I don’t wanna wait in vain…

I rediscovered this Annie Lennox song while watching the movie, Serendipity.  Annie’s voice soars and the musical score behind her vocals build with a subtle charm–by the end of the song,  I can’t get the grin off my face.

I hardly remember the song from its release in 1995, and oblivious to me, I even own the very song on an Annie Lennox’s CD entitled Medusa.  Annie’s recording is actually a remake of an old Bob Marley song.  When comparing the recordings, except for similar lyrics , I am still shocked to learn they’re actually the same song.  Call me a child of the eighties, but I’ll take Annie’s electro-pop rendition over the reggae original any day, and twice on Sundays.

Bob Marley – Waiting In Vain (original)

Sampling the song on YouTube, I don’t ever recall viewing the Waiting In Vain music video, but I’m delighted to find it brewing with creativity and clever attention to detail.  At first, the whole mouse ears thing is a mystery to me (I wonder if anyone at Disney’s Mouse House sat up and took notice?), but a YouTube viewer’s comment indicates the mouse ears are actually a reference to Minnie Mouse, specifically how she always waits in vain for Mickey Mouse (to fall in love, I’m guessing).  In the video, Annie’s choreographed movements, especially with mouse ears, add a unique, dramatic, and  animated presence to it all.  When I try to imagine her without the mouse ears, my mind imagines it to be far less interesting, at lease from a visual perspective.

My favorite part of the video nears the end where twined images of Annie, sitting on the stove, kick their legs in sync while singing “I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna…” (the backing to the song’s finale/climactic end).

Videos like Annie’s Waiting In Vain make me miss that show Pop-Up Video.  I love how that show dissected the videos and the stories behind the scenes.

Brave

Brave

Sara Bareilles has an album releasing in the not too distant future.  It sounds like it will be titled The Blessed Unrest.  A new single entitled Brave releases to the world on April 23rd.  Hear it here…

It’s quickly growing on me.   Sara’s last EP, Once Upon A Time, really sparked my imagination, left me day-dreaming, and brought me many smiles.  I’m not a vocalist nor musician by any stretch of the imagination.  If I was, I’m left wondering  how I would name my albums.  Here’s a fun insight into Sara’s thought process for naming her next album:

I love the classic gas station “dinging” sound for each album name.  I’ll have to make something similar for my smart phone notifications.

I don’t really know anything about Martha Graham.  I gather she has something important to do with dance (or dance ideology).  I also dance very seldom  and infrequently in public (Elaine’s dance from Seinfeld immediately comes to mind), but I was intrigued by the quote Sara mentions in the video clip.  Martha Graham is quoted as saying…

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
~ As quoted in The Life and Work of Martha Graham (1991) by Agnes de Mille, p. 264, ISBN 0-394-55643-7.

At first glance, I’m sceptical.  What’s she really saying… a life force?  I agree, we all have a God-given soul, but I’m not sure if I’d call it a life force?  I’m reading the part about unique expression and equating to creativity (or creative spirit).  I agree.  I think God has enriched each person with unique talents and gifts, most of which too easily get dismissed or squandered away.  And it seems true, that when people suppress their gifts and talents (for whatever reason), people around them, their community, society as a whole, everyone loses out on that individual’s God-given abilities.

I would caution people to “keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”  I think I get her context, but certainly would NOT suggest that a person be open to urges that drive him to overeat or to drink in excess (or even worse things I’m now imagining as I type this).

“…No artist is pleased.”

This is such an understatement about perfectionism.  I wrestle with this in my work, my writing, my photography, my drawings, my painting, and almost every part of my life.  Just trying to write a blog just about kills me at times (maybe because I’m such a newbie).  I can relate to a consistent state of dissatisfaction with many things, creative things, and various parts of my life.  The unrest… it bugs me.   I’ve never thought of it as a blessed unrest, but it’s eerily familiar.

I find some inspiration and encouragement in the Brave song lyrics…

Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

STAGEIT… featuring Lenka

Sara Bareilles is the first performance I ever saw on StageIt.  The second, just last Sunday, was a concert hosted by the Australian pop singer, Lenka.  Never heard of her?  Neither had my wife, so consider yourself in good company.  If you’ve scene the Windows 8 commercial linked below, then you’ve definitely heard Lenka.  Not necessarily my favorite song from Lenka, but her music indeed.

The StageIt company hosts live concerts through their virtual venue online.  Typically, these concerts are smaller productions, intimate in nature, and stream live from the performer’s studio, kitchen, or living room.

Lenka’s music is something I accidentally discovered while searching Youtube for a specific scene from Inglourious Basterds, dubbed Chapter Five: Revenge of the Giant Face.   In the Quentin Tarantino film, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), the pretty protagonist, finalizes her revenge plans upon the murderous Nazi oppressors.  Maybe it’s because I’m a part of that MTV generation, but I especially like how the film’s scenes play out to the tune of David Bowie’s Cat People (…putting out fires with gasoline).

The clip I was actually looking for was something like this…

The Lenka clip I ended up discovering along the way was this…

(As you can see above) I stumbled upon a well-edited music video where the creator uses clips of Inglourious Basterds set to Lenka’s song, Trouble is a Friend.  Technology has clearly blossomed  since the birth of early MTV; now just about anyone with a half decent computer can make their own music videos, and many of these home-brewed productions look really professional.  Lenka was new to me.  My curiosity lead me to investigate more of her music.  I end up watching her very creative offerings on YouTube (Trouble is a Friend and The Show).  I’m not what people might call a raving Lenka fan (nor anyone for that matter), but I do enjoy her music and have added it to my personal soundtrack (the ever-growing eclectic unofficial soundtrack for my life).

Like with so many of my online searches, I start surfing for one specific purpose.  Somewhere along the way I follow a link, click another, then another, and then many URLs (and hours) later I end up in a totally different place than what was planned.  It leaves me wondering, “Where does all the time go?”  This last week, I received an email invitation to see Jars of Clay at (or on) StageIt.  While investigating the concert date for Jars, I notice a banner advertising that Lenka’s backyard concert in a couple days.  It sounds cool and costs less than a latte; sign me up!

Concert Day:

Sunday is a typical spring day in Calgary–the kind that makes locals want to hibernate because of the relentless snow (more snow, and… yep, more snow).  My family and I gather round the TV to watch Lenka on StageIt’s live broadcast from sunny Sydney, Australia.  My kids watch for about five minutes before their attention spans fade.  Jana indicates that she’s not a really “into” Lenka’s voice.  I like to think her musical tastes are still developing.  Justin says, “Dad, I’m enjoying the show, but there’s video game missions that need to be completed before bedtime.”  Meanwhile, Lenka, her drummer,  a violinist, and another fellow playing the cello perform a handful of songs from her living room to our home.

During concerts, StageIt provides a way for viewers to text messages to the Performer (which are view-able by members of the audience, assuming they’re reading along instead of watching the concert).  Multitasking isn’t my forte, hence I opt to remain “textually” silent.  For a concert, the visual quality seems a bit rough around the edges, but the audio is far than I had expected, especially since its streaming from the far side of the globe.  Despite being light on production or polish, Lenka’s show totally makes up for it because of the intimate feel of the whole thing.  Before the performance, I knew of Lenka as a vocalist and musician.  It turns out she’s also an actress, a sculpturist,  a songwriter, and even an crafty artist who creates set decorations!  In highschool, if Lenka was my classmate, friends would have joked that she was becoming a real Renaissance Man (well actually a Renaissance Woman). Classmates and I stole the term Renaissance Man as a polite way of teasing someone who might be considered an overachiever.

Lenka

In between songs Lenka draws attention to this site called PledgeMusic.com.  I kind of understood it involved a charity and charities are mentioned on Pledge Music, but whatever the case…  a person can make pledges to finance artists’ projects.  So figuring I might enjoy her new album (available in June 2013), I investigate.  Much to my surprise, Lenka fans can pledge money for not just her new album, but also some pretty amazing creations handcrafted by Lenka herself… very personable.

Signed Posters, CDs, and even Vinyl — $28 to $93
Artistic Doodles on Handwritten Lyric Sheets — $63 — Great idea!
Baby Bibs — $38 — Sorry, not for me as my wife lovingly reminds me that she ONLY signed up for two kiddos *sigh*
Crafty Stuff — $48 to $138
Mystery Craft Stuff — $138 — Oooh!?  Sounds mysterious!
Crafty Fashion Stuff — $138 — Snazzy! Unfortunate for me it cost more than my whole wardrobe :-S
20 Minute Skype Chat — $100 — Intriguing!  It’s not everyday you get to speak face-to-face with a  Renaissance Woman!
Personalized Ring Tone or Greeting  — $150 – Cool! And practical too!  It’s a shame that no one ever calls me.

and the kicker…
A Personalized Lullaby — only $1,500 — Awesome! I wish I needed (or could enjoy) a lullaby, but I’m all lights out when my head hits the pillow.

jgh_LENKA_SHADOWS_cdsleevelayout_2I’m looking forward to hearing some new Lenka in June.  The Pledge Music profile describes her new album, Shadows, as “… a collection of lullabies for adults…Lenka style.”  Interesting.  Until then, I guess I’ll just sing myself to sleep.

Ah Snap! Another One Bites the Dust

The other day I was Googling help about an MS Word dictionary issue, and noticed this in the margin of the page…

Roger_Ebert_Dies_at_70

Immediate disappointment rolled over me like dark clouds.  “Ah Snap!  Another one bites the dust.”  (Insert my sigh, here).  People old enough to remember the PBS program Sneak Previews or At the Movies may experience similar sadness when hearing about Roger Ebert’s passing.

When I was a kid, I’m guessing twelve years old, some Saturday afternoon I stumbled across this television show called At The Movies.  It was rare that interesting shows appeared on channel 13 (a cable  PBS feed from Washington), but this one caught my attention.  Going to the theater as a child was novel and happened seldom.  Disney’s The Rescuers was the first movie I ever saw, and the whole experience was especially memorable.  For some reason, the popcorn and candy at the theater tasted amazing compared to any at home.  Despite my shoes sticking to the floors, the fold-down theater seating was cool, the sound was louder than any TV, and the screen was wider than my eyes could see.

The idea that a couple guys, dare I say friends, went to multiple movies every week for a job seemed heaven-like.  One of the shows’ introductions included a clip of each guy sneaking up to the balcony which was of course closed.  Ah, even more forbidden fruit… sneaking into places a person wasn’t aloud.  So cool!  And up until that point, the thought that a movie might be deemed “bad” hadn’t really crossed my naive mind.

I came to realize Siskel and Ebert were strongly opinionated fellows and seemed to enjoy arguing their points.  Sharing heated opinions drew my attention like a spectacle since my parents seldom argued and in my elementary school, students weren’t yet encouraged to debate each other.

From that point onward I was a fan of Siskel & Ebert, but wasn’t faithful to watch every episode.  As a teenager, I was shocked, nearly hurt for Roger Ebert, when Slappy Squarell on The Animaniacs had made fun of him and the duo during this episode:

Some of it was obviously good satire, but at about 8 minutes into the clip, Slappy serves Roger Popcorn at the theater’s candy counter and offers him “artificial butter” which is horrifically  liposuctioned from Ebert’s belly while he stands there.  That scene left me momentarily stunned and remains vividly etched in my memory two decades afterwards.

I was saddened when Gene Siskel’s died due to complications from brain cancer.  Richard Roeper was a decent enough fill-in, but the new duo’s magic was lopsided towards Roger.  I pretty much gave up on the show when Roger was forced to leave due to his own battle with thyroid cancer.

In 2011 I rediscovered Roger Ebert online at http://www.ebertpresents.com/ and although his reviews were limited and read by other actors, it was encouraging to see him doing his thing.  Roger Ebert hosted an interesting and unusual interview with Quvenzhané Wallis who starred in the film Beasts Of The Southern Wild. During the interviewed Roger, mostly off camera, uses his computer to interview the talanted young girl. At the end of the sequence we Quvenzhané shaking hands with him.

Unlike me, Roger Ebert was a critic of intelligent design, an atheist, and a secular humanist.  Shortly after the film Prometheus, I discovered an exhaustive blog where Roger Ebert and folks debated intelligent design with Randy Masters and others for nearly 700 posts.  It turns out the Roger and Randy had done this once before on some thread that lasted 3600 posts.  Randy Masters, a conservative and being on the opposite side of nearly everything Roger Ebert believed, found a genuine friend in his virtual sparring partner:

http://rmasters78.blogspot.ca/2013/04/roger-ebert-american-treasure-has-gone.html?showComment=1365162354502

I think Randy Masters saw the same personable fellow I first saw on the TV.  Sure, Roger was hard headed in his opinions, but his flawed humanity made him likable, and his passions for film review was inspirational.  Here’s a clip how Ebert started out on TV…

http://siskelandebert.org/video/GWHWHKY3W9R7/Opening-SoonOne-Flew-Over-the-Cuckoos-Nest

Farewell Mr.Klein

klein

When I was in later elementary school, Mayor Ralph Klein came to visit my school’s Pioneer Days.   That was my first memory of him.  I don’t remember many details about Pioneer Days, nor anything about what he said that evening, but I certainly remember Mr. Klein.  As one might expect, the Mayor made an address to the full gymnasium of families.  Being in grade school, full of energy, and most interested in all things play, I  never took note that after the event, Mr. Klein patiently stayed to interact one-on-one with the oodles of parents.   On the way home that evening, my own parents remarked to each other how Mr. Klein had opted to meet and greet instead of bowing to his handlers’ wishes for him to depart for their next appointment.  My parents’ observation left an impression upon me.  Ralph Klein was a man of the people, and if the people wanted to talk, he was there to listen.

In early High School, a casual friend named Chris Burnie bragged about how he was chastised by the actual mayor, Ralph Klein, for making out with his girlfriend on the steps of City Hall.

A couple years later, a girl I was dating happened to live a couple doors down from the Klein’s home in Calgary’s Lakeview Community.  That relationship didn’t last, and sadly we never ran into the Kleins while walking her neighborhood during those warm summer nights.

The first time I ever voted in a provincial election, Ralph Klein became Premier.  Friends, out of the country during the election, came back stunned to discover that King Ralph now ruled Alberta.

Other friends I made while working in Halifax remarked to me about how offended they had been at Ralph Klein’s statement about how those “eastern bums could freeze!”  It turns out that he wrongly gets credit for saying it, but actually never did say it (as reported here in Macleans).  Never the less, it does indeed sound like something Ralph Klein might say;  he was a fellow who spoke his mind and seldom worried about being politically correct.

I was fortunate to be an Albertan when Premier Klein sent out those infamous Ralph Bucks.  I can’t recall how I spent my $400 prosperity cheque, but it sure made my friends and me smile.  I still smile when I think about it.

My Uncle, who retired and moved back from Japan a few years ago, has facial features that remind me of Ralph Klein.  I appreciate both my Uncle Les and Former Premier Ralph Klein, and for different reasons.  Strangely, whenever I look at one of them, I’m often reminded of the other.

In Ralph Klein’s later years, things seemed to catch up with him.  I remember when in 2004 the news reported about his plagiarism in essay writing.  Disappointing as it was to hear, this wasn’t a surprise to me.  If Ralph had been my a friend or relative,  he definitely would have been the last person to ask about citing references on a paper.  I was also never surprised when Klein’s alcoholism occasionally reared its ugly head in the media.   Did we honestly expect differently from a fellow who ran his first shoe-string mayoral campaign out of St. Louis Hotel & Bar?  Along with the good also came the bad.  Flawed like one of us, once again, he was indeed a man of the people.

I’m saddened to hear that Ralph Klein passed on.  He wasn’t a typical politician, and not even a typical guy, but he was good for Alberta.  I doubt any parents are pointing to Ralph Klein as a role model for their children, but while he was alive, he reminded me that even average fellows can do amazing things.

I earnestly hope that Ralph knew Jesus.  I think eternity would be more interesting with a fellow like him around.

ralph_klein_park
Ralph Klein Park
Image by http://www.carlosamat.ca

Wow! Now There’s a Choir I Might Actually Join…

…assuming they would have me (or by some miracle I wasn’t cut during an audition)!

When I was a kid, my Mom made my brother and me join our church’s Jr. Choir.   Mrs. Craig, the Choir director, probably gained her sainthood while trying to make something out of us elementary boys.  As a child, I really had no appreciation for singing.  Sure, I liked music, but I didn’t have the pipes or the know-how to make my kind of music (or at least the kind  I wanted to listen to).   In those days, my churched peers and I spent many Sunday afternoons practicing and learning songs that we would eventually sing to congregation members of our church.  Practices seemed like torture by boredom intermixed with prolonged lessons about self-control (specifically how to least annoy our beloved Choir director).

Was I talented?  Nope.  Have I acquired more vocal talent since then?  Not even close.  I know I can sing better than some folks, but I’m realistic… meaning I have no delusions of ever getting a recording contract.  Even so, I love music.  I listen to plenty of it, sing it in the shower (or in the car), google to contemplate lyrics, read about it in books, and enjoy finding out useless trivia behind the tunes (usually from artists, songwriters, musicians, producers, or managers).   BTW, does anyone  know what happened to Pop-Up Video anyway?  I used to love that show.

So when I happened upon a video of Choir!Choir!Choir! I thought, “This is a choir I so want to join.”  Watching the video, these people look like they’re having fun, singing their hearts out to some of my favorite songs (Isn’t this the coolest Sloan cover?).  And they’re enjoying beer while doing it… that’s my kind of choir!  It’s too bad I don’t enjoy beer… but I do like the occasional glass of wine.  Enjoying wine while singing old pop songs? Even better!

A couple of my co-workers have mentioned how easily they get sucked into the show Glee.  If you know me, you know I seldom have time for TV (mostly because of my dedication to the Purple Prison), but I have seen parts of Glee episodes to know their appeal.  Popular songs as old as my generation, arranged with a fresh harmonies, and performed by vibrant youth pretty much equals ear candy.  What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, I won’t be auditioning for Choir!Choir!Choir! because they meet in Toronto (which is only a stone’s through from Calgary, if you happen to be Superman.  All 3235 km).  From what I can tell, you pretty much pester the leader on facebook, bring $5 each week, and show up ready to sing.  A singing hack like me might even get in, eventually.  I like how this article indicates this choir has ” solidified a reputation as the best damn no-commitment choir in the city.”

One of their two facebook sites says “Choir! Choir! Choir! is a singing group based in Toronto. Since February of 2011, they have been throwing down and saving lives.”  I’m not exactly sure how they’re saving lives.  From what I know, Jesus Saves.  Conversely, I suspect Choir!Cubed (my nickname, not theirs) might save people from boredom on a weeknight, or from going crazy when lacking an outlet for expression, but these folks don’t seem to be teaching CPR, First Aid, or Lifeguarding.

All the same, I think that the Choir!Cubed brings its members, audience, and random listeners into community.  And couldn’t we all use a little more community–spending time together, friends and strangers, sharing each others company, singing (or listening) together to songs that bring smiles to our faces?  I think it’s why that Cheers intro always tugs on our hearts… “Where everybody knows your name…”

While I was writing this post, it reminded me of an old favorite song that pretty much sums it up.  Sing for the Melody by Sweet Comfort Band “Everybody sing for the Melody, Everybody sing it in Harmony…”

Learn more about Choir!Choir!Choir! here…

blogTO – An informative article about the Choir!Choir!Choir!
http://soundcloud.com/choir-choir-choir – listen to songs recorded by Choir!Choir!Choir!
http://www.choirchoirchoir.com/ – not much here… make sure to scroll left.  Way left.

Laughter at inappropriate moments…

Decades ago, when advertising before movies was just new (not to be confused with movie previews–they’d been around a lot longer than me), I recall going to see a show and the above commerical playing before hand.  It had me in stitches and to this day, while the ad plays fresh in my mind, I can’t recall the movie that followed it.

I showed commercial to a couple co-workers… they didn’t quite get it.  Sure, an eager young fellow seems to be having a lot of fun driving “some big ass boat of a car,” to quote my co-worker.  They both seemed to miss the fact that the music-loving driver is in a herse leading the funeral procession.  Once I pointed that out, then came the inevitable “aha” moment (not to be confused with the band, A-ha).  Then it seemed funnier, if not amusing.

The flipant irreverance and portrayed disconnect from the seriousness of the moment is probably what strikes a cord with me.  That, and most peoples’ feet start tapping to the sound of Another One Bites The Dust.  It’s kind of like getting the giggles in church.  Some things just seem their funniest a the most imappropriate moments.