Saturday, March 31, 2018

968 Kingsway

Noticed this last week: a brand new building with a drainage problem.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Loss, Grief, Art, Criticism

Loss begets grief. Someone we know -- or someone we don't know but have formed an attachment to -- goes to spirit and a complex range of emotional, intellectual and physical processes are activated. If that someone is murdered, the murderer enters the mix, and we are haunted by the murderer -- and his or her life -- for as long as we live our own.

When I first heard of Colten Boushie -- a fire keeper of the Cree Red Pheasant First Nation -- it was not of his passing but of the situation that led to it. The more I learned about the situation, the more I paid attention. This attention included the trial of the man accused of murdering Boushie -- the Gerald Stanley Trial.

The acquittal of Gerald Stanley on the charge of Second Degree Murder had a profound effect on many Canadians -- myself included. Stanley's acquittal represents a loss (of justice), and I am not the same person I was prior to hearing the news of Stanley's acquittal.

Shortly after Stanley's acquittal a GoFundMe campaign was established in support of Stanley and his family. In response I posted something on my blog. The post was concerned with cycles of violence in smaller communities and was based not so much on the verdict or the arguments Stanley's lawyer made in court, but on what was known (and was not known) by all parties -- from the moment Boushie and his friends came onto Stanley's farm to the moment Boushie was shot in the back of the head at close range by Stanley.

Within two hours of my post I received over 4500 page hits. Some of these visitors left comments reminding me that I wasn’t there, that I didn't know what I was talking about, that my responses are typical of a fiction writer, etc. All of these responses missed the point, which again concerns cycles of violence that exist -- and are often condoned -- in smaller communities. Gerald Stanley's son attacked the vehicle carrying Boushie and his friends with a framing hammer while his father, Gerald Stanley, retrieved a pistol, fired "warning shots,” before shooting a sleeping or groggy Colten Boushie in the back of the head.

In her grief, Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott published an essay in Hazlitt (March 27) on the effect the acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Tina Fontaine murderer Raymond Cormier have had on her and her family. Entitled “Dark Matters”, the piece opens with the historic "discovery" of dark matter, which Elliott uses as a metaphor throughout her powerful and heartfelt essay.

Elliott is a young, well-respected writer who has published a number of essays that concern BIPOC and LGBTQQIP2SAA realities in a white supremacist patriarchal Canada "founded" on the theft, commodification and unequal (re-)distribution of Turtle Island. I rely on Elliott's voice as both a writer and a social (media) commentator to help me negotiate my way through a Canada that I, in my privilege as a middle-aged white male settler, have both benefitted from and am humiliated by, and I am grateful that this important writer is both present and active in the contemporary conversation.

That said, there is a paragraph in Elliott's essay that troubles me. The paragraph in question is the third paragraph, and I would like to go through it carefully, respectful of both its author and of that to which its author refers (see below).

"There’s never a good time to get news that breaks you, but sitting in a Starbucks with your family in the midst of a vacation seems particularly inopportune. My husband and child were visiting Vancouver while I was on a fellowship at a major university. We’d visited the Contemporary Art Gallery that day. The main exhibit, “Two Scores,” was split between rooms. In the first room were Vancouver artist Brent Wadden’s giant woven blankets, which he apparently insists on calling “paintings.” They lacked the artistry of the Squamish weavings we’d seen a few days before at the Museum of Anthropology. The gallery write-up, however, spun this messiness into a positive, describing Wadden’s self-taught weavings as “exploratory… purposely naïve”—even if they were “often inefficient… [and] would confound a traditionally-trained practitioner.” I wondered whether this artist, who lived and worked on unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territory, had any idea of the Squamish history of weaving. I wondered if he’d care that Squamish blankets were placed in an anthropology museum while his were given a solo exhibit in a respected art gallery."

The "news" to which Elliott refers in the first sentence was revealed to the reader in the previous sentence: a tweet that signaled the acquittal of Gerald Stanley. However, the same cannot be said of the second sentence, for nowhere in her essay does it say that the "major university" from which Elliott received her fellowship was the University of British Columbia, and that it was UBC's Creative Writing Program who announced it. Anyone familiar with Elliott's social media presence would know this.

Why Elliott chose not to mention UBC by name when she is attentive to proper nouns like Starbucks (and the next place she visits -- the Contemporary Art Gallery) stuck to me like a bur. Was it the spectre of the Galloway Affair and the controversial "due process" petition it generated? Surely it was not based on a negative experience at UBC, given Elliott’s generally positive social media responses to the students she met with during her fellowship. Is it possible that the editors of Hazlitt removed any reference to UBC? Or does Elliott believe that the written world of social media and the written world of traditional journalism (Hazlitt is funded by Penguin Random House Canada) exist apart from one another, and that by not mentioning UBC, maybe she is happy to keep it that way?

This separation of worlds is alluded to again in the next sentence, when Elliott writes of her family’s visit to the Contemporary Art Gallery, where they took in Brent Wadden's Two Scores exhibition. Though its title implies that the exhibition occupies two worlds (or “Scores”), it is the world of the literary writer and the world of the visual artist that comes to mind -- in particular, that a writer can use creative strategies to make a work (Elliott's essay), but a visual artist somehow cannot (Wadden's exhibition).

The creative strategy Elliot employed in her essay is, as I mentioned earlier, the recurrence of the dark matter metaphor. Wadden's creative strategy is based on the histories of modern (Hard Edge) painting -- evidence of which should be apparent to those who know something of those histories, but is also supported by the gallery through didactics and supplementary information. Whether Elliott is aware of these histories is unclear. But one thing that is clear is that the language Elliott uses to describe Wadden’s project (“which he apparently insists on calling ‘paintings’”) indicates not an appreciation of artistic strategy, but an ambivalence toward it. This is most apparent in the following sentence, where she compares the “artistry” of Wadden’s work to Musqueam Salish weavings (Elliott identifies them as Squamish Salish weavings) that she and her family saw days before at the Museum of Anthropology. Without any qualifying details, she declares only that his work “lacked” that which the latter has -- as if an apple can be blamed for not being an orange.

As for the CAG, Elliott appears equally ambivalent. What was initially an exhibition of art that “lacked the artistry of the Squamish weavings” is now a “messiness” that needed to be justified by the gallery. Rather than quote a larger, more contextual passage from the gallery “write-up,” Elliott cuts into it, adding ellipses, an em-dash and square parentheses -- transforming a lucid and generous curatorial text into another form of “messiness.”

Elliott’s approach to criticism is reminiscent of an earlier nineteenth century form of judgement favoured by the wealthy connoisseur. Although this approach never entirely went away, to see evidence of it in the work of a writer known for her care and consideration is unsettling -- especially when writing on the work of another artist for whom care and consideration are hallmarks of his practice, an artist who is, he tells me, aware of whose land he is on, aware of Salish weaving, aware that he is white and a man and of the privileges that that status affords him.

As for the Museum of Anthropology, while it might be said to occupy another world in the cultural ecology of Vancouver, it too is a “respected art gallery” that belongs as much to the Musqueam people as it does to UBC, a museum that has worked hard to live down the accusation thrown at it years ago by Coast Salish/Okanagan artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, who referred to it as a “morgue” -- until it proved itself otherwise as a site in which to mount his Unceded Territories retrospective in 2016.

I would never be so bold as to suggest Alicia Elliott apologize to the MOA. But if there is something in her paragraph that should be addressed (besides the correct authorship of those weavings), it is her implication that the MOA is a lesser institution. If Elliott were to devote time to learning how this museum has transformed itself from a “morgue” to a relational space co-authored by settlers and indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, she might be more hopeful of its potential, in addition to implying, through her grief, its historic failings.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Chagall Après la Russie

Hats off to the National Gallery of Canada for de-accessioning Chagall's La Tour Eiffel (1929). Consistent with NGC policy, revenue from the sale of this painting will go towards future acquisitions.

Is Canada losing anything by de-accessioning a painting that carries with it this description:

"Filled with an air of sensuous, passionate romance, Marc Chagall’s La Tour Eiffel (estimate: $6-9 million) encapsulates the wonderfully poetic style that emerged in his oeuvre during the 1920s and 1930s. It was during this period that he experienced unprecedented period of happiness, stability, comfort and professional success amidst the bustle and energy of Paris. Bursting with rich color and the artist’s unique symbolic vocabulary, this beautifully composed painting includes many of Chagall’s favorite themes, from love and memory, to music and fantasy, combining unexpected elements to create an otherworldly effect. La Tour Eiffel, which Christie’s is honored to handle on behalf of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, to benefit its acquisitions fund, is being offered for its first time at auction, following record-breaking results for Chagall in November."

I mean, I'm happy Chagall was happy -- but seriously!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jimmie Durham

Durham’s retrospective exhibition has reactivated longstanding debate surrounding his self-identification as Cherokee and his refusal to be categorized as a Cherokee artist. We acknowledge that Durham does not belong to any of the federally recognized and historical Cherokee Tribes in the United States, which as sovereign nations determine their own citizenship.

The opening and closing texts of this post appear in "Remai Modern Supports the Artist Jimmie Durham" from the Remai Modern website, on the occasion of Jimmie Durham: At the Centre of the World, which opened at the Remai this week.

The question I have of the opening text is not Durham's self-identification, nor the Cherokee Tribes' non-recognition of Durham as a citizen of its nation(s), but the word "debate." Has a debate really been reactivated concerning Durham's self-identification? Or is it a controversy, given the stakes and the way this touring exhibition has -- and has not -- played out?

Why not use the word controversy instead of debate, when that's what Durham's self-identification has sparked -- a controversy.

In its anxiety over hosting this controversial artist, the Remai has side-stepped the word controversy in favour of something that sounds like a conversation -- which it isn't. Not when the artist refuses the topic, and not when the museum has programmed a lecture series -- with no mention of something more dialogical, like a panel.

... the exhibition is accompanied by a lecture series featuring the exhibition’s curator Anne Ellegood, art historian Richard William Hill, and curator, artist and educator Gerald McMaster, adding perspectives on Durham’s influence in Canada. The museum will also present a series of films selected by Durham, giving insight into his interests and influences.

Tuesday, March 27, 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.

With Terese Marie Maillot's Heart Berries now finished (save the preface by Sherman Alexie and the interview at the end), I struggled with where to file it on my shelf. My initial impulse was to file it with Shawn Wilson and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. But after reading it, it made as much sense alongside Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son (1992) and Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945). Rather than choose, I purchased another copy, and did both.

My decision behind me, I return to Erin Wunker's Notes from a Feminist Killjoy, which I was enjoying for its honesty, simplicity and generosity -- until I was so beautifully interrupted. But first, my go-to palette-cleanser: Renata Adler's Speedboat (1976):

"My own mind is a tenement. Some elevators work. There are orange peels and muggings in the halls. Squatters and double locks on some doors, a few flowered window boxes, half-dressed bachelors cooling on the outside fire steps; plaster falls. Sometimes it seems that this may be a nervous breakdown -- sleeping all day, tears, insomnia at midnight, and again at 4 a.m." (14)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Pixie Kitchen

Lincoln City's Pixie Kitchen closed in 1985, but I remember it. First as a child stopping for meals there with my parents when driving to and from my babushka's place in Los Angeles; later as a young man hitch-hiking the 101.

Some people I know might not think much of the PK's orange trim, but the trim wasn't always so orange, nor was the restaurant that opened in 1948 a collection of unrelated buildings cobbled together -- by pixies!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Road Trip

Sometimes the writing is no longer enough and the car becomes the pen, the highway the pad.

Those long thoughts you have two hours into the trip about what exactly woke you at 3am, when you hurriedly packed a bag, grabbed your passport and drove south; through Seattle before rush hour, to Portland for a breakfast too white to mention, then west to Astoria, where I once had a haircut and my friend Jeff filmed it.

It is Friday lunch time, and teens are gathering like chat groups on the sunny streets of Astoria to talk about what they might wear to their town's version of March For Our Lives. I linger at a bus stop so I can listen to what they are saying without scaring them.

They are internet informed, these teens -- full of facts and figures about the NRA and the Second Amendment. They also know that Dov Charney is a creepy daddy so "No American Apparel -- not even a t-shirt under your sweater," says the ringleader, Aviva, whose name is Hebrew for "springtime".

Teenagers today are not one thing or another but everything at once, tipping this way and that but never falling over. They know the only thing to get their president's attention is injury to children, so they are risking their lives to prevent more of them.

I interrupt Aviva and am met with hard stares from her brethren. I interrupt Aviva to thank the group for what they are doing and to tell them that I will be praying for them in the days and weeks to come. When I am done, they look at Aviva. She smiles and thanks me, and the rest nod a collective "Uh-huh."

Friday, March 23, 2018

Thinking Allowed


What does this acronym really mean? What does it say about the platforms where it is used?

Is social media really so "fake" (IFL)? Is it fake like drugs or alcohol are agents of fakery -- stimulants that allow us to open up, say what we're really feeling, while at the same time allowing us to not be ourselves? Isn't a court of law similarly structured -- a process designed to get at a truth?

Even before the Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier trials many Twitter users who read and write carried a negative view of due process.

To suggest social media is fake is to get the benefit of reality without having to face the consequences.

Twitter is not real life, but it is part of the dominion of real life insofar as it has real life consequences. But if it were real life (like Roland Barthes's 1977-1980 Collège de France lectures were attempts at creating a "fantasy"), what would that life look like?

A building that looks like a dormitory but is in reality a gymnasium bleeding into a food court. There are no private rooms, only ear plugs and blindfolds.

People wander around in their pyjamas. In one hand they carry a flare gun; in the other, a phone. Around their necks is a whistle.

Authority is expressed in quantifiable terms, through Followers, Likes and Retweets.

Social media is not a tool but an amalgam of collaborative multi-genres that are closer to dramatic narrative (theatre, film) than poetry or prose. If it is edited, it is edited by robots fed on algorithms. Where its information goes and how that information is used will be revealed to us after we are done with the Holy Roman Empire that is Facebook -- and after that, telepathically, in the "dark age" that will invariably follow.

Declarations oscillate. One moment the Twitterian can be "thrilled" about inclusion in a market that trades in commodified forms; the next, disgusted by a "shit bag." Sometimes these declarations are broken by a selfie, with the eyes of its taker not on the eye of the camera (the viewer) but on the image it is about to capture (the taker). Sometimes that selfie is an animal or a well-known personality, either in still form or in GIF form.

Elders can be respected one minute, then reduced to "a shitty white woman" the next.

Twitter is full of contradictions, like life is full of contradictions.

Outside the building is a dumpster, which everybody knows is the basis for a metaphor that, in our mixed drink world, went viral ten years ago and continues to spread -- like wildfire.

I think I have only the slightest idea of what I am talking about. But as most thinkers know, it helps to write things down. Whether that makes us writers is part of it. Most of those parts can be found on Twitter.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


The north-east corner of 20th and Main. The former site of Bean Around the World, where Dr. Nadia Aleem and I would meet once a year for coffee, where you'd say hi to Garry Morse and he would bolt for the door clutching his angst like a snapped football, where Paul Wong would swan in with a dowager and a recent ECUAD grad/intern -- until money shook the earth and engineers and rough carpenters were hired to build this gorgeous office platform, literally in minutes, as a bulldozer swam laps, smoothing the lot beneath its treads.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Guest Curators

Back in the 1980s, McDonald's began hiring retirees as cashiers. Other corporations followed, notably Walmart, who hired them as greeters.

The trend continues. At the Vancouver Art Gallery retired white male university professors of art and art history are hired as guest curators.

March 3 - June 17, 2018
Curated by John O'Brian (ret. University of British Columbia)

September 30, 2017 - January 1, 2018
Curated by Bruce Grenville and David MacWilliam (ret. Emily Carr University of Art & Design)

July 1 - November 13, 2016
Curated by Colin Browne (ret. Simon Fraser University)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

By Instant Coffee

Can Instant Coffee's audio equivalent of the monochrome transcend its literal relationship to the data it consumes?

There is no one at Websit Labs to subject the collective's app to rigorous testing. There is no "At Websit Labs, we feel..." because there is no Websit Labs. Only websit, or we(bs)it.

That "feel" is the same feeling you get when inhaling through your pink no(i)se -- the same "we".

The "we" in We, the feeling.

Instant Coffee is a feeling machine. It has pumps and hoses, shielded cable with liquid coursing through it, and an app.

Those curdled bits of sour cream that won't blend with the borscht.

Wite-Out on a wet, pink bough.

I am speaking of the app's visual representation, as publicity, which it also is, yet isn't.

I am speaking of its beleaguered sincerity.

Instant Coffee sounds best as a bellows.

Monday, March 19, 2018


If this address should appear before you, please send the account holder something you think might distract museum trustees from putting their private collections before the curatorial vision of the museums on whose boards they serve. The account holder is human and would like to act as a conduit.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Love and Affection (1976)

I love this song. I loved it when I first heard it over the house PA before a CANO concert at the Queen E in 1977, and I have loved it to this day, especially while driving between the Okanagan, Vancouver and the Northern Gulf Islands.

The video above is a "live" performance from Armatrading's appearance on BBC2's Old Grey Whistle Test (1971-1988). The highlight for me comes at 1:24, when Armatrading delivers that wicked upstroke -- the musical equivalent of Stanley Kubrick's great match-cut.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nothing Is What It Seems (2006)

While doing research on the original Woodward's store I came upon Tony Pantages's film of its September 30, 2006 implosion. From there, a music video Tony did for Colin James that features guest appearances by musician and author Tom Wilson and myself as "The Barber".

I had forgotten about this, but not about the many who, in the weeks after the release of the Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), greeted me on the street with, "Hey, Billy Bob. What are you doin' in town?"

For those interested in Tony's implosion (Nothing Is What It Seems, 2006), click here. For those interested in my work with a straight razor, scroll down to the fifth video -- Colin's song "Far Away Like a Radio" (2005), written by Colin, Tom, and Craig Northey.

Friday, March 16, 2018


The image above is of Béance (gap) (2017) by Bernadette Phan. Wool, oil on canvas.

You can't see it in the image, but the work has a horizontal slit halfway up its non-fringed form and slightly to the right. Already I need to return to the gallery to see if the slit is "woven" into the form or if it is cut, with its edges sewn down. It makes a difference. Everything is of interest in a work of art.

Inside the wool form (though it functions as a pocket it looks like a halter top, a purse, a votive object) is a small abstract painting, of which only the top portion is available to the human eye.

Béance is one of eight works in an exhibitional conversation between Tom Burrows and Bernadette Phan at CSA Space. Entitled Threads, the exhibition runs through March 30.

Below is an exhibition statement, and below that another of my inconclusive photos -- an image of Tom's China Silk Lining (2008). Polyester thread in polyester resin.

Tom Burrows and Bernadette Phan
February 22nd - March 30th  2018 
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 22nd, 6-9pm

“a dense mat of threads which completely hides the animal” 

Painting, weaving and layering set the foundations for the dialogue between Tom Burrows and Bernadette Phan, whose bodies of work often involve processes of accumulation, be it the slow buildup of marks or layering of resin. This exhibition offers a peek at new directions for both artists.

For the past few years, Tom Burrows has been working in Jingdezhen, a city with a history of producing pottery for over 1700 years. In a discourse between ceramics and his ongoing exploration of cast resin, Tom creates colour fields that probe the surface and textures of both polymers and porcelain. “Bethune,” glazed porcelain, is a nod to Doctor Norman Bethune’s dedication to battle-field surgery in the struggle against fascism.

Bernadette Phan's work often negotiates the pictorial plane using patterns such as ovoids, grids and fields of colour. With "Béance", Bernadette revisits her painting practice through textile. The woven surface echoes the stippling of paint on her canvases  and the pace generated in the making. Alongside its colourful siblings, "Béance" envelops and contains, hanging loosely between painting and sculpture.  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two Books

Forged from a night of reckless drinking -- that great tolling bell known as The Hangover. That's what I awoke to yesterday, what I feared would get worse, not better, as the day tolled on. But no! Two aspirins, a glass of lukewarm water, and voila -- good to go! I reviewed the nine previews I wrote for the April-May issue of Preview Guide to Galleries + Museums, took out the semi-colons, pressed SEND, then sent myself out for a walk ...

... west ... down the lane just north of Kingsway, out at 16th, across Fraser, past Little Montparnasse, Robson Park, the two car lots, the former Biltmore Hotel/social housing complex, the new market housing condo, the Best Western Hotel, Kingsgate Mall to East Broadway, a block west to Main, half a block north to Pulp Fiction...

Chris and JP standing behind the counter. Like bartenders, I think. Pulp Fiction is a bar and bottles line the shelves.

Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on everyday life (Book*hug, 2017) is showcased, and because I have heard of its author Erin Wunker (a social media casualty after Christian took a screen grab from her private correspondence and sent it to Angie who sent it to Jonathan who made it public), I read the first pages of her "Introduction: Some Notes for You, Reading". "Who do I think I am?" asks Wunker three pages in (13), after noting the consequences of her opening line: "I have a bitchy resting face." I return the book to the shelf for a less-thumbed over copy, when Chris is suddenly beside me.

"This!" he says holding up a copy of Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries: A Memoir (Doubleday Canada, 2018), and in his impatiently anxious way, he tells me why.

Later that night, savouring the first brief chapters of Mailhot's fiercely spare prose, I am reminded of Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son (FSG, 1992). Only it isn't booze and drugs shaping Mailhot's lyric line -- it's more primary than that. Mailhot provides all sorts of examples rooted in patriarchy, colonialism, but the word that recurs more often than others is that most intersectional of descriptors -- "context."

After her grandmother dies, Mailhot writes: "nobody noticed me. Indian girls can be forgotten so well they forget themselves."

A few lines later Mailhot's mother brings a healer to their house:

"He knelt down. I thought I was in trouble, so I told him I had been good. He said, 'You don't have to be nice.'

My mother said that was when I became trouble."

Permission granted? A curse brought on by her "healer"?

Thank you for your books.

Wednesday, March 14, 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.

The door next door has a musical squeak. Every couple of days a new note enters its arpeggio. The most recent note allowed the arpeggio's middle section its major chord.

But it's not all melodies around here. There's rhythm, too. The hand that opens and closes the door is linked to a pair of heels that, en route to the water closet, pound like mallets on a timpani.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Academy of Modern Art

It took over a hundred years, but Vancouver's Kerrisdale has an Academy of Modern Art. Located in a cheaply made Second Renaissance Revival Style redux building at the southwest corner of Balsam and 41st Avenue, the AOMA features all manner of instruction.

Here is the AOMA in its own words:


To be Vancouver’s premiere Art Preparatory Academy.


To inspire, guide, and educate talented art students on their way to achieving their post-secondary goals and dreams.

The Academy of Modern Art (AOMA) is a Vancouver based art education institution dedicated to transitioning art and design students to their post-secondary school of choice.
We train and guide passionate art students that are on their path to top art and design post secondary programs across North America and Europe. Our instructors include university professors, designers, artists and curators. They are all working professionals with first-hand knowledge and experience in their field of expertise.
AOMA’S teaching methods and art curriculum is designed by leading education experts and consultants. AOMA’s Young Artists Program provides recent art and design college graduates with internship and working opportunities. We believe these young and innovative new graduates contribute in a positive and meaningful way to AOMA’s development.
Our unique education system aims at assisting students to realize and achieve their full potential. AOMA students are equipped with professional competitiveness, artistic literacy, and a comprehensive understanding of their field of interest. Enrolling in some of the World’s top art and design institutions are dreams that AOMA is devoted to helping local and international art talents achieve.
Our “O” has a special meaning that represents the spirit of AOMA.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Writer As Gunner not Hunter?

Flipping through Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, Third Edition (Macmillan, 1979), the copy given to me 39 years ago by Susan Currie after I told her I would like to spend more time writing.

In the "Approach to Style" chapter there is an analogy that had me wondering why E.B. White likened the writer to "a gunner" when the context for gunning is hunting (why not a hunter?).

“The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up. Like other gunners, [s]he must cultivate patience; [s]he may have to work many covers to bring down one partridge." (69)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Una Mujer Fantástica (2017)

Last night Amy and I went to see Una Mujer Fantástica (2017) at the International Village theatres. I had no background on the film and did not know why the characters in the life of this grieving woman were treating her as if she were not a woman until the fifteenth minute. A feature of age? A mind preternaturally indisposed to the kinds of lines many are doing their best to collapse, redefine? Who I am for not noticing anything other than this character's wit, wisdom and beauty?

Friday, March 9, 2018

Lots in Space

Fight For Beauty is the latest campaign by Westbank to convince Vancouverites that it is not a developer but an artist practice. Last year, Westbank opened a pop-up museum that featured objects and gestures made by those eager to play along.

Last night Christopher Brayshaw sent a link to a more recent campaign.

Gryphon Development, LLC has chosen short fiction to solicit a subject in need of its fantasy. Entitled "Starting Your Day at Westbury", Gryphon employs that point-of-view favoured by self-help manuals and Jay McInerney to tell the story of a sun whose highest point in the day is 7am and a nameless property owner in the midst of "another hassle-free morning."

Here is the opening (click here for the rest):

It's 7am and you are just settling in for your morning coffee on your private rooftop terrace at Westbury, admiring the mountain views. The sun has just finished its ascending climb and you see your neighbours June and Ian returning home from their morning jog to prepare breakfast for there elementary school children. You wave hi as you sip on your coffee.

"Hey June, how's the parent school advisory role suiting you? You mentioned Crofton is doing a fundraiser luncheon next month?"

"Oh yes -- we'll have all the parents over to chat about the next overseas learning trip with their teachers to Europe and host a fundraiser to cover the cost of the trip. Will you be joining?"

"For sure -- Kathryn has been talking about this potential Europe travel-and-learn for a while now, would love to learn more about it and support in any way we can."

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Poem for James Luna (1950-2018)

Record Store Indian

you were so good at standing still
I never remember 
you stopping

how you got from one end of the stage
to the other
I remember only

your halting breaths
your widening eyes
you rarely said

more than five syllables at a time
the lights dimming
the needle

on that unpressed space
between songs

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961)

A poem from the Selected Poems of H.D. (New Directions Press, 1957):


Wildly dissimilar
yet actuated by the same fear,
the hippopotamus and the wild deer
hide by the same river.

Strangely disparate
yet compelled by the same hunger,
the cobra and the turtle-dove
meet in the palm-grove.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Dave Barrett (1930-2018)

At noon on Sunday I walked from my place on 19th Avenue across Knight Street, through the Tyee Montessori School grounds, past Dumfries, up the hill to Fleming, where I turned right, then a left on  20th, then another left on Commercial Street, where I eventually came to the Croatian Community Centre for former NDP premier Dave Barrett's 1pm "Celebration of Life".

The service was hosted by former NDP MLA Moe Sihota, who does well in these situations. Moe introduced Squamish First Nations band member Deborah Baker, who provided the "indigenous welcome," followed by some humorous reminiscences by current premier John Horgan and some very touching ones by New Westminster NDP MLA Dawn Black, who spoke of Barrett's compassion; after that, what quickly transitioned into an infomercial by Barrett contemporary Bob Williams, who, though a brilliant politician and community leader, someone I admire for his intellect and will, started pumping his latest project: Vancouver's Centre for Social & Economic Innovation at the former police station at 312 Main Street.

Not sure what Dave Barrett would have thought of Bob's project. One thing he would have taken issue with was Bob's rather off-hand comments about the civil service. Yes, bureaucracies can slow things down, and yes, they can take on a life of their own, but if slowness is something we have come to appreciate in our race-to-the-neverending-finish-line that is our increasingly extreme, bottom line culture, then more slowness, please, not less. (Imagine what a little slowness might have brought to Ron Burnett's new Emily Carr University of Art & Design complex? Certainly a better gallery/bookstore -- maybe even better painting studios.)

As for the rest of the program, I missed it -- too put off by Bob.

The 1972-1975 NDP provincial (B.C.) government was a remarkable achievement. While it is true that this government worked quickly to pass more than 350 bills in three short years, they had many years in opposition to consider what needed passing, and why. For more on this government and its achievements, see Geoff Meggs and Rod Mickleburgh's excellent book The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Rosanna Deerchild

Rosanna Deerchild opens up Unreserved's "Valentine's Day" episode (February 11th) with interviews at Winnipeg's Portage Place Mall, where we meet Josh and Cody (1:50-4:00), who ever-so-sweetly remind Rosanna that for gay men, it is not Tinder, but Grinder.

The week prior (February 4th) is an episode dubbed "The power of transformation" that focuses on changes to the corporeal body (Gwen Benaway, Lauren Sylliboy and Vizin), but also to that body of writing known as the text (Jordan Abel on his recent book Injun, 2016 [29:04-37:27]).

Like Abel, Deerchild is a literary writer. Her books include this is a small northern poem (2008) and Calling Down the Sky (2015). Here is a link to one of her best known poems, "On the First Day".

Sunday, March 4, 2018


Annharte is a writer I reach for when the mood moves me. The nature of that mood is difficult to define; sometimes it is a good mood, other times it is a bad mood. "Good" and "bad" have little to do with what moves me.

Here is a passage rob mclennan quoted from Annharte's essay collection, AKA Inendagosekwe (CUE, 2013), for a piece he published in Jacket2:

"Don’t listen to your elders…sometimes listen to that coyote voice within you and do something that will both shock and entertain your elders. They like innovation too, not the same boring mainline crap, preaching about Native Culture. We got to decolonize our thinking and that is why experimenting with ideas is needed. Too much of Native Literature is about passively accepting colonization and exploitation. World-wide indigenous writings—the literature of resistance—needs our contribution and attention too."

Annharte, Judith Copithorne, Maxine Gadd and Marcia Crosby are senior writers and thinkers who are important to me. I have learned -- and continue to learn -- so much from them.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Literary Festivals

Canada's literary festivals have always privileged books over writing. Recently published books. While these festivals receive public monies, they have become reliant on the marketing budgets of big house publishers to put on their shows. That's why they look the way they do, with inclusion determined as much by the publishing houses who supply them with their writers authors as the festival directors who invite these authors to read, sit on panels and sign books.

When Alicia Elliott tweets that a nearby festival (Hamilton's gritLIT Festival) is using the title of her published essay ("Is Canlit a Raging Dumpster Fire?" September, 2017) to banner a panel on Canada's literary culture ("industry" is Elliott's word), a panel that includes neither her nor anyone from the communities affected by this culture, she is right to complain.

I wonder if this situation would have been different had Elliott published a book within the festival year cycle? My guess is that the festival organizers would not have thought twice about inviting her. The case of a knee-jerk bureaucratic structure -- the shape of things -- determining the content? (See Hannah Arendt on the topic of bureaucracies.) Here is an apology from the gritLIT Festival's artistic director:

Like the Music and Film industries, the Publishing industry is relatively late to extinction. But it is dying, and with it will come the death of festivals driven by recently published trade books, particularly now that the big houses are spending less on author appearances and more on the means by which Elliott's complaint has reached us -- that Tolkienian ring known as social media.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970)

The Poetry Foundation has uploaded a few more Lorine Niedecker poems since last I checked. Niedecker's "I rose from mud marsh" can be found in Jenny Penberthy's intelligent collected. (Althea's Listers of Earthy has mud on my mind.)


I rose from marsh mud,
algae, equisetum, willows,
sweet green, noisy
birds and frogs

to see her wed in the rich
rich silence of the church,
the little white slave-girl
in her diamond fronds.

In aisle and arch
the satin secret collects.
United for life to serve
silver. Possessed.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Afternoon Walk

A dull grey walk on Main Street. A few changes since the last death march. The community arts studios at 216 East 28th have moved to Commercial Drive, but Le' Gent Antiques is still at the corner.

The YWCA Thrift Shop continues to do good business. The record bin out front had just been reloaded. Stared awhile at the Sheena Easton album. Shay Semple's early portraits came to mind.

The highlight find was a 15th anniversary re-issue of Lila Abu-Lughod's Writing Women's Worlds (1993, 2008). Price: $1. I still have the first printing ($19.99).

Here is a passage from the Introduction:

"...the first lesson of feminist analysis from Simone de Beauvoir on: relations -- or, more accurately, constructions -- of self and other are rarely innocent of power. To be feminist entails being sensitive to domination; for the ethnographer that means being sensitive to domination in the society being described and in the relationship between the writer (and readers) and the people being written about." (5)