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.

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.

I’m Thinking of Un-Friending Everyone

We get up in arms — offended almost — at the suggestion of Our Internet being taken away from us. We view corporatization or privitization, tiered or restricted content as an affront to our civil liberties. We must maintain network neutrality. The www is merely a vessel, like a library, something that holds information we might seek or need. Which items you choose to view is completely at your discretion.

So why, then, do we allow Facebook to slap a crazy bias our online experience with such welcoming and open arms? Facebook has essentially taken the back door: now that we’re at the party, FB has come in and made that party a little less free and amorphous. The party is now rigidly structured. Compartmentalized. There’s nothing neutral about it: FB offeres a thinly veiled sense of freedom, but really, we have simply and unwittingly been initiated into a private club.

The FB format tugs on our very heartstrings, having lured us in emotionally, then entrapping us under a pretence of socialization, popularity and approval. If a child’s birthday party needs to be a Facebook event, or an intriguing idea condemned to a one-Like-click then hasn’t it been done already? Haven’t we all, as members of FB, been played?

I imagine stinking rich millionaires, smoking cigars, wearing tailored three-piece suits on their yachts (or whatever the stinking rich stereotypes would do), chuckling with admiration at the level of Evil Genius Mark Zuckerberg has attained: how he made it through the gates, into our hearts, and now we believe in him. Implicitly. Now he preaches to the converted, and we follow. Unquestioning of the fine print. Who has time to sift through repeated updates to the myriad terms of service agreements we face daily?

If the phone rang this moment, and on the other end was a nice lady asking if you had a few minutes to answer some questions you would say: “No,” and press End before either of you had a chance to say good bye. What we don’t realise is that Facebook passively does this: collects personal data. Every move you make, word you say, link you click through, funny picture of a cat, zombie or cat-zombie you approve of: that information is collected. Every friend you have comprises a matrix of data that is being used to “connect” you with products. Or future products. Now we gleefully volunteer the information, we volunteer our level of education, where we live, how old we are, if we are married or single, if we have kids or pets, what books we read, TV shows we watch, games we play: statistical data we can’t find the time to enter in to our own government’s Census forms (I bet you just threw that shit into the garbage anyway).

The level of marketing at the foundation of this operation is multi-tiered and brilliant. Admit it: you guys lapped that “The Social Network” drivel up. Another success: Evil Genius/CEO/guy that JUST WANTS TO BUY HIS OWN FUCKING YACHT has been humanized. But you know what they say: “It takes money to make money.” And I am saddened on a daily basis by how true this is, especially in the Western World, and more heartbreakingly, how it increasingly applies to modern culture (another rant, another time).

“Success” is not about doing your best, it’s about being invested in.

Just remember: you don’t need an online life. It’s just something someone gave us for nothing. Oh, and what’s that other adage? “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Fundamentally, what I’m getting at is that I encourage you to be a good person. Don’t be evil. Don’t be a dick. It is so vitally important that you live your life in the moment, because let me tell you, the grass doesn’t get any greener on the other side.

Spending Tuesday With the Internet

After a couple weeks of breakneck number crunching and paper pushing, I found myself with some spare time this Tuesday morning. My work, hardly done, but at a standstill…meaning I can’t move forward on anything until I hear back from some others. So I effed around on the internet for a while, reading the news and, invariably, being led astray. Here’s what I found:

1. ChatRoulette. Wow. It basically randomizes a video chat link from a list of thousands of users online. Sometimes I am truly grateful that my computer pre-dates built in cameras. This article in New York Magazine basically sums up the experience. All together now: WTF.

2. This spawned a short Facebook conversation with my mom about how “fornicating with a lettuce” is the apex of our culture.

3. Next I was transfixed by this article, reporting that the Right Wing Start to see IRS Suicide Bomber as a Hero. And I thought: “Only the far right?” Really? America, you are so weird sometimes (no offence to Americans). He’s protesting the only way that makes the media and the gov listen: extremism. Think about it. Interesting how the media reacted, too: as soon as it was known to be American-on-American, non-religiously motivated terrorism, we just stopped hearing about it. In swooped Tiger Woods’ apology, anyway.

4. Suddenly, I realised: “What you thinking for?” and created a URL that takes you to thedears.org: http://5z8.info/refugee-murder_n0r8s_REFINANCE-NOW. This made me laugh. Thanks ShadyURL and Rob Benvie!

5. What next? Somebody get me a bullet proof vest! Only $400. Cheap.

6. It just went downhill from there: Colonel and Ellen Tigh totally looks like John and Cindy McCain. Wrong, because Colonel Tigh totally looks like Mr. Lahey.

7. And then I saw this seagull steal chips from a store, and realised: “This is enough internettage to share with my friends!”

I am stepping away from the computer for a while, knowing that this was all a learning experience.

Science of Music vs. Martin Amis

During a moment spent not freaking out about Facebook removing my civil e-liberties, or analyzing the weird dreams I had last night about ordering an Americano coffee in NYC, I read a compelling book review in the Economist. The last paragraph struck me:

“[The] basic message is encouraging and uplifting: people know much more about music than they think. They start picking up the rules from the day they are born, perhaps even before, by hearing it all around them. Very young children can tell if a tune or harmony is not quite right. One of the joys of listening to music is a general familiarity with the way it is put together: to know roughly what to expect, then to see in what particular ways your expectations will be met or exceeded. Most adults can differentiate between kinds of music even if they have had no training.

Music is completely sui generis. It should not tell a non-musical story; the listener will decode it for himself. Many, perhaps most, people have experienced a sudden rush of emotion on hearing a particular piece of music; a thrill or chill, a sense of excitement or exhilaration, a feeling of being swept away by it. They may even be moved to tears, without being able to tell why. Musical analysts have tried hard to find out how this happens, but with little success. Perhaps some mysteries are best preserved.”

The book is The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can’t Do Without It by Philip Ball. And while I probably will never read it, this abstract does offer some interesting thoughts, like: Why does music even exist? Why does it make us feel? Maybe if I read the book some of these questions would be answered. But I so rarely read analog media (Economist excluded).

AND their review of the new Martin Amis book was pretty intriguing…for a Martin Amis fan. His best since Money? Come on.

My Addictions

I do not consider myself as having an addictive personality. The things I am addicted to are hardly addicting, and unlike actual narcotics, the “drugs” are not so life-destroying that they’re working on a vaccine.

Could you imagine? A vaccine that protects against internet addictions? Might have helped if one existed.

1) Facebook – Under the pretense of gaining social interaction, winning friends and emboldening friendships, I am addicted. PerezHilton.com used to be my web-based addiction but I got off that; now its just Facebook: What are the people I know saying? And doing? Or planning to do? Lately, I’ve been thinking of going cold turkey. Like with Perez, just shutting it out, deleting the bookmark. Done. If only it were that easy.

2) Costco – This is very middle-class, M.O.R., and normal of me. But I will take any excuse to go to Costco. Philosophically, I am into the way they promote environmentally conscious products, like treeless paper towel and biodegradable dishwasher soap. The pretense, however, is not our earth but my pocketbook. I believe I am saving money. Hopefully I am because I don’t have the patience or time to actually sit down and build a comparative spreadsheet. Over the years I’ve honed my ball-parking skills. Like ball-parking whether or not a tour is going to lose money. You know, big, little picture things. I’d like to think I’m saving. Big time.

So: a painfully boring blog post, but at least learning experience, wouldn’t you agree? Now you know I am a shrewd, anti-social neurotic. You didn’t know that before…did you?

Fucking hell.

UPDATE: Since posting this, I realised my list was totally partial, forgetting such weaknesses as video games, conditioner and pizza. The list goes on.

Social Network Breakdown!

Holy crap. Twitter is down. This morning I wondered why my last few tweets were MIA. I figured it was a problem with TwitterMail, which has happened before. But no, it’s bigger than that. Should we panic? How am I supposed to broadcast my tiny, insignificant thoughts to the world?

I know: Facebook. So I start to be concerned (with an underlying sense of relief) that Facebook won’t let me login. Server too busy. Login timed out. Connection was reset. This is the social apocalypse! I may have to communicate more thoughfully, timelessly, indirectly. Say by telephone, or postcard.

I wonder if this is a big deal or not?

Books

The other day I formulated an extreme thought on society and culture. This is one of my classic thoughts (reminiscent of last year’s post: Poetry is Dead), something that I might believe in but could never commit to. Its just interesting, a “what if.”

The thesis: Do we need fiction anymore? Remember a few years ago when the soft-memoir was all the rage? Until the Oprah-fueled debacle over the fictionalization of an apparent memoir: “A Million Little Pieces”. That was disappointing: not because moments of the book were fictionalized, but that people cared more about whether or not it was true hard fact, rather than the idea that they just read a well-written, inspiring story (though I never read it, but you get the point).

The other night, looking at a small stack of novels I have piled at my bedside, I wondered why I find it so difficult to get into a book? Why don’t I read anymore? There are certainly enough books worth reading, and also a near-equivalent number of books I haven’t read yet. So my bedside booklist sits, glowing with good intention, but rarely ever beating out the back pages of The Economist or a rousing game of Sudoku on the DS: both wonderfully sedating by being boringly-interesting (or interestingly-boring?).

I love reading: it fires up my brain, reminds me of the words I know but that I never use, makes me think of all the things I could communicate properly instead of calling them “great” or, quite simply, “radz.” I am also reminded of my poor command of the English language, my grammatical laziness and slothful attention to usage. Ah, but I’ve digressed.

I thought of how I often feel uninspired to read, unwilling to immerse myself in a story, in something dense and complicated, with characters both likable and not. When I realised this is it: I am resistant to investing my time in people, in the protagonist and the antagonist and their little dilemmas. The mere idea is entirely exhausting.

Why would I study, commit, connect to characters when this is what I am doing all day? I read people’s blogs, their Facebooks, their Twitters; somehow I know what people across the continent have done in a day, where they’ve gone, how they feel, how the weather affects them, which YouTube videos made them laugh, the news they’ve read, the music they’ve listened to, the things they like/loathe. I know the intersections of myriad characters: hundreds of people and the minutiae of their every single day. Aren’t these the very elements that help us learn and understand a character in a novel? The threads that weave together a personality? Their relationships and how they interact with the world? This is my new fiction, my neo-memoir: via social networking, I am reading dozens of life stories every day. The only difference is, unlike reading a book, I cannot control how quickly I get to the end. I am also never guaranteed a prefect story arc or meaningful closure. If I don’t like someone’s story, or the way they are telling it, I have to wait years to see how it ends: do they stay together? Lose the house? Get the job? Succeed wonderfully? Fail miserably? Stay happy? Stumble into a crippling depression? How will I know? I have to be patient.

I’ll get to the end of every story, sooner or later.

Inspirational Portrait

As I was reviewing my Facebook profile today, I decided to remove “Barack Obama” as one of the pages I was following. I thought: “Obama-mania is over, he won, he’s in the juice, and I’m Canadian so I should move on.”

But through a series of random events (clicking on Mark Slutsky’s profile, then trying to see a YouTube link he posted of two angry camels in a car, which led me to a Russian blog), I was led back to Barack.

Or, more specifically, a whole slew of Barack-inspired portraits. I was very drawn to this first one, and if I were a little more crazy, I might consider hanging this in my house:

I never did see those two angry camels in a car. But this more than made up for it. Wouldn’t you agree?

Mexico: The Real Blog

I’m so embarrassed…I was so obsessed with getting over the vacation part of our trip that I never mentioned how frigging incredible our two shows in Mexico were.

Number one: being out of winter initially was rad. The first day we arrived in Mexico City and then had to drive for 6 hours directly to Guadalajara. I fainted at a truck stop just outside Mexico City but that was nothing a glass of juice and marlin tacos couldn’t cure. Also we got ‘nized.

Nobody knew what to expect of the Guadalajara show; whether or not there would be anyone there. The room was pretty big and the metal roof made the sound on stage totally unbearable. So I was hoping the place would fill up to kill all the bounce. The room seemed pretty full, and the people that were there sent some crazy energy up onto the stage. Since our last Montreal gig we’ve been tweaking the set, playing longer which is always fun and starting the show with Saviour. I don’t want to kill the mystique so all I will say are these two words: wireless microphone.

For dinner the promoters Armando and Andreas took us to a restaurant near the basilica which was really beautiful to see. As we were leaving I heard some dude with a guitar in another cafe singing “More Than Words”…I called over Laura and Chris and in two minutes everybody was over there backing him up on the harmonies. It was hilarious…and kind of an inside joke.

The next day some of us decided to fly back to Mexico City…just to stay a little sane. That van was really crowded with 11 of us in there and three seats having no seat belts. Us Canadians get nervous about stuff like that.

The Lunario in MexicoCity is tucked in behind the Auditorio Nacional, right next to an army training base that had one of the biggest flags flying we had ever seen:

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Apparently there are two giant flags in Mexico City. Awesome. I’m not sure there are any flags that big anywhere in all of Canada. We went for a walk with Juan Luis from Kontrabando/Arts & Crafts Mexico who showed us where to get really awesome quesadillas. I shared a Coke in a glass bottle with Laura…man that was good! I think that’s when I Tweeted about looking for fish tacos…so we never found those but what we had was just as delish.

I can’t really describe in words what happened during our show in Mexico City. It was probably the best show The Dears had ever played – musically and vibe-wise – and backstage post-show we all agreed that that was the most fun any one of us had ever experienced in our lives. I mean, even Lisa was rocking out. The best way these gigs could be recauptured is by checking out the vids on YouTube and pics on our website (tour section) and on Facebook (I linked the albums to my profile). Here’s Murray’s fave YouTube moment:

And then also this one is fun/me-fest but also check out the guy who uploaded it…his profile pic is AWESOME!

After the Mexico City show we signed autographs for about two hours. Lisa started drawing cats instead of signing her full name. The fans were all so cool and awesome and we all had a great time. Thank you to everyone who came out to the shows!!! And who waited so long to meet us after! Until next time…all our love, The Dears.