Monthly Archives: August 2020

The Majesty of Showing an Unexpected Skill Range

Lady Gaga has an amazing set of talents and skills, which many others have talked about better far better than I can. I’m impressed in many different ways, but what I wanted to focus on today was an aspect of her skill and self-control in not overdoing things, in using just enough to make the point, then moving on. It’s something that I treasure in the art I love, the ‘using just enough’, but more precisely in this instance, it’s the art of having a large amount of skill in an unexpected direction, and then doing something seemingly easy that shows that you have a lot of skill in that area.

In Lady Gaga’s case, what I’m getting at is we know she can sing[1], we know she can dance[2], but did you also know that she can speak French? In ‘Bad Romance‘[3], she seems to be really good at rolling her ‘r’s (3:21), and seems to easily to slip into French (3:52), both of which (to my untutored ear) sound well spoken. But she understands how much is ‘just enough’, and declines to descend into wankiness, carefully and with great skill putting the cherry on top of a delicious sundae.

Another great example is Psy (can you tell what part of my playlist I’m on right now?). He is a great singer & performer and dancer, but do you really know how *good* a dancer he is[4]? His most popular song (and the most popular song on Youtube, so popular they ran out of numbers) is a super-fun, somewhat problematic takedown of ‘Gangnam-style’ frou-frou culture in Korea. But what I want to talk about is his dancing.

At the end of the video, he’s in a dance-off with a friend (presumably) of his (it happens in a cut-down version earlier in the video, but this seems to be the uncut version). They’re having fun, each of them dancing in a way that works for them, and then suddenly, at 3:58, Psy breaks out his ‘legs-shuffling side-gallop‘ Gangnam-Style trademark dance, and his opponent, realizing he can’t compete at all, immediately stops, and has to take a second to regroup and find his groove. I’m not a dancing expert, but it seems to me that the ‘legs-shuffling side-gallop’ dance requires an inordinate amount of core strength, control, and body part isolation to bring off. If you watch the rest of the video, you can see that none of the other dancers get anywhere close to how well Psy is doing it. You can assume that Psy is big enough that they would find good dancers as back up for him, suggesting that either this particular dance is actually incredibly difficult to perform (or they are deliberately trying to not upstage him). Again, like Lady Gaga above, he makes it look easy.

Stay tuned for next time, when we talk about skill, privilege, and different ways of perceiving holding back. Thanks for reading!

Confusing skill & privilege, holding back

Note: The title of this post was also difficult to settle on, as I’m trying to express multiple related concepts:
– The idea that even having the skill is unexpected
– The idea that having that skill at such a high level is unexpected
– The idea that showing a skill and making it look easy (to show a very high level of skill) is majestic
– The idea that using a skill at a high level, just the correct amount, not overdoing it is majestic

[1] There are also great examples of this in the video, where she uses dynamics and range in an intertwined way to mold the energy and flow of the song, and it’s fantastic.

[2] Ibid.

[3] On a side note, can we talk about the censorship in that video, how they replaced ‘bitch’ with ‘bit’? I’ll admit it is some of the best-done censorship I’ve ever heard, the least disruptive to flow (except for perhaps ‘melonfarmer‘), but I still side with George Carlin on this one.

[4] Perhaps unsurprisingly, people in Korea do, but I didn’t. 😀

“During an interview with The New York Times, Psy revealed that South Korean fans have huge expectations about his dancing, so he felt a lot of pressure. In order to keep up with expectations, he studied hard to find something new and stayed up late for about 30 nights to come up with the “Gangnam Style” dance.”

The Feracious Potential of Autumn

I went for a walk today. This would not normally be notable, except that it was only the second time I’d been out on a walk on my own during the pandemic, and the first time since S went home to visit her parents.

It was a nice night. The perfect, slightly chilled temperature of late summer/early autumn, a light breeze bringing smells of something delicious, something burning, just cool enough to make you think of goosebumps.

People always talk about the potential, the bountiful feelings of spring, but I think that the fall speaks to me even more strongly. I’m not sure how much of it is that the heat of summer has finally broken[1], how much of it is that it signifies going back to school, the creativity and freedom/safety of end-of-summer music camp[2]. Conversely, it signals the end of summer, the world now feels like there is a deadline, that time is moving forward, and that things must be done before it is too late[3].

Whatever the reason, walking outside just now, I feel full of potential, and I’m looking forward to expressing more of it.

Saturn & Jupiter, sandwiched between the terrible streetlight pollution in my neighbourhood.
Saturn & Jupiter, peeping out from behind the terrible streetlight pollution in my neighbourhood.

Photograph taken 2020-08-18:
https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/canada/toronto

[1] Interestingly, I grew up in a room that was directly over the furnace, so I think that I have a little more heat tolerance/expectation/less blood circulation to my extremities[1a] than many others do. However, when it gets much above 23, I can feel my mental efficiency going down. I can still function, I’m still in emotional control of myself, but creativity, of the ‘sitting down creating something'[1b] type is greatly curtailed. My guess is that there’s something about the brain overheating, or energy being used elsewhere in the body (it does take some energy to ensure homeostasis during sweating). But back to cogitation and heat tolerance. It is known that the human brain uses about 20-25% of the body’s energy budget, and “As a metabolically demanding organ with intense heat production, the functional activity, and energy efficiency of the human brain is exquisitely sensitive to fluctuations in temperature”. My understanding of this is that one of the reasons scalp wounds bleed so profusely is that much of the purpose of blood flow to and around the brain is thermal regulation, basically keeping your brain cool so that it can keep thinking efficiently.

[1a] Also, tall people problems.

[1b] Not the ‘react with witty remarks’ type, that is pretty hard-coded, and seems to activate upon waking, and is almost impossible to turn off.

[1c] I was going to make a comment here about how the heart & brain make more ATP per glucose than other parts of the body (38 instead of 36, or 36 instead of 34), but it seems that science has moved on since I was in school, and I could not find a source for different cell types or organs generating different amounts of ATP, and also it seems that due to leaky mitochondiral membranes and other factors, human (eukaryote) metabolism is thought to generate only about 30 ATP molecules per glucose molecule[1d].

[1d] 29.85, at last count.

[2] Music camp holds a very special place in my heart. Similar to High Hrothgar, it is a peaceful place, very disconnected from the troubles of this world. For a number of years, I spent the last two weeks of summer at National Music Camp, playing music for five hours a day, spending time with old and new friends, spending time outside. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of walking from place to place, and hearing the drifting sounds of people practicing and making music being a completely normal and natural thing. One could use the percentage of our time we spend making music as a metric for quality of life, and as an indictment of our modern society.

[3] Similar to squirrels saving for winter, like the one earlier this week that perched on the chair six feet from me and noisily and ostentatiously ate a carrot.

Note: I tried a few different titles before I settled on ‘feracious’, meaning ‘producing in abundance; fertile, fruitful‘. ‘Subtle’ is not quite right, as it’s more of a quiet power, and ‘flowering’ or ‘flourishing’ are really more spring or summer words, respectively.