justin bieber…huckabee rival?

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

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Adults are apt to dismiss the young members of society as not having anything of substance to contribute. But I think that’s definitely changing. No longer can we admonish them with “children should be seen and not heard,” as was the golden rule in my younger years. Not that those approaching middle-age were ready to relinquish power without a fight. It’s more that upstarts like Bill Gates and Paul Allen at the tender ages of 13 and 15, respectively, began turning our world on its ear when they sought to create what became a global power, Microsoft. Others followed in time, Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg. These of course are the more prominent among the brainiacs of their generations. I think it’s safe to say these young men who were probably considered “still wet behind the ears” by their elders, grabbed the world’s attention, never letting go.

I personally have witnessed the power of those younger than me. My 25-year-old daughter continually teaches me about life, its radical highs and lows, as well as its moments of calm and serenity. The tables have turned, where I taught her, she now teaches me. Although sometimes I wonder if she hasn’t been giving me lessons all along, ever since she was a babe in my womb.

As I’ve made my way through this, at times overwhelming, internet adventure, 20-year-olds have reached out to help me. Blogger Scriptor Obscura was the first to regularly “like” my posts and leave comments. More recently, author B.C. Young agreed to be interviewed about self-publishing, sharing insight into an area that’s still evolving. In turn he invited me to share a fictional piece of my own on his blog, introducing me to his readers. More than anything this young man gave this senior writer a “hand up.”

Thanks for giving me my first break, Ben. It’s heartwarming to know that there are published writers, like yourself, who will give a hand up to those of us still struggling to have our words read in printed form.

“mahalo”…thank you…millie aka hugmamma.

Yesterday when I volunteered at the office of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association, Trevor Barnes, the assistant director, shared encouraging words of support when I expressed doubt that I even belonged among such an elite company of published writers, as per the bios I viewed on PNWA’s website. Trevor assured me that there were thousands of members like me, just looking to write something that would someday be published and read. I left the office with hope. And I got that from someone in his 20s.

One Less Lonely Girl

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So when I saw the following I felt inclined to share it. Why? Because quite simply I was shocked to learn that the young pop idol, Justin Bieber, had something going on under his blonde, mop of hair, than just hip-hop lyrics. I think you’ll be as astonished as I was.

“Go Ahead, America, Leave It to Bieber”
by Joe Queenan (Wall Street Journal, 2/26/11)

Justin Bieber got slammed good last week when he opened his yap about abortion in Rolling Stone. Some people objected to his views, others scorched him for the way he phrased them, still others questioned the very notion of a 16-year-old boy offering his opinion on any serious moral, political or legal question.

Susan Sarandon at the premiere of Speed Racer ...

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The apoplectic response to Mr. Bieber’s comments is not fair. As of Tuesday, when he will be exactly one year short of the age when he can legally vote, drink or kill Taliban, the diminutive Canadian has every right to express himself on any issue he feels passionately about. The idea that youth somehow disqualifies him from speaking out on issues is the very thing young people–now grumpy old Bieber-Bashing Baby Boomers–fought against in the 1960s. After all, Justin Bieber is at least as smart as Susan Sarandon.

But the worst thing about all the Rolling Stone kerfuffle is that it has drawn attention away from other opinions Mr. Bieber has offered on major issues of the day. And in his clear, articulate, reasoned analysis of these issues, Mr. Bieber has shown himself to be that rarest of creatures: the precocious youth whose opinions must be heeded.

It’s Mr. Bieber, for example, who was the first person to warn that spiraling commodity prices would lead to unrest in Bahrain and Yemen. Interviewed by the BBC in January, he said: “Once you see that disconnect between pork belly futures and 30-day wheat, look out! When food prices spike–and this goes all the way back to the days when Mark Antony had to import grain from Egypt–there is no way to put a cap on civil unrest back home. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, maybe even Iran. It’s the domino effect.”

Mr. Bieber’s comments did not go down well in the futures markets, where copper and tin immediately tanked. Who died and left this punk in charge? Why should anyone care what a celebrity of any age, gender or height cares about anything important? Don’t you have to be at least as old and gray as George Clooney before anyone starts taking you seriously?

Gaga on The Monster Ball Tour in Toronto

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Generally speaking, this anticelebrity bias is justifiable. Sean Penn is an idiot, Madonna a dope, Christina Aguilera a nitwit. Lady Gaga never says anything that isn’t stupid, obvious or self-serving, and Martin Sheen should have spent less time protesting in the streets and more time in the home parenting. As for Bono, who definitely seems like a sincere, well-meaning sort, exactly how much wisdom can one impute to a man who wrote the music for the Spider-Man musical?

But in Mr. Bieber’s case, the animosity and condescension are not jusfified. Mr. Bieber, after all, was the first person–not the first celebrity, but the first personto warn that Ireland’s economy would implode because of a bloated real-estate market. More recently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he was way ahead of the curve when he suggested that cash-strapped states like Illinois and California should simply threaten to default on their debt if it was the only way to get unions to come to the negotiating table.

“Trash the muni market and you’ll see unions fold like a cheap accordion,” he says, “Just look at the yield curve.”

Not everything Mr. Bieber says is astute or prescient. He was wrong when he told a Japanese TV reporter that 3-D TV would take off last Christmas, and he seriously underestimated the ability of Apple’s competitors to respond to the appeal of the iPad. His forecast of a 4.5% GDP growth rate for the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter was way off base. What’s more, he has a lamentable tendency to express his views on topics where he has no expertise whatsoever; whether the Knicks gave up too much to sign Carmelo Anthony, whether learning a second language can help stave off Alzheimer’s, why the next pope should come from Bolivia. But for every target he misses, he hits at least one bull’s eye. And when he speaks out on issues that pertain to the world of music, he is wise beyond his years.

Mike Huckabee's band at the Lincoln Day Dinner...

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“If Huckabee doesn’t stop trotting out that stupid bass guitar,” Mr. Bieber told Rolling Stone, “he has no chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination. The American people are not going to elect a president who plays the same instrument as Sting and Flea. Not now. Not ever.”

i have to chuckle…but i also have to…wonder…if out of the mouths of babes?…hugmamma. 

(note: who the heck is “sting and flea?”)

not a job for everyone, ballet

Hollywood is coming out with yet another ballet film, The Black Swan, starring Natalie Portmann. My daughter and I saw the trailer for it before the feature film Burlesque, starring Christina Aguilera  and Cher. We couldn’t say enough great things about Burlesque. On the other hand, The Black Swan will not get my money. Out of curiosity, my daughter may see it with her dancer friends. I’m not a fan of Stephen King books or films, and this latest dance movie seems to fit that bill.

Last night on one of the entertainment news shows, Natalie Portmann and Milla Kunes spoke briefly of their experience during filming of The Black Swan. They both implied that there was a mean-spiritedness among ballet dancers. There was no indication whether or not they worked with a real ballet company, or if they were speaking from hearsay. Generalizing that ballet dancers are one thing or another in a news clip, doesn’t make it true.

 The media has done a good job to help stereotype people from all walks of life. Don’t we all know more than we care to know, about Lindsay Lohan and Brittney Spears? According to the news that drones on about these two, they are out-of-control, spoiled-rotten, alcoholics. I’d just as soon leave them alone to sort out their own lives. Give me a break, and them.

I personally think ballet is not the right fit for everyone. Moms wanting their toddlers to dance prettily in ballet slippers, pink leotards and tights, should be very careful not to overstep their children’s enthusiasm for the art form. When it stops being fun, or when the children have mastered all that they can, and can do no more toward advancing to higher levels, moms should accept that their children may want to, or need to, involve themselves elsewhere, where they may be happier, and more successful.

As with anything in life, parents need to walk a “fine line,” between what they want and what their children want. I think the best approach is to involve our children in the direction their lives take, on an ongoing basis. As we help them strategize we should pay heed to the signals they give off, whether vocalized or not. Of course they don’t always know what they want, but often times they know what they don’t  want. I think both are equally important. Steering them through a maze of choices is not easy for us or them.

After seeing a close friend perform in a recital, our 8-year-old daughter decided she wanted to dance. So she enrolled in jazz, tap and ballet classes at the same studio as her friend. During the three years she danced there, our daughter advanced into classes with students older than she. After year-end recitals, audience members approached my husband and I to congratulate us on our daughter’s dancing. Those were the first times I heard words I have continued to hear at her performances, “I couldn’t take my eyes off of her” or “She has tremendous stage presence.”

When we moved west, our daughter enrolled in a private studio originated by former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal, Deborah Hadley. When she first saw our daughter in a ballet class, her arched feet had Hadley inquiring “Who’s that girl?” That December, our daughter was cast in the role of ballerina doll in The Nutcracker’s  party scene. Her joy at receiving such an honor dissolved when upon opening night, the Russian teacher responsible for staging the ballet, told our daughter she had not “performed” the role, but only executed the technical steps.

When our daughter told us what had happened on the ride home, we were, of course, upset. But not wanting to cause her additional grief, I advised her instead to perform for herself, not for her teacher. I also told her something I’ve continued to tell her “Dance every role, no matter what it is, as though you’re a star. You’ll have done your very best, and that’s all you can do.”  The only thing I tell her now, before a performance is “Have fun!”

Throughout her entire journey towards a career in ballet, our daughter has received encouragement from all who have seen her dance. Teachers, artistic directors, choreographers,  and fellow dancers,  have consistently told us that she had great potential. Audience members have congratulated her performances. I was most moved when a brother-in-law, who saw her dance for the first and only time, said his eyes welled with tears when he watched her perform a solo with Northwest Professional Dance Program in Portland a few summers ago.

With what our daughter seemed to have going for her in talent and work ethic, becoming a professional ballet dancer was still no guarantee. There was competition, disappointments, stresses, politics, tears. Having been a corporate career person before becoming a mom, I suffered the same traumas in my workplace. The difference is I was paid better, but my daughter has more passion for her job than I had for any of several I worked.

When I moved to Atlanta to enable our 16-year-old daughter to train with Atlanta Ballet in the hopes she’d become a member, moms of students there would ask the secret to her success thus far.  I would tell them it took 50% talent, and 50% a combination of other things.

From what I could see, the right candidate for a professional dance job needed to be able to withstand the extraordinary pressures of competing for company openings, and then roles, socializing with older, more senior dancers, speaking on one’s own behalf with staff, maintaining a healthy body, physically, mentally and emotionally, and living within one’s means, on salaries that are below minimum wage in some cases. Who could, or would, want to subject themselves to such a career? Not me, but then I’m not cut out for such a life. Not many are, but my daughter is.

Just as not all people are created equal, not all ballet companies are cut from the same cloth. Probably unknown to the lay person is the fact that there are many, many, many dance companies throughout this country, and abroad.  Some are big, with 50 or more full-time dancers, and then there are companies like my daughter’s where there are only 15 members, 8 men and 7 women. Besides the difference in numbers, there’s a huge difference in budgets. Bigger companies, like Pacific Northwest Ballet, enjoy $15 million to $20 million budgets; my daughter’s gets by on a shoestring budget of $4 million.

Just as a corporation’s modus operandi  reflect the style of the  “head honcho,” the CEO/President, so too does a ballet, or modern, dance company reflect its artistic director’s style. And we all know that the top man can run the gamut, from monster to saint. Having witnessed both styles in my former career, and my husband’s and daughter’s careers, it seems what kind of boss and work environment we get is in the “luck of the draw.” I’ve always subscribed to the belief that within any organization, be it a household, a company, or a church, whatever occurs, filters from the top down. Bad management begets a bad environment begets mostly cranky, negative whiners.

So while there are ballet, and modern, dance companies who fit the descriptions of Portmann and her fellow actor, there are those like my daughter’s, whose artistic director has shown courage and concern by allowing her a 3 month leave to address health issues, with a guarantee that she can return to her job in January. He and his staff have shown her great love and support. So I know, first-hand, that one size does not fit all in the ballet world.

neither is ballet a career for everyone…hugmamma.