Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From The Top

I worry there might be things my daughter is good at and I don't know it.

One of the things she likes to do is make up jazzy little songs, or get in the bathroom in front of the mirror and run up and down the scale while she carries on a conversation with somebody in there.

I've been thinking the least I can do is make sure she hears kids sing who aren't part of the Disney channel. So, I was happy to run into From The Top on PBS the other night. They had a 14-year-old jazz singer from Canada on. My daughter was riveted. Same look she used to give other kids on the NYC subway.

My friend, David Ison, a man who makes the world a little less painful place to live, tells me she should learn some Billie Holliday tunes.

Billie holiday
Uploaded by 2gaia -

I'm torn between Nancy King and Eva Cassidy.

Wish I could find video of King doing Man In The Oven. I've been there. Of course, my daughther can spend the morning listening to Holliday, Cassidy, King and the Justice sampler, then go right back to Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus videos.


Decidere said...

This is a different world, at least for us. The idea of listening to your kids, not always playing superiority, comes pretty natural to us. Back then it was more like boot camp, make sure the kids got all those special characteristics of the parents, including the feeling of superiority above all others. Maybe it wasn't as stark as all that, but the underlying presumption of everything was that greatest generation "we're better, just because". That unexplained and undeserved expectation is perhaps behind a lot of the heightened self-valuation of the offspring. Boomers picked up by the bootstraps of the GI Bill, what else was needed to ensure the future generation?

Billy Glad said...

When Benjamin Spock came out against the Vietnam War, it was a stunning moment.

Decidere said...

Yeah, all across America parents were re-examining the contents on their Gerbers jars. Did we fuck up?

Billy Glad said...

He used to give some simple guidance to parents about when to call a doctor. One of them was "if your child has holes in his body he wasn't born with." Those were his kids dying in Vietnam.

Decidere said...

He was brilliant. He helped raise millions of kids to be adults - how could he partake in being part of the slaughter? "What does Doc Spock recommend for fungi sticks and venereal drip, Agent Orange and B-52 shell shock?" When Spock's book was translated into Vietnamese, it had to include sections for children digging trenches, living on K rations and screaming down the road after being burned by napalm. Oddly enough, he was called a "radical" when most people should have recognized him as being just the slightest bit pragmatic and rational. But those are qualities that aren't much appreciated unless attributed ironically.

Decidere said...

Looking back at the original post, I'm not sure what "talent" I had to recognize. Actually there was too much focus on competition and not enough fun, in a Seymour Glass kind of way, if you get my drift. "Talent" is multi-faceted. Some of our geniuses appear early, some appear late. Much of it is happenstance - would Theroux be well-known if not for a chance meeting with Naipaul? Kafka wanted all his books burned after his death. Kazantzakis started writing novels at 63 years old with Zorba and Last Temptation when he was 68.

Parents can help cultivate a passion, for quality and fun. Their ability to evaluate objectively and accurately is close to nil - love and time can run faster, to hijack Robert Palmer.

quinn the eskimo said...

My folks originally thought my major talent was arguing. 'Til they saw me winning arguments by holding kids down and pounding them. After that, they channelled me more toward cage-fighting.

Speaking of which, I hope one of you two is gonna come out pro-Vietnam War. Right now, you're both sounding awfully liberal. We're supposed to be giving credibility to some Doc that helped raise guys like you lot? Curtis Lemay's looking good by comparison.

Decidere said...

No, my parents raised me in a Skinner box, being persuaded by behaviorism. Their only regret is not using a higher current on the conditioning response. Though I think they were influenced by Spock's lesser known book, "Baby and Hamster Care".

quinn the eskimo said...

'Til I was 5, the people I stayed with encouraged me in two things. Singing. And memorizing car models. They'd perch me on the piano bench to sing for older visitors; and for younger ones, I'd get plunked on the windowsill, to shout out the names, makes, models of each oncoming car. Apparently, I knew them all, and did a kickass Puff The Magic Dragon in the bargain. No wonder I hung out with my dog.

Funny though. After my voice broke at 13, I went from boy singing wonder to never singing another note. And I've never owned a car. Blew both those careers.

Just before she died, I talked to Bessie - the lady that took care of me as a kid - and asked her what I was like while I was learning to speak. One of the most genuinely weird conversations I've ever had in my life. Because when I asked, she just looked... ashen. And said, "I don't know." I asked what she meant and she said, "Well, it was like one day you were a little baby, and then you were..." And she trails off. This is odd, I think, I've never ever seen her act like this. But I push on and say, "I was..."

And she looks up and says, "Frightening." Really. That's what she said. And the look on her face had no joking around in it. She said when I started speaking, it was full-blown - like a little prof. And that I "scared people."

Geez, thanks.

Naturally, being a good speaker, I moved home and got told by my Mum to shut up for the next 13 years. No encouragement for music, opposition to sports, ignorance of science, art - forget it. I never even learned to make stickmen. Just... GET GOOD GRADES, go to law school, GET SAVED, and if you're in a fight, make sure you win, don't come crying home. Thank God my Dad saw a bit more joy in life - just said, be happy, and encouraged me in everything. I got all of that part right, except the "be happy" thing. Seemed like a waste of time.

I always figured this was kindof abnormal. But the older I get, the more I realize it wasn't. Not really. Most of humanity pretty much gets this as encouragement. "Don't come crying home" - the fundament.

Jesus, I sound like a whiner. Well fuck that. Ok - It was great. Now put up yer dukes. And don't go cryin' home to yer Ma.

Decidere said...

Aha, the QuinniModo comes out, swinging from the blog lamps.

Just don't come whining back to the Hive - we're all fucked up here in our own quaint ways. Looking for meaning in all the wrong places, looking for fear in too many faces...

The thing I laugh about most with Obama is he ran away from a mother that I would have died for - digging around dusty huts, exploring the 3rd world. I ask me mum about the Greenwich Village jazz scene when she lived there and get a blank stare, and then "Stan Kenton". Okay, one. I remember the disparagement of Albert Schweitzer multiple times - "think of what he could have done if he'd stayed home and put his skills to making money". That's right, just send money to Africa, psychic attachment is futile. It was a world where every parent was sure their view was the best. Acting adult meant how well you could mimic the particular druthers of each adult, monkeying the right answers to what you'd like to do. In a way, it was like having a guild without any craft - all the aspirants simply hang around repeating rote answers, rote behavior. I can't think of any useful knowledge, any special skills any of the parents imparted, any insightful wisdom. Okay, one father liked working on cars, so that of course made him popular. Other than that, it was a suburban void, well-educated people with nothing to say. That was the American Dream as I knew it. I can still tell you all the baseball stats, all the football lineups, all the hockey players from that period, and all the sludge from Reader's Digest and Dear Abby. Dr. Spock threw a molotov cocktail into all that - good for him. Too bad there weren't many many more. In some ways it feels like we've reverted to the 50's all over again, without the post-war smugness and prosperity, just the fear of the bomb and our narrow viewpoints. No time for mysticism, beauty, life. We're too busy being amoeba.

quinn the eskimo said...

Something for the kid. Another Canuck named Yanovsky - Zal, though. Yeah, he was a ratfink, but still... they look a lot happier than any I've seen on TV in a long time. Magic.

GirlfromtheBronx said...

Wow, just listened to the Eva Cassidy link you put up--I've NEVER heard her before. I'm blinking back the tear droplets from my eyes. Kind of shook up, I am actually. Thanks for putting this up, Billy.

About your daughter, I'm a little late joining the conversation, but I'll just share a story my mother tells about me when I went to kindergarden. On the first day of school, when all the other children went to the swings and toys, my teacher took notice that I went over to the piano. That she took notice was probably the most important thing I guess. She told my mother and my mother also took notice. My parents always encouraged my interest in music.

Your daughter's creative life with her mirror is so familiar to me. I was constantly preparing for my "future performances," whether it was doing all my imitations of Satchmo, Judy Garland and a hots of others or just acting out different emotions.

She sounds like a real pistol. I hope someone at her school is "noticing."

I do wish Miley Cyrus didn't exist though. I can't imagine a more vapid specimen for youth consumption. UGH.