Saturday, July 31, 2021

Morning Deck #2 (1980)

Not long ago Equinox Gallery received a work by Jack Shadbolt called Morning Deck #2 (1980). Comprised of seven 60"x 40" acrylic on watercolour board panels, the work is an approximation of Doris and Jack Shadbolt's seven-windowed living room view from their Hornby Island house. I have stood inside this living room, and I have seen some of the painted assemblages on the deck's railing, but I have never seen nor knew of this work, until Wednesday.

Friday, July 30, 2021

"It's not because there's a camera"

"It's not because there's a camera," he says to the camera, among other things. But to account for this "not", and despite my extensive notes, I have to watch the scene again to get what he intends, his reason for doing something in front of this camera, absorbed by its film roll, played back to his film-going self by a projector in a darkened room.

He talks about Brecht, so maybe the reminder that the camera that records the (non-traditional theatrical action) is not towards a device that will bring about a gooey emotional response, but a jagged self-reflexive consideration of our RL world, a dialectical response, as if it is a critical essay we are reading, not a bourgeoise sentimental entertainment. 

Truth is I am watching the film towards the making of something whose emergent form has reminded me of the structure of Godard's La Chinoise (1967). It has been years since I have seen the film and I am watching it at a rate of five minutes for every one minute of film time, my finger on the pause button.

Thursday, July 29, 2021


You won't see them unless you know they're there, and even then.

This one in mid-sentence.

And as the day wore on ...

This one feeding.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Prometheus Sunbound

We know its winter equivalent. But in summer? Is it possible to say we're sunbound?

In Ray Bradbury's "The Long Rain"(1950) a group of crashed astronauts make their way through the rainy jungles of Venus in search of a Sun Dome, which the indigenous Venusians keep destroying. One by one the crew goes mad. When the last of them reaches a Dome, we're not sure if its real or a hallucination.

Most everything Bradbury writes asks if what we are experiencing is real or, if not a hallucination, a construct. A heatwave is no different. The sun plays tricks on us, and the oasis we see is its opposite -- not water but a mirage.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Childhood, Youth, Dependency (1967, 1971)

Pulp Fiction Books on Main Street has a very small shelf across from the cash register for STAFF PICKS. I always glance at it when I'm in the store, sometimes opening a book and reading a little. What drew me to Tove Ditlevsen's Childhood, Youth, Dependency (1967, for the first two books; 1971 for the third) was the blandness of its title, how it reminded me of another Northern European title, Halldór Laxness's Independent People (1934/35), which I enjoyed.

Childhood, Youth, Dependency is exactly what it says it is, and readers can expect to hear the first person account of an author who grew up working class in Copenhagen in the 1920s and 30s. Tove is drawn to  reading and writing poetry and is observant of the world around her; she is also a hard worker who is often put in situations where she has to find her way through trial and error, and their are errors, some of them funny, all of them bittersweet. 

Reading Ditlevsen's "Childhood" section at the same time as Brigid Brophy's contrasting review of Jean-Paul Sartre's "autobiography up to the age of ten", aka Les Mots (1963), makes its own jokes.

Here's a passage from Brophy's essay "Genet and Sartre", first published in London Magazine (1964):

"The difficulty was that a child has no positive personality to impose. The only response the child could make to his grandfather's infatuation was to play the part of the child. He also played the beauty, at least till his curls were cut off. (Even the grandfather, Sartre sardonically reports, was disconcerted by having taken a 'little wonder' to the barber's and bringing home 'a toad'.) He played the infant prodigy -- and there is a passage of lovely buffoonery in which he is briefly sent to school and withdrawn because the teachers fail to see his prodigiousness." (from Reads, 1989, pp. 54-55)

Now here's a clip of Greg, who has a lotta "positive personality to impose," and to which Larry rewards accordingly -- with typically disastrous results!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Requiem for the Future (after Warhol)

In the past, everyone was an expert after a 15 minute Google search.

Sunday, July 25, 2021


The "heat dome" of a few weeks back cooked my raspberries, but some have returned. Yesterday I found how a ripe one fell onto a bleached-out leaf and left its painting.

Leaves, like the one on Canada's current flag, are usually represented stem-end down. But this painting looks better stem-end up.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Jonathan Wells

Jonathan Wells is a performance artist I know and whom I associate with two other artists I met back in the mid-1990s: Brian Jungen and Geoffrey Farmer. For a time these three were inseparable, with Jonathan the most ribald; but over time Brian and Geoffrey left Vancouver, and Jonathan stayed.

Yesterday while touring an old friend through Vancouver galleries we stopped by Justin Ramsey's Interior Infinite exhibition at The Polygon, where Jonathan works part-time at the gallery bookstore. After introducing the two, Jonathan leapt from his chair, grabbed a catalogue from the shelf and flipped it to a page he had memorized."This," he said pointing to a picture of himself, "is what I looked like when I was young, lithe and beautiful." 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Reads (1989)

Brigid Brophy is a name that bubbles up now and then from that great tar pit known as postwar British Lit. But apart from her memorable 1966 "Introduction" to the re-issue -- and re-appreciaton -- of Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945), I'd read nothing of her. And then, as chance happens, I am in the "New Arrivals" section of Tanglewood Books the other day, and there she blows: a 1989 collection of Brophy essays (and rather baroque sentences) called Reads, covering some of my favourite writers (Simenon, Colette, Genet) as well as those I'd never heard of (Firbank), but am eager to read.

Brophy, it seems, has opinions on everything -- not just on writers and books, but on cities (Lisbon) and countrysides ("The Menace of Nature"). 

From the latter:

"Rustic sentimentality makes us build our suburban villas to mimic cottages, and then pebble-dash their outside walls in pious memory of the holiday we spent sitting agonized on the shingle. The lovely terraced façades of London are being undermined, as by subsidence, by our yearning, our sickly nostalgia, for a communal country childhood that never existed." (7)

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Divorce Negotiations

JACK: I want the art supplies I gave you on your fortieth birthday and any subsequent art projects you made with them.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)

Earlier today I phoned Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of the New York Times. I told him about the paywall around the Shirley Jackson article, that we didn't like it, and he said he would get back to me. An hour later he phoned with a solution: that you and I get subscriptions. I told him his solution was a cop-out, that I was hurt by its insensitivity, and he suggested I lawyer up. I told him I didn't appreciate his tone and he apologized, said the next time either of us are in Manhattan to come by 620 Eighth Avenue for a tour of the paper's submissions library. I told him we would do better than that and write a story about why some NYT articles are paywalled and others are coded messages intended for a terrorist organization known as Merricat. He concluded the conversation by saying he would do what he could about those subscriptions.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

New Directions in Contemporary Art

It had been six months since I last visited the Vancouver Art Galley, but I was there a couple weeks ago and saw the collection show and the Second Vancouver Special Triennial, now five years removed from its founding.

Like its first iteration, the VAG is once more the adult in the room when it comes to curation. Former VAG Chief Curator Daina Auguitus represented the gallery for the First Vancouver Special Triennial, when it teamed up with 221A's Head of Strategy Jessie McKee; this time it was the VAG's soon-to-retire Grant Arnold who was charged with saying yes, no or maybe to four relatively inexperienced curators pulled tight to cover all corners of our current moment.

A couple of nice inclusions (Charles Campbell's free-standing tree had great presence and energy, perhaps more so without the dimly-lit, yet gorgeously coloured, drawings surrounding it), but overall an exhibition that suffered from the VAG's usual tendency to deck the halls with too much artwork, a diffident gesture that some see as the gallery's only "argument" for a new and larger building.

And what of this new building? Is it even worth talking about anymore? Remember: this will not be the "purpose-built, stand alone, iconic building" former director Kathleen Bartels held out for but space in a mall known as the Chan Centre for the Visual Arts. Last I heard the CCVA would be built to budget, and that the gallery was awaiting $100 million from the federal government. In the meantime, curatorial salaries have been cut by 20-40%. No amount of subtraction will ever be enough to move the gallery to its new location, but the VAG must be seen to be trying.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Two Galleries

On Saturday I drove west to Kitsilano for Anne Low's noon-7pm opening at Unit 17. I arrived early (1pm), not expecting to see anyone apart from the gallerist, Tobin, whom I caught up with.

Anne's two previous Vancouver exhibitions (Artspeak, then the CAG) began first with an installation that amounted to a witchy story (events/objects supplied by the artist, narrative determined by the viewer), then a more formal, if not grander treatment of events/objects. The Unit 17 show is more spare than twee, with Anne taking pure or abstract forms and adding to them decorative elements made of incongruous materials (wooden tassels, for example). As with Liz Magor's work, the aesthetic (pleasure) level is high enough to satisfy. And that is how I left the gallery -- satisfied.

From there to Ceremonial|Art on West Broadway, where Sarah was in the midst of installing work by Chief Henry Speck, Cole Speck, Pat McGuire and Corey Bulpitt, who was in the gallery as well. It was a pleasure meeting Corey, whose carved work I admire. Sarah pointed out a Pat McGuire piece I hadn't seen before and I knelt down to spend some time with it. Not a canoe on the water but the reflection (deflection? infection? intervention?) of its painted surface. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021


I've always admired the Marquis of Queensbury's Mid-Winter "Sienna" pattern. Simple yet active. Lines like forest trees, colours like the sun (and what it brings out). Not to mention those spaces, or spacings.

I found this "Sienna" bowl for a dollar last week and thought it might look nice with olives in it. Summer olives in a mid-winter setting, trudging through the snow.  

Saturday, July 17, 2021


The butterfly bush was a gift from Bowen's April many years ago after attending a writing event there. Barely a foot-tall at the time, the bush has since grown to 12-feet and, like the "big tree" in P.D. Eastman's Go, Dog, Go! (1961), is alive with activity. Not dogs, but bees, humming birds and with the recent re-filling of my bird feeder: chickadees and finches. 

When the sun gets too hot to sit in the wicker chair, I scoot over to the lounger under the butterfly's boughs, which I trained to form a shademaker. Something I did not foresee when re-filling the feeder is how messy birds get, tossing out five seeds for every one they take with them. At first I thought these seeds would germinate and take root in the wildflower patch below, but, as pointed out to me by my neighbour Deenie, they will only encourage the pack rat.

Friday, July 16, 2021

5751 Yew Street

Felt the call of Kerrisdale yesterday, so I added it to my list. The Image Bank show at the Belkin, first, then to Southland's for some marigolds and impatiens, then to Kerrisdale, where I parked at Larch and walked up to the Salvation Army store at Maple.

While walking back I detoured south off 41st down the east-west lane between Yew and Vine. I wanted to see the first floor kitchen window from which, in grades Eleven and Twelve, Kouie and I glanced out of while deciding which two of our six cards we would toss into the crib.

And there it was, looking nothing like the blonde floors and turquoise countertops inside.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Southern Steps

Just before breaking for the 7 a.m. news, CBC host Stephen Quinn gave listeners a preview of what to expect "when we come back" -- namely, "a new installation at the Vancouver Art Gallery."

As it turns out, Quinn was not referring to any of the VAG's current curated exhibitions but the momento mori on the gallery's south steps placed their by those who attended residential schools like the Kamloops Indian Residential School, their children and their children's children. 

This installation was described as "semi-permanent." One has to wonder what that means. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

"Dead" Stump in the Middle of the Fence

D. and R. live on a south facing slope on the North Shore. Their property is larger than a standard city lot and is bordered by large cedars that give the backyard its cathedral feel. Although I did not speak with them about this, it occurred to me that the fence they erected on the yard's east side is rich with encouragements -- in one instance, a dead cedar stump that is in fact a life giving force, a ground for berries, bugs and bird life. D. and R. could have removed it -- extracted it -- but that's murder, and they're not like that. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Euro Cup Coverage

I was scrolling down the Vancouver Sun's menu yesterday looking for coverage of the Euro Cup and the racism of its English fans, some of whom blame England's missed penalty kicks on its Black players. The first thing I found was the Anglo-centrism of the Vancouver Sun (see above) and who it thinks lives in Vancouver.

Monday, July 12, 2021


Any arbutus growing in Vancouver is not an "accident" of Nature but a willful effort on the part of its planter. This tree (technically a vine) is difficult to establish, owing to a root system that shuts down when exposed to too much water. Hence the prevalence of arbutuses growing out of rock crevices. For those trying to establish an arbutus, a downward slope is essential.

I watched the former resident at the NE corner of East 18th Avenue and Clark Drive make two attempts at establishing what is now a mature arbutus. When the resident left and the house was slated for demo, I worried it might suffer the same fate as an arbutus across the street, when it was cut down seven years ago to make way for profit. Thankfully the City was watching over this particular arbutus, not to mention a builder who, at some expense, did everything possible to ensure that this tree would survive.

Sunday, July 11, 2021


I am seeing more garage door murals on my neighbourhood walks. The one above can be found in the west lane of the 2700 block of Woodland Drive. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Bee Reaved (October, 2021)

A couple weeks ago Semiotext(e) sent me an advance copy of Dodie Bellamy's Bee Reaved (October 2021), a collection of recent essays classified under Literature and Criticism. I had read the first essay,"Hoarding as Écriture" (2018), but the second one, "The Violence of the Image", was new to me.

Here's the last section of a very long paragraph from "The Violence of the Image":

"The madness of social media, it too walks within me. I operate in the dangerous and contradictory realm of the in-between. Neither goddess nor heroine, I am an old white feminist, a shrivelled hag envious of my stalker's fertility and youthful beauty. My hair is course and unkempt; my long hanging dugs bounce about like phalluses. I befoul Poetry with my personal essays, which are riddled with superstition, deceit, defective intelligence, lust, and debauchery. I am simultaneously horrific and ridiculous. My politics are so odious I've made pacts wth rapists. Though he's taken the form of a goat, I kiss the abuser's backside; I apologize for him." (34)

Friday, July 9, 2021

Castle Keep (1969)

Sydney Pollack's adaptation of William Eastlake's anti-pro-war/pro-anti-war 1965 novel. Readers familiar with the source text will note the liberal use of Eastlake's sometimes absurd, always insightful exchanges, delivered with a casual brevity that distinguishes Pollack's film from, say, Mike Nichol's long-winded uptight-laidback 1970 adaptation of Joseph Heller's thoroughly anti-war novel Catch-22 (1961).

The grab up top (alas, from the "full-screen" version I found at the newly-reorganized S.P.C.A Thrift Store) is from the scene where U.S. Major Falconer orders his men to cut down the castle's trees in an effort to slow the advancing German army. U.S. Captain Beckman, an art historian in civilian life, tries to convince Falconer that defending the castle is pointless, and will only result in the destruction of it and its priceless art collection. But Falconer, a progressive modern, is having none of it.

CAPTAIN BECKMAN: Europe is dying.

MAJOR FALCONER: Europe is dead. That's why we're here.

Thursday, July 8, 2021


Mary Simon is this country's latest representative of the Canadian monarch. She is of Inuk ancestry (mother's side), and the first Indigenous person to hold the post. From what we are told of her past accomplishments, Simon appears qualified. Except she doesn't know French. According to a Government of Canada press release, Simon “was denied the chance to learn French during [her] time in federal government day schools.” 

Such a strange way of saying Simon doesn't know French. Did the Kuujjuaq Federal Day School offer a French class, but wouldn't let her take it? More likely the school didn't offer French when Simon was there in the 1950s. Yet if that's the case, how does denial enter into it? We, the Canadian federal government, deny you your request to enrol in a course that is not on offer?

I'd call Kafka if it didn't sound like this country's two charter members (Britain and France) were so frightened of losing everything over their historic treatment of Indigenous Peoples that they overlooked that which for years they insisted upon, fought over. All English Canada had to do was take the blame -- admit, in effect, that it has had its way with French Canada too. Bon cop, bad cop. On le voit dans les policers tout le temps.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021


I admire the way people use mirrors in their gardens. Recently I saw a $5 wrought iron curlicue framed mirror at A-A Furniture & Appliances and purchased it for that purpose. I now have it in my shade garden, where, from my door-length window, it holds the reflection of the woodpile across from it. If that reflection were a picture, well, there you have it: Frog Crawling Out of a Midden.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

"Days of Reading I"

Outside my immediate family, the relatives I was closest to were my great-aunts (my mother's mother's sisters). Of the four, I was closest to the two in Vancouver, both of whom lived alone, one a widow, the other a spinster. Because my mother hosted more than her share of family dinners, I saw a lot of my great-aunts at Xmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Neither were particularly interesting (to me), but when together, oh how they bickered!

Here is Proust on his great-aunt:

"My great-aunt did more than sample the dishes so as to give her opinion with a quietness which would tolerate but not admit contradiction.  Over a novel, or a poem, things she was an expert in, she always differed, with a woman's humility, to the opinion of those more competent. She believed that to be the fluctuating domain of caprice in which the preference of the individual is unable to establish the truth." (52)

Monday, July 5, 2021

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

"Give up your inquiries which are completely useless, and consider these words a second warning.

We hope, for your own good, that this will be sufficient."

Sunday, July 4, 2021


I have had good luck with the Asplenium scolopendrium, but never before have I noticed its French horn-shaped fiddlehead.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Guidebook to Vancouver Island (1973)

I saw this on the discount shelf outside of Carson Books yesterday. Kinda stopped me in my tracks, as book covers sometimes do. Such a simple design. The spine is even tighter.

Checked out the Table of Contents and noticed mention of off-Island locations. Alert Bay (on Cormorant Island) had a page to itself.

The year this guidebook was published is the same year Claude Levi-Strauss visited Alert Bay, where he spoke with Ron Martin, a Nuu-Chah-Nulth carver, on the topic of D'sonoqua. 

Yes, but the eyes, Levi-Strauss kept saying of D'Sonoqua. Are they really so pronounced? 

Friday, July 2, 2021

The Colour Orange

The King (Omar Sharif) and Queen (Sophia Loren) of Armenia, from Anthony Mann's lavish yet lifeless The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).

Thursday, July 1, 2021

"It's comin' down the f*ckin' hill bad!"

I was settling into my comfy chair last night for an episode of CBC's "Ideas" when this regularly scheduled program was interrupted by "live" coverage of fire in the lower Fraser Canyon. Apparently Lytton, a city that had, over the three days prior, broken our country's heat record, was in flames. (The cause of the fire was unknown, but reports this morning said it likely started from a rail spark and was brought to town by rising winds.)

CBC Vancouver's afternoon drive show host Gloria Macarenko did well to keep listeners informed as to what was happening, juggling a range of callers who don't normally phone in to radio shows, but did so in this instance as a public service, aware that listeners might be driving into areas of no return. Randy from 100 Mile provided a nice mix of information and humanity, while others fell prey to the CBC's tendency to mine emotions, as if getting a guest to cry is a journalistic achievement.

Curious to know more about the actual dimensions of the fire, I went online and found a great vid (above) of some Lytton aunties racing for their car and tearing out of the parking, cursing.