Child Protective Services Threatens to Fine Germany’s “Idol”

In preparation for my trip to Germany, I’m watching YouTube clips of “Deutschland Sucht ein Superstar,” (DSDS) Germany’s version of “American Idol, and reading Germany’s tabloid newspaper, Das Bild. The two converged recently in a story that puts the nanny into “nanny state.”

Just as context, DSDS is a lot like “American Idol” and the show both are based on, Britian’s “Pop Idol”: young singers go to an open audition and the best of them compete for the “Idol” crown, which wins them a recording contract and almost-guaranteed spot on the national pop charts. DSDS has its Simon in the form of Dieter Bohlen, one half of a geeky German Wham clone from the early 80s. He’s more cynical than Simon, but also given to a certain campiness in his criticism (as in how creatively can you use the word “shit” within the German language.) The fellow judges are no Rudy and Paula though. They almost always say no, though the female judge will sometimes apologize; and the only time the interchangeable third judge says anything besides “no” it’s only translatable into British English, which also means I usually don’t understand it anyway.

Oh, and the German version also oddly features the Germans trying to sing in English, which is, frankly, embarrassing for all. Does anyone in any country really need to hear “Ze Djini in ze buttle?” or “Hvut iz luv?” If Beethoven were still alive, he’d be grateful to be deaf.

In any case, anyone who auditions has got to know what they’re going up against. But that doesn’t keep the German government bureaucrats from getting all uptight that untalented, deluded teens are bursting into tears because they’ve just been told they’re not good enough for a singing contest. One case mentioned in particular is the audition of Raymund Ringele, which thanks to the miracle of YouTube we can all watch.

For those of you who don’t understand German, here’s a rough synopsis to put it into context. Raymond’s 17 and speaks with the folksy Rheinland accent. He’s excited to be trying out, and his dad says his singing is enchanting. Raymond comes up to the audition, clearly nervous, but tells the judges he’s happy to be there, and begins hyperventilating. The judges ask what’s wrong, and Raymond tells them is pulse is racing; Dieter Bohlen jokes 17-year-olds don’t have a heart(beat). “Yeah, OK, if you say so!” Raymond tries to joke back, which falls flat. Finally, Raymond sings a pop song (in German, thank god) breathily and jumping around frantically.

Dieter Bohlen tells him he could get a spot on the worst of the worst list, and that the audition was really, really bad. So Raymond starts crying and the female judge goes up to comfort him. And then, Raymond takes advantage of it by going into total drama queen mode and falling on the floor. The judges look genuinely surprised as the assistants give Raymond some water, call in the father, and help him out. “I didn’t know if it was for real,” Bohlen says, “but if I were his father, I would have told him he didn’t need to do this.” At the end of the piece rolls an explanation saying Raymond recovered, that he lost his building (er, stance, presence?) because of his pulse; that his father supports his musical ambitions, and the show wishes him better luck after getting some lessons.

For this (and criticisms of talent-challenged German teens), Germany’s child protective services agency has threatened to fine the show for undue cruelty to minors. I want to burst out laughing, but it’s the tax-paying citizens of Germany who are going to have to pay for this–and who will have to pretend to be kinder to pissy hysterical 17-year-old boys as a result. Can you say “minimum audition age of 18″ and “more draconian audition agreements” in German? I can’t, but I bet the producers of DSDS are thinking about it.

Who Was Dean Reed?

The Berlin & Beyond German film festival is going on at the Castro Theatre, and one of the films that caught my eye was one called “The Red Elvis.” Who was that I wondered? I know of several Russian rock icons; maybe this was a film of one of them. But rather, “the red Elvis” of the title was an American, who thanks to circumstance, his youthful ideological leanings, and a behind-the-Iron-Curtain fascination with all things American, had been a famous singer and actor in East Germany and Russia.

His name was Dean Reed, but I’d never heard of him before, either in the West or in the East. By the time I went to Russia, the Russians I know passionately preferred their own rock stars, such as Boris Grebenshikov and the band Alisa, and just as passionately hated their own pop pap, such as Alla Pugacheva and Modern Talking. Dean Reed was long gone and forgotten.

I couldn’t get to the movie, so I looked up his story, which I found rather poignant. As a singer/songwriter, he had a minor hit in the United States in the early 1960s, slightly better success as a singer and actor in South America later in the same decade. Like many young people of that era, he found Marxist ideology compelling, and like many before him (and to this day) believed it was the cure to poverty and the key to world peace. A girlfriend tried to set him right by telling him to take a trip to Russia, where he could see how such an ideology played out, but instead it was that trip was to set up the rest of his life.

A bored Russian bureaucrat discovered Dean Reed playing his guitar in a Helsinki park. (Back in the day, one almost always ended up in Helsinki on the way to Russia–I know, ’cause that’s how I went in and out myself.) When he spoke to Reed, the bureaucrat was delighted to find a handsome cowboy-type American who believed in the great socialist empire. Quickly, Reed found himself with a singing and acting career bigger than he’d had in either the U.S. or South America.

Eastern Europeans were fascinated with Americans, but the only American music they could get was through Voice of America (and then only in large cities) or in barely-audible copies of copies of copies of smuggled recordings. But you could buy Dean Reed records, since they were published by the Soviets’ monopoly music company, Melodia Records, and he was American and he sang American music. Despite what many say was a mediocre music talent, his concerts drew thousands of genuine fans. He furthermore acted in several East European movies, often playing a Lucky Luke like cowboy caricature.

He made a home for himself in East Germany, and married an East German film star. But he wasn’t a defector, since he kept his U.S. citizenship, and he insisted on being paid in hard currency, which he would be able to use in the U.S. As he aged, and tourism and glasnost made it possible for East Europeans to get Western music and movies, he knew his career was fading. And certainly life in the communist countries is wearing, no matter how ardently you believe in the communist cause.

He visited the U.S. and dreamed of a career, maybe even a modest one, but one back home. But as he discovered, you can’t leave 20 years of life behind so easily, and politics, especially radical ones, can do a lot to hinder popularity. After being featured as a curiosity on 60 Minutes in 1986, Reed received bags of hate mail from Americans, which he took seriously, since having become an East European by lifestyle if not by citizenship, he knew how much he wanted to leave. Unlike most East Europeans, though, he couldn’t expect a warm welcome.

Six weeks later, he drowned himself in a lake near his German home. Within 3 years, the Berlin Wall would be torn down, and Russian rock stars would be touring the U.S. Peter thinks Reed was just a crass opportunist; I see a man who’s heart was broken by not being able to go home.

My Freakin’ Insane Week

For me, 2008 has definitely started off with a bang. Just take a look at how my last week has gone:

Monday: We all go to the mall to buy Peter new jeans. We return with a couture top and a new car for me. World fails to take notice.

Tuesday: It’s 2008! Our family celebrates with a hike around the waterfalls in Uvas Canyon Park in Morgan Hill.

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Wednesday: I wake up in terror and attempt to make housing reservation requests for this year’s Comic-Con. I begin reliving hotel reservation nightmares of the past years, and will probably not get over it until Comic-Con 2008 is over. I try to give my old car to the Sempervirens Fund, with dubious results. Neil has a friend over, and later, we all drive around for hours looking for stuff we end up having to buy on the internet.

Thursday: Peter finds out his new landlord intends to drastically raise his rent when his lease runs out in April. Peter knows he can get a much better office (i.e. one with windows and more internet bandwidth) for the same price, so we’re moving!

Friday: A violently windy rain storm blasts the Bay Area. Our electricity goes out at 11 am and stays off. The children and I set up a tent in the living room and put a log in the fireplace. Electricity returns at bed time, and according to the news, we are among the lucky ones.

Saturday: The children and I spend the day touring San Jose, including 3 museums. In the meantime, the lead singer from punk band Rocket links to a 2-month-old blog entry I wrote disparaging the band when they were on The Next Great American Band. Despite the fact that Rocket was voted off the show early on, and that the show itself has been off the air for about a month now, my page count spikes and I receive several long anti-Carolyn, pro-Rocket missives, which I happily publish. Among other things, Rocket fans give me an unspecified pet, the ability to knit sweaters for said pet, and a failed career in the music industry.

And I still haven’t gotten to Sunday….

The Next Great American Band

As you can tell from the multiple postings below, my family and I are huge fans of the new television show The Next Great American Band. It’s a natural fit for our interests. We all love music, and Peter and I love live music, as well as discovering new worthwhile bands. Neil’s taken up guitar, and admires great musicianship, and the show has all of that, plus a chance for us to participate by calling in votes for our favorites. It’s the only show we set aside time in our schedule to see when it airs, and we let Neil stay up way past his bedtime (thankfully it’s on a Friday night) to see.

While we love American Idol, The Next Great American Band strikes us as even more difficult and impressive. As American Idol has proven, there are a lot of talented singers out there, and it’s a pleasure to see and hear them. A band however, needs not only a talented singer, but also talented musicians, stage presence, coherence, and song-writing ability. In the auditions, we saw several bands with one or two gifted musicians heading them, but they can’t make the whole band work on their will and talent alone. Gimmicks and novelty might also get you an audience, even a cult following, but it won’t hold up over the long run.

I would have thought the ultimate selection would have been of pop-oriented bands, but the final result was rather eclectic. There are two bands I’d put into the country category (Sixwire and The Clark Brothers) and one in the closely related (IMHO) bluegrass category, which I’m not sure even exists on radio. There are two modern alt-rock bands, Dot Dot Dot, and the 60s throwbacks, Tres Bien (a style that’s actually enjoying success.) There are some madly talented almost unclassifiable gospel-funk musicians, Franklin Bridge; and a big band, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. I didn’t understand the appeal of The Muggs, until Peter smartly pointed out that they were like Led Zeppelin without Robert Plant–and while they probably won’t last to win, all they need is a charismatic singer with the vocal chops to match the musicians’ playing ability. There are two novelty acts, which feel like they were put in to fill a prerequistive category: Light of Doom, a kiddie heavy metal band; and Rocket, a phenomenally untalented all-girl mall punk band. The two singer/songwriter style bands, Hatch and Likes of You, were voted out last week.

I like it because I get to see bands I would never, ever see or listen to in real life. Who knew a bluegrass band could be so much fun, or that I’d actually be appreciating a band that consists exclusively of three weird string guitar-like instruments. We all have our favorites, which the others appreciate as well. Peter likes Dot Dot Dot: they’re modern, they’re funny, they have great style, and they’re refreshingly original. I love Denver and the Mile High Orchestra: their arrangements are fabulous and innovative, and they’re great fun to watch. Neil votes for The Clark Brothers, because as a guitarist, he’s impressed by their chops.

I don’t know how well the show is doing, because Fox seems determined to move it through and off their schedule as fast as possible, eliminating two bands at a time. But obviously I like it, so much that it’s the first (and probably only) TV show I like to much to blog repeatedly about it and give it its own category on my site.

Desperately Seeking Self-Absorbed British Judge

American Idol has set a standard for musical competition shows, and we expected the same of the judges on The Next Great American Band. To a certain extent, the American judges exceed the standard. I used to dread Sheila E. so much I was in a state of consternation when I found out she was coming to San Jose to play in her father’s new nightclub a few years ago. The nightclub and Sheila E. went away, but now she’s a judge on this show, and it turns out she’s a legitimate musician and an astute critic. I’d completely forgotten about the Goo Goo Dolls, but John Rzeznik’s a judge now, and he has good comments, too, even though the audience seems to feel a need to boo the good advice he’s giving the bands.

My problem is with the token foreign judge. In this case, it’s Dick O, supposedly the “mean” judge from Australia’s version of Pop Idol. Sure, he’s witty: his quip describing the lead of Dot Dot Dot as “a hyperactive emo leprechaun” was brilliant. But he also confirms our impression that Australians are crazy. For instance, he seems to like Rocket, and he thought Dot Dot Dot should have been voted off. That’s ok: I couldn’t really expect otherwise from the kind of country that gave us Kylie Minogue and The Crocodile Hunter. But what’s he doing wasting our time as a judge, when there are unemployed British people willing to share their unqualified opinions with the world?

It should be obvious that every American talent show needs a self-absorbed Brit. Just by national character, he (or she) is guaranteed to be mean and bitchy, as well as gifted in florid insults that wither their target and amuse bystanders. And a healthy dose of narcissism makes such a judge capable of addressing Light of Doom with a snarky comment like “Hm, lyrics by Bernie Poppin, as performed by Light of Dumb,” and when the 12-year-old starts shaking, snarl “I’m just being honest.”

A real villain (not a well-meaning musical colleague like Rzeznik) would make the show more exciting. And when such a judge gives praise, it’s all the more golden and precious for whence it came.

Light of Doom Must Go

Light of Doom is the freaky young teen heavy metal band on The Next Great American Band. For some people, they’re the token heavy metal act, not a novelty show, but it’s beginning to be obvious they’re being judged on a different level that any of the adult bands (other than Rocket, the token feminist affirmative action band.)

Now, granted, the kids in Light of Doom are mad talented for their age. But if they were all 10 years older, they wouldn’t get nearly the leeway they do. It’s beginning to become clear, especially when they do the obligatory cover, that they’re only good on a few particular riffs. When they have to do something new, like “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” they completely fall apart as a band. All the judges say are “you need to be a little bit tighter.” I’m sorry, but Guitar Hero has given me respect for the musicianship a heavy metal band can exhibit, and I think if someone like Ozzy Osbourne were fronting those musicians, he’d give them considerably stronger criticism than that.

Their original songs also make them look sad and sorry. How did their eponymous showcase song go? I heard it as “Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah, Light of Doom” repeated over and over. Oh, yeah, that’ll make people want to run out and buy the album, for sure….

All the other bands respectfully referenced the writers of the song they were performing, except for the lead singer of Light of Doom, who’d forgotten the name of lyricist Bernie Taupin, looked for a cue, and then mispronounced it as “Bernie Poopin” with a smirk. Can you imagine a single singer getting away with that mistake on American Idol? Me, neither.

And as for their moves, they look like a tribute band. Everything, from the head banging to the guitar poses, is copied exactly from a stock catalog of bitchin’  heavy metal stage moves. Some originality and imagination might make them stand out beyond the novelty aspect, but they’re really mediocre as a heavy metal band. The sad thing is, that left to gracefully mature, they had the potential to become something spectacular as adults. But at this point, they’ve become a joke, and one that’s being cruelly coddled.

Rocket Must Go

From their unimpressive audition in which they barely managed to muddle through a cover of the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop, one of the simplest tunes ever, we’ve been filled with contempt for the all-girl band Rocket. Peter and I dread all-girl bands from experience. It’s not that an all-girl band is has to be bad: there have been plenty with the talent and style whose music is in my iTunes library. But these days an all-girl band reeks of gimmickry and novelty. After all, I can think of dozens of talented women who are major figures in rock bands, and they don’t need to hang exclusively with other girls. For instance, Eisley is led by two young women: their support is the best musicians they can find, not random girlfriends. Karen O has so much girlpower, it doesn’t matter who’s backing her up, as long as their talent can keep up.

All too often, when we do see an all-girl band, it’s a motley collection of people who can barely play their instruments and who wear dorky matching costumes. Rocket is all that, and hopelessly clueless to boot. We were shocked and surprised that they got through at all, solely on a cover. In the auditions, nearly every other band presented an original song, since supposedly the criteria included song-writing ability, and most of the bands also chose a fairly complex song to show of their musical chops. And now we’ve seen Rocket 2 weeks in a row, struggling through their insipid originals, and struggling even more with the requisite covers. We can only think they got in because The Next Great American Band producers demanded an all-girl band, perhaps to reach out to some desperate demographic of tone-deaf horny hetero men (and lesbians) without a Friday night date.

While the judges aren’t afraid to nitpick the slightest infractions of the talented competitors, at the beginning, they flattered Rocket. There’s nothing left to praise, but the judges clearly want to keep Rocket in, because instead of pointing out how horrible they really are, they’re giving the band the best possible constructive criticism. Repeatedly, the lead singer has been told put anger and vitriol into her lyrics. That is, after all, how punk bands who couldn’t play their instruments and with untalented singers thrived: no one thinks the Sex Pistols, X, or The Dickies were musical virtuosos, but their attitude was so withering, it made the band worth paying attention to. That easy change alone could save Rocket, but the band isn’t listening to the judges any more than they are to each other’s rhythms on stage. The lead singer is absolutely convinced she’s Gwen Stefani, and sings like a mall girl. She just can’t understand that she’s not that good, and if she were, she wouldn’t fit in with the bad musicians behind her.

So we were all pretty miffed that they made it through this week, and presented Peter with exactly the scene he feared: a breathy, out-of-tune cover of “Rocket Man.” Well, we learned from our mistake. This week, we gave every band that wasn’t Rocket, or Light of Doom, at least one vote. I really hope to never see them again.

An Ungracious Exit

Given our low opinion of Rocket and Light of Doom, we were disappointed to see them go through to torture our ears and aesthetics for another week at the cost of The Likes of You and Hatch. On the other hand, I lost some of that disappointment when Hatch was given an exiting word and gave a rather petulant answer: “Only about 300 people in Nebraska voted.”

Excuse me?! Did you just dis Nebraskans? Or did you think you were dissing viewers by implying they’re some sort of rubes that can’t appreciate your East Coast jammin’? Perhaps The Next Great American Band isn’t getting good ratings (I have no idea) but we’re avid fans of the show, so much so that it’s the only must-see-as-aired show on our schedule, and we let Neil stay up to watch it. We’re in San Jose, which is a pretty long way away from Nebraska, and we have a pretty broad musical taste, and a passion for live music. Furthermore, I’ve met Nebraskans, and none of them struck me as particularly banal in their artistic tastes. But I guess if you’re in a little New York bubble, and most of the bands you’re competing against (and who have won out against you in a popular vote) are some variants of country-style music, you might be inclined to ignore the fact that the original song you presented the week before was, well, boring and tedious. Even so, until they revealed themselves as regionalist bigots, I think I would have like to have seen Hatch performing another round, instead of the affirmative action girl band or the kiddie metalheads.

Peter gave Hatch the benefit of the doubt by pointing out they didn’t know “the script” for being a gracious loser. The Likes of You knew it, though, and came out looking glorious. They confirmed their commitment to remain together, immediately announced a tour, and encouraged listeners to check into their MySpace page for dates and times. After all, that’s what they would have been doing if they hadn’t been on the show, and now that about a million people have seen them, they’ve just landed headliner status at larger clubs than they’d ever be booked at before the exposure, not to mention a ton of new fans.

Yeah, it’s disappointing to lose out on a TV talent show, especially to (at least two) bands which are little more than cheesy novelty acts. But The Likes of You had the right perspective in realizing that a) against thousands of competing bands, they’d won a spot of considerable exposure on national television, and b) the number of people who call in doesn’t matter as much as the number of people who ultimately buy your music and come out to see your show.

Philip Glass and Leonard Cohen at Stanford

On Monday, Peter, Neil and I went to see a “conversation with Philip Glass and Leonard Cohen” at Stanford. The next night, a performance of selections from Cohen’s poetry The Book of Longing set to Philip Glass’ composition was scheduled to be performed in the same theatre. Amazing, the tickets to the talk were free. I’d gone to Stanford to snag them the moment they were available, because I was sure every Leonard Cohen and Philip Glass fan in the entire Bay Area would be on line for them. So I was quite surprised to still find the theatre not filled to capacity.

Unfortunately, the moderator was too laid back for his subjects. I can only guess that the last time he did this, he had effervescent chatty people who didn’t need him, so he pretty much told Glass and Cohen to feel free to gab amongst themselves, like the close friends he expected them to be. Now, while it was clear the two artists respected each other and were pleased to have a composition in common, it also quickly became clear their collaboration was somewhat casual: Glass wanted to put to the poetry to music, and Cohen gave it his blessing. That’s it. Then Cohen, the more conversationally talented of the two, decided to be rather laid back himself, and Glass, driven as the New Yorker he is, felt compelled to fill the dead air. He went on and on about how he wrote the piece, how he cast the piece, and how he felt he had to rearrange the piece.

Even worse, the moderator hadn’t seemed to have done proper research on Glass and Cohen. He told them how fascinating he found it that they were both Jewish converts to Buddhism, and asked them to comment on it. Well, it turns out they’re both still Jewish, and not all that Buddhist. Cohen became intrigued with Zen Buddhism simply by encountering an incredible zen Zen Buddhist, and wanting the same sort of mindfulness himself. Since then, he’s practiced and participated in Zen rituals, but it seemed more about the state of mind than the religion to him. Then again, that’s just what a Zen Buddhist would say, isn’t it.

Glass, moreover, seemed quite surprised to find himself labelled as a Buddhist. He tried to explain the assumption by pointing out that he has a wide variety of friends and acquaintances, and if he needs to hang out with them, in order to do so, he may take on some of their practices. But by the same criterion, he said, he could be classified as a Hindu or Christian as well. He just came across as a very open-minded person, which really isn’t the same as Buddhist, no matter how groovy you may believe it to be.

By far the best questions came from the audience, who had sent them to the moderator in written form. Glass was asked whether the following apocryphal-sounding story was true. Shortly after Glass’ composition Einstein at the Beach has debuted, Glass was still driving a cab in New York to make ends meet. One evening, an older woman got into his cab and saw his cab license, which was prominently displayed. “Young man,” she said, “do you know there’s a famous composer with the same name as yours?” Glass said the story was actually true, but that, to his regret, he had never looked back to get a good look at the woman’s face. Since then, multiple women have claimed to be that passenger.

Another question from the audience, this addressed to Leonard Cohen, asked if he, like the questioner, had been alternately delighted and appalled, to find his song “Hallelujah” in the Shrek soundtrack. Cohen laughed, and said yes, but that it’s neat to see his music take on so many different forms.

Unfortunately, the moderator had left a scant 20 minutes for the audience questions, and the forum was over all too soon. Still, it was neat to see the two composers in person.

San Jose Culture Vultures Devour the San Francisco Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony came to play a free outdoor concert at noontime in downtown San Jose, and I was absolutely thrilled about it. I can’t afford even a stuck-in-the-rafters ticket to the San Francisco Symphony. Heck, I can’t even afford a decent ticket to the Symphony Silicon Valley, Ballet San Jose, or even the dopey San Jose Chamber Music Organization . And here they were, right in my town, playing a concert for free, and if I arrived early enough, I’d have a pretty good chance of getting seating up close. Furthermore, the concert included drawings for free concert tickets, and that would be pretty darn cool too.

On the way up on light rail, another lady noticed that I, like her, had a lawn seat in tow, and asked me if I was going to the free concert, too. We ended up concert buddies, which was pretty cool, because she was a seasoned culture vulture and knew all about the local performing arts organizations, including the scuttlebutt on the tragic decline and disappearance of the San Jose Symphony. She also told me this was the first time the San Francisco Symphony had played in San Jose since 1918, so it was a special event indeed.

We ended up in a few feet back from the first violin, with no-one (except Kelly) in front of us. That was awesome, because I could really see how the strings played. I couldn’t see the brass or woodwinds or percussion in the back, but I’m not sure anyone could. It was definitely a crowd of culture afficianados, which included several homeschooling families I knew.

When the park was nearly full with the likes of us, the “voice of the San Francisco Symphony,” a guy from the local classical radio station, came out to introduce the symphony and the young conductor, who recently won an award. I forget the name of the award, but it was for something like being judged as the living reincarnation of Gustav Mahler, conductor version.

He seemed a bit more cheerful than I thought of Gustav Mahler as being, but maybe if Gustav Mahler were reincarnated to 2007, where everyone thinks his compositions are the bomb, and he was conducting the San Francisco Symphony at the age of 25, maybe he’d be more cheerful, too.

It was a pretty modern selection, actually very appropriate to the venue and the musicians. The first piece was “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland, who’d conducted the San Francisco Symphony in 1966. It was mostly brass and percussion. Then the conductor introduced a piece called “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” by John Adams, who the conductor said was a local composer. It was pretty simple, but really neat: more like a musical painting of a car speeding down the highway. The longest piece was a suite from “Romeo and Juliet” by Prokiev (not to be confused with “Romeo and Juliet” by Tschaikovsky.) It’s apparently a signature piece of the San Francisco Symphony, and the conductor said the last part of it would sound like people walking in 400-pound armor. It actually did sound that way, and it was really neat to see how the violinists plucked the strings on their violins to contribute to that sound.

My concert buddy said she was a Gershwin fan , but she’d never heard this concert’s final piece by Gershwin, “Cuban Overture.” Oddly enough (thanks to Kelly’s preference for classical music), I heard it just last weekend on XM Pops Boundaries (aka weird stuff) show. An ambulance drove by with siren blasting during one portion, and it mixed right in. I still thought it was a bizarre composition, until Peter put into a context a music philistine like me could understand. “It’s a mash-up,” he said. Oh, yeah, now I get it.

The symphony got an extended standing ovation from the crowd, mostly because I think we all just appreciated them being there and putting on such a great concert for free. Unfortunately, I don’t think I won any free tickets: there were at least another 1,000 people signing up in hopes of winning them, too.

Kelly complained that she wanted to go downtown, even though we were there. To her, downtown San Jose is walking in the park, going to a movie, or a museum. We still had time before I had to pick up Neil (and later, Peter picked Neil up so we could stay even longer), so I took Kelly to the Children’s Discovery Museum. Among the exhibits she particularly enjoyed, was this one in the Water Works section:

She enjoyed dumping the balls in them to watch them get sucked down in the whirlpool. Later on, she described it as “the toilet.” When she was younger, she actually ruined the plumbing in the childrens’ bathroom by flushing too-big things down the toilet. Oh, if only we’d known she just wanted to play with this, we might have gotten a Children’s Discovery Museum membership instead and saved ourselves hundreds of dollars and a massive amount of labor…

by Carolyn Bickford

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