Friday, January 02, 2009


CJB: Hey there.

OTWAPIT: Is this place doin' any hiring?

CJB: Nope.

OTWAPIT: Well when will ya be?

CJB: No time soon.



PHONE: Ring!

CJB: Good afternoon, Pulpfiction.

MALE VOICE ON PHONE: Got some questions for you, guy.

CJB: Uh-huh?

MVOP: Do you have Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies?

CJB: Sure, I'm looking right at it on the new book wall.

MVOP: And are you doin' any hiring?

CJB: Nope. Should I put the Lynch on hold for you?

PHONE: [dial tone]

Logical consequences:

1. Calling me "guy," "bud," "buddy," "man," or any variation thereof automatically reduces your chances of being hired here by approximately 99.9%

2. Wandering in the door hands-in-pockets and asking if we're "doin' any hiring" just makes it seem like you're bored off your ass. Unbuttoning your blouse an extra three buttons before you ask conveys the same impression, plus a serious lack of self-respect.

3. The best way to get hired here is to show up with a resume describing your new or used bookselling career to date, or a resume demonstrating copious common sense and good judgment, or a mixture of both.

4. If the thought of you working here gives me and/or the other staff a migraine, we're not hiring. If you want to work in a bookstore because you think it's a slack-ass job where you'll get paid to sit around and read all day, we're not hiring. If you really like reading and talking about books, but don't like shelving, lifting boxes, or pricing books non-stop for six to eight hours at a stretch, we're not hiring. And if your other life commitments prevent you from working except on Mondays from 4-6pm and Thursdays from 8am-9:45am, again, we're not hiring.

All of which aside. . .

5. Out of the 10+ people who've worked with me in the almost nine years the shop's been around, at least half walked through the door with a resume in hand. Two, including the shop's super-bright and ultra-competent manager, had no previous bookselling experience of any kind.
Thursday, January 01, 2009

I Don't Owe You Anything

PR bumpf from the Vancouver Art Gallery regarding How Soon Is Now, their upcoming survey of local contemporary art. No judgment passed on the works on display or the curation -- the show isn't even open yet! -- but I vehemently disagree with every assertion in the following:

"The exhibition is an inquiry into alternative narratives of art production, recognizing important shifts in contemporary art practice that privileges the event over the object, the process over the product, interaction over contemplation. Gallery spaces become a venue for a range of experiences, be they critical, transformative, social, introspective or political. Together this exhibition looks to the work artists are creating as a reflection of and insight into the ideas that continue to resonate in the broad field of cultural production."

Specific disagreements:

1. "Privileging the event over the object" or "the process over the product" obviates the neccessity of aesthetic judgment. The "art work" is reduced to the status of wallpaper, backdrop, ambient noise. A lot of second-rate or merely pleasing work thereby scrambles in the back door.

2. "Interaction over contemplation" turns the gallery into a science museum, full of buttons to push and xeroxed hand-outs to color, or an architectural container for tortilla festivals, reed mat distribution, listening parties, etc.

3. The elevation of "interaction" over "contemplation" mistakenly assumes that "contemplation" doesn't also produce "a range of experiences, be they critical, transformative, social, introspective or political," an assertion which is politically reactionary and contradictory to the first-hand experience of good art.

4. The production techniques the VAG's PR refers to have produced some interesting work (I am thinking of works by artists like Andrea Fraser, Mark Dion, or, locally, Kyla Mallett or Kristina Lee Podesva), but to presume, as the VAG seems to, that these techniques are somehow superior to, or more current than, art "objects," art "products," and the process of contemplation seems intellectually blinkered and deeply weird.

(Upper image: Jasper Johns, Target, 1958. Lower image: Kristi Malakoff, Target, 2005/8)

Farewell Donald E. Westlake, aka Richard Stark, aka Samuel Holt, aka Tucker Coe, aka Alan Marshall, etc. etc., author of Dancing Aztecs, one of my favorite comic crime novels, and (under the Stark pseudonym) one of the best first lines ever: "When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man."
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"And, uh, Hou..."

"13:53:57 (EI + 928) This marks the beginning of the transition from a controlled glide to an uncontrolled ballistic entry."
Monday, December 29, 2008

Rebecca Dart (qv. many previous entries and essays on her excellent Rabbithead) just started posting her work to Livejournal. Check it out here.

(Click on the Xmas card images above for larger versions)

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