“Land You Love” should make us all proud – no matter your political stripe

In an excerpt from the book Stephen Harper by John Ibbitson, the author writes “[W]hen Harper is really angry at you, he’s very calm. He looks you straight in the eye and tells you how you’ve failed him, and if you are a faithful follower, you simply want to die. The state beyond that is even worse. He simply cuts you out. He doesn’t speak to you, doesn’t reply to your messages, freezes you out of meetings. At this point, you should be pursuing a new career opportunity.”

Although this remark may seem biased in a certain direction, when read in its entirety, the article is outrightly neutral; a seemingly balanced analysis of the man that is our Prime Minister. The article begins with “He is a lion in autumn, weaker than in his prime, but still a force of nature. He faces his fifth, and perhaps final, test as national leader. But in a way, the result won’t matter. Whether Stephen Harper wins or loses the general election of October 19 is moot. He has already reshaped Canada. And Canada will not easily be changed back.”

This is inevitably true, and while not a glowing appraisal of the man, it certainly hits the point on the head.

In the last few days (at the time of writing, Vimeo stated it was 5 days ago) Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde released a song entitled “Land You Love”. The song is a plea to citizens to “Please visit VOTETOGETHER.CA and vote to avoid another tragic Harper government”, with lyrics containting a plethora of the sadder truths from the last decade of Conservative rule: the missing and murdered aboriginal women who are “forsaken, forgotten and lost” and the Harper Government’s insistence on omnibus bills where issues are “hid in their bills, pushed through and hushed up”.

The song features 12 Canadian musicians, with layered guitars, piano, and shakers, singing together and creating a big, folksy sound like you might expect to hear at a house party. The voices are inviting with all the many lines to sing and harmonies you can take. The video is fun to watch, with a split screen and gimmicks involving guitars and sparkles.

However accessible and appealing the song may be, though, I suggest to you that the real beauty in the song is not in the music, the video, or even in the lyrics alone.

The deepest nuance of the piece is not in the use of darkness and light to represent despair that can become hope. It’s not in the cross-screen sharing of guitars between guitarists Adam Hogan and Brandon Scott showing the interconnectedness of the east and the west. It’s not even in the catchy motive or the words that make up the chorus, which, between the two, make you to just need to sing along.

No, the deepest beauty in the song is the bridge between the artists’ craft and their deep appreciation and respect for their rights. Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde sing this song despite a history of Stephen Harper wreaking havoc on the lives of those who speak out against him. They engage in their right to freedom of expression irrespective of any consequences that should fall if the Conservatives are reelected.

And with a history of Harper’s blame and disregard for the arts, it certainly appears to be a risk they did indeed run. Consider people like Federal scientist, Tony Turner, who was “put on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation for creating a politically charged protest song about ousting Conservative Leader Stephen Harper”. Consider the cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Company – cuts which were accompanied by Harper’s assertion that the company’s ratings were floundering. The CEO of the CBC-Radio Canada, Hubert Lacroix, has publicly stated this is untrue and that “I’m going to tell you it’s not because of our ratings that we have a problem at CBC-Radio Canada”.

So amongst this backdrop, where artists have every right to think they might be the next on the chopping block for Harper, to hear “Land You Love” is moving. In the very execution of their plea, they show us what it means to have a right of freedom of expression. They show us what it means to speak up for what they believe in. 

They show us how important so many of their rights are: the freedom of conscience; the freedom of thought, belief and opinion; and the freedom to vote. No matter your political stripe, I don’t know how you can say that Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blond are, in this moment, anything other than absurdly, wonderfully, pride-inducingly Canadian.

Source: exclaim.ca

Source: exclaim.ca

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That Time I Tried To Impress Chief Justice McLachlin (Key Word: “Tried”)

I come today with a heart, mind, and soul that is heavy with embarrassment.  What I have to tell you today was…well frankly, it was never supposed to be this way.  Things were originally so much different in my mind when I approached this day in my life.  Here goes.

In June of 2014, right around the time I took to such regular self-mutilation it stopped appearing accidental and started resembling more and more a cry for help, I was asked to sing the national anthem at the opening plenary for the Canadian Bar Association’s Canadian Legal Conference.  I was filled with much trepidation.  Singing is a part of my life I take with no grains of salt.  I have such great respect for the discipline that I didn’t pursue it as a career as I believed I didn’t have what it took, a strange cross between fear of striking out and sacred holding of the value and importance of song.  It’s a little dramatic but hey, you knew what you were getting into when you started reading this blog today.

One of the main reasons I was worried about performing was because of the people I had this strong inclination might be in attendance – people from my firm, law friends who had never heard me perform before, members of the judiciary – aka the “celebrities” of the legal world.  There just might be judges from benches all across Canada, there might be Supreme Court of Canada judges, there might even be Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin.  The notion of singing in front of Bev was the most nervewracking notion since the last time I thought I was experiencing the most-nervewracking-thing-possible (probably having to appear befor my first Supreme Court Judge on an uncontested application and say nine whole words).

Bev, in a charming suit and very pleased to be surrounded by many leather bound books and in a fancy room probably smelling of rich mahogany.

Bev, in a charming suit and very pleased to be surrounded by many leather bound books and in a fancy room probably smelling of rich mahogany.

Anyway, hyperbole aside (sortof), it did indeed turn out Bev was going to be there.  My anxiety.  My LORD the anxiety.  I constructed a whole, tightly wound world of stress and preparation involving much cardio, much practicing to the chagrin of my downstairs neighbours, and I stopped eating sugar and drinking wine (sortof).  I had the perfect sweet-yet-adult dress.  I learned all four verses of the Ode to Newfoundland.  I planned out my humble yet confident response to when Bev would say to me, “Congratulations on a nice performance”: thank you, Chief Justice (while smiling). My moment was here where my two worlds would come together!

On the morning of the conference, I woke up bright and early with lots of time to eat my smoothie, wake up my neighbours with some vocalises, and practice my response to Bev a few more times.  (I, of course, also had a longer version of my gracious thanks for an alternative scenario in which she wasn’t too busy to ask me about my background in music and where I went to law school.)

Bright and early!  Sorry downstairs neighbours

Bright and early! Sorry downstairs neighbours

Perfect dress from the Gap, beige flats for max posture from Ann Taylor (again), awkward posing (all natural)

Perfect dress from the Gap, beige flats for max posture from Ann Taylor (again), awkward posing from yours truly.

So off I went.  In true soprano “it’s-vital-that-I-rehearse-in-this-space” behaviour, after my sound check I took it upon myself to wander about the Convention Centre and found a “secluded” spot to do an abundance more vocalises.  As I emerged from my secret soprano-proof hideaway, a myriad of conference organizers emerged from some room and applauded my efforts.  I practiced my humility.  Oh, that is so sweet!  Thank you so much!  Slash OH YEAH, I am totally ready for my moment in the sun.

After some introductory remarks (I have no idea what they were about…introductions and shit) and some further introductory remarks, they called my name.  Off I went, RIGHT IN FRONT OF C.J. BEV.

I stepped up to the microphone; took a nice, balanced, open breath to the depths of my stomach; reminded myself where my hard palate was and to make sure to add depth and core to my sound; and thought my favourite cue one last time – sing like you’re an opera singer (‘cuz you know how) – and we were off to the races.

For a bunch of really hungover lawyers, people were generally pleased.  Afterwards, people were quite keen to chat with me – what made me go to law school, am I actually crazy, generally a job well done.  One guy from Vancouver really gassed me up by telling me he “just really likes multidisciplinary people” and if I ever wanted to work out west, he would set me up (like what kind of big dog are you?  you just hand out careers at the CBA Conference?  #HarveySpectre).

I was milling about the main, open forum area looking at posters and chatting with people when my moment came: there she was, like a stoic celebrity!  She was with these two gentlemen and she was coming right towards me.  I didn’t even have time to fix my hair when the first one said, “a job really well done”, and the second said “yes, you do have quite a gift” (or they said something like that, I don’t really remember because I was a bit busy focussing on CJB to really hear them).  I muttered my well-practiced gracious thanks and then….

She walked right past me.

She didn’t even look at me.

I actually turned square on my heel, looked behind me, and there she was – gone.

I…I…I started to laugh so hard I had to clamp my hand over my mouth and try to hold my breath to stop myself laughing out loud (I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard me laugh, but it is a borderline manical witch laugh that is so loud it’s almost like my laugh organ thinks nothing will ever be funny again, so better get all my laughing done RIGHT NOW – so it was a bit of an issue).

After all that time and effort and lost sleep and worry and endless gushing about this event, the one member of my audience that I had been trying to impress either didn’t like what she heard or straight up DID NOT LISTEN.  It’s either hurtful or rude, goddammit!  All that time spent working on my graciousness: wasted.  All my effort preparing multiple and alternative gracious small-talk: in vain.  All my energy spent practicing/steadily dooming any future relationship with my downstairs roommates: …

Aw fuck it.  Maybe Bev just doesn’t know a good thing when she hears it – because music should just be celebrated.  Celebrated by singing along with the Ode and the Anthem, celebrated by giving a little nod and smile to the performer, celebrated by smiling in a general direction.

…And anyways, maybe Bev had a really bad experience as a kid and couldn’t sing and was asked to only mouth along to the words in choir and…

I mean.  An die musik.  That’s what it’s about.

Skinny Privilege and Why I Just Literally Can’t Even Right Now

As I drove home from the gym today the song “All About That Bass” came on.  I have unabashedly loved this song from the first moment I heard its walking bass line.  Meghan Trainor’s voice is super satisfying – it’s got so much colour, depth, and core.  I want to applaud her voice teacher, wherever he or she may be, for teaching Trainor some good techinque.  And obviously I like any song that’s about booty because booty is trending right now and I’m a pretty trendy girl (and just FYI: pistachios.  Pistachios are the nut right now).

meghan-trainor

Trendy like Trainor! Just look at her!

You know, the first time I heard this song was this remarkably happy moment in my life.  I mean, it’s just so catchy!  Who even cares what it’s about!  I just want it to circulate through my Facebook and on the radio and at every party because we just aren’t listening to enough jazzy soulful chicks.

But then, like the entrance of the Queen of the Night in the Magic Flute, a bunch of people had to write articles talking about how it’s actually not an empowering song and ruin this thing that was so plainly good.  This, THIS my friends is why we can’t have nothing nice.

In an article entitled “All About That Bass Might Actually Be Bad for Female Body Image”, we learn it’s actually about body-shaming and, based on one girl’s experience after having taken a course on eating disorders last semester and being skinny in high school, it’s highly offensive.  Not only are the lyrics “it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two, but I can shake it shake it, like I’m supposed to do” offensive, but so are the lyrics “I’m bringing booty back, go on and tell them skinny bitches that“.

The first quoted lyric is offensive to some because it can suggest that if you can’t shake it shake it then you’re not womanly and attractive.  The second quoted part is offensive because she calls some skinny girls “skinny bitches”.  Despite the fact that in current popular culture nobody is calling anybody a “bitch” anymore to relay an insult (we can thank the fall season and the advent of the popular, though potentially lost-on-most-users, hashtag #BasicBitch, for that one), the author says “that’s not nice”.

Oh.  It’s “not nice”?  That’s what you have to say about that.  Ok.  Well, I mean…I just…I hate to say, “I can’t even”, but…

meme

By that I mean to say: your argument is weak and irrespective of popculture right now and it’s not doing a very good job of convincing me that Meghan Trainor is a bad bitch.  Aw shit, that means she’s awesome!  I’m sorry, I just can’t insult her.

Girls are creatures of many emotions.  Me personally, I’m running on approximately 48 discrete emotions per day.  On Friday night past, after an evening out, I actually confined my post-drinking friends to a snuggle position, stopping a friend from answering nature’s call because I was all of “so happy” and “love this moment so much I’m scared it will end if you get up and then it will be gone and I will miss it”.  Four.  In a sentence.  Stopping a person getting up and being normal because I was having four emotions: three present and one future.

Thus, with that in mind, I don’t judge a person who may hear that song and have some emotion that it isn’t positive.  My condolences, sister, because this song is LEGIT THE ILLEST.

When I saw that article posted on my Facebook the first 50 times I couldn’t read it.  In fact, just looking at the title was infuriating.  It was clear what the article was going to be about – skinny privilege.

Skinny privilege is the sister of white privilege, upper-middle-class privilege, male privilege.  It makes life easier, it makes dressing, and looking nice and pulled together easier.  Society has always conditioned women to be small (and, in fact, as small as possible) and it comes fully equipped with lots of envy and lots of privilege.

Nobody is hating on you because you’re skinny.  We are all trying to be you.  As a slender person myself, I look at every slender-er person around me with such envy.  I can’t help it!  I like to think I’m a confident lady, but it’s a thing.  Skinny is what we want.  It’s enviable.  It’s a privileged state.  Meghan Trainor’s song isn’t about skinny girls.  It’s not for skinny girls.  It’s not hating on skinny girls.  After living a lifetime until suddenly now (with Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, and others hustling for the big bootied), sit down.  The main thing?  This has nothing to do with you, skinny minnies!

Although the above-referenced article is old, this annoying parody by some gorgeous skinny bitch is not.  I have to admit, I only got as far as her annoyingly perfect smile and modified chorus about how any dude that wants to change her can move along when again I put my hand to my forehead and thought to myself…

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As a final note, if you love this song the way I love this song, get a load of this.  This girl is clearly the only chick who was capable of getting more love from me than Trainor.  Look at her rock that upright bass.  What a babe!