Monthly Archives: September 2014
The Serious Business of Talent Shows
It was one of those lump in your throat moments. A flashback to my younger self and a bittersweet flash forward of a young girl growing up in front of my eyes.
It was my daughter’s talent show.
The Year 5 and 6 talent show was not meant for parents. But I happened to be at school that day helping in my younger daughter’s class, so I asked my older daughter’s teacher if I could quietly perch in a corner of the hall for the show.
The group of five girls was dancing to (oh, irony) Lady Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’. One of the girls, who goes to a hip-hop class, had choreographed the routine. There was considerable back and forth about costumes: black t-shirts, jean shorts check. Hair up, hair down? Baseball caps on or off?
They had discussed and rehearsed during lunchtimes and breaks. We parents had nothing to do with this performance at all. We didn’t even have to arrange carpools!
When I told my daughter I might pop in to watch she didn’t seem to mind. When I asked her if I could bring along a big poster a la American Idol and yell out some whoop-whoops, she screamed and pummeled me with her fists.
‘What?’ I asked, ‘You don’t want me to embarrass you?’
She screamed louder. I promised to behave.
The show began with a group of Y6 girls sort of dancing, not quite karaoke’ing, but mouthing the words to ‘Fireflies’ by Ocean Eyes. Their teacher sat near me, reminding her students in the audience to show ‘big smiles’ and ‘encouragement’ and clap for those courageous kids on stage.
The acts that followed – a tap dancing duo, a drum solo and a comedy skit (boys in crazy wigs, always good for a laugh) – revealed an earnestness and seriousness of purpose that can still surprise me. Maybe the joy is in finishing?
It was now the Ladies GaGa’s turn. My daughter and the choreographer took the front two spots while the other three (taller) girls stood behind. Turns out the back three didn’t know the routine quite as well, and they spent a good portion of the dance giggling at each other and trying to catch up.
But those front two? Man, they owned it.
They sang along and danced with confidence, wonderfully free and unembarrassed. The steps were simple hip-hop moves – neither raunchy nor suggestive – and everyone clapped when it was over.
My daughter is changing so much. I turn around and her new self appears before me, taller than yesterday and oh so competent.
Many years ago, my friend, Christine Chapa, and I danced to “Night Fever’ at our elementary school talent show. We wore pink shorts and t-shirts with our names ironed on the back. I remember walking home from school that day under a brilliant blue sky. I still had my costume on, and I felt like a fluffy white cloud up there.
At my daughter’s show, I felt the same high. I also felt my eyes moisten, and I wondered why I get so emotional.
But right at the end, I managed a slightly muffled whoo-hoo!
Go Ask Alice… For Lady Gaga Tickets
She has special powers, she knows things, she wants to be my friend.
Her name is Alice, and I met her on my first attempt to buy Lady Gaga tickets. I know, I know, I’ve always been a bit harsh on the Lady, but she’s starting her Monster Ball tour in Asia – playing three shows in Hong Kong in May.
So you’ll have to allow me a little motherly over-enthusiasm as I entertain visions of EO and I enjoying the spectacle and grooving to ‘Americano’ (we loved it in Puss n’ Boots). But, alas, I underestimated LG’s worldwide appeal and absolutely have not been able to score tickets.
This is where Alice comes in. I met her on the very first day of ticket sales, when I fell in to the rabbit hole of savvy marketing, scalpers and professional line-standers. Here I thought I was being clever: no online nonsense or hanging on the telephone for me. I rocked up to the Tom Lee music store, old school style, before they opened for sales. Well, me and about 30 other people. Nuts! As I was waiting and barely budging in line, a local (Hong Kong’er) lady approached to take the spot of an elderly man standing in front of me. I squared my shoulders and prepared to confront this, this – line-cutter, when she said he was just holding the space for her. In retrospect the old guy probably thought he was waiting for lai see rice not a Government Hooker (though he might have been pleased with that too).
I was curious by this turn of events and the seemingly innocent and naive-looking woman named Alice. We got to talking and she told me she’d camped out the night before and was able to purchase eight top price tickets. The old guy was her chance to buy even more tickets. She was of indeterminate age (anywhere between 28 and 45 I’d say) and just slightly – how can I be kind here – maybe one card or two short of a full deck. If she believed in unicorns, I wouldn’t be surprised.
But Alice had a major score on her hands. Even the stylish woman in front of us with the Celine sunglasses said she’d easily pay twice maybe three times face value. Easily! Me, I was hoping for nosebleed seats somewhere affordable, and I wasn’t about to pay face value for top seats – US$200 – even if Alice had been willing to part with them. In Mommy math, two front section tickets equals a whole term of EO’s ballet lessons, with money left over to buy me a tea and muffin while I’m waiting for her.
Then Alice told me she didn’t even like Lady Gaga and was just purchasing tickets for a ‘friend’. I was intrigued. She’s a pro, is she? I asked more questions – what’s her angle, where’s the game? The teddy bear sweatshirt is just camouflage, is it? I learned of a graduate degree earned in the States, a disability (something about her leg though she had no limp), and an unsettling incident of getting messed over for Leon Lai tickets. He’s her favorite Canto-pop King – think of Jason Mraz, make him even more bland and put him in a sweater. Leon Lai is an infinity pool i.e. completely edge-less.
Alice told me of scalpers who hire the local Indian and Pakistani boys to keep a place in line. Labour is cheap in Hong Kong, so this scheme works for everything by the way, from concert tickets to iPhones to one-off McDonald’s Hello Kitty toys. We continued to talk in line, and just as I thought I was about to get some real info out of Alice, the Tom Lee clerk came out to tell us they were sold out.
The diehard concertgoer in me couldn’t let go without a fight and I was thinking Alice was my best chance. So we exchanged phone numbers, and I very nicely and shamelessly told her I just wanted a couple of tickets for me and my daughter. If you hear of anything…
That was a mistake.
I rushed off from Tom Lee to a meeting and, like a character caught in a David Mamet play, I started getting calls from Alice. Weird rambling one-way traffic about not wanting anyone to find out, maybe she’s told me too much, she doesn’t want any trouble and then: am I a Christian? Am I Catholic? Do I want to be friends? She was weirdly endearing, and I wasn’t scared. Honestly. In fact I started to feel like Jack Donaghy with my very own Kathy Geiss. (Cue the Marky Mark scrapbook! On second thought, no.)
Then last Thursday night – after I missed out on tickets for the second show – I got a late-night call from Alice to tell me of a bonus third show with tickets going on sale Friday morning. Bless her, she has my best interests at heart. But Friday morning was YO’s school show, and I knew my real responsibilities rested with watching her, dressed as a member of a lost tribe, playing a big drum and singing about how to save the environment. Let’s see LG top that!
My compromise was to rush down to Tom Lee after the show, thirty minutes after tickets went on sale. This was my last chance and when I arrived: ri-dic-u-lous! A line of 80-100 people waiting patiently outside, surrounded by a half dozen cops (Hong Kong loves a crowd to control!) and the remnants of a night or two spent outside: soiled newspapers, camp stools, pot noodle debris. I started to have flashbacks to Monsters of Rock. Inside the shopping arcade, a smaller group – college kids and the elderly – were allowed to queue by the entrance to Tom Lee. They’d been camping out for two days and were still waiting to buy tickets! After hearing that, I immediately turned around and left the building.
Remember that great ’80s franchise, Lethal Weapon? Where Mel Gibson had a mullet and Cuban heels and Danny Glover was the older, family man cop? And every time Mel and Danny got entangled in something crazy and dangerous, Danny would say, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”
That pretty much sums up my quest for Lady Gaga tickets. But I’m going to stay positive because I’ve learned a few things lately:
1. None of EO’s friends’ moms managed to get tickets either, so I’m pretty much off the hook.
2. I’m not a college kid anymore, and I do need to plan for retirement. A second career as a professional line-stander is looking pretty good to me now. So when Lady Gaga’s on her third comeback, I can get tickets for my daughter and my granddaughter.
3. Most importantly, I’ve made a new friend. Alice’s last text suggested I look in to LG’s Seoul show: tickets are reasonable and, she says, Korea is worth visiting.
When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead…
Please Don’t Let Us Down
I’m writing to you as a mom of two young girls. We watch your show and listen to your music in the car. I ask my youngest daughter, age 7, why she likes you. She says you’re a good singer and you have good friends. She thinks you hang out with Emily Osment after work.
Last week my oldest daughter, age 9, and I went to a Mother-Daughter evening at school. We sat there with her 9, 10 and 11 year-old schoolmates – your devoted audience – as the school nurse explained puberty and all the changes these girls are about to experience. At the end of the talk, they were each given a discreet zippered pouch with a few maxi pads inside. They took away those pouches, slightly embarrassed but smiling, as if they had just joined a secret club. I’m sure you remember what that was like.
Think About These Girls
Your new album, Can’t Be Tamed, comes out this week, and no doubt you’ll be all over the TV, web and radio. The first video, ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ is currently the #4 best-selling video on iTunes and has been viewed on YouTube over 19 million times.
The ‘Official Miley Cyrus Content’ on your website says that on your recent Billboard magazine cover, “Miley wears all black outfit (sic) and displays her new grown-up attitude.”
“I’m just at a certain place where I’ve changed a lot as a person,” you say. “I’ve grown up a lot, which everyone does.”
But Please Consider
I realize that you’re maturing and you want to try new things, but where does it say that grown-up = simulated orgies and faux, porn-style lesbianism, as we can see in your new video? It’s as if a three-way is some new right of passage, like getting your braces off. Is there a pop princess handbook outlining what you need to do when “making the often-murky transition into adult artist” (again, from your website)? And why does it so often include these rather tiresome displays of ‘liberated’ sexuality?
How far will it go, Miley? In her latest video, Christina Aguilera wears an S&M hood and a crystal bit in her mouth. Come on! She’s a lovely woman with a fantastic voice, but today in this ever-crowded pop culture universe, she feels she has to revert to being, as Jon Pareles of the New York Times writes, “… a sexbot: a one-dimensional hot chick chanting come-ons to club beats.”
What Would Justin Do?
Have you considered a few career lessons from another Disney-alumnus – Justin Timberlake? Here’s a young man who can generate loads of heat just by sitting at a piano and singing, all while wearing long pants, a shirt and tie. He dabbles in music producing, fashion and art, and he leaves the bumping and grinding to Ciara. Heck, he made a video with Madonna and didn’t even take his shirt off!
I know you have it in you because I’ve seen you perform with Taylor Swift on an acoustic version of ‘Fifteen’. I’ve also seen clips of your recent concert performances, and if I may say so, you don’t look or sound terribly authentic wearing a cut-off Cheap Trick t-shirt while singing ‘Cherry Bomb’. Surely you realize that you can’t be punk while wearing black high heels.
So have a think about it – Are you country? Are you punk? Or are you just another sad Madonna-wannabe with the groping, gyrating videos to match?
You’re young, we know, and you may not want the pressure of being a role model. But the fact is you are, and we’re counting on you. The Moms out there trying to raise our daughters in a trashy, corporate sex-fueled reality are counting on you.
It’s Not Too Late, Miley
It’s not too late to go to college.
It’s not too late to live in Paris.
It’s not too late to sail around the world.
It’s not too late to build schools in Cambodia.
It’s not too late to run a marathon.
It’s not too late to save Louisiana.
It’s not too late to master trigonometry.
It’s not too late to make a difference.
Please don’t let us down.
Thanks for reading! I couldn’t figure out how to re-blog this post to include the comments,
so if you’d like to view the original post, with all of the comments, please click here.
Morning all – guess what? Therockmom turns five years old today. Hard to believe but it was exactly five years ago today that I posted my first inarticulate but heartfelt ramblings about music and motherhood. On that day, I wrote about the K-POP band, Super Junior. As you know, I’m slightly obsessed with their dance moves and particular brand of androgyny. I also lamented the fact that the current Hong Kong concert offerings included Dionne Warwick and El Divo. Well, five years later, Super Junior have just released their seventh album. They’re still hugely popular and strangely compelling. The HK concert scene hasn’t changed much either. Nostalgia acts such as the Pet Shop Boys, Tony Hadley and that guy from Westlife are still safe bets, but we have witnessed the rise of Clockenflap and promoters willing to take a gamble on smaller alternative and punk bands (Das Fluff, Japandroids, etc).
To honor therockmom’s birthday, I thought I’d spend the rest of the week looking back at some of my most popular and controversial posts – starting with a band that was one of the inspirations for this blog way back when.
Elbow were already well established in the UK when I discovered their fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid. I literally knew nothing about them, but when the second track, “The Bones of You”, came on, I was dumbstruck. Who are you? Why have I not loved you forever? The shimmering guitars, the vivid lyrics, the chorus of harmonies, all crystallized in to a perfect pop love song.
But it wasn’t just the song, it was the realization that there is so much wonderful music out there, waiting to be discovered and coveted. If I’m hearing this fantastic song now, I said to myself, imagine what else I’m missing! So in a way, starting therockmom was like going on a treasure hunt. The blog has given me a reason to devote a portion of my week to listening to new music, reading about new bands and old favorites and, when the HK concert gods bless me, going out to see a live show. There’s room for nostalgia (yeah the ’80s!) on therockmom, but there’s also the hope that you might like to hear some new tunes too.
I hope you’ve enjoyed being a part of this journey and I thank you for your support.
Have a good week!
A Star Trek fan fiction that’s maybe a little, you know, fan fiction
MEANWHILE, ON THE ENTERPRISE…
CAPTAIN ‘HUBS’ T. KIRK: Spockmom, our current course is taking us to an outpost that calls itself ‘Asia’s world city’. Not much ambition beyond its own planet. What do we know of this quadrant?
SPOCKMOM: Very little. What we do know is bizarre. Despite extremely crowded conditions, hot, humid weather and a lack of good Tex-Mex, the population – a mixture of locals, foreigners and mainland shoppers – co-exists relatively peacefully.
KIRK: Relatively? Anything else I should be aware of?
SPOCKMOM: Governed by a distant, suppressive regime. Political frustration tends to flair when young tourists eat or urinate on the MTR. Democracy, like bladder control, looks increasingly problematic.
KIRK: Prospects for cooperation?
UMYRNA: Captain, I’m picking up an island substation distress call. Priority fai-de-la?
SPOCKMOM: Translated as, roughly speaking: move your butt.
KIRK: Sounds a bit rude, don’t you think?
SPOCKMOM: The inhabitants are not known for their manners or patience.
KIRK: Prepare the transporter room.
Captain’s log, Stardate 11409.09 Island substation POK4LAM has issued a priority one distress call. We are set at warp speed six and assuming Klingons. We’re going in armed for battle.
KIRK AND SPOCKMOM LEAVE THE ENTERPRISE TO ASSESS THE SITUATION. THEY ARRIVE AT THE SOURCE OF THE DISTRESS CALL: A LOWRISE BUILDING WITH A PERFECTLY HIDEOUS NEO-VERSACE FACADE.
AFTER SOME TROUBLE WITH THE SECURITY GUARDS ABOUT THEIR LACK OF HONG KONG ID CARDS, THE CREW IS ALLOWED IN.
KIRK: Turtles! They signaled for help because of turtles!
SPOCKMOM: Trachemys scripta elegans also known as the red-eared slider. The most commonly traded turtle in this part of the galaxy.
KIRK: What seems to be the trouble?
SPOCKMOM: A most curious situation. Two North American terrapins – an invasive species that carries the disease salmonella and has a life expectancy of some 30 years – were given to a three-year-old as a birthday gift.
KIRK: A birthday gift? For a toddler? Who would do such a thing?
SPOCKMOM: Apparently this is typical behaviour on planet Hong Kong. Illogical, to say the least.
KIRK: I’m not allowing turtles on my ship. Remember the tribbles?
SPOCKMOM: Yes, indeed. And the creatures before us now aren’t even cuddly.
KIRK: Spockmom, did you just say ‘cuddly’?
SPOCKMOM: I did, Captain, Hubs…
KIRK AND SPOCKMOM LOCK EYES FOR A SLOW SECOND, THEN KIRK PULLS HIMSELF AWAY.
KIRK: It’s not that kind of fan fiction, Spockmom.
KIRK: We have orders.
SPOCKMOM RELUCTANTLY RUNS A SMALL SCANNER OVER THE TURTLE TANK.
SPOCKMOM: According to my readings, the terrapins, while healthy, are unlikely to reproduce. They’ve been living in a small tank for some eight years, and the daughter, now eleven, has grown bored with them. It’s clear that…
KIRK: They need a new home.
SPOCKMOM: A larger living space would certainly improve the animals’ physical and mental health as well as the overall well-being of the parents looking after them.
KIRK: This planet looks green and lush. Let’s release them in to the nearest body of fresh water.
SPOCKMOM: Illegal, Captain. And rehoming to larger quarters is not an option either. The local reptile rescue society has informed us of 100 other abandoned animals currently in the queue before these two.
KIRK: 100?!? This is madness.
SPOCK: One could say that. In fact, the mother just did.
KIRK: I did notice a certain frustration emanating from her, not to mention the small bald patches near her temple.
KIRK OPENS HIS COMMUNICATION DEVICE.
KIRK: Mister Scott.
SCOTTY (on board the Enterprise): Aye, sir.
KIRK: I want the latest status report on the reptilian rehoming wait list. What are our chances?
SCOTTY: Cap’n, I’ve tried everything – that queue won’t budge!
KIRK TURNS TO SPOCKMOM.
KIRK: We’ve done what we can, Spockmom. Let’s blow this popsicle stand.
SPOCKMOM: Blow, Captain?
KIRK: Not now. I mean, let’s get out of here.
SPOCKMOM: The mother seems to be blocking the exit. I detect a weapon, a device invented by the Native American tribes of…
KIRK: That’s a hockey stick. Watch out!
SPOCKMOM HAS TO DUCK AS DISTRAUGHT TURTLE MUM COMES OUT SWINGING.
KIRK: What’s she saying? I can’t decipher her screaming.
SPOCKMOM: She says she cannot let us leave without the turtles. She must know that transporting animals from one planet to another is a Federation offense.
KIRK: She’s not listening to reason! That’s it: set phasers to stun. Ma’am, we don’t want to hurt you.
TURTLE MUM CONTINUES TO ADVANCE, EYES GLOWING WITH MADNESS.
SPOCKMOM: If she touches you with the terrapins you must wash your hands immediately.
KIRK: By the far reaches of the galaxy, I’ll never let that happen!
HOLDING HIS PHASER STEADY, KIRK SLOWLY BACKS AWAY FROM TURTLE MUM.
KIRK: Ma’am, I know a shifty smuggler, deals in tribbles. You won’t want to know what he does with them, but I’m sure he’ll take your turtles. Spockmom, head for the door! She’s closing in!
SPOCKMOM: Not without you.
KIRK SHOUTS IN TO HIS COMMUNICATION DEVICE.
KIRK: Scotty, beam us up! Beam us up!
THE WOMAN LUNGES FOR KIRK, JUST AS HE AND SPOCKMOM DEMATERIALIZE.
BACK ON THE ENTERPRISE, KIRK APPEARS ON DECK WITH A TORN SHIRT AND FRAYED HAIR. SPOCKMOM FIGHTS THE URGE TO GIVE HIM A HUG.
SPOCKMOM: Are you hurt?
KIRK: I’m fine. But Spockmom, do I detect concern?
SPOCKMOM: Captain, it is a logical reaction after battling a half-mad mother who finds she is unable to offload two growing terrapins.
KIRK: Turtles she never even asked for. I’m afraid we were of no help to her whatsoever. Tell me, Spockmom, how could this happen?
SPOCKMOM: I am not privy to the inexplicable nuances of human gift giving. I see no practical use for reptiles kept as pets.
KIRK: They’re not even cute.
SPOCKMOM: Captain – Hubs – did you say ‘cute’?
SPOCKMOM AND KIRK LOCK EYES AGAIN.
KIRK: I suggest we continue this conversation in quarters.
All photos by therockmom.
The other day I saw a double-decker-bus-sized ad celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Baby G watch and I thought: the ’90s are truly back. Pop culture has been flirting with a ’90s revival since last year, celebrating all things flannel and scrunchie, grunge and hip-hop. So in the middle of renewed interest in Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, TLC, En Vogue (yes!) and Smashmouth (no!), let’s not forget what other kind of music that decade brought us – trip hop. Or as I like to call it: music for American grown-ups who still want to think they’re cool because they listen to British stuff.
Trip hop was alternative without being too loud, fashion-forward and fresh yet welcoming to, ahem, mature listeners. You could take drugs to it late at night or you could play it while hosting a civilized Sunday brunch. Along with the slightly funkier acid jazz, trip hop was the go-to sound for urbanites who wanted a little edge but still needed to get to work in the morning. Part of the mellow underground for people such as myself who liked discovering new electronica music but didn’t have the stamina or the stomach for monotonous 10-hour raves.
One of my favorite trip hop bands is Zero 7, which is two guys – Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker – who started as sound engineers. Like a lot of trip hop producer-collectives, they use guest singers when they need vocals, so you get a variety of voices on their albums, both male (Jose Gonzalez) and female (Sophie Barker and Sia Furler). Zero 7 formed in the late ’90s but really made their mark in the early ’00s with albums like Simple Things and The Garden. They’re still making super smooth music and have just released a new EP – Simple Science. Here’s a playlist of some of my favorites from them.
In the 90s, I spent three years in Los Angeles while attending grad school, and I was lucky enough to hear about local, non-profit radio station, KCRW, while I lived there. One of their nighttime shows, Metropolis, was like Valhalla for trip hop fans. Massive Attack, Portishead, Sneaker Pimps, Tricky, Cibo Matto – they were all regulars on host Jason Bentley’s turntable. I used to listen to KCRW late at night while driving the streets of LA after evening classes. Metropolis and trip hop felt like the soundtrack to my mid-20s as I ‘made my way’ in the city. When I was still frivolous but full of adult ambition. Only a couple of years away from marriage and kids but young enough to indulge in the self-absorbed creation of future me.
Now I catch KCRW online, where I can listen to Jason Bentley’s morning show on demand. My life has changed dramatically since the ’90s, but KCRW’s music is still the same, still amazing.
Have a good week!