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Category Archives: Thoughts



What A Week.

leonard cohen

Hi friends.

I know it’s been a while. That’s because life has been absolutely insane these past few months. Lot of things have happened, mostly good – but of course, some incredibly bad.

Part of me has wanted to put the blog on complete hold until I can finish the never ending redesign (which is why I have been silent here for a while) but when someone like Trump is elected president, and then we find out Leonard Cohen died, it feels wrong to stay silent. This has always been where I come to vent, and today will be no different.

Obviously, I am not an American, but the reality is, Americans are our neighbours, and they’re also our brothers and sisters. They are not that different from us, despite how much we might protest otherwise and lay claim to superiority since we have Trudeau – a feminist – while they have Trump, a man who campaigned on pure hatred and vitriol toward everyone but white men.

A world under Trump is terrifying. Not because Trump is terrifying (he’s just a clown, nothing more than a power hungry entertainer with a great marketing team) but because if he is impeached (a likely possibility) an even worse monster – Pence – becomes President of the most powerful country in the world. I’d like to believe Trump isn’t nearly as racist or sexist or xenophobic as he campaigned himself to be, he just knew it would work on the people who are.

That said, in the face of the rampant increase in racism and sexism being displayed in full force since his win, it is up to us to do the right thing and protect the people who are now free targets to a once mostly silent majority of the population. Speak up if you see someone saying something hateful. Stand with the person being targeted. Being a bystander is never okay.

As Canadians, we also have a responsibility to not fall into the trap that has taken hold in France, England and America – the nationalist trap that fears the other. This is how devastating wars begin. This is why the violent tragedies that have happened recently have happened at all. Being afraid of refugees moving here is what convinces those vulnerable people to believe the rhetoric of dangerous groups and sign up for their ranks. With every nationalist win like Trump and Brexit, they only get stronger. Aaron Sorkin wrote that ISIS is having a party after Trump’s win, and that’s what strikes me the most about this whole nightmare. By being afraid and filled with hate, you are only making them stronger. This isn’t a solution to the problem, this is how you increase its power over you.

When America had Bush, we followed with Harper. Once they had Obama, we followed with Trudeau. We tend to follow their political ping pong party game pretty closely, and I hope and pray that this doesn’t happen again with our next election in three years. We cannot buy into this world of fear and hate. It only puts us at risk. When you hear a certain Conservative woman on the news spouting about Trump and how she hopes to follow in his footsteps here, tune that shit out. Turn the channel. Don’t write about her. Don’t give her press time. Please don’t validate any Canadians who campaign on hate, like the American media did by giving Trump non-stop press just because it was good for ratings.

We like to believe we are less racist and sexist here, but as we found out last Tuesday night, the silent majority might just be silent until it comes time to vote. Don’t take that for granted. Try your best to educate anyone around you who seems to support the Trump win. Do it without anger (if you can, I know this is incredibly hard for me). People only understand life through their own eyes, their own experiences, and that means your suburban relatives can’t always relate to your point of view. They haven’t experienced the diversity we embrace in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. They only see the issues that affect them personally, and that is how they vote. Educating the people in your life about what it means to care for your neighbour is key. Educating them about what all this fear mongering nationalism does to strengthen terrorist groups is key. It might not work – people are inherently stubborn and self-interested, but you have to at least try.

In other news, I recently went to NYC for the first time in a DECADE! And it was as incredible as I remembered it to be. There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to leave Toronto for New York, and I think I had to stop visiting in order to truly embrace my city. Now that I adore Toronto and it has developed into an incredible place, I can resume my just as intense love for New York.

I went down there for a writing conference run by and for women, where I learned a ton. Screenwriting has been the most recent passion of mine, and I was able to attend a seminar led by Jenny Lumet, who wrote a film I truly love, Rachel Getting Married. I also got to wander around the MOMA, see the spot where Paul’s Boutique used to be, stay in Brooklyn, get drenched by a full day of rain, live on about 4 hours of sleep a night, eat the finest pizza $3 will ever buy you, tour Greenwich Village to indulge my Bob Dylan love, get lost on the vast subway system, meet a bunch of incredibly talented women writers, attend live tapings of The View and Dr Oz (because all the shows I wanted to see… Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Steven Colbert, SNL were sold out) and visit the 9/11 memorial. It was an incredibly packed 4 days.

Before that, I fulfilled one of my biggest music industry dreams – I was a Grand Juror for the Polaris Prize 2016 – which as you know by now went to Kaytranada’s 99.9% – a truly fantastic album that I never would have given a fair listen to were it not for the privilege of being on this incredible jury. It wasn’t the album that I was there to fight for (that would be Black Mountain’s fantastic IV) but I understand exactly why it won and I stand behind the choice.

One more great thing, I checked another big career goal off the list by having my first byline in Marie Claire (about a 90s film I love, The Craft), a publication I’ve always wanted to write for. Yes, my writing here has been sparse because I have an entirely new vision for this blog that has me stockpiling material, but also because I’ve been focused on freelance writing full-time, which is a non-stop hustle. With that point, I should make it clear that TTRO is not over, it is just on a semi-hiatus until I can turn it into something that represents me in my 30s instead of this old version of me in my 20s. I feel like when I post here I’m walking around in an old outfit that just looks silly on me now, so I’ve been holding back. But soon! An early 2017 launch is the goal, and things around here will be a lot more consistent (and hopefully very useful for you) come that time.

One last thing – by some strange and awesome twist of fate – after 7 years on Twitter I was finally able to get my name out from under someone sitting on the handle – so @lisa_TTRO is no longer. Now you can tweet me @lisalagace, which is the same as my Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Periscope names. Yay for consistency!

And finally, let me just say, one last time for the record, RIP Leonard. When I watched you perform live in 2009 it was one of those rare musical moments where I knew I was witnessing pure genius, a poet who understood our pain for us, made it somehow more tolerable.

“And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord Of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”

 Lisa

Shaking Off 2015, And Remembering Bowie

this is paradise cameron street

Well, the end of January is here – and I had planned to post this review of 2015 a few weeks back, but then David Bowie died – and it felt wrong to post about my year when I (and the world around me) was feeling so sad about losing this music legend. So I put it off… but then I wasn’t sure if there was any reason for me to write about Bowie after literally anyone and everyone wrote everything that could be said about him.

But then I remembered how shitty I felt (in retrospect) for not writing about Lou Reed when he passed away. Lou’s I don’t give a fuck attitude made him arguably even more of a personal icon for me than the colourful Bowie, so I wasn’t expecting Ziggy Stardust’s death to hit me quite as hard as it did. I am well aware that I will be a mess when Dylan (and Springsteen) leave this world, but I wasn’t expecting it with Bowie. Maybe because I had never thought about it, because he really did seem like a beautiful immortal alien.

What I will say, is that I hope everyone can exit the physical world with the level of creativity, grace, humour and acceptance he did with Blackstar. As he always did, he used his fame to shine a light on something seemingly scary if you’re struggling with it (gender, sexuality, diversity… being different in any way, and now death) and made it into something beautiful.

Now for that 2015 year in review I wrote…. Well, the last one I posted was all the way back at the end of 2012.

By the end of 2013, I was working my ass off during Christmas break for free – the year end was so stressful I just didn’t have time to write about the year as a whole – but the majority of the year was actually some of the best times of my life – I traveled for free to many festivals, I attended all the events, ended toxic friendships, met someone special, and opportunities came my way that I will remember forever. While I don’t know that this Weakerthans song really summed up 2013 for me, it was an important one for a few reasons, so it gets the title.

In 2014, some shady shit went down. I made mistakes, for sure, but something so vile was done to me that I didn’t feel it would be a positive thing to write about. My privacy was violated in a huge way and lies were spread – I could have sued (and some say I should have because of the proof I have) – but my decision was instead to let it go and use my time in more positive productive ways. The experience made me understand completely why so many Ghomeshi victims chose to stay silent about what happened: you can try to get justice, but you will only stress yourself out more – and after the months I had already spent being in a constantly stressed out state, the last thing I wanted was more stress. I chose to focus on being happy, and put it behind me as much as I could. As the year came to an end, I was very happy. My song of 2014 was Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. It was the anthem I needed, right when I needed it. Just remember, if you address the lies, you are playing into it. Don’t spend your energy on negativity, it will only drag you down with them.

So here I am at the end of 2015 start of 2016. My song of 2015 is Ryan Adams version of Shake It Off, because 2015 was hard as well, but for personal, rather than outside reasons. This song fully exemplifies the way it feels when a truly important relationship ends and you’re trying your best to move on. Taylor’s version is the anthem you need when people that don’t matter are fucking with you (haters gonna hate), Ryan’s is the version that feels exactly right when it’s someone who matters the most (players gonna play).

2015 was a hard year. I hadn’t fully healed from what happened in 2014, and it’s quite possible I used my relationship to ignore it. If I had someone, I was okay, and I could forget what happened to me and how it tainted my relationship with the thing I had always loved most – music.

As my relationship ended, I struggled deeply to be happy. I had lost my passion for the local music scene, and now I had lost my best friend.

I am lucky enough that I had great friends to pull me through the hardest days. They lifted me up and invited me out, stayed up with me until the sunrise made it safe to sleep again, and reminded me to shake it off, and to know my worth. I also have amazing parents, a family that loves me, and a pomeranian who is still the light of my life. So, while I felt a giant void from the events of the last 2 years, I am well aware how lucky I am, and how the ones that matter never go away, or make you feel like you’re unworthy of their time.

2015 was also the year that I moved to a new apartment. When facing heartbreak, a new home is a good way to wipe away memories and start fresh – but after 7+ years living on Cameron street in the literal heart and soul of the city, I really did not want to move. I started my blog there, ran my business from its moldy, damaged walls, and watched my life radically grow from something I was bored of into the purpose driven, opportunity drenched one I created.

Basically, all the good things that happened in my life happened while I lived there. My life only started to feel like it was mine when I was able to wake up every morning and see that big THIS IS PARADISE Cameron House sign out my window – reminding me that it was paradise – and that my life would never again be like it was before I lived there. Before I knew how to be me. Before I knew who I was supposed to be. I had graduated University when I moved there at 22, and here I was, newly 30, having to leave my first real home behind.

I am now 4 months into the radical shift that is Liberty Village life, a whole 20 minute walk away from my former intersection. And I’d be lying if I said I love this neighbourhood even half as much as I loved Queen and Spadina – but I do love my new apartment – and no longer living in a dilapidated, rundown 3rd floor walk-up (that briefly had mice) is actually quite nice. My giant balcony has a view of Lake Ontario, and I have about double the space of my former place, along with a game room, an onsite gym, free parking, storage, and a park for Mr. Bojangles to play in – aka I giant change from Cameron Street. Oh and I have so much counter space, so I can fulfill all my cooking dreams #growingup.

Speaking of cooking – I set out a bunch of hefty goals in 2015 – and I think one of the only ones I successfully completed was learning to cook. I had a goal of cooking one new from scratch recipe a week – 48 total – and while I didn’t hit that number – I still did pretty damn good. I didn’t want to be 30 and still eating chemically modified food from a box, and thankfully I will never have to worry about that again.

My intentions for 2016 are, as always, quite large, but I finally feel like I am back in the headspace to make them happen. I have no more distractions and I know the path I need to take to reach the next big goal.

A redesign of TTRO is in the works, and when it happens, things will feel different – but the content itself won’t change because it will still be my thoughts, ramblings, experiences and opinions. I might be writing more about healthy living, and less about drinking all night watching bands, but that’s because I am no longer 24 – as I was when I started this. My life goals are a little different now, so as I change, the blog changes too.

This is my 2016 manifesto: I will not waste a minute of 2016 on people who don’t have a minute for me, as I have done so much in the past. On guys who don’t text back within a respectful timeframe, on “cool” people I think I need to impress, on writing I don’t want to do, on anything that doesn’t inspire me and anyone who doesn’t give me back as much as I give them and want me in their life as much as I want them. I will spend more time working on the big projects I am excited to produce; with the people I know will always be there for me; and doing more things that are good for my health and well-being.

I hope you had a great 2015 (or at the very least, one filled with big lessons as mine was). Here’s to a productive and kind (rest of) 2016.

 Lisa

Toronto’s Music Scene From The Outside

toronto music scene

Today’s post comes to us from Angela Mastrogiacomo, who asked me if she could share her perspective on the Toronto Music Scene as an outsider working in music who lived here briefly. I find her points interesting, especially #2 and #3 which are both big points of contention I’ve heard often from musicians as well. 

Every now and again you come across a city that just gets you. All the stars align, and if you believe in such a thing, you find your city soul mate. For me, that city is Toronto.

When I had a chance to combine my forever love, music, with my new love, Toronto, the opportunity was too promising to resist. So I launched a weekly music industry meet up called Balanced Breakfast, originally founded in San Francisco (by Stefan Aronsen and Andy Freeman), and made it my mission to not only learn more about the Toronto music scene, but to help grow it.

But the more time I spent in Toronto, the more I discovered that the way I looked at Toronto’s music scene was completely different from the way those that had been in it for years seemed to.

There were so many discrepancies that I initially thought maybe I’d been wrong about Toronto. But then I thought, what if being an outsider was actually an advantage? What if I could bring a fresh perspective to the industry, and ignite some spark and inspiration into a scene that I could see was quickly becoming frustrated?

Conflict 1: Toronto’s Music Community is Non-Existent.

One of the first things I noticed was the complaint that Toronto’s music community is non-existent. That while there are great artists, and plenty of talent, the feel of community isn’t there. Almost immediately, I disagreed. Having spent 7 months living in San Francisco (which has an amazing music community) and my entire life in Boston (which has a terrible music community) I felt that Toronto had a strong spot right in the middle. While there was room for growth, the community feel was definitely there.  And more importantly, people want to build it.

Within my first 2 weeks in Toronto I had reached out to and met with several people within the industry who were more than happy to offer me their time, let me pick their brain, and even invite me to events and meet ups within the music industry that I would have never known about otherwise. From there, I made friendships and connections that I still maintain today.

If you’re thinking this kind of generosity is normal, let me tell you—it’s not. My experience in this industry, in the States, has been that generally speaking, people will only meet with you if A) there’s a strong enough immediate benefit for themselves and B) you’re completely acquiescing to their schedule. Everyone is too busy and “important” all of the time—even when they aren’t.

My advice? Appreciate what you have. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be better, or there isn’t room for improvement, but as an outsider looking in, your music community is definitely there. It just needs a little care to grow.

Conflict 2: Inability to Break Into the States

Another major point of contention seemed to be an inability to break into the States. While it’s true this is difficult, I felt like no one was looking at the benefits of being a Canadian artist. To make a name for yourself in Toronto, or even in the entirety of Canada, is a much more attainable goal than an American band making a name for themselves in the States.

The States are not the be all end all. (Come on guys, do you really want to start using us as a model for things?). An American band can pour their heart and soul into their career, and never really make a name for themselves outside their hometown. But in Canada, the opportunity to make a name for yourself is much stronger. Not to mention all the grants you’re offered…

Conflict 3: FACTOR Politics

The third biggest complaint I heard was the complexity and ever-changing politics behind the FACTOR grants. I get it, no one wants to feel like they’re not being heard, like something that is supposed to be about art and true expression is actually about popularity and numbers and all the things that, let’s be honest, matter when running a business—which your band is. But take a moment to appreciate that you’re in a country that invests in its artists that way. That gives money to its musicians to record, tour, get proper PR, and grow your brand.

We don’t have a “direct to the artist” funding system like that in the US. Every time I mentioned FACTOR to any of my American clients, they couldn’t believe it. It never failed to grab their attention…because for all its flaws, and all the things that could make it better, it’s a truly wonderful opportunity that I think a lot of artists are taking for granted.

And look, it’s not that Toronto’s music scene doesn’t have problems. Every strong community has infrastructure problems now and again. But from this outsider’s perspective looking in, it’s a pretty solid foundation, and I have no doubt that with the proper care, in 5 years Toronto could easily be one of the big city names in music. But first, we need to appreciate what’s here, and learn to nurture it. Let’s put this city on the map, and show ‘em what you’ve got.

 

Angela Mastrogiacomo is the owner of Muddy Paw Public Relations, and the free weekly music industry meet up, Balanced Breakfast, which meets Saturdays from 12-2pm in Toronto. Muddy Paw specializes in working with up and coming artists on personalized campaigns designed to bring their careers to the next level. To date, we’ve secured placements on sites such as AbsolutePunk, Substream, Property Of Zack, PureVolume, Anti-Music, and many more. 

 Lisa

Spring Cleaning Isn’t Just For Your House

spring clean computer

This week I decided to give my computer a desperately needed cleaning. And I’m not talking about the grimy surface (though it’s important to clean that as well because germs and stuff).

My laptop had been acting strangely, and something odd popped up onscreen that shouldn’t have been there – so I figured it was time to finally clean house. After years on the same laptop, it had also definitely slowed to a crawl and was freezing up on me all.the.time.

I should note I am one of those idiots who never actually shuts her laptop down (and who always has a million tabs open), so that might be part of my problem.

Anyhow, in order to get everything back in order, I decided to implement Intel’s advice.

There are a number of things you can do to increase your computer’s speed:

  • Regularly perform virus scans and remove spyware.
  • Perform a disk cleanup to free up space on your hard drive.
  • Defragment your computer’s disk.
  • Upgrade to a newer operating system.

I had already upgraded to the latest version of Windows that was released, and decided to do a full scan of my virus software, which took a few hours.

Then I downloaded a spyware program which helped me find the little hidden bugs that had taken a toll on my computer’s system. It found something like 120 problems, which is sad to admit. You’d think I would always run spyware, but sometimes I rely too heavily on my antivirus program to catch everything. No more of that – it’s running constantly now as well.

That alone (along with letting my computer have some downtime) seemed to help quite a bit. I will be performing a disk cleanup and defragment as well, and that should make it even faster. I have yet to do either of these things since owning this laptop, so it’s about damn time.

Another thing to consider come spring cleaning time is your phone! Our smartphones are mini-computers these days, and they can also get bogged down. I have an app called Clean Master installed, and it regularly gets rid of junk files on my phone with the click of a button.

Since my Galaxy S5 is a year old, I desperately need to clear out all the photos I’ve taken over the past year – as I’ve come to that point where I can no longer download any new apps because there is no more space available on the phone. It’s quite a pain in the ass. Going through thousands of photos is an exhausting task – if you have any tips for how I can quickly do this without losing the photos I want to keep, do tell.

Finally, it’s also a good idea to take a wet wipe to your computer and phone and give them a good scrub down to complete the process inside out – so many things get stuck between the keys! It’s kinda gross.

Spring cleaning seems time consuming and annoying, but once it’s done you’ll feel so much lighter.

I’m required to disclose a relationship between TTRO and Intel Canada, but all opinions are my own!

Lisa

Ed The Sock Explains What Happened To Good Canadian Television

Ed The Sock CRTC

Remember the days of Kids In The Hall? The days when MuchMusic was your favourite thing on TV because they actually played music? And for my parents generation, maybe you even remember SCTV and the original Degrassi?

There was a time when Canadian TV was all about innovation, despite the tiny budget. No – because of the tiny budget. But that tiny budget also meant we could never compete with American broadcasters in primetime.

If you’ve been following the CRTC rulings lately, you’ll know some great things have been put into action – for example, them forcing the big name providers to offer a basic TV package for $25, and then allowing you to pick and choose the extra channels you want.

As a self professed TV nerd, I am all for this. Rogers and Bell have been ripping off cable users for a damn long time, and this kind of ruling was absolutely necessary.

But the ruling Ed the Sock is talking about is different. CRTC also passed a rule to loosen the daytime CanCon requirements for TV producers, and there will no longer be genre protection for specialty channels – meaning MuchMusic doesn’t have to play any music (though that stopped happening ages ago), and History Channel doesn’t have to show any history – as Ed puts it.

For the most part, I agree with what Ed is saying – equating money with innovation is always wrong. That’s exactly why I think the best art is always the first thing the artist releases, when they are poor and struggling and full of innovation and passion and desire. The first album, the first novel, the first film or TV show, that’s the stuff that sticks in the cannon throughout an artists life for a reason.

Having no budget means you have no choice but to be your most creative self.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s wrong for the CRTC to want Canadian productions to be able to increase production values so that our industry can at least try to compete with what the American networks produce.

There’s a reason we watch more American television than Canadian, and it’s not because we don’t have the talent and skill to make shows as great as our Southern friends – it’s because the budgets up here are nothing compared to what they are down there.

Tons of American shows are shot and produced up here (Hannibal being my absolute favourite) – the difference between that show and the Canadian made shows we ignore on CBC is the budget – which trickles into the actors they can hire, the ability to have one consistent showrunner onboard from the pilot to the finale, the directors they can afford, the writers, the production design, the shooting locations, and so on and so on.

Maybe Canadians like keeping our TV in a specialized “Canadiana” stereotype world of Trailer Park Boys and Corner Gas, but if that were true, Canadians wouldn’t spend the majority of their TV time watching American and British produced shows.

That said, more money does not equal more innovation, but it does allow the innovators to translate the vision they have in their head into the one we see on the screen – rather than shooting a version they end up ashamed of because the budget didn’t leave any room for that vision to be realistically created.

Hear his thoughts below, and let me know what you think about the new changes.

Lisa