson, but the 3D tribute performance of "Earth Song" was gimmicky and came across as silly, especially when you saw people in the Grammy audience wearing 3D glasses.

Now maybe it the stuff on the screens were in 3D for the Grammy audience but I doubt it was at an Avatar level. Honestly, the MTV Music Video Music Awards Tribute focusing on his art as opposed to his philanthropy is much more palatable and appropriate.

Janet dancing with her brother one last time. . . wow.

I'll give the Grammy's credit, even in the modern age of the show there have been some truly amazing performances. Melissa Ethe ridge singing "Piece Of My Heart" became an inspiring statement of her triumph over breast cancer (which I covered in this earlier post).

This year the most significant moments wasn't the SWAT team that came in with Beyonce or the lackluster performance of "Rhianna" with Taylor Swift and Stevie Nicks, but it was Lady Gaga and Elton John's duet that truly left me breathless.

After a performance of her hit “Poker Face,” Lady Gaga got dumped into the “Fame Factory” and emerged singed with singing at a piano with Elton sitting across from her. As the camera panned over to Elton wearing Gaga like glasses we were reminded that once upon a time Elton wore things just as crazy as Gaga did.

However, we dealt with it just like the insanity that Gaga continues to display because he could play and perform like nobody’s business. With just her voice and her piano, Gaga proved that she could play as well.

As they effortlessly melded Elton’s classic “Your Song” with Gaga’s “Speechless” and Gaga let Elton jam on the piano, there was a sense of reverence and love. When Elton John sang “How wonderful life is with Gaga in the world,” there was a sense that he was acknowledging Gaga’s fans and also saying to all of his fans, “check Lady Gaga out, she’s the real deal.”

Even more touching was Lady Gaga’s response, “Thank you, love you, Sir Elton John.” Beneath the make-up Lady Gaga’s eyes twinkled with the smiled of a 10 year-old girl. In this moment simply as a fan, Lady Gaga expressed for herself and all of us how grateful we are for Elton John. It was not only a musical revelation but is the most heartwarming moments in Grammy history.

You can’t manufacture moments like these, they have to come from the hearts of the performers. It’s the simply things that have the most meaning. Sometimes you don’t need to look any further then allowing a Lady to give thanks to a Knight.