Now is the winter

Twenty years is a generation, at least in the old way of reckoning. I'm calling my first 20 years "spring," the second 20 "summer," the third "autumn," and the period I am about to enter "winter." I might live to be older than 80 (my mom is 94), or I might not make it that far, but either way I figure I'm moving into the winter phase of my life.

Winter isn't dead. Winter can be full of surprises. A winter snowfall is beautiful! There are storms and avalanches in winter. Around here winter sometimes brings thunder and lightning, and often powerful wind. Winter is full of sports and activities. Occasionally, flowers bloom in winter, such as the camellia. But camellias and snowdrops are harbingers of spring. Unless scientists figure out how to reverse aging, I will not have another spring.

It's weird to contemplate your own mortality, to think about the fact that you're not always going to be here. Until recently, it seemed so far away. Now I'm more aware that it's really not. I still have plenty of living to do, but I don't have another 60 years. I probably don't even have 40. Next summer it will have been 20 years since I migrated from New England to British Columbia. I've lived here for nearly a third of my life! Autumn went by awfully quickly.

It's OK really. I have no desire to live forever. If such a thing ever became possible, I'm pretty sure people would eventually do themselves in just to escape. Life is sweeter because its span is finite. I want to keep living for a while longer, of course, but I've reached a point where even if I were taken tomorrow, I wouldn't feel ripped off (if there were a "me" to feel anything afterward, which there isn't).

Still, the slow deterioration of age is not fun. I need my reading glasses to read and use my computer now. I have to be more careful about what I eat. Pains sometimes appear in various and sundry places. After I've been dancing for a while, the first time I bend my knees after I stop (you know why) is quite the reminder of how my body is working these days. My sexual attractiveness is diminished, to say the least. But for the most part I'm healthy, libidinous (for all the good it does), and at least somewhat active, and I'm very thankful for that.

Less fun for me is the reduction of possibilities, or at least of probability. Not long ago, I was studying fashion merchandising in the hope of making a drastic career change. But even if I had kept at it until I earned a certificate, would I have been able to find myself a position or even contract work? Even though I am usually pegged for early 40s, that's not so young in fashion. Older women like my idol Anna Wintour have been in the business since they were young. Starting at my age would not have been impossible, but the probability of success was low. Counselling might have been a more realistic possibility, if I could have lasted through graduate school and a lengthy practicum.

But my passion is for that rock and roll music, and there the possibilities are definitely reduced. The music I love is a young person's game. Those in the business who are older have been doing it for a long time, and their careers are established. I've been doing it for a long time, but only on and off, not concertedly. My career is far from established, and my experience does me little good, other than that I know what I'm doing. Musically anyway. As for the rest of the game, well, you already saw how that's going, or not going, as the case may be.

Regrets, I've had a few. Some people say they never have them, but I'm not sure I believe that. To regret is human. But even though I wish I'd done a few things differently, what I don't do is dwell on those regrets. Past is past. I can only move forward and do whatever I can do given the ongoing constriction of possibilities.

We make adjustments at various times of our lives, and now seems like a pretty good time for me. I have to play music. I have to be involved in music. It's in my blood. A lot of things about the music business make me crazy, but I am very unhappy when I am not making music, and by that I mean in public, not just "for fun" (which is OK but not really that much fun for me). And I don't want to be unhappy. So somehow I have to figure out how an alta kocker like me can still fit into the business. I can always play, but as a communicator, I need to reach out and touch people. That is easier said than done, and becomes more difficult as I get older.

So I am seeking a way forward musically. Maybe more than one way. And I will find a way forward, or die trying. Since we're all going to die anyway, better to die trying than just to die, right? And if you never stop trying, you can't fail.

Don't give up!!!!!


If a tree falls

Suppose you have a really cool concept for a shop. It's not unique, but it's distinctive, and you know it's a good idea. You're pretty sure people will like it. You invest time and money to bring this shop into existence. You rent a space and create an enticing interior. You stock it with interesting, high-quality goods priced to sell.

You open the doors, send out some announcements, and wait for business. A few people find your shop and think it's cool. Others pass it by. Most don't even know it exists. Some know but never check it out. For whatever reason, they're not interested. You send out more announcements, but by this time your shop opening is old news. And there are so many other cool shops. You think yours is cooler, or at least as cool, but it doesn't matter because people are shopping elsewhere. If that keeps up, you're out of business.

You might have the best idea around, but if you don't market it properly, it might as well not exist.

It's the economy, stupid

People are good at different things, and it's rare when someone is good at a lot of things. It's even rarer when someone is good at things that don't usually go together, such as art and business. Artists make art. Promoters and marketers make products enticing to potential buyers and known to the world. It's not often that you find someone who is a great artist and is also good at marketing and promotion.

That, however, is what DIY is all about. When you do it yourself, you have to do everything, or find someone for not much money who can do it for you. You have to learn what you don't know already. You have to embrace things you might not really like. You have to become good at something you might not want to do. I posted a new acronym on Twitter this week: DIWY. That stands for "do it wrong yourself." It's much easier than doing it right.

Some musicians are adept at playing the game. They create an appealing product. They promote it well, often with video and artwork. They attract attention. They get people interested. They are good at timing, so that the interest persists. They effectively market what they produce, and they are rewarded for it.

That would not be me.

When it comes to music, I'm passionate about writing, playing, and recording. It's what I know best. It's what I do best. Marketing and promotion, not so much. I can learn how to do them better. Indeed I have done so. But I don't learn things very well that I don't really like, and I have a hard time bringing the requisite enthusiasm to them.

There have been rare times when record companies fell over themselves to sign bands: the British Invasion and its aftermath in the 1960s, the punk and early post-punk era in the late 1970s and early '80s, and the grunge period in the early 1990s. When Sweetie and I were in the biz 30 years ago, things weren't easy, but there was a scene going on, and a lot of people who were interested in new music. We had to do a lot ourselves, but there were also people willing to take chances. For the past couple of decades, however, things have changed for the worse. We're pretty much on our own now. There are lots of opportunities to get your music out in public, but you have to do even more promotion and marketing than ever. And then, even if if you lead a horse to water and show him how cool and refreshing it is, he will drink only if he damn well pleases. There are lots of springs around.

Lessons learned?

Love Hz, the first Lisa's Hotcakes EP, kind of trickled out into the world. It was originally intended as a demo, and then it became a digital release, and finally our drummer T obtained artwork and then burned and distributed some copies. We were learning both about the business as it is now (nothing like it used to be) and about ourselves. The EP got a surprising amount of notice considering its haphazard marketing.

For Hotter, I swore I would do it right. And yet somehow, I did it wrong again. This article from CD Baby was horribly enlightening and made perfect sense. As Sweetie said after she read the article, what we were mostly missing was a "runway." I should have sent out promotion in advance of the release (more than I did, and systematically). I should have addressed all the mailers I would need and then when we had the discs shipped them out all at once. I should have assembled a list of people and places to hit with Bandcamp links immediately upon release. The CD artwork was minimalist on purpose, and certainly you can't miss that red, but maybe we should have been less minimalist. And now, the window of opportunity is looking pretty narrow. These days, it doesn't take long before a CD (or any product launch) is old news.

Nothing is ever a total loss, of course. The CD is receiving some local airplay. Maybe it will get airplay elsewhere in the country or even outside. Maybe someone with power and influence will listen to it and like what they hear. Maybe it will get a bounce when we least expect it. There are all kinds of possibilities. But much lower probabilities. We have lost the few advantages we could have made for ourselves, and now we hope for the best, whatever that might be.

We believe in the product and in ourselves. We know that when people see us play, they like what they hear. We know that Hotter has six strong songs on it, well played and well produced. All killer, no filler! But unless people listen, they will never know that. If you haven't heard G belt out "If I Have Not Love," you're missing something special.

There are so many bands and so much music, so we truly appreciate everyone who comes to shows and everyone who has bought or even listened to our music. We don't know how the story is going to go from here, but it's still going.


You've got a long way to go, baby

I learned something I didn't want to know this week. Either the party of which I am a member is less feminist than I thought, or my feminism is more radical than I thought. Or both.

Just to be clear, when I say I am a feminist, I am not espousing legal equality for women in a man's world. That's the Sheryl Sandberg school of feminist thought (if it can be called that) in which you can be on a level playing field with men as long as it's their field and their rules. Rather, as a feminist I envision a world in which the playing field is level because it was made by and belongs to everyone. In my feminist world, women participate fully not by being like men but by changing the rules.

Utopia? I don't think so. But I'm starting to wonder if my party thinks so.

Don't get me wrong. I belong to this political party because for the most part I belong in this political party. Its policies are the best fit with my values. Of the three major federal parties in Canada, it is the one in which I feel most at home. But that feeling was shaken last week.

There was this fundraising event. It was promoted by some women in Toronto. It was for women to, as the invitation put it, "really get to know" the party leader, to have "cocktails and conversation" with him. It was not about asking political questions, but rather much more casual questions such as "what is your favourite virtue."

As soon as I saw the invitation, it instantly struck me as sexist and condescending, aimed at women who read Cosmopolitan and used to watch Sex and the City. Not that there's anything wrong with either of those. I was a faithful viewer of SitC. But to have a political event marketed in such a way, to have the leader presented as a sex symbol, seemed to me to be treating women as uninterested in politics so that they had to be lured in. One commentator called it a "pink sandbox."

There's no question the event found its target audience. I don't pretend those women don't exist. At $250 a pop, it sold out (possibly thanks to the widespread criticism on Twitter and in the media) and raised a whopping sum for a fund that helps women run for public office. I applaud the result. But even after several days of consideration, I'm still appalled by the approach.

From what I saw, the event and its marketing were criticized by some and defended by others (including one of the organizers) for the wrong reasons. Even the media were asking the wrong questions. I don't think it's problematic to have an event exclusively for women. Neither is there a problem with acknowledging that women have a long way to go to catch up to where men are in the political process. None of the parties has enough female MPs. The problem was that the marketing made it feel like the event was some kind of tea party for the women's auxiliary of the party. It was hard for me to believe that high-powered, clearly well-heeled women would take this kind of approach.

For me personally, the problem became worse in a party discussion forum. There were people there, both women and men, who understood my objections and agreed that the event was insulting to women. Some disagreed, and I expected that. But some could not see my point at all. I got things like "you're overreacting" and "what's wrong with an event aimed at women" (the wrong question again). The discussion got derailed, as these sorts of things are wont to do (and I share some of the blame), and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.

I still think my party is the right place for me. There is no question the situation would be worse in one party, and I think no better in the other, and I don't support the policies of either. I will still work hard to help the party and the candidate in my riding win the next election. I still think our policies support full participation of women in the political process at all levels. But the patriarchy dies hard, even among progressives and otherwise enlightened people. I thought my feminism was fairly mainstream, but I'm beginning to see that there is work to do in my chosen political home. Feminism as I define it is too important to me not to have it be part of the core values of my party.


Conventional wisdom

Sunday morning view from Upper Village
I spent this past weekend in Whistler, B.C., not skiing or snowboarding or taking part in other outdoor activities but holed up in a hotel talking politics. Lots of politics. I was there as a delegate from my riding association to the biennial convention of the Liberal Party of Canada British Columbia, the provincial association of the national party. I volunteered to go because the opportunity presented itself, and I thought it would be an interesting experience. And it definitely was.

The main order of business for the weekend was to elect a new executive for the association. Many of the positions had only one candidate, so those candidates were acclaimed, but president, vice-president, and finance chair were all being contested.

The most important thing I did on Friday night was to participate in a "bear pit" session in which the candidates were asked questions. Sadly, I was late, but I did see the two candidates for president answering questions. After that, I popped into the hospitality suites hosted by the candidates. Mostly those are just about drinking and socializing, but I did manage to speak with one of the candidates and got an answer to my question that pretty much convinced me to vote for him.

Saturday was a full day. First there was a breakfast to honour Hedy Fry, MP for Vancouver Centre, on the 20th anniversary of her first election to the House of Commons. It was a good buffet breakfast, and Fry is an entertaining speaker. Senator Mobina Jaffer introduced herself to me and to many others in the room, and I touched base with Mary Pynenberg, who is president of the National Women's Liberal Commission. After breakfast, there was a "caucus check-in" with Fry and Jaffer, who were the only members available—Senator Larry Campbell was unable to attend, and MP Joyce Murray was acting as observer for the Liberal Party at the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Calgary. As you can see, the Liberals are not currently doing well in B.C. But the session was lively, with good answers to questions from both Fry and Jaffer. I then participated in a workshop on formulating an "elevator pitch"—a very brief statement of why you're a Liberal and why anyone should vote for us.

The convention took place at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and the staff did an excellent job of facilitating the proceedings. The breakfast buffet had been very good, and the lunch buffet was even better. Lots of variety, local produce (nearby Pemberton is known for potatoes and other vegetables), labels for various dietary restrictions, and all delicious, including the pecan pie, of which I should not have had a second piece (but it was so good). There was some business during lunch, followed by a very entertaining and informative talk by Scott Stratten, the "unmarketing" guru. His examples of social networking gone both wrong and right were great!

After that, I went to a workshop run by Ryan Adam, who had worked for Obama for America in both 2008 and 2012. Great lessons to be learned there about engagement and getting people on your side. Following that, I got to hear brief speeches from all the candidates who were contesting offices, so that helped make up for my having missed part of the bear pit session. I skipped on the "red tie gala" dinner to have a wonderful dinner with Sweetie at Araxi. We needed some time together! She had been amusing herself quite well in Whistler Village and at the hotel taking advantage of the facilities. Later it was time for more hospitality suites, this time hosted by candidates for national party executive offices, the vote for which will be at the national convention in Montreal in February.

On Sunday, we got to fall back! I don't like Daylight Saving Time, but if you're going to pick a weekend to fall back, that was the right one. I hadn't stayed up too late, but it was still nice to have that extra hour. I participated in one workshop in the morning on policy, hosted by national policy chair Maryanne Kampouris. She kept us very interested, and answered many questions. After the workshop, we had a really short annual general meeting, which mostly consisted of the outgoing president's report and a finance report. Around noon, the result of the vote was announced and the new executive team brought to the stage. After a brief speech from the new president, Braeden Caley, we were on our way.

I learned a lot over the course of the weekend. I met people from all over B.C. I have a better understanding of how the party is organized at both the riding level and the provincial level. I learned that I might just be a policy wonk (loved that workshop), and I know I want to be more involved with the Women's Commission. I got to make policy suggestions. I learned that a lot of Liberal delegates, both younger and older, are very stylish, not just the women but the men as well. I could have indulged my inner fashionista even more! In hindsight, I should have found a way to get in touch with the few other delegates from my riding, although I did manage to find one person.

One thing I learned is that I am not a person who eats, drinks, and breathes politics. For so many of the delegates, politics is their lives. I am very interested in politics and have been for most of my life, but not quite at the same level as the "keeners." As social a person as I am, it's not quite a natural fit for me. I am still a musician first, and I don't think there were many if any others quite like me at the convention.

But I do think it's important for people to be involved, and I will continue to be involved. I know I'm interested in policy. I'm a good worker bee when it comes to things like campaigns. I might find some way to participate directly at the riding level. I think it's vitally important for Canada that the LPC return to government, and I want to do what I can to help that to happen. I think that most Canadians still believe in Liberal policies. They just don't realize they do, because first we screwed up and lost their trust, and then we allowed the other parties to define us. No more of that! We have less than two years to engage the electorate, riding by riding. We will. And I will help.