Monday, 23 July 2012

Glitter, Glitter, Gone (For Now): Brief Blog Hiatus

Hey readers,

Having recently survived a bout sign-making party, I am still getting glitter off of me, despite multiple showers and what I would describe as intense scrubbing. I must tender my apologies to Guelph's Royal City Rollergirls, as any terrible signs are mine. I considered blaming our Juniors, but they have more style than that.

I am going on a blog hiatus starting today until August  9th, whereupon the derby fun will recommence. During that break, I will be on a family vacation, madly studying for my comprehensive examinations.

In the mean time, read this amazing size-acceptance post by our league president Vansterdamn, who operates a great fat derby blog. It is a call to arms for every skater who has felt that roller derby and being a proud woman of size were incompatible. Vansterdamn herself is a wonderful proponent of size-acceptance and an inspiration for anyone who loves derby.

See you in August!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Book Review: Red Tash's Troll or Derby

So, what happens when roller derby meets fairies, trolls and drug cartels?

Red Tash, formerly Tyra Durden of the Derby City Rollergirls,  could tell you. Her previous novels include This Brilliant Darkness and The Wizard Tales, and this time, she's penned Troll or Derby, a roller derby fantasy novel about a roller skater from the Midwest named Deb and Harlow, a musician who happens to be a troll. Tash takes you from burning meth labs to supermarket aisles to the fairy underworld hidden in the heartland. Smart, fast-paced and constantly changing perspectives and locales, Troll or Derby is a kaleidoscopic page-turner that hits the ground skating.

Tash has a gift for pointing out funny, macabre details and leaves each chapter dangling, keeping the plot going. Like Holly Black's urban fantasy Tithe, but for the rural set or Jim Butcher's Dresden Files for the young skater, Troll or Derby is funny, dark fantasy with a pop culture sensibility. Music has a particular presence in the book, informing both chapter headings and key moments in the plot.

Of the two main characters, Harlow is a particularly engaging narrator, though Deb's perspective takes on added charm the more fairy world and roller derby come to the fore. Dialogue early in the book is occasionally stilted, due to the necessity of building a sense of the text's world.  Deb herself reads almost too cool to be true by the book's end, but ultimately she's balanced by Harlow's tusked, self-deprecating charms. For spoiler-containing considerations of the book's sexual politics, highlight the following: Deb's queer-inflected sexuality, combined with her escape from the clutches of an immensely sexy but irredeemably evil derby wife along with Harlow's love for her reads uncomfortably like a heterosexual rescue arc at first glance. However, upon a second look, Deb and Harlow's relationship seems ultimately more complex than a simple romance and I hope future installments of the story follow through with that.  

But what about the roller derby? Aside from Deb being frequently referred to as 'Roller Deb,' which I  must admit I found a bit grating at first, derby really only comes to the centre of the rink in the final third of the book. When it does, however, it gets it just right. Tash captures the spell of derby in a wonderfully literal way, from the intensity of the derby wife and intra-team relationship to the whirlwind of the sometimes too-hard partying we associate with the derby lifestyle. Tash uses just the right fairy tale trope inflections to make the book's derby scenes stand out. They are just delicious. And it turns out that fairy knee pads stink just as bad as human ones.

All in all, Troll or Derby is hell on wheels. We can only hope for more. Visit to learn more and order your copy.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bouting Over the Rainbow: LOCO Does London Pride

This upcoming July 28th, LOCO London will be bouting against LOCO Stratford and London's Violet Femmes will be facing off against the Royal City Rollergirls, all in the name of pride. The bout will coincide with London Pride celebrations and proceeds from the bout will go to the London chapter of PFLAG. I've said before that roller derby and queer activism can and should go hand in hand. And I'm am so, so proud that my league is supporting PFLAG.

PFLAG is a treasure. It is on the front lines of community support. It is where confused or scared but loving parents go. It is where friends who are so full of love they want to lend a hand to the community their loved one is part of go. It is where coworkers, educators, clergy and people with questions can go. PFLAG saves lives and families and its existence and success are a testament to the power of love, empathy and community organizing.  Watching members share their stories will make you weep.

PFLAG deserves community support and I hope folks in the London area will join in to enjoy the thrill of the bout and the joy of community involvement. Details below!

Rock the Rainbow
July 28th
Medway Arena,
119 Sherwood Forest Square
London, ON

Doors open at 6:00 pm

Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Roller Derby: The Bout and the Beer

The link between roller derby and beer is a strong one. Pabst Blue Ribbon seems to be the unofficial beer of some derby leagues. Fans drink beer at bouts and make 'beeramids' skaters can crash into from the empty cans. Working the beer table at a bout is like taking your life in your hands. Smart leagues form relationships with local breweries for cross-promotion and bout sales.

And skaters kinda like it. A little. Maybe.

In honour of the beautiful relationship between our sport and (for many) the derby quaff of choice, here are a few derby-themed brews, likely not available in your area, but the next time you're sipping a beer, imagine it's one of these.

Rink Rash derby-themed seasonal beer from the Paradise Creek Brewery in Pullman, Washington in the United States. Produced for the Rolling Hills Derby Dames, this might be the first roller derby beer. Sadly, it seems to only be a seasonal batch for fundraising purposes, expected to last through the summer of 2012, and then it's gone. But it's certainly a start and an inspiration to other leagues interested in joining forces with local breweries and producing beer inspired by the sport which will inspire its consumption.

Also of note is Bogus Brewing of Garden City, Idaho in the States. A community-supported brewery, BB recently raised $30 000 through their Kickstarter campaign. The idea behind Bogus Brewing is very cool - as they say, invest and receive dividends of beer. It's like community-supported agriculture, but that much more awesome. Of their three starter brews, one is Hip Check, a dry India Pale Ale inspired by the Treasure Valley Rollergirls. To keep abreast of the news regarding this cool upstart, check out their Facebook page or Twitter.

Lest we forget the league side of things, I present for your cheering pleasure, the Brewcity  Bruisers Milwaukee Rollergirls and their Beerleaders. Need we say more?

And finally, a 1986 Pabst Blue Ribbon commercial featuring a sport that people seem to think roller derby is like.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Looking at LOCO: Considering a Young Derby League

Officially founded in London, Ontario in 2010, LOCO Roller Derby is a low-cost, low-contact, low-commitment league intended for players who love the sport of derby, but find participating in competitive full-contact derby untenable. I joined LOCO pretty early, in the autumn of 2010. My attendance has been pretty spotty amidst efforts to finish my Master's, start my PhD and handle my anxiety in the almost two years since. At the same time, it's been a bit like seeing a really young cousin sporadically at family events - every time you look they're bigger and more complex.

Starting with original London league, LOCO has since expanded to four chapters, including Stratford, Kitchener, and Brantford. During one of this blog's occasional periods of radio silence, they also added a full-contact chapter, the Violet Femmes. Even more recently, LOCO has starting hosting Juniors practices for skaters under 18. Every time I come back (usually bent from carrying a backpack full of books), it's grown.

It's been tempting to identify personally with LOCO's growth - when I started wobbling across the  gym floor on borrowed skates, LOCO was at a temporary home due to construction at our downtown YMCA. It had a relatively small number of players at practices. It didn't have much contact with other leagues. Now that I'm (finally) reading up on the rules and training as a ref, the league has multiple weekly practices, four chapters, multiple practice venues, several charity events and inter-league bouts under its belt, a huge increase in its membership and all in all, a lot to be proud of. Since I learned to skate backwards, LOCO's been featured in Hit and Miss magazine as well as in newspapers and on television. LOCO isn't just a league - it's a mindset regarding how everyone deserves access to the sport, regardless of schedule, finances or athletic ability. People with the time, money and talent to play full-contact can (and do, still within the league), but the rest of us aren't an after-thought. We're a family.

When I look at this picture on the LOCO website, taken in the league's early days, I see skaters who have moved on to other leagues as the result of moves and skaters who I just haven't seen in person lately or I never got a chance to know. But I also see skaters who have taken breaks from derby and returned, skaters who have continued to volunteer as leaders within the league's administration and, personally, I see a spot for me and for all the players who have joined since that picture was taken.

Naturally, there are places, both literal and metaphorical, that I would love to see LOCO go. I would love to see us have a permanent practice space more directly under our control, providing increased skating time to our league-members. I would love to see us expand to other cities so women who thought roller derby couldn't be a part of their lives can hit the track instead. I would love to see us make more connections with other leagues and build up our in-house teams. We need more referees. We need to find a way to better enable financially-strapped skaters with aid. An online forum for skaters would be sweet. But we're a healthy league powered by a lot of passion. We will find a way to make these things happen.

In the mean time, if you're interested in getting LOCO in your city, check out our organizational structure and master manual, then contact us through the LOCO site.