Thursday, October 19, 2017

In Gord We Trust

I'm having a hard time writing this, which is unusual for me. Talking can be difficult, so in moments when I don't know what to say, I write.

Today, I'm finding it hard to put my thoughts together about the death of Gord Downie this past Tuesday at the age of 53. Mostly, I'm having a hard time putting it into words as a good chunk of people who will read this won't be able to relate, or understand.

Gord Downie was the frontman and lyricist of a little band called The Tragically Hip. The Hip, as they are commonly known as, just always seemed to be around to me; they were just always there. Growing up, you could easily count on hearing at least one Tragically Hip song anytime you turned on a radio. I'm sure part of that was due to Canadian radio regulations which dictate that a certain precent of music we play on the airwaves must be Canadian. But another, much larger part of that was due to the fact that the Tragically Hip were a really fucking good band.

When I started high school in 1994, the Tragically Hip's album Day for Night was released and it just spread like wildfire around my High School. I think the stat was that 9 out of 10 Canadians at that point were said to own at least one Tragically Hip album. I was one of those Canadians, playing my copy of Day for Night over and over again. It was the CD we took with us on long drives to the beach in the summer. It was the album we did our homework too and it was the record we put on late at night on a Saturday, after the party had started to settle down and we would finish our last beers and sing along to every song on that album, perfectly.

The Tragically Hip were just inherently Canadian - like maple syrup, or hockey, or free universal healthcare. It didn't matter to us or the Hip that they never really exploded north of the border the way they did here. In fact, I think many of us loved the fact that the Hip seemed to be just for us - something only us Canadians can have and really understand.

Gord was one of the most prolific poets I have ever read. His lyrics are haunting and beautiful and witty and funny and brutally honest. That's what really pulled me in and made me a fan. The music was solid, but those lyrics...they taught me about love, and pain, and hurt, and even about Canada.

When Gord Downie announced in May of 2016 that he was diagnosed with Brain Cancer, many of us didn't know what to think. I was frustrated, sad, and upset. At the same time, my own father was going through a battery of surgeries and test which, early this year, determined that he also has cancer. Two men who I admire, both for different reasons, were starting very difficult battles and I wasn't ready for either of them.

Gord and the Tragically Hip gave us all the opportunity to say thank you by announcing that they would go on one more tour across Canada, finishing with a show in their home town of Kingston, Ontario on August 20, 2016. The concert was broadcast by the CBC on both radio and TV. I was traveling with my son at the time, in a small city called Regina. We went out for dinner and as we drove home, I made him listen to the concert with me. I cried in the car as I heard Gord scream the lyrics 'Courage, my word it didn't come it doesn't matter...'

That concert was watched by 11.7 MILLION people - which means one third of the population of Canada was a part of this tragic and beautiful show. ONE THIRD. I was watching, as were both my parents and even my sister, who I was sure didn't even know who the Hip were (she did. Of course she did...we all do).

While listening to that concert with my son, my Maximum Rhythm and Booze co-host, Warren Peace texted me and asked "Penny, is there something going on in Canada tonight? My twitter and Facebook feeds are full of you Canucks talking about some band?" I tried my hardest to explain to him, to tell him about The Tragically Hip and how ingrained they are in Canadiana and about Gord and his diagnosis and this last tour, this last chance to say goodbye.

He was able to comprehend, but I don't think he was really able to understand.

And it's hard to understand unless you're Canadian, I think. See, I think the problem for a lot of Canadians around my age is that we just don't know what is to be 'Canadian.' Sure, we can adhere to the common stereotype that we are all peaceful, beer drinking, hockey playing citizens who say 'aboot' and 'eh' a lot. But honestly, I think most of us fell like a generation with no real idea of what been Canadian means. 

But The Hip and Gord Downie showed us. They taught us about our history - both the rights and the wrongs. They made us proud of our countries accomplishments and helped us hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes. They helped shape our identity.

I think our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while fighting back tears, said it best in a statement he delivered on Wednesday: 

"We are less of a country without Gord Downie in it. We all knew it was coming, but we hoped it wasn't. I thought I was going to make I through this, but I'm not. It hurts."

I'm thankful we had the chance to let The Tragically Hip know just how important they are and what they mean to us before before Gord Downie passed away. It's rare that we get the chance to really thank our idols and I'm grateful we were able to here. It doesn't make it any easier, but it does help. I'm also thankful that my most formative years were coloured with an amazing soundtrack by The Tragically Hip. Many of my most fond memories of growing up in rural Manitoba and on the Prairies include a Tragically Hip song or two woven in there.

So, thank you Gord and The Hip for helping me understand what it is to be Canadian. I'm forever grateful.

Much love,
Penny xxx

Friday, October 13, 2017

One 'Harvey' to Rule Them All

I went to meet my male friend for coffee this afternoon. As we sat at the counter in our Starbucks, he turned to me, looking exasperated.

"Man, have you been reading all the articles and stories on Twitter today?"

I reply that no, I've been too busy to even check Twitter. I ask him what articles and stories he's referring to.

"My Twitter feed is full of women sharing their stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and it's shocking. It's like every female I follow, and then some, has been a victim at one point in their lives and I'm just in, well, shock. I'm ashamed of my gender, to be honest. With all these actresses coming forth about how Harvey Weinstein acted towards them, its encouraging other women to speak about about their experiences. I'm sad to think that every women that I value and have in my life has experiences some kind of sexual assault or harassment. Is it really like that?"

Yeah, unfortunately it IS really like that.

I like to consider myself lucky in that I've never once experienced any sort of sexual assault or harassment in the work place by someone in a position of seniority over me.  Sure, there's been one or two employees whose behaviour probably walks the line, but I've never felt like I've been victimized. In fact, being a female in a very male orientated business like radio and music, I was very lucky that I started out in a place like UMFM. UMFM prides itself, and rightly so, on being a safe place for all people - regardless of age, sex, gender, religion. Everyone is welcome and treated as an equal.

But the truth is there are tons of Harvey's out there. It's easy to find men who are okay with using their positions of power to get what they want sexual.

It's sad, sick, and true.

When I first started DJ'ing, there were very few female in my city who were getting behind the decks to spin. It was rare to see women at record sales and conventions who weren't dragged there by their significant others. During that time, I ran into my fair share of Harvey's who felt it was okay to objectify me, make lewd or rude comments, or even worse, corner me in dark areas of clubs to tell me how much they loved my set and looking at my 'tits' as I bent over to change the records between songs. Many a night, I was scared to walk with my records to my car after the bar had closed. Again, I was lucky. I had a very close crew of male friends and DJ's who I trusted and who, on many occasions, either stood up for me, escorted me to my car, or who drove me home themselves to make sure I arrived safe and sound when I was too scared to walk home alone.

With more and more women present in the radio/podcast/DJ scene, I find I feel more empowered. I don't put up with rude or sexual comments from people. 

But that is the problem, isn't it? 

The Harvey's, they are still out there, engaging in this shitty behaviour.

They still come up to me in clubs to make horrible comments, and try to grab at me. They still send unsolicited dick pictures to my Instagram or Twitter direct messages. They still think it's okay to treat women in this manner.

It never was and never will be okay.

Women are taking a stand more and more, and sharing their stories of abuse and harassment. I think it's amazing to hear and see. And I think it's about bloody time as well. The more we empower and encourage and support each other, the easier it will be for us to talk about our experiences. The easier it is for us to talk about our experiences, the easier it will be for us to call out shitty and horrible behaviour when it happens. The easier it is for us to call out shitty and horrible behaviour in the moment means that we are fixing the root of the issue and correcting horribly inappropriate behaviour at the source.

If we keep doing this, the sooner we will all be working towards a place where this shit is not longer tolerated or acceptable.

I kind LOVE that idea.

Penny xx

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I'm Depressed - Emotional Musings on World Mental Health Day

Life is very circular. Sometimes you are flying high on a huge upswing. You feel happy, alive, refreshed and rejuvenated. Then suddenly you start your slow descent down and soon you just don't feel like anything can go your way. You are sad, angry and depressed. But slowly, one day, you start working your way up again and soon the days seem brighter, you're not so angry anymore and you’re  working your way to being a beacon of positive and joy.

I've struggled with depression on and off my whole adult life. It started in High School for me. In grade 11, I kind went off the rails a little bit. I wasn't sleeping, I was failing math, I was struggling with the rules my parents had, and I failed a whole semester of school. There was legitimate fear that I would not graduate on time if I did not pull my socks up and focus. My doctor was very astute and understanding. She put me on my first antidepressant - Zoloft. I took Zoloft until just before I graduated high school with great grades and a few academic awards as well.

The second time depression took over was when I first moved out on my own. I moved into my first small, one bedroom apartment when I was 24.I loved it but I was warned by a good friend of mine that when you live alone for the first time, that you 'kinda go a little crazy.' I laughed it off - she always had a flair for the dramatic. About a year after I moved out, I found myself laid off work, single, sad, and scared shitless as I was, for some stupid reason, denied unemployment insurance. I again went to my doctor and after crying in the examining room for thirty minutes straight, she hugged me and gave me another prescription for Zoloft. I soon pleaded my case and got my unemployment benefits reinstated, got a new and much better job and felt good about myself. About a year and a half after I started talking Zoloft, my doctor suggested I start to ween myself off again.

The third time depression hit me was just after the birth of my son. It was a different kind of depression - one that made me cry often, made me feel worthless and like I was a horrible person. One that, dare I say it, made me hate my newborn son. My doctor, understanding that depression not just ran in the family but has touched me on and off for years, kept a keen eye on me during this time. I had monthly appointments to check in with her. I talked to a therapist and by the time my son smiled at me for the first time, I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I beat the depression this time without drugs and I felt great.

The last time I suffered with a bout of depression was four years ago. My partner and I, who had been together for seven years, had split up. He had been mentally and physically abusive towards me for years and after a horrible incident that left me physical bruised and scarred, I decided enough was enough. I kicked him out. And I felt so much better about it. I was happy to be rid of him. But it soon hit me that I wasn't rid of him and that I never would be. We shared a child together. He used that fact to constantly try to control me and the situation. Many a time he tried to break down my door, threatened me, and even assaulted me. After he left, I slept all the time. I was so tired. My therapist at that time told me it was a completely logical response. My body had been in *fight or flight* mode for years that now, that the 'danger' was no longer present, all that adrenalin in my body was finally leaving, making me exhausted. I was more lonely that I had ever been in my entire life. Not only did I lose my partner, but I had to endure periods without my son as we shared custody. My apartment went from being a loud, always busy place, to being so fucking quiet that I almost couldn't take it. I missed my son. As sick as it sounded, I missed having a partner around. The loneliness was so thick in the air that I could taste it sometimes. The only thing that really kept me from offing myself during that period was my son...and my doctor. My doctor saw the mess I was in and ordered I take four weeks stress leave off of work ('to start' she said). She found me a really good therapist in her office that was known for dealing with survivors of domestic abuse. She prescribed a new antidepressant and insisted on biweekly check-in appointments while I was off work.

Depression almost won that last time. I think back on what I was like three years ago and it scares me silly. I wasn't thinking logically, I was in a horrible haze and I felt like things would never get better.

But you know what? They did. They did because I have a family that is familiar with and understands mental issues. Things got better because I have an amazing doctor who I feel comfortable falling to pieces in front of in her office. Depression didn't win because I have friends and family who love me, who put their lives on hold for a little bit to carry me when I felt I just couldn't go on.

I woke up this morning, and while getting dressed for the day, I thought about how I have been feeling the last few days. I've been sad, quick to anger and frustrated. I've caught myself crying just about every day this past week. I've been feeling lonely and frustrated at that fact. But today, I woke up to a text message from my best friend wishing me a great day. I got a huge hug from my son this morning. I exchanged messages with a couple of people who always put a smile on my face because they make time for me in their busy lives and I appreciated it.

I woke up being thankful for what I got and I suddenly started to feel the upswing start.

Today is World Mental Health Day and I hope that this post helps people realize that there should be NO stigma with Mental Illness - it touches the people you would least expect. I've lost friends to depression and other types of mental illness - the most recent was a friend who committed suicide this past summer. If anything, those situations has taught me how important it is to talk. You feeling depressed or down? If you feel you have no one to talk to?

Talk to me.

I'm here and I'm listening.

Much love...
Penny Lane

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The World is Falling Apart, So Morrissey is Having a Bed-In

The world has always been a kind of fucked up place. Here in Canada, I live in my own little bubble of safety and normality - there is no imminent threat of war, I'm not afraid of our economy suddenly having a massive aneurysm and keeling over dead, and I am not (for the most part) discriminated or in danger for just being who I am, a woman. 

But if I look beyond my safe bubble and the more I expose myself to, the more I just want to crawl back into my bed, pull the sheets up over my head and stay there until the world gets back on track again.

Part of me is glad we are not recording new episodes of Maximum Rhythm and Booze right now. Every episode would be a rehash of all these terrible things going on all over the world - subway explosions, crazies running cars into crowds of people, racist and bigoted rallies ending in deaths.

Stop the world, man. I want to get OFF.

With things being so off centre these days,  the fact that Morrissey unleashed his first tweet on the world didn't come as much of a shock as I would have thought. I logged onto Twitter while having my morning coffee on Tuesday, September 20th to see that everyone I follow and their dog had re-tweeted Mozzer's first every 140-characters-or-less musing:

I never really thought it was cryptic. Morrissey, the king of depressing songs, spent the day in bed. Big fucking surprise there. I can't say I blame him, with the way the world is going these days. Fuck, move over Moz, is there room for one more? 

I only realized something big was going down with his next tweet:

First thing that ran through my mind was "Or what can... AZ? Oh! Oregon, Washington, California..." The second was "Shit, Moz. No WPG? For fuck sakes..." It was pretty obvious by now to me, and the other masses of Morrissey fans that something was up.

Soon after all that, my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feed (not to mention my inbox, text messages) were flooded with Morrissey's new single, Spent the Day in Bed.

Morrissey's last single, Kiss Me a Lot was last released in 2015. To be honest, it didn't make much of an impact on me - I actually had to google it to refresh myself with the song and, I hate to say it, I found myself shutting it off about halfway through.

There is something about the new single that made me sit up and take notice - the lyrics, the melody, and the overall vibe reminds me of something that The Smiths might have put out later in their career.  Replace the keyboard with that distinctive Johnny Marr guitar sound and boom, here is the Smiths of 2017. 

I'm not afraid to say, I like the single. A lot. It's the first thing Morrissey has put out in years that has really made me sit up and take notice. Since I'm being honest, You Are The Quarry was really the last Morrissey album that I listened to from start to finish. That was 2004.

Maybe it's because I can relate to the song. The world is a fucked up place at the best of times but as of late, it seems to have sunk to a whole new level. I was speaking with my Maximum Rhythm and Booze co-host Warren Peace about this just today, lamination that the political climate all over the world is in such a horrible and constant state of flux that spending the day in bed sounds like a pretty good and viable option. I guess Warren and I aren't the only ones feeling the weight of it. Morrissey is all in for each and everyone of us having our own Bed-In for Peace. 

It's getting cold here in Winnipeg and as everyone on Game of Thrones would say, 'winter is coming.' With the weather change, it won't take much to convince me to shut off the TV, turn off the radio, crawl into my bed and escape from the fucking nightmare that is the world around me.

The only thing that would make all this better is if WPG was on that list of cities. C'mon Moz...

Penny xxx

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Do You Remember Where You Were

April 5, 1994.

It was a Monday. I was over halfway through my first year of High School and I was loving it. From Kindergarten to Grade Nine, I went to the same small school, going from grade to grade with the same small group of about sixty kids. It was not a fun time for me and I ached to finish Grade Nine and then move on into High School.

High School was the largest of it's kind in Manitoba. It was a massive building where kids from all over the Red River Valley and Interlake descended. Starting High School was the beginning of something great for me - I really found myself. I made friends with a great group of people, I discovered literature and music and drugs...

Music and drugs - they seemed to go hand in hand back then for me. Many of my afternoons were spent skipping class and going with my friends to their house to smoke a joint and get lost in music. Even back then, I was still different from my friends - drawn to the old music I grew up listening to in the truck with my Dad. But my friends? They were into newer stuff. Our drug hazed afternoons were often spent listening to bands like Pearl Jam, Green Day (God, how I love Dookie back then), The Offspring, Stone Temple Pilots, The Tragically Hip, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana.


Everyone listened to Nirvana. They were a band that, at the time, seemed to defy High School Cliques. The Skaters, The Stoners, The Punks and The Preps all listened to Nirvana, whether they admitted it or not. 

I first heard Nirvana on the radio - Smells Like Teen Spirt hit our small city like a ton of bricks. The music was rough, raw and angry. It instantly called to all of us who felt like we didn't fit in, like we didn't belong. It was the perfect soundtrack for a generation of young degenerates. We lapped it up with spoons and begged for more and more and more. My friends and I would listen to Nevermind and In Utero over and over again. We would scream ourselves hoarse along to the lyrics. Kurt Cobain wasn't just a great musician, he knew us. He understood us.

Back then, it was all about the music for me. I didn't spend much of my time reading about and following what Nirvana was or wasn't doing. The internet wasn't as accessible then as it is today. I was fifteen at the time and working a part time job after school. I'm positive I read about Nirvana in Rolling Stone or Spin magazine back then but I couldn't say for sure. 

But I knew those songs. I got excited anytime one of their tracks came on the radio. We screamed the lyrics at the top of our lungs down the hall at school. We had found our sound. I didn't feel like I was quite so odd, so weird, so awkward. I felt like I belonged, like someone understood me. 

April 5, 1994 I was was skipping class, as usual. It was a Monday afternoon and I'm sure some of my friends convinced me that sitting in the school common area (accurately called The Pit due to the fact it was a big, well, pit in the middle of our school - three shallow steps deep covered with the most burlap like brown carpet) was better than learning anything that afternoon. We were sitting near the back of The Pit, in our spot close to the Graphic Arts class room. All of the cliques had their own areas - The Skaters had the best spot next to the handicap elevator, the Drama Nerds had the spot closest to the theatre entrance, the Rockers and Punks could also be found sweating in leather jackets in a section close to the front doors and us, The Stoners, in the back somewhere between the Graphic Arts room and the Photo Lab.

It started as murmur, really. I remember The Pit was pretty quiet and that the noise level started to escalate over by The Punks. Soon, it spread to the Drama Nerds and then onto The Skaters. By the time the news reached us at the back of The Pit, the murmur had crescendoed and was accented with sobs, crying and swearing.

Kurt Cobain was dead.

It all came in pieces to us. Was he killed? No, not killed. What happened? Someone on the radio said he was shot. Someone shot him? No, he shot himself.

Kurt Cobain shot himself.


I don't really remember what I did after hearing that - Kurt Cobain shot himself. I remember looking at my friends and them looking back at me. Did we say anything to each other in that moment? Probably not. What would you say? 

At home that evening, the story kept popping up on the news. There were few details, very few. I remember my mom asking me if I knew who Kurt Cobain was. I replied that I did.

There are things that help define a generation - whether they are good or bad. Both my parents remember exactly where they were and what they were doing whey they heard the news that John Lennon had been killed. I bet others remember with amazing clarity what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, or when two airplanes smashed into the Twin Towers. We remember what we were doing when we heard the news that Kurt Cobain had killed himself. 

It's been 23 years since Kurt Cobain left us. A lot has changed since then, hasn't it? I'm no longer the confused Stoner I was in 1994. I've morphed over the years into whatever it is that I am. The music is still with me - I'm as crazy about music now as I was back then, exploring different genres and subgeneras. I'm more aware of the world around me and how things seem to wax and wane as the years go by. I've grown - I've loved and lost love, I've been happy and I've experienced terrible aches. 

We can speculate forever on why he did or even IF he did it. I don't think it's relevant in the grand scheme of things anymore. What is relevant are the things Kurt left us - an amazing body of music that one can get lost in over and over and an open door to talk about the pain and hurt of mental illness and depression, of drug use and addiction. We talked, we expressed, we felt and we did it together.

RIP Kurt.

Penny xx

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I March

It's kind of been a historical weekend, not just here in North America but world wide, too. On Friday January 20, 2017 Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America. And the day after, on Saturday January 21, 2017 the now historic Women's March on Washington took place.

Of course there is a direct correlation between these two events. After eight years of the Obama administration in the United States, the country is going from a leader who seemed to value and protect the rights of not just women, but other minority groups to one that, well, seems to encourage sexism and objectification of women. Don't believe me? Well, here are just a prime example of a few things President Trump has been quoted as saying:

"If Hilary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy American?"
-Twitter, April 1, 2015

"Can you imagine that face next to our President? I mean, she's a women and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
-Remarks about Carly Fiorina, who was Trump's Republican Rival. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, he said 'Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?,' September , 2015

"I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful...I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything...Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."
-2005 clip, released in 2016 featuring unaired footage ahead of President Trumps appearance on US soap opera Days of Our Lives

"26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military - only 238 convictions. What did these genius expect when they put men & women together?"
-Twitter, May 7, 2013

"All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me - consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected."
-2004, interview with the Daily News

I could go on but I think we've all heard it more than enough in the last year. And, sadly, I'm sure we are going to hear a lot more in the next four years. Now, one has to be fair. The democratic process was, as best we know, followed in the election and Trump won. I know we can argue this fact, and probably will, for centuries to come but as it stands, the man won. I may not agree with Trump - his policies, his thoughts or his platform but he was elected and sworn in. As someone who respects the democratic process, I will recognize him as the 45th President of the United States and give him a chance. 

I don't live in the United States. I was born and raised in Canada but even at a young age, I was very acutely aware of how much our neighbors to the south affect and influence our day to day lives up here. Don't kid yourselves - the political climate of the United States is like an overbearing parent to us here. While we are free to do and make our own choices, it often feels like our nation is looking up to and answering a little bit to 'mom and dad' down south. As we grow as a country, the influence seems less and less strong but trust me, it's always there.

I was very engrossed in this years Presidential election - more so than the previous. I'm sure that is due to a few things, but most strong among them are my age and my sex. Also, as a mother, I'm more aware of the world that I am raising my son in and I want to not only do right by him, but ensure the influences around him are positive and will build a strong foundation of acceptance. He is the future and it's my goal to show him there is no need to discriminate someone because they are different than you.  I want to raise a man that is compassionate, understanding, accepting and respectful. I'm also not naive enough to think that my influence is the only one that will matter in his life. His friends, his father with whom I am separated from, teachers, my friends, partners that many come and go in my life, the news media and even politicians - these will all have an influence in my son's life and its my responsibility to give him a strong enough base to know the difference between right and wrong.

I suppose it's been bubbling over for a long time - the struggle of the old ways verse the new ways. The old ways of patriarchy and white male privilege verse the new ways of equality. In my eyes, the Obama Administration not just respected women, but elevated them. There seemed to be this universal sense that men and women can stand together, side by side and, really, just get shit done. Barrack Obama not just spoke lovingly about his wife Michelle and their two daughters Malia Ann and Sasha but showed the utmost respect, admiration and an amazing desire to see them all succeed. He led by example, showing that amazing things can happen when we work together and treat everyone with the same respect - regardless of gender.

So, back to the Women's March on Washington this past Saturday...I suppose we all have our own reasons for taking to the streets. What started as a movement to 'send a bold message to our new government on their first day office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending is all' has really really turned into so, so much more. Washington was crawling with people, in numbers greater than those who attended the swearing in of President Trump. But that's not all. Millions of people around the world got together to show their support of Women world wide and fuck me, it was a beautiful thing to see. Here in Winnipeg thousands of people flooded the downtown on a cold and damp January day to stand united in the understand that, yes indeed, women's rights are human rights. I was so proud and happy to see the outpouring of support that I shared a video on my Facebook wall Saturday of the march and stated the following in the post:

"This is one of the many, many reasons it rocks to be a women. We understand the need to build each other up and support each other in hard times. We may not always all get along, we may bitch and fight and scream but in the end we understand that you are nothing without your sisters."

What followed filled me with so much dread and hurt and frustration that I'm still trying to find the words to properly express it (I guess that's what I'm trying to do here). I had one white British male, I'm assuming near middle age state "yet all the ones interviewed have no idea why they are marching," and another white British male also chirp in with 'I wish they would have marched in support of women  in Muslim countries many years ago, that would have been an awesome use of gender politics.'

Say what?

Of course I broke the first rule of dealing with Internet trolls and responded, citing the Women's March on Washington's mandate and explaining why standing up for the rights of all is important and I was told to 'stop miswomenstanding' the real reasons that he provided for me that proved the march was a 'joke.' I was also told that I am a 'successful international female DJ - how on earth have you been marginalized by this supposed patriarchy?"

Woah, excuse me?

Okay, I'll be the first to admit it. I lead a pretty damn good life. I was raised in a home where we never feared that we'd not have a roof over our head or food on our table. Both my parents are accepting people who raised two girls with the notion that with hard work, we can achieve our goals. We were made to believe that our gender did not define us and that being a women was not a curse or something to be ashamed of. I had a good education, I went to University. My parents got me a car when I was in my early twenties and helped me burden the cost of my University education so I would not graduate in debt. I moved into my first apartment alone in my mid twenties in a relatively safe and beautiful downtown neighborhood. I had heat, running water, electricity and was able to keep my fridge and cupboards stocked at all times. I was able to land a good unionized Government job that, by LAW could not discriminate me based on my gender. I make the same as my male counterparts and have the same opportunities presented to me as presented to them and my gender has never ONCE been an issue in my place of work. I live in a beautiful two-bedroom apartment on the 10th floor of a lovely high-rise in the heart of Downtown Winnipeg. I own my car. I am able to provide a safe, loving, warm home for my son and know he will never worry if there will be food on the table or if we will have a roof over our head. I am able, every week, to go on the airwaves at UMFM with my show Punks in Parkas and not just play what music I want, but like my other show hosts, we are able to speak freely and openly on the air about our thoughts and ideas - we are not censored. I am able to rant on any subject I want wish on Maximum Rhythm and Booze, and at times, hold my two white male co-hosts accountable. I have a soap box and a bull horn and I can use both without fear of harm to me or my loved ones.

Call me crazy, but I think everyone deserves all the opportunities I have had... and more.

So why do I march?
  • I march so my son can see that ones gender does not define what you can or cannot do
  • I march because even with all these wonderful opportunities and situations I have been presented with over my lifetime so far, I have experienced physical and verbal assaults on my person, I have been disrespected and treated as an inferior due to my gender. I have been raped, beaten and berated by men. I have been told that I can't do things, I will not be able to live on my own and that I will fail without a man in my life beside me. If I, the possible example of female white privilege have experienced all these things and more, then I weep thinking what others who are less fortunate than I may have experienced
  • I march because all women everywhere deserve the opportunity to say what they want, wear what they want and BE WHO THEY WANT without fear
  • I march because it is so fucking important to stand up when we feel our rights are being violated
  • I march because I am lucky enough to have a forum that reaches thousands and thousands of people and I believe that I should use that not just as a vessel to share great music, humor and news, but to hopefully draw a spotlight on plights that are REAL and PRESENT
  • I march because remaining silent makes one complacent 
  • I march to lead by example for my son
  • I march because I am a strong independent women and I will let NO ONE take that away from me
  • I march because solidarity builds a strong movement. Even though I am not an American and things like my reproductive rights are not currently in danger, it is important to show a united front and send a strong message that shows these issues extend beyond one country but are world wide. Just because currently I am able to safely seek out an abortion in my country, does not mean that would always be the case and I love knowing that I would have the support of my sisters world wide if anything happened to change that
  • I march because I love being a women and the fact that I wear dresses, make up and other 'girly things' should not devalue my input in any way. Change attitudes, not clothes

You know, I used to shy away from the word Feminist for many reasons. Mainly because I was not confident that others would believe me if I said 'I'm a feminist' due to how I dress and present myself. I wear pretty dresses, I do my make up, I like looking 'feminine.' Screw that, no more will I shy away from that word. 

I march because I am a feminist.

Penny xx

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Penny Lane's Top Albums of 2016

I think it's fair to say that most of us are more than ready to say good-bye to 2016. Society, on a whole, seemed to take a right good beating this year with a rash of celebrity deaths to the conflict in Aleppo to the Unites States electing reality TV star and all-around misogynist Donald Trump to the highest office in the country. Personally, 2016 was a difficult year for me. December gave me a right good beating and I went into 2016 with the hope that things would improve. Instead, the year made me it's bitch in more than one way, over and over again. To put it rather simply, 2016 sucked. 

But I suppose it's true that every grey cloud does have a silver lining. I'm trying this new thing, it's called 'being optimistic.' So far it's shit, but I'm working on it. So this new optimistic me needs to find the silver lining in 2016. There are a few. I forged some great new friendships, I discarded some dead weight that was dragging me down, I started writing again. I also went on a journey of musical discovery - the likes of which I have not done since I first started Punks in Parkas 11 odd years ago. I decided early into the year to dig deep into my own collection and expand my horizons beyond what one would expect to be blasting through my earbuds during the day. I dig deep, in various different ways and discovered something interesting about myself and my tastes in music. I've discovered that I have an appreciation of all music, as long as it's well crafted and not mass produced like a commodity. 

This time of year, most people are doing lists of their favorite releases of 2016. Instead, I'm going to do a list of my favorite albums I discovered/rediscovered in 2016. Some are new releases, some are old, but all have added to my personal soundtrack of 2016.

So long 2016 - don't let 2017 kick you in the ass on the way out.

1. Yer Favorites by The Tragically Hip (2005) - It's easy to call Summer 2016 the Summer of the Tragically Hip in Canada. In May lead singer and songwriter Gord Downie revealed that he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. It shocked the whole nation, and rightly so. The Tragically Hip are as Canadian as Maple Syrup, as Hockey and Tim Horton's. The band announced they would go on one last tour, with the last show on August 20th in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario televised for all to see on the CBC . It is reported that 11.7 MILLION Canadians tuned into that last concert - a testament to just how many people this Canadian rock back have touched. I was on a road trip with my son to Regina and sat with him in the car, listening to Gord scream 'COURAGE' to the crowd. Both my parents and my sister, whose favorite artist is, believe it or not, Bon Jovi, also tuned into the concert. It was such a national event that my Co-Host Warren Peace even sent me a text that evening to ask 'Penny, what's going on in Canada tonight?' My answer as simple; a whole country stopped what it was doing - stopped watching the Olympics on TV, stopped playing on the phones, just stopped and watched The Hip lay their hearts on that stage. It's rare we get to say goodbye to our idols. 2016 showed us this in spades as celebrity after celebrity passed this year. But Gord and The Hip gave us a chance to say thank you. The Hip was the soundtrack of my first awkward crushes, of those late nights drinking beers by the river with friends. They told tales of my life; of driving down corduroy roads, of living in the north, of hockey and small towns. They made it cool to be Canadian. Yer Favorites it a best of album, but with a twist. The band asked it's fans to vote on their favorite Tragically Hip songs, and those were then taken and put on this double CD. It's a great introduction to this iconic Canadian for those who have never heard The Hip before and it's also a collection of iconic Canadian tracks for those of us who grew up with The Hip. This album quickly became a staple during summer and fall car trips this year for me, with tracks like Bobcaygeon, 'It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken,' Boots and Hearts and Long Time Running finding spots this year deep in my heart. Thank you Gord Downie, Rob Backer, Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois and Johnny Fay....

2. Phrenology by The Roots (2002) - When I started Punks in Parkas on UMFM in 2005, my then music director (now our Station Manager) Jared McKetiak told me that in a few years I would be listening to and enjoying rap and hip-hop. I laughed at him. 'Mark my words Penny Lane, it will happen, you wait and see.' Well, it took longer than a few years, but damn him, he was right. 2016 was a year of discovery for me and I do have to give a lot of credit to the great Netflix series The Get Down for pushing me forward into somewhat uncharted musical territory. The Netflix series is a fictional account of the start of the Hip-Hop/DJ and MC scene in New York, something that has always fascinated me anyway. I discovered this album all because of the track The Seed (2.0). That song hooked me hard and I spent a good chunk of the start of 2016 listening to The Roots over and over again. 

 3. Choose Your Weapon by Hiatus Kaiyote (2015) - I think Spotify has been a blessing for me this year. Since embracing the streaming music service, I have not only learned to loving having all that music at my fingertips, but have also learned to get a tad frustrated with it as well. What happens when you give someone seemingly endless possibilities? They tend to stick to what they know and get stuck in a loop of listening to the same things day after day. It was that frustration in the Fall of 2016 that lead me to ask my Facebook followers for musical suggestions. As expected, I received the usual droll suggestions of The Jam, The Small Faces and The Who. But also tucked in there was this little gem by Hiatus Kaiyote. Based on cover art alone, I would have never given this record the time of day, but as it was the only different suggestion in a sea of familiarity, I went for it and found myself so drawn into the album, listening to it on repeat that entire day. It's a mix of so many amazing things that reminded me of the fantastic Janelle Monae mixed with cleaver beats and interesting musical arrangements and risky sound choices that really paid off. 

4. True Blue by Tina Brooks (1960) - This year was spent digging deeper into Jazz, exploring different artist, titles and albums. This classic by Tina Brooks (featuring Freddie Hubbard, Duke Jordan, Same Jones and Art Taylor) quickly found a spot in regular rotation at my house. After a rocky summer, a time when I was finding peace with myself and with the way the year was unfolding before me, this record took me into the fall season. I spent many evenings writing in my journal, with this record playing me into longer and colder days. It reeks of early 1960s - of smokey underground clubs, of Italian suits cleanly tailored, of happy hour drinks in Manhattan and coffee at Bar Italia in Soho. It's a classic that I wish I had discovered sooner.

5. New Occupation by Duotang (2016) - Many people who stumble across Punks in Parkas find it hard to believe that in the frozen wasteland of Winnipeg, Canada that there could be a Mod scene. Truth be told, Winnipeg always seemed to have had a handful of Mods about - from the early 1960's to now, and with Winnipeg being the musical mecca of the northern prairies, this city has also produced its fair share of great bands, including a few of the Mod persuasion. Enter Duotang - a group made up of Sean Allum on drums and Rod Slaughter on bass who found themselves playing to Mods on this and the other side of the pond in the late 1990's. I had missed Duotangs rise to Mod fame before they split in early 2000s. All I had to go by was their handful of releases on the great Mint label. Over the years, I was lucky enough to develop friendships with both Sean and Rod based on our mutual love of music and mod culture. About 10 years back, the boys got together for a one-off Christmas reunion show and blew the roof of the place. That lead to a gig here, another show there, a few more reunion shows and then, before any of us knew what had happened, there was talk of a tour and a new album. The release, New Occupation has that same old Duotang sound that fans know and love, but also show a maturity and growth in their song writing and craft in general. It's Canadian Mod power pop at it's finest.

6. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (1959) - It seems in difficult times, there are two albums I turn to, Abbey Road by the Beatles and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. With the rocky start I had to 2016, it's no surprise that much of the early months of the year were spent with Kind of Blue. There's something about this album that is a tad uplifting, a bit sarcastic, a bit tongue-in-cheek. It never fails to put a slight smile on my face with the first few moments of So What. I'm not sure exactly what it is about this album that just does it for me, it's not something I can easily pin down but every time I feel alone or like the shit hand I've been delt is never going to get better, Kind of Blue comes in and takes me away for a moment to a place where I can sit back and smile, laugh at the way things have unfolded and forget about everything negative as the album takes over. 

7. Morning Phase by Beck (2014) - Remember in 2015 when Beck won the Grammy for Album of the Year for Morning Phase and everyone's favorite shit disturber Kanye West went on about how the Grammy's need to respect 'real artists' and that "Beck needs to respect artist and he should've given his aard to Beyonce." Remember that? Man, it made me laugh pretty hard. When I first started listening to Beck back in the 1990's, I was even then able to recognize artistry in what he did. Odelay was a fantastic album and one that to this day, I still go back too. Maybe Mr. West just has no respect for artistry apart from that which is created in his own 'clique' or maybe he didn't give Morning Phase a listen at all. I believe if he had, he would have seen it for what it is - a well crafted, beautiful album that deserved the honor of being called Album of the Year. It's soo good that I'm almost willing to forget the whole Scientology thing... 

8. Heavy Soul! by Billy Hawks (1968) - There is no better bliss for me, nothing better for my soul sometimes than to dig through records. It's such a personal thing that I sometimes have trouble taking people when me with I decided to go record shopping. I think it's because it's a raw version of me, and I'm afraid most people won't understand it or have the patience for it. To be honest, I could spend a long, long time pouring over records. I suppose it would take another music nerd like me to really understand it. Sure, I'll take friends and people who are interested in getting some vinyl to record stores and sales with me, but the moments I cherist the most are the ones I spend alone in a record store, breaking my nails as I flip slowly through the albums, sneezing from the dust and loving that musty smell. I found a reissue of this album by Billy Hawks at local record store Into The Music for $5, brand new. I wasn't familiar with it and wasn't sure if it was something I would love. Because, and let's be honest here, that cover artwork is kind of shit. My eight year old son Hunter could do a better job. But for $5, I was willing to take the risk. What I got was an album that is a perfect combination of Soul, Blues and Jazz and it instantly became a personal favorite.

9. Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley by Nancy Wilson and the Cannonball Adderley Quintet with Miles Davis (1962) - Whenever I travel, I try to make a point to check out a few record stores wherever I end up. This summer, I took my then seven year old son Hunter on an eight hour road trip to Regina, Saskatchewan. Being his first road trip and first stay in a real hotel, he was beyond excited. I was excited to see if there was any record stores worth my time there. A few people directed me to a place called Vintage Vinyl and Hemp Emporium. This place, which was half a head shop and half a record store, smelled 'funny' according to my son, but had a rather decent selection of records. I picked up a handful, including this great release by Nancy Wilson and the amazing Cannonball Adderley. Nancy's voice is sweet and beautiful and is a perfect match to Cannonball's saxaphone. It wasn't until recently that I discovered that my favorite Miles Davis is also present on this great record.

10. One and Two by Mal Waldron (1976) -  I won't give the nitty-gritty details of how this record came into my collection. Part of me almost wants to because the story behind it is almost as good as the album itself and Warren Peace is always telling me that the personal stories I share on Maximum Rhythm and Booze are really the best.. Alright then, here it goes... After breaking up with my boyfriend before Christmas in 2015, I spent the first half of 2016 by myself. I needed some time to come to terms with the shit show that was the end of last year and work on loving myself a bit more before I even considered getting involved in any sort of way. By the summer, I was feeling more myself and at the encouraging of a friend, created an OKCupid profile. I didn't take it too seriously, so when I received a message from a Jazz loving, poetry obsessed English professor in Fargo, North Dakota... well, I didn't think too much of it. After exchanging a few lengthy emails, I learned that he was only in Fargo for a limited amount of time to do research for a book he was working on about a local poet. It seemed spontaneous and almost crazy, but we both felt that we should take advantage of this situation and meet for a drink, for dinner, for whatever before he headed back home to LA. So plans were made. He was heading to Minneapolis for a few days and on his way back to Fargo, we would meet for dinner at a local pub. I worked, and then straight from my office, hopped in my car and drove three hours to Fargo. This poetry loving, Jazz obsessed professor and I met first for a drink where he instantly handed me a brown paper bag. I opened it to find this record inside. He told me that he was out digging at some of his favorite record stores in Minneapolis just yesterday and saw this record and thought I would enjoy it greatly if I didn't have it already. We spent hours laughing over dinner and drinks, finding we had way more in common that originally thought. We talked for hours about music, about life, about art. The next morning when I drove home, I did so wondering what was to come of this, if anything? We are worlds apart, separated by space and very busy lives. We shared a few more emails but as the school year started up again in the Fall, contact became less and less. But every so often I like to put on this record and I smile, knowing that I still have the ability to be spontaneous and surprise myself. It may not have the most happiest of endings, but I did get a pretty sweet record out of the whole thing, so I guess I can't complain, can I?

So there it is, a collection of some of my favorite albums of 2016!

Much love,
Penny xx