Come see me at the Montréal Anarchist Bookfair all weekend long! I have a whole ton of zines, a couple of cassette tapes, and my last-ever copies of the Scam, Mend My Dress, Telegram, and Doris anthologies. Tabling at CÉDA, 2515 rue Delisle (métro Lionel-Groulx), 10-5pm.
On May 8th, I’ll be doing a zine reading at Plan B (2180 Gottingen) at 7pm, alongside Giz Medium of Cheaptoys. It’s an open mic fundraiser for The Worst Of Times, a rad anti-capitalist broadsheet that I’m actually going to be interviewed for in about an hour. Anyone is welcome to join in and do a reading or performance of sorts. Facebook event here. Hoping to see some friendly faces!
That said, if you wanna get zines from Fight Boredom Distro, now is the time. Basically, you can send me a list of the zines you’d like, I’ll pack ’em up and bring ’em to Halifax with me, and then you can pay for ’em at the reading (or we can meet up elsewhere if you’re not able to make it). This means that you’re not paying for postage! And maybe we can sit down and have a coffee together! Click on How To Order if you need more info.
I’ve visited Halifax a few times and I participated in the Anchor Archive zine residency in 2012, so I’m pretty familiar with the city, but feel free to leave a comment telling me about your favourite spots to hang. I’m partial to karaoke bars, uncommon sodas, and dumpsters. See ya next week!
After a few weeks of carrying around a backpack full of zines, tabling at the Chicago Zine Fest, spending a week with my bestie in Columbus, Ohio and taking more buses than I can count, I am finally home sweet home. I don’t have time to write about my adventures right now, but I do have time to tell you about a whole bunch of new zines that are in stock. I’ve listed them below. Just click How To Order for more info (sad to say that postage rates went up by a couple of bucks today, which is why I had my end-of-the-winter sale before my travels).
Every order comes with a free copy of the second issue of the Fight Boredom Distro Newsletter – finished just a couple of weeks ago. It’s got a letter to my readers, info on new zines in stock, calls for submissions, a collaboration of writing prompts by Maranda Elizabeth and I, and more.
Anarchism & Hope
Any zine with a picture of Godspeed You! Black Emperor on the first (okay, third) page is bound to win me over (it is also bound with staples SEE WHAT I DID THERE). But whether or not that means anything to you, this zine is both beautiful (half-legal pages with a screenprinted cover and crisp photographs throughout) and an excellent read. Aaron writes about continuing to feel hopeful in the face of despair – a specific kind of despair, the kind that comes from resisting capitalism, witnessing / experiencing police brutality, and working toward a more just world. We begin in the aftermath of the G20 in Toronto, and follow Aaron through his tales of hope – a friend successfully fighting deportation, resistance of Israeli occupation forces in Palestine, and the student strike in Québec in 2012. For those into personal writing on political struggles.
Birthday Party #1
Okay, this zine is so great! Khristina did the Fight Boredom Zine Residency in 2012 and wrote What To Keep, What To Give Away, and this is her followup zine, which pretty much picks up where the first left off. In the intro, she says that this zine is about her two-week residency (writing, “I found sustenance (both the soul-filling kind and the literal kind) in dinner parties, quiet hang-outs, and bike rides.”), her little sister, thinking about identity, and healing family trauma. There is quite a bit covered in this zine, from finding inspiration and complication in Loretta Ross and bell hooks, to intersecting identities of woman of colour and punk, to falling in love, and more. Intense and brutally honest.
Dig Deep #6
Sometimes people approach my table at zinefests and ask, “Do you have any cheerful zines?” and I always hand them a copy of Dig Deep. Some running themes are friendship, growing up and creating a meaningful life, and maintaining a positive mental attitude. Out on time for the fifth annual Chicago Zine Fest, this is the sixth issue of Dig Deep – written over the course of the winter and documenting the past year of Heather’s life. She writes about the manifold ways that attending (and becoming a co-organizer for) the Chicago Zine Fest has changed her life, the eternal struggle to balance creative pursuits and social activities and alone time, a response to Inspirado (a zine about art and inspiration), a personally satisfying reaction to street harassment, and the discovery of a 66-page typewritten family history by her grandmother. It’s been fifteen years since Heather made her first zine, and she has got it down.
“Me and Elliott had a lot in common – a kind of potentially delusional hope – serious drive to do something. Neither of us drank too much back then. We looked a lot alike. We both liked to flee. He called it regroup, get away, get some perspective.” The bulk of this zine is the story of Cindy and Elliott – the beginning of their friendship, traveling and squatting together, learning about each other’s favourite authors. Like Dig Deep (just added above), some running themes in this zine are friendship and growing up. Also included is a piece called Reparations, about acknowledging white privilege and taking steps to indeed make reparations, which for the author includes not just educating herself, but also doing things like giving a percentage of her income to organizations run by people of colour. And on the note of growing up, Cindy also writes about becoming vegetarian at fifteen years old, and how her food politics have grown and changed – influenced partly by the fact that her sister has Crohn’s Disease and can only digest protein from meat and eggs. So they are raising sheep for food on their farm, and Cindy writes thoughtfully not only about food politics, but about the lessons she is subsequently learning about love and loss. And of course, there are the little things: drawings and book recommendations and questions for you to think about.
Only Hooligans Write On Desks #8
This is a zine about the horrendously frustrating process of applying for welfare and disability in British Columbia, Canada. It’s a personal story of mental illness and class, stigma and shame. Terri writes about the never-ending paperwork, phone calls, and walks to the welfare office, as well as unlearning the shame that comes with the inability to work a “real” job, and accepting money from family, which of course is not an option for everyone. It’s laid-out beautifully and written simply and honestly.
Scoopin’ Times #2
You might already know Alanna from Finale 95 and Puker Nation, well here is another rad zine from her weirdo mind. It’s all about working in an ice cream parlour! I love reading customer service stories anyway (hey, I’ve worked in convenience stores, call centres, and coffee shops, so I’m full of ’em), and this one is basically a comic full of hilarious stories from work – like, the kinda messages that people have iced onto their cakes, quirky customer profiles, and a classic battle over which radio station will be played at work. Super fun times!
Skinned Heart #6
The cover of this issue was illustrated by Nyky’s father, and she begins by writing about her experiences with having a father who is incarcerated. She writes not only of the frustration, sadness, and fear that come out of this situation, but also critiques the prison industrial complex, the US’s “war on drugs,” and the way race and class figure into her father’s arrests and incarceration. She writes of the matriarchal family she was raised in, and witnessing reactions to women of colour’s expressions of anger – be it her mother confronting school employees when she was a child, or right now, her own anger when organizing with white feminists, for example. In Punkera Por Vida, she writes, “What I love most about being a punk is the access I have to other folks of color and gender marginalized people who are having the same experiences and finding creative outlets to live outside of the margins. I’ve met so many brujas, artists and musicians, writers, great thinkers and amazing inspirational people through punk.” She writes about calling white punks on their (our) racist bullshit – namely, white queers writing POC out of hard-femme culture – and also bringing her politics into her interactions with her family. She reminds readers, “Punk is not inherently white.”
Coming Soon: Pansy #9; Motor City Kitty #23; Abstract Door #1-#3; Tongueswell #2; Always & Forever: A Zine About Friendship; Finale 95 #3; Cheaptoys #14 and more.
Fight Boredom Distro is on hiatus until April. Thank you to everyone who participated in the February zine sale! I’ll make one last trip to the post office before I leave town.
Come and see me on Saturday, March 15th at the Chicago Zine Fest!!! 11am-6pm at The Conaway Center (1104 S Wabash – 1st, 2nd and 8th Floors). I’ll have a whole bunch of new zines and the second edition of the Fight Boredom Distro Newsletter.
Please read first: This Is A Punk Show Not A War
I went back to Death House last night. It started as a joke. My friends were playing a show there and I was wondering if I should go. I said, “It’d be funny if I showed up and read This Is A Punk Show Not A War.” We laughed about it, but really, who was stopping me? My friends talked about it together and invited me to open the show. I’d written the piece about the night I was kicked out of that space, along with a group of friends. We were “too violent,” they said. We stood up to the macho bros in the mosh pit and they didn’t like it. It happens that these macho bros run the space.
I wasn’t sure if they’d remember me. It’s been nearly two years, they’ve thrown countless shows and downed countless drinks and my face had surely become a blur in their memories. I look like a lotta white punks with colourful hair and tattoos, right? I could be anyone. So I showed up early with a black cherry soda in my hand a copy of my zine in my back pocket. I talked to a few friends and they asked if I was nervous. “No, I’m just antsy. I wanna get up and do it and see what happens.”
That’s the thing, I had friends there, so many friends. I was surprised to see how many people had shown up to support me. I’d told a few people about the reading, but didn’t really go out of my way to invite anyone, because Death House is not a space that I feel particularly comfortable or safe in, so I can hardly expect that of anyone else.
La Riposte set up and did a quick soundcheck and then we were ready to go. It was just about ten-thirty. The plan was for me to read and then they would play immediately after, just make a ton of noise (and I’d either stick around to see them and take up space at the front, or get the fuck out, depending on how things went). I got onstage and put my soda down next to my feet, adjusted the mic stand. “Hi, everyone. My name is Amber Dearest and I’m gonna do a quick reading and then La Riposte is gonna play. This is called This Is A Punk Show Not A War.”
The two dudes (“the two big dudes, the two big dudes who’d spent the whole night at the front pushing everyone else outta their way and taking up so much space…”) were both there, running the bar (it’s a tiny space, we were like twelve feet apart). They started saying things like, “What the fuck is this shit?” and there was one girl I didn’t know making womp-womp-womp Charlie Brown teacher noises, like I wasn’t saying anything interesting. But it didn’t matter because I had the mic and was louder than everyone else, and my friends kept cheering me on. I was reading with a huge smile on my face, and being continuously heckled by only three people. It was really hilarious reading the parts with descriptions of the dudes, because they were right there. Finally I got to the “and we were banned from Death House” and there was a whole bunch of laughter and cheers. The heckling got louder too, and someone yelled, “Punch her in the face!” When I got to the line, “They were such cliché drunkpunks,” they finally cut the mic. So I yelled the rest of the reading. My smile was gone. I was so loud, yelling over everyone’s voices. And it felt so exhilarating-affirming-powerful-truthful to be screaming the line “I’m-a-big-dude-and-I’m-gonna-talk-over-you-now” and the parts about them calling us bitches and cunts WHILE THEY WERE ACTUALLY DOING IT. When I got to the line, “You’re boring, you’re so fucking boring!” there were other people saying it with me, like we were all singing along together, except we were shouting it in the faces of those dudes. I finished my reading as loud as I could and then got off the stage, ducked into the crowd.
When I got upstairs to where merch was set up (and where I’d stashed my backpack), people were high-fiving me and asking if they could hug me (yes! yes you may!). I didn’t know the other two bands playing but they recognized me because they had seen my twin doing a reading in Kitchener in December. Meanwhile on the main floor, there was a major shouting match going on between a bunch of people, it was impossible to keep track of. But pretty much everyone was on my side, it felt like it was the whole room versus the two dudes who run the space.
I knew I’d get kicked out – but I didn’t know everyone would! The dude who appears clad in skinny white suspenders in my piece flat-out cancelled the show and told everyone to get out of his space. I apologized to the two out-of-town bands for messing with their show, but they were really understanding and said that they wouldn’t have played after hearing my reading anyway. We all got the fuck out and the bands loaded their equipment back into their vehicles. A friend handed me a ginger beer on my way out the door.
We were out in the snow for a bit, and honestly, I wanted to cry because people were being so nice to me. They were saying extremely nice things, like that it was the best punk show they’d ever seen, and calling me Amber Bravest. “Your hands were shaking, but your voice stayed strong.” I still feel high from all of the intensity.
The show moved right down the street to a sweet and dingy basement, the night stretched a little longer than planned, but everyone still got to play. It was a great show. And I hate on punk all of the time – the uniformity, the way we recreate all of the bullshit dynamics of the the mainstream world. But there are times when it means a lot to me. I will acknowledge that I have a lot of privilege in this scene, in this world, too. I am white, cis, able-bodied. Like the singer from Two Crosses said, “Just because I can be oppressed, doesn’t mean that I cannot also oppress people.” I don’t wanna get into a “what is punk” thing, but when punks continue to perpetuate all of the oppressions that exist within mainstream society, and they/we are uncritical about it, well, that’s not very punk to me. That’s just a bunch of jerks with silly haircuts makin’ a lotta noise about nothing.
Thank you to all of my friends (and some strangers!) for having my back last night, and thank you to La Riposte, Dervish, and Two Crosses for putting up with me and playing a bunch of cool songs and trading zines and tapes with me. Thank you also for reminding me of why I write, and why I run a distro. I am amazed at what a dream my life is sometimes. Oh, and thank you to Death House for proving my point.
Further reading: Bros Fall Back by The Secret Society Of Femmes (Philly).
I originally wrote this in the summer of 2012 as a middle-of-the-night rant. It’s since undergone several edits and has appeared in The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes #3 (which is available via Fight Boredom Distro). I’ve read it aloud at zine readings and punk shows in various cities – to laughter and cheers and high-fives, and awkward silence and heckles and threats of violence. I’m making it available online (again) because sharing is fun and because I believe this shit is important.
For the record, this happened at Death House in Montréal (not to be confused with Deathchurch).
This Is A Punk Show Not A War
Someone approached me and asked me to step to the front. They said, “The feminist revolution is happening right here!” It was decided that the dudes were no longer going to take up space. For once, we were going to dance in front of the stage. We’d been stuck at the back of the room all night, smoke being blown in our faces. One guy put his hand around my left hip in order to pass me – why do they always do that? Why can’t they just tap me on the shoulder or something? They’ve always gotta touch my hips, my ass, the small of my back. They always want to remind me that I am a girl. They always want to touch me.
The band set up and we formed a row at the front. They played, and we danced. The dudes, the two big dudes, the two big dudes who’d spent the whole night at the front pushing everyone else outta their way and taking up so much space, they didn’t like it. We watched them, watching us, and we continued to dance. They pushed their way through – well, the tried. One of them was exactly one foot taller than me; I know this because he offered me his stats later on, then added, “I’m skinny, I’m a small guy, how can I be taking up space?” He’d inch closer toward us, plotting his next move, then try to get between my friends and I, but we weren’t gonna let it happen. We linked arms and we vowed to stick together. We blocked him. We blocked him over and over again. Somehow I always found myself at the front, he just couldn’t get past me – save for one brief moment. It was a concerted effort on his part. He couldn’t stand to my left or to my right, he had to stand directly in front of me to bang his head and chug his beer – because he’d seen how we intentionally moved from the back of the room to the front. I wasn’t having it. I moved up next to him and danced hard, I shook my pink hair around and I forced him outta that space. He was behind us yet again.
Then his friend came in from the left. He made his way along the line of us, trying to bust on through, and we stood our ground. Dude wouldn’t let up and I thought: Fuck it, you want a mosh pit, I will give you a mosh pit. I jumped up and down, I pushed him around, and finally I dug my elbows right into him. I never let him reach the stage for a second. My friends pulled on his fucking skinny white suspenders and we danced circles around him. We were a team.
Tall dude tried to talk to me. He said, “This is a punk show, not a war.” Funny that – when we take up space, it is seen as a declaration of war, yet when men do the exact same thing, it’s just a punk show. I told him to stop talking to me. I said, “I’ve heard enough, you’re boring me now.” And I danced some more.
The set ended and my friends and I exchanged hugs and high-fives. We were all smiles and sweat and adrenaline. But these two dudes just couldn’t let it go. First they tried the sad-puppy act, the come-on-we’re-just-trying-to-have-fun and then it was you’re-violent-you-hurt-us-you-gotta-calm-down and finally it was you-bitches-you-cunts-go-the-fuck-home and we were banned from Death House.
The entitlement. We stood in front of the stage for one set at one show and they couldn’t accept it. They had to reclaim that space, they had to push us and shove us and block our view and call us names. I shouted at them a bit but that was the worst part. They were such cliché drunkpunks, they were never gonna get it. They didn’t seem to realize the macho show they were putting on, the I’m-a-big-dude-and-I’m-gonna-talk-over-you-now, as if it wasn’t already a part of our daily lives, as if they hadn’t won the battles at every other show. I couldn’t even argue with them, I just said, “You’re boring, you’re so fucking boring!” and they were.
And my friends and I, we ran away into the night, laughing and patting each other on the back and saying, “That was beautiful!” over and over again. And for me, maybe it’s not a war, but it is never just a punk show.
Further reading: This Is (Another) Punk Show Not A War
SALE SALE SALE. For the month of February, for every FIVE zines that you order, you’ll get ONE for free. You can tell me what free one(s) you want, otherwise I’ll surprise you. Because I want you to get through the rest of the winter, and because I wanna send you some zines before Canada Post’s rates go up in March, and because I wanna round up some funds for new distro stock when I go to the Chicago Zine Fest. How To Order.
Fight Boredom Distro News: I added some more zine descriptions today (one day I swear they will all be up), including Anarchism & Hope, Birthday Party #1, Sour Puss #10, and Tongueswell #1.
Also, hey! I’ve been doing all kindsa non-zine things these days, too. One of them is co-organizing Fun-A-Day with a few friends. I wrote a bit about it here (and here last year!). We’re having a 5 à 7 this Friday if you wanna come hang out and eat snacks and look at art and maybe even display your own project.
Okay this other thing I did was PLAY IN A BAND FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. We formed a Pixies cover band for the cover band show at Squalor. I guess I’ve been obsessed with karaoke long enough that I may as well sing with a live band? For me, it was another way of pushing myself to do something that intimidates me, and to build my self-confidence. Here is a video of us playing Where Is My Mind:
Alright! Happy winter everyone!