Thursday, June 30, 2022


I forget what led me to the 1977 Academy Awards presentation for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. I suppose the answer lies in my browser's "History" tab, but I'm too busy to look. It's a beautiful morning. I can't wait to get out in it.

At first I thought this incredible set was inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), as Award set designs often taken their cues from/pay tribute to movies released that year. But Close Encounters wasn't released until November, and the Academy Awards was held in March. 

Apart from its colours and lines, the set carries with it an illusion (the dotted path that Tatum O'Neal walks to the podium, to read the list of nominees), which is what movies are all about, be it "movie magic", sleight of hand or downright deceit. The colours are especially interesting. A large dome of Caucasian pink, over a smaller dome made up of yellow and brown (it was Awards co-host Richard Pryor who introduced O'Neal).

Wednesday, June 29, 2022



There are a number of fundamentals gardeners learn or dispense with over a lifetime of gardening. One of them concerns composition (groupings) -- plants that look good together.

The picture up top includes a dark blue pot that every year is given two or three plugs of blue lobelia and an Indian Dunes geranium. 

Embracing the pot is a happier than usual lupin that, rather unexpectedly, has backed into a Rosa Sexy Rexy floribunda, a rose I planted four years ago and was late to the game this spring.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Mary Janeway

Mary Janeway (1949-2022) passed away earlier this year. Last Sunday her life mate Charles Rea held a remembrance at their home near Trout Lake.

In the top floor room that is Charlie's studio a picture wall featuring pics of Mary throughout her life. The picture up top includes a number of Mainstreeters -- the "art gang" whose core was formed from students of Charles Tupper High School, and the subject of an exhibition (Mainstreeters: Taking Advantage, 1972-1982) Allison Collins and I curated for grunt gallery and Presentation House Gallery back in 2015.

Mary is at the far-left of the picture, as you are looking at it. Between her and the three people standing at the far-right are the Mainstreeters, sans Kenneth Fletcher.

I had never seen this picture before. Had I seen it, I'm sure Allison and I would have included it in our exhibition. As for the leopard spots, they were a motif deployed by Western Fronter Eric "Doctor Brute" Metcalfe, and the Mainstreeters were known for inhabiting those whose circles they ran in (and around). 

Another artist-run collective the Mainstreeters paid tribute to/burlesqued was Pumps. Among the videos we showed in our exhibition was a fashion show the Mainstreeters mounted after breaking into Pumps and dressing in the clothes of its members.

I was fortunate to know Mary over the past twenty-five years. Her art included jewelry (many of my friends wear her rings), gardens and a range of insights that have served me well in my own art over the years. A generous and curious person whose convictions, though firm at times, were less concluding walls than topic sentence bridges. I will miss her.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Three Crows

I thought I was losing my mind: three crows together on a fence, their beaks opening and closing, adjusting their bodies in ways that suggested a singing group, but no sound. Like the world's quietest pantomime. Something out of a horror movie. This was Friday evening, the day before the weather changed. I took a picture right away, then took a step closer, camera in hand, but one of them flew off. The picture up top was the picture I took, then enlarged. There is no other way to say it: I thought I was losing my mind.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Goodbye, Lenin (2003)

Another film where a lead character stops talking. Yesterday it was Persona's Elizabet Volgner, today it is Goodbye, Lenin's Frau Kerner, who is gobsmacked after her husband's 1978 defection to the west. Not because he left the family for a floozy, as she came to tell her children, but because she was too scared to apply for an exit visa so that she and the children could join him.

This lie, which she reveals to her children before her death at the end of the film, is intended to braid with the lie her son Alex maintained after she came out of a coma nine months after the Wall came down, when East Berlin, where this film is set, was no longer the worker's paradise that Frau Kerner, a school teacher, served "too idealistically," according to her former boss, but a place of hyperbolic transition. Alex's lie is that the DDR is not dissolving but in fact thriving, swelling with West Germans fleeing the pornographic popcorn that is capitalism, and he does everything he can to protect his weak-hearted mother from a reality that could, quite literally, shock her to death. 

Goodbye, Lenin is a film I had heard about for years and had imagined differently. For example, I imagined the mother and son to be older, the mother closer to a wisecracking Ruth Gordon than the limited yet distractingly attractive Katrin Sass. And then there's the question, Are Germans funny? Which of course they are. But when Germans try to be English funny or American funny, something very unfunny happens, and the problem as I see it has less to do with easy laughs than it does with our ability to appreciate the spectrum of the thoughtful (often ironic) proposition that only Germans seem capable of, where all responses are in play, an effect that can sometimes leave me -- speechless.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Persona (1966)

I would love to have a summer to read all that was ever written on Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966). Why it took me so long to see it is based on my belief that I had seen it. The only time it came up in conversation was when someone mentioned it in the context of all-time favourite films, where Persona is never first or second, but usually third or fourth.

The Persona I thought I'd seen was likely pieces of more obscure Bergman films that I hadn't seen all of. Amy was the last person I know who mentioned Persona to me. A couple weeks ago I saw a copy of it amongst the dreck at the East Hastings Street Value Village, and I bought it thinking of her. According to one of the floor staff, there are two guys who wait outside the doors every morning and race to the DVD section to "get all the good stuff." That Persona wasn't considered part of that stuff is partly what's wrong with the world.

If you're reading this far it might be because you've seen the film. I'm hoping you have, because I'm not going to describe it, only speak to the screen grabs I've selected for this post.

The first grab is of Nurse Alma's introduction to her patient, the actor Elisabet Vogler, who was admitted to hospital because, during a stage performance as Elektra (Elektra!), she suddenly, and more or less forever after, stops talking. Nurse Alma is a friendly young woman who, when asked to accompany a convalescent Elisabet to a desolate seaside house by one of the hospital psychiatrists, admits she might not be mentally strong enough to take on Elisabet's care. Eventually she agrees to do so, and more admissions follow. What Persona is, then, becomes in no small part a culmination of admissions -- and their consequences.

Did you notice Nurse Alma's shoes in the grab up top? Take a closer look:

Not a shoe I think of when I think of nursing. But then, what do I know about nursing? In Sweden, no less. And in 1966, when I was four.

There's so much men will never know about women's bodies, and it is for this reason that those who support The Patriarchy, inadvertently or otherwise, must not make decisions on their behalf.

Here is Elisabet's foot, the first time she misses stepping on a piece of Nurse Alma's broken glass:

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Bitch (1979)

My advice to those interested in the writing life is now down to four words: read widely, write daily. An example of wide reading could include Elfriede Jelinek at one end of the shelf, Jackie Collins at the other. 

A couple weeks ago I picked up a never before cracked Jackie Collins paperback published in the relatively debauched year of 1979. The book is called The Bitch.

Collins is at her best with chapters that begin with the names of her characters. In The Bitch, it is not the bitch we first meet (Fontaine Khaled), but the "gentleman" (Nico Constantine) who uses her as a unwitting mule to smuggle a fabulously large and "borrowed" diamond ring into London to sell before his return to Las Vegas, where he can pay off his gambling debt.

I am only on Page 141 of this 253 page cartoon, so I don't know how it turns out. Not that it matters, for as I said, it's portraiture, not plot, that is Jackie Collins's strong suit. Which is not to say (so far) that the Bitch is well drawn, with complexities that lead us to sympathize with her, forgive her bitchiness as a symptom of some childhood injury, and thus love her for what she isn't. My problem is that the Bitch isn't bitchy enough.

Like Nico the Gentleman, Fontaine the Bitch goes through lovers -- young lovers -- like seltzer water. The difference is that Nico (a widower) sets a time limit of four weeks on his love affairs, after which he gives his exes a diamond trinket and a speech that makes it sound like it is the dumped lover who is breaking up with him. For Fontaine (the divorcee), a lover rarely lasts a week, and is assessed entirely on the size of his bank account (we're still in the era of the millionaire) and penis ("eight or nine inches").

Why Nico is considered a gentleman and Fontaine a bitch is the difference between the lies of a confidence man and the honesty of a woman who, though fickle, is at least up front about what she wants. Fontaine's bitch is a mere shadow when compared to the ferocious recklessness of today's bitch. As for Nico, his gentlemanly ways would only leave him vulnerable, serve as an admission of guilt, and he would, like Tennessee Williams's Sebastian Venable, be torn to pieces by an unforgiving mob.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Clark Park

I can't remember when this too-tall-to-be-a-stump stump was a living, breathing birch tree, but it was once, and now it is a marker for itself and the life it once possessed, not to mention a luxury tower for bugs. The picture was taken on yesterday's walk back from the dentist, where Brenda cleaned my teeth, measured the pockets in my gums and noted positive developments in some places (a "9" is once more a "6"), but "you'll have to remember to hold the brush on that area a little longer than usual." 

I have lived where I do long enough to have myriad routes to and from it. Walking somewhere is never the same walk home in reverse, and yesterday was no different, coming back along East 13th, where there's a take-a-book-leave-a-book library near Charles's house. Amazing the books I've found there. Given how smart Charles is, I expect some of these books might have been his.

Yesterday I withdrew two books: Mary Sarton's Journal of a Solitude (1973) and David Foster Wallace's story collection Girl With Curious Hair (1989), the back of which features the author wearing what I always thought was a bandana, but could well be a bandage, or at least a sign for those who paid enough attention to his writing while he was alive to know he struggled with mental health issues.

For Sarton, her mental health required a rotation of social (professional) commitments and solitude, with the latter not necessarily a restful, peaceful place.

I have only read two entries from Sarton so far -- "September 15th" and "September 17th". Here's the first entry:

"For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been a collision. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting and tormented self. I have written every poem, every novel, for the same purpose -- to find out what I think, to know where I stand. I am unable to become what I see. I feel like an inadequate machine, a machine that breaks down at crucial moments, grinds to a dreadful halt, "won't go," or, even worse, explodes in an innocent person's face." (12)

Later in the book, after receiving a poem sent to her from a twelve-year-old at the urging of the child's mother:

"The child really does look at things, and I can write something helpful, I think. But it is troubling how many people expect applause, recognition, when they have not even begun to learn an art or a craft. Instant success is the order of the day: 'I want it now!' I wonder if this is not part of our corruption by machines. Machines do things very quickly and outside the rhythms of life, and we are indignant if a car doesn't start at the first try." (15)

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Recent Mailings

Kevin Brazil's review of Documenta 15 in yesterday's art-agenda mailing suggests this half-decade's iteration lacks the prescience of Roger Buergel and Ruth Novak's Documenta 12, which ushered in the era of the curatorial artist (prescience, like market forecasting, being curation's gift to a consumer society), and gives us instead contemporary art's so long to its current moment and hello to its TL;DR hour. A highlight of the review is Brazil's description of a board game (my bolds):

The Speculative Collective Board Game, developed by Gudskul and available to play on a table inside the Fridericianum, is a role-playing game in which players “act as members of an art collective” in order to foster “co-operating, sharing resources, problem solving, and decision making.” Players face challenges like a member starting a family and therefore having less time to give to the collective endeavor. The resolution of a conflict improves the collective’s “bonding” and increases its “social capital.” Success is thus measured by metrics resembling the funding structures that bring a collective into being, and the formation of aesthetic subjectivity made equivalent to a training in assessment, evaluation, and impact. This game suggests that Gudskul imagine their audience as consisting of aspiring artist-administrators and that, for the general public, the art collective is a model for improved social relations.

After Brazil's article I found myself reading a mail-out from C Magazine thanking "the publication's first queer editor" in tribute form, the likes of which I associate more with a religious ceremony or a shareholders meeting. For those interested in walking a mile in Jac Renée Bruneau's shoes, consider this:

C Magazine Job Opportunity: Editor

Apply by: 20 July 2022

C Magazine is looking to welcome a new Editor who will lead the editorial program for our print and online platforms, by engaging imaginatively, sensitively, pluralistically, and energetically, and with significant ideas in Canadian and international contemporary art and its contexts.

Salary from: 50K to 55K
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Employee Benefits: Flex-time, Health insurance, Annual increase*
Employment Type: Full-time (4 day week, plus added hours during production)*
*Check Additional Info section for more details

The Editor leads the editorial and educational program at C Magazine, as part of a small, collaboratively managed staff. Overseeing and developing the editorial vision and content for print and online, the Editor produces a regular schedule of critically engaged features, columns, artist projects, talks, programs, and workshops. The Editor works closely with the Reviews Editor to shape and commission content, and with the Executive Director/Publisher to publish the magazine and produce its associated programs, with a commitment to facilitating meaningful, pluralistic, interdisciplinary, historically engaged and imaginative conversations about contemporary art. As a key public representative, the Editor plays an essential role in developing C Magazine’s local and international profile and makes a valuable contribution to the record of Canadian and international contemporary art. The Editor reports to and is responsible to the authority of the Board of Directors of C The Visual Arts Foundation, and is supervised by the Executive Director/Publisher.

Ensuring that C Magazine fulfills its mandate while meeting the standards, policies, strategic objectives, and priorities of the organization, the Editor supervises and is accountable for the following key responsibilities:

Editorial and educational program 

  • Develop the editorial vision, and related public communication 
  • Develop and maintain the editorial structure and plan for C Magazine’s print magazine and online platforms.
  • Be accountable for all editorial content, and oversee the work of the Reviews Editor 
  • Facilitate three consultative Editorial Advisory meetings annually
  • Prepare themed calls for pitches for three annual print issues, and read and evaluate pitches
  • Shape, solicit and commission editorial content; including but not limited to features, columns, and artist projects for three annual print issues, plus online columns 
  • Conduct image research, negotiate permissions, and ensure all contributions are appropriately credited
  • Write the Editorial note, issue description, and press release
  • Write or commission and edit programming-related texts (e.g. introductory or discursive texts)
  • Thoughtfully and consistently complete substantive edits within professional standards 
  • Respond to current art and cultural practices in a timely manner, while building upon community dialogue, and past C Magazine editorial material 
  • Communicate with artists, writers, and creative professionals in all stages of their careers with compassion and professionalism
  • Produce content-related programming (panels, lectures, conversations, workshops, etc.), and educational programs, such as the annual C New Critics Award, and pitch workshops
  • Represent C Magazine publicly and within the professional visual arts sector.

Production and editorial management

  • For print production, collate and release files to the designer, review and signoff on all galleys, coordinate external proofreading, direct and coordinate changes, and sign off on the final proof
  • Maintain the C Magazine Living Style Guide and editorial toolkit
  • Set and ensure that the production schedule is adhered to by all relevant staff
  • Determine contributor fees, in consultation with the Executive Director/Publisher
  • Ensure that all contributors and subjects are properly credited 
  • Review and write relevant website and newsletter content 
  • Adhere to an approved editorial and educational program budget

Related Tasks

  • Carry out general administration duties
  • Write or edit, and approve artistic sections of grants and reports
  • Assist in development and funding opportunities such as project grant applications
  • Participate in the organization’s fundraising activities
  • Contribute to the development of visual identity, and communications strategies
  • Participate in board meetings and educational program committee meetings
  • Assist in developing Strategic Plan goals and objectives
  • Report on editorial deliverables, and Strategic Plan outcomes related to the editorial and educational program
  • Follow, support, and critically engage with the Canadian and international art ecology
  • Support and seek to develop the local, national, and international profile of C Magazine 

Human resource management

  • Manage team members (Reviews Editor, Copyeditor, Proofreader, and any editorial intern) following standards set by the organization in the Employee Handbook
  • Maintain a professional atmosphere as per the Ontario Code of Human Rights
  • Be committed throughout your work to principles of anti-oppression, equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, and to applying the organization’s accessibility and equity policies


Education and Experience

  • Master’s degree in art history, critical and curatorial studies, or a closely related field in Fine Arts, Humanities, or Social Science; or equivalent education, training, and experience relevant to the role
  • Writing, substantive editing, and copyediting; minimum of three years combined in a professional context related to contemporary art and culture (a combination of academic, magazine-related, journalistic, independent, and/or peer-to-peer are acceptable)
  • Experience providing substantive edits on contemporary art writing for publication in any format; experience commissioning writers is considered a major asset
  • Experience developing careful and productive working relationships with writers, artists, and other art-world peers
  • Knowledge and understanding of anti-oppression and EDI practices, with demonstrable commitment and care to EDI in past work 
  • Well-developed networks within the national and international contemporary art community; knowledge of and active engagement with discourse in multiple disciplines therein
  • Experience overseeing and motivating a team is considered a major asset
  • Experience in non-profit art magazine publishing and/or the artist-run sector is considered an asset 
Skills and Abilities
  • Demonstrable ability to conduct research, conceptualize, evaluate, and execute ideas within an editorial or curatorial framework—creatively, innovatively, receptively, and resourcefully
  • Astute awareness of editorial ethics, journalistic integrity, industry standards, and the politics of language
  • Extremely attentive to detail, with advanced project management, planning, and organizational skills
  • Demonstrable ability to work enthusiastically, respectfully, and sensitively as part of creative collaboration
  • Self-directed with proven ability to prioritize, assign, and execute multiple tasks simultaneously, and meet numerous ongoing deadlines 
  • Knowledge of copyright, image reproduction, the Chicago Manual of Style, and/or Canadian Press Style
  • Training in conflict resolution, anti-racism, or anti-oppression is considered an asset
  • Computer skills for an MS Office, Adobe, Google Apps, Dropbox, and Slack environment
Additional Requirements
  • Available for occasional evenings and weekend commitments, including meetings and attendance at events; online and in Toronto
  • Ability to work effectively in a remote environment
  • Responsible, ethical, and accountable
  • Positive and professional, with an engaged, hands-on, and constructive approach
  • A demonstrable interest in advancing C Magazine’s mandate and vision  


The role is full-time, based on a four-day work week (28 hours per week) plus additional hours (up to 28 hours during each print production period, 3 times per year). Vacation is taken as earned, and increases to three weeks in year two of employment. All employees receive holiday bonus days off between Dec 26 and Jan 1, and an automatic annual increase for inflation on July 1. 
We mainly work remotely (office space is also available), on flex-time, with core team hours. The office of C Magazine is at 401 Richmond Street W, Toronto, and is physically accessible.


Application Deadline: 20 Jul 2022
Interview Dates from: 2 to 12 August 2022
Anticipated Start Date: 12 Sept 2022

Please submit your application as one pdf, emailed to with the subject: “EDITOR.” The receipt of your application will be acknowledged. Include only the following in your application:

  • Letter of interest (two pages maximum)—include your motivations; your editorial strengths and approach; your EDIA commitments; and your research interests
  • CV (three pages maximum)
  • 2 writing samples (500-2500 words each), and 1 relevant editing sample; among them, one should demonstrate writing, commissioning, or editing with an EDI lense
  • Voluntary self-identification form 
C Magazine is an equal opportunity employer that uses an Affirmative Action Program to actively increase the representation of equity-seeking groups in the art sector, with current priority given to Indigenous Persons; Black Persons; Persons of Colour; deaf, mad, and disabled persons; 2SLGBTQIAP persons. If you identify as a member of one of these groups, you are invited to voluntarily self-identify using the voluntary self-identification form (also available at Only those who self-identify can benefit from the C Affirmative Action Procedures. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply and will be assessed on their merits. Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be given priority.

Candidates will be selected for assessment based on their application submissions. Candidate assessment will include an interview, reference checks, and an assigned substantive editing task, and a second interview will include a theme pitch. Please refer to the C Information for Writers at and visit to understand the style and scope of C Magazine.
C Magazine is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment and to providing employment accommodation for those who identify as deaf, mad, and disabled. Please let us know of any accommodation we may provide during the application, interview, or selection process.
We thank all applicants in advance. Only the most qualified will be interviewed.


C Magazine, established in 1984, is a contemporary art and criticism periodical that functions as a forum for significant ideas in art and its contexts. Each issue explores a theme that is singularly engaged with emerging and prevailing perspectives through original art writing, criticism and artists’ projects. Our content focuses on the activities of contemporary art practitioners residing in Canada and Canadian practitioners living abroad—with an emphasis on those from Black, Indigenous, diasporic and other equity-seeking communities—as well as on international practices and dialogues. We are committed to facilitating meaningful, pluralistic, interdisciplinary, historically-engaged and imaginative conversations about art. In addition to publishing three print and digital issues of the magazine each year, we present educational workshops, programs, talks, and other events. We also mentor interns and facilitate two writing awards. 

C Magazine is published online and in print three times each year in April (Spring), August (Autumn), and December (Winter), by C The Visual Arts Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization established to present ideas, advance education and document contemporary visual art and artist culture.

Contact Information
Kate Monro, Executive Director and Publisher
C Magazine

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Brighton, c.1938

There seems to be fewer shops selling old photographs these days. These would be antique shops, not thrift shops.

The antique shop in Kerrisdale next to Economy Barbers on West Boulevard where I used to get my hair cut still has old photos for sale, but the last time I was there, I noticed more portraits than landscapes: fussy looking people who seem to resent paying so much to have their pictures taken.

A couple days ago I read a paragraph in Graham Greene's Brighton Rock (1938) that felt like I was looking through a handful of old photos. Those familiar with the book will recall how a photograph figures in the demise of Spicer.

Here's the handful-of-photos paragraph, with what feels to me like a photo taken (the punctum sentence, as it were) in bold:

"It was quite dark now: the coloured lights were on all down the Hove front. They walked slowly past Snow's, past the Cosmopolitan. An aeroplane flying low burred out to sea, a red light vanishing. In one of the glass shelters an old man struck a match to light his pipe and showed a man and girl cramped in the corner. A wall of music came off the sea. They returned up through Norfolk Square towards Montpellier Road: a blonde with Garbo cheeks paused to powder on the steps up to the Norfolk bar. A bell tolled somewhere for someone dead and a gramophone in a basement played a hymn. "Maybe," the Boy said, "after tonight we'll find some place to go." (179-180)

Monday, June 20, 2022

Andrew Gruft (1937-2021)

The life of Andrew Gruft was celebrated last night at Cecil Green Park House, a big ass Edwardian era mansion designed by Samuel Maclure in 1912. In my dozen or so conversations with Andrew (a UBC Professor of Architecture for many years), I never knew what he thought of Edwardian mansions, though I suspect he had an understanding of them and might well have discussed them on a case by case basis, looking at each design and structure on its own terms, judging its success or failure on those terms.

And of course in my careful approach to a discussion of what Andrew might think about anything I feel myself bracing for his sudden presence, to tell me, No Turner, you're full of shit again. Stop standing outside yourself like that, disembodied. What were you feeling when you left the road and walked down the path? Did you feel the embrace? Did it feel yours? Don't me give me this crap about objectivity. Come alive, man!

There were four speeches last night. The first one from a daughter-in-law; the last one from Claudia Beck, Andrew's partner and wife for many years, and with whom he founded an important gallery and built an equally important art collection; and in the middle, a speech by Chris Dikeakos and one by Sarah Milroy, both of which were loving, funny and insightful. It was Sarah who reminded us of Andrew's two voices, what she calls "The Chainsaw" and "The Turtle-Dove." The chainsaw voice was the sparring voice, the one that scared me the first time I heard it because I took it personally; the turtle dove was softer and reserved for concerns over one's health or a stalled project, sometimes as a follow up to the chainsaw voice for those who appeared to take the chainsaw voice personally.

The event ran from 6pm to 11pm, but I left after the speeches, not wanting to eat or drink their words away, wanting to contemplate them instead and, I guess, speak to Andrew in my own mind, the sun having finally come out in full, so high in the sky at that, casting its rays onto things it touches only a few long days a year. Like this maple tree just north of UBC's Main Library, which I stopped to stare at because that's where Andrew was, where I could talk to him, hear what he had to say.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Miskwagoode (2022)

Yesterday was the third evening of readings in a row for me and a handful of other attendees. A run that began at the People's Co-op Bookstore on Thursday night, followed by the Western Front on Friday night, before concluding at Massey Arts last night for the launch of Annishinaabe poet Marie Annharte Baker's Miskwagoode, an event that opened with stand-up comedy by a very confident Savannah Erasmus, followed by some old and new storytelling by Madeline Terbasket, and then some thoughtful talking and reading by Marie on relations, loss, bodies and dogs.

Our host for the evening was Mercedes Eng who, in her self-confessed "enthusiasm," apologized at the end of the evening for forgetting to introduce the book's publisher, Rolf Mauer of New Star Books, who, once introduced, thanked members of the Kootenay School of Writing for bringing Marie to his attention all those years ago. Mercedes's enthusiasm was no doubt also responsible for her forgetting to offer a land acknowledgement, which is tradition now at cultural events and something you notice as much for its absence as its presence. 

Here is the first line in the last poem ("Just Another Dog Tale") from Miskwagoode:

"Back when dogs spoke at meetings and polite enough they hung up"

Saturday, June 18, 2022

"In the middle of the large"

I can't recall the last time I was inside the Western Front. I know it was before the pandemic; before the Media program was shuttered; and before the departure of the Curator of Exhibitions, whose position remains vacant -- or has it been extinguished?

For years the Western Front (est. 1973) operated without an Executive Director, when the owner-artists more or less called the shots, writing cheques for themselves when it was felt to be justified, appointing each other to curatorial positions in Media, Exhibitions, Music, Literary, Performance, carrying on like Vikings at Uppsala. Caitlin Jones was the first Executive Director hired after thirty-plus years "under" an often-beleagured Office Manager (I recall one past Manager's claim that she was the "Curator of Budgets").

One of Caitlin's greatest accomplishments was negotiating the transfer of the Western Front from its remaining owners to the Western Front Society, a sale enabled by cultural amenity money provided by a nearby condo development, and assisted, it should be said, by owners who sold at the property's assessed value versus what it might have received if the property was listed low enough to excite a bidding war. (I can remember a time when the owners boasted that when they passed they would leave their shares to the Society.)

The current ED, Susan Gibb, has yet to distinguish herself in this capacity, though as is sometimes the case, a cutting board has to be scraped and cleaned before any of us might chop vegetables on it. Many believe Caitlin did this work, but clearly the current ED and board feel there is more to do. Just how much the Front is saving in curatorial staff salaries has yet to be reflected in its program. But of course we have Covid to blame for that.

Such a pissy lead-in to what I sat down to write about this morning, and that is last night's inspiring event at the Western Front's Luxe, in honour of the poet-critic Fred Wah. Organized by incoming Capilano Review Literary Editor Deanna Fong (picture up top), the event featured readings by some of Deanna's student associates from Montreal, in addition to senior poets Louis Cabri (from Windsor) and Danielle LaFrance, not to mention Fred himself, who appeared both "live" and in archival footage -- one tape from a 1974 Luxe reading, another from 1985. 

As it was at the People's Co-op Bookstore the night before, it felt good to be in a room with readers. And what a room the Luxe is! Whoever decided to keep the room unlit (save for a single spotlight over the microphone), with the windows open and the slowly dimming night sky beside us, deserves credit (I looked behind me at one point and saw Susan standing near the light switch). But that's always how the Luxe readings were done, Robert and Helga reminded later that night over dinner. Yes, but it has been so long since I was last there. It's like I was experiencing the place for the very first time. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

Unfuckable Lardass (2022) and After Beowulf (2022)

Because all books were once new books, new books unite all books. What distinguishes books is as varied as one book is from another.

Last night Catriona Strang and Nicole Markotic read from their new books (Unfuckable Lardass and After Beowulf, respectively). Both books share similar concerns and approaches to language -- not as an ends over means waterslide into that over-stuffed sofa that is the heart, but a pebble in the shoe of life. Neither are afraid to complicate that which has been smoothed over erased, be it the historic male-centric scholarship on Beowulf, on the one hand, or, more recently, that ad hominem attack "allegedly levelled at German Chancellor Angela Merkel" ("levelled" too is a form of smoothing erasure, which is often the intention of the leveller).

Nicole, who read first, reminded us of the oft-debated first word that opens Beowulf (his Beowulf, but also Nicole's), a word that, with an exclamation not a question mark, translates as What! Later, when I got home, I read through Catriona's Unfuckable Lardass, and noticed something in "This Rabble World", a long poem comprised of short linguistics events, how the "3." entry ends where both Beowulfs begin. A clarification that extends, as opposed to completes.

just about

that's got
my what

It was so nice to be out in public for a reading, after all those months of prison windows, the penitentiary that is Zoom and its variants. To my left sat Maxine Gadd, before me, Fred Wah -- two Vancouver poets (now in their 80s) renowned for their critical insights and attention to craft. For those interested, a poem of Fred's is the focus of a group reading tonight at the Western Front, hosted by Deanna Fong. Please come!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Nordic Combined

This morning I awoke to news that the International Olympic Committee is considering dropping from its Winter competition the Nordic Combined. Introduced in 1924, the Nordic Combined begins with ski jumping, where the order of finish determines the order in which participants set off on a 10km cross-country ski race. Nordic Combined is the only Olympic sport that does not include women, and male competitors have stepped up their efforts to have the IOC include both "official" genders.

Nordic Combined is considered a fringe sport in the U.S., but remains popular in Europe and Japan, much like the biathlon, which pairs cross-country skiing with rifle shooting, an event that, more than most, seems rooted in the rural life of northern countries. Could the elimination of Nordic Combined be symptomatic of a trend towards dropping events that don't translate well to television, and that the IOC is using the event's historic gender inequality to justify its (potential) cancellation?

Rather than cancel the Nordic Combined, I say drop the 10km cross-country race element and replace it with something many Americans can relate to: rifle shooting. But rather than have skiers complete the jumping portion first, I suggest, in a total collapse of Time and Space, combining both events at once. As skiers race down the jump, 99 red balloons are released, and the winner will be determined by a combination of a clean landing and the highest number of balloons popped. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022


Stairs are comprised of risers and treads. The riser is what you lift your foot for, the tread is where it lands. When repeated, you are climbing the stairs. When descending, etc. 

Stairs, like table heights, are standardized and enforced through building codes and by-laws. The idea is that we get used to them so we can "negotiate" them unconsciously, thereby making life easier for those who believe that any deviation from the grade is an obstacle.

As a child I was told to chew my food slowly. When asked why, my mother said, "Because it's good for you." I didn't understand the concept; I couldn't see the relationship between doing things slowly and good health. It was only later, when a friend said, "You're a slow eater" that I asked, "Is that a bad thing?" and she said, "Oh no, I was raised by Buddhists, and we were taught to be conscious of -- to think about -- where the food we were chewing came from." She was chewing gum when she said this.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Vancouver Nightmare (1976)

Someone at the East Hastings Street Value Village has the right idea. There, in a display promoting Canadian, British Columbian and Vancouver-themed tourist books, is Vancouver Nightmare, the second in author Eric Wilson's Tom Austen Mystery series of Young Adult fiction. Other series titles include Disneyland Hostage (1982) and Vampires of Ottawa (1984).

Vancouver Nightmare opens with teenaged Winnipeggers Tom and his friend Dietmar touring through Gastown with Tom's grandparents. The overweight, middle-aged man Tom assesses at a restaurant ("If that fat one isn't a crook, I'll eat my hat") turns out to be a police inspector friend of Tom's grandfather. A common device in the book -- a teaching moment, as it were -- is Tom's chronic misreading of people, places and things.

Inspector Mort and Tom are introduced; Tom expresses an interest in police work; and two days later Mort is touring Tom through the Main Street station, its remand centre, and then to a private police officer's club where Tom meets a former cop who, he is told, is now working as a youth worker -- a worker who Tom correctly guesses (though initially he keeps this guess to himself) is an undercover cop.

At 96 large-print pages, Vancouver Nightmare is a quick read. Tom sees things and moves towards them at pace competitive with the reader's ability to anticipate the outcome. This was always the trick with books of this genre, though I would have to say that S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders (1967), a novel we read in Mr. Satterthwaite's Grade 8 English class, erred on the side of introspection. 

Here's a synopsis from the back cover of Vancouver Nightmare:

"A chance meeting with a drug pusher named Spider takes Tom Austen into the grim streets of Vancouver's Skid Road, where he poses as a runaway while searching for information to help the police smash a gang which is cynically hooking young kids on drugs. Suddenly unmasked as a police agent, Tom is trapped in the nightmarish underworld of Vancouver as the gang closes in, determined to get rid of the young meddler at any cost."

Monday, June 13, 2022

Night Picture

At 10:08 PM last night the sky still had some definition to it, but not as much as in the above pic (taken with my phone at 10:09 PM). Before digital image-making, I would have to push the film, use a higher ASA (ISO), else the image would come out black.

Maybe that's why I find this picture so creepy: it's showing me things that are familiar, that I know are there, but because of the time of day, I am not supposed to be seeing them. Is this Surrealism? By it's very nature -- yes. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Things a Thing is Not

At the Dunbar London Drugs I noticed a product that I thought was mis-shelved. What's a keyboard doing in the Health Section? Ah, maybe it's an ergonomic keyboard. But it's not. A pillow for people who fall asleep at the keyboard? Not that either. It's a Thermagel Contoured Pillow, designed for hot nights. Have we had one yet? Nope. So no wonder it's on sale. Where am I again? London Drugs. Dunbar. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Where There's Grief, There's Smoke

The words "Ida Arnold" begin Chapter 3 of Greene's Brighton Rock (1938). It is here that Ida emerges in her own right from Fred Hale's mediated eyes. Ida has questions about Fred's death, things that don't add up, and she is determined to get some answers. Later in the chapter she attends Fred's funeral, and her creator gives us this:

"She came out of the crematorium, and there from the twin towers above her head fumed the very last of Fred, a thin stream of grey smoke from the ovens. People passing up the flowery suburban road looked up and noticed the smoke; it had been a busy day at the furnaces. Fred dropped in indistinguishable grey ash on the pink blossoms: he became part of the smoke nuisance over London, and Ida wept." (36)

Friday, June 10, 2022

Notes Towards a Speculative Fiction

Graham Greene (1904-1991) wrote many novels. I read a few of them in my twenties (The Quiet American, 1955 being my favourite), but the one that pops up most is Brighton Rock (1938), a novel set in the southern English beach town of Brighton, when Brighton was overrun with competing gangs, or mobs, as the Brits call them.

That same year Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) published La Nausée (1938), which took place in the fictive French port of Bouville (literally "Mud Town"), on the other side of the Channel from Brighton. La Nausée's protagonist is Antoin Roquenton, a world weary creature who, when not troubled by situations, is brought to the brink by inanimate objects. Brighton Rock's Fred Hale is also troubled. But his existential crisis is literal and told to us in the first sentence: "Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him." 

I am only fifty pages into Brighton Rock, but I can't help but wonder what impression, if any, Brighton Beach's Ida Arnold might have made on La Nausée's Roquenton. Ida only knew Hale for a few minutes, but her commitment to him -- his sudden disappearance and subsequent murder -- threatens to form the essence of Greene's novel.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Clouds Again

The skies are speeding up. You look up one minute, they're blue. A minute later, the garden darkens and you see not a passing cloud, but a meeting of them.

Yesterday I saw a meeting of five clouds: three from Aesir (Frigg, Balder and Hod) and two from Vanir (Freyr and Freyja).

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Vikings (2013-2020)

"I have something that will change everything" Ragnar tells his bigger, less intelligent brother Rollo early in Season One of The Vikings -- a multinational co-production that included money from that public-private-partnership known as the Canadian Media Fund, an agency founded by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian cable industry in 2010.

Ragnar's "something" is a piece of stone or glass that can locate the sun on a cloudy day and channel its beam onto something else, a sun board, which Viking boaters were known to use. Ragnar's request to travel west has been denied repeatedly by Haraldsson, the local chieftain, but he, Rollo and a dozen others eventually defy him, sacking a monastery (Lindisfarne) and bringing home with them gold and silver crosses, along with a few young priests, one of whom speaks "Scandinavian". Ragnar takes this priest as a slave and, with his wife, asks him if he would join them in the bedroom, which the young priest, despite the temptation, declines.

Last night marked the end of Episode Three, with Ragnar's gang returning west, where they are met this time by an armed patrol. The patrol attempts to negotiate (presumably Ragnar had learned enough "English" from the priest by then), but Rollo is impatient and soon enough the axes start swinging, leaving the English to bleed out in the surf. Nine more episodes to go.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Structures of Governance

Most liberal democratic governments are given a four-year term to make good on their promises. After that, its back to the polls -- but not before a couple months of campaigning.

Nowadays, politicians never stop campaigning. As for the polls, some politicians believe -- and have invited us to believe with them -- that polls no longer hold the voice of the People and have been tampered with to produce an outcome inconsistent with their -- and our -- ambitions.

Like politics, climate change effects our lives at a minute level. Unlike politics, we can't vote it out of office if we don't like it. Any serious commitment to de-accelerating climate change will require a commitment longer than a four year term of office. But within our increasingly non-non-partisan democratic systems, four years is all you get.

So my question is this: Would you accept a governance structure that came to power dishonestly (undemocratically), but was committed to slowing climate change, saving the planet, etc.? And if so, what is your limit when it comes to living under the rule of benevolent dictation?

I haven't stopped thinking about this since I saw The Black Panther (2018) and marvelled at its depictions of everyday life in the kingdom of Wakanda: an amusement park concourse punctuated with Starbucks patios.

Monday, June 6, 2022

South-Facing House at the 1300-Block East 20th

Some houses have pleasing faces that make you want to look at them. Other houses not so pleasing, though I pay attention to them because I wonder why. And then there are houses like the one pictured, where something seems ... off.  

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Second Place (2021)

I am exactly halfway through Rachel Cusk's Second Place, enjoying it for the most part. The story begins on a train with a nameless narrator telling a story to someone whom I first thought was her butler ("Jeffers") -- not only because of the person's name, but in the way she speaks to him(?), which, in the "nature" of British class relations, feels scripted (Jeffers's role, like the passive reader, and not unlike the Lacanian psychoanalyst, is to listen).

Sure enough, as the story moves along, the narrator's character modulates, broadens. In some instances I get a whiff of narcissism, at other times a self-reflexive, agency-seeking, slightly pathetic condescender eager to transcend(?) -- but more recently someone with a troubled past who is in the grips of a Baudelairian conundrum, never sure whether to act or remain silent, motionless. 

Cusk includes a note in the back that alludes to D.H. Lawrence's stay at the home of a New Mexican arts patron as the inspiration for her book, and I see shades of Lawrence's Hester Grahame in Cusk's narrator. But instead of "more money," "there must be more" attention paid to her. In this instance by L, whom she has invited (sight unseen) to stay at the sprawling marsh ranch where she lives with her husband Tony. L is a painter who sounds a bit like Francis Bacon (at least early in his career), but whose landscapes the narrator has fallen for and have led her to believe that he might appreciate, or at least understand, in a way that might unite them, allow her to be at ease with her life?

As a reader who writes, I admire the way Cusk has set up her story, not just the details, but the decisions she makes about what to show and when. A very controlled form of writing, one that parallels the narrator's own need to control her situation -- in order to stay sane? But of course there's more to it than that, and the story at this point could go in any number of directions, which would no doubt upset the narrator ever further. 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

"Moments of Being" (1922-1941)

"What need had she of pins? For she was not so much dressed as cased, like a beetle compactly in its sheath. Blue in winter, green in summer. What need had she of pins --"

Is that rain? I wonder. Pecking at the apple leaves? I look up at the oystered sky. Must be. I start at the beginning, determined to read until a raindrop dots the page 

a game I am playing, a game of one's own

then splat, a raindrop. Turning grey the page. In the middle of "summer"!

I look up again, and there she is, from the back this time, her hair done up in a bun.

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Boulevards of My Impending Retirement

With their home gardens perfected, many are venturing onto boulevards to create new worlds, new sensations. That most are getting on in years is also a factor. One septuagenerian told me she doesn't want to be mowing the boulevard when she's ninety. This is the same woman who, a moment earlier, complained of the presumptuous Millennial.  

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Garden Picture Vignette

A herd of potted begonia fleeing a crowd of angry Monk's Weed, protected by a Miss Kim Lilac, cheered on by a chorus of California poppies.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Villa Maris

The Villa Maris (aka the Pink Palace) and its sibling the Shoreland Apartments have been West Vancouver mainstays since the 1960s. Like neon, the BowMac sign and certain examples of municipally-funded public art, affection for the Villa ebbs and flows.

The architects who were so influential in bringing modernism to Vancouver (Arthur Erickson, Abraham Rogatnick, Ronald Thom, et al.) would have loathed the New Sensualism that gave us the Villa Maris; but there are many my age (late-born Boomers) who saw not aberration but kitschy fun. I for one love the way the Villa lights up as the summer sun approaches the setting position. Always from a distance though. 

Yesterday, while on a break from my duties as a pallbearer, I found myself driving along West Van's Bellevue Avenue, when suddenly I was at the foot of the Villa. Quite a sight, all that pink, but for something so radiant, I was shocked by how rickety it felt. A metonym for West Vancouver? A place that looks great from a distance?