July 2011 - Michel `Pag` Pagliaro - my own tribute

I'm not into nostalgia as I find it troubling in that it looks back rather than forward and often the past it looks back to is reorganized as ordered, sanitized, and bland with all the vibrancy and messiness of place and events sucked out of it. But on 16 July 2011, I heard for the first time live Michel `Pag` Pagliaro do his retro set of songs, and what a wonderful experience I had. I actually surprised myself how much I enjoyed it since I hardly listen to `classic rock` as I`m much more interested in listening to contemporary music rather than what radio marketers tell me is `classic`. `Pag, ` to his Quebecois fans, is a generation older than me but when I was growing up in Montreal in the late 1970s, he struck a chord with me. In a rock `n` roll culture of white faces, white fans, white names - whiteness - Pagliaro stood out for me as both within and outside rock. Within it as his songs played on the local rock station (one of the few Québec acts it played) and certainly gained local fame if not fortune. And for an adolescent boy like me at the time, lyrics like the following were at times painfully true:

Ooh you, how would I know just to hold you
How could I show that I want to
Cause I do, want to hold you
Yes I do

Ooh you, how would I know if I told you
You wouldn't laugh if I told you
Cause I do, want to hold you
Yes I do, want to hold you
Hold you

But Pagliaro was also outside rock with his not-quite-yet white name (Pagliaro), which to his credit he kept when the logic at the time was to anglicize to get air time and have any hope of succeeding. He also struck me as not quite portraying the rock image of the time. For a kid who wanted to emulate the rock (white) look but couldn't because I was never thin enough nor could grow my hair straight (think Roger Hodgson of Supertramp) as it turned frizzy and curly when long enough - a dead give away of my non-white background - Pagliaro`s hair too couldn't be disciplined to stay long and straight enough. In fact it was quite frizzy and curly as he sang away on this summer evening:

Hitch any ride you want to
Do anything you wanna do
Just keep ridin' your way

Take anyone you want to
Long as I can hear from you

Just be mine in your way
Just be mine in your way
Just be mine in your way

Lovin' you ain t so easy
Would never try to please me
But I've got time any old way
I've got time anyway

Hundreds of people like me listened, sang and danced to his classic songs. And every once in awhile I could sense a hint of rebelness and gentleness in his mood, style and lyrics:

Unis, unis, nous voilà enfin réunis
Nous sommes, nous sommes tous en frères
La main, la main, oui tous la main dans la main
Allons, allons tous partager

I can't remember a more enjoyable performance in my entire life. Certainly it was because of the music but so it was also due to throwback identification with Pagliaro (whom I have never met) that I have kept secretly and cherished since I was a kid.

Class Consciousness and the Federal Election

It is true that virtually no one could predict the rise in popularity of the federal NDP as we head into the national election on May 2. Yet, we should not be so surprised by the sudden rise in the federal NDP's brand as it ascends in all likelihood to the official opposition and perhaps even the government of the land.

At a time when working class Canadians are tired and fed up of the breaks and privileges that elites continue to draw for themselves from the Canadian state and tax payers, the NDP has tapped into this class consciousness to articulate itself as the Party that will hold elites and the bourgeoisie accountable, in check, and wrestles from this traditional class power gains for the working class.

It is refreshing to hear Jack Layton honestly speak about the plights of many Canadians and how the economy - which Harper claims only he and his Party can management and make prosper - hasn't reached most Canadian families and made a difference to their economic well being. At a time of so much economic uncertainty and employment precariousness, Canadians seek to choose a new course that marks out for them a more economically just and brighter future.

It seems to me that this is no greater indictment of Harper and his governing of the economy than the response of Canadians to the NDP. In other words, one can interpret the rise of the NDP as clearly an indication that the Harper government's economic policies haven't delivered to working class Canadians and that his stewardship of economic growth and promise of prosperity is whistling in the wind.

Sears sales pitch

Did anyone else notice the latest Sears sales pitch going on right now? No? Well you're in for a treat.

Apparently, February is "white sale" month at Sears. I'm not joking: it says so in the flyer I got this week in my junk mail. First I thought this designation was only at my local store. But no, it is a cross-country promotion.

Does anyone else think this is a strange sales promotion? Does anyone else feel awkward about a 'white sale' in February during black history month? Why white in February? There is nothing in the flyer about snow, and surely January is at least as good a candidate as February for this sales pitch.

So, is it ignorance or defiance on the part of the marketing department at Sears that flaunts this arrogant pitch? This promotion might strike some people (me) as incredibly insensitive (to say the least) to push a white sale at the same time as black history month cements itself in February. Is this promotion another example of the common sense of whiteness that does not see anything remotely problematic about running a sales promotion under this name at the same time as black history month seeks to move from the margins to mainstream social and political spaces in our society.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that a white sale in February is another way of marginalizing blackness and recentering whiteness in peoples mind. How idiotic it is to promote a white sale when black history month deserves all the 'visibility' it can get. Shame on Sears for putting out a sales pitch refocusing on itself and thus competing with a topic that we too often forget is also part of Canadian history and the increasing fabric of Canadian society even if some people/organization would like to imply otherwise.