Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Piñata




"No one really knows where the piñata comes from. They say it could be from China. But I know that it's a true heritage of Mexico."

Monday, December 30, 2019

Why Have I Become Detached?



Un poema de (y una  imagen de) Pita Amor (1918-2000).


 ¿Por qué me desprendí de la corriente


¿Por qué me desprendí de la corriente 
misteriosa y eterna en la que estaba
fundida, para ser siempre la esclava
de este cuerpo tenaz e independiente?

¿Por qué me convertí en un ser viviente 
que soporta una sangre que es de lava 
y la angustiosa oscuridad excava 
sabiendo que su audacia es impotente? 

¡Cuántas veces pensando en mi materia 
considéreme absurda y sin sentido,
farsa de soledad y de miseria,

ridícula criatura del olvido, 
máscara sin valor de inútil feria 
y eco que no proviene de sonido! 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Do You Fear What I Fear?



Christmas has an astronomical event: the Star of Bethlehem. But is this "Christmas star" real? EarthSky.org has some "explanations." Same with Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne, who wrote and composed "Do You Hear What I Hear" in 1962. What I always thought was a nineteenth century Christmas carol is a "plea for peace" inspired by the October Missile Crisis. Which is where this post began -- with yesterday's launch of Russia's Avangard hypersonic missile.

Originally I wanted to write about the term "avant garde" and how it has re-entered my life, beginning with a dinner I had earlier this month with Dr. Betts, who, with Dr. Bök, recently edited an anthology (Avant Canada: Poets, Prophets, Revolutionaries, 2019) that, like Bök's Ground Works: Avant-Garde for Thee (2002), grafts avant garde literary activity to nation. Following that, the book I am currently reading, where Avantgardista is the name given to a youth group in service of 1920s Italian nationalism -- in the form of the Fascist corporate state. And now this Russian missile system.

Do you fear what I fear? If you came of age in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s you might. But then, was I really so afraid that the world was only a missile launch from total annihilation? I'm not sure I gave it much thought. When you grow up thinking the world can end in minutes, you get used to it. I wonder if this accounts for the person I became, the one I undid, the one I fear I am re-becoming?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Sun



Land plus Sea divided by Wall.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Visions of Christmas



Cross-section of a pine needle supplied by Weisslink, via the artist/writer Rabih Alameddine.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Cheryl Siegel's Seasonal Tree



For years former Vancouver Art Gallery librarian Cheryl Siegel displayed a "seasonal tree" she made from certain books in the Gallery's collection. Not sure if this practice continues, but it would be nice to see it outside the confines of the VAG library, where more of us can enjoy it. Maybe when the VAG rebuilds itself.

Wishing you the best over the holidays, Cheryl!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Let me Introduce Myself



Perfectly strange and fucked up show at CSA says nothing about the work and everything about my attitude, which is unsupportable.

Before entering, a laminated letter-sized piece of paper with the title Let me Introduce Myself (note the lowercase"m" in "me"), the artist's name -- Michael Lachman -- and this criminally comic text by Lyndsay Pomerantz.

With the text read, a sense of this advertised "[-]self" as a comedian or a counterfeiter, and a deeper sense that the two are not unrelated. At the centre of the room, taste, as repped by purple latex tongues on tripods, St. Christopher's medals hanging from them? (St. Christopher: famous for carrying a child unknown to him across a river-- that child being Christ, who turns 2023 on Wednesday.)

On the south wall, a pair of dress pants, their pockets turned out and out-sized. Against the north and west walls, two wordy briefcases ("wordy" for their slightly outsized hard-cornered wooden handles). The case at the west end is open and I ask that you look at it:


A ceiling has been installed (lowered), and forever falling from it are a pair of hands, and inside a figure sitting. The carpet, too, is institutional and doesn't fit, so it is added to, and in doing so, the space is converted from a gallery to an impoverished or pop-up office.

Everything we need to know (or be affirmed in knowing) about life as a young artist (or critic) can be found in this show. Everything.

As you leave, a calendar to the left of the door. It is December, and the image above is a cartoon frog swimming out to sea with a scorpion on its back, the frog's frog friends looking on with concern.

Like I said, Everything!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Vancouver delenda est



As long as spaces still exist for art criticism, as long as those of us who write on -- and with -- art are encouraged to play with the review form as artists often do with the forms they work with, then let us do just that: play with our critical work in ways that excite new and unusual ways of thinking and feeling and responding, and leave the hand-wringing to "the rest of us [who] have already been thinking" and writing about the contradictions (indeed, the ironies) of the (late-) capitalist mode of production.

Mitch, your response in Momus to Rodney Graham's Spinning Chandelier entry in Westbank's Gesamtkunstwerk is as nicely-written as it is appreciated by those of us who have for some years now been calling bullshit on our off-leash modernisms (Were you in town to experience the piece?). Page, your heartfelt poem in the "Comments" section that follows Mitch's text is what I hope Momus publisher/editor Sky Goodden will consider publishing more of when it comes to art criticism. This being Vancouver, where artists have long played an important role in art criticism (Vanguard magazine) and art history (in which Graham contemporaries Ian Wallace and Jeff Wall hold graduate degrees), hopefully more -- and younger -- artists and writers will continue to make work that is critical of existing work (as a new form of institutional critique?), particularly now, when so much of that existing work is in public space.

On that note, how about a fictive "dis-informational" tourist pamphlet to be handed out to those disembarking from cruise ships, one that carries an "alternative" story not only of Spinning Chandelier, but of "non-art" public works like our asthmatic Gastown Steam Clock and the militaristic 9 O'Clock Gun? (After all, that's what Spinning Chandelier is, isn't it?  -- a confection for tourists? A Trojan Horse disguised as a confection, in the same way Paul Verhoeven's 1997 Starship Troopers is an art film disguised as a Hollywood space western?) Let projects like these stand in for art criticism, and let's move the hand-ringing expository essays to the Op-ed sections of our ever-shrinking art press and what remains of the mainstream.

Vancouver delenda est.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Pacific Standard Time



8:19 pm


We can stop what we are doing (or do it differently) at the solstice.


Friday, December 20, 2019

Prayers



As a child I said my prayers before bed, on my knees, head bowed, hands folded over the pillow before me. This was my "hour". The Roman Catholic Church has seven canonical hours, beginning with the "midnight office," which can be recited at daybreak, like the public morning prayer in the Church of England. A.F. Scott concludes his "MATIN: MATINS" entry in his Current Literary Terms: A Concise Dictionary of their Origin and Use (London: Macmillan, 1965) with "A morning song of birds."

On Wednesday I attended a Massy Books reading by John Lent, in town (from Vernon) to share with us his latest collection, A Matins Flywheel (Saskatoon: Thistledown, 2019). Lent spoke at length of his life since a 2016 heart event, providing a context for a series of long-lined poems (matins) born from the earliest hours of the day when, at 3am, he would awake in pain and move to a chair overlooking the valley, watching in awe as it filled with light.

Like the last two recently published books of poetry I have spent time with -- Danielle LaFrance's JUST LIKE I LIKE IT (Vancouver: Talon, 2019) and Jacqueline Turner's Flourish (Toronto: ECW, 2019) -- Lent's book carries with it the names of those he knows and/or have influenced him, threading them through lines like Turner does with hers (LaFrance gathers hers at the end, in a section called "NOTESKNOTSNOTSNAUGHTS").

The tendency to supply contextual information beyond the "Acknowledgements" page has expanded in recent years, and we are better for it (poems, as Jeff Derksen once reminded my younger self, come not from individuals but from communities). The context Lent provided before his reading is the mark of someone who has spent many years teaching, but who knows also what it is to appear before friends, some of whom he hasn't seen in a while. Writers like Daphne Marlatt and Aislinn Hunter, who were there listening as I was to poems like "3. LOVE: A DEADSPARROW", an excerpt of which appears below:

quite get it right. And I knelt
there sobbing for this piston
life out here in the height
of air and sun, the dark
earth grinning back up --
me sobbing for this piston and
exulting in it, too, knowing
this small being had risked 
everything to be loved
like this, cradled by such

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

First Season Finale of Hawaii 5-0



Back in October I visited Walmart because they had a deal on mattress toppers. As it turned out, they also had the first season of Hawaii 5-0 (1968-69) -- for $10!

Hawaii 5-0 was part of the media atmosphere in our house growing up, and I have a memory of my parents fighting while behind them McGarrett (Jack Lord) punched Big Chicken (Gavin MacLeod).

Turns out there were many things I recognized but never remembered from that first season. Even more than that, the degree of indigenous content, from the casting of local actors (of Indigenous and Asian descent) to the inclusion of local myths, legends and histories.

In the season finale ("The Big Kahuna", March 19, 1969), we begin with Sam Kalakua (John Marley), a descendent of the Hawaiian kings who is haunted by the ghost of Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, Lightning, Dance, Wind, Volcanoes and Violence. Turns out what he thinks he sees is in fact a staged haunting.

Here is imbd.com's Bill Koenig's description:

At the request of the Governor, McGarrett investigates recent odd behavior by Sam Kalakua. Sam, a friend of the Governor's and a distant relative of Kono's, is also among the last of descendants of Hawaiian kings. Sam says he saw the Hawaiian goddess of fire, Pele coming for him and fired a gun in defense. McGarrett ("I'm a man of this century") doesn't believe in Hawaiian gods but also thinks that Sam is not senile or imagining things. Sam's closest relative is his nephew George, who is married to Eleanor [played by Sally Kellerman, pictured above], who yearns for a jet set life. The couple are aligned with a real estate developer who has designs on Sam's estate and a film maker who's an expert in special effects. When she can't get Sam committed to a mental institution, Eleanor decides it's time to kill Sam.

Monday, December 16, 2019

"I sat on the rug..."



The south(-west) side of Kingsway, the bend between 12th Avenue and Fraser. Behind the sign, a sample. A rug. One rug. Like the sign says: RUG.

In 1965 the Beatles wrote and performed a song ("Norwegian Wood") with a rug in it (first line, second verse). Note John's emphasis on the vowel ("u"), the glue he dabs on it, tapping his brush on the consonant ("g").

Sunday, December 15, 2019

(Found) Text




“Encore” Encore: Attributions, Adverbs and Attitude from James Purdy’s 1957 Short Story*


Merta told her brother
Spence said, wearily attentive
she said
her brother said
she continued, anxiously stepping in front of him to detain his going
Spence said, a kind of cold expressionless tone in his voice
she repeated, almost without emotion
Spence said
she cried as though seeing something from far back of dread and ugliness
Spence said
she accused him
she returned to the only subject which interested her
she said urgently again
Spence said
she said
Spence said, the irritation growing in his manner
she said vaguely, as though it was Spence who himself had mentioned him and thus brought him to mind
he paused on the word
she said
he said irritably
she said coldly angry
he told her
he said and he put on his hat now, which she looked at, he thought, rather critically and also with a certain envy
she forced herself to say at last
he said, and then winced at his own words
he hurried on with another speech
Merta said, pretending to find humour in his words
Gibbs said, putting down some books
she said in a booming and encouraging voice whose suddenness and loudness perhaps surprised even her
he told her
Merta said, trying hard to keep the disapproval out of her voice
Gibbs said, sitting down at the far end of the room and taking our his harmonica.
she said
she smiled, closing her eyes.
he wondered
she replied laughing
Gibbs said, and while she was saying Tommyrot! Gibbs went on
Merta said
he said with sudden fire
she began, white, and her mouth gaping a little, but Gibbs started to play on the harmonica again, cutting her off
Merta said above the sound of harmonica playing
he cried
she repeated, a little embarrassment now in her voice
he asked, putting down the harmonica with impatience
she said, a touch of sophistication in her voice, as if the coffee here were unusual and exotic also
he said
she said, her bitterness returning now against her will as she stood in the kitchen
he said belligerently
she feigned sweet casualness
Spence said loudly and indifferently
he told her
she cried. Then, catching herself, she said
he suddenly turned on her, and taking the dish of jello from her hand he put it down with a bang on the oilcloth covering the tiny kitchen table
he said in his stentorian voice
she said weakly
she said eating
Gibbs snapped at her
she wondered taking her spoon out of her mouth
she countered
he said, a bit weakly, and he took out the harmonica from his pocket, looked at it, and put it down noiselessly on the oilcloth
she said gaily
he said
she told him suddenly again with passion, forgetting everything but her one feeling now, and she put out her hand to him
she said
he said
she said
she said, and she brought out her handkerchief and wiped her eyes, making them, he saw, even older and more worn with the rubbing
he said, picking up the harmonica again
she said laughing a little. Then understanding his remark more clearly as her weeping calmed herself, she said, commanding again
she said hurriedly
she said
she said
he said, bored
she said
she said, suddenly very white and facing him
she said
she hurried on as if testifying before a deaf judge
she said now as though powerless to stop, words coming out of her mouth that she usually kept and nursed for her long nights of sleeplessness and hate
she said
she cried
she told him, quieting herself with a last supreme effort
he said
she said suddenly wiping away the tears, and tensing her breast to keep more of the torrent from gathering inside herself
she said
he said, and he got up and as he did so the harmonica fell to the linoleum floor
she said tightening her mouth
he began
he began again
she said, struggling to keep the storm within her quiet, the storm that now if it broke might sweep everything within her away, might rage and rage until only dying itself could stop it
she said
she said desperately
he said, deathly pale
she suggested
she said beating her hands with the heavy veins and the fingers without rings or embellishments
she said
he said
she commanded
*first published in Lemon Hound, October 24, 2014

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Fold/Line



A recent letter from the Canada Revenue Agency, like those I get from my cable and credit providers, features the two-partition system: the first is the fold in the letter; the second is the cut-off line for the remittance voucher. The fold and the line are 1/8" apart.

Part of me appreciates the difference, the co-habitation of the two systems, the space they make/share. The less patient part (my mother in me) says, No, enough -- align them! (Another family member, someone of the younger generation, might say, What's the diff -- you'll be paying it online anyway.)

The "--" between "enough" and "align" (above) is 1/8" as well. But after I press "Publish", and this appears formatted, it will be more like 1/16". Anything more than that is immeasurable, based on the tools I have at my disposal.

And yes, there are occasions where, like my mother,  I blame my tools.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Rocket Robin Hood Pilot




The year is 3000. Earth's oceans are mysteriously disappearing (?) and the Sheriff of N.O.T. is claiming the exposed land is "sovereign" -- meaning it belongs to him. Rocket Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Spacemen live on an artificial asteroid (New Sherwood Forest), where they are visited by an Earthling who apprises them of the Sheriff's plans. Robin pays a visit.

Rocket Robin Hood is a Canadian-produced cartoon that first aired on the CBC from 1966-1969, and was later re-broadcast on Vancouver channels like CKVU. For some of us high schoolers, smoking pot and watching Rocket Robin Hood was an after school pastime. It was only yesterday that I found its pilot.

Pilots are seeds for those who know only their flowers. They are often surprising, like the first time I saw the Star Trek pilot after years of watching Star Trek. What's Spock on? I remember thinking. He's so hyper. A jonesing junkie.

The first episode of RRH ("Prince of Plotters") features some significant differences, most notably in the skin colour of the Sheriff and his deputies. At 3:45 a small town mayor pulls out a cell phone -- and asks the (female) operator to connect him to Prince John.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

This Year's Flavour is Text



Which "visitor"? I'm serious. There are three in front of the Terada, and one of them is staring at the Jungen.

Art Fairs! Where gallerists who for 361 days of the year occupy bricks and mortar storefronts do the bulk of their business in 100-hour booth rentals that cost thousands of dollars per square metre. All because those with the means to buy their wares like to a) perform their (potential) acquisitions where it pleases them (usually somewhere warm, like Miami's South Beach) and b) attempt to humiliate the seller by making the seller come to them.

Yes, yes, yes -- nothing new. Not when the market is holding. But visit enough of these fairs and note the low-level agitation "visible" to those such as myself, who do not so much see its signs but feel them. The market, like all markets bolstered by confidence and certainty, can collapse at any minute. Fortunately for these sellers and buyers, art fairs contain their own advance warning systems. This year's thermometer is a banana.



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Bathroom Reading



Rolf,

Thanks for the copy of George's Writing and Reading. Perfect for bathroom reading -- and I mean that in the best possible way. Brief pieces. A book for those who don't read blogs.

Couldn't find a credit for the cover photo. Was it Alex W-H (as well)? I assume so.

Have to make sure I place the front cover down after reading this book. Don't like going into the bathroom and seeing George staring at me from the cistern, peering out from the shadow of his hat brim, awaiting his cape at the cleaners.

And what's in his hand? It looks like a microphone (George taking a break for the sax solo?) It's too tall for a cane -- unless it's Ryan Knighton's cane. Or maybe George is sitting on the toilet, like I'm about to. But if so, a bit over-dressed, dontcha think?

After thanking Fawcett for catching the fallacy in 9x11, he wrote back: "I think I’m turning into a guerilla epistemologist—I want people to understand the logic by which they claim to know things. Having to stare down the reaper every day has its rewards (Nov. 23, 2019)."

I wonder what George is turning into, if indeed he's turning. Not away from the reaper, but into it -- as imagined by Armani.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

This Is Not My Vancouver



I forget the movie I had paid to see that night, but I remember the trailer: a 1920s era Angelina Jolie in a cloche hat and red lipstick, looking this way and that; men getting out of cars, barking at her; her screaming at them, "This is not my son!" then looking away and biting a knuckle.

The trailer was for Changeling (2008), and it promised to appeal to those who loved Polanski's Chinatown (1974), but were more interested in following an attention-indifferent Frances Farmer (played by Jessica Lange) than an attention-seeking Jake Gittes (played by Jack Nicholson).

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Changeling is based on the true story of a woman whose son disappears, only to be returned to her by a corrupt Los Angeles Police Department -- but it's the wrong boy. When she complains, she is deemed crazy and institutionalized -- until a sympathetic cop finds evidence of a sexual predator and, with the help of a radio evangelist, she moves from courtroom to courtroom staring down those who had wronged her -- including the sexual predator, who, though he kidnapped and imprisoned her son, may not have killed him.

Changeling has all the ingredients of a great story -- but it is not a great film. Like a lot of Hollywood films over the past thirty-odd years, it has more than one ending, each one tacked on to the one before it: the sutured-ending, the schadenfreude ending and the open-ending.

The best part of the film, for this viewer, is the period recreation of late-1920s Los Angeles and, because the story takes us there for a brief but unnecessary instance, Vancouver (where most of the film's visual effects were generated), as pictured above. Just where in Vancouver that scene was shot has more to do with digital imaging than location scouting. Never before have I seen the North Shore Mountains so low on the horizon!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Drafting, Photography, Design



The first known photograph of a figure at an outdoor drafting table (above).


The Multitouch Drafting Table of today.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

JUST LIKE I LIKE IT (2019)



HELENA BONHAM CARTER MOUNTS A

BIGEYE TUNA

SHE GADS ABOUT ON HER WAY

SHE IS AFRAID OF FISH

Just the first four lines of the fifteenth poem in the third section of Danelle LaFrance's excellent and exhaustively it-specific JUST LIKE I LIKE IT (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2019).

As for the photo, well, I read the poem and went searching for its referent. No evidence of Carter (above) mounting a tuna (this is as close as she comes), only Lizzy Jagger (below).



Saturday, December 7, 2019

Marker of Change



Yesterday I visited East Vancouver's Thornton Park to sit seat-by-seat around Beth Alber's monument to women. Entitled Marker of Change (1994), the work consists of 14 benches -- one for each woman executed by a gunman at the l'Ecole Polytechnique, University of Montreal on December 6, 1989.
  • Geneviève Bergeron (1968–1989), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (1968–1989), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (1960–1989), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (1964–1989), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (1966–1989), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (1961–1989), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (1968–1989), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (1969–1989), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (1958–1989), nursing student

Friday, December 6, 2019

Where Cracks Meet (Abbas at CJ's)



To make the arched window, a passage had to be filled (in). But materials shift, and cracks appear.


Before the gallery opened, a concrete floor was poured. The earth adjusts, and cracks appeared there too.

Nothing is static, everything is in motion. The same applies to sentence structure: I typed a semi-colon to link the (independent) clauses in the previous sentence, but the dot fell off, and now I can't find it.

No matter, says Strunk and White; for shorter clauses you can use a comma.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Participation and Stories



I was reading up on the remarkable life of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade when I found myself in a November 26, 2019 Vulture interview with Margaret Atwood. Here is Atwood on the topic of "gender traitors," participation and stories (my bold):

MOLLY YOUNG: Many women have an emotional response of revulsion, a kind of “gender traitor” response. Is that a naïve reaction to someone like Ivanka Trump or Kellyanne Conway?

MARGARET ATWOOD: What is naïve? Going back in time, looking around at Hitler’s entourage, there were a lot of women in it. Of people who participate, there are usually three motives. The first is they’re a true believer; No. 2, opportunists — this is the only game in town; therefore, we’re going to play this game because that’s the only hope of advancement. And the third is fear: “If I don’t do this, I will be punished in some way. I will be excluded, I will be killed, I will be jailed, I will be disappeared.”

In really thorough going totalitarianism, fear is a big factor. In the America of today, it’s a factor but not as large a one. I don’t think we’re poisoning people with radioactive tea, but you would lose your job, be unable to get another one. You’d be blacklisted. That has certainly happened in this country. Those things are not to be discounted or sneered at, because they motivate a lot of people. And you don’t know what you would do until those are the choices offered to you. So are they wrong to be disapproving? No. Are they consigning these people to the category of nonhuman? That would be a mistake. Because this is human behavior. Usually it’s a bell curve, like everything else. Somebody who became an instrument of the totalitarian regime, had that opportunity not been offered, would probably have been an insurance salesman or running a vegetable store or something like that.

There’s four kinds of stories: extraordinary people in extraordinary times, extraordinary people in ordinary times, ordinary people in ordinary times, and ordinary people in extraordinary times. And if you wanted peace for life, you should vote for ordinary people in ordinary times. Handmaid’s Tale is ordinary people in extraordinary times. The book is. The television series is turning that ordinary person into an extraordinary person. And that too has happened. For instance, history of the French Resistance. There were two of those instances. One was called the Alliance. The Alliance was run by a woman who never got caught. It’s a pretty cliffhanging story. A number of her friends did, and they were killed. They almost got this woman, but, due to her size, she wiggled out through the bars of a window, ran away, and hid out.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Passe-partout



A sunny day last week when I visited the People's Co-op Bookstore. I didn't notice the window until I was inside. "What happened?" I asked, and was told someone broke it. But that's all they knew.

Violence against bookstores feels different compared to violence against other stores. Different because bookstores house ideas, beliefs, attitudes, opinions. But shoe stores and plumbing stores do that too, no? During Kristallnacht, it was any store owned and operated by Jews. The politics of the PCB centres those with left-of-centre ideas, beliefs, attitudes, opinions...

If it was anger that broke the window, what lay behind that anger? A libertarian capitalist broke the window because they don't like anarcho-socialism? An anarcho-socialist broke the window because the bookstore wasn't anarcho-socialist enough? Maybe it was more personal than that? Just what is it that people do to each other that makes them want to break things?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

You Were Always On My Mind



Sun's so low now. When it's out, that is. Which reminds me: garage needs cleaning.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Altamont Free Concert



This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the Altamont Free Concert, held at the Altamont Speedway 50 miles east of San Francisco. The concert featured performances by Santana, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and "surprise" guests the Rolling Stones, whose organization took over the concert from its initiators and host, the Grateful Dead, who ended up not playing in protest after a drunken motorcycle club started pushing people around during the Airplane's set. There's more to the story, some of which can be found in Free Concert (2011) -- a transcription of everything said from the stage during the Stones set (as captured by the Maysles' Brothers and Charlotte Zwiren in their film Gimme Shelter, 1970).

It is worth noting that the only time peace was observed during the musical performances came during the Flying Burrito Brother's set. Here is a recently unearthed tape of what the Burritos had to say:





Saturday, November 30, 2019

Summer Friends



The morning of November 27th was cold enough to finish off garden stalwarts the fuschia, the lobelia, the geranium and (pictured above) the begonia.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Room With a View (1908)



Forster's end-stage Victorian "social comedy" (middle-class Brits holidaying in Italy) asks if the English heart is "cold" or simply "undeveloped."

"The luxury of self-exposure kept [Lucy] almost happy through the long evening. She thought not so much of what had happened as of how she should describe it. All her sensations, her spasm of courage, her moments of unreasonable joy, her mysterious discontent, should be carefully laid before her cousin [Charlotte].  And together in divine confidence they would disentangle and interpret them all.

'At last,' thought [Lucy], 'I shall understand myself. I shan't again be troubled by things that come out of nothing, and mean I don't know what.'"
                                                                                    -- E.M. Forster

Image: Grand Canal, Venice, 1908, Claude Monet

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Little Things



I am taking greater pleasure in the little things, like taking off my shoes before entering someone's home. A gesture of respect, a way to keep the dirt out, but also the exercise I get from it. Another is my morning multi: not just the pill and its alleged goodness, but the glass of water I take to get it down. We are told that we never drink as much water as we should be drinking, though most of us know we are mostly made of it.

photo: William Anders, Apollo 8 (12/24/1968)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Eleanor Collins




Speaking of birthdays, CBC radio's long-running, regionally broadcast Hot Air jazz show celebrated the birthday of singer Eleanor Collins yesterday.

Collins, who turned 100-years-old last Thursday, was born in Edmonton on November 21, 1919 of American parents. She had many offers to visit the U.S. and pursue her career there, but chose to remain in Canada in honour of her parents' decision to to come to the Prairies, as other Black American families did, and "homestead." A long-time resident of Vancouver, Collins is the first woman in Canada to have hosted her own TV show.

A big thank you to Hot Air host Margaret Gallagher and part-time host Paolo Pietropaolo for putting together yesterday's episode. If I could ask one thing of you two: How about gathering some of Eleanor's past performances and making a concert of them, to be shown on the CBC's outdoor screen some summer's night?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

bill bissett (November 23, 1939 -)




For me, the beginning of bill bissett was a poet who wrote semi-phonetically, who appeared in pictures as someone who was once a beatnik, might have been a hippie, dabbled in glam and skipped punk to wear all four at once. Then, in the fall of 1983, I found an issue of 3 Cent Pulp atop a garbage bin at the Granville Island Public Market -- a beautifully printed poem by bill that told me it didn't necessarily want to be treated so beautifully, so completely, and I felt embarrassed by what I thought I "knew".

Years later, after seeing bill perform numerous times (sometimes sucking the life out of a room, other times injecting it with what he'd stored from the night before), I set out on a concentrated study of all things bill and, while an SFU Writer-in-Residence (2009-10), decided to use a line from the editorial of bill's first issue of blewointment magazine as the title of my exhibition at SFU Gallery, Burnaby: "to show, to give, to make it be there": Expanded Literary Practices in Vancouver: 1954 - 1969.

Following that, bill figured prominently in a curatorial segment Charo Neville and I worked on for Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties, an online project initiated by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery and grunt gallery. A few years after that I included some of bill's written and editorial work in a small room at the Belkin devoted to 60s and 70s concrete poetry (part of the Letters: Michael Morris and Concrete Poetry exhibition) and bill kindly stopped by to give a tour. But it wasn't until Brock University's 2016 Two Days of Canada Conference (themed The Concept of Vancouver) that I had a chance to sit with bill and have a sustained conversation.

I forget what time it was, but it was after midnight and a group of us had just landed in Gregory Betts's kitchen where Greg was melting cheese onto bread for our snack. I noticed on the table a newspaper that included an article featuring the American actress Carol Channing and expressed shock that she was 95-years-old -- at which point bill started chanting, "The grand dames, the grand dames, the grand dames of Hollywood ... Carol Channing, the grand dames, Angela Lansbury, the grand dames ...." And this went on, with all of us shovelling names at bill of Hollywood actresses that we knew of in their 90s ("Eva Marie Saint, the grand dames ...  Betty White, the grand dames ...."). From that point on, if I wanted to ask bill a scholarly question about, say, the relationship between bpNichol and Earle Birney, or d.a. levy's Cleveland, or Judith Copithorne's convergence of concrete and expressive rhetorics, I would have to include the words "grand dames"  -- and endure those words in his reply!

bill bissett turns 80 today. happy birthday bill!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Spinning Chandelier



Less than a week to go before artist Rodney Graham's Spinning Chandelier drops (literally) from the underside of the north end of the Granville Street Bridge. As I understand it, the chandelier is designed to climb towards the bridge deck, where at a certain point it releases itself and twirls down, to begin again (twice a day).

For those already bashing it, calling it "tacky," let's consider this work in relation to a city that uses a military armament as a timepiece -- the beloved 9 O'Clock Gun.


Those who know the history of the Gun (a 12-pound muzzle-loaded naval cannon) will recall that it was placed at the Stanley Park side of Coal Harbour in 1898, to notify fishers of the end of the fishing day. This was when Vancouver's economic base was resource extraction (furs, gold, fish, timber), not the service-oriented (IT, film and television, real estate, tourism, gambling/money laundering) resort it is today.

So with this economic shift in mind (and the ever-increasing disparities that go with it), can we not have a public art work that, like the city itself, both attracts and repulses? I say yes. But let's call it for what it is -- not simply a chandelier, but a release.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

John Mann (1962-2019)



Hard Rock Miners were fortunate to share the stage with Spirit of the West on a couple of occasions.

The time I remember best was a four-band bill that included the Rheostatics and headliners Barenaked Ladies, who were celebrating the release of their major label debut, Gordon, at the Pacific Coliseum in the summer of 1992.

If it can be said that multi-band bills create instant cities, John, more than any other musician that night, was our mayor.

Rest in peace, Mayor John.

photo courtesy of piquenewsmagazine

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Scorned as Ornament, Beloved of the Forest Floor



My homage to Emily Carr's great painting, as found on a Lynn Valley trail near the Pipe Bridge.


Tonight, one of Emily Carr's Alert Bay paintings (Street, Alert Bay, 1912) will be auctioned in Toronto. I had no idea she had done so many Alert Bay paintings!


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Wallcreeper (2014)



Last month I was given a list of books to read in advance of some meetings with a younger writer/editor whose work I admire and who chose me to help pilot a manuscript she is captaining. Some of these writers I am familiar with (Ingeborg Bachmann, Donald Barthelme, Richard Brautigan, Nathalie Saurraute, Daphne Marlatt,  Susan Sontag), others I was not (Nell Zink, Renee Gladman, Lucy Ives, Fleur Jaeggy, Joanne Rocco). Of the writers I was not familiar with, Jaeggy's collection of seven stories -- Last Vanities (1994; translated from the Italian by Tim Parks, 1998) -- brilliantly transcends both the knot and its bow. The book I am currently reading, Zink's The Wallcreeper (2014), is a looser, though no less minimal, weave.

Although only 66 pages into The Wallcreeper (Zink's first novel), I find my relationship to the narrator (an American named Tiffany) alternating between attraction and repulsion. Attraction to the humorous insights and the knowledge base that enables it; repulsion towards the character's cynicism ("We failed technology when it needed us most") and the libertarianism that justifies it (Is Zink, like Tiffany, a climate-change denier, or is she a satirist? Does it matter?)

At her best, Zink does two things well. In addition to rehabilitating the simile ("His awkward hands reminded me of the flames around Joan of Arc at the stake"), she is most adept at juxtaposition. Here's one (from the first page):

"I opened the door and put my feet outside, threw up, and lay down, not in the vomit but near it. The fir tops next to me had their roots at the bottom of the cliff."

Here's another (within the line itself) that involves Tiffany's family's visit to Switzerland, where she and her IT specialist husband are living:

"I took my parents to a craft market so Stephen could sleep with my sister."

Something else: legend has it that Zink wrote the first draft of The Wallcreeper in three weeks, to prove to Jonathan Franzen, with whom she was corresponding, that she knew what she was doing as a literary writer. I believe it, too, because writing like this often comes in concentrated bursts. Whether Zink can maintain that energy, or indeed modulate it in new directions, was called into question in a 2016 Atlantic review of her third book, Nicotine (2016), which Juliet Lapidos refers to as a "disappointment." She writes: "Third time around, Zink skips the telling nuances and settles for hurried farce."

Where (or how many times) have we heard this before -- the story of a writer who explodes onto the scene with something new and unusually relevant, only to abandon subtlety for laughs in subsequent works? From Erma Bombeck to Douglas Coupland, the list is long. Here is Lawrence Ferlinghetti in a 1985 Vanity Fair article on Brautigan:

"As an editor I was always waiting for Richard to grow up as a writer. It seems to me he was essentially a naïf, and I don't think he cultivated that childishness, I think it came naturally. It was like he was much more in tune with the trout in America than with people."

Not sure I would call Zink a "naïf" (nor Brautigan, too, for that matter, as writers like he and Clarice Lispector belong more to the autism spectrum than something as medieval as a naif). As for having more in common with animals than with people, that appears to be case with Tiffany's husband Stephen, who is devastated by the murder of Rudolph, the couple's pet wallcreeper.