Tuesday, January 31, 2017

An American Scholar and Murderer

Indiana Jones is an adventurer, but that is only partially true. He is, first and foremost, a scholar, an archaeologist named Henry Jones who trained at the University of Chicago (presumably under James Henry Breasted at the Oriental Institute) and whose research is supported by Marshall College in Connecticut, where he is employed as a professor.

The above clip takes place in a medina in Dakar, Senegal, where, after causing a ruckus, Jones is confronted by a swordsman (though I suspect the swordsman is more than that, too). Jones's murder of this man received the biggest laugh amongst those in the audience for the film's premiere at Prince Rupert's Capitol Theatre in the summer of 1981, a year that few of us seem to remember.

Monday, January 30, 2017

An American Tourist and Drug Trafficker

An American thinking he could leave Turkey in 1970 with two kilos of hashish strapped to his body.

After the film Midnight Express appeared in 1978 (based on the 1977 book of the same name), no one in middle-class white America could imagine a greater horror than doing time in a Turkish prison.

From a Wikipedia entry, some of the differences between the book ("original story") and the film:

  • In the movie, Billy Hayes is in Turkey with his girlfriend when he is arrested, whereas in the original story he is alone.
  • Although Billy did spend seventeen days in the prison's psychiatric hospital in 1972, he never bit out anyone's tongue, which in the film led to him being committed to the section for the criminally insane.
  • In the book's ending, Hayes was moved to another prison on an island from which he eventually escaped, by stealing a dinghy and rowing 17 miles in a raging storm across the Sea of Marmara, and then traveling by foot as well as on a bus to Istanbul and then crossing the border into Greece.[6] In the movie, this passage is replaced by a violent scene in which he unwittingly kills the head guard who is preparing to rape him. (In reality, Hamidou, the chief guard, was killed in 1973 by a recently paroled prisoner, who spotted him drinking tea at a café outside the prison and shot him eight times.) The attempted rape scene itself was fictionalized; Billy never claimed to have suffered any sexual violence at the hands of his Turkish wardens. He did engage in consensual sex while in prison, but the film depicts Hayes gently rejecting the advances of a fellow prisoner.
  • There is a fleeting reference to The Pudding Shop restaurant in the bazaar. It was/is not there - it is on Divan Yolu.

In 2007, the escaped Turkish convict -- the American Billy Hayes -- returned to Turkey after 32 years on the lam. A guest of the Turkish Institute for Police Studies, Hayes held a press conference where he apologized to the Turkish people. Three years before that, Oliver Stone, who received an Oscar for his Midnight Express screenplay, apologized for "over-dramaticising" the script, which he said was based expressly on interviews with Hayes.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Voice Imitator (1997)

University of Chicago Press -- the English-language publisher of Thomas Bernhard's The Voice Imitator (1997) -- has made available online five stories from Bernhard's 104 story book. I wonder why UoC Press chose these five?

A businessman from Koblenz had made his life's dream come true by visiting the pyramids of Giza and was forced, after he had done visiting the pyramids, to describe his visit as the greatest disappointment of his life, which I understand, for I myself was in Egypt last year and was disappointed above all by the pyramids. However, whereas I very quickly overcame my disappointment, the Koblenz businessman took vengeance for his disappointment by placing, for months on end, full-page advertisements in all the major newspapers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, warning all future visitors to Egypt against the pyramids and especially against the pyramids of Cheops, which had disappointed him most deeply, more than all the others. The Koblenz businessman used up his resources in a very short time by these—as he called them—anti-Egypt and anti-pyramid advertisements and plunged himself into total penury. In the nature of things, his advertisements did not have the influence upon people that he had hoped for; on the contrary, the number of visitors to Egypt this year, as opposed to last year, has doubled. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017


I think I get it now -- not only is the current administration re-deploying Kissingerian "constructive ambiguity," it is attempting to asphyxiate us with our own incredulity. 

Later in the article (which reads like an out-take from Thomas Bernhard's The Voice Imitator) we hear from the golfer's daughter, Christina Langer:

Friday, January 27, 2017

35th and Cypress

One of thirty-six exposures taken in 12 seconds by artist Volker Gerling six years ago at the railway crossing at 35th and Cypress in Vancouver. These exposures, taken immediately after the subject related an anecdote that happened at that very spot 47 years ago last September, comprise one of a number of flip books Volker demonstrates during his Portraits in Motion performances. Volker's next performance is tonight at the Rotary Arts Centre in Kelowna, part of UBC Okanagan's Living Things -- A festival of puppets, masks and performing objects.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Pac-Man debuted in the spring of 1980, though it wasn't until that summer that I played my first game in the basement of the old UBC Student Union Building.

Seventeen years earlier Harvey Ball invented the Smiley Face, which, according to the Smithsonian website, was intended to "raise morale among employees of an insurance company after a series of difficult mergers and acquisitions."

In the fall of 1987, when I was ill with cancer, I spent a lot of time at Vancouver's Cancer Control Agency, where my mother once worked as a cytologist (when it was known as the Cancer Institute in the 1950s-1970s). One of the therapies the oncologists used to treat sick children was to encourage them to imagine their chemo and radiation treatments as Pac-Man -- put there to eat bad cells. But for a young man who by then had equated Pac-Man with capitalist accumulation, it was too late -- I had to get by on cisplatin and vinblastine.

Ball's Smiley Face figures in the events that make up the life of Forrest Gump (1994).

Another film that features a Tom Hanks character as an inadvertent maker of faces is Castaway (2000). Here is my favourite scene from that film.

Never again, never again, never again...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Nausea (1938)

When I was in high school, reading everything I could get my hands on, spouting all kinds of weird shit at the dinner table, my mother, in an effort to encourage me further, gave me books of quotations, one of which included this great Sartre quote. It was only later, while bumming around Europe after graduation, that I came upon the context for Sartre's quote in his novel Nausea (1938).

Here it is in English:

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Who Took the First Piece!

You can't have it all. But why would you?

Instead, imagine who had it, what it meant to them. Not to spite you -- you have nothing to do with it. It's not about you.

It's not about you.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Forty-Degrees Short of a Panorama

“It had nothing to do with the name,” said Vancouver businessman Gary Averbach of his Trump tower purchase. He is moving into one of the more luxurious units (technically, it’s the equivalent of two in size) on one of the highest floors this weekend. “It was the building itself. When I saw the original plans, Trump hadn’t declared his candidacy. I loved (the idea) of looking at my beautiful city. The view is unbelievable; 320 degrees."

Assessed at $8,947,000, Averbach’s suite is one of the most valuable of any in the tower, below the penthouses. Averbach, who is the CEO of Belmont Properties, which manages 27 rental buildings in B.C., had already been living downtown at the Wall Centre for more than two years. “I made the purchase because I knew that even if I didn’t like it, I had a salable product.”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Needle & Arts Centre

"When you see all this yarn, and all these bright colours and the softness of the yarn, you want to knit."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Recruitment Test

"Be sure to keep your fingers on the box at all times."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Carl Beam (1943-2005)

UBC Okanagan has two dozen Carl Beam artworks in its Public Art Collection. Although their titles vary, each "item" is represented (online) by the same white text against the same grey background.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

FINA Gallery, UBCO

The FINA Gallery at UBCO's FCCS Building exhibits student work and work from the university collection. What I like best about the gallery is that the exhibitions change quickly.

The current show is a printmaking show. The picture above is entitled Monster of the Earth (2007) and the artist is Caitlin.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Visiting Speaker

Yesterday ECUAD Associate Professor Patrik Andersson gave a talk at the UNC on a Rodney Graham exhibition he is curating at Canada House this spring. Entitled Rodney Graham Impressionist, the exhibition will focus on Rodney's interest in printed matter, both in form and in content.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pictures at an Exhibition

I left Woodhaven early yesterday to visit Katherine Pickering's recently opened exhibition (see detail below) en route to Ranchero Jungen. I did not know that the Vernon Public Art Gallery has four discrete exhibition spaces.

The sandwich board in front of the VPAG was made by Carmen, a young artist and VPAG gallery attendant who recently returned to the Okanagan after completing a BFA at OCAD. Not sure which of Katherine's sculpture paintings Carmen recreated on her sandwich board, but her Nicole Young drawing is clearly based on this one:

Also included at the VPAG is a group exhibition entitled Water: the Sacred Relationship by the Kama? Creative Aboriginal Arts Collective, which includes works by UBCO FCCS MFA classmates Mariel Belanger (see below) and Cori Derickson.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Waiting Room

I have maybe six answers to the question that begins Do you remember where you were when...? To the one that ends ...during the 2016 U.S. Election? the answer is the Kal-Tire waiting room on Kelowna's Leckie Road.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Haruko's Sprinkles

Last summer, after curing Evan of a nasty rash on his leg, Haruka contributed a couple dishes to our group dinner, one of which was a version of goma-ae that I had over rice and remains the best thing I have ever tasted.

After dinner I asked Haruko for the recipe and she said, Oh, I'll just send you some one day.

A few weeks ago Haruko contacted me by email and asked for my mailing address. She said she had something to send me.

Yesterday a package arrived, perfectly packed, with just enough tape to keep it from opening. Inside were four glass jars. Organic pickled sunchokes, organic green tomato pickles, curried green tomato pickles and of course her goma-ae, which she calls Haruko's Sprinkles, with its ingredients -- not its measurements -- on the label.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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.

In "The Bed" (1974), George Perec writes:

The bed (or, if you prefer, the page) is a rectangular space, longer than it is wide,  in which, or on which, we normally lie longways.

It is on the bed that I read about my dream as I am having it, as writing, the laptop open, powered down, asleep like me.

Hours pass.

And the laptop awakes to Sky's now-more-than-ever article on Mapplethorpe, his 1982 picture of Louise Bourgeois. Such nice writing! It opens like this:

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts can’t send me Robert Mapplethorpe’s most explicit and notorious photographs, despite exhibiting them. It doesn’t have the copyright to do so. Instead, I’m granted access to a slim, gauzy collection of centered, covered nudes, suggestive stamens, and celebrity portraits. I’m grateful for Louise Bourgeois’s picture, in this mix, which pierces the sun-bleached parasol of its press package with her conspiratorial grin, her fur-shirt vaunting while she crooks an arm over a penile sculpture, a forefinger positioned at the head of its tumescent head. Two large balls swell behind her. 

Perec again:

The bed is thus the individual space par excellence, the elementary space of the body (the bed-monad), the one which even the man completely crippled by debts has the right to keep: the bailiffs don't have power to seize your bed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Office of the []residency

In nine days an eight-year social practice residency will end, followed by an ostensible solo project rooted in the social sculpture of Beuys, the violent narcissism of Abramovič, the cynical, inadvertent ironies of Koons, and the impenitence of Andre. You would think this would make the Chelsea galleries and the international art fairs happy, right?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stein, Yeats

At certain times the world's psychic vibration levels rise and, like dust on a recently activated fan, we have lines of poems detaching, floating about us, or just lying there like discarded bus transfers.

Lines from a poem I keep seeing and hearing belong to Yeats's "The Second Coming" (1919). Do you know it?

Here is the first stanza:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity. 

It is the last two lines that people keep quoting, as if in prayer. But who are the "best" and who are the "worst" of us?  Given the sources, it would seem the "best" are those who voted for Obama but who stayed home for Hillary. The worst, to use Hillary's own poorly chosen words, are her basket-fitting "deplorables."

Five years before Yeats's published his poem, Stein published Tender Buttons (1914), a book that ends with a long work called "Rooms", whose first stanza/paragraph looks like this:

Act so that there is no use in a centre. A wide action is not a width. A preparation is given to the ones preparing. They do not eat who mention silver and sweet. There was an occupation.

Words common to both poems are "centre" and variants of "wide." The former is a point, the latter a measure. Stein eschews the centre at the start of the Great War, while Yeats despairs its loss five years later, with Germany shivering in the dock at Versailles.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

When a "-man" is a Woman

Pandosy Books is no longer in Pandosy Village but well east of it, near Spall. In November, while looking for books on the Okanagan -- its natural history, the Syilx people, the fur trade, missionaries, orchards, vineyards -- I discovered a box of postcards produced by Pioneer Postcards, a local outfit whose motto is "Keeping our heritage alive" and whose postage stamp marker is a horseless carriage. The postcard above ("Early 1900 basket weaver with west coast [cedar] rain hat") is from that box, while the word "Klootchman" below, though said to be Chinook Jargon, is not included in George Gibbs's 1863 dictionary.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Shades of Seeing

January 1st, 2017 was a huge blue day in Vancouver.

Whose brow should I find outside the dining room window at 1237 but the late John Berger's!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Geometry of Leaving

A cross and four graves.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


We don't get much sun at this time of the year, but when we do, it reaches into our rooms and bounces around in ways it never does when we dress for it, lie down before it, close our eyes to it.