Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Cardinal Points

Atlanta, Georgia. Sometime in the early-mid-2000s, early-mid spring, my digital audio recorder, I find out later (last month), still running.

I am sitting on the steps of a building on the Emory University campus with a group of white third-year undergrads still uncertain whether the book I read from earlier in the day could allow me my so-called reputation, when one of them, a political science major, starts in on Reconstruction.

"Anybody from the North," he begins out of nowhere, his weight on the first and seventh syllables, "cannot possibly understand the harm done to the South by that most insidious of federal policies known as Reconstruction. Why, it was nine times worse than what the French demanded of the Germans at Versailles. Nine times! And what your government up there in Canada did to your Indians -- why, I believe it was worse -- or if not, at the very least, on par with -- that, too."

This went on longer than it should have, in no small part due to my mistaken belief that I was in a dialogue. Indeed, when our parson took a breath, when I began to respond to the first of his half dozen fallacies I was working so hard to remember, I was told ever-so-sweetly by another of this group to "Hush now, you had your turn when you read to us from your book."

(Ah, so it is a dialogue -- only I am too slow to remember that it started earlier. And that crashing sound? The sound of me losing track of all those fallacies.)

"We in the South are a patient people, Mr. Turner. We have endured a great deal since the Yankee politicians and the Yankee military and the Yankee carpetbaggers came into our neck and highjacked our economy, which, if it were a peach, was as particular to us as the tomato is to the Sicilian."

(Is he quoting Faulkner?)

No -- this is madness! The Confederate states had a slave economy, an economy built on the backs of Black people. As for Reconstruction, sure, it was an imposition, but what the American Civil War was really about -- the prize, as it were -- was the West, which, by then, was forming its own economies, based largely on the prospect of gold.

That's what Reconstruction was really about: not simply Northern capitalists crushing their Southern competitors under the auspices of Abolition, but a program that would corral Mormon, Chinese and indigenous people out West. We had something similar in Canada during the 1970 implementation of the War Measures Act, when a situation in Quebec allowed the RCMP carte blanche throughout the rest of the country -- like harassing hippie communes in rural British Columbia.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Listers of Earthy (2017)

Althea Thauberger's Listers of Earthy (2017) is among The Polygon Gallery's N. Vancouver exhibition commissions.

Inspired in part by the Maplewood Mudflat squatters of the 1960s and the set builders who worked on Robert Altman's West Vancouver-shot McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971), Thauberger chose not to draw a direct line between the two communities (a number of the set builders lived on the Mudflats) so much as conflate them. Thus, instead of highlighting the architectures of place, Thauberger's three-channel enclosure emphasizes (with the help of artist-designer Natalie Purschwtz) the wardrobes of portraiture, allowing for a spatial-temporal mirage where communication belongs less to scripted speech than to improvised movement.

Watching Listers of Earthy brought to mind a number of literary works. Samuel Beckett's How It Is (1964) is one of them. Here is the novel's third paragraph:

past movements old dreams back again or fresh like those that
pass or things always and memories I say them as I hear
them murmur them in the mud

Another is Giacomo Leopardi's 1833 poem "To Himself" (as translated by Google):

Now you will rest forever,
or my tired heart. The biggest illusion is blurred,
that I had believed to be eternal. She's dead. Well I hear
that in me and in my intimate
not only hope is extinguished, but also desire itself.
He rests forever. You loved
enough. Nothing deserves
your suffering, nor human relations are worth
your sighs. Life is pain and boredom,
and never anything else; and the world is mud.
Calm yourself now. Give up hope
once and for all. Destiny is destined to the human race
he has not granted other gifts than death. By now
nature despises you, the evil one
power that, in secret, governs the world by doing evil to all creatures,
and commands on the uselessness of creation.

* photo: Casey Wei

Monday, February 26, 2018

A small room behind 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.

Atop my chest, the pitched roof that is the book I fell asleep reading -- Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1867).

In Act Three, Solveig finds Peer in the upper fields, where he is in exile. No sooner does Peer declare his love for Solveig when he is confronted by a troll-witch -- the daughter of the Mountain King -- and the child she bore from their tryst years before. The troll has a declaration of her own, which amounts to a haunting of Peer.

"Repentance?" Peer asks himself. "Why it might take me years/ before I won through! My life would be empty./ To destroy something lovely and holy and fair,/ then patch it together from fragments and shreds.... /You might patch up a fiddle, but never a bell --/ you must never trample the leaf that's to grow."

Peer flees his situation for his mother's house, where he is present for her passing. Act Three ends. We next meet Peer in Act Four. It is many years later and he is living well as a rich man on the south-western coast of Morocco.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Children's Crusades

Martin Honert's Kinderkreuzzug (Children's Crusade) (1985-1987) installed at the VAG in 2013.

American high school students marching on Washington for tighter gun control laws four days ago.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Five Garages

Not a lot to be done about it.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Governor-General's Award for Visual and Media Art

Unlike the Governor-General's Literary Awards, the relatively-recent Governor-General's Award in Visual and Media Art is focused not on a single work (like a book published in the year the award is given), but a body of work. This is as it should be, I think.

It took a while for the Governor-General's Award in Visual and Media Art to establish itself. At first the award seemed to be given willy-nilly; now it is generally given to those later in life.

As for the nominating process, anyone can submit as long as the artist agrees to it (in many cases the nomination is initiated by the artist). I assume that some of this country's better-known artists have not received the award because they have not consented to their nomination (Janet Cardiff, Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham, Jeff Wall, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun...).

What is notable about the award is that it honours "Curators", "Critics" and "Contributors" as well as artists. This week, a Vancouver-based "Contributor" received the award -- the grunt gallery's Glenn Alteen.

In her nomination, artist Lorna Brown wrote:

"Glenn Alteen has spent his career building a community through the consistent, respectful and ethical inclusion of artists, curators and cultural workers from diverse backgrounds. He has insisted on establishing – in grunt gallery – an artist-run centre that is more about artists than objects.” 

Long before the participatory art revivals of the late-1990s (relational and social practices), the grunt was stressing networks over exhibitions, a tendency that continues to this day with relatively-recent artist-run centres like 221A, who have taken the current federal Liberal government's emphasis on "infrastructure" to the nth.

Something I would like to correct in the Georgia Straight's announcement of local award winners (which includes Sandra Semchuk): that the Mainstreeters documentary Glenn produced was not "created" by Mainstreeter exhibition curators Allison Collins and myself, but by Allison, myself and Krista Lomax.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cat on a Cold Tile Roof

Back in Vancouver after two weeks of reading and writing, reading and writing.

Stroke, stroke, stroke...

Thesis project is more or less done. On March 1st I will submit it to my committee.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sunday Morning Snowstorm

A foot of snow between midnight and 3am.

We cut our way to Judith's sumac.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Tom Burrows

Douglas & McIntyre has produced a number of artist monographs over the years. I was fortunate to contribute to one of them: Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs (2007).

But a lot has changed since the publication of Fred's book. That same year, the majority of D&M's stock was sold to ex-banker and venture capitalist Mark Scott, whose attempt to "rebrand" the company as both a traditional commissioning agent and a consumer-driven book broker (Bookriff) collapsed, leaving a number of authors in the lurch. While Harbour Publishing picked up the proverbial pieces, doing its best to compensate out-of-pocket authors and suppliers, UK-based Black Dog Publishing emerged as the go-to institutional partner for exhibition monographs on B.C.-based artists Myfanwy MacLeod, Jerry Pethick and Ian Wallace, to name a few.

As Black Dog roared along, publishing monographs of uneven quality with the VAG, the Belkin and the Contemporary Art Gallery, a small group of ex-D&M employees quietly formed Figure.1, a house that continues to do what D&M did so well -- building a solid list of "Art+Design" titles, but also a readership for those titles. That the company is making a go of it shows that there is always an audience for well-made books.

A forthcoming title on the Figure.1 list is Tom Burrows, to be published in conjunction with the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in October 2018. The book contains essays by exhibition curator Scott Watson and Burrows contemporary Ian Wallace, in addition to some remarkable photographs of Burrows's 1960s home and sculptures at the Maplewood Mudflats just east of the Second Narrows Bridge and the home he made for himself at Hornby Island's Downes Point in the 1970s.

Here is Figure.1's "Book Description":

Tom Burrows, and the exhibition that preceded the book, presents work by the artist from his early career to the present. The book is a timely refocusing of attention on an artist who has made an immense contribution to the development of art in Vancouver, not only as an artist but as an educator and activist as well. Burrows first rose to prominence in the late-1960s and was included in several exhibitions at the UBC Fine Arts Library, an institution that was seminal in encouraging Vancouver’s growing and now vibrant art community. In 1975 he received a United Nations commission to document squatters communities in Europe, Africa and Asia, a work that is now in the Belkin’s collection. Burrows’ work, which demonstrates an interest in process and new materials, has encompassed a number of disciplines including sculpture, early performance art, video, painting and iconic hand-built houses on the Maplewood Mudflats and Hornby Island. Currently most well known for his innovative monochromatic cast polymer resin “paintings/sculptures” produced during the last forty-five years, the book examines the full breadth of his career with works from the Belkin’s permanent collection as the basis with other works from the artist, collectors and public institutions.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Judith Lawrence

Years ago, when I started coming regularly to Hornby Island, I was five minutes into an afternoon tea at the former Shadbolt house when I asked the host and current co-owner, Scott Watson, if there was a TV on.

"There is no TV here," said Scott, adding another row of prawns to the BBQ.

"Well, I know this might sound odd," I said, "but I keep hearing the Mr. Dressup show."

Scott rolled his eyes. "That's Judith Lawrence. She was the voice of one of its puppets."

I returned inside and waited for the voice. When I heard it I peeked over the heads of those in front of me and saw that it was coming from a woman seated in the corner of the living room. Although it was unmistakably the voice of Casey, the woman looked more like Gertrude Stein than any freckle-faced papier-mâché puppet.

On Monday, while en route to he beach, I saw Judith poking at something in her garden. We chatted, and at the end of our conversation she asked if I was coming to hear author-spelunker Dale Chase speak at this Thursday's "Literary Lunch" at the New Horizons Society. I told her I had not planned on it, but now that she mentioned it...

After soup and sandwiches, Judith, who programs the series, started into her welcome. As she was nearing the end, Nym, who was seated beside me, waved to Judith, who, like Scott all those years ago, rolled her eyes and motioned for Nym to join her at the podium. In Nym's hand was a newspaper clipping from the February 13th Globe and Mail, which she read to us:

Mr. Dressup premieres
Feb. 13, 1967: When Mr. Dressup launched in 1967, it established a new template for imaginative children's daytime programming. Ernie Coombs had already worked on series such as Butternut Square and MisteRogers (a precursor to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, with Fred Rogers himself), but Mr. Dressup was Coombs's creation and he put heart and soul into the character. Lovingly simple in tone and execution, Mr. Dressup took viewers into a world of magical stories and non-threatening playtime with puppets Finnegan, a dog, and Casey – an ahead-of-their-time gender-neutral kid – who lived in his backyard treehouse. A dive into the Tickle Trunk, a big red steamer trunk packed with costumes, would inspire new games on screen and in the living rooms of children enthralled by Coombs's spell. The show's bouncy opening refrain is familiar to generations of Canadians – the series lasted for an astounding 29 seasons. It went off the air in 2006, 10 years after the last episode had been made and five years after Coombs's death. When CBC closed its Toronto museum in 2017, Mr. Dressup's easel and treehouse went into storage. Puppets Casey and Finnegan, however, are enjoying retirement in Hornby Island, B.C., with their creator Judith Lawrence.

After Nym's reading, Judith, who was only mildly flustered by our applause (and who, I was later told, improvised Casey's speaking parts), segued easily into her introduction of Dale, whom she first met in 1973 when he was "up a tree -- trimming branches."

As for Dale's talk, we were charmed by his stories and awed by his pictures, which his friend Sonya made available to us on an adjacent monitor. A highlight of the talk came when Dale told a story that had him "deep in a cave, straddling what is known in geological circles as an 'insistent dike,'" at which point a woman seated on the other side of Nym (one of the founders of Vancouver's Press Gang feminist printing collective) quipped: "There's more than a few of those in this room."

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Two American Directors

In 1992 David Mamet gave us Oleanna the play and in 1994 Oleanna the feature film. Shortly before the release of the film, Hallmark Entertainment gave us its two minute, non-concluding trailer version (with inter-titles and voice-over), which I saw in a theatre while waiting to see Robert Altman's Short Cuts (1993).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Required Reading

Every man over the age of 55 who claims to not know what the fuck is going on in the world needs to read this article if he wants to bring himself up to zero.  Answers to such questions include:

Why do young women think my zest for life is creepy?

Why do they look like they have just been fitted wth a hundred pound knapsack when I ask them about their lives?

Why, when I tell them what I have learned in life, do they call me a mansplainer?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Church of What the Sun Sees

Downes Point, February 12, 2018 4:53 p.m.

Too late in the day to visit the beach, so I walk east to the bluff, to be with what the sun sees.

The trees always have something to say to each other, and sometimes, when the wind isn't blowing, it is difficult to hear them. But I listen all the same, hoping my patience will unfreeze them.

They are dancers, these trees, freezing into cathedrals; the sun on them so golden, the mid-winter sky behind.

There is more, another line at least, but I just don't have it in me.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sam Olson's GoFundMe Campaign

In August 2016, Gerald Stanley encountered a group of young men in his farm yard attempting to steal his property. 

In February 2018, Sam Olson got on his digital gofundme horse, reared it, and neglected to mention that the vehicle carrying “a group of young men” was in fact carrying three young men and two young women who had spent the day doing what many young people do in this country, particularly in rural areas, and that’s drive around, go swimming, shoot highway signs, drink alcohol, and when things get messy, like a flat tire, try to fix it, which can also get messy -- but is by no means an act that deserves to be met with framing hammers and semi-automatic weapons.

Olson concludes his already erroneous first sentence by stating that the group who arrived on Stanley’s farm intended to steal Stanley’s quad, when in fact only one of the young men jumped on the quad and tried to start it. We have no reason to believe that this young man tried to steal the quad, just as we have no reason to believe that he would ride off on this (one-seat) vehicle and leave his friends behind.

This young man was, as the English say, in a “holiday mood”, and jumping on Stanley’s quad and trying to start it belongs not to theft but to the nature of that mood. For anyone to think otherwise is someone whose biases are fixed, clung to and sharpened daily. And I am not talking of Stanley’s bias against indigenous people so much as his bias against young people, a bias that might well have been formed in Stanley’s own youth through his exposure to and participation in a culture of violence, a bias that clearly extends to his son who attacked the vehicle that the four young people arrived in, an action that, rather than defuse the situation, only accelerated it.

Unfortunate events to follow led to, what was proved to be, a freak accident, which cost the life of one of the young men. 

What followed from this first act of violence on the Stanley farm that day -- Stanley’s son driving a framing hammer into the driver’s side of the front windshield -- led to the driver putting the vehicle in reverse, backing up and, in trying to leave the farm in a forward gear, backed into another Stanley vehicle. This is the freak accident, Sam Olson, not the one you can't bring yourself to mention in the “Story” portion of your gofundme campaign. It was only after this freak accident that an enraged Gerald Stanley fetched a semi-automatic pistol, fired a couple of shots at the fleeing quad jumper, then made his way to the vehicle that the young people arrived in and, despite what Stanley says about trying to pull the keys out of the ignition, shot Colten Boushie in the back of the head.

It was a terrible situation and circumstance 

and it was entirely preventable if Gerald Stanley is the kind of man that you, Sam Olson, would like us to believe he is. But Stanley is not that man, and on

Friday February 9th 2018, Gerald was acquitted


of the charge he acquired

but of second-degree murder.

That you struggle to write a sentence is not what I take issue with here. What I take issue with, apart from what I have written thus far, is that in not stating the charge laid against Gerald Stanley, you are in fact erasing it, as if it was a mistake, when it was not a mistake. Sure, Stanley was

cleared of any and all wrongdoing surrounding the events of that day 

but he did do wrong that day, and so did his son, who contributed to these events when he introduced violence to the narrative in the form of a hammer to the windshield of the vehicle that these kids rode in on.

As I can imagine, the Stanley family has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars surrounding this ordeal.

I have an imagination too, Sam Olson. But no one with any sincerity initiates a gofundme campaign by imagining what someone has spent on something. If you really want to help the Stanleys, you would quit fueling this fire, stop asking people to help them

recoup some of their lost time, property and vehicles that were damaged, harvest income, and sanity during this entire difficult situation they have been dealing with over the past two years

and focus your efforts on derailing the cycle of violence that produces a Gerald Stanley, who in turn passed on that violence to his son. Because what you are doing in initiating this gofundme campaign is increasing the upset, sharpening the biases that Stanley, his son and others like them have sharpened all these years, and will continue to sharpen, hammering and shooting at anyone or anything that sits on their fucking quad. Your solution is unsustainable, Sam Olson. Your effort to compensate the family of the man who killed Colton Boushie is only making a

terrible situation


Sunday, February 11, 2018

An Artist's Dream

Hornby Island is full of people who come here to live in their heads -- when not driving each other nuts. Lots of artists, retired radio producers, activists, many of them shockingly on in years. It is not uncommon to meet residents in their 80s who walk five miles a day, swim in the ocean year round ("except when the herring are spawning") and continue to explore new relationships ("it was sexual at first, but it turned out they really enjoy each other's company").

One artist I spoke with came to the island almost fifty years ago. Because I know a bit about him, I know that he lives with a frugality consistent with his aesthetic, his politics.  He has managed on the same $12,000-a-year he budgeted for himself in the mid-1970s, an exercise that owes as much to subtracting himself from a consumer society as it does to feeding on the ever-widening spaces made available through the absence of that which he can live without.

If an artist lives long enough, pays attention to what is going on in the contemporary conversation, and makes that conversation a material, he or she will have their moment (in sales). The artist of which I speak had such a moment a few years ago, and the result, he says, "is a nightmare that has me waking up scared of this money, as if it were a great dollar-feathered bird at the end of the bed, waiting to eat my feet off, keep me in the studio making more of it."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hang Fire (1981, 2018)

In the sweet old country where I come from
Nobody ever works
Yeah nothing gets done
We hang fire, we hang fire

You know marrying money is a full time job
I don't need the aggravation
I'm a lazy slob
I hang fire, I hang fire
Hang fire, put it on the wire baby
Hang fire, hang fire put it on the wire baby, go ahead
Hang fire

We've got nothing to eat
We got nowhere to work
Nothing to drink
We just lost our shirts
I'm on the dole
We ain't for hire
Say what the hell
Say what the hell, hang fire
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire baby
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire baby

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire baby
Doo doo

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo

Yeah ten thousand dollars, go have some fun
Put it all on at a hundred to one
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire baby
Doo doo
Doo doo, hang fire, hang fire put it on the wire
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire
Put it on the wire baby
Put it on the wire

Keith Richards / Mick Jagger  Hang Fire lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Friday, February 9, 2018

"...ragtag conversations with no centre."

Hard to believe, but just the other day I heard someone on the radio say that the Berlin Wall has been down longer than it had been up. When did it go up again? 1961? And when did it come down? 1989?

Not many North Americans under the age of 55 know what it was to pass through Checkpoint Charlie, but I do. I remember. It was late November, 1980, and I was 18 years old, bumming around Europe and North Africa. Someone I met at a Mitch Ryder concert in Lübeck said, "Let's go to East Berlin," and I said, "Sure!"

The train entered East Germany at Buchhorst, a direct line to West Berlin that made an unscheduled stop at Magdeburg(?) to take on three tall men in sideburns and black leather car coats, one of them carrying a Jack Russell terrier, which he launched like a bowling ball down the aisle of our carriage. The dog sniffed everything -- luggage, parcels, crotches -- but found nothing.

We arrived at the Checkpoint the following morning. While waiting an older British man looked down his nose at us, asked us to "take the ritual seriously." Without hesitation, my travelling companion -- a Bostonian of Serbian parents -- replied "Go fuck yourself." The man produced from his trench coat a newspaper clipping: the face of a young woman, and below it, the day of her birth (same year as me) hyphenated to the day of her death -- seven days before.

The Checkpoint landscape was mostly post-and-barbwire zig-zags. Human interactions were more variable: for the American military, everything was a teaching moment; for the East German officials, they looked bored to death. We exchanged fifty West German marks for fifty East German marks, and were told to return the East German marks we were unable to spend.

The next time I visited Checkpoint Charlie was in 2002 -- thirteen years after the Wall came down. All that remained was the little white hut where we showed our passports. Surrounding it, a lot of signage, some of it memorials, like the cluster of chest-height crosses with the names and faces of those who died trying. I approached the crosses and my god if the first one I saw wasn't the woman whose face was on that clipping.

All of this came back to me after hearing what I heard on the radio. That it stayed with me had everything to do with selecting John le Carré's Smiley's People (1979) from the shelves of the Hornby Island Free Store. And that night, what I read on Page 42 -- lines reminiscent of our current moment. Smiley is pulled from retirement to verify the death of a retired informant. Immediately after that he is de-briefed/briefed in a safe house operated by a British intelligence agency.

This is how crises always were, he thought; ragtag conversations with no centre. One man on the telephone, another dead, a third prowling. The nervous idleness of slow motion.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Storytelling (2001)

Cinematic representations of university Creative Writing programs are few and far between. Godard's Notre musique (2004) is set at a literary festival in Sarajevo (the famous scene where Godard shows students pictures of a destroyed Richmond, Virginia after the American Civil War), but apart from that, the only film I can think of that takes us inside a creative writing classroom is Todd Solondz's Storytelling (2001).

Storytelling is divided into two sections: "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" (a third section, entitled "Autobiography", was cut from the final film). It is in "Fiction" that we find ourselves in a creative writing class led by Professor Scott (Robert Wisdom), a gruff, straight-shooting Black writer whose best days are behind him and who has sex with his white female students -- one of whom is Vi (Selma Blair).

Like a lot of Solondz's films, discomfort is the operative condition, and there is a lot of it in "Fiction". Coincidentally, there is a lot of discomfort in this country's writing culture (abuse, betrayal, petitions, rumours, callouts, confessions, suspensions, firings) and I wonder if it might be time to re-screen this film and follow it with a talkback session.

As to who might host such a session, it would have to be someone with experience, who understands the difference between life and art, but who is aware of how the two meet and mingle; someone with patience and passion, who is partial to logic and lyricism, affirmation and critique, intellectual and emotional intelligence... A few names spring to mind. In Vancouver -- Amber Dawn. In Calgary -- Larissa Lai. In Toronto -- Zoe Whitall. In Montreal -- Sina Queyras.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Counter Narratives

The Shadbolt house on Hornby Island, with its big windows, its cedar panelled interior, its Middle Eastern carpets and its stacks of New Yorkers. The image above is from the August 5th, 1972 issue: an older man and a younger woman (note the relative measures) have just sat down to dinner. Her mouth is open, his is not. I look at the caption below:

"What were you like when you were a nobody, Mr. Tyler?"

Because the question is asked of Mr. Tyler, my eyes go to his face first, looking for the face I might make if asked such a question, embarrassed to be thought of as "nobody"'s antonym, resentful to be cast that way, feeling reduced, ridiculed and, once engulfed in these feelings, reminded of the power in passive-aggression, and why did I agree to this editor's invitation to dine out on Little, Brown's credit card anyway?

Something about the flatness of the man's face. If he was leering, the narrative might be closer to what we expect in the Weinstein era, and we would be done with it, our suspicions confirmed. But he is not leering; if anything, his expression is careful, respectful, perhaps on the verge of bemusement, which is a form of condescension, even if that bemusement is yet another transitional stage, towards a topic change, a return to what we were talking about at the festival, about the writing, about the conversation that is the literature of our time.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Sail on, silvergirl/ Sail on by/ Your time has come to shine"

A flawed man, beloved by many. And the secret to that love, my brothers? Admission. Contrition. Humility. Repentance. For most of his life. Repentance. Accept it. Even of those sins we do not think of as our own. (If they own us, they are our own.) Recall what bell hooks says of patriarchy: that it "doesn't just negatively impact women's lives but men's as well."

Paul Simon wrote "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" (1969), and many have covered it. Gorgeously. Johnny Cash recorded it a year before his death, his body weak but his mind strong and his will resolute. When he starts into the third verse, that's our cue to listen. Really listen. Especially to its fifth line, to the return of Fiona Apple's silvery voice -- there to help the singer as he sings of the sailor he is sailing behind.

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Sail on, silvergirl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind