Mother’s Day, CMW and This is America


mum with r and j 1960.jpg 001My mother has been gone since April of 1992 … 26 years now. There are days when it feels like we were playing a spirited game of Rummoli only yesterday, and other days when I can’t remember what it was like to have my own little family. After my mum and grandmother died just days apart in that horrible year, the tenuous link we had with Montreal was broken. While I’ve been ‘home’ a few times since then, Quebec hasn’t really drawn me back for decades.

I thought of my mum on Thursday, when I spoke with a small boy who was waiting for the bus, holding a plant pot with one pansy growing in it. He told me, with great joy, that he also had a poem written in French for her, and that he’d drawn her a card. His face lit up as he told me “she’s gonna have so many presents!

mum with r and j 1964 001There was such a lot of delight in his expression as he counted up the riches he’d prepared for his precious mother. We forget, over the years, how good it used to feel to be able to gift our loved ones with something that we’d made specially for them. It might have been a paper plate with some glittered macaroni pasted to it, or a wobbly cut out paper heart, with our shaky handwriting telling them, “I LOVE YOU,” but it was what we had to give, and we gave it from our hearts.

Mums never ask for all that much, when you’re growing up. Maybe they ask you to help with the chores, or keep your room clean, but most mums know that you’re growing and learning, and that all they can try to do is to get you from the day you are born until the day you two say goodbye, with as little heart ache and heart break as possible.

Missing my mother, and wishing my two beautiful daughters a very happy Mother’s Day.

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My butt is dragging today, even after collapsing into a solid ten hours of sleep last night. I spent the last several days doing all things Canadian Music Week, including working as a ‘day host,’ expediting the conference panelists, and getting out to a few of the events under the CMW banner. I straggled home last night from a long day at the show, followed by a scrumptious buffet at the Rivoli, where Music Nova Scotia and the Dreaming Out Loud groups were presenting the annual TIKI LOUNGE extravaganza.

CMW Greg Lefsetz et all May 2018

During the conference I spent most of my time onsite in the Speaker’s Green Room. In this pic, our long time associate Greg Simpson confers with his speaker registration aides, Sue Mills and Cassandra Tari. Behind them, propping up the wall, is Steve Lillywhite, uber producer and musician whisperer of U2, the Rolling Stones, XTC, Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, the Talking Heads and a host of other worthies, as he chats with Ralph Simon, who is is acknowledged as one of the founders of the modern mobile entertainment & content industry, and Bob Lefsetz, music industry analyst and critic, and author of the Lefsetz Letter.

In May of 2015, the last time that Bob Lefsetz had spoken at CMW, I had asked him if we could meet, so that I might interview him for this column. Although he agreed at the time, circumstances conspired, and I missed my window of opportunity.

So when I saw him seated towards the back of the Green Room on Saturday morning, I seized the day, introduced myself, and reminded him of the last time we’d almost connected. He immediately said that he’d be happy to talk with me ‘later’ – but he’d be leaving the Conference around four p.m.

So I waited patiently, hoping for a time when he might have a minute free. But shortly after Steve Lillywhite left the room, Eric Alper flew in the door and plonked himself down for a chat. Meanwhile, my duties as Day Host kept me rather busy, and I spent a lot of time getting speakers organized and then off to their panels in a timely manner. By the time I realized I’d once again missed my interview, it was about 3:10 p.m. I’d just finished introducing legendary music journalist Larry Leblanc, who was about to begin an interview with Marcie Allen, a trailblazing entrepreneur who is known as the Queen of Brands and Bands. My duty done, I set off to try and find the elusive Mr Lefsetz.

About an hour later, I conceded defeat. Apparently, this interview was not to be.

PostScript: If you are one of the many who receive the Lefsetz Letter, then you will have received his CMW wrap-up when it arrived last night. In his p.s., he mentions that he’d spend his last half-hour on the site at …. the Larry LeBlanc/Marcie Allen seminar I’d introduced.

Wrong Way Roxanne strikes again.

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We have to talk about Donald Glover/Childish Gambino‘s new video – This is America. Firmly in the tradition of protest songs such as GrandMaster Flash‘s White Lines, the song/video demands multiple, critical, and admiring viewings.

This video is almost enough to make music videos relevant again, rife with symbolism and casual observations that nail the truth of the racist gun culture that America, as distracted as a kitten by shiny strings and dance fads, chooses to ignore.

jim crow character this is americaThe main character, stripped to the waist, pulls facial expressions and uses bodily movements that seem to be modeled on Jim Crow, a minstrel show caricature, which white actors would perform in blackface, acting out black stereotypes. His movements distract from the chaos that plays out in the background, as behind him, people on cellphones film the action while ignoring the violence and rioting going on all around.

(The Jim Crow Laws were put into place after the Civil War, and were a system of racist local and state laws to keep the ex-slaves in their place, and designed to enforce segregation and oppression in the Southern American states.) this is america imageAfter both of the shootings, the guns are treated with care and respect, and gently wrapped with red cloth. The guns are valued over human lives, as the victims are either dragged away or left lying in their own blood.

Between shootings, the exaggerated dancing seems to be a commentary on how America prefers to focus on entertainment and distraction rather than to have a discussion on gun control, while dismissing the dead with an airy assurance that they are sending “thoughts and prayers.”

this is america commentIn the background of one scene, Death, riding a pale horse, and a biblical symbol for the apocalypse, gallops by, pursued by a police car. Everyone is too caught up in dancing or in their own anarchy to focus on the bigger picture of the violence going on.

In the last scene, Gambino, surrounded by vintage cars representing America’s economic stagnation, lights up a joint, and it is then – rather than during his gun rampage  – that the police begin to chase him. In the tradition of black American history, he has to run to save his life.

This Is America is a strong, artistic statement that will stand as valid commentary on today’s Divided States of America.

 

Mother’s Day!


It’s Mother’s Day! All around us, people are handing over mushy cards and hopefully some not too badly dented flowers to their mother or mother surrogate, loading up the kids and other significants into the car, eager to stand in a 90 minute wait line  for brunch, or planning a visit to dear old mater at the familial manor or retirement home. Others are spending a day in maudlin pining for their dearly departed.

Ah .. Mother’s Day.

mothers day funnyNo one is born a mother.  Nor does the act of birth make you a mother, though the preparation can kill you. Nine months of physical, emotional and often financial trauma can really take it out of a woman, let me tell you, and her reward is a life sentence of blood ,sweat, tears and copious amounts of other bodily fluids, starting just moments after delivery. It takes more than those vaunted male balls to merely survive motherhood, never mind make it to an age when your progeny finally honour your effort.

There was a time when the concept of motherhood was pedestaled. Flowery accolades, songs, and soppy paintings celebrated dear old mum. A mother was a venerated and venerable icon, framed by a strict adherence to the role society had deemed appropriate. The average mothers day old fashionedwoman had swapped her youth for the chance of financial security, and she and her progeny were  essentially the property of her husband, with very few rights, and less autonomy than a free range chicken.

A hundred years ago, a woman could be married by twenty, have eight kids by thirty, and have keeled over by forty, clearing the way for daddy dearest to glom on to a younger consort to comfort him in his golden years. With little in the way of contraception apart from abstinence, motherhood was very often not a choice at all.

Despite the constraints imposed upon them by their household duties, there were women who worked tirelessly at volunteer positions. One such woman was Ann Jarvis, an American peace activist who was known for her care of wounded soldiers on both sides of the  Civil War. After her death, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, held a memorial in 1908 to honour her mother, with the intention of honouring all mothers, and of creating Mother’s Day Work Clubs that would address public health issues.

By 1914, Jarvis’ work had created enough of a buzz to convince American President Woodrow Wilson to proclaim Mother’s Day a national holiday to honour mothers. The notion of setting aside the second Sunday in May for this purpose spread rapidly, and was very soon adopted all around the world.

No one was more incensed at the commercialization of the holiday than Jarvis herself.  By 1912 she had patented both “Second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day” (always with the apostrophe signifying that each family should be honouring their own mother,)  but she loathed the bandwagoning of Hallmark Cards and other companies that were capitalizing on the holiday, and in particular the group, American War Mothers, who had tied their fundraising campaigns to the selling of pink “Mother’s Day Carnations.

A true daughter of her mother, she organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits throughout the 1920’s against those card companies, candy manufacturers, and fundraising groups, who, she felt, dishonoured the holiday by encouraging the buying of gifts over a heartfelt, handwritten declaration of love and gratitude.

For all her protests, Mother’s Day continues to be one of the most commercially successful of North American occasions, particularly for the sales of flowers, greeting cards, chocolates, and pink (for girls!) tchotchkes.  mothers day gifts

Modern women have a more ambivalent take on the day. No one’s going to turn down a thoughtful card or gift, given, however willingly or unwillingly, by the person they’ve brought into the world and raised, whether through birth or other means. But you shouldn’t be surprised if your gift is accepted with a knowing smile. After all, mothers invest decades into forming an adult, with all of the attendant duties, unpaid and largely unacknowledged, in the home or out of it. A card is the very least you can thank her with – pretty much the equivalent of the minimum wage.  (“We’d pay you less if we could, but the law’s the law!”)

Mothers are not born with an innate ability to withstand pain, and the endless tyranny of childcare. They do not spring fully formed from hours of labour, ready to bear whatever this new being throws at them, physically or emotionally. They are young women with lives and dreams of their own that put aside their own selves in the service of families and societies that place very little value on what makes the actual world turn – cooking, cleaning, planning, organizing, wiping away tears and cleaning tiny bottoms.

Perhaps a more thoughtful gift for mums might be something that recognizes those sacrifices, and puts it into perspective. Mother’s Day, possibly more than any other holiday, is your chance to really thank your maternal parent for putting aside a large portion of their life to create yours.

mothers day reminderGet it out of your head that Mumsie will be over the moon with a new pair of fuzzy slippers, and realize that she’d much prefer a gift certificate to a spa of her choice, or a year’s subscription to the Wine of the Month Club. If you’re old enough to read this, and you are lucky enough to still have a living maternal figure, remember her existence and needs more than once a year.

She spent far more years indulging your wants and needs than you have left to thank her for her generosity.

And while I’m in a fever dream of possibilities, address your own attitudes to women of all ages, for every one of them is a mother or a potential mother. While it’s lovely  to honour your own mother, remember that many of the women you see every day, of child bearing age or beyond, are also someone else’s honoured mum, and that there is likely someone out there who would  take a lot of offense to anyone who treated her with disrespect. The ability to divorce the love of one’s mother from respect for all women, their bodies, and their work, is simply astounding, especially as seen amongst those with the power or clout to affect change.

Ah, Mother’s Day. In theory, adorable. In practice, a day when women – the wives, teachers, chefs, chief bottle washers, multi-taskers, and keeper of the family brain – are granted ‘permission’ to relax  for a short while, and enjoy a chocolate, before they get on with  the work of making the domestic world go ‘round. Not much of a trade-off, really.

 

(first published on    bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/roxanne-tellier-spotlight-on-mama/)

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