Apathy vs. Rage: Thoughts for a New Year

Maybe it’s winter, blame Canada, point the finger at the polar vortex: 2014’s malaise has kicked in fast and hard. As I curse the cold, fumbling at child seat buckles with numb fingers, I observe a behavioural trend from within. Something that totters between frustration and rage, these are ugly demons that must be dealt with promptly.

Over the holidays all work stops and my gaze was locked in on the Internet. It was too much. I lost my way, irritated by BuzzFeed‘s jaw-dropping mind-blowing bucket-listing posts, or maddened by the confused philosophies of Jezebel (which I think, like Gawker, is too cynical to keep reading…that bookmark is getting deleted riiiiight…now! *click*). Let’s not mention Facebook. The sad, window into the lost souls of the 21st century. You, FB, are also getting downgraded. *sound of apps being deleted from all devices*

I am optimistic about the future, and despite the paragraph above I am generally a glass half full person. But the unsettled vibes echoing throughout my body straight up suck. Or is it that at all? Is it, simply, the world: the unfairness, inequalities, the music biz, the brutal mirrors…

As mothers, the future bears down on us in an inexplicable way. The weight of the world is heavier than, well, before we were mothers. Lately, overwrought news items about how Stephen Harper is burning books and dismantling the health care system are not sitting well. I wake up with my teeth clenched. I remind myself these are editorials, or in the words of Todd Flanders: “Is your source on this reliable?” Where is everything headed? What about the country, the citizens of the world, global warming, food crises, money, life, death, all these things…

Well? What about them?

Somewhere in this brief yet wandering post I’ve found my resolve. The impetus for 2014: a middle-ground between hashtagging everything #CCL and hot, complaining rants. I must respect the world, love everyone and especially myself. To not resent things beyond my control and to remember what it means to be alive — how organic and fragile that is. It is perspective, simply: life is so simple and oftentimes it seems everything out there aims to knock you off your feet, to cause you to lose balance.

My inspiration, visually, is BigDog. He gets kicked and shoved around by thin pale robotics engineers ALL THE TIME and still he keeps prancing along. Moving forward. Like BigDog I will learn to trust my inner algorithm.

Flash Fiction (2) – A Poetry Book & Podcast

As 2013 draws to a close, I’m pleased to announce my participation in the Yellow Bird Project’s “Selected Poems by Indie Rock Stars.”

While I’d hardly call myself a “star,” much less self-identify as an “indie rocker,” the inclusion of a mysterious piece I wrote called “Flash Fiction (2)” is tons of fun. You can sign up to receive a poem a week leading up to the release of the poetry book in January. And if you scroll down and look through the “A Taster” section, you can both read AND listen to my reading of the piece. Anyhow, I’ll keep this short and sweet. It’s an honour to be included.

Here’s a very weird illustrated portrait of moi taken from the book:

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I hope everyone out there has a great holidays and happy new year. All my love to you, Natalia.

Solar Maximum

An active sun during the recent solar eclipse. This image is a composite of several observations from various perspectives. Read more about it at NASA.

How I Became a Katy Perry Sympathizer

Currently making the rounds on Facebook is this parenting blog post about our responsibility to teach kids about “good music.” Or, as the title states: “How to Talk to Your Kids About Their Shitty Taste in Music.” It’s a weakly argued call to arms in reaction to the whole VMA/Miley Cyrus twerking debacle.

What a load of hipster-douchebag crap. My retort: How on earth did your kids get exposed to this “shitty” music in the first place? Pro tip: don’t leave your kids in front of Disney XD all day, or they will think music is meant to be overly synthesized, un-artistic pop.

I’ll admit, pop music is heavily marketed to our young people. Whether you realise it or not, a lot of money is spent on product awareness — that’s the music biz. What is on the album takes back seat to the mysticism or hype built on what you think is going to be on the album. You already know what to think and feel, before hearing a note. That is marketing.

If done well, the potential audience will be worked into a frenzy. So let’s get accountable for our actions: instead of pointless, complain-ey blog posts, why not get our mom-and-dad brains into the game? The question should be: Are your kids getting caught up in marketing? Do they know what marketing is? Do you know what marketing is? Do you understand the intersection of marketing and the arts?

Few people, including most people who work in the music biz, care to understand this concept. They willfully ignore it, and gleefully get caught up in it. And, so, our kids follow suit. New Arcade Fire anyone? Gawd, white people — adults, even — are SO PUMPED about their new album. It’s exhausting.

So when my 8-year-old daughter decides her favourite singer is Katy Perry, what do I do? Is Ms. Perry a suitable role model, considering the mainstream options? Is anybody? Or is this an opportunity to impose my jaded, post-feminist, post-indie rock opinion?

In my mind, my daughter must make her own decisions. If I listened to my parents, I would only like Kenny Rogers and 80’s Tina Turner. Our kids must create themselves for themselves. Our job is to give them a loose set of rules, parameters inside which to make good and positive decisions. When my kid asks to listen to “the radio” in the car — which inevitably means Top 40 dance pop stuff — I abide. We listen. I tell her to listen for the sidechain compression, the auto-tuned vocals, the recurring use of beats and fills, arrangement structures that are copied form song to song. I want her to listen with her brain, unhindered by any marketing message.

Point being, life is a perpetual learning experience to be enjoyed. This is the main lesson I teach my children, and happens to be my prime directive. Most music, yes, is shit. Katy Perry balances on the razor’s edge of being a mega-YOLO-slut (ever listen to the lyrics to “Last Friday Night“?) and being a young, powerful, inspiring woman with an incredible voice. RAZOR’S EDGE, PEOPLE.

So sure, we’ll watch the “Roar” video on YouTube together. We did that with “Gangnam Style,” too. Trendy music will ebb and flow, but it’s those times when we’re walking home from school and my daughter is humming “Ring My Bell” by Blood Sisters that I feel a tinge of redemption.

This entry also appears on HuffingtonPost.ca

On Feminism.

* logs in, dusts off blog *

Woah. This is still here? And it’s still on?

After my longest break from blogging I am happy to return with a classic “explaining myself, mostly to myself” post. While I’ve had many ideas for posts, the one-two punch of motherhood and new role of label manager prevents me from actually getting anything down. Not to mention the speculative fiction novel — whose progress has come to a complete and grinding halt. 😦

So what brings me back? Grade three has begun for one kid, and a Tempra-induced teething nap consumes the other. Topically, a raging Facebook exchange with some of my dearest friends begs further thought/explanation:

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The discussion continues. Every time I log in, more comments. More discussion. Which is great: it makes Facebook temporarily feel useful.

In my opinion, the topic is definitely one to be contested: feminism, like any system of beliefs, must be incremental. Labels and the labelling of oneself is purely a matter of personal choice. If I choose not to identify myself as a feminist, what does that mean? Does it mean I don’t believe in women? That however or wherever you were born you do not deserve to be treated with fairness and respect? To come to that conclusion is closed minded.

I believe in equality. This, I will stand atop a mountain and proclaim loudly. I will stomp on those who think any person is better than any other person based on which category they belong to. Fuck you if you think your “haters gonna hate” is better than my “haters gonna hate” attitude. That’s the point: to identify with any establishment immediately makes one part of the problem. In this classic Noisey/Vice article (classic in that it takes the stance of “If you’re not with us then you’re against us”), the author suggests the following:

“We get so mad when some nitwit says she’s not a feminist. I guess if you’re cool with being raped all the time and having no options in life other than being a baby machine or a prostitute, then yeah, you’re probably not a feminist. But if you enjoy birth-control pills and not being beaten up by your owner—I mean, husband—then you pretty much are one so you may as well stop shaving your legs right now. Just kidding.”

Heh…I like the Just kidding at the end. That’s cute. But putting this in less extreme terms, as an independent, strong woman it is “correct” to be a feminist and “incorrect” to identify oneself otherwise. Any opposing stance is heresy. I must therefore be a witch. Burn me at the stake. Woman-on-woman crime (a.k.a. catfight).

Contrary to what you have just read, I am a woman. Hopefully a positive influence to other women, especially my daughter. Early in my rock-band career (in the 90’s) my role in The Dears was scoffed at. I was often deemed an unnecessary accessory in The Dears: women shouldn’t be in bands, keyboards do not belong in rock. I was (and still am) constantly talked to condescendingly by sound guys about how to plug things in. It’s getting better, but it’s still lame. I am asked on a weekly basis — mostly by other women — why my hair is grey. If I doubted my self for a second, my hair would not be grey. I give a shit about how I look, but I don’t care to “fall in line” with the false ideal of what a woman should be. It’s one of my little protests. The natural you, male or female, is the best you. It’s not a feminist thought. It’s a human one.

And yet, people fear that which they do not understand, that which does not conform. It is human nature. Suggested reading: Heart of Darkness.

Let’s flip the script on this one. Let’s turn the table on my problem with “-isms” and “-ists.” Why are we forced to identify with categories? Why do humans need to starkly label themselves? Why do they second guess themselves about, in essence, who they are? Because at our core, as human beings, we are uncertain. The modern world encourages us to be lost. We are forced to be motivated not by philosophical thought but by material status. Our psychological state, our self-worth, is perpetually undermined. It is instead medicated and suppressed, pushed away and replaced with a litany of hang-ups.

If we truly had equality, if everybody simply believed in equality, feminism would not need to exist. So let’s get real here. I’m not into labels because they segregate. My husband and children are black. You want to talk unfairness, the things you just “can’t say,” the truths others unlike you will never understand? Read this book (trust me, it will be fun!), then get back to me about the whole thing.

But seriously, if you want to identify as a feminist, then by all means. I won’t judge you. Just don’t make me wear the ribbon.

Morrissey Fan Fiction (or What’s Left of It)

Months ago I proclaimed with all the fanfare my social media network affords that I WOULD BE WRITING MORRISSEY FAN FICTION. And, to my credit, I wrote and even designed cover art for said piece. But I never felt like it was good enough. It lacked substance. Then I took out the fictitious and Morrissey parts and it became a memoir of my university days that I considered shopping as a work of non-fiction. Then I was overly self-conscious, thought it was too personal, and wanted to bury it. Until the other day: when working on “my novel” I exploded that thing that began as a Morrissey fan fiction and re-worked most of it into my opus, leaving only this piece of shrapnel: Flash Fiction (3).

Part inspired by the 90’s era SAAB automobile of Dears bass player Roberto Arquilla — who when asked about the 1989 900s 16 valve (no turbo), affectionately called it a “money pit.” He has since parted ways with the beast. Yet I always admired the shape of that car, though it was perpetually falling apart and smelled of cigarettes. Those were the days, my friend.

The Mozzer illustration is by Joe Ollmann, whose books you should read. In a frenzied enthusiasm about writing my first fan fiction I asked him to render a picture of Morrissey, which he almost immediately sent back to me attached to a self-deprecating email, which I appreciated as much as the drawing itself.

Enjoy this nugget, Flash Fiction (3), or what’s become of my Morrissey Fan Fiction

When one of my editors asked me….

NO

I got nothing…

…so I will instead share this awesome image of Phobos’ Stickney Crater. Until I got…something.

Stickney Crater

Doomsday Spirit (with punchline)

With the end of the world right around the corner (again), I’ve been experiencing a confluence of ideas. Witnessing a cultural paradigm shift. Watching a new consciousness unfold. And I attribute it mostly to the popularity of zombie culture.

Seriously, though: this stream of thought stemmed from reading a new book called “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution” by Wired‘s departing editor-in-chief Chris Anderson. I’m only halfway through, but already I’ve been inspired by the concepts therein. He suggests that manufacturing will go local. That is, with the advent of the DIY “maker” revolution and the growing accessibility of 3D printers, people will begin to modify, customize and essentially manufacture what they need instead of relying on imported or mass-market goods.

At risk of being completely sexist, this idea is like homesteading for men. And I mean this in a complimentary way: where homesteading culture promotes the independent production on a domestic side — things like food and shelter — the maker culture promotes off-grid manufacturing of useful things.

Not a decade ago, if something broke, it could easily be fixed. Shoes could be taken to a cobbler. A vacuum cleaner or blender could be repaired. These days we are so reliant on cheaply made things that when something breaks, we’re conditioned to throw it away and drive to the Wal-Mart to buy a new one. It’s simply a better value than having it repaired (let alone finding a skilled repair person… who has time?).

And how does this relate to zombie culture? Two words: Apocalypse Preparedness. It’s on the minds of the citizens of the Western World and is stimulating this Leftist-Libertarianism. Simply put, when the world goes to shit and it’s every person for themselves, those with a cold-storage full of preserves and an equipped workshop that can repair radios and shotguns will be more likely to survive. Just watch a couple episodes of The Walking Dead. You’ll see what I mean.

As a Canadian, it’s tricky talking about Libertarianism because it’s not really a thing here. I’m still not entirely sure what it is, and wonder why, as a movement in the USA, it needs to be so politicized. It’s generally associated with the Right due to its leanings towards small government. But at its core Libertarianism needs community (and dare I say, Communism?) which results in the feeling you get when you try and force two identical poles of a magnet together. A positive will always repel another positive. Like this.

Upon further reflection I am totally optimistic: I hope the Maker movement continues to gain momentum. It popularizes a very creative way of life, one that is productive and satisfying. It can make the everyman proud of something, however small the contribution or creation.

Hopefully then people will be less inclined to start unnecessary and crappy indie rock bands as a means of attaining that sense of fulfillment. Instead of starting a Bandcamp, create a Arduino mod so you can control the toaster with your iPhone. Then we’ll have something to talk about.

The post also appeared on the Huffington Post

Where Have I Been?

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I’ve been a little incommunicado lately, due mostly to the addition of a son to our family. As you’ve probably read somewhere, Murray and I welcomed Apollo into this world on Oct 31 and therefore blogging has taken a backseat to many other things. I will be back in the new year, but in the meanwhile have a happy holidays.