The Chilean refugees who arrived in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Montreal, have been a community that has captivated me throughout the past two years. I was therefore ecstatic to have the opportunity to see The Refugee Hotel staged at The Segal Centre. Despite some awkward translation into English and a difficult script to work with, the play is an excellent one that I recommend – particularly after yesterday’s events in the USA.

These brave Chileans who came across the oceans were faced with two choices; the first being to trust that everything would be okay for them in Chile if they kept their heads down, stayed in line, and trusted that the military would “make Chile great again”. The second: to restart their entire lives in a country with a new language, new food, new music, and of course, the omnipresent “Canadian values” (still searching for a definition of those, other than the ability to properly cross-check someone).

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s production of The Refugee Hotel does its sincere best to answer these questions. The script draws from author-and-playwright Carmen Aguirre’s lived experience as the child of Chilean refugees growing up in 1970s Canada. It’s an impressive story made even more poignant by its autobiographical basis.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

This is one of the reasons that it is so frustrating to review this play. Though the premise is admirable, Aguirre’s play shortchanges itself by trying to fit too many facets of the Chilean refugee story, and indeed, the story of human migration, into two short acts.

At the centre of the play are Jorge (Pablo Diconca) and Flaca (Gilda Monreal), a married couple who represent two sides of the resistance movement in Chile. Jorge is something of a milquetoast pacifist anarchist accountant, while his wife is a firebrand Marxist active in the MIR (the Revolutionary Leftist Movement).

Their two children escape with them to a hotel in Canada, where they meet other Chilean refugees subjected to inhuman torture in the Carabineros’ concentration camps. The rest of the play progresses at a slow pace as each rediscovers their humanity and intimacy, one-by-one in a frustratingly perfect way.

By “frustratingly perfect,” I mean that of course the mute girl is coaxed into to talking at the end of the second act, and she falls for the man who talks with her first, and of course they end the play with a freeze-frame photo motif. The play’s unfortunate dives into clichés keep it from developing serious critiques.

Jorge and Flaca’s struggle to be intimate once again despite the horrific sexual torture that the Carabineros inflicted upon her is a topic that is criminally underrepresented in works of art; and even less so is it approached sensitively. An exploration of that theme alone would have made for a powerful and moving production, but Aguirre’s insistence on shoehorning so many important themes into the play means that extraordinarily difficult trauma from torture is treated as nothing more than a plot point. For example, two suicide attempts that happen within two minutes of another are treated as comedic moments.

Moreover, I felt that the repeated flashbacks to scenes of torture in the Estadio Nacional de Chile are not used to explore the characters’ motivations and histories, but rather as punctuation marks for the drama as a whole.

The play is being performed at the Segal Centre, which bills itself as the heart of Montreal’s Anglophone theatre culture. This presents an interesting double-edged sword for the actors in that they are reading from a script originally written in Spanish, for an English-speaking audience in French Canada.

Certain recurring parts of the script (such as the nickname for Jorge, “Little-Big-Bear”) sound awkward in English where they would have made perfect sense in Spanish (“Osito Grande,” better understood as “Teddy Bear”). On a larger scale, the familiar words, particularly “desaparecido,” used to articulate the brutality of the Pinochet regime are lost in translation.

Furthermore, the play misses opportunity to develop a more nuanced comedic character in Bill O’Neill, the enthusiastic Québécois hippie who helps the guests at the Refugee Hotel find work. In the Spanish script, he speaks with comically poor but confident command over Spanish, but in this English adaptation, his dialogue sounds like a 19th-century caricature – “Army me take to stadium. Bad men take Bill!”

Other than awkward phrasing, this makes the characterization of Bill difficult for the audience, as he is repeatedly referred to (kindly) as “the only gringo who speaks Spanish.” In poor translation, Bill’s character shifts from that of a Canadian activist with a sincere wish to improve his Spanish and act in solidarity with Chilean refugees into a buffoon.

This is the part of reviewing that I do not enjoy. The story itself is captivating, and the curation behind the set design and music choices was phenomenal. I just wish that the story was more focused on one or two of these families, instead of a script that leaves several important facets of post-traumatic stress equally unexamined.

All of this is not to say that I did not find the play enjoyable and tastefully performed – in fact, the actors did a stellar job working with an awkward script, and the set direction was simple and elegant. I give a special commendation to the Set Designer, Diana Uribe, who placed the beds of the hotel at an upright 90º angle, which allowed the actors to remain part of the action, while staying true to the stage direction to lie supine.

The music choices, namely the major-key Victor Jara folk ballads that accompanied scenes of horrific torture in the Estadio Nacional may have been shocking to people unfamiliar with Chile’s musical history – but it seems a deliberate nod to the famous Cueca Sola spot produced by the Anti-Pinochet Campaign during the 1989 plebiscite made famous by Pablo Larraín’s 2012 film. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that Victor Jara was tortured to death in the Estadio Nacional, specifically targeted and brutally murdered for his popularity and beliefs.

Speaking with the actor who played Jorge, Pablo Diconca, I learned that many of the cast came into this production with the explicit goal of putting faces to the communities so left behind by history. Diconca is a Uruguayan-born Montrealer who has been an integral part of the local theatre scene since his arrival in Canada at 19:

“I can not ever forget the fact that I have an accent, and I will always have one. This has restricted me as an actor – I have played drug dealers, murderers, and taxi drivers more than I can count,” Pablo told me. “When I came to Canada, I refused these roles out of principle…but with time, I came to realize that acting is my passion, and that by being on stage, this is how one becomes involved in the local culture and community. One must put their heart into acting. It becomes easier when the script is [about] something you already have in your heart. I was invited to be a part of this cast, and I didn’t see how I could turn it down. This is a play that can help to open minds.”

Teesri Duniya’s Artistic Director and co-founder, Rahul Varma, explained to me that he chose to stage this play as a way of “challenging the notion that 9/11 of 2001 divided the world into pre-9/11 and post 9/11…there have been so many other 9/11s, such as the 9/11 of 1973.” Rahul is of course referring to the military coup in Chile that took place on September 11, 1973, where the Chilean Air Force bombed downtown Santiago and assassinated the democratically-elected head of state, Salvador Allende.

refugee-hotel-2

Rahul continued, referencing the current Syrian refugee crisis, “I thought that this play brings certain realities of the past and connects them to what is currently happening.  The idea is to look into what has happened – why is it that refugees are coming to Canada? Why do people leave their homes elsewhere?”

According to their website, Teesri Duniya Theatre “is dedicated to producing, developing and presenting socially and politically relevant theatre, based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities.” They are an incredibly important part of Montreal’s Arts community and I am thrilled to see that they took it upon themselves to tell the story of an underrepresented and important part of Canada.

As we draw to the closing of this play’s run at the Segal Centre, as well as the dawning of an unprecedented dark cloud over North American immigration politics, it is important to remember the lessons left by Chilean-Canadians’ struggles in and out of their homeland. I salute Teesri Duniya Theatre, The Segal Centre, and the cast and crew of this production for shining a light on the challenges faced by refugees in a sensitive and responsible manner despite an unaccommodating script.

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.

The Refugee Hotel is playing until Sunday at The Segal Centre (5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine). Tickets available here.

Poster by Rashad Nilamdeen.

The federal government decided to get involved in the campaign to return the remains of two members of the Beothuck Nation, currently exposed in an Edinburgh Museum, to their native Newfoundland.

Chief Mi’sel Joe, of the Conne River Mi’kmaq band, and the Newfoundland and Labrador government have been trying for years to repatriate the skulls and burial goods of two members of the extinct indigenous nation of Beothucks.  The vestiges were taken from a grave site in Newfoundland in 1828.

The National Museum of Scotland had responded that it would only consider a claim made by the federal government in association with a Canadian National Museum. So Ottawa quietly joined the fight.

On Wednesday, CBC News got hold of a letter written by Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to the director of National Museums Scotland (the parent association of the National Museum of Scotland, which is in Edinburgh).

“As the Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation with its Indigenous peoples, I am writing to inform you that it is now involved in this matter,” said the letter. “The Government of Canada considers this matter to be of considerable importance.”

The message was sent on May 29, as a notification to the NMS that Canada intended to put in an official request to claim the Beothuck remnants. CBC just got access to it through the Access to Information Act.

Chief Mi’sel Joe, the most prominent figure of the campaign, was happy and surprised to learn that Ottawa had taken this unusual initiative, reported CBC.

The Fascinating History of Beothucks

The Beothucks were the original inhabitants of Newfoundland. They cohabited with the Mi’kmaqs, and for a while, with European settlers before being declared extinct in 1829. There is no doubt that the arrival of the Europeans played a great role in their extinction, which certain historians call a genocide.

The remains currently in Edinburgh are those of Nonosabasut and his wife Demasduit, believed to be the aunt and uncle of the last known Beothuck, a woman named Shanawdithit. Their story is quite fascinating.

In 1818, conflicts between settlers and Beothucks were frequent in Newfoundland. One night, in retaliation for the theft of their fishing equipment, the local colony sent nine armed men to storm a Beothuck camp near Exploits River. Demasduit, wife of the leader Nonosabasut, was captured. Her husband was killed while trying to protect her and her infant son died a few days after.

Demasduit was taken into the colony and lived with a priest who gave her the white name of Mary March. Some unsuccessful attempts have been made to return her to her tribe in the summer of 1819. She died of tuberculosis one year later. Her body was retrieved by her tribe and placed in a burial hut, beside her husband and child.

According to Wikipedia, there was only 31 Beothucks remaining at that time. A Scottish explorer found the bones and other vestiges about nine year later.

Why so Quiet?

A briefing note addressed to Joly (presumably also accessed through the Access to Information Act) said that getting involved in the repatriation of the remains in Scotland “would be consistent with the government’s commitment toward reconciliation with Canada’s Aboriginal people… Return of these remains, or a concerted effort to have them returned, would be a high profile demonstration of that commitment.”

This begs the question of why this high profile demonstration has been exceptionally discreet so far. It’s possible that they wanted to avoid the diplomatic complications of a highly publicized feud between Scottish Museums and the Canadian government.

“The department is still assembling all of the elements required by the trustees of the museum in Edinburgh, in order to ensure the case is complete and as strong as possible,” said Pierre-Olivier Herbert, spokesperson for the department of Heritage.

Other Remains in Canada

It’s also possible that they didn’t want to wake the sleeping matter of the remains of 22 Beothucks in possession of various Canadian museums. In 2012, Mi’sel Joe had declared to the CBC that returning those remains to Newfoundland is “the respectful and right thing to do, for anyone.”  At the time, Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of History, where the remains of ten individuals lie, had named lack of resources as the reason for their failure to be proactive in the matter.

According to more recent statements of spokeswoman Éliane Laberge, they have received no formal request from Indigenous groups.

* Featured Image: A portrait of Demasduit, one of the last Beothucks of Newfoundland

Yesterday I was walking down Assiniboine Avenue here in Winnipeg, past the Legislative grounds, where often many Pokemon Go players gather. Indeed on a couple occasions, I, as a casual player, have hung out here as well.

This time I was just passing through on my way home from the grocery store. In the short time it took me to walk through, I heard several other people who were passing by make loud derisive comments to or about the people playing. Comments about how stupid it is, how stupid the people playing it are, how it’s sad that they have nothing better to do with their time.

Image: Chris Zacchia
Image: Chris Zacchia

As I walked further I got kind of angry. What right do these people have to judge? This is something that makes people happy, gets people out to have fun, brings people together. Why the hate? It’s a hobby.

Just because it’s not your thing, why do you have to try to spoil it for those who enjoy it? Then I got thinking about it a little more, and realized that this isn’t any different than people shitting on any other hobby, it’s just new, so people are more vocal about it at this moment. And I realized the sad fact that literally EVERYBODY does it. This is just what people do.

I guarantee every person complaining about how much they’re being judged for playing Pokemon is guilty of judging other people for doing things that they like doing.

In recent years I’ve noticed an especially vitriolic movement among people who don’t like sports to wear their ignorance of sports as a proud badge, to ironically talk about “sportsball”, and assume that all people who like watching sports are ignorant uneducated brutes, and brand them as such.

It’s the same thing I’ve seen with people who are militantly smug about how they don’t watch TV, because according to them TV is an evil, brain-killing thing that has no redeeming qualities, and anyone who is stupid enough to fall under its spell deserves to have their mind rotted out because they’re intellectually weak.

I could go on and on about the things I’ve heard people straight up hate on for no reason other than they personally aren’t interested in it; reading books, being a foodie, playing board games, and dozens of other things that people just do because they enjoy them.

We’ve all done it. I’m certainly not innocent of doing it. But I’m trying to be better. Everybody has things they like doing, so let’s just fucking let people do them without all the criticism.

Go catch Pokemon. Go play fantasy football. Go knit. Go watch superhero movies. Go birdwatching. Go collect records or porcelain dolls or insects or stamps. Go play basketball. Go play Magic. Your hobby isn’t any better or more valid than anyone else’s. And if you think it is, you’re an asshole.

Y’know what makes you just as much of an asshole, though? Criticizing other people’s interests just because people have been criticizing yours.

* Featured Image: Pokemon GO players in Cabot Square, Montreal by Elizabeth Ann Keenan

Fredua Boakye

“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”

Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.

Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.

“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.

The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”

When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.

Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”

In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”

Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.54.37 PM

I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”

Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.

The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:

“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”

The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.

Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits
Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits

In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”

Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”

Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:

“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”

With hockey season over for the Canadiens, Montreal is in dire need of a sport we can get behind in the summer. Some turn to the Montreal Impact, our awesome soccer team, but with their home, Saputo Stadium, so far east, it’s not convenient for many of us to schlep out there in an overcrowded metro car. Luckily we have another team we can turn to: the Montreal Alouettes.

The Als, while under many of our radars, have been around since 1946 and despite a lapse of existence in the eighties, still draw die-hard baby boomer fans who were around for the team’s glory years in the sixties and seventies. The Canadian Football League (CFL) within which the Alouettes operate works in conjunction with the National Football League (NFL) in the States.

montreal alouettes toronto argos

While the two leagues are distinct, the NFL’s agreement with the CFL gives them first pick of any players drafted. The CFL gets to choose their teams from whoever is left and a salary cap helps keep any one team from packing their roster with expensive players. Cheerleaders are volunteers compensated with merchandise, publicity, and a chance to travel with the team.

The Alouettes play at Percival Molson Stadium (on the McGill Campus) on Pine Avenue downtown, a location extremely accessible by foot and public transit. An agreement between the team and the STM has resulted in shuttle buses that will take you from various locations along University Street up to the stadium – all you have to do is show the driver your ticket. Tickets go for as little as twenty five bucks but the team is regularly offering promotions in order to fill seats. They can be purchased online at ticketmaster.ca.

On June 17, 2016 the Montreal Alouettes played their first home exhibition game against the Toronto Argonauts. Exhibition games are used by teams to make cuts and don’t count during the actual season. They’re sort of like a massive public tryout.

I was excited and frustrated by the game.

I was excited because of the overall atmosphere of the football game: the music, the crowd’s cheers and screams of frustration, and the audio system blasting “Make Some Noise!” Some players, like the Alouettes’ running backs Martese Jackson and Stefan Logan made impressive runs that wowed the crowd, wriggling past Toronto’s defense before finally being tackled.

Our defense held strong against the Argonauts but our offense came in fits and starts. Quarterbacks Kevin Glenn and Rakeem Cato showed leadership and courage. In the second quarter, a pass from Glenn to wide receiver Duron Carter resulted in a seventy eight yard touchdown. Our team got a total of eight sacks against Toronto and in the end we emerged victorious with a final score of twenty two to fifteen.

I was frustrated because I counted a total of twenty six penalties during the game, many of which were given to both teams at the same time and more or less cancelled each other out. As a legal columnist I see referees as game judges, people who make sure the rules are enforced, but in an exhibition game meant to show coaches what prospective players can do, penalties given for something other than a major foul or unnecessary roughness seem just that, unnecessary.

The screen at the far end of the field used to show replays and ads had a massive glitch leaving a large portion of the screen black that technicians failed to fix. There was also the matter of the cheerleaders.

Als Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders no longer lead cheers. They are now led by recordings that encourage people to make noise, clap, or chant because speakers and large screens can be seen and heard by more people. The cheerleaders were almost all white women and their uniforms, generously provided by Jupa – a company that normally makes snowsuits for children and teens – looked to be designed more for American fetishists than Canadian football fans.

While the outfits are in the team’s colours, they bear the stars and stripes of the USA when a plain design would have worked better. Pleated miniskirts cater to school girl fetishists while the white go-go boots while sturdy are clearly impractical and made only to cater to those into S&M.

Given the uniform and the fact that they don’t lead any cheers, the cheerleaders are clearly there to be eye candy for men in the crowd when there’s no game play going on. That being said, they deserve to be paid for it and it wouldn’t hurt to make their ranks a little more diverse either.

And then there was the halftime show, which featured the Montreal Alouettes’ “Mini Cheerleaders” a bunch of little girls aged 5-17 clad in miniskirts doing a cheerleading routine. The goal of this program, as per the Alouettes’ website, is to allow them to learn to dance with the pros in a fun, safe environment. The problem is that it also seems to be catering to pedophiles.

In an era where women’s sports are increasingly popular and profitable, having a cheerleading program just encourages the notion that there should be separate sports for boys and girls when girls would benefit just as much from the guidance of professional football players as boys would. Instead of encouraging an athletic gender divide, the Als’ should put their money towards girls’ sports teams and make them the half time show.

In the wake of the massacre in Orlando, the Als’ only tribute to the victims was a single pride flag above the field. The lack of honor for the victims at such a masculine event promotes the idea that what happened was an LGBTI issue and not one that affects us all.

The Als can do better, I know they can, which is why I’ll be at the games this summer, wearing the team’s colours with pride. I encourage everyone to do the same.

The room is dark but alive with activity. On the main stage strippers – male and female – burlesque artists and fetish performers do their thing, some with volunteers from the audience, some without. Some audience members caress their partners while others scream and cheer. On the main floor merchants peddle everything from vibrators and butt plugs to lingerie and scented candles.

Valentine’s Day is approaching and the Salon de l’Amour et de la Seduction is in full swing.

The Salon de L’Amour et de La Seduction is Montreal’s annual sex show. Every year in one of Montreal’s many exhibition halls – usually Place Bonaventure or the Palais de Congres – merchants, educators, and performers gather together to celebrate sex in all its forms.

There are a lot of myths about sex-related events: that they’re full of freaks, that people behave inappropriately, or that the patrons are old and disgusting or perfectly beautiful in a way that would cow the average Joe into staying away.

Montreal’s Everything-To-Do-With-Sex Show disproves them all.

The crowd is a varied but behaved one; there are people of all races, sexual identities, disability levels, and ages. Some go for the shopping, others go for the performances, while still others go to attend lectures in the seminar room of the exhibition hall.

People think that events like these are full of weirdoes.

You want to meet REAL weirdoes?

Go to a house of worship, or an office, or a political fundraiser. In those places people dress “normally”; they smile when you greet them and are almost irritatingly polite, but what some of them are not telling you about is their deep seated hatred of women and LGBTI people. They won’t tell you that they think sex is disgusting and evil and shouldn’t be enjoyed. They won’t say out loud that they think it should only occur in circumstances that bigoted leaders and outdated books dictate. They won’t tell you this, but they’ll vote for such leaders; they’ll be snarky and cruel behind closed doors, and dole out hatred in a way that falls under the radar of liberal lawmakers.

You want to meet people who are truly normal? You want to meet people who are open-minded and interested in what you say and won’t judge you for your body or your sexual identity or preferences, provided what you do is safe and consensual?

You’ll find them at the Salon de L’Amour et de la Seduction.

Though scores of patrons are elaborately made up and corseted in leather and latex, there is no real dress code and everyone is made to feel welcome. Sex educators offer free advice on everything from safe practices for people with disabilities, to how to find your G-spot or give the perfect blow job or cunnilingus. Are you over 50? No problem! They also have lectures on sex after 50.

Need a new vibe? Sex shops, some online, some with store front, offer a variety of sex toys at discounted prices, and like in a sex shop, the sellers always have batteries on hand so you can test the strength of a vibrator on your hand before you buy it.

But the merchants aren’t all about sex.

There are peddlers for kitchen ware, flat irons for hair, and even heating pads. Corsets can go upwards of 200 bucks if you buy them online or in stores, but you can get a decent one for as little as 35 bucks at the Salon. Newer businesses like Cam4.com and Vanish My Waist use the Salon to get their name out, the former this year offering a free pair of winter gloves with their logo on it.

Despite the glamour and air of welcome, the exhibit is far from perfect. Sitting space for the tired or disabled who need to take a breather are sparse, and the room is hot, a combination of body heat from the scores of patrons and to keep workers and performers – many of whom are scantily clad – comfortable.

If you want to survive at this show, you either have to check your winter coat at the door, or bring a bottle of water. Bottled water at the show sells at an inflated price of about three bucks. Some vendors at the show are unnecessarily aggressive and you have to be comfortable saying no in order to get by them without buying something you’ll never use.

If you like adult films but are uncomfortable buying them online or in a sex shop, you’re shit out of luck. While in previous years a variety of adult films with were available for sale, now only a few Canadian vendors sell them, and these are clearly suck and fuck productions with no story, style, or substance.

I was informed last year by a representative of Good For Her, a female friendly sex shop in Toronto who unfortunately did not have a booth at this year’s exhibition, that the lack of quality porno movies for sale at the show was due to the widespread availability of material online.

It should also be noted that tickets are pricey. A one day pass is about $17.50 plus tax, but for an extra five bucks you can get a weekend pass that will allow you unlimited re-entry for all three days of the show.

Despite its shortcomings, the Salon is worth a visit. Every year I learn something new from the scores of sex educators at the show, and the performances seem to get better every time. Though I usually only go for a day, next year I’m springing for a weekend pass for despite a day surrounded by open-minded leather and latex clad performers and experts, there was still so much to see that I missed out on.

Because of the nature of the show, advertising is limited, so you’ll have to search online next January for the dates of next year’s show.

Check it out.

18+ only, no exceptions, no babies

* Featured image from the 2011 edition of the Salon de L’Amour et de la Séduction by Chris Zacchia

Halloween is here once again, it is hands down my favorite holiday. Actually no, fuck that, Halloween is everyday! I wear my freak flag proud 365 days a year.

For most “normal” people, Halloween is the one day of the year that it is socially acceptable to dress up like a weirdo and live their freak fantasy. Sadly commercialism and an oversexed media has turned it into a money making skank fest.

There are literally slutty versions of every costume (even in the kids section): slutty nurse, slutty referee, slutty cop, slutty witch, slutty vampire, slutty pirate, slutty prom queen, and the list goes on. These costumes seem to be invented with pedophiles in mind. Men and young boys seem to have it a little easier and can just put a mask on it , become their favorite action hero or movie killer, or slip on a dress and be a bearded lady.

Stop the trend. The only way you can break out of this is by making your own costumes for your children. Halloween costumes you buy are very expensive and poorly made anyways.

More gore and less whore. Being a bloody zombie is an easy and fun way to celebrate this holiday season. Instead of being a slutty version of something be a bloody zombie version instead!

It was funny, the other day I went to a costume party with my friend Erik and he doused himself in blood and called it a day for his costume. The cab driver asked us like ten times if it was real. A person covered in real blood is every person’s worst nightmare, so I get it when people freak out over a gory costume. Its all about shock value.

The original Theatre du Grand-Guignol in Paris
The original Theatre du Grand-Guignol in Paris

Haunted houses are insane, filled with passionate actors willing and ready to scare the shit out of anyone who walks through the doors. I am a pussy when it comes to stuff like that.

I remember being a pretty young girl and going into a Haunted Catacomb and when the actor wielding a chainsaw came after me I kicked him in the shin and ran. It was fight then flight, I felt like I was going to die. Now it’s a little different, as an adult I realize that I am probably not going to actually die. It’s all entertainment.

People have always had a certain blood lust when it comes to being entertained. Grand Guignol is a form of theatre that is graphic, amoral, and horrific in nature. The most famous theatre of this kind and a huge target for censorship was the house of horror known as Le Theatre du Grand-Guinol, The Theatre of the Grand Puppett, in Paris France open from 1897-1962.

Everyone from royalty and celebrities in formal apparel to the common man would enjoy blood soaked plays about prostitutes, criminals, insanity, and grotesque mame and murder. People came to the shows to feel something, they wanted to be entertained and disturbed by the natural looking horror shows. The same crowd attends modern day slasher films and gorelesque recitals.

Most audience members became belligerent and boisterous. Others could not hang, often the special effects were so realistic that audience members would vomit or pass out during the performances.

I am part of a Gorelesque troupe called The Zombettes, we give a whole new meaning to Blood Lust. Once after a show I picked up a guy and left bloody handprints on his wall.

Gorelesque is exactly what it sounds like: Burlesque covered in blood. Dark, occult, horror, zombie, and gore added to the classic striptease based performance art. We have done everything from act out the ear cutting Stuck in the Middle With You scene from Resevoir Dogs to the opening scene from Scream or a reenactment of Friday the 13th. 

Once we did a show dubbed “too soon?” where my friend The Creeping Beauty dressed up like Amy Winehouse (literally two days after she passed) and I dressed up like Anna Nicole Smith to welcome her to the afterlife while the song Rehab played. Maybe that was utterly tasteless, but it certainly was memorable.

zombie amy winehouse anna nicole smith

Classic horror/slasher movies are a huge inspiration to my art. Dramatic music and imagination are important in horror flicks. It’s what you don’t see that can scare you the most. Same with burlesque, it’s what you don’t see that invokes the most titilation.

Everybody has nightmares and everybody watches the news. We all know that the world we live in can be a scary and evil place. Sometimes people go crazy and slaughter the innocent , war is happening while you read this, limbs being blown off, random acts of torture and violence are rampant, people are being raped, and there are unspeakable horrors happening in every city. Horror movies are just the artistic representations of these very real atrocities.

It’s the time of year that I re-watch all of the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, Hellraiser and other various horror movies on repeat. The scariest of these flicks are the ones that are plausible. A real person can lose their mind and torture me.

It seems that there is a formula for these flicks that involves large breasted women or beautiful young virgin babysitters running around in white t-shirts covered in blood and being victimized by a male psychopathic sadistic monster.

Why are there rarely any sexy men in leading roles of horror movies? When a man dies in a horror flick it is quick. Scream Queens sell tickets. Misogyny rules in this genre. These women must fight to survive.

It reminds me a lot of porn to be honest with you. Young women cowering and screaming just as they do from being pounded by the twenty throbbing mega cocks being rammed down their throats in hardcore porn movies. Yes, I am a feminist who watches both horror movies and gang bang porn. Im more terrified by watching the Republican debate.

Psymposia and the CSSDP are presenting Psychedelic Stories & 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day. It’s actually a two day gathering, which seeks to engender awareness about the medicinal properties of the Psilocybin Mushroom. By providing a space for sharing stories and for exploring and discussing new research on psychedelics the organizers hope to give a balanced view of what Psilocybin Mushrooms offer in terms of spirituality and healing. The itinerary looks fresh, educational and gully at the same time. I spoke with Gonzo Nieto, one of the curators of the event.

 

J: Tell me briefly about your curatorial aesthetic and what you hope to accomplish with the event…

G: With the event, we’re hoping to bring attention to the medicinal and spiritual effects and the healing potential of psilocybin mushrooms, as well as to address and push back against the stigma that surrounds the mushroom and its use.

 

J: And as far as aesthetic is concerned?

G: Our lineup for the 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day is curated not only to educate about psilocybin mushrooms, but also to reflect the underlying message and meaning of the experience itself. The mushroom carries a message of wholeness, of movement toward our full human potential, so alongside presentations on psilocybin research we have a breathwork session, a yoga class, and a presentation on dream hacking.

 

W3rd, right!?! This event is gonna bang hard, I even heard Hamilton Morris from VICE might show up. The space is dope. The panels and talks are both academic and shamanistic. The vendors are talented af and, well, I’ll be there. Na’mean. Come through, get your photo taken, learn something. Hit me up, I’ll be outside during “Terrence McKenna Happy Hour” for sure…

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Andrea Dworkin’s death. On September 26th, 2015 she would have been 69 years old. Opening on September 17th and running until the 27th, Montreal Theatre company Waterworks will be presenting a world premier full staging performance of Aftermath.

Based on a text written by Andrea Dworkin after her drug-rape in Paris in 1999. Her life partner, well known author and activist John Stoltenberg, found the original document on her computer.

“…what I discovered was a 24,000-word autobiographical essay, composed in twelve impassioned sections, as powerful and beautifully written as anything Andrea ever wrote. It was searingly personal, fierce and irreverent, mordantly witty, emotionally raw. It was also clearly not a draft; it was finished, polished as if for publication.”

The piece was edited and cut in half to about 90 minutes and directed by Stoltenberg and Dworkin’s longtime friend and collaborator Adam Thorburn. It was performed as a staged reading in New York by Maria Silverman in May of 2014. “At each step in putting this theater project together, I have wished I could talk with Andrea about it. I would want to tell her how the words she showed no one are now reaching and affecting audiences in live performance,” Stoltenberg writes.

The Montreal production is being directed by Waterworks artistic directors Tracey Houston and Rob Langford and being performed by Montreal actor Helena Levitt as Dworkin.

We’ve heard of this type of story before, more recently with the Bill Cosby allegations and Jian Ghomeshi spectacle where the victim’s creditability was brought into question. “If she can’t remember everything, then maybe it didn’t happen.” It was so long ago, maybe she’s a little sketchy on the details” ad infinitum.

In the text, Dworkin refers to the drug Rohypnol and GBH. “This isn’t an aspirin in your drink. It’s not like getting drunk. It’s not like getting high. This is so easy for the boy. This is so simple for the boy. This is foolproof rape. The gang who can’t shoot straight can do this kind of rape. You can do this hundreds of times with virtually no chance of getting caught. I think how easy this evil is to do.” She goes on to describe how powerless one is to fight back from this kind of rape even after the fact, when there is no memory to report or very little if any evidence left behind.

Aftermath is a very passionate, personal account of Dworkin’s life, family, work and thought process that very few people not familiar with her writings have yet to see or be aware of. Stoltenberg explains, “[Dworkin’s] stirring writing ranges dramatically over many themes—her aspirations when she was young, her erotic and romantic relationships, the marriage in which she was battered, her understanding of the connection between Jews and women, her take on President Clinton’s behavior, her deep commitment to helping women, her critique of women who betray women. And the fact that Aftermath is acted means audiences get to hear an emotional dimensionality in Andrea’s voice that in life she shared only with me and her closest friends—trenchant and oracular, as the public knew her, but also tender, sardonic, sorrowful, vulnerable, funny.”

Rob Langford and Tracey Houston, founders of Montreal’s The Waterworks Company (Palace of the End, Gidion’s Knot, Glory Dazed), a troupe committed to staging the best of contemporary playwriting by women, found out about Aftermath last year from Stoltenberg’s Twitter feed, Langford contacted Stoltenberg, proposing to give Aftermath its first full staging here in Montreal.

Aftermath runs September 17th to 27th, 2015, at the Centre culturel Georges-Vanier, 2450 Workman, Little Burgundy, a couple of blocks northeast of the Atwater Market. METRO: Lionel- Groulx.

A special première takes place on September 17th at 8pm; the show runs over the next two weekends Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 4pm. Post-show talkbacks, with special guests, will take place throughout the first weekend.

Admission is $18 / $13 (buyer chooses price). Tickets are available, via Eventbrite, 
at waterworksmontreal.com, or at the door.

Last month, Harper’s commissioned something unusual.

Unusual in the context of our tight-pursed digital world. Less unusual, perhaps, in the heady (nearly bygone?) literary indulgence from which the magazine sprung.

Harper’s, based in New York City, flew a British writer across the Atlantic and, once in The Big Apple, covered her sprawling tab at New York’s most elite restaurants. Then they cut her a cheque—and seeming carte blanche—to fill up their pages with any ensuing adventures.

The piece seemed preordained by the magazine’s weighty masthead to be free-flowing and diaristic, spared the publication’s usual tight oversight.

New York food writers and bloggers generally hated it.

Now true, the whole endeavour was slightly un-Harper’s like. But the diaristic style wasn’t an error or oversight. Nor was the writing bad. It was good. At times, fabulous. So what’s the problem, you ask? Well this very fault line, more and more, is where the gap between between food culture, food writing and the reader is being drawn.

It would be hard to pick four more towering foodie temples to visit: Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Chef’s Table and Masa. It should be noted that Harper’s is neither food publication or news magazine. It doesn’t cover a regular “beat”, much less have a restaurant review section.

Who knows its mandate in 2015? Though broadly-speaking, Harper’s is still about excess: liberal reflection, the pleasure of the text.

…[Per Se] is not a restaurant, although it looks like one. It may even think it is one. It is a cult. It was created in 2004 by Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, in Yountville, California. He is always called Chef Keller, and for some reason when I think of him I imagine him traveling the world and meeting international tennis players. But I do not need to meet him; I am eating inside his head.

Now I’m a long-time follower of people like Keller, a junkie of chef culture and resto innovation through and through. I’m the kind of guy who would waste hard-earned money on these nutty places.

Animal Farm may be a metaphor for the anxieties of those who dine at Through Itself: they are hungry, but only for status; loveless, for what love could there be when a waiter must stand with his feet exactly six inches apart … Through Itself is such a preposterous restaurant, I wonder if a whole civilization has gone mad and it has been sent as an omen to tell us of the end of the world — not in word, as is usual, but in salad.

What’s more, smug, foreign food critics are nothing new to this scene.

Nor am I sure that the human body is meant to digest, at one sitting, many kinds of over-laundered fish and meat…

Yet at every turn of phrase like this from Gold, I only dove in further. The thing is, it didn’t matter what my food sensibilities told me: this was crisp, fantastical, entertaining, and ultimately — like all good satire —based on more than a small grain of truth.

If knee-jerk reactions are to be expected from locals and overwrought foodies, they are worrisome when they come from food writers. Why? Because the stark opposite emerged from another specific group: a global collection of folk that may or may not have cared about famous chefs, or even heard of these places.

I can only unify this mass as readers — the targets, after all, of a magazine article. It would seem that readers’  conception of Gold’s essay was different. They perceived it as writing.

And they’d be justified. Let’s leave aside the premise itself: that the magazine doesn’t even do reviews, that the writer was flown in to a city brimming with food critics for an expository feature.

Readers got it, knew that they — along with 99.9% of the world — knew they’d likely never set foot in these uber-elite places, or even necessarily have the desire to. — and that was the whole point all along.

Readers did not require “disclaimers” of satire or elitism.

Yet things continued to split apart. Both sides soon christened Gold’s piece as “an evisceration.”

Fair enough. Yet thanks to the highly-evolved logic of Twitter, the label just wasn’t reductionist enough. Sure enough, as the narrative changed, Gold’s piece became something slightly more vulgarized: a “takedown.”

The thing with “takedowns,” it seems, is once defined, they require “takedowns of takedowns,” each step further distancing readers from any literary agency of their own.

Only one more reductive t word could possibly be invoked, could possibly paint a starker picture of what’s been going on for years now, a sheer widening gap between “food writing” and essay. It happened:

Now food is no exception. These things happen all the time. Social media dumbs things down, to no one’s surprise, I know…

Yet to me, this particular saga is exemplary for three reasons: the sheer spectacle of it all, the big players of food criticism involved, and the fact that it highlights the tense space opening up between foodies, writers and food writers.

The trend seems to be that dry, cutting, whimsical, food writing should never even edge on brutal or fabulous — it must never go too far off the edge.

It’s ironic that food writing started from the edges, with fantastical, metaphorical essays that touched upon food coming from somewhere else.

One level head reigned. Pete Wells, New York Times critic  himself—tasked with hallmark reviews of these joints over the years—might have captured it best: between diaristic and satirical, Gold was for him not just any writer, she was the foreigner turning heads by flirting at the precipice of food criticism.

All this to say that I learned three things:

  1. We’re drawn to New York misadventures just as we’re drawn to the ire of Parisians: their hunger to take down their own is outweighed only by their ferocity at defending outsiders from doing the same.
  2. Harper’s still exists. I should probably check it out more often.
  3. “Food writers” gotta chill.

Back when I first started raising this drama, someone pointed me an old Harper’s essay. Turns out, in 1996, they paid Neil Foster Wallace to write about the cruise industry.

I read it.

Suffice it to say that if such a thing came out today, cruise line bloggers (if they exist) would dissect it with glee. Industry experts and travel writers would doubtless be next at the gate.

For in the piece, NFW is out of his element — uncomfortably so — and one teeters with him as he lurches along in search of his point. It’s as if his grip on the topic might disintegrate at any moment.

Here’s the thing: it is a glorious and riveting essay.

So if there’s a lesson for us food writers, bloggers and commentators, maybe it’s simply to take a deep breath. If those of us who care most about the topic keep strangling it, food’s life within language won’t fully thrive.

Originally set to take place at the Atwater Library, Dyad Press’ poetry reading, titled “Former Members,” ended up down the street at a small park.

t7c6088

 

Picnic tables were pushed together to form a makeshift seating area as the twenty-odd attendees gathered to hear Jesse Anger, Hannah Hackney, Quincy R. Lehr, John Wall Barger, Marc Di Saverio, Carmine Starnino, and Ernest Hilbert.

t7c6107

 

“This is perfect somehow,” remarked Barger before beginning his reading. Despite the change of plans, the outdoor venue was indeed a perfect setting. Each poet read his or her pieces in the cool evening while backlit by the setting sky.

In an absurd twist of events, the Montreal police decided the poetry reading was an illegal gathering that posed a risk to the Atwater community and demanded the party leave. Before departing, and within earshot of the SPVM officer, Hilbert had time to read “The Gelding.” According to Hilbert, the poem speaks to the institutional suppression of creative freedom. How fitting.

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The night ended across the street, on public property, with a compelling reading in near darkness by Di Saverio. For light, Hilbert held up his cell phone on flashlight mode over Di Saverio’s shoulder.

For a poetry reading, I imagine this is as exciting as it gets. How many can say they’ve been one poem away from being tear gassed? 

Photos By: Richard Malouf

Censorship at every level is difficult and feels dirty and wrong. Artistic freedom is taken away daily while over sexualized children and extreme violence are plastered on billboards and ads without remorse. Yet a woman cannot be topless? What’s so gross or wrong about that? Every human had nipples, I just can’t figure out what the fuss is all about?!

Recently in Saskatchewan at the Lyric Theatre’s Chautauqua Theatre Festival a burlesque performer called Rosie Bitts was censored during her performance about censorship! It is currently illegal to strip in the province of Saskatchewan. She did a non-striptease performance involving audience banter. She does her number in pasties and a g-strip to show how ridiculous the laws are.

When Ms. Bitts brought a male audience member on stage to reveal his nipple, she pointed out that revealing her female nipple would be completely illegal. Quickly the president of the Lyric Theatre shut the show down and the burlesque performer gracefully left the stage.

She was basically told to shut up and dance like a nice girl. The audience was left shocked, some thinking that the stoppage was all part of the act. Sadly it was not.

Rosie Bitts
Rosie Bitts

Are all nipples created equally? Guess not! I love how on Instagram there are women who are photoshopping men’s nipples over their own to talk about how silly it is that the female nipple is so sexualized and the male nipple is just fine. Women are fighting against this absurd double standard with a loophole that makes Instagram look like an a-hole.

Artist Micol Hebron created a digital male nipple pasty template. Celebrities such as Courtney Love and Sarah Silverman have even used this app. Currently the only female nipples allowed on Instagram are of women breastfeeding and post mastectomy scarring. #freethenipple is the hashtag used for this important feminist movement.
I’m not afraid of public nudity! My dad was arrested for streaking in the 1970s, so it’s in my blood. Besides baring it all on stage I walked in the first NYC Slut Walk, rode my trike in pasties in the Buffalo Naked Bike Ride (nude not lewd is the slogan), and have done many street performances wearing nothing more than body paint or pudding in some cases.

The best art causes a conversation. I’m an organizer of the Buffalo Infringement festival. With organization comes making venues and artists happy. Luckily I’ve only dealt with artist censorship a few times.

cat nipplesOnce was during a show about addiction. There were plenty of pieces about drug addiction and other realty dark shit. But as soon as my friend hung a painting about sexual addiction the owner of the gallery got pissed.

He let the artist hang her work and then as soon as she left the building her work was fucking ripped off the wall. Can you say coward?! I fought the good fight. We never used the venue for visual art again.

This was a simple painting of a girl masturbating. No realistic interpretations of genitals. It was black lines on a yellow canvas. I couldn’t believe that THIS was the piece that was too controversial.

Only a few years before this same gallery was under different ownership and I showed my own graphic sexual paintings (it was actually my first time hanging in the Buffalo Infringement Festival).

This guy would have shit a brick if he saw my stuff. It included a 5 ft painting of a vagina dentata with grillz that said CUNT in rhinestones, an even bigger painting of two beautiful obese women feeding each other cupcakes, and a painting of my vagina cumming out frosting made of pink tinted caulk.

The same painting was torn off a wall by a teacher while I was in college. He took it down during a foundation art class for being too lewd. The students in his class defended me and the painting remained on the wall. Fuck you buddy!

My Kitty Porn series was torn down off a wall during the Montréal Infringement Fest two years ago by an employee who found it lewd. The art was later reinstated by the venues manager, but was now slightly damaged.

I was happy with how it all worked out, my work is now slightly more infamous knowing that it can offend someone so deeply. That girl must have had some issues with her own sexuality to want to destroy someone’s art like that. I put a slash in the win column.

I would be a hippocrite if I didn’t share this story. There is one case of censorship that I was involved in: An artist was not allowed to show their cartoon because it showed all of the worst things including violence towards trans women. This particular venue is a safe place for any and all people who are queer or transgender.They also allowed a full on X rated art show during the festival, so they didn’t care about nudity.

So in this case I understood why censorship occurred, it was not for sponsorship reasons, not because the venue was prude, but instead because showing this cartoon would take away the safety of the space itself. You always have to see things from every perspective. The cartoon was not banned from the festival, it was just moved elsewhere.

I’m happy I live in a place where stripping is legal and I can swim topless if I want. I’m not happy that my male burlesque counterparts do not have to cover their nipples with pasties.

Freedom of speech is everything in the art world. Women need to take a note from Rosie Bitts and the boobies of Instagram and smash society’s stupid standards of nipple censorship by letting it all hang out without consequence or remorse.

Featured image of The Stripteasers Burlesque troupe, Buffalo, NY

Hash tags, trending topics and random tweets, they all have one thing in common; they can all be found on Twitter, one of the biggest social media services out there. As an avid Twitter user myself, I can honestly say that I prefer expressing my opinion about a topic by tweeting, than writing about it on Facebook.

Apparently, I’m not the only one; stars tend to tweet on a regular basis too. Just this week, Twitter exploded with the #CelebrityFeuds, which was THE trending topic of the week!

Trending topics can vary from the latest news in politics to what color the Kardashian sisters dyed their hair this week (Oh! The suspense is killing me!). But the most talked about story that is still making headlines has got to be the Meek Mill/Drake fiasco.

So, rapper Meek Mill decides to go off on Twitter and diss Drake by saying he doesn’t write his own lyrics, that he has a ghostwriter. In response to that, Drake, like the classy man that he is, decides to drop a song, titled Charged Up. “All ya’ll stare in my face in hopes you could be the replacement,” Drake raps on the song, which has been on repeat ever since I heard it!

But the rants don’t end there; Mill’s girlfriend, Nicki Minaj, also decided to speak her mind over MTV snubbing her video Anaconda for this year’s Video Music Awards. The artist tweeted that if she were a different kind of artist and if her video included slim-looking model type girls, then her video would be nominated for Video of the Year.

She didn’t mention any names, but it seemed as if Taylor Swift was the target of that comment and her nominated video for Bad Blood, which does include women with a very slim figure. The two exchanged tweets but the feud ended quickly when Nicki appeared on Good Morning America and addressed the issue.

I don’t think celebrity feuds will ever end because let’s face it, who doesn’t like a little controversy. The more people talk, the more exposure they get. So do they really do this to get revenge or is it more of a publicity stunt?

Mural Fest 2015 started yesterday— that 2 week transformation of the Main into a real live art gallery is something that gives our city its unique flavour. And, yes, there will always be that little niggling beef with Under Pressure, but I don’t really care. There’s talent and walls enough for both.

There are some sick muralists on this year’s roster. I was really pleased to see MTL graf scene veteran MONKE finally get the nod. The dude’s murals are top notch. Also, Toronto’s JARUS will do a wall this year— as far as large scale realistic work with aerosol is concerned, JARUS is holding it down.

Of course then artists are not all aerosol based, there are different mediums in effect— The melding of medium and style is what makes street art so interesting and identifiable. And by saying identifiable I don’t mean it’s easy to spot, I mean with such a wide aesthetic it’s easy to find a resonance within oneself.

NYCHOS, AXEL VOID, EARTH CRUSHER – like yo, it’s gonna be a good festival this year. I’ll be down on St. Dominique and Maisonneuve in the gravel lot with mad all city chilleurs if you’re down.

I first picked up Adeena Karasick’s book of poetry (one of her nine books), Dysemia Sleaze, back in 2006. I picked it without even knowing what the book was about or who it was written by.

I liked the title, though. I knew I was reading something next level. It was like mathematics in words and symbols. It all made some intuitive sense before I could actually make sense of it.

Almost a decade later, in the quest for knowledge of self and existential liberation from Babylon, while working on a farm in BC, I sought the opportunity to build with the Kabbalist, mystic, scholar, international poet and multi-media artist.

I had just read her her latest book titled This Poem. I wanted to learn some science from her about language, technology and the Kabbala. As I anticipated, Karasick dropped that knowledge.

Jesse Chase: You’re a feminist poet so I want to ask: does language have the ability to combat patriarchy? And would you make a distinction between feminism and a radical feminism?

Adeena Karasick: This Poem (Talonbooks, 2012) is a deeply ironic, self reflexive mash up re-inscribing subjectivity as a kind of contemporary archive of cultural fragments: updates, analysis, aggregates, contradictory trends, threads, webbed networks of information, the language of the ‘ordinary” and the otherness of daily carnage.

The self becomes a kind of euphoric recycling of information (shards, sparks) and thus speaks to how we are continually reinvented through recontextualization, collision, juxtapositions of defamiliarity as we process and re-process information.

Is this radically feminist? Perhaps in the way radical poetics is, in the tradition of the avant-garde foregrounding fragmented identities, irony, skepticism, a sense of self as other or outsider, a distrust of the literal, and belief in a tradition that questions rather than answers — As per “radical” i think its useful to think about it as a radical number, which is both rational and irrational, relational. And if radical comes from the Latin radicalis “of roots” I am committed to a writing where roots are re-routed, detour and “dangle”…

I’m particularly interested in ways language can both express and alter meaning; how we use language, masage its affect, shapes the way we think, breathe, behave. Thus, most of my project engages language in a way that undermines, questions or problematizes any kind of patriarchal premise – that there is a message, that can be clearly communicated, transmitted, that there is some truth outside of language, structures of logic, borders, orders, laws, flaws, codes— rather my work opens up a space that celebrates slippage, ellipses; all that is unsaid through veiling and unveiling, a multiplicitous heterogeny of ever-increasing otherness.

So yes, a highly feminist act – of intervention, disruption dissent where the discourse is all rapturously fractured and fraught with fission, elision. Not marked by censoring but by sensors, a re-sensed sensorium of incendiary sonorities.

What you say in ‘memewars’ of “read backwards or forwards, it re-interprets itself in an infinite process of self-replicating metastability through a virally multiplicitous linguistic praxis…Mem…signifies a hermeneutic process through its name.” Can we abstractly play ‘deconstruct the name’ as a sort of activity? Infinitely re-interpreting itself ‘through its name’. Do you care to riff off this? Is it a thought provoking device or activity? Like the Kabbala?

Whether you call it Kabbalistically-infused semiotic analyses or deconstructive investigations, meaning is always hiding in the words themselves. So, I don’t know if it’s a device per se, a methodology, a hermeneutic practice, but I can say that I spend an inordinate amount of my life recombining the alphabet, wearing it as a series of labyrinthian veils, inhabiting it as an ideological emporium of self replicating metastability that houses all potential meaning.

As evidenced per se with the 231 cycles of meaning in the Sefer Yetzirah:

Gates

Everything is connectable, dissectible, detectable. So, yes through the work, there is nothing I love better than the explosive jouissance of simultaneous reference whether it be cycling through dictionary definitions of words etymologies, phonetics, graphic resonances, social, political and cultural traces cycling through webs of knowledge structures, naming and renaming through synonymy, ignonymy homonymy, hymnonomy, anonymy…

Take my 1994 title Meme wars. Mem (or mayim, (water), referencing all that flows, is the 13th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, appears in the middle. Kabbalistically read, (joined with the first and last letters of the alphabet), Alef Mem Tav, spells out truth:

Adeena Karasick 2

Mem shows how truth is always constructed in process. And moreover as the center of the alphabet, it highlights how it’s always found in the middle of language; en medias. And if the medium is the message, Mem stands in for the Law of the excluded middle, that center is always a myth, is a process of dissent, and speaks to ever-shifting perspectives.

Another linguistic echo comes through the French word, mêm(e). Meme is the self same. The same and the same is always other. This referencing a meme as a unit of culture energy virally replicating itself in and through language.

Though I must say, in 1994, when I wrote Meme wars, in no way did we know what the explosion of the internet meme as we now know it would be. All to say, that even the word itself (in whatever language) inscribes how we can never fully replicate anything but infinitely interpretive and re-generative. Re-invented. Made new. In a complex of simulacric echolalia.

Do you think the Kabbalistic logic of ‘creative misreading’ effectively challenges the ‘frame’ in a way that can be applied to a “new art” — a(e)s(th)et(ic)?

Well, like in Derridean deconstruction, which is not so much an anarchic free play of signification but questions the foundations of thinking praxis, reading from specific lenses, perspectives, codes, acknowledging we are never separate from them, Kabbalistic hermeneutics isn’t exactly “creative misreading”, as there is a system of reading called PARDES (paradise) where one spirals through the literal, metaphorical, analogic and secret/hidden layers of interpretation. Cycles through syntactic axis, gates of entry and resistance.

Does it offer a frame that can be applied to art? Absolutely. Endless analysis, interpretation begets further interpretation, re-visitation provokes different readings, spurring new understandings of the wor(l)d. For Kabbalists, Creation was enacted through the letters. The Midrash describes God “looking into the Torah to Create the World,”  and with every reading, we re-enact this process of creation or re-framation as the case may be.

And as such, it becomes a highly political act as it combats any reductive settling into an overarching unsubstantiated mode of reading, and instead points to ways we may enter into a fluid space of ever-generative explosive meaning, acknowledging the ideological codes and lenses from which we are actively interpreting from, however slippery and elusive and shifting they may be. And perhaps this is where aesthetics / ethics elide —

Would you have any suggestions as to how we could redefine what’s generally not considered technological, i.e. logic and language, and invent an activity that would itself be the redefining exercise, like the Kabbalah for example. Something that techno-poetically redistributes aesthetic values and disrupts technopoly. In other words, do you think we can use the seemingly negative attributes of a ‘technopoly’ to our advantage? And if so, how?

For me, language is a technology and at bottom is a prime mover in the re-distributes of aesthetic values. But, with that said, digital media allows me certain other freedoms and axis of entry. Unbound, it foregrounds the materiality of language in a virtual arena of eroticism, a freedom of acoustic and image and visual fragmentation bifurcation foregrounding the slipperiness of meaning.

Increasingly I am playing within this field — whether it’s the construction of videopoems (lingual Ladies, I got a Crush on Osama or incorporating filmic projections in my recent Salome project (where in collaboration with Abigail Child, mashed up the 1921 Charles Bryant film with my text overlaid), or my recent obsession, pechakuchas:

Also check out: Ceçi n’est pas un Telephone or hooked on Telephonic and BACK IN THE O.S.V.R.: THE GHOST IS THE MACHINE

Incorporating voice and text and image and animation, gifs and sound poetry, is an analytical meditation on the relationship between technology and spirituality in contemporary media; highlighting how the mystical and the machine are not oppositional, but that “all media are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes and transform our environment” (McLuhan) and opens not a physical vs. metaphysical, but ‘pataphysical space reminding us how language and thereby all knowledge is spectral, virtual, simulacric. Technopolis. A virtual city to live in.

You got the time off work, you quit or you just plain up and left. However the adventure came, you’re on it and you have only the road to guide you. On this year’s escape from Montreal, head to Granada, for a gastronomical, musical and cultural experience that you will never forget. Get ready to experience life like Spain’s swankiest royalty.

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Granada is not only a slice of seductive gastro-paradise but it’s also where you can see what’s it was like to live as a Moroccan Sultan. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out the Alhambra for an experience of pure architectural beauty and intrigue.

Constructed as a small fortress in 889 AD and converted into a royal palace in 1333 this “paradise of earth” will leave you feeling like an heir to the throne. From intricate art deco details to the always extravagant doorway, you feel as though you’ve entered a slice of Moroccan paradise in the warm comfort of the south of Spain.

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After experiencing life as a Sultan, your next stop should be to head down a dark deep cave to a Flamenco show. Flamenco is expressed as a strange, dark struggle linked to death and creation. Mixing Romanian gypsy music with the rhythms of North Africa, Flamenco has a strong rooted culture in Spain driven by its unique and wild melodies that can be distinguished by the pounding of the bailaora’s nail-capped shoes. A single performance of Flamenco takes over an audience with grace and passion that proves to last you long after the night is over.

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With an abundance of famous Flamenco shows in Granada it’s hard to choose where to go. If you want the best spectacle in town head to Venta El Gallo, where you can not only see an authentic Flamenco show but experience it in a cave as you dine on extravagant cuisine.

While delectable Spanish food melts in your mouth you get the pleasure of seeing some of the best flamenco musicians and dancers in town. With shows everyday you’ll never have to miss out on the most powerful and jaw dropping Flamenco spectacle. The women will dazzle you, the musicians will razzle you and the dancers will leave you with chills all night long.

When in Spain the magical experience that is tapas is a must to graze your lips. Tapas are a midday or evening appetizer between meals to help gulp down some wine or beer. The Spanish got it right. Instead of whipping out for a quick bite to eat or eating fast food in front of the TV, Tapas happens at a slow and luxurious pace. People seemed unconcerned with the passing of time instead focusing on the enjoyment of good company as they sip on tantalizing wines.

From olives to prosciutto to black calamari with rice your taste buds will be tantalized and cold beer helps you wash it all down. The best part? All you pay for is the drink. Don’t fall into the tourist trap of Barcelona tapas to get your fill, instead head to Granada, the capital of free tapas. If you want to experience the real deal check out Poë, La Riviera, Om Khalsum, El Nido del Búho, and Babel. Get ready to experience food like royalty with a buffet of food headed your way with every drink.

Don’t let the luxury end there. Finish your trip off by splurging on a luxury Spanish villa for a week or two with friends or family. You won’t be disappointed. With privacy, security, and the most luxurious and intimate dining experience you feel like true royalty on your own private villa. The architecture will astound you, as the nature surrounds you, let yourself dive into the mindset of the Spaniards of the past.

From tapas, to Flamenco, to Moroccan castles, to Spanish Villas, there are many ways to dip your toes in the luxury of the south of Spain. But more important then the luxury is the change that takes over your mindset when you jet to another place, an escape from your life that permeates deeper then just a vacation.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”   — Miriam Beard

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Photography by Nica Storey