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2015: The Year in Random Thoughts and Obsessions

For my yearly wrap up of 2013, I wrote, “All hail the return of the king – David Bowie – and the art of the music video.” And I included a link to his surreal collaboration with Tilda Swinton for ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’. Two years later and RIP, we’re talking and posting about how much we’ll miss Bowie. (My thoughts can be found here.)

Yes, the last year has been especially tough. I’ve lost friends and heard of marriages dissolving, read helplessly of terrorist attacks in France and the continuing assault on women’s rights in the U.S. Not to mention the masses of refugees desperate for safe havens and the innocent lives struck down by gun violence.

“Day In Day Out

Stay In Fade Out”

Yet, in the midst of everyday upheaval, small glories continue to reveal themselves. Glimmers of hope to remind us that we are not alone, that quite simply, wonders never cease. Here’s a small sampling of some of my favorite things from the world of popular culture:

lady story

Yes please! More stories about strong females. (photo taken at a shopping center in Sha Tin, by therockmom)

  1. Serena Williams tops my list for consistent awesomeness. What a joy to watch her match against Heather Watson at Wimbledon. I was with my daughters and nephews on a sunny summer morning, trying to explain the arcane scoring system. All of us cheered on Williams yet at the same time felt inexplicably proud that Watson could stretch her to three sets. Later in the year, the girls and I watched the marvelous doc, Venus and Serena, and although Williams didn’t get her Grand Slam at the US Open, we still knew: she is the greatest.
  1. In movies and television, we sought out strong girls and women and, even in the midst of the industry’s glaring inequalities, still found a few to shout about, namely: Kate (Emily Blunt/Sicario), Riley and Joy (Inside Out), Alex (Priyanka Chopra/Quantico), Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw/Beyond the Lights), Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska/Ida) and of course Rey (Daisy Ridley/Star Wars Ep VII). Recently I’ve had the pleasure of introducing my kids to The X-Files Season One and the complex relationship between Scully the scientist and Mulder the believer. As the new episodes remind us, the X-Files is just great storytelling.
  1. While I still can’t convince EO and YO of the wonders of Jane Austen, school assignments and various recommendations (not quite me shoving a book in to their hands and saying: read this! but close, lol.) have introduced them to classics by Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Joan Didion, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Golding along with plenty of Judy Blume.
  1. And in the Department of Obsessions, I still can’t get enough of Castle, Mesut Ozil (COYG!), Maneki Nekos and Justin Beiber’s (lack of) facial hair. Say what you want, go on, I can take it 😉

    Imagine Dragons & phones

    The lights! The sounds! The… phones. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. (photo taken at Imagine Dragons’ HK show, by therockmom)

  1. Last but certainly not least, music! Live highlights of the year were Clockenflap in Hong Kong and Taylor Swift in Washington DC. For Swift, it was the girls, Grandma plus me and my dear friend and her daughter. We sat (and stood) in awe at Swift’s seemingly effortless command of the stage. She is a Force, thankfully using her powers for good, not evil. However, due to her dissatisfaction with Spotify, she’s not on my playlist of the year’s best. Instead I’ve included Ryan Adams’ version of ‘Wildest Dreams’, which was my favorite song of hers from 1989. His cover is just okay, kind of standard, sensitive RA. As I listen I realize that his whole take on 1989 has missed the point entirely. The point is that these songs were written by and about a young woman and her very specific experiences with the push and pull of desire. So a guy in his ‘40s? I don’t think he can quite capture what she’s feeling, that moment in time. As much as I love Ryan Adams, he could have given this project a miss.

I’ll finish here with the playlist – 25 songs from fantastic recent releases and a few new-to-me-this-year discoveries (KING, Sun Kil Moon). Interestingly, over half the songs are from female singers/bands and women-fronted bands. Not that I was aiming for that gender balance, it just happened, but I’m pleased nonetheless.

So much good music out there – listen, discover, enjoy!

 

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2013: The Year in Random Thoughts & Obsessions

Hi everyone & Happy New Year! I just got back from the Christmas holidays where I tried (mostly in vain) to stay offline as much as possible.

Newborn elephant seal at sunset. Did you know the seagull will eat the mom's remaining placenta? Nature, nothing wasted.

Newborn elephant seal at sunset. Did you know seagulls will eat mama seal’s placenta? Nature, nothing wasted.

Damn all those vacation rentals and their easy Wi-fi 🙂 But it was good to get away – we drove down the California coast, saw some nature and lots of seals, sea lions, otters and stars, absolutely amazing stars at night.

And even though I’d made a California playlist for the drive, we ended up listening to the radio most of the time. Which pretty much meant classic rock and modern pop. So my kids now know who CCR is, and I know that Avicii is like, one guy from Sweden. We also watched the New Year’s Eve countdown shows, in which Miley Cyrus threw down the entertainment gauntlet by fondling a female dwarf in gold lame. Let’s see Lady Gaga top that!

So herewith is my second installment of the Year in Review, in no particular order, heavy on strong female voices. Hoorah!

Tessanne Chin’s version of ‘I Have Nothing’ on The Voice reaffirmed my belief in the power of a pop song. Whitney would be proud. Tessanne, you are golden.

Bieber & his moustache. You can do it, sweetheart – Movember is only ten months away!

Timberlake sings that he wants a girl to be “my mirror, my mirror staring back at me”. I say, “I’ve got no time for a raging narcissist, JT. I’m moving on.”

Critics’ Darling that’s actually kinda boring: Vampire Weekend.

Criminally Underappreciated: Neko Case.

Unexpectedly awesome in concert: Belle & Sebastian, Dirty Projectors.

Robin Thicke is that Dad with the hands that you had to watch out for when you were a babysitter.

What do Kanye West and Woody Allen have in common? They’ve both lost touch with the real world.

If you want to hear something cool, check out Lo-Fang’s single, ‘#88’. Debut album out soon.

Atoms for Peace is Pepsi to Radiohead’s Coke. You drink it anyway, but only because they’re out of Coke.

Pharrell Williams’ sweet, disarming face totally hides his pervy nature.

Whoever chose the Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam songs for the TV show Castle is the MOST AWESOME PERSON EVER.

The best singer-songwriters today aren’t American or even Canadian. They’re Brits: Laura Marling and Jake Bugg.

One of my favorite things about 2013 was listening to Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annies.

Super duo: Edie Brickell & Steve Martin.

There was more fresh, original music coming out of country and alt-country than the alternative/rock scene. Discuss.

Eminem is now 40. Can an angry rapper age gracefully? This could be interesting.

All hail the return of the king – David Bowie – and the art of the music video:

One day I’m going to listen to that Arcade Fire double album all the way through. But probably not ’til EO goes off to college.

The sad thing about Miley Cyrus is that she made us forget what a great voice she has.

New NCIS-LL Cool J crossover hit: ‘Grandmama Said Knock You Out’.

I know I’m supposed to say Breaking Bad, but what I really like are Arsenal games and Castle.

Still the coolest person in the room: Aimee Mann on Twitter.

The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street. Please can we stop with the all-soundtrack ADHD movie? It smacks of artistic desperation and well, laziness.

Embrace the cliché: 2013 was the Year of our Lorde. That is all.

Wait. Yet. It’s still Beyonce’s world. We’re just living in it. #texasproud