Monday, May 31, 2010

Hot In Herre by Nelly

It’s getting hot over here in Chicago.

A perfectly logical response to the warming of temperature is to take off articles of clothing, sweaters, hats, jackets, scarf.

Nelly took this a step further. Forget about taking of some of your clothes to cool, “it’s getting hot in herre so take of all of your clothes."  This statement would be completely absurd except for the fact the response from the woman in this situation of rising temperature agrees, “I am getting so hot, I’m going to take my clothes off.”



What, is Nelly a hypnotist or something? Really, could he have said, “it’s getting hot herre, so give all of your money” and then the woman would response, “I am getting so hot, I’m going to give you all of my money!”

Okay, okay, I guess this whole “take off all your clothes,” is a natural sensual extension of the idea of one taking some clothes off because of heat.  Hey you’re at a party things are getting crazy, why not flirt with the idea of getting naked?  Lord knows it's better than what I could have come up with:  “It’s getting hot in herre, so open all your windows."

I am SURE that some person who maybe had a little bit too much to drink heard Nelly’s suggestion on how to cool off and actually did take all of their clothes off. You don’t think so?  Well, we are a pretty suggestible society; “Hot In Heere” sold over 500,00 copies.

I was in college when this song hit and it was played at every party I went to. There is a lot built into this song that makes it fun to dance to from syncopated bass line to the fascinatingly internal logic of the chorus. There’s plenty of “uh, uh,” Nelly asks for that a crowd can provide (maybe instead of repeatedly asking for a little he should have asked for a lot). Then there’s the lines set apart from the rhythm of the rap like “I think mah butt in there!!” that fun to sing along with.

My favorite part:
Stop pacing, time wasting
I gotta a friend with a fo' in the basement (What?)
I'm just kiddin like Jason (Oh)
Unless you gon' do it.

I don’t even know what he has in the basement but you know it’s something that the girl is kind of offended by but Nelly doesn't care.

Awesome.

One final note about this song apparently extra "R" in "Herre" is not a pronunciation thing but a rather an indication that is really hot. If this song was “Hot In Herrre” books would be igniting into flame.

Don't worry Chicago, no matter how catchy this song is and how hot it gets I will keep my clothes on.  

What a song. 

Now enjoy Weird Al's version.



Friday, May 28, 2010

Buffy is a really smart dog . . . sometimes



Buffy's breed Shetland Sheepdogs are regularly listed as one of the top 10 smartest dog breeds.

These "smartest dog breed" lists usually measure adaptive intelligence, the dog's ability to problem solve, understand language and social cues. Even though we have yet to do one of these tests on Buffy I can tell you Buffy is smart puppy.

Buffy got potty trained quickly (this earlier post discusses this process). She has been pretty easy to train, except for the coming issue but we've made a lot of progress with that. She remembers where we put things, she knows what time things should usually happen and she learns quickly what she should and should not do.

As impressive as Buffy is she never fails to remind us that she is smart for a dog. Remember this early clip of Buffy fighting herself in the mirror?



Yeah that's just the start of it.

Buffy likes to chase her tail which is normal dog behavior and often Buffy will actually catch her tail in her mouth. What's a little weird is how sometimes she'll stop, look back at her tail and try to run away from it. . . sigh.



I got to admit though the way she tries to talk to me has got to be a sign of something going on in her brain (and it's really cute). 

Then there the stuff Buffy feels she need to bark at. Now Buffy doesn't really bark at people or other dogs but she definitely shows her dislike to inanimate objects like flags, swifter wipes, lint rollers, paper towels, basically anything that we use to try to clean the house. Vacuum cleaners? It's nor so much the sound or the vacuum in motion that bugs her, just the fact that when i move it it's not in the place she think it should be.

Buffy's aversion to cleaning is kind of ironic as Shetland Sheepdogs are known as the cats of the dog breeds because of their tendency to want to stay clean.  Buffy will almost always spend time cleaning her paws whenever they get wet. . . I guess she just doesn't like the idea of us doing cleaning ourselves.


Buffy does try to eat things that are gross and while I understand her instinct to smell other dogs "markings" that can't be a sanitary habit and not exactly a sign of higher level thinking.

Oh and there's the fact that Buffy sometimes seems to forget sometimes that my feet are part of my body and not a little animal for her to heard.  Sometime I can't walk because I have an appendage in the form of a dog trying with all her might to get my foot to stop moving. Then when my foot finally does stop moving Buffy will sit there and incessantly bark.

What? I guess this is her herding instinct. . . bark at something until it stops and then bark at it when it does to get it moving? Riiiight.

Don't get me wrong I love my little "girly-bear." She's sweet, affectionate, loyal and responsible. When Diana and I are in different rooms she makes sure she sits equidistant between the two of us so that she can keep track of us.

In the evening when Diana and I are getting ready for bed Buffy will try as her might to stay awake until the both of us have settled down in bed.  She will sit there and her eyes will slowly drop closed and she will quickly perk up when we walk by.  This level of care she has for us is one of the most touching things she does.   


She may not be able to do math or appreciate Shakespeare but she works hard to take care of us  Buffy reminds me that intelligence isn't necessarily the most important thing in the people in our lives.  It's what in the heart that endears people to us.   


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Scenes From An Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel

Were you the popular kid in high school? Homecoming King, Prom Queen, always at the cool parties, had the nicest car, coolest clothes, (in the case of my school) nicest cell phone.

Well, I wasn’t.

If I were to fit into any stereotypical social clique, I’d be a band geek. As much as I loved what I did in high school part of me always wanted to be one of the popular kids. In college, things were different. High school style social cliques were non-existent and within my group of friends I felt I fit in and while it wasn’t really that important to me I would categorize myself in college as being “popular.” However, somehow I never got over the feeling of social inadequacy from high school.

To reconcile these feelings I told myself that the “popular kids” in high school peaked socially in high school (which is a depressing thought) and while they were going to parties I was developing my musical craft which took me to one of the best universities in America.

In Chicago, made a new group of friends and went on to bigger and better things while the popular kids went to the state college, hung out with the same friends they had in high school and ending up living in the same zip code as their parents. Is this necessarily true? No. However, it makes me feel better to think this and with the popularity of “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” it’s clear I’m not the only one who feels vindicated at the downfall of the popular kids.



Billy Joel’s “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” is an epic song with a non-traditional reflective form inspired by the B-side of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. The song has three distinct sections modeled after the classical symphonic form.  The song is bookended with the “bottle of red” music with a transition “got a new job, got a new office” part that moves into "The Ballad Of Brenda and Eddie." The slower opening and ending is reflective moment as a husband sings to his wife about the prospect of a nice evening together, satisfied with life and enjoying the presence of the one the loves.

The second scene comes straight out of high school reunion. There is a sense of revelry and nostalgia as the conversation quickly changes from the mundane present “got a nice job” to the glory of the past “my sweet romantic teenage nights.” On a dime, all the instruments cut out leaving a rocking bass pattern on the piano as Billy Joel prepares to shows off his unique style of rock, darker and edgier then the music of his youth but rocking just as hard.

“The Ballad Of Brenda And Eddie” tells the story of two popular kids, who had seemed to have it all in high school as the singer reflects, “we never knew we could want more than that out of life.” Because of this there is a feeling that Brenda and Eddie had it all figured out and “would know how to survive.”

Then the illusion begins to fall apart in the second verse when Brenda and Eddie decide to get married and their friends call them crazy for making this decision. The marriage falls apart and the last line reflects,” we always knew that they’d find a way to get by."  This contrasts the ending of the first verse as a statement of hopefulness rather than confidence. While this song is a comforting for those of us were not the popular kids, this song is more about the reality of popularity, well, rather the illusion of popularity.

Feelings of social inadequacy and idealizing the life of others have more to do with ourselves than the people around us. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or how popular people think you are, there will always be someone else who seems to have it better off than you do. 

Have I let go of all of my feelings about high school?  I'm getting there.  It doesn't really matter though.  The idea going to an Italian restaurant with my wife beats out any memory from high school.

"The good old days weren't always good and tomorrows not as bad as it seems."   

 

Friday, May 21, 2010

American Heart by Jonathan Kahn aka Jon David

The Wall Street Journal is good at a lot of things, reporting about music is not one of them. Neil King of the WSJ transformed the fascinating story of Jonathan Kahn, the artist who composed and perform "American Heart" the anthem of the Tea Party movement into a one-sided criticism of liberal intolerance.  Could I do better job?  Yes, read on. 



What is story "American Heart" really about music, politics, or something different altogether?

A couple days ago a friend of mine e-mailed me about the song "American Heart"  He also sent me this link to a Wall Street Journal article about this song.

Here’s a quick summary of the article: Jonathan Kahn, a Hollywood screenwriter, director and songwriter has been performing his song “America Heart” at Tea-Party conventions. Until recently he has been hiding his identify with a hat and sunglasses and performed under the pseudo-name “Jon David.”

Because Kahn was afraid of being “ostracized in a the town where he peddles his songs and scripts,” Kahn created identity because as he states “In Hollywood, being a conservative is the kiss of death.”

Music producer Afanasieff (responsible for hits like "A Whole New World") is quoted in this article stating, "I mean, he's a member of a huge, Democratic, liberal organization called the Los Angeles entertainment business."  Of course, this is a gross over-generalization. 



Is this any different than when the country music community reacted to the Dixie Chicks by blacklisting them off radio stations when Natalie Maines criticized George Bush?

Should the Dixie Chicks have gotten as much heat as they did for expressing what they thought? No, and should Kahn be criticized by his peers for having a political belief that doesn’t line up with people in his industry, of course not.

What’s fascinating about all of this is there is nothing inherently conservative, Republican or “Tea Party” about “American Made.” (Follow this link to the lyrics). Except for the second verse, this song rings pretty true to my own personal liberal-tilted political viewpoint.

Musically this song has a nice “Bob Seeger” sheen. It works well as an anthem balancing out the more introspective verses with a more declarative chorus. However, there’s nothing “Tea Party” the melody or the harmonies.

This isn’t a knock against the quality of this song but rather an observation that the political nature of this anthem has less to do with the song itself and more to do with the phenomenon of musical meaning coming from outside the music.

This situation is less a political issues but rather a symptom of a general lack of acceptance of political pluralism in certain people's minds. It's sad that both liberals and conservatives have displayed this insidious lack of acceptance, which I do not believe characterizes the majority of people in both of these groups.

What's going to be the most telling part of this story is whether or not Kahn revealing his identity will actually have similar ramifications as it did for the Dixie Chicks. If it does and Kahn is ostracized in a business sense then there is shame on the film industry.  If not then this is a story more about the feeling of political victimization rather than the reality of political intolerance.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gold Digger by Kayne West

Marriage is a financial institution. Now I'm not trying to "bah humbug" the importance of love within marriage but the reality is that throughout human history most societies viewed marriage as an economic agreement. Think about it: dowrys, arranged marriages and even now fathers of brides still often pay for weddings.  And we can't forget the widespread use of pre-nuptial contracts.

Entire the idea of a girl as a "gold digger." A girl who is only going out with a guy because he has money.  While woman are often criticized for this and we forget the guy has a role in all of this enabling this behavior.



Kayne West with his 2005 smash hit "Gold Digger" explored the idea of a gold digger idea from different angles. Featuring a sample from the Ray Charles hit, "I've Got Woman," "Gold Digger" is fun, infectious and surprisingly insightful.



In the first verse Kayne describes how he met a girl who has high class tastes ("with a baby Louis Vuitton under her underarm"). He goes on to describe that she has four kids and he has to pay for all of their dinner. Towards the end of the verse he describes how she used to be with Buster Douglas and Usher but Kayne stands by his woman, " I don't care what none of y'all say I still love her."

The second verse is a hilarious cautionary tale of what could happen with a gold digger. Kayne tells the story of a football player who has a baby with a gold digging woman. Showing off his prowess as a rapper (which is impressive) Kayne tells about how she misuses the child support money.

She was supposed to buy ya shorty Tyco with ya money
She went to the doctor got lipo with ya money.
She walkin' around lookin' like Michael [Jackson] with ya money.
Shoulda' got that insured, GEICO for ya money.

What immediately follows is one of the funniest shout-out audience responses. Have you ever been at a dance party when Kayne says "holla' we want pre-nup" and a rooms full of guys response with "WE WANT PRE-NUP!!"? It's absolutely hysterical. Then the verse ends with a kicker: "And on her 18th birthday, he found out it wasn't his?"

The song ends with a message to the ladies. Kayne understanding that woman has needs but warns them that the guy has ambition and can "make it to a Benz out of that Datsun." He warns her that if she doesn't do right by her he'll leave her and she'll regret it.

All three verses are calls to look beyond money. The first verse is about a man's belief in his woman, the second verse is more about a man simply not being smart and letting a woman take advantage of him and the last verse is about looking beyond the material.

Money isn't just about money. The way people value money and the role money plays in their lives is a reflection of who they are. In this way, having a talk in a relationships about money and making an "economic agreement" in a marriage is more than just about money, it's about trust, values, communication and love.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey Ya! by Outkast

While “shake it like a Polaroid picture” became of the most popular phrases of 2003, it doesn’t really work all that well in practice. At the last wedding I was at “Hey Ya!” came on and when the end dance break hit and I watched girls try to shake “it” as if “it” was a rapidly developing photograph. . . yeah . . . not such a good idea.

I still remember the first time I heard this song. My brother sent me the album that "Hey Ya" was on and I received it right before leaving for the airport. In a hurry I uploaded the CD onto itunes and put it on my ipod, got in the cab and got to the airport.



Sitting outside the gate with about half an hour to kill I got out my ipod and listened to “Hey Ya!” My immediate reaction was “what the. . .?!?” Simply mystified by what I heard I listened to the song again and again. After listening to the song repeatedly for half an hour I was convinced I had heard the greatest song ever.

It seemed at the time that the entire world agreed with me. Even if you spent the entirety of 2003 stuck in a cave with your head buried in the ground, you heard “Hey Ya!” This spastic, surreal, pop hit ruled the air waves, dance clubs and internet videos.



Like many popular songs it couldn’t be avoided and through no fault of the song itself, “Hey Ya!” got kind of old. Somewhere along the line screaming “ICE COLD!!” to the question “what’s cooler than being cool?” stopped being clever and simply was a logical answer to a inquiry about temperature.

How does this song hold up now? “Hey Ya!” still sounds like nothing else. The best description I can give for this song is “A Prince song with a touch of crazy, mixed up with the Beatles with a dash of the surrealism.” The sense of humor throughout this song which is not as fresh as it was when the song first came out but it’s still fun.

The musical invention is still impressive. The mixed meter pattern (4+4+4+2) provides a steady but off-kilter feeling. The combination of acoustic guitar with weird synthesized colors contributes to a campy feeling and the reflective lyrics questioning the nature of relationships are blunt and honest, “Why are you so in denial when you know we’re not happy here?”

What sticks with me now more then anything else is the juxtaposition of the overly happy chorus with the doubtful lyrics. It’s like someone is pretending to be happy and is trying too hard. Like someone at a party who is putting a front, it’s just plain awkward.

All of this makes the reality of the statement, “shake it like a Polaroid picture, ” make that much more sense.

Friday, May 14, 2010

10 Reasons To Get Excited About Music: #4-1

[to see the first part of this list #10-8 click on this link]
10. Music Gods Still Walk The Face Of The Earth
9. American Idol and Glee are teaching the youth of America (and some of us who need refreshers) the history of pop music.
8. Rock Is Broadway
[to see the second part of this list #7-5 click on this link]
7. Teen Music Doesn’t Suck
6. Rolling Stone Is A Great Magazine
5. Music Is Everywhere

Now, we have the final four . . .

4. Genre? What's A Genre?
The lines between musical genres have been obliterated. Marketing people would love to define what we listen to into categories, too bad popular music has made this nigh impossible.

You Want to rap over rock? Go for it.




You want to record a country album? Why not?




Record a hit song as a kids record? Sure




Breaking genres is awesome for artists so they can express their art and not categories. As for us as an audience, we get to listen to anything we want as we explore music not because of its genre but despite it. Marketing companies no longer have power to tell us what we shall listen. We have the power.

3. Music Is Funny Again
Sometimes we take music too seriously. In the 1980s Weird Al Yankovich provided much needed perspective and relief from the sometimes preposterous hits of the 1980s. I mean really, Michael Jackson stopping a gang knife fight? Really?



While artist like The Barenaked Ladies and Brad Paisley continue to inject humor into music, there is a certain amount of darkness and gravity in popular music. Thank God the clouds are breaking and it's okay to laugh again.

From "I'm On A Boat" to "D*&$ In A Box," Andy Samberg with help from Saturday Night Live has reintroduced to us how great it is to laugh at music.



Glee is showing us how the context can point out the absurdity of great pop music and watching people sing atrociously bad on American Idol is a little bit of Shadenfruede we've all enjoyed. We can't forget youtube.com which as disseminated more musical humor both intentional and unintentional than Weird Al could ever imagine.

2. Twilight Is Changing The Way We Listen To Music
The soundtrack to the Twilight film adaptations of the best-selling Stephanie Meyer vampire saga are actually soundtracks. These aren't corporate marketing tools laced with singles meants to cash out on a film. Remember soundtracks like Batman Forever that featured the Seal hit "Kiss From A Rose"? That sound was recorded before the film and had nothing to do with Batman.

But it's not the return of the "real" film soundtrack that is exciting but the deliberate integration of literature and music. If you go to the official Twilight website, Stephanie Meyers has playlists for each of the Twilight books. Fans are encouraged to listen to this music as they read the books and fans themselves create their own playlists.

Now you may not like Twilight or the music associated with this series but you to admit that the integration of these two art forms is an exciting developments in literature and music. When done right like in a great film, combining the right music with the right book has the potential to create deeper and more powerful artistic experiences.

I can't wait to buy a book that comes with its own soundtrack.

1. Music Can't Die.
The idea that "rock is dead" or any kind of music or art being "dead" is like saying that humanity is dead. This pessimistic viewpoint not only goes against music but ourselves, our potential, our hopes and our dreams.

Yes, there are ups and downs in music. Even at the best of times there is mediocre music in our popular culture but without fail great artists and great music remind us why we love music.

The only way that the people we love truly die is if we somehow exorcise their spirit from our being. This however is an impossibility because every moment, every conversation and every song not only influences who we are but is everything that we are.

Love the music you listen to and the listen to music that you love.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The '59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem

There’s a difference between what we want to believe and what we actually believe. As much as I would like to believe in the afterlife, in my heart I wonder.

Throughout the history of music artists have explored the nature of death trying to find comfort, solace and understanding of the greatest mystery of the human experience. Many songs about death have provided answers about the afterlife like “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men.



While other songs like “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen explore the journey into the afterlife.



What’s unique about “The ’59 Sound” by The Gaslight Anthem it doesn’t provide answers. It's about our questions, hopes and fears about the journey to the afterlife.



I discovered The Gaslight Anthem in a recent issue of Rolling Stone that featured the bad as one of their “40 Reasons To Get Excited About Music.” Rolling Stone called lead singer Brian Fallon “The Next Jersey Rock Hero.” There are many comparisons between Bruce Springsteen and The Gaslight Anthem made in a complimentary way. Taking the passion, the storytelling and the depth of human emotion that Springsteen expresses in his music and adding a modern punk mentality has created a musical landscape that is both beautifully referential while surprisingly fresh.

The first verse starts pondering what music they will play when they “float into the ether.” There is a beautiful literary allusion to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, “I hope we don’t hear Marley’s chains before July” hoping that the Marley (the ghost of Christmas Past) won’t visit them at the end and tell them they have something to regret about life. This allusion is carried through to the last line of the verse stating that “the chains I’ve been hearing now for most of my life.”

The chorus is a series of questions asking someone who is yet to be identified what they heard when they died. Was it something comforting: “the ’59 sound”? Was it Marley coming to haunt them: “the rattling chains?” Was it something religious and revelatory: “the old gospel choir”? Or was it something comforting and personal: “your favorite song”? Even though this song tells a sad story, there is a celebratory tone in the chorus as the questions doesn’t so much focus on the negative possibilities of death but the positive ones.

In the second verse the “you” from the chorus is identified. It’s someone who the protagonist cares about who has died in a car crash. The narrator apologizes for not being the “spirit left your body.” Even though this is sad point, there are things that the singers holds onto in the assertion that he still knows “the song and the words and the name and the reasons."

The Gaslight Anthem proposes that maybe it’s not in the answers that we find meaning but rather in the questions. This process of wondering defines who we are in life and maybe it defines our journey into death. I have still have a lot of questions and maybe I’ll never stop wondering and “The ’59 Sound” shows us that this is something not to be feared but to celebrate.

Monday, May 10, 2010

10 Reasons To Get Excited About Music: #7-5

[to see the first part of this list #10-8 click on this link]

7. Teen Music Doesn’t Suck

Every generation has their corporate manufactured teen idols. There were The Monkees, The Partridge Family, Tiffany, 98 Degrees and the list goes on and on. Most of the music from these artists is mediocre at best.

Now I know you love “Party In The U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus, don’t try to deny it.



It's not just infectious pop songs. Taylor Swift has composed and recorded some of the best music about teenage love since the Beach Boys. Justin Bieber has a fun stage presence and impressive vocal prowess and the Jonas Brothers not only play their own instruments but also compose their own songs (which are pretty good).

If you don’t like this stuff, chances are you’re not suppose to, but it’s undeniable that this music is age appropriate, culturally relevant and a whole lot of fun.

6. Rolling Stone Is A Great Magazine

Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Entertainment Weekly, Q and Spin are all magazines, which I’ve tried to regularly read and have given up on. Through all of my explorations with other magazines Rolling Stone has preserved.

Rolling Stone magazine has had its ups and downs. After the redesign to a smaller format it was a little rough and that section which was designed to look like a Star was a big mistake. However, they have figured it out since then and it’s as good a magazine and its ever been.

The political reporting is vicious and unapologetic. You may think that it’s biased but it never fails to inspire discussion, encouraging readers to participate in some of the most important political discussions of our time.

The features exemplify the best in long form journalism. Including a wide range of topics including Osama Bin Laden’s favorite son and yoga cults. This wide range of relevant and important stories are thought-provoking and help us better understand human condition.

Oh yeah, then there’s the music news and reviews. Yes, they play to the mainstream but they never forget their roots constantly discussing up and coming artists and trends.

Rolling Stone proves every issue that the pen is mightier than the sword, Rock isn’t dead and that we can make the world a better place.

5. Music Is Everywhere
Once upon a time if you liked a song you heard performed live you had to wait for another performance. Later you could catch it on the radio and then you could buy a record. Now youtube.com, satellite radio and the internet has made music more accessible than ever before.

If you want to find a song you like it takes less than a minute to find it and chances are it will be free for you to listen to it. The only thing better than the access to music we have now would be it I could make Bruce Springsteen show up in my living room whenever I paged him.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rainbow Connection by Kermit The Frog

There are things from our childhood that stick with us in our entire lives. These are memories that remind us of the wonder of life, the beauty of innocence and the pure joy that only children experience.

When we revisit these things a lot of times we find that they served us better in our memory. I loved watching the He-Man cartoon as a child but watching it now . . . man is it bad. Even for an extended toy commercial, it was horrendous.



I wish hadn’t recently watched this show, I’d rather have the memory of the watching as a kid and loving it. It doesn’t ruin the memory but it kind of sours it.

Occasionally when we visit something from our childhood and it’s even better than we remember. As much as I loved “Rainbow Connection” as a child, it means so much more to me now as adult.



The opening of The Muppet Movie, the first film to star Jim Henson’s creations features one of the unforgettable opening scenes in film. Like Dorothy singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” Kermit’s version of the “I Want” song speaks to our dreams and hopes.

Kermit gently ponders the way that we find hope in our lives. The first verse is about rainbows, discussing how they are only illusions and that there really isn’t anything on the other side. In the second verse, Kermit explains that the only reason we wish upon a star is that someone made up the idea.

The rising and falling melody is filled with hope and the end of the verses has a gentle rocking pattern which mirrors Kermit’s thoughts. We get the sense not so much that he is being a pessimist but that he needs to find his own way to believe in the future, to make something happen in this life, to find his own rainbow connection.

Kermit's connection doesn’t come from a song or someone else’s idea about wishing upon a star but rather a voice that comes from inside. A voice that “I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it” that tells him “ there’s something that I’m suppose to be.”

“Rainbow Connection,” is a beautiful song of reflection that questions the way that we move forward in our lives contemplating the nature of our dreams and who we are. What makes it all the more powerful is Kermit himself.

I know that Jim Henson was sitting in an underwater tank looking at a monitors performing Kermit’s mouth while other puppeteers amazingly controlled his arms. There seems on the surface so little possibilities for expression in this puppet. The eyes don’t move, there’s no eyebrows and he stays seated the whole song but somehow we believe that he truly is singing this song.

I don’t know how Jim Henson injected so much soul and heart into his creations but somehow he did and of course I didn’t think of this when I was a kid. He was Kermit The Frog and this song was just fun to sing and made me happy. The Amazing things is that as an adult I feel the same way. All my adult realism and logic disappears for a couple minutes when I watch Kermit sing this song and I find my own rainbow connection to my childhood.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

10 Reasons To Get Excited About Music: #10-8

On a recent issue of Rolling Stone, the magazine responded to the common complaint “rock is dead” with their “40 Reasons To Get Excited About Music.” This list had some stuff I disagreed with like featuring The Black Eyed Peas as the #1 reason but it also had a lot of great stuff including introducing me to my new favorite band The Gaslight Anthem.

There were a couple things I thought they missed so I’ve created my own list. So here we go, The Purple Reaction's “10 Reasons To Get Excited About Music” (or “The Top 10 Arguments That Rock Isn’t Dead.”)

10. Music Gods Still Walk The Face Of The Earth
U2, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, and The Police. Many of the greatest musicians in popular music history are not only still touring but playing shows better than artists half their age. Paul McCartney’s recent sets have been almost two and half hours with little breaks and Bruce Springsteen in his last tour regularly played almost three hours.

Then there are the albums. Recent works from all of the above artists are some of the strongest work they have ever done and the only reason there is negativity around them is because previous work they previously recorded was so legendary. This combined with the live concerts shows us how much we still have to learn from these legends.

9. American Idol and Glee are teaching the youth of America (and some of us who need refreshers) the history of pop music.
American Idol regularly features themes for shows like when they did a show of Lennon/McCartney material. This episode not only featured famous Beatles' songs but also lesser known works like John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.”



Glee covers current pop songs introduces older audiences to current music and the covers of older songs have exposed youth to pop music of the past like the works of Madonna.



You may not like American Idol of Glee but you can’t deny how cool it is that new generations are being exposed to some of the greatest music in our culture.

8. Rock Is Broadway
Tommy may have been the first rock opera but Rock Of Ages was the first Broadway show about Rock music.



Along with Jersey Boys, Million Dollar Quartet and Elton John’s Billy Elliot!, Rock’s influence of Broadway is more significant and pervasive than ever before. As much as I love my Sondheim, I got to admit the Green Day’s American Idiot on Broadway looks really awesome.



Rock music isn’t just being performed on a Broadway stage, it’s taking over. Jersey Boys, which told the story of Frankie Vallie and The Four Season has been a huge commercial success and Billy Elliot! is simply one of the greatest Broadway musicals ever.



Next: #7-5 The greatest magazine ever, Miley Cyrus and the glories of the internet.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Eulogy For My Grandfather

Last Saturday May 1st I attended my Grandfather's Funeral. Dr. Wan T. Tang was born in March 13, 1916 and April 22 at the age of 94 years old. He was a World War II veteran who worked with the Americans as a doctor and a translator. After the war he was a business man working in import and export companies and real estate. He is survived by five children, and eleven grandchildren. The following is the eulogy I gave at his service.

Welcome everyone. Thank you everyone for being here to honor our grandfather. We all traveled to be here, some near, some far but we’ve all taken time out of our lives to share this time together, and I know we are all grateful to each for the effort we have all made to be here. As sad I am on this day I can’t help but smile looking out at all of you and feeling the warmth that only comes from being together as a family.

I'd also like to thank everyone who has come up here and shared their thoughts about grandpa. Speaking at an occasion like this is a difficult thing to do . . . as I am fast discovering.

We take this time as a service of shared reflection. A time for us to think back on the man who shaped each of our lives. Through reflecting on this man, we see our own past, our present, our future.

My favorite memory of grandpa was the moment when Diana first met him. It was during a wedding reception we held in Seattle for our friends who were not at the Chicago wedding.

I have never seen anyone so overjoyed to meet Diana. In the same way that the quickest way into a mother’s heart is treat her children well, grandpa’s enthusiasm was a gestures of respect and love was not only to Diana but to me, embracing someone he had never met before simply because she was important to me.

Grandpa said “hello” and “nice to meet you” with a huge smile and muttered something in Mandarin. He gestured towards my mom to tell Diana what he said and my mom translated “you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

I can’t really say, I don’t really know all of what his life means to me. I’m hopping that this weekend will help me figure some of that out. What I do is that I feel grateful for all that he gave, sad for the loss and apprehensive because I know from now on when the morning sun shines on me, it will be a slightly different color because he is no longer with us.

For the past week, I’ve asked myself: where do we go from here? How do we honor our grandfather? The best that I can figure out is that it’s in the choices we make every day demonstrating the values of loyalty, family and love that defined who he was and defines who we are. In this way, he will live forever in our memories, our souls and in our hearts.

Grandpa, I will always be proud to have known you.