The madness of men

With rock camp and all, it was a busy weekend, and then Sweetie and I had to catch up on the rest of life. So we didn't have time to watch Sunday's episode of Mad Men until last night. To say it was disturbing is a gross understatement.

I don't even have to post any spoilers (although there will be some). If you watched it, you'll know why I'm disturbed. It was one of the best episodes of the season, but seriously, I felt like I needed a shower afterward.

All along, we've seen the sexism and misogyny that we knew were prevalent in that era. It's the kind of thing that gave rise to Second Wave feminism. As the world became more modern, women's lives were still seriously circumscribed. Even more than now, it was a man's world.

But here we are now in 1967, and if anything, this episode shows that if it seemed that things were getting better for women, it was mostly superficial. Are we seeing an early backlash of the kind we see now? To Pete especially but also to the partners in general, Lane included, Joan isn't even a second-class citizen. She has ceased to be a real human being at all. She is a thing to be manipulated, like a Jaguar automobile. Her body belongs to the company, not to her.

The real horror, of course, is when Joan decides to go along with it. She extracts a very high price from the company, but could it ever be as high as what she herself pays? She might have been a woman for whom it didn't matter, and then she truly would have held all the cards. But it does matter to her. And when we see that if she had known that Don had not approved she might not have gone through with it, I was just wrung out. Joan will be a voting partner from now on. But to the other partners, that is not all that she will always be. I'm not going to condemn sex work, but Joan's choice was not freely made.

I really liked Peggy's story in this episode, overshadowed as it was (deliberately). I'm glad she made a decision for her own good. I'm glad she stood up to Don, thanking him for all that he had done but being firm in telling him that it was time for her to move on. It was interesting to see that when Don realized he wasn't going to be able to manipulate the situation, he turned hostile. And then pleading. The hand kiss was a bit weird. I'm not sure I bought that. But I love how Peggy, while acknowledging that she owed something to Don, also showed that she had earned her position.

And really, this was the man who earlier in the episode had thrown money in her face. He has helped Peggy, he has relied on her, but he has also mistreated her, repeatedly.

The real tragedy is that Don doesn't even realize it. All he sees is the good he has done for Peggy. He seems unaware that he treats her poorly. More than once, she has asserted their equality. But he's really no good at that kind of relationship.

When Joan says that Don is one of the good ones, that's really rather pathetic. In the context of the time and particularly that firm, Don is one of the good ones. But that's not saying much. Ken is one of the good ones as well, but we don't expect much, because he has little power. Don has the power to make things different, and he doesn't. He expresses his disgust at the meeting of the partners, but he doesn't stay to fight. He leaves. That's not good enough.

The men have no clue what it's like not to be a man, and indeed for many of them a man with power. They seem to have no conception that there is anything wrong with the world they have made. They can own a Jaguar. They try to own women. When they can't, they get angry. They wield enormous power, and somehow it's never enough, and when it's not enough, they seethe. Like Don. Like Pete, who seems to be constantly angry. And that kind of anger is dangerous.

Good on Peggy for escaping, even though she will face the same kind of male problem wherever she goes. Good on Megan for escaping, maybe, although clearly she is stuck in a man's world as well, as we saw at her callback. But Joan's story breaks my heart. She said to Don that her mother brought her up to be admired. Within the company, at least, she has lost even that.

Maybe Joan will have a breakthrough. Maybe she will learn to assert power without using sex. If she is going to stay at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (Campbell Harris), she is going to have to. In fact, she might need to become ruthless. I hope she has it in her.


From Russia, not with love

I don't have analytics installed, but Blogger offers some basic statistics for your blog. One thing it shows you is which countries your traffic comes from.

Which country has the highest number of page views for my blog? Russia. No, I don't have a lot of Russian readers, even though I do have a Google Translate gadget installed. I'm afraid those page views are spam hits.

I hate spam hits.

Believe it or not, I actually like Spam®, at least if it's fried up and served with eggs. I'd be OK in the Monty Python Spam cafe. But spam? Not so much. It's annoying. It's a waste of time and space, and that's really all there is.

I know how email spam works. One sucker is all a spammer needs to make the spam worthwhile. But I'm not sure how blog spam works. Who wins from my page view count going up? How does anyone profit from that?

I wish there were a way to block it. As far as I know, it's basically harmless, but it's annoying. I'd love to get the satisfaction of stopping such stupid traffic. I'd love to see Russia fade on the map relative to the real hits I get from the United States, Canada, and several other countries.

What is it about Russia that makes it a bastion for useless scamming crap like this?

Rock and roll dreams

Ladies Rock Camp Vancouver 2012 is over. It was an amazing weekend. You figured I'd say that, I know. But truly, it was.

Each rock camp at which I've volunteered has been a different experience for me. In 2009, I volunteered for Girls Rock Camp Vancouver in its first year. I didn't know anyone there except for Sweetie, who also volunteered (and had done so in Portland during one session of their 2008 camp). That year, I taught guitar. I especially enjoyed working with the younger girls. It was such an emotional experience to watch them perform on that Saturday night! I was at GRCV again in 2010, but that time as a band manager for a band made up of some of tweens and teens. I was so proud that they drove themselves and did such a great rocking song! And I even got to sit in with them at a second set at Under the Volcano because their guitarist couldn't be there. Believe me, I was honoured to do so.

In 2011, I was unable to volunteer for GRCV. But that was the first year that we put on Ladies Rock Camp, and that one I could do. Once again, I was a guitar instructor. At least that's what I signed up for. I ended up staying at camp for much of each day, pitching in to help however I could—moving equipment, making runs for supplies, and hanging out at loud band practices in case any guitarists needed extra help (which they did sometimes). It was an exhausting but very satisfying weekend. At the showcase, I cried to see how far the women had come. It was such a joy!

This year, I was one of the camp organizers. My title was volunteer coordinator. It was my responsibility to contact volunteers who signed up, recruit to fill in gaps, and ensure that the volunteers had what they needed to do their jobs. We had a great group of volunteers! So many people were enthusiastically doing what needed to be done, and some of it wasn't fun, notably moving heavy equipment. But people were brilliant.

Because I was focused on the volunteers, I wasn't as directly involved with the campers, and that made the whole camp feel a little different for me. Fortunately, I did get to speak with most of them at some point. Because I didn't have the personal connections that an instructor or band coach would have, the showcase wasn't quite as emotional experience for me as it was last year, but it was still great. And when all was done, I felt tired but very satisfied. We had learned lessons from last year's camp. We had done a better job. Things went more smoothly, and I think everyone's experience was better. We'll know for sure when we get back evaluation forms.

This was a great group of campers—15 women, diverse in age, background, and musical ability. We had guitarists and bass players and drummers starting from scratch. We had singers who had sung before but never with a band or never in a rock style. One of the first things they do at camp after introductions is to form bands. They sorted themselves into four groups very quickly! And with astonishing speed, they figured out their band names and logos. Before long, they were working on their song. I co-facilitated a songwriting workshop, and the campers asked some great questions. They made it through Saturday, a long day that tends to be the most difficult and have the most frustrations. By Sunday they were in the groove and aiming solidly toward the showcase. And they all delivered! They can be proud of what they've done, and I think they probably are.

I can't say enough good things about the volunteers. Some had worked last year, many were new. Everyone gave full effort, and several went over and above. I was so impressed by how dedicated they were to making camp the best possible experience for the campers. They worked long days, and I heard no complaints. It will be interesting to see what kind of feedback we get from our survey. The volunteers often have good suggestions for improvements.

And finally, I absolutely loved working with my fellow organizers. Three of them were veterans of last year when they somehow made camp work very well with too few people and resources. Two of us were new. The other new person was a camper last year, and this year did a bang-up job on the food. We cut back in a few ways from last year, and if anything I think we ate better! And our gear person, our camper registration person, and our super head organizer are all such wonderful people. I will be glad to have the time back now that my job is done for the year, but I will miss meeting with those women. We always got things done, and we always had a good time doing it.

Fashion note: At the showcase, I wore my favourite dress, a number called Surrender from Nicole Bridger in teal. Sleeveless, natural waist, with a drape on the front and a handkerchief hem. I wore it with the pair of colour-blocked high-heeled sandals (the teal a perfect match for the dress) that I had hesitated to buy in San Francisco. I have no idea whether the dress or shoes had anything to do with it, but I sold a roll of raffle tickets in about 15 minutes.

À la prochaine fois!


Ladies Rock Camp Vancouver 2012

I wrote about this year's Ladies Rock Camp Vancouver back in January when I first joined the organizer team, but I've written nothing since! Too busy actually doing the organizing and writing about fashion and my own band, Lisa's Hotcakes, I guess. And now there's less than a week to go before camp. I did a really brief radio interview on the phone on Saturday about LRCV. I gave them my "elevator speech."

Ladies Rock Camp is, first of all, about Girls Rock Camp. LRCV is a fundraiser for for GRCV. There are girls who would love to go to camp but whose families cannot afford to send them. We help with that. Every woman who signs up for LRCV helps send a girl to GRCV. And what Girls Rock Camp is about is building self-esteem in girls through music and female mentoring. Girls from eight to sixteen come into camp, possibly with no musical experience. It's a safe environment. There are no boys, except for an occasional male helper. They don't have to impress anyone. They don't feel intimidated. They get to rock out to their heart's content, and they do. It's truly amazing to see what happens with these girls over the course of a week.

LRC is not, however, only a fundraiser for GRC. It's really GRC itself for women. Women come to camp with no musical experience or perhaps with some experience but wanting to learn another instrument (as I did in Portland in 2010 when I learned to play drums). They never had anything like GRC when they were growing up. Maybe they always wanted to be in a band. Maybe they just want to know what it feels like to get up on stage and make music that is their own. Just as we do for the girls, we provide a safe, supportive environment for women to stretch and grow and learn that they can do far more than they had imagined.

The girls have six days to do their thing. The women have only three! It's a pretty intense weekend. In that short time, they meet each other, form bands, get instruction on their instrument of choice, write their own song together, practise with their band, and participate in workshops on songwriting, stage presence, and silk screening T-shirts. On Sunday evening, each band hits the stage for a real show before what is likely to be a packed house.

And just like the girls, these women are amazing. They overcome fears and self doubt. They learn and grow and show off their stuff at the showcase. Last year, I cried like a baby watching what they could do. I was so proud of their accomplishments!

I think a lot about whether my obsession with fashion is anti-feminist. I haven't come up with a good answer yet. I hope that fashion is at least neutral on feminism, and that maybe there are even ways it can be pro-feminist.

But I have no doubt about rock camp. This is as feminist an endeavour as can be. Self-esteem. Empowerment. Accomplishment. Overcoming a lifetime of inhibition and fear. Everyone comes out of this experience a stronger woman and a stronger person.

I loved every performance from last year, but this one still gets me wound up:

Girls Rock Camp started in Portland, Oregon, more than 10 years ago. Since then, camps have proliferated over much of the world. The camps are all independent from each other, but representatives get together once a year to support each other and exchange ideas. The goal of all the camps is the same. See if there's a Girls Rock Camp near you (and make sure it's the real deal, because there are "star" camps as well). And if there's a Ladies Rock Camp too, maybe your inner rock goddess needs to come out.


The future ain't what it used to be

It's a little bit dreaming. It's a little bit planning. Mostly, it's imagining possibilities and visualizing myself within those possibilities.

I'm feeling good about the Fashion Forecasting course. I'm not quite halfway through, but I'm doing fine. What I'm learning is fascinating! I know I will register for another course in the fall, hopefully Merchandising Fashion (really the first course in the program) or History of Fashion. I've learned through experience that I should not take more than one course while I'm still working full time, so I will continue at a slow pace until I have to "turn pro" (our old term for musicians who lost their day job).

Meanwhile, I am getting a little deeper into social media. I have had this blog for some time, but it's only occasionally a fashion blog. I created long wave on Tumblr for my fashion and style stuff. It's not strictly about fashion and style, but it usually has a relevant angle—style in a rock band (mine), for instance, or comments on marketing. And being Tumblr, it's mostly pictures. I'm learning that inspiration can come from anywhere!

I have been adding style blogs to my RSS feed: StyleSight, Vancouver Fashion, some eco-fashion feeds, and others. I know I will find more. One feed leads to another! And you never know where relevant material will come from. Someone I know is a regular contributor to Hearty Magazine, an online publication. She writes about music, and it's only recently that I found out that Hearty contains style articles too. Music and fashion go together!

I have also started to pay more attention to LinkedIn. I made major changes to my profile. It might seem premature to be aiming the profile toward fashion, but my future lies in that direction, not in software development. So while my current occupation is still important (it certainly allows me to indulge in my wardrobe and pay for band-related expenses), and my computer experience might well be relevant to a new career, it is unlikely that I will be directly involved in either software development or technical writing after I am let go from my current position. So I have shaken up my profile, joined new groups, and changed the kinds of news I'm getting. I'm trying to connect with people in the business but also with artists, writers, and designers. Do I look any more hirable than I was? I doubt it. Probably less at this point. But my profile is certainly a more accurate reflection of who I am, whether it will get me a job or not. And of course it's a work in progress.

I have not yet returned to Twitter, which I left behind several years ago. I suppose I'm going to have to, not necessarily to tweet (although maybe) but mostly to get feeds that I can't get otherwise. So much fashion news goes out on Twitter! Not that I have time to follow yet more stuff, but I'm pretty good at filtering when I have to. I don't feel overloaded with information. If anything, I can't get enough, as long as it's the right kind of information.

Fashion and music don't just go together. They seem to be dovetailing in my life. It is wonderful being back on stage with people I love and love to make music with. We in Lisa's Hotcakes are under no illusions about "making it." There are only a few million bands trying to do that. But we certainly intend to have big fun and to open up as many possibilities as we can while we do it. It won't be long before more people will have seen us either live or on YouTube than ever saw our old bands back in the day. In these days of digital everything, making music available, even for a price, is as easy as opening a Bandcamp account and uploading MP3s. The idea of going into a recording studio again makes me very excited! As well, my treating songwriting like writing and working on it rather than letting it happen (or not) has been paying off. And we're also getting songs from Sweetie, one (so far) from our drummer T, and maybe even one from our singer G soon.

Imagining possibilities is a powerful thing for me. It's creative. It has me feeling very unstuck in lots of ways. I suppose it might only be irrational exuberance (the thing that makes stock markets go crazy), but I'll hang onto it for now.

The future ain't what it used to be. And that's a really good thing.

(It was the anniversary of the birth of Yogi Berra a few days ago. That's where the title comes from. Thanks for all the great quotes, Yogi!)


M is for the many things

It's hard for me to pick out a Mother's Day card for my mother. So many times I'll read the sentiment and think, no, that's just not my mom. Not her and not our relationship. If I were to send her one of those, it would be insincere on my part and probably perceived as bullshit by her. I do always find an appropriate card, but it's not easy.

My mom and I live far away from each other. It might be indicative of the emotional distance as well. We don't see eye to eye on many things. We don't communicate on much more than a superficial level and never have. I write her every other week. I speak with her on the phone every other week. Sometimes she writes back (she's very old so I cut her a lot of slack on writing). But any time I have tried to talk about anything substantial, there is no response.

If I wanted to, I could dwell on a lot of things that aren't right about my relationship with my mom. But you know what? I'm here, and I'm doing pretty well. I can credit my mom with a lot of things that I think are right about me, including my fundamental honesty and my sense of justice and fairness. And she is someone I can look up to in many ways. She is one of the most tireless volunteers I know, and that's a great example for me. She also gave me my earliest sense of style.

So Happy Mother's Day to my mom! Our relationship might not be everything I wish it were, but we're still talking. And we actually do better in person. I'm looking forward to seeing her this summer.

Lisa's Hotcakes are served!

Lisa's Hotcakes, the band in which I play guitar and sing harmony vocals and for which I write songs, debuted at Cafe Deux Soleils last Sunday, May 6, 2012. It was a benefit for Girls Rock Camp Vancouver. We had more fun than ought to be legal!

We first met at or through Ladies Rock Camp in Portland.

People ask a lot, what does your band sound like? We sound pretty much like this:

Thanks to Don for shooting the video and to our drummer T-Bone for posting it.

We don't sound only like this because we have a variety of songs. "Don't Want You Back" is  probably our most commercial song. So here's another. It's our one song in French. Every Canadian band should have at least one song in the other official language, eh?

The title is actually "Je te vois partout," which means "I see you everywhere." Thanks to Aki Jo for this one!

We also have songs about domestic violence, sexual satisfaction, kids having a hard time in school, and cats. Yes, cats.

File under garage surf punk new wave rock and roll with a twist.


Break up to make up

No, I do not think that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to forgo makeup for recent public appearances should be a big deal. And it doesn't matter to me that she likes scrunchies. Her job is to be Secretary of State. It's not to be a fashionista. What she does is what is important, not how she looks. There's also no question that there is a double standard. The only way anyone would comment on a male politician's appearance would be if he did wear makeup, or perhaps if he was particularly disheveled. And even then he might get a pass.

So people who are supposed to be covering actual news, please leave Ms. Clinton alone. Her decision on her personal grooming is neither my business nor yours.

That said, if I were in a public position, would I do what she has done? I doubt it. Because that's me, and my personal decision.

One of my favourite quotes is something Riccardo Tisci, creative director at Givenchy, said in an interview: "Dress like you have something to say." For me, that encompasses my entire appearance. Before I say anything with my mouth, I "say" something simply by the way I look and carry myself. It's unavoidable. One more quote, from the song "Freewill" by Rush: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." Anti-fashion is a choice, and it says something. You can't say nothing.

In any communication, the onus is on me to convey my meaning clearly. Especially recently, some think that the onus is on the listener to figure out whatever the speaker is conveying, often poorly. I think that's wrong. And I will always do my best to say what I mean and mean what I say. If someone misunderstands me, then either I didn't do a good enough job or the person is failing, through no fault of mine, to understand.

When I walk into a room, there are a few things that I want my appearance to communicate, loud and clear. Some, I know, are shallow, such as that I want people to see that I look good. I'm no beauty, but I "clean up real good," and often when I go out that's what I choose to do. I will make a certain amount of effort to look what I consider to be my best. Other reasons are more important, I think. I want to convey confidence. I want to show respect for whomever I am meeting and for the venue where we meet. I want to say both "I cared enough to look good for you" (and not just for men) and "I am a strong, confident woman," and even "I have a certain amount of power in this situation." This might all be undercut if I say something stupid, but the first impression I give is a nonverbal one, and I want that impression to be the one that I choose to give.

I don't always wear makeup, and I certainly don't often dress to the nines. If I'm going down the street to do some errands, I'll wear something decent (not bloody yoga pants!) but often wear nothing more on my face than sunscreen. Hopefully that says, "I'm just doing errands around the neighbourhood, and you're not going to pay much attention to me anyway." Sometimes, I will only put on mascara (and clothes, silly). I build things up from there depending on my mood and where I'm going. I generally match makeup with what I wear. I don't get fancy with makeup if I'm not dressing fancy.

Even so, even when I'm going down the street, I try to meet my own standards. Because I have those standards. That's either the way I am or the way I was brought up or both. I tend to dress consciously, even when I'm dressing down. My appearance might not be important to anyone else, but it's important to me.

So am I undercutting my support for Hillary Clinton to skip the makeup if she wants? I don't think so. Makeup is part of how I want to make an impression, but I don't think it's the only way. Secretary Clinton has not become slovenly. I don't think she is going to show up at a public meeting in jeans and a T-shirt. She understands decorum. But that decorum need not include face paint, nor need it include styled hair, unless such standards are also imposed on men. And it might well include glasses, since we all need to see. The standard for women should be no different than the standard for men. You're clean, reasonably well groomed, and you wear something appropriate. End of story.

You see, I'll give men less of a pass than some might. I am not in favour of the "Miami device" look. If you want to grow a beard, grow a beard (if you insist). If you don't want to grow a beard, don't grow a beard. The in-between shit just looks slovenly. And I do appreciate a sharp-dressed man. I think that shows that he cares about the impression he wants to make.

I will say that I was somewhat disturbed by Secretary Clinton making comments about not having to worry about that stuff anymore at her age. Is she saying that she no longer cares? That has nothing to do with makeup or hair but rather about general attitude and self respect. I hope she is not saying that she no longer cares at all! I guess I lean more toward French than American women on that. One model at my age, and as I get older, is someone like International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde. When I see her, I know that she is very conscious of how she looks, and I think it conveys all the right signals, including that she wields great power.

In the end, though, despite my personal preferences, there is nothing wrong with Secretary Clinton's appearance. And there is everything wrong with so-called news reporters commenting on it. It is up to her to decide what she wants to communicate and whether she is doing so effectively.

Ya feel me?

There's really no substitute for face-to-face conversation. At least not yet. But people are working to add "presence" to various forms of remote communication. I saw a post on Zeitgeist, StyleSight's lifestyle blog, about an app that allows you and the person with whom you are communicating to touch a spot on your smart phone at the same time. When that happens, you get either a vibration or sound. That's still crude, I know, but somehow it strikes me that this humble app could really make people feel that they were almost touching each other.

It's about engaging more senses than hearing. The more senses get engaged, the more we can feel that we are with the other person. Touch is a powerful sense, and even though you're just touching a screen, I can imagine that the touch and the sound or vibration feedback, combined with the imagination of the user, could really enhance a connection. People almost get there just by seeming to touch palms on a regular screen.

Even more than engaging more senses, it's about engaging the imagination.

Adding video to voice enhances connection as well. As much as I like video calls, however, for me the communication is not really that much more enhanced. I like seeing who I'm speaking with, but maybe it's the flat screen. Or maybe it's that there is little room for imagination in the process. There's an extra sense, but not that much extra engagement by the brain.

Curiously, what works better for me in that regard is Second Life. I rarely go to SL anymore, but I still find it a great way to have a remote conversation. Even though you're not seeing the actual person or persons with whom you're speaking, there's something about the entire experience that makes it feel as though we're all in the same place. Because it looks like we are.

It's that imagination thing again. Even though we're only avatars, each avatar is a personal creation. In a lot of ways, you are your avatar, or your avatar represents you. Then there is the setting, which feels very real. Let your imagination kick in and you have yourself a fairly immersive experience. Most people I know (we were all fairly early adopters) still prefer typing chat, but for several years now SL has also supported voice communication.

When it comes to real immersion, I guess the current state of the art comes from Cisco Systems with a system called TelePresence. In a technical writing class, I saw a short video about TelePresence. Participants sit "across" from each other each facing one or more screens on which other conference participants appear. Apparently it's so realistic that one of the early participants got up and walked toward the screen, thinking he was going to shake someone's hand. Now that's immersion! I have no idea what such a system costs, but it's bound to cost less as more systems like this are implemented.

The Bell System (the precursor to AT&T) used to have a slogan: "Reach out and touch someone." It's almost not just a slogan anymore.