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Achtung Infant

Just a very tightly written update this time. I’ve been busy. More on that later.

Three events this month!
If you’re free tomorrow night (June 2), I’m doing a fifteen-minute spoken-word set at the Arts and Letters Club, at the Ad Lib Talent Show. Other performers include my friends Charlene Winger and Terry Khan, plus some Club members.

Free chips and pretzels. If free chips and pretzels don’t bring you out, I don’t know what the eff will.

The following Friday night, also at the Arts and Letters Club, I’m a cast member in Life’s WTF Moments, a series of comedy sketches written by Charlene. Come if you want to see me do a horrible Scottish accent.

Then, on the afternoon of June 24, I’ll be one of the many readers at the final Poetry & Music Salon at Palmerston Library. It’s really more of a pre-booked open mic than a real gig or feature, but I’m plugging it anyway, God damn you.

Like I said, I’ve been busy. Busy writing for money, busy writing for fun, busy supporting friends and trying to find room for having fun too. Some of the writing has been fun listsicles for the Yellow Pages website. And two of them have recently been posted:

“Outdoor Summer Music Events in Toronto”
“Outdoor Park Adventures for Kids in Toronto”

In addition, a news story I wrote for OHS Canada is getting some buzz in the Manitoba legislature:
“Widow seeking inquiry into alleged toxic exposures at Manitoba smelter in 2008”

So long. I have a date at the Rogers Centre with Bono in a few weeks. I’ll be there with or without you.

May flowers bring June smellers. Or pilgrims.

I’m writing again!

That doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, since I’m a professional journalist and editor, so I’m always writing stuff. But what I mean is that I’ve started writing creatively again. I said here last month that I hadn’t written any new spoken-word material in about a year and a half. Well, now I’ve applied myself and written two new pieces. They probably suck, for all I know, but at least it’s progress. I won’t know if they’re any good until I try them out on an open mic. One is another “dialogue” piece, one of those two-voice pieces I do (like “The Jim Show” or “Gubmint Lie to You”) and sometimes wonder if they should really be scripts or comedy sketches instead of fake poetry. The other is a really short piece of fiction that’s guaranteed to offend somebody, in the “A Love Letter” or “Cocky” tradition, which is why I may avoid reading it in public and just put it away somewhere and forget it. At least it doesn’t have the word “hooker” in it, though. Come on, that would be unforgivable.

I have other ideas, too. Ideas for short stories, even for short novels. I’m thinking of taking notes and drafts I made for another one-person Fringe show, several years ago, and reworking them into a long piece of fiction, which I imagine would be too short to be a novella, but longer than the typical short story. Would it be any good? Probably not. And even if it were, I can’t imagine who would want to publish it.

Getting started is always the hardest part for me. Once I’m in a rhythm, I can keep going on for a while if I let myself. But it’s the getting started that’s a tough barrier. Also, getting into the habit – the discipline of setting aside part of every single day to write (not counting paid work, of course). I used to be good at the latter, when I was young and had more time on my hands – before I had to make a living.
Why do I want to write fiction again? Why am I drawn back to it every so often? Broken Pencil once said that I don’t even know what fiction is. York University’s creative-writing program hammered it into me again and again, with all the subtlety and tact of a tap-dancing bulldozer, that I didn’t have what it takes to be a fiction writer and never, ever, ever, ever, ever would. The trouble is that whenever I want to do something artistic and creative – be it fiction writing, spoken word, theatre, comedy – I always want to do it my way. And my way always seems to be the wrong way. I don’t know how to conform, or maybe I just have a knee-jerk aversion to it because doing the same thing everybody else does takes the fun out of it.

“But writing isn’t supposed to be fun, Jeff! What can you be thinking? Writing is hard, hard work! It’s revising and editing and killing your darlings and learning from better writers and purging your personal lexicon of clichés and redundant adverbs! What right do you have to find fun in it?”

Then why do it?

Anyway. Enough of that. It’s spring and time for road trips.
Did you get a Discovery Pass from Parks Canada this year? Then read my listsicle for YellowPages.ca about where you can use it in southern Ontario. It’s here.

Also, if Robert Lepage’s 887 comes to your city, see the damn thing. To find out why I would make such a bold proclamation, read my review of it for Digital Journal, upon its recent Toronto remount.

And that’s the way it was, sucker.

Row, row, row your pub / Gently down to Supermarket

I have another spoken-word gig this week. It’s my second already of 2017 (third if you count my hosting of the Art Bar a few weeks ago). Which is kind of ironic when you consider that I haven’t written any new material in about a year and a half. Nor do I have a new chapbook or CD to launch; in fact, I still have about half a box of This Album Is NIT FENNY! copies that I’m trying to get rid of. I’ve roughly calculated that if I sell one or two more, I begin to make a tiny, insignificant profit on these things. After more than two years since its launch. Here’s hoping.

So I’m doing a mini-feature this Tuesday at the Rowers Pub Reading Series (which, ironically, is no longer at the said pub). It’s just a short six-minute set – the real features of the evening will be Jasmine D’Costa, Pamela Mordecai and Molly Peacock. I’m the special National Poetry Month mini-feature. And this brings us to the third irony concerning this gig: the vast majority of what I write is prose. (I just sort of pretend it’s poetry when I read or perform it.)
So it would have been completely understandable if this event had been happening yesterday – i.e., April Fool’s Day – but it wasn’t. But that’s okay. We’ll have fun. It’ll be a lark.

More info about Rowers at this linky-link. There’s even a Q&A section for the readers. (My answers are very short. I would have put more work into them if I’d known the other people were doing so…)

Oh, and speaking of National Poetry Month:
I just wrote and submitted a YellowPages.ca article about Toronto poetry events happening this month. Hopefully it’ll be posted soon. I thought it would have been online by now, seeing as it’s now April and two of the events I included have already passed. But keep your eyes peeled and your Refresh button clicked, and I’m sure you’ll see it.

And I’m still contributing the occasional theatre review to Digital Journal. Most recently, I saw the new Second City revue, Everything Is Great Again, and before that, it was Soulpepper’s remount of its wonderful Of Human Bondage.
Click here to be checkin’ out that stuff.

And if you really dig news stories about people getting hurt or sick on the job… you can always check out my work for Canadian Occupational Health & Safety News, some of which is posted on the OHS Canada website. Find that here.

Happy Passover, Charlie Brown!

March Breaks Bad

My website disappeared for a few days, but you probably didn’t notice.
For the second time in as many years, my domain name expired and nobody thought to tell me. Didn’t even think to send me a warning e-mail or anything. But it’s all right now. I just paid a small fortune to renew the silly thing for ten (10) (X) years. That’s a full decade more of this lovely website that almost nobody visits. Enjoy.

This Tuesday, I’m hosting the Art Bar, Canada’s longest-running poetry series.
“Whatwhatwhat?” you gasp in shock. “They’re letting Jeff host the Art Bar? But… but… but… he’s just going to make it about him, isn’t he? He’s going to tell offensive jokes the whole night and then try to force us to buy his chapbooks! Maybe he’ll slap a disabled person or something! He might get drunk and make out with a woman in public — consensually, of course, but still! What if he says ‘hooker’ again? I don’t think I could handle it. Stupid Jeff!”

I don’t think the evening will go quite like that. At least not this time.

Besides, the real reason to go is to see great poetry sets by Viral Gor (a.k.a. Virus the Poet), Diana Manole and Rocco de Giacomo. And you can win $20 for being the best open-mic performer.

Check the right sidebar for details.
If those details aren’t enough to satisfy your crippling urge for details, visit the series’ website here.

In other news… I’m back, baby.

Back in the freelance-writing game, that is. Just landed a new gig writing listsicles and whatnot about Toronto events and stuff for the Yellow Pages website. If it’s not too late, here are a couple of recent March Break-themed pieces:
“Toronto’s top March Break hotel deals and packages”
“Last minute March Break camps and drop-ins in Toronto”

Also, here’s a cover story I recently wrote for OHS Canada:
“Trouble in the Big House”

That’s all for now. Keep up the good work, laughing boy.

Another Year, Another Yen

Has it really been almost fourteen months since I posted a blog entry on this website? Could it really have been more than a year since I’ve had a spoken-word event to plug? That seems to be the case. But I didn’t do much in the poetry or lit scenes in 2016. There might have been a mini-feature at Jammin’ on the One somewhere along the way, but I didn’t feel like promoting it. There were a couple of open mics I did in New York back in June. That’s about it. Nothing to write home about. Or from home, on a website. Whatever floats your bag of wax.

2016 was a crappy year for a lot of people, and I’m no exception, but I’d rather not go into the details. Suffice it to say that a year ago, I had a spacious high-rise apartment, a steady freelance income in addition to my day job, and a healthy savings account. Now I have none of those things (except the day job, thankfully) and, for all I know, maybe never will again. There are a lot of people much worse off, sure, and we’ll all have a lot to fear when an air-headed reality-show billionaire with no political experience becomes leader of the free world in less than two weeks. But suckage comes on many levels, doesn’t it?
As a Caucasian heterosexual male, I am constantly told that I am one of the luckiest and most privileged individuals in the history of the human race. And I guess I’m in no real position to dispute that. But when I take a look around my cramped basement apartment, while worrying about how long I can keep my financial situation stable, and thinking about all the people who’ve deceived or betrayed or manipulated or taken advantage of me, sometimes I can’t help thinking: if this is privilege, I ain’t doing it right.

Anyway. Never mind all that.
I have two gigs this month. And I’m out of practice in performance, and I haven’t even written any new material in more than a year. But they should be fun.

This Tuesday, I have a feature at the Art Bar.
You thought the Art Bar was dead, did you? No siree Roberto. It was in the ICU for a while, but it rose from the ashes like Lazarus to mix metaphors like a Colossus. Now it’s at the Free Times Cafe, without the government funding, but still determined to be the best Art Bar that ever Art Barred. Lucy Brennan and Marc di Saverio will be the other features, and you can win $20 as the best open-mic performer.

Later on, I’ll be helping JOTO host Damon Lum celebrate his birthday in a show at the historic Arts and Letters Club, where they say the Group of Seven used to paint. (Ernest Hemingway briefly was a club member there in the 1920s, but the cheap bastard never paid his dues. And was never heard from again.)
Tessa Stone, Pelayo Matute and other friends will be performing as well. I am crossing my fingers for free chips and pretzels.

Happy New Year. More imaginative posts to come later on. Don’t wig your gig.

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