Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Steely Dan Show
28 July 2006
White River Ampitheatre, Auburn, WA

Turtle Talk (Dee Baron)
Time Out of Mind
I Got The News
Hey Nineteen
Green Earrings
Deacon Blues
Black Friday
Dirty Work
Band Intro: Cold Sweat (James Brown) / Show Biz Kids
Do It Again
Don't Take Me Alive
Kid Charlemagne


My Old School
Last Tango in Paris
(Gato Barbieri)

Setlist now definitively amended. I am downloading the concert as I type, a nice momento soon to be burned to CD and relentlessly inflicted on my staff for months to come.

There is a sweet version of Dee Baron's instrumental Turtle Talk on Stan Kenton's Adventures in Jazz. Donald dressed like Keanu in The Matrix -- huge full-length black leather trenchcoat and wraparound shades. Walter dressed like my high school shop teacher -- sports shirt and slacks. Killer band, especially guitarist Jon Herrington and drummer Keith Carlock. Donald's voice was not the wreck it was when I saw the much larger Steely Dan Orchestra in Toronto in 2003; he sounded pretty much like his studio self and restlessly paced the stage like a cornered rat, tossing off melodica and Keytar [actually a MIDI sequencer with a shoulder strap, says an Internet correspondent] solos. A great show; lots of improvisation and a nice mix of popular favorites and obscurities. The Barbieri instrumental was a "closing number" played by the band long after Walt and Don quit the stage.

(Photo courtesy Seattle's own Steely Diane, several rows ahead of me)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I'm a Mushroom Cloud-Laying Mother Fucker, Mother Fucker

Found in the tubes of the internets. Courtesy my pal jnadiger. That fat ol' lazy ol' cat just can not catch a break.
Potential Conclusions

1. As magazine criticism becomes steadily more impoverished (for example, Christopher Mooney's breathy, jaw-droppingly inane "profile" of Vancouver's visual arts scene, just published in Modern Painters), sophisticated criticism may withdraw into art, like a hermit crab scrambling into a vacant shell.

2. Criticism may come to employ rhetorical or critical strategies now primarily associated with art; criticism may become "performative." It is easy, for example, to imagine works of criticism taking forms similar to Robert Morris' performance 2.13, or to Andrea Fraser's institutional critiques.

3. A work of criticism-as-art can probably only legitimately be accepted as art if it somehow interrogates its own status as art.

3a. A work of criticism-as-art should somehow aestheticize its critique; in doing so, it will open itself up to critical possibilities its maker(s) might never have previously considered.

4. All these propositions and conclusions may be wrong.

1. Artworks can validly illustrate, comment upon, dramatize or stage their own coming-into-being as content. Example: Dan Graham's Schema (1966).

2. This self-reflexivity is not "postmodern," (stylistic quotation; pastiche) but "modern."

3. Criticism impacts artworks' coming-into-being.

3a. Hypothetical example: an artist makes projections and still photographs. Critics argue that the artist's skills stress duration (cutting; montage; rhythm; narrative) over static composition. Moved by this criticism, the artist reflects upon her practice. She accepts the criticism's premises, and ceases to make still pictures.

4. Criticism can equally validly be incorporated into artworks. Example: our hypothetical artist makes a projection about a film director who makes narrative films and still photographs. Think Wim Wenders, or Larry Clark, or Tacita Dean. Characters in the projection critique the director's still images; their criticisms are surrogates for those the artist experienced. These criticisms now enter the artist's work as content. But, significantly, the artist withholds her own judgement of the criticisms, presenting them as objectively as she possibly can. Result: an autonomous art work that critiques and analyzes aspects of its creator's own art production.
A Dan Graham essay on his magazine work, and a Jeff Wall note on the distinction between pictures which are either on or off (lightboxes; projections) or always on (gelatin silver prints; drawings; paintings) gets me thinking about how this particular historical moment (digital cameras; lightjet printers; the Web) differs from past historical moments. Graham observed that, in the late 1960s, an artwork was only accepted as an artwork if it was written about and reproduced in an art magazine. This led him to logically conclude that physical art objects had become an intermediate step in the legitimation-as-art process. Graham experimented by making printed texts and photocollages which were themselves art objects, thereby "dematerializing" the physical art object.

Web publication seems to me to differ from art magazine publication. In the 1960s, publications like Artforum and Artsmagazine shaped and directed taste. These magazines derived their authority from the quality of their contributors' judgements and their crititical up-to-dateness. A young artist living, in, say, Vancouver or some similar cultural backwater in 1968 or 1969 could learn a great deal from an Artforum subscription, including that art was not only made in cultural capitals like New York, Paris, or London, but could realistically and validly be made anywhere....even, say, in Vancouver!

Contrast this with the current state of affairs, in which glossy publications like Art News and Canadian Art act as interpreters of art for readers who hypothetically require the magazines' intercession in order to understand and appreciate art. In the late 1960s, the audience for magazines like Artforum was mainly composed of other artists. The contemporary audience for magazines like Art News is far more nebulous to me. Who are these magazines aimed at? Probably collectors, lazy folks who need constant reassurance about their purchases. No artist in my circle takes Art News' or Canadian Art's pronouncements seriously. How could they, given the hostility these publications routinely display toward intellectual complexity and the neccessity of judgement-making?

Contemporary art magazines no longer fufill the gatekeeper role they once filled in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Web, by contrast, is an open door into a building containing an infinite number of rooms. Most of what is in those rooms is, by definition, of pretty low quality, but that's not always neccessarily so. The quality of each room's content will depend on each proprietor's skill and judgement, the seriousness they bring to the conceptualization, execution, and presentation of their work. It seems, too, that there is no prohibition against simultaneously creating work and critiquing, contextualizing, or analyzing it. So that the work and its exegesis and/or commentary are no longer separate ("art object" in the gallery; reproduction and "criticism" of the work in the art magazine or printed catalogue) but side-by-side, a process that reveals previously unconsidered aspects of each element's other.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

You call me a fool
You say it's a crazy scheme
This one's for real
I already bought the dream
So useless to ask me why
Throw a kiss and say goodbye
I'll make it this time
I'm ready to cross that fine line.

Future Garfield Strips, if Garfield Aged at the Normal Feline Rate

"Jon takes Garfield to the vet, who prescribes medication for Garfield's thyroid problem, which Jon has to administer in the next frame. He inserts a pill into the special device designed to go down Garfield's throat and tries to cram it into Garfield's mouth. Garfield responds by viciously clawing Jon on the arms, legs, and face. 'Stick that there again and I'll stick you!' the thought bubble above Garfield's head says. Jon slouches. 'That's what Claire said, too,' he responds."
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Legacy Supplement

• Oil change, 4.5 litres WD30 (Premium Brand)
• New Oil Filter
• Transmission Fluid Change
• New Air Filter
• 30 litres Fuel (87 octane)
• Basic Wash

Thus refreshed, the ailing Legacy heads out for reshoots, the first set of "proof prints" having come back from the Lab and been found wanting. But circumstances keep interfering. The VPD is making a solicitation arrest at Hastings & Glen, and parking the Legacy adjacent to the cruiser, the cuffed, cracked-out hooker, and the cuffed, disreputable-looking john doesn't seem like a plausible plan. OK, option #2: back into rush-hour Vancouver. No Stopping Anytime at Pender and Burrard, plus a nasty lip on the curb that looks like it would strip the muffler if I tried to climb it. Fine then, option #3: Stanley Park. A cyclist has come down one of the park's dirt trails too fast and collided with a silver SUV on Park Drive. Ambulance, fire trucks, etc., lights flashing. The unconscious bloody cyclist is strapped to a traction board, and lifted into the back of the ambulance, which splits at high speed, siren wailing. The long line of stalled traffic slowly begins to move again.
Someone who doesn't live in Vancouver writes to ask, "What's up with this hiking thing, anyway?"

It's in my blood, I guess. Growing up in West Vancouver in the early 1970s, across the street from our house was a huge overgrown municipal park with a large creek running through it. On the other side of the road was forest, all the way up to the Upper Levels Highway, which was itself fairly new, having only been completed in the late 1960s. Much of this land is now expensive subdivisions, with multimillion dollar ocean and island views, and not many original trees. I remember going for walks with my mom in 1974 or 1975 up what would later become Westport Road, to gaze into this huge undifferentiated green tangle. Not a dangerous, Snow White-style forest, but something other, brooding, serene, and largely indifferent to people.

My dad hiked a fair bit as a younger man, and took me out as soon as I was old enough to carry a pack. We went to Cheakamus Lake, near Whistler, in 1975. The virtually flat trail to the lake runs through an open old growth forest, and I remember the trip with surprising clarity: the trees' size; garlands and cushions of bright green moss; the glacial blue of the lake. When dru and I were older, the three of us climbed the Squamish Chief one crisp fall Sunday, and the Black Tusk, and Alpha Mountain's shoulder -- this last trip neccessitating renting a canoe, and paddling across the swift Squamish River, and staggering up a 20%+ grade trail with heavy overnight packs for six hours to Lake Lovelywater, a campsite, and a brief respite before the real climbing, which began the following day.

I took friends out, too, in my old battered Honda Civic, and, later, my Tercel, friends who, for the most part, went "hiking" (or scrambling, or full-on mountaineering, ropeless, bushwhacking down wet cliffs covered in blueberry bushes and slippery moss) once, and then found all kinds of excuses to never go again.

Peaks were climbed, nonetheless, including some fairly obscure and remote ones. Most importantly, I never felt lost outside, or helpless, even in the weirdest and most trying circumstances. The lack of a trail was never an impediment to getting where I wanted to go. Pushing through bushes, scrambling up gullies, etc. always seemed a neccessary and enjoyable part of getting up into the alpine.

I've suffered from persistant depression for almost twenty years. Being outside, surrounded by landscape, lifts that depression, draws me out of myself. It's hard to be depressed when you're soaking wet, or sweaty, exhausted and bug-bitten, or quickly retreating from a surprised and unhappy bear.

So, there's some historical context for all the breezy trip reports and stuffed-cat-on-the-summit snapshots. I guess the black and white forest photographs that pop up here and there have something to do with that history, too; they seem framed lower down than my other pictures, as if taken by my five year-old self at the top of Westport Road in 1975, looking out on a landscape that is all one piece, a presence that is not aesthetically pleasing in any conventional Group-of-Seven-meets-Emily-Carr kind of way, but meaningful nonetheless.
Monday, July 24, 2006 team member Alex Best performs experimental healing techniques on cjb's aching legs. Deeply relaxed, cjb begins to snore. Wildlife flees! Photo courtesy [fellow team member] PiB.

Drift, 2006
Sunday, July 23, 2006
More recent reading (not much more than titles tonight; the office is at least 35 degrees and sweat is rolling down my face):

J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello
Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer


Coming 2 November 2006, a book I'm awaiting more eagerly than Pynchon's just-announced Against The Day. More details here. Despite the cheesy pink neon and the Clive Barker cutline, MJH remains one of the best English language prose stylists I know.

Untitled (Marlin), 2006
“Howe Sound Two-Fer” (Double ascent of Mount Brunswick, Mount Harvey)
Trip report posted to
20 July 2006

Participants: [clubtread members] Alex Best, cjb, PiB, Q, [honorary mascot] Rose T. Cat

Bored with repetitively climbing Grouse Mountain from sea level, I posted an ascent of Mount Harvey from sea level, and quickly assembled a team of fit overachievers who proposed to scrub the boring “paved suburban hill” portion of the trip, substituting an ambitious plot to knock off two major Howe Sound summits within a few hours of one other. Plus, [clubtread members] mazegirl and her pals had just completed a variation of this route, and the JPEGs and GPS track in their trip report looked really tasty. So the two-summit plan was a go.

Obstacle one was negotiating the West End’s maze of parking restrictions and one-way streets to collect PiB. Obstacle two was a lack of transmission fluid in cjb’s rickety Subaru Legacy, and the funny burning smell eddying out from under the hood. Then there was the equally funny smell eddying out from Alex’s pockets….We negotiated the Cap Road interchange with the Upper Levels, and trundled off to the Lions Trail parking lot in upper Lions Bay.Twenty minutes of hiking up the steep approach road got us to a fork in the trail, where we promptly took a wrong turn and headed up above Magnesia Creek to a huge locked gate. Bzzt! Back down the hill and up the right road, signed, we now notice, with a huge (4’ long) arrow made of rocks.

More switchbacks on the logging road. It’s hot in the trees. We take another fork, cross Magnesia Creek, and begin to switchback steadily up the slopes of Brunswick Mountain through an old clearcut choked with alder. At a viewpoint above the clearcut we stop to introduce ourselves to the local bugs. Suntan lotion is applied. Pic’n’mix is consumed. Alex pulls cloves of raw garlic from his pockets and rubs them all over his exposed skin, as a “scientific experiment” in bug avoidance.

The well-marked trail now streaks directly up the side of Mount Brunswick through a fragrant old-growth forest. It’s hard to appreciate the forest’s beauty with sweat rolling steadily down into your eyes and a cloud of bugs around your head. We estimate the grade at “25% and a bit,” eg., vertical tree climbing. Soon the angle eases into a gorgeous old growth forest dappled with sunlight. Silvery trunks and cool green moss. Alex camcords the proceedings for posterity. As if on cue, the bugs present themselves for posterity, too.

We quickly reach a junction with the Howe Sound Crest Trail. Left for Hat Mountain, right for Magnesia Meadows. Straight up for Mount Brunswick. We suck up the grade and climb steeply out of the trees, up an endless scree ridge, and emerge on a saddle between the west peak and east ridge. Up the east ridge around snow remnants, rock fingers, pale blue mountain lupins and bugs. We scramble the narrow but solid ridge around the remains of a helipad, second-class a rocky step, and pop up onto the summit. Lunchtime! Picture time! Frustration with the new Government of Canada maps, which turn out to be poor quality print-on-demand specials, speckled with digital noise, whose contour lines run together in a big brown stew.

Honorary mascot Rose T. Cat is deployed for summit shots. More garlic, more pic’n’mix, more fruit gums. We debate a “direct” route down to Magnesia Meadows. Common sense overrules the more adventurous among us and we head down the same way we came, till we arrive back at the Howe Sound Crest Trail junction, and turn south, steadily contouring into Magnesia Meadows. This stretch of trail is virtually flat and magnificently scenic, traversing stretches of old growth forest and avalanche swathes, with views opening out to Howe Sound and Mount Harvey’s impressive north face. An hour or so later, which includes crossing some easy snowslopes, we reach the Magnesia Meadows shelter (a rickety red A-frame, open on both sides) and break for lunch at a little lake just south of the shelter. cjb rescues a drowning bee from the lake. PiB strikes Aphrodite poses on a rock out in the water. Alex decides to take a “refreshing dip,” but quickly hops out, confronted by glacial realities. And Q is endlessly amused by her charges.

Refreshed, we make out way to the base of Mount Harvey’s narrow NE ridge and 2nd and 3rd class it up to the summit. Lots of pulling on roots and scrubby trees for balance! The bugs, sensing our attention is properly focused elsewhere, zoom in for the kill. This fairly well-marked route, while not requiring a rope or technical rock climbing skills, is very steep; I would not want to descend it with a pack or in anything other than full daylight. It’s very similar to the descent off the North Needle: an “easy” ridge bracketed on either side by deeply sketchy terrain (bluffs, bushes concealing major drops, loose rock & etc.)

An hour or so on Mount Harvey’s summit, including more hero shots and a conversation with two guys who come charging up the NE ridge behind us, and then down the southern ridgeline through the forest of silvery deadfall just below the summit, followed by the extremely steep and painful descent to the logging road in Lions Bay. cjb’s bad left knee and battered toes have their own opinion of this descent, which leaves him 10-15 minutes behind everyone else. Slow but steady….

Down the logging road at twilight, back to the car at 9 sharp, for a 12-hour, two-summit day, total elevation gain of 1765m. Off to the Troller Pub in Horseshoe Bay for cold ones. A terrific group of people, great terrain, and super weather! No downside to this trip at all. Thanks, everyone!

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