The Bolshevik Empress has Returned!

I wrote for VICE over decade ago under my real name and also a bunch of pseudonyms, one of which was The Bolshevik Empress. And, unrelated, here we are again. But no more fake names!

READ: These New Startups Want to Make the Sharing Economy Less Racist and Sexist

Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

ALONE (short story)

I’m pleased to release a new short story for your reading pleasure on these brief Fall afternoons. What is this story, ALONE, all about?

Two marooned astronauts cope with isolation, existentialism and artificial intelligence in this romantic tragedy.

I’ve been writing on ALONE for nearly a year, picking it up and working feverishly on it, then putting it away for weeks at a time. Finally I decided to let it out into the wild. This germ of this story sprouted from wanting to write something that made the reader (you) feel uncomfortable. I test my protagonist with impossible situations, of being alone and confined while travelling through the infinity of space. What does life mean at that point? What would keep someone alive or cause them to give up hope?

This is a sentiment I’ve often felt — though not while travelling through space where a technical malfunction could mean certain death — but on tour. In a tiny bunk on a tour bus, squished up in a van with 6 other people or on an intercontinental flight for hours on end: each day, every day, for months at a time. On the road, my purpose is constantly tested, patience taken to new heights. On a terrestrial tour, if something goes wrong, it is easily remedied. You pull over and the problem easily solved. But what would you do in space, alone, with limited resources and millions of miles from anything resembling home?

I also tip my hat to CBC’s Canada Writes and their “Sci-Fi Twitter Challenge” — though I’m not exactly sure what that means. I guess this is my long-form contribution to the community. There is sadly no podcast at the moment (as my lengthiest finished story, the MP3 file would be too enormous). For eyeballs only. Happy reading.

Bad Nerd

Aaaaaah…haven’t written since I listened to Vauxhall and I a few weeks ago while rolling in the back of a van down North America’s West Coast. There’s not much to add. I intend to write a thing on my awesome SXSW Accelerator experience, but we all know the road to Hell is paved with good intentions*. Also, we have tour dates. We have interviews (I especially promote this one I did recently with PopMatters – it got kind of intimate). Here are said tour dates. Please join us so we can sweat on you and/or shred in your face. 2gether-ness.

Mon March 28, 2011 – Pawtucket, RI @ The Met
Tue March 29, 2011 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg Tickets
Wed March 30, 2011 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall Tickets
Thu March 31, 2011 – Philadelphia, PA @ North Star Tickets
Sat April 2, 2011 – Laval, QC @ Salle Antonine Labelle Tickets

Wed April 13, 2011 – Berlin, Germany @ Frannz Club Tickets
Thu April 14, 2011 – Brussels, Belgium @ AB Club Tickets
Fri April 15, 2011 – Paris, France @ Le Fleche D’or Tickets
Sat April 16, 2011 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Melkweg Tickets
Mon April 18, 2011 – London, UK @ Borderline (SOLD OUT)
Tue April 19, 2011 – London, UK @ Borderline Tickets
Wed April 20, 2011 – Manchester, UK @ Ruby Lounge Tickets
Thu April 21, 2011 – Glasgow, UK @ King Tuts Tickets

Unrelated, I was thinking of trying to claim the term ‘Bad Nerd’ because that is what I am.

Musical Mnemonics 2: Songs About Los Angeles

Some classic albums here. They remind me of high school (first two, at least), being at my parent’s house, listening to music like crazy. I listened to music all the time. In my room, when I was drawing, writing, doing math or whatever. Sometimes if I had a “spare” class right before lunch I would walk home, make some macaroni and cheese and blast this stuff on my parent’s stereo. My grandmother must of thought I was crazy. She would be mopping the floors or weeding the garden and I’d be teenaging all around the house, learning Nirvana songs on my acoustic guitar. On a school day, even.

Fucking hell.

Anyhow, this post is about songs that I invariably think about when I visit Los Angeles, California, United States of America, North America, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Cluster, The Universe. They endear the city to me. Before I went there, everybody was always saying: “Oh, I hate LA, it’s too big, you need a car, etc, etc.” When I first visited to play shows in like 2004 or something, I remained apprehensive. And during subsequent visits, the city in all its vastitude grew on me. I explored and discovered new neighbourhoods, and would be reminded of cultural references made to the city in movies, TV shows and in music. LA is a behemoth, yes, but it can’t be ignored. In my dream life, I spend my winters in Los Angeles.

Beastie Boys. “Do It” from Ill Communication. LA Reference: “Glendale Boulevard / Boulevard! / Glendale Boulevard / that’s where I’m at.” I listened to a lot of Beastie Boys in high school, and for a while really embraced the skateboarding, slacker culture. Surprisingly, I think the self-motivated, slacker attitude is what granted me a certain independence as a teenager, an inspiration that supercharged my creativity, making anything possible. Slackers were, really, the inspired youth of the 90’s. A slacker lifestyle enabled us to *ahem* stick it to the man, as it were. And I strongly encourage outside thinking (inside-out thinking works too) at all times. Laziness and/or apathy, however, are not acceptable.

A Tribe Called Quest. “I Left my Wallet in El Segundo” from People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. LA Reference: Chorus: “I left my wallet in El Segundo / I gotta get it, I got-gotta get it.” I sympatise. El Segundo is out by the airport. Once, I think we had to go there on tour to get our RV fixed. We did not leave our wallets behind.

Beck. “Girl” from Guero. LA Reference: Well, this is a weird one. While it seems the entire video is set in LA, I always mistook the lyrics of the chorus. I remember at the time there was a bit of a debate over what he was saying there, and even all those sketchy lyrics websites still can’t agree. I’ve seen: my summer girl, my sun-eyed girl, my cyanide girl, maizena girl. I always thought he was singing “La Cienega,” like the name of the street in LA. Listening to the song again, I am assured that I am way off. But whenever I see a street sign for La Cienega, I can’t help singing the name to the chorus of this song. And the video is fuggin’ amazing.

RESIST THE COATING

Months ago, my daughter broke my glasses. I saw it as an opportunity, a blessing in disguise. I rarely wear my glasses, save for weekends, before bedtime and for overnight traveling. The last pair – which was held together by tape for a while – was purchased four years ago after forgetting my much-loved clear-framed glasses at a hotel in Copenhagen (the picture below was taken in Melbourne). I rarely end up enjoying the glasses I choose; and my only real successes have come when the optometrist seriously questions my decisions.

I totally despise shopping for glasses. Mainly because they are a medical necessity disguised as a fashion accessory, and as soon as anything crosses from “medical” into “fashion,” prices are gonna skyrocket. Then they try and guilt you into the coatings on the lenses. The anti-glare, anti-scratch, anti-fog, anti-UVA and B, and whatever else they can layer on there. Those coatings are total bullshit. They just scratch off eventually, making the glasses irritating; doubly irritating after you’ve paid hundreds of dollars for them.

I feel like I would wear my glasses more often if getting them wasn’t such a trial. While purchasing this pair, the sales lady made me feel like I was really making the worst decision of my life coupling the cheap-ass “Dad” frames from the men’s section with the regular, uncoated lenses. I went in with the decision already made: I WILL RESIST THE COATING. I had to be firm and trust my instincts.

The sales lady, I realise, was simply doing her job, trying to super-size my prescription. Like when you buy new shoes and they try and sell you the special spray or those extended warranties on shit that’s gonna break the week after the extended warranty runs out anyways at the electronics store. The salesperson’s job is to make you feel like the main purchase you are making is absolutely worthless, null and void if you don’t spend the extra $45 on the fucking lens coating. Insurance. Legalized racketeering, whatever.

Uh…the point? Maybe this post belies a certain thriftiness, a shrewd consumer perspective. I call it value. Not value-added in any way, just a reminder of plain, old-fashioned value.

Actually the reason I started this post in the first place was to share the inspiration behind my selection of frames. Not sure why I went on that long, self-flaggelating rant. Now, to the inspiraysh:

These glasses, worn by a secret agent in the first Mission Impossible (1996) are a bit more extreme, but the fact that a woman would wear these to a gala ball under the pretence of going incognitco is all kinds of crazy. Hopefully, I will at times achieve a similar “I’m undercover…as an eccentric!” mystique.

Black Locust Redemption

About three years ago my mom brought me a young sapling from her garden in Toronto. She assured me it was an acacia tree – one that flowers exquisitely. I was excited for an ornamental tree (our lot is treeless), and I planted it in the front, in order to fulfill my homeowner’s fantasy of looking out my bedroom window to leaves and a lofty canopy.

After two years, when the tree had hit almost ten feet tall my mom basically straight up told me it was not an acacia tree. Betrayed by its thorny branches, the tree was identified as a common weed: the black locust.

Cool name, but a weed? What constitutes the distinction? Something that just grows where we don’t want it to, that can’t be contained (also known as invasive)? Except for the fact that my black locust’s roots are choking out my peonies, astilbe and irises, I don’t feel like the tree is weedy at all.

Being on tour for part of the spring and summer means oftentimes things in the garden will bloom and I’ll miss them altogether. I missed this last year (we were on tour all of May), but check out the black locust’s redemption:

Good news: The tree is totally covered in these delicate, cascading blossoms. And they fill the air leading up to our front steps with a sweet aroma that I totally dig. I feel like the success of this plant validates my role as a gardener.

Bad news: I’ve just learned from Wikipedia that the robinia pseudoacacia is totally toxic if ingested, from branch to leaf to seed pod to root (except for the flowers). Keep your horses away, or risk them experiencing depression! Note the Latin name confirms this plant is an acacia fake-out. My mom did tell me to rip it out last year, but I don’t have the heart. It’s too pretty.

Besides, bees love this thing, and those little guys need all the help they can get.

Viva Mexico!

Mexico was totally amazing. I’ve been having trouble trying to put together a blog post for the trip. It was just an awesome vibe more than anything else. It’s almost like what I thought, how I felt every night about my performance, technical problems, personal critiques, didn’t (and still don’t) matter. Mexico City is incredible; we spent a lot of time walking around, eating, sightseeing, taking it in. Last week was exhausting and exhilarating, and right now I am at the studio to start work on our new album. Hopefully we’ll be bringing some of the intensity and vibes we collected in Mexico into the studio with us. I won’t try and say more, I’ll probably just start rambling. Instead I compiled tons and tons of stuff from the internet – posted by fans, writers, bloggers, photographers – a lot of it is here. If I missed something please add a link in the comments.


Limited edition poster by Trevore Valensuela

Blogs, photo galleries and reviews:
Chilango – live review and photos
Concetpo Radial – live review and photos
LifeBoxset.com – live review and photos
Me Hace Rudio – interview and photos
Warp.com.mx – show preview
Everything Live – live review and photos
Me Hace Rudio – live review and photos
Ana Tello Fotographia – photos
The Space Farm – live review and photos
AnnE!’s Photostream – photos from the press conference and live
Frames by Feynox – photos
Los Amaterus – live review and photos
MSN Mexico – photos
Dixo – podcast and interview
Arts & Crafts Mexico – photos

Tweeted images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21

And there are a ton of ridiculous videos on YouTube. Actually, probably the only place where you can hear new songs at this moment…

How much of this do we need? Not this much, but I just got started on it and probably went too far. I just remember looking out into the audience on Saturday night during “Lost in the Plot” and seeing like 20 mobile phones and cameras being held up, recording. Awesome.

MY NEW BICYCLE

Check out my rad new wheels:

I haven’t owned a bicycle for over ten years because over ten years ago I got into a slow-motion accident and have been too chicken to get back on the horse. My previous bike was an electric blue, 70’s-era Supercycle. It weighed a ton, and I think I got it at Salvation Army. I rode it for several years, straight off the floor…that is, I’d never had it tuned up and so the chain fell off repeatedly and the brakes only kind of worked.

My accident was very minor. I was riding down the big hill on University, and saw a car slowly pulling out of a laneway. Of course, University is a one way going up, so the driver of the car wasn’t expecting something coming down the hill. I could see the driver not checking, and I swear I was pulling my brakes full blast for like 100m and barely slowing down. So, of course, both of us going pretty slowly, collided: the car bumper hit my knee, tossing me and my shit ride into the middle of the street. Lame.

The driver felt understandably terrible, and I really had no one to blame but myself (or, well, my useless brakes), so she locked my bike to a nearby post, lumped me into her car and drove me literally half a block back up the hill to the hospital. That was really nice of her. My knee was fucked for about a month, and I actually had to use a cane for a little while. I have one little scar on my forearm that has nearly totally faded. But really I am sooooo lucky I didn’t hit my head because we didn’t wear helmets back then.

Fast forward however many years, the turn of the century, the turn of the millennium later, and here I am purchasing my own bike (Raleigh Stowaway 1981, 3-speed). This one is still a bit of a clunker, but this bike is rad, its clunkiness has purpose. It’s in great condition, and was lovingly fixed up by the gentleman I bought it from at RetroVintage. BUT the best part about my bike is that it FOLDS IN HALF. Stick that in your tour bus cargo bay and smoke it.

We’ve been talking (as a band) about staying active and healthy on tour, and how liberating a tour bike is. We are also bringing our juicer on our next tour. This is an idea I’m stealing straight up from Arcade Fire, who apparently have a juice tech on tour. That’s probably not true (like the “juice tech” probably does other things, not just juice) but it’s such an awesome rumor I don’t feel bad about propagating it.

Anyway, look for the grey haired, conservative goth riding a certified old man bicycle around your town, next time we’re on the road.