Anodyne
Saturday, April 03, 2004
 
Sharingthegroove.org -- thousands of live BitTorrented concert sets, including The Flaming Lips, the hard-to-find Miles Davis/Prince sessions, 14+ hours of live/unreleased Neil Young, Elvis Costello, and (downloading right now), early-90s Steely Dan.
 
The first really warm day so far this year, the air thick with pollen and the scents of grass and earth.

Out most of the day in my friend John's battered white van. We made a few prearranged house calls and collected the remains of a garage sale, up Main Street near Riley Park, a pleasant half hour spent pushing moving dollies stacked with boxes of books back and forth to the van. Birdsong, young couples and their dogs, a few people dropping in to haggle over stemware, CDs, or an electric kiln.

Then, later, down by English Bay, 127 boxes of hardcover drek in a parking garage, not really my kind of deal at all, but I went along with John to make the insulting lowball take-everything-and-make-it-disappear offer customary in such circumstances. The books were described as "the remains of a private library," but looked more like "the remains of a church bazaar." The collection's owner, a strappingly hale-and-hearty guy in his early 60s who might have been a retired stockbroker or a motivational consultant, beckoned us inside to make our pitch. While John talked, I eyeballed the widescreen plasma-screen TV, the wet bar, the huge billiards table, the ostentatious chandeliers, dripping with cut-glass jewels, and the expensive couch, from the end of which protruded an elderly female hand.

John made his offer. Phone numbers were exchanged. The hand and its unseen owner didn't stir the whole time we were there.

Friday, April 02, 2004
 
Like motor oil in a bottle -- St-Ambroise McAuslan Oatmeal Stout, courtesy the Kingsgate Mall BCLDB outlet.
 
Sadly sold -- Marc Bell
 
Just finished writing this review of the work of Quebecois photographer Alain Paiement, the first really pleasant surprise of the 2004 exhibition season:

New Cartographies
By Christopher Brayshaw


Walter Benjamin, writing in the late Thirties on Karl Blossfeldt’s close-up studies of plant anatomy, famously remarked that Blossfeldt’s pictures had brought a new kind of aesthetic perception into being by presenting tangible evidence of a world that, while continuous with our own, had previously lingered just beyond human perception. In Benjamin’s opinion, one of the most powerful arguments in favor of photography’s precarious status as an independent art medium, and not merely a novel technology, was the ease with which it sharpened and focused aesthetic perception, training it on subjects that had never previously basked in its gaze.

Standing in Presentation House Gallery before Montreal artist Alain Paiement’s huge tiled architectural photographs, Walter Benjamin came immediately to mind and refused to depart. Paiement’s photographs are large – some are very large, eight or ten feet high and more than fifteen feet long – composite images of habited spaces – a bakery; the second-floor residences and offices above it; a squat; an urban apartment, and so on. Most of Paiement’s images are shot from above, looking down, as if a roof had been peeled back like the lid on a sardine can or blown away by a storm, so that you look down into the messy space beneath, as if from on high.

As Presentation House curator Bill Jeffries writes, “Paiement seems to say, ‘Let’s look closely at the world upon which we walk, sleep and eat, but not as the eye sees it, rather as an all-knowing mind might see it’; rather than looking up at the ceiling to see the gods, he gives us the view of the gods as they might peer down upon us.” Perspective is unfixed in Paiement’s pictures; the finished images are composites of many different exposures and conceal multiple vanishing points. Walls bend in and out a la a funhouse mirror, and objects appear and disappear in a complex dance of interlocking planes and textures. Looking at Paiement’s pictures is not like looking into a Renaissance perspective box, a shallow, illusionistic 3D space in which objects are variously dispersed, but is rather like gazing into a vortex that draws both eye and body in. The sense of falling down into a scene spread horizontally on a wall is a very strange one, and one that evoked, at least for me, a brief moment of nausea and fear. I felt myself rock, very gently, on my heels as I approached one of Paiement’s larger pictures, then those first disagreeable sensations slowly gave way to surprise and finally to elation as I oriented myself and began to navigate the picture.

Paiement’s images demand a specific kind of attention, a light scanning motion, similar to that of a diver moving above a seabed, or a pilot flying over a landscape. There is no horizon in the photographs to orient you, just an endless proliferation of details – a couple bathing together in a milk-white ceramic tub, an colored afghan flung over a chair, its contours skewed into a bright pinwheel of shapes -- the tattoo on a baker’s arm, a crowd running by in the street outside with flags, the circular staircase at the back of a building that looks as complex an ammonite’s spiral shell. You could spend hours, if you liked, counting the individual rolls in a bakery case or the dirty dishes in an apartment sink. This knowledge is dizzying at first – the implication that, if you wanted to, you could really hold all these things together in your head – then sobering, as you realize how long it would actually take and how much you would necessarily forget in the process. Paiement’s pictures invoke, then disclaim, any utopian claims to deity-level comprehension. This deadly serious philosophical task, and the humor and abundant technical skill Paiement brings to bear on it, reminds me of Georges Perec’s great novel Life: A User’s Manual, which anatomizes, room by room and floor by floor, each inhabitant of a Parisian apartment block, beginning with their physical surroundings and moving on to their personal histories, their inner lives, and their dreams. If I say that Paiement’s art stands comparison with Perec’s, I mean no hyperbole, but merely want to show how much the works on display at Presentation House Gallery surprised and moved me. It is rare these days to encounter artworks that are truly technically innovative, rarer still to encounter works in which technical and conceptual innovation float in such perfect, precarious equilibrium.

 
How to draw a dragon. Flash, and a little slow to load, but worth the wait.
 
Some helpful business advice, sourced off the Net and about as reliable and accurate as a cynic might reasonably expect advice from such a source to be. The business equivalent of the kid in the back row of your high school chemistry class who kept daring you to put that stick of phosphorus in your pocket and take it home.
Thursday, April 01, 2004
 
I.G.Y. (International Geophysical Year) by Donald Fagen, from The Nightfly, a favorite tune of mine for decades:

Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
This dream's in sight
You've got to admit it
At this point in time that it's clear
The future looks bright
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K.

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there's time
The fix is in
You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we've got to win
Here at home we'll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young

 
"Smashed in the yellow Jag / I've got my life and laundry in a Gladstone bag--"

High-quality MP3 version of Steely Dan's most famous unreleased tune, The Second Arrangement, destined for the Gaucho album and accidentally erased by an unthinking studio engineer. Slower piano-and-vocals version on the same site, along with numerous hard-to-find demos, soundtracks, interviews & etc.


 
Unexpectedly, on the Cuppa Joe sound system, The Eurythmics' SexCrime, from their terrific 1984 soundtrack, all flurrying keyboards and synthetic drums alongside Annie Lennox's lovely spooky voice, which soars and drops abruptly, like a plane in turbulence.

I loved this album in my twenties, playing at least one vinyl copy and one cassette to death. Found another tape at Charlie's Music City downtown, then destroyed it in the deck of a rented Toyota on the way down the almost 4-wheel drive road from Hickman Pass to Bella Coola.

Nothing but clear sky this morning, snow on all the North Shore peaks and sunlight, hard blue April glare.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
 
Detailed Jeff Wall interview, one of my favorites
 
Barrie Nichol on beginning:

"At a certain point you decide to start with what's in front of you. There's no point in despairing for a subject, or carrying on some misguided search for a 'great' theme when all you have to do is start with what's in front of you: the blue lines, the ink, the pen, the letters the pen shapes, the words the letters make, the table, the window, those leafless trees, these leaves in this notebook in front of me -- the stuff of poetry."
 
Not much going on in the shop this afternoon, or in the neighborhood for that matter, probably the result of mixed torrential rain/hail and sunlight. David Holland Quartet on the stereo and several hundred new books to code for Alibris in the office.
 
My friend Arnold Shives has added some new images to his website. I keep returning to the intaglio prints, particularly the Taiya River series, whose waterfalls seem to spring out from the space surrounding them, much like Barnett Newman's zips.
 
Huge West Coast skies this morning from the swaying trolley bus over Granville Bridge, the sun still rising, and the clouds' white edges rimed with light.

I remember criticizing similarly expressionistic skies in the work of my painter friend Ben Reeves, describing them, I think, as painterly, show-offish, and otherworldly, only to have him laugh and say, well, that's because you don't look up.

 
Bruno Latour, from Harper's, April 2004:

The critic is not the one who alternates haphazardly between anti-fetishism and positivism like Goya's drunk iconoclast but the one for whom, if something is constructed, then it means it is fragile and thus in great need of care.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004
 
My ex-boss Skip, responsible for teaching me most of what I know about mass-market paperbacks, with Rascal the Wonder Cat, live trapped in the alley behind the old store by Skip's ex, Kim. Note the white gloves!
 
Shout out to the Incredible Talking Cats, of whom more later
 
Guilty Pleasures Dept. -- analyzing public companies, a fun & profitable alternative to memorizing lyrics or sports scores, made all the more hilarious by my total lack of financial savvy.

Irwin Michael Investment Counsel has great analysis of selected Canadian companies

Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. has Warren Buffett's annual essays and lots of other goodies. Without Buffett's example, and Roger Lowenstein's excellent Buffett biography, it's safe to say I'd be still working at the library. Or Granville Books. Not quite sure which option frightens me more.


 
Shout out to my Nebraska pals at A Novel Idea Bookstore

Shout out to Peter C. in Nanaimo and Gary, Milo, Dirk and the rest in Seattle

Shout out to brother Dru and everyone at bivouac.com
 
Shout out to my pal Sylvia Grace Borda

The series 3176 was shot in and around my late grandmother's house two falls ago. An estate sale was in process as Sylvia photographed the house and its contents. The circular chair on the second page of thumbnails was sold and carted away just after Sylvia shot it. A kind of funny feeling, looking at the bare carpet and wallpaper where the chair had been seconds before.
 
A sort of introduction:

I'm Christopher Brayshaw. After a more or less chequered career as a library page, used bookseller, art gallery intern, comic book convention organizer, art critic, curator, new bookseller, and occasional book scout, I opened Pulpfiction Books, a used bookstore in Vancouver, Canada, on my birthday in June 2000. Four years on, I find myself with two locations, six staff, and 75,000+ books. Barring crises (of which more later), field trips, and perpetual depression, I hope to be here more or less daily.
 
Listening to (in no particular order):

Miles Davis, Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel

Dave Holland Quartet, live

Cecil Taylor, courtesy Dr. Brute

Radiohead, Hail to the Thief

Thelonious Monk Live at the "It" Club

Mojave 3, various discs lying around the store

Lucinda Williams, ditto

Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins, one disc the CD thieves didn't steal

 
Larry McMurtry quote, on the wall above my desk:

THE FACT THAT, for twenty-six or twenty-seven days each month, I lead an intense life as an antiquarian bookman -- on the sorting floor all day, unboxing, pricing, sorting, and responding to the public's endless curiosity about Lonesome Dove--in part explains the brevity and intensity of my drives. I don't want to be gone from the bookshop long, but three or four days on the road, just looking and moving, isn't long. Working with books always relaxes me, but the books bring people, and people are a mixed bag; there comes a point at which I want to be away, drive somewhere, see some sky--it's my safeguard against the burnout that a month in the bookshop can occasionally produce.




 
Dark out, the smell of the second floor telemarketers' doobage mixing now with the scent of cherryblossoms on the trees outside. Steely clouds, black-blue, over the Lions and Capilano Lake, a straight shot down Main Street and over the lights of downtown. Radiohead's There There on John's battered ghettoblaster, deep reverb of the drums, sneaky guitar and bass lines snaking up out of the mix, Thom's voice coasting effortlessly over top. No clue what he's singing about. Not that it really matters.

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