Pursuing Perfection


“Twitter Won’t “Let It Go” After Idina Menzel’s “Frozen” Performance on New Year’s Eve”

?????????????????My, there sure are a lot of people critiquing Idina Menzel’s New Year’s Eve performance. Who’d have guessed that the nation had such wide knowledge and experience of music and performance? Let it go, people!

Yes, I’ve seen the video clip, and yes, she missed the last high note, after beautifully performing the first 3 minutes and 40 seconds. As a singer myself, I can imagine how upset she’d have been with herself as she neared the note, muffed it, and still had to appear confident and grateful for applause. That’s a terrible feeling, that moment that you know – and you always know – that you just screwed something up in front of the world.

The thing is, most of us will never have the chance to make big mistakes in front of large audiences. Few rise to any kind of worldwide fame, and those few generally deserve their place, whether you approve or not. The singer, the actor, the politician, the fashion guru … they get there by being either very good at what they do, or being very good at hiring people to make it appear that they are very good at what they do. Joe/Jane Blow on The Voice or American Idol is not that person. Those who audition on talent shows are hoping that they can get to the top, but it’s a long hard road and they are only a few paces in.

There are several factors that are being ignored by those ‘haters,’ one being a deep dark secret the performing industry hopes you’ve not noticed – most of the top stars performing at important live events are not actually singing live. Or they may be singing along to a recording of themselves, to cover the bases. You don’t want a major event being spoiled by the vagaries of humans. Singers, being human, are not always at their best when you need them to be. Lip synching, or miming, has been around since as long as there has been the ability to create and record one perfect performance. Did you honestly think that the actors in the Partridge Family just all happened to be wonderful little songbirds as well? Do you not remember the scandal in 1990 when Milli Vanilli had to return their Grammy award when it turned out they hadn’t actually sung their hits?

Even the great Pavarotti had to fall back on lip synching.

pavarotti“On February 10, 2006, Luciano Pavarotti sang “Nessum Dorma” at the 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Turin, Italy at his final performance. In the last act of the opening ceremony, his performance received the longest and loudest ovation of the night from the international crowd. Leone Magiera, who directed the performance, revealed in his 2008 memoirs, Pavarotti Visto da Vicino, that the performance was pre-recorded weeks earlier. “The orchestra pretended to play for the audience, I pretended to conduct and Luciano pretended to sing. The effect was wonderful,” he wrote. Pavarotti’s manager, Terri Robson, said that the tenor had turned the Winter Olympic Committee’s invitation down several times because it would have been impossible to sing late at night in the sub-zero conditions of Turin in February. The committee eventually persuaded him to take part by pre-recording the song.” (Wikipedia)

Having heard Ms Menzel’s performance, I can assure you – she was neither lip synching nor singing to a track. That was a real person on stage, in the freezing cold, trying to give her best to an audience of thousands. Of those sneering at the missed note, 99.9% would likely be unable to replace her in either her stage or recording capacity.

But they’ll chime in anyway, because today’s audiences are also either unaware or uncaring that the recording of a voice is not necessarily a snapshot of what the singer can actually perform live. Many performers rely on auto-tune, not only in the studio, but in their microphone during a live performance. (Auto-tune, first developed in 1997, is an audio processor that corrects pitch in notes.) And during recording, the singer can make as many stabs as they like at hitting a particularly high note, or at holding a note, independent of what notes came before. The singer can record a line at a time, if necessary, and the studio engineer can cut and paste parts of the song as needed. The engineer can also add ‘sweeteners’ to the voice, adding a slight echo, or bringing up the treble or bass in the voice to create fullness. So what you’re hearing on a record may actually have very little in common with what the singer will present in a live performance.  auto tune disabled

“Opponents of the plug-in have argued that Auto-Tune has a negative effect on society’s perception and consumption of music. In 2004, UK’s The Daily Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick called Auto-Tune a “particularly sinister invention that has been putting extra shine on pop vocals since the 1990s” by taking “a poorly sung note and transpos[ing] it, placing it dead centre of where it was meant to be”… In 2010, Time magazine included Auto-Tune in their list of “The 50 Worst Inventions.” (Wikipedia)

And speaking of live performances, “Let It Go” is not a song one would generally expect to hear performed at the Times Square venue on New Year’s Eve. It’s a power ballad, from a cartoon, sung by an incredible Broadway stage veteran, and backed by an orchestra, for pete’s sake! There’s no hiding behind drums, bass and a wailing guitar here! The song is all voice, exposing both perfections and imperfections.

Ms Menzel is taking the criticism far better than most. As social media continues to bang on about ‘that note,’ she’s responded by referencing an interview she gave a few months ago, in which she said in part, “Performing isn’t only about the acrobatics and the high notes; it’s staying in the moment, connecting with the audience in an authentic way, and making yourself real to them through the music. I am more than the notes I hit, and that’s how I try to approach my life. You can’t get it all right all the time, but you can try your best. If you’ve done that, all that’s left is to accept your shortcomings and have the courage to try to overcome them.”

Perhaps those who can’t stop criticizing Ms Menzel’s performance would be wise to look to their own lives. If their best efforts were to suddenly be shown to the public, could their attempts bear the same sort of scrutiny they’re giving to her?

And when did today’s audience become so like the bloodthirsty Coliseum crowds in Nero’s fallen Roman empire, shouting encouragement to the lions rather than the gladiators? Sorry, haters – This time it’s you that’s earned the thumbs down.thumbs down

Snu


Can’t complain – the weather was worse in November than December. I didn’t miss the snow at all on Christmas. And the first thing I did on New Year’s Day was look out the window, and cry out for joy at the lack of whiteness.

But all good things must come to an end, and today, alas … there is a smattering, a dusting even, of powder. New Snow. Snu.    light snowI lived in Alberta as a child, and 12 foot drifts of snow were not uncommon. I trotted off to school in below zero weather wearing knee socks. It was a ‘dry cold,” they said.Neige_Montreal

As a mini skirted teen in Montreal, my thighs were perpetually red and chapped from the damp snow and winds. We slogged thru the slush and dug our toys and pets and cars out of the billowy white blanket of snow, snow and more snow.

One of the draws that brought me to Toronto in 1976 was the fabled meagre toronto snow1976snowfall. It seemed every photo of Toronto in winter featured a parade of jacketless men and women delicately high stepping through barely an inch of the white stuff. Could it be? Did people in Toronto not even own snow boots? Lured by that promise, I started a new life in the Big Smoke.

shorts in Toronto winter

And for a decade or two, it did seem that Toronto was the Promised Land for a winter hater like myself. Proportionately, there was definitely less snow than in Quebec, and the people pretended politely that the snow was of no consequence. Many fellows affected long shorts throughout the year, whatever the temperature. Toronto snubbed its nose at winter; if you pretended it wasn’t happening, maybe it would go away.

But, alas – all good things come to an end. The late 90’s and early 2000’s held a wintry nip in the air, and in 2013, we had an Ice Sicestorm 2013torm of epic proportions that brought the city to its knees for nearly a week. It had begun. My winter days in Toronto were numbered. Climate change will chase me out of Ontario.

Where to next? How far can this delicate flower run to escape the winter blues? I’m waiting for a gentle breeze to waft me away from this land of snu … Bermuda beach

A New Year


  1. Growing up, even thinking of what 2001 would hold seemed like sci fi. The dystopian science fiction film, “Blade Runner,” released in 1982, predicted a 2019 where genetically engineered replicants and flying cars were commonplace. Yet here we are, just 4 years short of that world, and nary a household android in sight. Although we do have the Roomba, and it’s many delights.    roomba cat

But things have changed a great deal in my years on the planet. What seemed to be set in stone wasn’t. The women who wore garter belts and stockings embraced pantyhose; manual typewriters morphed into electronic keyboards; the massive ENIAC computer shrank to tablet size. Yes, the world of technology reinvented the things we took for granted. It also changed how we saw each other.

looking at phone

Soul Train Line Dance … You Wish!


Never been a trained dancer. On reflection, never been one who toes the line, learns the rules. That’s just me. But man, oh man, did I want to be a dancer. My mum was apparently legendary. She never wanted for a dance partner, was always in demand for parties. Yet she made it all the way to the age of 25, and a virgin, without marrying, and that was pretty good in her day. Lots of proposals, she just hadn’t met the right partner.

Most of the other ‘babes’ were snapped up way before mum. But she, no she, was going to find a proper Romeo. Not for her the ordinary, work a day guys. No, she wanted a husband who could trip the light fantastic with her. So what did she do? She married her brother’s chum, a loose cannon from her brother’s regiment in the Van Doos, a troop that would become known world over as a ‘never say die’ group of guys. (Unfortunately, that same troop would also become one of the first known survivors of a judicious dusting of Agent Orange, but that’s a story for another time.)

She met my dad in January, married him in March, and I was born in December. Cutting it close! The clock must have been ticking, because she even let him off the dancing hook. Neither of them knew what hit them –it was love at first sight at its most violent. The best dad could do was set her up with an apartment in Quebec City, with a puppy, and tell her “I’ll be back” a la Schwarzenegger. By the time she was showing, dad was stationed in the Arctic, and mum was back with her own family in Montreal, awaiting my birth.

But I digress. Mum was a dancer. I have always been a stick figure, with arms and legs completely disproportionate to my body. However, like all young girls who grew up in the 60’s, I really thought I could dance. I didn’t need any instruction … by the age of five I was doing the twist on Montreal’s Beaver Lake mountain side café for CFCF TV! And by the time I was a teen, it was ‘let it all hang out.’ What a great time to be a completely uncoordinated stick figure!

Then DISCO hit. The 70s threw all of the wanna be hippies for a loop, since we were suddenly expected to do line dances, and throw interesting figures into the mix. Ok – stop – maybe that was a Montreal thing. I’m sure there are tons of places in North America who didn’t expect the entire population to suddenly become disco fluent. But I lived in Montreal, and my chosen environment, Crescent Street, had a strict code. Either you stood off to the side, looking too cool to EVER dance, or you got into the mix, and let your backbone slide. For me, this was great. I had a gymnastics background, I was a stick figure… it all worked for me.

But if you had access to ‘Soul Train’… oh my my… you knew you didn’t even have the first idea of where the bump started and ended. My sister and I were aficionados, we studied, but we could never get anywhere near the pelvic thrusts that both the male and female dancers had down pat.

We were Soul Train rejects. Didn’t stop us from having some seriously cool times, but we knew, oh, we knew, we could never even come close to the teenage dancers who scooted the line with flair and panache. It is my shame, and yet … how I love to watch those long ago dancers show me what for.

Please google or youtube “Soul Train Line Dance” to see what I’m talking about.

Election, SchmElection. Who’s Listening To The People?


The government was brought down today in an historic vote of ‘non confidence’ – the first in Canada’s history. So we’re all heading to the voting booth again, for the fourth time in seven years.

As I watched the members vote, their faces gleeful, I saw a bunch of school kids, happy for an early day, and a better way to spend their Spring vacation than a trip to Cabo. These ‘respected’ members of Parliament threw papers in the air, and generally behaved like a gang of five year olds. And oh joy, we get to vote for the ‘best of them’ in just a few months. It’ll cost us about $492 million for their Spring Break, so I hope we all really enjoy it. The cost for the last 4 elections – in the billions.

Meanwhile, in Alberta, a condo building was declared so unstable that the tenants were allowed a mere 15 minutes to enter the premises and retrieve whatever belongings they could grab. Shades of “Queen for a Day!” Apparently the foundation and construction is so faulty, that it has been declared to be too dangerous for even construction workers to approach. The building will be torn down. The tenants, buyers and renters alike, are now homeless, and without any earthly possessions. None of the people who actually profited from the sale, be they the developer, construction company or sales agents, will take responsibility, so the case will go to court as scores of good people go bankrupt, or throw themselves on the mercy of family or the government for the basics of life.

So, how do I feel about the upcoming election? I’m furious. I don’t think the present government is much good, but I have no faith that the next group will be any better. All of those elected are protected from Canada’s reality by good jobs, fat pensions, and ZERO accountability. Please don’t tell me that they have their fingers on the pulse of the electorate, because it is very plain that they are the elite, not representatives of the public. They live in a rarified atmosphere. Wish I did, but until I finally win a Lotto, that great opiate of the people, it’s highly unlikely.

Whatever happened to the Angry Young Men?


Angry young men inspired the beatniks of the 50’s, and the hippies of the 60’s. Sadly, we then devolved into the disco bunnies of the 70s, but everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey.
When I googled the origins of the phrase, here’s what I googged:

angry young men, term applied to a group of English writers of the 1950s whose heroes share certain rebellious and critical attitudes toward society. This phrase, which was originally taken from the title of Leslie Allen Paul’s autobiography, Angry Young Man (1951), became current with the production of John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (1956). The word angry is probably inappropriate; dissentient or disgruntled perhaps is more accurate. The group not only expressed discontent with the staid, hypocritical institutions of English society—the so-called Establishment—but betrayed disillusionment with itself and with its own achievements. Included among the angry young men were the playwrights John Osborne and Arnold Wesker and the novelists Kingsley Amis, John Braine, John Wain, and Alan Sillitoe. In the 1960s these writers turned to more individualized themes and were no longer considered a group. (source:The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia®.)

Born in the 50s, I claim those men as my heritage. Their ‘anger’ allowed my generation to express their frustration at a world mired in tradition, social stigmas, and suppositions. Champing at the bit to change the world we had inherited, we burned our bras, sat in for peace, started communes, and created more art and music than you could shake a joint at. We thought we had invented sex, drugs, and the Age of Aquarius. Then we all grew up, got married, had kids, and changed into slightly weirder versions of our parents. A lot of us died far too young, many from self-inflicted life choices.

But here we remain, the largest population group in history, the Baby Boomers, the enormous bulge in the tummy of society’s snake, all of us getting older, some of us getting wiser.

January 1, 2011 officially begins the era of the “Golden” Baby Boomer, those Boomers who are about to retire from a career or profession. That’s not me on both levels; I’m not retirement age, and, due to my own choices, will never properly ‘retire’, as I never stayed in any career or profession long enough to build a retirement fund. Most of the people I know are in the same boat – musicians, artists, writers who didn’t get the brass ring or the gold watch.
And just as Boomers have affected every other decade through their sheer numbers, we are about to impact society with our physical and mental health needs, leisure choices, and economics. Those of us who didn’t ‘die before we got old’ are going to get older, sicker and poorer. Society will have to deal with our issues – hopefully not in a ‘Soylent Green’ fashion – and our kids will likely have to bear the cost of our retirement and health care. (note to self: be nicer to the kids.)

But on the bright side, most of us also benefited from decent schooling, and inherited the backbone and street smarts of parents and grandparents, who lived in simpler times, but managed to live through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and, ultimately, us. And we’ve lived long enough to have a fairly good overview of life’s ups and downs. We’re neither as cynical nor gullible as we once were. We’ve realized that yes, Life’s a Bitch, but so are we, when provoked.

And that’s why I have started this blog. I know that, for many of us, the last couple of years have been tough, with problems coming at us like a swarm of flies. We’re the Sandwich Generation of caregivers now, as well, with kids still at home, but parents still hanging in. Fish are dropping out of the sky, Haiti’s still a mess, and now Japan has been sucker punched. Crazies are lining up to see Charlie Sheen’s meltdown up close and personal. If you hate your job, tough, ‘cause there aren’t any others out there for you. Today’s music, overall, just can’t beat the music of our youth. And if you want to get out to a club to hear a band and maybe meet someone, you can’t soothe your nerves with cigarettes, and you better stick to one drink or you could get busted driving home.

WE are the new ‘angry young men’, those of us who still give a damn. With the perspective of age, we look back on what worked and what didn’t, and look forward to an increasingly litigious, PC, over controlled world. That, my friends, is frustration.
Frustrated Boomers unite!