Categories
Student Life

Sex, drugs… not rock n’ roll

Date rape drugs are a very present danger.

Campus fun can get out of hand— especially during Orientation week where some frosh activities may include alcohol.

You might have one too many drinks. Let’s be honest—it happens. You are a froshie, running from bar to bar across Montreal with your new fellow classmates, filling and emptying your plastic cup. Beer is cheap.

There are drinking games like Kings Cup or Slap Cup, where odds are that you will walk away covered in booze. And even if you don’t drink alcohol and are merely having a pop with friends at a local bar, date rape drugs are more common than you might think.

The well-known ones are Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine. Maybe you are more familiar with the terms, “Special K,” “Party Drug,” or “Roofies.” These drugs have become known for their ability to incapacitate someone, allowing the attacker to commit crimes, such as sexual assault, robbery, and/or physical assault. Quite often, these drugs are both odorless and colorless.

Ketamine can be a clear liquid or a white powder. It’s actually still used to sedate children and animals for minor procedures. In large doses, according to the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OWH), it causes an “intensely dreamy feeling or deeply detached, hallucinogenic state.” This state is known as the “K-hole” because it might be difficult for the user to talk or move.

Rohypnol, on the other hand,  is usually found in tablet form. The white pill is small and round, and when slipped into your drink, it dissolves and becomes invisible, according to OWH.

Thirdly, according to the same source, GHB looks like water when in liquid form.

I think you get the point. It is not always helpful to know what the pills and powders look like, especially when they tend to be so discreet. They do not swirl around your drink with a banner that reads: “I am spiking your drink.” Most of the time, they are unnoticeable before the first symptoms, which start to kick in after 15-30 minutes.

Symptoms include, but are not limited to, the inability to think and judge clearly, difficulty moving, visual problems, nausea, confusion, and memory loss. Blackouts. All symptoms that could otherwise point to simply having had a few drinks too many.

“I’ve never felt so sick in my life,” said a Concordia student, who wishes to remain anonymous. She had rohypnol slipped in her cocktail at a bar. “I couldn’t stand and could barely move, and was throwing up constantly for over 24 hours, which is what’s scary if you go home with someone. You literally cannot leave your bed.”

In 2008, a study was conducted in the University of Windsor, which investigated the effect of voluntary and involuntary drug use in sexual assaults. A total of 280 undergraduates, 143 men and 137 women, were chosen at random from the participant pool in the Department of Psychology. April L. Girard and Charlene Y. Senn, the pioneers of this study, discovered that a total of 7 per cent of women reported “having men attempting to engage in or engaging in sexual intercourse against their will by giving them drugs or alcohol,” and a total of 3 per cent of men admit to “using these tactics to induce women to have sex against their will.”

Most people are aware that Ketamine, Rohypnol and GHB are considered date rape drugs, but so is alcohol.

“Any substance that is administered to lower sexual inhibition and enhance the possibility of unwanted sexual intercourse is potentially a date rape drug,” according to an article from the US National Library of Medicine, entitled “Drugs-facilitate date rape.”

In 2001, The Canadian Federation of Students reported that 90 per cent of the sexual assaults reportedly experienced by Canadian female students involved alcohol.

“I never leave [my drink] unattended for the reason that I do not want anyone to put anything in it,” said Evgenia Choros, a Concordia student.

“The crazy thing is that I was watching my drink all night, the guys my friends and I were talking to must have slipped the rohypnol in in a split second when I looked away,” said the Concordia student who chose to remain anonymous. “And they seemed like totally normal, nice guys too.”

So stick by your drink. Don’t make it easy for someone to slip something in it. Give it to a friend to watch over before racing off to the bathroom or outside for a cigarette break.

Categories
Arts

From mice to clouds and keeping your feet on the ground

The poetry of Bite Down Little Whisper draws on literature, history and mythology

To savour Don Domanski’s rhythms and sounds, Bite Down Little Whisper is meant to be read aloud. Whispered—late at night on the bus home after a long day of class, or early in the morning when travelling through the underground city.

Domanski, who was born and raised on Cape Breton Island, but now lives in Halifax, is no stranger to accolades, specifically that of the Governor General Award. Over the years, this award has become one of the most prestigious in Canada awarded in both French and English in seven categories. Domanski’s Wolf-­Ladder, Stations of the Left Hand and Bite Down Little Whisper were all shortlisted for the award, and in 2007, All Our Wonder Unavenged won the coveted prize.

With themes that range from mythologies to nature, Domanski’s Governor General Award nominated book, Bite Down Little Whisper, paints a canvas with poetic stanzas.

The book is divided into three sections: “Foresight by Earth,” “A Feral Trance,” and “The Light of Unoccupied Memory.” Every section touches upon science and mythology, the simple and complex, and the animate and inanimate.

With a glossary of terms at the back of the book, the reader is able to dive in further when the poet makes references to Taoism, Greek mythology, Egyptology, and the Celts. Not everyone may be familiar with the “painted child of dirt” from Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot by Alexander Pope, or “piquerism” which refers to the “sexual practice of perforating the skin of another person.”

Domanski never resorts to the cliché—his words are lesser known, but deliberate. A breath of fresh air with a side of Oxford.

Like a Vermeer painting, Bite Down Little Whisper focuses on the everyday life, the ordinary and mundane. Day and night, darkness and light in the immense and miniscule are recurring themes. From the space “between clouds the flickering self” to “the small field mice performing their black ops in weedlight,” Domanski combines the uncombinable and connects the unconnectable in the most logical way.

Such is the case in “First Folio of the Unwritten,” when the speaker compares the “thin space between butterfly/and pin between skin and star”. Or “In The Dooryard” where the speaker ponders about the rapture of children, then describes the millipedes below typing: “keep your feet on the ground,” in Times New Roman.

Sometimes, the speaker is singular in a poem, sometimes the plural “we” or “us” is used; it is never specified. Depersonalizing the speaker allows the reader to fill in the blanks with their own thoughts and memories. Domanski’s metaphors take on a different meaning with the act of re-­reading.

Bite Down Little Whisper is not a quick and easy read. It requires attention and the reader’s active participation in order to piece together the lack of punctuation, consecutive metaphors and the religious and mythological symbolism. But with a glossary of terms, and dictionary apps but a click away, there is no reason not to explore Domanski’s language.

Bite Down Little Whisper, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Governor General Award for English Language poetry is available for sale at Chapters Indigo.

 

Categories
Arts

The legendary tale of Space-Chap

Written by: Andy Fidel, Jocelyn Beaudet, Milos Kovacevic and Saturn De Los Angeles

“Tally-ho gents!” the Englishman’s voice boomed in the auditorium.

Graphic Jenny Kwan

Our hero of the hour, the one and only Space-Chap, puffed on his electronic pipe as the murmurs of the audience died out.

The delightful gentleman twirled his moustache, adjusted his brown tweed jacket and cleared his throat. Amazingly enough, Victorian fashion had not gone out of style in the year 3000 like many predicted in the great hipster revolution of 2020. But this event was not about style, nor the proclamation of enjoyment before popularity. Rather, this was good ole fashioned storytime with some chums.

Today’s tale is of the greatest adventure that Space-Chap had ever undergone: meeting the evil space-god, whose name none dare speak.

“Now if you would please insert the spinal whirlygig into your interface sockets, we can begin this great tale once-anew, yes?” Space-Chap told the crowd.

The neural transmitters and nano-machines of the memory-imaging machine (trademarked to none other than Space-Chap himself) would give the audience an extrasensory experience, in order that they might  relive every moment of the chap’s delightful adventure.

Of course, the audience began hooking up the device to the tiny hole drilled into the back of their necks.

“If there are no questions then?” Chap asked, walking towards the enormous contraption on the side of the stage.

“I have one!” a tiny, impish man from the back of the crowd exclaimed. Our hero met his gaze quizzically, but said nothing.

“What is the name of this beast whose name you refuse to reveal?”

“Well, I dare not say, sir. The very pronunciation would curl your hairs before they fall out of your head, your eyes would melt. Each syllable of its evil name would doom another generation of your kin, and I warn you good sir, it’s name is endless, like the darkest recesses of the universe folded upon themselves into a single being,” Chap said, his eyes staring off into space.

“So you don’t know its name then?” the impish man asked.

“I didn’t feel the need to ask. We weren’t exactly out at a dinner party, exchanging pleasantries over tea, crumpets.”

All the chums collectively leaned back in their chairs. The spinal whirlygigs began to heat up as images of a boy holding a rocket launcher appeared in their minds’ eye. This was rapidly intercut with moments of static.

“Don’t you move,” said a boy’s voice. “Or I’ll shoot.”

Meanwhile, space-chap continued to tap his way across the stage. Making frequent clicking noises with his tongue. A smile creased the old man’s face like a rotten apple when his cane hit the contraption. He opened the safety latch — Click — and held a finger over the red button.

“I mean it,” said the boy. “I will shoot.”

The helmet was far too big for the boy. He had to tilt his head back to see from underneath. And the leather straps were too tight. Pinched his chin whenever he took aim. The boy shut his left eye, listening to the war outside his home. The splatter of machine guns and the rumble of tanks that made pebbles dance and the ground tremble under his feet. Right eye fixed on his opponent: the large chalk drawing on the kitchen wall. A tall, lanky beast with a large appetite for trees.

Ka-Poosh! Ka-Poosh! Ka-Poosh!

He puffed his cheeks out and blew air through his fish-lips at every dull click. A light chuckle caught his attention. The boy’s mother shook her head as she passed him and headed straight for the faucet on the wall. She plunged her hands under the water, scrubbed and said “Who you shooting at, Chap?”

Red water and a pair of teeth slipped into the sewer grate.

“The evil space-god.”

The evil space-god was oozing out from its little cocoon it had nurtured from the tonnes of industrial waste it had been eating. They were accumulated from an extinct artificial garbage island in the middle of the ocean that used to exist centuries ago. Those machine guns and heavy artillery were leftover armour from a bygone Fourth Millenium war that was dumped on to that smelly isle.

Carrying a venomous, phosphorous-coloured and dangerously hot acidic substance from its dozen of voluptuous disgustingly morphed tentacles that complemented its scary physique, the vicious monster went on a marathon spewing a gallon’s worth of this substance on its desired target — the young, rebellious, handsome lad.

“Mom, don’t look, let’s run!” the boy hollered, drenched from all of the cleaning sludge that was left undone.

“What the hell are you trying to do? Don’t be a reckless jerk! We need to dig ourselves out of here,” argued the mother, who was exerting her last inkling of energy left.

In a desperate and unnecessary move, the boy latched away from his mom’s hand and pulled out a really strange looking ancient plastic toy instrument from his bag.

It was a magenta-coloured keyboard guitar, keytar for short. Adorned with enamel-coloured hearts decorated all over, it was one of those odd fusion instruments from the modern Renaissance of the 1980’s. He played a disgusting teeth-seething melody that he learned when he was in elementary, reminiscent of autotune-infested music sung by the fallen western pop divas of the early 2030’s.

Irritating as one would expect it to sound, the chords coming from the keytar was emitting this supersonic power. Something that was 80 and a half millihertz strong. Something that the space-god, who had a penchant for really distasteful music, had a fond weakness for.

All those generations listening to his mom’s ancient and uncool vinyl records were beginning to pay off.

“Take that, you stinking piece of crap!” he exclaimed in an odd moment of euphoria equivalent to a musical orgasm, except he was having a ball killing that beast.

The space-god began to melt away, something that no one was expecting to happen.

The impish man frowned inwardly, initiating cascades of ripples on the projection screens that were his eyelids. Something was odd. He attempted to banish the sights, to no avail. The images refused to vacate his neural pathways, refused to give way to the locals.

“No, this isn’t right at all,” he said, recoiling.

He had partaken of reminiscences enough to know this choppiness, this disjointed static, narration was a roll of forged, flat consciousness. Had he experienced a single odor, a single texture through the young protagonist’s hands? If this was story-time, its teller was a mute.

To add to his umbrage was the image of the keytar, that shameful vocation of his in the theatre days before he had reinvented himself as a gentleman. The spinal whirligig, not content with being a fraudulent contraption, was actively co-opting of his own memories, pushing him Persian rugs woven with tawdry threads. Could the others see what he saw, or did they all hear a distinct song tailored exclusively for them by the false minstrel whispering inside their head?

“Trumpery! Trumpery I say!” he yelled, reaching backwards to clear his neural port. But his arms did not obey, tied as they were. Violently he shook his head until the thing fell out and the show’s curtains rose to no applause.

And what a site to find oneself in! The rumbling, interpreted as tanks, was actually the humming of an enormous contraption on the stage, next to Space-Chap.

Too late, he felt something dislodge and slip by the pocket fabric, leaving a lightness about his heart. And then, like sperm racing to the egg, the chain-tailed ovals embedded themselves one after another in the gigantic magnet, from each and every one of the crowd, all but him still sedated and constrained by the armchair cuffs.

“Fraud!” he bellowed, regretting his naiveté. The brave, illustrious Space-Chap? No! Rather, a travelling charlatan with an eye for the pinnacle of Victorian masculinity: pocket watches.

“Why, Space-Chap? Why have you done this to us?”

“My good man,” said the caned shape, smoking his pipe. “They say time is money, and I expect a good return for putting on a show. But if you must truly know, I will tell you!”

And he began:

“It’s simple, gents. There always was an evil, nameless space-god. He feasts not on the souls of the young, the minds of the bright, or the complicated four dimensions of Euclidian geometry. Rather, it feeds on time, quite literally !” Space-Chap chuckled at his own cleverness.

The tiny impish man, who once defiantly demanded to know the space-god’s name, was still unsatisfied with this conclusion.

“That’s absurd!” he croaked with the vocal range of a nail scraping a chalkboard. “If all an elder god would require to thrive is the eating of clocks, why would he employ such an uncivilized ruse?! You are lying to us good sir!”

The fraudulent Space-Chap considered this statement, squinting with growing ire at the man that had seen through his ruse from the start. Silence permeated the room like a thick fog, as the stunned (and restrained) audience awaited a rebuttal from the chap in front. Gripped by the notion that they would finally understand the reason for the insanity of his story, the perplexed and odd behaviour, the utterly gauche notion of feeding clocks to a monster.

And then, Space-Chap uttered the words that explained it all, as his eyes bulged out of his skull, revealing slinky-like springs.

“I totally did it for the lulz!” he laughed maniacally, before exploding into a pile of gears, bolts and steam.

Categories
Arts

When zombies attack Concordia

You are sitting in class, waiting for the professor to hand back your assignment: the one you spent hours tweaking with coffee and peppermint tea until someone bangs on the door. You keep your eyes down on your paper and wait for your neighbour to get up. They scream. A zombie’s bit them.

Next thing you know a horde of biters shuffle into the classroom and start attacking peers, chewing their faces off. You slip out the back door and dodge the walkers in the hallway. Hopefully, you aren’t stuck on the tenth floor so you manage to get out of the Hall Building. Now what?

City outbreaks are the worst. Car alarms are blaring. People are running and fending off zombies with their backpacks and trying to climb up on the rooftops, but the staircases around campus are blocked off.

Just keep your head on a swivel. The Walking Dead have their prison; you’ve got The Grey Nuns Residence.

The residence can house over 200 students and is protected by an iron fence. You can use the park to grow your own sprouts and micro-greens year-round, and the desks and chairs and bookcases to arm up and prepare for a zombie ambush. There are even kitchenettes with coffee makers if anyone happens to raid out Tim Hortons on the way.

Fighters, go for the brain. If you can’t fight, bang on the fence to distract the undead.

“Stay tight, hold formation no matter how close the walkers get,” says Rick (S.3 Ep.2). “If anyone breaks ranks, we could all go down.”

Believe it or not, Concordia University has prepared us to survive through a zombie apocalypse. Most of the engineering students, the good ones anyways, will be an asset to the team. How many times do the lights go off when they are most needed? Electrical engineers will keep our residence up and running 24/7. Mechanical engineers are the masters of momentum, energy and heat transfer.

“Do you need a flamethrower? Do you need a machine gun? With their knowledge, mechanical engineers are weapons of destruction,” says Hao Yin, an electrical engineer.

English and History students wouldn’t be entirely useless so long as they have read or seen any zombie-related material. Except Warm Bodies. You’re trying to survive, not fornicate. Unless you stopped by the Queer Concordia office and got some free condoms. Remember kids: zombie apocalypse or no, practice safe sex.

Andrea Sun, former student, says she would burn her books for kindling and dissuade the group from making “fatally cliché mistakes.”

Students can also manage their stress under tight deadlines, and pull all-nighters.

“I’ve learned to expect little-to-no-sleep, so I’d be great for things like night watches,” says Domenica Martinello, creative writing and English literature student.

The exercise science department would know how to treat minor injuries like sprained ankles. Maybe even have the courage to amputate an infected limb. Or you could just go to McGill and get a real doctor.

We will need students from the greenhouse and People’s Potato if you want proper nutrition from our urban garden. Stingers to help fight back the zombie hordes. Psychology and biology students to keep ourselves from losing hope. Even philosophy majors would play a vital role because, let’s face it: zombies need to eat.

Be a hero. Odds are you won’t last very long as a supporting character. Once the area is safe, you can claim your single or double bedroom, and start being suspicious of other survivors who want to be part of ‘the group.’

Those who do not have their student I.D. cards will have to answer these questions:

Have you been bitten?

What is your major?

How many people have you killed?

Categories
Arts

Tourne au Rouge #8

Illustration by Jihane Mossalim

Grasping the cool iron bars of the birdcage, Todd watched the Shadow. It sat on its knees as it rummaged through a stack of used board games and puzzles. From above, he could hear the sound of footsteps and high-pitched voices arguing with each other. Todd wiped his runny nose on his sleeve while the Shadow grabbed the boxes, one after the other, and shook them to hear the pieces rattle. Then, it tossed them aside with obvious frustration.

Startled by the strange surroundings, Todd moved his whole body to look around. Model airplanes hung from the wooden beams. Dusty cobwebs filled each upper corner and on the wall beside Todd, pinned with a rusty nail, was a sepia-toned portrait of two boys. They were standing on the ice beside a large black hole. Quietly, Todd leaned forward to get a closer look. The photograph was damaged, nearly torn in half as though it had been folded too many times.

“That’s me,” said the Shadow, holding a green box with faded images of snakes and ladders, under its arm.

Todd flinched slightly, but the Shadow merely pointed to the short, plump boy with the pinched smile in the photograph. The Shadow shuffled its feet and muttered, “And that’s my brother, Jester.”

The taller boy had the same frozen expression. He held a fishing cane in one hand and had his other hand on his little brother’s shoulder. Todd’s eyes widened as he recognized the tall boy by his fiery red hair; it was Jester Thingrim, the old man who was after Anya.

“What do you want?” asked Todd in a small voice.

The Shadow sat cross-legged in front of the birdcage and set the board game on its lap. It brushed away ages of dust and dirt from the box with its long thin fingers and said, “A friend.”

“Friends don’t…“ Todd started to say, then thought better of it and closed his mouth.

Under Todd’s steady stare, the Shadow prepared the game: unfolding the board and setting it on the floor between them. Then he took two wooden tokens and set them on the board.

“Do you still want to play?”

Cautiously, Todd reached out as far as he could through the iron bars and picked up the dice. “What happened to you?” he asked, letting the dice roll around in his hand.

“I fell in the water,” said the Shadow. “And…”

“Are you a ghost?”

“I don’t think so,” said the Shadow. “Are you?”

“No!” Todd blurted out in surprise. A brief silence followed his words, and then the young boy furrowed his brows. “When can I see my sister?”

“Tomorrow.”

“What if I want to see her now?”

“You can’t,” said the Shadow, shaking its head. “It’ll make Jester mad.” It shuddered a bit and lowered its voice. “You don’t want to make him mad.”

“Let’s play a game,” said Todd, shaking the dice in his cupped hands. He blew into them long and hard. “If I win, you let me out.” He raised his hands high above his head. “And if you win, we can play another game.”

“Deal.”

Beneath a yellow pavilion, the children huddled around a large bucket of popcorn while they waited for their turn. Billy dug his hand to the bottom of the bucket to scoop out a couple of un-popped kernels as he observed the mime at the other end of the counter. She wore a black-and-white polka-dot dress with white ruffles around the neck and sleeves with a matching cowboy hat. Swiftly, she ripped children’s tickets with her teeth and gave them a shotgun in return.

Billy threw a kernel up in the air and caught it in his mouth. “Are you okay?” he asked Anya.

“Fine,” she snapped. She felt her blood boiling—not only did Todd run off again, but she spent all of her time worrying about her brother when she could have been looking for Ma. I should have asked Jester Thingrim when I had the chance, she thought to herself. “I just—”

A loud bang caught Billy’s attention. He pumped his fist in the air and shouted: “Woo-hoo!” cheering on a boy his age who finally hit one of the balloons after randomly shooting all over the place. When the children had finished their rounds, the mime collected the shotguns and made her way toward Billy. From the back pocket of his trousers, Billy pulled out his ticket and gave it to the mime as fast as he could. Anya held out one of hers as well.

“Billy,” said Miranda in a wheedling voice. “Can I have one of your tickets?”

Billy ignored her. His eyes were fixed on the mime. She chomped down on their tickets, and then swallowed them in a single gulp. A wide smile stretched across Billy’ face as he wrapped his fingers around the shotgun.

“Please.” Miranda tugged repeatedly at Billy’s sleeve. “I have to go to the Mirror Maze.”

Anger flashed across Billy’s face. He tried to pull his arm back, but the more he pulled the harder Miranda clung to him.

“No!” he said, thrusting her back.

Miranda squealed: “Hey!” and rubbed her right arm. “That hurt.”

Anya shifted uneasily. This was the first time Billy had raised his voice at Miranda. She watched his lips twitch into a grin as he cocked the gun and aimed at the nearest balloon. His finger pulled the trigger and—Bam!—the balloon exploded into little pieces of red rubber. He cocked the gun again and fired, this time hitting two balloons.

Irritated, Miranda’s nostrils flared. “Aren’t you going to say sorry?” she demanded. She was about to tap Billy again when a twinkle of light on the prize shelf caught her attention. Miranda reached out with her chubby finger to grab the tiara. But before she even got close, the mime slammed her fist on the counter. She jabbed a finger at the wooden sign beside her that read: 5 hits – 1 prize. Miranda rolled her eyes.

“If I win,” said Anya. “You can pick a prize.”

Instantly, Miranda’s eyes flashed.

For a moment, Anya fumbled with the shotgun. She had never seen a real gun before in her life, much less tried shooting from one. Imitating Billy, she clumsily positioned it on her shoulder and aimed. Anya winced when she fired. She had not expected the shotgun to have real bullets and felt a sharp pang in her shoulder as though someone had punched her.

“You missed!” said Miranda, disappointed. “Billy, please, can you do it? We only need one more hit.”

“I only have one ticket left,” said Billy as he put the shotgun down on the counter. “And I want to do something else.”

“I’m not very good,” said Anya, handing her shotgun over to Billy. “Here, you do it.”

“Are you sure?”

Anya said: “I’d do anything to get her shut up,” and winked.

“I won’t say a word,” plead Miranda. “Promise!”

Billy tried to hold back a laugh but it snorted out through his nose. He accepted the shotgun and leaned on the counter to get a better aim. There were no more balloons in front of him and those in front of Anya joggled too much in the wind. Miranda took a few steps back to let Billy concentrate until she noticed the red ticket in his back pocket. Unable to resist, she plucked it out.

A voice boomed from behind. “There is no stealing in this carnival.”

The children jumped and turned around to find Jester Thingrim towering over them. With a quick flick of the wrist, he swept the ticket out of her hand. He handed it back to Billy.

“I only got one ticket,” said Miranda, puffing out her chest. “It’s not fair. I want more.”

“More you shall have,” said Jester Thingrim with a grin. He snapped his fingers at the mime with the cowboy hat. Immediately she jumped over the counter and hurried over.

“Please escort little Miss Miranda back to the ticket booth,” he said, “where she can have all the tickets she pleases.”

“As many as I want?” said Miranda in an excited voice. She wrapped her arm around the mime and followed her willingly, her head held up high.

Anya watched Miranda disappear in the crowd of children, her eyes narrowing with suspicion. Then she turned around and faced Jester Thingrim. She was far more frightened of him than Miranda was, but eventually she said: “I want to find my mother.”

A smug grin formed along the edges of his mouth. “Come,” he said. “She’s waiting for you at the Carousel.”

“I already saw it,” said Anya. “She wasn’t there.”

“You didn’t look inside.”

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Categories
Arts

Tourne au Rouge #7

Illustration by Jihane Mossalim

Instinctively, Anya threw her up her hands to shield her face from the bright light. It reminded her of her step-mother; the way Mary-Anne would always sneak up on her when she least expected it and take a photograph. One time Anya almost broke Mary-Anne’s camera and she had to do extra chores around the house for an entire week.

Anya blinked, but for a moment everything was out-of-focus and the three old women were blurred together. The stool creaked when a pair of hands held up a roll of red tickets. Anya had to lean over to see what was happening. The woman with the white and matted hair on the left unrolled the roll of tickets, slow and easy, while the woman on the right tapped her foot impatiently — “Stop!” She jabbed her index finger at the sixth ticket. “There.”

With a half-smile, the old woman in the middle ripped off and slipped the tickets through the slot. “I hope you will enjoy your stay,” she said with a toothless smile.

Hesitantly, Anya reached out and took them. “Thank you,” she whispered and turned to leave.

“Don’t forget,” they all chimed at once. “You need a ticket to get back on the train . . . ”

But Anya was more interested in the tickets they’d handed her; it puzzled her how warm they felt against her cold hands. She looked around when she heard her name being called and found Miranda and Billy not too far away. She made her way toward them. Miranda storm-stomped at Billy and shouted: “Go ask them why.” Billy shrugged a little, looking uncomfortable, fixing his eyes on the ground, avoiding Miranda’s glare.

“How many tickets did you get?” Miranda barked at Anya.

“What?” For the first time, Anya noticed a dark look in Miranda’s eyes.

“Miranda only got two tickets,” Billy explained. “I got four —”

“What am I supposed to do with two tickets?”

“That’s weird,” Anya muttered. “They gave me six…” Something odd caught her attention from the corner of her eye. She ignored Miranda’s raging rants and peered behind her where she saw a boarded-up carousel ahead. Without saying a word Anya walked past them. The closer she got the more familiar the carousel became — it looked exactly like her music box — there was even a horse missing a front leg.

“What is it?” asked Billy.

Anya stood dumbfounded in front of the carousel and said: “It’s mine.”

Miranda made circles with her finger around her ear. Billy nudged her in the ribs with his elbow and mouthed “stop it.” He walked up behind her and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Come on, let’s go find your brother.”

“Who?”

“Your brother,” said Billy, “Todd.”

It took Anya several seconds to realize that her brother was lost in the carnival. But for some reason Anya didn’t feel like searching for him anymore. “Oh?” She lingered for another moment, looking up. The first thing she saw was the Ferris wheel which towered far above any of the circus tents. It must have been at least a hundred feet high.

“How about we look from up there,” said Anya.

The line for the Ferris wheel moved forward swiftly. It was much bigger than Anya had thought, at least a hundred feet high. At the head of the line, an old mime carefully took each of their tickets and frowned heavily each time he ripped them in half. He said nothing, but his face was scrunched up in thought. Miranda climbed into the open carriage and sat down next to Billy, followed by Anya. When she was seated the mime pressed down on the lever with all his weight and the carriage wobbled into motion. Miranda screamed excitedly, wrapping her arms around Billy.

There was nothing to see from horizon to horizon but tree stumps and the carnival. It appeared as though they were in the middle of nowhere. As far as they could tell there were no cities or towns, forests or seas. The carriage suddenly stopped, suspending them high above the crowd that appeared no bigger than a colony of ants. As the carriage descended, Billy was able to scan the crowds in search of Anya’s brother. He spotted a ginger boy beside Jester Thingrim.

“I think I found Todd,” said Billy, “looks like he’s in trouble.”

A surge of anger rose within Anya as soon as the carriage was at ground level. The boy with the ginger curls and crooked tiger mask froze and looked at her oddly as she marched toward him. With an angry bellow, Anya raised her hand in a threatening manner. The little boy cringed and hung his head in shame. As usual, Anya thought to herself, Todd always gets me in trouble.

“Anya!” said Jester Thingrim as he stretched out his arms wide, palms in the air. “I was just telling your brother how worried you were.”

“Thank you for finding him Mr. Thingrim,” said Anya, and wrapped her hand tightly around his small wrist. “I’m not letting you out of my sight,” she hissed. A shudder went up her spine, Todd’s hand felt weirdly cold and clammy.

“I told you not to worry,” said Jester Thingrim with a grin. He leaned in so close to Todd that his nose almost touched his. “Stay with your sister,” he hissed, playfully tapping the boy’s head. Then Jester Thingrim mounted his tricycle and rode away, laughing hysterically whenever someone had to jump out of his way.

Todd immediately tried to pull himself from her gasp the moment Jester Thingrim was out of sight, but she was too strong.

“What is wrong with you?” shouted Anya. She desperately tried to keep a hold on him and get a firmer grip on his wrist, but he was literally slipping past her fingers. His eyelids flickered. Anya caught a glimpse of an unusual pair of black, round eyes. The boy flashed a look of panic and looked right into Anya’s blue eyes, and then bit her.

Anya let him go. “AHH! Fine, go! See if I care.”

The boy ran around and through every ride, circus tent and candy-stand as though he knew the carnival like the back of his hand. It only took him a few minutes to arrive back at the ticket booth. He made a fist of both hands and pounded on the door until the old women opened up. He lifted his mask and let it rest on top of his head.

“Hello, dearie,” chimed the three old women. “What’s the hurry?”

He tapped his long finger against his lip. Then he bent down and grasped a large brass ring, that was partially hidden in the grass. “You were right, I’ve got a new friend,” he laughed. Then he heaved the brass ring upwards, revealing a plank of wood covering a small square hole in the ground. There was a ladder that led down to a musky chamber. The young boy climbed down and tossed his tiger mask and orange wig onto the bed. He hurried to the back of the room and, with a firm grip, pulled open the heavy drapes that covered a large birdcage. “Hi, Todd,” he grinned.

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Montréal en Lumière lights up the night

Multicolored lights, ice, and a red sled: The Milk Urban Slide
Nathalie Laflamme
Staff writer

What: The Milk Urban Slide is definitely worth a stop at Montréal en Lumière. The slide is 110 metres long and filled with sound effects and flashing, multicolored lights. You are given a red sled on which to slide and many of the lights are activated as the sliders pass by, making the experience interactive. Two people slide at a time, so make sure to bring a partner to race with.

The Milk Urban Slide is at Place des Arts. Photo by Madelayne Hajek.
The only slight annoyance about this event is the lineup. It takes about half an hour to get to the slide, but with all of the live music and activities going on around you, time flies by. There is also a free photo station where you can stage a photo of you and a friend sliding and have the photo sent to you by email or through Facebook.

This is an amazing event for all ages. The slide is fast enough to be thrilling, but not so fast that it will scare children. There are also walls on both sides of the slide, so it is perfectly safe.

If you decide to go, make sure to bring a hat – and especially gloves – as it can get chilly while waiting in line, and you’re going to want gloves for holding onto the sled.

Where and When: The slide is located in the Esplanade de la Place des Arts. The lineup for the slide, as well as the free photo station, begins outside of the Complexe Desjardins on Ste-Catherine St.

This event is open until March 3, but will be closed on Feb. 26 and 27. The slide is usually open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

– – – – –

A warm winter down in Cabaret Clandestin
Andy Fidel
Staff writer

What: The subtle difference between just playing and feeling Argentine Tango are perfectly packaged into one show — Cabaret Clandestin. Montréal en Lumière brought together a talented group of emerging artists that will warm the winter nights from Feb 21 to 24.

Written and directed by Julie-Anne Ranger-Beauregard, Cabaret Clandestin takes place in Buenos Aires in 1888. The audience is immediately emerged in the narrative in what appears to be an underground saloon.

The audience sits around the round tables and sips on a free drink while the performers prepare themselves. The limited space creates a warm and inviting atmosphere; small enough that even those seated in the back can see Osvaldo Rabuñal pluck the strings of his guitar, Pablo Seib tap the back of his contrabass, and the dancers lift and hook their legs around each other. But you may want to close your eyes and merely listen to Andrée-Anne Tremblay’s dazzling artistry on the violin.

“Tango is a sad thought that is danced. So we dance,” says comedienne Kim Despatis. Ranger-Beauregard’s text becomes a work of poetry about a world where beauty and the malignant walk hand-in-hand. Despatis blends and interacts with the members of the audience, making us all laugh and ponder.

Anglophones, don’t be discouraged. The musical theatre may be in French, but the dancing and the music in between serve as a translation that is sure to entice and enthral all. This collaborative performance weaves through a wide range of emotions in a matter of moments. From pain to passion, torment to bliss, as one would expect from tango.

Where and When: The ARTV Studio underground in front of the Salon Urbain.

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Images of Buenos Aires: worth a thousand words
Jack Ward
Staff writer

What: Images of Buenos Aires captures the sights, sounds and smells of an incredibly rich and multifaceted city. Taking you on a journey through images, the photographs give an alternate view to what tourists pass by. An informative exhibit, Images of Buenos Aires is an educational compliment to the Montréal en Lumière festival. Unfortunately, the atmosphere of the exhibit was stuffy and pretentious and the turnout for the exhibition paled in comparison to the other events headlining that evening. Precedence was taken by an exceptionally well done live music show that was setting up just outside of building where the Images of Buenos Aires was held. However, what made up for the atmosphere were the amazing examples of traditional Argentinean music and food which tantalized the senses.

Where and When: Corner of De Bleury and Ste-Catherine St. W. Feb. 27, 26 and March 1 starting at 5 p.m. and March 2 and 3 starting at 12 p.m..

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The dark side of passion: Tango Demonstration
Tsoler Tekeyan
Contributor

What: As part of the festival’s spotlight on Buenos Aires, free tango demonstrations are being offered to festival goers.

Manuel Soto from Las Piernas Tango school introduces and demonstrates the concepts of the dance on stage, while his colleagues mingle with and encourage the crowd. You can show up with a partner, a group of friends, or alone. The atmosphere is friendly and it is easy to pair up with other participants or one of the dance teachers.

Instead of teaching techniques or steps, Soto focuses on the feel of the dance. There are elements of longing, passion and sensuality in the music and the movements but there is also melancholy and what Soto calls “the dark side of passion.”

“One moment it’s ‘yes I want you’ and the other it’s ‘no I don’t want you’,” says Soto.

There is an elegant playfulness to the exercise. With the upper body in an intimate embrace, the lower body fluidly glides across the floor.

The movements must start from the body’s centre and be felt at the gut level,” notes Soto.

He explains that the tango is a dialogue between two bodies moving together. In this relationship, “you must be in tune to the other while staying yourself. One partner leads while the other trusts; but it’s not about being a man or a woman, it’s about being who you are.”

While techniques can be mastered by professionals, the spirit of tango is rooted in improvisation and intuition. The style was developed in the streets of Buenos Aires and it has European and African influences. With time, dancers across the world have adopted the style.

“Montreal has one of the biggest tango communities outside Argentina,” says Benoit Dubois, a participant who has been learning the dance for the past two years.

That community might grow bigger with the help of Soto and his colleagues. Their passion for tango is contagious. Their friendly and laid-back attitude makes beginners feel like experts. It’s not about learning technicalities, it’s about feeling a mood.

When and Where: Demonstrations are being held at the RBC stage, Wednesday to Saturday at 5:30 p.m. until March 2.

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Arts

Tourne au Rouge #6

Image by Jihane Mossalim

All the children stood in line, craning their necks to take in the sights with their mouths wide open. The circus tent looked rather small from the outside, but it was a gateway to an entire carnival. Just beyond the small ticket booth Anya could see a ferris wheel with waving arms in each and every car, a higgledy-piggledy pair of acrobats juggling fire sticks on five-metre-high stilts and a frolicsome crowd of children. Miranda squealed and pointed her stubby fingers towards the sky. Balloons waltzed with the wind, flying higher and higher until they spotted the sky like sprinkles on a chocolate cupcake. Anya looked at Billy and smiled so widely that it hurt her cheeks a little.

“Look out!”

Billy pulled Anya out of the way just in time. A large metal wheel whizzed by the young girl, inches away from her. Anya stood still for a moment, glaring at Jester Thingrim as he threw his head back and cackled merrily on his tall tricycle. At full speed, he zigzagged through the crowd.

“Did you see the look on her face?” said Miranda, slapping herself on the knee. Even Billy stifled a laugh behind his hands.

“Quit it!” said Anya and shoved Miranda’s shoulder back.

“He didn’t hit you—”

“But he could have,” hissed Anya. Her jaw clenched and unclenched as she watched the line slowly move forward. One at a time the children stepped behind the red curtain into the small ticket booth and then ran out with a handful of tickets. Anya wondered why it took some longer than others.

“What do you think is in there?” asked Anya.

“Who cares,” said Miranda, crossing her arms. She let out an exaggerated sigh. “I just want my tickets. This is taking forever.”

Billy asked: “Do we have to pay?”

“If we do . . . ” said Miranda, “Don’t worry. I’ll just get my mom to deal with it.”

Anya merely rolled her eyes and turned her attention to a group of trudging mimes. Their steps were slow and heavy, as though they were sleepwalking. The one in the front was carrying a tambourine, followed by another hugging a tuba and the two in the back were sharing an accordion. They were all wearing gray hand-me-downs that were either too small or too big, and holey shoes. Occasionally one of them would lift his head up for a moment and give the crowd a sidelong glance.

Jester Thingrim parked his tricycle beside a wooden platform in the corner. He snapped his fingers and a bright yellow light lit the stage almost instantly.

“Messieurs-dames,” said Jester Thingrim, bowing deeply and doffing his top hat to his audience, “Welcome to Tourne au Rouge.”

Everyone cheered and clapped as the four mimes scrambled onto the stage. Hesitantly, they stepped into the spotlight gave a quick nod, then stepped back. Anya recognized the mime with the raisin eyes hiding behind the big tuba. It was Pierrot. He was trying to scratch his leg discreetly, but failed every time the tuba leaned dangerously to one side. Anya giggled.

“There are many games and rides,” said Jester Thingrim with a grin. “Use your tickets wisely. I will only say this once — particularly to those with the nimble fingers. You may not borrow, share or steal here. You’re out when you run out.”

Jester Thingrim jerked his arms upwards and held them in mid-air like a music conductor. The mimes on stage closely observed his fingers and began to play the instant they twitched. In an eerie high-pitched voice, Jester Thingrim sang:

“Emmenez-moi au bout de la terre,
emmenez-moi au pays des merveilles
Il me semble que la misère
serait moins pénible au soleil.”

Billy and Miranda shuffled forward, trying to squeeze past the smaller children while Anya kept her eyes on Pierrot. The quicker Jester Thingrim shook his arms the harder the mime smacked his tambourine against his hip and the quicker the two mimes pushed and pulled the accordion apart and back together, the harder it seemed for Pierrot to breath. His face turned purple every time he blew into the tuba and puffed out his cheeks.

“What do you think he means by you’re out?” asked Miranda.

Billy shrugged. “Go home?”

“I’m never going home,” said Miranda. “Hey!” she waved her hand in front of Anya’s face. “You’re holding up the line.”
Anya turned around. She wasn’t sure if she saw a bead of sweat on Pierrot’s cheek or a tear.

Three old women were crammed into the ticket booth sitting on a single stool. Neither of them noticed Anya as she stumbled through the red curtains. The old women were busy trying to poke each other in the eye with their long bony fingers, shrieking: “Scoot!”

“You get always sit in the middle—”

“Move over—”

“Ow!”

Anya knocked on the window pane and said: “Excuse me?”

The three old women froze in mid-motion with their arms extended, their heads leaning back and their eyes squinted.

The three old women all chimed together: “Hello, Anya.” They grinned as though invisible strings were pulling their lips apart, staring at Anya with eyes like marbles, empty and cold.

“Say cheese,” they sang in unison. Just before Anya could say a word, there was a flash of blinding light.

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Coming out of the cage

Photo by Brian Morel

Apes think with their bellies and when freedom is out of reach, the only solution is to cease being ape. Kafka’s Ape is a captivating monologue about Red Peter, a man who tells the story of his life from apehood to humanhood. In a renovated swimming pool, Infinitheatre presents the world premiere of Kafka’s Ape, Guy Sprung’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story, A Report to an Academy, at Bain St. Michel from Jan. 28 to Feb.17.

Members of the Peace Industry, the entrepreneurial world of mercenary soldiers, capture primate Red Peter and take him away from the Gold Coast of Africa. In his cage, he realizes he cannot be free, but he can escape by becoming Mr. Red Peter: a walking, talking, spitting, hard-drinking ‘Ou-man’.

Howard Rosenstein’s performance of Red Peter is not only physically impressive, but thought-provoking. The actor takes up the entire space and interacts with the audience. He shuffles from one end of the stage to the other, empties his glass of wine in a single gulp and leans over and looks straight into our eyes. Although his imitation of Homo sapiens is a satire, one can recognize one’s self and wonder: “but am I free?”

Red Peter’s wife, played by Alexandra Montagnese, remains off stage and yet, she is a fundamental element of the play. Much like a child, the she-ape is antsy and bored throughout Red Peter’s speech. In her full-out ape costume, she even succeeds in making some of the members of the audience genuinely uncomfortable. As the gap between human and ape narrows, the she-ape reminds us of how ridiculous we actually are: the shareholders who are quiet and too polite in our seats.

Kafka’s work was a major influence for the genres of existentialism and surrealism, but Guy Sprung really pokes our ribcage throughout the play. Many questions arise about our society and our freedom as Homo sapiens and animals. Whether or not we are different, or if we have merely domesticated and caged ourselves into thinking so.

Kafka’s Ape runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 17 at Bain St. Michel, 5300 St-Dominique St.

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Arts

Tourne au Rouge #5

Tourne au Rouge / © Jihane Mossalim

“When you photograph a face . . .you photograph the soul behind it.” – Jean-Luc Godard

Bouncing along with the movement of the train, Anya followed Jester Thingrim down the aisle. The sound of laughter and whoops of joy behind each closed compartment were masked by the buzzing light bulbs and churning train wheels. Along the walls hung framed portraits of children with playful faces: a boy with a gap-tooth smile, another with his tongue stuck out, a girl holding up her long braids and another with her cheeks puffed out—all of them staring as though they were looking right at her.

Jester Thingrim came to a sudden halt. Up ahead a small mime appeared to be dozing against the wall. He wore an old duffle coat that came down to his ankles and a large bowler hat pulled down low over his eyes.

Jester Thingrim nudged him with his foot, but the boy only pulled his coat closer around him and mumbled something inaudible. He reached down and shook him, “Pierrot!”

The boy woke in alarm and stood up, nearly tripping over his outstretched legs. He had a pale white face and eyes like raisins, small and wrinkled on the edges.

Jester Thingrim asked: “Have you been eating our guests’ food again?”

Pierrot leaned back and shook his head as he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. He looked down at his old, cracked shoes, trying hard to avoid Jester Thingrim’s glare. Anya caught a glimpse of his eyes as he began to blush and surreptitiously brush crumbs off his chest. Jester Thingrim pursed his lips and then let out a deep, full, belly laugh. Pierrot silently chuckled in return, revealing chocolate cake crumbs in the crevices of his teeth.

“Please take little Miss Anya to her compartment,” said Jester Thingrim.

The mime nodded and started ushering Anya down the aisle.

Jester Thingrim mouthed the word, “Ta-ta” and swung his jacket round like a bull fighter. When Anya turned around again, he was gone.

Anya followed Pierrot. The skinny mime easily maneuvered around the various toys that littered the aisle of the train. It seemed that every child on this train had more toys than they needed. Anya scoffed and then winced. She had stepped on a toy soldier and broken his rifle. Just as she bent down to pick it up, a spluttering pop-bottle rocket whizzed over their heads and exploded in mid-air. Pierrot collided with Anya and they both went tumbling backwards.

A high-pitched voice above Anya laughed and said: “Are you alright? Ha! That must have hurt, eh?” Through glaring eyes, Anya sought out the face of her antagonizer. Her eyes alighted on a pudgy-faced girl standing next to a tall boy with matted hair. The boy smiled and gave a small wave, Anya noticed he had bits of candy stuck in his braces. He reached down and offered her his hand, but Anya was concentrated on the girl, still chortling beside them. Anya recognized the school insignia on her green jacket; it was from Chesterfield Elementary, the wealthy all-girls school two towns over.

Anya said: “Not funny,” and hauled herself to her feet while Pierrot scrambled up after her.

“You two,” said Anya, rounding on the other two. “Didn’t your parents ever buy you manners, fatty?” Anya watched as the smirk vanished off the girl’s face and her eyebrows furrowed. The boy grabbed a gumball from his pocket.

“My parents never buy me anything!” barked the girl. ”They’re too busy going out to parties with their friends—and I’m not even invited. That’s why I’m running away to join the circus. Same as Billy, here.”

She poked the thin boy in the ribs. He nodded and popped another gumball in his mouth.

“I’m Miranda,” the pudgy-faced girl continued. “Soon to be queen of the circus.”

Anya felt herself getting annoyed.

“I’m sorry I laughed at you,” said Miranda. “I was more laughing at him!” Miranda pointed to Pierrot, who again recoiled from her finger. “He is kind of a klutz, but that’s what clowns do, right?”

“I suppose,” she admitted. She watched as Billy filled his pockets with candy and asked, “Have either of you seen my brother? Little twit with red hair, his name is Todd.”

“That kid behind you?” asked Billy, pointing a lollipop over her shoulder. Anya spun around. There, sitting on the armchair, a crooked tiger mask covering his face, was Todd. She could tell from the ginger hair, curling around the strings. He seemed to have been fighting back the urge to laugh the entire time and let out a squeal when she saw him.

“Todd!” Anya screamed and lunged at her brother. Her fingers had just closed around the front of his shirt when a loud whistle sounded and the train lurched to a stop. Once again, Anya felt herself hit the ground along with Pierrot—this time Miranda and Billy joined in. Strangely, Todd did not fall or even notice the train had stopped. He hopped up and down on the armchair several times before fleeing from the compartment. Anya sighed in frustration. She hopped back to her feet to pursue Todd, but children were filling the aisle and she soon realized she was stuck in the crowd.

Single file, the children got off the train. As Anya stepped out she spotted Jester Thingrim marching at the head of the line. He was ushering everyone toward a brightly lit circus tent. It seemed almost too small for everyone to fit in, but the line kept moving.

Anya tried to catch Jester Thingrim’s attention but he kept his eyes straight ahead and refused to look down until she was right beside him.

“Please,” she cried, catching the sleeve of his red jacket. “I need to find my brother.”

“Now now,” he said, pushing her forward as if he hadn’t heard. “No time for tears, no time for sorrow. Come in and enjoy the show!”

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Plug in your headphones and put on your reading glasses

The Deadly Snakes: Real Rock and Roll Tonight by J.B. Staniforth

Author J.B. Staniforth takes you on tour with The Deadly Snakes in his new novel, The Deadly Snakes: Real Rock and Roll Tonight. Download some of their tunes, roll up the book, slip it in your bag or back pocket and become a groupie as you follow one of Canada’s most unique bands from their early beginnings as high school friends to their break-up.

The Deadly Snakes was a garage-rock and indie band from Toronto that formed in 1996. The group began as “The Boys Night Out Band”, playing in a basement in their early teens. But all that changed when they were dared to perform at a friend’s birthday party, which took place in a laundromat. However, in order to do so, they needed a legitimate name. That’s when The Deadly Snakes was born.

“The joke was that we had to be, like, a band, with a real band name. Then the band went on and we were stuck with it,” band leader Max McCabe-Lokos was quoting as saying in the book.

Little did they know that this gig would set their music career on fire. Young, talented, wild and loud, The Deadly Snakes can hardly be contained in a book nor could their music be hushed. It is a cacophony of vocals, guitars, trumpet, bass, mandolin, saxophone and percussion. Their energy and peppery music was instantly recognized and admired.

“You were supposed to bump into people, knock things over, break stuff, get someone’s drink down your shirt and wear it all with a grin—because it sounds that good,” writes Staniforth.

The novel is full of memorable real-life characters; McCabe-Lokos is the fiery band leader who takes his pants off mid-song or stands on his organ during their performances with “fidgety double-espresso energy.” André Ethier on the other hand is the quiet and mature band member who wrote songs with the “placid ease of an old-timer in a spaghetti western.”

Their boldness is what distinguished them from any other band at the time. They did not hide their youth and spirit, but let it explode on stage.

“If you respect youth, you give them their space to be young. You behave like your age and be true to your age,” said Ethier. “Something that’s incredibly uninteresting is hearing people trying to artificially recreate youth when that isn’t their lives.”

Staniforth does not only recall the peak moments of The Deadly Snakes, but also their downfalls. The immediacy of his writing heightens the thrill of touring internationally and throughout Canada, as well as the disappointments that arose as tensions grew between the band members. It is quite remarkable how Staniforth is able to translate real outbursts of jealousy, bickering and fist-fights into words. With its ups and downs and rock and roll drama, this book is sure to intrigue both fans and those who have yet to hear the band.

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Arts

Tourne au Rouge #4

Image via Flickr

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination” – Henry David Thoreau.

Smirking, Anya looked over the photographs that had been scrunched into balls; faces of her family were wrinkled and distorted, pieces of the glossy paper hung freely from the clothespins that ran along the wall on wires. Mary-Anne’s pictures were ruined. The attic began to tremble and Anya heard what sounded like the rumble of an approaching train.

A far-off voice called out her name. It sounded like Todd. Anya thought to herself, “Am I dreaming?” She looked around for where his voice might be coming from, but she was alone in the attic. The boxes stacked against the attic wall rattled as the clanking of a train on metal tracks roared louder and louder, blowing its horn as if it were headed straight toward the house. A sharp wind blew the scraps of paper in the air as Anya took a few steps back in disbelief. She bumped her foot against one of Ma’s old canvasses, her big toe coming away wet and stained with paint. Thin streams of paint trickled from the canvas and came together in red and purple puddles. The sky above the carousel in Ma’s painting sizzled like burning oil in a pan, sending off specks of blue onto Anya’s nightgown. The train whistle screeched. It was impossibly close. As Anya was about to turn and run, the boxes burst open and paint spurted everywhere.

The attic began to flood. Anya was trapped in a growing sea of swirling colours. Before long she was a floating work of art herself, covered as she was in multiple splotches of paint. Anya opened her mouth to cry out but a huge wave rolled in from behind the curtains and swept the young girl off her feet. She flailed her arms but it was no use. She felt herself being pushed and pulled as the sea of paint spun, as though someone were stirring it with a spoon. She spotted the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling and wasted no time. Kicking her legs and flailing her arms, Anya swam until she was able to reach out and grab a hold of the cord. Just then, as the cold paint was splashing against her chin, the floor gurgled. Anya hung in midair and watched as the entire sea drained into Ma’s canvas.

Groups of children were gathered around every window peering out as the bulky train came to a slow stop beside the tree with the wooden pictures frames. In large looping letters above a ferocious looking tiger, a sputtering firecracker, dancing mice and a flying trapeze swinger painted on the metallic door of one of the train cars, were the words: “Tourne au Rouge.” Leaning against the wheel of the train, the spindle-legged man dressed in a scarlet jacket with golden buttons tapped his silver spoon once more against the edge of his tea cup, before drinking it all in a single gulp.

“She mustn’t see the boy,” said the man to the shadow as it came scurrying back from where it’d gone.

It shook its head vigorously, bending over to catch its breath.

“Now go take it down,” he hissed. “She will be here any minute.”

The shadow was about to sigh, but then corrected itself. It stood by the tree and swung its arm high above its head like a loose rope. After two attempts, its hand reached the wooden frame in the top right corner and knotted itself around the branch. It snapped the frame off with a flick of its wrist. Gently, the shadow reeled its arm back down, feeling the man’s eyes locked on its every move. Just as the wooden frame was propped against the trunk, Anya came sliding out of the frame in a pool of brown mush.

“You’re right on time,” the man said, pulling a watch from his inner pocket. “The train is about to leave.”

The man held forth the broken horse’s leg, “I believe this belongs to you.”

Anya came forward, furrowing her eyebrows.

“Little brothers,” he sneered. “Always touching what doesn’t belong to them.”

“Who are you?” asked Anya, taking the broken piece.

Flecks of dust shook free as the man jerked on his jacket and said: “Jester Thingrim.” He took her hand in his and shook it firmly.

“Have you seen my bro—“

“Todd?” Jester Thingrim cocked his round head to the side and grinned. “He’s already on board.”

A gentle breeze blew under her nose, carrying a whiff of caramel and buttered popcorn with just a hint of peppermint. Rubbing her arms to warm them, Anya looked at the train and at the children inside, bickering with one another.

Anya said: “We should go home” and looked over her shoulder at the empty wooden frame.

“I’ll go get Todd then.” Jester Thingrim shrugged. “He’ll be disappointed, though. He was so excited to meet his mother…”

“W-what? My mother is here?”

Jester Thingrim took a giant step toward the train and said: “Right there,” indicating the tiny painting of the trapeze swinger. Anya stared at the painting, dumbfounded and without realizing it took the man’s proffered arm and boarded the train.
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