Heart Like a Wheel

It was with shock and great sadness that I read of Kate McGarrigle’s death this morning.  Hers was the music of my life.  From Things That Go Pop at CBC:

The descriptors “Canadian icon” and “national treasure” are often used as lazy shorthand to refer to those artists who’ve made some sort of impact on our country’s music scene. But Kate McGarrigle was one of the awe-inspiring few who truly deserved those epithets — and then some. McGarrigle, who passed away Monday after a drawn-out battle with clear cell sarcoma (she was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2006), was one of Canada’s legendary voices, a woman who celebrated and elevated the rich history of our country’s musical traditions throughout a career that spanned more than three decades.

Though Kate and sister Anna McGarrigle may have viewed themselves as “accidental” recording artists, it was clear from the outset that the pair were unique talents. Raised in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains, the McGarrigles were originally introduced to French cabaret chansons, French-Canadian folk music and jazzy standards as children — their family was given to cozy group singalongs around the piano. Kate and Anna honed their own piano skills at the elbows of nuns; later, they would make a career out of performing a fresh variation on the homey, honest music of their youth in folk clubs and on recordings.

Shortly after she gave birth to son Rufus Wainwright (one of two children she had with singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III), Kate and her sister were recruited to contribute backing vocals to a version of Anna McGarrigle’s Cool River that was being covered by another folk artist (Maria Muldaur). By some twist of fate, the right set of ears heard magic in those McGarrigle harmonies and offered the pair a record deal. And in 1976, Kate and Anna McGarrigle released their self-titled debut album, an enchanting collection of old-fashioned folk songs. It was immediately lauded by fans and critics. The New York Times and the music magazine Melody Maker named Kate and Anna McGarrigle one of the year’s best albums.

The album even included one tune, the arch Complainte pour Ste. Catherine, in which the two neatly encapsulated the sighs of a ’70s-era Montrealer in wry Québecois French:

“Moi, j’me promene sur Ste Catherine / J’profite d’la chaleur du métro / J’ne regarde pas dans les vitrines / Quand il fait trente en d’ssous d’zero.” (“Me, I walk along St. Catherine [street] / Getting the warmth from the Metro / I don’t look in shop windows / When it’s 30 below zero.”)

That these two unassuming sisters from Quebec could bring such an idiosyncratic tune to the largely Anglophone masses (the late English singer Kirsty MacColl even covered Complainte in 1989) is a testament to the great gifts of Kate (and Anna) McGarrigle.

Kate used her music to share her appreciation for Acadian culture and the understated beauty of folk songs, but she also instilled those same values in her children. Both Rufus and Martha Wainwright have paid tribute to their mother in their own songs. It’s not uncommon for listeners to be privy to the intimate family portraits that appear in the work of sharp songwriters who draw inspiration from their own lives, but it’s rare that we are familiar with the parties depicted in song.  [more]

“Shall I nevermore behold you?/ Never hear thy laughing voice again.”

A bit more:

From Anna McGarrigle:

Sadly our sweet Kate had to leave us last night. She departed in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted. Til we meet again dear sister. ♡

Update:  From Rufus -

When inevitably I read today in the papers that my mother lost her battle with cancer last night, I am filled with an immense desire to add that this battle, though lost, was tremendously fruitful during these last three and a half years of her life. She witnessed her daughter’s marriage, the creation of my first opera, the birth of her first grandchild Arcangelo, and gave the greatest performance of her life to a packed crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Not to mention traveling to some of the world’s most incredible places with both my sister, her husband Brad, my boyfriend Jorn and myself. Yes, it was all too brief, but as I was saying to her sister Anna last night while sitting by her body after the struggle had ceased, there is never enough time and she, my amazing mother with whom everyone fell in love, went out there and bloody did it.  I will miss you mother, my sweet and valiant explorer, lebwohl and addio. X

Bits That Bite

Echidne on David Letterman:

Bosses harvesting their subordinates for sex is almost always a bad idea.

 

 

Dr. Eric Steele on the opposition to gay/lesbian marriage (via Pam’s House Blend):

. . . the clothing of rationality and God’s word have been used forever to hide the naked truth of racism, sexism and other prejudices. The arguments against the right of gays to civil marriage is no different; if you peel off the clothing, what lies underneath most opposition to civil marriage rights for gays is just naked fear, ignorance and prejudice.

 

Dave Zirin on football and homophobia:

Football came of age at a time when America was embarking on imperial adventures around the globe. Football was seen as a way to toughen up the youth so they wouldn’t become “sissies” and a way to teach the very “values” of Christian expansion and manifest destiny. This philosophy was known as “Muscular Christianity,” and its most prominent spokesman was an aristocrat-turned-boxer named Theodore Roosevelt .

 

Katha Pollitt on Roman Polanski:

What happened was not some gray, vague he said/she said Katie-Roiphe-style “bad sex.” A 43-year-old man got a 13-year-old girl alone, got her drunk, gave her a quaalude, and, after checking the date of her period, anally raped her, twice, while she protested; she submitted, she told the grand jury “because I was afraid.” Those facts are not in dispute–except by Polanski, who has pooh-poohed the whole business many times (You can read the grand jury transcripts here.) He was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, like many accused rapists, to spare the victim the trauma of a trial and media hoopla. But that doesn’t mean we should all pretend that what happened was some free-spirited Bohemian mix-up. The victim took years to recover.

 

Diane Loupe on prostituted young women in Georgia:

A Future. Not A Past wanted to get a better estimate of girls on the street, so it funded independent researchers to track how many adolescent girls are being hawked. The research was based on scientific probability measures and estimates of the age of prostitutes, using methods similar to those used by scientists to determine the population of endangered species.

The number of young victims has been increasing since 2007, according to that research.

An estimated 374 juveniles were being commercially sexually exploited in August 2009 in Georgia, up from 251 in 2007 and 361 in 2008, according to Danielle E. Ruedt, public health programs coordinator for the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, which took over funding of the research from the campaign.

Numbers for the street, hotels and escort services have remained flat, but “the Internet number is going through the roof,” said Kaffie McCullough, campaign director of A Future. Not A Past.

Internet ads promising “young girls,” “barely legal” females and other code words for underage females got a much higher response from potential customers than other ads, the campaign’s researchers found.

While applauding the decision of Craigslist, an online provider of information about goods and services for sale, to eliminate its “erotic services” category, McCullough noted that many ads pimping girls have moved to other Web sites.

 

The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness [pdf], Betsy Stevenson & Justin Wolfers

 

Katha Pollitt on Stevenson and Wolfers (and Huffington):

But how happy were women, really, in that golden pre-feminist era? Culture critic Caryl Rivers pointed out to me that in 1973, studies showing that married women had the highest levels of psychiatric problems, including depression and anxiety, prompted sociologist Jessie Bernard to declare marriage a “health hazard for women.”

 

Alex Dibranco on the student sex column movement:

Isabel Murray, feminist columnist for the Free Press, takes Cosmopolitan to task for its heteronormative, male-pleasure-oriented approach, while pointing out that it and similar women’s magazines are nonetheless the only noncampus media addressing female sexuality (explaining why until recently it was the most read magazine among college women). People are downright uncomfortable with the concept of female sexuality: even at Dartmouth’s SexFest, where Murray managed a table, she was struck by how “hesitant and disturbed” people seemed by her dental dams and a two-dimensional model of a vagina–far more so than by the condoms and three-dimensional plastic penis. The most controversial Dartmouth sex column took heat for dealing too explicitly with female sexuality.

 

Elsie Hambrook on women voters:

Women hang their vote on issues and often, on different issues than what men consider important. New Brunswick’s own Joanna Everitt, a political studies professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, is a Canadian expert on gender and politics. She says there are differences in how women and men vote, and that that split has been growing.

While men are more concerned with a candidate or party’s policies on the economy and federally, on the military, women are more likely to look at social policies, such as health care and education.

That difference has impacted the outcomes of some federal and provincial elections. Women and men vote in similar numbers, but differently, and parties need to be able to attract both genders.

Everitt recently concluded in a report, “If the (federal) Conservatives held as much appeal for women as they did for men in the 2006 election, they would not have ended up forming a minority government.”

 

Michael Valpy on women voters:

When he was host of BBC Two’s The Late Show in the 1990s, Mr. Ignatieff was called the thinking woman’s crumpet.

But interviews with Canadian women voters – businesswomen, academics, writers, PhD students in their 20s and 30s – elicited words well removed from crumpet. They called him stuffy, drab, arrogant, inauthentic, paternalistic, unmemorable, unsexy and, most of all, untrustworthy.

 

Michael Ignatieff on “Three Minute Culture”:

 

Stephen Harper tribute to friendship:

 

Harper and friends, redux:

 

But Harper hates more than 50% of Canadians:

 

So some women created a fan club [snark].

Fringe