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Or How I learned to love myself and stop spending money I didn’t have to live in the past

I don’t know why or how this happened, but apparently a switch goes off as you start to hit 50. It’s like suddenly it’s okay to be nostalgic. I suppose if you always pined for a sportscar, or only find women in their 20’s sexy, then maybe it could be worse. But in my experience, it’s been about putting bands that haven’t played live together in 20 years on stage and/or paying ridiculous amounts of money to see a band you were too cool to see when you and they were far cheaper.

Scream Booth_snapshot_2016-01-30_15-39-25-591

Yep, it’s happening all around. Punk Rock Bowling, book releases about shit that happened in the late eighties, tickets to see a man dying of cancer on sale on Stub Hub for $5,000, never mind the sudden death of certain artists formerly known as living legends. It’s like some kind of plague.

In case you are worried, here are the symptoms: You are comfortable. You have enough to live on. You are clinging to bad habits, like smoking, drinking, and the odd joint. You find yourself in the new arrivals section of a used record store buying country and western records from the mid-seventies. You spend inordinate time on social media championing music that most people under 30 could give a shit about and you impulsively use PayPal to buy tickets to shows featuring bands that have not performed live since the mid-nineties at the latest, some bands having never performed since you could enter a licensed establishment, ie Soft Boys, The Pop Group, Gang of Four, The Buzzcocks etc…

Beardall No Flash Please Hand Up 2

 

The cure: Purchase no record more than $5. Ask people to share as much of the old music as they can on Dropbox so you don’t have to pay for it. Reconnect with friends who put you on the guest list before and get on the guest list again. Close your PayPal account. Don’t go online after 8 pm. No, really, unless you are completely clean of drugs and alcohol, just don’t do it. You are prone to do, or say something you will regret in the morning. I hope this helps.

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History Lesson Pt. III

Written on the 30th Anniversary of the death of D Boon on Dec. 22, 1985

 Let the products sell themselves*

In retrospect, it is difficult to consider The Minutemen a California punk band, but then again, it’s also difficult to consider Husker Du a punk band and I still can’t understand why the Replacements are considered a punk band, but they are considered iconic among the bands that emerged from the Midwest US punk movement.

So why is the most enduring band to emerge from the SST-era indie rock bands, whose lead vocalist and guitarist tragically died in a motor vehicle accident at a peak career moment in 1985, continue to be a focus of attention and an influence across generations still one of the least understood (or properly appreciated) bands of the period?

Fuck advertising, commercial psychology*

Let’s start at the beginning. It’s the mid-seventies. Mike Watt and D Boon are pals. They go to see the Bags in Los Angeles, on the recommendation of Weirdos drummer Danny Bennair and decide that if they can do it, “We can too.” Not an uncommon story. They decide, or more correctly D’s mom decides, that one will play guitar (D) and the other will play bass (Mike). They start to play songs by bands they have records by including Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Famously they relate later in life that they didn’t know how to tune, saying they thought slack strings and tight strings was a matter of preference, not actually about playing an instrument in tune. They just didn’t know any better.

Mike and D

They start a couple of bands and settle on the Minutemen when drummer George Hurley sits in on their first recording session after the previous drummer (Hurley’s Replacement) decides to quit because, as Mike puts it, he was scared of the hardcore scene, and let’s face it…George could handle himself.

Psychological methods to sell should be destroyed*

The Paranoid Time Single (actually an EP on a 7” vinyl because the Minutemen’s songs were so short) is released by SST Records in 1980. It’s the second release by the label, the first being Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown. It becomes a college radio hit and gets played by Rodney on KROQ. They get more gigs and start their own label, ‘cause that’s what you do in the eighties DIY punk scene, called New Alliance. They pal around and play shows with Husker Du, after doing a tour with Black Flag. They open for anyone who will have them and play as many shows as they can and record as much music as they can. They work hard, release an unprecedented amount of music in a short period of time and then break up after their singer is killed in a freak accident on December 22, 1985 when the van his fiancée was driving broke its axle and careened off the road, and Boon, who was asleep in the back, flew out the back door, broke his neck and died instantly.

Logo

Because of their own blind involvement*
In their own conditioned minds*

I recall first hearing Double Nickels on the Dime, their epic double album with 45 songs on it and thinking, this is something I can understand, after hearing Black Flag, Sonic Youth and the Meat Puppets and thinking to myself, this is indie rock?

But the sounds of a car starting up; the simplicity of the album cover and, let’s face it, two LPs of music, was too much for me to resist on a busboy’s budget in 1986. And so the soundtrack for my indie education was cast, a year after D. Boon had died mere days before the Minutemen were to embark on what would be a career-making tour with REM.

Double Nickels on the Dime, and I can say this because Mike told me in an interview in Buffalo New York that it is so, was their best release. Named due to a speed limit, the dime being the 110 highway to LA from San Pedro. I can’t say enough about it. Over forty songs and not a single dud among them: From Anxious MOFO to History Lesson Part II, This Ain’t No Picnic and Corona, it is rife with classics and experiments to this day unsurpassed in prodigiousness and musical maturity.

DBL NICS

To be fair, the opening to Anxious MoFo, that bass? Yeah…that was the ticket. Mike Watt is frankly one of the most strident alternative rockers in human history. Yeah, he is my bass god. I can only image what he and D would have done together if the accident hadn’t happened. Their work ethic, their talent and yes, their eccentricity would have changed everything.

The unit bonded together*

There is something to be said about the relationship of D Boon and Mike Watt. Watt has been described as the heart and Boon, the brain, of one body. I would say that makes George Hurley the limbs.

So inseparable, despite their famously public arguments, that when D died, it took a ridiculous dare from a kid in Columbus, Ohio to bring Watt and Hurley out of retirement and form fIREHOSE, whose album Raging Full On is still considered by many the last Minutemen Record, since these are songs written for what was to be the next Minutemen release. So imagine my luck, when Toronto promoter Elliot Lefko decided in 1987 to make Mike, ed fROMOHIO (aka Edward Crawford) and George an offer to come to Toronto and play two nights when the band hadn’t even played outside of California. So there I was, standing side stage watching Mike lead fIREHOSE through one of the most incredible sets of music I’d ever seen. When asked by a friend, hey, can you give this to Mike? (photo of the Minutemen in a bathroom stall at CBGB’s) Mike looked at it, signed it, did the Blue Oyster Cult symbol for D and then said, get George to sign it…well, yeah, it’s still in my copy of Double Nickels on the Dime and my friend, unless he reads this, is still none the wiser.

Promo Shot Firehose

Morals, ideals, awareness, progress*

In later life, and yes I’ve spent much more time with Mike Watt over the years, I have learned to love the music of both fIREHOSE and the Minutemen. Despite D. Boon’s absence, I’m sure he gazes upon fIREHOSE with great joy, as an obvious homage to the Econo lifestyle he and Watt embraced. But there continues to be a much more profound contribution of the Minutemen’s songwriting and general approach that has endured for 30 years since Boon’s death.

Their proletariat lifestyle; their eccentricity and philosophical moorings are unmatched. Their maturity and awareness of how the world was, and is, was also unmatched in their milieu. You can listen to Husker Du, Black Flag, even the Meat Puppets and you don’t feel the maturity you get with the Minutemen. The naïveté found in their peers of the time is virtually absent in the Minutemen, despite their mammoth contribution in terms of songs and recordings over a five-year period. It’s hard not to imagine what they could have been, had they earned a record deal with Sire, or some such alternative label known for developing talent like The Talking Heads, Television and the Ramones.

bassplayermag-april2007

Let yourself be heard!*

But the legacy of the Minutemen is unmatched as well. Citing the Minutemen as an influence in the eighties was not in the least pretentious. You see, they didn’t really earn respect until well into the nineties when bands like Uncle Tupelo, Nirvana, Wilco, Calexico and others started to cite them as the single most important influence to them as young musicians. Sure, there are others, and when Mike Watt signed to Columbia Records and released his first major label record, not only did he tour with Matthew Sweet, who’s band featured Richard Lloyd of Television, but his own band included Eddie Vedder, Pat Smear (Nirvana) and Nels Cline (who would later join Wilco).

These days you will find Watt playing bass in the Stooges, supporting worthy Minutemen tributes like the Missing Men project, or simply making his own music. In 2011 Watt toured up the West Coast with a reunited fIREHOSE. I went to the show and when I started to talk to Mike about the old days, he just laughed as he signed another print for me made by a friend of my wife handed around to friends of Watt holding his Les Paul converted bass guitar, he just laughed and said “Happy Days…(and as I walked away)…and I’m Potsi.”

mikewatt Iggy Hump

I love Mike. I really do. But that guy has seen and done a lot. So all I can really do is stand back admire and revere the most proletarian rock star since Woody Guthrie. Full stop. This is too long. I need to jam (more) econo.

*Lyrics to the song “Shit from an Old Notebook” Copyright Mike Watt.

David Yow and the Jesus Lizard at the Apocalypse Club

One of the proposed covers of the book released by Anvil Press in May, 2016

What?

Well, it’s underway and coming soon. I’ve been talking to people who participated in the music scene in Toronto during this time, which has allowed me to recall and clarify who did what, when, how and the impact it had.

Who?

Among the bands and people we are covering and potentially including are: Afghan Wigs, All, Alta Moda, Neal Arbic (A Neon Rome), Big Drill Car, The Bookmen, Jack Bruce, Butthole Surfers, John Cale, Andrew Cash (L’etranger), Change of Heart, Cheetah Chrome, Chesterfield Kings, The Church, Circus Lupus (Toronto), Concrete Blonde, Condition, Ray Condo and his Hard Rock Goners, Dead Milkmen, Death of Samantha, Deja Voodoo, The Dickies, Dik Van Dykes, Dinosaur Jr., Denise Donlon, Doughboys, Drug Creeps, Dundrells, The Feelies, Fifth Column, firehose (Mike Watt), The Fleshtones, The Fluid, Gaye Bikers on Acid, The Godfathers, Grinch, Groovy Religion, Gruesomes, Gun Club, Jad Fair and Half Japanese, Heimlich Maneuver, The Hellcats, Chris Houston, Jellyfishbabies, John Drake Escapes, Jr. Gone Wild, Killdozer, King Cobb Steelie, The Lawn, Living Colour, Lydia Lunch, the Melvins, Mr. T Experience, Mudhoney, My Dog Popper, Nice Strong Arm, The Nils, Nine Pound Hammer, Nirvana, No Mind, Pere Ubu (Dave Thomas), The Phantoms, Pig Farm, Iggy Pop, Purple Toads, Ramones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Redd Kross, Rollins Band, Scott B (Sympathy), Scrawl, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Shotgun Shack, Snowdogs, Big Daddy Cumbuckets (Joel Wasson), Sonic Youth, Soul Asylum, Superfly, Soundgarden, 13 Engines, Supreme Bagg Team, Tad, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, Ten Commandments, Moe Tucker, John Cale, Tulpa (John Bottomley), Varis Tombley, and the Volcano Suns.

How?

It’s a tough period to capture, but with the help of people who were there, I’m doing my best to reflect and represent the flavour of the period. Drawing from the inspiration of photographer and artist Derek von Essen has meant there is a lot of memory work being done by both us and the people we talk to.

Why?

So why this period? Derek and I were part of the scene. We were the scribes and documentarians of a period that was special to us. We were in our early twenties, beginning our families, forming ourselves and the Toronto scene, arguably one of the most vibrant in terms of diversity, live performances and creativity, was the fuel we needed to do our day jobs, which admittedly meant going to either bussing tables, odd jobs or better, selling records at a retail store or distribution outlet, or eking out an existence as struggling a journalist and a photographer submitting copy and photographs to such publications as Nerve, Rear Garde and (later) Exclaim magazines.

We were in love with it all and our best way to make love to it, was to capture it in our words and photographs. We hope you’ll engage us with your stories. The deadline for submissions is the end of October, since our deadline for copy is early November.

What now?

We have waited this long to reach out because we wanted to form our skeleton for the book. The book is broken up into three thematic sections, though the final product will be an amalgam of all three. These themes are: Audience, Community, and portraits (people whom we feel made a significant contribution before, during and after this period).

But this book is about the people. So we need your help. We look forward to hearing from you. You can find us on Facebook or simply comment here or reach out to me to let me know your thoughts, memories and experiences.

Why?

Keeping the dream alive.

I hadn’t bought a digital media player since my cell phones started playing enough music to include a reasonable amount of music encompassing by broad tastes. So that was something like 10 years ago. I did notice the crappy sound quality , and quickly learned the ratio of sound spectrum to increased memory requirements.

My favourite thing was to simply run the random feature across my entire collection and see what came up. So when Neil Young started selling his Pono High Definition player, I was quick to jump on the bandwagon for two reasons: technology had caught up in terms of the amount of music you could carry around and yes, I wanted the best quality sound I could get. So I paid a little over $400 USD to become an investor and, about a year ago, I got my pono player after a number of well-communicated delays.

It came in a lovely wooden box with a cool leather case, a nice note from Neil and in my case, a chrome-plated Patti Smith signature numbered 21 of 464 loaded with two of her albums (Horses and Banga), along with one track from Harvest (There’s a World…not one of the better ones, presumably included on all the players to show off the spectrum of sound — the song includes orchestral sounds including timpani drums).

With 128 gigabytes of memory, I was given more than enough space for a variety of music. It has quickly become my sound source of choice. However, I have some concerns with the prototype. So I share these with you now:

Pros:Pono Player20150506

  • Sennheiser over ear headphones make the sound on high resolution files better.
  • Separation, space and definition are great. Better than ever in my opinion.
  • Loads of music and light to carry.
  • In short, I got what was promised and it won’t cost me $1,000 or more to get it from a competitor. (Sony for example)
  • It also sounds good in my car.

Cons:

  • The operating system sucks on so many levels. The touch screen is temperamental and the software is crappy and non-intuitive for most people my age and I’m considered technically savvy at 40 plus years.
  • It heats up. I mean it really heats up. It’s a little disconcerting.
  • My Mac needs to initialize the player every time, which could be a Mac thing, but it is bothersome.
  • I live in Canada and can’t buy music from the site. So I can’t benefit from the full spectrum of music the Pono World site offers, which kind of defeats the purpose and is a huge gap in their business model.
  • Did I mention the operating system?
  • I do random playlists, which are repetitive and will mean at some point simply removing music or just playing albums in their entirety. I like the randomness of that option, but with the entire Fugazi discography and Eric Dolphy boxed set loaded on my player, I’m hearing too much of both of them these days. So will likely be deleting them from my player to avoid hearing too much of both. I have hundreds of albums loaded, but the program is using a flawed algorithm and keeps playing what I have the largest amounts of loaded. Not necessarily what I want to hear all the time.
  • I can’t seem to add a song to a playlist when I am liking it. It doesn’t seem to let me do that, though I seem to recall being able to do that before in a previous iteration (I’ve had three updates since I first got the program). I’m confused and I don’t read directions.
  • Even with the case, if I put the bulky beast in my pocket, I end up hitting the volume buttons or pausing it. The case only allows interaction with the player by removing it entirely from the case. I presume some kind of headphone peripheral will be forthcoming, but for now, it’s a pain in the ass.

The recent media scrum around Macleans calling Winnipeg Canada’s prime example of the worst of racism in our country has me needing to weigh in on my experience as a privileged European male on Turtle Island.

Over the two decades as a practicing journalist, I had the predisposition to seek out stories that illustrate injustice in our society. This meant that I often landed on the issue of First Nations and the dispossession that we, as Christianized Europeans, laid squarely on the First Peoples of the so-called New World. My formal political education, combined with my fortunate birth into a line of conquerors meant that I had to quickly come to terms with my place of privilege in modern society. Raised by a woman who would spend her later life working with First Nations people in both Latin America and Africa also meant that I had to learn of the genocidal practices of my ancestors.

Furthermore, one of the first stories I covered was the reclamation of traditional lands at Ipperwash Provincial Park in Ontario and the adjacent military base where, incidentally, I worked as a dishwasher during a summer job in my teens. It exposed to me how our government, as recently as 1940’s used the War Measures Act to steal land from First Nations people, in this case, the Stoney Point People who were so integrated on a reserve close by that their identity was virtually eliminated from the historical narrative.

Then, in 2002, I went to work for CBC in Regina. Here I was exposed to Canada’s relationship with the Plains Cree. I was soon drawn to the institutional murder of a series of First Nations men in Saskatoon. As is now widely documented, Saskatoon Police officers had taken to the habit of driving intoxicated Aboriginal men out to the outskirts of the city and leaving them to walk back to the city, often in temperatures as low as minus 40 Celsius, on their own, often without proper clothing or footwear, rather than placing them in jail to sober up. What came to be known as the Starlight Tours, exposed institutional racism in the police department there and eventually led to a series of changes in how Police and native peoples interact in that city. Does this mean Saskatoon is no longer a racist community? I doubt it.

As the Macleans story shows, this institutional predisposition of blaming victims for their own problems and an almost Malthusian attitude toward these problems led me to further explore the complex web of racist attitudes found even in communities where First Nations people form an integral part.

Then, in 2004, I was invited to participate in a documentary by Westwind Pictures (not insignificantly the same production company that gave us the award winning program Little Mosque on the Prairie around the same time).

My job was to gather a group of people to participate in a workshop conducted by Jane Elliott, a woman who had come to be known for an exercise she first conducted amongst her third-grade class as an elementary school teacher in Riceville, Idaho. The exercise was precipitated by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Elliott came to the alarming realization that her students were not even aware of who Rev. King even was, and worse, why the African American Community were so angry about the killing of this man of peace.

She decided the expose the children to racism by separating the blue-eyed kids from the brown-eyed kids and coaching the brown-eyed children to treat the blue-eyed children in ways similar to how a black child would be treated in a segregated America.

Not surprisingly, Elliott was fired by her school and her parents, who ran the local pharmacy and prominent gathering place for the community in those days, were so ostracized that they had to close their business in the wake of the controversy that ensued when Elliott’s experiment caught the attention of Life Magazine and yes, she even appeared on the Tonight Show to speak on what she had done and why.

Back to Regina. I was tasked with gathering at least 30 participants for this workshop. The participants could not know what was about to happen. I interviewed between 50 and 100 people and narrowed the list to 15 blue eyes and 15 brown-eyed participants. Truth be told, one of the participants, an Aboriginal woman, guessed what was about to happen. Not insignificantly, she turned up wearing a hoodie that read 100 per cent Canadian. Nevertheless, her role was seminal to the success of the documentary as she described the experience she had as a mother in Regina when her daughter was not invited to birthday parties simply because of her race.

One of the blue-eyed participants, Steve, a neighbor of mine who has two children of mixed heritage (Inuit) living in the south without the child’s mother, who was convinced that due to his life experience was not racist and was equally convinced that he had raised his children in a race-free environment. Little did he know what was about to happen. On the break, in a moment of concern for my neighbour, I confronted Elliott about what I thought she needed to know. She knew exactly who he is and made it clear that he deserved to learn what his children are going to experience, as well as grapple with his own decision to remove them from their cultural heritage. It was an awesome moment for me, but the experience left Steve really struggling. It was one of the most difficult moments in my journalism career. I am a caring human after all, I suppose.

When you are involved in something this profound, it is hard not to grapple with your own preconceptions about race and privilege. I had read the works of Gandhi, MLK, Malcolm X, Reginald Major, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and others who had equally complex relationships with power and privilege. I thought this made me a tolerant anti-racist. Little did I know that my racist attitudes prevailed, despite my dedication to education and literacy in the plight of the dispossessed. I know that now, but before 2004 did not.

Getting back to the controversy at hand–Macleans deciding to name Winnipeg the most racist place in Canada. I guess what bothers me most about this is that it smacks of yellow journalism. There is no question that a provocative story like this does one thing, something most important in today’s diminishing market for traditional print media products and increased competition for eyeballs online. It raises their readership and reminds people of their longstanding, albeit arguable, position as Canada’s news magazine of record.

What was probably unintended was the fact that by saying this about Winnipeg it played into an attitude that prevails in our country. That racism is something that occurs in our hinterlands. Not that Winnipeg (famously canonized “The Paris of the Prairies” by Canada’s bard Gord Downey) is a hinterland, but I think we can say, with little argument that Winnipeg has a unique place amongst Canada’s urban centres. I only need refer you to Guy Maddin’s NFB noir comedy Winnipeg or the Weakerthans famous song, One Great City, for a couple of readily available references. Both pieces created by dyed-in-the-wool Winnipeggers.

So the rest of Canada, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal among them, can rest assured that they are not even close to being as racist as Winnipeg. Whew…we can all feel better about ourselves. Not so. Racism is a paradigm that needs as much constant examination as any affliction in society. I question my racist attitudes regularly. I have and continue to make racist statements, and in some cases have been called on the matt to explain them, in other examples lost work as a result of them. I am not a racist. I’m a blowhard who likes to challenge paradigms and poke the beast when I get the chance. I have paid for that and have learned that you can often be misunderstood and misrepresented when you presume that others are as comfortable with the ignorance of stereotype as you are. I have learned about humor, however, working with First Nations Communities on the West Coast and for that, I am also very grateful. I now pick my moments better before saying something that I might think is funny, but other might not.

Racism is something that exists and will continue to exist as long as we rest on our laurels and supposed that we’ve been there, done that. We haven’t and we can’t. We must be vigilant and always ask ourselves if we are using our own perspective to judge others. In the timeless words of Socrates, who was citing what the Oracle at Delphi told him when he asked who is the wisest man in Greece when he spoke these words: KNOW THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW.

All my relations.

Services We Offer

Services We Offer. This is my professional practice working Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland of B.C. and Northwest Washington region, although based in Victoria. We take referrals and pay percentages on them, as well as working with other agencies looking for spot service offerings in a collaborative role.

By now you have probably heard about the transgressions of Jian Ghomeshi and the allegations against him by his victims, at latest count numbering nine, and why the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), his employer for about 14 years, decided to abruptly dismiss him from his position as the face and voice of their flagship arts, music and culture program Q in late October.

You have also probably heard, that is if you haven’t tuned out from content fatigue, that the latest women to come forward on the matter have encouraged Toronto Police to conduct their own investigation of the charges against the popular radio and television host and former member of the musical group Moxy Fruvous.

But the strangely public social media roll out of these horrific revelations, albeit with the support of hard journalism by the Toronto Star and, notably, the CBC itself –notable because the CBC business side is the story is also embroiled in a quickly filed $50 million lawsuit by Ghomeshi, also reveals a very public debate about the facts, what people say they knew and didn’t know about someone who they claimed to have a connection with even before he started appearing on the public broadcaster more than a decade ago. If you don’t know what I mean, simply search the hashtag #jianghomeshi on Facebook or Twitter to get up to speed on people’s opinions about it and, if you have the time to mine the data, the very public debate about who did what, why and who is right and who might be wrong.


…shared some 38,000 times, liked by more than 105,000 people and commented on at least 35,000 times, including some heated arguments about the difference between rape and assault, among other interesting exchanges between social media strangers.


The tsunami of content around this issue was triggered largely by Ghomeshi’s now famous defense statement on Facebook which was, at last count, shared some 38,000 times, liked by more than 105,000 people and commented on at least 35,000 times, including some heated arguments about the difference between rape and assault, among other interesting exchanges between social media strangers. The public relations expert in me understands why he did this; I often advise students and clients alike to admit guilt if allegations are true and deal with the fallout instead of trying to cover it up. Ghomeshi’s former PR firm Navigator may have advised him to engage his social media audience with this statement as soon as possible –the statement was posted Sunday, three days after CBC had officially parted ways with the Q host. But the decision by Navigator last week to also part ways with Ghomeshi may imply otherwise. Certainly the fact that the Chairman of Navigator is Jamie Watt, a regular pundit on CBC News programs, may have been a mitigating factor in their decision to cut ties, if not the elongated response by his audience as the allegations expanded and the statement began to lose its reputational value. Never mind the fact that the statement, in retrospect, was misleading once testimonials came forward indicating that consent was never part of the pre-assault M.O.

Admittedly his statement did make me think twice about indicting him for unproven allegations, but the reaction by now a handful of women who had what they describe as unexpected violent assaults from Ghomeshi during moments of intimacy made me and hundreds of people who might have harbored some allegiance based on his statement, quickly change their minds about the charming public figure. By Wednesday, a number of online testimonials began to appear suggesting that even Ghomeshi’s closest friends were having second thoughts about what he was saying, versus what his victims were saying publicly, not just in social media.


Admittedly his statement did make me think twice about indicting him for unproven allegations, but the reaction by now a handful of women who had what they describe as unexpected violent assaults from Ghomeshi during moments of intimacy made me and hundreds of people who might have harbored some allegiance based on his statement, quickly change their minds about the charming public figure.


By last weekend, only a week after the explosive allegations first emerged and subsequent allegations began to emerge, my Facebook page was filled with comments from people hectoring their “friends” for not unliking or defriending Ghomeshi. In fact, musician Ivan Doroschuk of the iconic Montreal group Men Without Hats expressed disgust when noting that 53 of his so-called friends had until the end of the day to unlike his fan page or risk being defriended by him, so strong were his feelings on the matter. His encouragement led me to check to see if I was one of them. Thankfully and not surprisingly, I was not one of them. But I noticed, because Facebook shows me this sort of thing, that I shared 41 friends with Ghomeshi, down to 37 as of Sunday. Many of these friends were authentic friends, meaning my relationships with them extend beyond the social media channel into real life friendships. My work as both a journalist and music promoter in the late eighties and nineties meant that Ghomeshi and I would naturally have a similar network of friends in the Toronto arts community.

What emerged through all of this is a fascinating illustration of, on the one hand, the ubiquitous power of social media to connect people and on the other hand, the very real possibility that those with whom you connect on social media are not who you think they are or pretend to be. Also emerging is what is traditionally referred to as a dialectical truth. Dialectical truth is something that results from reasoned arguments and finds its roots in the Socratic method of inquiry. Not to be mistaken for debate, the dialectical method is supposed to be logical and rational, devoid of emotional attachment. Unfortunately the nature of social media means digging down beyond the emotional is a mammoth and time-consuming task, but the general outcome can sometimes reveal a dialectical result that leads to valid, universally accepted truth. At least that is the theory.

So to assess this dichotomy, I went to my Facebook friends to comment on the situation. I encouraged them to discuss the relationships they have had with Ghomeshi and what, if any, thoughts they might have on the revelations of last week.

The exercise revealed a wide spectrum of perspectives, some from people who just felt betrayed by him and others who wanted to clarify that although they had friended him on Facebook, were either unaware of the friendship or simply didn’t have any sympathy for Ghomeshi, despite the apparent social media connection.

Two women who worked with him directly declined to go on the record, but one of them did express concern for Ghomeshi’s well-being, given the fact that he is, in some sense, having to come to terms with not just the passing of his father, but the abrupt end of his career and having his reputation destroyed. Although we can probably all agree that this pales by comparison to the harm he has caused his victims.


…the psychological impact is not unlike a traditional violation of intimacy, for example finding out that a parent is gay and has been leading a heterosexual lifestyle for your entire life, or finding out that a brother is a rapist, or a teacher or priest turns out to be an admitted pedophile. The trauma is palpable and the result can ultimately be devastating.


CBC, in its ongoing and somewhat controversial coverage of the Ghomeshi affair, invited a behavioural expert on to their regional programs last week to discuss what happens when horrible things are revealed about someone people think they know. Among the insights brought forward by this expert was that because of the nature of radio and the often intimate setting that emerges when you invite a disembodied voice into your head, a betrayal of this nature is not unlike realizing that someone with whom you had an intimate relationship with is not at all the person you thought you knew. In this case, the psychological impact is not unlike a traditional violation of intimacy, for example finding out that a parent is gay and has been leading a heterosexual lifestyle for your entire life, or finding out that a brother is a rapist, or a teacher or priest turns out to be an admitted pedophile. The trauma is palpable and the result can ultimately be devastating.

What is most interesting about the way this has unfolded, however, is that both intimate friends, with the exception of those who experienced Ghomeshi’s alleged assaults first hand, and those with whom he had engaged with in a superficial way through Twitter or Facebook, appear to be equally shocked by the revelations. What is also emerging from these folks, some of them Facebook friends of mine, is that they admit having felt uneasy about Ghomeshi. In one instance, Paul Myers, a former member of the musical group The Gravelberrys and a music journalist now living in San Francisco, the revelations elicited this response to my query:

“I think we who thought we knew him, personally that is, for over 20 years feel outraged, betrayed, sad, and angry, all at the same time. We all knew he was vain, we all knew he was a narcissist, but we never had a clue he may have been a violent monster. Personally, it is cold comfort knowing that I wasn’t the only blind fool oblivious to what appears to be his dark side. Perhaps, with the disinfectant sunlight that this scandal has brought to bear, there will be some true comfort for those he allegedly victimized and traumatized. And perhaps should a court find him guilty, he can pay a debt to society (in karma or in being a bringer of positivity into this world to pay for the negative turmoil such actions have waged upon our community). I also hope that, if this is all true, he might confess his sins, accept that he has a violent mental disorder, and get treatment for it.”

And from another friend from my time in the music business, vocalist Peter Tangredi who said:

“I also think it is interesting from the perspective of male on female violence and the supposed collusion of the rest of the male race. I have never in my life met a man who claimed to have beat a woman, and it is doubtful that i ever will because it is generally regarded by the mentally stable to be cowardly and abhorrent. Jian seems to be a prime example of how a sick and twisted f**k can hide in plain sight as an empathetic and thoughtful human being.”

Finally, I’d like to refer to an excellent reflection written by a colleague of mine who knew Ghomeshi and took a great deal of responsibility for not speaking out in his column for Slate.com, albeit using a trope to separate himself from the melee that is this story. Please read Carl Wilson’s excellent piece on this.