Language, music and art have always been cultural exchanges. That’s how we humans roll. We share and cross-fertilize. If you don’t recognized how entwined we are, then you best get to reading some history. Lots of it.

We have been sharing artistically for millennia. We mutually appreciate our fellow creatives on this planet. We inspire each other in countless ways — a musical rhythm, a colorful pattern, a delicious recipe, a way of styling hair, folding a scarf, herb knowledge, a good story, a sad melody.

The attempt by some social activists to draw artistic boundaries between us and insist that those borders cannot be crossed is absurd and futile. Censorship and intellectual tyranny stifle mutual respect. Don’t fall for the silliness of “cultural appropriation”.

I was at the soft opening of Slāv on 26/6/18, a presentation by Ex Machina sponsored by Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM). Friends who worked on the show had comped us tix. Outside the theater a small group of outraged social activists were protesting. They were outraged that the white singer/writer Beatrice Bonnafassi who is Serbian/Italian and the director Robert Lepage who is French Canadian and gay — created a show with themes of slavery. They claimed that the show was a “rip-off” by white people of their black western hemisphere experience.

They were aggressive, rude, almost hysterical. They formed a gauntlet that we had to push through to get to the theatre entrance. They screamed at us that we were privileged, that we were racists. One pushed a poster into my face literally rubbing my nose on it.

I thought how very silly this ado was. I asked one man yelling at me whether he had seen the show. He hadn’t. None of them had seen the show yet. They couldn’t have because this was the first public performance. Why are these people in such a lather over a show they hadn’t even seen?

“Slāv” is a musical play aka an artful expression of a sorrowful human experience. The work is not a farce or mockery. It is not stereotyping or denigrating others. It is not stealing from others for profit.

The protestors could have been using their energy to fight serious issues like chemical pollution or income disparity or detention centres for asylum seekers or, hey, sex slave trafficking. But, no. They picked the low-hanging fruit of a musical created by a popular artist and director at a world class festival, undoubtedly to nab headlines.

The festival after originally supporting the show, eventually caved to the protesters’ political correctness tantrum and cancelled the show.

Shame on you, FIJM for being cowed by these dilettantes. You let nonsense trump freedom of expression.

  • The cast of “Slāv” was all women and diverse — Bonnafassi and 6 others.
  • Slāv is a reference to the origin of the word slave. Slavs — those living in the areas now called Eastern Europe — were regularly enslaved throughout the Middle Ages. Bonnafassi, of Serbian heritage, is sensitive to this.
  • All of us can claim some form of enslavement in our ancestors’ past. Most human cultures have enslaved others regardless of skin color.
  • No single culture or racial group owns suffering. We are all in this together.
  • Beatrice Bonnafassi drove home the issue of modern-day slavery eloquently in the show. Yes, slavery goes on just like it has for centuries. There are more people enslaved now then at any time in history.

The protestors and commentators in the media kept referring to the profits being made in theatre. They imagine the director, creator and performers all making oodles of dough off of this “appropriation”. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha … oh. my. word. Do they know anything about theater? … Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha …

More:
https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/robert-lepage-breaks-his-silence-on-jazz-fest-decision-to-muzzle-slav

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-should-white-people-sing-black-slave-songs/

Gary and I marched in the Montreal “March for Our Lives” this morning in solidarity with the big march in Washington D. C. and all the marches across the U.S., Canada and the world.

A limit on military style assault rifles and better screening and background checks of gun buyers are logical, conservative approaches to protecting citizens. Do I even need to say this?

Cars are dangerous machines. We put laws in place to limit their use. Driving 100 mph in front of a school is not allowed, for example. Seat belts are mandatory for safety.

Military assault rifles are wildly destructive. Limiting their use is reasonable. Screening buyers is reasonable. There is plenty of data confirming that societies that regulate firearms efficiently have much lower incidences of gun deaths. Jeezuz J. Christ.

See: America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts

#NeverAgain #MarchForOurLives

On March 19, 1999, Gary and I went to the Sonoma County Courthouse and got married by a Justice of the Peace.

We’d been together 8 years already. Neither of us particularly wanted to go through the legal process. But, we went ahead and did it for practical purposes — health insurance being one of the main reasons.

Up at the county office, we found out we needed a witness. We hadn’t thought of bringing anyone with us. Luckily a kind, older woman named Nuala, who was waiting for a friend, said she’d “stand” for us.

The ceremony was simple and quick. We promised to be kind to each other. So far so good.

We then drove to the beach, stopped for a beer, went out to dinner back in Petaluma and then went home and watched a movie. Plus ça change …

We threw a party for friends the following day — a reception of sorts. We gave everyone an egg-shaped stone — a symbol of new beginnings on the Spring Equinox.

This is what we looked like on our wedding day.

Ruth Terry Dillman is a fantastic fabric artist. We are lucky to have this wonderful piece which she created back around 2005.

When Ruth showed me this while it was in progress, I knew I had to have it.

I get joy every time I look at it — stars, unicycling, Shakespeare, exquisite detail. Thank you, Ruth!

Gary was a unicyclist/juggler who also happened to be acting Shakespeare when I first met him…

It was Mardi Gras, February 12, 1991. We’d gone on a “date” to Stanroy’s Music in Santa Rosa. We then wended our way back to my pad, an old farmhouse in Penngrove, California. The house was on what had once been a chicken ranch during Sonoma County’s egg production heydays in the 1920s. The living room had high ceilings, windows that faced the horse pasture in the front, oak trees on the side. The fireplace was smokey because of a poorly functioning insert. The couch was rust colored and modular — a hand me down from my oldest sister.

We had started hanging out after the Winter Solstice, talking, watching movies together, taking drives, more talking. We were falling in love but, having both had been married before, we were taking it slow, very slow.

This night, 27 years ago, after more talking and pots and pots of herbal tea, I saw bands of light reaching out from our hearts pouring into each other. We kissed and …

Of course, I wrote a song about it:

People gathered at Place des Arts in downtown Montreal on this brisk Saturday midday, in solidarity with worldwide demonstrations for the rights of women and equality for all.

I wanted to add my body and pink pussy hat to the event so I hopped on the metro and made the short 25 minute trip. I captured these few shots of the participants.

In Canada, equality between women and men is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights, unlike the US, which has yet to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Canada is not perfect — the pay gap is still wide and women are under-represented in politics,for example — but the the government is committed to creating gender equality.

It is hard to believe that in the 21st century, those of us with a vagina are still fighting for basic human rights.

While walking home today, I had the chance to enjoy, and video, a complete snow removal operation on a sunny stretch of Boulevard Saint-Michel.

What can I say? These big machines and their coordinated moves are fascinating.

I had fun putting together this short video, underscoring it with one of our tunes: “Drunken Sailor’s Hornipe – Wally’s Dub” from our album “Shake Those Bones”.

The statistics quoted are from the official City of Montreal website:
English: http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/snowremoval/
Français: http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/deneigement/

Around we go again. Here’s hoping that 2018 moves us forwards as a species — more compassion, more critical thinking, more action, less talk, less religion. A gal can dream.

Gary and I send out a New Year’s greeting to family and friends every year with a light-hearted selfie. When putting together this year’s greeting, I got to wondering how many times have we have done that. Looks like, we’ve been at it for 17 years – 2002-2018. Oh my. So, for fun I put together a super short video to share those seventeen seasonal selfies. (Who says to avoid alliteration?)

In Quebec, one can use the word selfie — everyone knows what that is — but the “official” word is un égoportrait.

The tune underscoring the video is “L’Amour Persiste” from our latest album “Naked Ladies“.

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