Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Sunday night. This month's socially-distanced social at Stan's. The usual suspects, featuring Stephen in his recurring role as Force of Nature, waving his phone around, until it is in your face: a picture of a painting that hangs in Sunrise Market.
The painting is of the middle of the 400 block of Powell Street where I lived (at 441) from 1987-1993 (just west of Sunrise's long-gone second store), and where Instant Coffee headquartered from 2007-2014, the year the building's east wall caved in and everybody had to leave if we wanted to save the building.
Monday, March 29, 2021
The Vancouver Art Gallery's up-coming, self-titled exhibition Vancouver Art Gallery: Vancouver, BC features "security portraits" captured first by the Gallery's video cameras, then again by contributors who were invited to produce from these videos a screen grab that best reflects the gallery's current condition.
Pictured on the catalogue cover (above) is my contribution, Meh (2021), which features a man from a demographic (South Asian men, 19-35) that the VAG has had little success in attracting to its membership. The man's half thumbs up gesture might well stand as an assessment of the VAG's effort to attract him and his contemporaries to a gallery that neither affirms nor critiques their interests.
Sunday, March 28, 2021
North Vancouver was top of CBC radio's national news yesterday evening. Every time I see or hear "North Vancouver" I perk up, probably because I was born there and, for the first 5.5 years of my life, lived beside Edgemont Village, then a year or so in Queensbury before our family moved across the water to Kerrisdale.
The news concerned a number of stabbings at the Lynn Valley Public Library, located in the Lynn Valley Mall, a complex I am familiar with because I spent a couple years working in the area as a residential care day programmer after graduating from university. To my recollection, the mall was never a particularly dangerous place, though Lynn Valley does have a rough history that dates back to its "Shaketown" days, so named for its many shake-sided shacks, when Lynn Valley was still considered part of the wilderness.
Curious about North Vancouver's other neighbourhood names, I searched "North Vancouver neighbourhoods" and most of what came up were realtor sites, like Kim Taylor's, whose neighbourhood map is featured at the top of this post. Edgemont Village did not come up because it is in Capilano Heights. Historic townsites like Moodyville or Maplewood did not come up because, presumably, Moodyville sounds depressing to potential home buyers and Maplewood was populated by a later generation of squatters resistant to concepts like private property, despite the fact that the land these squatters were on was -- and remains -- unceded Coast Salish territory.
Saturday, March 27, 2021
Last week I received in the mail my five contributor copies of Touch the Donkey 29, published as always by the indefatigable rob mclennan, and including contributions (in order of appearance) by Bill Carty, Nina Vega-Westhoff, Robert Hogg, Sara Alcaide-Escue, Colby Clair Stolson, Elizabeth Robinson, Simina Banu and Tom Prime.
I contributed five poems to TtD 29 (they appear between Bill's and Nina's), the first of which, "A Small Pile of Leaves," contains lines longer than I thought and as such the last word or words of each line were cut off and tucked below. (These things happen.)
Here is the poem as I intended it:
A Small Pile of Leaves
author writes to reader of a tree from behind the tree the author writes
the reader no longer sees the tree only the author hiding behind it writing
the reader writes it is the reader huddled behind the tree carving R-E-A-D-E-R
into the tree with a pen-knife then a key that breaks at the end of R-E-A-D-
now inspired the author deletes the tree and writes of a huddled figure
crying over a small pile of leaves I placed there before I sat down to write
these lines hoping they might be discovered by someone out for a reading
Friday, March 26, 2021
A package from New Star the latest new book by George I open it at random and read the writing "A Little Lunch" (pp. 87-88) charged with depth so finely observed and spiralled from rhetoric if this isn't the old guy learning as I turn the page to find it is not the father but the daughter Thea and your Portrait of the Father as a Young Dad.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Better the devil we know (Jinping, Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, Mugabe, Al-Qadhdāfī, etc.) than the ancients who raised us and who we remain loyal to despite their hypocrisies, laughing at us behind our backs because we are afraid to imagine life without them (democracy)? That's thug rule, and it has become so normalized (The Sopranos, The Wire, etc.) that we don't even need to imagine it -- it's all over us, rehearsed daily on social media, in the way we look at strangers.
Years ago, while living in Victoria, I remember a piece of graffito that said something about television being safe for children as long as their parents don't act like television characters. The attribution was to a band led by a tyrant with a personality disorder that shares spectral elements with those devils.
What to do during these unprecedented times? Look for precedents. They're out there. The past is another country, and there is more of it online than ever.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
"The body itself is also poetry: instead of clarity it gives you depth and music when it speaks -- woundedness is the human condition. We do not cure disease, he says, disease cures us."
Monday, March 22, 2021
I extended the pavers outside my door last weekend. Before that, the south end of what I now call my patio was taken up by three large ferns, two of which grew from the Bowen Island fern I planted there 20 years ago. In place of the ferns, a wooden slat bench that I found in an alley last summer.
The bench was placed so I could see from it the mountains through the spaces between the top slats of the fence. A mountain view is comforting for the space implied between me and the mountain. My ideal view, of course, is of the ocean -- "of course" because I was born overlooking one, and the magic in me believes such things to be true.
Summer will be here soon, and I am excited about spending more of it in the yard. The pizza oven (made entirely from DIY store pavers) can attain temperatures of up to 600 degrees, which will serve as a heating source on cool Juneary nights. As for the high Fenway Park-style laurel hedge that separates us from our western neighbours, I have trimmed it to what amounts to a screen, allowing the sun to peek through in spots, catching on certain leaves, turning them from green to gold.
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Supermarkets have their display patterns. The day after Labour Day marks the beginning of the Hallowe'en season. The day after Hallowe'en -- Christmas. Easter has yet to establish a start date, but there it was yesterday, on the first day of spring.
Among the walls and towers of Easter shit was a milk chocolate bust of Barbie. Not a row or column, just a couple of boxes side-by-side containing America's most popular doll -- as chocolate. On the box, her blue eyes shining, her blonde hair arranged in double buns as she holds up a blue-eyed rabbit next to her almost as white t-shirt.
Through the plastic window we see the edible product: arms clutching her mid-section, her tight-lipped smile, eyes closed this time because closed eyes, like toothless smiles, are cheaper to manufacture.
I purchased the Barbie for one of the grouchy old neighbours I buy groceries for. Her order was small this time, and because she likes milk chocolate I thought I would throw it in. The Easters of my childhood were filled with sugar, and this gal has been talking a lot about her childhood of late.
Last night, while walking between rainfalls, I approached the old woman's house and saw her lit-up in the kitchen widow. She didn't have her glasses on, which meant she couldn't see me under the street light, so I slowed down and watched.
I couldn't see the counter, but it looked like she was preparing something. Suddenly the box's pinkness, its top flap open and she has the bust by the neck, bringing it to her mouth, and just like that she bites the head off!
Mantis! I said to myself as she opened the freezer door, inserting the headless, legless Barbie inside.
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Spring! Time to get Bach's Mass in B Minor off the playlist for something not Vivaldi.
I have always associated Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon (1970) with spring and her mornings, and after looking just now, I noticed it was released in April of that year.
This is an album I listened to a lot in the spring of 1982, living in Victoria two blocks from the ocean near the corner of Moss and May, a college student riding my bike up those hills to school most days, stopping on the way back at that deli across from the Ross Bay Cemetery for bread, cheese and its homemade eggplant salad, meeting up with Bonnie who lived in the suite below mine, or starting the day with Bonnie over filter drip coffee on the other side of Beacon Hill Park, at that ice cream parlour that can't possibly be there anymore, although with Victoria, where resistance to change is a point of pride, maybe.
Side One of Ladies of the Canyon. First song. "Morning Morgantown". Guitar strings like dew drops, piano keys like daybreak's golden rays. I was so in love with Bonnie!
Friday, March 19, 2021
Books like this are often found out front in the discount bin. Anthologies. Poetry anthologies.
Anthologies, book publishers will tell you, are a hard sell. Add poetry to that. Then "South Africa" -- a country that was, until the early 1990s, boycotted by countries both capitalist and communist for its Apartheid policies.
Seven South African Poets (London: Heinemann, 1971) is subtitled (on the inside) "Poems of Exile Collected and Selected." It is edited by playwright and critic Cosmo Pieterse and features one of the most refreshingly existential introductions I have read in some time. Here are its final lines:
"... this volume, while not claiming to represent the poets, does represent them as individuals. Their work may have qualities in common, as some aspects of their lives have; but they do not form a 'school', nor does their work show any trend. These are, simply, seven poets from South Africa."
I purchased the book on the basis of the first poem by Dollar Brand (who now goes by the name of Abdullah Ibrahim). The poem is called "Africa, Music and Show Business: an analytical survey in twelve tones plus finale," and it scratches at everything -- from "geography" to "TIME." Here is "V": " rhythm afrique// joey had the biggest feet/ so he played tenor."
But for me the surprise came at the end of the book -- the poems of Arthur Nortje (1942-1970). In particular his long poem "Immigrant", where the poet's passage stretches from Johannesburg through the UK to Vancouver. "The flat sea washes/ at Vancouver Bay. As we taxi in/ I find I can read the road signs." How strange to learn that in 1967 Nortje taught high school in Hope, B.C.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
I spotted the book spine-out on the "New Arrivals" shelf at Tanglewood. I have a thing for its author so I removed it, flipped through it (selections from her dream journals), then put it back on the shelf. OCD'ingly I removed it again, flipped through it again, then lingered here and there, this time on the back jacket copy: "Cixous's accounts of her dreamscapes resist standard psychoanalytic interpretations ...." Is that possible? I am speaking of those readers trained in it, determined by it.
Cixous's accounts are rarely over 250 words each. I decided to purchase the book and read an account three times before going to sleep each night. It was my hope that the account would find its way into my own dreams. After five attempts -- success!
I was late for a talk I was giving at the PdT, running down Manutention, hoping that the papers spilling out of my satchel were not my lecture notes, when who should I see coming towards me but Cixous! "Hélèn!" I cried out. "J'arrive!" And Hélèn lit up, quickened her pace, opening her arms as if to embrace me -- only it wasn't me her arms were for, but the ghost of Jacques Derrida falling to earth behind me.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
You confused my we for us. I was referring to my mother, the work we are doing to repair our relationship, together.
I’m trying to be respectful, but it's times like this that I would be willing to submit to state surveillance, towards a recording we could click on later, together, because you keep mishearing me, hearing what you want to hear.
Who or what has your activist so sharpened, poking wildly at the world? I mean it -- your rage is neither theory nor practice, but a lack of self-discipline.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
"I was reminded that only in unfamiliar bedrooms do we perceive with such clarity the true nature of our existence -- true because astray -- only away from our own bedroom, from the room that I longed for every minute of my trip -- how I longed to be there, to slip into it -- in the persistently unyielding space of a deserted place that just won't be appropriated." -- Nathalie Léger (trans. Natasha Lehrer and Cécile Menon)
Suite for Barabra Loden is a fiction that has its author reading and writing her way through Barbara Loden's film Wanda (1970). Thus, an auto-fiction, since Literature too is a car lot where readers crave new models.
Léger mentions Loden's appearance on the Mike Douglas Show, though she doesn't mention the name of the show. Nor does she mention what Loden told Douglas after he asked her a couple of questions about her working method relative to that of her filmmaker husband, Elia Kazan. "Does your husband have anything to do -- does he stick his toes in anywhere in your filmmaking?" Douglas asks (2:26), to which Loden responds in a way that brings in the episode's other two guests, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, pointing out how Lennon and Ono work "together," while she and Kazan "have separate interests."
As for the next question (3:12), Douglas asks (in his trademark foreboding tone): "How does he feel about you making your own films, Barbara?" and Loden, seemingly unaffected by any suggestion that a male filmmaker could be threatened by a female filmmaker marriage partner, answers: "Well, um, he was the one who made me do it."
Monday, March 15, 2021
"It is hard to pin-point what happened," wrote my friend Tourneau when I asked him what became of The Exhibitionist. "There are many explanations, and I'm not sure we have enough pins between us to lay out all the reasons why."
Tourneau was never explicitly involved with the journal, though I had reason to believe he might have published work there. He is, after all, known for writing under as many as a dozen pen names, one of which I know of but, as a condition of our friendship, have sworn never to tell. Because The Exhibitionist came up in conversation, it occurred to me to ask. But carefully, mind you, so as not to suggest I knew under which name he contributed and thus compromise another with a name he had entrusted.
"Like Ray Johnson," said Katerina Svoboda on the topic of Tourneau's terms, "but fairer, less paranoid. Johnson would invite you into the New York Correspondence School, only to tell you you could be expelled at any moment -- for indiscretions known only to him! With Tourneau, it's clear-cut: you either told someone or you didn't."
Katerina is satisfied with Tourneau's terms, but I am not.
"You say it's clear-cut, Katerina, but how can it be clear when there is no provision for disputes. Anna Ragovoy was cut off by Tourneau after Flavour Meade told Tourneau it was Anna who told him that Tourneau was hustling a piece under the name Hollis Brutus. But as we both know, Anna is incapable of lying because she has Asperger's and Flavour was acquitted of that contempt charge because he found a doctor to convince the judge that his lying is symptomatic of a mental illness. Anna can't lie, while Flavour can -- and does! Yet Tourneau won't consider any of this, and to this day he still won't talk to Anna."
Katerina wrote back: "There are extenuating circumstances. I can't tell you what they are because it is a condition of my own friendship with Tourneau that forbids me from doing so. But since we're on the topic, did you know there is another Michel Tourneau publishing cultural criticism? And that the journal, coincidentally, is a spin off of The Exhibitionist?"
"How do you know it's not Tourneau himself? Seems more than a coincidence to me."
"Exactly! Which is why I think it isn't. I asked Samia and she said she spoke to his mother who told her Tourneau's given up writing to live with the al-Howeitat in Jordan!"
"Bedouins! After all he's said against them!"
"I know! This is a man who, unlike Acconci, could never move his bowels in a toilet other than his own."
"So what's the name of the journal?"
"Duchamp's Socks. Samia and I have pieces in it!"
Sunday, March 14, 2021
The scene in Annie Hall (1977) when Allison is stage-managing a benefit for Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson and is asked by Alvy, an anxious comedian awaiting his cue, her name (Allison), her last name (Portchnik), if she works for Stevenson all the time ("No, I'm doing my thesis"), what she's doing her thesis on ("Political commitment in 20th century literature"), and based on this Alvy offers his conclusion:
"You're, like, New York Jewish, left-wing, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, socialist summer camps and the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, really strike-oriented ..."
As Alvy is running out of steam, he asks Allison to stop him ("before I make a complete imbecile of myself"), and it is here that Allison utters the line that recalls the days of playful sarcasm, those intervening years when political commitments in literature were separable from those we recognize as aesthetic:
"No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype."
Saturday, March 13, 2021
If this virus hadn't happened naturally, it would have to be invented.
If conspiracy theories weren't so tarnished (hello Adam Curtis), we might spend more time reading up on whose interests they serve.
The reign in shame falls gently on the terror.
Theories of power go back to time immemorial, when the(or)y were enacted by tricksters, justified by shamans, priests, eventually psychiatrists.
Thoughts like ticker-tape stream out of us, similes like out-dated machines for those who can't stand History -- because it's not about them?
Social media is in-dated machinery that empowers its user. It also creates the depressive conditions (Byung Chul-Han) that provide the need to feel empowered.
Complaints about depression only season the condition: metaphor with a simile on top.
Popularity is quantified by "like"s and is likened to a virus.
Skinner's pigeon gets its pellet.
Growing fat on right answers -- is winning?
Slavery existed prior to contact.
A bicycle is slower than a car, its operator exposed to the elements.
A bicycle requires balance, a car a history of extracted fuel that destabilizes a world in search of it.
The tweeter reserves the right to skip the rally, shout out the window, "I'm crying!"
Friday, March 12, 2021
Thursday, March 11, 2021
A walk I like begins at 33rd and Pine and follows the former CPR line (south) to the village of Kerrisdale. Sometimes on my way back I walk east up the lane just north of 41st and pass by the house I lived in during my high school years. A difference between then and now is how contained people's properties are. In the 1970s driveways weren't gated like they are today.
The picture up top is a driveway gate with a lock on it. The lock tells us the gate cannot be opened without a key. The position of the lock tells us it was secured just before the person living there drove away, and that the house is likely vacant.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
"Stations," writes Derek Jarman in Modern Nature (1991), "attract all those who have no journey to take; they provide warmth, a roof in a sudden storm, and the illusion of being at the hub of things."
The picture up top is of the Lewis Cubitt-designed King's Cross Station (1852) 43-years after it's construction, circa 1895.
King's Cross Station appears in the third verse of The Proclaimer's "It Broke My Heart" (1987):
Saw the son who's been gone two weeks
And he's down already with a job to seek
And he's in King's Cross and there's no one speaking that
Broke my heart
And then the refrain, which sounds familiar in light of the royals:
Talked about it with the family now who
What began in sadness ended up a row
All the guys with the clever mouths
They were saying we should move south
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
How sad to lose a mother at their ages. I felt for these two after her passing; not just how it happened, but the circumstances that led up to it; what followed, what continues to follow. If I were these two I would always feel uneasy about the House I was born into.
The many flowers that backgrounded these boys in the days that followed her passing. The gesture of giving flowers, laid in honour of someone loved. I saw -- and continue to see -- this gesture. It is hard to see the flowers for the glare held by their plastic.
Monday, March 8, 2021
Sunday, March 7, 2021
The house at the northeast corner of East 20th and Clark is known as one of the oldest and most enchanted houses in the neighbourhood. I have heard that it was built in the late-19th century to oversee a vast farmland and, in the 1960s, was the dream home of a young girl who later married a man who bought it for her.
In the 27 years I have lived in the neighbourhood the house stood as a shared house, where in summer its inhabitants gathered on its south-facing front veranda to enjoy meals, drinks and sometimes project movies and sporting events. Making the veranda even grander, a long front garden and a central vignette.
A recent zoning decision to allow a new house in the front garden of the original house has destroyed the majesty of its veranda, which now faces a poster-sized bathroom window no more than six feet from its front step. What a shame. This new house just sits there so ... weirdly.
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Years ago, when I first began pruning the apple tree, it took two days, not the half-day (if that) of today.
Whether it was years of neglect, crappy pruners ("A bad workman blames his tools," my mother used to say) or my unfamiliarity with the ways of the tree, I'm not sure. But now it's easier.
Yesterday I pruned the apple in two hours, and that includes a fall, with me hanging momentarily by the sleeves of my red checked work shirt.
Oh, the exhilaration I felt when the ladder slipped from under me. Gravity's caress!
Friday, March 5, 2021
"Mother has been left alone in the cottage these many days. I warrant she longs to see us. And Marstrand is a fine town in wintertime, Grim, with streets and alleys full of foreign fisherman and chapmen. There will be dancing on the wharves every night of the week. And all the ale will be flowing in the taverns! That is a thing beyond your understanding." (p. 6)
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Marguerite Duras never visited Vancouver, but "Vancouver" appears (parenthetically) in the title of one of her l'image écrites: Aurélia Steiner (Vancouver). The screen grab above (via Vimeo, from Betacam) looks like the view of Vancouver's West End/Stanley Park/West Vancouver from Spanish Banks if West Vancouver was a bluff above sandy cliffs.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Thirty-years ago today Rodney King stepped from his car after a car chase and, without provocation, was beaten by four LAPD officers. Unbeknownst to the police, the beating was videotaped by George Holliday who, after attempting to give the tape to the police (as evidence of police brutality), gave it to a local TV station, who aired it. The rest is history.
In July 2020 it was announced that the Sony Video8 Handycam CCD-F77 Holliday used to tape the beating was going to auction. Bidding would start at $225, 000.
Here is the Nate D. Sanders Auctions description.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
The artwork is inaccurate. Like Ahab, Trump can only be defeated by that which he is symptomatic of. It is also irrelevant: like most everything else these days, the artwork is simply a means to an end. What is for sale here is the new means (blockchains), the new currency (crypto) and the new product (provenance).
"Follow the money," said Deep Throat to Woodward, and that, not surprisingly, was a shadowy path that led to a paranoid U.S. President and "his" administration. But this new path, lit up like the hallways of Lucas's THX 1138 (1971). No more galleries or auction houses, no more state dollars, no more objects; what matters is where you, the buyer, are in relation to the transaction history of a given commodity (artwork): the closer you are to its source, the wiser you appear relative to that commodity's increased value. "History has just been made," packaged and sold -- as provenance.
Is this finance's version of relational aesthetics? As Julian Stallabrass reminded us in Art Incorporated (2004), the art world doesn't parallel the business world -- it is the business world ("The art world is bound to the economy as tightly as Ahab to the white whale").
Monday, March 1, 2021
Among the ghoulish party scenes, Cheeveresque swimmers and still-lifes (two of irises, one of folded tea towels) is Little Blonde Head (2020) (see above).
Despite the singularity implied in the title, there are two figures in Little Blonde Head. On the left, the eponymous head whose profile resembles a figure in a painting (below) by one of the exhibition's two painter influences, Philip Guston (the other is Van Gogh). On the right, full-faced, a local collector who has -- or who has had -- a number of Moppett's works in his collection.