Who's your mommy?

When I started on Ancestry, I had paper copies of the lineage of my father and mother's paternal families as well as a little information about my father's mother's family, which of course was my her father's family.

See a pattern?

We sometimes know about the people from whom our parents' surnames come. But how much do we know about maternal lines? With rare exception, a father passes his family name to his offspring, and the mother's family name (which came from her father) disappears. It can be difficult to trace maternal lines because the surname changes every generation. And yet I am no more related to the settlers whose names my grandparents bore than I am to any of my other seventh and eighth great-grandparents.

Fortunately, French women, including settlers, did not take their husband's name. If I can find baptismal, marriage, and burial records, the surname will be the same. And thanks to good record keepers and Ancestry, I have found a lot of records.

I trace up the top/left of my Ancestry tree, and it follows what I had on that piece of paper, the one line of my father that leads to the namesake settler. I trace up the bottom/right of my tree and I land at Anne Asselin, a seventh great-grandmother, from whom I am descended via all those generations of women. I can follow the women's lines to reach the original male or female settler or Indigenous woman who married a settler as easily as I can follow the men's lines.

Despite Ancestry's pink and blue default icons (easily replaced), a visual depiction of a family tree is an equalizer between the sexes. I'm chuffed that I can trace matrilineal forebears. In fact, because genetic paternity is (or was then) far more difficult to establish with certainty than maternity, the line of male descent that a surname indicates, the one we tend to cite when we say "my family," might be more about legality than genetics. And it was ever thus.


Slowly I turn

People say age is just a number, but it's not like deterioration isn't happening. I've been sensing signs of aging since about 60. Your mileage may vary. The last two years of barely mitigated stress certainly did not retard the aging process.

I'm not an athlete, but I've usually been a fairly active person. I walk a lot, climb stairs, and generally try to do things in a more active way even if less convenient.

When I started to feel obvious signs of aging, I thought my body would tell me when I was pushing too hard or doing too much. I thought that little by little I would slow down naturally, be unable to haul as much, be unable to lift weight I had previously. To some extent, that has happened. I don't move as quickly as I used to. But more often, this is how it goes: I do something that seems fine, and later I suffer for it. Not as in straining a muscle, but as in aching in multiple places and getting pain trigger points.

I'm a slow learner, because I keep walking too quickly, hauling too much up hills, and lifting things I shouldn't lift. I don't want to slow down. But then later I hurt, and my body says, haven't you figured this out already?

I'm finally getting it. I'm trying to start off earlier, but sometimes I might just be late. I don't need the extra hurt. When I walk, especially with cart in tow, I try to be conscious of not exerting too much effort and of keeping my legs relaxed as they do their job. It's helping.

Even as my body sends painful reminders, I still find it hard to slow down. Until I retired, I worked with only one short break of unemployment for almost 50 years. The hurry-up habit is ingrained. My parents were not much for "time wasting" either, so I probably got it from the cradle. But I would like to hurt less, and I'm willing to "waste" some time to make that happen.


Past is prologue

You know what is not a brilliant idea? Restarting your blog and then going on vacation, that's what. Especially when that's followed by a week in a recording studio overseeing a remix of a band I was in back in 1985.

Two 10-hour slots and one five-hour slot in four days made for a lot of listening and deciding, especially when the day and a half off mostly meant more listening and deciding (plus a few hours for the rest of life).

Now that I have a candidate for mastering, I'm in a more leisurely period of listening and deciding. My former band mates also have access to the remix.

So far I'm mostly happy. Some songs are killer. For some, I might want changes. There might also be things my band mates want changed. But it has already come a long way from where it was.

The original record had a somewhat thin punk-pop sound (my bad, I was enamoured of Miami by The Gun Club at the time) that the label owner tried to rescue during mastering, with some success. Effects were used judiciously, and nothing is very fancy.

I knew I wanted to fatten up the sound, but I wasn't sure about making it too much shinier. I thought that would affect the integrity of the material. In the studio, I soon realized that I was never going to make it so shiny that it wouldn't sound like itself.

The remixed songs still sound like us laying down tracks, sometimes live on the floor together, sometimes in overdubs, but all us. But now the presentation has more impact. The bass is tighter, guitars are stronger, the drums are beautifully handled, and the vocals are clear and bright. It sounds better in every way. If we had been able to make it sound this good in 1985, I hope we would have.

In other news, retirement rocks, except that I still seem not to have enough time to do everything I want to do. Like write blog posts.


Not dead yet

Hello, is this mic live?

It's 2019. Since whatever popularity blogs had is long gone, I'm going to start mine up again. I'm all about unpopularity. If Twitter is a conversation with yourself that you hope someone else is interested in, then blogging is like writing on spec for a publication that no one can find. But if I enjoy doing it, then I'll keep doing it. And one never knows where readers come from.

At the point when I stopped posting, life had become difficult in several ways. The combination of not yet being able to retire from a good, well-paying job that I just didn't love, and the ascendance of so-called right-wing populism, i.e., politics based on people at their un-empathetic worst took a toll everyday. I would wake up stressed about work, as well as fearing what I was going to read in the morning's headlines. It had impacts on pretty much all aspects of my health.

In all this, I lost blog mojo. Instead, I started writing a journal again. Several blank books in a row, over the last couple of years. Writing in a journal has been very beneficial to me. It's kind of a habit now, which I had never been able to develop before.

(I didn't go completely private. I was on Twitter, too much. Twitter is a very good part of my life that can also be a very bad part. It has become a vital communication tool in my city and among people here whom I know. I see breaking news, and much more that is interesting and that I want to keep up with. The downside is that it can be all-consuming while also delivering non-stop distressing content and excessive outrage in almost real time.)

Now, I am retired. I made it. After all my rebellion, I did what my parents instilled in me: found a good job, stuck with it (for far too long), and saved for retirement. They were not against having a fulfilling career—after all, my dad became a teacher and then an administrator—but as children of the Great Depression, security was paramount for them. So since I stayed the course, maybe my sweetie and I will have enough to live on until we cease to exist.

Before I retired, many people asked what I would do instead of working. My answer was always the same: all the things that I have wanted to do all my life but rarely had time or focus to do.

I have new music to make and old music to revive. Next week, I will start remixing an album my band recorded in 1985, with more material to follow as budget permits.

I have writing to do. Not sure what kind of writing at this point, beyond re-adding this blog to the mix, but writing is something I can't help but do, like music.

I have a couple of volunteer things, one of which requires a fair amount of energy. I'm cooking and baking. It's finally time to head out into the garden.

And there are things I once loved and want to bring back into my life. When I arrived in Vancouver almost 25 years ago, I had more time than money. I did a lot of hiking on the North Shore, and I rode my bicycle between East Van and UBC. Now once again having more time than money, I would like to get back to both of those activities while I am still able to do so.

My sweetie and I have things to do together, such as travel, senior days at this or that local attraction, and occasionally being ladies who lunch.

I'm only beginning to figure out this new life and new schedule. I'm going to see if blogging more than once in a blue moon can be part of it.



Oh, my darling PINS, I'm sorry! In your section of my year-end music post, I forgot to mention this wonderful piece of anti-Brexit agitprop! Brilliant and timely.


My 2017 in music

I bought music from emusic.com until I cancelled in the summer. Thereafter I bought albums from artists or labels via Bandcamp or from their own ecommerce sites. So my list is even less complete than usual, but I'm thinking quality over quantity. For a year that sucked politically, it sure was a good one musically.

Land of Talk - Life After Youth

The first Land of Talk album in seven years continues to thrill me. "Loving" and "World Made" stand out in a set of outstanding songs. Elizabeth Powell's guitar is up front again where it belongs, along with some peculiar and interesting keyboard work, and her singing is personal and affecting. Life After Youth takes me back to Land of Talk's first great EP, Applause, Cheer, Boo, Hiss, the intensity of which I don't think the band ever reached on their full-length releases—until now.

Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm

I had been only a casual Katie Crutchfield fan, but when I first heard Out in the Storm, bam, it hit hard and has not let up. The title song is the standout for me, but only one of many. It took her long enough to leave whoever the guy was. He got way more songs than he deserved. But damn, those are good songs. I'm envious of Crutchfield's ability to make 1-4-5 chord patterns sound fresh.

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

Whiteout Conditions is an album I liked right away and then over time came to love and appreciate deeply. I am fine with an all-Karl-no-Dan album, because this is a very strong set of songs. "Play Money" right off the bat, "High Ticket Attractions," so many good songs by the time you get to the brilliant pair "Juke" and "Clockwise." Brill Bruisers got more notice, but I think this album will be more enduring. At least for me.

Chastity Belt - I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone

With I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Chastity Belt have put together a very fine album with no low points. Their ensemble playing is better than ever, the songs are killer, and Julia Shapiro has learned to use her voice very effectively. Wish for 2018: see this band live.

Aimee Mann - Mental Illness

Aimee Mann came out of the same early 1980s Boston punk/new wave scene I did. Obviously she came quite a bit further out. But then she went pop with 'Til Tuesday, and I did not follow her career...until I found this album on emusic. The songs are fantastic! "Goose Snow Cone," "Lies of Summer" and "Patient Zero" are only three among many.

Louise Burns - Young Mopes

Young Mopes was the first album I bought in 2017 and it's still one of the best. Louise Burns has combined great songs with production that really works to feature her gorgeous voice. "Who's the Madman," "Pharaoh," "Storms" all in a row, the 1960s psychedelic of "Dig," the fantastic title song.

The Pack a.d. - Dollhouse

The Pack a.d.'s previous album Positive Thinking was released only last year. I thought it was brilliant, not only the Pack's best work but one of the best albums I had heard in a long time. I still think so, which is why when they came out with Dollhouse it took me a while to get to it. I don't think it's as powerful as Positive Thinking, but it's very stong and clearly personal. I will be spending more time with this in the months to come.

PINS - Bad Thing

I love PINS to death, and I've been waiting for another album to follow the brilliant Wild Nights. An EP was what we got. Love the (remote) collaboration with Iggy Pop on "Aggrophobe" and the audacity with snakey guitar line (from Lois Macdonald) of "All Hail." Apparently they are still doing a great live show (can't wait for them to tour this way again). But four new songs (plus a Joy Division cover), one of which nicks a bit from a previous song, is a bit thin.

Cherry Glazerr - Apocalipstick

This is my "honorable mention" album. I love how Clementine Creevy (not even 21 years old) is unabashedly a guitar player in these guitar-averse times. She has also written some good songs here, and I enjoy her singing as well as her playing.

The rest

Biggest disappointment: Feist's Pleasure. After the powerful Metals, this feels very artificial, sometimes even lazy, and just not up to snuff in the songwriting department.

More disappointment: The Courtney's II, Allison Crutchfield. Just expected more.

I want a new Potty Mouth album too after their brilliant EP. Until we have one, the single "Smash Hit" will do quite nicely.


An American in Paris (of the Prairies)

Doug Elliot's back, Rob Baker, Pat Steward, Craig Northey, Murray Atkinson
In 1992, Sweetie and I were still living near Boston. I had just spent three weeks of a summer that mostly didn't happen (Mt. Pinatubo erupted that year) in Jonquière participating in a French immersion program (and drinking too many "grosses Bleues").

Shortly after my return home, I received a cassette tape from a fellow student who was from Winnipeg. On one side was Social Distortion's second album. On the other side was side 2 of Up to Here by the Tragically Hip and a few songs from Sarah McLachlan's debut album.

I don't know why she chose to send side 2 of the Hip record, but that means the first Hip song I heard was "Boots or Hearts." That was a strange introduction. But then "Everytime You Go," "When the Weight Comes Down," "Trickle Down," and "Another Midnight" (especially), and "Opiated" followed, and this was a sound I liked. The melodic understatement and ringing guitars of R.E.M., and a bit of the also melodic earnestness of Dire Straits, but also that they sounded like no one else. I liked the lyrics as well. But Gord's voice, not so much. His singing from that period sounds harsh to me, like he was pushing too hard, and I don't the constant vibrato on line endings.

I did not know what this collection was. I thought it might have been an EP. I knew nothing about "Blow at High Dough" or the rest of side 1. It would take some time to learn the rest of the story.

Cut to August 1994 and my immigration to Canada. Day for Night was released in September of that year. Fully Completely had come out two years before. I'm not sure, but I think I bought Day for Night first, and I have always thought that was a sublime album. I'm sure I got the previous album soon after. I finally heard all of Up to Here. I still have a cassette of Road Apples. Somewhere in there I bought the first EP.

The only time I saw the Hip live was at the Moore Theater in Seattle in 1996, right after Donovan Bailey won the 100 metre sprint at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Since by that time the band were playing large venues in Canada, we thought it was a treat to get to see them in a theatre. Apparently so did many other Canadians, who made up most of the audience. At one point before the show, the place spontaneously burst into "O Canada!" and I think there was even some flag waving. And then the Hip gave us a (surprisingly) loud, sweaty rock show, marred only by the fact that everyone stood up (not great for me, much worse for my shorty).

That was the year of Trouble at the Henhouse, another strong album in a somewhat different direction. But tastes change. By Phantom Power, I wasn't listening to the Hip as much. I bought that album, as well as Music @ Work, but neither is among my favourites, and those were the last Hip albums I bought.

Since then I've occasionally heard Tragically Hip songs on the radio, both new and old. I will sometimes listen to the albums I have. And I never stopped appreciating them. They were important to Canadian music. Clearly they were important to a lot of people right until the end, and though less so, still to me as well.

A few years ago, at a special Odds show in a tiny pub to which I was fortunate enough to be invited, it was a thrill to meet and chat with Tragically Hip lead guitarist Rob Baker and then to see him play a couple of songs with the Odds as their side project, Stripper's Union. I thought I had more than one picture of that show!