2013th year of the common era

Being all witchy and stuff, my year started a while ago. Samhain (October 31–November 1) to be precise. So I've already been working on how to make this sun-round better. I joined SOCAN, the group that collects royalties for any of my published songs that get played. I joined the Songwriters Association of Canada, which was the sponsor of the very useful Songposium that I went to last autumn. Through SAC gatherings, I hope to find one or more songwriting partners. I joined MusicBC. I'm not sure yet what that is going to do for me (it's a bit like a local version of SAC), but I'm sure I'll find out. I started to aim for one completed song a day (whether any good or not) and have only two (good) songs to show for it, but I will get back on the horse once all this holiday foofaraw is done.

I guess that's Resolution #1 for the regular new year: get back on the songwriting horse.

I also resolve to go to an open mic night, most likely the one on Tuesdays that's run by Oswaldo Perez, who also books the British Ex-Servicemen's Association. I can play Hotcakes songs as well as songs that Hotcakes don't do. There might be one interruption to this. My acoustic guitar is in fine shape, but not its built-in pickup. The battery came loose, and it needs to be fixed. The quarter-inch jack also needs some work because the connection was always a bit unreliable (something I should have had taken care of right after I bought it, but that's water under the bridge).

I'm hoping open mic nights might also be semi-Hotcakes nights. The last time I asked our singer G if she wanted to duet, she was more amenable than she had been earlier. More confidence! And that's good in and of itself.

Anything non-musical, you might well ask? Good question. I will soon be back on the cross-trainer horse and no longer indulging in awesome crumbly shortbread cookies. I cleaned my desk off, but this office is still a mess. It just has one less messy place. And I find that I work better when my office isn't a pigsty, because then I like being here more. I'm also taking on some new duties at work and shifting a few of my current ones to my boss. We're going to share some of the administrative tasks so he can "get his hands dirty" (digging into the code).

I can and should always be a better spouse. I can be a better listener for everyone. I can work on my time management so that I have more time for the things I really want to do, like write and play and meet with friends.

And back to musical things, I know there will be band goals. It's probably not too soon to plan for the next recording, whatever form that might take. As I keep writing, we need to work more new songs into the mix so that we can have more flexibility about putting sets together. We will continue to try to book a gig a month and to get more notice through all means at our disposal, especially social networking.

I will continue paying attention to fashion and style, and I might get back to studying fashion merchandising. We'll see how the term off feels. I might also want to go visit some people who are far away. And Sweetie and I are planning to head to New York at Passover to see her (our) uncle and aunt. It will be my first seder! I imagine there will be more new experiences in store this year. I'm much more open to them than I used to be.

One curious fact of my life: my personal sun-round matches the turn of the year. When the common era year turns to 2013, it's my personal new year as well!

Wishing for good things in 2013 for my family, friends, and the whole friggin' world!


What did you expect?

When the Conservative Party of Canada had only a minority in the House of Commons, I thought that was quite bad enough, but at least the other parties could keep them in check. Without a majority, the Conservative government did not have carte blanche to push legislation through the House. They had to compromise. Opposition members could vote down any legislation that was totally unacceptable. And if it was a bill that a matter of confidence, such a vote would trigger an election.

Majority rules

I knew a Conservative majority would be a disaster for Canada. I said so over and over again during the election. I posted more than once on Facebook about the need to vote smart so that the Conservatives would not be allowed to win a majority. I am a proud member of the Liberal Party of Canada, but in my riding, I voted for the New Democratic Party candidate, because I did not want a vote split on the centre-left that might have allowed the Conservative candidate to slip up the middle. I hated not being able to vote for my party's candidate, but the NDP candidate (the incumbent MP) was much more likely to win. So I voted strategically. I don't think that's a great way to go, but unless we get rid of single member plurality ("first past the post") voting, it's an electoral reality. To me, nothing was more important than preventing a Conservative majority, one riding at a time.

There were many reasons that the Conservatives won a plurality of votes in a majority of ridings across the country. One, of course, is that they have the support of roughly a third of Canadian voters. This baffles me. Who are these people who actually think that Stephen Harper should be allowed to form a majority government? Do I know any of them? Is their vision of Canada really so radically different than mine? It would seem so.

I don't know if that core of support will ever shift. But it's only about a third of the vote. If enough other people had voted strategically in their ridings, as I did, it is very unlikely that the Conservatives would have won a majority of seats. There would have been more Liberal MPs from ridings where the Liberal candidate was stronger, and more NDP MPs from ridings where the NDP candidate was stronger. Sadly, or perhaps even tragically, not enough voters thought this way. In ridings where a non-Conservative candidate might have won, they stuck by their party's candidate, split the centre-left vote, and allowed the Conservative candidate to win. I consider those people to be partly responsible for the majority government we have suffered with for over a year, and with almost three more years to come.

The final group that is responsible for the Conservative majority is the vast number of elegible voters who did not vote. I don't have any data, but I think it most likely that if non-voters had stepped up, they would have voted somewhere on the centre-left. Conservative supporters did not stay home. They got out and voted. It's those who might have voted NDP or Liberal who stayed home.

Yes, I'm pointing fingers.

The predictable response

First Nations by themselves could not have changed the electoral outcome. I have to expect that they were unlikely to have voted Conservative. I imagine they knew well what a Conservative majority would do. Yet now they suffer probably more than any of us under the Harper government. So I applaud the Idle No More movement. The government needs to know that native people are opposed to its policies. Native leaders need to know that the way they are dealing with the government is not working. And the rest of us need to understand that there is a serious problem with relations between the country and its First Nations citizens.

Many non-natives are joining native people in demonstrations and expressions of solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence and with all native people. They are upset with the Harper government. They are ashamed of what it is doing in the name of Canada.

I wish they had prevented the Conservative majority when they had the chance. Seriously, what did they expect? The Conservative agenda wasn't hidden. I could have predicted that they would run roughshod over Canadian traditions, the democratic process, and human rights. In fact, I did.

Sadly, or perhaps tragically, Harper and his MPs form the duly elected government of Canada. Unless they do something illegal (no, wait, even that didn't work, since Harper was already found in contempt of Parliament), we're stuck with them until 2015. Does anyone really think Stephen Harper will back down and speak with Chief Spence? Her hunger strike is her own choice, and if she dies, it will also be her own choice. Harper has no incentive to admit that he has done anything wrong. And even if a person is absolutely in the right, coercion is still coercion, and a government would have to be in a serious position of weakness to respond to coercion. This government is not weak. There is no backbench rebellion brewing. Some polls show their support as high as 40 percent.

I'm not one for demonstrations. I think they are mostly exercises in feeling good about ourselves without actually doing anything other than taking time and going outside. But perhaps these demonstrations will bring the legitimate concerns of native people to the attention of more people. Perhaps they will even be an international embarrassment for Harper.

What I really want, though, is to see native leaders set out a plan for how we should move forward. The Indian Act has to go, but not without input from native people. There needs to be a framework for what will replace it that will allow native people to determine their own future. They have that right by treaty. Many of us are against the Harper government and the way it behaves. But we need to do something constructive while that government remains in power. It's easy to oppose. It's much more difficult to propose.

I also want to make sure that non-natives become allies but respect that this movement belongs to native people. I want the agenda to be theirs, not one imposed by non-native people with their own agendas. I have already seen signs of this movement being used by the many opposed to Harper for their own reasons. The last thing native people need is well-meaning non-natives of whatever political inclination taking their movement away.


Christmas skills

There are many people for whom Christmas is not a time of peace, love, and joy. People have anxiety or depression around Christmas for all kinds of reasons—lack of family, lack of money, sad associations from the past, and more.

I have reasons as well. I'm not a Christian. Except for Sweetie, my family are all far away. I miss my cousin's big family gathering (I have a lot of cousins). I don't even have a work Christmas party to go to (although I did enjoy a lovely Chanukah party earlier in the month).

Still, those things are not why I sometimes get depressed at Christmas. For me, it's because I don't "do" Christmas well. I'm not very skilled at it. Some people are extremely skilled at Christmas! And many do quite well enough at it. Sweetie is one. She's very good at decorating and excellent at finding the right gifts. Those are skills that I don't have. Christmas highlights my own holiday seasonal inadequacy. Sweetie didn't want to do any Christmas baking this year (she's good at that too), but I probably should have, because it's one thing that I actually am skilled at.

Even though Christmas has no religious significance for me, and I think much of the secular celebration is crap, I'm not really a "bah humbug" type. I love traditional Christmas carols, including the religious ones, because they're beautiful. We get a real Yule (or Christmas) tree every year, and I love that, all strung with lights and ornaments. I love Christmas food and Christmas gatherings. I love sending and receiving cards. I even love the Christmas story, although I think it's only a story. I cry whenever I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas when Linus quotes from the Gospel of Luke. The story is so beautiful that it's no wonder people think it's true, or want it to be true. So I can't just say "fuck Christmas" and not care about it. I do care.

The people who are skilled at Christmas seem to be innately good at it, but maybe it's not innate. I imagine some have more talent for Christmas than others, but maybe Christmas skill can be learned. In which case, I could learn it. I'm not sure how, but there ought to be a way. Maybe one thing is to start early. Stay alert all year long for clues from people as to what they might like and what they wish for. Shop early, ship early. Find some cool recipes and get back to Christmas baking, and give all of it away (as we have done in the past). Light more candles. I am the least craft-y person I know, but maybe I could learn to make a Yule/Christmas decoration. And maybe we could even add to the glut of Christmas parties by hosting a party of our own. Someone always needs one more winter celebration.

Christmas Eve can be hard when you know you haven't done these things, and it's far, far too late to start. So I will just have to make next year different. I've done that in other areas of my life. Why not Christmas too?

Meanwhile, chapeau! to you who love Christmas and are very good at it. I have great admiration for you. And I envy the happiness you get from the season and appreciate when I am the beneficiary of your Christmas largesse. I'll have what you're having.

Word of the year

Annching Wang is a clothing designer who makes beautiful clothes from sustainable fabrics. Her label is called Avery by Wang, if you're interested. I receive a newsletter from her by email. In the one she just sent, she spoke about her "word of the year"—"bloom," because her business grew and flowered.

When I read that, I realized what my word of the year for 2012 is: "friendship."

I am playing in Lisa's Hotcakes with two wonderful friends and my spouse, who is also my best friend. There were never auditions for the band. We started playing with our friend T just because we wanted to give it a try, and we liked it so much we kept playing. And when we asked among friends if anyone wanted to try singing with us, our friend G came over, and the result was magic. And not only has the band done quite well for its first year; playing together has allowed the friendship among all of us to grow. That friendship has been tested as well! You can't have a band without a few disagreements and rough times. But so far we have come through it all even stronger.

There is a woman who used to work at the grocery store where I shop every week. It's the kind of place where I get to know the people who work there, at least their names. And whenever she would be at cash, we would chat. She seemed like such a cool person. Last spring, I took a chance. I gave her my email address and asked if she wanted to meet up for coffee. I realize in hindsight that it sounded like a pickup line, but it wasn't. She took a chance as well. Since then, we have formed an amazing friendship. In just a few months, we have reached a trust level and depth of sharing that usually take years. I am so grateful for her! I will do my part so that our friendship continues to grow.

And then in the autumn, there was the best high school class reunion ever. I truly enjoyed seeing all the people who came. But there was more to it. There's a classmate with whom I've been friends since high school. We hung out with the same people and went to the same parties. She and I have kept up over the years, but only by infrequent emails and the occasional card. She had encouraged me to make the trip for the reunion. And since I came in a day early, we arranged to spend Saturday together. As soon as she pulled up and got out of the car, we knew that something was different, and better, between us. We spent the day driving hither and yon, doing a bit of shopping, having lunch, sipping coffee, and chatting non-stop for all the time we were in the car. I have always counted her among my friends even though she is far away. Now I count her among my best friends. And I wish she weren't so far away!

There was so much more. The woman who runs the book club and I grew closer. I had another reunion with a friend from back in our first band days whom I had not seen for many years. I spent a quick but lovely weekend with very good friends in San Francisco and met someone whom I had previously known only online and by phone. I kept up (when possible) with a friend from counselling school and two from tech writing school. I made a new friend in the first fashion course I took and another in the second course. I spent time with many other people whom I know in and around Vancouver as well as friend who drove all the way from Calgary. I got on the phone with some friends who are far away.

One of my favourite parts of being volunteer coordinator for last spring's Ladies Rock Camp Vancouver was spending time with some very cool women. I also made new connections through camp, including meeting and spending time with someone whose music I admire greatly. When you can go from fan to friend, that's pretty special!

I don't leave family out of friendship. I got to spend quality time this summer with my mom, my sister and brother-in-law, two of my cousins (briefly but it was still very nice), and Sweetie's uncle and aunt, who are wonderful people and whom I consider to be my family as well (and I know it works the other way).

I don't leave my Sweetie out of this. We both love the time we get to spend together. We really do have an wonderful friendship at the heart of our relationship.

It's funny. I knew all this was true, and I've been grateful for it all year long. But it wasn't until Annching sent her own word of the year that I was prompted to think of mine. Thank you, Annching. And thank you all! You've all been part of this year being one of the best ever.


Song-a-day? Not quite

At the start of this current lunar cycle last week, I said I would do something. I wanted to write a song a day. Sit down each day, write, come up with something, and finish it. I didn't think every song would be good. In fact, I figured most might not be. But I saw it as songwriting exercise. Keep at it and you get stronger. Or like any kind of practice. Keep at it and you get better.

So far, song-a-day has resulted in a single song and a lot of fragmentary ideas. Not exactly a success yet. The good thing is that the one song I produced is good. But that's not the point. The point was to do a songwriter "workout" every day.

First came the weekend. Sweetie and I were out Friday night. We were not out Saturday night, but it wasn't work time. And since then, I think it's a matter of my not having prioritized blocks of time. I let other stuff get in the way. I let other stuff come first. Or I was just exhausted by the time I did make time. A day job plus the usual household stuff plus a nascent career sometimes make Véronique a tired girl.

I haven't been to the gym in a few days either. I sense a pattern.

The lunar month has gotten off to a bad start. But I can't let the fact that I've written only one song and haven't been to the gym since last week affect tomorrow and the day after and the day after that. I have to make some changes in time management, something I've never been good at. But if I don't, then I'm not very serious about this project, am I. Or the getting-in-shape project. And if I'm not serious about either of those, then I might as well give up. And I'm not going to give up.

How does that saying go? If you never quit, you can't fail? Here's to never quitting! And to new days, fresh starts, and hope.



I started teaching myself how to play guitar when I was 16 years old. I had already been writing bad poetry. Does a young teen write any other kind? I started to turn those poems into songs. Why did I do this? Not because I was popular, that's for sure.

It sucks to be plagued by feelings of inadequacy, but it does have an upside—if you can turn it into art, or at least entertainment. Not cool? Play guitar. Still not cool? Write songs and sing them. Still not cool? Make it your life.

Seriously, the star of the basketball team and the head cheerleader do not end up playing music. Their lives don't require it. They aren't lonely. They aren't outcasts. They have nothing to prove.

I know I have come a long way since I was a teenager. I should hope so! I have far more self-confidence than I had then, and more than I had only a few years ago. And yet the sense of inadequacy never leaves. And so I still play guitar, still write songs, still sing (a bit), still get on stage and make music with my friends. I do it because I have to. I do it because of a need that would be unfulfilled if I didn't.

I'll never be cool, but who cares. I make music!


Music of 2012

I wrote a blog post last year called Albums from 2011 that I downloaded (and paid for). It would be about time for a similar entry for 2012. But I was looking at some other lists, and I realized something. There is so much that I haven't heard! I'm not keeping up.

eMusic.com does encourage me to download at least some new albums because I pay monthly for the subscription. And some I got from Bandcamp or directly from the artist. Of albums released in 2012, these are the ones I bought:
  • Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra - Theatre Is Evil
  • A.C. Newman - Shut Down the Streets
  • Apollo Ghosts - Landmark
  • Bloc Party - Four
  • The Corin Tucker Band - Kill My Blues
  • DIIV - Oshin
  • Dum Dum Girls - End of Daze (EP)
  • Grass Widow - Internal Logic
  • Holograms - Holograms
  • Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
  • La Sera - Sees the Light
  • Ladyhawk - No Can Do
  • The New Values - The New Values
  • prOphecy Sun - Bird Curious
  • The Raveonettes - Observator
  • Stars - The North
  • Tyranahorse - Garbage Bears (EP)
  • White Lung - Sorry
  • Wintermitts - Océans
I don't see anything here that hit me quite like PJ Harvey's Let England Shake or the full-length debut from Veronica Falls or the Pack a.d.'s Unpersons or Feist's Metals, my top picks for 2011. But there are still high points. I was never an Amanda Palmer fan, but I'm definitely a fan of this album (and of her stage show). My love of lo-fi was satisfied by the Dum Dum Girls (better than Only in Dreams), Grass Widow (I downloaded all three of their albums), and La Sera (a side project by Katie Goodman of the Vivian Girls). Kill My Blues isn't great but is much better than Corin Tucker's previous 1,000 Years and totally blows away last year's Wild Flag from her former band mates Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. I like pretty much everything the Raveonettes put out. They don't change much, but I still like their sound.

I like A.C. Newman's Shut Down the Streets, but I don't love it. Same with Four from Bloc Party, a band that I do love. Voyageur from Kathleen Edwards is pleasant. I find that Stars' The North pales in comparison to the previous In Our Bedrooms After the War. And Oshin by DIIV and the Holograms eponymously titled album are only OK.

You might not know, but there's a theme here: seven of the records are from Vancouver artists. Among those, my favourite is the Garbage Bears EP from our roommates Tyranahorse. It's frankly better than many other records I listened to. Apollo Ghosts is a new discovery for me, and a pleasant one. I like both Sorry and Océans and think they are steps forward for both bands. Ladyhawk are also a band I didn't know before, and I really like this album. The New Values are a punk band that do punk really well (and also form the current incarnation of the Modernettes behind John Armstrong). And Bird Curious from my friend prOphecy (who sings in Tyranahorse) is a curious and interesting listen.

I haven't got around to downloading Metric, Soundgarden, or Wax Idols, all of which I will probably like. I listened to one track from Neil Young's Psychedelic Pill and decided that however much I loved Neil and Crazy Horse over the years, this was the same old shit, and not even very inspired. Just long. One of the best things I downloaded was a single from Veronica Falls, "My Heart Beats" b/w "Killing Time." Can't wait for the new album!

I'm glad that nothing was as big for me as PJ or Veronica Falls or the Pack or Feist -- or Kathryn Calder, or Vivian Girls. That's because for me, the best record of 2012 was Love Hz by Lisa's Hotcakes. Of course I'm prejudiced because it's my own band's record, and it's only four songs, but give it a listen and tell me it's not worthy at least of this company if not of last year's.

I'm also glad that even the albums I love from 2012 didn't make that strong an impression on me, and I know why that's so. I am busy playing and writing. I'm still a fan, of course, but first I'm a musician, and I have work to do. I'm glad for inspiration, but I'm better off without any influences that are too strong. I'm helping to create the sound of a new band. I don't want it to sound like anyone else.


Winning at losing

I am a person who exercises.

I am a person who exercises.

I am a person who exercises.

It's a mantra I have to repeat until I convince myself that it's true. I haven't got there yet. All too often I am a person who does plenty of walking around the 'hood but doesn't exercise nearly enough.

Tuesday, however, I went to the gym and did a hard workout on the cross-trainer, plus a few other things. I did the same on Monday. I started going to the gym again a couple of weeks ago, sporadically. I had stayed away for several months due to what I thought was tendonitis but which I now think is a strained ligament, which heals quite slowly. I decided that I was going to take the next step in ignoring the pain emanating from my elbow. So far, it seems to be working. My elbow seems to be getting better, slowly. Exercise might not be helping it, but it seems not to be hurting it either.

There are lots of reasons for me to go to the gym, other than the fact that every month they bill my credit card, I feel better being aerobically fit. It's good for my heart (and various kinds of heart and circulatory conditions run in my family). I need a certain amount of upper arm strength to be able to play drums (my second instrument) for any length of time. And I need to be fit in general even to get on stage and play guitar and sing.

And, oh yeah, there's another reason I spend time on the cross-trainer using up an extra 400-some calories a day. I am overweight.

Overweight? As a feminist and a progressive, I'm not allowed to say that! Patriarchy! Fat shaming! I must accept myself as I am!

Sorry. That's a load of crap, at least for me.

I am not over a weight that someone else tells me I should be. In fact, last week, when I told a friend that I needed to lose some weight, she said she thought I was looking particularly good. I do carry it pretty well. But it doesn't feel good on me. It literally weighs me down. I just don't feel as good at this weight as I do when I'm at least 10 pound lighter, which I was not so long ago.

I'm not ashamed of myself or my shape. I just know that I can get to a lower weight, and that I will feel better, physically and mentally, when I do. Getting there will involve things I should be doing anyway—exercising regularly and eating sensibly (but not crazily—I'm a cook, and I love good food). I'm not a diet. I'm not going crazy with exercise. I'm just trying to engrain the habits I should have anyway.

No fat shaming. Seriously, no fat shaming! I know people of all kinds of shapes and sizes. I am unconcerned with their weight, whether it's a lot or a little. It's their business. No one should be discriminated against because they are larger or smaller than the norm. No one should be shamed or laughed at or scorned.

Just as my fat friends know what works for them, I know what works for me. And it's not being fat. I don't have the body for that. I don't have the body to be really thin either. I know my body quite well, and I know how it functions best. So yes, I will continue to work at dropping those 10 pounds. I will keep working on visualizing myself as someone who exercises. I will keep portions small because not only does that help me find a good weight; it also just makes me feel better. For years, I didn't realize that being uncomfortably full wasn't something normal. I know better now.

I don't obsess about this. I'll just do what I'm doing. And this might be the last you'll hear about it.


So happy I could die

Rock musician Bif Naked has just released Bif Naked Forever, her first new album in three years. The lead-off song is called "So Happy I Could Die."

I totally understand that. Don't worry. I have no plans to check out. As bad as things have sometimes got for me, and as overwhelmed as I get occasionally, I've never been inclined that way (some parts of Catholic upbringing stick with you, like it or not).

I also want a lot more life. I have plans. I have dreams. I'm not nearly done. Much still to do.

But if my life were to end right now? I would not feel ripped off. I have come through some nasty shit, but at this point I am very, very fortunate. I am thankful for everyone and everything in my life, even my painful elbow (could it really be getting better?). For 31 years, I have loved and been loved by an amazing person who still makes me laugh every day. I have incredible friends, people I love and cherish, people who can count on me and whom I can count on. I have a good, seemingly stable job. I play in a band with some of my favourite people in the world. We make such wonderful sounds! (Shameless plug here—I don't do shame anymore.) I have a kitty with the softest fur in the world who likes to keep my lap warm.

I love all this, but if I were suddenly, or even over time, to cease to exist, I couldn't complain.

It's funny. This morning, some Bible people came to the door. I don't think they were Jehovah's witnesses. Probably just from one of the local Bible-based churches. I had a pleasant discussion with the young man who was the speaker. He probably doesn't meet too many scientifically minded Wiccans, especially not one standing at the doorway in her dressing gown (ring my bell and take your chances!). I gently ran rings around him logically. Like, when he asked how I knew that the Bible didn't come from god, I asked him how he knew that the Bhagavad Gita didn't come from god. And I said that while I could understand the appeal of wanting to live forever, I saw no reason to think that was so.

When I'm gone, I'm gone. If I may, I'll stick around for a while longer. But when the time comes, that's OK.


Breaking down, holding on

A weird thing is happening. Part of me is losing control. And part of me is simultaneously analyzing why it might be happening. I seem to be having half a nervous breakdown. The analytical part won't let me really do it. It's too busy analyzing.

It started after the gig on Thursday. We had a really good show, probably our best show to date and certainly the most fun. I love to play anyway, but it's definitely even more fun when you have an appreciative audience. I so appreciate that! But after a gig, there is post-gig time. It's a bit like Linus from Peanuts having "post-Christmas letdown." You have to get back to real life.

And real life is, well, real life. It's great to decide that the path you've been wandering around on, the one you love, is really your career path. It's another thing to make it work. Meanwhile, bills must be paid.

I was fine on Friday, as I recall. It felt like a Saturday, and that was cool. But on Saturday, I had one of those uncontrollable crying days. Not all day. But it kept happening. Part of the reason, maybe most of the reason that day, was that we published a couple of band photos online. I am happy that my band mates are so photogenic. That's good for the band! And frankly good for them. Unfortunately, I'm not so photogenic. And that's hard.

I know, I know. I'm a feminist. I'm not supposed to give such importance to my physical appearance. I should be proud of who I am and what I can do, and not be bummed at what I look like. Everyone gets old, and so far I don't look my age. But my inner high school girl doesn't listen to reason. And sometimes she gets hold of my emotions and my tear ducts.

I seemed to have shaken that off. I was fine yesterday. But today, after a decent day at work, I was watching a documentary about Blondie on YouTube. It's quite good. But right about the point where Chris Stein gets sick, I started losing it again. I don't think it was directly related to the video. I knew I should get away from my computer and go to the gym. I knew I should have done any number of things. Except to collapse on the kitchen floor, which is what I did. And never make it to the gym.

And there was that weird thing. I was analyzing, but I couldn't stop what was going on.

I don't have a propensity for depression, except situational. But I don't truly know what's causing this. The stupid appearance thing is certainly part of it. My kitty is not about to go, but she's on the final stretch. We just don't know how long it will last. The bathroom reno has been a bit of an ordeal.

And maybe more than anything is the post-show letdown. It will be a while before we play another show, and probably until we practise, because people are busy. That means I need to take responsibility for my own musical-ness. I'm so much better at schlepping to practice, playing gigs, and even tweeting up a storm than I am at doing my own practising and, probably most importantly, writing. If I'm going to say I'm a musician, then I'd better be a musician. That means working at it.

I don't think I'm actually in danger of having a breakdown, although the recent incidents are of some concern. I'm probably more in danger of doing nothing. And doing nothing is the surest way for me to get even more depressed. That's not a cycle I want to fall into.


The beauty of age?

So, a career in music. A band. Writing songs. Maybe more.

At my age? Who am I trying to kid?

This is a serious concern. It's a concern for trying to work in fashion as well. I am a woman of a certain age. People my age who are in either business have been in the business for a long time. They aren't just starting out. It's an uphill climb to get into music or fashion anyway, but when you're older, the slope is even steeper.

If when you're an older woman? Jeebus.

Neil Young just turned 67. By all accounts (my record for never seeing Neil play live is sadly intact), he blew the roof off Rogers Arena. People paid big bucks to see this jowly old dude get all incendiary with a black Les Paul.

The Who are on tour. So is Sir Paul McCartney. And Bruce Springsteen. Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan are, or were, on tour. They're both in their 70s. And of course soon we'll have huge shows from the Rolling Stones.

Can you think of any female musicians in the same situation?

Admittedly, there were few women of that stature in their (my) generation. Janis died a long time ago. I don't think we'll see Grace Slick on tour. Has Joni Mitchell made any appearances recently?

Carole King will be touring next year. Diana Ross too. Those are points of hope. Both of them are well older than I am. Joan Jett, who is a little younger than I am and still going strong, will be touring. Emmylou Harris is still active, although country music has always been kinder to its aging stars than rock.

And every profession is kinder to aging men than to aging women. Especially professions in which women are held to a very different appearance standard than men are.

I am fortunate to look younger than my years. Even when someone gets my age wrong, though, they're not going to guess 20s or even 30s. Those days are behind me.

I love music. I am passionate about music. There are always obstacles. I just have to overcome them. Or die trying? You can't fail if you never quit!


Whither V-dizzle?

Just as I predicted, getting dressed and made up, moving gear (yes, in that order—we have not yet played in a club big enough to have a green room), and finally hitting the stage took me out of a meh day into what was probably Lisa's Hotcakes' best show, or at least our most fun one to date. Playing guitar and singing are what I do. I thrive on making music, especially on stage.

We might have a show on New Year's Eve eve [sic] in Portland. Still working that out. We know we will have one in mid-January. But December is going to be quiet. Our singer will be performing in a musical revue (which Sweetie and I will attend), and December is just busy for everyone. Some kind of gift-giving holiday.

I will be finishing up my Merchandising Fashion course in the first week of December. I have not signed up for a course next term. If I were intent on finishing the program as soon as possible, taking time off would be foolish. But there does not seem to be a layoff from my day job coming my way. And there's that other thing.

The band. And not just the band, but music.

All my life, I have said that I could not make a living in the music business. And I have listened to others tell me not to go that way. I have listened to people who would say, lots of people do music for fun and keep their jobs. And truly, there is nothing wrong with that.

Unless it's wrong for you.

Until recently, it was easy to listen to such assurances. My earlier bands were OK, sometimes pretty good, but nothing that special. They had at least a few of their 15 minutes of fame and that was it. I occasionally wrote good songs. But I did not have the confidence to think that I could be one of the few to make music work for me. Now I have a lot more confidence. I have learned a lot over the years, and especially recently. I work both harder and smarter at writing songs. I am exploring avenues other than only the band that I love. And that band is far beyond our earlier efforts. Maybe our maturity actually works in our favour.

I am finally starting to overcome that toughest barrier of all: the worry that I am just deluding myself. There are people everywhere who delude themselves into thinking they're artists. Sometimes they work hard, sometimes they don't. There are, of course, actual artists. And then there are the ones who wish they had talent but really don't, and they're kind of pathetic. For a long time, I thought that was me, and I definitely never want to be pathetic. And I thought I had come to terms with it. But I never did. And maybe, just maybe, I was wrong all along.

It has taken me a long time to reach this point. And I don't feel confident about it every day. I have plenty of doubts. I have not and shall not quit my day job, the one that pays for things like studio time and musical instruments. Not yet anyway. But I have some focus now. I have to move fashion aside for the nonce. I have some songs to write. I have some learnin' to do, and not in school. And I have a band to get behind.

I hesitate to say "this is it." I'm afraid that over the course of my life, I have started many things that I did not finish. I don't have a good attention span. I have never been good at stick-to-itiveness. I lack discipline. But unlike other things, music has been with me all of my life. So maybe the reason I have started and dropped so many other things is that they just weren't right for me. And that music, which grabbed me early and has never let me go, is finally going to get its due.



Lisa's Hotcakes has a gig tonight. I don't usually get nervous about gigs anymore, but this one has me feeling a little nervous. We played a couple of weeks ago at a show that was basically some friends' band's show. Very low key for us. We had fun. This show is ours. We booked the venue. We assembled the bill. We have promoted this thing up the wazoo. And the place we're playing is kind of a hipster club. Seriously, guys in fedoras! The club is nothing fancy, and it's not like we expect any influential people to show up, but no bands in Vancouver play out very often, so this feels pretty important.

I know that the loading in and setting up will knock out some of the butterflies. And once we get on stage, I will feel differently. I will be on! A drink beforehand won't hurt. But really, it's being on stage, with my band, in front of people, that really makes everything OK. There's nowhere else I would rather be.

A lot of people have responded with a "yes" to our Facebook event. That doesn't mean very much. I click that I'm going to things, truly intending to, but sometimes stuff comes up and I don't make it. Still, I think we should have a good crowd, despite the fact that it is likely to be pouring rain (it's that time of year).

We're hoping we'll have some people there who have not seen us yet. And for those who have been faithful followers, we're introducing two new songs. Fun for us, fun for them! We have grown as a band since going through the studio recording process. These songs reflect that. Now if only I can make time to write more, we will keep on growing and getting better.

This will be our last show until next year. We all need December off for various and sundry reasons. That also makes it a big deal for us. We want this to be the best show ever! And to paraphrase Captain Picard, we will make it so.


Grow more, write more, suck more, succeed more

November is the cruellest month (pace T. S. Eliot). Or perhaps I should say Movember. As in men growing mustaches. Or moustaches. Or mustachios (my fave spelling—makes me think of the kind you twirl à la Snidely Whiplash). But really, just lip hair. Chin hair not allowed. So men go all Tom Sellick on us for a month to raise money for charity (I can't remember which). Who thought this was a good idea? I suppose there are some women who go for that mustache-only look, but I'm hard-pressed to think of any man who looks better that way than when shaven or sporting a beard (except a really long one). Fu-Manchu, guys? Go for it! I'll see you in December.

I always miss the memo on stuff. Like, apparently this month you're supposed to do Facebook updates with what you're thankful for each day. "Day 13: I am thankful that my kitty used her litter box." Actually, she didn't. She's in some distress due to various and sundry old-age conditions, and the basement is somewhat worse for wear because of it. But I'm thankful that she's still with us and still seemingly feeling OK, not in pain. Seriously, though, expressing gratitude for good things and (at least seemingly) bad things is a daily ritual for me. I just don't do it on Facebook.

November is also NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Someone came up with the notion that you're supposed to write an entire novel during November, working on it every day. I have no idea where this came from. There is all kinds of writing in me, but a novel is not among those kinds. Still, it's an exercise in writing discipline, and that's good.

This month is also NaBloWriMo, National Blog Writing Month, or something like that, which is there in case you missed NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month, which happened last month. Still with me? I mean, seriously, who starts this stuff? During November (or October, depending on which memo you got), you're supposed to blog every day. Every. Effin. Day. Whether you have something to write or not. Whether what you write is good or not. Quantity, not quality, I guess. Again, I understand. It's about discipline. Writers write every day. That's how they produce novels. Blogs, however, are most definitely not novels. Some people are great at posting every day. Others would be better off not doing so. Like me.

"But Mr. Ed will never speak unless he has something to say." I take my cue from the talking horse. It's not about the Muse. It's not about waiting for lightning to strike. But I've tried grinding out stuff on a regular basis, and some of it is definitely not worth publishing. So I would not inflict it upon you.

What I really need is NaSoWriMo, National Song Writing Month. No, make that National Song Writing Year. That's where I need my discipline. I ought to sit down every day and write for some block of time. Preferably when awake and alert. I haven't got there yet. If I do so, I won't write a hit song every time. I might only write fragments. I might write nothing worth keeping. But it's like exercise. The more you do something, the more you improve. I have to dare to suck so I can also write things that don't suck. Or even the occasional mansion-warmer.

It's OK to start in the middle of a month, right? And not talk about it? Oops, too late!

Best wishes on your novels and blogs and mustaches!



Someone asks what I do. I answer:

a) "I'm a software developer"
b) "I'm a fashion merchandising student"
c) "I'm a musician"

For me, all of the above are true. But which is the one I am most likely to say?

If you guessed (c), go to the head of the class.

(a) is what I do for a living. (b) is what I am doing in school. But (c) is who I am. It's how I see myself. And more and more, it's all I want to be.

When people ask that question, they're not usually asking who you are. They're not even asking what you do. They're asking what you do for a living, what you do for your primary income. Sometimes they will even phrase the question as "what do you do for a living." In many cases, what a person does for a living would also be their primary identity. But not in all cases. So really, it can be a problematic question. In my case, I appreciate what I do for a living because I like my job, I like to do it well, and I like my salary. But it feels irrelevant to me as an answer to a question about what I do, because asking what someone does is asking for at least a clue as to who they are.

Depending on who is asking, elaborating on "I am a musician" by saying that I play guitar and write songs for a rock band might earn me a dismissal. I'm not a trained musician. I didn't go to music school. I don't play for a symphony orchestra or even in a jazz combo. I can read music, but that's not what I do when I play rock and roll.

Saying you play rock and roll, unless you're at the level of someone like, say, Bono, is still somewhat akin to saying that you were an actor in Shakespeare's time. There's a reason the Globe Theatre was in Southwark, the disreputable south bank of the Thames. Even though rock music now rules much of the musical world, it's never going to get the respect that "real" forms of music get. (And thank goddess for that, because if it did it would cease to be rock music.)

Even though I have minimal formal training as a musician (do piano lessons when I was a child and trombone lessons in high school count?), I have a lifetime of experience. I have been playing and writing music since I was about nine. I have performed solo, in a duet, and in bands. I have played in original bands and cover bands. Original bands I have been in have had articles written about them and songs played on the radio. I have produced records.

My current band, Lisa's Hotcakes, is still a net consumer and not a producer of revenue. But we have been in existence for not even a year. We have played live several times. We have a show coming up next month and more in the works. We have just released our first recording, an EP called Love Hz, available as a digital download (not as cool a CD or especially vinyl these days, but still legitimate). We are a known quantity in certain circles around town, and slowly we are widening those circles.

I am more comfortable now with saying that I am a musician, or at least a guitar player and songwriter. It's not something I "identify as." It's what I am, because it's what I do. At times in the past, it has been more of a claimed identity than an actual one. It's all well and good to say you "identify as" something, but it's much better to actually be that something. There's a lot less 'splainin' to do. And the last thing I ever want to be is a poseuse.

Being a musician is what I have striven for, what I have worked for, and what I have achieved. But I am nowhere near done yet. I want the Hotcakes to keep doing better and better. You never know what will happen with a band, but we'll do our best. Beyond that, I want to expand my own musical horizons. I already write songs that aren't really right for the band, and I would like to turn that into a genuine songwriting career. That will require more writing, probably one or more co-writers to work with, and a lot of marketing. I would also like to produce music that is not my own. That will require even more work, possibly an internship and certainly a lot of learning. But the alternative is to wish that I had done all this. Much better to die knowing that you did or at least tried to do cool stuff rather than wishing you had.


Love Hz unbound

To stream the entire Love Hz EP by Lisa's Hotcakes:

"Don't Want You Back" is an eff-you song:

"Paralyzed" is a song about a woman in an abusive relationship from the point of view of a friend trying to help her:

Never quite sure what "Paradise" is about because Sweetie wrote it:

"Secrets" is about a friendship between two women:

You can download Love Hz for free (or the price of your choice) from our Bandcamp site.


I record, therefore I am

On Friday evening, October 12, my band Lisa's Hotcakes loaded equipment into a studio officially named the Hive Creative Labs but which everyone calls the Hive. We decided to record at the Hive with engineer Jesse Gander because every time we asked friends in bands for a recommendation, both the studio and Jesse came up. Among other things, he was said to be very fast, which we needed since we had booked only 20 hours and wanted to record four songs. Twenty hours might sound like a lot, but it's definitely not.

Thanks to our own preparation and Jesse's skill, we came out with five songs: a four-song EP called Love Hz and one bonus track. The EP is available for free on Bandcamp. Some people elect to pay us anyway. We send the bonus track to them.

I won't go into the whole process. It would not be interesting to anyone except musicians and recording studio geeks, of which I am both. It's demanding in a different way than playing live on stage. Our drummer and singer had never recorded songs before, and they came through with flying colours.

But please, listen, download, and share widely. We're a little band from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We do this for love. Someday maybe we'll do it for money, but at this point, we mostly want to be heard by as many people as possible.

I write software for a living. I am studying fashion merchandising because I love fashion but also with an eye toward practicality. But these days when someone asks me what I do, I say that I play guitar for Lisa's Hotcakes, or that I am a musician. Because even though I don't make my living playing music, a musician is what I am. It's the most "me" thing that I do. When I play, my guitar, my amp, and I become one. I play because I must. I sing because I must. I write songs because I must. And because there is nothing in the world I love more.



...does not make a blog audience's heart grow fonder.

I have been remiss! I haven't posted anything since the post about the Amanda Palmer experience. May I offer a couple of excuses?

One is that my high school class reunion was the weekend before last. Not saying which reunion it was, only that it ended with a zero. I had to fly all the way across the country and the border and then drive for a couple of hours to get there. I had been somewhat apprehensive. High school wasn't always the best time for me, and previous reunions had had their ups and downs. But this one was wonderful! Truly. And I reconnected with a woman who had always been a friend but now is among my besties. You know how much I value friendship.

Even the packed flights were OK. On one, I finished a song. On another, I read all of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. On the way back, I reread part of Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth. And got some much-needed sleep (sort of, it being airplane sleep).

Then this past weekend, I was in a recording studio with my band, Lisa's Hotcakes. Indeed, many days leading up to that weekend were taken up with rehearsals of various kinds and other related tasks (such as buying and changing guitar strings). We spent about 22 hours in the studio setting up, recording all the parts, and then mixing and mastering. That's hardly any time, but it's all we could afford right now. Fortunately, we were well prepared, and we were working with a great engineer, so we made very good use of the limited time. The result is a download-only EP called Love Hz, available for free (unless you want to pay) on our Bandcamp site. The initial response has been very encouraging!

Oh, and sprinkled in there were my Merchandising Fashion course and an assignment I finished at the last minute, since I am a horrible procrastinator. As well, I did a bit of volunteer work for Eco Fashion Week, and that's what is going to take up much of the rest of this week.

So I'll have to get back to you when I have time. I really want to. My brain thinks of all kinds of things to write about even when I don't have the time to sit down and compose a blog post.

One thing I've been thinking about came out of a post by someone whose blog I started following only recently. In her blog A Girl's Imagination, Lauren was thinking that her blog might lack focus. Well, I know mine does. It's a blog about whatever I like. Some people read those, especially if the writer is really good and/or funny, but it seems to me that it's usually a better idea to do a blog about one topic. So...should I split this blog into one about music, another about fashion (maybe restart my Tumblr blog, long wave, or continue one I did for my course assignment), perhaps one about politics and feminism? Or should I continue to be unfocused and call it being eclectic?


Dear Amanda

I shouldn't call you Amanda, I suppose. I don't actually know you. We're both musicians from Boston, but I left the city and moved to Vancouver long before you and Brian formed the Dresden Dolls. My band participating in the WBCN Rock 'n' Roll Rumble and your band winning it were almost 20 years apart!

I'm going to call you Amanda anyway. You bring that upon yourself by being so amazingly good with social media, especially Twitter. Really, I don't think anyone does it better. I'm astounded by how much time and effort you put into that and your Tumblr blog. And look what happens. You retweet someone's tweet and they're yours forever. Worth the effort, I'd say. Others should learn from you.

I went to your show at the Commodore tonight. Or technically last night, but I haven't gone to bed yet, so I'm calling it tonight. Just a few weeks ago, I had no plans to go. I had thought about going to see Bloc Party. I've been a Bloc Party fan for many years. I'm only a newly minted Amanda Palmer fan.

It all started with "Amandagate." First, the story of the amazing amount of money you raised on Kickstarter so you could make and distribute your new album independent of a record label. You asked for a hundred grand, and your fans ponied up 12 times as much. And then, the kerfuffle about inviting local musicians to play with you on stage for, what was it, beer, hugs, and high fives, or something like that. I already wrote about that and how I feel. At any rate, all of that caught my attention at a time when I had just returned to Twitter. I watched the video for "Want It Back" and was completely blown away by both song and visuals. Stil, I held off for several days before following you on Twitter. I wasn't sure I wanted to go down that path.

When I did follow, one of the first tweets I saw was that you were in New Orleans. I wrote that you ought to go to Chef Chris DeBarr's new restaurant, Serendipity. Not only had you already been there. You saw my tweet and wrote back to tell me you had been there and that Serendipity was "killer."

You had me.

I downloaded Theatre Is Evil and was even more impressed. The range from rocking hard to being quiet and intimate is quite startling, in a good way. Not many people can cover a range like that in one record. Maybe someone like Neil Young. That's good company.

Pretty soon I was buying a ticket for your show at the Commodore. Only one at first. My partner is not a fan. But she loves me, and she said that she would go with me, so I bought another ticket. Sadly, this evening, she had really bad stomach flu. She was in no shape to go to a show, so I got all dressed up and went by myself.

And you did it again. I tweeted, "Oui, c'est moi, all by myself @amandapalmer in a one-shoulder magenta dress and sparkly tights. #talkstostrangers" This was not long before you and the Grand Theft Orchestra took the stage. And you retweeted it! I was so touched by that! It's getting to me now as I write this.

This isn't a review of the show. I wasn't taking notes. I was a bit late arriving, so I'm afraid I caught only the end of Jherek's band. I'm sorry. I saw the few numbers that Chad and his band played. I sang along with everyone else to "Sweet Dreams" and "Don't Stop Believing while Ronald Reagan played. I saw the fruit! Since I was late, I missed the setup, but I definitely enjoyed the results. I didn't know Americans ever used the term "courgette"!

I have lots of pictures, so I know it happened.

And I saw your show. That's not really the right word for it. The Amanda Palmer experience? I'm not going to say that it changed my life, but it definitely made a huge impact. Loved loved loved it. Love how you give so much on stage. Love the playfulness, yes, even the iPhone pile and the soccer tits. Love the anger and the pathos. I can understand why you didn't play "The Bed Song," but there was still plenty in the set to really move me, like "Trout Heart Replica" and "Grown Man Cry." At one point you hopped off the stage and walked right by me while you were singing, and then walked back through the crowd. I knew you usually ended up crowd surfing at your shows. What I didn't know was that I was going to be in the right place at the right time. I helped support you. I kept that long train aloft as you surfed back stage left. I wasn't on stage like some people, but I was part of the show. The experience. You let me touch you. You touched me.

It was a wild and crazy and beautiful experience. And not only was I late arriving. I also slipped out a bit early. I had to take SkyTrain home, and I wasn't sure when the last one would run. As well, my aging feet were killing me. And I have band practice tomorrow, so I really shouldn't be up now. I don't know how much longer you played, whether you really had to stop at 12:30 or not. But I was wonderfully filled up. I couldn't party anymore.

I held it together until I got out of the cab in front of my house and looked up at the full moon. I started crying then. I'm a witch, and I celebrate the full moon. It marks the boundary of a cycle for me. There was something about seeing that beautiful moon after having been part of your experience that just grabbed me deep inside and didn't let go. I wasn't sad. I was overwhelmed.

I'm pretty sure the show we saw was unique. It was all about the confluence of events that night. I would have shared it with those around me, but they were doing their own thing. So it was just me and you, and that was fine.

You shared so much of yourself tonight. You share so much of yourself every day on Twitter. Even so, I'm not crazy. I know that I don't really know you. But I wish I did.

Thank you. Maybe you did change my life. I guess we'll see.


- Véronique


Top Chef Canada season 2.1

In July of this year, a restaurant called Fable opened in the intimate space that had been vacated by Refuel, next door to Maenam. The man behind Fable was Trevor Bird, a contestant on season two of Top Chef Canada. Despite having less experience than many of the competitors, Trevor was doing well. Some thought that perhaps he had won the competition, which comes with a $100,000 prize and a GE Monogram kitchen worth $30,000.

Not so. Trevor came in second. But he still managed to open the restaurant, working with Curtis Luk, a fellow competitor, as his chef de cuisine.

Sweetie and I first went to Fable at the end of June, about three weeks after it had opened. We weren't blown away, but we were impressed with the quality of both the food and the service. The highlight of that meal was a slow-cooked salmon that melted in your mouth. And the small room was very welcoming—lively but not too noisy, with an open kitchen. We saw Trevor as soon as we walked in, and Curtis was hard at work behind the bar.

That first meal was only a day after I had sliced off the tip of my finger on the Friday of Canada Day weekend. My right ring finger sported a huge puffy bandage. Our second trip to Fable was two and a half months later. As the host greeted us, he said immediately, "How is your finger?" Now that is a great memory! One of the servers asked as well. How could we not feel like family at that point?

The second meal was outstanding from start to finish. We left feeling that we had found a replacement for the late, much lamented Cru, which had been our favourite place for a celebration or just for a great dinner.

One sig is almost legible!
So even though we had been to Fable only recently, when I saw a tweet about a "Top Chef Dinner" in which Trevor, Curtis, Trista Sheen, and Jimmy Stewart would each be responsible for one course of a four-course dinner, I lept to make a reservation. Trista, now executive chef at Crush Wine Bar in Toronto, had been one of our favourite contestants. Jimmy, who is the chef on the highly regarded Roaming Dragon food truck here in town, had gone a long way in the competition. We figure this was an opportunity not to be missed.

We were greeted by Trevor and his hosts at the door with a "welcome back." At our table were the menus for the evening, autographed by all of the chefs. We opted for the full monty—the meal with wine and beer pairings.

Trista opened with Scallops Ceviche served in a large scallop shell. The scallops, combined with grapes and yellow zucchini, with house-made fingerling potato chips on the side, paired with a Pinot Grigiot-style wine, made for a wonderful starter.

Jimmy followed with Duck Salad, made with heirloom tomatoes, duck confit, peaches, cucumber, and nasturtium flowers, with a lime dressing and a smear of pesto. The presentation was beautiful. The individual components were bright and fresh. The duck was very tasty! But the dish didn't quite come together, and the paired wine, a Riesling-Gevurztraminer blend, did not really help. We still enjoyed the course.

Curtis had taken the main. The "Red Braised" Beef Short Rib served with chestnuts, Asian greens, and rice pasta, was outstanding! And the Burrowing Owl 2008 Merlot that was paired with it might be the best Merlot I've ever tasted. Together, this made for a truly memorable course.

Trevor finished with dessert. This had made us nervous, because dessert had been the bane of Trevor's existence on the show. But the Bacon Apple Tart with Driftwood Farmhand Ale ice cream, paired with more Farmhand Ale, laid our fears to rest. The tart was tart, with just hints of bacon, and worked well with the ice cream. Despite the shared ingredient, the ale might not have been the best match, but it still worked reasonably well.

We couldn't help but do our best imitation of season two judges Mark McEwan and Shereen Arazm. We agreed that Curtis had won the night and would have even without the superb Merlot. We liked Trista's ceviche second best, followed closely by Trevor's tart and Jimmy's salad, but really, every course was a winner.

Curtis always seems to be busy, and Jimmy was occupied, but Trevor and Trista were doing a bit of mingling. Trista came by our table, and we chatted for a bit between courses. We were thrilled! She seems like a very nice person, and we certainly respect her skills in the kitchen. We've been thinking we should visit Toronto, maybe next summer, and Crush Wine Bar would definitely be a priority destination.

The Top Chef Canada dinner was a great idea and a very special evening, especially for anyone who had watched the show faithfully as we had. And once again, we felt that Fable was a place where we belong. From front of house to the kitchen, that's the kind of great job they're doing. We will surely be back before long to see what Trevor's fall/winter menu is like.



People use their blogs for various things. I don't usually use mine to let out all my inner turmoil, but occasionally I do. That's what the post the other day was about. There's no real crisis. I just have to figure out a few things.

There is only so much time in a day, right? So, priorities, in only one of several possible orders:
  • My day job, which pays the bills and funds other activities
  • My band, Lisa's Hotcakes, and all things musical
  • Fashion merchandising school, and all things fashion and style related
  • Sweetie
  • My friends, and social activities in general
That's not all, of course. I have to make time for buying, preparing, and eating food; exercise; household chores; shopping; at least a little downtime; and no doubt several more things I'm forgetting at the moment.

Oh yeah, like sleep. Those who say "I'll sleep when I'm dead" will get there sooner than they wish.

Ideally, my main activities would be day job plus goal. As in day job plus music. Or day job plus fashion. Trouble is, I have day job plus music plus fashion. Plus all the rest.

I've been working on life after software for some time. I earned a certificate in counselling skills a few years ago. I have no regrets about the time I spent doing that, and I appreciate the skills I learned, but I decided against going to graduate school, and in this province you can't be a Registered Clinical Counsellor without a Master's degree. I took courses toward a certificate in technical writing, thinking I should be very, very practical in my choice of post-software careers. But I realized that after software, I did not want to go anywhere near high tech. It has been very good to me, and I am most appreciative, but before I retire and/or check out, I'm going to do something I love.

So I made a huge shift. I started working toward yet another certificate, this time in Fashion Merchandising. I have a passion for fashion (you knew I had to write that, yes?). I am enjoying my studies so far, even when there are a lot of assignments. Despite my age and lack of experience, I think I will be able to find or make myself a niche in the industry. I'm already networking and will do much more.

But there's that darned music thing. My focus is split. The rock and roll bug bites hard. Every time I tell myself it's never going to work, it pops back up and says, yeah, but it might. It works for some people. Maybe it will work for you.

You know how long ago that started? I was 10 years old (shhhh) when I saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I didn't want to hold their hands (well, except maybe George's). I wanted to be them. Ten years old. That's kinda formative. It's as much or more a part of me as anything else.

A passion for fashion. A passion for music. I'm working on both. Am I hedging my bets? Or really, don't they fit together? We are a rather stylish band. Music and fashion (and occasionally anti-fashion) mesh very well. Even though I am not an aspiring designer, fashion is still a creative outlet for me—styling myself for now, hopefully styling others later. And music is my most obvious creative outlet. I should not try to separate one passion from the other. It's all art in some way.

So here's what imma do. Imma keep those balls in the air. Despite the weariness of age, despite pain in my left arm that's starting to worry me even more. I know how to juggle (for reals, although only three balls). I can keep these balls moving.


Faint hope

They say you never forget your first love.

Years ago, I put a great deal of time and effort and money into becoming successful playing rock and roll. Nothing in the world was better for me than music. I wasn't quite sure what "successful" would have been, but it would not have involved a day job. It would have meant playing music all the time, even if that meant making only enough money to get by and continue playing music.

It wasn't a dismal failure, but it was a failure nonetheless. Or maybe a learning experience. I didn't have the chops, or the ability, or the creativity, or the drive, or the persistence, or the je ne sais quoi. And I thought I had learned my lesson. I didn't want to stop playing music. But I knew better than to try to "make it."

I was fine for many years playing music only for myself. At least I thought I was. But I got involved in Girls Rock Camp Vancouver, and then Ladies Rock Camp in Portland. I met so many female musicians! I thought I had left having a band behind long before, but I started getting itchy.

I wasn't alone. Sweetie and I had played in bands together back in the day. In fact, it's how we met, so music has always been a major part not only of our lives but of our lives together. We saw that our friends were playing in bands or jamming or both, and we wanted some of that. We jammed with a few drummers and had tons of fun. And we dared to think that maybe we could form a band again.

We got together with one of the women from Vancouver whom we had met in Portland, a bass player who had started to play drums as well. We played some covers. We played some originals. I started writing more. So did Sweetie. We really loved how playing together felt, and we realized we might actually have a good sound. We went looking for a singer, and the other Vancouver women we had met in Portland wanted to try out. The result was so good that we didn't even say, "We'll get back to you." All of us said, "When is our next practice?"

And thus, Lisa's Hotcakes.

Spring chicken time is far behind Sweetie and me. Our band mates are younger but no longer kids either. We all have jobs and lives. We started the band to have fun, and we wanted to take it seriously but keep it casual. But as time went on and we felt better and better about the material and the sound, the goalposts moved a bit. And maybe a bit more.

Among us all, I think it's worst for me. It's like having a second chance with my first love. It's so tantalizing. The dreams and fantasies come thick and fast.

Dreams can be dangerous. They mess with your head. They can make you forget about reality. Sure, people turn dreams into reality all the time. I've been pretty good at that in some ways. But many a dream has been dashed against the jagged rocks of real life. Sometimes we know about the starving artists after they're dead. Mostly we know about the few who have enough to eat.

What is the difference between someone who achieves "success," who manages to play music for a living, and someone who doesn't? Talent? Effort? Persistence? Confidence? Clever marketing? Courage? Willingness to take risks? Being crazy enough to go up against the odds?

Even at my age, I have to ask myself these questions. I'm good at my job, and let's remember what pays for recording studio time, not to mention my wardrobe, dinners out, and a retirement nest egg. I'm doing well in my fashion studies. I really do love fashion, and I want to prepare for a realistic career after I am no longer doing software development.

But I can't get away from it. I'm truly happy and thriving when I'm involved in making music. Last night, when no one else could make rehearsal, I played my guitar for almost two hours. I didn't even realize where the time had gone. After all these years, there is still nothing I have found that is better for me than my first love. So why have I not made music my life's work? Why do I waste my time envying those who have rather than do what they had the courage and determination to do?


For love or money

Should I become Amanda Fucking Palmer's 650,248th Twitter follower? The number will probably have increased by the time I post this. She calls herself that, in case you don't know. She even signs things "afp."

I've never been a fan. I had left Boston long before the Dresden Dolls came on the scene, and when I heard them, their indie cabaret pop wasn't really my cup of Earl Grey. We (Lisa's Hotcakes) did take our cover of the Psychedelic Furs' "The Ghost in You" from a live performance by the Dresden Dolls rather than from the Furs (we re-electrified it). Occasionally, I would see videos from her solo career, which I liked better, but not as well as all the other stuff I listened to. I thought the video for "Map of Tasmania" was more silly than provocative.

And then I heard about her raising an astounding $1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter to produce her new album (on her own record label), followed by her call for local "professional-ish" musicians to rehearse and then play a couple of songs at each stop on the tour, to be paid in beer, hugs, and something else (not money). Union musicians went crazy, and a lot of other people felt that after having raised over a million dollars, the least she could do is pay for extra string and horn players.

While I was looking for details, trying to figure out how I felt about all this, I came upon the first release from the well-funded album Theatre Is Evil by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, a song and video called "Want It Back."

It's fucking incredible:

First, the song. There are only four chords, a pattern that repeats through the whole song, but there's louder, softer, more space, less space. It doesn't sound like the same pattern over and over. In a couple spots, you can hear Palmer smiling and giggling ever so slightly as she sings, clearly having a ton of fun.

The song seems to have both a refrain and a chorus. The refrain is brilliant:
Doesn't matter if you want it back,
You've given it away, you've given it away
It doesn't matter if you want it back,
You've given it away away away away away away
Like all lyrics, they actually sound much more brilliant when sung than when read.

And then there's a sort of coda:
I will let you go if you would let some
I will let you go if you would let somebody
I will let you go if you would let somebody love you
I will let you go if you would let somebody love you like
I will let you go if you would let somebody love you like I do.
Like I do, like I do.
I love that.

And then there is the video. Wow. The lyrics also work better when they're written in stop-motion animation all over everything—Palmer's naked body, the bed, a book, other people, the walls. It's really engaging. And then the end with the heart coming out of blackness, which fits so well with that coda. If you haven't watched it, you should. My description can't do it justice.

I'm still not an Amanda Fucking Palmer fan. I'll have to listen to more of the album. I suppose I might become one, but her cult following really seems to be an actual cult. I mean, fans (orignially short for "fanatics") can be kind of weird anyway, but at least some of these people seem to worship her. I worship neither deities nor human beings. But I definitely love that song.

I say it's a mainstream breakout waiting to happen. I don't know if she has any real marketing behind her. She seems to disdain it. But she periodically gets herself free publicity by doing something controversial. This latest series of events might cause the breakthrough. Probably a lot more people have at least heard her name by this point, even if they hate her.

I don't hate her. The musicians' union is for people who play professional gigs. Those musicians might actually have a degree from Berklee College of Music (most people seem to drop out). They have training, serious chops, and they should be paid for what they do.

Rock and roll has always been a completely different world. Rock bands play free gigs. If you're lucky, you get a cut of the door (we've actually been paid some for two out of four gigs, so I consider us pretty lucky). Or maybe you make enough to cover expenses. If you continue to do well, your cut of the door gets bigger, and eventually you play for a guarantee. But you're not going to get rich. Pop stars get rich. The day of fabulously wealthy rock bands is gone. Success means you can keep your head above water without having to do anything (that you don't want) except make music.

Amanda Palmer makes art of all kinds. She tends to do some things for little or no money. She raised plenty for her album, but tours cost a lot. She is not rich. The union musicians have a point, but I don't think it really applies here. This is about fans who willingly go to rehearsal, show up for the gig, and are happy with their hugs and beer. And there will still be all the regular gigs for the pros. That's just the kind of career she has.

If I ever get into a similar situation (doubtful), I might approach things differently. But from here, I totally understand about playing just because you love to play. And if any of the musicians I admire asked me to sit in for a night, I wouldn't even care if they gave me beer. But a hug would be nice.

650,318 followers. Increased by 70 since I started writing this post. And none of them are me. Yet.


My cup runneth over

I remember answering a questionnaire a while back. One question it asked was whether I was feeling overwhelmed by information or whether I liked having all that to work through. I chose the latter.

I'm not so sure now. I might have hit the wall.

Tomorrow, I start a course called Merchandising Fashion, the lowest-numbered course in the Fashion Merchandising certificate program. I hope I'm ready! After this past week, I have my doubts.

You see, it's New York Fashion Week, the biggest show this side of the pond. It started with Fashion's Night Out last Thursday and continued through dozens and dozens of Spring/Summer 2013 collections. I'm supposed to be paying attention. I'm supposed to be looking for trends. But my RSS feed keeps piling up, and I just don't have the time to go through each one (many of which require that I click through). So I have seen very few photos from the S/S 13 collections. Not a great way to start a school year!

It's not just Twitter's fault, but it's largely Twitter's fault. Or rather, let's be honest, my fault for having two Twitter accounts that I'm following pretty closely.

I think the Lisa's Hotcakes account is important. @LisasHotcakes doesn't have many followers yet, but that takes time. Meanwhile, I'm trying to tweet interesting things and get retweeted from time to time. And I'm following musicians, bands, promoters, clubs, and radio stations. That's a lot of info.

My personal account, @v_diz, is for pretty much everything else I write about in my blog. I'm following lots of handles having to do with fashion, as well as feminism, food, politics, news, and friends. There is little overlap between the two accounts. Again, I don't have a lot of followers yet, but I do want to tweet at least a few interesting things a day. I hope they're interesting anyway, or at least weird or funny or catchy. I'm definitely no Sherman Alexie.

Of course I haven't given up Facebook, but I do find that I'm skimming. I haven't paid attention to my mostly-fashion Tumblr in weeks. And Sweetie noticed that (until today) I hadn't written any blog entries here for a while.

One thing I need to do to help the situation is the reduce the duplication. I've tried to figure out whether I like a site's Twitter feed or RSS feed better and to follow only one. I have to do the same with Facebook. If I'm getting band tweets, perhaps I don't need that band's updates on my timeline.

Still, there's no question that adding Twitter to the mix has knocked things off balance. I have to find some kind of balance again. And possibly to make things worse, those of us studying fashion are encouraged to have a Pinterest board on which to pin things that inspire us. So far, I've stayed away, but how long can that last?

To live and die

I was listening to the first Raincoats album, and I went to Wikipedia to get some info. I read this in the entry: "[Kurt] Cobain invited them to play on the tour Nirvana planned for the UK in April, but he died a week before the tour began."

"He died." I felt anger well up in me. He didn't fucking die. "Die" sounds like being taken by a disease in a hospital bed or maybe being killed in a car crash. Die? Don't bloody sanitize it! He didn't just die. He fucking blew his brains out.

And I felt anger because he did that. He took Kurt Cobain away from us, away from everyone. He took Nirvana away.

Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day. And right after I felt that anger, I started thinking that even though the feeling was understandable, it should not stop there. What I needed was some compassion.

Because Kurt really did die in the sense I wrote above. A disease took him. He suffered from clinical depression and gods know what else. He didn't ask for that. He might not have dealt with it very well, but he tried. No one was in his head when he made his plan. No one was in his head when he squeezed the trigger. But it's impossible to imagine him doing that unless he was in incredible pain, and that this was the only way he could see to end it.

I've never experienced pain like that. I've never formed a plan. But I have thought plenty about leaving prematurely. There were times when things were bad and I thought that my being gone would make things easier for those I loved. Really, I thought that way. There are still times when I think that I should declare an end. Ironically, sometimes that happens because things are so good. I fear the possibility of things going wrong outside my control.

Stupid, I know. But we are not always logical creatures.

Victim-blaming is no good. But when victim and perpetrator are one and the same, feelings get complicated. And yet I want to err on the side of compassion, see the victim, not the perp. No one shoots dope because they already feel good. They do it to take away pain. No one takes their own life unless that life has become intolerable, for whatever reason.

Kurt died, 18 years ago. It makes me angry. It makes me really sad. But it also makes me feel compassion. I understand the impulse. I understand the need to stop hurting.

Nothing will stop someone once they are determined, but there is so much any of us can do before it reaches that point.


Bluebird of distraction

I might have made a huge mistake. I rejoined Twitter.

It's been several years since I've had an account. Back then, everything was primitive, and the whale of system overload appeared more often than we wished. I can't remember how many tweets I had posted when I decided to pull the plug.

Ever since Lisa's Hotcakes (@LisasHotcakes), however, I knew I would have to take the bluebird plunge again. More than the Hotcakes, I blame my friend Chef Chris (@chefcdb) in New Orleans. I wrote to find out how he was doing during Isaac, and after assuring me that the worst that happened to him were power outages, he told me that he had opened a Twitter account. That led to me going back on again (@v_diz) and then creating the Lisa's Hotcakes account as well.

I know it's wrong, but I'm weak.

The "user experience" is so much better now. Retweets are built in, although I notice many people still doing those the old-fashioned way. The overall layout is rather nice, and everything you need is pretty easy to find (except for "find people to follow").

One thing that surprised me was how much I missed that format. Being afflicted with a certain level of ADHD, I have always found blogging to be much more suited to my writing style than any longer format. I can't even read long articles online! I also write songs, which are even shorter. And now I'm back to 140 or fewer characters! And I find it's a pleasing way to mouth off in a way that I don't do on Facebook or here.

So far, I've posted a few feminist tweets, a bunch of music tweets, a few on the Quebec election (#QC2012), some comments about Michelle Obama's wonderful speech at the Democratic National Convention (#DNC2012), and some fashion bits. I'm finding personal friends to follow as well as news outlets of various kinds and a few people I wouldn't mind knowing, like Neko Case (@NekoCase). I've retweeted a few things I found interesting. I'm hash tagging up a storm. I'm back in the swing of things on two accounts.

Time sink? Oh yeah. It's bad. Tweeting is so quick that it feels like no time at all. But like pennies, those minutes add up. Still, I'm hoping it will be good for the band and interesting for me. We shall see how it goes this time.

If you follow me or the band or both, I'll do my best to be entertaining.


Rock of aging

What a drag it is getting old
("Mother's Little Helper" by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards)

Mick and Keef probably know a bit more about that now than they did when they wrote the song. I'm not as old as they are, but I'm not that far behind. I know a bit more about getting old than I once did. And yep, it sucks. But as my former therapist says, it's better than the alternative.

Given my age, I really have very little to complain about. I'm generally healthy. I don't have any debilitating conditions. I am not suffering. My life is quite good.

Still, all is not copasetic. I have a problem: tendonitis. Tennis elbow, to be exact, although I don't play tennis. I realize that sounds minor. But remember one thing: I am a guitarist.

Playing guitar and tendonitis in the elbow do not mix. Neither do tendonitis and hauling your own gear.

I had it first in my right elbow. I blamed excessive mousing for that, because I have had repetitive strain injuries in that arm in the past. I ignored it, and it has pretty much gone away (although not entirely). But curiously, the left elbow really kicked in a few weeks ago, pretty much out of nowhere. Can't blame mouse use for that. My massage therapist says it's from playing guitar. And here I was joking with someone that, given how little I practise and play, I couldn't possibly injure myself!

Maybe I need to play more, not less. Like doing exercise. But once you get an injury, often you have to stop doing what you need or want to be doing or else it won't heal. I do tend to ignore minor complaints like this and hope they will just go away over time, as seems to have happened with my right elbow. But the left feels pretty bad—the elbow as well as muscles above and below. Just doing something like pulling a plug that sticks out of an electrical socket hurts, and I can feel the lack of strength in my hand and arm while doing it.

Lisa's Hotcakes rehearsed last night. I didn't have any problem playing a set's worth of material. But it's a little scary. It's not like I make my living from playing guitar, as in making money to live off. But "living" is more than money. For me, living and playing guitar kind of go together. I've been playing since I was 15 years old. Not being able to play would be devastating for me.

And we have a gig coming up on September 8, and only a little over a month later a recording session booked. Somehow this has to get better without my doing what I probably ought to do to help it.

Sweetie, inveterate interweb searcher, found some good stretches. The massage therapist gave me her advice, mostly involving ice packs. I will do what I have to do.

So anyway, that's why I can't help you move. Sorry!


Winter is coming

How does a woman enamoured of light and airy summer frocks deal with the onset of autumn and winter, also known as the rainy season? By shopping, of course! My cool and cold weather wardrobe is seriously depleted. Really! It comes from loving summer dresses more than the kinds of things you need to keep warm. So fall/winter shopping is a necessity. I have a high school class reunion to go to in October!

This past weekend, Sweetie and I were in Seattle. On Sunday, a friend wanted to meet for brunch and then go shopping. I said I was always interested in local designers, and quite passionate about sustainable fabrics. I told her that when I found both, that was the jackpot. Well, she found the jackpot.

The shop is called Horseshoe. The local designer is called Prairie Underground. Horseshoe carries that label along with several others. I looked through dresses and tops, and I kept seeing "Viscose" and "Tencel" and other sustainable fabrics. Woo hoo! It was such a pleasure to see cute designs made from fabrics I wouldn't feel bad about wearing. I tried on a gathered grey dress, but even with the gather it was too straight for my curve-less body. I tried on a silk wrap dress just because I could. If I had felt like dropping a couple hundred and change, it was really a very nice dress. I bought a dark green long-sleeved top ("Bellatrix" from Three Dots), my first actual fall purchase. It was too flattering and went too well with my peach skirt (and probably others) to resist.

Horseshoe also carries Butter London nail lacquer, which I have not seen in Canada. Butter sells products that are "3 free"—no formaldehyde, no toluene, and no DBP (dibutyl phthalate), all of which are toxic. I bought a purplish shade called Queen Vic for winter use.

The shop is on a street where a Sunday farmers market is held. A huge market. I thought the Trout Lake Farmers Market was pretty big, but this one seemed bigger. Lots of beautiful organic food! And off to the side was a craft market with some particularly nice jewellery and accessories.

I told you that shoes are the weakest link in my quest to support sustainble garment manufacturing. I'm afraid I made a stop at DSW. I needed some new ankle boots, and I found some nice ones from BCBG for about half off.

I've probably also mentioned that boots are one of the things that get me through the bleak midwinter. Boots, tights, cute dresses, and nice top-skirt combinations, maybe even tunic and leggings, although I don't do that as often these days. I needn't despair that summer is gone! There are actually a lot more options in winter.

And watch out! Thanks to Bed Bath & Beyond, I have become dangerous. I now have a door- or wall-mount shoe rack that holds 36 pair of shoes! More than I own! At this point, anyway. You know what they say about nature abhoring a vacuum, and I think empty shoe spaces might count as that.