Thursday, December 31, 2009

just waitin for some peace to come

One of My Kind documents a better world. Since my pre-teen years, the beat generation’s artistic process has inspired a kind of pseudo-nostalgia. Beat poets’ raw observation of the world and human emotion (e.g. Allen Ginsberg) and classic rock and folk collaboration (e.g. Greenwich Village) has been resuscitated by the greatest modern songwriter: Conor Oberst. He’s nostalgic of a time when people celebrated life and did more than “memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul.” This film shows his reaction to the disconnection from the world’s beauty—even in darkness. However, to deal with this disconnection, Oberst creates his own alternate reality in Mexico and on the road for a spontaneous nine month tour with The Mystic Valley Band. His alternate world normalizes the artist’s idiosyncrasies: booze, poetry, weed, late night jam sessions and an encouraging entourage of musicians. Oh wait, was that my summer?

Beyond the Last Waltz-esqe film style, I’m fascinated by the way Oberst and the boys surrender themselves to the creative process rather than forcing song structure. Conor Oberst went to Mexico to record a solo album and like creator Phil Schaffart says, “He accidentally formed a band.” Perhaps it’s because I’m trying to figure out my own path as an artist and I want to create a selfless art community, but watching this documentary gave me hope that communal creation is possible in an age saturated by media and electronic distraction. It’s possible to harvest a new world where people listen to one another, share ideas and openly contribute talents to the creative process, even if that world isn’t true reality. Life is what you create for yourself.

That’s how I feel at home. There’s this little house of Victorian magnificence and love, so much love. This house is in the heart of downtown, it has steep stairs that are dangerous after too many beers and each room has a plethora of instruments. The floors are hardwood, perfect for dancing and for sitting around listening to acoustic jam sessions at midnight. It’s effortless and accepting. It’s drunk and loud and high and disturbed and peaceful. It’s inspiring.

But back to the movie, what I especially love is the insight into Oberst’s songwriting process. (He writes a lyric then rolls it over in his head building and crafting a melody, verses and a chorus. It’s never forced of course.) For any fan, it’s his lyrics that seem to strike the truest chord of human emotion, cueing sighs of that’s-exactly-how-I-feel. Despite his own troubling past and depressed tendencies, he conveys the world in universal truisms that are never cliche. It’s effortless.

This film is not outspoken or glamourous; it’s honest and organic. One of themes that I like is learning how to let go. After a year and a half of touring and recording together as contemporaries and friends, Oberst talks about what it is like to move on from the Mystic Valley Band. They mention how although their experience has been satisfying and exhilarating, it can never be recreated. (Something I have to come to terms with after last summer). I wonder if the inevitable finality hanging over their project sped up the MVB’s writing process?

I also enjoy how although Oberst holds the most celebrity, it isn’t just his show. Nate Walcott, Jason Boesel, Nik Freitas, Macey Taylor and Taylor Hollingsworth write parts and sing together, contributing their strengths and stepping in when others need support. Even Schaffart (guitar tech) fairly showcases all members in interviews, footage and live performance. Their selfless inclusion and mutual respect is most admirable. And enviable.

All members learned to play their instruments with their hearts. They make music for art’s sake, not for money and fame. Oberst is portrayed as humble and collaborative. That’s what I want for my friends. Hell, that’s what I want for myself too. Yes, as a woman, I’m looking for an excuse to travel the world creating art with my friends and following my heart. Where time ebbs and flows in a world racing for capital success.

Maybe one day, I too will be so lucky.

In the mean time, Oberst shows no signs of slowing down as I was privileged to witness Oct. 13 with his Monsters of Folk tour. This folk superband is another example of his collaborative genius. Oberst, M. Ward, Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes) are the epitome of modern folk superstardom. (Although friend and contemporary, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) or Zoe Deschanel (Gibbard’s wife and member of She & Him with M. Ward) would also fit in just fine.) See, they’re all connected. They’ve formed an unstoppable community. That concert was the first time I saw Oberst after listening to him faithfully for five years. I saw it with my best friends and it changed my life, for sure. It still doesn’t seem real.

As the Kamloops scene (and even some of the Island scene) threatens to pull apart as players compete to get on certain bills with certain bands and start battles forcing people to pick sides, take a look at the successes sparked by collaborative efforts. Sure these bands have real deal management with real labels and world-wide tours, but they’re also a music generation ahead of us. And whatever happened to a little DIY? You don’t need to become famous to make friends. They’ve taken the right steps and created a music community where acts lend to each other and share in the process. You can’t shit on everyone to get to the top. If bands put on shows for each other, pool their connections and support one another on the road and at home, then their chance for some real success is increased. And ask the MVB, that sense of community is one of the most enriching parts about engaging in the world of art and creation. Be fans of each other; don’t compete for a second in the spotlight.

We’re all capable of taking the journey together and everyone is an artist if they believe in what they create (be it music, drawing, sculpture, street art or the written word…whatever you like). It’s about taking the risk to slowdown the stress of day-to-day monotony and make time for creativity. We don’t have to retreat to a Mexican desert to create a masterpiece—although, that would be really badass.

You know a lot can happen after everybody falls asleep
Ask the forest fire, ask the cop walking on the beat
And do right by them, work a little in your dreams
Don't let time rob you, hold onto your memories
In the glass houses, in the pages of the Rolling Stone
I get a sick feeling, like I'm rocking in a little boat
Hear the big church bell, it's ringing like a mobile phone
Such a long Sunday drive, and I'm taking it all alone

I want to belong to a reason
And cut a new key to the kingdom
And if anybody asks me, say I want to belong
If anybody asks me, say that it won't take long
If anybody asks me, say I'm going to get this done
If anybody asks me, say I got a reason


Now go watch the documentary One of My Kind for free at http://documentary.causecast.org/ and then you best check out The Last Waltz. Get on loving music and loving each other, because in a world of concrete and disconnect, that’s all we have.

Monday, November 16, 2009

staring at a clean white page

I had poetry written in this space that I now type over. It was the poetry of a (writer) who is stuck between here and there and over here and under there for the last few months. But I'm back...far far back.

So far back, my music taste has returned to genres and bands that first excited me at 14. It's not a perpetuating state of nostalgia but rather a rediscovery. A rediscovery that has also opened me up to the greats in the scene right now. It's a kind of mini-life crisis (I suppose) compelling me to listen to bands, such as Senses Fail, and wonder if I've actually outgrown that girl on the school bus with her discman.

Perhaps I don't have to.

I used that discman (courtesy of my broken iPod) on my commute from Kamloops to Vic last weekend. My head phones are the vector to sanity. My discman hums in my lap as the bus hums over the highway. Powerlines swooping and soaring outside the window to the tempo of a Bright Eyes and A Day to Remember mixed CD (Yes, I realize the genre disparity between those two bands.) Life makes more sense on the bus with my headphones on and a pen in my hand.

My dreams are becoming realized but I'm too busy to appreciate it.
No matter my other interests, my passion is fueled by sounds and those who work with sounds. The artists, the industry, the writers. The Writers. THE WRITERS.
I'm the Renegade Radio Editor and my first issue is coming out in January. These past couple months have been a super steep learning curve: contacting labels, publicists, musicians, coordinating interviews, setting up writers, editing and sooooo many emails. My favourite part is the interviews.

On Halloween I interviewed We Are the City. (I'll add the link to the story once it's on our RR website.) Olivia came with me and the whole night was more fun because I had an interview. When I was 14, going to the show was enough. But now, especially partaking in a scene I didn't grow up in, it's great to have another purpose when I attend shows. The guys were super sweet and the story wrote itself (unlike all my essays and term papers...urgh.)

Saturday night was The Stills, Girl Talk and K-Os. I emailed Arts and Crafts ( <3!) and landed an interview with The Stills. Of course, a time wasn't confirmed so I had to show up early. I scored media passes for Jeff and I then worked on getting the interview. After talking to tons of people, witnessing roadies assemble the stage, and eventually getting the road manager, we sit down with Tim Fletcher. He was cool, well-spoken and at times relatively profound. We chatted arts, culture, society...music.

The more I engage in the music journalism realm, the less I'm intrigued by other careers I thought I wanted to pursue. While I love my journalism class (because my prof (S.Holman) is brilliant in his field), the main thing I've learned is that hard news/political journalism is not my beat. Nope. I suppose that's why we start playing dressup in kindergarten. That way, by the time we hit university we're ready to try on careers (and learn if we can actually play our roles).

In fact the only writing I do (that gives me satisfaction) is for my Writing 336 class (Long Creative Non-Fiction). I'm working on a book. It's part narrative/cultural criticism/history of the Kamloops music scene. One chapter nearly finished! 10 more to go! As my narrative progresses sequentially over summer 09, I'm forced to re-analyze how I've arrived where I am. How the sounds and players shaped the music scene. It's fun, but a huge risk.

I'm not sure if I'm a writer; I know I'm compelled to write. I'm fascinated and motivated by social justice studies but my heartbeat is still synchronized with sound. I want to interview Wilco, Tom Gabel, A Day To Remember.

Art is a risk. We're all artists. We're all writers. Writers write letters. Writers compose songs, scribble poems, rewrite blogs that are deleted at 2 am. Writers crack open a beer or pour a glass of wine at midnight before an 830 journalism class. Not that all writers drink. But many do.




I'm hunched over a typewriter I guess you'd call that painting in a cave And there's a word I can't remember And a feeling I cannot escape And now my ashtray's overflowing I'm still staring at a clean white page Oh, and morning's at my window And she is sending me to bed again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vigilante Justice: Gulabi Gang

“In rural India, a group of women calling themselves the Gulabi Gang are using vigilante justice to make their voices heard in a man’s world,” reads the subtitle to the “Angry in Pink” article in Bust’s June/July 2009 issue (Chopra, 2009, p.59). Anuj Chopra frames women’s rights in a way that both dismantles and supports ‘Western’ popular culture’s perception of the ‘3rd world.’ This article explains how only extreme mobilization can liberate these Indian women from the thresholds of patriarchy and oppression. She frames individual identity, political structures and collective rights in ways that bring attention to a grassroots movement against submissiveness. However, the issue of framing human rights is a difficult one, and with the benefits of western media attention also come potential negative consequences if women’s human rights are not framed accurately.
The Gulabi Gang is spear-headed by 46-year-old, Sampat Pal who aims to “confront those who continuously commit grave social injustices against the poor, particularly women” (Chopra, 2009, p.61). In the village of Banda, India, the group of women wear pink saris as they confront patriarchy and stand up against abusive husbands, rapists and an unlawful government that does not value women’s rights. Considering that Bust magazine has a conscious third-wave feminist audience, the framing of women’s rights in India has a somewhat well-informed understanding of the human rights discourse in comparison to other popular Western publications. However, since 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’ the West has repeatedly portrayed Islamic women as oppressed and without individual agency (Freedman, 2007, p.39). While the article does reach out and contact the grassroots movement first hand, readers must still be conscious that the portrayal of this article is through a Western lens which has various consequences.

Firstly, framing identity and first and second generation rights (civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights) brings up the debate between the universalist/cultural relativist dichotomy (Steans, 2007). Radical universalism states that values should be universally applied without consideration of cultural differences. Strong relativism is the theory that human rights are principally determined by culturally specific circumstances. Bust frames Indian women’s human rights from a weak relativist stance. While the article does learn toward universal human rights as a basis to legitimize holding government bodies accountable, they are weak relativists because they endorse the cultural modification that takes place in order to implement those rights. For example, they do not publically disapprove the use of violence (lathi fighting) as a way for women to make a point and ultimately create change (Chopra, 2009). Lathis are a traditional, cultural weapon and if men can use them against women, women can also use them to stand up for themselves. The risk with universalism is that it can be portrayed as emphasizing Western homogeny; however, Bust does not take an overtly Westernized position, instead they lay out the unique methods that work for these women in their villages (Steans, 2007).

A point of contention in the West and among West the gender inequality involved in women wearing a headscarf...” and they “ignore many other social and economic inequalities present...” (Freedman, 2007, p.43). Western media outlets, including newspapers, magazines and broadcasting, are guilty of portraying Eastern women to be in need of ‘saving.’ Bust frames women’s rights as a liberty that the Gulabi Gang are perfectly capable of achieving in India. Furthermore, while they do not veil their faces, they do use the traditional ‘oppressive’ sari as a political tool and uniform to show solidarity for women’s rights and to the other members Gulabi Gern media is that all women who veil are oppressed. While this may not always be true, Bust does print that “People often spout nonsense about the need to lock a woman in a veil. The more you suffer, silently, I realized the more your oppressor will oppress you” (Chopra, 2009, p.62). By printing this quote and not providing any exposition about the intersectional complexities surrounding veiling, Bust contributes to this notion that Western women need to liberate the ‘backward’ and ‘uncivilized’ women of the East (Kapur, 2005, p.99). By considering intersecting identities to understand the complexities of the individual, would be a more accurate way of understanding motivations for or against wearing headscarves of any type. Sometimes Western media focuses too much “onang. As popular media depicts the removal of the burqa as a symbol of liberation, in fact this “emancipation mission of the Western alliance” actually hindered the progress of RAWA women in Afghanistan (Freedman, 2007, p.37). No longer could they anonymously organize and protest, their faces were exposed and the new level of accountability turned out to be quite dangerous. Both the Gulabi Gang and RAWA use their traditional dress as a political tool to combat injustice.
“Women in the post-colonial world are portrayed as victims of their culture which reinforces stereotyped and racist representations of that culture and privileges the culture of the West” (Kapur, 2007, p.99). This article illustrates many ways in which women and girl children are victimized in India: child marriages, dowry issues and domestic abuse from alcoholic husbands (Chopra, 2009). Bust does, however, exercise more responsible journalism because instead of talking about these women from a top-down understanding, they humanize human rights injustices by talking to real women, like Pal and Devi, who have experienced gender violence and caste discrimination first hand.

This article takes a more critical approach in framing bureaucratic structures and NGOs in India. Pal explains that she no longer works closely with NGOs to combat ‘social ills’ because “dealing with the red tape surrounding bureaucratic women’s-aid program in India made her efforts slow and ineffective” (Chopra, 2009, p.61). The issue of ‘NGOization’ is quite controversial among many grassroots movements. When NGOs start taking money from the government or more other bureaucratic organizations, they face compromising their approach to issues because more organizations have invested in their actions and want control. This can lead NGOs to become caught up in the politics surrounding an issue and steer away from fixing the problems. The article inspires Westerners to revaluate the bureaucratic political and non-governmental organizations in their sphere that impact their lives. Bust attempts to frame bureaucratic structures as counter-productive in many ways by only mentioning NGOs in a negative context, what they did not investigate was the fact that the Gulabi Gang does receive the majority of their funding from other NGOs and government organizations as stated in their constitution (Gulabi Constitution, 2008). Instead of emphasizing the need for transnational funds to rescue these girls from subservience, Pal emphasizes the importance of education, grassroots organizations and direct action.
Furthermore, the article frames the importance of a legal rights discourse to succeed in implementing human rights and correcting corruption in India. Pal states that if a country is corrupted, than it cannot rise to recognize human rights and protect its people. She is framed as an extremist who is not afraid exercise physical violence in order to ensure human rights are protected. Pal “[challenges] the male elites that dominate the law courts” by taking direct action against authority figures (Steans, 2007, p.21). The two examples of shaming the officials involved in the food distribution and road building controversies, show how women use their creativity and intellect to empower all marginalized people to stand up for themselves. Even going so far to take physical action against abusers which could seem ridiculous to Western pacifists, but as Pal explains, “To face down men in this part of the world, you have to use force” (Chopra, 2009, p.63). Bust does not just frame women as victims, but as women with agency who have the strength to stand up to corruption and demand their rights. Bust explains the Gulabi Gang’s motivation for partaking in physical confrontations with bureaucracies.
Shaming government officials is one way of ensuring human rights charters and conventions are upheld. It has worked to some extent for NGOs trying to uphold CEDAW and it works for the Gulabi Gang who have “even goaded apathetic government officials into action by publically shaming them” (Chopra, 2009, p.61). Bust frames group and collective rights as achievable with mobilization and cohesion among the sari-clad activists who show up when they are needed to organize. “Western-dominated groups and NGOs [are] accused of engaging in a divisive politics of ‘othering’ in relation to non-western women and this contributes to the disempowerment of women in developing countries” (Steans, 2007, p. 15). Often, when there is an emphasis on achieving collective rights, such as women’s human rights, the people within that group run the risk of having their individual needs overlooked. However, Bust publishes the stories of individual women facing different adversities to demonstrate how Pal and the Gulabi Gang understand the importance of fighting for each woman’s needs. The smaller struggles fighting for individual women has allowed for improvement among the collective group of women which provides the basis for true social change in both the domestic and public spheres. By bringing domestic struggles, such as marital rape, into the public sphere, it makes room for a discourse around the matter and pressure for social reform and human rights implementation. Instead of applying a global mentality to a small local village, they take the issues facing that village and use the global community’s gaze to pressure reform.
While Bust may try a non-bias, journalistic stance in the article, no article is completely unbiased. Publishers play a large role in framing human rights because they moderate what is expressed and how something becomes known or remains unknown. If anything, their weak relativist stance dismantles Western homogeny and creates a sense of community by demonstrating the different ways of reaching universal goals of equality and social justice. Because Bust readers are assumed to have at least a basic understanding of women’s injustices, if anything, Bust frames this article in a way that makes the Gulabi Gang look even more appealing to social activists and theorists. However, especially with recent media exposure, the Gulabi Gang has to ensure that they do not form their own elitist bureaucracy under Sampat Pal.
Nonetheless, “...Muslim women demonstrated that justice is not a uniquely Western invention but also has roots in non-Western societies and indeed in Islam which is often scrutinized and criticized in the Western media for legitimizing the ill-treatment of women” (Bovarnick, 2007, p.71). The Gulabi Gang article in Bust is an example of how women rising up, demanding their rights and in doing so, rising an entire nation. Although Pal is trying to avoid involvement in politics, her work on behalf of lower castes and women will not cease until the women and poor are no longer treated like second-rate citizens (Chopra, 2009). Pal was just an ordinary woman who refused to stand at the edge of society any longer. She passionately educates women to reclaim their voices and use the Gulabi Gang coalition to stand up against corrupt government policies thus demonstrating the power of grassroots change. Furthermore, Bust teaches readers that instead of victimizing and sweeping in to save women in the East, to celebrate and support existing rallying point organizations, such as the Gulabi Gang.







Bovarnick, Silvie (2007). “Universal Human Rights and non-Western Normative Systems: A Comparative Analysis of Violence Against Women in Mexico and Pakistan.” Review of International Studies, 33: 59-74.
Chopra, Anuj. (2009, June/July). Angry in pink. Bust, 57, 58-63.
Freedman, Jane (2007). “Women, Islam and Rights in Europe: Beyond a Universalist/Culturalist Dichotomy.” Review of International Studies, 33: 29-44.
Gulabi Constitution. (2008). Retrieved October 9, 2009, from http://www.gulabigang.org/en
Gulabi-constitution-en.pdf.
Kapur, Ratna “The Tradedy of Victimization Rhetoric” from Kapur, Ratna (2005). Erotic Justice: Law and the Politics of Postcolonialism. London: Glasshouse Press, pages 95- 100.
Steans, Jill (2007). “Debating Women‟s Human Rights as a Universal Feminist Project: Defending Women‟s Human Rights as a Political Tool.” Review of International Studies, 33: 11-27

Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destructive

The women in this collection give courageous insight and inspiration to any artist struggling with self-destruction.
-Sara Quinn

Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destructive (2008) is a collection of works framing women’s experiences. With contributions from feminist artists such as bell hooks, Annie Sprinkle, Elizabeth Stephens, Nicole Blackmen and Patricia Smith, this snappy book includes fiction, poetry, prose, non-fiction, cartoons, paintings and photography. It’s a testament to art as an outlet for creativity, and a healer for our own self-destruction.
Each feminist has published independent works including: plays, visual art, books, pornography and comics. For example, Nicole Blackman has a a collection of poetry, Blood Sugar and Annie Sprinkle, inventor of “cancer erotica,” wrote Dr. Sprinkle’s Spectacular Sex—Make Over Your Love Life published by Penguin.
Edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev, Live Through This is idependently published by Seven Stories Press in New York City. Seven Stories Press publishes “cutting-edge” fiction, non-fiction, poetry and prose. Recently, the press published famous anti-war activist, Noam Chomsky’s controversial book Profit Before People.
Live Through This is a great example of creative non-fiction; however, at times the narrators are unreliable, especially when substance abuse is involved. Initially the book seemed melodramatic, but after a few chapters I started identifying, or at least, better understanding the raw complexity of these women. I’m amazed by the intimate details they share surrounding their expereinces (such Carol’s description of losing her virginity). This forces me to reflect if I’m capable of being so bold and courageous in my own non-fiction endeavours. I also like how Sabrina Chapadjiev uses both “visual and written essays” to push the creative aspect of non-fiction. These essays depict child abuse, substance abuse, self-harm, sexual abuse, sexuality, depression, breast cancer, beauty image and abandonment. Because these are true accounts, readers may find more personal parallels with their own life and apply these testaments of survival to their own self-destruction.
Through a feminist lens, Live Through This portrays another side of women that is rarely, accurately portrayed in popular culture. It even includes a list of resources at the end for further mental health support if readers need help overcoming their own self-destruction; however, I would not say this book is ‘self-helpy.’ I would recommend this book to my peers, especially women and artists. The universal theme of mental deterioration and resuscitation resonates in a powerful way.

This quote shows insight into a writer’s motivations:
“As a writer, I enjoy playing the puppeteer and manipulating characters to extremes, often far beyond the stages of their real-life inspirations…
Writing always came from a desire to understand things that haunted me, a way to come to terms with issues that made me wonder.”
- Nicole Blackman, Page 96

This quote describes the personal contradiction theme between the public and private spheres women live in:

“Space grew between my two lives. One where I dance, another where I cut. One where I was responsible, another where I drank too much. One where I was a feminist, another where I binged on food and starved myself. One where I accepted my sexuality, another where I had sex with people I didn’t want to. One I could control, one I couldn’t."
- Anonymous, Page 203

Friday, September 18, 2009

just a little less for just a little more

Thanks for failing me, technology.

Today I finally spoke to my mom on the phone. This was on the way home from school.

I didn't have class today but instead I engaged in an animated conversation with my journalism prof, a great lunch with a friend and submitted my Co-Op application.

All was going pretty well. I signed papers to start UVic's first Social Justice Studies Course Union and then proceeded home to hang out with my beautiful roommates. It was sunny today and they brought snow to school for good times, good cheer and plenty of beer.

I get home and minutes later receive a call from the radio station informing me of two, TWO, interviews I have on Tuesday for sweet work study jobs. Yes, I get to get paid for being a huge music nerd! :)

Then, I check my email and sure enough I got accepted into the professional writing Co-op program and now have the opportunity to travel and write for mula next summer! (I'm majorly relieved they liked my portfolio!)

Plus. FINALLY I got a special little letter in the mail that I had been waiting for. :D

After two weeks of dealing with failing technology, I realized that because I was not distracted by my Crackberry (which still lies in shambles), my laptop (which shuts down periodically and doesn't have a functioning keyboard) and my iPod (which just stopped living), I had a chance to explore all these other things and actually get my life together.

Contrary to what the media tries to sell us, the less "time saving" technology I had in my life, the more I accomplished. Give it a try folks. Maybe you'll actually pick up a book!!

I talked to friends on my crappy loner phone from Rogers instead of relying on texts and made an effort to call home. I stopped stressing about how I've had soo many setbacks since I've arrived here and focused on all the kickass opportunities I've been presented with!

I'm stoked for the future, but I have to work my ass off.

If you don't hear from me personally in the next few weeks, it isn't because I don't love you. It's more so a matter of burying myself in my 6 classes, 2 jobs and 2 volunteer projects! Student suicide? Nah, I'd like to say I'm just doing what I love!

I dare you to pick up a book or call someone you haven't talked to in a long time. Or maybe find a pen pal! We can't stop being personal--it's just too important!


Peace, love and rock and roll,


KP


P.S. Ask for my address and write me letters (via snail mail). I assure I will answer them!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

and my old friend(s)

Behind the jam space I kissed summer goodbye. It was not easy. I was convinced that I was leaving behind the only things that made perfect sense to me even when nothing made sense: my friends (aka the family) and the scene that keeps us all ticking.
There was a lot of silence that night as we sat on wooden flats downtown by the train tracks. The silence was of the contemplative type. A settling, mutual understanding that summer was coming to an end and we’d all have to stop relying on alcohol and irony and actually face reality.
The brisk 2am air dried many tears as we held each other under stars clouded by stifling smoke.

Nature has to burn to make room for rebirth.
I was convinced that by moving away I was burning my life in Kamloops to accommodate rebirth in my next stage of growth in Victoria.
This is where I was dead wrong. I don’t have to burn my past in order to embrace my future.
Tonight I realized I carry my past with me and incorporate it into my future.
Four words: We Are the City.
“My old friend. Tell me where have you been? Have I wasted away? Did you wait till the end? ...All the stars are still here. All my tears turn to time.”
It started as six of us at the Pavillion Theatre listening to that song. A solid two years ago we swayed with our arms around each other. We were strung together by sound, and that string is still holding strong.
Little did we know how we would end up. And little still do we know what the future holds for us...
But somehow that band brought us all closer together.
Tonight was my first night seeing WatC without my “besties” (as Jolene would say). I thought it was going to be way harder than it was; but I realized as soon as they started playing, I felt each and every single one of the gang with me. Just like how we’ve seen tons of bands together.
Somehow that band takes me home to them.

There were times my eyes were stinging.
(Such as during “there are very tiny beasts in the ground” oh, the many times we got that chorus stuck in our heads!)
However, these were only almost tears. Very different from the soft sobs during poison oak in the car on that night, the final night of summer. This time I experienced a liberating, everything-is-going-to-be-alright flourishing within. A ball of emotion kept creeping into my throat and I constantly swallowed it back down because things are how they are supposed to be!
During their set, everything was clear and blurry at the same time. There was no space or time.
“Maybe there’s a weight in the words ‘I MISS YOU’ do they repress you? That’s the way love moves.”
Maybe that is the way love does move. Once you are removed from something/one that you think you’ll always have, everything because clearer and more intense. Time apart gives me an opportunity for re-evaluation and self-examination.
It’s human nature to want what is not accessible to us. It just sucks that sometimes we achieve clarity when it’s too late...or is it ever too late?
In a state of missing someone or a particular feeling, it makes me value the wondrous moments I do experience. It’s strange how I can miss so much, yet absolutely love where I am. I'm intoxicated by the sounds, the smells, the vibe, the people and essentially everything about Victoria. Everything is inspiration and everything breathes life into me! But...

“I miss my house I miss my home I miss my grade six love.”
Up until tonight I was perfectly convinced that I was residing in two completely different realms. My Kamloops life was so different from my Victoria life. But that’s entirely false. As the important people from both lives become well-acquainted the line begins to blur. Tonight I felt it disappear. I am home.
With a Kamloops friend on my right side, and a future life-long UVic friend to my left, I felt everything become whole. After first year, I was convinced that both sides could never mesh. However, as I became more self-aware this summer, I came to understand that there were never two sides, just two parts of the same thing.

I became whole.
Even when I feel like parts of me are missing, they aren’t entirely...I just interact with them in a different way.
(Such as when home calls and I hear them playing the same CD in the background that I was currently listening too. Yes, that CD was WatC what a strange little coincidence...)

We are still connected, only physical space separates us.
We may not be at the same shows but we’ll be seeing the same bands. And I’ll be thinking of you guys, and I hope you think of me.
A wise roommate told me about a tattoo that reads: we carry with us everything we need. It’s a truism that I now aim to live by. No matter where the wind carries me, I will always carry with me those I love and whom have impacted my life.
Recently, a young friend commented on how when I return we have to make the best out of our time together. I told him that I live like that all the time. We have to live life like that because when everything else washes away, we’re only left with moments.




Let no Time, be Wasted, My Old Friend.



Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Taste of (Summer)

Constantly we seek something Brand New
To Brighten our Eyes and push us through
As if our Senses are going to Fail if not Used
To entertain us with dramatic sounds and views.

Constantly we search for the next Perfect Trend
To teach us how to dress, listen and represent
In a plight to be more scene at the next event
It’s truly only the songs that I understand.

Constantly we Float On with our Paper Wings
And Rise Against the scrutiny of everyday living.
I suppose that’s one way to keep breathing
The Scum Lungs of summer need cleansing.

Constantly we try to create Glory Nights
Star struck, drunk evenings absent of tears and fights
But we can’t Take Back Sunday’s pathetic tries
To make sense of love without liquor and wine.

Constantly we grow until We Are the City
Underground or in fields pining to escape reality
A coalition of friends and lovers longing for musicality
To awaken Sleepyheads and test fading vitality.



But, it’s ultimately in our hands
To stop being constant and make amends.
We’re all Underoath to our friends.
To Love and Be Loved and never offend.






<3


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

OldSoulTill

The way you see the world is a direct reflection of how the world sees you.
The happier you are, the happier your environment is. And the contrary.
The type of person you project is the type of person you attract into your life.
So why choose the dark?
((Because it is in depression that we learn the most about ourselves?))
But what would happen if instead, we chose to live light?


Once I was intimidated by a 60-year-old lady’s exquisiteness. Her long grey hair and blue jeans paired with a matching jacket fit snug over her slim, sturdy frame. She was accessorized with dangly earrings and mod glasses. However, what struck me—and made me slightly nervous—was her shear grace and grassroots beauty. She was the truth, unwrapping everything I tried to conceal...just with eye contact.
Her eyes were of the purest and bluest type—filled with kindness and genuine interest in my life. Eyes that hold the secrets of the world behind them, only allowing the rest of us a glimpse. She said, “you seem very happy today.” And I told her I was, for we didn’t have any reason not to be.
She smiled back and I self-checked my gleaming demeanour. I was self-conscious as she stood in silence with a wide-grin on her face. I maintained eye contact as I worked, blushing and looking down on occasion. Her gaze was constant. We just looked at each other, understanding each other and the universe clicked.
I felt compelled to say something—as I always do by default. But I was lost for words.
She had three bags of groceries and was still slowly collecting them when I finished the next customer. I returned to her, looping the plastic over her thin wrists and manicured nails. She grinned at me and told me to “keep smiling.” We smiled at each other before she turned away-- both in complete comprehension of how simple it is for there to be peace in this hectic world of grey noise and pollution.


I would have to wait until 8:10 pm to be swept away.
Do you ever have those days when words dance off your tongue with perfect precision and cleverness?
That’s what happened when this man walked into my life. He was wearing a black t-shirt and had perfectly tussled brown hair. Like Ian Curtis. Except there was more order in this man’s dysfunction. He must have been about 23 and had a Japanese symbol tattooed on each forearm.
It's more difficult for me to communicate with those I find truly interesting. We indulged in flirty small-talk just to fill the stale air and all of sudden there was colour. I worked steadily, as not to push him through my line but let him settle there for a second and be absorbed. We shyly smiled at each other and he said, “you look like you’re having fun.”
This was strange.
“I guess work is only as fun as you make it,” I reply. And he agrees with me, half-laughing. I continue working and my heart starts beating faster because he's still looking at me. He got off work awhile ago. His smile is gentlemanlike but rebellious at the same time—the kind of guy who is full of conviction but has the true ability to love. We talk about how attitude can profoundly affect situations.
I feel bold. I ask what his tattoos mean and he explains a personal story of how keeping in our sins in check ensures we lead the good life. This was meant in a secular sense.
Do you believe that two people can be soul mates just for a moment? Or are people just meat that operate in tandem with one another and there is no such thing as serendipity? (That last question is rhetorical.)
I almost asked him for his phone number...but not for sleezy reasons. If a 2-minute conversation opened up commonalities and connections, I can only imagine what an evening could produce. Those of us—and there are so many in our generation—need to connect with one another to fully realize how we can manipulate energy to make the world more beautiful.

Friendships. Conversations. Coalitions.

Some kids feel like they are born with old souls. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, listen to Conor Oberst sing or read anything he’s written. Old souls are better equipped to fully-realize their potential and the power of welcoming the intangible in a purely spiritual sense.
I say spiritual and not religious because I’m not referring to any religion’s God and I don’t believe in organized practice. In the sense that many faiths tell people they should control true urges rather than embracing and actualizing their desires and ultimately feeling good about who they are. Not to say that organized religion isn’t good for some people, all the power to you if it makes you happy. BUT don’t let it make you blind.
We shouldn’t be so hesitant to express happiness. Being jovial rubs off on others, just like smiling. You have the power to pay forward positivity and start a domino effect that will be passed beyond your own knowledge. You have the power to improve the moods of many in a day by simply SEEING the people around you as individuals and not extras in your own E! True Hollywood Story.
People never hesitate to bitch about the weather, yet feel this need to conceal happiness as if we aren’t supposed to express joy and celebration in public settings. I know women are not empowered with an education in Afghanistan, that the flower industry is raping worker’s rights and that governments are using fear tactics to control populations; but, I can still find peace within myself in order to one day, maybe, help bring more peace into the world.
It all starts by living in the present moment and stopping this awful habit of running around like anonymous ants trapped in some dungy cage.
We need to share our dreams and believe in each others’. For the more people that are dreaming our dreams with us, the better chance of those dreams becoming fully realized. And, on the best occasions, by sharing our dreams, we may inspire others to create and realize their own.
After all, if it wasn’t for hopes and dreams, we would all just start sinking.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

single cell on the serpent's tongue

Do the Music Gods ever surprise you with their omniscience at 1am? You know, when you’ve had background music on for the previous 3 hours and all of a sudden you tune into one specific part of a song that feels like... a turning point. I don’t mean a dramatic turning point in your life’s direction (all though, it could very well be), rather I’m referring to a change of perspective in the present moment.
Sometimes, that background library of over 5000 indie rock tunes will regurgitate one single lyric or sound that reflects your life profoundly. Your heart’s energy sends out these waves of emotion that fire up one little song to fight through the hoards of other melodies to your ears. When ear and song unite, you experience an initial rush and overwhelming connection with the world. Everything falls into place. But more than enjoyment, you become awakened in the moment and are given some sort of direction as to how your mood can be improved or where you should go next.
That Pride and Prejudice book fucked me up.
It’s written with such grace and romantic swagger that I couldn’t resist being swept away...that was until Karen O told me that “love is wrong, it never lasts and that this is no, there is no modern romance.” She proceeded to explain that “time, time is gone.”
Well Karen O, on a night like this, lines like that actually improve my mood.
I’m not sure what it is about “the sound of loneliness that makes me happier?”

Maybe I’m an old-school emo kid through and through, but Bright Eyes how you have reassured me over these last 4.5 years. I’ve probably listened to the saddest song of all time (POISON OAK) more times than any other song in my life (apart from “Taste of Ink”...which was a pivotal moment in my history as well as emo’s history.)
Poison Oak has been there at soooooo many different points in my life. My highest highs and lowest lows have been shared with that single song.
Jenelle and I listen to “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” every time we return from concerts or festivals (aka the best experiences of our lives). We listen to it driving in the rain to a campground, or whenever we want the world to stop spinning so fast. The whole album brings such transcendence that you can’t help finding peace.
It was Poison Oak that played as my head fell against the headrest and I contently drifted to sleep while driving home from seeing Underoath and TBS play in Vancouver in 2007.
One time a great guy from a band called ThisDayYesterday covered this song at The Loft when it first opened. I was there with a bunch of my greatest friends...and people I didn’t know at the time would become my greatest friends. It was the first time I’d heard anyone play this song live.
Then there was that time I shook a banana shaker outside the Pavillion Theatre while that guy played Poison Oa in the parking lot after a Counting Heartbeats show. This turned into a slew of covers at Kym’s house that sparked Christine to finally learn all the lyrics. There were many drunken nights with all sorts of special people just trying to make the most out of this one life, this song in the background being strummed on a stickered acoustic.
Even on a month long road trip, I fell asleep with this fricken song playing in my headphones to drone out the bus engine and give me a taste of home and self-assurance through uncertainty and angst.
The song that carried me from being a 15 year-old girl discovering the finest lyricist, was still with me during first year university. The only true times I missed home, was when that song came on shuffle.
One of my dearest friends and I were having a very rare shitty day, you know, when you don’t really have any reason to be upset, but you feel like that anyway. So both of us girls stayed in that Friday night talking and we sat on her bedspread (lights off) and listened to Poison Oak off of YouTube. Trust me, I realize how cliché that setting appears; but, I must assure you, it was genuine. It was her first time ever hearing the song and when she requested a tragic one, I don’t think she knew what she was getting herself into. On repeat, that song brought her to tears as I witnessed her move through the array of emotions that it forces one to experience. After, we both felt the weight of life removed as though Oberst was bearing our problems for us, or maybe showing us that things aren’t that bad. We stopped moping, invited our friends over, had a dance party in my room and called ‘er a night. Thanks Connor.
What I’m trying to say, is my memory is preserved in song. Moments of pure joy and release from worldly pressure usually comes at times when people are connected by music. There are still many times I can hear a song by, say Boyz II Men, and once again I’m 9 and sitting in the back of my Dad’s truck in Alberta after my older sister announced her engagement. Whether that playlist is on my walkman, CD player, iPod or radio, it’s those songs that bring me life, faith and creative appreciation. For the only time I achieve true clarity is when I observe the world with some sort of soundtrack playing to my life.
Like Penny Lane says in Almost Famous, “if I ever get lonely, I just go to the record store and visit my friends.”

p.s. I listened to Poison Oak 11 times during that entry.










As a little experiment, here are the memories attached to the next 20 songs on my iTunes shuffle:





Piano Man – Billy Joel


Grad 08's spontaneous ring during commencements while Dustin played the song.


Slow Dance on the Inside-TBS


Walking home from the bus in grade 10...it took exactly the length of that song


Harder Better Faster Stronger- Daft Punk


Patrick’s old obsession with Daft Punk.


Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson


Amanda loves this song! She also made delicious breakfasts after our sleepovers!


Part One – Band of Horses


Ben Pringle showing me this band; my yoga mat in my dorm room


Float On- Modest Mouse


ONE OF MY FAVOURITES. Wow, let’s say it's landed on many playlists since grade 10; Sheldon’s living room the other night; seeing a girl with the “Float On” tattoo, similar to the one I want; being jealous it was Grad 07’s song; going on runs down Lamar Street as the sun came up; driving to school in the morning; Tim Horton’s drive thrus; summer heat; trippy music videos at 3 am in JC 208


Rock Ranger Record – Matt Mayes


ZOE!!!!; parties in Wilson; trying to complete writing assignment late at night to Terminal Romance; thinking it sounds like the way I want to live!


English House – Fleet Foxes



Audrey’s room and iPod adapter; going to yoga in the sunset; returning from hot yoga at night on the bus; SASQUATCH!



Sirens- TheSet


Hahaha...my friends know how I feel about this one. No comment J <3


Beating Heart Baby- Head Automatica


Ryan Baker showing me this song...and his HA hoodie; that time Jenelle, Matt and I took the bus from BHV to downtown when it was pouring rain and we had a mini dance party in the back; every other time Jenelle and I talked about that one time on the bus (including when she drove me home from the jam space last night!)


December 8, 1980 – The Rebel Spell


The first time I heard this song was in Sahali when I was 14/15; The best time I heard this song was with a bunch of punk kids at the Miracle Centre when Raised by wolves and Soundcity also played!; then again in 2009 in Victoria at Camas Books with a bunch of strangers who also loved it; fists pumpling; arms and legs swinging


The Scientist – Coldplay


Getting over someone; falling for him every time I listen this song, still. Fail.


The Road – Matt Costa


Self-realization; I was driving to Coopers after school one day and I realized that I had to get out of Kamloops after grad; driving over the mountains in Washington during the road trip; in Ben's car


That’s the Way- Led Zeppelin


Almost Famous!!; my first solo ferry to bus to plane trip from Victoria to Kamloops in December 08; headphones on and all the confidence to tackle the winter storm..I was William Miller.


JUSTICE – D.A.N.C.E


BFF Saturday (the first and only I went); parties outside SAC windows in the first week of uni; dance parties at Chris’ house, in Zoe’s room, in my room and all over campus!; summer after grad pool parties and grad bush parties!; Watching A Cross the Universe with Graham; Aaron Kolarcik?


Welcome Ghosts – Explosions in the Sky


Bibliocafe; writing alone on my bed late into the evening; lying on the grass at sasquatch with Chris and Cobi watching the stars come out as the ground absorbed us; we weren’t just hearing the music, we could feel it, we became it


When it Begins – Kevin Drew


Sitting in my Kamloops bedroom strumming my guitar to this song pretending I was at a campfire with all the cool people in the song


Tessalate (acoustic) – Tokyo Police Club


Hearing the original recording of this song on Sirius Satellite almost every day in the last months of high school; accidentally downloading this acoustic version instead and loving it way more; Dan singing it in his room; all our friends (incl. Sheldon) getting this song stuck in their head..how could you not?; Jackson and Dan at the show last night :)


Mix Tape – Brand New


HAHAHAHA! Let’s just say...burnt CDS, Discmans, grade 9 teen angst, headphones in math class and the hallways and bus rides that always ended before I was done listening to Brand New that day; Riley and I singing this song at 4 am on Christine’s deck 5 years later.


Little Wing – Jimi Hendrix


Repeatedly listening to this song on vinyl in my living room, volume cranked while the family was at tkd; leaving Seattle after our Rock and Roll Road Trip in Grade 12; of course Jimi’s memorial; trying to play simple scales along with this song during my 2 months of guitar lessons




((What songs tell the story of your life?))



Tuesday, July 28, 2009

imagine

I found this art collection in Victoria's Inner Harbour. Turns out, my parents know the artist, Peter Robertson, and we purchased two of the pop culture/rock pieces that he created. Each piece takes him 150-200 hours to produce with his black pen. Furthermore, all the content has some sort of relevance to each picture's quasi-theme which is explained in the write-up that goes along with each print.



*To check out more of his work, follow the "imagine" link in the blog title. To see the rest of this specific collection head to the "t-shirt" part of his website.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ok kids, let's learn about changes in EI

Life can throw a curve ball at anyone. Jobs are lost, sickness befalls or we decide to have children and parental leave is required. When such events occur, Canadians expect there to be a safety net. Unemployment Insurance was first introduced in Canada in 1935 to provide some relief during the Great Depression. However, this complicated piece of legislation did not become amended by the Constitution until 1940.[1] Since then, Unemployment, or Employment Insurance, has been amended many times over due to changing social values, economic trends and federal leadership. With EI qualifications becoming stricter, now more than ever we see disproportionate age and gender discrimination in Canada and fewer EI benefiters.

The turning point came in 1990 with the passing of Bill C-21. The government decided to stop all federal contribution to EI by 1993 and increase the minimum entrance requirements depending on unemployment rates in each region. “This bill collapsed the three-phase benefit structure (i.e. initial, labour force extended and regionally extended benefits) to a single phase. This modification reduced the maximum duration of benefit entitlement in all instances, except for claimants with long employment spells residing in very high unemployment regions of the country.”[2] Furthermore, they combined maternity, parental and sick benefits only allowing a maximum of 30 weeks assistance for all benefits rather than individual benefit terms. While this bill did include that either parent was allowed to take leave when a new child was born or adopted, it brought the number of EI qualifiers down from 80% to 74%. This number was further reduced by 1993’s Bill C-113 which only covered 57% of the population.[3]

After that, things did not get any easier. 1994’s Bill C-17 set up 1996’s EI reforms by manipulating the 1994 budget. At this time, coverage dropped to 51%.[4] EI legislation was further amended by the Employment Insurance Act of 1996 which drastically cut entrance requirements. The major change with this act was a shift to looking at the hours one works a year instead of the weeks in order to qualify. This is also when the Liberals decided that “Employment Insurance” is a more positive term than “Unemployment Insurance.” In 1996 Canadians saw a reduction in the duration of benefits and higher penalties for false statements. Insurance requirements now dropped to 42% in 1996 and would hit a staggering 39% by 2001.

According to the Status of Women in Canada, now approximately 32% of women and 40% of men qualify for EI. The main cause for eligibility decrease came with the transfer from “weeks” to “hours.” To qualify workers must have “between 420 and 700 hours of work, depending on the local unemployment rate.”[5] Because some women enrol in part-time employment so they can devote more family time, they have difficulty collecting the hours they need to qualify. The government fails to realize the different work patterns between men and women and accommodate each gender. Since Bill C-12 the number of hours has quadrupled for part-time workers.

Changes in EI have made it more difficult for women to achieve parity with men. For example, “in 2006-7, the average benefit for women was $298 per week compared to $360 for men.” [6] Furthermore, “in the first five years of EI, from 1996-2001, the gap in insurance protection between men and women more than doubled.”[7] Women are almost equally participating in the workforce alongside with men yet there is still a drastic difference when it comes to their qualifications and benefits. In 2003, Canadians saw some relief with the Budget Implementation Act which introduced compassionate care benefits so Canadians could take 6 weeks leave to care for a family member who is dying or very ill.

Kamloops has been facing its own challenges during the recession. On April 10, 2009, the Daily News stated that unemployment in the Thompson-Okanagan rose to 9.1% in March 2009 from only 5.9% last year. This has caused people and families to need EI more than ever before. According to Statistics Canada, that means that 24 900 workers are unemployed in and around the city. In order to qualify for EI, Kamloops workers would be required to work 560 hours in the last 52 weeks to get assistance.

With the last budget, Prime Minister Harper’s government increased the period one can collect benefits from 14 to 19 weeks. While this action is good, it has not fixed a system that is so crucial to stimulating the economy and keeping Canadians afloat during the recession. Since 1990 EI has gone through major changes but reform still needs to repair the system and make it more accessible, especially to all of those who see EI premiums deducted from their paycheques.

Labour reformers, such as the Canadian Labour Congress, are pressuring the government to “adopt a far more comprehensive approach, including the following specific reforms: provide regular benefits on the basis of 360 hours of work no matter where workers live and work in Canada; raise benefits to 60% of earnings calculated on a worker’s best 12 weeks; increase the period for which benefits can be collected to a maximum of 50 weeks from the current 41-week maximum; raise minimum wages and tax credits for low-income workers; expand support and funding for work-sharing arrangements under EI to reduce layoffs and build links to training programs, and invest part of the EI surplus in training and labour adjustment programs.”[8] The surplus that the CLC refers to is the $54 billion that the federal government has stopped investing in EI since 1993.

For some Canadians, receiving EI is the difference of not becoming homeless or taking their families to eat at food banks. Before cuts were made in the 1990s, over 70% of women and 80% of men qualified for benefits.[9] While some may criticize that reformers such as Pierre Trudeau were far too generous before the 1990s, the strict qualifications that workers struggle with now do not benefit Canadians, especially during the recession. The future of EI will continue to be reworked, re-improved and re-implemented with the advocacy and persistence of labour reformers.

[1] S. Lavender, 2009 Annotated Employment Insurance Statutes
[2] K. Kerr, http://dsp-psd.tpsgc.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/EB/prb994-e.htm, November 1999
[3] Canadian Labour Congress, Falling Unemployment Insurance Protection for Canada’s Unemployed, March 2003
[4] Canadian Labour Congress, March 2003
[5] Canadian Labour Congress, Statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee Regarding the Status of Women Study on Consequences and Effects the Current Employment Insurance (EI) Programs Have on Women, March 2009
[6] Canadian Labour Congress, March 2009
[7] Canadian Labour Congress, March 2003
[8] Guardian, Volume 27, Number 1, Spring 2009
[9] Canadian Labour Congress, March 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SHELTER FROM THE STORM: DAY 1/3 (july 19)

This, house, loves.
Pink pedals and waltzing lyrics. Loyal pets and that signature Barnhartvale aroma of sagebrush and tired mudrooms—the same smell as Kelsey’s basement. But what makes this house—the house in which I will be spending the next three days—is the photographs. Pictures may speak louder than words; and in this case, I struggle to convey the love that this house has sheltered.
While it is a house of love, it is also mourning. Bleeding evidence of two lovers that were separated long before they were ready to say goodbye.
However, she has not forgotten him. Snapshots of this couple who were more than just married, but the best of friends and even each other’s muse, carefully watch over the home that they built together. His handsome smile surrounds her: by their CD collection, above the kitchen table, living room, hallways and of course, in their bedroom.
But for me to truly experience someone, I head to their CD player. I flip on the power, push play and a sultry male voice greets me. Together we drift through house as I become acquainted with the different rooms, smells and furniture. The CD is pleasant but best saved for a rainy day when I’m wearing slippers.
Disc 2 is ABBA. Now, normally, I detest ABBA. But for some reason, in Wendy’s house, ABBA is perfectly suited. It’s not an extravagant house, but it’s certainly zestful—like Wendy herself. She reminds me of Meryl Streep from that ABBA film Mama Mia that my mom overplayed the soundtrack to. She’s alone but ceasing the reins of life and stepping out to fully experience whatever she encounters. It is this energy that makes me proud to be trusted in her home.
Houses tell such wonderful stories and through my time here, I hope to learn who Wendy is as told by the items she possesses.
I saw a box when I was flipping on the stereo. It’s a shoebox with “Memories of Jim” scrawled in marker across the front. Right now, I don’t feel any desire to look inside because these people are still strangers. I wonder if she’s wept in this very chair I sit in? Its aged wood the only thing supporting her at her kitchen table across from a collage of family photos.
This house is human. It’s lived in and seen the best and worst. The walls do tell stories, so do the floors and the nicks on the counter tops. It’s a tapestry of a great love story.
Being here by myself without anyone special to spend the night with, I’ve learned how Wendy keeps company. Lucy is such a loving companion. I deeply miss having a dog. She’s already so protective and caring, even though we were just formally introduced a few hours ago. And, although before 11:30 tonight I would have hated myself for saying this, ABBA and I are getting along just fine. Actually, better than fine...how strange.

With a small glass of white wine to my left hand I return to the kitchen table, my right leg crossed. My pale knee peaks out from under my black dress and I’m comfortable and relaxed in my long black cardigan. Am I lonely? No, not entirely. I’m eager to have my own kitchen table and living room. To write whenever I want, however late I want. Staying up later than the dog and cats with the stereo singing, because I can.
However, as usual, I’m caught in a dichotomy. I love being alone but I’m not exceptional at it. I love people far too much. I also want to see the world and make some kind of difference. I remember a line from “Waking Life” that said something to the extent of “being in a constant state of coming and going.” That’s how I feel most of the time. I want to have a partner and a house and romance and consistency but at the same time I want to live out of freakin suitcase and see the world.
All we need is love, right?
Someone special described my staying here like “observing a movie set.” While a director pays careful attention to set design, actually living in someone else’s home provides the most genuine, outstanding detail to character that sparks imagination. As a writer, or an overly curious human being, being permitted access into another life—another world—is an exhilarating experience. I’m inspired.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

lovelovemedo.


What is it about modern romance that I find so damn frustrating? Perhaps I should stop reading.
Yesterday I spent a decent part of my afternoon reading a short story by Doris Lessing: a fantastically, classic woman who understands the world. I immediately identify with her protagonist. The woman’s casual demeanour, her refusal to be submissive, an obligation to do the best for others but an overwhelming desire to just be, apart from all commitments, alone.
Her relationship with her husband was casual yet exciting, giving yet taking and demanding yet forgiving. But I could tell they were only married because they happened to be who the other was dating in their late 20s. Each of them was fine in their independent lives, but love had to get in the way and of course, fucked the woman over.
So they get hitched, and I’m sure the sex was great. They were both attractive and quite fond of each other; however, they both shared too many similarities. Both of them were far too sensible and far too intelligent. GREAT! Now love is not a problem, their major vice is sensibility and intelligence.
Everyone knows intelligence and romance do not get along.
This couple is so intelligent, well-educated and realistic, that they know that the probability of both of them remaining faithful until “death do them part.” It’s preposterous. She’s forgiving when he strays. He proposes a foursome when she lies that she’s having an affair. Umm....ok?
They both laugh at how other people try to fight the natural tides of marriage and because they are aware of this, they are superior. However, their lack of emotional attachment has geared them onto autopilot for so long that all real feeling and expression is absent.
They’re so sensible that they learn to accommodate each other. They giggle and hold each other before they fall asleep and don’t feel any desire to interfere or mingle in the other’s life. Is that what marriage is about? Shouldn’t you ask your partner, at least out of concern, if she randomly disappears 5 days a week into a despicably filthy hotel room for 7 hours—what she is up to?
But they both are sensible people too concerned about suffocating each other because they know the divorce rate in their country. Is suffocation worse than complete ignorance?
The woman gives up her career (for the minions they spawn), they go to school, she doesn’t know what to do with herself anymore. This kills her because I know that she swore to never become one of “those” women. And she is now the poster girl.
She is no longer an individual but just a wife and mother who has signed her life over for others and has gone past the point of ever reclaiming happy, peaceful independence. So there’s nothing left to do but go insane.
If I didn’t identify with the woman so strongly at the beginning, if I didn’t see myself having a marriage like that, if I didn’t...if I didn’t...
Here I was reading a story about a woman caged in her own home, who could not find a piece of mind unless she was completely anonymous and all I saw were my fears laying out in front of me (written with brilliant diction and creative structure nonetheless.) So why was I so pissed off when she committed suicide at the end?
Maybe I wasn’t prepared because I know I would never get to that point. But seriously, this was the most depressing example of a woman being conditioned by her social, and physical, environment in order to appease the ideal life. She ultimately went fucking insane trying to reclaim that person she once knew and swore she would visit again when her kids grew up. Except, she couldn’t find her.
While I see people my age starting to tie the knot and I get all tingly about the romance, I know that I have a lot of living to do. I could only be with someone who knew how to live and was ready for adventure. My dear friend has a blog called Terminal Romance named after a great album, and that word terminal...TERMINAL paired with the word ROMANCE scares the living shit out of me.
Now don't get me wrong, of course I want to be swept off my feet. I'm a woman...HELLO!
Consistency is reassuring, and perhaps I need someone like that in my life. However, I strongly believe that people can grow (and explore) while still staying together. Two people who will uproot their lives for the other when necessary (as long as there’s give and take) and two people who let their hearts think just as loud as their heads. Hmmm...
Did I also mention I’m reading Pride and Prejudice? At least Jane Austen can write a love story where a smart protagonist ends up happily in love instead of committing suicide. Although, I guess we never learn how Elizabeth Bennett ultimately ends up.


I wish the best kind of love for all of you.


Best.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A SINISTER SATURDAY

Once upon a younger you...
You had this perfect vision of yourself at a seamlessly unshakable time in your life when you were more confident or nicer, happier, faster, smarter, more popular, more graceful or stronger.
You stood up to your demons, smashed them with the best of friends by your side, and still had time to memorize all the words to Underoath’s most recent album.
What happens when you wait your whole life for “that time” and then it comes?
You don’t know exactly where to go next. You no longer look at the older, hipper kids with admiration, trying to carbon copy their dance moves and attitude. You become those dance moves.
Tonight I realized that the petty things that I once longed for no longer mattered.
What matters isNights when you pick up your best friend and some liquor and head to another friend’s house.
Then you walk into that house and are told “COME QUICK COME QUICK” and you get pulled into a room where your friends’ new EP is playing on the computer. Mixed and melodic. Only for the ears of the few friends in that house. A preview before the rest of the world is exposed.
It’s brilliant. You’re so proud of your friends and realize that their music is full of hooks yet also drenched in substance. Even if they didn’t already mean so much to you, you would still buy their album.
Then the sneak preview continues. Album art is exposed and you realize that one of your great friend’s has managed to replicate his band’s sound into a visual translation of colour and image.
On the back, etched in scratchy printing are the “thank yous.” Your name is on the list. So are the names of the rest of your family.
This is really happening.
You chat about consumerism and Adbusters. Bitch about Converse selling out to Nike (one of the world’s worst labour/human rights corporate abusers) then in the same breathe confess how much you hated walking around Wal-Mart with a Starbucks in your hand. Your friend reassures you that recognizing and feeling guilt for such an act makes you a better person. You’re still ashamed and vow never to perform such a senseless act. You consumerism slave you.
So back to the liquor store and off to the party. At first you park too far away behind all the other cars that parked too far away.
You mingle with your best buds for awhile. You know the crew: Jenelle, Dan, Sheldon, Christine, Evan, Ethan, Cassie, Eric, Dustin and Selma. Then you agree to do a run to the liquor store again but this time for the sweetest and youngest in the group.
Cassie agrees to come along and you manoeuvre through hordes of scenesters, hipsters and wannabes/preps to the door. On the driveway you hear from behind you, “HEY! You going to the liquor store?” you reply “YES!” You recognize the tall guitarist and his fellow bandmate from that one time you saw them at the Fort St. CAFE in Victoria, BC.
Yep. You are driving 2 Bendsinister members to the Grasshopper’s Liquor Depot. Of course you don’t say anything because you know that your friend with you will do all the talking and inquire about which band they are in and such. And she does. And they are. But you already knew that.
The shorter guitarist wants to borrow your scarf that you bought in Old Montreal and wear it. He drapes it around his neck and saunters into the liquor store but leaves it in the car instead of putting it on his mic stand because he didn’t want to lose it.
Bendsin is intrigued you’ve seen them before and asks you to describe their sound to your friend in the passenger seat. You tell her it’s a “sonic fellatio” (stealing the term from your dear friend Pierre but not telling her that.)One long-haired, bearded fellow chimes from the backseat that “sonic fellatio” sounds like a type of delicious ice cream. You giggle at the irony of such a statement and keep driving down down Summit Drive.
Liquor stores and scarves and Sev Elevs and then talk of life on the road with Bendsinister.
They eat a lot of pancakes. AND I mean a SHITLOAD of fucking pancakes. When they’re not drinking beer of course.
They laugh about how “rock and roll” they are for living the fast life of pancakes and beer.
You go through the McDonald’s drivethru with your co-pilot and she yells for a “chicken burger.” The lady asks which kind of chicken burger and she yells back “a CRISPY chicken burger.”
When you drop off the band because they go on in 15, you take a quick stroll with your friend to go pee.
Behind an elementary school you go while still talking to your sister on the phone to convince her you are not wearing her black jeans. (Women have truly mastered multi-tasking.)
More mingling in the party. You run into your chums Martin P., Emily L, Josh T and miss Laura B. Life is swell.
The band starts and you are up front with your bests. You are all dancing in this living-room turned perfect venue surrounded by familiar faces such as Bob Marley and Cole’s camera.
Bendsinister KILL IT! They play a long set and every song is at its peak energy and technicality. There is no holding back and you laugh as they drain the 26s that you picked up at the liquor store. The heat intensifies and the dancing doesn’t stop. Smiles spread. Hands clapping or clasping. Drinks passed from mouth to mouth. Kisses for sips. Sips sips sips.
Then they cover the forever-epic “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey and everyone loses it. Actually, loses it. You tape it. All your friends’ faces lit up by swirling colours and enthusiasm.
The show drops and we all need another drink and some fresh air. Our Bendsin friends say “HI” outside with hugs and kisses and a couple pictures. You chat it up with the crowd then start to see an infiltration take place.
This once safe haven of indie kids starts to be disrupted by other people who don’t get the music and have never heard/nor care to hear Bendsinister perform!
You stick with your crew and have multiple conversations with the oh-so-genuine Jeff from Sleepless Nights hailing all the way from Halifax. They played last night at the Loft with Rah Rah who you also talk to at this party.
Jeff works at a call-centre in and spent far too much time wasting his years from 19-25 and is now finally fully realizing that life is for the living. He knew EVERYONE’s name and was uber easy to talk to. From interesting stories about knowing Wintersleep and Holy F*ck before they ever were, to the glorious sounds of “Contrive.” He likes your corny joke to the drunk kid who tells you about Super Smashed Brothers and all you say to him is “You’re Super Smashed, brother.”
He touches your back and you mingle back through the crowds just trying to make friends and connect. Connect with the good scene.
The scene of indie kids who know where the real dance music is at.
The vibe outside is one of its own. Celebrations of the best types and reconnecting with things that you may not have missed so much.
You realize that in high school all those kids who were so damn cool have started to annex a moment created by the originality of indie-rock stars and they definitely don’t appreciate or even come close to understanding what they have just dragged their six packs and attitudes into.
Names aren’t important, but you know those kids in high school that always thought their shit didn’t stink because they were on the football team or wore a size zero, yeah, those people. Now don’t get me entirely wrong here. There were certainly a few diamonds in the rough. Well maybe not diamonds but certainly rubies in the shale that were nice to see again but none of the others have changed. They only made my friends feel uncomfortable to be themselves in an environment that is supposed to be theirs to embrace, remould, rediscover and deliver.
It gets chauchy all of a sudden. Too chauchy.
You say so long for now as you drive four friends to a different part of Sahali and go back for the others. Being mostly sober for the first time in quite awhile (as the DD) has been an overall good experience for you know that some encounters would have gone differently if, say, you drank a bottle of wine before.
When you come back for the rest you park the car closer and go to lock the doors that your previous passengers didn’t, and get out with the fucking keys in the ignition. ALL The doors locked. Shit.
So back inside you go. Mingling with everyone else, calling for a spare set and being reassured by those there that shit happens and it’s all good. Now there’s only about 10 kids that were there for the music. The party has turned into a typical testosterone pumped kegger.
ONE of your friends is being smothered by a sinister guitarist and the rest of the scene fam is on protective duty making sure everyone in the crew is doing ok. It’s great to see everyone pull together and unite when we become an island.
One friend and you go out to the car to check the situation and all is sealed tight. When you make it back to the door you fight through some more post-high school jocks trying to not pay cover and just drink their beer. Your friend clasps your hand tightly and leads you through a sea a familiar faces that you wish you were no longer confronting because the rules of engagement and interaction have changed.
Back outside for lots of hugs and touching as people are drunk and some are super happy and others just way too sloppy. Even the sinister guitarist puts his arm around you complaining about how dizzy he is. OH my.
Your keys arrive and out the door you go saying goodbye to your new friends in Sleepless Nights.
Just as everyone piles into vehicles Jeff shows up to see what’s up. You say goodbye one more time and offer him to hang out but know that the night has winded right down and all you want (after you get your friends home) is your keyboard.
The gang meets in a familiar parking lot, plans to hang out, just us, on Monday and toasts goodnight. I drive 4 wonderful people home then arrive myself.
Texts with one special friend ensue and I poor myself a triple Caesar at 3 am and sit down at my computer to recollect and try to make sense of a night...just to realize that it’s way more fun to go with it then try to understand it.
Here we are. It’s exciting and real and false but ultimately true.
Nights like this show you that your friends are your family and music is the true currency that connects us in a way everyone outside fails to understand. Without the scene, the songs and the people, we would just be mediocre.
Oh, and p.s. in a fight, Rambo (aka Craig) would totally own Terminator (aka Jeff.)
SOMEONE LET SELMA TRIM YOUR BEARD!!

There were SOO many accents there for a second.

It’s an early april morning as jack has his coffee with diane at their perfect kitchen table.
Jack loves his new suitcase because it’s brown leather and oh so stylish. Off to work! Jack is late but no one cares because he’s so darn charming!!
He’s the sun...no...no...he’s the.....SKY. MR BLUE SKY!!!he bursts into work chasing all the clouds out of the office...out of the station. The television station of course.
He looks at his co-host Miranda with her beautiful face and wonders if he will be off early enough to get some fish ‘n chips and feed the seal sardines.
Of course he will be...TIE STRAIGHTENED pant legs adjusted. Puff that chest boy!
NO Hawaiian shirts like mr. Wayne Cox...he ranks the weather by skies. By skies? “They’re infinite in our world!!” screams the old ladies.
Then the old ladies hop on their choppers and roll down to the station.
They burst through the door. Gunzz a blazin and aim...but don’t fire.
Jack gives him one of his smiles, his teeth sparkle...eyes twinkling. He walks up to them and puts a rose pedal in Ida’s hand.
They
WALTZ!

(classic ELO “Mr Blue Sky” 5.5 min)


It’s now the future!!
They are actually speeding cars in the sky and you watch for them as they plummet onto the sidewalk squishing your dog!
Don’t worry about it though!!!The kids go to the bench in the courtyard to play cards and exchange friendly bottle caps with bumble bees in the lids.
The air sounds like kazzoooooos all singing at the same time from your little cousin to your great uncle ted...who doesn’t love a good kazoo?
Walking down the street you now step over toppled ice cream scoops and Addie’s missing earring. Ooops.
You plug all the parking metres with gold from that leprechaun last st. Paddy’s day in new York city.
Too bad he’s too short for you love!!
Green mountains and little sheep just dancing in claymation. So much clay-mation it makes everything feel...



Feel

Feel
Real?
(Lily Allen cover “Mr. Blue Sky” 3.5 minutes)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

farewell to first year uvic ((written April 23rd, 2009))


Let’s not be over-sentimental now...it’s just the end of first year university.
Leaving JC 208 this morning at 5:30 was kind of difficult. It felt like that last episode of friends when Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey and the gang all left their keys on the counter of the apartment knowing they would never return to that place again. In silence. You know all their fond (and not so fond) memories in that place were flashing before their eyes.
Except this time I didn’t cry like in the episode.
The friendships I made this year far exceeded my expectations. Like someone (who exactly, escapes my mind at the moment) said once, when it comes to friendships, “a month in res is like a year outside of res.” I guess you could say that I’ve been friends with some of these people for 8 years than. It’s funny to think that I’ve only known Chris, Nat, Zoe, Jo, Audrey, Aaron, CL and Andrew since September.
I need to find the password to my old blog that I started in September to document those drunken nights on the beach, in the mystic vale or in “cuddle puddles” under the chill autumn sky.
Another thing that is hard to comprehend is how we all ended up staying alive. If you want to start pushing yourself to see what the human body is capable of, just live in res for a year. Especially during exam period. You learn to function on 4 hours of sleep a night. Consume idiotic amounts of coffee. It’s no longer weird to drink a beer (or two) during the day or find your friend drinking wine at 3 in the afternoon while watching Sex and the City reruns because she can no longer read Geography.
Oh, and Sawmill Creek has had one loyal customer this year. Nothing like an $8. 75 bottle of wine once a week.
We lean on each other to pull through. Cry on each others’ shoulders when things get hard or we lose our ground. And laugh for no reason at all. Jake and I know about that. We did discover that, “You just have to crumble it,” is the hardest phrase to detect by lip reading. Then laughed about it for half an hour (sober).
When Audrey left us on Saturday it felt like a piece of our whole was gone. Also, that morning Chris mentioned this sort of “elastic theory.” It’s true that no matter where you are bumming around campus, you seem to always attract your friends to you. All our paths intersect at many different points many times a day and there is something comforting about that.
Texting to coordinate plans is utterly unnecessary sometimes. Jake and I are a good example of that. We pretty much see each other everyday without planning it. Even if we are downtown. Funny how that works. Our true test is going to be at Sasquatch...we planned to not make plans and see if we can sift through the hordes of people to find each other.
Sasquatch makes leaving not so bad. So many wicked people are attending the festival in a couple weeks so I didn’t have to say “goodbye” but more “farewell until May 22!”
Now I’m on the ferry. I’m that little kid who runs up to the top deck and basks in the rising sun completely oblivious of the high winds that tussle my hair. There is something serene about being on this huge boat as it slices over the cresting waves that lap up against it. Something tranquil about the way the sun’s rays chart out a glowing path over the ocean. I always wonder about the people who live on those little islands. I want to go there and talk to them.
Well, the ferry will be docking shortly and I will begin my landlocked summer.
Farewell Van Island. Until next time.