Saturday, November 25, 2006

"It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight." (J. Joyce)

Tom Waits' Early Years v.2 on the deck, Glenlivet in a plastic cup, big white flakes slowly end-over-ending in the pumpkin-colored light outside the shop's front door.

"The beginner should be cautious when handling a crab since the pinch of the powerful claws can be extremely painful. (The inexperienced crabber should probably wear thick gloves). Always approach from the rear when picking up a crab. An experienced crabber can quickly grab the base of one of its swimming legs while holding the claws down with some object. Should a crab get a hold on a finger, it is usually best not to pull it off. First, try letting it hang; many times the crab will release and drop. If the crab will not release, use the free hand to immobilize the other claw and slowly bend the offending claw backward until the crab releases it." (Received wisdom hauled up from the intenets' depths)

"It's all oobleck out there!" (Overheard, totally decontextualized, in the Kingsgate Mall BCLDB lineup)
Friday, November 24, 2006
OK, it's official as of ten minutes ago: Michelina, With Pictures, a children's fantasy novel written by yours truly and illustrated by Jamie Tolagson, will be published by Vancouver's Simply Read Books in spring 2008. Launch party at Pulpfiction, natch.
A Google Keyword Search That Somehow Inexplicably Directed Someone Here

"Cervical spondylotic myelopathy cartoon" -- via an Egyptian IP address, no less!

Kayaking the North Shore's Capilano River, via today's NYT. One of my favorite afternoon-out-of-the-store trails is visible on the canyon rim at upper left.

"The Capilano, which serves as a natural boundary between North and West Vancouver, is named for Joe Capilano, the great 19th-century chief of the Squamish tribe of the Coast Salish, who led expeditions to explore area mountains and valleys.

Some of the Capilano’s canyons feature rock faces 200 feet high. A few majestic cedars and Douglas firs stretch 300 feet skyward. Cable Pool is the nearest landmark under a footbridge connecting the Coho Loop Trail, part of a system of walkways amid the towering evergreens in the Capilano River Regional Park."
Catching Signals That Sound in the Dark

Over the Cambie Bridge near dawn, the Legacy coughing and laboring, snow on the mountains, snow forecast down in the city tomorrow, the gruesomely enthusiastic radio DJ on my clock radio still echoing in my ears: "It's six a.m., and here's all the news you need! The weather sucks, the water sucks, the economy sucks, and the Canucks suck!"

Boil water advisory in place until Tuesday! But tomorrow I suppose we can simply melt snow, instead of turning on the tap.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Then, on a distant slope,
He observed one without hope
Flee back up the mountainside
He thought he recognised him by his walk
And by the way he fell
And by the way he
Stood up, and vanished into air

(More mid-80s footage of Strangest British Supergroup Ever, occasioned by the news that they're reforming the 80s-and-90s trio version (Banks, Rutherford, Dr. Evil) to play a string of European shows in summer 2007)

William S. Burroughs' slow gravelly drawl:

"The ancient Egyptians postulated seven souls.

Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that's where Ren came in.

Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power. Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons.

Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she or it is third man out...depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and a head of light. The sort of thing you might see on a screen in an Indian restaurant in Panama. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense - but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go back to Heaven for another vessel. The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the land of the dead.

Number four is Ba, the Heart, often treacherous. This is a hawk's body with your face on it, shrunk down to the size of a fist. Many a hero has been brought down, like Samson, by a perfidious Ba.

Number five is Ka, the double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead to the Western Lands.

Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives.

Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains."


Safeway parking lot, 71st and Granville. Not Seattle. Awoke at 7 a.m. to patches of blue sky, light cloud, brisk west wind. Back to bed. Re-awoke at 11 a.m. Phoned rental company. No cars 'til noon! Peeked through the blinds: steel-grey sky, rain thrashing down. Passport, US$, overnight gear, CDs, carefully annotated Seattle-Tacoma mapbook. Coffee, NYT, brief excursion to visit Gavin at Book & Comic Emporium. Gavin scarcely visible behind a mound of recent trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks.

GAVIN: Day off?

CJB: Yep.

GAVIN: Where're you heading?

CJB: Seattle.

GAVIN [indicating books]: You know Skip [owner of Book & Comic Emporium] was there yesterday, right?

CJB: &@$#%*!!!

Off through the rain to Expensive Car Rental Chain. Customers lined up eight deep at the counter.


CJB: Hi. I'd like to rent a vehicle.

RENTAL CLERK: For which day?

CJB: Today. Right now. Pronto!

RENTAL CLERK [indicating crowd]: See all these folks? It's American Thanksgiving. We're kind of strapped for cars right now. But I can offer you this nice SUV!

CJB: I was actually hoping for an energy-efficient vehicle. Like a Corolla, or a Focus.

RENTAL CLERK: The SUV rents for $124.95/day, plus kilometers.

CJB: How much to fill it up?

RENTAL CLERK: Oh, $100 should cover it.

CJB: &@$#%*!!!

RENTAL CLERK [totally oblivious]: There's even a flatscreen on the back of the passenger seat!
Posting via wireless, waiting patiently at Expensive Car Rental Chain. Meanwhile, someone writes to draw my attention to the following:

"M. JOHN HARRISON: I found this quote from Zadie Smith on the excellent Anodyne blog at --- 'But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, "I should sit here and I should be entertained." And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you.'

Though I would normally, as a matter of principle, disagree with ZS over anything, even an established fact like, say, the distance to the Sun from the Earth; and while I may not agree with all the implications the word 'skill' has in her argument; I'm embarassed to find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with this. A book spends only a short part of its life being written into existence; it spends the greater part being read into existence. Every reading --every 'performance' --is a creative misreading, a misappropriation. I don't just welcome that; I often write to encourage it. As far as I'm concerned we aren't talking about photocopying here, or player-piano, or a computer running a programme: we're looking at something much more like the expression of genetic code."

It's pouring rain again, and the rental queue is approximately eight deep, but my day just seriously brightened. Thanks, MJH!

Jeff Wall, Rear View, Open Air Theatre, Vancouver, 2005

It's a Toyota AWD white wagon!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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--"

So, on the road south for a few days, accompanied by Mr. Pynchon, Mr. Lovecraft, and the usual collection of anywhere-from-the-mid-70s-to-early-00s tunes, an unearthly mix of soul, funk, disco, yacht rock, & Britpop, all but guaranteed to drive unsuspecting passengers round the bend. "How many different versions of Green Earrings are there, anyway?" Well, the studio track on The Royal Scam; the live track on Alive in America; the acoustic version on the Marian McPartland radio show; the 3 different 2006 shows supplied by Internet penpals and burned straight to CD....Passengers run screaming like extras in Burroughs' Nova Trilogy: "Godsake don't let it take me alive!"

Forty-eight hours on the road through grey November rain, the blower on the dashboard sweeping warm air across my face. The smell of rain, the low fields along the Skagit inundated with water. Flooded pastures, and occasionally an unhappy-looking horse or cow. Offramps: gas stations, motels, diners whose decor and menus haven't visibly changed since 1965. Chicken-fried steak, a scoop of chalk-white mashed potato, mixed frozen vegetables, "salad" composed of iceberg lettuce, dressing (ranch; Thousand Island), and croutons. A stoneware mug of hot but watery coffee. Lemon pie, a wedge cut from a bigger pie in the reflecting case behind the counter, or an individually plated portion covered with cling wrap. The motion of the waitress' arm absurdly birdlike as she removes the wrap from the plate, an "unthought gesture" beautiful in its own way.

Lake Washington's floating bridges, Stephen Morrissey or the Smiths somehow appropriate for the sensation of taking flight over water. The oncoming traffic with its headlights on. The tidal slough in Everett by the freeway; the logs stacked beside the sawmill; yellow folklifts trundling to and fro under the lumber yard's big, bright lights. Thrift-store interiors, the in-house stereo system inevitably playing the Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, Toto, or Foreigner. Fellow booksellers, most glad to see me. Leaning on the end of the big wooden counter at Magus Books while my purchases are tallied, trading gossip and watching one of the staff buy a stack of recent trade fiction from the last scout of the day. Outside, darkness and rain, a few UW students hurrying past. The UW Bookstore bright and quiet like Spielberg's mother ship. Down a block, in the alley by the Allegro Cafe, a restless queue for the food bank, men and women in dark clothes. No umbrellas, heads bowed against the torrential rain, some with pack sacks or shoulder bags: ripped, patched, soaked through. Inside the cafe, just out of sight of the line-up, students on their laptops: term papers, IM chat, Internet poker. The screens' light reflected in the cafe's big windows, which in turn reflect the wind and rain outside.

Jonathon Keats' First Intergalactic Art Exhibition

"The discovery of artwork from beyond the solar system did not come as a surprise to Keats, who has frequently collaborated with scientists across multiple disciplines. 'It's a familiar story,' he says. 'Researchers expect intelligent life elsewhere in the universe to behave just like them. Since scientists are mathematical, they expect extraterrestrials to broadcast the digits of pi or the Pythagorean theorem.'

Keats began seriously to question the wisdom of these assumptions while conducting independent research early last year. 'If I were an extraterrestrial trying to communicate with beings elsewhere in the universe, I certainly wouldn't transmit something they already knew,' he argues. 'I'd try to express something about myself, as profound as possible, in the most universal language I could imagine: I'd send art.'"

Rain again tonight, and, just to switch things up, a cold wind that whips the rain before it, spattering the awning, the sidewalk sign, the sodden boxes of paper-mache formerly known as the bargain mass market paperbacks. The fifth? sixth? day of the GVRD's boil-water alert, Mike Love singing along in ironic counterpoint:

Suntanned bodies
waves of sunshine
California girls
and a
beautiful coastline
Warmed-up weather
Let's get together and
Do it again...

"At last we had encountered an outpost of the great unknown continent and its cryptic world of frozen death." (HPL, above)
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When my beard first appeared, age thirteen or so, it announced itself as two little symmetrical patches on my jawbone, just slightly left and right of my chin. For as long as I can remember, those patches have always grown in like kudzu. So yesterday, when I missed shaving the left hand patch, there was a quarter inch of stubble on my jaw by sunset. White stubble. I ran my fingers across it, thinking, How did I end up with paper stuck to my face? And then, when that possibility's plausibility was exhausted, concluded, Shit! I'm an old man!
Monday, November 20, 2006

ART ENTHUSIAST: Can I look at that book? [The Tangled Garden: The Art of J.E.H. MacDonald, 1st edition HC/DJ, NF/NF, 1978, $49.95]

CJB: Sure!

ART ENTHUSIAST [flipping pages]: Was he one of the Magnificent Seven?

CJB: Something like that, yeah.
Sunday, November 19, 2006

Untitled, 2006
Today's soundtrack: Yo La Tengo, Almost True

Zadie Smith, trawled from somewhere deep in the internets' trenches: "But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, 'I should sit here and I should be entertained.' And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you."
Something about In Front of a Nightclub nagged at me the longer I looked at it, some alteration from the physical site. I know that pictures are inventions and don't neccessarily correspond to reality, but I was interested to see what the change was, and, if possible, to figure out why it had been made. So, downtown late night in the pouring rain, through puddles, police roadblocks, and hooting drunk suburban nightclub crawlers, to conduct some basic "compositional analysis."

The camera faces north by northeast. In reality, the space beyond the furthest left-hand pillar of the nightclub is the blank black wall of the Granville Rock Shop (concert tees; lighters; bongs). The video surveillance camera and the budget pizza awning are actually located to the right (south) of the nightclub, outside the camera's POV. So the picture is a composite of two different views of the location, one "documentary," one "mirror-reversed," and the surveillance camera's lens points to the vertical seam between them.

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