Category Archives: Music Lover

Dancing, dancing, revolutionizing

It was about a year ago that shit hit the fan with a group of folks with whom I’d been putting on an annual dance party celebration weekend.  I’d been involved in organizing that event since it started years ago, and yet felt like I wasn’t welcome, mostly due to my queerness but also because of my stance on the need for vocal inclusionary policies:  I wanted us to make it clear to all attendees that we were not going to put up with sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, bullshit behaviour, and that such actions would be grounds for removal. 

Apparently, this sort of policy “ruins the mood”. 

Hey, you know what really ruins the mood?  Being targeted for assault because of your gender, race, sexuality, and/or body!

Blech.  Whatever.  As I’ve written before, the good thing that came out of that experience was my decision to throw my energies elsewhere:  I got involved with another party-organizing group, this one queer-focused with an anti-oppressive mandate.

Together we’ve hosted 5 events in the past 10 months, including one just for teens that absolutely blew my mind with how rad it was… How rad the teens are!  Seriously, if you’re down in the dumps and want to get back some hope in the world, try spending an evening making buttons and playing board games with a crew of young folks.  They were so fun to hang out with.  I’m now friends with a couple of them on a social networking site and have learned how they personally face a ton of homophobia and transphobia at their schools. Knowing this makes it all the more special, the connection we made… Not to be cheezy, but I felt like it was actually doing something to make it better, moving beyond simply telling them “it gets better”.

Of course, in a lot of ways, it isn’t getting better.  I’ve sometimes been asked why I’m involved in putting on radical queer dance parties, when there’s a gay bar in our city.  Well, this is why:  In many gay bars, a commitment to supporting gender and sexual diversity is not taken seriously.  It’s all about being the right sort of gay, as Miss T.R. Gendered writes so well:  If you fall outside the “norms”  for your perceived gender or sexuality, you’re got to face the Gay Police, who’ll make you feel unsafe simply for being who you are.

Tying together my rambling thoughts about queer youth socials and the lack of safety for certain bodies at gay bars is a recent big decision made by my radical queer dance party collective:  We were approached by the organizers of the local pride festival and asked if we’d put on their official youth dance, in exchange for some funding and the use of their name and promotional clout.  After many long discussions that bounced all over the place, we said no to their money and credibility (?), but yes to the task.  We’d already been planning our annual celebration of queer resistance dance party for that week, and as we hold such events as fundraisers anyway, we decided to simply channel the profits from this one into a huge queer youth dance party the next weekend.

One pride week, one small radical dance party collective, two dance parties!!! I have no idea if we’re in completely over our heads here or not, but I’m totally excited.  I feel like we could have taken the offer from the offical pride group and it woulda been okay… Eventually, I’d probably have gotten over my initial sense of being a sell-out. Having said that, I’m thrilled.  More than anything, the decision to do it on our own makes me feel proud of us:  Proud that we’re willing to test our limits, to see what we can accomplish, to risk financial autonomy in a capitalist economy, to stay as true as possible to our mandate for providing alternative queer space.

For the record, we did thank the organizers of the local pride festival for thinking of us, because it is a tribute to our group’s reputation, that they’d consider us good enough to host the youth dance… And we believe that partnerships such as the one they were suggestion can be pretty great.  Going it alone seems to be a good deal for both groups, in this case though, since they’ll get to put their funding into other pride initiatives and the youth still get a dance party… And we get a crash course in putting on a really big youth event!

Does it change things, does it make them better, to have such firm ideas about creating queer spaces outside those sanctioned by a larger society?  I’m sensitive to stoking the flames of in-fighting among members of the minority group that is made up of those of us whose lives include sexual and gender diversity, and I don’t want to waste energy hating on those queers who’d tell folks like Miss T.R. Gendered to put their shirts back on… I’ll be writing those letters of complaint to the bar management, of course, and telling everyone I know to boycott the place, but I need more.  I need to turn this fury inside me into something pro- in stead of anti-, something fiercely loving instead of angrily frustrating.  Dance parties meet that need for me.

It’s not exactly revolutionary, to organize a liquor license and a sound systems and few DJs, but I like to think it’s part of a long queer tradition. Before gay bars were legal, in places where they still aren’t, all over the world and through history, this is something we’ve done: Gotten together to shake our booties, lick our wounds, meet new lovers, visit with old ones, share in a temporary oasis of fragile safety* in a world that would have us silent or dead or simply pretend not to exist.

* (Safety for some… Sadly, as with any community event, fucked up shit sometimes goes down at our parties too.)

A book of oddities.

It’s my mother’s 71st birthday in a couple weeks. I know, I know: She is very old, to have a daughter as young as my green tender self. But sometimes these things happen, as they say… What’s most unexpected about our age difference is not the fact that she had my older sister and I at the end of her thirties and start of her forties, but rather that we are her only children. Most later mothers began early and kept going, whereas my mom just never got knocked up until… Surprise!

And here we are.

I like to send her books as gifts, because she sends so many to me; it’s a passion we share. My usual modus operandi is to think through the ones I’ve borrowed from the library in the past year, and then track down any I think she’d like, via online book sellers. In past years, I’ve sent her gems such as Scandanavia Beckons by Amy and Thornton Oakley, The First Century after Beatrice by Amin Maalouf, and My Turquoise Years by M.A.C. Farrant… Like me, she loves travelogues, speculative fiction, and memoirs.

She also appreciates books of oddities, which is why for this latest collection of birthday volumes I’m including The Book of Shadows, edited by Jeffrey Fraenkel (of the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco). Oats has to take credit for finding this one, when we were killing time at the downtown library a couple weeks ago. We’re very rarely at the library together, let alone hanging out there with no specific goal, so it was especially fun to drift through the fine arts section and look through random books together. I think this one jumped out at her from the shelf because of the strange velveteen texture of its cover, or perhaps the spooky font. I flipped through it once and immediately found this photo:

Yep, I’m sold.

Awesome queer action aside, this book is rad: Fraenkel simply presents us with selections from his extensive collection of diverse photographs that all feature the shadow of the person taking the photo. The presence of these unknown photographers are thus imposed into the scenes that weren’t necessarily meant to include them… And Fraenkel provides no commentary, no text, no explanation of where he sourced the pic. It effectively elevates the photos to being works of art, and records of events that include reminders of all that did not fit into the camera’s frame.

Or maybe that’s just me and the couple glasses of wine I drank this evening. At any rate, here’s selections from the book:

More homoerotic snuggling...

...And a cute couple!

Blank gravestone, big shadow, damn weird.

Mew.

Huh... I'm told that I have cousins in Prince Albert... I wonder if this is one of them.

Look at this shadow... It's like evil Nanny Poppins! I also love how awkward this young woman looks: Totally adorable.

For more about the gallery exhibition of these pics, click here.

I’ve got a couple other books I want to send to my mom as well, and I’m going to get her a copy of Adele’s new album, 21. I rarely share music with her, but I know she likes strong female vocalists. Besides that, I’m rather taken by this song, and I think she will be too:

Bittersweet, indeed.

It’s so disheartening, to watch you go.

The final installment of my reflections on 2010. Part I can be found here, and check out Part II at this spot.

2010 YEAR IN REVIEW, PART III
26. What was your greatest musical (re)discovery?

I became slightly enamoured of the annual Triple J Hottest 100. I’ve been downloading the playlists from past years and am eagerly anticipating this year’s countdown… Coming up on January 26th! Vote here! I love how many offbeat tracks make it onto this list, songs and artists that I’ve otherwise never heard of. Last year’s top track, Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons, reminds me of the folk punk bands I used to follow, like Ghost Mice and early Against Me, and is still a favourite song of mine.

27. What did you want and get?

A home that I can rely on. Just knowing that my monthly rent cheque goes to my friends instead of an unstable landlady is a huge benefit to my mental health.

28. What did you want and not get?

Jobs. I applied to work as an electrician with the provincial utility authority twice, the local naval base once, and as a sustainable energy intern with a local green consulting non-profit, and nothing came of it except a lot of practice with cover letters and resumes. Having said that, I was basically handed the rest of my employment with no sweat on my part: The union gave me the construction job, I got the farm position through friends, and this current water system service consulting gig was offered to me by a dude I met at a sustainability event. Given how damn hard it can be to find any work at all, I’m lucky.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

I was totally obsessed with The Karate Kid for a long while during the summer, and I still think about it all the time. Yes, I’m talking about the original 1984 version. Seriously, sexism aside, it’s an incredible tribute to experiences of race and class in America! I’m pretty certain that this film is how I first learned about WWII Japanese internment camps when I was a little kid.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 29 years old, and spent the day at work on the farm. It was a harvest day, which meant hard labour, but it was fun anyway. I had a barbecue party on the weekend, which was fabulous, with friends on the patio until late late late. K and W fell asleep on our bed, so Oats and I shared the couches in the livingroom with S, which was funny yet oddly sweet… You know your friends are your friends when they feel comfortable enough to crash on your bed, and you don’t even think to wake them up.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If just one of my planned career options had panned out, I think I’d be more satisfied with where I currently find myself. However, it’s easy to say that, from my current melancholic vantage point.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Ha! At both the construction site and the farm, I wore the same outfits every single week day, washing them each weekend. I call this concept “pragmatic worker”. That aside, in 2010 I made a conscious decision to avoid dressing in black all the time. As I type this, I’m wearing a cute royal blue cardigan, which would have been unheard of for me in previous years.

33. What kept you sane?

Thinking of the big picture, and focusing on long-term investments.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Eh. None.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Fuck, I was a self-centred git this past year and barely paid attention to anything in the realm of mainstream politics! However, a lot of the energy I used to put into political rage got sucked up by my involvement with the local queer dance party collective, which is inherently political by its simple existence… And ain’t the personal political? So, yeah: Queer rights, safe space for queers, supporting grassroots community among folks in my geographic region who identify as two-spirited, trans, bi, queer, gay, lesbian, genderqueer, or are otherwise marginalized by their gender/sexual identities… And beyond my geographic region too, I suppose, if I take into account the Queer Canada Blogs project.

36. Who did you miss?

All the friends who’ve moved away and settled elsewhere. Fuck, I hate it. I know this town to too expensive and too small to keep you here, but it’s so disheartening, to watch you go.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

I’m racking my brain here to figure out if I even met anyone new this year. I live on an island, okay? And I don’t get out much.

Okay, I’ve got it: I met a lot of great new people when I worked at the farm, folks who I think will be around for further adventures in one way or another. I can’t single out any of them, but I think they are all pretty great.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

I just spent ages searching through song lyrics and I’m stumped: There are no small snippets of song that can contain the multitudes of my past year.

And.. Here ends the meme-ing. Thanks for sticking around, and I sincerely hope that 2011 is absolutely awesome for you, because you deserve it.

It’s a total crapshoot, but can turn up some real gems.

More stuff you may or may not want to know about how I see the past year of my life. Part I is here, and Part III is here.

2010 YEAR IN REVIEW, PART II
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

That of Mo, my dog, who is now almost 18 months old. He was a very quick learner when I brought him to work with me at the farm this past summer, and impressed everyone with his ability to stay calm and obedient. Also impressive was his ability to eat huge quantities of strawberries, turnips, and tomatoes.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

That of many of my coworkers from the construction site. The sexist/racist/homophobic crap that came from their mouths was just so fucked up, I was not only appalled but also embarassed for them.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Fucked if I know. I didn’t make much money anyway. No, really, I think it went to paying off debt. At least I hope it went to paying off debt.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My own fantasies of working at jobs that I didn’t end up getting. My image of myself as a successful tradewoman, which is also a fantasy of sorts. Le sigh. Today, I’m not feeling particularly good about the choices I’ve made.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

I get a lot of random playlists from various sources and dump them onto my mp3 player pretty regularly, then listen to them on shuffle while working. It’s a total crapshoot, but can turn up some real gems: For example, I did not care one whit about Lady Gaga until I heard this version of Poker Face, performed live for BBC Radio 1 Lounge. It floored me. I still prefer this theatrical version to the pop one.

The other song that’ll remind me of this year is Home, by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder? About the same?

Happier, thank fuck. Last January sucked.

ii. Thinner or fatter?

About the same. More importantly, I’m more muscular, from spending 7 months in physical labour jobs. Why don’t you ask about that, dear survey-writer?

iii. Richer or poorer?

Richer! Not on paper, but in other ways: I’m further in debt, but with more income, and better prospects for my financial future. Also, I have a higher quality of life, since Oats and I moved from a one bedroom into a three bedroom apartment and got our own vehicle.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spent more time hanging out with friends. Like I said above, I was a hermit this year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Feeling down on myself. It was a waste of time.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

I worked until the early afternoon on the Eve and then went to a big dinner at the home of some friends, along with my housemates. On the Day, I slept in, then spent the day cooking and talking to family/friends on skype. That evening, we did a house dinner with the four of us from our place plus our friends from across the street. I made a mushroom nut roast in puff pastry! And vegan gravy with beer and Vegemite! And I roasted a chicken! There were three onmivores and three vegetarians and I think we all ate very well. I then collapsed into an exhausted heap at around 9 pm, and hid in my bedroom with the cat.

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?

I fell more deeply with Oats, who is simply wonderful. Also, my dog… Seriously, I love him more now than I ever did before.

22. How many one-night stands?

Zero. I’m not that sort of girl.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

Outrageous Fortune, because I love foul-mouthed Kiwis… And especially Robyn Malcolm, who is just so cool.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Nope. I’m not big on hate: It takes too much energy, and I’m too stretched thin as it is.

25. What was the best book you read?

I’m going to say Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite, because it’s the novel I read most recently that really stuck with me. Fiction aside, I read and reread The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich… Even though I didn’t use a lot of her recipes, I adore this book.

Read Part III here… You know you want to.

Life’s not worth a damn ’til you can say it.

This was just posted by J.D. over at Running Gay, and it felt so appropriate that I thought I’d share it with y’all too.

I <3 John Barrowman. Thanks, J.D.!

Cold and dark and rainy.

This morning I made my throat achy and raw by retching over the toilet for a while, trying to throw up as neatly as possible. Luckily, I managed to not throw up at all, and so went to school despite lingering doubts about my health. If I had swine flu, I’d know, right? From what I hear, it’s a more sudden and violent affliction than this sort of creeping tiredness, nausea, absentmindedness, and headache that I’ve had on and off for weeks now.

I even forgot about tonight’s Billy Bragg concert until about 6:45 this morning, at which point I pretty much decided that I don’t want to go. I hadn’t even remembered to get tickets.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, except that it’s been cold and dark and rainy for weeks now. Summer feels like it passed faster than ever before. It took me a while to realize that I missed the first couple months of sunshine and warmth: Instead, I spent April, May, and June in Melbourne, where it was cold and dark and rainy.

I already had my winter, and am not coping well with another one hitting me again so soon.

Mashed Potato Time

i just got back from seeing julie and julia, and as much as i’m saddened to hear that jc was a raging homophobe, and off course the film has nothing on the book, i liked it. that’s all i have to say for now, as i’m overwhelmed with school, a couple web contracts, and my life. we’re moving and i’m canning jams/jellies/salsa/vinegar syrups, and things are good. i’m also preparing the dance music for a couple of upcoming weddings, which is why i’m now going to leave you with this gem: