Friday, December 31, 2010

A number of editors have asked for my year-end "top ten". As I despair top tens, I declined. In the spirit of play, one editor responded by asking for my top ten reasons for not liking top tens, and in the spirit of play I offered a ten-item piece I wrote for a literary textbook designed for at-risk kids in Canada.


The first rule is stated

The second rule is less important than the first

The third rule is, grammatically incorrect

There is no fourth rule

The fifth rule is new

The sixth rule CONTAINS upper-case-letters

The seventh rule does not discriminate

The eighth rule was not arrived at through consensus

The ninth rule prohibits

The tenth rule strictly prohibits

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More from Lydia Davis.

From her story “New Year’s Resolution”:

“My New Year's resolution is to learn to see myself as nothing”

And later:

“Maybe for now I should just try, each day, to be a little less than I usually am.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For years the word “piracy” was most commonly associated with home taping. Who would have thought back in the 1970s that the word "piracy" would one day return to its high seas roots -- like today’s article by Geoffrey York in the Globe and Mail: “Pirates more dangerous than ever: World’s armada failing in massive campaign to defeat barefoot Somali buccaneers.”

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Monday, December 27, 2010

Another local independent bookstore is Pulp Fiction. Located in the triangle that is Main, Kingsway and Broadway, Pulp Fiction began with used books (and vinyl records), but over the years has made space for new titles, three of which I purchased last week – Alain Badiou’s Five Lessons On Wagner, Thomas Bernhard’s My Prizes and The Collected Short Stories Of Lydia Davis. I bought these books with the intention of giving them as gifts, but as I had not yet read all of Davis’s stories, I kept her Collected for myself.

Davis is associated with contemporary United States literary vanguardism, and as such writes a lot about middle class relationships, most notably between a first-person woman and the men in her life. In reading Davis’s book I could not help but wonder had Ingeborg Bachmann lived longer than her 47 years, would she be writing similarly?

Here is a paragraph from Davis’s “Cockroaches In Autumn”:

After a week, I take a forgotten piece of bread from the oven where they have visited – now it is dry, a bit of brown lace.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It is the boxes we will miss, not the books.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The song "Barbara Allen" is first mentioned in Samuel Pepys's diary on 2 January 1666. Many have covered it, including yesterday's mention, Bob Dylan. The song also appears in the 1951 film version of A Christmas Carol, the one starring Alastair Sim as "Scrooge".


In Scarlet Town, where I was born,
There was a fair maid dwellin'
Made every youth cry well-a-day
Her name was Barbara Allen.

All in the merry month of May
When green buds they were swellin',
Young Jeremy Grove on his deathbed lay
For love of Barbara Allen.

He sent his man unto her then,
To the town where she was dwellin'.
"You must come to my master dear,
If your name be Barbara Allen,

For death is printed on his face
And o'er his heart is stealin'.
Then haste away to comfort him,
O lovely Barbara Allen."

Though death be printed on his face
And o'er his heart be stealin',
Yet little better shall he be
For bonny Barbara Allen.

So slowly, slowly, she came up
And slowly she came nigh him,
And all she said when there she came,
"Young man, I think you're dyin'."

He turned his face unto her straight
With deadly sorrow sighin'.
"O lovely maid, come pity me;
I'm on my deathbed lyin'."

"If on your deathbed you do lie
What needs the tale you're tellin'?
I cannot keep you from your death.
Farewell," said Barbara Allen.

He turned his face unto the wall
As deadly pangs he fell in.
"Adieu! Adieu! Adieu to you all!
Adieu to Barbara Allen!"

As she was walking o'er the fields
She heard the bell a-knellin'
And every stroke did seem to say,
"Unworthy Barbara Allen."

She turned her body 'round about
And spied the corpse a-comin'.
"Lay down, lay down the corpse," she said,
"That I may look upon him."

With scornful eye she looked down,
Her cheek with laughter swellin',
That all her friends cried out amaine,
"Unworthy Barbara Allen."

When he was dead and laid in grave
Her heart was struck with sorrow.
"O mother, mother, make my bed
For I shall die tomorrow.

Hard-hearted creature, him to slight
Who loved me so dearly,
O that I had been more kind to him,
When he was live and near me!"

She on her deathbed, as she lay,
Begged to be buried by him
And sore repented of the day
That she did e'er deny him.

"Farewell," she said, "ye virgins all,
And shun the fault I fell in.
Henceforth take warning by the fall
Of cruel Barbara Allen."

Friday, December 24, 2010

A couple months ago, on my way back from UBC, I stopped into Kitsilano to check out the recently opened Sitka Books & Art -- as curious about the “Art” part as I was about the larger store (a union of former Duthie’s employees and the fellow who started Book Warehouse). The sun was out, and the shop, which faces south, was filled with light, a small table of crafty knick knacks glistening in the window.

I picked up a number of books that day, one of which was Keith Richards’s Life, a know-it-all title if ever there was one.

Although only a hundred pages in I can report that Richards’s Life is faithful to the voice we hear when its author appears on television or the internet, a combination of aw-shucks modesty and fuck-'em dismissals, always charming, full of fun, though nowhere near the read of another music legend, Bob Dylan.

I was late getting to Dylan’s bio. However, once in, I was hooked. As someone who appreciates North American folk music, I know something of the world Dylan describes -- but not the details. If Richards’s book is laughs and attitude, with equal parts British reserve, Dylan’s book is unexpected honesty and understated insight. I love it.

Below is a paragraph from Dylan’s Chronicles Part One -- the contents of a room in a friend’s Greenwich Village apartment. Reading it I am reminded of another early-60s bricoleur, Vancouver’s Al Neil, someone Sitka Books & Art might consider giving window space to if their deal with the Craft Council were to expire.

“There was other stuff in the room, other delights. A Remington typewriter, the neck piece of a saxophone with a swan-like curve, aluminum constructed field glasses covered in Moroccan leather, things to marvel over – a little machine that put out four volts, a small Mohawk tape recorder, odd photos, one of Florence Nightingale with a pet owl on her shoulder, novelty postcards – a picture postcard of California wtih a palm tree.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A poem by Rae Armantrout:


Thus the palm is rakish

and the philodendron

Only using such rare words
will justify

my writing this,

my writing "my"
or now


Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Not unrelated to Vision Critical's motto is a line Jeff Derksen borrowed from a television commercial to introduce his essay "Sites Taken As Signs: Place, the Open Text, and Enigma in New Vancouver Writing" (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1994). The commercial is from a now-defunct mining company. It reads:

"Jeanine is a living example of Noranda's attitude to employees."

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Globe and Mail was heavier than usual this morning. A year-end review of federal government policy? A five-page feature on Alberta’s dirty oil? No such luck. Instead, two 28-page issues of the Western Investor: one focused on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, the other on the prairie provinces.

The lead story in the B.C. issue reads:

Experts say everything is going to be all right.”

Everything is going to be all right.

Why does that sound familiar?

Over the past couple of years the City of Vancouver has approved a number of text-based public art works, the best-known being Ken Lum’s EAST VAN cruciform at the north-west corner of Clark and Great Northern Way. Another, commissioned by real estate agent and art collector Bob Rennie, runs along the south face of his downtown eastside bat cave: Martin Creed’s “Everything is going to be alright.”

So who’s right? The Western Investor (“all right”) or Martin Creed (“alright”)?

My favorite piece of public text hovers at the north end of the Cambie Street Bridge, lit up in bright white letters: VISION CRITICAL. Recently I went looking for its author and found it to be the name of a market research company. Their motto? “Technology Inspired, Research Driven." Following that: "We help you see trendsetting customers for what they are: a wealth of winning strategy waiting to be tapped.”


Sunday, December 19, 2010

As part of its "Postscript" series, Artspeak Gallery commissioned me to write a response to Julia Feyrer's exhibition The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar (see below). For those interested, Julia is scheduled to give a public talk on January 8th, the last day of the exhibition.


Cuts to public funding bring to mind institutions reliant on public funds. When threatened, these institutions remind us of their relevance by highlighting past accomplishments. As applied to the visual arts, rarely do public galleries and museums speak of themselves as anthologies of past cuts, nor do they script their futures with the expectation of further subtractions, be that the loss of an exhibition publication or the exhibition altogether.

Looking to the future (at the expense of the past) is a Vancouver behaviour that began with the fur trade (followed by mining, fishing, forestry, and, most recently, real estate speculation). Yet in looking to this future, this subtracted future common to public and private institutions alike, what do we make of that which will no longer happen? What methods are not in place to archive such subtractions? And why is it that when galleries and museums are threatened, the first line of defense is more often than not what these galleries and museums have already contributed, as opposed to what they propose to do?

Though I am writing on the occasion of Julia Feryer’s exhibition at Artspeak, I am doing so at a time when the British Columbia government has not only cut public funding to the arts, it has erased the word “art” from the ministry responsible for its health and welfare. Meanwhile, the commodification of art continues, as does the trend towards artist collectives, relational practices, alternative spaces, and, dare I say it, indifference by emerging artists towards state-supported artist-run centres (ARCs). I will try to address these concurrences in the context of this essay. Not at the expense of Feyrer’s exhibition, but to show how the content and production of this exhibition relates to our present condition.

* * * *

Julia Feyrer’s The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar (2009) is a 9-minute film and was, at one point, an installation based on a recreation of a late 19th century Vancouver bar on the 300-block of West Cordova Street. Put another way, The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar is a continuum that began with the enigmatic (and seemingly ironically named) 1890s bar, and was brought into focus over a century later by Feyrer who encountered an archival photo of the bar’s vacant interior and imagined a stage and a script, both of which were made, one of which was subtracted.

In constructing her bar, Feyrer was true to the materials of her source image, using “cedar bark, vine maple twigs, moss and fungus,”1 just as the proprietors of the first Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar had done. However, whereas her predecessors had likely sourced their materials from nearby Hastings Mill, Feyrer, who had chosen to site her bar in a residential backyard between Main and Fraser Streets, travelled as far north as Squamish, a journey that tells us a lot about how the city’s economic base has shifted from primary to tertiary industries. What she could not find in Squamish she found on Craigslist.

Once built, the bar came to life as a gathering place for consumers of Feyrer’s wine (made from the yard’s apple trees), musical and literary performances, and, eventually, the setting for her film. Although the film was shot, Feyrer was indifferent to the result. My attempt to pursue her indifference was met with further indifference, something I am grateful for. To have settled on a definitive response might have ended a line of inquiry that had me considering whether the activities that occurred in advance of the shooting had transformed the site from an artificial setting to something organic, much like Pinocchio, who became a boy not because of an artist’s love of his puppet creation but through the puppet’s accumulation of moral lessons. The transformation of the site from film set to medium enacts its own narrative. Why supply another?

Feyrer’s script is the apocryphal center of The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar, what the future of the work was supposed to look like upon seeing the archival photo that led to its inspiration. It is not important that we know this, and yet it represents a stage in the development of the work. A parallel can be found in the materials used to construct the first Poodle Dog: that which was deemed extraneous to the commodification of “forest products” (whatever could not be sold to city builders) and how these “waste” products supplied the bar its “finished” surface, an inversion I find intriguing. Indeed, what behooved the proprietors to use these materials allows for new narratives, such as the ones Feyrer might have considered when inspired to write her script.

If the original script was conceived as a narrative, the resultant film owes more to the work of Stan Brakhage, Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses (1966), and, in its “failure” as a narrative, Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie (1971). From the start we are made aware that the subject of the film (as with any film that begins and ends with credits) is its production, with the artist and her camera appearing in one of the bar’s many mirrors (some hanging, some held, others in fragments upon the ground), a gesture that is repeated throughout. Focal tests are also included, as are explorations of multiple exposures relative to light and shadow. The deliberately out-of-synch audio track is supplied by sounds generated on site, whether “live” or pre-recorded, musical or spoken, Edwardian or modern, exotic or banal. The editing is reminiscent of the collagist strategies associated with “experimental” film.

Occasionally, one gets the sense that certain sequences are related to the film Feyrer had intended to make, with actors waiting by light stands, their lines and actions memorized, internalized. These scenes do not last long, but they recur often enough to remind us of something other than what we have been seeing. Though concealed from the viewer, the actors’ lines and actions are assumed based on the presence of cinematic tools (props, those aforementioned light stands), a presence that allows us to speak of these unavailable “scenes” as being “earned”, as they say in screenwriting workshops. For me, these unseen “scenes” also belong to the subtracted future.

* * * *

As a continuum, Feyrer’s The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar is evocative of two earlier independent (non-institutional) activities set in the Lower Mainland: Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov’s Colour Bar Research (1967-1971) and Jacob Gleeson and Gareth Moore’s St. George Marsh (2005-2006). Colour Bar Research was a back-to-basics project that had interdisciplinary artists painting rainbow-coloured wooden blocks in the pastoral setting of Robert’s Creek’s “Babyland”, while St. George Marsh was a non-funded concept shop and artist studio situated in a residential neighbourhood in East Vancouver. Over time, these projects expanded to include new forms. St. George Marsh shipped its “inventory” to the loading dock of a private gallery (Catriona Jeffries Gallery), where it was offered for sale, then to a university gallery (the Belkin Satellite), where the contents were reconfigured into an inhabitable work of sculpture, while Colour Bar Research came to include a non-narrative 8mm film, notable for arcadian merriment and Morris’s difficult-to-decipher monologue set to booms of floating bars. Although distinct from these works, Feyrer’s The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar resembles St. George Marsh, in the first instance, and Colour Bar Research, in the second.

Feyrer’s project, like Gleeson and Moore’s, began as a node of social exchange, where you could take in a performance, contribute (to) one, or buy things. In visiting these sites, I was struck by the number of younger artists I met who did not directly participate in state-supported artist-run culture. Indeed, not only were these young men and women indifferent to artist-run centres (seeing them as remnants of an older generation, an older agenda, with no room for their futures), many had never even heard of them. Reid Shier alludes to this in his 2007 essay “Do Artists Need Artist-Run Centres?”2 in which he talks about the directors of three ARCs coming not from studio practices but from backgrounds in art history and curatorial studies. Perhaps most relevant to this discussion, Shier cites White Columns’ Director/Curator Matthew Higgs, who, when speaking of younger artists “sucking up” to the mainstream art world (which, for him, includes ARCs), has this to say: “[I]f they were really smart, they would create their own.”3 For a time, The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar and St. George Marsh appeared to be doing just that.

Although Feyrer’s bar was built for her film, the film produced by Morris and Trasov was less an outcome than a parallel expression of colour bar activity, a screen test not for the bars as subjects but the film medium’s (in)ability to represent the painted colour spectrum, where form, not content, takes centre stage. This privileging of cinematic form over narrative content is evident in Feyrer’s film, for instead of pursuing a script based on her narrativization of the original Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar, the artist chose instead to focus on the spontaneity generated by her bar as a forum for the practices and interactions of artists inside and outside the established venue system. Feyrer emphasized a compositional regime closer to the synaptic exchanges of the brain than what is made visible through the actions brains excite, like the writing of scripts (or participation in state-supported artist-run culture). If the passage of St. George Marsh from corner shop to gallery installation implies an unfortunate subtraction (the loss of the shop as a social nexus), the subtraction of Feyrer’s narrative script from the resultant film achieves the opposite effect: one attentive to its present, yet inspired by its past.

* * * *

Is it important that we know the histories of what did not happen? In consideration of such histories, in this box-set added-features world we live in, is it important that we know the nature of Feyrer’s script, or is it enough to know that it existed and, perhaps as a result of what it did not contain, had bearing on the artist’s decision to kill it (and thus provide The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar its guiding spirit)?

Although every gallery and museum has stories of what had been planned but did not happen, I have yet to hear one. This is not to say that such stories are never told, only that they are not part of the conversations I find myself overhearing (which is how I came to hear of Feyrer’s script). But if there are histories of that which did not happen, one might find evidence of them on Artspeak’s backroom bookshelf, where there stands an editioned series based on artists’ ideas for unrealized art works, a revenue generator instigated some years back by Director/Curator Lorna Brown and reprised more recently by her successor Melanie O’Brian. Some of these ideas are impossible to realize, while others might still be in development, ideas whose time has not yet come.

Michael Turner


1 City of Vancouver Archives AM0054.013.06565 (description of the Poodle Dog’s construction).

2 Reid Shier, “Do Artists Need Artist-Run Centres,” Vancouver Art & Economies, ed. Melanie O’Brian (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press/Artspeak, 2007): 189.

3 Ibid., 200.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Friday, December 17, 2010

According to

"Budgerigars can be taught to speak and whistle tunes. In fact, they are believed to be the best talkers of all birds. They can learn to pronounce hundreds of words and phrases. In fact, one California budgie is said to have had a vocabulary of 1,728 words by the time he died in January 1994. Another budgie called "Sparky Williams" had a repertoire of eight nursery rhymes, 360 phrases, and a vocabulary of over 550 words. In fact, this little budgie became a star and 20,000 copies of his records were sold by the time he died in 1962."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Carmel is pretty, as is most of the Monterey peninsula. Since its founding in 1902, Carmel has attracted artists for whom "pretty" is a source of inspiration. (Readers of yesterday's post will recall that Jeffers used the word "beautiful.")

What I did not know about Carmel is that a permit is required to wear high-heeled shoes. Apparently this is due to the high incidence of lawsuits filed by those tripping over uneven pavement.

Strange laws are often the result of high incidences. That and an angry insurer. I imagine there was a time when visitors saw in Carmel's pavement a chance to live happily-ever-after.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A proprioceptive thinker, poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) spent much of his life on the California coast, where he espoused "inhumanism". Carmel sits just north of Big Sur.


The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses-
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads-
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.-As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Residents of the North American west coast will know that the Spanish left many names behind when they passed through over two hundred years ago. Valdez, Malaspina, San Francisco, Monterey and El Sur Grande, which, over time, became known by its Spanish-English hybrid, Big Sur.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My current bedside book is Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (1957). Although not the book I was looking for last week (that would have been The Air-Conditioned Nightmare [1945]), I am enjoying it, in the way Miller enjoyed Big Sur after growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (“the sky which was always hacked to pieces by roof-tops and hideous smoking chimneys”) and all those years abroad.

It was George Orwell’s 1935 review of Tropic of Cancer (New English Weekly) that got me thinking of Miller again, someone I read quite a bit of while bumming around Europe and North Africa in 1980. I had read the bigger books (Orwell liked Black Spring [1936] best), but this time I wanted the author’s thoughts on the country that spawned him. Big Sur seemed like the second-best place to start.

Last night I reread a passage that reminded me of a place I visit two or three times a year, a forty-three-year-old artist colony at Downes Point, Hornby Island, co-founded by Tom Burrows, Wayne Ngan, Gordon Payne and the colony’s most senior artists, Doris and Jack Shadbolt, in whose former home I stay.

“Almost every art colony owes its inception to the longing of a mature artist who felt the need to break with the clique surrounding him. The location chosen was usually an ideal one, particularly to the discoverer who had spent the better years of his life in dingy holes and garrets. The would-be artists, for whom place and atmosphere are all-important, always contrive to convert these havens of retreat into boisterous, merry-making colonies. Whether this will happen to Big Sur remains to be seen. Fortunately there are certain deterrents.”

Not sure Downes Point could ever be described as “merry-making,” given its many conflicts over water consumption, broom plantings, and the erection of out-buildings, but the "colonists" have learned to care for one another, and as a location it is “ideal.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

There are numerous online guides to budgerigar (budgie) mutations. Here are the four main categories (according to Colouration Mutations, Striping Pattern Mutations, Pied Mutations and Rare Mutations. Each category is comprised of numerous subcategories; the first under "Colouration Mutations" is "Base Colour":

"All budgies fall into one of two basic varieties. Either they have a yellow pigment base (dominant) or they lack a yellow pigment base and are therefore white-based (recessive). In general, the base color is visible in the mask feathers and between the black stripes of the head and wings. (The exception is the yellow-face variety.) Normally, the body feathers are structured to reflect blue. In yellow-based budgies the blue in the body feathers combines with the yellow base pigment, which results in a bright green, the most common variety. In white-based budgies there is no yellow base pigment, so the blue structure of the body feathers results in bright blue coloration."

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Friday, December 10, 2010

A small room above 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.

While cleaning one evening I came upon a box of chopsticks. Rather than toss them out I thought I might play with them, make them into something, and a couple hours later a bird cage emerged.

The following morning I paid a visit to a pet store, where I purchased a light blue budgie, a cuttle bone, seed, and two plastic dishes, one for food and one for water.

I have had my budgie two weeks now, and every time I look at her she sings.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

When word of a sequel to the film Hard Core Logo was making the rounds, a common response was: How do you make a sequel after the lead character (“Joe Dick”) has killed himself? Not the first thing that popped into my head, but one that told me a lot about what those who enjoyed the first film expected of the second.

Five minutes into a heavily packed first quarter it is clear that Hard Core Logo 2 is less about Joe Dick than its director, Bruce McDonald, and his attempt to deal with Joe’s suicide. Initially, this involved Bruce taking his family to Hollywood, where he produced a hit TV show called The Pilgrim. But after that blows up, Bruce, now tainted by scandal, flies across the country to begin a documentary on a singer who claims to have channeled Joe’s spirit.

Much of the film is set in rural Saskatchewan, with many of the scenes shot at a place called Danceland, the kind of community music hall one sees less of these days. Danceland is also the site of the singer and her band’s latest recording session, an off-the-floor job that seems more intent on blowing down walls than crafting a decent tune. Overseeing the recording is Joe’s idol, Bucky Haight.

What I enjoyed most about the sequel is that it is less a linear extension of the first film than its parallel. Further to that, some of Bruce’s metaphysical musings, which, at their best, alternate between a Werner Herzog-style director's commentary and an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. As for the ending, it is as shocking as the first, but quieter. Whether it is strong enough to right the film’s at times perplexing opening moments, I’m not sure. But it is a clever ending, much more so than its predecessor.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

As a teenager I spent many a winter weekend skiing at Whistler. My family and another family had a house at Emerald Estates, and we would rotate.

In those days (mid-70s) Whistler was not the corporate play station it is today but a series of upstart developments amidst a waning ski bum culture. The biggest change between Whistler then and now is Whistler Village, built on what was once the town dump.

Thoughts like these were on my mind as I made my way along "The Stroll”, killing time before a dinner hosted by the local bourgeoisie and a screening of Hard Core Logo 2, Bruce McDonald’s sequel to a film based on my book, Hard Core Logo.

It was a pleasant dinner, served buffet-style in a log cabin mansion, the kind of architecture Whistler is known for. Something else the town is known for: ex-Albertans. Had I more time I would have asked them what they did, and what brought them to a mountain like Whistler.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

(John Flansburgh and John Linnell)

Where was I? I forgot
The point that I was making
I said if I was smart that I would
Save up for a piece of string
And a rock to wind the string around

Everybody wants a rock
To wind a piece of string around
Everybody wants a rock
To wind a piece of string around

Throw the crib door wide
Let the people crawl inside
Someone in this town
Is trying to burn the playhouse down
They want to stop the ones who want
A rock to wind a string around
But everybody wants a rock
To wind a piece of string around

Throw the crib door wide
Let the people crawl inside
Someone in this town
Is trying to burn the playhouse down
They want to stop the ones who want
A rock to wind a string around
But everybody wants a rock
To wind a piece of string around

If I were a carpenter
I'd hammer on my piglet
I'd collect the seven dollars
And I'd buy a big prosthetic forehead
And wear it on my real head

Everybody wants prosthetic
Foreheads on their real heads
Everybody wants prosthetic
Foreheads on their real heads

Throw the crib door wide
Let the people crawl inside
Someone in this town
Is trying to burn the playhouse down
They want to stop the ones who want
Prosthetic foreheads on their heads
But everybody wants prosthetic
Foreheads on their real heads

Throw the crib door wide
Let the people crawl inside
Someone in this town
Is trying to burn the foreheads down
They want to stop the ones who want
A rock to wind a string around
But everybody wants a rock
To wind a piece of string around

Monday, December 6, 2010

A gorgeous Saturday afternoon drive up the Sea-to-Sky for the 10th anniversary of the Whistler Film Festival. Riding shotgun, what remained of my Gibsons cassette purchases, one of which, They Might Be Giants’s Flood (1990), provided accompaniment. Although the album got a lot of play upon its release (at parties and at night clubs), it wasn’t until this past weekend that I gave it my full attention, twenty years removed.

Besides its polished production, Flood is notable for its encapsulation of almost every popular musical genre to have taken root in the United States since the end of the 19th century. Blues, ragtime, vaudeville, old time, country and western, rock ‘n’ roll, calypso, zydeco, Muzak, raggae, power pop, dub, all are in evidence on this album. The same could be said of songwriters – from Stephen Foster to Captain Beefheart – not to mention literary modernists Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett.

As for the influence Flood might have had on those emerging, I can sense it in the music of the Barenaked Ladies, the angry sincerity of author Dave Eggers, the Beatrix Potter redux of visual artist Marcel Dzama, and the quirk-driven vignettes of filmmaker Miranda July.

Flood is too sophisticated to be filed under Conservative Postmodernism, concerned as it is with the environment, race relations, gender and class, all of which were in play, to varying degrees, at the festival.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Every word, every letter in every word, every word in every sentence, so perfectly placed, like this one.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Once again I found myself in the company of the Thursdays Writing Collective, this time on the Third Floor of the Carnegie Centre, where the group regularly meets.

As with all guest writers, the sessions kick off with a writing prompt supplied by the guest in advance of their visit, after which members read what they wrote. From there, a talk and a reading by the guest, then more writing and reading.

The line I supplied was: “The sun rose like a headless pair of shoulders.” Some were “uninspired" by the line and wrote what they wanted, while others accepted it as a point of departure. Still others rewrote it. The prescribed time was five minutes.

Because guests are asked to participate, I came up with this:

The sun rose like a headless pair of shoulders. Without me. The sun rose without me.

For the past week I have been living at my sister’s. She and her husband have a farm in the Fraser Valley and sometimes I look after it while they are travelling. They travel a lot, my sister and her husband. Sometimes I wonder what they are doing with a farm.

My sister and her husband are doing nothing with their farm. Once upon a time someone grew corn there. After them, hops. When my sister and her husband took over, it hadn’t been farmed in decades.

Last year a man knocked on their door and asked if he could rent their land for three months. He was a film producer and he wanted to make a war movie.

The movie required a network of muddy trenches and originally my sister said no. When he offered her thirty thousand dollars and compensation for their lost crop, she said Yes, poppies.

So my sister and her husband are liars. Liars who travel. And have a farm.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This just in:

James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could. I am an analyzer, trying to leave out as much as I can.
-- Samuel Beckett

Wednesday, December 1, 2010