Monthly Archives: August 2011

#12: A Song From A Band You Hate, by j


You know what I can’t stand?  People who sing with a falsetto.

And because of this incredible dislike, I hate Maroon 5.

This was a hard choice, because there are a lot of bands/artists that I “hate”, but I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction (as I’m sure they read our drivel) of seeing me write about them.

So, I go with Maroon 5.  Their only offense is their gross, radio friendly rock-styled music with Adam Levine’s gross voice.

Therefore, if you want your ear drums to bleed, take a gander at this one:

Maroon 5

“She Will Be Loved”


Stephen Lewis. If you haven’t seen this- please watch now, by j


If you had the great chance to watch Jack’s funeral you would have gotten to see Stephen Lewis give the eulogy.  I’ve been able to see Stephen Lewis speak on a number of occasions.  I have seen a lot of different lecturers, but I’ve never seen a lecturer that is able to bring others to their feet with his eloquent and powerful words like Stephen Lewis.  He was the perfect choice.

I know that there are some who don’t get the reaction that has been going on in Canada this past week after learning of Jack’s passing.  Some think it was over the top or ridiculous.

I just think- thank goodness I live in a country where we mourn a public servant more than a pop star or a member of a royal family.

Thank goodness I live in a community that recognizes the great voice and optimism that was a man who brought an amazing amount of Canadians together to say that we were not happy with the status quo, we were not happy with the check and balances we had in place and dammit, we wanted to ensure that every decision in our country was made in good faith and keeping in mind equality, kindness and for crying out loud some fucking g-d common sense.

Some say that Jack’s final letter was politically charged and partisan.

What?  Of course it was politically charged and partisan.  What would expect from the leader of the opposition on his death bed?  He was a politician entering the most exciting and important role of his political life, Leader of the Opposition.  He didn’t get a chance to sit in Parliament and say what he wanted to in response to policies, bills and the like.  So he took pen to paper to ensure that his ideology was stamped in our collective conscious.  Does it surprise me that a lot of Canadians find themselves agreeing with what Jack wrote?  Of course not.  It’s hard to argue with the values of love and optimism.  And I think it’s something folks in this country have been missing for a while.

I love what Jack’s work and legacy has helped create this week.  Moments and spaces where people gathered to remember not just a leader of a political party, but a to remind ourselves of what we are capable of.  And in a time when our country is taking frightening steps towards U.S. style politics and policies, I think it is not a moment too soon.

But I will say one thing to all those wonderful people who took time to write messages, mourn Jack, and celebrate the work that he and so many others do:

I’m sorry we missed you on May 2nd.  I hope to see you on October 6th.

Please watch the eulogy below, and see what I mean about Lewis (text below):


Never in our collective lifetime have we seen such an outpouring, so much emotional intensity, from every corner of this country. There have been occasions, historically, when we’ve seen respect and admiration but never so much love, never such a shocked sense of personal loss.

Jack was so alive, so much fun, so engaged in daily life with so much gusto, so unpretentious, that it was hard while he lived to focus on how incredibly important that was to us, he was to us. Until he was so suddenly gone, cruelly gone, at the pinnacle of his career.

To hear so many Canadians speak so open-heartedly of love, to see young and old take chalk in hand to write without embarrassment of hope, or hang banners from overpasses to express their grief and loss. It’s astonishing.

Somehow Jack connected with Canadians in a way that vanquished the cynicism that erodes our political culture. He connected whether you knew him or didn’t know him, whether you were with him or against him.

Jack simply radiated an authenticity and honesty and a commitment to his ideals that we know realize we’ve been thirsting for. He was so civil, so open, so accessible that he made politics seem so natural and good as breathing. There was no guile. That’s why everybody who knew Jack recognized that the public man and the private man were synonymous.

But it obviously goes much deeper than that. Jack, I think, tapped into a yearning, sometimes ephemeral, rarely articulated, a yearning that politics be conducted in a different way, and from that difference would emerge a better Canada.

That difference was by no means an end to rancour, an end to the abusive, vituperative practice of the political arts. The difference was also, and critically, one of policy — a fundamentally different way of viewing the future of Canada.

His remarkable letter made it absolutely clear. This was a testament written in the very throes of death that set out what Jack wanted for his caucus, for his party, for young people, for all Canadians.

Inevitably, we fastened on those last memorable lines about hope, optimism and love. But the letter was, at its heart, a manifesto for social democracy. And if there was one word that might sum up Jack Layton’s unabashed social democratic message, it would be generosity. He wanted, in the simplest and most visceral terms, a more generous Canada.

His letter embodies that generosity. In his very last hours of life he wanted to give encouragement to others suffering from cancer. He wanted to share a larger, bolder, more decent vision of what Canada should be for all its inhabitants.

He talks of social justice, health care, pensions, no one left behind, seniors, children, climate change, equality and again that defining phrase, “a more inclusive and generous Canada.” All of that is entirely consistent with Jack’s lifelong convictions. In those early days of municipal politics in Toronto Jack took on gay and lesbian rights, HIV and AIDS, housing for the homeless, the white ribbon campaign to fight violence against women and consecrate gender equality once and for all.

And of course a succession of environmental innovations, bike lanes, wind power, the Toronto atmospheric fund — and now Michael, his progressive and talented son, as councillor can carry the torch forward.

And then came his tenure as president of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, where he showed that growing deftness of political touch in uniting municipalities of all sizes and geographic locations, winning their recognition of the preeminence of cities and the invaluable pillar of the public sector. Jack made the leap to federal politics look easy.

The same deeply held principles of social democracy that made him a superb politician at the city level, as I know, transferred brilliantly to federal politics. And also, from the many wonderful conversations we had together, I know led him to a formidable commitment to internationalism.

He was fearless in his positions once embraced. Thus, when he argued for negotiations with the Taliban to bring the carnage in Afghanistan to an end he was ridiculed but stood firm. And now it’s conventional wisdom. I move to recall that Jack came to the New Democratic Party at the time of the imposition of the War Measures Act, when tanks rolled into the streets of Montreal and civil liberties were shredded, and when the NDP’s brave opposition brought us to our nadir in public opinion.

But his convictions and his courage were intertwined — yet another reason for celebrating Jack and for understanding the pain and sadness with which his death has been received.

Above all — and his letter makes this palpably clear — Jack understood that we are headed into even more perilous economic times. He wanted Canadians to have a choice between what he described as the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and an economy that would embrace equity, fairness, balance and creative generosity.

This was the essence of the manifesto. That’s why he insists that we’re a great country, but we can be a better one — a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity. These were not rhetorical concepts to Jack. They were the very core of his social democratic philosophy. He was prepared to do ideological battle, but as all things with Jack there was nothing impulsive or ill-considered.

He would listen as he always listened — he was a great listener — he would synthesize thoughtfully as he always did, and he would choose a political route that was dignified, pragmatic and principled. He was so proud of his caucus and what they would do to advance the agenda of social democracy.

He cultivated and mentored every member of that caucus, and as the country will see, that will speak volumes in the days ahead.

The victory in Quebec — and I will be followed by a eulogist in the francophone language — the victory in Quebec was an affirmation of Jack’s singular personal appeal, reinforced by Quebec’s support for progressive values shared by so many Canadians. And his powerful belief and trust in youth to forge the grand transformation to a better world is by now legendary. Indeed, the reference to youth spawns a digression.

From time to time, Jack and I would meet in the corridors of my foundation, where his supernaturally competent daughter Sarah works, and we would invariably speak of our grandchildren. You cannot imagine — I guess you saw it in the video — the radiating joy that glowed from Jack as he talked of Sarah’s daughter, his granddaughter Beatrice, and when he said as he often said that he wanted to create a better world for Beatrice and all the other Beatrices to inherit, you instantly knew of one of his strongest and most compelling motivations.

He was a lovely, lovely man. Filled with laughter and affection and commitment. He was also mischievous and musical, possessed of normal imperfections but deeply deserving of the love you have all shown. His indelible romance with Olivia was beautiful to behold, and it sustained them both.

When my wife and I met with the family a few hours after Jack died, Olivia said, as she said in the video, that we must look forward to see what we all can accomplish together.

I loved Jack’s goodness and his ideals in equal measure. Watching all of you react so genuinely to his death, the thousands upon thousands who lined up for hours to say a last goodbye in Ottawa and Toronto, it’s clear that everyone recognized how rare and precious his character was.

We’re all shaken by grief but I believe we’re slowly being steadied by a new resolve and I see that resolve in words written in chalk and in a fresh determination on people’s faces. A resolve to honour Jack by bringing the politics of respect for all, respect for the Earth and respect for principle and generosity back to life.

My wife Michele reminded me of a perfect quote from the celebrated Indian novelist, activist and feminist Arundhati Roy. Jack doubtless knew it. He might have seen it as a mantra. “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

Thank you Jack.

Job Search! by, m


The Great Job Hunt continues…I’ve been pounding pavement looking for Help Wanted signs, hitting websites like Work In Culture and Indeed, and even browsing online classifieds like Craigslist and Kijiji.

Anyone know of any other websites that are great for job hunters? Or better yet–are any of you hiring?

I’m looking for paid part-time work (any kind) and part time volunteer work in the arts education sector.

I can start yesterday!


(which you can't do, when you're a teacher)

A Horrible Start to the Week, by j


Today Canada lost one of the least smarmy politicians, Jack Layton.

(Read Jack’s heartbreaking, yet inspiring letter to Canada here.)

This is an especially difficult loss for many young NDP’ers like myself.  Jack was my first federal NDP leader.  Jack was the one to convince me that 1) politics are transformative and important 2) I need to pay attention and 3) be grateful that I live in a country I can vote without fear.  Jack was the one to help me decide that I would be orange.  Jack was the one to help me understand that  politics didn’t have to be corrupt.

Now that I’m entering my thirities I don’t quite know what to do now, along with other young-ish NDP’ers. We no longer have the strong, steadfast voice of Jack talking about the importance of shelters, safety for women and children, de-militarization, and taxes.

May 2011 was probably one of the most exciting federal elections I’ve seen.  It was bitter-sweet, but it did see Jack take his team all the way to Stornoway.  Unfortunately Jack isn’t going to be able to take up residence and show us a different kind of official opposition.  One full of compassion, excitement and change.

That being said Jack has left us with something else: hope.  No matter what was going on Jack Layton had an ability to remind us all of the strength that Canadians had, and in our ability to perservere and support one another.

I had the good chance to see Jack Layton in person at Toronto Pride a few years ago.  Actually, anytime I’ve been to Pride, Jack’s been there.  I saw him at the NDP tent/booth (you know where they have all the literature and pamphlets).  I had to do a double take, but when I did, there was Jack.  Standing at the tiny booth with two folding chairs and wearing a bright pink shirt.  He was just hanging out, talking to those who stopped and chose to talk to him.  I was too freaked out to stop.  So we went on our merry way.  A few hours later we walked by the NDP tent again.  Jack was still there.  He was engaged in a conversation with a few people.  I was still too nervous to talk to him (yes, I’m a giant nerd).  All I could do was yell, “I LOVE YOU JACK!”.

To which he smiled, and waved.

“Hope … is what drives New Democrats,” he said, adding that his party, “will always be the party of hope.”

#11: A Song From Your Favourite Band, by j


When I read this I could not think of my favourite band.  For some good reason, it turns out I don’t listen to bands a whole lot.  I’m more of a solo artist kind of person. And I took the “Song From Your Favourite Band” seriously.  Band = 2 or more folks making music.

So, when I couldn’t think of a currently band that I’m enamored with.  So I decided to take a trip down memory lane to high school.  And when I was in high school I was a HUGE Barenaked Ladies fan.  I had all their albums and their music made me smile.

When I was a teen I even subjected myself to be a guinea pig for a psychological study to make money for concert tickets (FYI: the concert was a Pine Knob and it was fantastical).

I stopped listening to them consistently after their Maroon album hit (they went mainstream…).  And subsequent albums were…ok.

And then that crazy shit happened when Steven Page left his family and started doing drugs in the US.

Before that, however they were my favourite.  And one of my faves was a Bruce Cockburn cover:

Barenaked Ladies

“Lovers in a Dangerous Time”