Being a fan of various shows and movies in the Star Trek franchise, especially it’s more recent phoenix-like rebirth, it would be an understatement to say I was eager to see the latest installment in J.J. Abrams treatment of the movie series. I attempted to rally the family around it (my wife and daughter were already on board, but my son seemed to need some persuasion), but when my son (probably wisely) proved too reluctant to endure the sound and fury of the theater despite how exciting the trailer looked. So my wife opted out to stay with Grasshopper while just Cricket and I made a go of it. While the movie left us with warm feelings of contentment, our post-movie conversation left me alone with a cold quiver down my spine.
As any parent can appreciate, drawing a detailed opinion out of a child (at least when it is wanted) is like drawing blood from a stone with ADD. So I’ve learned to ask more pointed questions than simple “What did you think of the movie?” Today’s Q&A went something like this:
Me: So which character did you like the best?
Her: Uhh…that’s hard to say…
Me: Okay, if you could be any character from the movie, who would you be?
Her: OH! I’d be Spock!
Me: Okay, how about if you could go out to dinner and spend time with any character from the movie, who would it be?
Her: You mean if none of the drama and stuff was happening?
Me: Yeah, just you and that person hanging out, no drama.
Her: Ooh – definitely the bad guy!
Me: Why the bad guy??
Her: I don’t know. I just like the idea of going out with the bad guy.
I had trouble coming up with any more questions after that.
My daughter has impressed me on numerous occasions with the characters that she has opted to adhere to in the media she watches. For instance last fall when we opted to go spend some of her allowance at the comic book store (her choice), she ended up deliberating at length between two POP! bobble-head hero toys. Her top choices were Nick Fury and Robin. She settled on Nick Fury and when I asked her afterward why those characters, it was because she saw them as leaders – Fury of the Avengers and Robin of the Young Justice team (based on watching the Young Justice cartoon that we until recently enjoyed watching on Cartoon Network). In this instance, it seemed no different with regard to the first question – she saw Spock as a logical and heroic character unafraid to take charge and act intelligently.
As for the second question, that one just felt too much like the kind of foreshadowing that I could easily have lived without. I love Cricket and enjoy that so far at her young age of 9 boy-related issues are limited to fleeting crushes. And I’ve told myself since she was a baby that I would try my best to be open and accepting of what teenagehood would one day bring. But there have already been touches of temperamental behavior that I can only assume will be exacerbated by puberty. So if there is also the possibility that she will also be a bad-boy chaser, I’m worried for my own resolve in the years to come.
Hopefully I’m reading too much into the statement and she just legitimately thought he would be the most interesting person to hang out with disregarding the potential evil streak. Perhaps like my wife she was captivated by his deep British voice that supposedly sounds like a jaguar trapped in a violin. Or maybe he seemed the safest bet as most of the rest of the characters had quite a handful of scrapes with death in the course of the movie – him comparatively the least often. Or perhaps I should just read less into the whimsical commentary of a 9-year-old and just continue to nurture the right skills and judgment in her until such fears either come to inevitable fruition or fizzle out as a vestige of an unrealized time-line.
It started with silence, empty air. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the radio in the car even though I still appreciate new music. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, so my morning and afternoon commutes became a vehicle to slake that thirst. I can certainly bore you with the details of my podcast consumption habits that formed from there, but that isn’t really the point of this story. The point is that with the recurring set of shows I had come to listen to, I had gotten ahead of my supply with plenty of road ahead of me. So, recalling hearing good things about The Nerdist from somewhere, I queued up the latest episode and was instantly hooked.
Two weeks later (late last week), I’m listening to Chris Hardwick chatting with this YouTube Rap/HipHop artist named Macklemore. It was a compellingly interesting episode, but without clips of his songs my curiosity was only mildly piqued. But over the weekend, on an evening after the kids were in bed, I sought out his supposed breakout hit, and here is what I found:
Say what you like, but this thing is hilarious, catchy, clearly not kid friendly (glad I listened after bedtime), fun and light, and also has a message nested in there.
Jump to today – there has been a bit of a Facebook movement where people are changing their profile pics to red squares with pink equal signs on them (or some variant thereof). This is in support of marriage equality and coincides with the Supreme Court’s initiation of hearing arguments about California’s Proposition 8. I’ve read the arguments that this is a weak move and that a stronger action would be to donate money to causes, etc. I don’t care – I partook and I stand by the sentiment that it stands for – we all deserve to live and love equally.
So this evening as I’ve relaxing (once again having gotten the kids settled for the night) and perusing the musings on Facebook when an inkling tickles the back of my brain from that Nerdist episode – Macklemore also spoke of another song he did that got some mixed reaction called Same Love:
I watched this and got goosebumps and nearly cried, emotions swelled – a mix of pride and hope as well as shame and sorrow. Watch it, and you will get it (or you won’t, you are entitled I guess). This is more than just a music video – it is a short film as well as an anthem for the marriage equality and gay rights movement. I immediately posted it to Facebook.
The point that I’m getting to here is this: I could sit here right now and write entire blog posts about each of these videos. And if I did, the Venn diagram of their traits would be a small sliver of awesome. The one – a serious and moving story and diatribe about the plight of a yet oppressed minority within our nation and world, the other – a light, pompous romp about making fashion gold out of Goodwill fare (with an unveiled jab at the fashion/consumerist establishment). Together, these songs (and many others) paint the picture of a complex, intelligent individual who has a decided talent for expression through verse – one whom I now have a great appreciation and respect for and had otherwise no knowledge of two weeks ago.
Am I about to start clothes shopping at thrift stores now? Not likely. Am I gearing up to march on Washington over political issues? Not this week, but I wouldn’t rule it out. What I’ve really learned from this is two things: First, never underestimate a medium – I was never a big fan of HipHop and mostly dismissed it as the messages were all gold, guns, and girls, but here I was proven wrong. Second, labels don’t always fit – Macklemore doesn’t get much radio airplay as he is unsigned and pretty much a YouTube artist. But Billboard is starting to get where the audience is, and as such, he made it on the charts AS an unsigned YouTube artist and has since been on SNL and various other gigs (again, I could likely do a whole blog post on this topic as well).
The bottom line is that if I can still have my mind opened further at the age of 37, we all can if we let it happen. If it’s from this, you’re welcome. If it is from something else, that’s great too. But the moment you close out new experiences you stop living in the world, and the world is a variegated and interesting place.
I am not a dog person. I’ve never been one and I don’t know that I’ll ever truly change in that respect. I have always been very independent in nature and as such I don’t jive well with dependencies. I don’t consider my wife an exception as she is a very independent spirit as well, so we mesh well. I’ve made the exception with my kids (because ya do) but only so far as I’ll allow them to be dependent – I provide for them as a father does, but I expect them to become well-rounded and independent souls as well (in time).
But I’m not a dog person – I’m more of a cat person. Cats tend to be more of a roommate than a dependent companion – they expect to be fed and occasionally pet if you have the time, but otherwise they can manage themselves.
By this point, you are probably wondering where this is all going. Here it is – in spite of my nature, I’m considering getting a dog. And I’m considering this for none of the reasons that one in my position would do so. My dad was never really a dog person either, but he let us have dogs as kids because we asked for them. My kids are not asking for a dog. I’m not even entirely sure my kids (or my house for that matter) is ready for one. My wife had dogs as a kid as well, but she isn’t really much of a dog person either. So it isn’t her that is the motivating factor either – if anything she will see this and try to talk me out of it.
Here is the reason – my nearly 6-year-old son is terrified of dogs. No, this is by no means an attempt to terrorize my child, but rather a potential means to abate these fears. Not long ago, my son was a nearly fearless toddler. And somehow he has transformed into this very fearful kindergartner – he is afraid of dogs, storms, the dark, water deeper than his waist without an immediate exit strategy, movie theaters, and anything that makes scary or foreboding noises, music or sound effects. Most of these are avoidable elements (to a degree), but the dog fear has been recently having palpable impact on things such as play dates, visits to extended family, and even activities such as walking to school or playing at a park.
Is getting a dog simply to help my son overcome his fear of dogs perhaps overzealous? I’ll admit the possibility. I’ll even admit that I’m reluctant to enact it, that my wife will likely disagree with it, and that to do so would guarantee that I would be put in charge of its care (thus accepting yet another dependency). But part of me feels that it may be a sacrifice worth making for the improvement of my son’s own independence and well-being in the long run.
So while I’m not a dog person, I may soon force myself to be one…at least for the greater good.
After nearly a decade without a significant lead or shred of evidence, I think it is safe to say the cold case of the missing good music video is ready to be closed and declared de — what’s that?
You found something? Don’t tell me this is another VH1 scam.
YouTube?? Come on – they’ve got nothing but wannabes and cover artists…
Okay to go where?
Oh, the band is named Ok Go? They sound familiar.
Ok, I’ll look into it.
Sorry folks – it turns out there is new evidence to review after all. We’ll report back when we know more.
Ok, I’ve endulged my internal monologue long enough. My point of writing today is, well (a) to get back in the habit of writing, and (b) to decry the merits of Ok Go as not only a band that I cannot help but enjoy and admire, but also as the last notable life-line to the vanishing art of music videos. And don’t take my word for it – check out this playlist of some of their best works. The list seems to actually be in reverse chronological order, which is cool because they only continue to get better and more inventive, but is also a shame because I think one is more likely to drop off after 3 or 4 videos when there are really gems scattered throughout.
What I find so amazing about their works is the (pardon my use of an oft overused idiom) out-of-the-box thinking. They put their heart and soul into creating more than a just a video to accompany their music, but a video that is a peace of art in itself. And as a result, there are several songs in their catalog that I enjoy more even when only listening in the car because of the depth that the video has breathedain into it. Additionally, many of their videos are not just feats of artistic expression, but at times feats of physical discipline and/or engineering.
Some key examples of this would be This Too Shall Pass where the band (with some help) constructed a rather elaborate Rube Goldberg machine to accompany the song, or their older, classic hit Here It Goes Again where the band performs the whole video on a series of adjacent treadmills (which seems merely clever and semi-acrobatic until you notice that the whole thing was shot in a single take). And then there is their most recent video for the song Needing/Getting which had a brief introduction via a Chevy Sonic commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. Having gotten their most recent album a while ago, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, I’d heard the song before, but didn’t necessarily pay it any special attention. In the video, they play the song while driving the aforementioned car … much of which is played by the car.
I will freely admit, there are some in the collection that are less awe-inspiring (in other words, just good music videos). But there is undeniable artistic genius being achieved by this band, and it seems to be more than just a flash in the pan. I for one plan to keep watching and also hoping that other artists see this as a gauntlet thrown and attempt to rise to the challenge.
Moreover, though, I have to give YouTube some of the credit here as well. After all performance art is only as strong as its audience. And with MTV and their ilk dropping the ball, YouTube has picked it up and ran with it. And unlike its predecessors, YouTube’s viewing choice is as democratized as it can be. And its audience certainly seems to reward such creativity, so if more of it arises I’m sure it will not go unnoticed for long.
As a parent, I’ve come to appreciate the various common experiences and rites of passage of childhood from a different perspective – one that often makes me yearn to remember what it must have been like to be so blissfully ignorant of so much. Some of these, though, are a bit odder than others. One in particular that I was recently reminded of is related to Barbie Dolls.
I’m sure I’m not the first to come to this revelation, but I find a certain level of irony in the fact that the very point of variability between the variety of such dolls one could add to one’s collection often ends up the first element sacrificed – their clothes. My daughter has only about 4 or 5 Barbies (she was never hugely into dolls), and to my knowledge only one complete outfit still retrievable and intact – which, due to the tedium of application often is discarded anyway during play. While I know that naked Barbie play is a fairly common trend – I had playmates in grade school who had collections of them, I know my wife and her sisters commonly played with them as such in their youth; the only example I know of to the contrary would be my own sisters (they were surprisingly prudish about such matters at the time – I was often sent from the room when outfit changes were in order) – what I find fascinating about this trend is the creative rationalizations built around it.
For instance, just a few days ago I come home to my kids playing with the collection of unclad dolls (the one dress only inches away completely ignored). When I ask what they are doing, the explanation is that they are shopping at a special grocery store where moms are allowed to shop naked. In conversations on such topics with my wife, their apparent go-to rationale was that all of the dolls clothes were somehow stolen and there seemed to be a lack-luster effort put into locating or retrieving said items. My grade-school playmate seemed to have an array of dolls with painted-on underwear (which in most cases she seemed to scrape off).
While I know that Barbie has been used as a focal point as a gateway to the unrealistic female body-images that our daughters (and sons) are exposed to, it is hard to see that affect in the eyes of these children at play that are so innocent as to not fully understand body modesty (a point also clear in the joy they get from stolen moments of naked time after baths or in the mornings). Don’t get me wrong – I do take the body-image issue seriously. While we encourage our kids to play and be active, it is never backed by negative messaging (e.g., you need to lose that baby fat). Hopefully my kids will only retain the positive aspects of these experiences – imaginative, cooperative, and care-free play.
By the way, the picture in this post was found via a Google Image search that was innocent enough in nature (naked barbie doll – with safe search on), and I come to find that someone actually made a calendar full of such images made to look like a pin-up calendar … which is just a bit creepy (also, this pic was the ‘tame’ one from the spread). I believe that I had read somewhere that Mattel may actually be suing over this, so if the image suddenly stops working there may be a valid reason.
Anyway, if you’ve got any childhood memories of quirky justifications for clothing-optional Barbie play, feel free to share. Or if you were more like my sisters and kept your dolls chaste, I’d like to hear your stories as well. And in either case, if you feel that your dolls’ proportions influenced your own body-image feel free to discuss. Thanks for reading!