Interview: Michael DeForge on Sticks Angela, Folk Hero

I spoke with Toronto-based illustrator and Adventure Time alum Michael DeForge about his new book, STICKS ANGELA, FOLK HERO. CLICK TO READ!

Photo by Matthew James-Wilson.

METATRON

I wrote about Montreal’s raddest, indie, English-language publisher, Metatron, for Cult Montreal.

Read the story here. 

Then find out more about Metatron’s books and events here.

metatron books

I spoke with Alexandre Trudeau about bagels and potholes

Check my inti with (arguably) Montreal’s golden son, and our PM’s little bro, Alexandre Trudeau.

Cult Montreal: An Interview with Alexandre Trudeau 

Alexandre Trudeau
Alexandre Trudeau

 

Why Don’t You Vote? An Essay For The #CCL Generation

Maybe I was a bigger nerd than most, but when I turned 18, I was really excited to finally be able to vote. As a teen in Toronto, I went down to the polling stations at the Polish church on Bloor St W, or to the Keele Community Centre, and always voted. Even if I barely knew what I was voting for, I knew it was my duty as a citizen, as a Canadian, to give at least the smallest toss about politics. I also began doing my taxes, which I looked forward to. At the time I liked filling out forms. Today, not so much.

As citizens of the “free world” — North Americans, at least — we have a great power bestowed upon us: the right to vote. Yet this basic right is often taken for granted. Understandably, enacting one’s support for politicians can be frustrating, but fundamentally they are chosen by us to manage our tax dollars. And listen up: you pay taxes. Even if several years delinquent on your income taxes (unlike 18-year-old me), everything you buy has a range of taxes and tariffs included in the price you are paying. Essentially if you don’t vote it’s because you couldn’t care less about, well, anything. You might as well become a feral anarchist. Goodbye. Have fun living alone in the forest. WITH NO INTERNETS (which, incidentally, is taxable).

While some may swirl away in these #YOLO daydreams, a harsh reality reveals itself: Canada has a voter turnout problem. Historically, Canada has an approximate average turnout of 74 %, ranking it 30th among democratic countries worldwide (the highest being Malta at 94 %). In our last federal election turnout was a paltry 61.1 %. No wonder PM Harper is still in there. Canadians couldn’t care less.

When I gather this sentiment from peers and friends — young people, artists, musicians, thinkers — that they didn’t vote, I am endlessly frustrated. What is preventing people from voting? “All the candidates are losers,” they say, or: “I spoiled my ballot,” which at least is closer to the mark than not voting at all.

Having lived in Montreal for nearly two decades, my biggest moment of “Rage Against Apathy” came after the last provincial election — hot on the heels of the Maple Spring, when Montreal’s student and young adult population took to the streets to protest tuition increases. The generally peaceful protests cast a larger shadow, vocalising a general discontent with governmental ways. But the real frustration set in when, after walking the streets of my neighbourhood, talking with protesters, ruining cookware, and listening to their voices THAT MANY OF THESE PEOPLE STILL DID NOT VOTE.

Were the protesters faking it? I lost a little respect for the “red squares” because few stood behind the cause. People cared enough to march around for hours but could not care enough to march for 10 minutes to the polling station around the corner. Granted, overall voter turnout for the post-Casseroles election did increase: youth aged 18 to 35 turned out at an average rate of about 64 % in the 2012 provincial election, compared to about 42 % in the 2008 elections. Overall turnout in 2012 stalled at 74.6%.

The moment Pauline Marois pinned that little felt square onto her lapel, everyone’s hearts melted and suddenly young people thought that she cared. The PQ put a Band-aid on the problem by shutting down the hikes. Which, ironically, would be meaningless in an “independent” Quebec — university tuitions would increase drastically should federal transfer payments to Quebec be discontinued. But I digress.

All this, taken together, is the irony of politics. At the end of the day politics is just business and asset management. The frenzied actions of politicos asserting their salaried positions in office. It’s plain to see how this stuff can appear totally boring to young people. Politicians have been suitably branded as “uncool” and therefore not worth it. Blame PM Harper’s normcore hairstyle and his World’s Most Boring News Capsule, 24 Seven. Or that Quebec’s Liberal leader Philippe Couillard reeks of “dad” and PQ’s Pauline Marois is a snore (except in GIF form). And the other two? Bandwagoners.

I decided to call someone who cares. Alison Maynard is part of the Vote It Up campaign, created by the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) in association with Quebec’s Chief Electoral Office. Vote It Up is a non-partisan organisation aimed at the specific demographic of 18-35 year old Anglophones in the upcoming provincial election. I asked Alison why young people aren’t voting:

“Accessibility and motivation are the top two reasons why youth are less likely to vote. Generally there is a lack of motivation, in that youth don’t see a significant difference between political parties, and don’t have an enjoyable experience throughout the process of voting.

“According to Elections Canada, youth are more likely to vote when they are contacted directly by a political party. If there is low voter turn-out by youth, political parties are not reaching out enough to this demographic. For the first time, polling stations will be setup in educational institutions across the province, which will hopefully increase youth voter turn-out.”

In an attempt to remedy this, Vote It Up is running a comprehensive social media campaign, as well as offering a rundown of each major party’s platform. The info has been distilled down by issue and is useful even for old farts like myself to get a sense of what each party is on about.

Why the focus on young Anglophones? Alison continues: “English-speaking Quebec is a diverse, confident, recognized and respected national linguistic minority that actively participates in and contributes to the social, economic, cultural and political life of Quebec and Canadian society. English-speaking youth represent 15% of the total youth in Quebec, while the total population of youth (both Francophone and Anglophone) is 2 million, representing 25% of the population of Quebec.”

At the end of the day, electioneering, like the Radiohead song, is a wailing, cowbell-driven, hot mess that often feels as though it is going nowhere. But we can’t leave it at that. We have to own it, own our roles as citizens of Quebec, no matter how “meh” or “un-cool” it may seem. The Casseroles ignited a spark in Montreal’s youth, we have to find a way to keep that burning. Did the Quebec Charter of Values smother or fan that flame? I suppose that on April 7, Quebec will find out.

This blog also appeared on The Huffington Post Canada

Literary Death Match: Less Slam and More Smack-Down

I shall be guest judging at Montreal’s upcoming Literary Death Match, where poets try to, uh, out-read each other. I like the competitive angle — there’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek here, too — poetry readings should be fun, less “slam” and more “smack-down.”

Anyway, I’m supposed to give hilarious and constructive criticism, which really makes me wish I could be a little drunk for this event. But, alas, I will be 8 months pregnant. Which (total change of subject) brings me to the internal chuckle I get out of the mileage I’ve gotten out of that portrait. In reality, I feel like an over-inflated balloon has been implanted under my skin, while I get my lungs and intestines repeatedly punched and kicked by the small person growing inside me. IRL, I look like this:

Still TOTALLY HOT, I know. I can’t help that….insert smiley face of your choice, most likely 😛 to denote deep sarcasm….

Montreal’s 3rd Literary Death Match will be held Sept 18th at La Sala Rossa. Show starts at 7PM. Click here for FB event info.

Pregnant Natalia photo by Murray.

New Blog in Which I Extol Montreal’s First Maker Faire

Lately I’ve been obsessed with today’s musical climate. Too long have I agonized over this sentiment, trying to reconcile whether “it’s just me” or if music has evolved into a new beast with unusual behaviours I no longer understand.

As is well documented on my blog, I feel as though apathy has taken over music, especially in “indie” rock. And although I must continue to conduct myself within the music industry’s walls, I am merely moving about its hollow carcass as a means to an end. So instead of continually raging against the music machine, or, alternately, risking being that crusty old hipster at the back of the dubstep show, I will put it out of my mind. Modern music, I am done with thee.

As a result, I have turned my mind to creativity on a global level. What keeps me going is the knowledge that people are still putting their souls into things. How do I know? Because it is in our human nature to create, it is what separates man from beast. Except maybe these guys.

I’ve found a new creative optimism in technology and the wonderment of science. Undoubtedly fraught with its own demons of commercialization, to me the tech world still wears a virginal shroud, an unpretentious Eden yet to be explored. Programming, artificial intelligence and robotics are elements that represent, to me, the possibility for expression and reflection of humanity in infinite ways. Not to mention space exploration. It’s partially why I’ve started writing fiction, specifically speculative fiction: for the creative freedom.

How do I jump from there to here? From music to tech, in one simple step? I’m not sure I can answer that, but as a mother of a seven-year-old with another along the way, the future is, quite simply, more meaningful. Dare I say, more relevant?

Next weekend I’ll be taking my family to Montreal’s inaugural Mini Maker Faire. Having followed some of the activities at the flagship Maker Faires, I am beyond pumped to go. Labelled as a “festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness,” I can only imagine the range of ideas — from crafts to Arduino-controlled machines — individuals catering to their imaginations and simply creating for creation’s sake.

For a long while, music was fun, an exploration. But somewhere along the way it became a one-dimensional business that lost its naïveté. I long for those carefree days, but know it will never be 1998 again. In our current tech-drenched world, storytelling and expression exist in a multiverse. And as music continues to evolve, I can rest easy knowing that there is a place where I can continue to to the same.

Upcoming Canadian Faires:

Montreal Mini Maker Faire (Parc Olympique): August 25 & 26, 2012

Calgary Mini Maker Faire (East Village Riverwalk): September 8, 2012

Ottawa Mini Maker Faire (Shopify Lounge): October 13 & 14, 2012

This post also appears on the Huffington Post.

Thursday 19 April: A Reading!

They spelled my name wrong and everything! I haven’t done a reading in over a decade, so this should be interesting. See you there.

Matrix Mixtape: An Antithetical Shout Out

Consider picking up a copy of the Winter 2011 edition of Matrix Magazine. A literary mag out of Montreal, this issue was guest edited by Rob Benvie. It includes a piece that I wrote called #DeathToWisdom, which I would describe as a danse macabre with cloud computing. I’ll eventually put it up on the Scribd, but for now will allow the print issue some shelf life.

I would also include a link to the magazine website, but it has been down for weeks. I shall restrain myself from making any editorial comment on this matter.

Lucky Number 13! Also inside: Litpop Winners!

Underground Sounds

On Monday, August 23rd I’ll be returning to my old stomping ground: CKUT. I spent about 4 years co-hosting Underground Sounds on CKUT with Agata De Santis. Now Agata is leaving the show – after 15 years of holding down the fort. On Monday the dream team reunites as I join Agata as co-host of Underground Sounds.

Underground Sounds has been a show on CKUT since, well, forever. The show mandate is to promote local and independent music, with an overall emphasis on Canadian bands and artists. I learned a lot doing that show, and really liked the rock’n’roll boot camp afforded by volunteering at the station. In addition to hosting the show I was given a weekly stack of promo CDs to listen to and categorise for the station’s music library. I can’t imagine, nearly ten years since I left the station, how they’ve managed to maintain an ever-growing library that was already bursting at the seams, like a mini musical archive, walls lined with vintage vinyl on bowing shelves.

Anything I wanted to hear was there, anything I’d heard about or read about, I could listen to and I felt really lucky to have that privilege…just by being a volunteer. I suppose that these days this isn’t such an exclusive thing – everything is digitised now and can be previewed usually for free on the internet. I was at CKUT between 1996-2000, in the years before the internet broke and the term “MP3” was in its infancy.

All of this “radio talk” has got me to thinking: podcast? The idea’s been floating around in my mind for a few weeks now, but I was always troubled by the idea of what I would fill a podcast with. I’m totally stoked to be going back to CKUT, even if it’s just for one night because it’s got the ideas flowing…maybe I should go back on a more regular basis? And who are the new kids hanging out at the station? What’s the vibe over there? CKUT continues to have some really great music programming: if you haven’t already, consider listening to shows like The Lion’s Den, New Shit, Roots Rock Reggae, Positive Vibes, and the quintessential 90’s Montreal rock show, Aack! Check the programming grid for downloads of all these shows. Consider it a lesson in what makes this city tick.

Radio has certainly changed a lot, since the fall of the “analog” or “physcial” music industry. Everything is digital now, and local radio is less about who is listening locally and more about the city that informs it’s programming. The popularity and portable-ness of online media has pretty much allowed radio to remain relevant. Stations like WFMU in Jersey City really set the bar: local freeform radio without commercial constraints, supported by a far-reaching community of dedicated listeners. Music “culture” has become so sadly diluted by corporate incentives, marketing bravado, hidden subtexts and carbon-copy, cookie cutter bands. And all that totally drains the soul out of art.

CKUT has remained pretty much un-compromised, with music shows curated by music lovers for music lovers. Take a listen, volunteer for an afternoon, support your local station.

Underground Sounds: Tune in and listen: Monday August 23rd from 8-10PM EST on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal and online at ckut.ca. I’ll also post a link to the show/podcast once it is archived. Call us while we’re on the air on Monday: 514.448.4013.

Use the comments below to let me know if you think I should make a second go of this radio thing. Would you download/listen to my podcast?

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.