Category: Uncategorized

White Van Privilege

White Van Privilege follows the life of one white passenger van from conception to death: first roadtrip to final sale.

White Van Privilege is a collection of poems that considers the views from the front driver’s seat of a 2008 Chevy Express 15-Passenger van, and from standing next to a tent in a homelessness and drug-toxicity crisis made worse by a global pandemic. Turns out, the views are pretty similar.

All proceeds go towards my law school education with which I will use to rapidly dismantle the drug war and systemic racism, law by law, regulation by regulation. And/or authenticate your last will and testament. Either way.

Order today and there’s chance you’ll get it before December 25, but I doubt it.

ballsofrice.bandcamp.com/merch

Homeless Encampments: Connecting Human Rights and Public Health

“The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating long-standing issues related to homelessness, including lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, wealth inequality, and ongoing impacts of colonization. Homelessness is often accompanied by narratives rooted in individual blame, criminalization, and reinforcement of substance use and mental health related stigma. Visible homelessness, in the form of encampments, are manifestations of government policy failures that neglect to uphold the human right to housing, and demonstrate eroding investments in affordable housing, income and systemic supports. Encampments make visible that some in our community lack basic determinants of health such as food, water, sanitation, safety, and the right to self-determination. In order for public health to effectively and equitably promote health and enact commitments to social justice, we argue that public health must adopt a human right to housing and homeless encampments. Embracing a human rights perspective means public health would advocate first and foremost for adequate housing and other resources rooted in self-determination of encampment residents. In the absence of housing, public health would uphold human rights through the provision of public health resources and prohibition on evictions of encampments until adequate housing is available.”

See the entire article as a PDF here.

Lyrics of the Month: May 2021 – Conway Twitty

In Memory of Arnold Dean Wapan

He put his arms around her shoulder
And with a voice that sounded older
He said mom I’ve got something on my mind
I don’t want to bother you
But I sure need to talk to you
If you could only spare the time
And mom I hope you understand
How much I love and need you and
I don’t want you to take this the wrong way
But don’t you think I’m old enough
And big enough and strong enough to play
The games that daddies play

My friend Billy Parker’s dad
Came by today to see me and
He wondered if I’d like to go
With him and Billy on a hike
And maybe camp out overnight
The way I’ve seen them do in picture shows
And there’s one thing I’d like to do
And maybe if I asked him to
He’s sit and talk to me man to man
We’d only be gone overnight
And I could find out what it’s like to play
The games that daddies play

She quickly turned to hide the tears
From her son of seven years
He didn’t know she’d read between the lines
He’d never really known his dad
And although he’d never ask
She knew exactly what was on his mind
She searched her mind in desperation
Six long years of separation
Dimmed the words she knew she had to say
I hope you’re never big enough
Or old enough or bold enough to play
The games that daddies play

I know you need and want his love
But son, you’re the victim of
Another kind of games that daddies play

It takes a pandemic to raise a fuck

FULLSIZERENDER.jpeg

Two bags of tortilla chips in hand, corn starch in my hoodie pocket, I pushed my skateboard over the speedbump, foot hit wheel and I land horizontal, Old Dutch Lightly Salted tortilla chips expectorate from the plastic bag, obliterated between my hip and asphalt. They lay scattered, shattered.

“That thing’s even more dangerous than downhill skiing” the old man with a gouged face said about my skateboard, from the sidewalk as I limped away. “I used to downhill ski. I used to downhill ski!” he shouted at me from a social-distance as I walked home.

The pandemic gave me six rotting avocado from work, and two jugs of expired goat milk. Chips were for guac. Corn starch for chocolate pudding. When a pandemic gives you rotting avocados, make hip-smashed rib-bruised guac.

We hand out unwashed apples and pipes and rigs and hand santizer and swabs and tinfoil and glass tubes and everything you might need to function and feel better and forget for a minute that we live in a movie now. A movie you always loved when the main character gets bit and they don’t know if they’re infected or not and if they can pass it on to everyone else they love in the film.

One person said they’re getting moved to one of the 35 hotel rooms made available by the city and the province. They are keeping it on the downlow. Don’t tell anyone. Thirty-five hotel rooms for four-hundred people. The guy who couldn’t get his shot in, is rooming with, well he can’t actually count there’s so many, a bunch of roommates in a motel room. But if they all sit in each corner, they are six feet away.

We make handwashing stations from Boy Scout schematics and hand out granola bars from behind a table. You’re only allowed one juice box a day in the apocalypse.

Everyone, yes everyone, yes everyone, knew it was a problem. But it takes a pandemic to raise a fuck. Only when the socially-distanceable, the quarantineable are scared for their own lives does safe supply make sense, does housing everyone become understood as imperative to health, do public washrooms with sinks and soap become humane. It takes a pandemic to raise a fuck.

Support important work on the street by the Indigenous Harm Reduction Team (I-HEART): https://fundrazr.com/streetsurvival?ref=ab_6TO124zHCMh6TO124zHCMh

 

MEN WITH SIGNS Book Release Party

 

Please come out to the MEN WITH SIGNS Book Release event on Feb 21 at Spartacus Books in Vancouver BC.

Order the new book and download an audiobook from ballsofrice.bandcamp.com.

[Art by Alex Murray (atmmurray[at]gmail.com)]

Albums of the Year: 2018

Foxwarren – S/T

Tik Tu – Shuma

No Name – Room 25

Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar

Faim – 7″

Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance

John Prine – S/T

The Weather Station – S/T

Jennifer Castle – Angels of Death

Books of the Year: 2018

Go, Went, Gone – Jenny Erpenbeck

Fighting for Space – Travis Lupick (read my book review here)

The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin

The Break – Katherina Vermette

The People’s History of the Russian Revolution – Neil Faulkner

2312 – Kim Stanley Robinson

World of Apples – John Cheever

Legalizing Drugs – Steve Rolles

Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

As We Have Always Done – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Policing Black Lives – Robyn Maynard

Neil Degrasse Tyson – Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

America: A Farewell Tour – Chris Hedges

Malcolm X: An Autobiography – Alex Haley

East End

This story first appeared at Poached Hare. It is now available as an audiobook here, and for sale in book form, here

I think I’ll walk to the East End. Yeah, the East End. I got some stuff I need to get out there. I’ll come back down to Lester’s place later, ‘cause he’s got a place now. He’s not answering the door, but he’s not going anywhere. Can’t even walk. It’s only a hour and a half walk from downtown. I’ll go straight down and maybe warm up at the McDonalds. I’m already at the big trees around the hospital. Might as well keep on going.

            Gotta step over that pile of snow that someone left. Just shovelled to the end of their property. Not a damn millimetre more. Give me a shovel and I’d shovel the whole block. Give me a house and I’d have a sidewalk to shovel. Give me $20 and I’ll shovel whatever you want for a hour. Give me $20 and I’ll shovel the bullshit coming outta your mouth.

Click here to read the rest of the story…

Advocating for Alcohol Harm Reduction Policy in Regina, Saskatchewan, Round 2

To read a literature review on the topic of Managed Alcohol Programs, you can click the link below. The literature review was done by lead author Erin Nielsen and co-authored by Gabriela Novotna, Rochelle Berenyi, and myself.

To read CBC Saskatchewan’s coverage on it, you can click here.

 

Review: Postcards from the End of America

The book review below first appeared in Briarpatch Magazine’s September/October 2017 edition

Postcards from the End of America
By Linh Dinh
Seven Stories Press, 2017

Bob, a 60-year-old Safeway employee from Florence, Oregon, is counting on the store staying afloat. “At my age,” he says, “it will be hard to get hired again. I don’t want to move to the city to find another job.” Before working at Safeway, he worked 31 years in a sawmill. Bob blames environmentalists on the east coast, trying to protect the endangered spotted owl, for the death of the industry that once employed his town. “Since our logging industry is mostly dead, we have to buy lumber from overseas, from people who really don’t give a hoot about the environment.”

Bob is one of the many disenfranchised workers interviewed in Linh Dinh’s book, _Postcards from the End of America_. The book contains collected essays and observations made through several years of domestic travel, originally published in various online journals, like long, descriptive letters home from towns of crumbling infrastructure as though they were tourist hotspots.

While there was widespread controversy in the 1990s about West Coast logging, Postcards analyzes Oregon and other former industrial and manufacturing centres in the U.S. that have been hollowed out by governments and corporate rule. Rather than pitting environmental justice against economic justice, Dinh impresses upon readers that environmental and other progressive movements need to accommodate and support workers of all industries; the common cause of both economic and environmental precarity is capital, Dinh points out, not social movements.

Across the U.S., cities that were once economic boom towns are now facing unemployment, poverty, homelessness, addiction, and crime. Places such as Trenton, New Jersey, one of many visited by Dinh, is famous for the Warren Street bridge over the Delaware River adorned with the lit-up phrase TRENTON MAKESTHE WORLDTAKES; it is a reminder that Trenton was once a manufacturing hub for products used around the world. A hundred years later, the slogan reads more like a bitter homage to trade deals that have left towns like Trenton in the dust.

Dinh travels by bus and train, stopping in former and current industrial metropolises such as Osceola, Iowa; Kensington, Pennsylvania; and Williston, North Dakota, snapping photos of individuals he meets (20 of which appear in full colour in the book), to survey the social landscapes. He often wanders to the nearest bar, for no matter the size or unemployment rate of a town, there is always a vendor of cheap alcohol that carries with it a rough but undeniable sense of community. These places are often the best indicator of the health and economic state of a society. In bars and on street corners, in buses and under bridges, Dinh interviews individuals tethered to the rising and falling industries that have ruled and abandoned their hometowns. Dinh gives voice to those who are rarely heard in mainstream journalism, sharing their stories of underemployment and struggle, occasionally offering simple context for how things got to be the way they are in each particular city. Many he meets blame governments for their hardships, while others, like Misfit, a bartender in Chester, Pennsylvania, believe reports that the country is in an economic recovery. Dinh lays bare pieces of their stories, at times abruptly, without forcing too much commentary, allowing the weight of their lived experience to be felt by the reader.

Dinh never makes his way to Canada, but his portraits of urban and industrial America could easily be those of Canada’s industrial and extractive regions. With Trudeau’s Liberal government approving pipelines and maintaining their commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canadian communities are not immune from being wholly abandoned by both government and its corporate rulers, leaving the Canadian countryside filled with towns and social-scapes like those in Dinh’s postcards; in fact, this is already happening. The resource bust in Western Canada has left thousands of people without work and entire communities struggling to meet their needs, even while political campaigns left and right hawk promises of prosperity. When the industries dry up, the companies that once put towns on the map move off to exploit the land elsewhere, leaving the communities with skeletal social supports and no means of income. One admirer of Dinh’s writing, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, refers to these areas as sacrifice zones: places in which entire communities are permanently impaired by profit-chasing corporations that fatally ignore the effects of their decisions on human life, the environment, and communities. In selling off public assets to corporate control and privatizating once-public services, Trudeau and his provincial and municipal counterparts are in many ways propelling Canada into an economic situation mirroring the one described by Dinh.

Each entry was written in the final years of the Obama administration and the beginning of the Trump campaign phenomenon. Dinh’s purposeful portraiture of the financial ruin and the concurrent rise of Trump are not coincidental. Canada, with a shallow, amoral federal Liberal government that sold out its own citizenry to pipeline interests, and broke its own promises for economic and racial equality, is only setting itself up for a Trump-like oligarch to respond to the discontented masses whose employment situations will reflect those highlighted in Dinh’s prophetic book.

Dinh has no illusions about what has put so many Americans into unrecoverable poverty and poor health, and his exposé of the decline of the American empire is a call to Canadians to organize for real and lasting change in our own social, environmental, and economic landscape.