Friday, February 23, 2007
I just enjoyed a 20-hour workday which involved moving eighty bankers' boxes of books, plus a neon sign, sixty 7' high bookcases, a feather duster, a dozen doughnuts, & etc. from a local suburb to the Kitsilano store in a not-quite-big-enough rental van, through cutting cold, rain, and (around 4am) mixed hail and sleet. This is my excuse if I don't seem to remember your name, or my own, when you come in, and I'm sticking to it.
Thursday, February 22, 2007

Recent reading:

Keith Maillard, Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes (Difficulty at the Beginning, v.3)

I just reactivated my Vancouver Public Library card after 5+ years of inactivity due to, a/ $25 of library fines (Lowenstein's Buffett; Pohl's Annals of the Heechee), and, b/ owning a business where interesting things to read arrive all the time. So the reading list is about to expand exponentially.

Studio visit yesterday with Elspeth Pratt, the most important local sculptor I know. A selection of her well-made "material decisions" visible above. Soon showing at Diaz Contemporary in Toronto.

A cold front rolling through, snow line low on the local mountains, wind roiling wild cumulus overhead, arctic sunlight rimed round the edges.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Thanks from the staff and I to the readers of the Westender newspaper for once again voting Pulpfiction "Vancouver's Best Used Bookstore." Coming soon: even more books! We just closed a deal for a recently bankrupt competitor, and 5500-odd paperbacks and mass market paperbacks, plus some new shelves, will be arriving in the Kitsilano store (3133 West Broadway) first thing on Friday morning.

The Quartz Parliament

Via MJH, Robert Macfarlane's short and mercilessly clear essay on writer and climber Jim Perrin, worth quoting at length for its relevance to Team Cat's alpine excursions, and their genesis in the wintery Cascade panoramas visible from Hillside Secondary's homeroom windows:

"Joy, perhaps above all, is a vital concept for Perrin. In 'The Vision of Glory,' he describes climbing Beinn a' Chaoruinn, the Hill of the Rowan, a mountain above Loch Moy. The winter day begins dully, but near the summit, suddenly 'the mist is scoured with speed from the face of the mountain,' and Perrin sees out over the surrounding peaks and corries, 'all glitter and coruscation, shapes of the Mamores beyond a phantasmal ivory gleam.' From this epiphany, the essay develops by way of Wordsworth and Simone Weil, into a meditation on the power of such visionary moments — 'the occasional goings-through into the white world, into the world of light' - to call out a goodness in us. 'Our essential life, the joy-life, is a sequence of these moments: how many of us could count even sixty such?'

Such are the mystical returns which, in Perrin's secular theology, reward those who venture into the high mountains. For Perrin, taking the high ground does not lead one to superiority or righteousness, but to humility. 'I was annihilated,' he writes of an experience on Jacob's Ladder in the Peak District, 'had no existence, simply looked out at the inconceivable beauty of the world that had detached me from any concept of self in order that I might see.'

Discussing the accidie which overwhelmed Wordsworth in the 1840s, Perrin wonders 'what had gone so radically wrong that he could no longer record, as he had once recorded, the radical joy in the commonplace and the everyday around him?' Joy - for Perrin as for Weil - is radical in that it is an improving force, which rinses a person clean of bitterness, and propels them to a contemplation of alternative ways of being. It is an emotion which inhabits the future subjunctive tense: the what-might-be.

There is a popular heresy that a love of nature is a middle-class luxury: budget-Buddhism for the well-off. The ability - this heresy runs - to find landscapes attractive, consoling, or 'heart-exciting' (to borrow Coleridge's fine phrase) is a function of wealth. Only those who have enjoyed an affluent upbringing will be able to discover beauty in the stern curve of a mountain slope, or the great weathers of a coastal sky; or in gentler and more modest abstractions, such as the rise of a moorland horizon, or an arrangement of wet stones on a beach.

It is a heresy to be despised, for it patronises those it pretends to represent, and denies them so much. And it is a heresy which Perrin's life and his writing urgently refuse. His fierce, self-effacing and generous essays investigate a question of enormous importance: how far landscape can help, and has historically helped, to fulfil 'the potential dignity and worth of human consciousness.'"
Anodyne, Inc.

Parkland Industries' updated distribution information from February 15th:

$1.20/eligible unit x 746 units = 24 new units, plus $27.47 cash for the fractional balance

Unit balance, 770 units. Cash balance, $376.38.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Recent reading:

Keith Maillard, Running (Difficulty at the Beginning,v.1)
Keith Maillard, Morgantown (Difficulty at the Beginning, v.2)
Timothy Vick, Wall Street on Sale: How to Beat the Market as a Value Investor

Off work early. Up Main to my favorite local cafe, the one with the stereo permanently parked in 1989. World's largest Americano and sixty pages of Morgantown to a backbeat of Crowded House, the Police, Cabaret Voltaire, New Order, Talking Heads, Icehouse, Echo & the Bunnymen, & etc. Then off through intermittent showers in the dark, thin clouds whipped aside to reveal the crescent moon. Heavy backpack weighing on my trashed right knee. Restaurants, cafes. Furniture store display windows, mid-century Danish modern nightstands and bookcases spotlit by halogen bulbs. A Vietnamese chicken sub at the doughnut place on the corner beyond which the stores pinch out into noticably down-market rentals. Crispy French roll, bar-b-que chicken, lettuce, hot peppers, avacado, mayo. A steady stream of folks order the house specialty, doughnuts which, despite looking like chocolate, strawberry, maple, etc., all taste vaguely metallic and gingery. It's like 100% of the place's cooking talent goes into the subs, leaving no love for the doughnuts. Not that the regulars seem to mind. "Two chocolate, two sugar glazed." The Canucks game is on on the snowy TV above the door. One regular orders coffee, black, then proceeds to stir fourteen packets of sugar into it. "Shit," he says, sipping, "that's bitter." Fifteen, sixteen. Someone scores a goal. "Shit!" Seventeen, eighteen. "Ahh."

Costco's Rules

A retailer originally drawn to my attention by Warren Buffett's second-in-command, Charlie Munger, a current Costco board member. An important role model for my thinking about Pulpfiction's role as a "didactic enterprise" in a larger social community.

"Professor Terrance Weatherbee, a business professor at Acadia University, explains that by dispensing with many of the costs associated with classic retail inventory practices, Costco is able to re-direct cash flow to employees, and make fairer deals with suppliers. Cheap floor displays, decreased individual packaging and bulk supplies are what allow Costco to remain competitive and redistribute its wealth to things like employee development, which it maintains as a high priority within the corporation."
Monday, February 19, 2007

3:43pm-View of same house, by Keefer

Hillside Secondary School, 1996 [15], by Aaron Vidaver

Other people's photographs. A signed print of Keefer's picture, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, showed up today, unsolicited, in the mail. The image is one of a number of photographs taken on a long walk through Surrey, B.C., a rapidly industrializing city-suburb of Vancouver, whose geographical variety is endlessly rich and dense, and impossible to appreciate unless you spend three weeks driving back and forth through it, documenting every one of its 1600+ bus stops (as I did, several years ago, as an assistant on my friend Sylvia Borda's great video project, Every Bus Stop in Surrey, B.C.), or walk, like Keefer, just looking and listening.

I like Keefer's picture a lot; it summarizes, in an easy, unselfconscious, and not neccessarily "arty" way, many ideas I've had around the intersection of landscape, abstraction, and the supernatural. The crumbling house -- the site of a "ghost light" Keefer identifies in a prose caption -- is on its way out, soon to be replaced by, one supposes, condos or duplexes, and a general lack of the organic clutter that structures the picture so well. The photograph also reminds me of paintings by Peter Doig, whose work, at least to me, similarly emerges from contemplating modernity's and landscape's corrosive effects on each other, while retaining an openness to the experience of being out in nature.

Thanks, Keefer!

Aaron Vidaver
and I both attended West Vancouver's Hillside Secondary School in the mid- to late- 1980s. I don't recall us having much in common, outside of what I might characterize, with Aaron's indulgence, as incompatable left (or, in my case, intermittently left-leaning) politics. But we share a love of books, poetry, visual art, and regional history, and have kept running into one another over the years. Aaron's Hillside Flickr set showed up unsolicited in my morning email, and I spent half an hour or so with it.

Hillside Secondary, perched high above Canada's richest, or second-richest, suburb, was a really strange place to go to school. I was glad to leave in 1988, but, looking back on my five year stay from twenty-odd years out, the school's physical location was one of the most formative experiences of my life. Sweeping views, from Mount Baker in the east to Vancouver Island in the west. Endlessly changeable light. The arc of the bridge, and all the freighters at anchor in the harbor. Jet trails. The Cascade Range at sunrise. & etc. Science classes, in particular, in the building's west wing, with its high, wide windows, were a constant education in climate and geography.

A memory: seven thirty in November. My dad drops dru and I by the side of the highway and together we walk down an asphalt path to the service road above the school. It's slippery, the pavement underfoot white with frost. The sky to the east is fluorescent pink, shot with steam clouds rising from North Vancouver's apartments and the Ioco hydro plant. Mount Baker's silhouette seems to have been cut from black construction paper and pasted onto the brilliant horizon. I'm worrying about a story I'm writing, or getting my ass kicked later that day in the breezeway, or algebra, which I'm failing. But the landscape knocks me out of myself, over and over again.

Thanks, Aaron!
Monsoonland again. Cold wind rocking the slowly budding trees, street banners and trolley wires. Slant rain, alley ghosts drowned in shallow lakes. A little loch around the base of the cherry tree outside the shop's front door. Silver drops gathering along the awning's edge, where they swell, stretch, and finally succumb to gravity, narrowly missing the bargain table on the way down. A little kid in a soaked grey hoodie bails out of an SUV stopped in traffic, sprints toward the comic book store, discovers they're closed Mondays, and trudges back to the car. "Ya FUCKIN RETARD!" screams a local deadbeat stalking up the block. Marvin Gaye on the deck, the shush of wet tires and the clang of Translink's trolley line repair crew's bell as they labor on the corner, wrestling big wet spools of steel wire.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Thinking About What to Think About

Walking slowly to work, downtown's alleys still black and slick with last night's rain. As if the tide crept after midnight, when everyone was sleeping, gently curled around the dumpsters and scabby patches of sidewalk grass, then retreated just before dawn, carrying the city's cast-offs with it, drawing them out into the open, into visibility as themselves.

Tolagson writes from the island: "I've been reading lately about Van Gogh's brief flirtation (via Gauguin) with painting completely from his imagination. Gauguin thought Van Gogh's reliance on visual observation of his subject and adherence to basic ideas of perspective was tiresome and backwards, and encouraged Van Gogh to, y'know, 'Loosen the fuck up!' But when VG tried to emulate Gauguin's imaginative, otherworldly style by painting tapestry-like pictures of his usual subjects from memory, his work fell flat, literally! The observance of things, the visual observation, was the thing for him (no matter how much liberty he took with it.) Van Gogh also supposedly blew his top when Bernard sent him a sketch of a proposed painting he was about to begin depicting Christ on the Mount of Olives, (a visionary painting depicting Christ's suffering, etc etc.) His tantrum ran something along the lines of, 'I'm down here busting my ass painting real olive groves, which are more than capable of conveying any meaning you'd like in and of themselves, including the death of Christ, and you're yammering on to me about historical painting?' Or as he put it to Theo in a letter: ' my opinion it is our duty to think and not to dream.'"

Some things I saw on my walk today: pink and lime-green bath towels, carelessly draped from dumpsters like battle flags. A busted-up couch, jammed sideways in a narrow easement between two run-down 50s apartments with peeling stucco siding, its short wooden legs projecting up in the air like a mortally wounded animal that had crawled away to die. Condoms, syringes. Inexplicable little asphalt piles: macadam bearscat. A pair of sneakers protruding from several cardboard boxes (Mac Fries; Sunkist; Hitachi) joined to create a square-sided corrugated tunnel: a "found Wurm." A woman in a black hoodie pushing an overloaded shopping cart full of bulging plastic bags, covered by a sky-blue tarp, and, balanced on top of this, a fluffy orange kitten, secured to the cart by a thin silver chain that sparkles in the sun. And a white-faced sweaty crackhead trying to wheedle his way onto the bus with the same faux-obsequient tone they all have. "Please, sir" -- that sir as full of hate as it sounds -- "my pass is in my other coat, sir." Standing right on top of the driver, blocking the rest of us. "It's $2.25," says the driver patiently, "or you can't ride." "You know, I only have this problem with East Indian drivers," says the crackhead. "With curry-eaters." "Better to eat curry than to be a fucking white-trash racist," is my unsolicited contribution. "Fuck off off the bus. None of the rest of us want to hear your bullshit." The crackhead spins, sizing me up. "No one asked you," he spits, backing down onto the sidewalk. As the bus pulls away, he shouts, "What an embarrassment you are, a white with no race pride."

Guilty as charged!

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