Friday, July 31, 2020


This chair was made by artist Setareh Yasan and stands outside her backyard studio in Kensington-Cedar Cottage, just south of Kingsway, where some of us gathered yesterday on the occasion of artist Vivienne Bessette's Landline.

Of Landline, Yasan writes:

"Landline started from an invitation and evolved into a collaboration. Consisting of walks around Kingsway-Cedar Cottage neighbourhood, reading poetry and rebuilding a gate, Landline highlighted the complexity of human relations, our particular relationship to art and the community that surrounds us or our connection to the community that we build and we feel belonged to. Landline didn’t have a start date and it’s intricate nature of conversations defies a definite ending. Herewith, we  would like to invite the community to join us in celebration of this project on July 30th."

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Fulford Harbour

We arrive at the Fulford Harbour ferry terminal forty minutes before the next scheduled departure. We walk up the hill, look around, then walk back, as one might at the opening of a Jack Hodgins novel.

Except in this instance we take our time, visiting a gift shop filled with pottery, jewelry and cards, then a cafe bookstore, where the social distancing protocols are blithely trampled. There is an older longhaired man in the corner behind a laptop who speaks to everyone who enters.

"I like your shirt," he says to me, and I think he means the shirt underneath what we in 1970s Vancouver called a mac jacket, but no he means the mac.

Turning to leave the man selects Fairport Convention's "She Moves Through the Fair" from his laptop. Because the sound is coming through the shop's speakers it occurs to me he has more to do with this place than drink its coffee and talk to its patrons.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Vine Sneaking Up on a Chair

The arbutus moves horizontally, carrying its dead limbs with it. The arbutus is a vine, not a tree.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Walkers Hook

Walkers Hook Saltspring Island (1976) is a watercolour by Toni Onley (1928-2004).

That's all.

Sunday, July 26, 2020


There is an edge to summer. Too wet to touch on the spring side of the solstice, already curling in the first week of July.

The picture up top was taken at 6:45pm yesterday. More summer yellow than autumn gold.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Lorine Niedecker

It's been a while since I looked up the poet Lorine Niedecker. Happy to see she has a website now, made and maintained by The Friends of Lorine Niedcecker, Inc.

Here's a short one, a love poem:

I knew a clean man
but he was not for me.
Now I sew green aprons
over covered seats. He

wades the muddy water fishing,
falls in, dries his last pay-check
in the sun, smooths it out
in Leaves of Grass. He's
the one for me.

For those looking to expand their poetry collections, I would recommend Jenny Penberthy's Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works, published by the U of California Press, in 2002. Lots of short poems like the one above, in addition to some excellent contextual material.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Lane Display

This happens a lot in our lane, but never have I seen it responded to publicly. Takes a mattress to make a billboard (I usually get broken office chairs).

For those open to a closer reading, see the note below (above the "B" in "PUBLIC"):

Thursday, July 23, 2020


I have a filter now. It's okay. Going on five years now. I have no problem working this way. With every constraint, a liberty, right? T. S. Eliot? Not a nice man. Heavily filtered.

Aubrey Plaza is said to be unfiltered. Aubrey Plaza came into my life without social media, lunch in Santa Monica or Parks and Recreation, which I have never seen.

Like me, Aubrey Plaza has a gap between her front teeth. Like Katy Perry and Hillary Clinton, Aubrey Plaza has come between them.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Dr Zhivago (1958) 4

"To Yuri the room was more than a place to work in, more than a study. At this time of devouring activity, when the pile of notebooks on his desk was too small to hold all his plans and when the shapes of his projected books were all round him, like unfinished pictures standing with their faces to the walls in a painter's studio, his living-room was to him a banquet room of the spirit, a lumber room of unreason, a store room of discoveries."
-- Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago (1958), p. 475

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Shots That Could Not Have Been Lost in the Cracks

It's more than "weird" -- it's creepy! Creepier still for the camera that followed it, the director who included it, the editor who condoned it, the producer who signed off on it, the broadcaster who aired it. I watched the entire Pippi Longstocking (1969) series as a seven-year-old and had no recollection of it.

Another "weird" low-angle shot that "escaped" numerous pre-screenings occurs in this outrageous-by-today's-standards NFB documentary Whistling Smith (1975), when Wilma arrives on the scene (8:37).

Monday, July 20, 2020

A Poem by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)


If beasts within a silent forest moan,
If trumpets sound, if thunder rolls and cracks,
Or young girls sing almost inaudibly --
For each initial tone
The atmosphere resounds quite suddenly
With a response, your own.

You listen to the peal of distant thunder,
The rumbling voice of violent waves and storm,
And hear the village shepherd's lonely cry --
And then you send your answer,
But here no echo, there is no reply...
This also, poet, is your nature.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Kingdom America

In a recent interview with Forbes magazine, Kanye West says “A lot of Africans do not like the movie [Black Panther] and representation of themselves in…Wakanda. But I’m gonna use the framework of Wakanda right now because it’s the best explanation of what our design group is going to feel like in the White House…”
Later in the interview, he says: “That is a positive idea: you got Kanye West, one of the most powerful humans — I’m not saying the most because you got a lot of alien level superpowers and it’s only collectively that we can set it free. Let’s get back to Wakanda… like in the movie in Wakanda, when the king went to visit that lead scientist to have the shoes wrap around her shoes. Just the amount of innovation that can happen, the amount of innovation in medicine — like big pharma — we are going to work, innovate, together.”
Is a royal court really so innovative? Peopled with monarchs, aristocrats, jesters and executioners? Then again, the Kennedy Administration had Camelot as its model. The Guardian has on its website a 2013 article on JFK and the Camelot myth, one that claims the comparison does a "disservice to the real understanding and assessment of the Kennedy Administration," without really telling us why, or what its accomplishments were. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Ken Chinn (1962-2020)

Ken Chinn and his passing. What can I say about this force of culture that Ken would not throw mud at? (I'll say it anyway, and take the dream thrown at me.)

I met Ken a few times while touring in the late-80s/early-90s, but most memorably at Kevin Rose's house in North Burnaby where Ken was staying while the two were in The Wongs together. This was in 1993, after I retired from the Miners and was starting the Malcolm Lowry Room up the street on East Hastings.

A lot has changed since then. People have less time for personalities like Ken's. Back then there was something invigorating about being in the company of those who laboured hard (emotionally?) to make you think carefully about what you were putting out in the world. Some of the writers associated with the Kootenay School of Writing were like that, and I learned a lot from their work and their sometimes unpleasant dispositions.

"Cockatoo Quill" (2004) is one of Ken/SNFU's greatest songs.

Drinkin’ again,
I’m not thinkin’ ahead,
I got that shrinking feeling,
That only grows larger,
Day by day,
Lager by lager.

And I’m still sitting here,
Writing my will with a cockatoo quill,
The one thing I own,
One thing that’s not on loan,
One thing I haven’t sold, yet.

It’s so easy just to fuck it all
and go for the mersyndol,
Or something stronger to get me back
on the wagon I just fell off of,
Another swig,
One last gulp,
One more tablet to pop,
Anything to get me to start
working on what I’ve been putting off.

And I’m still sitting here

And I'm still sitting here
I’m on a boat that doesn’t float,
And I can’t swim,

That’s the predicament that
I’m currently wrestling with
and I’m going to win,
and I’m going to win,
and I’m going to win,
and I won’t be pinned.

Friday, July 17, 2020

A Tale (Epistle) of the Ongoing Struggle for Power


I am always impressed with your ability to recall your interactions with patrons. Yesterday, while at the counter waiting for the card reader to light up, T_____ points out the hand sanitizer and I squirt some on my palm.

"You can't use enough hand sanitizer," I say, acknowledging if not promoting its curve-flattening contribution to the current pandemic.

T____ nods, smiles.

"What if you have eczema?" quivers a voice behind me.

I turn to see a young man, his wounded eyes brimming with passive-aggression. 

"The alcohol in hand sanitizer is bad for eczema," he says, his chin rising slightly, confirming the latter part of my amateur diagnosis.

Rather than tell him there are non-alcohol hand sanitizers that use fulvic acid, something I assume from his comportment that he is already aware of, and rather than qualify my comment as figurative rather than literal, I play his game, make it personal. "But I don't have eczema."

"Then you should have said, 'I can't use enough hand sanitizer,'" he says.

"No," I tell him unconditionally, "I'm going to stick with the second person, because without it I would not have experienced what is becoming an increasingly unpleasant conversation," after which this masochist (me) left the store having learned why those who work in bookstores play it close to the chest, why declarations like mine are like rabbits thrown to mastiffs.

Good god, Chris! -- how do you do it! (I say this knowing that the problem lies just as much with grumps like me.)


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Dr Zhivago (1958) 3

"... there are limits to everything. In all this time something definitive should have been achieved. But it turns out that those who inspired the revolution aren't at home in anything but change and turmoil: that's their native element; they aren't happy with anything that's less than on a world scale. For them, transitional periods, works in the making, are an end in themselves. They aren't trained for anything else, they don't know about anything except that. And do you know why there is this incessant whirl of never-ending preparations? It's because they haven't any real capacities, they are ungifted. Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. Life itself -- the gift of life -- is such a breathtakingly serious thing! Why substitute this childish harlequinade of adolescent fantasies, these schoolboy escapades?"
-- Boris Pasternak, Dr Zhivago (1958), p. 292

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Bedsit in the Early-90s Nightclub Style

Coleen's bedsit at Horizons 101. The site has three comments. Here's one from Rod:

"The pool has a big safety fence above it to protect from work on the building next door."

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


When confronted with his role in the WE charity scandal, the Prime Minister said yes, he knew his mother, brother and wife were paid speaking fees by the charity -- but he didn't know how much (recall 1928's Manners: American Etiquette author Helen Hathaway's advice on discussion topics: "we can discuss anything under the sun except money, disease and personal affairs.")

When I asked a seasoned Canadian journalist if he thinks the WE scandal is the proverbial straw that breaks the PM's back (on top of the Aga Khan and SNC-Lavalin "affairs"), he said no, because the story is getting little play in Québec, where the province continues to mourn the January 17th death of Céline Dion's mother, Thérèse.

Are these news stories related? If it could be said that Canada, like the U.S., is transitioning from a liberal democracy facilitated by politicians to a totalitarian plutocracy run by aristocrats, then yes, I think so.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Dr Zhivago (1958) 2

"During the next few days he realized how isolated he was. It was no one's fault, he thought. He had simply got what he had asked for.

His friends had become strangely dim and colourless. Not one of them had kept his own outlook, his own world. They had been much more vivid in this memory. He must have over-estimated them in the past.

It had been easy to do so, as long as the order of things had been such that people with means could indulge their follies and eccentricities at the expense of the poor. The fooling, the right to idleness enjoyed by the few while the majority suffered, could itself create an illusion of genuine character and originality." --- Boris Pasternak, Dr Zhivago (1958), p. 174

Sunday, July 12, 2020

1930s Toaster

Some years ago I received this vintage electric toaster (pictured above, between the salt and the wine) as a birthday gift. The toaster carries no visible writing or logo; you have to look underneath to see that it is from the Toastess Corporation, which in turn led me to's description:

1930s Toastess Corp. Vintage Toaster Model 202, 115V or 500W, made by the Toastess Corporation in Montreal, Canada. It is chrome with black bakelite handles and cord. The doors feature an attractive diamond pattern. It is roughly 7" tall x 7 1/2" wide x 5" deep. 2-slice Toaster Item sold in AS IS condition, as pictured. Note: as with all vintage electrical items, they should be checked out by a professional if the plan is to use them. The metal gets hot, it's a potential fire hazard, as any appliance is with an element which heats up and gets red hot. The toaster is being sold as an Collectible, and any usage is at the new owner's risk. 

There is no timer on this unit, nothing automated whatsoever, so making toast requires your undivided attention. Which, now that I think about it, is what makes this gift so special: a be here now appliance in defiance of our absently articulated, multi-tasking times.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Laneway Bike Jumps

Yesterday I mentioned the rise of laneway bike jumps, in light of our current pandemic. Above is a photo of one such jump, put to bed when not in use.

Below is a sign protecting that jump, and the authority behind it.

Friday, July 10, 2020

"Just Switched"

The pandemic has brought with it a surge in laneway bike jumps. For kids, of course. But what about indoors? Because I talk to my neighbours, I have learned of in uptick in shoebox bedroom production. The above is from the Happy Hooligans site.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Dr Zhivago (1958)

"She hated him, he was the curse of her life. Every day she went over it in her mind.

She had become his prisoner for life. How had he enslaved her? What made her submit to his wishes and satisfy his need to make her feel ashamed? What was his hold over her? His age? Or her mother's dependence on his money? Did that impress or frighten her so much? No, a thousand times no. That was all nonsense.

It was she who had a hold on him. Did she know how much he needed her? There was nothing to be frightened of, her conscience was clear. It was he who should be frightened and ashamed, and terrified of her giving him away. But that was just what she would never do. She lacked his treachery, his chief asset in dealing with the weak and the dependent.

This was just the difference between them. And it was this that made the whole of life so frightening. You were not blasted by thunder and lightning but by covert looks and whispered calumny. Life was all treachery and ambiguity. Any single thread was as fragile as a cobweb, but just try to pull yourself out of the net! It only held you tighter.

Even the strong are ruled by the weak and treacherous."
                                        -- Boris Pasternak, Dr Zhivago (1958), p. 54

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

La Maison Da Nang

So many colonial signifiers here, from the Frenchness of the first half of the restaurant's name (Vietnam was a French colony from 1887 to 1954 -- the World War Two years notwithstanding) to its second half (Da Nang was where the first U.S. combat troops landed in 1965). Even the address is complicit (Queen Victoria reigned at the height of British imperialism).

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Recent Hires

I am not on social media, but as I have said before, some of my best friends are, and they tell me what's trending -- where the mouths are and what's foaming at them. The Vancouver Art Gallery's recent hiring of eurowestern settler Anthony Kiendl as its director generated a fair amount of foam, coming as it did after a Canadian Art article noted the "crisis of whiteness" at the directorship and board level of most large-scale Canadian museums and galleries, in addition to an online CAMDO-ODMAC AGM that had only one non-white face in its massive ZOOM-sphere -- that of the Power Plant's Gaëtane Verna, who is of Haitian descent.

As much as we are shifting towards a relational outlook in all aspects of political economy and civil society, some of the best of us continue to isolate events and re-connect them to our own vicious, sometimes fictive, networks. A network I would prefer to connect the VAG hiring to concerns Kiendl's previous directorship at the Mackenzie Art Gallery -- how Kiendl's leaving the Mackenzie for the VAG created a space that was filled by Chickasaw artist/curator John G. Hampton, a hire that excites me in ways similar to how the hiring of Kiendl excites Hunkpapa Lakota artist and VAG hiring committee member Dana Claxton, who noted in the VAG press release: "[Anthony] has the ability to make an institution relevant in a particular place at a particular time and is especially cognizant of an art museum's relationship to power, relevance and diversity."

Monday, July 6, 2020

Ennio Morricone

I can't remember where I was when I first heard the music of Ennio Morricone, but I remember what I heard -- the four harmonica notes that haunt Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) -- the sensation -- the melding of heart and mind -- and that I was nine- or ten-years-old.

The relationship between heart and mind was echoed recently while watching the opening title sequence of Gillo Pontecorvo's Burn! (1969) -- the conflation of fire and blood.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Benedict on Frazer

"Studies of culture like The Golden Bough and the unusual comparative ethnological volumes are analytical discussions of traits and ignore all aspects of cultural integration. Mating or death practices are illustrated by bits of behaviour selected indiscriminately from the most difficult cultures, and the discussion builds up a kind of mechanical Frankenstein's monster ..." (55) -- Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture, 1934

Saturday, July 4, 2020


Man Sees When Pissing
for Liz Magor

the crumpled nose-blown tissues 
in the basket by the toilet

could have been flushed
but whoever blew into them

chose a nest instead, lined it
with a plastic grocery bag 

the logo reversed, a Fascist eagle
rearing up to eat its young

Friday, July 3, 2020


Lots of talk of slavery (CBC's Ideas recently aired "Slavery's long shadow: the impact of 200 years of enslavement in Canada"), and that's a good thing. Slavery goes back to time immemorial; it is both a mode of production and a metaphor, and it continues to this day.

If we are to rid ourselves of slavery, take action against slavery, we need to talk about slavery in all its dimensions and manifestations. Talking allows us to see things. Now more than ever, we are living at a time when things need to be seen to be believed.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Burn! (1969)

"Queimada means 'burnt'. In fact, the Portuguese had to burn the island to put down the resistance of the Indians when they took it. And since the natives were all killed they had to bring in slaves from Africa to work the cane fields. That large flat white rock you see offshore is called Cemitério Branco dos Negroes because the bodies of slaves who died during the trip over were thrown there. They say they lost nearly half of the poor beggars. And that exceptional whiteness there seems in fact to derive from the dust of their bones which have penetrated into and merged with the rocks."

Marlon Brando has said that of all the movies he's starred in, Gillo Pontecorvo's Burn! (1969) is his favourite. The quote above is from the film's opening scene, when the captain of the ship on which Brando's character is travelling describes the Caribbean island and its colonial history.

Burn! is considered by Brando biographer Peter Manso to be one of the actor's unsuccessful 1960s films, but others disagree. Here is Amy Taubin's more recent Film Comment review.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

O Canada Day

Canada Day. Oh Canada!

Time to gather (safely), light the coals (dangerously) and drink to the mixed economy.

For those wanting to hear a Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir-like rendition of "O Canada", where the soloist (tenor Michael Burgess) and the chorus (St. Mark's Choir) appear at times to be singing in different keys, check out 41:35-43:14 of this link -- the Toronto Maple Leaf's final hockey game at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens.