"Hey, you know what Sunday night is?" my 11-year-old daughter shouted to me from the family room late last week. I knew she was spending one of her last carefree mornings of summer break fiddling around on-line. "Does 'Fred' have a new video out?" I ventured a guess. "My gosh Mom, that series hasn't been on in years," she admonished. "But the actor in it did just announce he was gay on You Tube."
I am clearly not up on what's going down with Internet stars under the age of 21. I am also clearly not up on what's going on with stars over the age of 21 either. Because according to my daughter the big event she was looking forward to on this past Sunday night was the 30th annual MTV's Video Music Awards.
The VMAs have been around for three decades? Wow. That means there are thousands of mothers and fathers running around the greater Madison area who have never known an entertainment world that didn't include the Moonman statue, a shocking Madonna/Britney Spears moment, or the opportunity for Lady Gaga to sport a caftan built for carnivores. This cohort of parents -- who have grown up in the age of music video relevancy -- have a generational name. They are called Millenials. And the VMAs, I always figured, were for them.
I am quite a few years younger than Madonna (who appeared on the award show's inaugural broadcast in 1984), but am probably a more typical example than the Material Girl of mothers born in the '50s or '60s. I am either a very young Baby Boomer or a very old Gen Xer. MTV didn't launch until I was already in high school. So if video killed the radio star, it did so well after my pop music coming of age. And up until last Sunday night, I'd never watched the Oscars of music videos live.
My daughter was born in 2002. "Total Request Live" went off the air when she was in still in kindergarten, so she's never known MTV to be the place to go for music videos. And to date (thankfully) she's shown no interest in watching "Teen Mom," "Catfish," or any of the other semi-disturbing reality shows that appear to make up the bulk of the network's current programming. So her palpable excitement for the MTV awards show kind of surprised me.
When asked though why she was so excited about watching it, my daughter replied, "There's a rumor that N'Sync may be getting back together. And I kind of like the oldies." We made plans to watch.
Fortunately I didn't need to end up censoring the Artist Formerly Known As Hannah Montana or any of Kevin Hart's crass but not-even-a-little-bit funny humor. Because my daughter, clearly underwhelmed (and confused) by the Lady Gaga opener, promptly fell asleep as soon as the show went to commercial break. She missed Taylor Swift's f-bomb and didn't get to see such lofty superlatives awarded as "Best Video with a Social Message" or the "Song of the Summer." With categories like that, I kind of expected some recognition for best use of a cat in a music video. Or at least a best foreign language video award tailor-made for PSY.
No, I guess you could say I wasn't particularly impressed. But I still couldn't bring myself to turn the TV off and ended up watching straight through the over-the-top (under the bridge?) Katy Perry finale.
As expected, when my daughter woke up Monday morning she asked first thing to see the much-hyped reunion and I showed her all 110 seconds of it online. "That was it?" she asked. "N'Sync didn't even sing a whole song," she said with a tone of bitter disappointment.
So I explained to her that sometimes things, like awards shows and boy band reunions, are just about creating buzz. They are about having something silly to distract us from much more serious world issues. And giving pop stars an award show to which they are allowed to wear jeans.
I told her that there were many people who enjoyed hyping the reunion of five cute singers they had adored in their youth. But many didn't want to spend too much time actually watching four of the same five guys, all likely pushing 40, perform.
The Millenials have probably known all along that the VMAs are more about gawking at the Miley-like train wrecks than spending a few minutes with the more "classic" models.
But the show has definitely turned off one 11-year-old member of Generation Z and her Gen X mom. I guess we'll never be a part of Generation MTV. And I can't help but wonder when a decade from now a Millennial mom sits down with her pre-teen daughter to watch the You Tube Video Awards how she will explain Beliebers or twerking during the inevitable Justin/Miley reunion duet.
Which will come right after the Fred lifetime achievement award.comments powered by Disqus
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.