Posted By Sandra Alland

I'm watching a show about how chronic disease is way higher in deprived communities. A major study about Scotland shows that huge socioeconomic changes since the 1950s are responsible for Scotland having the highest rate of heart disease in Western Europe. It seems that hopelessness, stress and poverty are more important factors in bad health than beer, smoking and deep fried crap. This show is depressing me. Scotland depresses me. Speaking of colonial fallout, I'm feeling quite homesick, or maybe just sick of "Great" Britain.

Partially because of reading The English Stories by Cynthia Flood. It's a fantastic collection of linked stories about an 11-year-old Canadian named Amanda who is uprooted and sent to a girls' school in 1950s England. Though the book is not set in Canada, Flood evokes Canada in a beautiful yet unsentimental way.

Flood examines the devastation of colonialism in a complex manner, subtly and brilliantly creating links between England's subjugation of Canada, Ireland and Nigeria. Amanda's chosen connection with Canada's First Nations (despite her own parents' racism and indifference) adds another lush layer to this quiet yet persistent background music. Flood also avoids the potentially bad Canadian cliche of the coming-of-age story by switching the focus of several stories from the little girl to other characters in the narrative. This creates a depth and complexity that the story would otherwise lack. One of the most exquisite parts is when we switch to the point of view of an Irish man who sometimes teaches at the school; we see his struggle between English and Irish identity, and the racism he both experiences and inflicts. In places the book is heartbreaking; Flood creeps up on you in unexpected ways. Special thanks to the lovely Hungry Girl, who put this book into my hands. xo

Posted By Sandra Alland

I'm trying to make my blog more accessible to the visually impaired by using a bigger font, but my stupid provider, Doteasy, first of all limits the number of words I can use in a blog entry (annoying), and secondly limits the words according to their size (bigger font = shorter entries only). So if I want to be accessible I'm not allowed to say very much. For more info on the annoyances of digital accessibility (for creators and visitors of sites) go to the blog of deaf and disabled artist, Alison Smith.

Here's an excellent article by Jennie Kermode on the ongoing problems regarding the reported censorship of Dani Marti's work by Glasgow Culture and

In other news, I promised more thoughts on great Canadian stuff I've been reading. So next in line is Stuart Ross's new book of short stories, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog (Freehand Books). I love this book. I devoured it in a couple of hours, then read it again. Each story is a bizarre, surreal voyage. As usual, Ross moves you from the hilarious to the tragic in two words, and leaves you not quite sure how you ended up crying. I especially love "Three Arms Less" (an unusual meditation on war and race), "Me and the Pope" (where the Pope comes to crash at Ross's apartment during his visit to Toronto), and "Language Lessons... with Simon and Marie!" (a parody on learning a foreign language, in a war zone). The book has numerous references to war and its absurdities, particularly the Contras and Nicaragua, that leave you with a chill. I said "as usual" above, but perhaps actually Ross's short stories are emotionally scarier than his poetry, and not less funny exactly (because they are still really funny), but a more edgy kind of funny. A funny with something waiting behind it you're not sure you're ready for...

Speaking of war zones, I watched El Norte, the 1983 independent film by Gregory Nava, about two indigenous Guatemalans who flee to Mexico, then the United States, after their family is slaughtered for planning a strike. It's a stunning film, and shows the brutalities illegal immigrants face to get to, and then also survive in, the supposed Land of the Free. It's sad to see how little has changed... if it weren't for the production values I wouldn't necessarily have known I was watching a film from 25 years ago.


Posted By Sandra Alland

Tomorrow Zorras play the Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow, as part of the program Forest Stories. 9pm, Mitchell Library, £6/7. More info at

Also coming up this week, we're on the radio in Canadialand: Take Back Our Radio! International Women’s Day 5 hr. National Radio Broadcast Action, March 11th5 to 10 pm (Eastern) Listen Live! Zorras will be on Ventana del Barrio at 8:15pm (1:15am in Scotland) with magnificent host Susy Alvarez! Please support this show, as it is part of a campaign in support of taking back the airwaves at CKLN for the activist and indie communities.



Posted By Sandra Alland

Dear British Government,

I have just arrived from Canada,
do you remember Canada?
You see, my father moved there
from Scotland
and now I've moved back.

I was wondering if you could tell me
how to get my Scottish passport?

I have looked all over Edinburgh.
I looked on the internet.
I even went to the Gorbals
where my Da was born.
But I can't find the Home Office.

I know England is a separate
and busy nation,
but I figured being so close
and all,
you might know something.

Posted By Sandra Alland

What a great thing Tam Dean Burn has going on in Glasgow, with Malcolm the fantastic sound guy, and Sonic Sinema who screen awesome visuals throughout the night. Check out Manifesto Politikal Kabaret at the Tron Theatre if you get a chance. Really dug Sparrahawk and Glasgow Glam Bangers. I also loved the photocollage piece The Thin Green Line Or: How I Tried to Stop Worrying and Love Neoliberalism. Thanks to the Glasgow contingent for coming out, especially my fam who made the journey from Drumchapel. 


In other news, here are some things I've been reading and digging:

1. Lock Up Your Daughters: This is Glasgow's fantastic queer zine. The latest issue has loads of great interviews and reviews.

2. A lovely German I met sent me a copy of Die Krone & Ich: Drag King-Magazin. It's mostly in German, but there was a wonderful interview in English with Susan Stryker, where she compared transsexual identity to immigrant identity.

3. A sweetie from Ottawa named Sean Zio has published a lovely chapbook of his young adult story, Skin Ego, about a teenager and his struggles with "seen and felt identity."

4. In Toronto, John Barlow gave me a gorgeous chapbook that Rose DeShaw produced... it's poems made out of Barlow's emails. There's some hilarious and smart stuff. Here's a choice tidbit from "Poetry's Reputation":

Fear not for poetry's reputation.
Poetry's reputation is terrible.
We really can't trouble at this point.
Poetry's been more effectively
than communism or the
universality of unions.

5. Did I say yet that ryli skelton launched a new poetry chapbook in Toronto? It's called The Cusp of Chaos, and you can get it at This Ain't the Rosedale Library in Toronto or Word Power Books in Edinburgh. Skelton is one of my favourite writers and people, please check him out.

And speaking of skelton, the next post will feature pics and more from his great night in Toronto, The Secret Ingredient, as well as youtube footage of the fantastic Pockets, who we bumped into on the always entertaining last train from Glasgow...



Posted By Sandra Alland


Well, thank you Canada for the week of gorgeous summer weather! And thanks to all the beautiful friends who came to my gigs and hung out with me in the sunshine in Kensington Market or Lawrence & Orton Park. It's been nice to be warm (even when it 's cold, you Canadians have this great idea of *heating* your homes!) and to have my clothes dried in a dryer, oh my.

Some things I've loved since being here:

1. Dead Cars in Managua by Stuart Ross. A beautiful collection of poems by one of Canada's best writers. It's also one of his most personal collections... and there are pictures!

2. Cusp of Chaos by ryli skelton. Skelton's latest chapbook of poems... he's a supertalented up and coming writer who mixes humour and loss in divine ways. And he has a delicious touch of weirdness. Get it at This Ain't the Rosedale Library.

3. Shameless Magazine. Shameless is always yummy, and the new publisher and editor are doing a great job. I especially dug publisher Stacey Mae Fowles' piece on self-harm.

4. Mutant Superpowers and Lithium Pills: Bipolar Adventure Stories. I picked this zine up at Toronto Women's Bookstore. It's by Sascha Scatter of The Icarus Project, and is an engrossing account of personal thoughts on mental health, creativity and the medical system. Also superb details about community activism and peer support.

5. Auk/Blood by Tagaq. I have to give Tagaq's latest CD a few more listens for a final verdict. But of course she is brilliant. Listening to her can never be casual (which makes it a bit hard to throw into a party shuffle!) but if you have time to sit down and really listen, this CD is gorgeous, like going to a trippy opera. Tagaq often works with a dj, and has quite a lot of different and wondrous fusions going on. The only stuff I'm really not crazy about are her collaborations with Buck 65. It feels like she's just backup for his tracks, which doesn't do her justice. Also I find Buck 65's rhymes rather simple and cliche.

I want to talk about the gigs I read at, cuz everyone was so grand, but I will save that for another post, so I can add pictures. Okay? I'll miss you Canadialand.

As for the rest of you, I'll see you on the other side of the pond soon.



Posted By Sandra Alland

Yesterday was about 18 degrees and GORGEOUS! I call that "summer" because I'm from Scotland now, and 18 is HOT in Scotland.

Pivot was great on Wednesday, I enjoyed the readings by Fraser Sutherland and Sally Cooper. Thanks to everyone who came out... and to those 5 lovely souls who bought my books. I read some short stories for the first time ever, and you were such sweet guinea pigs.

Monday is the launch of Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's new novel, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, at The Boat on Augusta in Kensington Market. 7pm, $5. Also featuring me, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, Stacey Mae Fowles and Hal Niedzviecki. I will be reading another of my weird little stories.

R and I were fantastic communists for Hallowe'en. Oh my. We were trying to figure out two things: How do you dress like a capitalist? and Do they do so for Hallowe'en in Russia and Cuba? I am going to wear my little hat with the hammer and sickle on the plane home for fun -- though it might not turn out so fun...





I wasn't completely crazy about No Bra at Vasowe'en. I dug some of her lyrics and her general vibe, but I'm pretty tired of people singing not-so-well over bad beats...

In other news, Toronto made the expensive, ugly, and silly decision to make cigarettes "invisible" in corner stores by placing them inside hideous cupboards like this:


(thanks to the guy who posed in front of the atrocity)

And why only cigarettes? Why not put cancer-causing GMO foods inside grey cupboards, and toxic cleaning products? What about hiding SUVs behind ugly curtains so no one will be tempted by them? Oh, Canada...

Posted By Sandra Alland

Of course I left my longjohns at my folks' house and then the temperature dropped and it starting snowing! Argh.

I'm reading at 8pm tonight at Pivot at The Press Club on the north side of Dundas just west of Bathurst.Free! Hope to see you there. Please bring wool clothes and brandy.

In other news, This Ain't the Rosedale Library's new home on Nassau Street in Kensington Market is drop-dead gorgeous. If you haven't visited, do! And it's not just pretty, the books are delicious.

This Ain't

Speaking of delicious books, I just started reading Toronto playwright Claudia Dey's first novel, Stunt (Coach House). Wow. The way Dey uses language makes me so excited I might pee. What a writer. Please check her out.

Here's Charlie and Jessie hard at work:

Chas and Jess

In not so happy news, the endless condominium blight at the Lakeshore made my eyes bleed, and I was sad to see so many new chain stores on Queen (The Brick for gawd's sake?) and College. Also, why on earth did the AGO spend millions on this montrosity?





Here' s me and R. selling books at Canzine last Sunday. Long live indie culture! Thanks to those kind folks who bought my books. Also I traded a book for two chapbooks by the supertalented Tomori Nagamoto -- Bittersweet Hotel #101 and #501. Each chapbook consists of images and words depicting a different guest at the hotel. Nagamoto's drawings are stunning, and the text is bittersweetly  wondrous and sometimes superbly funny.


Art from Kensington and Dundas West:

toronto art 2


toronto art

And something must be said about Toronto's amazing food. Doubles, empanadas, Pho Hung's soup, John's Classic pizza, veggie dogs & burgers, oh how did I survive without you?

Warm kisses from the great white north,




Posted By Sandra Alland

They say Scotland is rainy! I arrived last night after 11 hours of flying to a rainy rainy Toronto. And it rained all night and all morning.

In more exciting news, my new Wholphin: A DVD Magazine of Unseen Films  ( finally arrived! I only got a chance to watch a couple of films before jumping on the plane. But Please Vote For Me, directed by Weijun Chen, is brilliant and you must see it! It's a documentary about the first democratic election in a Chinese primary school, and is moving, hilarious and highly disturbing. Sortof like democracy in practice, as opposed to in theory... I also enjoyed New Boy, directed by Steph Green, about an African immigrant to Ireland. The kids in this short are fine actors, and it's a subtlely chilling piece about oppression and immigration.

Also just finished reading Unmarketable: Copyfighting, Mocketing and The Erosion of Integrity by Anne Elizabeth Moore. Thanks to my friend M for sending that one to Scotland. It's a great yet distressing account of how corporations such as Starbucks, Nike and Sony have been coopting the styles and practices of independent and street artists (e.g. Graffadi = graffiti created by indie artists to sell Sony Playstations). About how such corporations don't get jailtime or often even fines for graffiti or art interventions, like artists do. And about how some of us indie folk end up chasing the corporate carrot, either out of ignorance or desperation...  

To see indie culture alive and well, go to Canzine tomorrow at the Gladstone Hotel (Queen West just before Dufferin). 1-7pm, $5. I will have a table and be selling some books, also I'm screening my silly short film Slippery at 2pm. See you there!

xoox from Canadialand





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