High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To celebrate, we’re publishing a series of creative writing and illustration that celebrate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hopeless, funny, moving, or just plain embarrassing.
By Megan Jones
Unlike the others,
my father loved
my first boyfriend like
a son; he
“doing” “things,” he said. He
is “productive”; he
cutting boards, “cuts”
Lately, reluctantly, poet
ically I too have asked: are fathers
No, really: I imagine them moulding
our little pink
mouths at birth, mouths
wings, loose but
tied and tethered, always,
to some rotting
estuary of words.
Do normal women love
as much as I
Do they archive
Do they sit cross-armed
Do they wrap and dispose of
that is to say: shamefully?
You must be thinking: she has
But it must be so
lonely to be a
displaced male word!
Pushed out by the woman’s
planting words like
“The green room,”
is the thrashing “barrel”
of a wave, or
“to get pitted” means slipping
beneath the wave’s
of the “break,”
is waves, curling
their white fists.
I think I would like
to write a poem
about that next.
I think I like fists now
more than I like “break.”
In winter, this boyfriend,
the one who surfs, shook
snow from his “deck.”
“Let’s get in
the green,” pulled my wet
suit down: a glimpse
of “chicken-skin” chest.
Back then I did not
“breast” or, worse,
“sex.” “Sex” was
is fragile, an unripe
banana of a word: stuck in the
My life, a girl’s life
could’ve been all white knuckles
and sexy silence. Waves of blue.
Instead it was/is the flat
pan held by one who is liked
who has become a real
“doing.” It’s “wood,” productively
A“long iron” at the driving range
is a long shaft, it was
my “athletic” boyfriend.
We liked “red” and “winner”
“gold” and “burn.”
Green fists of grass, clenched
white balls. What comes
next, over the rolling
hill? The fathers,
crouching with their daughters,
ducks with heads in the water
Get your bums right up, in the air!
known men in love
for words to flow up, ideally:
yes, all, and.
Megan Jones lives and writes poems in Vancouver. She also splits her time between working at two different publishing firms: ZG Communications, a boutique marketing agency for authors, publishers and not-for-profits; and Page Two Strategies, an innovative literary agency where writers publish in a variety of ways.
Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here.
Francesca Belcourt and Brittney Rand are the two women behind Mu, Vancouver’s dream pop chroniclers of youth. The duo has been gracing the city’s electronic scene with dreamy tunes for nearly three years. Their debut album, simply called Mu, explores the universal themes of growth and confusion that characterize the young adult experience. Their fresh new single, “Debauchery,” meanwhile, “addresses all that is depraved, magical, and tempestuous about the ‘in-between’ years and coming of age in an era obsessed with itself.” In anticipation of Mu’s new album, II, which will be released on Feburary 12, SAD Mag’s Meredyth Cole spoke with Belcourt and Rand about their music, their high school selves, and how emulating Drake can (sometimes) lead to success.
**Psst! Stay tuned (pun very much intended) for a special musical surprise at the end of this interview.**
SAD Mag: Tell me what you were like in high school. Did you and Brittney know each other?
Francesca Belcourt: In high school I acted pretty similarly to how I do now but in the body and mind of a hormonal teen. I found any chance I could to be making and playing music rather than doing any normal work, jumping onto any stage there was and was pretty blessed to be encouraged to do so by my peers. If creativity was not required in a class, I would generally be doing things like biking through the hallways in a liberated protest. (Generally speaking my teachers and classmates were pretty chill but I was still not a fan of authority or structure). Brittney and I didn’t know each other in school as she lived across the country. I think we would have gotten along though, she was a punk! Still is.
SM: Mu’s work seems to be rooted in the mood of adolescence and young adulthood. What is it about these ages that is so inspiring for you?
Brittney Rand: More than being rooted in adolescence and youth, I think it’s rooted in dissonance. The themes we often work within are rooted in the fragility that comes with hopefulness, and the complexity of freedom and change—which are both, of course, symptoms of youth and adolescence. We’re navigating and exploring the darkness of our own experiences, because change and growth can be very confusing. On the other hand, “learning adulthood” can be a very inspiring and enriching experience that provides us with the skills we require to find our independence and resilience. Of course, learning this almost always comes at the cost of some despair. It’s a kind of dance that I find to be mysterious and interesting to document creatively.
SM: Pop music has always been a genre of music aimed at adolescents. What did you listen to when you were in high school? Did these tastes shape your sound now?
BR: I grew up obsessed with pop culture, but so isolated! I grew up in a rural highway town in northern Ontario, with limited access to TV, etc. At that time, stations like The Box and MTV could still be listened to, but not viewed, on satellite—unless you paid for the channel. We found out that you could tape down the “cancel” button on the remote and get around that…so we’d tape music videos to VHS any chance we got. It was really exciting to feel like we were being invited into what the rest of the world was doing.
I was into everything I saw in music videos—rap, pop, soul, grunge, folk, rock, R&B. But, when I was a teenager I was heavily influenced—and shaped by—my love for punk music. I think I’ve always been in love with pop music, but at some point or another pop music always reaches a crux for me; it either speaks or doesn’t speak to me. I find it fun to take something very poppy and nostalgic, and stretch it out to see how far it can go away from its expected direction before it’s nearly not pop. I like borrowing from the mainstream, almost mocking it, and then embracing it and playing with it. It’s kind of nice that we’re in a new pop landscape [and] that we can have both our exploration and depth, but also our fun.
SM: What advice would you give to young musicians trying to break into the scene in Vancouver?
FB: I moved to Van when I was 18 with my high school sweetheart. I had no idea where to go, I just knew I wanted to play music and that I couldn’t do that on Cortes Island or in Campbell River. So I played anything, anywhere, with anyone. Folk concerts, hip hop shows, I sang with electronic producers. Experiencing as much as I could in every scene I discovered lead me to meet Brittney at the Waldorf Hotel right at the time I was starting to really know my own music. It’s a small city, it takes a bit of time, but my advice would be to run ‘round à la Drizzy. If it feels wrong where you are turn around and try a new way.
As SAD Mag puts together the finishing touches on our upcoming High School issue, who better to make a custom mixtape for our readers than Mu. Featuring an exclusive cover of “Running up that hill,” this 12-song mix is a perfect evocation of those high school nights that seem to last forever, and the youthful moments that feel so significant. School dances, make out sessions, and joyrides: the things that are silly and so profound at 16, times that take on the quality of an anthem in our memories. Enjoy.
1) Mu – Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush Cover)
2) Pumarosa – Priestess
3) Suicide – Dream Baby Dream
4) Majical Cloudz – Downtown
5) Okay Kaya – Damn, Gravity
6) Brian Eno – Deep Blue Day
7) Cindy Lee – Prayer of Baphomet
8) Cocteau Twins – Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops
9) Jenny Hval – Why This?
10) Lydia Ainsworth – Malachite
11) Miley Cyrus – Lighter
12) The Cranberries – Dreams
Look out for II, available starting February 12, 2016. For more about Mu, check out their website, SoundCloud, or Twitter.
This holiday season, say it with giant blocks of wood. Got a mantra? A motto? A favourite expletive? French-born Jérémie Laguette, sign maker and owner of Woodtype, is your guy. He can carve it, paint it, and outfit it with low-voltage bulbs faster than you can say “fromage.” And for my fellow anxiety-havers, not to worry: he is very cognizant of fire safety. How does he do it all? Read on as we talk woodwork, typography, and electrical wiring with the man himself.
SAD Mag: So, how does one become a sign maker?
Jérémie Laguette: I love typography and have always been a fan of old signage. The first sign I designed was for myself and read ‘CHEESE’. It was for a cheese and wine party that I was hosting. My guests seemed to really like it. Some even requested variations for their own home decor and events. This inspired me to make signs accessible to other sign-lovers like myself.
SM: Tell me a bit about your creative process. Do you have any particular rituals when you’re working?
JL: My process is simple. First we have to choose a word. Sometimes I make signs for fun because I like a certain word but most of the time, my client’s have a word in mind. Next we have to select a font. I do this collaboratively with my clients, and together we find the best match in terms of font style, shape and colour that will tie together the word and it’s meaning. Once the mock-ups are approved, it’s time to go to the workshop! I don’t have any particular rituals, though I do collect a lot of flyers and papers with typography that inspires me.
SM: What would you say is the most technically difficult aspect of sign making?
JL: Most people would think building and painting the sign is the most difficult part. Though this is time-consuming, choosing the right font is actually more challenging. There are so many things to take into consideration. Does the font suit the word, does the font size and shape work with the client’s size requirements, etc.
SM: Art and electrical wiring are two very different things. Are you more drawn to the technical or the artistic elements of your work?
JL: The lights are simply a vehicle to bring my word into the spotlight and give it a cosy and warm feeling. I am definitely more drawn to the artistic aspect of sign making, though the technical part is integral to achieving the right feeling. For me it is two different stages: first I dream about it, and then I find a way to make it.
SM: How do you prevent your signs from catching fire?
JL: All my signs are low voltage so the bulbs do not emit any heat. They are warm to the touch and that’s as hot as they get. They are very safe. We’ve had the same sign in our living room as our main source of lighting for the past two years. We haven’t even had to replace a bulb.
SM: The maximum number of words I’ve seen you use on a sign is about five. Would you say you’re drawn to simplicity?
JL: I do love simplicity! Four or five letters give a bigger impact than long words or sentences do. But overall it is more a matter of space. The longer the word is, the bigger the sign will be.
SM: What’s the strangest word anyone has ever asked you to put on a sign?
JL: Nothing too crazy, but a funny one was the word “FETCH” that I did for someone who wanted their dog to have a reminder of what it loves the most. As far as I know dogs cannot read. “DUDE” was an awesome one, as it was for a nursery for a newborn baby boy.
SM: When and how did you wind up moving to Vancouver? What do you think is distinctive about Vancouver’s creative scene?
JL: I moved to Vancouver to 3 years ago. My girlfriend wanted to be closer to the mountains and the ocean. I’ve grown to love it. People are very open and supportive in Vancouver. Everyone I’ve met, especially at my studio space with MakerLabs, has offered tips and advice on how to better my work and make more sales.
SM: Tell me something unexpected about yourself.
JL: Well, I’m a pretty traditional guy in a lot of ways. I make the bed every morning. My girlfriend thinks I’m crazy, but I cannot bear the idea of leaving the house in a mess. I’m also French, from France and have only been speaking English for a few years. I only know how to cook one meal, and that’s a tartiflette. It’s a potato casserole from France with lots of fat and calories. Perfect for a Canadian winter.
Among his many other accomplishments, Ray Hsu is a published poet and a lecturer at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia. He takes the tools of capitalism to move “us” beyond its current dominant forms and to redistribute power, searching for poetic form in the entrepreneurial world. In anticipation of our upcoming issue, SAD Mag’s Katherine Chan interviewed Hsu about starving for art, hypothetical time travel, and of course, our current favorite topic: high school.
KC: So Ray,
RH: What up, Katherine?
KC: Which memory sticks out the most from your high school years?
RH: I remember once, my drama teacher pulled me aside and said, “Hey Ray, I know you find all of this, as in high school, really boring, but I just want you to know that by the time you get to university, things are gonna be a lot better.” That struck me as a really powerful acknowledgement of how boring he realized all of this was. That struck me as piercing the illusion that all of this was worth anything.
KC: Why did he say that to you?
RH: You know? I’m not sure. Maybe because he saw something in me that he recognized? I mean, I remember when another one of my drama teachers pulled me aside and asked me, “Hey Ray, I know you’re really creative, but would you be willing to starve for your art?” And I thought about it for a second, and I said, “No. No, I wouldn’t be.” He seemed really disappointed, and I got the feeling that he was looking for a certain answer. And I’m—I’m still not willing to starve for my art. I don’t think that anyone should have to starve for their art. I don’t think that anyone should have to starve.
RH: Yeah. So it was interesting, the moment when he pulled me aside.
KC: Say, one day, you time travelled back to high school. What would be the one thing that you would do that you never did?
RH: I remember one day when I was in school, looking into the mirror and thinking about how ugly I was. I remember thinking, I wonder what things will be like in the future. Looking back on it, I feel as if I could see my former self, my younger self, on the other side of that mirror, and I wish I could say to that Ray, don’t worry, everything is going to be okay.
KC: I can’t believe you felt that way. Were you going through something specifically, or it was just…
RH: It was just life. It was just the feeling that I didn’t know what my role was in the grand scheme of things.
KC: I understand that. That’s nice.
RH: There used to be this insurance or investment company, maybe they’re still around, called Freedom 55. They used to have these commercials that played on TV all the time, in which it shows some young version of a person, and then an older version of the same person, presumably 55 years old. The younger version person is all swamped with stuff, and meets the older version of them, who seems really well taken care of, financially well off, etc. The younger version asks, “What happens to us?” The older version says, “Don’t worry, everything is okay. So-and-so has happened and this person has gone and done that, and everything’s okay.” The younger version asks, “How did that happen?” And the older version says, “Well, we went with Freedom 55.” So, basically, that captured my imagination as a kid. If I could meet the older version of myself, I really wondered what the older version of myself would say. I was super obsessed with this idea of, not quite time travel, but something like this.
KC: So, if you could change one thing about the high school that you went to, or high schools in general, in any aspect, what would it be?
RH: More awesomeness.
KC: What does that mean, Ray?
RH: Well, okay. I remember one time when I was brought in, as a writer, to a high school and the English teacher convenes the class. We all meet in the library. So, imagine around the perimeter of the library room, [are] all these students and they’re all looking at me from their chairs, and I’m standing up and I’m like, “What is the awesomest thing that we could be doing right now?” They’re like, “Uh…what? What do you mean?” I’m like, “Anything. Seriously, anything.” And I can’t remember if they said something like, “In here, right now?” And I was like, “Or whatever, anywhere.” One person goes, “Well, we would be outside having ice cream.” Then everybody laughs. And I say, “Okay, why don’t we do that?” And they laugh again but are like, “What are you talking about?” I’m like, “No, seriously, what’s keeping us from doing the thing that we’d rather be doing than sitting here listening to me?” And they all look at the teacher. The teacher’s like “Uh…” and apparently there was this really good ice cream place down the street, and it was sunny outside. There was, in my mind, nothing keeping us in that room in high school, other than the fact that there was some sort of magical, conceptual electrical fence that’s surrounding the place, that it’s like, even if you took away the fence, people wouldn’t leave, because they believed that the fence was there. You know, this is the panopticon. You know, or you think you know, that there’s a guard watching, and somebody’s gonna come down on you, but the guard may not even be there.
KC: But realistically, logistically, how would you increase awesomeness? Like in that situation you just talked about? That would have to be changing something really fundamental. The reaction from the students—they have the agency to look at the teacher, and they feel like they have to abide to something, like you said exactly, an invisible fence. So to change that would be to get rid of that invisible fence. What would be even one step towards doing that in reality?
RH: I think so much of that depends on the position that one occupies relative to the institution, relative to that fence. The very idea of what counts as a student carves them off from the rest of whatever they are. So, as a teacher, I can be attentive to that. As a student, I can do all sorts of tactical things. Now, this is all Michel de Certeau kind of stuff, where it’s like, when I was a student going through high school, I would do weird ass shit all the time, because for me, so much of what I was doing was pointless and what I was being asked to do was pointless, to a point where I would put in 160% into my presentations, because that was the only way that I could infuse anything about my educational experience with meaning. It didn’t seem like a lot of people around me cared, except for maybe my friends, with whom I was working on this project. Meanwhile, there was someone that I knew, a friend of mine, when she was going through high school, during the first few years she did the barest minimum, because she didn’t see the point in what she was being asked to do, and teachers hated her. And then, she realized, Oh wait a second, in order to get to university, which is where I wanna go, at this certain grade I need to start producing high grades and all that kind of stuff. And then, she switched into high gear. She started doing all these things necessary to produce high grades, and teachers hated her for that! Because it was clear that she was just, basically, working the system. When she felt it didn’t matter, she didn’t do anything, or did the minimum. When it mattered, she started working accordingly, and that requires a level of understanding of the educational system as an economic system, in which there’s a return on investment on effort, and you invest proportionally to the kind of return that you wanna get. And when things don’t count, you don’t invest, because that would be an expenditure of resources that is simply not rational. The way she went through things was, one might say, the opposite way of how I went through things. Where I put in 160%, it was excessive. It was not rationalizable, except for the fact that I wanted meaning. For her, the system didn’t contain the possibility of meaning.
KC: Do you think that teachers have an almost demanding expectation of their students being ignorant of how the system works?
RH: I think that teachers can be delusional, insofar as they are invested in having meaning, over and above being able to examine what it is that the educational system might be. And I think that that can be parallel in students, as well. It’s kind of like if one is a teacher and one states one’s identity as a teacher, there’s so much that’s reinforcing about one’s identity as a teacher. Kind of like all the platitudes around teachers being heroes, like firefighters, you know? The people around me are perpetuating exactly that: the nobility of teaching. And that, I think, obscures or perpetuates the delusion. It’s the fact that in order to do one’s job as a teacher, one might have to identify in this illusory way. I know I’m sounding rather Marxist, like the mystification—
KC: Mystification of teachers?
RH: Sure, it’s ideological. It’s kind of like one must believe in something in order to even articulate it. Why might teachers be invested in their own nobility? It’s kind of like one might be told what one is doing is noble and therefore is extracted more labour than is compensated, financially speaking. Let’s compare this to artists, or any job in which it’s immensely desirable, because there’s this aura around it. So, wait as second, you’re a teacher, right? You love what you’re doing, right? So we can pay you less and you would still be doing it, right? You’re an artist—
KC: You would starve for your art, right?
KC: No, but you won’t.
RH: I think something can begin there, yes. For more about Ray Hsu, visit his website or follow him on Twitter. Stay tuned for more High School Q&As on sadmag.ca as we prepare to launch our next issue.
I must be a ghost. A spirit gliding over the cool tile of the train station. Spirits don’t carry cash or have access to their PayPal accounts anymore, which is probably why the glowing, abrasively positive young people volunteering to get people to volunteer money to various charities and causes never ask me if I “have a minute.” It’s almost upsetting to be ignored like this. Maybe these bastions of light and goodwill can see some sort of dark essence snaking around my aura and they’d prefer not to accept a one-time or preferably monthly donation from me because of it. There’s probably ethical and spiritual standards they have to uphold. They must know about the time I rented Evil Dead and then moved to a different province with the VHS in tow.
One of them wrapped a scarf tightly around themselves as I passed in an obvious effort to protect any exposed facial flesh from the arctic chill emanating from my phantom heart. It was a nice scarf, though. I nearly asked her where she got it but decided not to risk it in case she could see me and followed up “H&M” with “do you have a minute?” I also didn’t want to lead them on. If I made small talk with one that could open the door for others to capitalize and take advantage of my conversational, potentially charitable, minutes. And as much as I love helping others (I once googled directions to an organic market for a lost looking mother-of-three and I was nowhere near any WiFi hotspots—data ain’t cheap!), I also know that I must help myself before I can help them—a dog with no legs can’t save a drowning cat. Or however that one goes. So before I dig deep into my pockets I need to make right with myself, find my legs, and thaw the frozen gristle of my heart, preferably in the heat of online streaming services and detoxifying fruit smoothies.
For more Portraits of Brief Encounters, look out for the bimonthly feature on sadmag.ca, visit the POBEwebsite, or follow Cole Nowicki on Instagram or Twitter.
During its two week run at the Cinematheque, the European Union Film Festival (EUFF) dazzled cinema-goers with a variety of international films. There were some absolute gems in the mix and some unfortunate flops, but the festival was a success, overall.
Poland’s official submission to the festival was Gods, a feature from director Lukasz Palkowski. The film was a fictionalized version of events which took place in Poland in the 1980s, following a young cardiovascular surgeon at a time when heart transplants were considered entirely too risky and taboo to perform. Tomasz Kot plays Zbigniew Religa, the first surgeon to successfully perform a heart transplant in Poland. The film is dramatic in its delivery, and gripping in its subject matter. Tension between Religa and his staunch older colleagues is clearly at the heart of the film’s story, reflected in the cinematography and sound design. However, I found the camerawork to be distracting at times, due to its wildly changing approach. Long takes and shaky, hand-held shots were sometimes used in the same scene, which might have been a technique to reflect the film’s conflict but was mostly a disruption to my viewing experience. My other qualm with this particular flick was its climax and ending. We watch as Religa descends into a disastrous fit of professional pressure and personal disgrace, as each heart transplant fails and the public loses whatever support they had for him and his work. All of the drunken anger and self-loathing unfolds unceremoniously on screen, until finally and suddenly, a successful operation is performed. However, this transition from catastrophe to triumph is so abrupt, and is followed so quickly by the rolling credits, that I nearly missed it. It took me a moment to realize that he had achieved his lofty goal after all. Ultimately, this film was a hopeful drama with an intriguing subject, but lacked consistency and final gravitas.
The feature from Estonia was a much more subtle and skilled take on historical events. The Fencer, directed by Klaus Haro, was a delight to watch and felt authentic on all accounts. It tells the story of a former professional fencer, Endel Nelis, who, during Soviet occupation, hides away in a small Estonian town to avoid capture by Stalin’s secret police. He takes on the role of gym teacher to the town’s school children, and fosters a earnest relationship with them through the teaching of his old sport, despite the objections of the school’s rule-following principle. This film was a quiet and steady account of life during a time fraught with political suspicion. I felt a sincerity in the film’s delivery, both in the actors’ performances and in the visual vocabulary. I felt privy to the struggle of living with the burden of war and political transgression, and was very much taken by the subtleties between the children and their teacher. The cinematography was understated, conveying the intimate relationships between characters through close-up and static shots. However, during the film’s screening there was a short interruption, due to a few moments of disc trouble. One of the scenes in the last quarter of the film was skipped through and the theatre lights came on for a quick minute while the problem was addressed, but nothing of critical importance was missed and the screening carried on without error afterwards. Despite that slight snag, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and its affectionate portrayal of a very difficult period in European history. It was an intimate account of the values of patience and steady resolve during a time of oppression.
High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To celebrate, we’re publishing a series of creative writing and illustration that celebrate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hopeless, funny, moving, or just plain embarrassing.
Nightshade By Taylor Basso
“What do you call a greenhouse with nothing growing inside?”
He asked it like some profound riddle. I peered into the cold dark greenhouse at the cracked pots and bags of old soil. Once it became apparent that Mike didn’t actually have an answer, I shook my head and brought the joint to my lips. “Save the deep questions for after we smoke this, okay?”
I pretended not to see the look Brooke shot me while I sparked the lighter. I recognized it as her “Simran, be nice” look. “My mom used to grow vegetables here,” Brooke said. “Cucumbers, tomatoes. She stopped after my brother was born. Watch the door, Mike, I don’t want Nightshade to get out.” Nightshade was Brooke’s cat, 15 years old with a long tail and with a tendency to wander.
Mike closed the door behind him. The three of us passed the joint back and forth in awkward silence as the muted house party thrummed in the distance behind us. This was Brooke’s version of Camp David, a play to unite her best friend and her new boyfriend, and so far it was failing. We weren’t warring, per se, things were just…chilly. Mostly from my end. I didn’t get the point of Mike. I didn’t see what he brought to the table. Brooke was amazing and funny and whipcrack smart. Mike was…a dude. In his group of friends, he wasn’t even the dude. He was Dude #3, faceless supporting cast in an anonymous posse of white bros.
“Do you have any brothers or sisters, Simran?” Mike asked. The way he asked the question was stilted and unnatural. Brooke must have told him to make nice with me. It’s funny how much you can pull from a single sentence. I should have been touched: I was important to Brooke and she wanted her important people to get along. Instead, I felt peeved because it implicitly put us on the same level.
“Two brothers,” I said, holding a cloud in my lungs. I passed the joint to Brooke and dove into my pocket for a pack of cigarettes. Both of them shook their heads. Mike said he didn’t want his father, the pastor, to smell it on him when he got home. I looked at the joint between his fingers and then back up at Brooke, incredulously. It was dark and she pretended not to see me.
Brooke always told me that one of her favourite things about me was that I couldn’t control my face. The first time she said it, I was in detention because I couldn’t stop scowling during Becky Ruiz’s French presentation. “This is an injustice,” I said. “Her accent was so fucking bad.” Brooke laughed and kept me company even though she didn’t have to, and Mrs. Lagos liked us so she let her. We spent the hour skewering Becky together. It wasn’t even detention, really.
It was always part of Our Thing, I thought, that we hated the same people. Hate isn’t actually the word for it – more that we lacked patience for stupidity and called it out where we saw it. Brooke was a no bullshit chick and I adored it about her. Now, in the greenhouse, Mike was halfway through stammering out some idiotic stoned screed about politics and Brooke was coaxing it out of him like his third grade teacher. “No, you had a good point. You were saying how money is sort of like this imaginary system. Simran, you listening?” I nodded.
“Yeah, like, what does money represent, you know? It’s pieces of paper and we say it’s worth like five dollars but it’s only worth that much because we say it is.”
“Money is guaranteed by gold,” I said. “Any amount of money just represents the same amount of gold at a mint somewhere.”
“Okay but like,” Mike said, “it’s also used to control us, right? Like you look at all the presidents and vice-presidents and stuff on it, they’re just there to remind you who’s in charge.”
“Do you know who the vice-president is right now?”
The question hung uncomfortably in the air. I smirked and looked at Brooke, who returned my gaze through the darkness. “Come on, Mike, let’s go inside,” she finally said.
I was taken aback. “We can finish this joint, if you want. I still have to kill this smoke anyway.”
“It’s not cool to ask someone a question to try and humiliate them. It makes you an asshole, actually.” Brooke pulled the door open. It dragged in the long grass and made a shuddering noise. She stormed out. Mike shrugged at me, took one last tug on the joint and followed sheepishly behind her. I was left there, hot-faced, groping in the darkness for something to say.
Moonlight spilled in through the crack of the door. I could hear the noise of the party louder now. Some drunk couple was on the porch, half-committed to a slurred fight. I stayed in the greenhouse for a while longer, smoking. On my last puff, a quick flash caught my eye. It was Nightshade, Brooke’s cat, poised in front of the open door. If she escaped, I thought, it would technically be Mike’s fault, not mine. He left the door open. I thought how upset Brooke would be if Nightshade went missing. The cat walked, soft footfalls, closer to the door. I was within arm’s reach, could close it if I wanted to, but I’d have to do it fast.
Taylor Basso is originally from Surrey, BC, and currently lives in Vancouver. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. His plays have been staged across the city, and his fiction work can be found online at Joyland and Plenitude.
Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here.
Sometimes, film festivals speed by so quickly that there isn’t enough time to publish all of our content. Sometimes, the content is so good that we have to publish it later because we love it so much. This is some of that content.
The Vancouver International Film Festival can sometimes seem like a very pompous affair, with all of its line-ups and pass holders and fancy venues. It can be refreshing when all of the slow-burners are interrupted by a real wild card. Though, in the case of this year’s AAAAAAAAH!, directed by British filmmaker Steve Oram, I might not use the word ‘refreshing’, more likely ‘bizarre’. It was like Coronation Street but with tea-bagging involved. Or a Planet of the Apes directed by Tommy Wiseau. Whichever of the two you can visualize more clearly. In plain terms, the film was violent, graphic, and sexually explicit. The characters carried out their lives like apes, and I do not mean that metaphorically.
After acclimatizing myself to the bizarre grunts and phallic gore as best I could, I saw a very familiar story playing out onscreen. I was watching a family drama, albeit a deranged one. The matriarch of the family ditches her husband and instead gets freaky with a younger man, much to the dismay of her angsty, brooding daughter. While Mom has fun with her new suitor, the daughter seethes in the shadows, until eventually she falls in love with an equally despondent fellow. However, happiness can’t last forever. I won’t give away the final bit of the movie, but I will say that healthy familial boundaries are blatantly ignored by all. It’s enough to make you nauseous, to say the least. The characters’ ape-like behavioural patterns are purely shocking at first, but eventually become a sly critique on regression in society and perhaps a comedic version of primal patriarchy. Though, I really can’t say anything with complete confidence. I know there must have been a thematic direction within the film, but I was way too busy trying to forget the array of flaccid members and food spittle. This is not to say that it was a bad film, I just don’t know if I will ever get over it.
A film that I almost overlooked and ended up thoroughly enjoying was Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm. I bought my ticket late in the game and went to the mid-afternoon screening at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts rather than the evening one a few days earlier at the Rio Theatre. Even though I might have missed out on the late night atmosphere, Deathgasm was still a serious treat. A very bloody, campy, and obscene treat. Exemplary in its dry, tongue-in-cheek Kiwi humour, this cinematic gore-fest poked the perfect amount of fun at both cult sensibility and metalhead culture.
After the death of his mother, Brodie, moves in with his severely religious relatives and their bully of a son. While finding solace in the local record store, Brodie befriends fellow hardcore fan Zakk, and the two form a band. But when Brodie stumbles across a decrepit sheet of music and the two decide to play it themselves, death and terror reign down on their sleepy New Zealand town in the form of a demon-zombie apocalypse, until only their misfit group of friends are left to defeat the abounding evil. Howden directs the absurdity with skill, and uses genre tropes like low-fi special effects and hyperbolic character to his advantage. However, cult horror is notoriously misogynistic, and though this film tried to break from that pattern, it was not entirely successful. The film contained three noteworthy female characters, one being Brodie’s high school crush turned demon-fighting badass, another a low-ranking servant of hell who eventually usurps the head title, and the third a record store clerk who reads fortunes on the side. They operate in very different spheres and never interact with one another except during the film’s climax, and though they possess a certain amount of agency they still play a passive role in the film as a whole. I knew it was coming, but I still didn’t appreciate the genre sexism. However, apart from those few snags, Deathgasm was still a raucous bit of fun, presenting itself as a very clever addition to the cult canon.
I pushed my bangs to the side of my forehead again. Just like I’d done 10 seconds ago.
Everyone else went through this phase last year. But not me. I somehow missed the bangs-aren’t-cool memo. Now everyone sported stylish parts down either cheekbone and I was stuck in the death stage, with bangs too short to store behind my ears but too long to sit where they naturally wanted to fall.
I let go of my hair and turned my attention back to Julia.
“So?” I answered, voice a tad bit less casual than I’d hoped for.
“Sooo,” she said, glaring at me from across the cafeteria table. “I was supposed to go to Stanley Park today. After school. And now apparently the stratosphere is screwing me over. Feel sorry for me, jerk.”
“It’s not the stratosphere,” I said, adjusting my bangs yet again. “Weather happens in the troposphere.”
I was fidgeting with my hair so much I didn’t notice she was gone until I looked up a few seconds later to an empty table.
I frowned and resumed my lunch. What was her problem?
Then again, maybe a technical correction wasn’t the best consolation.
High school is the troposphere of life, Ithought. It’s where all the weather happens.
Jessica Schmidt is a grade 11 student at Langley Fine Arts school. She is not particularly tall, or particularly short, but she likes to complain about her height anyway. If Jessica could travel anywhere, she would take her whole family and move to Greenland—although she doesn’t know why she’s so attracted to that thought…maybe because she’s always felt more at home in ice and snow than hills and fields.
Jamie Smith is a Vancouver artist, educator, consultant, and events producer. Her mixed media paintings are inspired by her many travels and focus on the sediment of memory and experience. She is the founder of THRIVE Studio, a place for female artists to connect and learn, and the creator of ROVE, a Mount Pleasant Art Walk. More by Jamie Smith here.
When I walked into the Cultch, the greeter immediately warned that the show would be between 100-120 minutes without intermission. I beelined for the bathroom, then to the bar. Not only do they serve beer (and wine) at the Cultch, but they’ll even let you bring it to your seat inside the theatre. This evening was off to a great start.
When the lights dimmed we made our way to our seats and were pleasantly surprised at both the set up and the size. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house. When Ronnie Burkett emerged, dressed in all black, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. It seemed everybody knew and loved Burkett already. In his introduction he talked of his past work, which again, the audience seemed to know all about, then explained his objective with the Daisy Theatre. He wanted to create a puppet show for adults that was fun; a departure from his past work, which was decidedly darker.
As far as marionettes go, I’ve only ever seen Pinocchio and Gepetto at work. This was a change of pace for me. The opening number starred Dolly Wiggler, who would dance to music and peel off her clothing one item at a time, burlesque style. I didn’t know marionettes could move like that. I was laughing and in shock, looking over to my friend to confirm that she was seeing this. Her rhythm, as created by Burkett’s hands, which moved quickly without distracting him from the song he was singing, was incredible.
Funny for the most part and provocative throughout, Burkett had the audience laughing and cheering from start to finish. I laughed a lot, but I also cringed some. Especially when Franz was on stage talking too much–at least for my liking–of inviting starry-eyed audience members backstage and humping them from behind while they were distracted by smaller cuter puppet named Schnitzel.
From the applause, to the coos, to the shouts of encouragement everybody seemed to know from the moment the show began that this was a participatory event. The length, I would learn, varies because Burkett invites the audience to hoot, holler and applaud as a way of voting for which puppets or songs they would like to see performed. This was something I quite liked. Quickly it became clear that many of the audience members had seen this play before and were keen to see some of their favourite puppets return to the stage. At one point the lights came on and he looked into the audience for a volunteer. Burkett would settle on a man named Gavin, who would learn how to make a puppet play the piano while bobbing his head to the music–“he” being the puppet. Gavin would also go on to sing on cue and even take off his shirt.
It was a while before I was able to find the connection between these puppets, all telling stories or singing songs that had nothing to do with the others. In a way, it felt disjointed. I’d been in a gambling mood when I decided to see the show without first doing any research about Burkett or the Daisy Theatre, which I would realize part way through was a variety show. Even still, I struggled to make sense of why some of them were performers, while others were just there to tell stories.
In addition to Gavin, the highlights for me were without a doubt Jesus (yes, Christ) and Edna Rural. Neither sang or danced, but rather they talked to the audience. Jesus, who may actually have been performing stand-up routine, was dreading the holidays with his parents Mary and Joseph. His birthday is a tense time and his parents don’t approve of his girlfriend, he explained while weaving clever jokes, with even more clever biblical references into his story. Edna, a widow from a small town in Alberta, is an expert baker, and talks endlessly because she fears that if she’s quiet somebody will give her bad news. Everybody had a good laugh when Edna told the story of her pie crust made with dill, which of course was referred to as dill dough (read: dildo). I’m not a big fan of sex jokes. They’re popular and funny making me a minority on this one, but I can’t help but find them boring and a little too easy.
While I thought two hours was a little too long and the sexual references a little too frequent, I quite liked this play. It was smart, topical and funny. It was also sad, heartwarming and relatable. Burkett is quick-witted and truly a master of his craft. He brought each puppet to life with his voice and movement and that alone makes for twenty dollars well spent. The fact that no two nights are the same, has me curious as to who will grace the stage of the Daisy Theatre in the nights to come. In this regard, it makes sense that this is a show people come back for.
The Daisy Theatre runs until December 20 at The Cultch (1895 Venables Street). Tickets are available by phone at 604.251.1363, or online at thecultch.com.