Sunday, September 30, 2018

American Sentences

At some point in the mid-1980s Allen Ginsberg announced the American Sentence -- a monostich based on the Japanese haiku (three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables, respectively), but on a single line. Ginsberg said these poems could have titles, like this one from John Ashbery's "As We Know" (1979):


But I was mistaken.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Opening Lines from Songs by Americans with "America" in the Title

Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountains majesties
Above the fruited plain
-- Katharine Lee Bates "America the Beautiful" (1910)

Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
-- Paul Simon "America" (1970)

Oh, can you take care of her
Oh, maybe can you spare her
Several moments of your consideration
Leading up to the final destination
-- Miley Cyrus et al. "Wake up America" (2008)

Us living as we do upside-down
And the new word to have is revolution
People don't even want to hear the preacher
Spill or spiel because God's whole card has been thoroughly piqued
--Kanye West "Who Will Survive in America" (2010)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Bill Callahan

When I was fifteen-years-old I thought I had heard -- or at least heard of -- every pop record ever and was happy to be teaching myself mandolin (after childhood piano lessons), practicing Bach in the morning and bluegrass in the afternoon.

From the mandolin I took up the guitar, the banjo, the autoharp, the ukulele, the harmonica, and somewhere between then and my early-twenties it was only hyphenated punk bands like the Meat Puppets, Gun Club, the Pogues and X's Knitters I was listening to.

Contemporary popular music at that point had separated into that which I knew (of) and that which was new to me. When I heard something new on the radio, I would wait patiently and hope the DJ would tell me who it was so I could find its record and commune with it when I felt like it.

That's all contemporary popular music is to me these days: something I have never heard before.

Over the past few years there are maybe a half dozen artists whose music I have heard and sought out. Most recently, a billowing voice capable of hitting notes lower than my guitar's bottom E-string.

"Who's this?" I asked Amy over lunch at her place.

"Bill Callahan."

"Is this the new Scott Walker?" I asked Brian as we sat on his patio watching the sunset.

"No. It's Bill Callahan."

"Is this Bill Galahad?" I asked Scott and Lindsay on our drive into Vernon.

"Bill Callahan, yeah," said Lindsay.

On Tuesday Amy and I went to the Vogue Theatre to see Bill Callahan. It was my first time inside the Vogue in over twenty years, and my first time in a long time at a sit-down concert that wasn't classical.

Opening for Bill was Badge Epoque, a six piece proggy outfit (drums, congas, bass, guitar, keyboards, flute) that did not so much play their instruments as attack them, jump back from them, often on the off-beat. They were loud, without vocals, and in some ways the very opposite of Bill -- had they too not eschewed traditional blues-based I-IV-V or I-IV-I-V song structures.

Of the ten or so songs performed by Bill and his accompanist guitarist colourist (Brian Beattie?), the one that got the biggest woo-hoo was "America!" (2011) Bill has described this mostly one-chord (G Minor) song as his "love song to America," a song he wrote in 2006 after years of living abroad and hearing people trash his country, only to return home (during the George W presidency) and hear his fellow American's doing the same. But if this is a love song, why is America represented exclusively by white men (David Letterman, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Johnny Cash)? Why is attention given to military branches (Army, Air Force, Marines) and so-called enemy countries (Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan)? Can a love song be satirical? allegorical? What kind of love is this, Bill?

Over the course of his hour long performance, Bill didn't say more than a couple dozen words to us. Early on he said that his pedometer had him walking over 17, 000 footsteps that day (he was locked out of his AirBnB), that we were a "delightful audience," and that he had reason to believe the Vogue was once a porn theatre (it never was).

Like Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's "Alabama Song" (in A Minor), "America!" starts with an oompa beat. Yet where the Weill/Brecht version cycles through F# Minor and D7 in its verses, "America!" holds on the G Minor, with only a couple of drops to C Major much later. Moreover, whereas the loss in Weill/Brecht''s song is the Mother, Bill's song elevates the Father (literally, by making them an Air Force crew) in the form of a talk show host and three country and western singers. Again, it's a love song Bill is giving us, but what kind of love? The tough one? Critique?

Thursday, September 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.

Someone is cooking bacon. I can smell its pinkness, its variegation, its curling. It is a heavy smell, like a wool blanket. I have always found this smell comforting.

Amidst the crackle, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony. I know it is her because I know her voice, its pitch, her inflections. I can't make out everything she is saying, but it is evident that what she is saying is difficult for her.

The truth is often difficult. Especially when it is demanded of us. Difficult not because of what we don't know, but because of what we do know. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was sexually assaulted in the mid-1980s by someone who wants to judge us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


A couple months ago I noticed a new cat in the neighbourhood. A short time later, that it didn't have a home.

How do we notice that -- that a cat doesn't have a home? But we do -- we do notice. But how?

A black-and-white cat whose markings provide such pleasant distortions to its cat shape. An abstracted cat -- with legs.

A couple times I spotted the cat in the yard. But as soon as it saw me, it ran away. Then yesterday, while getting my bicycle from the garage, I noticed it curled up under the nandina. I crouched down to say hello, and in not flinching it said hello back.

I would like to be friends with this cat, and I told it so. "I would like us to be friends," I said, loud enough that my neighbour looked up from her weeding.

Monday, September 24, 2018


Craig phoned yesterday morning to say that “Tiger is leading after three rounds and has only lost a tournament once in fifty-two times after doing so. So come over. He’s teeing off in an hour.” Click.

I watched a lot of Sunday golf as kid, usually after kicking around the school grounds with classmates Roger Nay and Ben Gerwing. I would go to Roger’s house and sit with him and his folks in high-backed rockers while Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Gary Player took turns winning.

The greens in those early days of colour TV. That, and the blonde heads of Nicklaus and Johnny Miller floating over them. Also the slowness. The voices of the commentators, but especially the tee shots, how they hung in the air forever.

What I noticed this time were the out-of-bounds shots. How gallery members, as they are known, race towards an out-of-bounds ball and stand within inches of it. Course officials enter the crowd and ask everyone to step away. Those closest move back an inch at a time, careful to maintain a front-row view.

The golfer arrives scratching his head, circling the ball, crouching down to look at it one way, then another. This is the closest the spectator gets to watching a player in play -- more often than not when that player is in peril.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Collective Acts

The picture above is a photographic mural on display at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. The work, entitled Muckamuck Strike Then and Now (2018), is both a document of the job action taken by workers at Davie Street's Muckamuck restaurant (1978-1983) and a montage that has more recent artist-activists inserted within it. The author of the work is Dana Claxton, in collaboration with Sean Griffin, who I believe took the original photo.

For further reading on the Muckamuck labour dispute, click here for Janet Mary Nicol's "Unions Aren't Native': the Muckamuck Restaurant Labour Dispute, Vancouver, B.C. (1978-1983)." For further reading on Muckamuck owner and Ace Gallery founder Doug Christmas, click here, and here for coverage of artist Andy Warhol's 1976 visit to Vancouver for the opening of his show at Christmas's gallery.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


I remember our Literature 12 teacher Mr. Jim Satterthwaite screaming at us over our misuse of the semi-colon. "Don't even go near it!" he said (screamed). "Not until you understand it -- what it is, what it does, and why, when you don't use it properly, it makes you look pretentious!" Then he picked up a copy of Strunk and White' s The Elements of Style (1959) and read to us what it was that we weren't doing.

Of Strunk's rules of usage, the one that impressed me most was his suggestion that for shorter (independent) clauses we forgo the semi-colon for the comma. I still hold to this. So imagine how I felt a few years ago when TL;DR entered the lexicon.

Too long; didn't read is immune to Strunk's suggestion, leading me to think that people like this barbed thing, this "tick on a dog's belly" as Donald Barthelme once described it. So rather than argue over it, I suggest a variant on TL;DR: NLE;HTRT:

Not long enough; had to read twice.

But even here Strunk would suggest a comma, no?

Mr. Satterthwaite? Are you still out there?

Friday, September 21, 2018

There's No Accounting For Misleading Names

I know it is someone's name, and they are proud of it, but mis- is a prefix with connotations, and to trust your taxes with a company that might mis-file them, well, the Misfeldts are proud for a reason.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Yesterday Was a Travel Day

Yesterday was a travel day that had me up at 5am to catch a 7:45am flight to Kelowna to speak with Matt Rader's CRWR 381 poetry class at 12:30pm and to read at Milkcrate Records with dia kabunda the following day, before returning to Vancouver tomorrow.

I was assigned a window seat for the fight, which I didn't contest because it was a clear day and I like to sight-see.

The image above is a landscape with two clusters of tall buildings -- Metrotown to the left and the junction of Willingdon and the Lougheed Highway to the right. Between the two, a little closer to us, is Deer Lake Park. What I thought was fire smoke was probably fog.

Lots of new buildings on the UBCO campus since the last time I walked it. The greenhouse below is new:

These signs seem old though:

Ah, the perils of a research university.

FINA Gallery has an exhibition up of FCCS faculty and staff. Below is a suite of pieces by Eric the Red descendent Shauna Oddleifson:

Matt has eleven in his class. Most shared their work, all pitched in on the discussion. One of them, Dawn Petrin, is partial to that most miniature form of poetry known as the haiku, which she used to construct her ten stanza poem "about" what is now referred to as the "fire season" (formerly summer).

Here is the poem's fourth stanza:

We watched from afar
fancy house -- pool and all.
This place burned before.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


A couple weeks ago the Globe ran a "First Person" piece entitled "Why everyone should write their own obituary" by Penny Lipsett. After reading the piece I thought of artist Ken Lum's recent obituary paintings, but also Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology (1915), and then a social media declaration heralding a new book of poems by Tess Liem called Obits. (2018).

For fun, I began my auto-obituary, but without the usual places, dates and times, and in the third-person, no less. This is how far I got:

On everyone's payroll, yet devoted to a life of poverty -- if he was not invented he would have to have been born. And he was, years ago -- long enough to have learned how to even think such a thing, grow into his subjection. As he once said. As he once wrote. As he carried on, carried, a carrier who cared.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Behind the fireplace in the lobby of the brand new UBC Alumni Building (see yesterday's post) is its library. On its shelves, not books but mid-century objet, arranged accordingly. Same could be said of Canadian Art's retro re-design of its magazine -- a time when white middle-class men ruled the roost. What is the message these two are sending? (Translation: a fetish.)

Monday, September 17, 2018


A long walk with my old pal Lisa last Thursday. Down Commercial to Venables, west to the community gardens at Strathcona, returning via Charles. Lisa and Paolo have built something beautiful in the Echo Park Film Centre.

Another long walk on Friday, this time with Amy. Down Bute to Pacific, along the water to Second Beach, north to Lost Lagoon (where the above was taken), returning east on Haro.

More trees on Sunday, this time at UBC, where Esther Shalev-Gerz and the Belkin Art Gallery unveiled The Shadow (2018), a public artwork made of slightly darker bricks than those beside it.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Wil Aballe has re-opened WAAP at the 1100-block East Hastings. Outside, where one might find a business sign, another sign -- a diptych of Downes Point, Hornby Island resident Anne Ngan, as photographed by Evann Siebens.

The opening exhibition is entitled Myths. For more on the exhibition and its participating artists, see Lauren Fournier's exhibition text.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Veils of a Bog

Vanessa Brown's right-angle-based assemblages turn from the ceiling to the chirps and groans of Michelle Helene Mackenzie's Post Meridiem score.

Friday, September 14, 2018


Re-enforcements were called in to the site of the former Burritt Bros Building at the NE corner of Main and 20th. Not sure what the plan is here, if these supports will be visible to those parking underneath or if they will be buried.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"The event had begun before the decision to enact it"

Deborah Edmeades scheduled her Wednesday Western Front performance Monologues: patriarchal traditions and the New Age at 6:45 pm so that we could be with the setting sun as it streamed through the Luxe's five west-facing windows. Each window features an element (metronome, human figure, music stand, etc.) related to her lecture.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Massy Books Gallery

Massy Books has an art gallery upstairs in the back. Kennedy Telford has a work there (above), entitled Gothic (tribute to Grant Wood). No date attached, only a price: $250.

Tuesday, September 11, 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.

Yesterday was mostly just me computtering around, picking from the interweb things for my academic c.v. (I had forgotten that I moderated a panel for the Shaq’sthut: Gathering Place Colloquium at UBC in 2008 -- but I had not forgotten the great circle around us, where everyone introduced themselves, the laughing and the joking, particularly at the expense of the chatty Tsimshians!)

When not doing that, I was flipping through my new book trying to decide what to read at its launch tonight. Launches aren't readings -- they're launches -- so I don't want to go on too long.

Come to the launch: 7pm at Massy Books (229 East Georgia Street).

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Poem by Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)


We knew.
    Anne to come.   
    Anne to come.   
    Be new.
    Be new too.
    Anne to come   
    Anne to come   
    Be new
    Be new too.
    And anew.
    Anne to come.   
    Anne anew.
    Anne do come.
    Anne do come too, to come and to come not to come and as to
and new, and new too.   
    Anne do come.   
    Anne knew.
    Anne to come.   
    Anne anew.
    Anne to come.   
    And as new.
    Anne to come to come too.
    Half of it.
    Was she
    Was she
    Or mine
    Was she
    Or as she
    For she or she or sure.   
    Enable her to say.   
    And enable her to say.
    Or half way.
    Sitting down.
    Half sitting down.
    And another way.
    Their ships
    And please.
    As the other side.
    And another side
    Favorable and be fought.
    Adds to it.
    In half.
    Take the place of take the place of take the place of taking   
    Take the place of in places.
    Take the place of taken in place of places.
    Take the place of it, she takes it in the place of it. In the way   
of arches architecture.
    Who has seen shown
    You do.
    If can in countenance to countenance a countenance as in as   
    Change it.
    Not nearly so much.
    He had.   
    She had.   
    Had she.
    He had nearly very nearly as much.
    She had very nearly as much as had had.
    Had she.   
    She had.
    Loose loosen, Loose losten to losten, to lose.
    If a little if as little if as little as that.
    If as little as that, if it is as little as that that is if it is very nearly all of it, her dear her dear does not mention a ball at all.
    As to this.
    Actually as to this.
    High or do you do it.
    Actually as to this high or do you do it.   
    Not how do you do it.
    Actually as to this.
    Not having been or not having been nor having been or not
having been.   
    All of this makes it unanxiously.
    Feel so.
    Add to it.
    As add to it.   
    As add to it.   
    As add to it.   
    As he
    As he as add to it.
    As he
    Add to it.   
    Not so far.   
    Constantly as seen.
    Not as far as to mean.
    I mean I mean.
    As far.
    So far.
    He forbore.   
    To forbear.
    Their forbears.
    In so far.   
    For instance.
    In so far.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

David Clayton Thomas & the Bossmen "Brainwashed" (1966)

I've been brainwashed
I've been brainwashed
I woke up one morning and I took a look around
found myself sleeping in the city dog pound
told myself this just can't be
in the home of the brave and the land of the free
I finally found my voice and I began to shout
I got to got to tell you what it's all about
I've been brainwashed

Now it pours from my papers from my radio
telling me what to do and which way to go
white knight charging down at me with a lance
drives in my belly I don't stand me a chance
stem the over population take a walk in outer space
I got to got to tell you what we all got to face
We've been brainwashed

Down with the hangman
rather fight than switch
public insulation gotta know which is which
we won ourselves a victory the casualties were light
judging by the news machine it ain't much of a fight
60 million people reading all about Viet Nam
85 percent of them don't give a damn
They've been brainwashed
They've been brainwashed

Friday, September 7, 2018


Just because someone is known to have recently spoken a word that appears in an anonymous letter doesn't mean that the person who spoke that word is the author of that letter. Could be that the person who wrote that letter might be counting on those watching to make that connection. Could be that the person who wrote that letter is counting on those watching to think that the person who recently spoke that word would be careful about using it in an anonymous letter.

Prior to this letter, someone used a word to describe the editor who cancelled their on-stage interview. A few days later another someone used that word to describe the author of the anonymous letter. If there is a connection, it is the connection that is intended to distract from that which passes from shadow to shadow.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Anonymous Op Ed

"To be clear, ours is not the popular 'resistance' of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous."

Okay Anonymous (Corey "Let Trump Be Trump" Lewandowski?), I hear you -- loud and clear. But I want to be clear too. I want you to know that I fear and loathe you more than I do your boss. Because in saying what you're saying, you're trying to make me feel better knowing that your boss is being managed; that as long as you and your fellow "senior officials" are minding things, everything is going to be alright.

Yours is not a false premise/true conclusion proposition but another distraction masquerading as a disruption. I am not fooled by your ploy, nor do I feel "safer," "more prosperous." Gun violence continues unabated, economic disparity continues unabated, and your boss continues to turn public and political space into a torture chamber of misogyny and racism. Where is the safety and prosperity in that? Where is the safety and prosperity in a feudal mode of production and a medieval Supreme Court?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"all man's miseries"

"I've discovered that all man's miseries derive from a single thing, which is not being able to sit quietly in a room." -- Pascal, Pensées, 94 (Massis ed.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The New Yorker Festival

"The latest issue of Texte zur Kunst focuses on Amerika (U.S. America principally): the land, the idea, and all that seems to come with it. What is Amerika today other than a contradiction between brute political reality and a largely fictional self-image, where fiction says as much about fact as “alternative facts” say about the truth? Within this contradiction, this issue tries to imagine modes of engaging with the current political machinery without opting for the one-dimensional dive into micropolitics that has plagued much recent activist discourse. The Trump regime has introduced a new form of politics whose tactics are closer to artistic practice—inventing parallel truths and questioning facts—than anything like traditional governance. As such, those familiar with art are in a unique position to offer an analysis of the specific forms that define contemporary politics in Amerika. We have thus commissioned artists and critics to come up with new strategies for analyzing the rampant barbarism, resisting the urge to sink into paralysis and defeat in the face of the endless onslaught."

How intriguing to read Texte Zur Kunst’s editorial note for its new “Amerika” issue (above) in light of the New Yorker Festival’s announcement that its editor, David Remnick, would be conducting an on-stage interview with “Trump regime” curator Steve Bannon. And then, just like that (that being social media’s ability to teleport ideas faster than any sit down festival), Remnick announces the cancellation of his on-stage interview in favour of a “more traditionally journalistic setting.” (Like what, on the phone? In a newsroom? Over lunch at OneDine?)

Was the New Yorker Festival right to cancel this event? Yes, because the event was never going to be a mere “exchange of ideas,” as advertised, but a spectacle animated by a militarized police force and a U.S. Customs-style pat-down of everyone entering the room. This is what terrifies me more than anything Bannon might have to say (we know what he will say, just as we know what Remnick will ask him). Yet another instance of the apparatus that, like Bannon’s hate and Remnick’s disgust, has everyone feeling even shittier than how they felt the day before.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Man is Not a Bird (1965)

The scene where Jan receives a medal for installing factory turbines "in reduced time."

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Serpentine Path

A couple weekends ago a group of us took a day trip to Bowen Island for the opening of The Serpentine Path, a group exhibition curated by Patrik Andersson at artist Scott Massey's Terminal Creek Contemporary studio/gallery. After the opening, resident/collector Maryon Adelaar kindly invited us back to her clifftop home, where I caught what I thought was Patrik taking a selfie, only to zoom-in later and find that the image on his screen is not one person but two.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Innocence Unprotected (1968), Pt. 2

As with all good party members, the bedroom (reproduction) and the factory (production) are spoken of on equal terms.