11- Fireworks

This is one post in a series of fifteen. Each post will focus on one song by The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock n’ roll band. I am a fan, not an expert. The thoughts expressed in these posts are my own, with the following two exceptions: I have drawn inspiration and knowledge from a book entitled, The Never Ending Present by Michael Barclay. I have, also, learned much from a website dedicated to Hip fans, entitled The Hip Museum. I will give credit to either source when applicable.

Prior to meeting my wife, I lived and breathed sports. I participated in many sports betting pools. I organized my weekends around the tv schedules for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays and around the NFL games on Sunday. I knew all the players and all of their stats. It was all so very important to me at the time.

Then, along came Keri. Keri is the girl in the first verse of this song. She did not give a fuck about hockey. She ended up taking my hand and loosening my grip on Bobby Orr, as it were. But, by becoming a part of my life, she changed it for the better. I wouldn’t want to go back to the life I had where players and their teams filled my world with meaning. I believe myself when I say it, too. My life is good. I wouldn’t change a thing. 

“If there’s a goal that everyone remembers,
It was back in ol’ 72.
We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
But all I remember is sitting beside you.

You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey!
And I never saw someone say that before.
You held my hand and we walked home the long way.
You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr.”

The video for “Fireworks” can be found here.

As always, feel free to comment on any aspect of this song or about hockey or about Love or about anything you wish. I am happy that you stopped by to visit my blog, to read this post and to learn a little bit more about me and my life. Thanks for listening to the song, “Fireworks” by the Tragically Hip, too. 🙂

12- In A World Possessed By The Human Mind.

This is one post in a series of fifteen. Each post will focus on one song by The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock n’ roll band. I am a fan, not an expert. The thoughts expressed in these posts are my own, with the following two exceptions: I have drawn inspiration and knowledge from a book entitled, The Never Ending Present by Michael Barclay. I have, also, learned much from a website dedicated to Hip fans, entitled The Hip Museum. I will give credit to either source when applicable.

Many people, fans and non-fans alike, are familiar with the fact that Gord Downie died of brain cancer. What few people know is that his very public struggle with the disease was, in fact, not his first experience with cancer. (#NEP) A few years earlier, Gord’s wife, Laura, contracted breast cancer. She went through all of the treatments and tests and, for awhile, Gord stopped writing and focussed on being a husband and father first. Luckily, thanks to the many advances that have been made in the treatment of cancer, Laura, survived.

When you first learn that a loved one may die, it changes your heart. For Gord, that change manifested itself in a change in the tone of the songs he wrote. He claimed that he didn’t want to write representational songs any longer. He wanted his songs to be more realistic and attuned to the world around him. 

“In A World Possessed By The Human Mind” is about being scared to your core about losing someone you love. It describes the haze one experiences during the testing phase when doctors offer their prognosis and everything spins in your mind. Mostly, this song is about Love.

“Everything is quiet.
A little Super-Dangerous.
Quiet enough to hear God rustling around in the bushes.
Oh, but it was you.
Girl, I was so afraid.
You said, “You shoulda seen the look on yer face.”

The video for this song is a true cinematic affair, as it were. It is lovely and can be found here.

As always, I welcome your comments on the contents of this post. Feel free to discuss any aspect of this song; its’ lyrics or musicianship, if you like. Also, if you feel brave, you may wish to tell your own stories about cancer and/or loss, of Love given or received or whatever your own heart may desire. Thanks for visiting my blog and reading this post and listening to “In A World Possessed By The Human Mind” by The Tragically Hip.

13- Poets

This is one post in a series of fifteen. Each post will focus on one song by The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock n’ roll band. I am a fan, not an expert. The thoughts expressed in these posts are my own, with the following two exceptions: I have drawn inspiration and knowledge from a book entitled, The Never Ending Present by Michael Barclay. I have, also, learned much from a website dedicated to Hip fans, entitled The Hip Museum. I will give credit to either source when applicable.

I remember all the hoopla surrounding Y2K very well. For those who don’t, there was genuine concern all around the world that when the clocks ticked away those last few seconds of 1999, computers around the world were going to crash and all of the things that we use computers for were going to shut down. People stocked up on food and water, they took cash out of their bank accounts, they filled up on gasoline, too. The fear of the unknown was a very real thing for many people.

What I remember most about that night was that there was a world-wide concert being televised. This concert featured performers from every part of the planet. Canada was being represented by The Tragically Hip, who were performing live from Maple Leaf Gardens, I believe. I tuned in expecting them to play their hit song, “New Orleans is Sinking”, for a world wide audience but, instead, they played a song that I hadn’t heard of, up until then, called “Poets”. Initially, I was disappointed with their choice. But, over time, “Poets” has become one of my favourite songs.

One of the reasons that Gord was Gord and I was not, was because he saw the bigger picture better than me. He knew that, in times of darkness and doubt, it is the poets and artists and singers and playwrights that we can all depend upon to guide us into the light. He wasn’t wrong. We all survived Y2K. I did so by hearing “Poets” for the first time.

“Don’t tell me what the Poets are saying.
Don’t tell me that they’re talking tough.
Don’t tell me that they’re anti-social.
Sometimes, not anti-social enough.
Alright!”

*I could not find a video of that performance but, watching Poets performed live is a treat, no matter when it happens. So, enjoy Gord at his improvisational best at Barrie, Ontario. The link to this video is here.

As always, your comments on this post are most welcome. Feel free to comment specifically about this song, its’ lyrics, the musicianship or else, comment about your experiences during Y2K or about the importance of The Arts as a means of providing guidance and direction to us all in Life. Comment about anything you wish, actually. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope you enjoyed listening to “Poets” by my Boys, The Tragically Hip.

14- Goodnight, Attawapiskat

This is one post in a series of fifteen. Each post will focus on one song by The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock n’ roll band. I am a fan, not an expert. The thoughts expressed in these posts are my own, with the following two exceptions: I have drawn inspiration and knowledge from a book entitled, The Never Ending Present by Michael Barclay. I have, also, learned much from a website dedicated to Hip fans, entitled The Hip Museum. I will give credit to either source when applicable.

And, speaking of lending a voice……..for longer than anyone can imagine, the Indigenous Peoples have lived on the land that has come to be known as Canada. Their voices have a long, strong, proud tradition. Unlike Gus, the Polar Bear, who did not have the ability to advocate for himself, the Indigenous Peoples have long sung their song. Unfortunately, we, as Canadians, have not done a very good job of listening.

Of all of the legacies Good Downie and The Tragically Hip leave behind, their respect for the beauty and importance of Indigenous culture stands at the forefront. The story behind the song, Goodnight Attawapiskat, is a case in point. Attawapiskat, like many First Nation communities, has a long history of existing in sub-standard conditions. Basic rights such as access to clean drinking water have been issues for entire generations there. 

(#NEP) In the case of this song, the people of Attawapiskat had been attempting to build a school and were having a hard time doing so. The Hip came up and agreed to play a benefit concert. They headlined a bill that included several bands comprised entirely of local youth. At one point, Gord agreed to sing on stage with one of the bands. The female lead singer immediately stepped aside to give Gord the spotlight. Gord refused to let her sit any songs out, admonishing her band, good-naturedly, to never let anyone silence their singer. They performed Knocking on Heavens Door together. 
Gord claimed that being at Attawapiskat deepened the feelings of respect he had for Indigenous Peoples and that he took that feeling with him everywhere he went afterwards. He was known to close shows from all over North America with the words, “Goodnight, Attawapiskat!”

Hello! Good evening, folks!
We are the silver Poets 
Here in our thousand mile suits
We’re here to get paid
We know nobody who ever got laid
Telling people what to do.”

A video of the band performing “Goodnight, Attawapiskat” in Attawapiskat, can be seen here.

As always, your comments are welcome. Please feel free to discuss this song, the lyrics, the musicianship or comment on your feelings toward Indigenous Peoples and the conditions they find themselves living in. Thanks for reading this post and enjoying an important song called Goodnight, Attawapiskat by The Tragically Hip.

15-Gus, the Polar Bear of Central Park

This is one post in a series of fifteen. Each post will focus on one song by The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock n’ roll band. I am a fan, not an expert. The thoughts expressed in these posts are my own, with the following two exceptions: I have drawn inspiration and knowledge from a book entitled, The Never Ending Present by Michael Barclay. I have, also, learned much from a website dedicated to Hip fans, entitled The Hip Museum. I will give credit to either source when applicable.

This song is based on the true story of a polar bear named Gus. Gus was a featured attraction in the Central Park Zoo in NYC. After years in captivity, Gus began displaying signs of mental and emotional distress. King of the Tundra no longer, this majestic creature languished under the constant gaze of those who never knew he was in such pain. In this song, I swear Gord’s voice and the guhas an extra growl-like quality to it. I have always admired how the Tragically Hip so willingly gave voice to those unable to speak for themselves.

Whats troubling, Gus? Is it nothing goes quiet?
Is that what’s troubling you, Gus? The mere mention of the name
Used to be enough to make every bird stop singing.
Is that what’s troubling you, Gus? No one is afraid.”

A link to a video of the band performing this song live can be found here.

In this post, as in all others in this series, your comments on this song are most welcome. Feel free to talk about the lyrics, the musicianship, the subject matter of this song, your thoughts on zoos and/or animal rights……whatever your heart desires. Thanks for reading this post about Gus, the Polar Bear from Central Park by The Tragically Hip.

5- At Transformation

This is one post in a series of fifteen. Each post will focus on one song by The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock n’ roll band. I am a fan, not an expert. The thoughts expressed in these posts are my own, with the following two exceptions: I have drawn inspiration and knowledge from a book entitled, The Never Ending Present by Michael Barclay. I have, also, learned much from a website dedicated to Hip fans, entitled The Hip Museum. I will give credit to either source when applicable.

Early on, when the band was just coming together as a unit and trying to discover the voice with which they should speak to the world, they made an important decision. They decided that every original song they produced and put on an album would be done with joint credit given to all five members. (#NEP) Although Gord Downie often did most of the writing of the lyrics, the process of creating a song often involved each member of the band having their input, as well as, adding their knowledge of the music their instruments produced and how they could add layers of meaning to Gord’s lyrics. As you may know, a strict reading of the lyrics to almost any Hip song does not give too many hints at what the song actually sounds like when it is performed by all five members of the band. Gord’s voice was as much an instrument as any guitar; his lyrics akin to the notes and chords of his bandmates, combining to produce a musical performance that was always unique, visceral and mesmerizing to behold. For that reason, I have always preferred watching The Hip perform in person (when they were still touring) or now, watching videos of live performances captured for posterity. The song, “At Transformation” is an exception to this rule.

All five members of The Tragically Hip were multi-talented men. Rob Baker was as talented an artist as he was a guitarist. Baker studied Visual Art at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario (where the band originated). He was responsible for designing most of The Hip’s album covers and t-shirts in the early days of their career. Baker even won a Juno Award for his work on the album cover to Phantom Power. Flash forward a few years……..when Gord Downie’s wife, Laura, was recovering from breast cancer, the band took a short hiatus from recording and performing. During that stretch of time, Rob Baker was able to indulge in his passion for Art by creating his own original work, as well as, taking in Art shows by other artists of interest to him. One such show was by a young man named Cameron Tomsett. Baker was impressed with Tomsett’s work and brought several pieces back for the boys in the band to look at. They were impressed enough that they commissioned Tomsett to create the album cover art for their new release, “In Between Evolution” (which can be seen at the top of this post). Tomsett’s art and sense of artistic expression were, also, incorporated into the video for “At Transformation”. In my opinion, the video is stunning! The song’s lyrics describe the battle to survive cancer and fight for life anew so, the words have an intensity all of their own. However, like all Hip songs, the introduction of the influences of the rest of the band take Gord’s lyrics to a new level of urgency and passion. Art and Music have a transformative effect on all of our lives, just as they did on each Tragically Hip song, just as they do in this Tomsett-inspired video.

Gently breathing
Lit by the morning sun.
Through the night,
It had been raining venom.I want to be kind,
Not a bullet in the right place
Or just of two minds,
More important than important.”

The brilliant video for “At Transformation” can be viewed here.

Thanks for visiting my blog and reading this post. Please feel free to comment on any aspect of this song, on Art that moves you or on the beauty of collaboration or anything else of interest to you now that you have read this post and watched this video and listened to these lyrics. Thanks to every member of The Tragically Hip for making such good Art.

Living in a Man’s World

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed this morning and came across a comment thread by a lady named Mary Robinette Kowal. She tweeted this photo of two astronauts working aboard the International Space Station. At first blush, this photo seems fairly innocent, as both crew members share the task of recording whatever observations they are making through the porthole window. But, maybe, my many female followers will be able to detect what is happening that prompted Mary Robinette Kowal to tweet as she did. From my male perspective, I first looked at this photo and saw, what looked like, gender equality on display. I felt good that both scientists were working collaboratively, in apparent harmony, as true partners in this experiment of theirs. But, when Mary Robinette Kowal looked at this photo, she saw inequity; an inequity that is a feature of life for most women living in a man’s world. Let me explain.

A few years ago, when I was still teaching primary-aged children, we had the good fortune to learn about the International Space Station from a Canadian astronaut named Chris Hadfield. Commander Hadfield was as skilled a communicator, as he was an astronaut. As part of his mission, he sought to educate children about space so, he would accept questions from school children and would answer them by making short videos. One child asked him how he slept at night without floating away. He replied by demonstrating how each crew member had their own sleeping bag tethered to a wall inside a compartment. He climbed into the bag, zipped it up and pretended to sleep, staying perfectly in place the whole time. Then, he went on to talk about doing his scientific work. Commander Hadfield said that whenever he had to stand still and perform a task or look out of a window, he would place his feet under a blue bar that was attached to the floor. By doing that, his feet would hit the bar and he would stand, rooted in place. So, what does this have to do with inequity, you ask? I want you to look back at the photo and find the blue bar on the floor. Now, look at how the astronauts are conducting their experiment of looking out of the porthole and recording their results.

Mary Robinette Kowal pointed out that the male astronaut had his feet tucked up under the bar but, the smaller, female astronaut could not use the bar to stabilize herself and still do her job of looking out of the window. She pointed out that the female astronaut was still able to complete her task but, that she had to do so by compensating for the fact that the International Space Station was built with male astronauts in mind. That, declared Robinette Kowal, is an experience shared by many females all throughout life.

Among the many thing Mary Robinette Kowal has done in her life, she is a professional puppeteer. She gave another example the contortions many women face in the workplace by describing her time spent working on The Muppet Show with master puppeteer, Jim Henson. She said that Henson was six foot, three inches tall and that because he was the main puppeteer, the sets were built to accommodate his body size and not her, much-smaller frame. She talked about wearing special shoes with six inch lifts, standing on boxes, etc. and how the mere act of bringing her characters to life in Jim Henson’s physical universe caused her discomfort and pain, at times. I never got the sense that she was complaining about her treatment on set by her male co-workers. But, I did get the very real sense that in order for her to work on set, she was expected to “do what she had to do” to reach the proper heights or, in other words, like the female astronaut above, it was assumed that she would compensate for working in a male environment.

I am a man. Yes, I am. I like to think that I am relatively forward-thinking when it comes to issues of equity but, just the same, my male privilege colours my experiences in life in ways that will always be different. For example, I never think twice about walking down a quiet street at night. The bill is almost always given to me to pay in restaurants after our meal is done. When trades people come to our house for any reason, they always direct their discussions toward the “man of the house”. Finally, at school, I was, almost always, accorded respect by parents because I was a male teacher. I was rarely challenged for my comments on report cards, certain students were placed in my room so that they could have a “male influence” to guide them and so on. None of these things make me superior but, they do serve to highlight that my life experiences are different in many ways because I am a man. The problem comes when, as a society, we accept these differences as being normal….so normal, in fact, that we don’t even see the evidence in front of our eyes, as in the photo above.

As a man, I remain a work in progress when it comes to issues of gender equality. I fully support issues of pay equity, for example and I try very hard to champion the accomplishments of females and to advocate for equal opportunities for all girls and women in life. But, admittedly, I accept my privilege easily, too. And, if I still have a way to go then, what about the majority of other men who don’t give gender issues a second thought?! So if you are a female reader of this post, I would like to learn from your experiences, just as I did from Mary Robinette Kowal and her tweet this morning. If there was one thing that you would like men to know about your own experiences that you feel they don’t they even realize, what would that be? Is there something that men should know that may help create a positive change in our behaviour? If so, let me know in the comments below. My blog is your blog this day. Let class be in session. As men, we all have much to learn. Thanks, in advance, for sharing your knowledge.

*I will add that those readers who know me in real life may feel safe in their knowledge that I am a good person and that I will welcome their words. For those who do not know me in real life, please know that my blog is a safe haven for your thoughts and advice. I am not a troll waiting to ambush you. Asking for trust is asking for a lot, I know. But, if you come to know anything about me, know this……I am a gentleman. I was raised right. You are safe with me.

I look forward to your comments and your wisdom.