Friday, April 30, 2021

Self-Portrait in a Chromed Nail Clipper

 

"Maxwell was unable to explain a bruise above one eye that was noticed on Wednesday night when she saw her reflection in a nail clipper."                 -- Larry Meumeister (AP), Globe & Mail, April 30, 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Resonant Years


A few months back, when the pandemic wasn't as pandemicky, I was out walking with a much-younger friend when the topic of "resonant years" came up. I gave the example of 1967 because that was the year my country, Canada, celebrated its centennial. It was also the year of the Summer of Love, when the first North Americans born after World War II reached the age of majority (lowered in the U.S. from 21 to 18 in 1970 -- except in Mississippi) and were "free" within the bounds of the law.

"You were only five in 1967," my friend said. "What could you know about it?"

"I know it through memories, pictures, some of those memories linked to pictures, and vice versa." I said. "But I also know it as a student of history, through those older than me who made films and music and who wrote books during that time, about that time."

"Is it the same, though?"

"No, but when it's gathered together and examined with the same purpose it can be."

"The same?"

"Yes."

"What isn't a resonant year?" my friend asked.

I thought for a minute, then offered the year 1982.

"Funny," she said, "that's the year this book I am reading is set in."

"What's the book?"

"Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. Have you heard of it? There's a movie version."

"Sure have," I said. "The main characters reached the age of majority in 1982."

"Do you recognize them? Are they for real?"

Yes, I told my friend. I recognize them. I was familiar with Los Angeles during those years, as well as its West Vancouver showroom, where I also had family. 

"Why are they so shallow, so hemmed in?"

"I've thought a lot about that over the years, and I wonder if it's because their lives have been so thoroughly unimagined for them, to the point where malaise becomes a kind of default affectation, a shaded place where one hides from the ever present sun, its heat, those Santa Ana winds --"

"Do you believe that, or are you just writing again?"

"It's all writing. Every word of it. Always has been, always will be." 


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Academy Awards


Did I miss the Academy Awards? CBC Radio convened an Oscars post-mortem panel earlier this week, so I guess I did. I didn't catch all of the panel, only enough to gather that the focus was not on the show's "cabaret" concept, but on the Academy's decision to award the Best (male) Actor Oscar at the end, in place of Best Picture, which traditionally closes the show. 

Panelists believed the decision to award the Best (male) Actor Oscar last was intended to honour the life of Chadwick Boseman, who was favoured to receive the award, and who panelists believed the show was structured around. But when the Oscar was awarded to Anthony Hopkins, panelists spoke of how shocked they were, and what a let-down it was that Hopkins was not "there" to accept the award in person. (Would Boseman have been there had his name been called? What was in place in the event that it was? A chorus line grieve-in?) In any case, it has been clear for years now (and certainly to a greater degree with the advent of social media) that the persona of the artist -- be they an actor, writer, director, painter, dancer, musician, etc. -- is greater than the artwork they make and/or contribute to. (On that note, it should be said that Boseman was nominated for his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Hopkins for his role in The Father.)

If I learned anything from Peter Manso's Brando: a Biography (1994), I learned that acting, for Brando, was greater than plays, films and TV sitcoms. For Brando, a play or a film was not so much a group activity, but a chance to take on a hierarchal -- if not hypocritical -- structure designed to subject the actor to someone else's words, direction, casting couch, etc. Brando applied this same critique to other aspects of his life -- but to none greater than his country's treatment of Indigenous peoples, something he addressed when he asked White Mountain Apache actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather (above) to represent him at the Academy Awards in 1973. By all accounts, Brando was harsh enough to take delight in the boos and jeers Littlefeather received as she declined the award on his behalf -- evidence, I imagine, of the white supremacist, colonial country he was at odds with, but also of Brando's own hypocrisy, his humiliation of those who did not have access to the power he himself took for granted. (Littlefeather has spoken recently of Brando's abandonment of her after her Academy Awards show appearance.) 

What is an actor without a play or film or a TV sitcom to showcase their talent? I should have an answer to this, given that I am a writer who believes that writing is bigger than books, scripts, journals and online postings. And I suppose I do. Years ago, as a child, I remember watching Jerry Lewis's MDA Labour Day Telethons, where for over 21 hours Lewis would host a cabaret designed not to give out awards but to receive them in the form of donations, of which the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) raised in excess of $2.45 billon between 1966-2010 when Lewis hosted the show. Lewis's performance, if not his endurance, was astounding, even for a kid like me who knew nothing of the world and its many, many injuries. Is the telethon to American acting what blues and jazz are to American music? Is that what everything will come down to, as it did in that very strange, long-forgotten 1979 film Americathon? Whatever. The show must go on. And on. And on ...

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Rear Garden Pizza Oven


A 40-degree counter-clockwise turn (west) from the first pic in Sunday's post, and there it is: the pizza oven, il forno per pizza, made of bricks and pavers, capable of reaching temperatures of +600F. Pizza in seconds. Come. Bring a blanket. Bring your distances. Chianti. Vinho Verde. The garden has lights now. The turntable goes on the bird bath. I still have the first record I ever bought. And the last one. Both -- and more -- in rotation.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Full Metal Jacket (1987)


The line is spoken seconds before the Tet Offensive, when North Vietnam launched a coordinated attack on a number of Southern Vietnamese targets, including U.S. Army bases and the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. One soldier (the film's protagonist) declares he is "bored" and another more experienced soldier (pictured) implies he has no right to say that because he hasn't "been in the shit, man" (the "shit" referring to jungle combat). It is the more experienced soldier who says (at 53:36), "It's hard to talk about; it's like on Hastings," and yes, I thought of Vancouver's Hastings Street -- East Hastings between Carrall and Columbia.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

I Never Promised You a Rear Garden


The rear garden, looking northwest. In order of prominence: the apple, its pink blossoms almost white now; the poorly-sited Pieris japonica, its sudden red growth just as suddenly an indifferent shade of yellow; the grape arbor; the "Miss Kim" dwarf lilac; the laurel hedge, flowering for the first time in over a half-century (but on my neighbour's side); and the marguerite-inspired paver path to the garage (see below, from April 18), which I wrote into the ground last week, a poem like the path beside it.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Raven Takes Vaccine and Waits


When I heard Prime Minister Trudeau was going to be vaccinated, my first thought was, Which arm? We tend not to be vaccinated in the arm we write or flip burgers with, for obvious reasons, which is why I wondered if the right-handed Trudeau would offer up his left arm, the arm that bears his Planet Earth/Haida Raven tattoo combo. Sure enough! Raven took the vaccine! But now what? There's no telling what Raven might do.

Friday, April 23, 2021

The Only Dance There is (1974)


Another author likely unknown to those under forty is Ram Dass, formerly Richard Alpert, a Stanford-educated psychologist who did his PhD on what is now a topical subject in our socially mediated age: "achievement anxiety". Alpert worked with LSD-advocate Timothy Leary before their expulsion from Harvard in 1963 for conducting experiments on the therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs. In 1967, Alpert found himself in India, where he was mentored by Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, who dubbed him Ram Dass. 

I had a number of older friends while an undergraduate in Victoria in the early-1980s, many of whom had Ram Dass's Be Here Now (1971) in their bookshelves and by their bedsides. Out of admiration I tried to read what they read, but never took to Dass because I felt if I was going to read about Hinduism, I should start at the source, not with its hippie interpreters. It wasn't until a decade later that I found interpretations of "source material" just as relevant, if not necessary, to an understanding of the subject at hand.

It was at the same garage sale where I found Anne Petrie's Vancouver Secrets (1983) that I came away with Dass's The Only Dance There Is (1974), a book not so much written but transcribed from talks Dass gave at the Menninger Foundation at Topeka, Kansas, in 1970 and the Spring Grove Hospital at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1972. Indeed, it is the composition of the book (transcription) more than its "content" that interested me. But of course I was also interested in what I had years before denied myself the pleasure of -- in this instance, someone providing alternative approaches to institutions (psychiatric hospitals) rooted in Western methodologies.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Stories for You (London: Dean & Son, 1966)


Enid Blyton (1897-1968) was an English children's book writer and literary empire. Blyton believed young readers need moral guidance, yet, like a number of Southern U.S. Republicans, refused to acknowledge how her world view is racist, sexist and classist. 

While walking on Commercial Drive yesterday I notice a copy of Stories for You in the Twoonie Bin outside the People's Co-op Bookstore. Of course I bought it -- not so much for its stories but for its illustrations, which I admire for their quiet intensity. As with every Blyton book I have seen, the illustrator is uncredited.

The images in this post are from the opening story in Stories for You -- "The Quiet Little Boy" -- which, as one might expect, is praiseworthy of the child who prefers contemplation over ruckus.

As a boy, I too preferred contemplation over ruckus. But I doubt my thoughts were as pure as Blyton hoped to make them. Same while reading those pages on Commercial Drive yesterday. You don't have to be Derek Jarman to note the homo-eros in these tales.

Because it was warm and sunny, I took up a bench at nearby Grandview Park and finished what I had started of "The Quiet Little Boy."

"That's an Enid Blyton book," said an older, English-accented woman who stopped to tell me what I knew.

"Yes," I said, and told her I was in it for the pictures.

"They're racist all the same," she said accusingly, and I agreed with her, for there are a couple of stories that picture golliwogs.

I went back to the book, but she stood unmoved.

"I don't understand why you would allow yourself to be seen reading something like this if you know it's racist," she said.

I looked around me. The park was busy, but no one appeared to be over forty, and therefore unlikely to have heard of Blyton. "If you're offended I'll put the book away."

"I'm offended," said the woman, so I put the book away and replaced it with the other book I purchased from the Townie Bin, Ethel Wilson's The Innocent Traveller (1949).

"Ethel Wilson's a racist, too!" said the woman. "She was South African and said racist things about Chinese people in Chinatown." 

"Yes," I said, "I am aware of that. Have you read her novel Swamp Angel?"

"No," she replied, "But I read an essay about her in a book of Vancouver photographs."

"Fred Herzog's photographs?"

"Yes."

"You're aware that Fred Herzog was once accused of racism?"

"There is nothing racist about his photos," she said defiantly.

"Did you enjoy the essay?"

"Yes, it was informative; I learned something."

"Thank you," I said, and returned to Wilson's Traveller.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Vancouver Secrets (1983)


I have a penchant for antique guidebooks. Specifically those focused on the Lower Mainland of B.C., where I was born and raised.

The business of guidebooks has been all but taken over by phone apps, though occasionally we see locally-produced books designed for those who live in a city they think they know, and want to know more of. Guy's Guide to the Flipside (self-published, 1990; republished, Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992) was one such book -- a book that had less to do with new discoveries than testing the metal of its reader/adventurer.

Some of the places (situations?) Bennett describes are dangerous; what makes them irresistible is the manner in which they are written. I forget the place Bennett was referring to, but the last line ended with this: "... where everything you value is meaningless." I took inspiration from this clause when devising a motto for the Malcolm Lowry Room (1993-1997): "Sometimes you want to go where nobody knows your name."

A recent discovery is Anne Petrie's Vancouver Secrets (Toronto: Key Porter, 1983). What attracted me to Petrie's book was the date of its publication: the year I turned 21 and, by that time, had explored some of the city's deeper recesses. Not that I expected to find them in Secrets, only that I was old enough by then to have experienced things which are no longer there -- restaurants like Gladys's on 4th Avenue (just west of Arbutus), or the Avenue Grill in Kerrisdale (also a block west of Arbutus, at 41st).

Yet some places endure. Consider this opening to the WESTERN FRONT LODGE entry in the "Stepping Out" chapter: "For many years the Western Front was on the cutting edge of Dadaism, but the days of Dr. Brute the Leopard Skin Man and one-time mayoralty candidate Mr. Peanut seem to be gone." Or this impolitic suggestion from "Urban Outings", entitled NORTH VANCOUVER INDIAN CEMETERY: "Obviously not a picnic spot, this is rather a quiet spot you'll come to treasure." Some places provide incorrect information. In QUILCHENA PARK TO RAVINE PARK, you could never "reach Ravine Park" and have "a panoramic view of the city." As for SMALL CLAIMS COURT, "You won't get murders or big libel cases ... but small dramas of everyday domestic life are just as compelling." From there Petrie provides this (parenthetic) quote: "I didn't paint your car because you wouldn't marry my sister who doesn't like green anyway."

Curious to see if the author herself is still around, I googled "Anne Petrie writer" and found her to be living on Vancouver Island, where she is focused on studio practice. Below is a recent work, entitled How to Live Now (n.d.):

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Equinox Garden


Since its opening in the 1970s, Equinox Gallery has operated in the West End (Robson Street), South Granville, the False Creek Flats and now East Vancouver, where it can be found at the southeast corner of East 20th and Commercial Street. As far as I know, Commercial Street is the first Equinox location to include garden space: a corner concrete planter (part of the original 1950s? building design) and two narrow strips that run along the north and west sides of the building, with the west side featuring a recessed bed.

When it came time to clean up the garden space, I offered to help with the design, and Sophie was agreeable. A few weeks ago we toured the exterior of the building and decided which of the shrubs would stay or go, and what, if anything, might work as replacements. A practical design, nothing flashy or exotic, more subtraction than addition. For the northwest corner sentry position we chose at camellia, with a run of heathers moving south. The recessed bed would have ferns tucked into its sun restricted southeast corner. We had planned a run of Spanish (French) lavender at the south end of the western strip, but that is now Phase Two.

Here is the intersection of East 20th and Commercial Street looking north down Commercial in 1913 (Equinox is outside the frame to the right, on the south side of 20th; the Bank of Hamilton is now the Commercial Street Cafe):


 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Extremes Meet


My reading of James's Washington Square (1880) continues between garden waterings. Lots of wit and wisdom in this novel, set in the 1840s, within a lifetime since the United States revolted from British rule.

The narration of Washington Square is tick-like, as if embedded in its characters. It would be a much shorter lifetime before F. Scott Fitzgerald gave us Nick Carraway to describe the hand-me-down glamour of Jay and Daisy.

The Great Gatsby (1925) is a novel about the three Vs: vanity, voyeurism and vicarity.  I am not yet sure what Washington Square is about, though I am hoping Catherine's still waters continue to run deeper as the novel progresses.

I am half-way through Washington Square and have made a number of notes in its margins. A recent note concerns the ongoing negotiation between Catherine and her father, Dr. Sloper, over Catherine's suitor, Morris Townsend. The following passage is not narratively interesting, though it contains an observation that speaks to our times:

"'You told me that if I should have anything more to say about Mr. Townsend you would be glad to listen to it.'

'Exactly, my dear,' said the Doctor, not turning around, but stopping his pen.

Catherine wished that it would go on, but she herself continued. 'I thought I would tell you that I have not seen him again, but that I should like to do so.'

'To bid him good-bye?' asked the Doctor.

The girl hesitated a moment. 'He is not going away.'

The Doctor wheeled slowly round in his chair, with a smile that seemed to accuse her of an epigram; but extremes meet, and Catherine had not intended one."

It is true -- extremes meet. Never in the way we expect -- as in political orientation, with its moribund Left-Right dichotomy -- but certainly in tone and attitude. Catherine and her father are different from each other, yet both are bound by faith and reason, qualities that were, in mid-19th century America, wound tight.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

"so much depends/ upon// a red ..."


For years I walked by this faded red fence, never thinking anything of it, until this spring, when suddenly it became the ideal audience for these gorgeous tulips.


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Lost Indentation


Recently I was asked by an online journal for a poem in honour of National Poetry Month. The poem I offered was subsequently published incorrectly (the fourth line was not indented) and efforts to correct it have proven unsuccessful.  

Everything moves so fast these days; no one has time to fix that which is considered finished. You would think of all the things worth returning to, a poem would be up there. But no, it seems we are always on to the next thing. Oh well. These are the times.

Here is the poem as I would like it to be considered:


We Can Have Both, But Not All
for Ashok Mathur


let's begin with what we have

we have each other

say it

each other

no, all of it

            we have each other

we have each other

all together now

            all together now we have each other

Friday, April 16, 2021

Great Courses


A few months ago a friend subscribed me to the Walrus, Toronto's answer to the Atlantic Monthly. With a subscription to the Walrus, not only do you get the magazine, you get mailings from whoever it shares your address with -- a most recent example being the Great Courses catalogue.

That the Great Courses catalogue arrived within days of Laurentian University's insolvency declaration is a chilling coincidence, one I hope is not indicative of a shift in the way post-secondary education is delivered -- a shift helped along by Covid's normalization of online courses. Most galling to the cultural nationalist who the Walrus counts on as its subscriber base (not to mention those branches of government who provide the magazine with public funding) is that the courses offered in Great Courses are all from U.S. universities.

If the Walrus is, as it bills itself, "Canada's Conversation," why won't it discuss with its subscribers who it sells our info to?  



Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Plausible Coxcomb

 

I forget when, but it was many years ago that I thought I should read some Henry James (1843-1916). So I started into The Golden Bowl (1904), and god if that book didn't want me around! Maybe when I'm older? I think I was in high school when I tried this, thought this.

Tanglewood was all out of Golden Bowls when I was in there last time, so I purchased James's Washington Square (1880) and am enjoying both its story and its prose. The States were a lighter place in those days -- if you had money. That hasn't changed, though one gets the sense that the potential for change has never been greater. 

In Washington Square, a widower's only child, Catherine, is now 22 and has attracted the interest of Morris Townsend, an older cousin of the man who is engaged to one of Catherine's seven female cousins. Morris has returned to his hometown (NYC) after years abroad, to settle down, but Catherine's father,  Dr. Sloper, believes his daughter to be too unattractive ("ugly," "diffident") to attract someone as dashing as Townsend, and that he is only after his money.

Here is Dr. Sloper's first spoken assessment of Townsend, as conveyed to his more "sensible" sister, Mrs. Almond:

"He is not what I call a gentleman. He has not the soul of one. He is extremely insinuating; but it's a vulgar nature. I saw through it in a minute. He is altogether too familiar -- I hate familiarity. He is a plausible coxcomb." (54)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Pen and Paper


A couple days ago, while in the garden on the first of our progressively warmer spring days, I finished reading Dick Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979). What a great book to re-visit, particularly now that we have some distance from the British postwar period it attempts to unravel -- the late-1970s, when certain dialecticians and semioticians began to cohabitate. Highlights include Chapter Eight --"Style as homology," "Style as signifying practice" -- with insights by Piccone, Lefebvre, Kristeva, Barthes and Genet.

After a delicious cheese plate of Footnotes and Bibliography I noticed on the last page (interior back cover) a hurricane, what looks like someone trying to get a pen started after years of inactivity. I found the first faint lines where the hurricane began, then its concluding eye. Was it my hand that did this? It could have been, though it doesn't look like it. Not sure I would have used a book this way, even in those days. A second-hand book, I think, purchased in Victoria, where I did my undergrad (1981-1986).

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

April is Poetry Month!


"And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is one guy who is always the guy fitting the description." (105) 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Call-Outs


Tamsin tells the story of a friend who was having a problem with her toilet. She tried everything before giving up and calling a plumber.

The plumber arrived, turned a screw a quarter-turn and viola -- problem solved. The plumber looked at his watch and said, "You have 57 minutes left on the minimum one hour call-out. Is there anything else I can do?"

What followed were a series of tasks based on an equal number of plumbing problems that conspired to make Tamsin's friend's life less than it could be. The plumber fixed all of them, not in one hour but in two. 

"Where did the time go!" said Tamsin's friend after the plumber once again looked at his watch.

"Into my wallet," he deadpanned, before busting out in laughter.

They agreed to split the difference, but when the plumber wrote out the invoice, it showed only one hour, not two. "For the coffee," he smiled. "And the conversation."

Before labour unions (and indeed after them), when workers were at the beck and call of their employers, a worker could be called-out in the middle of the night for a three minute repair job and be paid only for those minutes. One of the great achievements of a labour union is that workers who show up for work can expect to be paid not only an hourly minimum, but a daily minimum.

When I was a cannery worker on the Skeena River,  the United Fisherman and Allied Workers Union saw to it that my work day amounted to a minimum of four hours pay, regardless of whether I worked three minutes or 240 minutes. The same applied to those middle of the night knocks on the bunkhouse door when someone had to take those twenty +30 red springs off the deck of a southbound packer.

Yesterday, while chancing on 221A's website, I noticed a job posting for an On Call/Part Time Technician. The position offers an above-minimum hourly living wage ($25-$32) and a retainer based on a minimum 30-60 hours a month work. What isn't clear in this posting is how call-outs are dealt with. For example, if, in the fourth week, after the technician has surpassed the monthly minimum 60 hours and indeed the 15 hours of that week (as covered by the retainer), the technician is called in for a one hour repair job, is the technician paid only for that hour, or is there, like there is with Tamsin's friend's plummer, a minimum call-out charge? 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Cold Callers


A few days ago I decided it was time to read Dick Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979) from cover to cover. Prior readings were based on whatever I was looking for in the Index -- usually that most misunderstood of postwar formations: "skinheads". I took the book from the shelf, collected my pot of tea and made my way to the porch. 

"Hello!"

"Hello!" I said looking up from my book. A young, uncomfortably well-dressed couple on the sidewalk.

"Whatcha reading?" asked the fellow in the almost-too-big blazer.

"I'm reading Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige."

"Subcultures, as in gangs and such?"

"Some might not be happy with the characterization, but yes. And such."

The couple introduced themselves as realtors, with "family in the neighbourhood." Because it was a nice day, they decided to walk to her parents. Because I agreed with them about the weather, I decided not to ask if they always introduced themselves by their professions when on family outings. Nor was I tempted to ask who their family is. None of my business, right?

"You have such a nice house!" the woman said, turning the ankle of her high-heeled right foot inwards, a gesture I associate with deference.

"A lot of sadness in this house," I said forlornly.

"Oh, but a lot of happiness too, I'm sure!" the woman beamed.

"It might have been happy when the skinheads lived here, back in the eighties," I said. At which point the fellow glanced at the woman with a let's-get-out-of-here look.

"What was the name of that book again?" asked the woman, trailing after him.

"I Love Dick by Chris Kraus."

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Back Garden


So many small jobs in the garden today. A little of everything. No list, just walking around noticing things. A self-seeded fern so small it needed potting. A pot that needed moving. A new pot to put in its place. The pot with the fern in it.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Canadian Art

Yesterday the Board of Directors of Canadian Art magazine issued a statement saying that they will postpone its summer issue, pause its online postings and temporarily layoff 12 staff members (for up to three months). There is more, of course, concerning the effort board and staff have made to work through issues facing the magazine and the world in general, but also less, for there is no mention of Editor-in-Chief Jayne Wilkinson's departure, as her name is no longer on the masthead.

I don't know Jayne very well, but I am acquainted with her and have happily worked with her as a contributor to the magazine. Although I no longer contribute to the magazine with the regularly that I once did, I have kept up with both its content and its controversies, and I have to say that, despite it all, I have often wondered how Jayne kept her head. I would think that someone who has worked as hard and as honestly as Jayne has to keep this magazine going deserves a proper farewell.

Canadian Art is the country's leading visual arts magazine. It boasts a print readership of 94, 568 people and an online readership of 157, 562, according to a 2019 Donor Impact Report. Can Canada do without a national visual arts magazine? One could look elsewhere. Do the visual arts in Canada need one? Same.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Months and Weeks


April is National Poetry Month. April 1-7 is Testicular Cancer Awareness Week. As a testicular cancer survivor and reader of poetry, here are three fairly recent poetry reviews I contributed to the Ormsby Review -- On Forgetting a Language (Baseline, 2019) by Isabella Wang, Render (Arsenal Pulp, 2020) by Sachiko Murakami and The Shadow List  (Wolsak & Wynn/Buckrider, 2021) by Jen Sookfong Lee.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Cats

 

In the backyard yesterday, digesting the vaccine, when who should slink past but a long lost friend -- the black-and-white cat who lives down the street. I had some salmon in the fridge for her. A bigger appetite, a bigger cat. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Houses

Exfoliated face of a house off Fraser Street.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Kites


I never see kites getting caught in trees anymore. The danger, the capture, then the flier giving up, taking one last look before saying goodbye.

All I have now are my memories.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Resting Sleep Face


Sleeping, resting, passed-out are all descriptors we apply to images or pictures of people with their eyes closed. Some might even say exacerbated, given the public's growing discomfort with anything ambiguous. That too is tiresome.

One self-described member of the public told me that "instead of funding billboards of passed-out people, the money should be spent on housing them."

"Would you support a public housing project along the corridor where these billboards are placed?" I asked, knowing this person lived on the west side.

I was told I was "being difficult."

"Seems the difficulty," I said, "is in your inability to respond to the question. It doesn't have to be yes or no; you're entitled to your conditions."

"Look, I'm lawyer," the person said. "If you want an argument, I'll crush you."

"Coincidence," I said, "the head of the festival that commissioned these billboards is a lawyer, too. She has a nice quote in response to the billboard company's removal of the signs. She said, "Steven [Shearer]'s project has done exactly what it intended, which is to start conversations about the divide between public and private space."

"Well, we're not having one," said the lawyer, backing away from me like I was some kind of animal.

photo: Dennis Ha

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Pact


I saw the story yesterday. A group of songwriters calling themselves The Pact are refusing to allow singers to receive as much as 30% of their writing credits when a singer has had no "meaningful" involvement in the writing of a song. This is not a new phenomenon. 

Apart from the song "amalgamations" of A. P. Carter, Colonel Tom Parker would insist that certain songs offered to his client Elvis Presley carry his name on the writing credits, while producers like Phil Spector hustled credits out of lesser known writers and musicians for prepositional changes to songs he had arranged and recorded. What is new is that there are less royalty monies available to musicians now that the era of ubiquitous radio play is dead; that digital downloads amount to little more than a tenth-of-a-penny for their Authors and Composers; and that touring during a global pandemic has been declared unsafe, if not illegal.

What is new is not to be confused with what has changed, and it is here that the list is longer, more complicated. One of the biggest changes concerns the way we have come to think about creation: not as a singular endeavour, but as a collaborative or relational activity. Not necessarily a bad thing. But when inclusion is manipulated by those seeking more of the pie than they already have, you have a problem.

Does a singer deserve a writing credit because their spectacular presence is such that the song they record would be nothing without their ability to take it beyond the kitchen table where it was written? Is melisma an essential part of a song's melody, or an example of its interpretation? This, like everything else right now, is a cultural issue. And no, The Pact is not all white guys.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Annuals


A leisurely drive to Jenny's yesterday to round up the usual suspects -- begonia, lobelia, fuchsia -- and whatever else caught my eye. This year's catch includes a pomelo, which I can't imagine producing fruit in our climate, though maybe a nice flower? Also, some petunias and pansies. Check out this one (above). Ever seen a pansy so miserable? I am thinking of getting it a Twitter account.