Saturday, February 02, 2008
NONE-TOO-SUBTLE DEADBEAT: I'm bringing these books in for trade! You can just add them onto my credit slip!

CJB: Hold up. Let's see if I actually want any of these books.

NTSD [frowns]: What?

CJB: Let's see what you've got.

IN NTSD'S LITTLE CLOTH BAG: Terry Brooks [mediocre perpetually overstocked fantasy writer], bell hooks [binding loose from cover], out-of-date religious studies textbooks, Susan Faludi, & etc.

Meanwhile, NTSD browses the new books, the "Beats and Counterculture" wall, the new stuff on display. . .

CJB: Nothing there for me today, thanks.

NTSD: But I just want trade!

CJB: They'd take away my bookseller's license if I took this stuff. Sorry.

NTSD: There'll be no sale today then!

CJB: Quite right.
SFX: Willam DeVaughn, Be Thankful for What You've Got

CJB: Hey there!

WHITE WHITE GIRL (backpack, sparkly touque-thing, lil' cardboard fold-up container of vegetarian chili): Yo, yo, whassup with yo' bad self?

Rocking the house: Radio's new February playlist, African Popular Music Part 1: South of Sahara.

"The first record I heard was a South African LP called 17 Mabone. The cover featured an illustration of an American muscle car with 17 (I counted them) headlights across the front. The tunes, mostly instrumentals, often began with an MC invoking the Indy 500 or something similar, and then the music would come in — accordions, saxes, electric guitars, drums and basses. The cooking ingredients were familiar, but the recipe was new and different. I loved hearing familiar sounds and instruments approached in completely unfamiliar (to me) ways. It was incredibly tuneful too. I loved the wacky cultural borrowings and mish mash, the electric guitars and the references to US car races. The cultural porridge was thick and mind bending."
Friday, February 01, 2008
Brayshaw is a Brat (p.11, scroll!)

"Mr. Brayshaw does not utilise an ability to think critically when he demonstrates his narrow minded, self righteous attitude to politics."

It was a very good year. And now it’s gone.
You say the whole point of everything’s the moving on
And I can’t help but feel somewhat opposed to this
Like she had been --- by fascists


Anodyne Inc. Quarterly Report to Shareholders

Multiple distributions and quarterly report:

Dominion Citrus Income Fund (DOM.UN): 12,346 units x .01/unit = $123.46 (30 Dec)

E-L Financial Corporation (ELF): 7 shares x .125/share = $0.88 (30 Dec, world's best!)

Loblaw Companies (L): 217 shares x .21/share = $45.75 (30 Dec)

Norbord, Inc. (NBD): 1208 shares x .10/share = $120.80 (21 Dec)

North West Company Fund (NWF.UN): 600 units x .27/unit = $162.00 (15 Jan)

Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 3510 units x .105/unit = $368.65 (15 Jan), plus $1247.68 (special distribution), plus 91 new units, plus $13.65 (all 15 Jan)

TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units x .04167/unit = $46.21 (15 Jan)

Current portfolio:

Dominion Citrus Income Fund (DOM.UN): 12,346 units
E-L Financial Corporation (ELF): 7 shares
Hart Stores (HIS): 1769 shares
Loblaw Companies (L): 217 shares
Norbord, Inc. (NBD): 1208 shares
North West Company Fund (NWF.UN): 600 units
Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 3601 units
TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units
Amerigo Resources, Inc. (ARG): 1895 shares

Cash balance, $2355.53


Anodyne Inc., 25 October 2006 - 1 February 2008: 1.49% increase

TSE 300 index, 25 October 2006 - 1 February 2008: 7.91% increase

Relative result: (6.42%)

I am obviously unhappy about this quarter's poor relative performance (compare with 25 October 2007's annual report, reporting a 22.46% gain for Anodyne and a 14.45% increase for the TSE), but not distraught enough to liquidate any of the portfolio's positions. Like I say robotically every quarter: this stuff isn't for the faint of heart, and long-term means just that: having an investment horizon whose intervals are years, not months or even quarters. I pay much closer attention to the business' operating results than to share prices, and, in general, their performance has been satisfactory given the North America-wide recession that's apparently underway. Some businesses -- Parkland, the North West Company -- are performing extraordinarily well, but have seen their share/unit prices crushed since October.

Have I made any mistakes? A few. I'm probably insufficiently diversified: Parkland accounts for approximately 50% of the portfolio's current value. That said, Parkland is a one-of-a-kind business that I've owned in real life since 1986, and one that I'm willing to hold indefinitely. Parkland also owns "semi-visible" assets (eg., the Bowden refinery) which in my judgement are not accurately reflected in the current share price.

Perennial losers Dominion Citrus and Hart Stores have been posting middling sales for as long as I've owned them. I think both companies' business models are basically sound, and that both have taken steps to expand their core competencies: Hart by building new stores and a new distribution center, and Dominion by focusing their operations on higher-margin "value added" products like fresh-cut fruit. A recession is a tough time to hold retail and homebuilding stocks, Loblaw Companies and Norbord included. That said, Hart pays a (small) annual dividend, and Dominion paid a dividend before its conversion to an income trust structure, and I'd expect it to eventually pay one again after it converts back to a corporate structure in June.

Any other mistakes? Yes: not very many financial stocks are represented in the portfolio. I own Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank, and Scotiabank in real life, but the portfolio is limited to E-L Financial, and that single position is small. I like Fairfax Financial Holdings' value orientation, but can't make head or tail out of their financial statements and filings. Lots of complex reinsurance deals that I'm not experienced enough to properly evaluate.

So, not much change for now at Anodyne Inc. Next update: on or around April 25th.

A week of late nights (2am, 3am, 3:35AM) with Scylla and Charybdis: the Foundations of Real Estate Mathematics (BUSI 121) textbook and my new HP 10BII. The problem sets build on each other exponentially, so there's no opportunity, as with my other course this term, Capital Markets and Real Estate Markets (BUSI 101) to skip ahead, picking off the problems I can solve as I go. So I'm rolling along, performing interest rate conversions and amortizing payments, and then hit something like the following:

Scarecrow's Bar and Grill has recently been put up for sale. Bruce, a wealthy young playboy, is very interested in purchasing the restaurant. The asking price is $850,000. Since Bruce is seen as a low credit risk client by the bank, he has regotiated an $800,000 mortgage loan, written at 9.5% per annum, compounded weekly, with a 5 year term and semi-annual payments. The mortgage will be amortized over 20 years and the bank will receive a $6500 bonus that will be deducted from the face value of the loan.

A/ How much will Bruce owe at the end of the contract term?

B/ What is the effective annual rate paid by Bruce on the funds actually advanced?

C/ Immediately after receiving the loan, Bruce decides that he is no longer interested in carrying debt. Since he is rich and does not need the money anyway, he offers the loan to his friend
[ward?] at a price of $810,000. Calculate the effective rate Dick earns on this investment.

& etc. Which, at 1:25am with mice rustling in the walls and rain battering the sidewalk outside, was enough to make me feel like someone had snuck up and hooked jumper cables to my brain.
Thursday, January 31, 2008

Triple Bill
Isabelle Pauwels

Curated by Melanie O'Brian

26 January -- 1 March 2008

233 Carrall Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6B 2J2

Kelly Wood
Monika Grzymala

Curated by Jessie Caryl

18 January – 16 February 2008

Catriona Jeffries Gallery
274 East 1st Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia
V5T 1A6

The World Etc.
Roy Arden

31 January -- 1 March 2008

Monte Clark Gallery

2339 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC
V6H 3G4


You love her. You leave her.
You try to achieve a breadth of vision that she has from the start.

I got Street Despair carved into my heart.
I got Street Despair carved into my heart...

(Image: Ellsworth Kelly, Colors for a Large Wall, 1951)

A Short Guide to the Consensus Curator Career Ladder; or Why All Shows Look the Same

"Any curator buying fully into the system must follow all these rules. Those not doing so are a gift from God and have a difficult life. . . .If you want a break from academic mannerism, then this locked-down arrangement must be broken open through criticism."

(thx. Jen)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"When a freak accident with a gas line blows out the windows of novelist Gabriel English's apartment, driving a sun-drenched billboard advertising Cuba through his bed, he is forced to come to terms with the disappearance of his enigmatic girlfriend, Nell."

(Dust jacket copy from Michael Winter's The Architects Are Here, in across the desk this afternoon)
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Q: "So, you're still in school, right?"

A: As per the link. AACI designation = additional (& harder!) courses!

Exponential Future

Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, Vancouver

Artworks by Tim Lee, Alex Morrison, Isabelle Pauwels, Kevin Schmidt, Mark Soo, Corin Sworn, Althea Thauberger, Elizabeth Zvonar

Curated by Juan Gaitan and Scott Watson

18 January - 27 April, 2008

Reviewed by Christopher Brayshaw

Exponential Future
, the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery’s new survey of emerging Vancouver art, is a failure of artistic and institutional nerve. “Curators Juan Gaitan and Scott Watson chose artists working in different media whose work involved a wide range of issues to give an overview of the new artistic thinking of our time and place,” claims an unsigned gallery press release. “The curators were interested in works that engaged the complex reality of urban life at the beginning of the twenty-first century.” This thesis would make a first-rate show, but bears only passing resemblance to the exhibition Gaitan and Watson have assembled.

What’s remarkable about Exponential Future is how reluctant its participants are to directly engage “the complex reality of urban life” without the comfortable props of theory, or subjects and themes around which critical consensus has already formed like mould on cheese. Realism – the ostensibly transparent representation of the now -- has a long history on the West Coast. A mid-career retrospective of Roy Arden, on display this fall at the Vancouver Art Gallery, cogently summarized realism’s ongoing relevance to a region being razed and rebuilt just in time for the spectacle of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Realism has been important to a younger generation of Vancouver artists, including Evan Lee, Mike Grill, Adam Harrison, Alison Yip, Scott McFarland, Jamie Tolagson, Sara Mameni, Chris Gergley, Owen Kydd, Brad Phillips, Sylvia Borda, and others. Exponential Future muscles realism off-stage. In its place it deploys works that are canny, learned, self-reflexive, and deeply ironized. Most of these pieces pair quotations from avant-gardist practices (modernism in all its guises; Pop, Minimal and Conceptual Art; “photoconceptualism”) with subject matter either lifted from popular culture, or rehearsing the by now well-trodden tropes of “the failed utopia” or “alternative culture.” The anything-goes spirit of the works on display recalls the free ranging-across-forms of another local, Rodney Graham. But Exponential Future’s works largely lack Graham’s idiosyncratic wit and playfulness. The art is learned, in the worst sense of the word.

This isn’t to say that the artists in Exponential Future haven’t previously made good work. Most of them have. But these pieces aren’t in the show. Take Tim Lee, whose videos and photographs are exemplary in their hybridization of art-historical and pop-cultural sources. Lee’s output was recently surveyed by a Presentation House retrospective that included some middling photographs and one good new piece: Goldberg Variations: Aria, BWV 988, Johann Sebastian Bach, 1741 (Glenn Gould, 1981), a two-channel video projection in which Lee, a non-musician, slowly and clumsily rehearsed the fingerings the virtuoso pianist Gould played to produce his ostensibly “seamless,” but actually patched-together-from-multiple-takes 1981 performance of the same Bach piece.

The inadequacy of Lee’s amateur performance in the face of Gould’s genius is, I think, its point: its deliberately flaunted belatedness and inadequacy is the candid response of an ambitious, historically savvy young artist who suspects, perhaps accurately, that larger talents have sucked most of the oxygen out of the arena.

Lee’s contributions to Exponential Future include two photographs, Untitled (The Pink Panther, 2092) which refer to Dan Graham’s photographs of himself reflected in his architectual pavilions, and Peter Sellers’ deadpan performances as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. These highly detailed pictures, which linger almost fetishistically over the weave of Lee’s clothes, the huge gleaming barrel lens of the camera he squints into, and his chin-stubble and hair on the backs of his hands, feel brittle and contrived; they lack the productive neurosis animating Lee’s better works, like Goldberg Variations.

The air of contrivance that hovers over the Pink Panther photographs also clings to works by Elizabeth Zvonar and Mark Soo. Zvonar’s Sign of The Times is a large serpentine stone sculpture of a huge black hand flashing a “peace” sign: a Rodin remade in Berkeley or Oakland some time in the late 1960s. Zvonar has created some major works, including a shaped-glass window for Artspeak Gallery that effortlessly stood comparison with Dan Graham’s mirrored pavilions. Sign of The Times, in contrast, seems peculiarly inert and unsatisfying.

Mark Soo’s That’s That’s Alright Alright Mama Mama, a huge two-part 3D photograph of Memphis’ Sun Recording Studios, is similarly unmoving. The two part image and the layers of color might reference sound reproduction and multi-track recording. Or not. Soo’s decisions governing his piece’s form are disappointingly un-intuitable from the physical facts of the work.

What is most disappointing about these works is their air of calculation, their reduction of the complexity of lived experience to an ironized half-nod at modernist or utopian failings. Lee, Zvonar and Soo have all made stronger works than these, and Watson and Gaitan are remiss for either not caring sufficiently about the difference between Goldberg Variations and The Pink Panther, or between Zvonar’s mirror pieces and Sign of the Times, or for not recognizing that these aesthetic differences exist in the first place.

Althea Thauberger’s projects, like Alex Morrison’s, are less overtly “learned” and more conscious of a larger social world. Thauberger’s Zivildienst ≠ Kunstprojekt is a twenty minute long black and white video projection developed in collaboration with a group of young German men. Her performers find themselves trapped on a scaffold in a Berlin gallery and improvise short actions as a distraction from their confinement. Thauberger is attentive to the performers’ micro-gestures, and her work is enriched and sharpened by the endless complexity of human bodies moving through space.

Another Thauberger piece, The Art of Seeing Without Being Seen, is a huge staged color photograph of a group of young Canadian Forces troops conducting a surveillance exercise on a CF base in
British Columbia’s Chilliwack Valley. The picture is installed in the foyer of UBC’s Koerner Library, a reminder, as local critic Clint Burnham suggested to me, that not everyone in their twenties is studying at university. The Art of Seeing is a window opening onto a larger, harsher, and more ambiguous world, one that, given the evidence of a comment book alongside the piece in the library, many UBC students, staff and faculty would prefer not to confront.

Alex Morrison’s
Giving the Story a Treatment (Battle in Seattle), consists of three black and white photographic panels depicting riot police lounging about on the streets of downtown Vancouver surrounded by cameras, reflectors, and other filmmaking apparatus. A movie about the Seattle WTO protests is being shot in Vancouver. Vancouver’s specificity is elided; Vancouver stands in for Seattle, or, by extension, for any place at all.

Morrison’s photographs are not “good pictures” by any stretch of the imagination. They are documents, which call attention to the film’s mechanisms of production, which are typically hidden from viewers. This isn’t a particularly novel insight, but it demonstrates Morrison’s awareness of art’s usefulness as a critical tool, a scalpel that can cut through ideological boundaries.

Corin Sworn contributes a suite of drawings of Summerhill, A.S. Neill’s visionary “free school.” Sworn draws well, blending high-focus representation with passages of biomorphic abstraction that recall the 1930s experiments of English draughtsmen like Graham Sutherland and Paul Nash.

Isabelle Pauwels’ The Embellishers is a video shot in two slightly different takes of approximately fifteen minutes each. Like all of Pauwels’ work, it resists easy summation. The artist and her twin sister, an aspiring actress, argue and make up in the actress’ apartment. Some times they wear plastic monkey masks. Other times they appear as themselves. Long self-revelatory monologues are intercut with winking digressions on urban development, desire (the subject of a number of recent Pauwels videos), Vancouver’s booming film industry, and the sisters’ poor employment prospects. The Embellishers is dry-witted, politically engaged, and eminently watchable. It resembles a Lenny Bruce take on the history of western art video. Pauwels’ is a realism totally unlike most other realist practices, and her simple, low-budget work towers over everything else in the show.

Finally, Kevin Schmidt contributes two works, made during a recent residency in the Yukon. Aurora With Roman Candle is a time-lapse photograph of a firework’s plume and sparkle in the midst of a frozen northern landscape. Schmidt’s other contribution, Wild Signals, is a video loop depicting gear that could easily belong to a local hair-metal band – smoke machine; speakers; colored lights – parked in the middle of a frozen winter lake at twilight. As the lights blink wildly and fake fog rolls across the snow, the speakers pump out a low-tech version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind’s famous five-note theme. In Steven Spielberg's film, a group of scientists use a sequence of notes and lights to lure an alien mother ship down to earth. Sound and light build a bridge between two vastly different worlds. In Schmidt’s video the mother ship does not appear, and the lights and music eventually die down into darkness. It’s a strangely moving experience, whose palpable sense of loss is mirrored by the many expectations Exponential Futures raises, then fails to deliver.
Snow, sleet, slush, shush, salt-spray, sanding trucks.

Feet warm inside clunky insulated climbing boots.

Day off.

To the Belkin, again, to fact-check Exponential Future.
Monday, January 28, 2008
ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): No Kids, You Look Good to Me. As yet unreleased, but heard on a Xmas mix CD supplied by Mr. Harrison, and also over at Radio

Washing Cat. Photograph by Grace James.

Turbulent grey sky, snow flurries rolling through, Brian Eno's "Another Day on Earth" on the deck.

I'm going to show some photographs toward the end of March. The exhibition is called Into Thin Air, and the (found) image for the e-vite is above. Two sequences (Legacy; Readers), one or two ghosts, one or two standalone pictures, and two text works. The pictures won't be up long, just two or three days, but I want the experience of studying them as real objects that exist in the world, and in dialogue with one another.

Further details (including venue) in due course.

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