Friday, May 31, 2019


"An improvised litter box below a bay window," said Craig after he asked me to help him with his garden.

Not quite King Augeas's stables, but enough to make excavation a first step. After that, a device to keep the cats and dirt separated. Craig suggested wire mesh, while I proposed bricks and pavers.

Craig's aesthetic, as far as I could tell, is pre-Columbian meso-moderne, so that's what I gave him.

With my protective motif in place, the next step was to fill the cracks with sand and dirt, then sedum and succulents. Because most of the area was sheltered by the bay window, I would place terra cotta pots in selected areas.

Material cost: under $100.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


I have not seen the original press release sent out by the Vancouver Art Gallery announcing the departure of director Kathleen Bartels, but I have seen the Vancouver Sun's first posting that had interim director Daina Auguitis listed as the VAG's "Chief Curator", not former "Associate Director and Chief Curator" or, more recently, "Chief Curator Emerita". Although this was corrected later that day (May 28), the sub-headline (as of 9:11AM today) remains the same:

Artnet News obviously saw the Sun article too, but have yet to correct their own copy. I tried to contact them but could not get past their CAPTCHA.

When these things happen I am often told how busy/undermanned newspapers are. But the response is not exclusive to those in media; we hear it from teenagers, parents, teachers, cops, lawyers, doctors, bankers, judges. Everyone is wound up, exhausted, content only to talk at each other about how exhausted they are. How it's not my fault! How I am doing everything I can!

The VAG has four Associate Directors: Ann Webb (Engagement and Strategic Initiatives), Beth McInnes (CFO), Tom Meighan (Operations and Museum Services) and Rochelle Steiner (Chief Curator). In this morning's Vancouver Sun, John Mackie says the VAG will have more to say on Bartel's departure "next week." I suspect by then there will be more departures.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Vancouver Art Gallery Director Tony Emery (1967-1974)

In 1967, the Vancouver Art Gallery hired 48-year-old English-born Tony Emery as its director.

In his 2016 obituaryVancouver Sun reporter Kevin Griffin notes that "when [Emery] took over as director of the VAG, a newer, younger art scene had been forming and developing in Vancouver. As part of his mandate, he opened the gallery to experimental and avant garde art practices in the province."

"Under Emery," Griffin continues, "the VAG became a kind of community centre for the arts. He opened the gallery to the community like never before. In addition to showing art, the VAG became a venue for poetry readings and experimental theatre/performances by groups such as Savage God Theatre. It also became a place where you could go and listen to music at lunchtime."

Later in the obit Griffin quotes Karen McDiarmid, whom Emery hired as an outreach co-ordinator and assistant curator, and who was instrumental in providing the east side arts collective Mainstreeters opportunities to both explore and hone their art.

“There was so much going on in the gallery for people to do,” McDiarmid said. “It wasn’t an art museum — it was an art space for people to enjoy things. All kinds of amazing things happened there.

“It was fun, it was loose. I loved him. I thought he was the best thing that could ever have happened to the Vancouver Art Gallery.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Gunfight (1971)

In 1970 the Jicarilla Apache Tribe of American Indians (known today as the Jicarilla Apache Nation)  invested 2 million dollars in a western "without Indians."

"Distributed" by Paramount (in scare quotes because Paramount did little to support it), A Gunfight  stars Kirk Douglas, Jane Alexander, Karen Black and, in his film debut, Johnny Cash, whose title song opens the film.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Pine Forms

The branch is structured in a way to gather what falls from above, adding mass and a larger surface, enabling it to add more mass, more surface, weighing it down to the point where it hangs at odds with how we have come to picture the larger structure, a ganglion of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Come Riot or High Water

Travis Diehl's review of the 2019 Whitney Biennial shines a light on Madeline Hollander's Nosecone: EF (2019):

"For Nosecone: EF (2019), a savvy, Michael Asher­–like gesture, Madeline Hollander had two corner-facing segments of the Whitney’s bespoke metal flood barriers, usually tucked away, installed facing Gansevoort Street and the Hudson River. This kind of spectacular defensiveness, beautiful in its way, is as industrially formal as anything a Minimalist could dream up—yet also as callously pragmatic as the insurance any museum must buy. It is also a preview of the kind of thuggish engineering ready to be deployed by a rich island city on the front lines of global warming. Hollander’s piece is the brutalist counterpoint to more polished “institutional critique,” such as The Maid (2018), an HD video by Carissa Rodriguez that grants a cinematographic look at the care given to a sequence of fetal Constantin Brancusi and Sherrie Levine sculptures in various highlife locales."

Here is another piece "by" Diehl -- a March 23, 2019 re-tweet concerning a Parisian brasserie's attempt at riot-proofing:

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Molar Plexus

The morning after my event in Kamloops I awoke to a light crack. Twelve hours later I returned to bed with a throbbing toothache. Yes, I grind my teeth when I sleep. And yes, I have tried mouth guards, but I keep spitting it out. Now I have a cracked molar and have to wait until Monday to get what will likely be my seventh root canal!

Friday, May 24, 2019


Wakenbake is the first cannabis dispensary you see heading south on Westside Road. Less than 100 metres later, Free Weed.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Vernon Value Village

Ah, a Willie Nelson memoir.

And inside -- a signed and dated drawing by its author!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Pattern and Recurrence

Here is what Mike McInnerney had to say about his album cover design for the Who's Tommy (1969):

"I had been exploring ways of creating images that could picture my pre-occupation with spiritual ideas. I particularly liked the patterns and rhythms of Op Art and its concerns with perception and illusion and the language of Surrealism - not for its subversive qualities but rather its transcendental possibilities - like finding poetry in the ordinary."

Here is a southwest view from the top floor of the New Museum that I took in New York last month:

Here is Christopher Brayshaw's view of the Vessel (TKA) at Hudson Yards (NYC) that he took on a more recent trip:

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


This Wednesday at 6pm I am hosting Footsteps at an Exhibition at the Kamloops Art Gallery.  For this iteration (the concept originated at the Kelowna Art Gallery on 2017) I will combine a conversational walk-through Samuel Roy-Bois's Presences exhibition with a reading from my recent book 9x11 and other poems like Bird, Nine, x and Eleven (Vancouver: New Star Books, 2018) which, like Samuel's exhibition, is interested in our relationship to objects, space, structure and time. (Last month I mentioned Samuel's exhibition in my contribution to Ottawa Poetry Newsletter (#161).) This is a free event; all are welcome.

Monday, May 20, 2019

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 Page", "The Bed", "The Bedroom", "The Apartment" -- the first four chapters of Georges Perec's Espèces d'espaces (1974), also known as Species of Spaces (in English).

Perec likens a page to a bed and a bed to a page. The epigram for the "Bed" chapter is a play on Proust's A la recherche de temps perdu (1913): "For a long time I went to bed early." But instead of Proust, it is Parcel Mroust: "For a long time I went to bed in writing."

Saturday, May 18, 2019


This cat lives in the neighbourhood and eats out a lot.

As for this "Kitty", it belongs to Mary Kelly and has toured the world many times over.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Sequoia Later

At the centre of this picture is a brown square. Look closer and you will see that it is a tree stump. Before that, a towering sequoia that, had it not been cut down earlier this year, would have extended beyond the frame of this picture in height and width.

Taped onto the window of the health food store behind the stump is a page of information ("90-year-old Kerrisdale Sequoia tree will be turned into benches for Arbutus Greenway").

I can't say I have a memory of this sequoia when I was growing up. Nor do I remember what was around it, apart from the China Inn, where a request for ID when ordering beer was met with sheepish shrugs on our part -- until Tim Bailey offered his Grade 11 student card and that was enough!

Below is a picture from the Herbert Elwyn Addington's photography collection. The occasion is the May 24, 1980 opening of the new B.C. Telephone Company store at 2307 West 41st. (Prior to that, telephones remained the property of B.C. Tel and were rented to customers for a couple dollars a month.) To the left is the sequoia.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Colour, Line and Form

With the Carolina Hurricanes on the verge of elimination from the NHL playoffs, I thought it time to hold up their new alternate logo (above), which the team debuted last summer. The alternate uses the hurricane warning flags (the previous alternate was a "storm warning" flag), while the negative space between the flags is the shape of the state of North Carolina, where the team's home rink is located (in Raleigh).

“We’re excited to introduce our new third jersey for the upcoming season,” said Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell in the media release. “We wanted to modernize our old alternate uniform while incorporating a sense of regional pride, and we feel we’ve done that with this design.”

Modernize is right. While the team's principal logo (below) is an expressionist form of abstraction intended to represent hurricane force winds, the new alternate, despite its Looney Tunes feel, is closer to Modernism's early years, with a flag in league with the paintings of Malevich and Albers.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Film Forum

The April 19th Images Festival Research Forum at TPW is now online. I watched it last night and there were only two edits, one at 1:00:19 (followed by a huge, unexplained sigh) and again near the end, at 1:19:34.

Below is the 8:50 minute opening scene of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point (1970), where there are many edits and many more camera positions. I am never sure if this scene was an actual off-campus student forum led by Kathleen Cleaver, with scripted dialogue added after, or if it was scripted from the start.

The Images Festival Research Forum was designed to invite feedback on the festival's program and its behaviour as a social enterprise. One of the more resonant issues raised (by someone who told Images programmer Steffanie Ling "We don't care about your festival") was "radical friendship". In Zabriskie Point, the issue is how Blacks and whites can work together as revolutionaries to shut down the school as a next step in overturning the larger social structure.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

House Plants

Two glass shelves set in a frosted window "looking" west onto a five foot wide easement. The Asparagus continues to struggle, but the Crassula is doing better.

Monday, May 13, 2019

A Goodbye

Before Amy and I left town over Easter, cheyanne gathered a group of us together to say goodbye to our beloved VAG cafe patio, which was scheduled to close on April 30th. We assumed the cafe was closing because of the gallery's move to Larwell Park. But that could take years, if it happens at all.

Yesterday, while walking on Robson, I thought I would take a peek at the patio and see what -- if anything -- is up. Sure enough, iron bars, a thank you and mention of its renovation.

Renovation is a loaded word these days -- with "-ovation" more often than not implying an "-eviction" (it's been how many years since renoviction entered the lexicon?). The cafe patio had a nicely-priced menu. If another cafe should take its place, I would hope that it keeps its prices reasonable -- and removes that bloody gate!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Easter Weekend

By the light of the Guggenheim.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


On Thursday Skeena hosted a surprise party for Dana at Lawrence's studio. There was food and booze and a jar with a slit in its lid to off-set the cost.

Shortly after Dana arrived -- SURPRISE! -- Skeena presented her with a blanket she made, at the centre of which is the Lakota star. Dana moved through the room and acknowledged each and every one of us; Skeena said a few words and sang a few songs. At one point we all joined hands and danced clock-wise while someone's dog stood in the middle and barked.

There was more, of course, but that's enough for now.

On June 27 Skeena's Surrounded opens at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

Friday, May 10, 2019


Tess Durbeyfield at this time of her life was a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience. The dialect was on her tongue to some extent, despite the village school: the characteristic intonation of that dialect for this district being the voicing approximately rendered by the syllable UR, probably as rich an utterance as any to be found in human speech. The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word.

-- Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles (51-52) 

She mimics the speaking. That might resemble speech. (Anything at all.) Bared noise, groan, bits torn from words. Since she hesitates to measure the accuracy, she resorts to picking gestures with the mouth. The entire lower lip would let upwards, then back to its original place. She would then gather both lips and protrude them in a pout taking in the breath that might utter some thing. (One thing. Just one.) But the breath falls away. With a slight tilting of her head backwards, she would gather the strength in her shoulders and remain in this position.

-- Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee (3)

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Paragraph from Pitch Dark (1983) by Renata Adler

One morning, in the early nineteen-eighties, Viola Teagarden filed a suit in a New York State court against Claudia Denneny for libel. Also named as defendants were a public television station and a talk-show host. Viola Teagarden's lawyer, Ezra Paris, had been, all his life, a civil libertarian; in every prior suit, he had been on the side of the right to speak, to print, to publish. He was embarrassed by Teagarden v. Denneny et al., which, as he knew, had no legal merit. He justified it to himself on grounds, of which Viola had persuaded him, that she was sad, hurt, pitiable, distraught. He also thought, in friendship, that he owed her something. Her current book was dedicated to him. But his province had always been the First Amendment, and he preferred not to think about who was paying his rather considerable legal fees, Martin Pix, a young, immensely rich, vaguely leftish media executive, who had recently come, yacht and fortune, into Viola's special circle. That circle, as I gradually came to understand, was one of the most important cultural manifestations of its time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Interview with a Bonfire

An excerpt from Rachel Cooke's April 28 Guardian interview with a white fifty-five year-old well-born homosexual who writes novels:

As he notes, the world then [1970s] was built for adults rather than children – something he experienced as freedom, and on which he looks back with gratitude. And here, perhaps, he places his finger firmly on one of the primary causes at the heart of the war of words that rages between his generation and that of his boyfriend of 10 years, the musician Todd Michael Schultz, who is 22 years his junior (yes, he lives with a millennial). What it comes down to is a question of timing, and of upbringing.

“I thought it was rather exciting,” he says, of a childhood that enabled him to see the films he wanted to see, and to read the books he wanted to read, unbridled by anxiety on the part of his carers (thanks to this, he developed as a teenager a passion for the films of Brian de Palma, the director of CarrieScarface and The Untouchables).

“This is not a blanket statement, but…” He guffaws, knowing full well that it absolutely is a blanket statement. “What I’ve noticed is a kind of helplessness in millennials. I didn’t realise this until lately, but I was on my own. My parents were narcissistic baby boomers, more interested in themselves than us [they would later divorce]. Not that they didn’t love us, but they were very wrapped up in their own lives.

“I do remember floating on my own. I had to grow up on my own. I had to figure things out for myself. I had some help. I’m not saying that I didn’t. But certainly, there wasn’t the overprotective bubble that so many of my friends raised their children in. Growing up, I didn’t know a single person on medication. None. On my boyfriend’s side of the aisle, though, there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t on something, including him. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who wanted to [be] victimised either; we wanted to be affected by stuff.” He emits a hammy sigh. “I don’t care if I sound old any more. I haven’t changed at all. I was the old man at 15.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

On the Main Street Side of Gene

Bracken muralized Gene a couple years back. Was it part of the Mural Festival? I guess so. Regardless, I am not wild about colouring-in already diverse and vibrant neighbourhoods, but I respect and appreciate Bracken and his work -- and I like it that he honoured Yuxweluptun, who often sits where these ovoids stand.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Up until yesterday I had never read a sentence by Thomas Hardy. There were reasons for this. First, our English 11: The Novel course focused on Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), and because I found the cover creepy, I did not make it one of my three (out-of-five) picks for my high school English requirement.

Second, the 1979 trailer for Roman Polanski's screen version of Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) was even creepier. This is a film whose whispering yet insistent voice-over ended with the line: "Tess: a victim of her own provocative beauty."


And so it was yesterday evening, while walking back from Save-On (three 750ml bottles of San Pellegrino for $5), that I stopped at the second-hand store on the 1300 block of Kingsway and saw a relaxed cover of Tess of the D'Urbervilles and thought, I need to spend more time looking into what ails me. A dollar-fifty and four blocks later I was sipping vodka sodas to lines like:

On this board thirsty strangers deposited their cups as they stood in the road and drank, and threw the dregs on the dusty ground in the shape of Polynesia. (63)

"And we'll all go and see her when Tess has gone to live with her; and we'll ride in her coach and wear black clothes!" (65)

Abraham talked on, rather for the pleasure of utterance than for audition, so that his sister's abstraction was of no account. (69)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Greg Younging

Greg Younging was the external examiner on my graduate committee. When I first read his name many years ago it was Young-Ing -- as in the poet Greg Young-ing. Then one day the hyphen disappeared; the upper-case "I" sat down, dotted itself and, as it grew closer to the first "g", pulled the "n" and the second "g" with it -- making it Younging, as in Greg Younging, or Dr. Greg Younging at the time of his passing last Friday.

RIP Greg!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Relational (Political) Economics

Huawei is a Mainland China-based multinational telecom manufacturer supported and promoted by the Chinese government. Last December, Canadian customs officials arrested the company's CFO, Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the U.S. government.

Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former People's Liberation Army officer who started the company in 1987. She is accused of defrauding a number of financial institutions in violation of U.S. government backed sanctions against Iran.

The Chinese government asked the Canadian government to release Meng, and the Canadian government refused. The Chinese threatened "severe repercussions," and a short time later detained two Canadians who have been living and working in China. Shortly after that, a Canadian meth dealer had his sentence "upgraded" from imprisonment to death.

In March, China announced that it will no longer purchase canola from Canadian farmers, based on "pest infestation."

Most Canadian canola is grown on the Canadian Prairies, which is also a producer of NHL hockey players and home to many more hockey fans, all of whom tune-in to the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Hockey Night in Canada, especially now that the playoffs are on.

A major advertiser for Hockey Night in Canada is Huawei, whose name is featured prominently during broadcasts (see above).

When I first noticed this I thought, Why hasn't Huawei pulled its sponsorship? Then I thought, Why would they when what it is paying is but a pittance when compared to the return it is getting for showing Canadians who's boss? The U.S. government showed Canada who's boss when, in an effort to destabilize it or as a condition of the free trade agreement renegotiations (or both), it asked Canada to detain Meng next time she passed through Vancouver.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Did She, or Didion't She?

"At no point have I ever been able successfully to keep a diary; my approach to daily life ranges from the grossly negligent to the merely absent, and on those few occasions where I have tried dutifully to record a day's events, boredom has so overcome me that the results are mysterious at best.
                                                      -- Joan Didion, "On Keeping a Notebook"

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Yard Work

There is no better return for me than to spend the first morning back doing yard work, noting the passage of time in new growth, trimmed hedges and changing colours.

The Lily-of-the-Valley (Piers japonica) is among the most dramatic garden performers. When I left on my trip, the bush had bright red leaves at its extremities; now those leaves are yellow.

As for the Miss Kim (Syringa pubescens subsp. patula), it blooms later than most lilacs, and is at least a week away.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


All this talk of Toronto's new MOCA site and not once did I ever hear anyone say anything about having to walk through Nestlé to get there.