Whose Is the Face In The Mask?

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Hi!  And welcome to my main site/blog.  I’m a proudly Disabled, gender-fluid, ChristoPagan multidisciplinary artist.  I mainly podcast and write.  Although, I also sing whenever I can!  Though, sadly, that’s not nearly as often as I’d like because my Disabilities limit how much I can get out there and gig, thus my doing it mainly online.

 

All my work – my podcast, my writing, and even my music – is an exploration of or explores things related/adjacent to Phantom of the Opera.  Because, I’ve been a Phan for decades now!  And although it’s taken me a long time to figure out how to articulate it, my passion in life is using my academic training and artistic background to explore and cultivate Phantom as a spiritual progressive-political praxis.  I know that might sound a bit weird!  But my Phanship has been that for me for many years now, as I said, long before I could actually put it into words.  Phantom has deeply shaped and informed my own spirituality and politics!  So now I want to share that through my various art media, drawing on the critical theory I’ve learned in academia, as well as on traditions of thought and practice derived from progressive/liberation Christianity and neo/Paganisms, just as my own artistic and spiritual practices draw on all of these rich sources.  Because, I believe such a praxis has valuable contributions to make toward the healing of humanity and the Earth!

 

That being said, my podcast mainly explores the political – exploring both how the Phantom story in its various incarnations can be read intersectionally and also how it can become a critical tool.  It’s in my writing and my music that I do more of exploring Phantom as a spiritual praxis to inform progressive politics.  But it’s not always all serious, though!  Sometimes I just like to kick back and have fun as a Phan!

 

Anyway, if that all sounds weird but interesting, then keep tuning into this space.  Although, admittedly, I don’t post or update here nearly as often as I ought to!  But you can also follow me on my various social media where I try to be better about that.  You can like/follow my Facebook, my Twitter, and my podcast’s Twitter.  And if you really enjoy/love what you find in any of my work, I’d be eternally grateful for your support on my Patreon!  Now, I absolutely get that that’s not an option sometimes.  Heaven knows I’ve been there myself!  But for those who are able, any contributions will be gratefully accepted.  Because, it’s my dream in life to be able to make my living doing this work that I love and believe in!

 

Thanks, and Amen/Blessed be.

Music Reboot: Or How The Climate Crisis Completely Changed My Orientation!

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So once again I haven’t posted in ages! Have been insanely busy! There was of course the great move this past summer, God am I glad that’s over with, then from there I’ve just been trying to keep up with school and my podcast. Oh yeah, and there’s been a bunch of climate organizing too, because I kind of jumped in to take point on accessibility for our two big climate marches this fall. Although, mercifully more so for the first march than the second one, by which point the other organizers were able to take what had been done for the first march and run with it. Which was great, because by then it was the last, and thus craziest, month of term! LOL So yeah, things have been rather hectic around here, thus my neglecting this site. Oops!!

Anyway, I figured the start of the new year was a good time to post again. And on that note, happy New Year everyone!!

Anyhow, as some of you will recall, back when I started this site, I was really trying to get up and going as a musician. But that kind of died on the vine, partly for some access-related reasons, but partly for some other reasons. Or rather, now that I think about it, my original music being thwarted by lack of access gave me an opportunity to re-examine things and reflect. Back when I started, I was really into symphonic metal, so that was the kind of music I wanted to make. But over the past bunch of years, I’ve really moved away from that both aesthetically and, for lack of a better word, philosophically.

The issue is that I became increasingly uncomfortable with how dependant my music was on technology, both to produce and to perform. Because, for various reasons, some related to my limited mobility and some related to my lack of musical chops on any instrument but voice, I never was able to get a live band up and going. So I was totally dependant on my computer to produce full, rich, metal-sounding arrangements. Hell, even as I moved towards a softer, more music-theatre sound, I still relied on my computer’s midi instruments to fill out the arrangements! And I still needed to run accompaniment tracks from my iPad in order to perform. But this hyper-dependence on technology has felt increasingly wrong. I’ve increasingly felt that I should being doing stuff that, yes, might be plugged in for amplification and effects, but could just as well be performed acoustically. Because, are we not in a climate and ecological crisis? Rhetorical question, yes we are! And to deal with that crisis, don’t we need urgently to be lowering our energy consumption and rebuilding community? Again, rhetorical question. Yes we absolutely do! So why the hell was I off doing highly technologically dependant music that would sound very diminished acoustically, and that wasn’t helping me connect with people? As I said, it increasingly felt wrong. What was more, all my favourite artists, those whom I admire for doing really superb music that’s utterly relevant socially and politically, were doing music on real instruments that could be done justice to whether plugged or unplugged. Even the hiphop artists I’ve come to like write in such a way that there pieces can be done unaccompanied without loosing quality! I’ve heard them do so at a bunch of protests. So I came to feel in my gut and spirit that, if I want my music to be socially, politically and spiritually relevant, too, then my own practice as a musician needs to embody values of humanity and community. It needs to be grounded.

The upshot of all that, then, is that, when I get my music back up and going, which I hope to be able to do in the fairly near future, it will have a very different sound than the stuff I’ve put out before! I will, of course, still use the internet to share and distribute it, because I kind of have to. But now the tech will be a supplement – a way to both get around access barriers and, hopefully, reach a wider audience. It won’t be integral to my sound or to performance.

The awesome thing is that I think I’ve found a way to make this change while still producing a full, rich sound in my accompaniments, that’s also within my skill-level as an instrumentalist! Because, that’s always been part of the problem. As I said, my main instrument’s always been voice, so I’ve never really developed chops on anything else. Additionally, because I have CP, I don’t have super fine-motor control. It’s OK, but not up to really virtuostic, or even just plain fast, playing. LOL As the current pinch-hitter organist at church pithily put it (with regard to himself not me although I fully relate to the sentiment), “there’s an inverse relationship between the number of notes and how fast I can play them”. LOL So well said!! So a lot of my musical journey has been trying to find work-arounds for those limitations. And by the grace of the Universe, I think I might finally have found one that doesn’t rely on my computer to fake it! I can’t say more without giving spoilers. But hopefully you’ll see and hear soon!

Don’t get me wrong, though, and don’t worry, I haven’t gone Luddite or anything! LOL Those of you who know me know I very much doubt I could. I love and value labour-saving, not to mention access-facilitating, technologies as much as the next person. And I profoundly believe in the importance of preserving those to the greatest extent possible! But I also know that, in the ASAP future, regardless of what genre/style/idiom/medium of art we make, we’re going to have to do it using strictly renewable energy sources and sustainable production processes. Moreover, our art itself is going to have to transform. It’s going to have to stop being a commodity on the market and/or a mere entertainment or escape. It’s going to have to become, instead, a form of renewable energy itself in a way – a source of nourishment, healing and renewal for people psychically and spiritually that strengthens us for the struggle and for the work of surviving and thriving. Now I’m not suggesting, by any means, that this can only be done by small, acoustic bands/artists. Indeed, one of my great dreams in life is to see, and preferably to be involved in creating, a powered-down, non-extractive production of the ALW Phantom. It’d be a huge challenge! But with a bit of creativity, I think it could be done. And that’d be amazing!!But it would be very different from the large-scale, constantly running “sit-down” productions we’re used to (more on my thoughts as to how that might work in future posts). It would, though, be about people coming together in love and community to make and hear great music, tell and receive a sacred story through art, and raise and move energies for healing and regeneration. Perhaps it’d be about that even more than existing productions of the show are now! And that kind of art, that spirit of art, is what I want my own music to be a part of – to move towards. But I don’t feel like I can do that as long as my music’s faked through my computer. It feels too ungrounded that way, and frankly I think it was alienating people.

Woohoo! Finally found a way to resurrect my music!!

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So as much as I genuinely love school and especially doing my podcast,the one thing I do regret in all that is that my first love, my music, has really gotten pushed to the back burner. LOL Witness how bloody long it’s been since I posted anything about my poor, misbegotten album Dark Resistance!! Partly, of course, it’s been that, between school and the podcast, I’ve been just really busy and haven’t had a lot of “spoons”, as we often say in the Disabled community, to spare for it. Because, rehearsing, and especially recording and making my accompaniment tracks, takes actually quite a lot of energy! It takes a particular kind of alertness and focus that I just don’t have when I’m tired, which is a lot.

But also, frankly, as a musician, I found I was running into a lot of access barriers in terms of getting my stuff out there. Because I’m not really mobile – it’s really hard and nerve-racking for me to get to placesnew locations unassisted, it’s hard for me to get out there and gig. And truth to tell, I wasn’t getting a lot of help with that from my fellow musicians. I often felt an attitude of “if you can’t do it yourself and don’t have someone to manage you, why are you even here?” Not a very welcoming feeling!! Plus, I have to compete with sighted, able-bodied people who can more easily move on stage and engage with their audiences and generally look slick. So honestly, I kind of gave up on it. But I regret that, and it pisses me off, because that’s sheer ableism!!

Recently, though, I’ve thought of a way I might be able to revive my music, using the wonders of the internet to bypass my restrictions on gigging. Though, that being said, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do live gigs! I love performing live when I can!! It just means I might be able to bypass having to get out there and pound the pavement more than I’m actually able to in order to put my stuff out in the world. And it’ll mean that, when people ask me about my music, I’ll actually have something to direct them to so they can hear what I do. And maybe that’ll help the imposter syndrom, too! So look for that coming soon. And of course, I’ll post as soon as it’s up and going!! Because, I’m very excited about it!! Unfortunately, though, that’s not going to be for a while yet. Because, I’m in the middle of moving right now, so life’s pretty chaotic!! But I’m hoping to get that up and going as soon as I can once I’m settled into the new place. Even so, though, that might not be till August or September, or even till later in the fall LOL depending on how long it takes my finances to recover from the move. Ah, the joys!

Anyway, hopefully sooner rather than later. But first, on with the moving!! Then, as soon as that’s done, LOL regular life can resume and I can get to work on this.

Love Will Save This Place: Finding the Heart to Change Everything.

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So I know I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been super busy with the holidays, school and the podcast, not to mention a housing hunt! But I wanted to post this for Valentine’s Day because it’s about love, though not of the kind conventionally understood as romantic.

For the past couple of years now, there’s been a vigorous debate within the world of climate activism over the best way to motivate people to take action. In particular, there has been a vigorous debate over whether positivity or fear is more effective. Do you emphasize the positive – the fact that we already, now, have everything we need to transition off of fossil-fuels, and thereby build up people’s hope and enthusiasm? Or, do you emphasize the danger – the increasingly dyer scientific warnings, the horrific visions of the future if we don’t change, and try to scare people into “waking up” and taking action? I would argue that both sides of this debate are, with all respect, wrong. Neither positivity nor fear is what’s needed. Positivity alone is too weak a motivator for the kind of massive, whole-scale transformation called for by the climate crisis. The crisis literally requires that we change everything – our economy, our agriculture, our transportation and travel habits, everything. And change that sweeping can be as scary as exciting. It will therefore require something stronger than just positivity about the fact that it can be done to help people push through the fear, leave behind the devil they know, and become active in the transformation.

Using fear, meanwhile, can backfire in two distinct ways. First of all, as has been frequently pointed out, it can have the effect of shutting people down, so that they become even more inactive and disengaged. But also, though far less discussed but of equally great concern (or it should be) to activists, is that while fear can powerfully motivate people to fight for their survival, it can motivate people to do so in very nasty ways. Because, when people are afraid for their survival, unless they already have a very strong, very well developed and embodied ethic/politics/spirituality/practice of radical compassion in place, they tend to fight ruthlessly, doing whatever they feel they must in order to assure that survival. It tends to create a “lifeboat” mentality, in which those other than “their own” are felt to be in competition for survival resources and thus a threat. And so people fight xenophobically and cruelly. This is a big part of the reason why times of crisis provide such fertile ground for fascists and other right-wing demagogs. And I don’t think we want a “life-boat” mentality to inform climate politics!

Rather, as Naomi Klein beautifully shows in her three most recent books – This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate (2014), No Is Not Enough (2017) and The Battle For Paradise (2018), by far the most courageous, determined, but also generous and open-hearted struggles for transformation come neither from positivity nor from fear, but from love. Often, they come from love of place, love of animals, love of children/grandchildren and their future, or love of cherished ways of life (farming, fishing, subsistence hunting, Indigenous traditions). These struggles tend to invite allies in to help defend what is beloved rather than seeing strangers as threats, and to forge common links with others engaged in similar struggles. This has even allowed groups once antagonistic to each other (settlers and Indigenous people, ranchers and Vegan activists, BIPOC and white allies, youth and elders, etc,) to come together to resist extraction projects and demand climate justice (see Klein for some amazing examples). And this has even lead to the beginning of powerful processes of healing from historical trauma (see again Klein,)!

To some extent, the role of love in motivating struggle has been understood by activists as campaigns to get people to “fall in love with nature” show. What has not been grasped yet, it seems to me, is the necessity to activate people based on what they already love rather than trying to get people to love what you think will activate them. We need to not only meet people where their knowledge is, but where their hearts are. We need to not only help people see how what they love is endangered by climate change, but how what they love can be transformed through politicization, and thus be carried forward into a new, just, sustainable world. Because, if people believe that the transformation will destroy what they love every bit as much as climate change will, they won’t fight. They’ll go into despair instead. And they will cling desperately to the old civilization even as they know it’s destroying the planet, preferring to “go down with the ship” then to loose what they love dearly – basically, nihilism. And/or, they will join the struggle, but half-heartedly, held back by ambivalence.

I struggled with this myself for a long time. Because, although I deeply believe that Phantom is a story about social justice, I feared greatly that the aesthetic, especially of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage-show, could not be continued without the big-city, capitalist infrastructure that originally produced it. But that aesthetic is part of what I love about Phantom. And oddly enough, I feel a deep connection between the aesthetic and the social justice (more on that in future posts). I felt very much on my own, however, in finding my way out of this impasse, because I did not feel that I could talk about it with fellow activists. Most of the activist I know express their politics through aesthetics of simplicity, and so I feared that they would not be any too sympathetic to my love of the high-romantic aesthetics of Phantom (an attitude with which I do have prior experience, so that fear does not come out of nowhere). Thus, although my Phanship and my anti-poverty and Disability activism have been a strong fit with one another right from the start, for a long time I feared that my Phanship and my climate activism were incompatible. Because, I feared that the necessary social and economic changes to transform us to a degrowth society would destroy Phantom just as much as climate change itself would. I wanted to believe that there was a way to carry it forward – that that destruction wasn’t inevitable, but I couldn’t see how yet. And the message I felt coming from climate activism was, not meeting me where my heart lies and helping me figure it out, but “put away childish things, leave behind such a relic of white, heteropatriarcal, bourgeois consumer-capitalism, and fall in love with nature instead and thereby embrace simplicity”. Not that anyone has ever said this to me directly, but it seems to be very strongly implied in the messaging of much climate (and other) activism. But I have never found that terribly helpful, and I suspect I’m not alone there! Because, you can’t just stop loving what you love because some one says you should, even some one you admire and respect. You love what you love for reasons, even if those reasons don’t always make sense to others!

Now, I have recently begun to see a way out of this dilemma, and not by renouncing my Phanship either! I have begun to see a way that Phantom, in all, or at least most, of its high romantic splendour, can be transformed so that it can be carried forward into a post-carbon, degrowth world. Though, no, I won’t give away what that is just yet! And certainly the time and energy spent wrestling with this issue didn’t stop my climate activism. I worked for a habitable planet and a society based on climate justice, and hoped that Phantom might be preserved even as I feared that it wouldn’t. But it did hinder my climate activism. It made me ambivalent, and therefore less effective then I might otherwise have been. And I suspect that there are lots of others out there in a similar position – knowing that climate change is a crisis, wanting to do something about it, wanting to make the world a better place, but fearing that the things they love will be lost in the transformation.

I think, then, that we need to do four things if we truly want to get people mobilized and active:

1. We must learn to tell the difference between love and consumption simply to fill the void of an alienated life. For example, a lot of people would likely read my Phanship practices as mindless, addicted consumption. And they certainly do involve a fair bit of buying stuff I’ll unapologetically admit! But there’s so much more to it than that, as anyone who reads this blog or listens to my podcast can hopefully tell! I would argue, then, that the difference (or at least one of the key differences) is that, like for so many Phans/fans, my/our love for Phantom/whatever our passion is inspires me/us not only to consume, but to create as well – blogs like this one, Phan/fan art, Phan/fanfiction, Phan/fan crafts and jewelry, etc,. (I haven’t yet done Phan art or crafts, but I know lots of people who have! And the same most definitely goes for folks in other fandoms, too.)

2. Help people understand how what they love is endangered by the climate crisis itself, and by the underlying societal problems that created and drive it.

3. Without dissing, shaming, talking down or condescending, help people politicize what they love by making the critical tools available in a friendly, safe and supportive way. For example, although I had an instinct that Phantom was inherently political from the beginning, I couldn’t articulate why or how until I almost literally stumbled across intersectional Critical Disability theory. But once I did, that opened Phantom up to all kinds of explorations of its political possibilities that I wish I’d had access to years earlier! Also, though, support those who already do have a politicized understanding of what they love, even if it’s not yet well articulated. “Jedi Knights for Justice” (no, sadly that’s not actually a thing that exists that I know of) should be welcome at any climate rally or march, as should be “Phans for Social Justice”! (No, that latter doesn’t actually exist either, but it’s something I’d love to start!) Yet all too often, pop-culture fans see activists as super-serious people who’ll give them dirty looks if they come in their fan/Phan regalia, and activists see pop-culture fans/Phans as frivolous, narcissistic and juvenile – a highly unproductive impasse! So we really need to move beyond those stereotypes and start coming together to discover how all the things we love can power us into a just, equitable and sustainable future.

4. Get really super creative, and help facilitate people’s being able to imagine the things they love transformed so that they no longer depend on the fossil-fuel economy to exist. This will require a lot of creativity and “outside the box” thinking, because many things seem so deeply imbedded in the current system that it is hard to imagine them any other way (film, television, fashion, big rock ’n roll, etc,). But if I can figure out how to imagine a post-carbon ALW Phantom, then surely it can be done for other things people love as well!

These four inter-related recommendations are by no means the final answer to how to mobilize the world for the struggle for climate justice, though I hope they are at least a start. But certainly the task they’re components of is a significant part of that answer! Because, as we all surely know, there is no more powerful motivator than love! It can change lives, and it can change the world. People don’t sell out what/who they love for a better deal no matter how “irresistible” that deal is made to sound – as various fossil-fuel companies have found out when trying to get Indigenous communities to agree to let pipelines and other extractive projects into their lands (see Klein). And this position baffles and stymies the power-structure who only understand greed and competition (see Klein). Moreover, people will risk and sacrifice everything for what/who they love, up to and including safety and even life (see again Klein’s work for amazing and inspiring examples). As Naomi Klein says in This Changes Everything, “love will save this place”. Indeed, I would argue it is the only thing that can, but only if people believe that their love can carry them forward into a world transformed for the better. If they believe their love is doomed, though, then they will feel doomed as well and act accordingly. And that would be a vast and unnecessary tragedy when, if we can but activate the great love people already have for their particular piece of the world, we really do have the power to change everything! But as has been said at every climate march since the massive one in New York City in 2014, “to change everything, we need everyone”. So we’d better make sure we don’t exclude anyone!

Naomi Klein (2014). This Changes Everything. Simon and Schuster.

Naomi Klein (2017). No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Penguin Random House (which division varies by country).
(Note, outside of the U.S. it’s published as No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.)

Naomi Klein (2018). The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists. Haymarket Books.

Note, all of these are available in unabridged audiobook as well.

Phanship on the #Trans Spectrum. #TransDayofRemembrance #gender #PhantomoftheOpera

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So I’m going to do a podcast episode on this at some point. But because today is Trans Day of Remembrance, I wanted to take some space to talk about my own gender journey. Because, although today is about remembrance, it’s also about breaking silence! And I suspect that I’m often read as a cis ally because I can (sometimes) pass for cis female. So I want to add my voice to those of other Trans-spectrum folks today speaking to and for our realities and existence! Because silence, stereotyping and erasure are part of what cause us to need a Trans Day of Remembrance. They’re part of what create the conditions that enable so much violence against Trans people, including poverty and hyper-precarity. And I’m one of those folks with the privilege of it being relatively safe to be out – which is definitely not the case for way too many people. So I sort of feel like I have a responsibility to do so! That great slogan from the AIDS crisis: “silence = violence”.

Part of the reason it’s taken so long for me to be out, though, is erasure. For the longest time, I literally didn’t have words for my experience of gender. And finding them has been a long (and I suspect on-going) struggle! This is partly because, growing up in the 80s and 90s, for most of my formative years, I had no idea there were options other than girl, which I was assigned at birth but increasingly didn’t fit in the traditional definition of, and boy which didn’t fit either! And then, even when I started to learn about Transgender, I didn’t know any Trans people personally, so what I knew came from media. And that gave me a very rigid, narrow picture of what Trans was – a straight-forward transition from your assigned gender to your felt gender, based on feeling that you were “born into the wrong body”. The only other models I had were androgyny/gender-blending. Basically, all the gender narratives I knew told me you had to choose girl, boy or neither. It took me a long time to find models of, and words for, moving back and forth between two genders. I’d heard of gender-fluidity, but, the way it had always been presented to me, it sounded like blending genders rather than moving back and forth between them. Indeed, it wasn’t till I heard a certain episode of the awesome Off The Cuffs podcast that I realized gender-fluid could mean that, and had an example of some one living it. And I was like “You can do that? It’s a legit thing? Really? Oh Wow!”.

And this lack of language, unfortunately, caused Phantom and my Phanship to inadvertently become part of this erasure of my gender. Though, I hate to say that! But it’s true. Because, of course, the story of Phantom is very much told in a cis, gender-binaried, hetero-romantic idiom. The masculine Phantom loves the super-femme Christine. So, as I’ve talked about in a previous post, without language to articulate an alternative, that set up a feeling that I had to choose. It’s only recently dawned on me that being/doing both, and/or moving back and forth between the two is actually an option. And in truth, I’m still figuring out how the hell that works, especially in terms of the love-story! Straight? Queer? Femme for femme? Masc for femme? POli so I can access both sides of the love-story? Yeah, I’m still confused on that score.

But of course, as a Phan, naturally I want to express my gender/s through Phantom! Because, just as Phantom has profoundly shaped and informed my Disabled identity, so too has it profoundly shaped my sense of gender – both desire and presentation. The first model of masculinity that really powerfully impacted me was the Phantom, especially of the ALW stage-musical, and especially as portrayed by Colm Wilkinson! And I learned how to do Femme from Sarah Brightman’s Christine, especially during Angel of Music and the Title Song as I perceived them! But to figure out how to do both, or to move between them, meant Queering the story in ways I’m only beginning to have the tools to do. In particular, the challenge, for me at least, is to Queer the story so that it becomes fully accessible to folks like me without sacrificing the romance – the “story of deep, dark, dangerous, passionate love” to quote a documentary on the Toronto production – that’s so central to Phantom, and is so much a part of what resonates so powerfully with us Phans!

And this latter work is critically important, because Phantom is a story about the terrible mental and spiritual consequences of exclusion and marginalization. But it also, as I’ve argued elsewhere, contains a powerful call to action to end that marginalization and exclusion, and to heal the trauma caused by it. So it seems to me that it’s critically important that we Phans not allow Phantom itself to contribute to the silencing and erasure of people on account of their colour and/or their lack of conformity to the gender binary! I’m heartened, though, that I’m starting to see this be done. In particular, I’ve finally started to come across well-written Phanfics that explicitly seek to “gender-bend” the story, and others that less explicitly take up other areas of intersectionality. But there’s a lot more need and room for further creative Queering!!

So I’ve now joined my generation in being bitten by the podcasting bug!

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LOL So once again I haven’t posted in ages! Again, sorry about that. But as usual I’ve been busy, and not only with school! Although, definitely with that. But mostly, I’ve started a new project!

So I mentioned a long while back that I was thinking of starting a podcast of my own. Well, I finally took the leap and did! LOL And as will surprise no one, it is, of course, on Phantom of the Opera. It’s called In This Labyrinth: The Phantom of the Opera In Erik’s Times and Ours, and it’s very much the kind of stuff I do here. Like here, I bring together my Phantom obsession and my passion for Disability-centred intersectional analysis. So so far, I’ve done episodes on how the Leroux novel and Lloyd Webber stage-musicals treat the concept of normalcy, the ableism in the Gerik (the 2004 movie of Phantom) based on the blog-posts I’ve done on that topic here and elsewhere, why I find the Title Song from Phantom so thoroughly awesome (again based on some of the analysis I’ve done here), how Phantom shaped my Disabled identity and continues to do so, and most recently on Phanship and obsession. And next up is one on the Phantom and/as Red Death in the Masquerade scenes in Leroux and ALW, and how those scenes put an unintentional? Disability-political twist on the original story by Edgar Allan Poe that they’re based on. So I’m really excited about that! I was, of course, hoping to have that one up by Halloween. LOL But keeping to schedule has been interesting! Though, of course, I keep trying.

I try to put an episode out twice a month. I thought about doing only once a month, LOL but I knew from my own experience with my favourite podcasts that, if I were the listener, having to wait a whole month between episodes would drive me up the wall! So I decided to do twice a month instead. But thus the delay in posting here. Because, especially on top of school and my teaching assistantship, that schedule can be a challenge to keep up with!!! In spite of that, though, I’m really loving doing it!!! And I’ve got lots more (hopefully) interesting episodes planned for the future. And I’ve even got them more or less scheduled into the new year! Though, of course, there’s room for flexibility. I’ve got a bunch of book and Phanfic reviews planned, plus episodes on the “good girl/bad girl binary” in Phantom, Phantom and economic precarity, mothers and fathers in POTO, and the similarities and differences between Phantom and the classic Beauty and the Beast legend (especially as depicted by Disney)! And I hope to do one on POTO and the famous Beauty and the Beast TV series eventually, especially since I gather there was, at one point, a significant overlap between the fandoms of the two. But believe it or not, I haven’t yet seen the series, so, alas, that’ll have to wait till I do! And of course, I plan to do episodes on race in Phantom, and on other aspects of how gender plays out in the various versions too. So stay tuned for all of that!

Additionally, I really hope to do interviews! Because, of course, while I bring my own perspective and experience, there’s a great diversity out there in the Phandom. And I definitely can’t speak for all of that! So I’d love to have Phans who come from perspectives other than my own – at intersections other than my own – on the show. That’d be very awesome indeed, and make it much more interesting for listeners!

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been up to. Don’t worry, though, I haven’t by any means abandoned this site, my other writing or my music! LOL It’s just a bit hard to squeeze everything in. So don’t be alarmed if there are longer than usual delays between posts here and/or updates on that other stuff! Because, school kind of has to take priority, and beyond that, the podcast’s taking priority right now, too. But I definitely plan to continue with my other projects as time and energy permit!

If you want to check my new podcast out, though, which, of course, I sincerely hope you do, you can find the show’s website at the link above. And it’s also available on iTunes and Google Play now as well! So, if you like what you hear, and again I sincerely hope you do, I’d be ever so obliged if you could subscribe in iTunes and drop a rate and review. That would be enormously appreciated, as it will help more listeners find the show! You can, of course, also like/follow the show on Facebook, and on Twitter at @ITLPodcast. There’s also a Facebook group, in addition to the page, for sharing and discussion. So by all means join there too, and I very much hope you all enjoy the podcast!

A Couple of Upcoming Gigs! #OT2018 #music #performances #Toronto #OpenTuning #Festival and #CUPE3903 #YorkUStrike

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So I thought I’d mention a couple of gigs that I’ve got coming up that I’m very excited about! First of all, I’ll be performing once again at the Open Tuning Festival this Saturday (June 9). For those in the Toronto area, I’ll be on at 5 PM in the garage behind KOP’s Records at Bathurst and Bloor (see the schedule on the Open Tuning website for details). I’ll be the fourth or so act on the program at that venue this time!

Then, next Saturday on June 16, I’ll be singing again at a fund-raiser for my union local, CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) Local 3903. It’s the local that represents the teaching assistants, contract faculty, and graduate assistants at my university, and the fund-raiser is to support the strike we’ve been on for 14 weeks now! We’ve been struggling for a fair and decent contract, and to push back against precarious working conditions, especially for the contract faculty. You can read all about it at here! Anyway, as you can imagine, the length of the strike has seriously depleted our funds. So we’re doing lots of things to raise money to continue the struggle, including this event! For those in town, it’ll be at the Glad Day Bookshop at Church and Wellesley on the evening of the 16th. And I’ll be contributing some of my songs to the effort, which I’m very excited about! For those of you not in town, there’s a GoFundMe campaign that folks can contribute to. And we’d be hugely grateful for whatever support you can give!

Anyway, apologies for not getting these posted sooner. In fact, though, because of the way this year’s been going for everyone involved in organizing these events, they’ve only just come together! So I really hope in-town folks can make it to one or the other!

Finding Each Other: Building Legacies of Belonging (reblog from Mia Mingus’s blog Leaving Evidence)

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Wow!  Everyone should read this post, and indeed their entire blog!  Although Mingus is speaking specifically to a Queer Korean-American audience, what she says here may be applied to other contexts too.  Very powerful!

 

via Finding Each Other: Building Legacies of Belonging

Reclaiming Our Bodies And Minds Once More! #ROBAM2018 #Disability

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So this past week-end was the 2018 Reclaiming Our Bodies And Minds conference that I’ve been looking forward to all year. And I have to say, this one was particularly awesome! I’m so glad I went! Mind you, I always am. But, as I said, this year especially rocked! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the events on the Friday night because of a very long, rather taxing meeting up at my university (more on that in future posts). Which I was bummed about, as it meant I missed the community fair and keynote! Damn! So I joined up on Saturday for that day’s sessions.

First of all, one of the awesome things about ROBAM is that it’s such a treat to be in a truly accessible space! They had the conference program in Braille and other alternative formats. But best of all, they had PSWs (Personal Support Workers) there who were able to assist me with finding the rooms where the sessions were, finding the washrooms, and finding the food. And accessing them went much more smoothly than last year! Or at least, it felt like it did. And that was such a relief, because it meant that I didn’t have to rely on wrangling random people for help like I usually do! So that meant I was really able to just relax and enjoy the conference rather than worry about how I was going to find the next session, the loo, or the lunch. And on that note, the lunch was delicious!

And then, the actual sessions themselves were some of the best I’ve heard at ROBAM in years! The day opened with a panel on thinking about how we can make spaces and events more truly accessible, shifting from a Disability rights framework to a justice framework, and thinking about accessibility as an intent to be inclusive rather than as a list of items to check off. Then we went into the first split sessions of the day.

The first one was a truly brilliant workshop on politicizing the experiences of loneliness of Mad and Disabled people. And Wow, it’s one I’m going to be thinking about for a long time to come! I went because it struck me as being super relevant to the work I do here with Phantom. But it ended up having relevances beyond that, too, in fact to my doctoral work. Because, much environmental activism these days centres on the idea of relocalizing – lives, communities, economies, etc, and much of the argument for this is that it will cure the epidemic of loneliness created by neoliberalism, or even by any form of capitalism depending on how radical the thinker you’re reading is. But it often seems to me that this desire to relocalize contains a lot of nostalgia, at times even fauxstalgia, that fails to take into account the kinds of loneliness that Queer, Mad and Disabled people experience – loneliness due to exclusions based on differences in communication style, body configurations, desire, cognition, sensory perception, and mental state. And these degrees of difference have, historically, required more than just belonging to close-knit communities with strong social ties to bridge. Indeed, historically, Queer, Mad and Disabled folks have often had to leave the communities they came from in order to find acceptance. But this workshop gave me a great deal to think about in terms of ways of possibly speaking back to this issue! I’ll write more about it in future posts.

Then in the afternoon, there were a couple of sessions on racism, displacement, sacred space, madness, and personal history. They were really excellent, and they also gave me a lot to think about! In particular, they gave me a lot to think about with regard to “unofficial” sacred spaces such as concerts or, for that matter, Phantom, and how these can be double-edged for Queer, Mad and Disabled folks. Because, they’re/we’re less excluded than they/we all too often are in official sacred spaces, but nevertheless there’s still an assumption of heteronormativity among the majority of users of these unofficial spaces that creates exclusions for them/us there too. So that was really interesting!

Then after dinner, there was a fabulous comedy night. Lots of wonderful Crip humour! And it was really great to do so much laughing after the sessions of the day. Because, although the panels and workshops were fabulous, they could be kind of heavy! They touched on a lot of tough issues. So it was great to have some good laughs after all that, and it was a great way to close off the conference! Sadly, there were no events on Sunday.

One of the coolest aspects of the week-end, though, was that I finally did something I’ve been wanting to experiment with for a while but never had the nerve before. But I figured that, if any space should be safe to try it, it should be ROBAM. And it was awesome to find that turned out to be the case! So normally I identify (as female?) and present as very femme. But for a while now, I’ve been strongly tempted every now and then to, as a friend put it, jump the gender fence – not necessarily permanently – LOL I’d miss my girly stuff too much, but every now and then. I’ve come to think of it as my alternate gender alter-ego – a guy called Erik (yes, named for the Phantom). But I’ve never actually presented as that alternate gender alter-ego before. At the conference this week-end, though, I finally decided Oh what the hell and did. And bless the conference folks for being super chill about it, LOL even though I didn’t actually get up my nerve till after I’d registered and so had to ask them to help me alter my name-tag! And it went really well, too. Nobody gave me any crap or weirdness about it! LOL Although, certain people I ran into who knew me kept going on auto-pilot and using my regular name later in the day. I’m not sure if they just weren’t reading my name-tag and going on their memories, or if putting brackets around my “real” name on the tag caused confusion. Pity, too, as the misgendering started just as I was getting comfortable presenting as Erik! So next time I’ll have to register that way from the beginning so that my name-tag’s clean and see if that helps. LOL Although, that’s when I’ll probably get the awkward questions from those particular folks. I ran into other friends, though, who were totally chill and awesome about it. And I really appreciate that! It really helped me get comfortable with how I was trying to present! So overall, it was a good and liberating experience! And it’s one I’ll try again, possibly at next year’s ROBAM, and in other safe spaces where I can find them. Because, it took me almost half the day on Saturday to stop feeling shy and self-conscious about presenting as a guy – LOL or trying to!

Anyway, it was a great week-end. And I’m really looking forward to next year’s conference! I can’t wait to see what their topic will be! And also, for next year I’m really going to try hard not to miss the call-out for papers/presentations (again). Because, I’d really love to present there as well! I don’t yet know what, though. So you’ll have to wait, and come to next year’s ROBAM to find out!