Albums of the Year: 2016

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Nick Cave – Let Love In

Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree (2016)

Andy Shauf – The Party (2016)

Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

Temples – Sun Structures

John K Samson – Winter Wheat (2016)

John Moreland – High on Tulsa Heat

Basic Nature – Circles and Lines

Varioius Artists – Native North America, Vol I (2016)

Kacy and Clayton – Strange Country (2016)

Big Thief – Masterpiece (2016)

Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math (2016)

Chris Cohen – As If Apart (2016)

Chixdiggit! – 2012 (2016)

Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate (2016)

Ancient Shapes – Ancient Shapes (2016)

Bully – Feels Like

Mo Kenney – In My Dreams

It’s hard to skip Christmas when you’re in Ukraine.

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Lyrics of the Month: November 2016 – Nick Cave

They’re gonna lay me low (Lay me low)
They’re gonna sink me in the snow
They’re gonna throw back
their heads and crow
When I go

They’re gonna jump and shout (Lay me low)
They’re gonna wave their arms about
All the stories will come out
When I go

All the stars will glow bright (Lay me low)
My friends will give up the fight
They’ll see my work in a different light
When I go

They’ll try telephoning my
mother (Lay me low)
They’ll end up getting my brother
Who’ll spill the story on some
long-gone lover
That I hardly know

Hats off to the man
On top of the world
Come crawl up here, baby
And I’ll show you how it works
If you wanna be my friend
And you wanna repent
And you want it all to end
And you wanna know when
Then take a bow
Do it now Do it any old how
Make a stand Take my hand
And blow it all to hell

They’ll inform the police chief (Lay me low)
Who will breathe a sigh of relief
He’ll say I was a malanderer,
a badlander, and a thief
When I go

They will interview my teachers (Lay me low)
Who’ll say I was one of God’s
sorrier creatures
There’ll be informative six-page features
When I go

They’ll bang a big old gong (Lay me low)
The motorcade will be ten miles long
The world will join together for a
farewell song
When they put me down below

They’ll sound a flugelhorn (Lay me low)
The sea will rage, the sky will storm
All man and beast will mourn
When I go

Hats off to the man
On top of the world
Crawl over here, baby
And we can watch this damn thing turn
If you wanna be my friend
And you wanna repent
And you want it all to end
And you wanna know when
Well do it now
Don’t care how Do it any old how
Take my hand Make a stand
And blow it all to hell

Nick Cave, Let Love In, Lay Me Low

Oppression is Reality

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There’s this man that sits in the front left seat at the movie theatre and he’s always there. He has with him a copy of the free newspaper or a novel and is only ever there by himself. When something he deems comical happens in the film, he lets out a laugh like you’d hear in a country western movie, a croak of a chuckle. He sits through the credits and probably doesn’t drive home because he wears a scarf to keep him warm when he walks. I leave the theatre and I expect to see him there again when I return, waiting in the front left seat.

My stomach flipped and my feet went numb and I couldn’t stop myself from desperately screaming “Shut up!” at the MC on stage. He wore a pretend cowboy hat and hoodie with an anarchist circle-A on the front. I’m not usually the heckler.

“Did anyone watch the news the last two days?” he asked the audience earlier, just before I shouted him off-stage. “I hear they’ve got a new president down there. It may seem bad, but I guarantee you, because of it, we are going to have four years of the best punk music that you’ve ever heard in your lives!” he said excitedly. Punk music is an industry, apparently, like the weapons industry, agri-business, pharmaceuticals, private prisons–it profits off the misery of others. So I booed him. I fucking booed him and he got off stage to let the band play. Protest works. The opening band got on stage and sang ten songs exclusively about baseball, a man dancing around in a jockstrap, his exposed ass jiggling on-stage.

I gave up. Halfway through the baseball band’s set, I walked to the coat rack next to the arcade game to hang up my jacket. The man from the movies sat at the bar of the music venue reading a book, sipping on a non-alcoholic beverage. He lifted his head once or twice during a song to see what was going on onstage. I don’t see him leave and I don’t see him stay.

He isn’t real. I’m convinced. He appears and disappears like a phantom or a projection or a conscience or a prophecy. A wake-up call that I haven’t yet woke up. Maybe the man on stage wasn’t real either. His hat was far too ridiculous and his hoodie far too ironic and his speech far too annoying to be a real person. Maybe he was a construct of my disillusionment in the so-called progressive, socially-minded left, a culmination of that and the realization that aggressive music rooted in anti-establishment values is long dead. I feel as though I’m dreaming all of the time.

The farm had five kittens. They wrestled, kneaded the dog’s fur, climbed trees, licked hands, did somersaults. Any spare chance between chores or before coming in for lunch, I played with them. I picked one up and held it and pet it until it purred or until it jumped out of my hands onto the gravel driveway. The cats registered in me no joy. I expected to have this feeling where my chest flitted and my body felt light, but that never came, even when they gently chewed on my finger or mewed on my shoulder. Like they were an emotionless dream, a non-reality.

After the week on the farm when I end up in the same, unchanged, cell-like apartment after playing with kittens at sunset on a cattle-ranch in the hills, after travelling the world with a successful musical act, after camping alone in the woods for a week–when I end up lonely with a sore throat in my empty apartment, I can’t help but wonder how those things could possibly have actually happened.

I want to ask friends if we actually went camping in the woods, if we actually kissed, if those kittens were actually purring, but their responses would be unimportant. If you ask someone in a dream if you’re dreaming, they have no existential obligation to say yes.

I woke up in the basement of the farmhouse, maplebugs crawling on the sheets, American flags attached to a latch-hook rug of a First Nations man in a headdress on the wall. This can’t be real either, I figured. I didn’t know what happened the night before. I didn’t know because I went to sleep before Trump’s acceptance speech. That it happened when I was dreaming dystopian post-election dreams didn’t help me when I woke up wondering if it was reality that a man endorsed by the KKK was the ruler of the ‘free world’. It’s not that I couldn’t believe that there were enough people in one country that held his same values, I’ve met enough people in my life to know that it is more than possible. I went upstairs and Fox News confirmed what had happened. I’m still asleep, I figured.

Intellectuals such as Chomsky and Hedges and Nader predicted it five and ten years ago. They saw a population of working class whites abandoned by liberal governments selling their privacy, their healthcare, their jobs to corporations, leaving a political climate ripe for fascist rulers. Prophesy doesn’t help ground me in reality, it simply makes it more dream-like.

As I struggle in my own crisis of absolute reality, women, the LGBTQ community, First Nations, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics shout to me to affirm that it is indeed reality. Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors shout at the world for support. It is their reality. Reality hits; just because it doesn’t affect a person of privilege doesn’t make it not real. The ‘it doesn’t really affect me’ mentality is rooted in privilege and denies humanity to those who it does affect. If this election doesn’t affect you, if this pipeline doesn’t affect you, meet someone that racism does affect in your own community, and then instantly, it does.

The ‘unaffected’ non-American struggling with the facts of our new-found political situation, struggling with the idea of a race war between our next-door-neighbours, need to show support in ways more than just internet solidarity. In ways more than writing blogs, stories, songs, tweets. We can learn if our bank supports and funds oil pipelines and change to a new bank. We can boo Trudeau, the neo-liberal asshole in the ridiculous hat, off the fucking stage. If we sit and let him talk, he’ll be up there for hours, masturbating to the sound of his own voice, until we all realize that we are subject to more than just an unfortunate exchange rate when we want to holiday south, but to the inconceivable reality of facist rule.

The man in the movie theatre isn’t real. He is a delusion caused by stress and anxiety and depression and terrifying elections and the feeling of being completely helpless. Or he is real and he is now sitting at home with purring cats watching the latest election news. I won’t know either way until I go up to him and ask him what he thought of the movie. The MC on the stage isn’t real until he beats the shit out of me for heckling him. The kittens aren’t real until one of them lives in my apartment and scratches my leg. The only way these things become reality is if we allow them into our lives. Oppression isn’t our reality until someone we love has been oppressed. When this happens we can begin to relate with people we have never met who are calling for help to be saved from the hands of those in power.

This becomes our reality when we share in the oppression of our neighbour, and when it becomes our reality, when someone we love is oppressed, we will have no option but to act.

 

Lyrics of the Month: September 2016

Stumbling drunk off a bus downtown
You’ve got it bad for the system
‘Cause you know it let you down
You see the marks on the whores
And the dimes they lent you
And your paranoia soars
On the wings of your dementia

Without a system that compels
The growth of human compassion
Its a face that will never change
Nobody’s well when even one soul suffers
We’re bound by circumstances
We can’t dissarrange
Does shame prevent you
From engaging in the indigents struggle

Just filling up a vacancy
With nothing new to live for
When I was young and naive
I believed I could be so much more
Out of touch with a world
That never cared or knew me
More dead than alive
when you stare right through me

Its a face that will never, never change
never change
You could be the one
With your hand held out

Good Riddance, Bound By Ties of Blood and Affection, Shame, Rights & Privilege

Borden Bridge

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Ten Years

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It is ten years to the day that I started writing Balls of Rice.

If you read from the painfully embarassing first post, to the lost and meandering most recent post, you’d see how I went from proud flag-loving Canadian to dissident anarchist-in-training. You can see a public journal of mental health. Ten years later I still don’t know why I write, still don’t know what I’m doing with my life, still eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches for supper. All I know is that Balls of Rice has both saved my life and ruined it.

Naturally, the only posts worth reading were written in the last four years. The six years before that was trial and error, with more error than anything. These days there is less trial and about the same amount of error. The list below is not a list of the best writings, because reading over every single post could only end in crushing depression. But these ones are alright, I think.

Thanks to whoever has read this in the past decade for the encouragement. If it weren’t for you, I’d probably be a successful engineer by now. Instead I’m a squatter in the back of a pizzeria.

Thanks for still reading, mom and dad. Oh you stopped reading it in 2012?

Yeah. Me too.

 

Notable Posts:

Realistic Ideas – August 30, 2012

Losing Faith – December 2, 2012

Cheap Attempts at Warping History – April 2, 2013

Dear Mouse, – September 17, 2014

I wasn’t shot dead in the CN Railyard – December 29, 2015

Still don’t know – July 26, 2016

Planetarium

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I’m still nauseous from the planetarium.

I went in a bout of depression to remind myself that I am infinitesimal and insignificant and that my depression is illogical. Because logic has so much to do with it. I have a friend who uses the opposite idea, that the fact that there is life on earth means that we are significant, the only discovered life in hundreds of millions of planets. Like all I needed was more pressure of being one of the few pieces of life in the universe. But now they’ve found a seemingly habitable exoplanet, and I am back to not knowing what to think.

In the first planetarium segment, Harrison Ford spoke of life outside our solar system in an already out-of-date presentation. In the second presentation, a man with a bow-tie forgot that his job was entertaining and educating children, and made a dizzy unplanned flight to the edge of the galaxy and back.

I stepped into the sunlight and ate some trailmix on a downtown picnic table. My biggest worry was not the sun exploding (because I learnt that it won’t) or finding out that life is ubiquitous (because it undoubtedly is), but how to write anything ever again when I don’t believe in anything ever at all. It’s easy to be a nihilist as a white hetero male. Because you know everything on earth sucks but you don’t have to worry about being shot in a racist province or having to stand up for your rights in order to survive. So you can get away with thinking that nothing matters.

I printed a star map for when I go camping next month. I started telling people that I was going on a self-planned writing retreat in the remote woods. Until I got scared of writing. Now I tell people I’m going camping. The only reason I’m sitting here writing this horseshit is as an experiment, to see if my chest implodes or if the world loses its orbit with the sun and flies into outerspace and we all freeze to death instantly. To show myself that my writing, no matter how good or bad, isn’t the last remaining key to sweeping social change, but that it’s just writing to make me feel human, that other humans might relate to. It is no more a noble craft than scrubbing toilets.

I’ll use the star map to point me from the Big Dipper to Arcturus to Bootes to Cygnus to pretend I can see Kepler-186f. And Kepler-186f will whisper in my ear that there are plenty of things that matter, such as advocating for social justice, and scrubbing the toilets of the known universe, also known as, writing.

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Still don’t know.

Di Fara Pizza

A man walks down a dark Brooklyn side street with his pants at his ankles, genitals flailing. I am looking for pizza. Legitimate conerns are raised about that man getting shot by police but we push on to get some garlic knots at Ganni’s at midnight.

The Republican convention wraps up and everyone I know, including myself, fears the next four years, but knows full well they’ll survive it. The man walking down the Brooklyn side street, the newly arrived Syrian refugees, the Central American blamed with stealing American jobs, don’t have the privilege of knowing the same thing. In Hedges’ 2010 book Death of the Liberal Class, Chomsky prophesies of a population that seeks out fascism because of a series of politicians beforehand who have sold the rights of the population to corporate power. All they need, he says, is a charismatic leader who tells it like it is. And now he warns this.


“How much is this one?” I ask.

“Which one?” the shopkeep asks.

“The all black one with gold numbers.”

“$10.” He pulls it out, puts it on my wrist, it fits and feels as though I haven’t wore a watch in fifteen years, which I haven’t.

“Great.” I place $10 on the table.

“This one is $15,” he says. I place five more dollar bills on the table and leave, feeling as though I have paid the 50% tourist tax necessary to create a balance in the inequality of wealth that I have benefited from my entire life. The tourist tax necessary to quell my own personal guilt for existing in a marketplace and quitting my community job to travel the world for free. The watch looks great and hasn’t died yet. It fits oddly on my bulging ulna bone.

I finish my $9 juice and sit on a bench, calling my credit union and credit card company to tell them that I am in fact in the US and that no, my cards have not been compromised, and that yes, I’d like to withdraw money from my accounts so I can spend more money on American juice.

I loosen the watch strap one notch to relieve the sweat that accumulates under it in the New York humidity in what will likely be the 15th consecutive hottest month on record. I bought a watch so I could avoid pulling my phone out of my pocket so I could avoid wrecking my pants pockets so I could avoid buying new pants so I could avoid buying pants from a hellish factory in south east asia. And so I could avoid using my phone at all. My vain attempts at personal change are conscience clearing but not effective. I still don’t know how to live a life that affects change or isn’t dripping in privilege. You think by 27.667 years of life you’d know everything there is to know in the world.

 

 

Lyrics of the Month: June 2016 – Neko Case

Everything’s so easy for Pauline
Everything’s so easy for Pauline
Ancient strings set feet a light to speed to her such mild grace
No monument of tacky gold
They smoothed her hair with cinnamon waves
And they placed an ingot in her breast to burn cool and collected
Fate holds her firm in its cradle and then rolls her for a tender pause to savor
Everything’s so easy for Pauline

Girl with the parking lot eyes
Margaret is the fragments of a name
Her bravery is mistaken for the thrashing in the lake
Of the make-believe monster whose picture was faked
Margaret is the fragments of a name
Her love pours like a fountain
Her love steams like rage
Her jaw aches from wanting and she’s sick from chlorine
But she’ll never be as clean
As the cool side of satin, Pauline

Two girls ride the blue line
Two girls walk down the same street
One left her sweater sittin’ on the train
The other lost three fingers at the cannery
Everything’s so easy for Pauline

-Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Margaret Vs. Pauline