Arts

Stay Classy, Nirvana

(Photo: Anton Corjin)

We’ve all been there: rolling through youtube, and you find something worth watching that takes you back to your adolescence.

In my case, I found my self looking at videos on music production – which I’ve been getting into more and more these days – which led me to Pensado’s Place, which led me to Butch Vig, which culminated in the watching of the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of a band that inspired not only my generation, but me. Nirvana.

After imbibing the nostalgia, feeling the all-encompassing goosebumps and shivers that come from reliving some of the most relevant and connected songs to my life’s soundtrack, I took a moment to reflect.

First, the songs are still fucking amazing. Tight, well-constructed, and powerful. Whether Kurt Cobain is the messiah of a generation, as is customary for media to say in hindsight, is not really relevant. His (and Nirvana’s) over the past 25 years are continually standing the test of time. Dave Grohl has continued to produce amazing music, alongside Foo Fighters and oft-cited Nirvana member Pat Smear (who is amazing in his own right). Krist Novoselic (Bog!) has contributed to the political landscape in Washington state.

What struck me about the induction ceremony was not about the music, but all about the music at the same time. It wasn’t the tears that filled my eyes listening to Lorde’s voice hauntingly reawaken All Apologies, or enjoying the hell out of Kim Gordon provide the melancholy polar opposite to Kurt’s amazing range and rasp. It wasn’t even Joan Jett (who I agree, should be in the fucking HOF) and her awesome pickscrapes to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The best part of the induction was that for each performance, the guys chose to represent. They shared the stage with awesome women who in their own right have had, and continue to have great careers in music. Quite simply, it was a very classy move from my teen idols; guys I grew up with, playing along to their songs, memorizing each line and drum and bass note. A fucking class move from some classy guys, straight up.

Watch the collection of videos here:

I thought of my friend and co-conspirator Bandana Singh, and how she would have belonged on that stage. Check out my post on why I play in a female-fronted rock band to learn more.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share with you all out there. What are your thoughts? Classy move? Should they have gone with a male performer? Let me know!

PS – on a related note, this 2012 Kennedy Center Honours performance of Stairway to Heaven by Heart, actually moved me (and Robert Plant) to tears. There are no words. Just watch – if you don’t have 7 minutes, try starting at 5:00 and wait until after the solo. Trust me:

I mean how on her game is Ann Wilson! Incredible!

10 Songs that Explore What it Means to be a Man

(Photo: Danny Clinch)

The exploration of the question – what makes a good man – cannot be completed without some input from the arts, and in this case, music. Below are several selections that attempt to define the term from multiple perspectives.

1. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy

A timeless blues standard, and a self-affirming pep talk that could be used equally either before a sports event or speaking in public.

2. The Heavy – What Makes a Good Man?

Truly, it’s what I’m trying to discover, too.

3. Raphael Saadiq – Good Man

You might remember Raphael from Tony!Toni!Toné! or Lucy Pearl, but he’s pretty much trumped all of that on his own.

4. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – How do I let a Good Man Down?

Can Sharon Jones please run for president?

5. The Philosopher Kings – I Am the Man

Put Jarvis Church in front of a mic, and you’re usually guaranteed awesomeness. Case in point; we’ve been blessed here with another self-affirming strut-walk of a song.

6. K-OS – Man I Used to Be

“Ya holler and ya holla/ you folla you fall”. Damn, ain’t that the truth. A great introspective account of what can go on inside our heads.

7. Nina Simone – Sinner Man (Felix Da Housecat Remix)

A very literal interpretation of the video, which blends in the 7 deadly sins, and of course, running.

8. Cinematic Orchestra feat. Roots Manuva – All Things to All Men

The line that gets me is “be a man my dad said/ but what the hell did he know?/he lost his dream/lost his flow/and I don’t want to be alone/I’m born KING so where’s my throne/I’m too intense/I’m too deep/I’m too nice for life/so what makes this place so nervous?”

Also, the album Everyday is probably one of the best, ever.

9. Pearl Jam – Better Man

The apparent story here: “before a performance of the song at Pearl Jam’s show on April 3, 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Fox Theatre, Vedder clearly said ‘it’s dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma.’ He was referring to the man who helped raise him and later divorced his mother.”

10. Tom Waits – Little Man

Nothing like the epicness of Tom Waits sharing his take on fatherhood. Some good pieces of advice in here, even for those of us who are no longer ‘little’.

What are some other songs we should have included? Let us know in the comments box below!

Joss Whedon: Screenwriter, Director, Producer, Male Feminist, Ally

(Photo: popmatters.com)

For those of you who grew up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, or Serenity, Joss Whedon is not a new name to you. Thematically, he is known for his vision which incorporates strong female leads. Looking ahead to The Avengers and his work in translating other comic books to the big screen, this we can expect him to undoubtedly follow suit.

Why is he progressive? Here’s why:

“You know, it’s one of those things that’s always surprising. I was raised by a very strong woman, I didn’t know feminism was actually a thing until I left home and found out the country didn’t run the way my mom’s house did. So I have this goldfish, idiot, forgetful thing in that every time I’m confronted with true misogyny, I’m stunned. I’m like, Really? That’s like, I don’t believe in airplanes. It’s like, What century are you from?”

Like Joss, I was raised by a strong woman myself and thought it normal to consider a woman’s point-of-view, thoughts, and body, with as much respect as I would treat my own. For us, this has not been as novel an idea as it seems to be in the media of late (#HeForShe, #rapedneverreported #mentalhealth). These conversations need to continue long beyond the point when the media cycle deems them no longer ‘relevant’.

Joss’ work shows quite aptly puts his money where his mouth is, sans agenda:

“Action is the best way to say anything. A guy who goes around saying “I’m a feminist” usually has an agenda that is not feminist. A guy who behaves like one, who actually becomes involved in the movement, generally speaking, you can trust that. And it doesn’t just apply to the action that is activist. It applies to the way they treat the women they work with and they live with and they see on the street.”

The impact of entertainment media (and media in general) on notions of self and constructions of identity cannot be overstated. Joss sets a fine example of how to weave an important topic into the stories that become an inherent part of society’s fabric.

Joss is the TPM Progressive of the Month for these reasons. We look forward to his continued success in the film and television industry, as well as to see how his pop culture influence forwards equality.

Yes, and: Why I Play in a Female-Fronted Rock Band

(Photo: the black umbrella)

LXRY is a successful experiment in gender justice. It is about two people coming from backgrounds where full self-expression was hindered, by the army, by communism, or by society itself. It is about the luxury that we have in the West to be able to say what we want, when we want, how we want. And so we do this.

As many musicians in the city, I have gone through what I call the “craigslist” phase. This is a period of any musician’s life when scouring the classifieds in search of a musical connection seems like the appropriate thing to do. Sure, I had gone to open jams, and connected with folks here and there, but there was something that clicked when I met Bandana, on craigslist.

At no point in the time it took to correspond together did I ask myself whether working with a woman, working towards a collective goal with a woman, or working towards collective artistic fulfillment with a woman was ever worth it. It just seemed normal. We connected through our love for early 90’s grunge, community- and youth-oriented initiatives, and being loud.

We met, and we played. It was that simple. We used the improv principle of yes, and to facilitate our sessions. The yes, and principle is simple: whatever the idea, you treat it with the same approach, no matter what. You work with it until it either doesn’t make sense, makes perfect sense, or is just a moment in time. In this way, we’ve naturally established a safe working space for our collective creative process to thrive, be stifled, and exist.

There is nothing special about me. I simply believe that we should all be treated as equals. This is what LXRY is to me.

(PS: Bandana has this to say about her experience, in music, in uprooting and moving – lots – and in creating safe spaces for self-expression. You’ll be happy that you read it.)

recent article by Derek Clifton suggests that there are 11 rules to consider in being a male feminist – which I wouldn’t go so far as to label myself. It is a timeless article. Yet, while each rule is important – and each on its own merits a discussion – in one regard or the other it’s just too complex to approach this conversation this way. If we truly want to work towards gender justice and a happy-feel-good place where everyone is accepted for who they are, compensated equally for equal work, treated fairly from one situation to the next, etc., we need less rules. The rules, norms, and stereotypes of such a rubric – specifically one that is attempting to war with the pervasive power dynamics of gender – hinder this kind of thing from happening.

We need to rethink what it means to be human, and to coexist with each other without preconceived notions of what that entails.

To do this, it’s much more simple:

1) Open Your Ears, Expand Your Perception – listen to what people are saying while they are saying it. Stop thinking about what you want to say while that is happening. No dialogue happens this way. Use the yes, and principle. Learn to discover, be surprised, and be open to all that is around you.

2) Humility Wins Every Time – Consider (and this may be hard for most of us) that the way you do things could be tweaked. That’s hard, even for me, but 7 billion people makes for a whole lot of perspectives.

That’s it.

Oh, yeah, and the shameless plug for our band, in case you were wondering: lxry.bandcamp.com

Anyone out there have a similar story? Have you worked successfully or unsuccessfully with a member of the opposite sex? What lessons did you learn? Would you add any points on coexisting?

Diversity, the New Canada, and Jian Ghomeshi

(Photo: Canadian Design Resource)

“My honest feeling is that the audience is always right. The audience will always know, sense a situation, and decide whether they agree with what’s happening or not.” – Jian Ghomeshi, in interview with George Stromboulopoulos, 2012

They certainly do, Jian, they certainly do.

Full disclosure: I love the CBC.

For years, I have spent any given period of a 24-hour day listening in to its various programming, and getting to spend time with their on-air personalities. Some of the theme songs bring me back to being a little boy and sitting down for dinner. I have my immigrant mother to thank for sharing it with me, and making me feel that much more connected to this country. It is arguably the one institution in the country that holds it together.

“I would love to be in the media somehow, but it’ll never happen because my name is too funny. And I look a little weird, and my parents are from a strange place that everyone calls evil. So that’s not an option to me.” – Ghomeshi, same interview with Strombo.

As I write this, the current media focus is on Jian Ghomeshi, recently-fired host of the CBC show Q. It goes without saying that violence against anyone is deplorable.

There is no one personality that can be bigger than the CBC, and indeed, this scandal is not about that. I would think of Barbara Bud, Peter Gzowki, Paul Kennedy, or Anna-Maria Tremonti, before thinking of Jian. There is a calm lack of awkwardness, and ease of the role that they all share. That, and they’re all white.

So, the question begs to be asked, why was Jian sent on a rocket-like ascent through the echelons of CBC radio-hostdom? Was it simply hard work that got him there? Was it because he was the token minority at the party? Here’s where political correctness escapes me – or maybe it did already.

The conversation is not about him being bigger than the CBC, or about domestic violence – I’ll qualify that by saying that the latter is a conversation that should always be at the forefront of society, not just to say hi by way of celebrity. The sensational nature of those conversations will end with the media cycle as quickly as they began. If we wanted to address violence against women properly, we would. We have the means.

This is a conversation about the New Canada.

In a world where our recent municipal election garnered less than 25% of the seats for women representatives, while more than half of the population is female, it should come as no surprise that this is the case. In most elections, this holds similarly. In hiring practices, the statement ‘we are an equal opportunity employer’ indicates the very existence of an equality problem itself.

As Canada continues down the unpaved road of multiculturalism, Jian Ghomeshi is CBC’s experiment gone wrong. Is this the face of New Canada? The self-described “First Persian-Canadian New Wave Author?” We have some thinking, and talking to do. And of course, more construction (it is Canada after all).

If nothing else, he represents CBC’s necessary attempt to capture the youth audience and reframe themselves as intercultural and inclusive. With him come various notions, values, and ideas representing his worldview. We all have them. Maybe it’s what role a man has, and what child-rearing looks like. Maybe it’s about self-expression. Given the public reaction, the problem is clear: true cultural integration takes more than one generation to occur. You can’t force it.

If true equality of opportunity existed, then hundreds would have qualified for the job of host of Q. Was the pool of applicants or potential hosts so small that Jian needed to be baptized by fire? Obviously, there are countless barriers to newcomers to this country, so let’s stop pretending we are where we want to be 50 years from now. We need to focus on the pulse on what it means to be Canadian. These are the issues and values that matter. Jian is just a drop in a bucket filled with millions of other Canadians, who have their own places of origin, issues, outlets, and problems.

Let’s take a stroll through the halls of the CBC, or government houses or councils, or even the halls of the Royal York Hotel. Tell me who you see. This is the true marker of the dominant discourse and power structure, and while the CBC is progressive in its programming, it may take some time for it’s public personalities (on radio) to feel totally comfortable in the role, and the audience comfortable with them. Until the faces of Bill Reid, Adrienne Clarkson, George Elliott Clarke, or Laura Secord are on our money, this is where we will be.

Canada is said to be multicultural and it is, in Toronto. And even then, pockets of culture exist. In no place will you get a truly multicultural experience, except maybe shopping at IKEA.

(On a side note, is it just me, or is there something inherently wrong in suing a publicly-funded institution like the CBC for $55 million? That’s like trying to milk $1000 from each of your listeners directly.)

What do you think? Is Canada truly multicultural? What does the word even mean? Is there a difference between tolerance and acceptance?

The 3 Most Destructive Words a Boy Hears

Be. A. Man.Joe Ehrmann, Coach and Former NFL Player, The Mask I Live In

In 2011, director Jennifer Siebel Newsom produced the feature-length documentary Miss Representation, and in so doing begun (or simply contributed – depending on who you ask) a “movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change.”

I chose to screen Miss Representation later that year with a host of colleagues (mostly female) that wanted to explore the issues raised by the film: gender injustices that limit girls in modern Western culture; media and advertising and its effects on girls, for examples. It provided for much post-film dialogue where we facilitated some very intense discussion groups. The thinking was that more of these kinds of conversations were needed.

Yet, that is only one side of this issue’s coin. The other acknowledges that much work needs to be done in order to address and challenge the same destructive narrative for Western society’s boys and men: the bravado, the code, the veiling of true emotions we’ve been told aren’t “manly”. They are absolutely on point for highlighting that the intersectionality of this conversation needs to be in focus. Not doing so would make Miss Representation an effort in vain.

Enter The Mask You Live In

I am very much looking forward to this film, its potential impact in the English-speaking world, and for the conversations it will spark. When we (all) feel encouraged and supported in being vulnerable enough to share our true thoughts, emotions, and ideas in a safe and positive space – that which is so close to our hearts – true understanding can really occur. I know, this sounds all soft and easy, but trust me, it’s not. If the cultural norms and fronts that have stayed the course of time are still with us, it’s clearly not.

While much of the themes can hold true across cultures, we need to be mindful that this documentary should not serve as a blanket for masculinity world-wide. Let’s understand that this conversation talks largely about American masculinity. In fact, the protective, dominant, and detached male archetype has endured this long for a reason. It’s just time we revisit it’s purpose in our modern society.

What do you think are the most destructive words or phrases a boy or man hears?

A Guerilla Education: Rage, Isolation, and the Band that Made me a Man

(Photo: AP; Jeff Chiu)

In 2013, I wrote a piece for the Good Men Project, and opened up a little about what the power of experiential education and music had to do with the man I am today.

Ultimately, it is about how arts and culture can be as powerful an educator as anything else, while highlighting that the public education system itself still has a ways to go in terms of either being unable or unwilling to provide the whole picture when it comes to global and local issues, such as NAFTA, indigenous genocide, or big oil.

“To me, the suburbs are like the top 40—easy, apolitical, and blasé. There was, and continues to be, absolutely nothing in the top 40 playlist that I can relate to; not forties and blunts, not bitches and hoes, and not “Britney, bitch”. The content in these songs has nothing to do with me. In scanning this landscape, I wondered where the hell was my voice reflected in all of this nonsense. I am a first-generation Canadian, whose family narrowly escaped the horrors of both the Holocaust and Communism. I had to find my place. It was through this lens that I began my quest into the musical landscape.”

Read the article in its entirety here.