Monthly Archives: January 2013

Performance FEMENism.

christ what a hassle

What’s a girl got to do to get noticed around here?

Whether it’s nip slips at the Super Bowl, or boobies for beads at Mardi Gras, the obvious answer to this age-old question remains: show us your tits. Yes sir, boobs turn heads—which may make FEMEN, a Ukrainian-born feminist movement that has turned topless protest into a performance art, the best idea ever.

“There is an ideology behind protesting topless, but we quickly realised that if we took our tops off and screamed loudly it was a good way to get attention,” says Alexandra Shevchenko, one of FEMEN’s founders. “It works. Of course, people talk about our nakedness, but they are also listening to our message.”

Are they? I’m not so sure.

The FEMEN movement was created in 2008 to raise awareness for women’s rights in the Ukraine, particularly to combat prostitution and sex trafficking. Since then, they’ve broadened their scope, opening an office (and a topless protest boot camp) in Paris, and participating in worldwide demonstrations for women’s and gay rights. If their Vimeo page is any indicator, FEMEN’s modus operandi is: show up, get naked, and scream blue murder when the mortified cops show up. And bring your chainsaw.

Read more at The Other Press.

I’m doing a series on FEMEN, hopefully culminating in a trip to their topless training bootcamp in Paris, if I can convince VICE magazine to send me. Fingers crossed!

Hot Messes.


Photo is the property of Vanity Fair and I’ll probably get sued for using it, so enjoy it while you can.

Hey, remember when Randy and Evi Quaid were cruising around Vancouver, bringing the crazy? I wrote this for them. It’s actually a found poem, which means that I cobbled it together from an existing work, an article in Vanity Fair. Does anyone know if these whackjobs are still around?

Randy And Evi Go Viral.

They’re spending nights in their car,
on the run from some shadowy cabal.
Evi Quaid and her husband, Randy
the actor, had tried to drive to Siberia, but
they couldn’t figure out how to get there.
She said, “We’re running for our lives.”

Their car, a black Prius, smelled of fast
food and dog pee and Randy’s cigars.
I asked the Quaids if they were living
in their car. “Only on nights when we
don’t feel secure,” Evi said. “We used
to have a Mercedes. This whole ordeal

has forced us to become incredibly green.”
“Priuses are deceptively roomy,” drawled
Randy, who’s originally from Houston.
“We’re tall people, and the legroom is
important.” “They’re hunting us,” Evi said.
“It’s really happening. They’ve got us in a

spiral.‘Don’t let up on ’em. Drive ’em off
the road. Starve ’em to death.’ ” She was
slapping her hands together for emphasis.
“I guess I’m worth more to ’em dead than
alive,” Randy said mildly. They wore pink

handcuffs. Evi carried Randy’s Golden
Globe and had a “valid credit card” affixed
to her forehead. By the time they arrived
in Canada, calling themselves “refugees”
and claiming they were targets of an
assassination plot, the Quaids had gone viral.

Vanity Fair.
The Quaid Conspiracy
By Nancy Jo Sales

Jan 2011

Thai Travelogue (The Facebook Files) Serenity Now.

Serenity Now

So. We decided to save a few bucks. Checked into the Serene resort, very Buddhist, in that staying there constantly reminds you that life is suffering. I could go on about the bed, the mould, the ants, the bar that is open 24 hours a day and only plays the same 6 songs, including an inane big beat remix of “Signs” by The Who…but really, all I need to say are those three little words: broken sewage line. Keep in mind, it’s 35 degrees, and I’ve had food poisoning for the last two days. Keep it in mind, but try not to picture it.
Being in the Buddhist heartland, we practiced grim acceptance until about ten minutes ago, when I fucking blew my top, pulled myself together, because getting angry at people causes them to lose face, and POLITELY asked the owner what could be done. Over and over again. With a smile.
Now we are in a loft above his massage parlour with no view, no bamboo ambiance, no mosquito net, and ABSOLUTELY NO FESTERING SHIT. And we are DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY.
Asia, I’ve got your number.
Watch out, motherfucker.

Thai Travelogue (The Facebook Files) Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo.


Possibly the best thing I have seen so far: Hong Thong booze. Specified only as “local Thai spirit.” Sold in 40 oz bottles for about 400 bhat ($14) and stored in a milk crate in the sun, away from the other booze, like maybe it’s contagious. This product needs representation. A slogan. I’m thinking a booty-licious girl in a thong, leaning into a car window, shot from the back (of course) with some kind of slogan like “Hong Thong: Deliciously Cheap.” I’m open to suggestions though. One liners aren’t my forte.



Some fabulous news early in the trip! Ricepaper accepted two of my poems, Grandma Carrière and Saint Mary. Too bad my Grandma Carrière isn’t around anymore, I would have loved to read her the poem. But Selina, who features in Saint Mary, is an old friend from elementary school and I’m sure she’s on somebody’s Facebook friend list. So I’m going to find her and send her a copy. There’s something that doesn’t happen to you every day, “Hey, I wrote this poem about you and it’s in this magazine.” Or I dunno, maybe that happens to you every day.

Vipassana Meditation: Ten Days Of STFU.


People often ask me what the hell the deal is with this ten-day silent meditation thing I do in January/ February. And if they don’t ask, I often bring it up- because I like to toot my own horn.

Like most smug assholes who have found something that makes them happy, I want everyone to follow my lead to the promised land! You don’t have to go to a retreat to meditate, but for those who appreciate the baptism-by-fire approach to spirituality, this is it. Needless to say, the experience is not the same for everyone. But for most people, it’s pretty intense.

Alright then.

Gong is rung at 4 am
4:30: Morning Meditation in the hall until 6:30
6:30 Breakfast and rest time until 8:00
8:00 Meditate until 11:00 (with a few 5 minute breaks)
11:00 Lunch and rest time until 1:00
1:00 Meditate until 5:00 (with a few 5 minute breaks)
5:00 Tea until 6:00
6:00 Meditate until 7:00
7:00 A pre-taped talk given By S.N. Goenka (the real hard cores meditate throughout this) until 8:15
8:15 Meditate until 9:00
9:00 Ask the group leader questions about the practice or go to bed.
9:30 Lights out.
Repeat for 9 days.

It’s hard.
It’s hard to be quiet for 10 days. It’s hard to sit still for an hour at a time. It’s hard to keep my eyes closed for the better part of the day. Sometimes at the end of a sitting, my eyes are crusted shut. As I slowly quiet my mind and become more aware of my body, I become exponentially more aware of how uncomfortable I am. My back. My hips. I’m bloated. Get off my lawn. We’re packed eight to a room, and the girl across from me snores at night. I can hear it through my earplugs. I want to stab her.

After a few screamingly painful days, heightened self-awareness doesn’t really seem like such a great idea after all. At that point, a noob meditator may quit, or she may make a choice to buy into this marathon of pain, and believe that things will get better as she learns the technique. Or, if you’re like me, you’re just too intimidated by the nuns to tell them you want to get the fuck out of there. And you have no money or cell phone, since you foolishly handed everything over to them on day one, so staying seems like the path of least resistance.

If you are one of those people who fear losing control and screaming in church, or laughing uncontrollably at a funeral, you will have a teeny, tiny idea of what we go through in those ten days. We are supposed to be QUIET all the time. No speaking. No heavy footsteps. No closing the door or turning on/off the tap too loudly. (The latter command was issued on a little sign next to the bathroom tap, making me laugh the first time I saw it- then clap a hand over my mouth in sheer. fucking. terror.) Did I mention the nuns? They’re scary. Unsmiling, they communicate in intense eye contact and swift, economical gestures. Not what I expected from Buddhists. But then, the retreat is serious business.

During an evening sitting, a woman to the right of me makes some kind of strange gurgling noise, and I dare to open my eyes long enough to catch a single, violent convulsion. It looks like a one-step exorcism. She bursts into tears-full on shrieking sobs-and several nuns rush to help her out of the hall. I had noticed her on the orientation day because she looked like a famous writer: mid-fifties, swishing around in a purple wool kaftan and shamelessly flouting the no jewellery policy. I had wondered if she was there to do research, or maybe just decompress after a big project. She and her equally fabulous friend are gone the next morning. I’m sure the nuns didn’t want to let them go. S.N. Goenka, the current head teacher of Vipassana, says leaving half way through a retreat is like walking out with an open wound. And I can relate, since my body feels like it’s been through a wood chipper.

Around day five, I stop paying attention to my body, because I’m going crazy. Now it’s almost impossible to be quiet, because my mind is bitchslapping me over and over and over. And when you shut your mouth up for 10 days, your mind will have a few things to offer up. Trust. Mine is apparently dominated by an insane 5-year-old. The anger, the tears, it all comes out, and somehow I try to make it come out QUIETLY. Memories present themselves and I’m not sure if they belong to me, or the other people in the room. During a morning sitting, I have a lengthy vision of a black and white Bollywood film, grainy and flickery, like I’m watching it on an old projector. Oh god buddha. Tinfoil hat time.

And the emotions. It’s awful and kind of hilarious to be weeping uncontrollably through my lunch, but it’s my last meal of the day and dammit, I am going to EAT THIS MEAL NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES, so every fibre of my being is devoted to bawling as QUIETLY as humanly possible. Of course, this is an absurd exercise, because there are people seated inches away from me on either side, and they would have to be deaf and blind to not know what is happening. But this is what I do, and I hope people aren’t too annoyed by my blubbering. It’s probably just as well we can’t converse, because I would be obnoxious.

And then there are other days, or moments at least, where I feel so far away from this messy vulnerability. When I don’t want to leave the meditation hall to go to lunch, because a weird calm has settled in my shoulders and opened up a yoga studio in my chest. Awareness becomes so saturated that I lose myself-I’m doing it!-and aww fuck I got too excited and now it’s gone again. But I had it for a second. It felt like hope, and as a modern-woman-of-the-world, I don’t spend a lot of time being hopeful. And that realization comes as a bit of a shock, annnnnnd I’m bawling again.

At the end of the retreat, other participants-people I barely know-approach me with wide compassion-filled eyes, and say things like: “I don’t know what you were crying about at lunch that day, but I wanted so badly to hug you and tell you that you’re not alone.” And then I cry again, because I had forgotten that I wasn’t alone, and it feels so good to be reminded. But that’s not all. While making conversation with the Indian woman who had been in the bunk to my left, she tells me she had been a movie star in India in the fifties.

“Old movies, black and white,” she says. “You wouldn’t have seen any.”

Oh god.