Saturday, December 16, 2006
No work likely to be performed here today, evidently.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Today's YouTube: Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On" (live in 1973)

The New Yorker's Anthony Lane calmly and accurately puts the boots to Thomas Harris' terrible Hannibal Rising. Harris has written two great genre novels -- Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, which are models of concise, economical prose. Hannibal Rising is a lesser, intensely overwritten book, as preening and full of itself as its protagonist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, MD, is of himself. Lane has some good insights about the benefits of working inside a genre form, and scores bonus points by name-checking George V. Higgins' superb The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Anthony Lane:

"With Hannibal Rising, we watch the legend sink.

Why did Harris pursue this line of inquiry? He has written one great Lecter book, The Silence of the Lambs, and two lesser ones, so why produce a fourth that is not merely the weakest but that makes you wonder if the others were so gripping after all? There is a puff of grand delusion here, of the sort to which all thriller-writers are susceptible. Compare The Friends of Eddie Coyle, an early novel by George V. Higgins, with the bulky solemnities of his later work; or, for that matter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with more recent le Carré like The Night Manager or The Constant Gardener. At some point, each man started to hear that he was so much more than the master of a genre (as if that were an ignoble thing to be), and responded to such flattery by expanding his fiction beyond its confines, not realizing that what he felt as a restriction was in fact its natural shape. That is how a writer loses thrust and form, and how Thomas Harris went from this, a jailbreak in The Silence of the Lambs:

'Lieutenant, it looks like he’s got two six-shot .38s. We heard three rounds fired and the dump pouches on the gunbelts are still full, so he may just have nine left. Advise SWAT it’s +Ps jacketed hollowpoints. This guy favors the face.'

To this, a love duet from Hannibal Rising:

'I see you and the cricket sings in concert with my heart.'

'My heart hops at the sight of you, who taught my heart to sing.'

What the hell is going on here? Where is the damn SWAT team when you need it? And will somebody tell me how the guy who favored the face—the adult Lecter, armed and on the loose—emerged from the schoolboy with the hopping heart, trading insect quips with Lady Murasaki? They are lifted by moonlight, apparently, 'to a place above ghost-ridden earth, a place unhaunted, and being there together was enough.' Ahhh. We would call that moribund, the swollen style. Harris has developed aspirations to be a prose poet, not remembering that the jailbreak, with its brace of .38s, was already poetry in motion—hard, metallic, and perfectly timed."


150km/hr winds overnight, the fiercest windstorm in more than thirty-five years on the coast.

Awakened at 3am by what sounded like a jetliner taking off in front of the building. Peered out through the blinds to see a naked man running round on the penthouse balcony opposite, trying to retrieve his hanging plants, sun umbrella, etc. as they disappeared off the far end of the deck into the dark. Made tea, was about to go back to bed, saw a white plastic lawn chair bowl past, six stories up, like a ghost, or the witch from The Wizard of Oz, bicycling along in the tornado. The night sky repeatedly turned green as the downtown peninsula's electrical transformers blew out one by one, outlining the darkened towers and condos with fierce bright light.

This morning: trees down in the street, one squarely on the roof of a small red car, caving it in along its horizontal axis.

No power at the shop. Breakfast, change run to the bank, intrinsic value calculations for small Canadian produce distribution company (solar-powered calculator!) & etc. Power back on at 3pm, quickly followed by everyone who had rattled the locked front door in the morning.

Snowstorm forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Temperature falling as we speak.
Anodyne, Inc.

Cash distribution today!

Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN) : .22/unit x 746 units = $164.12.

Cash balance, $817.19.

Plus, following today's market close, some news. Christmas came early!

"Parkland Income Fund declares special distribution payments

RED DEER, AB, Dec. 15 /CNW/ - Parkland Income Fund (TSX: PKI.UN) is pleased to announce that special distributions totaling $2.25 per unit will be paid to unitholders of record on December 29, 2006. The payments are expected to be made as a combination of $1.05 per unit in cash to be paid January 15, 2007 and $1.20 in trust units to be issued February 15, 2007. The number of units will be established with reference to the weighted average trading price on the date of record. No fractional units will be issued. The Fund reserves the right to make the February 15, 2007 distribution entirely or partly in cash, rather than units, at the discretion of its Board of Directors. In exercising such discretion, the Board of Directors will consider a number of factors, including the impact of the anticipated Federal government transition rules related to income trust taxation as well as the Fund's cash requirements.

The combination of these special distributions and the regular monthly distribution of $0.22 per trust unit will result in unitholders receiving a total of $1.27 per trust unit on January 15, 2007 plus $1.20 in units or cash or a combination thereof on February 15, 2007, both subject to applicable Canadian withholding tax for non-resident unitholders [my italics]. The special distribution reflects the strength of the financial performance for the year ended December 31, 2006 and is being paid after due consideration of the sustainability of the regular monthly distributions.

The decision to pay a portion of the distribution in cash was made in consideration of unitholders' income tax liabilities. Any taxable income in excess of these distributions will be retained by a corporate entity owned by the Fund and used to provide a cash reserve. Management believes maintaining a cash reserve is prudent in view of the seasonal weakness of the Fund's business and the potential for growth opportunities which may present themselves in 2007.

Parkland Income Fund operates retail and wholesale fuels and convenience store businesses under its Fas Gas Plus, Fas Gas, Race Trac Fuels and Short Stop Food Stores brands and through independent branded dealers, and transports fuel through its Petrohaul division. With over 550 locations, Parkland has developed a strong market niche in western and northern Canadian non-urban markets. To maximize value for its unitholders, the Fund is focused on the continuous refinement of its retail portfolio, increased revenue diversification through growth in non-fuel revenues and active supply chain management. Parkland maintains ownership of the Bowden refinery near Red Deer, Alberta and recently re-activated the site for toll production of drilling fluids."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): "'T' Plays It Cool," especially those quick little runs on the drums.

The best post I've read in a while, courtesy site regular ChuckU.

"When we moved into our current home 14 years ago, our back yard was a pretty bleak place. The first year and 1/2 in the old house was spent devoted to home handy-man renovations (on an increasingly desperate schedule as the birth of my son approached). Then I turned my attention to the yard and garden.

Working in the front garden close to the house, I discovered a whip of a self-seeded maple tree. It was maybe 3 or 4 feet high and about the diameter of my thumb at its base. It was far too close to the house and I decided I would replant it in the back garden at a far corner near the back fence.

I've cared for it with pruning and shaping and over the past dozen-plus years and that tree has grown with abandon. It is now in the range of 40' high and spreads welcome shade over our southern exposed backyard through the summer. The main trunk is about 10" in diameter and the canopy extends over the entire back lane. This C02 eating pre-teen is clearly visible on Google Earth (image attached: dead centre) and has only begun to grow."

(Photo: Rodney Graham, Tree With Bench, Vancouver, B.C. Not a maple, but I dimly remember Rodney once saying that he approached his upside-down tree photographs as if each tree had commissioned its portrait, thus revealing, at least to me, an "ethics of care" like ChuckU's)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The Honorable Member for South Wellington checks in:

CJB: We don't require writing on theoretical physics to be immediately comprehensible to a general audience. If I study a scholarly article on physics, I realize that there is a certain amount of learning I have to do in order to understand the specialized technical language of the discipline. I realize that the article may refer to concepts and processes that I, with my funny art- and pop-culture-oriented brain, may never be able to process.

PC: Maybe the difference is that theoretical physics is a highly technical discourse and has always has been. Whereas Mike Kelley could be explained to a bright 11 year old in an hour. There's a big difference. And lots of really good artists are as dumb as a bag of rocks. Art existed for thousands of years before any such comparably difficult discourses were deemed in any way necessary, and could survive perfectly well without them. Unreadable jargony art writing is a very recent development, and has more to do with the postwar expansion of the academy than the evolution of art. No one could fake it at a physics conference as easily as most people fake it at an art opening. And just because elitism is hard to pin down doesn't mean that the art world isn't ridden with every variety of it. It's what the crowds at Swarm seem to like -- that velvet-rope "insider" feeling, the lure of arcane knowledge rather than knowledge.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Two used booksellers, desert island, one book between them. By the time they're rescued, they're both millionaires!
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being:

"Before we are forgotten, we will be turned into kitsch. Kitsch is the stopover between being and oblivion."
Simpleposie wants to know: "Does the 'elitism of art theory and criticism' need remedy-ing? What kind of tincture would you suggest?"

No, it doesn't. Elitism is a funny word, regularly thrown around by people who seem confused about its meaning. Art is unusual in that it can be (might be, may be, has been) made by, seen by, and interpreted by -- in Thierry de Duve's words -- "anyone and everyone." But it does not follow that every work of art is (or should be) equally accessable to everyone. There is a world of difference betweeen a Stephen Prina installation and a Monet landscape, beginning with the extent to which the work's formal properties have percolated through culture. I would like to be able to buy a calendar whose March is a Prina monochrome and not a Monet sea-stack, but that's personal subjective taste, and Monet has an approximately one hundred year head start on diffusing into culture-at-large.

Works like Prina's, or Mike Kelley's, because of the relatively complicated critical premises behind them, will attract similarly complex criticism. And I don't think that writing complexly about art -- using jargon, using theory -- is intrinsically a negative act. We don't require writing on theoretical physics to be immediately comprehensible to a general audience. If I study a scholarly article on physics, I realize that there is a certain amount of learning I have to do in order to understand the specialized technical language of the discipline. I realize that the article may refer to concepts and processes that I, with my funny art- and pop-culture-oriented brain, may never be able to process. And I'm fine with that. If I really feel I'm missing out on something, I might choose to study physics in a more systematic way, or turn to a "popular interpreter" of physics, like Richard Feynman, or Richard Dawkins, or Stephen Hawking, three authors who have all built careers out of being plain-language interpreters of high-end scientific writing for non-scientists like me. And again, I'm fine with that; I don't immediately go off crying about the "elitism" of physics, or science in general, & etc.

I think the expectation that art, and art writing, be immediately comprensible to everyone and anyone is a red herring. This is not a requirement made of any other discipline -- not literature, nor music, and definitely not the hard sciences. I think this expectation is typically advanced by writers and artists who want to dissolve art into life, into social or political praxis. I'm not negative about this idea (no Beuys without it, no El Lissitsky, definitely no Andrea Fraser or Center For Land Use Interpretation), but I definitely just see it as one of many choices on the art menu. Many proponents of sociopolitical-praxis art ("relational aesthetics"?) seem to want a clear-cut choice between their "progressive" aesthetic politics and the "conservative" politics of traditional art and aesthetic history. This kind of thinking strikes me as historically blinkered and reactionary. It's a shrill, reductive process I want no part of. The choice isn't between Cezanne and Beuys, or Cezanne and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Even the notion of a single "choice" is bizarre. All of these options are open and available for use; each inflects each another.

(Gloomily re-edited, mid-afternoon, for clarity & length)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Depeche Mode v. Giant Squid and Numerous Blinking Mechanical Fish

In-process music video for "Precious," forwarded to me by an internets correspondent who figured, based on all the recent synth-pop namechecks, that I might like this one, too. It's true: it's hard to go wrong with a repetitive keyboard loop and great dollops of synthetic bass. The keyboardist's black nailpolish is a nice synth-goth touch, too.

There is something vaguely charming about the coupling of DM's earnest and totally humorless music with the scribbly clockwork fish, the little cartoon clouds rising from the soon-to-be-CGIed-to-death freighter's smokestacks, the keyboard museum in the elevator & etc. Shades of Terry Gilliam and Christian Marclay!
Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bye-Bye Empire, Empire, Bye-Bye

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Mr. Thomas Dolby, solo live in concert

I just ordered a (signed!) copy of Mr. Dolby's brand-new, self-produced concert CD, including Aliens Ate My Buick's sublime "Budapest By Blimp."

I Don't Believe It's Even in Your Mind At All

Sunday night, December on the coast, a light rain falling in the streetlights. "[H]e thought he saw a movement, a shadow on the wall, the suggestion of a movement in the orange streetlight. Rain, sleet and snow all seemed to be falling at once." (M. John Harrison, Light). Inside, stacked on top of the glass display cabinets by the cash register, the 2500-odd mass market paperbacks and trade paperbacks that came back from Seattle, whose uneven piles have slipped and slid sideways, creating a buckled, vaguely geological-looking surface of faults and escarpments. "The far-out stuff was in the Far West of the country -- wild, weirdsma, a leather-jacket geology in mirrored shades, with its welded tuffs and Franciscian melange (internally deformed, complex beyond analysis), its slip-strike faults and falling buildings, its boiling springs and fresh volcanics, its extensional disassembling of the earth." (John McPhee, Basin and Range). Is McPhee evoking, here, with his phrase "leather-jacket geology," the photograph on the front cover of Smithson's Collected Writings, the surly, pock-skinned autodidact with his aviator glasses and narrow-legged pants, studying his red reflection in the Great Salt Lake's shallows, contained by an interior spiral of his beautiful and very definitely "internally deformed" earthwork, Spiral Jetty? -- I think so.

Disposable tinkling British pop and its non-Googleable lyrics on the stereo (Thus this entry points back at, but doesn't contain, the moment; something within it flashes up and is gone, like a figure moving through a long exposure).

Long thoughtful lion-in-winter profile of Jasper Johns, by Calvin Tompkins in this week's New Yorker:

"'Part of working, for me,' [Johns] went on, 'involves anxiety. A certain amount of anxiety, or hesitation, or boredom. Frequently, I think for a long time before I do something, even though I've decided over the years that this is absolutely pointless. Actually, when one works, one comes to a solution much more quickly than when one sits and thinks. But I can't avoid it. I just sit and wonder.'"
My drunken, uncharitable assessment of a casual acquaintance young hipster's language skills: "If he fucks like he writes, he'll have his tongue in your ear for hours."

(Edited in response to furious email from 4 -- count 'em! -- pals, casual acquaintances, and casual acquintances' loved ones. I have never met the individual in question, just perused his typing, which is probably a good thing for all concerned)

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