Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Ten Years to This Day

"Around 2009 I was giving a guest lecture at a university — something about the rapidly changing art world in the digital age — and during the Q&A an art student asked about whether having an online presence was a risk to the integrity of the artist and the art. I don’t think of myself as particularly prophetic, but I answered that I believed that very soon artists, and all other people, would be considered suspicious or even punished for not having an online presence. Which of course, now, often feels true. If you’re not online, in the eyes of many you don’t exist."

The above is from "Notes on Disappearing", an August 11th Glasstire essay by Christina Rees. I include it because August 2009 was when I started this blog (ten years ago today, to be exact) and I wanted to mark the occasion, as well as acknowledge the prophecy.

I published a book in the fall of 2009. Before it came out my publicist asked me if I was "active on social media." I told her I was not, and she said I should have a social media presence (Facebook, Twitter), as it would help her do her job (which is to promote the book). I said, "Okay, I've always been interested in blogs. I'll start a blog." She looked at me like I'd said I was going to buy a car and returned with a used Ford Escort.

Not sure how much longer I will keep this blog. Fairly certain I won't be posting daily. All of which is to say please expect less of me in the days and weeks to come.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Heavenly Blue

I'm not sure when I planted the "Heavenly Blue" morning glory seeds. Fairly certain it was in May. But after eight feet of vine growth, nothing on the flower end.

I put the question to my neighbour, whose last job before gallery direction was landscaping. "Lots of leaves and no flowers means too much nitrogen."

I thought back to when I prepared its pot. I remember using potting soil, and that the soil was tucked into a shelf next to an old, almost empty bag of mushroom manure.

"That would do it," he said.

Yesterday a flower came out. A hole in the nitrogen firewall!

Sunday, August 11, 2019


Last night I had another of those market society nightmares. This time it was a search engine data collection agency asking those of us who have ever gone online to pay a fee to keep our logs (after our death) from those willing to pay almost as much to license them.

No biggy, right -- our data has already been purchased and put to use by those who stand to gain from it. But the difference here is that those looking to buy our logs (they refer to us through the primary resource extractive term "loggers") intend to make those logs available in the form of programming.

In all my time growing up I never once thought that, after my passing, I would "return" to life in the form of a posthumous (television) channel. And that if I didn't want that to happen, I would have to pay someone to keep it from happening!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Laughter is the Best Euthanist

There is reason to be hopeful when today's dog owner prefers to rehabilitate a "rescue" dog than raise a just-weaned puppy. Not everyone is capable of raising a puppy. Nor is everyone capable of rehabilitating a rescue dog.

Some of the meanest people I know have raised the nicest dogs. Some of the most well-meaning have made their rescue dogs even meaner.

There is someone in my neighbourhood who, though extremely kind and gentle, insisted on adopting a thrice-rescued rescue dog that was so mean it took one look at my neighbour and laughed so hard it had to be put down.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Ethnographic Record

I found this 1963 New American Library (Mentor) edition of Margaret Mead's 1928 study of adolescence and sex in Samoa at a Kingsway thrift store a couple weeks ago. Not sure what move this nephew and auntie are bustin' on the cover, but I'm pretty sure they're not doing it to the Fireballs' "Sugar Shack".

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Secret Theatre

Last month Secret Beauty Supply (1339 Kingsway) used purple and white paint to bring "new life" to an art deco theatre.

This is what the other side of the street looked like when the theatre was being built:

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Mountain Lore

As a child I knew them as the Lions, two peaks poking up from the North Shore Mountains that (apparently) look like lions in the sunset's orange and yellow glow.

Try as I might, I could never find out who named them. Like a lot of things in the British city of Vancouver, it was just accepted. As in, If you have to ask, you don't deserve to know!

Years later I learned that they are also called the Two Sisters, and that E. Pauline Johnson included their story in her book, Legends of Vancouver (Vancouver: David Spencer, Ltd., 1911).

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Haiku in Recognition of the Marriage of Julian and Tiziana

Late-summer sunrise
A rainbow in each dew drop
Time to change passwords

Monday, August 5, 2019

Projected Verse

Last night People's Co-op Bookstore hosted another in Louis Cabri and Rob Manery's long-running, nation-crossing Projector Verse series.

Matea Kulić projected Aja Moore's “I Want to Text You About Robert Duncan” from Hotwheel (Montreal: Metatron Press, 2018); Jeremy Stewart projected W.G. Sebald's “Like a dog” and “At the edge” (Michael Hamburger, trans.) from Unrecounted (New York: New Directions, 2007); and Peter Quartermain projected Walt Whitman's Poem of the Propositions of Nakedness,” from Leaves of Grass (self-published, 1856 edition).

People give readings, after which the audience is sometimes invited to respond. With Projected Verse, the text is projected by its selector, who reads the piece then afterward leads a discussion. Here, the spoken remains present, not as an echo but as an image (too). Great insights shared on Aja, Sebald and Whitman's poems, with Aja in attendance.

The picture up top is of Peter reading from the paper page. Shining a light onto that page is Louis. The copy that is projected onto the bed sheet is from a piece of acetate. Print, projection, digital lighting, linens -- it's all there. And so were we!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Age and Aging

Some years I ago, while speaking on the topic of age and aging with a friend who had recently retired after a forty-four year school teaching career, I was told, "If you can get through your fifties without any chronic health problems, you're laughing."

I thought a lot about this in the weeks and months that followed, noting those who, in their fifties, suddenly announced that they had to take insulin or statins or any number of drugs pertinent to a chronic condition. I thought also about something I said in advance of what my friend said, where I quoted the shockingly high death rate among school teachers within the first five years of their retirement, wondering if I had brought on his comment -- in the form of a curse!

For me, now in my early-mid-fifties, the condition is hypothyroid, for which I take thyroxine.

At bottom is a passage near the end of the opening section of V.S. Naipaul's The Enigma of Arrival (1987), where the nameless narrator (Naipaul was in his early-fifties when he started the book) falls into a choking fit while reflecting on the life and work of his former neighbour Jack on a walk past Jack's old farm. Eventually the fit subsides, only to return full-force that night, making him "seriously ill."

"This was the illness that did away with whatever remained of youthfulness in me (and much had remained), diminished my energy and pushed me week by week, during my convalescence, month by month, into middle age." (83)

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Public Art

Coming out of my dentist's last week, a smooth crown over the molar that had for too long sat in my mouth like a broken piece of tea cup, I noticed in the raised box by the parking lot a mostly organic figure.

I stepped onto the box to better read its contents: a stump whose roots were bound by a heavy black wrapper, with something green and leafy sprouting at its east end. Beside the stump, and unrelated to its living form, yellow tufts of grass. At one point the surface of the box had been covered in a fine gravel.

Upon closer inspection the leafy matter turned out to be chestnut. A chestnut tree was planted here. (I counted the rings inside the stump; there were close to fifty of them, making it as old as the building.) But then what? It wasn't wanted anymore? It had grown too big? Too big for what -- the box?

Friday, August 2, 2019


Paris is not my favourite city; but like the middle child of three, who is always the third child (not the oldest, nor the youngest, but the middle), it is special. Like Rome is special, or more recently, Rawabi.

Someone dear to me is in Paris for a break (though I know she brought work with her). According to Parisians, who traditionally vacate in August, it is not the best time to be there. But most Parisians I have met -- the "cultured" ones, the ones who say August is a bad time to be in Paris -- make terrible strangers, so maybe it's moot.

My dear loves French things like Paris, the language, its writers, scholars and artists, and I know she will be happy there. So I wish her well, and look forward to what she might bring back with her. Stories, of course, but also those little things that only she can find in that city's many parks and markets.

Free Man in Paris (1973)
(Joni Mitchell)

The way I see it he said 
You just can't win it
Everybody's in it for their own gain 
You can't please 'em all 
There's always somebody calling you down 
I do my best 
And I do good business 
There's a lot of people asking for my time 
They're trying to get ahead 
They're trying to be a good friend of mine

I was a free man in Paris 
I felt unfettered and alive 
There was nobody calling me up for favors 
And no one's future to decide
You know I'd go back there tomorrow 
But for the work I've taken on 
Stoking the star maker machinery 
Behind the popular song

I deal in dreamers 
And telephone screamers 
Lately I wonder what I do it for 
If l had my way 
I'd just walk through those doors
And wander 
Down the Champs Elysées *
Going cafe to cabaret 
Thinking how I'll feel when I find 
That very good friend of mine

I was a free man in Paris 
I felt unfettered and alive 
Nobody was calling me up for favors 
No one's future to decide 
You know I'd go back there tomorrow 
But for the work I've taken on 
Stoking the star maker machinery 
Behind the popular song

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Enigma of Arrival (1987)

V.S. Naipaul's The Enigma of Arrival (1987) takes place in Sussex, not far from Stonehenge, where Hardy's Tess and Angel Clare came to rest -- before her arrest.

I saw him as a remnant. Not far away, among the ancient barrows and tumuli, were the firing ranges and the army training grounds of Salisbury Plain. There was a story that because of the absence of  people in those military areas, because of the purely military uses to which the land had been put to for so long, and contrary to what one might expect after the explosions and mock warfare, there survived on the Plain some kinds of butterfly that had vanished in more populated parts. And I thought that in some such fashion, in the wide droveway at the bottom of the valley, accidentally preserved from people, traffic and the military, Jack like the butterflies had survived.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Bored with your excellence? Your tendency to maintain greatness? Call an "Ainter"!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


Snapped Branch
for Craig Paterson

won’t you like my life?
I have lived enough of it

with some to spare
enough to share with you 

that what I have learned
has taught me

I am tempted to leave it at that!
but there is more

and when I am gone
still more 

something to think about
to make something of

I am looking for an editor
a narrative

to begin in the middle
an October afternoon

walking with her and her dog
along a creek

I am listening to a story
of a woman

whose son she treated
kneeling over him

the woman over her 
crying, wailing

she reaches into the wound
and she pauses

still walking 
one, two, three steps

something clicks
a snapped branch

she tells me she has read things
only I would understand

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Johnson Brexit Era

I wonder how those We The North hoodies are playing out in the Republic of Ireland this summer.

Ireland has never wanted a border between it and the UK's Northern Ireland, but the UK will soon require a manned and gated presence if it wants to keep EU goods from flowing freely into its colony, and from there into Scotland, England and Wales.

Of course Scotland may vote to secede from the Kingdom and, like Ireland, join the EU. Then what? A UK reduced to England and Wales? Ever met a Welsh nationalist?

A (gated) wall along the Kingdom-Republic will cost a lot of money. I don't think charging admission into Northern Ireland is going to fund it.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

If It Were a Theme Park, What Would Its Theme Be?

Is it becoming clearer? The Trump Administration gets the Supreme Court to allow it 2.5 billion dollars in Defense Department funds to help establish a (gated) wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. According to CNN, the 5-4 vote followed "ideological lines."

With southern turnstiles in place, those hoping to enter the U.S. through Mexico will be charged admission. Whether that payment is made through cash, gold or promised labour will be at the discretion of Fort America and its partners.

As for the hit on Defense spending, that will be recouped through admission fees, which in turn will be re-invested in additional Defense programs, like un-manned combat forces (drones, armed satellites) deployed in areas outside the country where its interests (water, oil, phosphorus, cobalt, tantalum, neodymium) are at stake.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Summer Reading

My novel reading of late has been based on chance encounters. I found Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891) at a small thrift store on Kingsway; Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms (1929) at the Value Village on Victoria Drive; and Jeannette Armstrong's Slash (1985) in the People's Co-op Bookstore "Loonie Cart" (actually, Kim from Paperhound noticed it first but gave it to me when I said I have always wanted to read it).

Something common to all three novels is a woman in love. In Tess, the woman is Tess, who loves the proud and high-minded Angel Clare; in A Farewell to Arms, it is Catherine, a British army nurse, who loves Frederic, an American lieutenant in the Italian Army Ambulance Corp; and in Slash it is the activist Maeg, whom Slash meets after his (final) return home. All three women pass away by the novel's end: Tess is executed for killing the man who convinced her that her husband (Angel) would never return to her; Catherine dies after a difficult childbirth; and Maeg is killed in a car crash.

Of the three novels, the death of Maeg hit me the hardest. I knew something was coming, but with a third-of-a-page remaining (before the "Epilogue"), I relaxed, thought otherwise. Then, out of nowhere, Slash tells us:

"Two days later, Maeg came home in a box. A car had hit theirs and killed her and her two friends."

Something about the suddenness of Maeg's passing, and the matter-of-fact -- if not harsh -- response by Slash. But Armstrong knows what she is doing and this, now that I think about it, is an instance of a form and tone consistent with the structure of a character and the world this character has made of himself -- in words.

I am sorry Maeg had to die to make it so. But that's life, right? At least it was in the early-1980s, when Armstrong was writing Slash. Had she started writing this book today I wonder if the story might be written from Maeg's perspective.

Friday, July 26, 2019

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe"

The passing of Rutger Hauer has seen the Dutch actor reduced to a "Blade Runner co-star." My introduction to Hauer came at a mid-1970s Ridge Theatre screening of Paul Verhoeven's Turkish Delight (1973). For years Dutch people voted Turkish Delight as the Netherland's best film, ever.

Below is my update of Hauer's improvised "Tears in the Rain" speech from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982):

Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. An American electorate forsake reason for emotion. I watched their president boast that he could have Afghanistan "wiped off the face of the earth," if he "want[ed] to go that route."

All those moments will can never be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Time to die rise.

Thursday, July 25, 2019


Yesterday's Canadian Art post features the National Gallery of Canada's Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons exhibition at the Kunsthalle Munich. In an email to Canadian Art, NGC curator Katarina Atanassova had this to say of an exhibition where "a great number" of the 121 paintings "have never been seen in public":

"If we convince ourselves and the world that 'Canada' and 'Impressionism' must stand together and write a new chapter in the history of global Impressionism, our mission is accomplished."

And if this mission isn't accomplished? Will the NGC try again?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Narrative Art

A slide-show presentation by the curators of the still-under-construction Lucas Museum of Narrative Art at the 2019 Comic-Con.

What is "narrative art"? William Poundstone asks "whither".

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Post-Confession Syndrome

Thank you to those who wrote to me in response to yesterday's documentation and the "Labels" identification ("Post-Confessionalism") beneath it. As far as I know -- and apart from what comes up when googled -- Post-Confessionalism has neither a manifesto nor a "point-person"/editorial nor a dues paying membership.

As for the text's "perspective," no, it's not me, nor is it intended to be me, but a piece of writing whose writer might have discarded it (out of insecurity? for another draft?); sent it to someone who discarded it (in disgust?); or was found by someone who opened it, read it and (in consideration of these questions?) tried to turn it into art.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Note (2019)

Note is made of ink, paper and painted metal, and stands four inches high and three inches wide. Those curious about the crumpled piece of paper can open it and read it.

For those who can't read it, read it here:

when you address me
like I am the worst of those
who look like me
you speak from the worst
of what lurks in you

but we are not three in this instance
for there is another in me too
who is as numb as yours is angry
uniting the four of us
in a condition we agree 
is one of exhaustion and hurt

so when I respond to your address
with silence please know that
it is not a loss of words
nor an inconsideration of yours
but my inability to articulate them
beyond the opening of this note

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Slash (1985)

I am reading Syilx Okanagan First Nations writer and scholar Jeannette Armstrong's Slash (Penticton: Theytus Books, 1985). According to Wikipedia, Slash is the first novel by a First Nations woman to be published in Canada.

Slash is, among many things, the story of Tommy (or Slash, as he is nicknamed after his knifing), from his days growing up "traditional" in 1950s and 60s rural Okanagan, to his time in Vancouver, where he works for drug dealers and is eventually jailed, to his travels as a Red Power activist to hotbeds like Washington, DC and Wounded Knee, South Dakota, to his return home, where he puts his knowledge to work.

What I appreciate most about Slash is Armstrong's casual yet careful ability to show the complexities of indigenous life both on and off the reserve -- much like the complexities that existed within the American Indian Movement, which, despite insistence by some members that it was a "spiritual movement," was deemed too radical and violent by members who sought more unifying strategies.

After Slash returns from Wounded Knee, he attends a Band Council meeting, where he gets into a conversation with his cousin Chuck, who tells him:

"You look good, Tommy, I just don't think it's a good idea to feed anger and hate. I think if we are going to be strong and really doing it, it must be done with a lot of planning and strategy and logic. Not a lot of high emotionalism. That can ruin us. That kind of energy demands outlet and sometimes the outlet is just not the right action to take. We may defeat our own purposes that way. We got to be able to act, yes, but what actions we take are critical. We have to be relentless, yes, but we can't allow our leaders to be neutralized through the petty courts system and through assimilationist press that is biased. Anger, when it is uncontrolled and directed towards anything and everything, is dangerous even to itself. You might see that in due time with this. I can't look forward to that happening. I hope there is enough good strong leaders to see that the actions are directed and controlled toward achieving a common good. I wish you well, my brother." (141)

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A small room behind a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

I awoke to a small square patch of sun on the west wall. Within the patch was a thin web of lines that I thought at first was a daddy long legs but turned out to be cracks on a slightly raised bubble of paint.

When was the last time this place was painted? I pressed my finger against the cracks and the bubble broke, revealing a light pink wallpaper. I picked at the paint until a pattern emerged: vertical rows of pink and blue sea horses.

Now it is time to paint again.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bic 4-Colour Pen

I love this pen. Plus it was time for a new one.

Fifty years old next year!

I did not know that Bic (Société Bic) is a French company, and that my 4-Colour pen was made in France (Clichy). It says so on the white part, below and between the red and black selectors. You can barely see it, but it's there.

Monday, July 15, 2019


The culture appears polarized and extreme. While true that its step-and-fetch-it stick has opposing ends, each is bevelled to reflect pride vanity and conviction arrogance, and both are equally off-putting.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Today is the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement moves forward on its threat to raid the homes of "undocumented immigrants," a move that brings to mind an earlier action when, in November 1938, Nazi's did the same to Jewish families -- in addition to burning down synagogues and looting businesses, an event that became known as Kristallnacht.

So yes, more evidence of what Kay Higgins was alluding to in her talk at ECUAD yesterday, Revisting Brecht's Five Difficulties (or, how can artists respond to the re-emergence of fascism?), part of READ Books and the Libby Leshgold Gallery's At Least Five Difficulties: A Symposium on Artists' Publishing.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Between and &

There's no way out of it: when you look at Vikky Alexander's Between Dreaming & Living #5 (1985), you are implicated. Whether that means you are "between" "Dreaming" and "Living" or simply its ampersand is a question worth asking. (Neither? That's a question too.)

Friday, July 12, 2019

"It's the whole modern thing"

Santa Barbara's Black Sparrow Press published hundreds of important titles until its founder, John Martin, retired in 2002 and sold the rights to certain works to Harper-Collins and, for a dollar, the remainder of its inventory to David R. Godine, who re-named the press Black Sparrow Books.

In 1978, Black Sparrow published Towards A New American Poetics: Essays & Interviews edited by Ekbert Faas. A fascinating document produced 18 years after the arrival of Donald Allen's sod-busting The New American Poetry (1960) and a good eight years before Ron Sillman's arboresque In the American Tree (1986), the book features essays on -- and interviews with -- Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley, Robert Bly and Allen Ginsberg. I got the whole kit and caboodle at a garage sale last week for what Godine paid Martin for his inventory.

While it was Snyder's section I went to first, it is Duncan's that produced potential picks to what has, for me, been a largely impenetrable lock. Yes, it is the experience of the poem's writing that is important, and yes, the "co-operation" of elements is integral to any understanding of the composition, but man (and it is only men in this book) have I had a hard time caring about Duncan! Maybe now this will change.

In the meantime, let me say that of all the writers featured, it is Snyder, the proto-eco poet, whose ideas come closest to anything nearing today's social(ly) medi(c)a(ted) literary conversation. As for Duncan, although his interest in magic is consistent with a lot of witchy thinking in the written and visual arts, his elitisms are closer to the 19th century than they are to the 21st. Check out this exchange:

Faas: Do you think that open form is an American phenomenon?

Duncan: Oh, no. It's only of special significance in America.  It's the whole modern thing.

Faas: So it would be something common to the whole Western world?

Duncan: Yes, and then you have Japan, for instance, opening itself up to the West.  In a way, there are no more crucial openings. Everything has been opened up. Nobody is hiding away in a closet today -- some poor Eskimo or something.

Thursday, July 11, 2019


Millennial Guest Chef (Venusberg)

believing in nothing other
than whatever is at your disposal

celery, lemon, shallots, sherry...

settling for nothing less
than optimum potential

a risotto!

anything short of that 
(water, not stock)

a trauma

stirring, a condition
(dinner is improvised)

coffee mugs of mountain water

unseasoned, unreduced
non-pre-heated, pure

arriving boneless over rocks, logs, moss

perfect for drinking, bathing
yet in its absences -- failure!

more sherry -- a cup for the pot

another for you, to soften
the compromise

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Trailer Park Management

In an effort to rid her recently-purchased trailer park of "drug dealers, drug users and prostitutes," an Orlando, Florida woman took in convicted sex offenders. The reasoning? Sex offenders bring with them "the news ... the sheriff ... probation." Now, "it's basically a clean property."

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


A transcript from an early-1970s TAB ad. Of note is the ad's evocation of the HAL 9000 computer in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Ira Levin's novel The Stepford Wives (1975), adapted to film three years later.

When you can't be with him
Be in his mind
Be a mind-sticker

When you can't be with him, be in his mind, be a mind-sticker. With a shape he can't forget.

Don't you want to have a good shape?
He wants you with a good shape
Shape with TAB

TAB can help you stay in his mind. It's sugar-free and it tastes better than any diet cola. Because the Coca-Cola Company wouldn't have it any other way.

You know, keeping your shape in shape has its rewards.

Be a mind-sticker

Enjoy TAB, and be a mind-sticker.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Morning Glory and Gravel

Work continues on the house up the lane. In February a gravel pile appeared. Not long after that, a glaciation of morning glory.

Years ago I remember pulling out basketball-sized clumps of morning glory from the base of the laurel hedge that separates my yard from the neighbour's. It took three years to remove it all. I never want to go through that again.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Polygon Gallery

Christian Marclay's The Clock (2010) is a 24 hour motion picture built from previously tailored film images and sounds that carry each minute of the day -- all 1440 of them. Does one need to see it? Yes. For reasons that will dawn on you once you are in its grips. Not the movie to eat popcorn to -- but the popcorn itself!

Also at Polygon: a witty and thoughtful exhibition of dog pictures and video curated by Diane Evans; a somewhat gangly sculptural intervention by Samuel Roy-Bois (it is difficult to place a form designed to obscure an exterior view inside something as inwardly prepossessed as an art gallery); and, finally Sara Cwynar: Gilded Age II, another pictures and video exhibition where the former felt like dulls pendants to the latter's spiralling, overlapping interrogation/explication of things rose gold.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Share the Fantasy

A story in Space (20 camera shots) and Time (30 seconds) of a Woman (late-20s) who kisses a Man (60s) before driving to the desert, where she talks on the phone while receiving gas from Another Man (late-teens), before driving further into the desert, where she meets and kisses a Third Man (late-30s).

The woman is wearing a red button-up two-piece ensemble whose skirt stops just above the knee and high heels. Over her right shoulder is a small purse. She has dark hair and grey eyes. She is wearing hoop earrings. On her right wrist are two bracelets: a charm and a cuff. There are no bracelets or rings on her left hand. The earrings and the bracelets are gold-coloured.

The car the woman leaves town in is black. So too is the telephone at the gas station. So too is the shadow of the airplane that passes over her, and that of a desert feature I will get to in a minute.

The first kissed man sits in a spare but expensively furnished high-rise office. The furniture is pseudo-Georgian, and his chair is not meant for business. He is wearing a dark suit and a blue shirt. The kiss he receives is from above and lands on his forehead.

The second man is wearing a yellow sweater and dark-coloured (black) jeans. The third man is wearing a white shirt with the top button undone. Neither the first or the second man have a noticeable part in their hair. The third man parts his in the middle.

The woman's most noticeable forms of expression are a smile and a dead-on, eyes-locked greeting. She looks up when she is thinking and down when she is accelerating, or up and down after the young man at the gas station smiles at her.

The first man could be her father, but he could also be her husband or her sugar daddy. The third man, because of the nature of their kiss, could only be a lover. The role of the second man is to imagine and encourage her.

Behind the woman and the third man is a stone formation that could be a ruin but is more likely something of -- and, paradoxically, resistant to -- nature. It could be a clenched hand, save the middle-finger, but that "finger" could also be a phallus.

Chanel's campaign at the time was "Share the fantasy", and as men we were asked to see this as a woman's fantasy, and to share it with the women we know or want to know. But really, it is a man's fantasy (for a woman), and thus a male fantasy.  Chanel No. 5 sold well during this period, with most of it given as gifts.

Here is another Chanel No. 5 ad from the 1980s:

I am made of blue sky and golden light
and I will feel this way forever

I love these words and quoted them in my thesis. In hearing them I am always reminded of the last two paragraphs of Willa Cather's "Paul's Case" (1905), in particular her line about "the blue of Adriatic water, the yellow of Algerian sands," something Paul will never experience. Not that we have any indication that he wanted to.

Thursday, July 4, 2019


A Capp Street board member complains that the program isn't paying enough attention to local (Bay Area) artists and shortly after that the head curator is laid off. The next scheduled artist cancels, as does the current artist.

The late Okwui Enwezor left San Francisco because he, too, couldn't stand the unsolicited input of local "builders".

A look at the Capp Street board reveals three people, one of whom -- the Founder + Chair of the Board of Trustees -- begins her bio like this: "Carlie Wilmans has deep roots in the arts, with ancestors who played an active part in the California art scene dating back to the Gold Rush."

(Note to self: Google "california gold rush art scene")

And what have we here, in Canada?

Noted warmonger/stooge/former U.S. president and artist George W. Bush is offered an exhibition of his soldier portraits at the Canadian War Museum and he accepts. Among the first reports is an "Opinion" piece from Globe journalist Kate Taylor, who concludes her article with this: “If you wanted to witness the work of Canada’s Afghanistan veterans, there are professional Canadian photographers who might rise to the challenge of telling portraiture. An American hobbyist’s mediocre political exercise has no place in the Canadian War Museum.” 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It's About Time

The Clock (2010) is an artwork that could not help but be made. So someone made it. Now here it is, in Vancouver, and of course we have to check-in. But for how long? Nine-to-five? Lunch hour? Recess (20 minutes)? Coffee break (15 minutes)? Smoke break (six minutes)? What part of our lives might we apply to it? Or should we allow it to dictate our interest in it? (Warning: contains hidden religious messages -- like the above.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Rabbit (1986)

You love it, you hate it, you love what you hate about it. And then one day it matters to you that your hatred is not longer restricted to your critical functions but is present in your metaphysical functions as well. Suddenly, getting out of bed is harder. And when you are up, you are listless, uninspired, achy.

You step outside to get some air and the neighbour tells you how his or her or their eldest is leaving town because he or she or they can no longer afford to live here. Logging on you read about an artwork that has broken an auction record. That the story is in the Arts section and not in the Business section reminds you of what Julian Stallabrass once wrote in Art Incorporated (2004): that the art world doesn't parallel the business world -- it is the business world. ("The art world is bound to the economy as tightly as Ahab to the white whale.")

A message pops up. A magazine wants you to review an exhibition by an artist whose gallery announced the week before that it will be "representing" that artist. You are flattered to be thought of as someone who might add value to that artist's work. You are are disgusted to be thought of as someone would even consider providing that service -- at 10-cents a word.

Monday, July 1, 2019


The Monday that feels like a Sunday. The churches are open but no one is serving; the radio hosts are the weekday people. For all intents and purposes, a Sunday. At some point tonight, when the sky is dark enough, the federal government will paint the sky bright with dynamite and fire. We blanched yesterday when that boat powered its way through an orca pod, but nobody thinks about what fireworks do to the nervous systems of birds and cats. Night time. Sight unseen. The Monday that feels like a Sunday.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Out of Order of Canada

Not magic beans but cranberries, most of which were picked by Guatemalan labourers at one of this patriarch's Fraser Valley farms. Like those who paid too much to live in this man's many rundown urban buildings, these labourers endured deplorable conditions that were only recently brought to light. And now the Queen's representative has seen fit to reward this man with membership into the Order of Canada? For his "contributions to the economic sector as a business leader and for his donations to numerous charitable causes"? Cazzata!

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Events no longer begin, no longer happen; they drop -- like pellets in an Operant Conditioning Chamber.

Friday, June 28, 2019

hole/some magazines

An isolated pen
in which you may protest,
        -- Colin Smith, "Stooge"

Last Sunday marked the launch of some magazine at Kino Cafe on Cambie. Edited by Rob Manery (he and Louis Cabri edited hole back in the 1990s), some features contributors familiar to those familiar with the now defunct Kootenay School of Writing membership and its guests.

About 2/3rds through the eight person reading, Steve Collis took the stage, looked around at the 80+ gathered and rejoiced that "all of Vancouver's avant garde is here!" When I looked around, all I saw, apart from Roy Miki and the ubiquitous Isabella Wang, was what anthropologist Eric Wolf saw in Victoria, B.C. in the early 1980s when he stepped before a packed lecture hall, shook his head and muttered into the microphone: "A sea of white faces."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Monday, June 24, 2019

Ron's Place

The building where Ron lives has a number of recognizable features. Everyone knows what the north side looks like, with its long approach and 19th century European rose gardens. Less distinguished are the south, east and west wall, which go to the limit of the property. The picture above is of the least adorned wall, the east wall.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Art and Artists

Last year the Baltimore Museum of Art auctioned off its Andy Warhol Oxidation Painting (1978) and its Franz Kline Green Cross (1956) to raise funds to purchase artworks that "fulfill our civic duty [to] amass the most significant and the most relevant collections we can for our public ," according to BMA director Christoper Bedford. Among the works purchased: Mary Lovelace O'Neal's Running Freed More Slaves Than Lincoln Ever Did (1995).

Saturday, June 22, 2019


On Wednesday I travelled to Unit 17 to visit Derya and catch up on the gallery, his studio, the kitchen and garden. As I was leaving I took a picture from the back door, facing south. Nothing in it to suggest things weren't as they were fifty-five years earlier when the Sound Gallery opened across the street (4th Avenue) at Bayswater.

Friday, June 21, 2019

National Indigenous Peoples Day

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has indigenous critics as well as non-indigenous critics. Some, such as Métis artist and writer David Garneau, can't get past the word "reconciliation" ("When was there ever conciliation?" David has been known to ask.) For Byung-Chul-Han, that word is "can."

"We are living in a particular phase in history: freedom itself is bringing forth compulsion and constraint. The freedom of Can generates even more coercion than the disciplinarian Should, which issues commandments and prohibitions. Should has a limit. In contrast, Can has none. Thus, the compulsion entailed by Can is unlimited. And so we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation. Technically, freedom means the opposite of coercion and compulsion. Being free means being free from constraint. But now freedom itself, which is supposed to be the opposite of constraint, is producing coercion. Psychic maladies such as depression and burnout express a profound crisis of freedom. They represent pathological signs that freedom is now switching over into manifold forms of compulsion."       -- Byung-Chul Han, Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power, 2017 (1-2)

The poster atop this post was created by the Public Service Alliance of Canada and carries a detail from a painting by Métis artist Christi Belcourt, entitled Wisdom of the Universe (2014).

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)

I tried reading Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I was fifteen (three years after it was published), and again in my early 20s, but could never get into it. More recently, while assembling a bibliography of postwar "road" literature, I considered adding it, only to find a copy a week later at the YWCA Thrift Shop on Main Street.

Jinhan Koh was there and I asked him if he had read it.

"Oh yeah, when I was teenager. I tried reading it again, in my twenties, but -- you know."

Well, now that you mention it.

As of last night I am 76 pages into it and continue to cringe every time Pirsig lectures at the expense of his fellow travellers. Hopefully sooner than later I will learn something from this know-it-all biker -- not from what he tells us, but from how (if at all) he handles his humility.

"John nods affirmatively and I continue." (33)

"'And what that means,' I say before he can interrupt..." (35)

"John looks too much in thought to speak. But Sylvia is excited. 'Where do you get all these ideas?'" (36)

Another book at the YWCA Thrift Shop was Christopher Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism (1979), published five years later.

Time to read it, too, see if Pirsig makes an appearance.