Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011


Sunday, August 28, 2011

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.

I have started a drawing. It will last only as long as my pencil's tip. I am hoping to draw the pencil tip as it reflects the afternoon light.

The paper format is bigger than the table and had to be ordered from India. The pencil tip I am drawing will be larger than the dimensions of the table, making it impossible to draw the length of the tip in an uninterrupted motion.

I am using an F pencil, the kind we were issued in Grade One. For years I thought the F pencil was the hardest, until I saw this chart (from softest to hardest):

6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, 6H

Once completed, I will enter my drawing in the Banff Mountain Film Competition.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On my doorstep this morning lay what is arguably the most influential publication concerning domestic space you will read this year: the 2012 IKEA catalogue.

This year's cover is not an idealized kitchen or family room but a neatly arranged cluster of mostly white items -- including a bed, plastic chairs and plates -- all of it set against an impossibly seamless and lightly stained Grade A plywood wall. At the centre of the image is the pitch (arranged vertically, of course):


On Page 4 is an editorial that begins: "What if you could do more with the space you have -- use it in a smarter way, make it more personal?" Opposite that, on Page 5, a representation of IKEA's most recent example of "imagined" living: "what would happen if six friends decided to live together in 430 square feet"? Also on that page, a link to what IKEA calls "democracy in action," which includes a tour by Ray, an IKEA designer, through this bathroomless abode (see video at bottom).

As impressed as I was by Ray's tour, I was hoping that IKEA might have taken it further and asked "six friends" to live this way for six weeks, preferably during a Swedish winter, and that their comments be made available to us. Or perhaps they did and, like most democratic states, chose to protect us from the results. Either way, I would love to see this experiment enacted and shared. That would be the "smart" thing to do.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Monday, August 22, 2011

Joan from Arizona: thank you for your letter. How you found my home address, and why you chose to send your 52-word note FedEx, is but a mild distraction compared to your eloquent appreciation of older modes of transport. Yes, it was McLuhan who wrote that the telegram was the first instance where the message arrived before the messenger (“Roads and Paper Routes”), and yes, I was aware of Venturi, et al.’s Learning from Las Vegas when I wrote Kingsway (1995).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My favorite season? The one with the most yellow in it: the last two weeks of August.

That my birthday falls within these weeks has nothing to do with why I like this time of year. I have never enjoyed celebrating my birthday, and for years I was never sure why. Then a recent conversation caused me to dig deeper. What I saw was a cake being lowered and people singing "Happy Birthday." But while some were singing with love in their hearts, others screamed the song with all the sarcasm they could muster. I think it was the two together that put me off my birthday.

An enduring memory is my nine-year-old self walking along the railroad tracks between West 33rd and West 37th (the bend closest to 37th). I am unsure whether I am walking north (towards home) or south (towards Mary’s Confectionary), but what I do know is that it is just after 4PM on the second-to-last Sunday in August and the sky is clear and the sun is hot. The grass around me is a scorched yellow or gold, and the creosote is thick in the air. There is a heat ripple, but in my mind I see it not in the distance but precisely where I stood when the moment registered.

When I die I shall return to this moment, make it my eternity.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Another kind of "fluting":

Monday, August 15, 2011

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.

Open before me, a recent publication by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, entitled Thrown: British Columbia's Apprentices of Bernard Leach and Their Contemporaries, a beautifully designed book that invites us into the world of ceramic artists Michael Henry, Tam Irving, Charmian Johnson, Glenn Lewis, John Reeve and Leach himself.

The page I am open to is "Entry 22" from art historian and novelist Herbert Read's The Meaning of Art (London: Faber and Faber: 1968):

"Pottery is at once the simplest and the most difficult of all the arts. It is the simplest because it is the most elemental; it is the most difficult because it is the most abstract."

Below is Bernard Leach's grandson, Simon, demonstrating what is known as "fluting":

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

First recorded in B-flat Major:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

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.

Three lawnmowers, each with its own frequency. A B-flat, a D and an F. A major chord.

Above that, some chickadees.

Pretty music.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Monday, August 1, 2011

My last trip to San Francisco was in 2000, when I drove down with Sharla Sava in my red Ford Tempo. Prior to that, a 1986 Green Tortoise odyssey that would be impossible now given the horrors of border security.

The San Francisco of 1986 still wore its activism on its sidewalks (I was there to protest Reagan’s foreign policy), while the 2000 version seemed drunk on dotcom speculation, turning the city from a site of critical engagement to one that catered to the whims of 25-year-old white heterosexual boys.

As for today’s city, what can one say after a three-day visit? The Beats and the Spicer Circle have long since left North Beach, while the intersection of Haight and Ashbury is rife with multinational coffee shops and clothiers. But that is to be expected. So where are the youth of today, besides flash mobbing in Union Square, their ear buds linked to “some DJ in Marrakech”?

“Valencia Street is where the young people are,” said Kevin, as we walked to dinner from a Bruce Boone reading. “Yes,” said Dodie, catching herself before suggesting that we go there during our one full day.

So we did, walking south from the 16th Street BART Station, past shops displaying decorative abstract paintings and new and used furniture, stopping now and then to check the menus of unimaginative restaurants, the non-ironic machinery of Dave Egger’s well-intentioned writing centre, infrequent bookstores, wondering what San Franciscan’s thought about, what mattered, and why?

Attempts to get at these questions, and more, were met with shrugs by the gallery director we dined with that night at Zuni’s. Are these questions not worth asking? I asked him, knowing as soon as I said it I would be met with another shrug. Would I be better to phrase my questions in the negative, as in, What doesn’t matter, and why not?

Before our evening flight, Judy and I decided to take a pass on the MOMA’s steep asking price (and dull program) in favour of the Jewish Museum’s Charlotte Saloman exhibition. The title alone was enough: Life? Or Theatre? Although yet another instance of a personality-driven event (in a country obsessed with them), Saloman’s project reminded me how fragile we are, how she was living at a time when asking the wrong question could cost you your life. Are we living in a similar time? Does it matter? And if not, why not?