Friday, November 30, 2012

Eleanor Antin at the Belkin

Yesterday I attended Eleanor Antin's reading and conversation (with Michael Morris) at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, part of the State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970 exhibition that runs until December 9th.

For those unfamiliar with Antin, she was a force in the burgeoning California art scene of the 1970s. In speaking of her practice (as a preface to her reading) she said "writing and visual art go together -- whatever you need, whatever you have to do, is fair game."

In the 1960s, "fair game" was body-based work. Later, photo-tableaux (the above image, The Artist's Studio [2001], is from her "Last Days of Pompeii" series). But today it is memoir, a collection of chapters chronicling her life growing up in the Bronx as a "red diaper baby." The name of her memoir is Conversations with Stalin.

During her almost hour long reading, Antin, who is 77-years-young, regaled us with stories of family, religion, sex and death, delivered in her thick-New York accent (something she retained despite her 30 years at UCSD). While I would have liked to have heard from her adult life, many of the themes that occur in her work are rooted in her youth. Particularly poignant was a story concerning her sister, a musical prodigy who left music, only to regret it later.

Though deceptively simple, Antin's memoir is more Fran Lebowitz than Kathy Acker, more Woody Allen than Dodie Bellamy, Lydia Davis or Eileen Myles. This is not a bad thing, but I was expecting a greater degree of formal engagement from an artist who, at the outset of her visual and written career, took such huge artistic risks, someone who, like Acker, quite literally put her body on the line.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Station Identifications

A chronology of station identifications from the American Broadcasting Company (1948-2011).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Made-for-TV Double Feature

As promised, a made-for-TV double-feature concerning themes of "returning" and "home", compliments of the American Broadcasting Company.

The first film, Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring (1971), is the story of a teenage runaway who willingly returns to her suburban family home after living with her boyfriend on the streets and beaches of Los Angeles. Most notable about this film is its casual yet effective use of flashbacks, voice-overs, scoring, repetition and freeze-frame to "tell" not a linear story but a cyclical one. As with certain ABC MoWs, not much happens plot-wise. Instead we get interior acting, in addition to slow and thoughtful filmmaking.

The second film, Crawlspace (1972), is the story of troubled young man who is "adopted" by an older childless couple after they discover him living in the crawlspace of their exurban Connecticut home. How this adoption comes about -- how it is handled -- is what makes this film so resonant. Despite its title, and its many claustrophobic shots, Crawlspace allows us room to consider where this young man is coming from (is he a Vietnam War vet? a drug casualty? bi-polar? autistic?) and what he, too, might be thinking.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The ABC Movie of the Week

The ABC Movie of the Week was my Grimms' Fairy Tales.

Last year I began researching these made-for-TV films, towards developing a series at the Pacific Cinematheque; but now that the more intriguing ones are online, I suppose I could do that here, at websit.

Tomorrow I will link to two films that I remember seeing as a child, both of which involve themes common to American youth in the late-60s/early-70s -- "returning" and "home".

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cassiar Cannery

Sara Diamond's video of salmon cannery workers brought back memories of Cassiar Cannery, just south of Port Edward, B.C., where I spent my summers (1973-1983) -- first with my family, then, as the company expanded, on my own as a young worker.

Feeling sentimental, I went looking online. Sure enough there are more than a couple Cassiar Cannery albums. The video up top features an appearance by yours truly (1:14-1:18). Think I had just turned seventeen when that picture was taken, making it 1979.

So nice to see the faces of those so important to me, both then and now.

Hello Ambrose, Audrey, Barry Jr., Billy Rush, Bobby, Bonita, Carrie-Lee, Chapman, Chris, Corey, Curly, Daisy, Dwayne, Dorinda, Eilagh, Frankie, Fred, Doug Grassick, Harold, Nora, Georgie, Hazel, Mike Postak, Roddy, Ronnie, Sheila, Teddy, Todd, Violet, Walter...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Year of the Strike, Hour of the Knife

Last night I attended the second of three curated video presentations in VIVO's Anamnesia: Unforgetting series: Ph.D. poet/activist Donato Mancini's "Year of the Strike, Hour of the Knife", a program of "[a]rt videos and activist tapes from 1975–1989 that publicize the dialectic of Santiago, Chile and Vancouver, Canada within neoliberal mythology."

While Donato's selection looked great on paper, sitting through its sixty-plus minutes was something of a chore. Following a short food and drink break, Donato then presented a rather dense, quickly read philosophical passage from his accompanying essay concerning, appropriately enough, Time. Although respondent Juan Manuel Sepulveda did his best to open a window on Donato's poly-temporal theorization of the topic (Donato's essay will be part of an upcoming publication), I remained distracted by the curator's categorization of the works in his program, most notably his reference (once at the beginning, once at the end) to Sara Diamond's Ten Dollars or Nothing (1989) as (temporally) "linear," a work whose linearity, it seems to me, is dealt with (dialectically) through a reorganization not of Time but of Space, a la the passe-partout device so common to video at that time.

Vancouver has a number of English Ph.D. poets who write on, and work in, the visual arts. However, while I often enjoy what these scholar/poets bring to their readings, there are occasions where I find their views lacking when it comes to discussions particular to the medium or materials under study. This was evident last night, where Donato alluded to Jane Wright's Electronic Sunset works (#35, #43) as the more artful of his program's videos, without saying why. But of course we know why, for these are works that abstract nicely, where the presence of the medium's raster lines coincide with /contribute to their ongoing and patterned transformation, much like the sunsets both the artist (Wright) and the curator (Donato) associate these transformations with. (Yet when it comes to Ten Dollars or Nothing -- a work that combines both formal abstraction and expressive ethnographic rhetorics -- Donato speaks of this work not at the forefront of his program, but to the side.)

Although it was obviously not Donato's intention to explore the individual works included in his program, perhaps he will do so in his essay. Indeed, as to my question concerning the length of his program, his answer gave me hope -- "it is not the length of the program that is the problem but the chairs we are sitting on." What's that old expression -- It is a poor workman who blames his tools? Maybe so. For as logic tells us, a false premise can lead to a true conclusion. Maybe this (too) is what Donato has achieved with his program.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Below are five poems, the first of which ("Vial") is a revision of a poem I posted on August 1st.


what it comes in and when

what comes in it is finished

a little glass cylinder with

an end and an opening and a

tiny tiny cork that got lost in

its emptying stands small on

the window sill O’ing O O

O O mOre than just empty

is all O O O O that is O O

left O O O Of it O O O O O



O O O O that Peruvian rag

the alpaca O O O who stOOd

fOr it O O beside O O the fire

birds O O O O up O O O up

O O the chimney O O cOpper

goblets' O O O O bellies O O

O O O glOw O O taxidermy's

glass-eyed Owl O O O gOes

hOOOO-hOOO O O a blue

saucer O O O a crust Of pie



SO O O O O O Orange O O O

O O in O O O its O O O O O

furnace O O O O O smOke the

O O O genie O O O calms O O

O O O O O O O O O O O from

the O O O O ceiling O O O O O

O O O O O O O O legless O O

your O O O O O O O O O O O

O O O wish O O O O O O O O

O O O O O O O O O is O O O















like lose a verb but like its noun

found the vial once again corked

rolling between thumb forefinger

passed absently from hand to hand

where it is rolled again and again

the air trapped a thought had or

imagined a fact a fabrication to be

deployed saved but the cork is there

pressed into place designed neither

to fit nor protect only to remain

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Byron Black

Last week marked the return of Byron Black to Vancouver -- for the first time in thirty years. Black, who has been living in Southeast Asia since 1982, is the subject of an early career retrospective curated by VIVO's Alex Muir, part of the artist-run centre's Anamnesia: Unforgetting series, a three-part curatorial endeavour drawn from the 4500-piece Crista Dahl Media Library and Archive, where some of Black's earliest film and video works are housed. On November 22nd Donato Mancini will screen a selection of videos that attempt to draw parallels between Vancouver and Chile, while on November 29 Cicely Nicholson will explore aboriginal title, protest and suppression.

Black first arrived in Vancouver in 1970, "on the run from the F.B.I.," as he put it in advance of Thursday's screening. Prior to that he was teaching English to South Vietnamese youth at Fresno State College, "so that they might return to their country better capitalists than when they left it." Just how the 28-year-old son of an U.S. Airforce Colonel found himself drafted is a mystery, unless we take into account how drafts and conscriptions have always played a punitive role in the "running" of a country, something Black alludes to when he says that in exchange for English lessons these South Vietnamese youth "politicized" him, opened his eyes to the cruelties of U.S. foreign policy.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of hanging out with Black, taking him and DIM Cinema's Amy Kazymerchyk to the Belkin, to see the State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970 exhibition, then to Aphrodite for pie, where we met with his long-time friend, Tony Reif, who attempted to interview Black after DIM's Monday night screening of Black's extrapolation on paranoiac hippie Vancouver, The Holy Assassin (1974), a film that, according to Reif, had not been shown since its debut.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On Wallace

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. artist Dana Claxton and I will be at the VAG for a walk-and-talk on the work of Ian Wallace (Dana on Wallace's "Cinematic" works, me on "Text"). For those interested I reviewed Wallace's exhibition for Canadian Art's online platform.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oakridge Mall

Kingsgate Mall is one of two Vancouver malls slated for (re)development. Recently it was announced that Oakridge Mall at 49th and Cambie would be converted from a low-rise two-storey structure (with acres of outdoor parking) to a city-within-a-city megapiece featuring 13 towers, the tallest at 45 storeys (see above). Within this mass, 2800 private homes and 350 retail shops.

While the Beedie Group (the current lease-holders of the Kingsgate Mall) have yet to reveal their plan, area residents continue to express concern over the scale of recent development applications, particularly in light of the controversial Rize proposal at Broadway and Kingsway, or the Stong's Markets site in Dunbar. As is often the case with these developments, the first to assure us are not the developers but the architects. On the topic of Oakridge, Stantec Architecure Ltd.'s Darren Burns had this to say: "I think you have to look long-term and think what the city will look like in 2050."

Like a lot of architects, Burns not only designs buildings (for developers) but sells them to area residents. Implicit within the architect's expanded role of "seller" is the changing role of area residents who, increasingly, want a say in that which they will be living next to. Indeed, as new models for developments take shape (such as the city-within-a-city structure at Olympic Village) so too are area residents forming their own critical structures.

Mediating between builders and concerned citizens are municipal governments, who approve development applications, ideally through community consultation. Have these governments developed new structures to consider the increasingly sophisticated concerns of area residents? That is the question being asked by those currently gathered on the steps of Vancouver City Hall, many of whom have imagined this city in 2050 and do not like what they see.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kingsgate Mall

A resident of the Kensington-Cedar Cottage area in which I live has apprised neighbourhood listserve subscribers of a pro-community consultation rally tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. on the steps of City Hall. Although her motivation is based on the "Little Saigon" designation, a larger one looms: the proposed development of that most eccentric and wholly affordable of marketplaces -- Kingsgate Mall.

Readers of Kerry Gold's Globe and Mail article (see link) will notice not a news story but a halftone profile of Ryan Beedie, son of Beedie Group founder Keith Beedie. While I am hopeful that Gold's article marks the first of a series on the Kingsgate proposal (articles that include the voices of area workers, residents and social housing advocates), I have my doubts. Gold's real estate beat tends more towards affirmation than balance. Reading her these past few years you would think she is an embedded publicist for Rennie Marketing Systems.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A small room inside 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.

On the table is a vase by the potter Mick Henry (its scrubbed-clean emptiness fills the room). Yesterday it was flowers, today it is music -- what Mick heard when his vase rose up between his hands, spoke to him, told him it was done.

Potters who make vases, knowing that we might stuff them with flowers. But vases unto themselves, first, perfect in advance of their utility.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Monday, November 12, 2012


Everywhere I look is
The autumn opens its bra for the sky to suck
its huge imagination
In the darkness, streets are overturned 
Garbage dumps fly through the sky
People breathe a strange and fresh air
Deaf black houses are silently shocked 
by each tick-tock
Lying down in darkness
I feel consoled
that my eyes are still embedded in 
cubits of darkness, the most attractive color
for clothing, which I use to cover my face and furious body.
The faint lines in my chaotic thought
and the feeling of being prevented from sharing an apartment 
are completely nasty. 
The rippling black glances of my son this morning
when he looked at me meant: “Mom, please die!” 
His four-year-old hatred
makes me remember the freshness of loving,
the kind I haven’t seen for a very long time
because everything is colored 
and covered by foil
The blackness of spoiled fish
fried and yellowed in tomato juice
is an epicurean blackness
a memory to be shot and smashed 
The ambition of blackness
makes me lose sleep unceasingly
licks me 
makes me smile and want to be at peace,
but it still crawls up my body and swallows my youth. 
In the end, I return to my room
needing a loss of memory
and the door is completely closed!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Little Saigon"

Since posting my letter on Saturday (here, and on the neighbourhood list serve last Sunday) I have, over the course of three days, bumped into a number of area residents who have shared with me their comments, in addition to those I have heard from through email. While most are in agreement with what I have written, others have related stories of residents upset with the proposed designation, who feel Cedar Cottage is a perfectly good name, and why should we change it?

The naming question is not a new one. About ten years ago there was a move on the part of some area residents to name the area between East 12th Avenue (north) and King Edward Boulevard (south), and Knight Street (east) and Fraser Street (west), Dickens, after the two schools within the area (Charles Dickens Elementary and Charles Dickens Annex). This group, which formed shortly after I moved into the area, in 1994, began as a neighbourhood watch organization who initiated nightly foot patrols in order to remind sex trade workers and their clients, as well as anyone else who looked like they did not belong, that their presence was noted, and as such were not welcome. Shortly after that, one of its members started the Dickens Community Group List Serve (DCG listserve), which now totals almost two thousand subscribers.

While I have no problem with people organizing within their neighbourhoods (in fact, I encourage it), I cannot help but look on such groups with the same eyes they use to look on those they assume do not belong, particularly where public space is concerned. A case of watching the watchers? Maybe. Do I understand this tendency? I am not sure. But one thing I am sure of is that it is a difficult thing to proceed in this world with good intentions, to feel that what you are doing is right, without losing sight of the particulars that make life what it is.

I saw something similar back in 1995, when the City announced that the much larger area of Kensington-Cedar Cottage would be one of two test sites (along with Dunbar) for what was then called CityPlan, the result of a city-wide polling process that had asked all Vancouverites what was important to them with respect to the direction the City should take as an urban planner -- the result of which was a neighbourhood-based self-conception, as opposed to a centre-margin model.

I attended the first of these meetings but left not long after when it became clear that the fifty of us largely Anglo-European descendants that had gathered at these meetings were making decisions on behalf of an area whose ethnic diversity was not represented. When I complained to the City's planners that no one from the study group was from Vietnam or the Philippines, and that there were only two people whose ethnicity was Chinese (the dominant ethnic group in the area), I was told that the City was working on it. When I asked why the literature they had distributed to solicit our group was not written in Vietnamese or Tagalog, they said they were working on that too.

Those who came to dominate the CityPlan group included those who put forth the Dickens name. Is the name Dickens representative? Given the ethnic diversity of the area, certainly not (this despite the influx of Anglo-European descendants who have moved into the neighbourhood over the past fifteen years). Would I support it? No, because this is a name that harkens back to the Vancouver I grew up in, the ethnocentric British Vancouver of the 1960s and 70s, where the Union Jack was everywhere and the cops had Scottish accents; where repression ruled the day and anything outside that was exoticized, if not criminalized.

As for the "Little Saigon" designation, I am uneasy with that too, for reasons I mentioned in my letter, but also for those I did not.

The impetus behind the "Little Saigon" designation is attributed to a group called the Metro Vancouver Vietnamese Canadian Business Association (MVVCBA), and was picked up by City Councillor Kerry Jang last autumn. Jang, who is well aware that Vietnamese-Canadians account for Vancouver's fifth biggest ethnic population, took it to Council, who voted unanimously on its implementation (somewhere on Kingsway, between Nanaimo and Fraser Streets). When confronted by concerned residents (rightly so, because there was no public consultation), Jang was quick to point out that it was a vote towards its consideration, not its implementation; that there would be a public consultation process, and that Council would consider the results before making their decision.

Two weeks ago that consultation (held at a community house on Victoria Drive) came and went. This was an event described to me by participants not as a conversation but a celebration, complete with banner proposals. When I shared my letter with Jang, he said City staff collected a number of written comments at this session, and that these would be collated and read by Council in advance of a final decision. My guess is that the designation will pass, and that those ninety or so area residents (by today's count) who have signed the "Stop the Little Saigon Designation" petition, and those who submitted written comments at the consultation session, will exist merely as evidence of the consultation process. As for the MVVCBA, I went looking for them online and found that their domain name had expired. Not a healthy sign.

The MVVCBA, which I believe is located in Surrey, was not the first attempt by a business association to speak for those operating along the Cedar Cottage stretch of Kingsway. Some eight years ago a local businessman of Anglo-European descent, the same businessman who complained in the Vancouver Courier how area businesses were predominantly "nails and noodles" (now removed from the Courier site), tried to organize local businesses but, perhaps owing to his "nails and noodles" comment, failed to do so. This too is unfortunate, because any attempt at naming should come from within, not from without (MVVCBA, City Hall).

Something else worth noting is the celebration that took place in a parking lot on the south side of Kingsway's 1000 block last spring. This event, sponsored by the MVVCBA, featured the food, music, dance, dress and comedy of Vietnam, and was attended by Vietnamese-Canadians and non-Vietnamese Canadians alike. While I did not see many of my non-Vietnamese Canadian neighbours there, I did see a number of civic politicians mingling among local shop owners and community elders, some of whom arrived in uniforms they wore as officers in the South Vietnamese Army, a gesture that tells me those from the north should, and perhaps did, steer clear.

The presence of Vietnam's long-defunct South Vietnam army makes it apparent to anyone concerned that "Little Saigon"will not represent the larger Vietnamese-Canadian presence in this city, and that if it is gestures such as these that are intended to celebrate Vancouver's Vietnamese presence, why is the city not taking a unifying position with respect to its Vietnamese-Canadian population rather than one that privileges the southern part of the country over the north? We have "Little Italy" and "Little India" (the latter comprised of multiple ethnicities), so why not "Little Vietnam"? This is a question that must be addressed before the City votes not only to designate an area "Little Saigon" but, potentially, open wounds that go back long before French and U.S. soldiers arrived in Vietnam.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Two Readings

This past weekend saw two literary events at the Western Front -- on Friday, Chris Kraus; on Saturday, Sarah Schulman. While Sarah's Cineworks-sponsored reading was moved to the Front in advance of a Simon Fraser University job action (it was originally scheduled at the Woodward's downtown campus), Chris's was part of the Front's monthly Scrivener's series, organized by Exhibitions curator Jesse Birch (Chris's visit was co-sponsored by VIVO, who hosted a screening of her films at the Cinematheque). Both events were well-attended, with Chris reading from her new novel, Summer of Hate (2012), and Sarah, a former member of Act Up (1987-1992), from an essay called "AIDS and Gentrification". Questions followed.

Although I enjoyed both events -- Chris's fictive portraits and Sarah's social history -- it was Sarah's detailing of the AIDS crisis in her home borough of Manhattan that was most resonant. For those who might see this as yet another triumph of "Non-Fiction" over "Fiction", let me add that it is Sarah's strength as a fiction writer that makes her essay the document it is. I noticed this first when she talked about those rent-controlled apartment residents who, upon passing from AIDS, had their possessions tossed into the street. Sarah could have told us that many of these people worked in theatre, and how that community was disseminated by AIDS, but chose instead to show us, through an anecdote that had her walking down the street one afternoon, a box of Playbills nestled between two garbage cans. It is details such as this one that anchor not only the numbers (rate of infection, death tolls, percentage of rent hikes) but attitudes towards AIDS that persist to this day (government memorials for those who died on 9/11, but not for those who died of AIDS).

What hit hardest from Sarah's presentation was what she called "Old AIDS," that period between 1981 and 1996 when so many died of this disease. Although I can say that I remember this time (I was nineteen in 1981), it is the details -- the very details Sarah is so adept at placing in all aspects of her written and filmic work-- that were returned to me through her presentation, taking me back to March, 1987, when I moved from my small attic apartment off Commercial Drive to a recently-renovated bachelor suite at the Berkeley (north-east corner of Bute and Nelson). What did not occur to me at the time -- what I saw but did not feel -- were the open doors of the apartments as I climbed the stairs to my suite, the many people running to and from them with steaming plates of food or armfuls of linen, the wasted-looking men inside these rooms who did not mind having their doors open to those assisting them during what, I gathered, were their last days. Yes, I knew these men were dying of AIDS, and that those who tended them were good people, but I did not feel it. Not like I feel things today.

One of these men, a helper maybe ten years older than me, I came to know through our mutual patronage of what was then the only Vietnamese restaurant in the West End -- the Green Hut at Broughton and Robson. Over time, while I dined on imperial rolls and pork brochettes and he on pho, we began to sit together, sharing our meals and the world around us. It was he who told me about the influence of (colonial) French culture on Vietnamese cuisine and literature, the importance of poetry in Vietnam, and Nguyen Chi Thien's debt to Charles Baudelaire; just as is it was I who sat and listened, never asking his name nor what he did for a living. Nor did he ask me. Only later did I hear from another tenant who this man was, or at least enough about him to understand how he came to know so much about Vietnam and poetry, and, through deduction, why he kept so much to himself. But that is another story, one I don't feel like getting into right now; a story someone else might bring out of me, like Sarah Schulman did with her fine and thoughtful essay.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Every Day I Would Go"

Every day I would go to the tea shop
At a time when it is almost deserted
I would pick a table in the innermost corner
Where I could sit by myself reading the paper and brewing
I don’t give too much attention to the news
As I flip over the pages then leave the paper alone
I would sit back almost as a manner of relaxation
Not letting my mind be burdened by any thought
Out of habit I would smoke but hardly feel the taste
Only sighing quietly from time to time
Or shaking my head in an attempt to shake away
The images blurred and rather melancholic
Of a meaningless life, almost thrown away.

The poem above is Nguyen Chi Thien's "Every Day I Would Go" (1958), from his collection Flowers from Hell (1984). The translation is by Nguyen Ngoc Bich.

Nguyen Chi Thien was born in 1939, in the North Vietnamese city of Hanoi. He passed away last month in Santa Ana, California.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Open Letter

To the Author(s) of the "Stop Little Saigon Designation" Petition,

While I agree that public consultation is essential before any act or designation is passed by City Hall, and acknowledge that the public consultation process that Councillor Kerry Jang promised area residents last year after council unanimously passed a motion to pursue the naming of a stretch of Kingsway "Little Saigon" did not come about (if it did, I missed it), I must take issue with the argument this petition has mounted against the "Little Saigon" project.

1) To argue that the social and cultural diversity of this stretch of Kingsway mitigates against naming it "Little Saigon" is not one that celebrates diversity but exploits it in favour of the status quo. Let us not forget that the naming of what is now Kingsway came when England's King Edward visited Vancouver in October, 1913. Not only was Kingsway named after him, but so was King Edward Boulevard, a name the Aquilinis took up for their development at the south-east corner of Knight and Kingsway (King Edward Village) -- what was once, I believe, the site of the Cedar Cottage Nursery, where a diverse mix of plants were sold to those who built the houses that many of us live in today.

What also came to pass -- this time in advance of King Edward's visit -- was the removal of the Khat-Sah-Lano village under what is now the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge. While I would never argue that the Cedar Cottage Nursery was complicit in the removal of this First Nations village, the Cedar Cottage Nursery is historically contemporaneous with it and the attitudes of the day. This is not to say that I want to see the name Cedar Cottage removed, only that the name belongs to a past that, like "Little Saigon", does not reflect the diversity of the current area.

2) Like the "Little Saigon" naming project, "diversity" is the result of a similar naming process -- an update of what was once called "multiculturalism." For those who remember the 1970s and 80s, Multiculturalism was an official federal policy, a department under both Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments and a key to Canada's immigration policy. Although heavily critiqued and eventually discarded (as official policy), Canadian Multiculturalism provided this country's citizens with a number of positive lessons, one of which -- the one I divined -- goes like this: if in a country dominated by one culture (mostly English speakers of European descent), then there should be provision for another individual culture to be celebrated -- not above the others but supported by them.

It is in this spirit that I have no problem naming a stretch of Kingsway to reflect a particular ethnic community. However, unless this naming comes about properly, through public consultation, it has the potential to create a negative feeling, and no one wants that. (On that note, let me add that the leaders within the Vietnamese-Canadian community that support this naming have already created a negative feeling within the very community they claim to speak for by focusing their celebration not on all of Vietnam but on the southern part of the country -- hence, "Little Saigon", and not "Little Hanoi" or, even more apropos, "Little Vietnam".)

Finally, let me say that I am thankful I live in a country where initiatives put forth by a community can be taken seriously by local government; where petitions such as the one put forth by the "Stop Little Saigon Designation" author(s) can be allowed to circulate without censure; and where I can speak as both an empathetic and critical subject to an issue that, while philosophically supportive of it, must happen in a way that celebrates not only the ends but the means by which all good decisions are made.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A small room inside 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.

It is late, and I have just set aside the book I am reading, Huysmans's A Rebours, the last line lingering, its image a retinal burn. After describing a carpet, Huysman writes:

It would be a fine experiment to set on this carpet something that would move about and the deep tint of which would bring out and accentuate these tones.

What Huysmans's Des Esseintes places on this carpet is a turtle. But as I am out of turtles, I reach into my past and place upon it the tawny gerbil my mother brought home for me when I was eight and sick with the flu, the one I fed toilet paper to through the bars of its cage and watched as it turned that tissue into a fluffy nest.

Thursday, November 1, 2012