When Did Glee Become Gay?

Glee

Not that long ago we were having lunch with a couple we know from California.  They’re a straight couple, the husband is a pilot (which is a relatively macho profession, I guess), and they really enjoy the TV show Glee.  The husband was mentioning how much guff he gets from fellow pilots – the vast majority of whom are male – about this.  Of course, the running conceit of the show is that the glee club students keep getting bullied because being in show choir is “so gay”.  That got me to wondering, when did the idea of being in glee club become gay?

Male Performers

Consider examples of men singing through the ages: Think of the cowboys who had a guitar or harmonica, singing by the campfire.  Think of the family gatherings a century or more ago where different members of the family would play instruments or sing in the family parlour after dinner to entertain each other.  Think of the famous opera singers with their rich voices.  Think of the bad boys of rock and roll, hip hop, and punk.  Think of Bruce Springsteen, for goodness’ sakes. 

None of these strike me as particularly effeminate.  Sure, I can make the jokes about Brokeback Mountain (“wasn’t just the harmonica he was blowing…”) and there are the occasional Freddie Mercuries and Frankie Goes to Hollywoods as counterexamples.  But for the most part, being a singer was a sure way to get the girls.  So when did glee club in school get this negative association?

The good news is that, in an age when the arts budgets are the first on the chopping block in local school districts, it seems that the TV show Glee has sparked some new interest in show choirs at high schools across the US.  Both my mother and her father were music educators and I’m sure they’re happy for anything that renews interest in music at the school level.

 

When I Am Through With the Hong Kong MTR

Before doing a final back-up of my November 2010 photos and videos and removing them from my laptop’s hard drive, I realized I had an unfinished project from my most recent trip to Hong Kong.  I was in the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station on a Friday evening during rush hour and shot some video of the mass of humanity.

At the same time, I had just completed the third season of the Glenn Close TV show “Damages” and they have an interesting effect in the title sequence that I wanted to try to recreate: they show a crowded intersection in New York in fast-motion and then suddenly cut the clip to slow-motion.  (If you want to see the original, a link to it is here.  The shot I’m talking about lasts all of one second and takes place at about 0:08.)

As an homage to my inspiration, I “borrowed” the same title song, “When I Am Through With You” by The V.L.A.  It is an energetic, guitar-driven song which I crudely edited to just over one minute.  I hope you enjoy it.

I’ve been making an effort to post on a daily basis.  Right now I have a backlog of several entries and am trying to work through them.

Drafting to Classical Music

My work is pretty much all computer-based, sitting in front of the monitor for hours a day.  I enjoy having music on in the background or some NPR podcasts (what’s a day without Fresh Air?) but since a lot of the work I do is technical writing, music with lyrics and shows with interviews and opinions can interfere with my writing.  So recently I returned to classical music and opened a can of memories from secondary school drafting class.

Drafting was a large part of my secondary school life.  After an initial mechanical drafting class in 8th grade, I studied architectural drafting for my three remaining years and became quite good at it, winning a prize at the county fair and participating in some statewide competitions through VICA – the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America – kind of a 4-H for the vocational set.  It is now known as SkillsUSA.

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Me, Mr. Geraci, and Marie Brown with our Santa Clara County Fair drafting trophies. 

My teacher was Mr. Frank Geraci, without a doubt the teacher who had a greater influence on me than any other.  In addition to teaching his students about drafting, he taught them about so many other important life skills: organization, preparation, patience, respect for the “right way” of doing things, leadership, communication, etc.  He even taught us about constitutional law: though he was a faithful Catholic, he was also a staunch believer of the separation of church and state and when we would recite the Pledge of Allegiance (the the US flag) he would remain silent for the words “under God” as he believed they had no business being in there.

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High school classmates Joyce and Scott.

Anyhow, back to classical music.  After giving whatever instructions and announcements he might at the start of class, Mr. Geraci would set us to work and turn on the radio, which was tuned to KDFC 102.1 FM, a 64-year old San Francisco Bay Area institution that is the most listened-to classical radio station in the United States.  So we would work away for the fifty minutes or however long the class period was, to the strains of Mahler, Mendelssohn, and Mozart.

Except for Fridays.  On Fridays, Mr. Geraci would cede control of the tuning dial to the students so we could listen to our choice of stations, provided he could retain control of the volume dial.

So once again I find myself listening to KDFC as I diligently work, this time by streaming over the internet instead of over a decades-old stereo, making the hours go by pleasantly.  And as I listen and work, I find waves of memories from nearly a quarter-century ago lapping over me.

 

New Notes and Photos

One of the wonderful things about this little community on Xanga is how it connects you to creative and interesting people both inside and outside the community.

Evan wrote a recent entry in which he linked to photographer Phillip Toledano’s online slideshow titled Days with My Father.  Following his mother’s death, Toledano cared for his father, who had no short-term memory.  The three years they spent together are beautifully captured through his photos and words.

Phillip Toledano Day With My Father.jpg

When you click on the link, it will take a few moments for all the thumbnails to load.  Click on the upper left thumbnail to begin and then navigate through the slideshow by clicking at the bottom of each page when you are ready to advance.  The navigation took me a few moments to figure out but it is worth it.

Locus Ambrosia.jpg Another Xangan, Jason, is part of the Vancouver BC-based band Locus.  They just released their first album, Ambrosia. 

Described as “dream pop” their music is a combination of electronic, ambient and industrial rock.  Listen to their beautiful songs for free on MySpace.  You can download the album from iTunes by searching for “Locus Ambrosia”.

Add to this the many talented poets on Xanga and we have a very creative tribe here.

Quick Quick Danger

New Singapore band Quick Quick Danger describe themselves as “powerpop laced with phaaaaat electronic beats, 80’s inspired synthesizers and witty dueling vocals.” 

Quick Quick Danger.jpg

Their first four tracks, two of which are downloadable for free, are catchy, including this cover of Jay Sean’s “Down”.  Now, this might now appeal to all of you, but if you like powerpop laced with phaaaat electronic beats and 80’s inspired synths, then you might enjoy checking it out.

They are on MySpace and Facebook, too.  Thanks to Angry Asian Man Phil Yu for writing about QQD first.

 

Drivin’ in a Fast Car

While working and listening to my iPod, Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” came up in shuffle mode.  A wave of nostalgia washed over me as I thought of where I first heard the song.  When I moved to University of California Riverside in January 1990, my first roommate in the dorm was a pre-med student.  I don’t even remember his name.  He had a stereo and a collection of CDs, one of which was Tracy Chapman’s eponymous debut album.

Unfortunately, introducing me to this new artist was one of the few positive things about my relationship with this roommate.  He was in a fraternity and had a drinking problem, coming home very late and very loud time and time again.  It got to the point where his fraternity brothers actually apologized to me one night when they had to carry him into the room at three in the morning.  They said they were trying to get him to shape up.

On top of it, this roommate had a habit of bringing his girlfriends over and they’d fool around in bed while I was (trying to) sleep on the other side of the room.

After trying to work things out with him, I eventually complained to the residence hall advisor and at the end of that quarter, he was kicked out of the dorm.  There are lots of other things I recall from those days.  While some were quite good and others were a bit of a pain, they all form kind of a neutral cloud of memories.

At least I found out about Tracy Chapman.

 

Karaoke Etiquette

Last Saturday I hosted a karaoke gathering at R&B Karaoke on Thanon Naratiwat.  Marc was actually the person who kept sugesting we do karaoke, but he didn’t really know a place so I offered to pull it together.

A large number of our “regular” group were out of town or otherwise unavailable.  At one point, it looked like it would be just six of us, even though I had booked a room that held up to fifteen people.

Roka came through a few days before, inviting a group of her friends who were already gathering to celebrate a birthday.  It made for a lot of new faces, but I’m always ready to meet new people.  Especially if there is singing involved.

All in all, the night was good fun.  The selection of songs was good, the singers were no worse than “okay”, and the food was tasty.  We ran into some problems as the evening progressed, though, the types of problems that karaoke parties can often encounter.

At the end of the night, on the way back home, Tawn shared with me some of his expertise in this area.  See, you have to appreciate that I grew up in a culture that, while very musical, was not very karaoke-savvy.  As much as I enjoy singing, I can safely say that I’ve been to a karaoke place less than ten times in my life, including the six months I lived in Hong Kong.

I know.  You’re surprised, right?

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To address some of the challenges we encountered at karaoke, Tawn educated me about karaoke etiquette.  Like bowling etiquette (Don’t bowl at the same time the people in the adjacent lanes are bowling.  You did know that, right?), karaoke etiquette contains rules for genteel behavior that makes the experience more pleasant for all involved. 

Let’s review:

 

Choosing songs

One common problem is that whoever grabs the remote control device starts browsing the catalog and, before you know it, they’ve entered ten songs that they really like.  The problem is by the time those songs come up they only want to sing the first couple, then they tire of singing and try to pass the microphone to other people, none of whom is enthusiastic about the song because they didn’t choose it.

Solution: The two song rule.  Each person gets to choose two songs to sing then the remote is handed to the next person.  If the remote is difficult to use, you can have a designated “DJ” to enter the information, but each person chooses two songs.  Once you’ve gone around the room you can start again.

Another problem with song selection is that there are just certain songs that aren’t really good for karaoke.  You know the ones.  They are hard to sing.  You don’t really know the melody because you only sing along to the chorus.  They are slow balads that are really depressing.  They have l-o-n-g instrumental parts between verses. 

Solution: Choose songs carefully.  The best ones are ones that are upbeat and that everyone knows and can enjoy singing to.  “Summer Lovin'” from the musical Grease is a great example.  “Like A Virgin” by Madonna is another good example.  Nearly anything by the Beatles.  If you need something down tempo, choose “Misty”. 

 

Group Composition

This may be a little touchy, but I’d argue that the best karaoke experiences occur when your group has pretty common tastes in music.  We listened to everything from the Everly Brothers to Robbie Williams to some new hip-hop artists I’ve never heard of.  Hey, I enjoyed the music but there were frequently several people sitting around kind of bored with the music at that given point.

Solution: Meanly cherry-pick your participants so the range of music doesn’t get too wide.  Okay, I’m kidding a little bit on this one, but there is still a point to be made here.  I’m not sure I can relate to what those youngsters are listening to these days.

 

Paying

This is always a challenge.  Some people arrive early and leave early, others arrive late and leave late.  Some just stop by for a bit in the middle of the evening.  At the karaoke places here in Thailand, you can order food and drinks to eat in the room.  These are good quality but expensive, as that’s how the money is made.

So you have the twin problems of how to collect money and how to divide the bill fairly.

We ran into that at the party.  Part way through, a few of the people decided to head out.  We actually totaled the food and beverage bill through that point and agreed about how it would be divied up.  We also agreed that the room rental would be divided equally by the number of people who eventually showed up and would be added to the food and beverage bill that we had just settled.  Then we did the whole thing again at the end of the evening.

Even though I thought everyone had agreed to the division, I received a call the next morning from one person who seemed to feel he had paid an unfair amount and questioning the motivation of other people who had showed up, suggesting they maybe were intending to free-load.  Oh, brother.

Solution: Come to an agreement beforehand about how bills will be covered.  I can agree that the cost of alcohol (which is a big expense, along with mixers) can be unfair to spread among people who did not drink, although if they had juice or cola they were drinking expensive mixers.  But outside of that, I think the room and food costs need to be splite evenly per person regardless of how long you stayed, how much or little you sang, and how much or little you ate.

It is just the easiest way to ensure that the hosts (or other people) don’t end up paying a hefty “surcharge” to cover a bill when those who pitched in didn’t pitch in enough.

 

So those are my initial thoughts about karaoke etiquette.  I’d appreciate you sharing any more so that I can be coaxed into organizing another outing.