Friday, December 31, 2004
Kind words about the shop from The Mount Benson Report on 12/9/4.

Indian Ocean Tsunami & Earthquake Relief Update, courtesy William Gibson:

"The Canadian government, until January 11th, will match any donation to major relief operations working from Canada.

In other words, you double the size of your donation if you send money this way, rather than by sending it directly to an affected country or donating in your own country.

Donations to Oxfam Canada, the Canadian Red Cross, World Vision Canada, UNICEF Canada, Care Canada, Doctors Without Borders, World University Service of Canada , Salvation Army, Canadian Food for the Hungry International, Save the Children Canada, and SOS Children's Villages will all be doubled by the Canadian government -- but only until January 11th."

Happy 2005, Constant Reader!

Thursday, December 30, 2004
Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tidal Wave Disaster Response

I just made an online donation to the Canadian Red Cross, to help fund their disaster relief efforts.

I hope that all of you out in the audience will consider doing the same, either to the Red Cross or to some other charity of your choice.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bill Murray, a.k.a. Captain Steve Zissou, and an unnamed mammalian co-star. The closest thing to Fellini's 8 1/2 I've seen in a long, long time. An ostensibly generic plot that's twisted, deformed and reworked until it's almost unrecognizable. I can't imagine what the test audiences thought of the CGI fish, or the sweeping tracking shots, or, in fact, any part of this sprawling, marvellously eccentric movie. A plot that would absolutely not work in any other medium -- the script must seem particularly disjointed, because it will by definition not catch the little flourishes that the actors (including the non-human ones, as seen above) bring to their performances.

A great evening out. Murray's sad, endlessly expressive face pretty much articulates how I feel most of the time now -- a weird plangent mix of resignation and youthful enthusiasm that keeps welling up, like the winter bulbs sprouting beside the front door of my apartment. They get beaten down by the rain every time but they keep on getting up. Thanks, Bill! Posted by Hello


ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Pac-Mondrian, an authentically postmodern digital artwork that's loads of fun to play. Great boogie-woogie soundtrack, too. Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 26, 2004
M. John Harrison's favorite books on climbing -- from The Guardian

Friday, December 24, 2004
Happy Pagan Winter Festival to all of you. Xmas day with family, John Latta poems & good dark beer. Back Boxing Day. If you're in the neighborhood, 50% off most everything from 10 until noon, 30% thereafter until close.

Early Christmas gifts in the mail:

John Latta, Rubbing Torsos (Ithaca House, 1979)

John Latta, Breeze (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003, the scarce hardcover issue)

Find the author here.

Try to be on time when you deliver your line says
a piece of paper on the piano at the Shockcenter

--Roadbed, With a Damaged Hand, all flurrying drums and keyboard bridges

Thursday, December 23, 2004
Today's Soundtrack -- equal parts creative exhaustion (Xmas rush! unsorted laundry piled on the bed! decaf!) & CD shopping trips, ostensibly for friends:

Destroyer, Streethawk: A Seduction
Madvillain, Madvillainy -- 2004's hands-down favorite. Buy this album, please.
Theo Parrish, Parallel Dimensions (thx Pete!)
Roadbed, Last Dance @ the Shockcenter
King Geedorah -- aka MF Doom and pals -- , Take Me to Your Leader
Destroyer, Your Blues
Donald Fagen, Kamakiriad
Duke Ellington, Blues in Orbit
Viktor Vaughn-- aka MF Doom --, Venomous Villain
Beach Boys, Friends & 20/20

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Chris Jordan, Shipping Containers #1, Seattle (2003). Courtesy Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles Posted by Hello

Bob Brown & Associates, a Seattle-based SF, fantasy and mystery specialist whose shop I had somehow never set foot in until yesterday afternoon. "Deep in the savage heart of Wallingford," and just around the corner from Gasworks Park. Looming silhouettes of pipes and tanking, equal parts Ed Burtynsky and Terry Gilliam, in the foggy December twilight. Echoing rumble of traffic across the bridges framing the park on either side. Snowy clouds of circling pigeons.

Terrific scores at Brown, his next-door neighbor the Seattle Book Center, and Elliott Bay including a signed Fred Beckey hardcover, three Iain Banks UKHC 1sts, M. John Harrison's first novel, The Committed Men, in hardcover, Fredric Brown's Screaming Mimi (filmed by Dario Argento as The Bird With the Crystal Plumage), Jack Vance's long-awaited new SF novel, new Norman Dubie, and, best of all, a F/F hardcover first of noir's Faulkner -- Horace McCoy's -- 1952 "medical thriller," Scalpel -- in spirit way, way closer to The Kingdom than to Robin Cook -- for $15. Posted by Hello
Monday, December 20, 2004
Off to Seattle in the morning with Gavin, in search of KMD discs, signed American firsts, and tasty Mexican food. Back late.

Sunday, December 19, 2004
ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): The Honourable Joyce Murray

Browsing the competition's stacks this evening was rudely interrupted by the gruesome Ms. Murray, the former Provincial Minister for Water, Land and Air Protection, widely regarded as the most hapless and ineffective member of the Campbell government.

Honourable Joyce was busy mainstreeting, dispensing little pearls: "a brand-new day in British Columbia," "fiscal house in order," "our opponents the unions," yadda yadda yadda. She also managed to describe herself, in a breathtaking display of doublespeak, as "a fiscal conservative...and an environmentalist."

Not quite. Just your typical garden-variety B.C. politician, talking out of both sides of her mouth simultaneously. As Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, Joyce presided over the politically motivated removal of Fraser Valley water quality protection staff from the ministry. Groundwater contamination by dairy farmers is now virtually assured, as this well-researched article by Georgia Staight investigative reporter Ben Parfitt makes clear.

The Hon. Joyce's response to the charges levelled by Parfitt, politically impartial research scientists, and former Ministry staff?

"No comment."

Hopefully New Westminster voters will have the good sense to throw useless Joyce out of office sooner rather than later.

(Disclaimer: I am a small business owner, not a tool of the BCGEU, as Hon. Joyce charged in a short and fairly acrimonious exchange. I vote center-left on most issues, and would consequently never dream of voting for the Campbell "liberals", whose dangerous and short-sighted neoconservative policies have done more damage to me, my family, friends and customers than any other provincial political group, ever).

Spectacular skyscape this morning, the city caught in a rift between two storm fronts, and sunrise bright and gold below the massed dark clouds.

Last week before Christmas, the phone ringing off the hook with folks looking for less-than-plausible last minute gifts. An example? That call that I take every year:

"Can you tell me what signed Lord of the Rings books you have in right now?"

Different voice every time, so I know it's not just a friend trying to wind me up.

Reading (in those brief intervals between work and work) David Adams Richards' Mirimachi trilogy, and the Norman Dubie collection that arrived in the mail last week.

Saturday, December 18, 2004
Booksellers' Pastedowns -- thx Pete!

Today's soundtrack: Handsome Boy Modeling School, White People

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Yet Another Art Review (from the relaunched Terminal City)

Pay Attention, Mother Fuckers!
Steven Shearer at the Contemporary Art Gallery, through 2 January 2005
Reviewed by Christopher Brayshaw

Insight arrived right at the end of my circuit through Steve Shearer’s exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery, past the silkscreens, digital prints, oil paintings and crayon drawings, past the Xeroxed flyers in their transparent plastic boxes, the appropriated text works and the mysteriously lit garden shed. Insight was an ink drawing hidden beside the shed, a scaled-up version of a note that, judging by the shaky handwriting, has been recreated from something slipped anonymously under the studio door or jotted in a gallery comment book. “Sorry Steve,” it says, “when we talk about cultural diversity we don’t mean yours,” and then trickles off into a blacked-out scrawl, some other, potentially more damning insight committed to paper, self-censored, and destroyed.

The note’s pissy self-righteousness makes perfect sense, given the presently moribund state of institutionally administered culture. There will always be a place in this sleepy world for the optimistic affirmations of culture, self and place that pass for Canadian avant-gardism. No one asks if these baggy, largely installation-based works give pleasure, or provoke much in the way of critical thought. Their creators position themselves as survivors – of racism, sexism, art school, or Western civilization – and their works’ presence in the gallery system tautologically affirms the creators’ self-worth and profound narcissism.

Steve Shearer’s work doesn’t affirm anything. Its “attitude” – if such a thing can be discerned from its formal hetereogeny, thirty-three objects in half a dozen different media, some consisting of five or more smaller pieces, which are themselves autonomous artworks –offers nothing that could plausibly be described as a social program or an aesthetic manifesto.

Shearer’s detractors – for a long while, I counted myself among them – tend to assign to him a pose of irony, for lack of a better way to assimilate the stylistic variety that defines his production. That young dude posing down with his prize pot plant, his eyes glittering vampire-red from the camera’s flash? Irony. The painting of the greasy lunk whose hair highlights spell out H-A-S-H? Irony. Shearer’s fake Port Coquitlam basement metal band, the Puff Rock Shiteaters? Irony, baby. The alternative – that these works might actually be as transparent as glass, that Shearer might find something worthwhile or even appealing in his subjects – is too worrying for most institutional viewers to contemplate. Thus the unsigned wall panel at the CAG, whose anonymous author spends several densely worded paragraphs discussing systems of representation, and Shearer’s hopscotching jumps among them, without ever once discussing the artist’s subjects, a list apparently designed to bait the dependably liberal conscience of the Canadian art bureaucracy: longhairs; burnouts; suburban rednecks; decayed child stars; Kiss tribute bands; drunks, and assorted other “high”-culturally challenged folks.

Shearer’s work, while it draws upon pop culture, is not itself pop culture, nor the by now very common Duchampian move of displacing non-art into an art context. Instead it is a kind of avant-gardism – modernism, if you like; despite institutional culture’s repeated attempts to debase the term I know of none better – which uses images appropriated from fan cultures and other non-art contexts to critique institutionalized modernism from within.

Shearer sees creativity as inherent in all human beings. Sprinkled through his works are images of children swarming over odd, 1960s-style playground sets, or working on craft projects -- doing macramé, making patterns out of rocks or shells, or cutting shapes from felt. These projects derive from the Bauhaus’ insistence on the integration of art and everyday life. Art and craft are, in this view, regulatory mechanisms channeling libidinal energies that would otherwise be spent fucking, fighting, or smoking up in the basement.

Well and good, so long as the art and craft projects are valued as evidence of creativity, and not as neatness or conformity contests. Once they are, it becomes painfully obvious that some works can’t measure up. They are technically deficient, “failures.” The colored serigraphs on the CAG’s west wall are blow-ups of some of these duds, which lack even basic compositional qualities like balance and symmetry. You sense that their creators will shortly be hustled out of the elementary school art education program, ousted in favor of those kids who color inside the lines, who draw photorealistic cars, dinosaurs, and ponies; will progress to equally realistic images of Wolverine or Tupac Shakur; and may one day, fed the right university curriculum and enough critical theory, produce “installation art” of their own and embark on teaching careers.

Shearer’s concern – like Manet before him, and Velasquez, and Caravaggio – is with history’s losers, with those that history’s winnowing-processes exclude, and how you occupy yourself once history passes you by. Blurry snapshots of your ancestors, or sculptures made from “environmentally sensitive” materials like bark, feathers, or shells? Hello Canada Council B-grant! Xeroxed copy of a handwritten guitar instruction flyer? Sorry, Steve….

Underlying Shearer’s whole exhibition is a current of simmering rage that tempers and shapes his extreme technical facility. Cumulatively, his works exist as an injunction to, as Bruce Nauman once put it, PAY ATTENTION, MOTHER FUCKERS! Some times, as in the large photolaminates shown several years ago at the Or Gallery, which are also included in the current exhibition, this anger, or desire to bait the audience, to toss an off-register or unappealing image up at them, boils over, and the result is a enlarged photocollage of a tinseled Christmas tree, or a grinning drunk, or a sweaty teenage guitarist which feels more posed than honestly felt, the art world equivalent of dialing the volume knob up for effect.

At other times, such as the remarkable silverpoints and red crayon drawings of longhairs, rage and technique perfectly coincide, producing images of creepy subjects (young men, mostly, bloody, or glossy-eyed, or fixing you with their best fuck-off stare) that register more discretely. This objectivity – the suspension of how an artist feels about a subject, in order to represent it with greater fidelity – is one of modernism’s oldest injunctions, and, viewing Shearer’s work, I find myself reaching again for names like Manet and Velasquez and Caravaggio. His angry, aggressively ambitious works walk in their company.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

ClubTread party on the summit. Author second from right, dru fourth from right at rear, Rose T. Cat out of sight, warming up in the top pocket of my backpack for her big performance. Photo credit: toomanycanyons (trip organizer), Posted by Hello

Today's soundtrack: Jackie Mittoo, Champion in the Arena


Leading Peak summit, Anvil Island, Howe Sound, B.C. The seldom-glimpsed author and the somewhat more frequently photographed Rose T. Cat, swaddled up against the cold like a Russian countessa. Predictions of whitecaps, outflow winds & etc. turned out to be a little premature; outside of the ice on the summit rocks and the $25/group fee to cross the bible camp's waterfront property on the way to the trailhead, everything was about as good as it could have been. Photo by dru. Posted by Hello
Friday, December 10, 2004

Anvil Island, Howe Sound, with tomorrow's objective, Leading Peak, visible at right. Not visible: swells, heavy chop, and freezing outflow winds. (photo credit: dru) Posted by Hello
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Received in the mail:

Norman Dubie, The Mercy Seat, Collected & New Poems 1967-2001 (Copper Canyon, sighted and browsed at the Copper Canyon table at the Gary Snyder reading)

Jack Spicer, The House that Jack Built, ed. Peter Gizzi (Wesleyan, had heard lots about but -- don't laugh -- never actually read Spicer until a copy of Allen's New American Poetry wandered in a month or two ago)


Yet Another Art Review -- "author's preferred version" of a piece in today's Straight.

Jeff Ladouceur
Safety Village
Atelier Gallery, through 18 December 2004

Victoria-born cartoonist Jeff Ladouceur works exclusively in one medium, black ink over graphite (with occasional corrections in White-Out) and in one key: mordant gloom. From these limited means, Ladouceur makes small, memorable drawings, whose subjects – depression; self-mutilation; the injuries the unhappy inflict on themselves and everyone around them – are all the more arresting for their modesty.

Ladouceur’s medium isn’t really news in and of itself. Hundreds of cartoonists are now exhibiting their work in a fine art context, everyone from seasoned pros like Robert Crumb and Lynda Barry, to Winnipeg’s Marcel Dzama and Vancouver’s Marc Bell and Jason McLean. Ladouceur’s drawings stand out from this crowded field. There are no splashy colors, no messy handwritten phrases, and no kitsch symbols like dolls, robots, ninja assassins or bears. Instead there are thin, cautious ink lines that resemble the tracks of a skier descending a steep and potentially deadly slope. There is also a real sense of menace to Ladouceur’s drawings, one totally absent from the work of his better-known contemporaries, like Dzama.

A Dzama drawing of a giant robot chasing a naked girl or of bears menacing cowboys is many things, but frightening isn’t one of them. Dzama’s drawings hint at evil, but never crank the menace implicit in their subjects up to full bore. We sense that once we glance away, the bears and robots and cowboys and naked girls will be swapping jokes in the cafeteria lunch line.

Ladouceur’s drawings are far less reassuring. Here are a few of his subjects: An octopus slashing itself open with a straight razor. Endless processions of fat little round-headed men – Ladouceur calls them ‘schmoes’ -- with clown shoes and patched pants, whose pudgy faces, curved noses, and jowls suggest a caricature of Lyndon Johnson, or a particularly cruel portrait of a hydrocephalic child. A schmo in a rowboat whose oars have carved gaping wounds in the heads of the waves he floats on. Miniature baby elephants, trickling like blood from a sleeping toddler’s nose. And many others.

I take two things away from Ladouceur’s drawings. First, they are parts of a larger mythology. Nothing in them exists in a vacuum; everything, including inanimate things like signs and waves, is alive and busy changing into something else. Ladouceur, in his own secular, slyly ironic way, puts me in mind of the best Northwest Coast art, like Douglas Cranmer’s more abstract paintings, or Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s blighted biomorphic landscapes. Like Ladouceur, these artists understand landscape as nothing more than an collection of frenzied interlocking figures.

Second, Ladouceur is purposeful. He points out some pretty unpalatable truths to those of us unlucky enough to spend most of the time depressed. Relationships are awful (One memorable drawing depicts a couple whose heads are little linked thunderclouds). You can hurt people just by being near them (That guy in the rowboat again!). Social structures inflict their own damage, but are better than the alternatives (A cartoon cloud is held together by boards nailed onto its body). Ladouceur’s best drawings make you wince and laugh simultaneously. Though fantastic, they are a lot like life.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Burrowing owls, which by all appearances must have a little bit of Incredible Talking Cat in their DNA. Spurred by a very tasty Burrowing Owl 2002 Syrah next door at Aurora.Posted by Hello

Tonight's playlist: Stars, the Rza, Walter Becker, Snoop 'n Dre, Slum Village, People Under The Stairs, Ahmad Jamal, Brian Wilson, Madvillain, Dan the Automator, Blackalicious, Mojave 3, and Mr. Burt Bacharach's Pacific Coast Highway.Posted by Hello
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Brain Cells in Dish Fly Fighter Plane

"An array of rat brain cells has successfully flown a virtual F-22 fighter jet. The cells could one day become a more sophisticated replacement for the computers that control uncrewed aerial vehicles or, in the nearer future, form a test-bed for drugs against brain diseases such as epilepsy.

Enzymes were used to extract neurons from the motor cortex of mature rat embryos and cells were then seeded onto a grid of gold electrodes patterned on a glass Petri dish. The cells grew microscopic interconnections, turning them into a 'live computation device', explains Thomas DeMarse, a biomedical engineer at the University of Florida in Gainesville, US, who carried out the research."

Sunday, December 05, 2004
ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Deadbeat Amateur Used Book Dealers

(verbatim from the Alibris dealers-only message board):

"The best way I've found to price a large amount of books is to first call my girlfriend on my cell phone -- if that's possible -- to ask her to look up a handful of the best looking titles to see if they're worth anything. I figure most lots contain from 60-75% toss outs. My offer will be up to ten percent of what I estimate the best priced books to be. For instance, if I think there's $500 worth of books, I'll offer less than ten percent, and if they won't go for it, gradually raise my offer to up to ten percent."

For comparison's sake, we pay a minimum of 35% of retail, and, quite often, 40-50% of retail for scarce or interesting books. Many of my most memorable phone calls involve me trying to explain to a once-burned, twice-shy civilian that not everyone in the trade does business like Dealer X.

Last year we bought a nice collection of hardcover Faulkner firsts, a signed William Saroyan UK HC 1st, and thousands of other prime titles from an estate collection. The executor had first called our insane competitor on the North Shore, whose proposed payment method was to pick up a bunch of spare boxes at the liquor store, fill them with books, then offer 'a crisp shiny $5 bill' for every full box. No thanks, said the executor, sensing bullshit. You won't do better elsewhere!, snapped Insane Competitor. Well, a little better -- we paid mid-four figures, and the executor and I were both happy.

Found in the Mount Vernon Goodwill, on the way to Gary Snyder's reading: a 99 cent stuffed toy shark.

"He looks a lot like you," said Sylvia, dangling the frowning grey monster at me, having excavated him from a bin of other cast-off toys. Sure enough, an uncanny resemblance did exist between Mr. Shark's worried squinting frown and my own.

Mr. Shark's new job: store manager. Concealed behind the counter until opportunity strikes.

"Can I pick up my paycheck early?"

"Can I get a discount on these books?"

"You doing any hiring? No? Need your windows cleaned?"

"Hang on a sec. I'll get the manager."

Thursday, December 02, 2004
Elevator to the Stars

"For a space elevator to function, a cable with one end attached to the Earth's surface stretches upwards, reaching beyond geosynchronous orbit, at 21,700 miles (35,000-kilometer altitude). After that, simple physics takes charge. The competing forces of gravity at the lower end and outward centripetal acceleration at the farther end keep the cable under tension.

The cable remains stationary over a single position on Earth. This cable, once in position, can be scaled from Earth by mechanical means, right into Earth orbit. An object released at the cable's far end would have sufficient energy to escape from the gravity tug of our home planet and travel to neighboring the moon or to more distant interplanetary targets."

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