Saturday, June 30, 2018
Friday, June 29, 2018
Thursday, June 28, 2018
The post at bottom was sent to me by someone who sends me things he thinks will make me uncomfortable, and he's right every time -- his preoccupation with my discomfort is unsettling.
The poem Amolak Nijjar refers to in his assignment for his English 9 class is from my first book, Company Town (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1991).
Thank you, Amolak, for taking the time to write this, and for posting it.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Ragtime comes in four parts (I-IV). As of this writing, I am fifty-eight pages into Part II. I enjoyed and appreciated the first part, but it is the long paragraph that kicks off Part II that blew my mind, when the "Father" returns from Peary's North Pole Expedition in 1909 only to find that the world has changed. From there, evidence of change through subtle mention of duplication, replication, multiplication and repetition, and then that amazing passage where high-minded financier J.P. Morgan invites lowbrow assembly-line specialist Henry Ford to dinner.
In a section relevant to what is happening in America today, Doctorow writes of striking mill workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the strike committee's decision to send the children of these workers to board with families in Boston, New York and Philadelphia until the strike is over. "The mill owners of Lawrence realized that of all the stratagems devised by the workers this one, the children's crusade, was the most damaging." Following this, a harrowing scene where police show up at the Lawrence train station and endanger strikers and children alike.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
A black-and-white ad near the northeast corner of Main and King Edward. What's it selling? Well, it's selling Dan!
Who is Dan?
Dan masquerades as a realtor for a large and long-running real estate company. He has made a small pile moving properties west of Main and is now turning his sights east. But how to do that?
To do that, Dan deploys intimacy. He tells the second-person pronoun how hard that pronoun works and assumes that those going by "You" possess unceded Coast Salish land in need of motivation. Dan has opinions on how hard that land should be working and is willing to sit down with it.
Dan is a Land Whisper. He talks to the land, reminds it of its commodification, and from there he builds it up, encourages it, and the land delivers -- to "You", first, but always through Dan.
Remember the boy in D. H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner" (1926)? Dan is not the boy who, while rocking his horse, predicts race horse winners to keep his family in the lifestyle it has grown accustomed to, but the reader of that story who wishes there were such a horse, and that he is the one who "bets" on it.
Monday, June 25, 2018
We drank to many things that night -- civility, protocols, Plato, Mourning Dove...
Back in my trailer I read a few more pages of Doctorow's Ragtime (1975), fascinated by the story of Evelyn Nesbit and her friendship with Emma Goldman.
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Saturday, June 23, 2018
A "log cabin" made from cut-ends (2x4s). As a shed, it had a number of jobs, but for most of its life it stood around gathering cobwebs, not rot. Recently it had a concrete pad poured for it. A new roof was added, and a second-hand door. Now it is in the recycling business -- a transfer station for paper, glass, plastic and metal. It is guarded by a four-legged creature, also made from cut-ends.
Friday, June 22, 2018
No one cares much for my poncho. When I purchased it, I announced boldly that I am "bringing back the poncho," so I think that sealed it.
I like my poncho. I like its adaptability. It is a blanket, but it is also a blanket to be worn when standing.
I also like its story: how I saw it at a thrift store in Kamloops, but when I went back to buy it, it was gone. A month later I saw it at Erin Templeton's Vancouver shop (I had bumped into Erin in Kamloops at an exhibition opening). I told her my story, and she laughed, said it was our story now, and offered to split the difference.
So the poncho is not simply a garment purchased at a shop, but an emblem, a story on which its relationships are carried.
Thanks, Brian, for taking its picture. And for last night's bison (wieners).
Thursday, June 21, 2018
The pitch fork hits the ground (and slides in) or it hits rock and I wiggle it (in). Once under, I lift, turning the fork this way and that before kneeling down and pulling up stuff like mallow, mustard...
Into the cart they go.
Then it's off to the next square foot.
I have done this at least a thousand times over the past three days, and it is something, but if there is a contraption that removes weeds without taking too much topsoil with them -- great! I want one!
Lunch now. On the deck under the gazebo. The towering clouds and blue patches have given way to dark twisting shapes. I hear thunder, but I see no lightning.
Part of me wants to see a lightning strike, like that Earle Birney poem,
He invented a rainbow but lightning struck it
shattered it into the lake-lap of a mountain
so big his mind slowed when he looked at it
but that would mean fire. The forests are tinder dry, and if they catch fire, then we catch fire too.
Wednesday, June 20, 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.
Last night's dream was slept on. When I rolled over, there it was: a genre that reflects and accelerates (the times); an assertive genre that, in its listing, celebrates, admonishes; a prayer that clears as much space as it takes -- a litany.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Monday, June 18, 2018
Sunday, June 17, 2018
After dropping off my rental car to avoid paying for a day that would end six hours later (or two hours before my 8pm flight back to Vancouver), I walked to the Westchester Loyola Village Library to work on the piece that brought me to town: 800 words on Peter Cardew's design of the Reigning Champ store on South La Brea.
The person sitting next to me was also at work. You can't see it from the photo (taken surreptitiously), but to his left is a small keyboard, which he tapped away at, sometimes furiously.
I would love to have heard what this person was composing. The style of music, the samples he was using, whether it had anything to do with him writing and recording it at a library.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
A group that meets. The Dog Star Orchestra.
On Thursday night at Coaxial, three pieces: the first we missed; the second, a floor "mounted" score for group movement; followed by music -- someone blowing tone clusters through a melodica while a voice, a voila, a trumpet (and more) take turns pulling from these clusters individual notes and, as angels do, holding them.
Friday, June 15, 2018
Thursday, June 14, 2018
The Hammer has added a bridge since my last visit -- not to the wider community, but within itself. No more going down stairs to climb up those on the other side of the courtyard.
The piece on the wall belongs to MPA. The other half of these glasses can be found on the floor at the start of the Made in L.A. exhibition.
Following MPA is Charles Long's installation based on the sectioning of the human penis. Equal parts classical ruin, scrimshaw assemblage and art historical index (penile cross-section as Munch's Scream and South Park's Cartman?).
Neha Choksi contributed a very watchable video installation (three projections, one monitor). Choksi's is one of five or so works that feature dance or dance artistry.
taisha paggett contributed a video installation that alludes to the dancer's body as bellows. Between its two monitors, at the base of an "open mic" that invites viewers to share our breath(s), are the artist's post-it-notes, recipe cards... Note the filters.
James Benning presents a spare room with sculpture, wall works and projection. This pairing of the U.S. flag and a textile portrait of the assassinated Che Guevara caught my eye. Thank you, James. I know where I am now.
One of the highlights of the exhibition was the work of Luchita Hurdado (b. 1920), in particular her painting Encounter (1971). Vancouver has seen a lot of recent work by painters working with textiles (from the sewn, intricately puckered sheets of Colleen Heslin to the droopy "hard edge" weavings of Brent Wadden to the woven strands of acrylic in the paintings of Angela Teng); but in Hurdado's Encounter, it is the weave that is applied to the surface (with paint).
For me, the Hammer galleries provide the perfect length of space for an exhibition. As for Made in L.A., as much as I enjoyed the first half (Galleries 4 and 5), the second half (Galleries 1 and 2) wobbled due to this recent institutional pandemic known as the overhang. Yes, I understand the desire to overwhelm the viewer after we emerge from the sea change that is Suné Woods's undersea world, but surely it was not the curator's intention to hit us with this terra-wave of decorative, if not juvenile work. That would be, as they say in the biz, disingenuous.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Up at 5am, taxi at 6am, at the gate at 7am, boarded at 8am, arrived at LAX at 11:15 am, as advertised.
Shuttled to Avis, where I picked up the car I booked through rentalcar.com the night before. Not the Ford Focus I requested, but its "equivalent": a copper-coloured Ford Veruca (or some such name) with Nevada plates.
Up Sepulveda, a right on Pico, then a left on Beverly, eventually to the Sunland foothills. Ruscha to Sultan to Sergio Leone.
Monday, June 11, 2018
Sunday, June 10, 2018
At last count, the Vancouver Art Gallery has used the word "prescient" 87 times to describe the work of some of the artists included in its first triennial -- Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleasures.
In a complementary turn, Lee Valley has provided a prescient example of the VAG's new built-to-budget, gallery-on-a-stick design for the front cover of its Summer 2018 catalogue.
Here is the VAG's old new design:
Saturday, June 9, 2018
Most of my public schooling took place in the 1970s. I was in Grade 11 in 1978, and English 11 was divided into six half-year classes, of which we had to take four over two years. One of the classes I chose was Canadian Literature, taught by Mrs. Winter. The main text for that class was the novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959) by Mordecai Richler, which was made into an equally great film by Ted Kotcheff in 1974.
While the remainder of our required readings were short stories (Alice Munro's "The Office", 1968, was a highlight), we were asked to select another novel from a list of ten and write a report. The new girl who sat in front of me chose Marie-Claire Blaise's Mad Shadows (1959), while I chose Maria Campbell's Halfbreed (1973). Though a memoir, Halfbreed was presented to us as a novel, something I was reminded of when I read that Nlaka'pamux writer Marie Terese Mailhot first published early chapters of Heart Berries: A Memoir as fiction.
Halfbreed was in the news recently over a three-paragraph passage that was removed from the original publication -- the author's rape by an RCMP officer when she was fourteen years old.
Here is that passage:
During all this time Dad worked for Bob and poached on the side, and as usual the Mounties and wardens were often at our house. We were eating fairly well, as Dad made good money from the sale of meat. One day he was away and Grannie and I were drying meat in the bush. We had a tent set up about a mile from the house and all the children were with us. I raced home to get something we’d forgotten just as three R.C.M.P drove up in a car. They said they were going to search the house as they knew Daddy had brought meat home the day before. I let them in and said that everyone else was at the store, and prayed that no one would come from the camp. While one Mountie was upstairs and another in the barn, the third followed me into the kitchen. He talked for a long time and insisted that I knew about the meat.
Suddenly he put his arm around me and said that I was too pretty to go to jail. When I tried to get away, he grabbed my hair and pulled me to him. I was frightened and was fighting back as Robbie came running into the room. He tried to hit the Mountie but was knocked to the floor. I was nearly to the door when the other one came in. All I can recall is being dragged to Grannie’s bed where the man tore my shirt and jeans. When I came to, Grannie was crying and washing me off. I must have been in a state of shock, because I heard everything she said but could not speak or cry despite the pain. My face was all bruised and I had teeth marks all over my chest and stomach. My head felt as if my hair had been pulled out by the roots.
Grannie was afraid that Dad would come home, so she helped me upstairs and put me to bed. She told me not to tell Daddy what had happened, that if he knew he would kill those Mounties for sure and be hung and we would all be placed in an orphanage. She said that no one ever believed Halfbreeds in court; they would say that I had been fooling around with some boys and tried to blame the Mounties instead. When Daddy came home she told him that King had gone crazy and had thrown me. Dad sold King because he was afraid that I might be crippled or even killed next time. I don’t know what Grannie told Robbie. After that, he always hated the police, and when he grew up he was in trouble all the time and served prison terms for assaulting policemen. My fear was so great that I even believed they would come back and beat me to make sure that I told no one. For weeks afterwards, if I heard a car coming into the yard, I would be sick to my stomach with fear.
Friday, June 8, 2018
If the 1970s had a window, it would be similar to the one above (located on Main Street between King Edward and 33rd), with its terra cotta pot, its hanging philodendron, the dark space behind them and a wicker blind.
The Kitsilano of my youth was full of windows like this one. Better than a flag, these windows indicated that whatever was going on behind them smelled like black hash, sounded like Joni Mitchell, tasted like rose hips and felt soft and smooth and equally responsive.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
The best known diary to have emerged from the Second World War is The Diary of a Young Girl (1947) by Dutch national Anne Frank (b.1929). Another wartime diary is A Woman in Berlin (1954/2013) by Marta Hillers (b.1911), who, until her death in 2001, insisted that her authorship remain anonymous.
Apart from some obvious differences between these two women, their books are similar insofar as their lives are determined by occupying forces. In the case of Frank, it is the German army; in the case of Hiller, the Russians who "liberated" Berlin in April 1945.
Below is a passage from A Woman in Berlin that was written on Thursday, 26 April, 1945 at 1100hr, the day before the Russians arrived in Bergmannkiez:
These days I keep noticing how my feelings towards men -- and the feelings of all the other women -- are changing. We feel sorry for them; they seem so miserable and powerless. The weaker sex. Deep down we women are experiencing a kid of collective disappointment. The Nazi world -- ruled by men, glorifying the strong man -- is beginning to crumble, and with it the myth of "Man". In earlier wars men could claim that the privilege of killing and being killed for the Fatherland was theirs and theirs alone. Today, we women, too, have a share. That has transformed us, emboldened us. Among the many defeats at the end of the war is the defeat of the male sex. (62)
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
The concrete stairway at 1168 West Cordova.
Robust, no? All those years in truthy grey, then someone had the sad idea to paint it black -- a flat black -- to highlight accumulations of algae, moss and mildew.
In the 1970s Vancouver artist Eric Metcalfe drew on this location for a series of retouched postcards for his Leopard Realty project. It is, in my view, his finest moment.
In this era of vapid, decorative, up-with-people mural painting, wouldn't it be worth giving Metcalfe and his crew the keys to that stairway, in an effort to bring a little more realty to this fantastic market city?
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Monday, June 4, 2018
I am not sure when I first heard the words "bath bomb." It must have been a quarter-century ago when wars and their reportage were focused more on corporate mergers than on roadside explosions and aerial targets. Back then, if a person, place or thing was worth swooning over, we referred to them as "the bomb".
The events of 9/11 changed the way we think of bombs when its perpetrators allegedly hi-jacked and steered three fully-fuelled passenger aircraft into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
Now the word "bomb" is used to describe any number of things that imply a concentration of incendiary elements -- the most recent example occurring at a chocolatier on Robson Street a couple of blocks west of the Vancouver Art Gallery, where the Bombhead exhibition banner hangs like a dirty towel before an institution enslaved by the sound of its own unmaking.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
An opening. I am at an art opening.
An artist had an idea, connected with a gallery, and it was decided that the work would be exhibited, that it would open and the public would enter -- until it closed a few weeks later and the gallery would lie quiet for a while before repeating the cycle.
I am sorry that Tommy's exhibition had to be the one to inspire this post, but knowing Tommy, he will understand. Pattern and repetition interest him, from factory work to the zoetrope to house music to the writing of code -- all of it "encouraged" by the hectoring voice of the master.
As for the mouth behind this master's voice, I recognized it immediately as belonging to Mark Oliver, who, in his late-50s now, might well be the original slacker -- if he weren't doing so well as a voice actor. Mark's show business break-through, he likes to tell people, came as a late-90s "ass double" for Terence Stamp.
Here is Terence in Pasolini's Theorema (1968):
Saturday, June 2, 2018
It was just one of those days. A change in the weather. A low-pressure system pushing the Melancholy button, and voila, there I was, parking the car at 20th and walking south on the east side of Main Street, eventually to 30th, where I would cross the street to ReFind, poke around and make my way north, on the westside.
ReFind is selling this oxidized copper candle holder for $149:
On my way back I noticed Liberty Bakery has filled-in that gorgeous blank space on the south side of its building with its name, broken down into syllables and stacked atop itself.
What a shame. Might as well put up a sign reading: LOOK HERE.