Monday, February 28, 2022

"[A] force connecting those divided by distance"

Today is the last day of Black History month and I can't let it pass without asking why a beloved actor who once played Nelson Mandela signed-on with a dictatorship to promote its state airline?

The ad, which debuted two weeks ago during the Super Bowl and now has over 24 million views, has the actor sitting in a First Class aisle seat, a glass of water to the right of him, while he looks out a widow at the world below. Seconds before that, a piano key is struck (middle-A), then a drum beat, before French horns bubble, strings are bowed, etc.

Still looking out the window, the actor begins:

Three million years ago, there was no Africa, Asia, Americas or Europe.

Just one, big supercontinent ... [looking at the camera] Pangea.

And today there is still a force connecting those divided by distance, reversing millions of years of rifting.

Making far feel close.

Bringing there to here.

Turkish Airlines. 

What is being communicated in this 46-word corporate poem, apart from encouraging air travel? That we need to get back to those good ol' pre-historic times, when places were not so much nameless but one place, a supercontinent from the late-Paleozoic?

Or if not a geological period, then its analogue: a single world government (neo-liberal? totalitarian?) enabling a single mode of production (late-capitalist? feudal? kleptocratic?), while the planet floods when it isn't on fire?

Just what is this "force connecting those divided by distance"? It can't be Turkish Airlines.  

Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Change in the Weather 2

And just like that, the weather changes back.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Milk (2008)

Gus Van Sant's Milk (2008) tells the story of the adult life -- a life that began at 40 -- of Harvey Milk (1930-1978), a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

Milk and then-Mayor Moscone's assassinations at City Hall by disgruntled ex-Supervisor Dan White (who had resigned, then, at the urging of the SF Police Commission, sought to have that resignation overturned, but was refused by Moscone at Milk's urging) was big news when I was sixteen. But White's conviction on the lesser charge of manslaughter (the jury accepted White's defence: that he was driven to murder based on a diet of junk food) was just as big.

Van Sant's presentation of Milk (played by Sean Penn) shows a man who was passionate about his beliefs, occasionally to the point of irritation. A consequence of public service is a big ego, and Milk knew this, as did those who knew and loved him.

A highlight of the film is the inclusion of historical footage, as well as materials from Milk's campaigns, like the handbills he and his aides handed out. Back then, social critics used different terms to critique institutions like the Police, taking a more literary approach ("revise"). Nowadays we begin -- and end -- with the money ("defund"). 

On that topic, the City of Vancouver approved its 2022 budget in December, 2021. The total is $1.747 billion, of which $367 million goes to the Vancouver Police Department.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Protest Movements

Hard to focus yesterday morning. I knew where I should be, and I wasn't focused until I arrived there. I want to say outside the VAG, but its vast and empty northern plaza (Provincial property) was cordoned off so we stood on the sidewalk (City property), present for those who drove past, flags waving, circling what is in effect a very large block, or for those in the media who, after pointing their cameras at us, did quick head counts before racing back to their vehicles, to cover their next assignment. 

Spontaneous gatherings, regardless of the issue, have a way of attracting those who feel comfortable in that which is uncertain of its edges. A woman (white) threw a glass bottle at a man (Black) from the protest side of the cordon, then disappeared back into the crowd. A man (Asian) made a gun shape with his hand and bang bang noises with his mouth in the direction of the man who had the bottle thrown at him. The police sauntered up and, without investigating, explained to concerned parties that everything that just happened was the result of a "mental health issue." When told they had just made a case for their defunding, a most withering look from the cop who had been doing the talking. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

A Change in the Weather

And to think I lay there last night with all this going on, sleeping as the snow fell, or started to fall, its first flakes ... the first of what fell onto the Ukraine from Russia, from boots on the ground to missiles striking Kiev, where all of Christian Russia is said to have come from, something Christian Putin may have mentioned in his longer-than-the-West-is-accustomed-to televised address, his justification for invasion ... the snow God lets fall, for whatever reason, to slow something down, change the conditions to keep something worse from happening, something more traumatic than having to shovel it, we'll never know -- because it didn't happen ... and last night's snow, it sticking, how we would watch for that as kids, what stuck snow allows for, from weapons systems (snowballs) to public sculpture (snowmen), glued to the window of Mrs Williams's music class, on the ground floor beside the "GIRLS" entrance -- "It's sticking!" cried Janice Tepoorten, and even though we could see it for ourselves, we cheered its sticking, we cheered it all the same.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Civil Discourse

A conversation yesterday between a MOTHER (late-30s) and DAUGHTER (8) in the line-up at Save On Foods.

DAUGHTER: Mommy, is there going to be a world war?

MOTHER: [Looking at her phone.] Where?

DAUGHTER: The Russians.

MOTHER: No, it will be restricted.

DAUGHTER: So not everyone can go?

MOTHER: It won't be a World War.

The MOTHER takes a call. After a moment of silence, she asks to "have it texted."

DAUGHTER: [In French.] Are we still going to visit Aunt Léa in the summer?

MOTHER: [Looking at her phone.] Mommy and Aunt Léa aren't getting along very well right now.

DAUGHTER: Is Aunt Léa on the Russians' side?


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Word Fatigue

As a reader, I read every word, unless I am in a hurry and am reading not for pleasure but for information, the kind that allows me to unlock one door so I can move through the next one. As a listener, I do something similar, which is why I have a hard time listening to radio interviews.

Thankfully that sentence-ending, emergency brake of language -- "going forward" (aka "moving forward") -- is less frequent now than it was two years ago. I wish I could say the same of hockey players who, because they think the media is stupid for having never played the game (Is the literary critic stupid for having never written a novel? Is the hockey player stupid for having never graduated from high school?), begin or end every second response with obviously.

More recent irritations include a word I no longer hear without seeing the gloating, puckering face of Donald J. Trump, and that word is tremendous. I know it's not fair to think that everyone who uses tremendous is a Trump supporter, only that language has a way of taking root in our noodle and spilling out once our mouth starts moving. An even bigger irritation is the word absolutely, especially when it's the first word out of the interviewee's mouth after the interviewer asks if they could talk about their appreciation of Nietzsche and why we should still be reading him.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Hedge Fun

On Saturday's walk down Granville from King Edward: hedges extending onto a sidewalk no one walks on because everyone living in the area either drives or is driven is NOT the answer. Domestic workers do not bus in and out everyday (and therefore walk this sidewalk) because they live on the premises.

Are these hedges permitted to grow onto the sidewalk to deter people from walking on it? I saw a couple instances where hedges were recently cut back. By order of the City?

Hedges are left to grow onto the sidewalk as a statement against public space, just like public space is celebrated closer to 16th, on the east side of the street, where Falun Gong supporters maintain a 24/7 presence outside a consulate belonging to the People's Republic of China, who have banned Falun Gong in the republic?

Across the street from the Falun Gongers -- a house that has been left to cave in on itself. A $3,000 per month revenue earner for the provincial government, if indeed this house is unoccupied.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

No One Is Talking About This (2021)


We met up yesterday and the two of us walked down Granville Street to Granville Island, where she said, Hey, do you know this bookstore (Upstart & Crow), and the next thing I know we're inside it.

A small, spare affair, more morgue than mayhem, which is odd because the books -- laid out cadaver flat -- are but minutes old.

I picked up Sheila Heti's Pure Colour (is it Pure Color in the States?) and noted the word "God" on the first page, and that Sheila has him in the lower case ("he"). Not a good start for an atheist like myself who (a) doesn't believe in God and b) doesn't believe she's a he.

She held up Patricia Lockwood's just-out-in-paper No One is Talking About This (2021) and I thought, Maybe the most cluttered cover I've seen this year and Why stop at the deixis? What's it hiding? I read the first line -- "She opened the Portal, and the mind met her more than halfway" -- and I thought the line would flow more easily without the "more". And maybe this "this" is the Portal?

"The best book I've read in awhile," she said.

So of course I bought it.

Later that night: Ah, the Portal must be Twitter, but of course you can't call it that; America is a litigious nation. Then this revelation:

"Politics! The trouble was that they had a dictator now, which, according to some people (white), they had never had before, and according to other people (everyone else), they had only ever been having, constantly, since the beginning of the world.  Her stupidity panicked her, as well as the way her voice sounded when she talked to people who hadn't stopped being stupid yet." (4)

(Yes, "the way her voice sounded," she wrote in the passive voice.)

Then this: 

"Every day their attention must turn, like the shine on a school of fish, all at once, toward a new person to hate. Sometimes the subject was a war criminal, but other times it was someone who made a heinous substitution in guacamole. It was not so much the hatred she was interested in but the swift attenuation, as if their collective blood had made a decision." (9)

I'll keep reading.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Southlands Fence

Early for a dinner near Dunbar and King Edward yesterday, so I approached it concentrically. Stopped to admire a fence. Note the joinery. You might have to squint to see the dowels. Delicious!

Friday, February 18, 2022

On My Disastrous Free Skate

Until yesterday I had not watched a single minute of this year's Winter Olympics. Not having a TV and a sofa to flop down on helps, if I should need that kind of help. But I don't. I have worked with the IOC and I know its shtick ("We're a peace movement, Michael"). When it's not the Vatican, it's a drug cartel. When it's not that, it's running an art fair. When it's not that, a martinet, when it's not that, it's asking that you come not as your country but as your country's own olympic committee, and if your athletes should reach the podium, then we will play not your national anthem but, in the case of Russia, Tchaikovsky, or in the case of the U.S., what? -- something of the athlete's choosing, no doubt. Yet another instance of individual agency (in its symbolic form) brought to you by our ostensibly empowering platforms -- the Church of Facebook, the Confessional that is Twitter (Byung Chul-Han) -- crackhouses all of them, the crack of course being dopamine.

Tell us something we don't know, Michael.

Okay, since you've read your Flaubert: I am Valieva! And we need to expand the podium. Not for my 4th place finish, but for those who place 5th, 6th, 7th, etc. I am not leaving this whipping post until everyone gets their piece.

We're not a piece movement, Michael; we believe only in so much room.

Since bronze is made from copper and tin, I suggest that what was once a bronze medal becomes a copper medal, followed by zinc (4th), tin (5th), liquid mercury (6th) ...

Michael, you've been drinking again.

Not drinking you pederastic gaslighting panderer! I'm a fifteen year old whose body was bought, drugged and shipped here by the oligarchs -- for you to market! Plus I saw what booze did to my babushka, my people, and if you think I'm going to sit here and take it, then --

Thursday, February 17, 2022

"Call you for no reason at all -- but to say hi"

Funerals can be the beginning of thinking about life in new ways. That's what happened to me when I watched Alicia Keys perform at Whitney Houston's funeral twenty years ago tomorrow.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Robert Hughes Memorial Blog Post: "This event is in the past"

Is there a post? Sometimes there isn't it. Sometimes I don't have it in me. I have some pictures I took of Cornelia Wyngaarden's At Face Value retrospective at ECUAD's Libby Leshgold Gallery last Saturday (its last day), and could post those, but the pics are dull, lifeless. My pics. 

Thinking the gallery might have some better pics, I went looking online, but nope, "This event is in the past," according to the ECUAD website, and the one it did have -- the sickle still from the installation Apollo's Kiss/Matricide: an allegorical landscape (1992) -- I've linked to.

Wyngaarden hasn't made a lot of art (objects) in her lifetime, and after her 1998 VIVA Award told us she would no longer make art unless her projects received arts funding -- this from someone who once taught ECUAD's Professional Practices course, so you know she knows what she's talking about, dammit. You have to take her at face value.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Demonumentalization of "Gassy" Jack Deighton

No amount of cultural relativism can justify the western-style marriage of a 43 year old man to a 12 year old girl. So in that sense I am glad to see the downing of that Gassy Jack statue.

Years ago it was his head that went missing, and the statue stood there headless long enough for it to be normalized. Once, while walking past a group of tourists, I heard one of them say, in French, "Well, Venus de Milo doesn't have arms, but we know who she is, right?

The toppling of the Gassy Jack statue came very close to hitting someone who was doing her best to protect those from having the same happen to them. Why she had her back turned on a falling statue is worrisome and tells me that maybe nearby Artspeak should consider hosting a workshop on toppling.

Once down, the statue -- and a number of bricks around it -- were painted a red close to the colour of blood. Certainly close enough that some Women's Memorial Marchers were triggered by it.

I feel for everyone involved in this statue and the life that "inspired" it. Let the removal of the Gassy Jack statue allow for the renaming of the "town" that bears his name.

As for the means by which this statue came down, I used to think there was nothing worse than random violence. But now, after seeing the way this statue fell and was de-tended to, I have added the priests and priestesses of ritual violence to my prayers.

The frustration and rage that motivated the downing of the Jack statue (a statue that the Squamish decedents of Jack's ex-wife Xáliya and the City of Vancouver had been meeting on, towards a more educational form of retirement), differs little from those leaning on their horns outside the homes of Ottawa seniors or desecrating the bodies of U.S. "contractors" in Fallujah. It is no longer about the subject of that frustration and rage, but the condition we find ourselves in today -- tired, sick and helpless.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Emergency Measures

Invoking the former War Measures Act was said to be our prime minister's father's greatest regret when he was prime minister. Back in 1970, it was Quebecois nationalists/separatists, inspired by the words of a visiting French President who, by then, was feeling guilty about his country's exploitation of former colonies Algeria and Vietnam. "Viva le Quebec libre!" said Charles De Gaulle suddenly and unexpectedly to a crowd of jubilant Quebec mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and three years later it's bombs going off and the kidnapping of a high-ranking British trade minister.

So yesterday's War Measures Act is today's somewhat more limited Emergency Measures Act. Quebec nationalists/separatists have been replaced by the modern equivalent of the cowboy: the big rig trucker. Aligning themselves with this non-vaccinated cowboy are opportunists (libertarians, anti-vaxers, frightened white people) endemic to any 19th century cattle drive: those seeking cover, drunk on the expansionist rhetoric of Horace Greeley, an American media figure and radical Republican politician (sound familiar?) who urged Americans to "Go west," only this time the drive took them south, to block U.S. trucks from crossing the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, costing the Canadian economy some $3B in trade.

The Government of Canada is a minority Liberal government, and I wonder if it takes a minority government longer to deploy troops to quash its country's "freedom" fighters than it would if that government were a majority. Three weeks have passed since the cowboys and their opportunists took over the streets and neighbourhoods of the nation's capitol. Yesterday, police removed the blockade on the Ambassador Bridge linking Windsor, ON with Detroit, MI. The cowboys are gone, but the opportunists keep sneaking back -- emboldened now, without need of a cover. This was only a test-drive.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Super Bowl LVI

Today is the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday. A day known for a litany of things, all of them written by a sport I once thought we would see the end of in my lifetime, but has proven to be America's most dominant, given its perfect proportion of violence to money, and that is football. American football, as the English call it.

I do not watch football, but I try to watch the Super Bowl because it is "live" and anything "live" is of interest to me. All those cameras scanning the Bowl, all those people watching on their televisions, computers and phones for something they haven't seen before, something they don't want to miss, something they can tweet about: hostage-taker in the yellow toque be like cuckoo for cocoa puffs lol!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2022

The "W" in "Wharhouse"

A common observation on my walks of late: more broken windows on business storefronts. Normally broken windows get replaced quick enough that we never have time to notice they were broken (yes, a fallacious argument). But now, with cash flow being what it is, not to mention supply chains, boarded "windows" have become part of the urban grain, perhaps attracting more broken windows? (Snope.)

Tear-downs are also a common sight. As if overnight, a number of homes and buildings in my neighbourhood that were vacant the past year (four homes, three buildings) all came down within a couple weeks of each other. Further west, even more buildings await demolition, with another having gone from a street front retail space to a rear-entry "wharhouse".

Friday, February 11, 2022

A Document of Barbarism

I never read the back flap, let alone opened the book for "answers". I saw its spine, pulled it out, looked at its cover and took its picture. 

What kind of a book is this but a cynical equation designed to produce a profit, the operative words laid out uninterrupted (by articles) in the title:

Hollywood: glamour

Pregnancy: sexual intercourse

Secrets: shame.

That it is a "Black Book" implies that a person or persons had at one time gathered this information, and that it was not protected by law but as a commodity as important as this trade book is to a publisher's revenue stream.  

Does this book need to answer the questions I ask of it? For example, were these secrets laid bare after the blackmailers were paid out? What percentage of these pregnancies resulted in live births, still births, abortions or false positives? The only way to quash my sadness over a book like this is to ask of it that which its target reader is indifferent to.  

Thursday, February 10, 2022

House Near Kingsway and Fraser

An alley view of a house I walk past from time to time. The house is old, over 100 years, and has been added to, subtracted from, repainted many times, most recently a brick red colour.

A wooden house painted brick red does not make it as resistant to wear as the material whose colour it is derived from. 

Most houses are built with their backs to the alley, and this house is no different. The back in this case is south-facing, yet what portion of the back is given over to windows? Less that 2.7%.

The south facing window is very small and matches for size the west-facing window immediately around the corner from it. Note, too, the placement of these windows. The sills look to be about five feet high.

When I look at these windows I always think of someone sitting on the other side of them, at a small table, looking out. But to do so would require a very high chair, like a bar stool, but higher. And a high table too.

Passing by a room like this on the inside, with its door open and someone at the window, would present a strange sight. Especially if this room is being used for what I think it is being used for, and that is a bathroom.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Miskwagoode (Vancouver: New Star Books, 2022)

At last, the new poetry collection by Annharte (Marie Baker). With an oddly constructed blurb by Mercedes Eng:

Nice to see an appreciation for the "wry" in these literal, face value times. A time when grief and confession now dominate Poetry, moving it closer to the Non-Fiction section than "to" an atmosphere of proprioceptive decentralization, abstraction, leap of from faith imagination ...

Mercedes use of the words "gut punch" to describe the effect of Miskwagoode is not the first time I have seen these words used to describe the effects of poetry (on the body) of late. Suddenly this pairing is everywhere. Like violence is everywhere, particularly amongst those who claim to be dead set against it.

Details like this -- the absent use of violence in our language -- is partly why I have come to appreciate Annharte's writing. Nothing gets past her, and she always always always delivers. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Sound of Psyops

Does it matter anymore how COVID came into our lives? Whether it was made in a lab as a medium of disruption, disorientation, etc., or that it grew inadvertently out of an animal butchering station, like HiV did at the dawn of the 20th century?

A wind (COVID) blows through the kitchen, scattering the saffron (our precious lives). Our first thought should not be to blame but to gather up as much of that saffron as we can. But maybe we've exhausted that first thought. Maybe we are rooted in the finger pointing stage, ecstatic in our outrage. Clearly some are beyond that.

I'm not sure anyone's idea of a populist revolt had it beginning with horn-blaring trucks -- almost all of them driven by white truckers -- taking hold of our nation's capitol. Not simply the presence of these trucks -- trucks that bring to mind Hannibal's elephants -- but the sounds their horns make.

Amazing what a whole lotta sound can do. In 1989 the U.S. Army used sound to drive out Manuel Noriega. And then there was the vuvuzela that made the 2010 World Cup in South Africa unwatchable (an example of how the abuse of one sense can limit another).

A couple days ago a class acton suit was filed by horn-weary Ottawa residents living in and around the downtown core against the City of Ottawa. In its defence, the City claimed it was powerless to do anything (hence the recent state of emergency). This is music to the ears of those eager to take down governments at all levels. Nothing like an admission of powerlessness to encourage those on the front lines -- and those working the gears behind them.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Mrs Parker

Mrs Parker taught Grade 5 at Quilchena. I had Miss Arms for Grade 1, Miss Gray for Grade 2, Mrs Switzer for Grade 3, and then in 1971, as I was going into Grade 4, the school implemented the "Alternative Program", an attempt to break from the stratification of grades and have three deskless classes of students aged 9-12 converging en masse for certain projects (remaking scaled-down versions of world famous rivers in the sands of Kitsilano Beach, for example), while returning to our own age cohort for more rudimentary classes like Arithmetic. The three teachers who led the Alternate Program were Mrs Harrison, who normally taught Grade 4, Mrs Parker (Grade 5) and Mr Hamel (Grade 7). No one had to tell us that Mrs Thompson, who taught Grade 6, was too old -- and too square -- to be participating in something as "hippie" as the Alternate Program. 

By the time I was in Grade 4, I had in my child's mind a sense of Quilchena's teachers and staff, and this sense was based largely on who was "easy" and who was "strict". From what I had gathered, everyone was easy -- compared to Mrs Parker.

Mrs Parker was an imposing figure. She was tall and lean and muscular, with eyes that saw to the end of our playing fields and, if necessary, a voice that could reach you there. If you pretended not to hear her, she could get to you just as quick by foot, and you better believe that her voice would be even louder once she got there. Before she was my teacher I saw her and a group of runners practicing at the oval track outside of the high school below us. In her aerodynamic shorts and t-shirt she looked like an athlete you might see on ABC's Wide World of Sports, her long bare legs tapered perfectly into shoes that looked like slippers -- if they didn't have spikes coming out of them. I relayed the story to my Mom, and she said, "Oh yes, Mrs Parker was in the Olympics. She's one of the fastest women in Canada." I was impressed but not surprised.

Shortly after that, while eating my lunch on a ledge beside the school parking lot, Mrs Parker breezed past then stopped to talk to another teacher. She was wearing a skirt that ended just above the knee, and I stared at the profile of her well-defined calves, when suddenly she flexed one, and I jumped. I looked at her face and, though she was listening to the person talking to her, I felt the kindness from an eye that made me feel like that eye was directed at me, and I wanted to cry.

The teacher assigned to teach Arithmetic to the Grade 4 Alternate students was Mrs Parker. Arithmetic, as much as soccer and softball, was a competitive subject for those of us who excelled in it, and we were always taking shortcuts to make us faster. Once, in an effort to finish First, I turned in a test where I got 3/50, and was singled out by Mrs Parker as both a jerk and, oddly enough, a victim of our reckless game. I will never forget the look on her face when she handed me back my test. I was terrified, not because I had failed her test so miserably, but because I felt she knew my terror was something I was unfamiliar with, and that the real lesson here was how I might sit with it, a question that had me wondering the same about her when she was my age.

Something happened at school one day, a Friday I think, though the day doesn't matter, only that it began in the morning and it was in 1972. Because both my parents worked jobs that started early, I would arrive at school shortly after 8 a.m., a half-hour before the janitor, Mr McIntosh, unlocked the doors. There was a group of us, all boys, all ages, and we would huddle in the sheltered "Boys" entrance, except this time when I arrived, no one was waiting; everyone was down by the gym.  I followed, and as I walked I noticed all sorts of black felt pen graffiti on the exterior walls of our mint green school. Standard Rat Fink and Big Daddy Roth stuff, but then one drawing was of our principal, because his name was below it, and then oh my god as I turned the corner and saw on the gym wall a drawing that had no name below it, only a human shape, thin, with a head of kinky Bride of Frankenstein hair and a pronounced and rounded belly with an arrow pointing to it that said WHO DID IT? The drawing was of Mrs Parker.

The terror I felt after getting back my test was nothing compared to the terror I felt after seeing this drawing. And I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Jamie Emerson came running up to me with tears in his eyes, "We're all going to die!" Yes, I thought, we are all going to die, but I had no sense of how Mrs Parker would kill us, only that she could, in the way Medusa could, or that Indigenous spirit we learned about recently, Dzunukwa. Emerson continued running, and I followed him to the end of the field, but something made me stop, and as I did, I looked over my shoulder and saw Mrs Parker taking in the drawing of our principal.

By the time I got back, Mrs Parker was standing before "her" own drawing. She seemed neither angry nor sad, and I wondered what else she could be feeling. But after my wonder expired, she was still there, still looking. Only then did it occur to me that what I was looking at was not simply an attempt to injure, but a response to that attempt; a staring down of that drawing; indeed, a demonstration of the incredible strength of a woman who, with her brother Harry Jerome, represented our country at the 1960 Rome Olympics, both of whom, I would later learn, experienced horrific acts of racism, a racism that Mrs Parker, whom I know today as Valerie Jerome, continues to experience.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

The best stories I know come from late night car rides or kitchen tables

"The best stories I know come from late night car rides or kitchen tables" is the name of an exhibition of work by two artists, Brenda Draney and Tanya Lukin Linklater, both of whom were born in 1976 -- Draney in Treaty 8 territory (she is a member of the Sawridge First Nation and lives in Edmonton, Alberta), Linklater in Southern Alaska (she is of Alutiiq and Caucasian ancestry and lives in North Bay, Ontario).

The title of the exhibition is taken from an artist talk Draney gave at the University of Ottawa in 2016, a larger portion of which appears in the gallery handout intercut with a text by Linklater. Though Linklater's text is the more self-consciously poetic -- consisting of sentence fragments, conjunctionless run-ons, intermedial line breaks and enough blank space to build a snowoman -- it is Draney's straightforward statement (evocative of what is said while riding in a car or klatching at a kitchen table) that makes a poem of her thoughts on storytelling.

Draney's oil on canvas paintings are rich in "blank" spaces that are in fact an oatmeal colour. These spaces are earned in so far as the attention Draney pays to line requires them. The line and the lineless work together, and the result is the language these paintings "speak". I'm not even talking about these paintings as figurative, or being "about" something: they include tents, a line or lines (like the ribbon one cuts to "open" something), a couch, a wall of fake wood-paneling, men, men in RCMP uniforms, women, a fireworks explosion. As curated, the arrangement of these paintings resonates like a chapbook of lyric poems.

Lukin Linklater's contribution features a monitor'ed voice-over video of young dancers at work in the studio (... you are judged to be going against the flow because you are insistent, Parts 1 and 2, 2017), a sculptural installation of an unfurling poem on grommeted canvas squares occasionally redacted (enhanced? protected?) by kohkom scarves and a ziggurat of American Spirit cigarette packs (go//go, 2022) and a video projection of hands moving purposefully over a rough marine wood "screen" as its subtitles tell a story of America's most powerful earthquake (They fall the ground beneath you, 2018).

It is this last work of Lukin Linklater's that finds itself sharing CJG's smaller gallery with Draney's Vanity (2019). In Draney's sin-object conflation, a naked (undressing?) figure stands before what seems like the end of a multi-sinked counter, the kind one finds at an airport or a night club. The mirror above this counter makes it a vanity, but it is in fact the doubling of this (vain?) figure that makes its double the painting's mirror. Draney writes in the gallery handout:

"In the paintings there can be stand-ins and omissions. But then I have created something else again. Is it trustworthy? Decisions have to be made. Which parts are the most honest? Why is it important to be honest here and not there?"

Draney shows us what she does well enough to encourage us into her work, which can be a fine place to be for those of us looking to vacate our messy-bedroom/dumpster fire worlds without altogether abandoning them -- an experience from which we return to our daily lives refreshed, invigorated. In Lukin Linklater's work, I often feel like I am being lectured to, told, (t)roped-in. This is not to say that the work of these two artists makes for an unsuccessful pairing; on the contrary, we have much to learn through difference. Best to think of this exhibition as a teaching tool.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Mary Seacole (1805-1881)

When I was growing up, it was Florence Nightingale, not Mother Teresa, who tended those too sick to tend themselves. Last night, while watching Simon Schama's A History of Britain episode "Victoria & Her Sisters" (first aired June, 2002), I learned of another tender, someone who volunteered to serve as a nurse during the Crimean War, but was rejected by Nightingale.

Mary Seacole was born of a Scottish father and Black Jamaican mother. She was knowledgable in traditional medicines and, after saying to hell with Nightingale, traveled to Crimea on her own dime and set up a l'hôpital des refusés (the British Hotel) near the front lines -- much closer to those lines than Nightingale's hospital. Indeed, Seacole, or Mother Seacole as the soldiers called her, was known for tending to the wounded while under fire, making her more a medic than a field nurse. And in a dress, no less! Amazing. Simply amazing.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Face the Notion

North Vancouver's Lonsdale Quay will be 45 years old this summer. Once a repair dock, its conversion to a public market was an immediate hit, an arcade without the arches. Like the Canadian federal government's early-1970s conversation of the south shore of False Creek's industrial waterfront (Granville Island Public Market), the Lonsdale Quay provided the freshest seafood and the crispest lettuce. Over the years the Quay, like the New Westminster Quay that followed in the 1980s, lost its lustre, which is not uncommon now that malls in general represent not the perfection of our culture, but its remainder bin.

The English Reformation of the 16th century marked the bloody transition of England from a Catholic state to its national brand -- Protestantism. Of course there is more to it than religious sectarianism. A related transition concerned an increasingly literate Christian population who preferred to read their Bible, not bow to priestly interpretations of it in the form of images and objects. This, more than anything, has come to define the English psyche, and a reason why the English have never countenanced ambiguity as anything more than an aesthetic effect, a recreational decoration and not a road to something other than what one knows for certain. America gave us Gertrude Stein, Ireland gave us Joyce and Beckett. Even T.S. Eliot came to see his "Waste Land" (1922) as little more than a few pages of hastily scribbled notes.

The picture atop this post -- found in the window of one of the Lonsdale Quay's upper concourse shops -- is of a framed piece of writing posing as a landscape, where the neighbourhoods are represented in their textual forms. The land, as defined by this landscape, is unceded, and is the ancestral home of the Coast Salish peoples, whose relationship to the land is not so easily divisible. As for the shop, its stock and trade is based largely in notions.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

A Moment in Time

The perfection of our existence can only be achieved through drugs and drug use. But drugs are not the answer. The problem is perfection.

Shigenori Nagatomo’s “Japanese Zen Buddhist Philosophy” entry on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy site begins: “Zen aims at the perfection of personhood.” What I like best about this sentence is its verb: to aim. Not perfection, but our attempt to achieve it.

To aim implies a point of focus, a place to direct an intention (our attention). The arrow of Time is pointed at its target: Space. The perfect "shot" is the pin-pointing of a place (in Space) at the exact moment (in Time) as its destruction.


So much science is concerned with the destruction of something by looking at it (Schrödinger), or the impossibility of measuring it (Heisenberg). I am content never to reach that which I am striving for because I have found by the time I (occasionally) arrive at such places, I am no longer the person I was when I set out to reach them, that I am still (mentally) in the place I stopped at the night before, immersed in its chowder, its lager, its roaring fire below a find-what-you-are-looking-for portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft ...

Wednesday, February 2, 2022


A sunny day yesterday. A little colder than I like, but then I'm not usually in the garden this early in the year.

The beds look better with fall and winter's junk out of them. Worst are the wispy stalks of oregano that present themselves like loose threads. My oregano is everywhere now, and I still find myself buying it at the food store! Must change that this year, though what I like even more about oregano, the herb, is oregano, the ornament -- its fluff and colour, particularly amidst the lobelia (blue) and the begonia (pink).

The crocuses (I cannot write "croci" with a straight face) are those that were planted by the Widow Bodnar who lived next door (west) until the 1980s. I knew her son and grandson, but she was long before my time. I only know her by the two people on our block who have been here since the 1960s. They remember her. It was one of them -- I can't remember who -- who told me about her garden.

photo: Judy Radul

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Walking on Sunshine

We knew the day was coming: a full sun on our weather apps. Darkness for breakfast, then sun-in-your-eyes skies as I set out on foot for downtown.

Crazy to walk all the way to the West End to walk once more with an epic walker, but I did, and like the wounded (for all that walking!) I returned home on public transport, where people plonk down across from you and lower their masks (off their noses) because "I just ran for the bus. I can't breathe. Gimme a break, will ya! Sheesh."

Down Bute, along the Coal Harbour seawall around Brockton Point through the trees to the Aquarium past the Lagoon to Second Beach, English Bay, the Denman Place Inn for incredibly low-priced but within-their-expiry-date vegetable chips at the Dollar Store ...

The picture up top is my circa 1969 re-creation of DDR arborist Jonas Müller, known for refusing to "escape" the East after many opportunities (some designed to test his allegiance), but most notably to build a domed rainforest biosphere for Prince Faisal ibn Abd al Aziz ibn Saud.

Photo by Maegan Hill-Carroll.