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.

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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.

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“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.

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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:

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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:

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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

MTL producer PSTV has been popping up everywhere this year— I caught him spinning a fresh trap/dancehall hybrid set at the SECRET ROOM last month and ran into him again at NEWSPEAK last weekend. I hate to say I told you so, but yo, I did.

He’s just released his first single INTO DEEP. It’s a juicy, hard hitting house banger and it boasts the classic hallmarks of all PSTV joints: it’s intricate, melodic and layered. It also does not let up. Turn up the volume and get it in…

Like I was saying, PSTV is everywhere right now, and not only is he playing, he’s playing sets at the best venues in the MTL underground. I’ll say it again— don’t sleep on PSTV. Here’s a couple links to get you started.

PTSV plays May 22 @ NEWSPEAK

Piknic Electronik is opening this weekend and I am super amped to catch the first show of the year, it’s a sure banger. Werd up. You know how flavourful it can get with all those freshly dressed people dancing hard around that abstract grey steel sculpture— plus Parc Jean Drapeau is lush and spacious.

I’m pumped to catch the Mayssam set, she’s been in New York for a minute, but hails from MTL. Artists who migrate away from home then return almost always throw the best sets. Here’s a sample:

Other acts like Gold Diggerz and The Drifter will be spinning prog house and garage styles into the night. I got a nice pair of shades picked out, it’s supposed to be mad sunny and 25. Right. Find me where the weird kids are and we’ll chill a bit, you know the deal. One.

Photo by: Miguel Legault

I went down to old MTL to talk with Allie X about her new album ColliXion. She’s doing a residency at the Phi Centre, recording some new tracks and fleshing out concepts. While listening to her EP I picked up on a lot of tongue and cheek references to addiction and sedation. These conceptual themes that thread through X’s music add texture and depth to songs which flash catchy hooks and are all over the radio.

J: Tell me about allusion in your song lyrics…

X: There are links drawn between love and sedation. The relationship you have with your doctor versus a lover. And I’m not necessarily expressing a sound point of view— only raising a lot of questions and making a lot of references.

J: How do you feel approaching the pop idiom as an artist who actually wants to say something of substance?

X: The whole point is to raise questions rather than give answers. When I’m writing lyrics I’m really just grabbing at ideas that are circling in my head, and out of those ideas themes arise. That is the substance you’re picking up on: addiction, psychological and medical themes. As much as critics analyze it, I’m analyzing it my self and learning, ultimately, how to become a better person.

J: Unfold the triptych of your past, present and future—

X: Becoming X has become about wiping the slate clean and not focussing on the past. So I do really speak about it. The present is something I’m always a) trying learn to a stay in, and b) enjoy… and I wanted to answer that in three parts…
(cackling here). The future is when my dreams will come true and I’ll be a greater version of myself.

J: Oh, what’s X?

The unknown. In algebra X is the unknown quantity. It is the identity I take on while just a fragment of my potential full self. Once I’ve attained that, X will no longer be part of my name. I would of solved X.

Also, peep this shower stall acoustic live version of catch. One.

 

MTL is a city with a vibrant underground culture, you know. This may be the last major city in Canada where one can still lead a Bohemian lifestyle and not starve. We got musicians, artists and creative types for days. FTB was at the annual 420 marijuana gathering held every April 20th at Mount Royal park. This year the weatherman dealt us a weak hand: it was windy, cold and raining those fat drops that are only welcome on hot summer days.

I got my effects sorted out early in the day and put on my worst pair of shoes to brave the wet. We get it in. There were hundreds of people in rain slickers dancing through the muck. A ramshackle tent made of tarps was strung up over the DJ table. His set was pure 90’s dancehall gold. Buju Banton and Beenie Man. Staccato patois injections by the DJ—
I even heard a Beres Hammond track at one point.

 

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There were lots of student organizations handing out info on drug policy, which was a new thing, and maybe portentous of changing drug laws in Canada. MTL would be wild if you fly in, hit the hotel, then drop by a super lush lounge where you could purchase the finest green from a menu with gold embossing. One can dream, right!?

At one point some dude thrust a water pipe up into the grey sky and started dancing like mad. In that same instant the sky broke open and the rains came heavy and sideways. I stayed until 4:20 proper, huddled around the huge angel on the obelisk. Pretty smoky by 4:25— that’s MTL.

420 is a sanctified party holiday in MTL: no police, no violence (other than that kid who was chased into midday traffic on Parc) . No problem. Just beautiful young people smoking weed in a downpour and listening to classic Caribbean rhythms. Happy 420 from FTB. Hope to catch you at the party next year.

 

Photography by Jesse Anger and Hannah Hackney

Leonard Nimoy lived long and certainly prospered. I was very sad to hear that on February 27th this legendary man passed away at the age of 83. He was more than just a nerd culture icon as the half Vulcan half human Spock on Star Trek.

spockHe first appeared on screen in 1951 and began an illustrious career in acting while working for wage equality behind the scenes. He always cared about people. This is evident in a very touching letter in a 1968 teen magazine responding to a girl from biracial parents who identified with Spock, saying “Not everyone will be like me but there will be those who will accept me just for who I am.”

Nimoy was a true Renaissance man: actor, poet, writer, musician, director, activist, feminist, photographer, and genuine friend to all. He boldly went where no photographers have gone before. In his controversial 2007 series The Full Body Project, Mr. Nimoy gave an honest depiction of real women and challenged societal standards of beauty.

He photographed The Fat Bottom Review, a buxom burlesque troupe hailing from San Francisco, California. In these images he imitates the poses of Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp while capturing pure joy and unabashed confidence, a ferocity that is purely female, and an “I don’t give a fuck what you think of me world, I love my body!” attitude.

Leonard Nimoy was disgusted at the sad fact that many women and girls suffer because the body they live in is not the one advertised in fashion magazines. Pop culture is distorted and mean. These women are proud of their skin and look the camera right in the face. They are more than just fat and flesh, they are visions of loveliness, joyously celebrating diversity and the art of sensual movement through dance.

He even spoke of this project on the widely popular Colbert Report. This was huge! He allowed Steven Colbert to geek out about Star Trek only with the condition that he could talk about his photos. Nimoy mentioned in the interview (sadly you can only watch it in the US, ComedyNetwork.ca doesn’t have the clip anymore) that the average woman weighs 25% more than what you see in magazines. By opening this door with his photos and words he facilitated an important (yet taboo) conversation about size in the media and how it affects our youth.

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The Full Body Project by Leonard Nimoy courtesy of R. Michelson Galleries. See the whole set and buy the book!

 

These photos changed my life and paved the way for a new generation of women who are celebrating every curve of their unique beauty. Now we have models like Tess Holliday, size 22, tattooed, and very reminiscent of The Fat Bottom Revue girls.

She has started a sensation with “Eff Your Beauty Standards” and inspires me like crazy. She just recently signed a major contract with MILK Model Management UK and is championing Torrid’s no photoshop campaign. Even the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is featuring slightly more curvaceous women than before. Mainstream culture is being taken back by real beauty, oh you’ll see. Every body is lovely, doesn’t matter if you are a size 0 or a size 30 (or all that’s in between).

When a large woman is on stage or in an ad it is most definitely a political statement, it is also a reassurance that it’s ok to be who you are. Even the burlesque community is not safe from fat shaming. Recently Ruby Rage was fired from Lucky Pierre’s in New Orleans for not fitting the correct body type for their show.

This outraged every burlesque dancer who heard the news, especially the world renowned plus size dancer Dirty Martini. Burlesque is about celebrating every shape, size, age, and color of bodies. It is about confidence and exploration, an undeniable fearlessness and freedom, connecting to your audience because you ARE them. Showing off your “flaws” make their “flaws” ok because you are together in being imperfect perfection.

The moment I found out about Nimoy’s death my first thought was to share some of these images on my personal Facebook page (with a “friends only” filter just in case) since the images had such an impact on me. Now if you know me you know that I am not scared of nudity, despise censorship.

To my dismay this post was flagged and taken off my wall, I was pissed to say the least! I couldn’t believe that someone who calls me a friend would report that. Recent sharing of The Full Body Project photos has caused a stir across the whole internet, some of my friends have also been flagged and there are reports from someone in Toronto having the same problem.

Thinking about this now I am almost happy that someone got that upset, these flagger trolls are just insecure and don’t want to see someone they think is abject in the lime light. We got um Len! The conversation is on the table. Kim Kardashian move over, it’s time for The Full Body Project to break the Internet.

I started doing burlesque shortly after coming across these stunning images, knowing these women existed and flourished in a world that always told me I was too big was a game changer for me. I knew I could do it too and inspire change in others with this classic art form. After seeing these beautiful, large nude bodies I was confident enough to pose naked for figure drawing classes and then beyond.

I was once so self conscious that I wouldn’t even go swimming in gym class out of fear that someone would see my body. I am going to be posing for my own black and white artistic nudes soon, everything goes full circle. I am a stronger person and better artist because of the legacy of Leonard Nimoy’s work.

Thank you, friend, rest in peace.

We humans love our traditions. Some have persisted for valid reasons. Others? Well, I think on some level, we just enjoy the drug of empty repetition.

I’ve long been an eager proponent of the history, rituals, and heritage of the meal. But sometimes, we confuse the latter concepts. Some traditions are really just calcified habits – long grown irrelevant. To find their rightful place as a cultural and an economic force, restaurants need to transcend the “tradition” of front-line staff, working for tips.

Now, I realize that I’m treading on dangerous ground. Thou shalt not criticize the 20% gratuity, especially here in La Belle Province. But after years of experiencing both sides of the gratuity system, the situation has become as clear as day to me.

The compensation methods, and hence the respect for and the job security of the server has not kept up with its rapid professionalization.

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A restaurant bill in the US showing gratuity charges. Commensurate salaries and gratuity charges are common in many parts of Europe and Asia and have been shown to correlate to better overall wages, more job security, increased professional development opportunities and better employee engagement.

Despite a sharp hike in gastronomy’s cultural currency here in North America, we still cling to the quaint tradition of “tipping the service what it’s worth.”

There are college degrees for restaurant service now, for God’s sake, not to mention mixology, tableside prep and food service theory. (More on the odd tension of these degrees in a future article).

Artful dining and drinking are finally entrenched as legitimate “cultural fields” here in North America. The wealth of highly skilled servers has long outweighed the pretenders. It’s time to shake off the cobwebs and allow the industry to occupy its rightful place.

Where else are consummate professionals still legally encouraged to work for well under minimum wage?

The consumer’s echo? How unfair. I’ll just leave a bigger tip.

Well, I do that, and I used to get tips both big and small. That’s the problem. Instead of thinking beyond the issue, everyone just screams out to increase tips. We are perpetuating a system that is ultimately harmful to servers, restauranteurs, and eaters.

Why, in this one industry alone, are all the tried and tested responsibilities of the owner — adequate compensation for skilled employees, evaluation of roles and performance — deflected so heavily to the customer?

Tradition? Job instability, high turnover, and an uncomfortable and unnecessary dynamic for the client. That’s a tradition! An ineffable part of restaurant culture. But who is really winning from this tradition? And do we realize it’s predominantly a North American addiction?

I’m continually amazed by how rarely we compare the resto to similar cultural experiences. For some reason, we blindly accept that over-regulation and unquestioned traditions can utterly stifle in this one case — for no real reason other than the resistance to change. I’ve ranted in the past about how utterly counterproductive it is for this province to outlaw restaurant tickets, or to let people pay for reservations.

When it comes to working for spare coins, this old, logic-defying current prevails: Servers are inherently different from workers in cognate industries.

The problem is, that is just not true.

Perhaps we just feel guilty about being served food? Does it seem too much of a luxury to be compensated like a normal part of the economy? Try this offhand analogy: riding by plane is luxurious, yet I don’t hear of passengers being asked to invent a rate for the pilot once they’d safely landed.

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Servers are not a special class. They are simply skilled people with jobs. Their skills and experience are as valid as any other profession.

Yet there is some weird mystique to the profession that fogs our view. The latter is one of the nasty byproducts of an empty tradition. It goes something like this: My server is akin to a street performer, s/he should have to surprise and delight me if I am to allow him/her to make ends meet.

No.

Firstly, such expectations are not consistent with those we have for other services, and other skilled professionals. Customer satisfaction, typically, revolves around the expectation that the person we deal with is competent — hopefully decent — in their role. In most situations, this is easily enough for us to expect someone to be fairly compensated.

Second, a server is also not a freelancer in a public place. A server is an employee generating revenue for a government-sanctioned business. The restaurant industry is one of the most heavily legislated in the province, which is about the the furthest thing (on the surface) from an emergent street economy.

Why not just start paying servers like everyone else, which is to say paying servers based on normal principles of compensation? I’m no expert on the latter, but from my own life, it usually involves one’s prior levels of experience and performance year over year.

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Some say serving is a sort of performance. Fine. Yet unless they are being defrauded or willingly gigging for free, even, say, actors and musicians know to a much higher degree than servers the terms of their contract before performing the actual work.

Because when it comes to a server’s core earnings (tips), the contract is wholly unkonwn. The real contract is not with their boss. It’s with their diner. And they do not have permission to interview diners before the first glass of water is brought to the table.

The problem, therefore, is not the tip itself. People should always tip in life if they feel compelled, and cash is only one (albeit efficient) vehicle to acknowledge one’s actions, or to express gratitude.

But regular wages — eventually salaries — are the only way to keep servers and restaurants stable and relevant in today’s economic and cultural sphere. In no one’s fantasy is the restaurant still an economic or cultural experiment. Rather, it’s an institution, for whom structural change is long overdue.

So how can restos afford to pay servers real wages? Maybe increase booze markup, add a service charge, hike menu prices; in other words, let us diners absorb the cost of a newly stable profession. Because in many ways, we already are.

Some celebrities reach a certain point in financial and career security that they can actually say what they think and not have to deal with the consequences. Jerry Seinfeld is now one of those people.

Last week, he received the CILO Award, an advertising award. In his acceptance speech, he thanked his agent, the companies he shilled for, and his wife, but then what he said was so honest and remarkable that if anyone else would have said it, their career would either be over or go down the Russell Brand route.

But this is Jerry Seinfeld, a man who can completely dissect the people in the room, call them what they are and still get applause and still be Jerry Seinfeld.

Watch and enjoy: