Thomas Crapper

Despite popular belief, Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. Contrary to the myth, his surname isn’t even the etymological catalyst for our common use of the word “crap,” as in fecal matter or the infamous Roger Ebert quote, “Transformers: Age of Extinction is the biggest piece of crap we as a species have willingly put into our eyes–I’m surprised the majority of the Western world doesn’t have pinkeye.” Except that Ebert never said that (he was mercifully dead by the time the film was released), “crap” is actually a combination of the Dutch word “krappen” (to cut off, or separate) and the Old French word “crappe” (siftings, waste), and John Harington invented the flush toilet in 1596 (not to be confused with John Harrington, the late CEO of the Boston Red Sox).

Misconceptions like these are generally innocent in nature and are usually just the result of a game of cross-generational telephone, someone not doing their due diligence and checking Google, or some good old fashioned fabrication. That being said, with some things there just isn’t any room for misconception. It is universally understood, and even upheld by the U.N., that it is a direct violation of my human rights to have to listen to dubstep at 8:45 am as we make the hour-long carpool to work through morning traffic–everyone knows that torture is a no-no. So dear God, at least just put it on shuffle.

For more Por­traits of Brief Encoun­ters, look out for the bimonthly fea­ture on, visit the POBE web­site, or fol­low Cole Now­icki on Insta­gram or Twit­ter

GCNb2EGa_vdfQkXGoIEjfiZ9Qi7tz5jRQki5Wh38ZT0Violence, sex, drugs, love, friendship, hope–Luxembourgian director Donato Rotunno’s latest feature, Baby(a)lone, reminds us why being thirteen and different is still every bit as confusing as ever. The film launched this year’s annual European Union Film Festival, which runs until December 9 at the Cinematheque. With powerful performances by a talented young cast, Baby(a)alone is difficult, emotional, and gripping from start to finish.

Joshua Defays is the film’s unnamed protagonist, a problem child living with his largely absent mother (Fabienne Elaine Hollwege) in an affluent modern Europe. Life isn’t going well for the boy; his antics have landed him in special ed, just a small step up from the alternative–reform school. He spends his days rolling cigarettes and talking to his imaginary best friend Johnny (Etienne Halsdorf) at recess. The evenings he passes in his bedroom, smoking pot while his mother has loud webcam sex in the room next door.DJQ-Jr_jSe4KWEi4cto9fgsdw1XEhqpk1gHmRzA0cxE

Everything changes when he meets Shirley (Charlotte Elsen), a pretty, enigmatic misfit who joins the special ed program after attacking another student. The boy is immediately drawn to her, and they quickly develop an intense friendship. Although Shirley is manipulative and at times even abusive, she brings a spark of energy to the boy’s life. Together, they skip school and wander the city, watching movies, shoplifting, and getting drunk.

Expertly directed and stunningly shot, Baby(a)lone is an honest and emotional venture into a bleak teenage reality. And while it isn’t exactly enjoyable to watch (at times, it is downright horrifying) the film is extremely engrossing. For, despite the young protagonists’ flaws, it’s impossible not to sympathize with them as they fumble towards happiness–or at least some approximation of it.

The 18th Annual European Film Festival runs from November 27 to December 9 at the Cinematheque. For more tickets and screenings, visit the festival website.

On now at The Cinematheque is Traces That Resemble Us, a screening series and art exhibition that explores art and cinema in Vancouver. The Cinematheque invited 12 prominent artists to each program a film that has been influential to their work. I had the pleasure of visiting Ian Wallace at his studio to discuss his involvement in the series as well as his thoughts on film in Vancouver.

Ian Wallace in his studio. Photo by Helen Wong.
Ian Wallace in his studio. Photo by Helen Wong.

SAD Mag: How did you get involved with Traces That Resemble Us?

Ian Wallace: Shaun Inouye from the Cinematheque called and said they had come up with this concept for an exhibition that takes a range of Vancouver artists whose work has been involved with film in one way or another. In my own work I’ve made reference to films, I’ve attempted to make films, and in the 1970s I was shooting and taking stills off my own films and using them for large scale works. Since then I have been citing and referencing well known films from the European avant-garde in the 60s.

I am interested in the theme of the male and female relationship reflecting from a gender politics point of view. I aim to express this symbolically, taking stills from well known films and cutting and separating the male and female figures on the canvas. That was my basic strategy as I’m not commenting on the film themselves insomuch as I’m using the theme and figures to make my own statements.

SM: Why did you choose Contempt for the exhibition?

IW: The film is about the breakdown of a marriage. The male character begins to question why his wife doesn’t love him anymore…why she feels contempt towards him. I’ve taken references and images from this source and converted it to my own expressive iconography.

SM: What is it about the male/female relationship that attracted you to explore this theme?

IW: It is very much my philosophical mindset. I explore the idea of difference and opposition. In my own work an opposition between abstraction and representation exists. It acts as a formal expressive sense of opposition in regard to how marks and meaning can function in different contexts. And of course in our everyday lives—in the gendered politics of our lives—there is a biological difference in contrast between male and female that is subliminal. We try to erase it but we have to recognize that we have completely different bodies and emotional senses as to how we see the ‘other.’ I am interested in and influenced by the feminist movement of the 70s and all the questions that come [with it]. We must recognize that the organic world is constructed biologically as a gendered structure, even plants have male and female structures.

SM: That’s interesting from a biological point of view, what else are you interested in?

IW: I’m interested in the fundamental image of difference and how we can understand that and absorb that into our image consciousness. How images influence how we think and…meditate on what those differences mean through the image. By cutting, splitting and often reversing the image of the male and female [my work] exaggerate[s] this difference.

SM: Does the binary between photography and painting have any relation to the male/female relationship?

IW: Yes. Painting is only a field or ground for the signifying mark which is the photographic image. The photographic image is itself full of representational material. In a photograph, it’s hard to avoid references to the world; I like this because it enriches the meditative aspect. I like thinking of paintings as fields for meditation for thinking out subject matter. I’m interested in abstract painting, how a jolt of colour occupies space in an image, how it unifies, fragments, and marks an image. Abstract painting doesn’t mean anything, there is an absence of meaning while photography is full of meaning. I have to say, though, in the end everything has some kind of meaning in the sense that it has some context. A mark on a canvas has a context of the whole history of the representation of painting.

Enlarged Inkjet Study for Le Mépris V, 2010, by Ian Wal­lace. Cour­tesy of the artist and Catri­ona Jef­fries Gallery, Van­cou­ver. Photo: SITE Photography
Enlarged Inkjet Study for Le Mépris V, 2010, by Ian Wal­lace. Cour­tesy of the artist and Catri­ona Jef­fries Gallery, Van­cou­ver.
Photo: SITE Photography

SM: You mentioned that you were influenced by feminist artists in the 70s. Artists such as Barbara Kreuger and Mary Kelly were working with language and exploring its patriarchal roots. Do you think we can subvert this patriarchy?

IW: I try to listen and be sensitive to the female aspect. I cannot speak to the female aspect, I can only speak from the male point of view. I don’t think language is exclusively patriarchal but much of language is. The practice of women in culture today is more engaged than it has ever been historically which works to overcome the framework of language being patriarchal.

I don’t necessarily account for it except for…within the references I’ve made in my work. For instance, a woman is going to have a different feeling than a man when viewing my work, and a woman is going to have a different feeling than another woman. Someone who understands the film will have a different relationship than someone who has just seen the image for the first time. I don’t think there is any exclusive reading, I only put the general notion of the meditative object into context: an object for aesthetic contemplation.

SM: Can this apply to film?

IW: The critiques of feminism in the 70s have opened up how we read movie images and film images and [have] caused a lot of change in how they are produced as well. It addresses what kind of responsibility a director, artist, or author has in the meaning he creates.

SM: Is the use of montage represented in the way you’re using film stills?

IW: It is definitely a form of montage; I’m cutting into the body of the images. In film there are a variety of shots, reverse shots, close ups, over the shoulder etc. I’m cutting into each still from a particular angle, [and] through this a participation that occurs; I am reconstructing and recasting a film text in my own subtle way.

A feminist artist, arguably more influential than Kreuger and Kelly, is Sherry Levine. She is an artist who has appropriated male art, such as Walker Evans and Egon Schiele, and reconstructed and reconverted them in her own way. So she has in fact provided a metacritique of a feminist point of view using male-produced works.

SM: In this case, are you providing your own metacritique?

IW: I am doing something similar. I’m appropriating an image and recasting it in my own way, but I interfere with the image a lot more than she does.

SM: Vancouver has a unique history of film, ranging from the variety of films shot here to the work of important photoconceptualists such as yourself and Jeff Wall. How is this history incorporated in works today?

IW: We’ve all been experiencing film, television, and the dramatic image as we unconsciously model ourselves [after] forms of behaviour given to us by the dramatized image. As a group of artists (Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas etc) dealing with cinema and intellectual things, the study of art history moves things forward into contemporary models of thinking. None of us are critical, political, or theoretical in an obvious way, but it deeply informs our work without being clearly read as a mandate to the viewer to think a certain way. I give personal forms and expressions of a general theme that probably identifies my position in ways that I don’t even understand. People can then contemplate and open doors for themselves. Art works as stimulants for people to produce their own meaning, not just to consume other people’s meanings. I mean, that’s the function of art. I try to keep my work as simple as possible, as open as possible. There is a precise set of information I have in terms of thinking about art and history and my own expressive context, but ultimately anyone can do what I do.

SM: Then what is the role of the artist?

IW: To open the doors of perception—that’s the name of a book by Aldous Huxley. In it he explores how drugs can open up new ways of thinking: That’s what art should do.


Ian’s pick Contempt has already been screened, but you can check out  films selected by other artists such as Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham, and Myfanwy MacLeod every Thursday until December 17 at the Cinematheque. You can also check out the corresponding Traces That Resemble Us art exhibition at Monte Clark Gallery, on until January 30.

Talk­ing Heads is an inter­view col­umn devoted to con­tem­po­rary arts and cul­ture in Van­cou­ver. Look out for more of Helen Wong’s interviews on 

Bizarre Love Triangle is an arts and literary festival happening November 27th and 28th at 552 Clark in Vancouver. The festival is a collaborative effort between Sad Mag, Real Vancouver, and Obscurior, and is shaping up to be the year end party we’ve been dreaming of. The festival is 100% totally free, but capacity is limited, so reserve your tickets here in advance to ensure you get through the door and in on the fun.


On the 27th, the festival is kicking off with Obscurior x Sad’s Point of Inflection exhibition–thirteen writers created short pieces prompted by a Point of Inflection, and Obscurior created cinemagraphs and original music to accompany each piece. There’ll be live readings, and live performances, and a DJ set by City of Glass, so bring your eyeballs and your ears for 13 generally spooky takes on a tipping point. See the trailer here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 12.11.58 PM

The 28th is an open gallery for you to peruse, plus artist talks throughout the day. Then, that evening, is THAT FINAL MOMENT–Sad’s and Real Vancouver’s Year End Party to end all Year End Parties! We’ve got Beer by Driftwood and Phillips, and live performances by Gay Sha and Vixen Von Flex (the beauty our Movement issue cover)!


Hosted by the lovely Sean Cranbury and Dina Del Bucchia, an evening of cheesy jokes, live readings, live performance, sweet music, and boozy drinks. Celebrate a year well destroyed, issues created, and art dispersed. This is our bizarre love triangle send-off. Party with us. 

See you Saturday!

High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To cel­e­brate, we’re pub­lish­ing a series of fic­tion and illus­tra­tion that cel­e­brate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hope­less, funny, mov­ing, or just plain embarrassing.

Illustration by Amelia Garvin
Illustration by Amelia Garvin

By Curtis LeBlanc

One is English and the other is French is what the neighbour says about his dogs. They run along the rows of grapevines tangled around wooden stakes and wire. At the end of the day he calls to one dog come here and the other vient ici and they both come running to him faster than most have ever ran for anyone.

For the entire summer before her senior year, the girl works for him, picking weeds and pruning vines in the Okanagan heat. She’ll take being alone outdoors over spooning gelato for retirees and tourists. There are slivers in her hands that she will never get out, and she’s tanned like the keys of a piano between the straps of her overalls, camisole, and bra. She wakes at sunrise every morning, gets dressed, and walks with her breakfast across the gravel road between the two properties to the neighbour’s work shed.

Her father sits at the patio table all morning, all afternoon, whistling along to pop-country songs coming through the portable radio. He waits for it to pass, for the heat to subside on the banks of Skaha Lake, and drinks bottles by the case, bottles of wine made from the grapes that the neighbour has worked so hard to grow.

He never asks the girl about her day, though she figures he may like to hear about it. In a year it will be the grapes that she cared for bringing colour to his face, keeping his lips wet for the whistle, holding him up in wine country.


Curtis LeBlanc was born and raised in St. Albert, Alberta. He currently lives in Vancouver where he is an MFA candidate at the University of British Columbia. Recently, he was a runner-up in Broken Pencil’s Unearth Your Underworld fiction contest. His writing has appeared in Poetry is Dead, The Maynard, Existere, Joyland, Little Fiction, Sport Literate, and is forthcoming in Prairie Fire.

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.


We are thick into November and the cold, dark weather has already begun to take its toll. As the temperature drops, and the urge to cozy up inside skyrockets, many of us are watching our social lives wither and die at the mercy of our Netflix accounts.

Luckily, November also happens to be European Union Film Festival month—the perfect excuse to bundle up with friends, munch on popcorn, watch phenomenal international cinema…and actually leave bed doing it. From November 27 to December 9, the Cinematheque will be showing films from every one of the EU countries, the largest and most diverse festival roster to date. For those who can’t make it to all twenty-eight showings, SAD Mag read through the entire EUFF program, binge-watched a bunch of unsubtitled foreign trailers, and selected our five favourite picks for this year’s festival:

SAD Mag's Must-Sees for EUFF2015

By Sad Mag

  • Love Building (Romania)

    By Sad Mag

    Fourteen couples, seven days, one camp designed to fix their “broken” relationships. This low-budget indie hit takes romantic mayhem to the next level.

  • The Sinking of the Sozopol (Bulgaria)

    By Sad Mag

    A dark, brooding stranger appears in the historic town of Sozopol with ten bottles of vodka, a heart full of painful memories, and the conviction his problems will be solved as soon as he finishes the liquor. Don't lie, you've been there too.

  • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden)

    By Sad Mag

    Sweden's submission to next year's Oscars, _A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence _is an award-winning collection of comic vignettes by renowned director Roy Andersson. But, honestly, we're just curious what they mean by that title.  

  • Simshar (Malta)

    By Sad Mag

    The first ever entry from Malta at Vancouver EUFF: an intense and dramatic take on southern Europe's illegal migrant crisis. Inspired by true events.

  • The Keeper of Lost Causes (Denmark)

    By Sad Mag

    Detectives, police raids, a mysterious disappearance—_The Keeper of Lost Causes _is about as Nordic Noir as it gets. Special bonus: this film features work by Nikolaj Arcel, the writer who adapted _The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo _for screen.  

For more information about the 18th Annual European Film Festival, visit the Cinematheque’s website

High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To cel­e­brate, we’re pub­lish­ing a series of fiction and illus­tra­tion that cel­e­brate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hope­less, funny, mov­ing, or just plain embarrassing.

Photo by Amelia Garvin
Illustration by Amelia Garvin

By Christopher Evans

Back in high school, my step-sister Kathy dated this guy named Braun, a real ape. He was always super polite in front of our parents, but as soon as they turned their backs, Braun would stick his hand down Kathy’s pants and then hold his fingers under his nose to sniff. Kathy would wink and whap him on the shoulder and say, “Stop it, Brah-nee,” like it was just the cutest thing in the world. If a song came on the radio that had “you” in the chorus, Braun would sing “poo” instead, which is how he ruined my favourite Bryan Adams song, by singing “(Everything I Do) I Do it for Poo.” That was the caliber of his sense of humour.

Because my mom moved us in with her dad, I was the one who had to change schools and didn’t know anyone, so I was always tagging along after Kathy. Braun hated it. I remember one time, our biology class took a field trip to the natural history museum in Peachville and somehow Braun was there, just mingling with the Grade Elevens, even though he’d graduated like four years earlier. He and I were standing in front of the display of taxidermied birds and he was just staring at the peacocks for a long time—I swear I could hear his synapses cracking—before he turned to me and said, “They should call them ‘pissdicks.’ Get it?” When I didn’t respond, he mimed pulling a huge penis out of his pants and urinating all over my face—again, a real class act. He told me I’d never get to finger someone as hot as my step-sister. “There’s not a single thing special about you,” he said, and pretended zip his pants back up. “You don’t even exist.” He swaggered off to grope Kathy and look at the amphibian dioramas, leaving me alone with the stuffed birds.

I think of this now because Braun was right and wrong. There is certainly nothing special about me, but I do exist. You exist, too, and maybe aren’t anything special either, and could that be the reason why we’re so good together?


Christopher Evans works, studies, and occasionally sleeps in Vancouver, BC. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Riddle Fence, The New Quarterly, The Canary Press, Joyland, and other fine publications in Canada, Australia, Ireland, the UK, and the USA. Follow him at @ChrisPDEvans.

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.

Photo by Rob Shaer
Photo by Rob Shaer

In person, Ola Volo is as warm and whimsical as her artwork. A graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and the creative force behind designs for local clients like Lululemon and Doan’s Craft Brewing Company, it is easy to see Volo as a Vancouver artist. But, as successful as she is in this city, an international perspective is what elevates her work. We met at her apartment a few days before Halloween to chat about her upcoming CreativeMornings talk and life as a working artist.

Visual art as a profession is difficult for most people to wrap their heads around; the idea usually evokes images of noble poverty or antisocial genius. Volo disproves both these stereotypes, and her pragmatic approach to making a talent into a career is inspiring. What Volo firmly believes, and proves with her success, is that professionalism and artistic integrity are not necessarily opposed. Volo says she “hasn’t had a day off” since she started, and the idea of treating creativity like a nine to five is something she learned to do early on.

Growing up in Kazakhstan, Volo’s parents placed her in almost every genre of art class you can think of, from pastels to painting. She describes the classes as “babysitting,” but it is easy to imagine her as a precocious artist. When asked about developing her distinctive style, full of swirling patterns and playful figures, Volo says she has doodles and designs from early high school that look remarkably similar to her current work. Her style is clearly an authentic representation of who she is.

Photo by Rob Shaer
Photo by Rob Shaer

Volo consistently refers to her pieces as “stories,” perhaps a more apt word to describe the folkloric works she creates than “paintings” or “illustrations.” During her sold out CreativeMorning’s talk, she claimed she saw her style as a way to explore the stories that are important to her, not the other way around. Like a writer searching for the perfect word, Volo’s unique illustrations are the ideal language to explore the things that fascinate her.

This visual language is remarkable in its versatility; Volo’s work is equally at home on a gallery wall or a magazine cover. She combats the unflattering stigma of commercial art, only lending her style to projects that she can become invested in, that become her story. “My style cuts very close to my background. My inspiration comes from the stories I grew up with and books I owned as a kid. It all becomes like a personal voice, and if the project is not fitting, why would you want that voice to represent that project?”

Volo was introduced to the world of professional illustration soon after graduation. About a month after earning her degree, she flew to New York City to show her portfolio: “It was the first time I met working illustrators…They were all so passionate and very motivated, very prolific, doing things all the time, in like seven different avenues.” What Volo took away from her meetings was a sense of the sheer hustle that goes into working as an artist. The experience was both inspirational and terrifying; “I was so intimidated by New York…like ‘Oh my god this city will chew you up and spit you out, there are so many illustrators!’”

Photo by Rob Shaer
Photo by Rob Shaer

When Volo returned home to Vancouver she briefly abandoned illustration and tried to focus on a more straightforward career. A conventional career path didn’t last long, and she quickly found herself back in New York, where she lived for six months; “I made a promise to myself that if I find something that is so scary for me, then I should go there, I should figure something out with my work and myself.”

Traveling and periodically relocating keeps Volo on good terms with Vancouver and excited about her work. “It really grounds you,” she says. “You come back refreshed and full of ideas…you appreciate Vancouver again.”

Photo by Aura McKay
Photo by Aura McKay

Volo has said that she gravitated towards illustration as a way to transcend language barriers, and feels drawn to the idea of public art for the same reason. Commercial work allows her pieces to reach a huge audience, much more than individual works that are often sheltered in private homes. Public art takes this idea to the next level. “I like it when art is accessible to everyone. I want people to feel included, not excluded.”

Although she feels the need to leave the city occasionally, Vancouver hasn’t tired of embracing Volo’s work. The audience at CreativeMornings was thrilled with her candid words as well as her illustrations. As the talk ended, Volo was presented with a position as Artist in Residence at HCMA Architecture + Design—one more Vancouver business that will benefit from her unique vision.

Find out more about Ola Volo at Stay posted for more from CreativeMornings, monthly at SFU Woodwards.

The 1982 World Fair’s commemorative PEZ dispenser is known in PEZ circles as the most rare and sought after plastic-head-driven candy dispenser of all time. On top of a green stem (that holds the unremarkable sugary tablets), this Austrian based company stuck an assumedly American astronaut’s helmet—a proxy for the USA’s power and ingenuity—up on a threateningly diabetic pike. Was this a bold political statement or my boredom causing me to connect dots that weren’t there, like my brother’s freckles during winter?

If it’s boredom it’s because I just don’t get PEZ. I mean, I understand the appeal of candy and the fetish of collecting meaningless cultural ephemera, but none of the PEZ characters ever spoke to me. Popeye? Batman? The cast of Disney’s FrozenYawn. You want my money? Give me Donald Trump. Make the freshly euthanized Pomeranian on his head tilt back to offer up what you expected be an artificially flavoured grape rectangle that for some reason tastes like cherry. Why? Because that’s the art of the deal, yah loser, that’s why.

I want to tip Putin’s stoic Russian chin and die of dioxin poisoning two days later. I want a self-tanned, weave-wearing Rachel Dolezal gullet to shoot out peppermint PEZ and a dispenser hooded in a niq?b that you lift to reveal a simpering Stephen Harper—because if you’re going to turn our sweets into entertainment, at least make it something that we’re entertained by—the loud, dangerous, and offensive.



High School, our 20th issue, is on the way! To cel­e­brate, we’re pub­lish­ing a series of poetry and illus­tra­tion that cel­e­brate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hope­less, funny, mov­ing, or just plain embarrassing.

Illustration by Amelia Garvin
Illustration by Amelia Garvin

By Nathaniel G. Moore

To her, every road wasn’t made of material itself,
but animalistic memory and sensory sent out
the way bats see, bouncing infrared animation depicting
what we can’t see or the way beacons, other worlds contact us.
It’s as if we are riding over people’s dreams, dog’s dreams, made
of ancestral bones made of skin clouds made of a million soup craving,
bank robbing sister’s shameful tears
I didn’t create language, Kathy thought. Later she
would think about her mother and father and the people she loved.
Now she wants to tell us teenaged or otherwise that the world is a complicated
place and that you can put ribbons on everything but it doesn’t
change the fact
That beauty isn’t something you can pluck from a grocery hearse and everyone
is different and feels fucked up for no reason but there is
always a fucking reason.


Nathaniel G. Moore is the author of Savage 1986-2011(Anvil Press), winner of the 2014 ReLit Award for best novel. His next book, Jettison, is a collection of romantic horror stories. It will launch in Vancouver in May 2016 along with an art show of the same name. A life-long Torontonian, Moore now calls Pender Harbour, where he has a PR job in the book creation industry, home.

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. 


Look out for High School Poetry on Tuesdays on