Saturday, December 29, 2012

Piers Morgan versus the gun lobby

I'm not a huge fan of CNN talk show host Piers Morgan.  As a strong advocate of stricter gun control, however, I've been following his battle against the American gun lobby with great interest.  I think Morgan could be much more tactful in his approach and he shouldn't be calling his guests "incredibly stupid."  Nevertheless, I'm pleased that someone is standing up to those misguided Americans who believe it is their constitutional and God-given right to own semi-automatic weapons.

Since the fatal shooting of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Connecticut on December 14th, Morgan has become increasingly passionate and vociferous in his calls for tighter gun control in the United States.  He has confronted staunch opponents of gun control face to face on his show, Piers Morgan Tonight.

The American gun lobby is exceedingly angry that after a string of shooting incidents in the United States, a non-American would have the audacity to suggest that the U.S. is in dire need of some gun control.  Morgan has enraged Tea Party types and the National Rife Association for even suggesting that gun laws should be strengthened and that semi-automatics should be banned. These xenophobic right wingers are especially angry that a foreigner, a non-American,  has expressed a strong opinion on the issue of gun control.

A petition against Piers Morgan was created on December 21st by Kurt N. of Austin, Texas (It's not surprising that Kurt is from the Lone Star State)..  It calls for the deportation of the 47-year-old British journalist on the grounds that he has undermined the Bill of Rights and the rights of American citizens.  Incredibly, over 90,000 people have now signed the petition on the White House website.  Here is what the petition looks like.

As Deborah Orr, a leading columnist for The Guardian in Britain put it, "It's hard to resist cheap jokes about Morgan.  Indeed, many in Britain have said they don't want him back  (Editor's note: There is another petition in Britain calling for Piers Morgan to remain in the United States.)  But it's the people who brush aside any degree of senseless slaughter in defence of their right to bear arms that are the joke."  Morgan himsself does not appear to be distressed or unfazed by the petition.  In fact, he seems to be enjoying all the fuss.  Yesterday on twitter, he wrote the following:

Still only 90,000 Americans have signed the White House petition to deport me.  That leaves 310, 910,00 who presumably want me to stay. 

The gun lobby is extremely wealthy and very powerful.  The National Rifle Association is quite intimidating and relentless in its quest to prevent any softening of gun control laws. It is my firm belief that Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association has blood on his hands.  I cringed when I heard his call for armed guards at schools throughout the United States.  It seems his vision of America is that of the Wild West.  He has no compunction about turning his country into one huge O.K. Corral.  I wonder if the majority of Americans really want the U.S. to become a giant armed camp.  That is certainly not what the authors of the Constitution of the United States intended.  I'm sure they also did not intend for innocent school children to die because of the Second Amendment.

No one has been mentioning the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech in the United States, even for non-Americans such as Piers Morgan.  By the way, what is wrong with non-Americans expressing their opinions on circumstances in America?  They bring a different perspective to debates on  issues such as gun control based on the experience of their own countries.

EDITOR'S UPDATE - January 11, 2013

The man behind the petition to deport Piers Morgan turned out to be Alex Jones, a 38-year-old Texan.  The bombastic Jones is a conservative radio host on 9/11 Truther.  He appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight debate the issue of gun control and had a veritable meltdown.  To view an exchange between Jones and Morgan, click on the link below.

- Joanne

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Joanne's Journal: December 25, 2012

Edition No. 11

Quote of the Day

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  

Luke 2:7

On this Day


One of my favourite actors came into the world on Christmas Day.  Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born on December 25, 1899 in New York City.  He was the son of a Manhattan surgeon, Dr. Belmont DeForest Bogart and Maud Humphrey, a commercial illustrator.  From his first great success as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest (1936), Bogie went on to become a film icon.  His unforgettable performance as Rick Blaine in Casablanca (1942) lifted him to the peak of stardom. Bogie died of cancer of the esophagus on January 14, 1957.  He was 57 years old.


As Christmas of 1914 approached, World War I had been raging for four months.  On the Western Front, the soldiers from Germany, France and Britain were shivering in their muddy trenches. Many had expected to be home with their families by Christmas.  They had no idea the conflict was going to drag on until 1918.

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV, called for a temporary cessation of  hostilities in celebration of the Christmas season.  His plea to prevent "the suicide of Europe," however, was ignored.  Somehow, though, an unofficial truce did break out between the warring parties that Christmas.  According to Stanley Weintraub, author of Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce, "The troops had been fighting since August 1914.  It was  now December, the cold rains and some snow had come and the trenches were full of mud and water.  Nobody wanted to fight."

Unbelievably, the soldiers laid down their weapons.  On Christmas Eve, many German soldiers put up Christmas trees adorned with candles.  The two sides actually exchanged gifts and sang Christmas carols.  In several places, games of soccer (football) were organized, although they tended not to be formal matches.

Soldiers kicking soccer ball around.

The truce couldn't last, of course, although in some places it held until Boxing Day, and in some areas a few days more.


Mitt Romney did not really want to be president of the United States.  That's not idle speculation.  It's a candid admission from a member of the defeated Republican candidate's own family.  In an interview published on December 23rd, Romney's eldest son, Tagg, told the Boston Globe that his father "had no desire" to run for the presidency again after his the failure of his 2008 bid to become the Republican nominee.  Tagg Romney stated that Mitt "wanted to be president less than anyone I've met in my life."  It was Tagg and his mother, Ann, who coaxed the reluctant politician to change his mind.  The younger Romney went on to say that if his father "had found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside."



On paper, the Toronto Blue Jays appear to be the best team in the American League East.  As a Blue Jays fan, I admit my bias.  Still, Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos is the talk of the baseball world.  He has really set tongues wagging with his wheeling and dealing during the off season so far.  I find it difficult to restrain my enthusiasm for what A.A. has achieved.  Many things could go wrong and there's always the possibility of a string of injuries.  Whatever the outcome of the 2013, no one can fault Anthopoulos for not trying.  He deserves A+ for effort.  He's given it his best shot and he's going for all the marbles now.  The 2013 season should be fun and it is filled with promise.  I can't wait to see R.A. Dickey throw his knucleballs.  Nevertheless, I will try to temper my enthusiasm with caution.

Horse Racing in Ontario

The media here in Ontario pay scant attention to horse racing in this province and elsewhere.  I once asked a Toronto Star reporter why horse racing received such little coverage in the Star, the largest paper in Canada.  He replied that there wasn't enough interest to warrant more coverage.  How, I thought to myself, does the public become interested in a sport  if it is practically ignored by the press and people are given very little information about it?  It's the old chicken/egg conundrum.

Due to the indifference and apathy of the media (combined with the actions of the Ontario government), the horse racing industry is in dire straits.  It is an industry that employs and estimated 60,000 people in the province.  Now that Dalton McGuinty has resigned, I urge the next premier of Ontario to reverse the government's decision to end the Slots at the Track Program on March 31st, 2013.

Horses may have to be destroyed.  Where are the voices of the animal rights advocates in support of these beautiful creatures?


The Toronto Raptors should seriously consider trading Adrea Bargnani.  The Italian seems quite unhappy and he just doesn't seem to be fitting in well.   Perhaps a trade would be beneficial to him and the Raptors.

- Joanne

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lament for a White Christmas!

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go,
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
- From the song "Let it Snow"
Created by lyricist Sammy Cahn and the composer Jule Styne in 1945.

As I write this, it is December 20th, less than a week before Christmas.  I live in Toronto, the most populous city in the so-called Great White North.  We have not had a snowfall of any significance so far, only a few light flurries.  I know!  I know!  Many of you will say we have been fortunate not have had to shovel the white stuff or drive in a snow storm.  For me, however, it just doesn't seem right.  It doesn't seem natural.  I have never celebrated Christmas in a place with a warm or tropical climate.  To me, Christmas is associated with the start of the winter season - and that means snow!  Those of you who live in the Southern Hemisphere (Hello all you Aussies out there!) feel differently, of course, and I completely understand.  You live in a different climate with a different culture and different Yuletide traditions.

There are many Canadians who prefer to spend the holiday season in Florida.  I'm just not one of them.  I'm not dreaming of a green Christmas or a wet Christmas.  I'm only dreaming of a white Christmas.  When its Christmastime, I want to be in hockey country.  Ooops!  We don't even have the Toronto Maple Leafs to disappoint us again this year - not with that disgusting NHL lockout dragging on.  Alas, there is no snow in Canada's largest hub and no Leaf games to cause us endless frustration.

The definition of a "white" Christmas varies from country to country.  In some countries, it simply means that the ground is covered with snow.  Here in Canada, the definition is more precise.  Environment Canada, a government agency, officially defines a "white" Christmas as one in which there is at least two centimetres (O.79 inches) on the morning of December 25th at 7:00 a.m.  In the United States, the official definition of a "white" Christmas is even stricter.  There must be a snow depth of at least 2.5 centimetres (one inch) at 7:00 a.m. local time on Christmas morning.  In the United Kingdom, according to the British Met Office (the U.K.'s national weather service) and British bookies, snow has to be observed falling (even if it is a small amount and even if it melts before it hits the ground) in the 24 hours of December 25th.  Northern Scotland is the most likely place to see a white Christmas in the U.K.

With milder winters due to climate change, Christmas in Canada and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, is becoming less snowy as the years pass. Environment Canada issues a white Christmas probability forecast every year based on historical records and climate data it has kept since 1955.  According to the agency's statistics, the chances of a white Christmas have been continually dropping.   As winters become milder due to climate change, it is no surprise that Christmas has become less snowy through the years.  The chances of a white Christmas in Toronto this year are very low.  We haven't had one in this city since 2008.

The reality is that this year, only about 25 per cent of the Canadian populace will be waking up to a winter wonderland on Christmas Day,  mostly residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the sparsely populated northern regions. According to Environment Canada, there's a 100 per cent chance of  snow in Goose Bay, Iqaluit, White Horse and Yellowknife.

We have this reputation We are known as the Cold White North.  But I don't think we're as cold and white as we once were.  Our reputation is being undermined.  Winter is not . . .what it used to be.  It was more of a done deal.  It was more of a guarantee.

- David Phillips
Environment Canada's senior climatologist

Here are the facts, according to Environment Canada.  In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, on average there was an 80 per cent chance of having snowfall on Christmas Day.  The odds of this happening now have plummeted to 65 per the last twenty odd years.  Our current government, headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is not concerned about the environment and does not take climate change seriously.  His government has been relentless in relaxing environmental regulations.  Perhaps if there were no snow in Calgary in the winter, he'd have a better understanding of what's been happening.  It is highly unlikely there won't be any snow on Christmas Day this year in Toronto, the city of Mr. Harper's birth.

Although I'm a Canadian, I'm starting to understand how Irving Berlin felt when he wrote "White Christmas" amid the palm trees of balmy California back in the 1940s.   I'm not pining for a terrible snowstorm.  I'm just feeling wistful for treetops that glisten and sleigh bells in the snow.  I'll leave the last word to Environment Canada's David Phillips.

It's one of the things where we're seen united as Canadians, in wanting it to be a white Christmas.  We want it on that day to put us in the mood.  It's almost like (having) turkey and toys.  It's just part of the feeling at Christmastime.

- Joanne

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Robert L. May and the History of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is never mentioned in Clement C. Moore's famous poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas (better known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas).  Moore's Yuletide tale was first published in 1823.  Prior to its publication, St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, had never been associated with reindeer and a sleigh full of gifts.  Moore's poem specifically lists the number of reindeer and their names.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his courses they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Coment! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Bltzen!

So, where did the notion of a ninth reindeer with a red nose originate, if not from Clement C. Moore's verses?  Well, the fact is that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer did not come into the picture until more than a century after the publication of A Visit from St. Nicholas.  Rudolph was the creation of Robert Lewis.May (1905-1976), a Jewish American from New Rochelle, New York.  He was the son of Milton May, a lumber merchant.  Bob had a brother, Richard and two sisters, Evelyn and Margaret.  Evelyn is the grandmother of economist Steven D. Levitt, the author of Freakonomics.  Margaret married songwriter Johnny Marks in 1947..

Robert L. May

As a child, Bob May was diminutive, shy and nonathletic.  He was bullied and called names because he just didn't fit in.  Despite his difficult childhood, young Bob graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 1926.  When the Great Depression struck in 1929, the May family lost a great deal of wealth.  They could not afford to send their younger daughter, Margaret, to college.  Margaret, therefore, took a job as a sales clerk at Macy's department store.

During the 1930s, Bob found employment as an in-house advertising copywriter for the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward Company, the second largest retailer in the United States at the time (second only to Sears).  Every year, Montgomery Ward did a Christmas promotion, purchasing products such as colouring books to give away to its customers.  Since this was a very costly endeavour, the company decided to develop its own product for the 1939 holiday season.  Bob May, who was known for writing ditties and catchy jingles was called upon to compose a story that the company could print and publish itself.

In his 1975 article for the Gettysburg Times, "Rudolph Created in a Time of Sadness," Bob wrote that it all began on a cold January morning in 1939 when he was summoned to his supervisor's office.  He was then asked to create a Christmas promotion for children.  Since it was to be a cheerful holiday booklet for shoppers, Bob's boss suggested "an animal story" with "a main character like Ferdinand the Bull."

The project came at a hellish time for Bob.  His his wife, Evelyn, was ill with cancer and he was spending much of  his paltry salary on treatments for her.  As Evelyn lay dying in their small Chicago apartment, her 34-year-old husband went to work on his assignment.  Falling back on his childhood memories of being a misfit, he created a misfit character - a reindeer with a shiny red nose who dreamed of pulling Santa's sleigh..  He chose a reindeer because his daughter, 4-year-old Barbara, was enchanted by the deer at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.  Searching for a name that was an alliteration of "red," he considered monikers such as "Rollo" and "Reginald" before deciding on "Rudolph."  In the style of Clement C. Moore's classic poem, Bob May composed his Rudolph tale in rhyming couplets.

In July of 1939, Evelyn passed away.  After his wife's death, Bob's boss told him that he did not have to fully complete his project.  It would suffice for him to just hand in the work he had already done.  Bob, however, insisted on continuing his assignment. because as he wrote in in his 1975 article, "I needed Rudolph more than ever.  Gradually, I buried myself in the writing."

Robert L. May finished the draft of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in late August of 1939.  He then read his story to Barbara and her grandparents (May's in-laws).  "In their eyes," he wrote, " I could see that the story accomplished what I had hoped."

When Montgomery Ward printed Bob's story, the response from the public was overwhelmingly positive..  More than two million copies were distributed during the Christmas season of 1939.  A shortage of paper, due to the outbreak of World War II, prevented even more copies from being printed.  Nevertheless, the little book about the re-nosed reindeer was indeed a popular success.

Robert May could not make any profit from his Rudolph book because the copyright was owned by his employer.  He desperately needed money to pay off the medical bills incurred by his deceased wife. In 1947, however, Montgomery Ward agreed to transfer the rights to him.  This freed Bob to make a spoken record of his Rudolph poem.  Yet Bob still had difficulty finding a publisher for his tale of the outcast reindeer.  Publishers thought the market for Rudolph was already saturated due to the millions of free booklets that had already been distributed.  Finally, Harry Elbaum, the operator of a small New York publishing house, decided to take a chance on Bob's story.  He printed 100,00 copies and they sold rapidly.

Robert L. May with Rudolph

Bob Mary married for a second time in 1941.  His second wife was Virginia Newton, a fellow employee at Ward's and a devout Catholic.  Due to the success of the spoken record and  the book, Bob became prosperous enough to move his family to the affluent Chicago suburb of Evanston. During the 1950s and 1960s, he put up a huge Rudolph statue on the front lawn of his Evanston home at Christmastime.

In the late 1940s, Bob May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, composed  a song loosely  based on the book.  Several big-name singers were asked to record the song and turned it down.  Then, cowboy star Gene Autry  recorded the tune in 1949.  Autry wasn't particularly impressed with "Rudolph" but at the behest of his wife, he recorded it as a B-side to a single record.  In the decades that followed, it sold millions of copies and inspired an animated 1964 television special produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass.  The special was narrated by Burl Ives who also voiced the songs in it.  Johnny Marks provided the musical score.

Johnny Marks

Bob May quit his copyrighting job in 1951 and spent several years managing his Rudolph creation before returning to Montgomery Ward in 1958.  He worked there until his retirement in 1971.  That same year, Bob's second wife, Virginia passed away.and he later wed Virginia's sister.  Robert L. May died on August 10, 1976 at the age of 71.


The Montgomery Ward department store chain has been defunct since 2001.  During the 1990s, it fell victim to low-cost pricing from Kmart, Target and Wal-Mart.  It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1997.  After emerging from bankruptcy protection in 1998, it closed 250 retail locations   The remaining outlets were renovated and the company was renamed simply "Wards."  These actions, however, did not succeed in saving the business.  On December 28, 2000, after disappointing Christmas sales, the company, founded in 1872, announced that it would shut down its remaining outlets and that its employees would be laid off.

Rudolph Trivia


Rudolph's parents are not named in the Robert L. May's 1939 version of the story.  They were not Santa's reindeer and they lived in a different village, not the North Pole.  In May's tale, Santa comes upon Rudolph while delivering Christmas presents to Rudolph's house on a foggy Christmas Eve.  He is concerned about the worsening weather and, noticing Rudolph's glowing nose, he enlists his help to ensure the safe deliverance of the children's gifts.  In the popular Johnny Marks song, however, Rudolph definitely lives among Santa's reindeer.  Although his parents are not identified, we are told that "all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names" and that "they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games."

In the 1964 Rankin/Bass television special, Donner is portrayed to as Rudolph's father.  Rudolph's mother is not deemed worthy of her own name and is only referred to as Mrs. Donner.  As for Donner, he is presented as a macho jock type.  He coaches the young bucks and supervises them in their reindeer games wearing a whistle around his neck.  When Rudolph runs away, Mrs. Donner helps her husband search for their son, even though Coach Donner does not want her to assist him.

Mrs. Donner from 1964 animated special

- Joanne

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hey, Justin Trudeau, about your gun registry comments . . .

Mr. Justin Trudeau
Member of Parliament for Papineau

Dear Justin:

I must say I was a little taken aback when I read that you had described the long-gun registry as a "failed policy," especially since you voted against its abolition in the House of Commons.  Although you later attempted to clarify what your remarks, your stand on gun control is still not crystal clear. Unfortunately, your clarification sounded a bit like damage control to me.  The truth is I am extremely disappointed in your comments.  As an advocate of strict gun control, I had hoped that you would stand squarely and unequivocally with those who want to preserve restrictive gun control laws in Canada.

When you used the term "failed policy," most people immediately interpreted that to mean you opposed the policy and that you are pleased that it "failed."  Canadians should not have to wait for a clarification.  If you are to become the Prime Minister of Canada, you will need to communicate more effectively. What really disappointed me, however, is that you described gun ownership as "part of the culture of Canada."  You went on to say that you "do not feel that there's a huge contradiction between keeping our cities safe from gun violence and gangs, and allowing this important facet of Canadian identity which is having a gun."

Maybe I'm missing something, Justin, but since when has owning a gun been an "important facet of Canadian identity?"  I've always thought our stringent gun control laws are a source of Canadian pride, something that differentiated us from the large number of gun-toting, gun-loving Americans.  We don't have a National Rifle Association here and we don't have millions of people devoted to a constitutional amendment guaranteeing them the right to bear arms.

What has gotten into you, Monsieur Trudeau?  Are you under some kind of spell?  Will you next say that guns don't kill people, people kill people?  Have you been possessed by the spirit of Charlton Heston?  Is this the same Justin Trudeau who just last year, on the anniversary of the tragic shooting of 14 women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, told The Globe and Mail that the Conservatives "have tried to separate the gun registry from the issue of violence against woman in a way that is not just unethical, but also completely counter to factual evidence."  You then declared, "The gun registry saves lives.  They are eliminating it."

Perhaps you are practising political pragmatism.  The Liberal Party needs support in rural areas and in Western Canada, especially Alberta.  Could that be the reason for your remarks?  Now, don't get me wrong.  It's not that I think the concerns of Western Canadians and rural voters should be ignored or that their views merit little consideration.  I just think that hunters and people who live in rural areas should be willing  to accept some red tape and some delays before they obtain permission to possess a firearm.

What's so terrible about filling out some forms and undergoing some background checks before acquiring a weapon?  It's those measures that prevent guns from falling into the hands of violent and mentally unbalanced individuals.  If hunters and country folk are truly law-abiding, why should it bother them so much to wait.a bit.  They don't complain about having to pass a road test in order to drive a car, do they?  They wouldn't want an incompetent or dangerous driver behind the wheel of a car, would they?  Furthermore, urban dwellers are not the only victims of gun violence. Citizens in small towns and rural areas must also be protected from the abuse of firearms.

Canada's police chiefs supported the long-gun registry as a  key tool in policing and no one can describe them as "bleeding heart liberals."  Now that the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has destroyed the long-gun registry, it is setting its sights on further weakening gun control.  In their usual insidious manner, the Conservatives are relaxing gun control legislation. They are doing it in a piecemeal fashion in the hope that not too many Canadians will notice and protest.  Slowly and steadily, they have been turning Canada into a different country from the one I know and love.  They continue to remove environmental regulations and now they are taking aim at gun control (pun intended). The abolition of the long-gun registry is not the end of it - not by a long shot.

Yesterday, on the 23rd anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, the Toronto Star reported that the federal Conservatives are considering loosening firearm restrictions.  According to the Star, "the proposed changes include getting rid of the 'prohibited' category and reclassifying weapons such as certain handguns and assault weapons as 'restricted only, and extending the duration of owner licences from five to 10 years - a move the RCMP warns would strip away an important safety check."  How is this supportive of hunters and rural dwellers, I'd like to know?  How many more gun tragedies need to happen?

The Tories must be laughing with glee right now, Justin, because you've given them plenty of ammunition (pun intended).to use against you.  I'm sure they are already planning some vicious attack ads if you should become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.  It's a safe bet that they will be rerunning your remarks on gun control over and over again.  I can already hear the background voices on their negatives ads: "Justin Trudeau voted against eliminating the long-gun registry.  Now he's calling it a failed policy . . ."


Joanne Madden

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Milli Vanilli Scandal: Has lip syncing become the norm?

It's been over a week since the 100th Grey Cup was held in Toronto.  The featured performers during the half-time show were 74-year-old Gordon Lightfoot, a legendary folk singer and songwriter from Orillia, Ontario, 27-year-old Carly Rae Jepson, a pop singer from Mission, British Columbia and 18-year-old Justin Bieber, a ubiquitous teen idol from Stratford, Ontario.  Lightfoot sang his classic "Canadian Railroad Trilogy."  His voice is not what it used to be, but the septuagenarian was out there giving it his best.  Not only  that, but he was actually singing.  Can you imagine that?

Carly Rae and Biebs both lip synced.  At one point, Carly Rae even pulled the microphone from her face to encourage the crowd to sing along to her hit song, "Call Me Maybe.".  Surprise!  The background recording could still be heard.  Before you protest, I want to say that I am well aware that Bieber and Jepson move around the stage quite a bit more than Gordon Lightfoot.  I also realize that it is extremely difficult to sing live while performing complex dance routines.  Carly Rae's performance at the Grey Cup, however, did not involve any intricate choreography.  As for The Bieb, he did dance throughout his performance.

Here are some questions I've thought about recently.  How much does live singing matter any more, especially to younger audiences.  In the case of some performers, do their fans only care about their dance movements?

Mili Vanilli in their heyday

Remember the Milli Vanilli scandal?  Milli Vanilli, also known a Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, were disgraced by a lip syncing scandal at the peak of their celebrity.  Fabrice Morvan is a native of Gruadeloupe, France while the late Robert Pillatus was a German-American, born in New York City.  Back in the late 1980s, they were riding high. with several hit songs.  They had released an album, Girl You Know It's True," which produced three Number One and two top five songs.  Their music, despite its commercial success, was generally regarded as lightweight pop, a collection of catchy dance tunes.  Nevertheless, in February 22, 1990, Milli Vanilli received a Grammy award for Best New Artist.

The fraudulent duo, however, was unable to hide the fact that neither Morvan nor Pilatus had actually recorded any of  those popular Milli Vanillis songs. The pair displayed poor English language skills when they were first interviewed by television music channel MTV.  Their heavily-accented speaking voices did not match the flowing sounds of their recordings.  There were doubts among those present that Rob and Fab had voiced the songs on their hit album.  In 1989, during a purported live performance of "Girl You Know It's True." on MTV, the recording jammed and skipped, continually repeating part of a line of the song.

There was so much suspicion and speculation that Milli Vanelli  producer Frank Farian was finally forced to admit the truth.  On November 14, 1990, he called a press conference to confirm that Rob and Fab had not sung a single note on their best-selling album.  Farian had developed the concept and the sound he wanted for Milli Vanilli in the late 1980s in Munich, Germany.  Unable to find a singing duo with the image and look he was seeking to promote, he had recruited Rob and Fab from a local nightclub.  They were attractive models and dancers, better looking and more marketable than the singers who actually voiced the Milli Vanilli recordings.

German record producer Frank Farian

On the day after Farian's press conference, Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus gave an interview to Chuck Phillips of the Los Angeles Times in which they revealed their side of the story.  They placed the blame for the debacle squarely on the shoulders of Frank Farian.  Pilatus stated, "I feel like a mosquito being squeezed."  He then described the last two years as a "total nightmare."  He said, "We've had to lie to everybody.  We are true singers, but that manic Frank Farian would never allow us to express ourselves."

The Milli Vanilli scandal reverberated throughout the music industry.  It resulted in  lawsuits and accusations. Rob and Fab were completely humiliated and they became the butt of countless jokes.  On November 19, 1990, the National Academy of Recording Artists and Sciences took back the Grammy it had awarded to the duo that year. It was the first time in the history of the Grammys that an award had been rescinded.  Rob and Fab's attorney announced that his clients would return their trophy.

As for Frank Farian, he was not the slightest bit contrite.  He failed to comprehend why people were so unsettled about what he had done.  He justified his actions and denied that there was any betrayal.  "Did anyone in America believe that the Village People or the Monkees really sang themselves? The Archies?" he asked rhetorically.  "Please.  Everyone's been doing it for 25 years"  In essence, Farian offered the old "Everyone does it, so I've doing nothing wrong" line of defence.

Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus claimed to have been Farian's hapless pawns.  At the same time, they had no compunction about using their notoriety for financial gain.  In 1991, they appeared in a commercial for Carefree Sugarless gum in which they spoofed their lip syncing scandal.  In the ad, the duo lip sync to an opera recording while an announcer asks, "How long does the taste of Carefree Sugarless Gum last?"  The recording starts to skip and the announcer intones, "Until these guys sing for themselves."  To watch a video of the commercial, click on the link below.

In 1992, Morvan and Rob Pilatus signed a contract with a new record label, Taj, and released an album featuring their own voices.   The album, Rob and Fab, made no impact and its sales were abysmally low.  Soon after, the Taj label went bankrupt.  The disgraced duo decided to make yet another attempt at resuscitating their career in 1997.  They were, however, denied the opportunity due to Pilatus' premature death.

After the scandal, Rob's life had taken a downward spiral that ended in his early demise. During those years, he struggled with substance abuse and became involved in criminal activities.   In 1996, he served a prison term for assault, vandalism and attempted robbery.  He also spent time in drug rehabilitation

On April 2, 1998, just as the duo was about to embark on a promotional tour for their new album, Back and In Attack, Rob's body was found in a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany.  The cause of his death was a suspected overdose of alcohol and prescription drugs and it was ruled accidental.  Rob Pilatus was only 32 years old.  The album Back and In Attack was never released.

As much as I have always enjoyed the music of The Beatles, even they lip synced on occasion, although not during their concert performances.  They lip synced in the "Hello Goodbye" video and in some of their other videos such as "Day Tripper,"  There is a big difference, however, between lip syncing in a video and lip syncing during a supposedly live concert.  It is far worse, of course, to take credit for a recording that is not yours, as Milli Vanilli did.

On January 1, 2012, London's Sunday Express published an interview with Paul McCartney in which the former Beatle blasted pop stars who do not play live during their performances.  Without naming any names, McCartney accused some performers of using tapes rather than their instruments on stage.  He said, "To me, the concert experience is at the heart of what music is really about.  You come to a show and you are in the room so it is the real thing  . . . When we make mistakes playing live, we always now turn it and say, 'Tell you what - this proves we are live.'"

- Joanne