Thursday, June 30, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Fiction: PRIDE! by Alex Snider

It's the first day of Pride here in Toronto, one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, with 1.2 million people participating. Although some think it's a dirty and archaic event (*cough* The Grid) and others will be up at their family cottages (*cough* Mayor Rob Ford), 1.2 million people, including myself are pretty frakking excited for ten days to celebrate LGBT culture, identity and history!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Music for National Aboriginal Day

I'm still recovering from having a bit too much fun last night, and trying desperately to fight a cold that will most likely get the best of me, so I'll keep this short but sweet. Since it's National Aboriginal Day here in Canada, I thought I'd post a small selection of some Canadian Aboriginal musicians and videos that I like. Hope you enjoy them! If you're looking for more great music from Aboriginal musicians, check out the Ab-Originals podcast at CBC Radio 3







Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Juneteenth! by Alex Snider

Today many of our neighbours to the south, the US (not the people who leave their incredibly ugly rope sandals -- they are literally sandals made entirely of rope, it's like if someone was standing on a dock and their feet got tangled in a boat's tow rope and they were like, "hey, I actually really dig this look" and everyone else in the world was like, "no" -- outside their apartment) are celebrating Juneteenth

On January 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, freeing all slaves and ending slavery in America. However it wasn't until the surrender of General Lee that the Union soldiers, under the leadership of Major General Gordon Granger (side-note -- is there anyone outside of military folk or those who have connections to military folk who know anything about army hierarchy? Serious question here, am I in the minority? Should I know the difference between a lieutenant and a major?) were able to announce to the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas that they were free. 

Once in Galveston, Granger read from General Order No. 3:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Oh man, reading this brings tears to my eyes. I just cannot fathom the moral justifications that went into owning people. And I can't begin to understand how incredible it must have been for the people who were kept as slaves to hear that they're free. I have goosebumps! Granger read the order on June 19th, 1865, over two years after Lincoln ended slavery. And Juneteenth, Freedom Day, Emancipation Day was born.

Kinda a big deal. Like Independence Day, President's Day, Labour Day, Memorial Day but, of more consequence, I think, because I have a hard time imagining anything more important than the day celebrating the emancipation of slaves. 

Texas became the first state to declare Juneteenth an official state holiday in 1980 (!) and now 38 other states have followed suit. It's a day to commemorate not only the abolition of slavery but also to celebrate African-American culture through music, food and dress, and to share in the joy of community.

This Juneteenth, I think it is especially important to remember that in America and here in Canada, we are not even close to living in a post-race society. To remember that although race-baiting (*cough* Fox *cough* Tea Party *cough*) is alarmingly commonplace, racism can be much more insidious and systemic. Racism is stereotypes, bad and good. Racism is advertisers using white people as the norm, as the ideal. Racism is refusing to examine one's own privilege. Racism is suggesting that racism isn't that bad, that a person of colour is simple "wanting to see racism". Racism is a person of the dominant race saying that they don't see race or notice skin colour; that we're all the same. Racism is delegitimizing a person of colour's feelings, history, experience based on a privileged existence. Racism is Juneteenth not being a National fucking holiday.

I hope that we never live in a post-race society because race and the cultures that go along with race are what enrich our lives, they are what tie us to our families and community. What I want is for all races to be valued equally, for people to neither benefit solely because of their race nor face discrimination or denigration for race. Where the black president of the United States doesn't have to produce a birth certificate for the right-wing media to scrutinize.

But, I digress, have a happy June 19th, Juneteenth, Freedom Day, Emancipation day. Enjoy some good music and good food, spend time with loved ones, laugh and tell stories, and really, really, really enjoy your freedom.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Songs: the best nxne ever, so far?

A flaxen-haired Vincent D'Onnofrio in Adventures in Babysitting, also known as the best movie ever

The first best show ever of the week: MATH/PROG ROCK WITH HOOKS, you guys. I feel like that's all I need to really say about that.

Everytime I see a show at The Silver Dollar, I think about Adventures in Babysitting. I keep waiting to hear "The Babysitting Blues" But it never happens. I also keep waiting to see a blonde Vincent D'Onoffrio appear out of the dry ice mist and whisk me away. But that never happens. Oh well. I also keep hoping that one day they will serve better beer there, too. I'm persistently optimistic to a fault, sometimes. But I digress. I just learned that Brandon Welchez is married to Dum Dum Girls frontwoman Dee Dee Penny! Squeee! Which is surprising, because with his sunglasses and blazer, he reminds me of a young Tom Cruise in Risky Business, if he met up with the kids in Adventures in Babysitting and had to get on stage and sing his way out of trouble along with them. Adorable. And great music, did I mention that yet? Jesus and Mary Chain and Echo and the Bunnymen are often brought up when talking about these guys. I have no problem with that whatsoever.

Our friends over at The Little Red Umbrella have already written about probably the best thing to come out of Mississauga ever. Well, mayor Hazel is alright too, I guess. But seriously, this was great. Definitely reminiscent of Broken Social Scene, but that's not exactly a bad thing, if you're asking me. But then I've always loved BSS, not everyone does, I know. So don't ask those people. Check out this Southern Souls video (and all the SS videos, while you're at it, because they're all sooooo good) and see what I mean.

Knowing very little of this "band", I wasn't expecting a one man show when Dirty Beaches (a.k.a Alex Zhang Hungtai) came on the stage, but that's what I got. And while it often veered towards the uncomfortable feeling of watching a private therapy session, it also kinda felt like a mix between the Beats and Karaoke (and no, that's NOT a dis!) The thing is, those are two things that I often feel like I shouldn't like, and yet I really, really do. So sue me. That's how I felt about this.

You might already know that I have a penchant for girl bands with fuzzy guitars and cute dresses. Or maybe you didn't, maybe we just met and I'm telling you now. Well, Dum Dum Girls have these things in spades. And I love it. And Dee Dee Penny is one of the best names ever, and as I mentioned earlier, she is married to Crocodiles frontman Brandon Welchez, making them one of the bestest, most totes adorbs indie/garage/noise pop/rock couples ever.

Err, okay, so I liked this band, I did. But. They've got a lot of hype surrounding them right now, a "Best New Music" endorsement from Pitchfork and everything, which means I think they might be letting it get to their heads. I'm not saying they aren't at least partially deserving of the praise they've been getting, but when Madeline Follin announced that the last time their band played Toronto their van got broken into, and she didn't want that to happen again, it pissed me off. That's all you have to say to the crowd? "Don't steal my shit, Toronto."?After spending half the night talking to the sound guy, making everyone wait? Okay, that might not be totally fair, I mean, Deerhoof spent a lot of time setting up, too, but they're DEERHOOF, and it was worth it. Also, the guitarist stopping between songs to ask them to turn the lights down on stage because you "feel naked up here" just sounds like you're whining. But. I like this video. Still, we left halfway through the set to get to Deerhoof. Sorry, guys.

Since we left the Cults show early so as not to take any chances missing Deerhoof, I was not there to see these ladies, but am I ever glad I did! The Pack A.D were one of my favourite bands of the week (I know. But I really mean it!), The Pack A.D (Becky and Maya) are funny, charismatic, engaging on stage, and totally awesome at making music, to boot. Oh, and their influences include Miranda July, Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, and The White Stripes. HELLO. They rock. They really, really rock.

HOLY #$%@&&* THIS VIDEO IS AWESOME. Did I mention how much I love Satomi Matsuzaki? She's so weird and kooky, but also totally cool. And Deerhoof are one of my all-time favourite bands. And they played a secret show at the (Legendary) Horseshoe Tavern at 2 am on Friday night. And they never fail to blow me away. Seriously. I once saw them open for The Fiery Furnaces, and after they left the stage, half of the audience went home. And that's what every band should do if they're supposed to follow Deerhoof. Because there is no point of even trying to go up after them. None. Oh, and did I mention that I was right by the speakers, and it was so ear-bleedingly loud that every single hair on my body stood up and took notice.

Only two more nights to go, and already I feel like this might be the best nxne for me yet (although, seeing Les Savy Fav at The Wrong Bar last year right after seeing Iggy and The Stooges might have been the most concentrated amount of awesomeness in one night ever.) I don't know, I'm not very good with declaring "bests ever". You'd think I'd be better at it, since I do it so frequently...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Fiction: Tansi, Aanii, Ainngai, Tawnshi, Sekoh, Kwé Kwé! by Alex Snider

Eden Robinson
That is, hello in Cree, Anishinaabek (Ojibwa), Inukitut (Inuit), Michif (Métis)Kanien'gehaga (Mohawk), and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)! You learn something new everyday! Or maybe six new things everyday! Or maybe you knew all those already in which case, did you know that when I do wind-mill stretches with my arms, my upper lip twitches? See, you do learn something new everyday!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Worst Person of the Week: The Dick-Weed Who Writes that Shitty Comic, Dilbert

Scott Adams is an idiot. To save you the painful experience of actually going to his blog here is a summary of his post entitled Pegs and Holes (yep):

Scott Adams thinks that a vast woman conspiracy is keeping men from doing what they really want which is to rape women ALL THE TIME. It's man's nature, yo! And, this incessant rape-policing is making men unhappy. Need an example? Lions eat zebras who dare drink water! Need another less convoluted example? Well, everyman, Hugh Hefner, tried to get married and something, something, something... MEN JUST WANNA RAPE WOMENZ! Don't worry, there's a solution! No, it's not that society should condemn rape and rape culture, it's that everyone should be drugged so that sex becomes a thing of the past like that amazing show, Outback Jack! And, let's hope, Dilbert.

Good grief. Scott, just because you want to rape women doesn't mean that every other man is with you or that you are justified in raping a woman by quoting evolutionary science or that you are anything other than a piece of human garbage. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reading and Diversity: A Pledge

Langston Hughes
When I compose Friday Fiction lists, or just talking about my favourite books in general I'm ashamed by how many of the authors I've read how many are white, straight British (and Western European) or American men and by how few are women, how few are of colour, how few identify as LGBT. I'm ashamed because I'm talking the talk but not walking the walk. 
Yukio Mishima
Since 2006 I've read 262 books and of those books 69 have been by white women, 18 by men of colour, only 4 by women of colour, 19 by queer authors and 28 by Canadians (not to put Canadians in the same oppression field as the others but I feel strongly about supporting the Canadian publishing industry and local authors). Yikes. Looking at the numbers broken down like that and knowing that there is a lot of overlap within (I read Bastard Out of Carolina twice and Dorothy Allison also falls under queer author category, same goes for Canadian and Lesbian Anne Purdue's amazing collection of short stories I'm a Registered Nurse, Not a Whore) there are really no excuses. 
Jane and Paul Bowles
Sure, there are more novels out there by white Euro-American straight men. And the majority of 'great' literature is considered to have been penned by them. The Modern Library's list of 100 Best Novels has 8 women on it, only two of them breaking the top 58 (Virginia Woolf is the first with To the Lighthouse at 15, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is 17 -- lonely indeed). Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is at 19 the first novel on the list by a person of colour and is followed at 39 by Go Tell it on the Mountain and two V. S. Naipauls at 72 and 83 (there are no women of colour on the list at all; sorry Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston...). Slightly better numbers for the queers authors: Woolf and her daliances with Vita Sackville-West, Baldwin, Kerouac, Waugh and his three gay affairs with servants, Paul Bowles, Somerset Maugham and E. M. Forster. 
The publishing industry is hard and with the advent of e-books it's only getting harder for authors to be published. Throw institutionalized racism, sexism and homophobia into the mix and we're eking out into Sisyphus territory. 
Jhumpa Lahiri
I once read an essay by Two-Spirited Anishinabe artist Nancy Cooper entitled Two-Spirited Women Artists and Social Change in which she quoted the incredible Menominee lesbian poet and activist Chrystos on her "three-strike theory" and publishing: 
This means you can be queer and get published, but you must pretend to be straight. Or you can be brown and get published, but you must be pretend to be straight. Or you can be queer, but you can't be a woman.
While this statement might seem to oversimplify and make it out that it's easier for straight POC or white GLBT to get published and ultimately accepted in society, I think it's pretty spot on in that the dominant society can only tolerate so much diversity from one person.
Sherman Alexie
But books by those not of the dominant culture, by authors who have three strikes as Chrystos describes are out there. I have read some of them and each of them has enriched my reading life. Nothing will ever compare to the first time I read Ralph Ellison or when I read Three Day Road; I reread Amy Hempel's Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried every couple weeks and am moved to tears everytime; I will never truly accept that Jane Bowles never wrote more than a few short stories and a novella; Every time I look at my book closet and see Oscar Wao I plead with the universe for Junot Diaz to write faster; I wish I could consume Bastard Out of Carolina; Their Eyes Were Watching God is perfection. 
Amy Hempel
Without diminishing or shunning my love or admiration for those white straight male authors, for Steinbeck and Russell Hoban and Wallace Stegner and Cormac McCarthy, I have decided to make the summer (until I go back to school full-time and have to forgo reading for fun *sob*) all about reading authors of colour, reading LGBT authors, reading authors with disabilities -- not because I want to meet some imposed PC criteria but because I often let myself focus solely on the more popular, more visible white, straight and often male authors (the competitive side of me is mildly obsessed with getting through the Modern Library top 100 list). I'd love to do embark on this effort with others if anyone is interested in a sort of non-book club; no hard and fast rules -- it's about a concerted effort not about mandate. 
Zora Neale Hurston 
The thing is that by neglecting to read authors other than white straight dudes, in addition to not practicing what I preach in terms of social justice and activism, I'm really missing out. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Songs: Cars That Go Boom

I still don't know how to drive, but if I did, I'd spend more time blasting these songs from my stereo and less time giving cyclists a hard time. What are your favourite summer jams?

Weekend Wrangle: Cyclists, Post-Mo and YA Fiction by Alex Snider

Man, it's just been the week of ridiculously privileged/jerk-wad/reactionary articles and incredible kick-ass takedown responses. So, I guess the good guys have come out on top? Yay?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Fiction: Doctor who? by Alex Snider

This week saw Rebekah and I working a movement disorder conference where we stood and served espressos, americanos and lattes to neurologists for nine hours at a time. Believe me when I say that despite the blister on my big toe the size of my second toe and the feverish lucid nightmares in which I dreamt that people were in my bedroom demanding coffees despite my pleas for sleep, it was one of the best jobs I've ever had. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Good Advice: How to Steal Like An Artist

This whole list is just so freaking' good! And it's good advice for creative-types and not-so-creative people alike (although, I think deep down, everyone is creative, we just don't always know how to tap into it).  Austin Kleon is a writer and artist, and is working on a book based on this post. I also love his Newspaper Blackout Poems, and pretty much everything up on his site. Go over to his blog and read the whole thing. Do it!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dating: Do's and Don'ts

Dating Lessons from 1949:

  • Pretty girls act superior and bored and will make you feel awkward and inferior, so generally try and avoid them.
  • Plain girls are boring, stay away from them too.
  • Fun girls are fun, and will put you at ease and let you know you're appreciated, and that's what a boy likes. So date fun girls that eat cotton candy?
  • Any girl that can't be ready on time, isn't good enough for you.
  • It's important not to do anything that costs too much money, because boys only have a finite amount of dinero to spend on you. therefore, the less he spends on you this time, the more dates you'll get out of him in the long run.
  • The important thing is to have fun.
  • It's okay to pucker those lips, but only as you walk away whistling a happy tune.
A big thanks to my pal Derek for posting this on Facebook today, it gave me a good laugh and a lot of eye rolling.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Stolen Moment from the Lives of GB and Al #8

Our friends Dee and Kate were over for mojitos and cupcakes a couple days ago and we had a literary "Who's on First" type moment:

Dee -- I just finished The Road. Have any of you read it?

Alex -- Yeah... I mean, it was alright... I just really love his other work and I'm really not crazy about post-apocalyptic anything. The world already sucks enough as it is... (This is how I speak, apparently, full of ellipses. It must sound really annoying.)

(Kate nods)

Dee -- Hmm, ok. So many people say that it makes them want to go traveling but I don't know, I just didn't find it fun at all. They had bugs in their clothes. And, they were sleeping with all these women. 

(Confused looks all around)

Kate -- Hang on, do you mean On the Road?

Dee -- Yeah, that's what I said.

Kate -- No, you asked if we read The Road.

Dee -- Oh! I thought that describing it as post-apocalyptic was a little harsh! 

Of course, I will forever describe the Beats as post-apocalyptic now. And, The Road as travel lit.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Revolution Will Be Live by Alex Snider

Gil Scott-Heron, activist, poet, musician, died last Friday at 62. A huge loss to his family and friends and all those who knew him, and also to those millions who have been influenced by his words, his humanity and by his activism. Over his forty-year career he tackled social injustice issues such as civil rights, Apartheid and nuclear weapons, and was very vocally critical of Ronald Reagan.

Day One: Aboriginal History Month

Rebecca Belmore, Anishinabekwe
White Thread, 2008
Technically it's just after midnight here in Toronto but it's still June 1st out on the Eastern edge of Turtle Island so: Happy First Day of Aboriginal History Month!

To kick'er off might I suggest watching Reel Injun, a fantastic documentary on the representation of Indigenous people in Hollywood. Or watch Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner, an amazing film about an Inuit legend about old rivalries disrupting a small nomadic community (the scene at the end where he is running naked through the tundra is so incredible; worth the whole movie right there and the whole movie is pretty damn good as it is). Both are available in full at the links! Wow, what a great start, right?!

Unfortunately there isn't a *legal* way of finding Smoke Signals online but it's also a really kick-ass movie (and, this coming from someone who doesn't even like movies) based on a few Sherman Alexie short stories (he also wrote the screenplay) and starring Gary Farmermy and my (imaginary) boyfriend Adam Beach. You should go and rent it from your friendly neighbourhood video store before they disappear forever like Betamax and strawberry milk.

The voice over is weird, right?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It Doesn't Count Because I Was Crossing My Fingers, See? - Nick Clegg

Oh man, this is so incredibly fucked up. A twenty-two year old woman, Betty Tibikawa, is being deported from the UK after her asylum claim was rejected. After being brutally branded for being a lesbian she's being sent back to Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and one of the most dangerous places in the world for gay and lesbian people. The account of what happened to her is sickening:
Tibikawa had just finished high school and was due to go to university in Kampala when she was attacked by three men who taunted her about her sexuality. They pinned her down in a disused building and branded her on her inner thighs with a hot iron. They left her unconscious and when she finally managed to get home she was confined to bed for two months. An independent medical report has confirmed that her scars are consistent with being branded with a hot iron.
Only a week after the deputy prime minister announced "that the coalition had ended the practice of deporting people to countries where they face persecution because of their sexual orientation", Tibikawa doesn't get the benefit of this new practice because, and fuck, I wish I was making this up: "The [UK Border Agency] do not dispute that Ms Tibikawa has scars caused by a hot flat iron, but conclude that she did not suffer any ill-treatment in Uganda". That's right, they acknowledge that some sick piece of garbage took a hot iron to her, but it's inconclusive as to whether it happened in Uganda, a notoriously anti-gay country. Right. 

It is outrageous that countries like the UK are not doing everything that they can to help gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual people escape abuse, torture and death. What the fuck is the point of having a policy of not deporting people to countries where they'll be persecuted if you're not going to follow through? The whole things just reeks of using people as political pawns ("hey look how queer/human rights-friendly we are!"), when they are facing a life or death situation. Perhaps if queer people, if POC, if people from developing countries, if women were seen as equals then they wouldn't have their asylum claims rejected and get sent packing.

Must go see to this rage induced nose-bleed now.