Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Last Days of the British Ex

A short after-dinner walk last night had me passing the British Ex-Serviceman's Association, when I heard a rap at the window. It was Bridget, of Bridget and Alison who live around the corner. A couple pints later, Bridget winning two meat draw hampers, some Korean chicken take-out Alison picked up from across the street (the BEx stopped serving food years ago), Alex and Anita's karaoke, and more laughs than I've had in a long time, I resumed my walk.

Monday May 23rd will be the British Ex's last day at 1143 Kingsway, after at least 50 years at that location (the building was sold to developers last year). My history with the pub began in 1994, when I moved to Kingsway and took out a membership, promising at the swearing-in ceremony "never to overthrow the Canadian Government." In November 1995 I launched my book Kingsway there, and the BEx insisted on doing the food, which I remember included celery and Cheez Whiz.

Pictured above, Bridget's brother Terry about to sink the 7 ball, Anita behind the karaoke machine and Alex on the mike, kicking things off with Steeler's Wheel's "Stuck In the Middle With You" (1972).

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Cute Life and Other Craft Books

The Cute Life won't cost you much. But then, what're you gonna do with it?

Lots of pom pom action in the Cute Life. Scarves with faces and those without. Two kinds of hats: a sun hat for the garden and a beret for the cafes. Two kinds of bag: one for the heroin you're smuggling for your Russian girlfriend's father, the other for your make-up. An out-sized tube of lipstick. Spectacles for reading.

Did you hear about the Cute Life? She was found in Coney Island. Her page torn to confetti-sized pieces and fed through the cracks of the boardwalk.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

No Stars, Just Talent

The National Hockey League regular season is coming to a close, and those out of the playoffs are providing frank responses as to why their teams failed to qualify. One of them is Chicago Blackhawks' centre Tyler Johnson, whose response to what went wrong (see above) is based on individual play -- at the expense of the team game.

That's my reading of it -- that skilled players have internalized the game to the point where they're playing against themselves -- lost in instantaneous risk-assessment and self-reflexive critique -- and not each other, in teams. It is an unfortunate comment, equating "simple" with "dumb", but we know what Johnson is getting at: that a team is greater than the sum of its players.

Early in the season, one of the leading contenders for the Stanley Cup was the Vegas Golden Knights, a relatively new team built from an Expansion Draft comprised of some of the NHL's best third line forwards, middle six defensemen and a selection of great but older goalies. "No stars, just talent," as Richard E. Grant's character says in Robert Altman's The Player (1992).

Against all odds, Vegas went to the finals in its first year -- one of the greatest sports underdogs of the 21st century. But Vegas being Vegas, it needed a headliner, and this year it traded some of those game changing starter parts for an emerging superstar. At the time of the trade, Vegas was high in the standings. Last night, with its superstar held pointless, Vegas failed to make the playoffs for the first time in its five year existence.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Les Revenants (2004)

Géraldine Pailhas is Rachel in Les Revenants, a strange, allegorical film set in a small French city suddenly overrun with dead people. Not zombie dead, but a softer, slower moving dead -- a je ne sais quoi dead, if one can say such a thing.

Among the dead is Rachel's husband, a civil engineer who returns to work, only to find himself reassigned to the shop floor after presenting an incoherent proposal for the expansion of his employer's factory. Like the other dead, Rachel's husband doesn't seem to care much -- about anything. For her part, all Rachel cares about is the return of her husband, and she has a hard time accepting that he is not, nor ever will be, the man he was before he passed.

A city official (a sociologist?) takes an interest in the dead -- Rachel and her husband, in particular. It is through this official that the elements of the film are brought together, and we come to understand why the dead, who are tracked through heat-sensitive CCTV cameras (the dead have cooler body temperatures than the living) are secretly meeting: to find a tunnel that would return them to their graves.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

News Cycle

Everyone but Amber and Johnny is what I like best about this defamation trial. The bit players, like the artist Johnny offered his Eastern Columbia Building penthouse to. That and the colour of Congresswoman Greene's testimony dress, the one she wore for her hearing in Atlanta. And now Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter. Why? Because he needs a platform for his data extractor, a device so sophisticated, so worlds ahead of everything in development, so Lex Luther, that the extractive part is simply the decoy, a distraction from something unimaginably more insidious, hidden behind a veil of no holds barred "transparency". All he has to do now is make Twitter a private company and, like the ingredients of Marlboro's cigarettes, we'll never know what the fuck he's fucking us with. But that dress! That light blue testimony dress!

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sunday's Walk


Sundays have always started early for me. I never knew why until recently, when my Mom was telling me about all the partying she and my father used to do when I was a kid, and how good a boy I was because I always slept through it. Could it be that Sunday's early starts were related to another (this time sudden) recollection: Saturday's almost-criminally early bedtimes? What else could account for those early starts, my tip-toeing around the house until my parents got up at noon.

Yesterday I was up at 6am, the sun shining, the birds chirping. Rather than float about in my pyjamas all morning, as is my habit, I decided to get dressed, see what happened. What happened was me leaving the house at 8:30am for a walk that included the length of Commercial Drive, where I spoke with artist Keith McKellar, who was setting up a display of his hand-drawn city scene prints across from Grandview Park, and further south, in front of the post office near Broadway, artist Lobsang Tenzin was doing the same with his small water colours, one of which I purchased (pictured up top). Nice huh? How Ukraine's yellow and blue meet in a restorative green?

Though their work is very different from each other's, both men are in similarly great shape for their ages (early 70s?), with thick heads of (grey) hair, good skin and bone structure, athletic movements and an inner peace I associate with a rich spiritual life.

Aglow with these encounters, and a little hungry, I stopped at Subway for a 6" turkey sub, to eat on my way home. As I was heading west on 13th, a woman rushed past, then quickly turned around to say, "Hey, that smells good," and I told her what it was. "Do we know each other?" she asked, and it turns out I was talking to Denise Britt who, with her co-vivant Trent Hignell, owned and operated Black Sheep Books in Kits in the mid-1990s.

Denise hadn't changed a bit, which, oddly enough, does not account for why I didn't recognize her, at least not right away. After she fetched Trent, the same. Standing with them in their front yard, they told me how the bump that was Denise's tummy the last time I saw them had just completed his first year of university at my alma mater, UVic. So more to glow over as I floated home, alive with my encounters.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Palachi Papers

Lady Evans hath looked down upon the American-born Duchess of Sussex in her latest book, The Palace Papers. Both look the worse for it. Lady Evans (aka Tina Brown) for the flogging, the Duchess (aka Meghan Markle) for seeking validation in Visibility's more godlike cousin, Ubiquity. Lady Sussex wants to be all things to everywhere, and the Maidenhead-born Lady Evans thinks that's cheap. (The best part of royal titles? Having one can absolve you of any or all responsibility.)

Below is the freeze-dried (and at times alliterative) equivalent of a page from Tom Wolfe: 

"The buzzed-up Jessica Mulroney was Meghan’s thirty-something role model in style and new BFF. Meghan has always been astute in flattering fashionable and famous women and absorbing their networks. Physically, Jessica could have been Meghan’s sister and was just as tireless. She had turned her private life into a permanent destination wedding, posting a ceaseless flow of images about her glossy existence. As a fashion stylist cum marketer, Jessica marked everything in her world with a hashtag. Her own three-day nuptials were covered on Canadian television news, her parenting became a partnership with Pampers, and her trips to the gym a promotional op­portunity for Adidas. It could not have escaped Meghan’s notice that a crucial factor in Jessica’s commercial leverage was her famous Mulroney hus­band. “The Brandtastic Life of Ben and Jessica” was the title of a To­ronto Life magazine puff piece on the Mulroneys."

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Off Kingsway

A back-alley reminder that most of B.C. is on unceded Indigenous land, that orange is the colour most often associated with the Indigenous peoples of Canada, that the text was applied to a "real" fence and not a picture of one, and that cursive writing, despite no longer being taught in the Vancouver school system, is alive and well, adding value to meaning.

Friday, April 22, 2022

"For every joy/ that passes/ something beautiful/ remains"


Dollar stores are the best place to buy Hallmark cards. But only if you want them.

Personally, I like to make my own cards, and I continue to do so, though more recently I have taken to modifying store-bought cards, particularly "Sympathy" cards, as they feel so distant, or they maintain the distance between me and those ailing, the distance my card seeks to close.

Mary died last week after a long illness, and Charlie, who loved her so much, is grieving. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Frida (2002)

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), famous as much for her pain as her paintings, was the subject of a biopic directed by Julie Taymor and starring Salma Hayek in the lead role. I watched Frida last night, mindful of what the careful reviewer refers to as certain decisions -- namely, what to leave in and what to leave out.

Surely some of Kahlo's more rabid fans had particular ideas about who this Mexican artist was, or should be remembered by, and I have heard it said that more should have been made of her monkey.

For my part, I liked the fact that the monkey just appears one day, and arguably the most daring scene in this lush and artfully made film comes when Frida is hanging out her bedsheets to dry, with the monkey perched on the clothesline above.

As anyone who has lived with a spider monkey will tell you, the likelihood of a king-sized white bed sheet going "unpainted" in such circumstances is slim. But like everything else in Kahlo's life, this monkey is an exception. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Steven Heighton (1961-2022)

"A grave/ a stringless guitar/ a lost song"

I'm not sure what "Grave Song" looks like on the page. I only just heard it, read by its author, Steven Heighton, from a November 25, 2020 recording featuring Rodney Sothmann on bowed bass. The line quoted is the last line (or lines) of Steven's poem.

Last night, while poking around on my laptop, I saw a condolence for Steven's family, then an announcement that he died that morning. After an "aggressive" illness. He was sixty.  

After watching/listening to Steven's reading I took off the strings of the guitar I keep by my desk, laid it on the floor and walked around it, knelt down beside it. No longer a guitar but a grave, I said to myself, just loud enough to hear its echo in the sound hole.

Steven was a talented and devoted writer, editor and mentor. I have a hard time believing he's gone.

Time to cue this up, go for a walk, get lost in its song. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

"Still the boy?"

So says Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde) to Coco (Audrey Tautou) after she emerges from the guest room, where she has been extending her stay at his country mansion, to attend his costume party, a party where Coco made some of the costumes, including her own -- that of the bumpkin boy. All this from Anne Fontaine's Coco Avant Chanel (2009), a film I was getting into until the 70 minute mark, when the DVD started breaking down, eventually freezing at the moment Coco sees a fisherman on the beach (her first visit to the ocean) wearing a wide-necked, horizontal blue striped t-shirt. I wonder what became of this Coco? What Fontaine made of her? The utterly wonderful Audrey Tautou.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Supportive Units

Back in February 2021, the City of Vancouver, with the assistance of the federal government's Rapid Housing Initiative, purchased the Days Inn by Wyndham Metro Vancouver Hotel (formerly the Colonial Motel) at 2075 Kingsway for conversion into 65 "supportive units" for the homeless and those in shelters. Great news, of course. Especially for those who like to garden. 

The Days Inn, etc. is a feature on one of my walking routes (I come up behind it when heading south on the lane just east of Victoria Drive), and have noticed the addition of at least two extensions to its exterior. But it was only last week that I noticed the sign, likely recycled from an earlier City renovation project, this one "west" of the 2400 Court Motel, which the City owns as well.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Abstract or Abstracted?

Abstract or abstracted? I lean towards the latter. More movement in it. Abstract is inert, like most nouns. 

Something abstracted implies an action, a motion, a past. Motion is the subject. To call it an "abstract", as in an abstract painting, is to stop us from following the movement (as Greenberg would have it) and settle instead for its painting, to look at it on its own terms (as if it painted itself?)-- and in looking, this stilling.

What is this stilling, to insist on something still. Sit still! Remember how impossible that was, when we were children? How even holding our breath wasn't good enough? We were made to think we were not in our bodies yet, not in control of them as others saw us, controlled us, those who issued the commands -- Stop fidgeting! Imagine talking to a film that way? Walter Benjamin in the movie theatre, fixed on the screen; the truck speeding towards him, covering his eyes before it turns away at the last second (as Benjamin covered his eyes too soon, when he took his life in Portbou?).

So much early 20th century painting concerned itself with making paintings move. Cubism, Futurism, Vorticism, sometimes a painting described in a suffixation of all three, each aligning to different nations, with Futurism further divided depending on whether you lived in Italy or Russia, to say nothing of its part in Fascism, which in those days was more a (political) movement than a (totalitarian) condition. (Has anyone ever self-identified as a totalitarian? Written "despot" or "slave" after "Occupation" when filling out a rental agreement? Neoliberalism allows us to engage in this condition, these behaviours, without saying so. Neoliberalism: Democracy's last hypocritical gasp.)

Vorticism. England's entrance into the abstraction racket. I feel its paintings -- the turning inward, the increase in pressure, the pain -- tightening to the point where to turn any more will only break that which generates the motion. I want to see a machine do that. So much work has been done these past years to keep machines from breaking down (planned obsolescence notwithstanding). Modern sculpture emerged with the rise of industrialization, its inevitable effect on the human body.

More and more I feel the word that best describes our current condition is torque, and I have spent a lot of time on Vorticism's pantings of late, notably those of Wyndham Lewis, the progenitor of Vorticism. "To every season turn, turn, turn," says the Book of Ecclesiastes, in a song made famous by the Byrds. But now even our seasonal passages show signs of departing the circle for the line, a lit fuse that ends in a combustable stick. Alfred Noble invented dynamite and felt so bad about it that he came up with an award for people who know better. I have seen pictures of its ceremonies. If ever there was an occasion to fidget.

Pictured above are paintings by Emily Carr, Paul Cézanne, Carlo Carrà and Wyndham Lewis.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Cage à oiseaux

The open-door feeding station has proved a hit with the birds. Mostly chickadees, who are fast and orderly, but also finches and a few portly sparrows who spend much of their time waddling on the pavers below, pecking for seeds that have fallen between the bars, though one did fly inside and was roughed up by a much smaller chickadee. Took a while to figure out a way to discourage the local rat, but with rats, all measures are temporary. Eventually they figure it out.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Public Exhibition

The boulevard at the SE corner of Inverness and East 19th has become a carefully curated dumping ground for a variety of objects over the past couple weeks. A few days ago it was a table-top ironing board; yesterday, a CANADA 3000 wheelchair. What will tomorrow bring? And just who is behind this curatorial project?

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Local Psychic

For those looking for a psychic, someone who can take a complex question, peel off its outer layers and hand it back to you in a pocket-sized, felt-lined box, with a price tag-sized response, I recommend Harlan, who can be found on most sunny days at the plaza outside Britannia Community Centre on Commercial Drive.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Alison Yip and Gaston Paris

The April-May issue of Preview is out and I have inside it a short piece on Alison Yip's Soma Topeka exhibition at the CAG. Pictured above is Alison's oil, paper and laminate tile What will cause me great embarrassment? (Somatic) (2022). On the far-left is artist Titziana La Melia, who contributed a parallel text. Far-right, exhibition curator Julia Lamare. Centred, an artist mannequin as avatar.

On the other side of the Atlantic, at the Pompidou, an exhibition of pseudo-surrealist photographs by photo-journalist Gaston Paris. Pictured below, Attraction fête foraine, vers 1930.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Berry Bear, Pine Bear, Honey Bear

I was taking an armful of Bishop's Weed to my recycling bin last week when what should come cartwheeling down the lane but this fascinating example of children's art, now magnetized to my refrigerator door. There is so much going on in this picture -- to say nothing of how and why it sought me out -- I had no choice but to keep it. But where did it come from?

Yesterday, while walking back from an afternoon meeting at Matchstick, I discovered its source -- in the lane behind Tim's house. Was this something Tim had dumped there, the drawing the work of his now adult son Dexter? Not likely, because Tim is far too good a neighbour to do something like that. More likely a bag of someone else's stuff that someone else had torn open and sifted through.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Heading South (2005)

Heading South (2005) caught my eye because resting dead face actor Charlotte Rampling was on the cover, and I will watch anything she's in. What's it about, apart from what its cover suggests? (Charlotte looking over her shoulder, grinning, a naked black man beside her, his back turned, the back of another woman walking away from them on the white sands of a palm-bordered beach.)

A Winter Tan (1987) came to mind, a film based on a diary-in-letters by Maryse Holder, a New York editor who took "vacations from feminism" to explore herself through her sexuality in Mexico (Heading South takes place in Haiti; both films are set in the 1970s). But Charlotte's "Ellen" is more established, more together than Jackie Burroughs's "Holder", and as the film makes clear, Ellen, a university professor from Boston who has been vacationing at this Haitian town for the past six years, knows exactly who she is and what she wants. "I'm crazy about love. Sex and love. I'm not really sure anymore," she tells the newly-arrived Brenda, a recent divorcee from Savannah, Georgia, and maybe a younger, if less together, if less uptight version of Ellen.

Brenda is played by Karen Young, a seasoned actor who I had never seen or heard of before but seemed familiar to me. While Rampling's character has two gears, Brenda's was likely designed to provide three variations of low -- as in key. But she gives more than that, and I was very taken with her performance.

The third character is Legba (played by Ménothy César), the Black man whose back is on the cover. "Legba belongs to everyone," says Ellen, and Brenda finds herself among them. She also experiences first hand that someone is trying to kill Legba (for a past relationship with a local who has taken up with a Duvalier crony) but, like the rest of the white women visitors, she never learns why. Ellen thinks her actions had something to do with Legba's murder, while Brenda, somewhat shockingly, has already moved on to the next adventure.

Heading South's original title is Vers le sud and is based on three short stories from La Chair du Maître (1997) by Haitian-Canadian writer Dany Laferrière

Sunday, April 10, 2022

I Love Lesbians

Pattern and repetition are essential in getting your point across. A recent instance can be found on Kingsway, where a run of I LOVE LESBIANS spray-painted messaging now decorates its "golden mile"(between Carolina and Welwyn).

Although once known for its automotive repair shops, Kingsway's golden mile is now home to Canada's largest and mostly youngest lesbian community, leading some to refer to this strip as the Castrol District. Every now and then, community members provide thoughtfully placed, felt-tipped graffiti to register this presence, but the latest run of I LOVE LESBIANS graffiti has topped that.

The poster (above) acts as a ground for this activity. Atop the poster we see the hashtag #proudtobealesbian, and below, In the middle:

"I am proud of dancing naked under the stars to lesbian music with thousands of lesbians at Mitchfest."

What's Mitchfest? Well, rather than hear about it from me, click here for a story about how it came to be -- and why it passed away.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

The Granville Strip

On Thursday morning I had an appointment I couldn't be late for. So I set out earlier than early and, after getting off at the Granville Skytrain Station, walked south on the Granville Strip, then west on Davie, to the top of the hill looking down at English Bay -- all in the name of killing time.

The usual run of broken widows. Some boarded over, others held together with tape.

The picture up top is a sushi restaurant. The method of repair owes as much to waiting (on an insurance claim, or an owner unable to cover the deductible) as it does to the ancient art of kintsugi. Shades of Imperial Japan's Rising Sun flag? I thought so. But a cracked version.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Cage Is Essential to Growth

Of all the creatures who visit my yard -- racoons, cats, skunks, squirrels, rats, birds -- it is birds I prefer. Chickadees and hummingbirds in particular.  

The hummingbirds need little encouragement, because there are a number of food sources already available. But putting out seed for chickadees can be a problem. If not because of the other birds (crows and jays in particular), but the squirrels, who can squirrel their way into almost anything.

Last month I saw a used bird cage for $10 outside Li's shop (AA Furniture & Appliance) on Kingsway. The cage needed work -- a place to put my seeds -- so I built a food loft.

As for the gate, I tied it open, though I'm thinking of taking it off. No way I'll ever cage a bird. But if a cage is a place where my chickadees can come and go from, have a bite to eat without fear of attack, then so be it. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

April Is National Poetry Mouth

Apropos of a recent post concerning poems with line breaks and poems in paragraphic (prose) forms. Have our phones and their smaller-screen formatting systems interrupted our breath-lines? Have they had bearing on the shape our poems take? Unless you're H.D., William Carlos Williams, Robert Creeley or Rae Armantrout, it appears so. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

"Talking to the High Schools About Sophistry" (after Mayakovsky)

On Monday I gave a talk to a couple of senior high school classes as part of National Poetry Month. The title of my talk was "Hyper-Conflation", and what follows is a transcribed excerpt from its middle-section.


Among the questions I've been asked by [your teacher] to speak on today is: If poetry is important to me, if I want poetry to be part of my life, can I make a living from it?

The long answer is Yes. An unqualified Yes. Unqualified, in part, because it runs counter to my own experience, plus I no longer believe in "a living." What I have to offer you who are growing up in a world so different from the one I grew up in is an authoritarian approach. An authoritarian approach because that is the path to making a living of anything these days. Even soldiering. Especially soldiering, which includes police work, convoy riding and espionage. And by espionage I'm speaking of it in its most informal form. Like when your parents ask you to do something and you say you don't want to because every time you bend over to pull a weed the neighbour peeks over the fence to get a better look. Telling your parents that, regardless of whether it is true or not, has a name. Does anyone know the name of this method? Hands? Yes.


Exactly. Counter-intelligence. You are looking for a particular result or results, and in order to get it or them you put in motion something of your own invention, in the hope that what results from that result or results can produce a favourable outcome or outcomes. This is -- and it has been this way for some time now -- the operative mode of neoliberal political economy and its hands-on equivalent when it comes to ruling not just the page or the skatepark or the yoga studio, but the masses, the land they live on, pay taxes on, even the land that has been stolen from them. I'm speaking of expansion. Expansion. E-X-P-A-N-S-I-O-N. Expansion. Also known as Growth. Or in its most covert form: Networking.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. We can't forget the poem, right? Even if we don't know where it is we can't forget it. Right? Anyone want to take a stab at where the poem is? Hands? Yes, you in the maroon hoodie.

The poem begins with the invention, then the result or results, and ends with the outcome or outcomes.

Everyone agree? Hands? Hands up those who agree. Almost half the class. Forty-six-point-eight percent. Well, you lost the election. You're not wrong, you just lost. Any questions? Again in the maroon hoodie.

They didn't lose.

Okay, elaborate.

I will, but do you know why?

I do. But do you? And please bear in mind that I'm not satisfied with your previous response. I am not satisfied because though the elements are right, the order is wrong. You begin -- the poem begins -- with the outcome or outcomes, then the invention, and then the result or results. That is the narrative.

You're right. I got the order wrong.  

Getting the order wrong can turn a bad poem into a great software tutorial, and we don't want that!


The result is finding a way of never having to weed the lawn again. A second result is an opportunity to disgrace someone who you and others important to you have deemed unworthy, and that is a neighbour who happens to be a principal in an oil and gas exploration company. The invention is an action designed to activate an unspoken anxiety your parents have about the purity of your mind and body -- in this instance, your neighbour making an effort to look every time you bend over and, because you notice this effort, are horrified by it, if not permanently traumatized. The outcome is no more weeding the lawn. The second outcome is an aspersion cast on someone who is contributing to the death of the planet.


But you got another thing wrong. You got another thing wrong when you admitted that you got the order wrong. The poem is never wrong: it is simply too difficult for those who don't know how to experience it. Remember that. The poem is never wrong. If it comes out as you said    -- in public -- you have to stick by it, work with it. And the best way to do that is to recognize that the best way to extricate yourself, to move forward, is the introduction of a new outcome, and a second outcome that could well be taking me down as a subversive in my attempt to radicalize you. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The equation I wrote on the board during [your teacher]'s introduction is a Theory of Counter-Intelligence. But before I go through it with you, I'm going to write down another theory -- a Theory of Charisma -- which I will, with your help, endeavour to discuss with you as to why the two are related. This is what I'm calling the FIRST INSTANCE OF HYPER-CONFLATION.

Monday, April 4, 2022


At the southeast corner of Kingsway and Fraser stood a Wosk's. The Wosks likely built the building, though one is never sure. Checking the City of Vancouver Archives is a good idea, but I have noticed its cataloguing to be shaky on certain details, particularly when it comes to Kingsway, which is underrepresented given that it is the city's first road and existed prior to "contact".

The Wosks built a number of buildings, many of them with this bluish-green tile that was all over town when I was a kid (pictured below). The Wosk's Department Store at Kingsway and Fraser was one of the last buildings in Vancouver to be clad in these tiles -- until the Pattison Group purchased it some 15 years ago, sheared off its tiles, painted the exterior "forest" green and opened a Bible supply shop. Oy vey!

The Bible supply shop moved on some five years ago and the building sat there until last year, when its huge windows were suddenly papered over and the sound of saws and hammers. Glad to know the building is getting a renovation, as opposed to a demolition. I hope things are kept low at that intersection. I am all for building more homes, but everything can't be towers.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Found Poem Mural

This largely brick wall belongs to the CIBC just east of the northeast corner of Kingsway and Knight. Even before banks added ATMs to their exteriors (early-1980s), they had mailbox-like interfaces with slots marked MAIL and pull-down drawers marked WALLETS. If it was after banking hours, and you had a document or a bundle that needed to arrive first thing the following morning, you could enter these items through these portals. The mailbox interface was the first to go, and that accounts for the stainless steel cover. As for the ATM interfaces, they were filled-in with bricks and you can see their outlines. Not a picture I am fond of. I'll attempt a better one when the sun's out.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

April is National Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration initiated by the Academy of American Poets after the success of Black History Month (February) and Women's History Month (March). Does every month have an official celebration attached to it? Is there a registry for such things? Who was that man with the clipboard? The one shouting, "November's still available! Anyone for November?"

In 1900, field linguist and Franz Boas student John Swanton began recording (in phonemic transcript) Haida myths and legends (and histories, of course) as told to him by Haida poet-storytellers Skaay and Ghandl, which, with the assistance of Haida Henry Moody, Swanton translated into English. In 1995, the anthropologist John Enrico, working with two Haida speakers in their nineties (Hazel Stevens and Kathleen Hans) produced from this transcription-translation a new English version, called Haida Myths and Histories, which Haida elders like the artist Guujaaw (above) believe to be the most faithful. Four years later, Robert Bringhurst published A Story as Sharp as a Knife, a seductive collective of verse poems made from Swanton's original transcription-translation.

Accusations of cultural appropriation/theft aside, one of the more interesting commentaries that accompanied Bringhurst's book was Enrico's contention that, despite their oral origins, the Haida myths and legends and histories are closer to prose poems than to verse poems, and that Bringhurst clothing them in verse (in addition to taking liberties with his translation) make them more about Bringhurst than the Haida people to which they belong.

I bring this up because the conversation concerning prose poetry and verse poetry is on poets' minds of late. Poet rob mclennan, a one-person hub for much English-language poetry, saw fit to give this discussion some space in a recent issue of his online journal periodicities. So thank you to rob, and a Happy Poetry Month to those who read and write it!

Friday, April 1, 2022

Trompe l'oeil

Lots of walking of late. Can't believe I hadn't passed these doors before. Or maybe I had, before they were repainted.

Someone chose this colour. But why? What informed their decision?

Most houses these days, like most cars and trucks, are painted unobtrusive colours. Every now and then you come across an orange house and you wonder why.

Last summer I saw someone in their front yard planting a monkey puzzle tree. The house behind them -- an Edwardian Builder like the house I live in -- was painted a pumpkin orange (semi-gloss), with a lavender trim (latex). I stopped to rub my eyes.

"Hi!" said the planter, smiling.

"A monkey tree!" was my reply.

"A monkey puzzle tree," she said getting to her feet, brushing the dirt from her knees, still smiling.

"I stand corrected."

"You do! Got something in your eye?"

"Yes, your house."

She laughed. "You don't like the colours, do you."

"Well," I began, "it's not that I don't like them so much as I wonder what went into the decision to paint a house with them."

"I like them, is all." But she wasn't done. Nor did she seem willing to share the decision-making process. "What are you, an art critic or something?"

"As a matter of fact I am," I said, seeing no way out of it. 

"Oh yeah, who do you write for?" she said to the monkey puzzle tree.

"Well, first and foremost I write for myself," I said. 

"So you're not an art critic," she deadpanned.

"I write art criticism, essays on art, and sometimes I write with artists who make films, videos--"

"Well, I'm an artist," she said sternly. "A painter."

"I can see that from your house," I said.

"Only an art critic wouldn't get these colours," she said with some provocation.

"Only an art critic would wonder why you chose to paint a house with them, and to what effect," was my reply.

"Fuck you, creep! Get the fuck out of my neighbourhood!" And with that she turned and walked down the path between her house and the neighbour's. 

The garage up top is not far from the house I just described. Only now the house has been repainted. A neutral colour this time, its monkey puzzle tree a wizened, dried out stick.