Monday, May 31, 2004
Yet More Rare Tunes from Walt and Don
International Geophysical Year

and a cover version of Donald Fagen's wonderful song, courtesy Mr. Howard Jones. Early 90s synth-pop, anyone?
From Marvin Mondlin, Book Row - An Anecdotal and Pictorial History of the Antiquarian Book Trade:

"David A. Randall, a rare book dealer whose reminiscences are recorded in Dukedom Large Enough, discovered Book Row as a boy and began there as a book scout rummaging and rooting for cheap finds to sell for a profit at posh Uptown bookstores. One of his discoveries in the 25-cent bin was a nondescript work by Whittier with a verse in Whittier’s hand on the back flyleaf. The store owner, cantankerous Peter Stammer, going through hundreds of books had understandably missed the fact it was a valuable presentation copy. There and then young Randall learned the wisdom of not impetuously bragging in the victim’s presence. When he showed Stammer the inscription he had missed, the bookman seized the book, tore out the flyleaf, and handed back what was then legitimately a 25-cent buy. Stammer, famous for his warm heart as well as his impulsive temper, repented by giving Randall a part-time job and furthering the education of an eminent American bookman."
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Chou & Associates -- value-oriented Ontario mutual fund manager
A Shadbolt driftwood sculpture

and another one
Jack Shadbolt's Urban Dream, unusual in its conjunction of Shadbolt's social realist and mature abstract styles. The menacing dog-thing in the lower right is based on a Shadbolt driftwood sculpture, a sub-genre of the abstract paintings much despised, apparently, by everyone but me.
New October title: Martha Buskirk's The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art. Buskirk's critical analysis is marked by all the flaws one associates with recent art historical writing (the usual obsequiencies to "institutional critique," poststructuralism, decentered subjectivity, zzz...) but the original research beneath the grey tile floor of her prose is worth every cent of the $40USD I spent at City Lights. Highlight: the increasingly acrimonious exchanges between Italian collector Panza and Donald Judd, with Judd originally considering sculptural plans as equivalents of artworks, then later backtracking as Panza ducks shipping charges and Judd's favorite fabricators by "executing" Judds first purchased in plan. The artworld equivalent of the fat CEO options package, which makes Judd properly apopleptic.
ACT #2: Destroyer's Your Blues. Playing in Vancouver June 5th, an early birthday gift!
Friday, May 28, 2004
Scratch mechanics: Peanut Butter Wolf, queued up on the office stereo
Medina Green's MC DCQ in the house, deep Brooklyn bass rattling the walls while I wash the floor
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Surrey Lake

A little surprised to find a large lake in Surrey that I'd never heard of. Artificial, created by diverting Bear Creek into neighboring wetlands. We saw Canada geese, ducks with goslings, herons, salmon fingerlings jumping just offshore. Huge textured clouds, patterns of light and shade. Trees rocking in the warm wind, thunderheads over the Gulf Islands.
The Port Mann Bridge, looking northeast from Surrey, B.C., circa 1960s. Stood in the same spot yesterday, in the course of helping Sylvia document Every Bus Stop In Surrey, B.C.

Courtesy the Surrey Art Gallery:

"Formally, Borda's work is aligned with the practice of documentary photography, concerned with the careful choice and framing of its subject, and the image's composition of form and colour. But it is also conceptual photography, engaged with a critique of its own media and the history of photographic images. She is currently gaining an international profile for her images of the architecture of airports and mass transit facilities. Her recent explorations in digital technology offer her not only its capabilities for capturing and managing data, but also another architectural subject: the architecture of information."

A mixed day of sun and cloud spent with a rented Echo and a transit map. 100+ stops down, hundreds yet to go.

I, along with most other ex- staff, students, and faculty of Hillside Secondary cheer the verdict. So long, killer.

Courtesy the Seattle Times:

"Konat said evidence from the RCMP investigation and Burns' decision to testify in his own defense in the last days of the lengthy trial "played a huge part" in the jury's verdict.

"I don't think Mr. Burns was convicted (simply) because of his testimony ... I think he would have been convicted either way," Konat said, adding Burns' "tale of his false confession" on the witness stand was "almost as sordid" as what he told the undercover Canadian police in describing how he killed the Rafay family."

Monday, May 24, 2004
Top Sample Sources, consulted in vain for that mastermind
Sunday, May 23, 2004
ART #1 (Aesthetically Rejected Thing, after Ian and Ingrid Baxter): neo-conceptualism
ACT #1 (Aesthetically Claimed Thing, after Ian and Ingrid Baxter): Jack Jeffrey sculpture
Aurora Bistro, my next door neighbors and favorite Sunday evening hangout. Apparently your offical Vancouver artworld insider membership card is withheld until you're spotted dining @ Aurora. Props to this week's wild salmon and organic chard!
Funky low-fi digital watch, roughly the size of a boom box, judging by the scans

Friday, May 21, 2004
Just one more dead sailor, washed up on shore
A closer look at a by-the-wind sailor
One of thousands of beached blue jellyfish that followed me down the Oregon and California coastline
Confession time: I loathed Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, and so, too, did John Clute, who, unlike me, actually made it to the end of the book, and then composed this review, which surely ranks as one of the best bad reviews of all time. Note how accurately Clute nails MA's trademark "priggish atonal drawl," and O&C's confusion of the Internet with, inexplicably, cable television.
M. John Harrison, rock climber and SF/fantasy novelist, one of the best I know. Harrison's latest, Light, is marked by its lyricism, dark humor, and its characters' casual brutality. Harrison began his writing career in the early 1970s as the (often uncredited) literary editor for the influential, now-defunct UK SF magazine New Worlds; a page on his website contains links to some more recent reviews, including a few for the Guardian.
Detailed survey on the state of North American used bookselling. The creators of this report are 14 karat deadbeats, but the report itself is useful. Last year, the Siegels sent me complementary email, asking me to complete a fairly lengthy on-line description of the shop, and promising that the results would be made available on the web site. Bait and switch! Come to check the results, and you learn that:

1. You have to pay for online access;

2. The site access fee is best described as, "Stick 'em up";

3. The printed guides the Siegels sell, which largely consist of the free, unthinking labor of others, are also hugely expensive.

Unsurprisingly, the Siegels want money for their survey results. I wouldn't pay the $25 they're asking in a million years -- given their track record of spinning money out of the straw of other dealers' honesty and helpfulness, I wouldn't hand them a quarter if I passed them on the street -- but I have no problem recommending their free survey summary.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Minehunter, starring the Gambian Giant Pouched Rat, courtesy the New York Times.

"Most important, the pouched rat (so named because it stores food, hamster-style, in its cheeks) buries what it does not immediately eat and sports a nose honed to bloodhound status by eons of searching for buried food stashes. Persuading him to hunt for land mines, therefore, is as simple as convincing him that TNT is just another tasty treat waiting a few inches underground."
Monday, May 17, 2004
Stories not to send us, thanks anyway
Salt Point State Park, Northern California, where I spent a windy night among a forest of silvery weathered dead trees, trying unsuccessfully to light the stove and to tie every last flapping bit of the tent down.
The California Coastal Records Project, a deeply strange photographic survey that would be unthinkable without the Web. Check out the details of the Barbra Streisand lawsuit while you're there.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
An interview with Seymour M. Hersh, whose revelations, particularly those concerning an airlift out of a certain combat zone, I've not seen reported elsewhere. Gee, wonder why?
Seymour Hersh gets the goods on American abuse of Iraqi POWs, pt.3
Wild California orchid, one of thousands currently in bloom along the Sonoma coast
Saturday, May 15, 2004
The website looks like kitsch, as does the highway advertising -- Good Old Fashioned Family Food? -- c'mon -- but the meals and service at the Black Bear Diner, a small chain of short order restaurants scattered all over eastern Oregon, California, and Nevada, are outstanding. I've eaten at the Bear at last once per scouting or climbing trip for the last five years, and have never ever been disappointed, which must be a first for me, so far as any chain-style thing goes. Thumbs up from a happy and very full repeat customer!
Cape Blanco, Oregon. Got into the campground right at dusk, fog moving through the dark trees. Down to the cliff edge with my headlamp, the beam disappearing into several hundred feet of air and the sound of surf crashing far below.

In the morning the fog was gone. I walked the cliffs at 6am, sunrise, pinkish-red heather, wild purple orchids everywhere. Constant wind. Down to the beach on the cape's west side, where I scrambled boulders, dodged waves, checked out thousands of beached blue jellyfish, and found a small dead baby seal, with one very large bite missing from its back, courtesy, judging by the tooth-marks, what novelist Kem Nunn calls a Silent Grey Fellow. Brrr.
Ripley the Sphynx (almost completely hairless) cat, mascot of Borderlands Books, coolest find in the Bay Area this time through.
Just back -- literally, just stepped through the front door -- from a marathon 19 hour drive from Reno to Vancouver with 15+ boxes of books crammed into every available empty space in my rented Echo.

Details (& maybe a few photographs) to come.

Sunday, May 09, 2004
On the road for a week or so, Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco to collect Abe, and then to a certain Unnamed Western City, home of the 55,000+ item Anonymous Book Sale. Details revealed once Abe and I are back with the loot.

Camping as usual, Monday night at Devil's Lake State Recreation Area, Oregon.

Updates from the road given time and internet cafes.

Friday, May 07, 2004
New addition to the neighborhood, proof positive that the "hood" component of Mount Pleasant is still alive and well. Be sure to leave the homepage open a while, so you can experience the club's signature soundtrack in all its pulse-pounding glory.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
Motley Fool contributor Bill Mann picks up and runs with Warren Buffett's notion of the 20-punch lifetime investing scorecard.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Annual report season, v 1.2:

I may or may not have an equity position in any of the securities I discuss or analyze. I don't make specific recommendations of specific securities and if you'd invest or not invest in anything on the basis of my analysis and/or discussion of it you probably shouldn't be purchasing securities in the first place. I have posted less than half a dozen pseudonymous messages to online stock discussion forums like over the last 12 months, and won't post any more, so long as I am analyzing and/or discussing securities in the blog. I don't engage in "day trading" or "momentum trading." I am self-taught as an amateur financial analyst, based on my close reading of Buffett, Graham & Dodd, Philip Fisher & etc. Don't ask me for any hot tips; Ben, Warren & Phil didn't give me any, and I don't plan on giving any, either. Financial specifics aren't transmissible, but ideas and sensibilities might be. See Buffett's "Superinvestors of Graham & Doddsville" for the concept of intellectual origin.
Annual report season!

Two up for discussion this evening. Parkland Industries sells gasoline in non-urban Western Canadian markets through its Fas Gas branded stations, familiar to any book scout driving the Trans Canada east from Kamloops, and also owns a refinery, now mothballed, in Red Deer, Alberta. I've followed this one on and off since high school. A little pricey now, since its conversion to an income trust a year or two ago, but margins are rock-solid on the core business, and the income payout is more than covered by earnings. Note the annual report paragraphs concerning the company's ongoing negotiations with the Blood Tribe of Red Deer vis-a-vis selling the refinery to the tribe; a successful sale will apparently boost cash flow 20% or so from current levels. The sale's timing is uncertain, hence impossible to accurately value via a discounted cash flow analysis, but, if completed, should provide a nice earnings boost some time in the next few years. I have tried to construct a portfolio packed with potential "positive earnings surprises" like this one; none of my investments are made strictly on the basis of their presence -- no sense in paying present dollars for hypothetical future earnings -- but they do lighten my trademark dour mood when they go off without a hitch, like fireworks that rise just slightly above their neighbors.

Dominion Citrus is an Ontario-based produce wholesaler busily remodelling itself as a "diversified food service company." Margins are tight on the core business (selling carrots, apples, onions & etc. from a terminal in downtown Toronto to customers like the Real Candian Superstore), so the ambitious management is diversifying by purchasing thematically related businesses like a line of fine Italian pastas, oils and sauces; a maple syrup processor; a Quebec-based produce distributor, & etc. No problems with the core business or the acquisitions, which are producing solid financial results. Check out the margins, which are expanding every year, and the terrific ROE. But the discipline management shows in running its various businesses doesn't carry over into its investing and financing activities, as disclosed in the management information circular sent in advance of the AGM.

Some things that give me pause:

• Management's dilution of existing shareholders' equity by continually issuing new shares for acquisitions and "investing activities," like the share issue made in 2002 to fund an ill-starred takeover bid of Humpty Dumpty, Inc., a Waterloo-based snack food maker whose balance sheet is a mix of lame management excuses for piss-poor financial performance and a textbook example of the persistant overuse/abuse of bank debt. The Humpty Dumpty investment is still carried on Dominion's books as a loss, and Humpty Dumpty's inept management doesn't give me any hope that the situation is going to change any time soon.

• A provision to dilute current shareholders by up to 25% (!!!) in order to fund "working capital requirements" for acquisitions; why these can't be addressed using the company's existing banking and credit facilities is left unexplained.

• Options and more options for senior management! Which, unsurprisingly, will help managerial shareholders assuage the pain non-managerial stockholders will experience as their equity trickles away like sand through their fingers.

None of these complaints take away from the undeniable skill Dominion's managers bring to running their core businesses. But they have the depressing and all-too common effect of converting present profitability into future hypotheticals, spreading a small pool of profits thinner and thinner across an ever-expanding bed of shares. Count my proxies as a big fat gaff to the head of the managerial genius who thinks that issuing new shares, or options for that matter, is a cost-free activity.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Lawrence Block in the Village Voice on book collecting:

If more folks were content with a simple signature, they were also intent on getting their entire collection signed.

Because I have been doing this a long time, I have a backlist that extends halfway down the street and around the corner. During a tour in 1998, when a couple of Dallas suitcase dealers brought in cartons of old stuff, I instituted a policy I've clung to ever since: I'll sign up to three of the books you bring from home for every copy of the new hardcover you buy at the signing. Most people figure this is fair, and the others—like the dame in Charlottesville the other day who frowned and said, "If I do that, how am I gonna make any profit on the deal?"—the others, all things considered, can go to hell.

Monday, May 03, 2004
Feedback for some hapless bookseller (not us!) found on

1 out of 5: "The book was defiled with ejaculate. Unreadable and discarded."
Date: 21/04/2004 Rated by Buyer: odstudios
Sunday, May 02, 2004
Berkshire Hathaway Annual General Meeting 2004, courtesy the Omaha World-Herald. Would I were there...
Totoros, little (& a few not-so-little) creatures from the mind & pen of Miyazaki-san, close relatives of the Incredible Talking Cats and a psychic lift on an evening when fullblown bipolar depression has made anything resembling useful work totally impossible.
Detailed and seemingly accurate account of visiting Larry McMurtry's four building antiquarian bookstore, Booked Up, in Archer City, Texas
M. John Harrison, the best living science fiction writer I know. Also the author of the long out of print and soon to be reissued cult classic Climbers. UK hardcover purchased by yours truly in Scotland in 1996 and much coveted by deadbeat climber pals ever since.
Saturday, May 01, 2004
Abuse of Iraqi prisoners by the US Army, courtesy Seymour M. Hersh and the New Yorker

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