Ghost Pine #13: Boys

27 10 2014

Ghost Pine #13: Boys is out now, featuring 56 pages of love, youth, and foolishness. These nine new stories cover getting matching tattoos, my high school band’s first out-of-town show, a snapshot of life on tour with Kepler, dancing late at night with an old pal, and an elegy to my friend Will Munro, whose  art graces the cover.

It costs $5 (including postage), and you can paypal me the money, along with your mailing address, to:

jeffotaku @

I’m currently living in a secluded cottage on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia with no internet access, but will do my best to get orders in the mail within a week.

I hope everyone is doing well out there. Thanks for reading!

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Halifax Pop Explosion Zine Fair

24 10 2014

Hey Halifax, I’ll be at the Halifax Pop Explosion zine fair at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen St.) Saturday October 25 from 12 to 5 selling copies of the new issue of Ghost Pine, GP 13: Boys. I’ll also have copies of the Ghost Pine book and a bunch of back issues.

You can find more info about the zine fair here:

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Top 9 of 2013

8 01 2014

In no order, except the first one.

Hanging out with Spike:

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Pictured here leading me into a bog to look for berries and wild orchids

Writing book reviews:

Since October 2012 I’ve written over two dozen book reviews for Cult MTL and, more recently, for the Book Lounge. Some memorable ones include Tom King’s searing Inconvenient Indian, Chris Kraus’s latest novel, an interview with a punk legend about his photo book, and Sarah Liss’s incredible community history of Will Munro. There is an embarrassment of riches coming to press every month, and I’m excited to see what independent publishers like Coach House, Biblioasis, Conundrum, the Sister Spit imprint at City Lights, and more have in store for the new year.


Reviewing Giller Prize winner Hellgoing by Lynn Coady at Clam Harbour Beach – photo by Spike

Touring with Aaron Cometbus:

As you may guess Mr. Cometbus was one of my early literary heroes. So bringing him up for Expozine and a short jaunt to Ontario for his first-ever readings in North America was a major triumph and a lot of fun. The immense enthusiasm we encountered every step of the way was incredibly gratifying, especially from our gracious hosts at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal, the Academy of the Impossible in Toronto, Hammer City Records in Hamilton, and Pressed Cafe in Ottawa. It was awesome. Thanks so much to everyone who helped out and came out, and to Aaron for taking me up on my invitation.


Going to Newfoundland:

I’ve been bugging Spike to take me to this giant rock in the Atlantic forever and this year it finally happened. We took the ferry to Argentia and over the course of seven days she drove us all the way across to the western ferry at Port aux Basques. Along the way we saw colonies of birds on sea stacks, took in the incredible Mary Pratt retrospective at The Rooms, heard fairy stories at the Cape Spear lighthouse, ate cod every day (in fish n brewis, and fish n chips with stuffing and gravy, and on its own), drove through the fog, saw puffins up close, hung out in root cellars, and fell in love with the vernacular architecture and amazing place-ness of Tilting on Fogo Island. We also camped in Gros Morne, came across a giant beaver lodge in a marsh, saw leaping salmon, and so much more. My tenth province did not disappoint.

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Insert puffin pun here – photo by Spike

UNA BÈSTIA INCONTROLABLE – Observant com el Món es destrueix LP (La Vida es un Mus) & live at Katacombes [listen / buy]:

Spike and I watched this band from the balcony at Katacombes, where footsore adults can enjoy hardcore shows from comfy seats. This band was wailing and harsh like the others on the bill but the curlyheaded bass player remained anchored in a groove that kept the heavy music surprisingly light on its feet, preventing it from veering too far into the pit of distorted noize. He wore a sleeveless t-shirt and bounced around the stage with a huge grin on his face, and his joy is embedded in this heavy, deep, and dirty music. I immediately bought this LP from the merch table and returned to it all year long. This isn’t a sub-genre, just four Barcelona punks relentlessly experimenting with the tropes of hardcore and coming up with something new and exciting.

una bestia incontrollable

Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize:

The day the prize was announced I tuned the radio at the bookstore to Radio One and nearly teared up listening to the World at Six cover Alice Munro’s Nobel win as the top story. Alice Munro writes about small lives in unremarkable places with masterful precision. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading her I recommend starting with “The Turkey Season” and “The Moons of Jupiter,” followed by the final quartet of autobiographical stories in her latest collection Dear Life (you can read my review of the book here).


Get Out “Culture of Defeat” CS (Thing Itself) & live at Brasserie Beaubien [listen / buy]:

Just as Una Bestia Incontrollable capture the rage and rhythm of the crisis in the Eurozone, Get Out offer a particularly Canadian view on austerity economics. The music on “Culture of Defeat” inhabits the hinterland between the tunefulness of Anorak City and the lyrical heft of Drag City. Their songs capture the struggle of being broke in a world-class city, the failure of artistic endeavour, and the futility of just about everything.

Get Out - Culture of Defeat

Lunenberg Folk Art Festival:

After wanting to go for several years, Spike and I finally made it to the Lunenberg Folk Art Festival this year. Nova Scotia is famous for folk art, and over the years we’ve picked up several amazing pieces by artist Barry Colpitts, who lives up the road from Spike’s parents. Held in a hockey rink, this art fair brings together the best folk artists in the province and is an amazing opportunity to see a wide variety of colourful and idiosyncratic works in one place. But you have to get there early, because all the pieces are sold in the first two hours. We bought a number of pieces and I even won the yellow fish as a door prize! It’s by Craig Naugler, who also made the intricate spotted owl in this picture and is one of the best young artists working today. Incredible.

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New friends – photo by Spike

Finishing my MA in English Literature:

For my major research paper I mostly wrote about beaver imagery in the Canadian Whole Earth Almanac. It changed my life.

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Cometbus and Ghost Pine on tour!

5 11 2013

After a few years of my asking him politely, Aaron Cometbus is finally coming to Canada to give his first ever readings in the Great White North and we’re going on a short tour together. Montrealers will also be able to find him at Expozine (Nov. 16 & 17) tabling for both days and participating in a panel discussion on the Saturday along with some other zine luminaries.


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For those who don’t know, Cometbus is one of the most popular and longest running zines in the world and Aaron’s distinctive narrative style and unique perspective on punk culture have won him a devoted readership. I am really excited that this is happening! Hope to see you there.

Cometbus and Ghost Pine on tour (all events all ages):

Sunday, November 17: Montreal @ Librairie Drawn & Quarterly (211 Bernard O.), 7pm FREE *I won’t be reading at this one, instead I’ll be conducting an on-stage interview with Aaron*

Tuesday, November 19: Toronto @ The Academy of the Impossible (231 Wallace), 7 PM PWYC w. Maggie MacDonald

Wednesday, November 20: Hamilton @ Hammer City Records (228 James St N.), 7 PM PWYC

Thursday, November 21: Ottawa @ Pressed (750 Gladstone), 8 PM PWYC





10 01 2013

So it’s a new year and I have about half a dozen writing projects on the go. Some are long and some are short, but they all involve me tapping away at my laptop into the wee hours of the morning every single day. More news to come as it develops.

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Distro gems











I’ve restocked the zine rack at Depanneur Le Pick Up. Here are some of the more recent additions, including the new issue of Scam, which is a history of the first Black Flag LP, the latest issue of Maranda’s amazing Telegram, and some fantastic little books by James Kirkpatrick. Also new stuff from One Way Ticket zine, the Still Crapulent After All These Years food blog, and more! Check it out.

One of the funnest things I’ve done in the last few months is write book reviews for the daily culture website and monthly print periodical, Cult Mtl, born from the ashes of the late lamented Montreal Mirror (you can read all of my reviews here).

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My co-reviewer











As in previous years I’m including a list of some of the best books I read this year. All the books that I chose to read, outside of school and reviewing, were by women. I read very slowly and carefully this year. One of the downsides of writing so much is that there is less time for reading, so I tried to choose books that would slow my brain down and offer gifts on each page.

Here’s a partial list, in no particular order:

Inferno: A Poet’s Novel and The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art by Eileen Myles; Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness and Summer of Hate by Chris Kraus; The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America and Sister Spit: Writing, Rants, and Reminiscence from the Road  (ed.) by Michelle Tea; Orlando, To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, The Voyage Out, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” by Virginia Woolf; Strange Heaven by Lynn Coady; The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman; Dear Life by Alice Munro; Out of the Vinyl Deeps by Ellen Willis; A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence; Heroines by Kate Zambreno; Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth; Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig; Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster; Love and the Mess We’re In by Stephen Marche; Deadly Snakes: Real Rock and Roll Tonight by J. B. Staniforth; NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere by Mark Black.

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Stay warm


No P. O.

11 10 2012

I closed my post office box last week. If you want to send me a letter or package, write the email address listed on my contact page and I’ll fix you up with my current mailing address.

Winter 2006

Shutting down the P. O. Box is a little bit sad. I opened it seven years ago when my living situation was up in the air. I lived on the Plateau and moved house every few months. It was nice to have my have a little cube where my mail went, and I checked it every day. I spent my teen years mail-ordering zines and records from post office boxes so it was exciting to finally have one of my own. The box was located in a dep two doors down from Barfly and the trilingual Portuguese ladies who ran it nodded to me whenever I came in.

After all those years of total chaos it’s hard to believe that I’ve  now lived on the same block in Little Italy for five years, and in the same apartment for four. The Portuguese ladies closed their dep years ago and the postal counter moved down the Main into the big chain drug store near Schwartz’s, which always stinks like brisket.

Over the past few years it’s become more of a pain to get down to the Plateau on a regular basis to pick up ever smaller piles of mail. And nowadays most zine reviews in Maximumrocknroll have email addresses instead of P. O. Box numbers. And so I finally decided to shut it down.

I’ve got a lot on my plate these days (including reviewing books for the amazing Cult MTL), but a new issue of GP is gestating quietly in a few different notebooks. Ghost Pine Fanzine is now sixteen years old, as old as I was when I started writing it.


16 05 2012

Hi. If you haven’t seen me for a while it’s because I’m living in a seaside cottage in Nova Scotia for the summer.

If you haven’t seen me for a while before that, it’s because I’ve been in graduate school for the past two years. I’m working on my last big paper now. It’s about this funny back-to-the-land magazine called the Canadian Whole Earth Almanac, which was published by the Coach House Press in Toronto in the early seventies.The Almanac was sort of like the Canuck version of the Calfornia-based Whole Earth Catalog, but also totally different. It’s been fascinating to unearth the past of the Coach House through various textual sources and a bit of hearsay. For my project I’ve also been researching Toronto’s utopian/dystopian free university Rochdale College, which has a large part to play in the creation of the Almanac.  Here are the covers of a few issues. It was these beautifully-detailed and cryptic images which first piqued my interest in the Almanac to begin with.

The Food Issue – Beavers in space!

The Shelter Issue

I’ve only be out east for three weeks and have already gone on a roadtrip with Spike to Saint John and Fredericton. New Brunswick has always been a bit of an unknown on my personal map of the country so it was nice to finally see it up close. One day we crossed the swollen Saint John River on three (!) separate cable ferries, one which had birdhouses for the swallows that follow it back and forth across the river  every morning.

Cable ferry birdhouses

In Fredericton we stayed in a haunted-feeling old university residence and the next day I explored the town, picking up some manga at Strange Adventures, acquiring a local zine at Backstreet Records, and downing a few tasters at the Picaroon’s Brewery storefront. The next day we bought a 2.5 lb. bag of fiddleheads for $5 from a teenager selling them on his front lawn outside of Woodstock and then crossed the world’s longest covered bridge at Hartland.

Longest covered bridge!

Before leaving for New Brunswick we went to the farewell barbeque/punk show for the Roberts Street Social Centre, home to the Anchor Archive Zine Library, as well as a silk screen studio, meeting space, photocopier, and other amazing community resources. They have been evicted and are currently looking for a new space to move into for June 1st.  If you are a benevolent Halifax landlord who wants to host this amazing project, or can help out in any way, now’s the time to get in touch.

Spike and I serving during our tenure as writer- and historian-in-residence at the Anchor Archive back in the day (Daniel MacDonald photo)

It’s still cold out here by the waterside, but signs of spring are all around. In one of the Almanacs I found the following quote

“Spring: Forms of life which have been gathering their forces underground now come forth. Ideas and insights which have been developing through the dark months enter the light.”

After several very busy years it’s nice to be out here on the shore, listening to the spring peepers and loons, trying to dig deep and get some work done. Sorry for being out of touch for so long. Hopefully you’ll be hearing more from me soon.

Sunset in Head of Jeddore on Saturday night


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