Monday, November 28, 2005
Out for a coffee in the windy night. The scent of snow in the air; gusts creaking the block's bare trees. Leaves scuttling along at curbside. Twigs, knocked down by the most vigorous blasts, now litter the sidewalk in front of the store.

A skim milk latte, less than 100 calories.

My inbox dinging with Biblio sales, twice since I sat down to key this in.

My newly-silenced computer, its noisy, getting-ready-to-pack-things-up-and-die CPU fan deep-sixed by a jeweller's screwdriver and a squeeze bottle of household 3-in-1 oil.

Mr. Shark, Mr. Tiger, Mr. Rat, Mr. Totoro, Big & Little Maneki Neko and Folk Art Frog all smiling down from on top of the monitor.

Ding! Biblio #3!

(Shuffle play: Yesterdays New Quintet, Sound Directions; Broken Social Scene, "Swimmers" (on high repeat for its catchy bassline, not for its insipid lyrics); Duke Ellington Meets John Coltrane; Wes Montgomery on Verve)

said the cats, peering out the window at the overcast morning sky.

Wind out of the east, a light dusting along Hollyburn's southern flanks.

Grey wind-scoured pavement.

The salting trucks' jangling chains.
Saturday, November 26, 2005

Guest photographer dru gets into the act with this detailed shot of some exotic Coast Range wildlife.
Ferocious wind overnight; down to the street at 3:45am after being woken by what sounded like fair-sized branches bouncing off the hood of the Subaru.

False alarm, just wet leaves plastered to the windshield.

Dark trees creaking up and down the block.

Flawless blue winter sky this morning and cold.

A parade of rack-equipped SUVs streaming north to the mountains.

Untitled (Tract), 2005

From the bus window, Burnaby/New Westminster border
Thursday, November 24, 2005

Jason W.F. Fitzpatrick: Sartre Project
Opening @ CSA Space, #5 - 2414 Main Street, Vancouver
Friday 25 November 2005, 6-9pm
Curated by Steven Tong

Y'all come!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Bouquet in a Graveyard, 2005
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Peter Galassi's monstrous Lee Friedlander catalog arrived in the mail this morning, a book so big that it barely fits into my backpack, and one too large to comfortably browse on either the bus or Skytrain.

Friedlander is a photographer I've often thought about, but never looked closely at; since beginning to make pictures, I find myself studying him (& Frank Stella!) more and more. Friedlander's best pictures are incredibly complex; they fragment, re-compose and reanimate space, taking full advantage of the fact that a camera's lens is not a human eye in order to obtain "views" (through spatial compression; through the overlapping of distinct visual fields) exceeding those available to binocular vision.

Miami, Florida (1999), fig.56 in the Galassi catalog, is a photograph I would kill to make. Its spatial effects stun me (the wires and ribbon that "knit" its composition together; a piece of plastic mesh that pivots in space at lower right like the edge of one of Stella's huge constructions). But its "subject" -- what it depicts -- is plain; inelegant; "unartistic." A construction sawhorse; wire mesh; chainlink; a gunmetal mailbox; crumbly dry soil. A catalog of nouns, held together by the sparest of means.

Galassi's essay is, unusually for contemporary art writing, totally uncontaminated by jargon and theory. I found myself repeatedly nodding as I read along.

Peter Galassi:

"Friedlander's early maturity is witty but willful, adamant that the photograph is first and foremost a picture: a thing that he made. The force and vitality of this demand recovered the momentum of modernism, whose legacy the provincial photographer then still knew only dimly -- a reminder that the direct path of influence is only part of photography's dialogue with the past. But Friedlander set out to master photography's slumbering record of creative invention, and his interest in what had been done fueled his desire to see what he could do. Rooted in his alert wanderings near and far, his work became enriched by his persistent poking around in the pictorial past. This lively exchange began to yield sly winks of competition, open affirmations of homage, and a playful variety of other echoes and inflections that invite us to regard tradition as a very busy two-way street."
My friend Evan Lee has a new website up, featuring a number of older photographs, as well as some collaborative texts and videos. Pay special attention to the "Snapshots" section of the archive; these works had an enormous effect on me when I first saw them at Centre A in 2001.

Untitled (Hose), 2005
Monday, November 21, 2005

De-installing Derek Brunen's Sold (still in process!)
Robert Bresson, in conversation:

"The less the actors know about the film, the more I like it. I only ask them, 'You are sitting here—look at that door.' Then we rehearse that ten times. Then I say, 'When we are there, you say this sentence. Say it as calmly as possible, as mechanically as possible.' In the action, you see, what this girl or this boy has got inside takes place without their knowing it. They say it in a way which is the right way. But French cinema actors are the same actors who work in the theatre, and they've got the same way of pushing words together."
Sunday, November 20, 2005
More MJH, from a new interview:

"PH-UK: Where does your interest in rock-climbing originate from, and is this an area you still enjoy?

MJH: I just got bored one day, sitting in front of a desk writing about people who hit one another on the head with swords. I’d never held a sword and I’d never hit anyone on the head, and anyway it wasn’t 1462, it was 1975. What the fuck was I on about? I was thirty years old and if I didn’t soon do something real, something with irrefutable physical consequences (something I couldn’t write or argue my way out of) I’d go mad. I signed up for climbing in a big way. I liked the thrill, I liked the sheer physical effort, I liked the intense sensual contact with geography, I liked the constant fear, I liked the crap weather, I liked the climbers I met, I liked what it did to my personality. There’s one time in your life when you feel real, and that was the time for me. I got an inner ear disorder in 1995 which seems to have damaged my sense of balance, so I don’t climb much now. But I had a good run for my money."

Robert Bresson's Pickpocket, on tonight at the Pacific Cinematheque. Bresson pioneered the notion of using performers instead of actors, and of exhaustively rehearsing them so as to expunge all traces of "expression" from their performances. Meaning as gesture and narrative logic, not as an articulation of one's "feelings."

Fog thick and grey, water beaded on the car's windshield and on the tiny buds of the cherry tree by the apartment that blossoms every Christmas. A few pale pink petals open to the cool, moist air.

M. John Harrison's "A Young Man's Guide to Viriconium," the only piece of his Viriconium cycle I had not previously read:

"In Viriconium the light was like the light you only see on record covers and in the colour supplements. Photographic precision of outline under an empty blue sky is one of the most haunting features of the Viriconium landscape. Ordinary objects -- a book, a bowl of anemonies, someone's hand -- seem to be lit in a way which makes them very distinct from their background. The identity of things under this light seems enhanced. Their visual distinctness becomes metonymic of the reality we perceive both in them and in ourselves."
Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Memorial in a Cemetery, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
Chris the book scout recounts the incredibly lame tale behind the big NO REFUNDS sign at the Vancouver Public Library's last book sale. Two sales ago, Chris, along with the VPL's staff and every scout on the premises, was surprised to see a woman sweeping whole tables of books indiscriminately into her shopping cart, paying for them, boxing them up, and lugging them off the premises.

$core!, thought the VPL staff. Subterfuge!, thought the scouts. Turns out the scouts were right: Maniacal Book Buying Lady trucked all her purchases home, spent the night punching ISBNs into Amazon, then (wait for it)...

...returned all the worthless or common books the following day for a full cash refund. Awfully sorry, didn't realize what I was buying, & etc.

Usual proviso: I don't make this stuff up, I just report it.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Winter Garden, 1994-2005

Memorial Flowers in a Graveyard, 2005
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Enn Erisalu: "Don't Explain"
by Christopher Brayshaw
(commissioned catalog essay for Vancouver's Atelier Gallery, slightly edited and revised for publication by my friend Mary Jane Cowan)

The first Enn Erisalu paintings I ever saw were his tall, thin rectangular canvases of the mid-1980s, which depict blocks and rectangles of solid color, propped or leaning against each other in shallowly modelled space. Recently I saw these works again, in the first of two Atelier Gallery memorial exhibitions, where they were displayed alongside more fully modelled studies of cones and cylinders, and fanciful Escheresque studies of blocks and cubes. The art historian in me can easily account for Erisalu’s paintings rationally, can connect, say, their muddy color and compositional clarity to Erisalu’s obvious admiration for and careful study of Morandi’s still life arrangements of blocks and bottles. But this dispassionate connect-the-dots style analysis misses something larger in Erisalu’s work. What is clear from Erisalu’s paintings is that he was so completely committed to his medium that he never allowed content to overwhelm or subsume the painterly means that produce representation. For Erisalu, a painting could never be accepted as “finished” or “successful” unless it laid bare the means of its own making, the tools and tricks of the painter’s trade that generate an illusion enabling us to see, in place of patches of carefully modulated pigment, “cubes” or “colored planes” or “monochrome paintings,” leaning carefully against each other as if in some dealer’s stock room.

Erisalu made monochromes, or near monochromes, since the mid-1980s, paintings of mostly or all one color, overlaid with texts and numerals. In the monochromes, the modelling and shading of paintings like Untitled (five forms), 1984 or Untitled #3 (1983) give way to the flat fact of the canvas’ surface, even as it is disrupted in turn by letters, numbers, and by the alternately witty and heartbreakingly cryptic phrases scattered through his notebooks. For the last month or so, I kept some of these books by my keyboard, and kept picking them up and leafing through them. I think this activity is a substitute for the conversations I never had with Erisalu. I naturally assumed he would be around for decades to come, available for a studio visit and a chat. Now there are only the notebooks – ample evidence of Erisalu’s sharp mind – and the paintings. They are “facts” around the larger fact of his absence, and if in writing about him now I seem to skim across, or hover restlessly above, his work, it is only because I have taken one of his better notebook phrases – “CAN’T EXPLAIN / DON’T EXPLAIN” – to heart. We owe the dead the obligation not to step in front of them, usurping their work by arbitrarily summarizing and categorizing, but to simply articulate the thoughts that their works prompt in us. In Erisalu’s case, this means asking fundamental questions about the practice of painting, and its relationship to modern culture.

Monochromy is by now a genre, an “available formal structure,” to quote the French art historian Denys Riout. It wasn’t always. In 1921, when Rodchenko exhibited his monochrome Triptych: Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color, Pure Blue Color, he explained himself thus: “I reduced painting to its logical conclusions. I affirmed: it's all over." Rodchenko imagined that he was ending painting for good, not prolonging it. Yet his innovations did prolong it, even as they, in turn, were picked up and transformed by artists such as Gerhard Richter, Joseph Marioni, Robert Ryman, On Kawara, and Marcia Hafif. One consequence of these ongoing innovations is that monochromy has become a genre, a set of conventions within the larger context of art-in-general. It thus runs the risk of any genre of art, namely, that works made “in accordance with” its conventions will only be compared among themselves, and will thus be isolated from more difficult, or rigorous, comparisons. Yet we intuitively sense that monochromy is a genre unlike others. Somehow the monochrome represents not only itself, but all of painting. If this is so, then painting can only move forward by working with, or transforming, the monochrome – by repeating it; by allegorizing it; or by disfiguring it with letters and numbers.

Early monochromes, like Rodchenko’s, possess a utopian dimension. The monochrome gestures toward a point at which art will be finished, unnecessary, “all over.” The creativity brought to bear in culturally privileged forms such as painting and sculpture will be dissolved into play, new kinds of social activities and political systems that will be more open or “free” than those of the present day.

Erisalu’s monochromes begin by inverting this utopianism; they begin by acknowledging disenchantment. Leafing through his notebooks, you repeatedly encounter phrases that ruthlessly undercut what the French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard calls the “metanarratives” of Western culture –religious or political orthodoxies of any kind. GOD BITES MAN. DON’T PAINT / DON’T EXPLAIN. IF GOD SAW LIFE AS PRECIOUS HE WOULD TAKE BETTER CARE OF IT. TOXIC IDEAS. And, finally, EVERYTHING I BELIEVE IS SUSPECT. EVERYTHING I BELIEVE COULD BE WRONG.

I admire Erisalu’s doubts, but I do not quite believe him. I think that in his best works – paintings like Aesthetics Agnostic (1994), or a series from the mid-90s all bearing the phrase, TROMPE L’OEIL, he found a middle ground that eschewed the radical utopianism of the early monochromists, while simultaneously avoiding the tongue-in-cheek cynicism characterizing much late 20th-century painting. I think this “third way” can be seen in specific physical aspects of his paintings, for example, the strangely neutral font in which almost all of Erisalu’s texts are written. His gallerist Ilana Aloni says “[He] made his own fonts, wanting them to look like a sign made by hand by a bureaucrat who needed to make a sign, and wrote it himself.” Two related ideas are contained in this decision. First, Erisalu’s identification is not with a culturally privileged maker of autonomous objects, but with a worker, someone whose work, though handmade, only functions within the context of a social, and not purely aesthetic, system. Second, painting is not the object of detached contemplation, but pure information, much like a billboard or a highway sign, an object that must be read to produce meaning.

This last point is important, more complex than it might first seem. There is always a conflict between images, which are perceived instantly, and texts, which will always be perceived more slowly. Language, unlike images, is temporal. We focus on each word in a phrase or sentence in turn, paying attention only first this one, then to that one. By holding the memory of one or more words together simultaneously in our imagination we effect a synthesis: linguistic meaning.

This dichotomy – the fundamental difference between words and images – fascinated Erisalu, and he explored it in different ways. Some of his paintings articulate concepts both visually and verbally; they are what they say; they are tautologies. Ten Letters (1991) really is composed of ten letters – three Es, three Ts, an L, an N, an R, and a S – though most viewers will probably not be able to recognize their significance without the title’s guiding hand. Similarly, a series of paintings from the early 2000s are titled after the pigments – Iron Red, Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, etc. – used to make their monochrome surfaces, pigments which are also displayed in their raw form, as powders installed in steel boxes beside the paintings. These strange half-sculptures, half-paintings generate a whole chain of verbal and visual signifiers: a base material, its visual depiction, and its abstraction into language. These pieces’ conceptual rigor puts me in mind of works such as Joseph Kosuth’s Five Words in Orange Neon (1965), or Ben Vautrier’s language paintings of the early 1960s, pieces like Rouge, or Blanc.
Associations like these aren’t a reach or a struggle; what is puzzling is that so few critics or historians in Vancouver – myself included – made them while Erisalu was alive and working.

Erisalu’s works did not conform to a regional context, a context which, with one or two exceptions, remains largely rooted in a romantic, nature-based abstraction. Erisalu’s work is more cosmopolitan and restrained than most Vancouver painting. Spend time with it, and you might experience some defamiliarizing, some questioning of your cherished assumptions.

Erisalu worked hard to defamiliarize his audiences. His notebooks bear witness to how he came time and again came to the act of painting without the benefit of conventional beliefs, without religious or political certainties, without, in his words, “TOXIC IDEAS.” To me, his paintings’ complex formal games – their mirrorings, their repetitions, tautologies and repeat attempts to trompe l’oeil are attempts to induce a precarious uncertainty in viewers, to make us question our most cherished assumptions about painting’s relationship to language, and to make us think dialectically, seeing words as images, and images as words. This purpose was not cheerful and by all accounts never easy, but it is one I respect and admire, and one I therefore can’t, and won’t, “explain.”


Some Tautologies

(possible contexts for Enn Erisalu, in memoriam)

ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Atomised "labour"

Karl Marx: "The medium through which estrangement progresses is itself a practical one. So through estranged labour man not only produces his relationship to the object and to the act of production as to alien and hostile powers; he also produces the relationship in which other men stand to his production and product, and the relationship in which he stands to these other men. Just as he creates his own production as a loss of reality, a punishment, and his own product as a loss, a product which does not belong to him, so he creates the domination of the non-producer over production and its product. Just as he estranges from himself his own activity, so he confers upon the stranger an activity which does not belong to him."
On Titles

I taught myself to read aged four or thereabouts. Lots of laughter about the ferociously intent little kid who'd spell and pronounce words in all kinds of weird ways. After a while, context worked its magic, and the spellings and mispronunciations disappeared.

Photography is a grammar, just like language. (I suppose photography is actually a subset of a larger grammar called "Western pictorial art," but I'll stick with photography for now). The Untitleds are proper nouns: people, places, things. You could call them designatory pictures; they signify by pointing, like an extended finger. This latte, those raindrops, that sky.
Saturday, November 12, 2005

Chris Clarke directs me to an interview with Jean-Luc Godard in Cahiers magazine:

"GODARD: As a critic, I thought of myself as a film-maker. Today I still think of myself as a critic, and in a sense I am, more than ever before. Instead of writing criticism, I make a film, but the critical dimension is subsumed. I think of myself as an essayist, producing essays in novel form or novels in essay form: only instead of writing, I film them. Were the cinema to disappear, I would simply accept the inevitable and turn to television; were television to disappear, I would revert to pencil and paper. For there is a clear continuity between all forms of expression. . . .[I]f criticism was a first rung on the ladder, it was not simply a means. People say we made use of criticism. No. We were thinking cinema and at a certain moment we felt the need to extend that thought."
Off for a few days to load the Subaru up with books, and to make a picture I first imagined in 1994, in a public park in Oregon, which has to be shot in the rain, or at least shortly after the rain's stopped, in the very late fall or early winter. "Petals on a wet black bough," & etc.

Couldn't I just make the same thing, or a largely acceptable copy, in Vancouver?

Probably, but that would mean missing out on the Original House of Pancakes' special Apple Pancake, Powell's Books, the Seattle Goodwill on Dearborn, the torn-up street in downtown Tacoma, Secret Thrift Store in Fife, Sleater-Kinney Avenue, Value Motel, the Hood River, and all kinds of other favorite Pacific Northwest haunts.

Back soon.

Untitled (A Flyer), 2005
Jeff Wall in conversation -- from the Tate Modern website. Lots of video and audio clips, and (on the same site) a web based walk-through of the big retrospective now in London, including detailed images of Coastal Motifs (q.v. months past) and a new picture, not yet seen in Vancouver, Still Creek.

The long, audio-only exegesis of An Octopus and Some Beans is pretty faithful to my own sense of how pictures come about; if you've only got time to briefly browse the site, this is the file I'd choose.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Bullet Time

"The concept also implies that only a 'virtual camera,' often illustrated within the confines of a computer-generated environment such as a game or virtual reality, would be capable of 'filming' bullet-time types of moments."
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Untitled (A Shower), 2005
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
& in passing, kindred spirit Mr. Gordon Downie, digressing in concert:

"I fucked up. I just fucked up, that's all, just a loss of judgement, a brief, sort of periodic loss of judgement, some kind of judgement failure, some kind of failure to, y'know, have judgement...."

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Canadian Stadium Rock Anthems

Escape Is at Hand for the Travelling Man
Words & music by The Tragically Hip

It was our third time in New York
It was your fourth time in New York
We were fifth and sixth on the bill
We talked a little 'bout our bands
talked a little 'bout our future plans
It's not like we were best friends

That number scheme comes back to me
in times beyond our heartbeat

We hung around til the final band
called Escape is at Hand for the Travellin' Man.
You yelled in my ear, "This music speaks to me."
They launched into "Lonely From Rock 'n Roll"
followed by "They Checked Out an Hour Ago"
closing with "All Desires Turn Concrete."

Those melodies come back to me
at times beyond our heartbeat

I guess I'm too slow, yes I'm too, yes I'm too slow
but you said anytime of the day was fine
you said anytime of the night was also fine

I walked through your revolving door
got no answer on the seventh floor
The elevator gave a low moan
The pigeons sag the wire with their weight
listen to the singing chambermaid
she sang, "They Checked Out an Hour Ago"

Those melodies come back to me
in times beyond our heartbeat

I guess I'm too slow, yes I'm too, yes I'm too slow
but you said anytime of the day was fine
You said anytime of the night was also fine

Long conversation idle chit-chat
maybe dive in or maybe hang back
Idle conversation or idle chit-chat
Maybe dive in or maybe hang back

Making An Arrangement in a Bathroom. Note the look of intense frustration on the photographer's face as he attempts to juggle four different objects into simultaneous focus.
Some unexpected action on the public edition front. It never rains but it pours, & etc. Claimed editions are now so indicated.

I'm working on a catalog essay for a commercial Vancouver gallery, and may be scarce here for the next few days.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
In Monsoonland

Torrential grey horizontal rain, driving the last leaves from the trees. Unseasonably cold, too, with a huge unstable snowpack on the local peaks, and the North Shore creeks turbid and high.

I keep meaning to drive out to New Westminster and Fraser Cemetery, just like I keep meaning to make a Mount Baker landscape. The weather, however, won't cooperate; day after endless day of overcast, or of piled-up clouds at the eastern edge of the Fraser Valley, hiding the peak from view.

Wanted: slant light, late in the day. Long shadows. A young woman descends from the occasional bus and walks along, turning in by the chainlink fence and crossing the scabby grass...
Monday, November 07, 2005

Untitled (Sky), 2005
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Someone writes to ask me to recommend an online bookselling site to them.

We list on Alibris, Abebooks, and Biblio; of the three, I by far prefer Biblio, for the ease of its navigational interface and the professionalism of its vendors. No "Buy now and receive a FREE Cell Phone Antenna Booster ($50 Value)!" No "Meets Minimum Standard" in place of of a detailed item description. And the site's founders actually encourage contact between buyers and sellers, meaning that your email queries to a Biblio seller will be answered by the seller, and not by some automated bot.

We sell a lot fewer books on Biblio than on the other sites, which leads me to believe that few people know of Biblio's existence. I hope that this will change soon; it's a well-designed and well-run site that offers a much more user-friendly experience than that provided by its larger competitors.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
And to Stop You Interfering, I Shall Have to Dematerialize You Again -- world's best exhibition title, and the subject of a long review by yours truly, part of the new issue of Aaron Peck and Adam Harrison's Doppelganger magazine. Also recommended: Harrison's interview with photographer Evan Lee, which, among other revelations, generates this remarkable exchange:

"ADAM HARRISON: Photography, of course, can never escape representation, but it can, especially now, search for new ways to experiment with the possibilities of the picture, and Stella's claims remain relevant. Such experimentation must be done in the spirit of the great art of the past, while, like all of those artists, be constantly looking towards the future, not quoting so much as building onto an existing, and ever growing foundation.

EVAN LEE: True, but I find that today’s artists will often strategically quote the past or try to predict the future, forsaking the importance and difficulty involved in dealing directly with the present. That which is not yet validated involves a level of genuine risk, which I think helps to make for a good work of art. Unfortunately, when these noble efforts fail, it can sometimes result in what you are calling kitsch or garishness. This kind of work has value; it is at the very least always sincere because its present-mindedness. I think that occupying this category couldn’t be worse than those who merely ‘strategize’, ‘quote’ or ‘predict’. Kitsch or garishness could never result from this kind of work as the same self-consciousness I mentioned earlier would never allow it to surface. As such, it is insincere."

Friday, November 04, 2005

To a New Westminster estate call. Our arrival time coincides with torrential rain; we ferry liquor store boxes in through the rain, up the stairs to the front door, through the lobby to the elevator, up a few floors, down a hall to the fire door, through the fire door, and down an inexplicable short set of stairs to the client's door.

"You know, I didn't actually think you boys'd be coming."

Snakes & ladders with loaded boxes. The car sags, creaking, on its springs. John elects to stay behind while I drive the fully loaded and only partially-brakeable Subaru back to town, then back out again for the second load.

Sun under cloud, cutting low across the scubbed blue sky. Crows in Fraserview Cemetery, bundles of flowers on the new graves behind the chainlink fence by the road. Flat black plaques in place of tombstones, rising like RV pads from the muddy earth.

An Arrangement in a Bathroom, 2005 -- v.3, re-shot to eliminate a nagging problem in the lower left hand corner

I first read Frank Stella's Norton lectures, collected as Working Space, in university. Stella argues that the standard divisions between "abstract" and "representational" art are nonsense; through careful readings of works by painters like Rubens and Caravaggio, he demonstrates how representational art can actually depict space in extremely complex ways. At first I was wary of Stella's arguments, fearing them as apologias for his brightly painted relief sculptures. Then I saw Rubens' Entombment (c. 1612) at the Getty, and spontaneously converted to Stella's point of view.

Study for 100 Views of Mount Baker, 2005. 4" x 6" print, unframed. Public edition: private collection, Waterloo, Ontario.

Thursday, November 03, 2005
Prank Flash

"Help me out here. This is one of those memory things, where you have to find three things that are different between the two photos, and I can only find two. I'd really appreciate it if you could help me out."

Someone else's customers from hell -- mine, too!

"Q: Do people donate all these books to you?

A: Yes. We show up for work every morning and there are boxes of valuable books sitting at the front door.

Q: Wow, really! I could open a book store?

A: Sure!

Q: If I opened a store, how would people know where to leave the books?"


Mr. Sam Cooke, live this wet November morning.

Peter Guralnick:

"The Sam Cooke who appears on this record, presenting his R& B hits of the last few years to a crowd that knows and loves his music, is not the same Sam Cooke who appeared on the Tonight Show, who presented himself as a kind of urbane 'swinger.' The Sam Cooke who sang to this club audience made up of working men and women is a harder, grittier version of the Sam Cooke that we have known from his records, a singer closer to the ecstatic gospel music with which he started out, the very entertainer that black audiences could see every night of the week in Charlotte, Roanoke, Raleigh, Baton Rouge, criss-crossing the South with one of Henry Wynn's SuperSonic Attractions package tours, battling it out with Jackie Wilson at clubs like the Harlem Square in nightly Battles of the Blues."
Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Famous Artists Employ Hollywood Monsters as Models -- courtesy my pal jnadiger.
Terminal City Broke, Suspends Publication

"'We had tremendous talent,' [publisher John] Kay said of the paper's staff."

Yes, until Kay either fired or alienated them all.

Former editor Bess Lovejoy's several-month reign at Terminal City was a breath of fresh air in media-saturated Vancouver; for that brief interval, everyone I knew was either reading or writing for the paper, and it looked like the Straight might have some genuinely literate competition.

And then?

Kay's spectacularly goofy and ill-considered decision to fire Lovejoy, dismiss books editor Aaron Peck and visual arts editor Adam Harrison, and to replace all this lively content with full-page images of knitted bikinis, "street" art (spraycans; hip-hop; skateboards; bling bling), a coffee column written by an advertiser who coincidentally owned a coffee shop, and lots of equally worthless infotainment.

So long, John! From my perspective, it looks like you pretty much got what you deserved.

(In criticizing Kay, I don't mean to impugn the paper's hard-working columnists and freelancers, talented writers like Ian King, Jada Stark, and Chris Eng, who I looked forward to reading every Thursday).

Pulpfiction regulars may be surprised or alarmed to see the bargain table immortalized on page B1 of today's Vancouver Sun.

"Random titles await readers at Pulp Fiction [sic] on Main Street."

Depicted: spined copy of Le Carre's Smiley's People, assorted Harlequins, Movies on the Big Screen, crappy Michael Moorcock LSD-influenced fantasy novel, Gabrielle Roy New Canadian Library The Water Hen, Ben Wicks' No Time to Wave Goodbye, & etc.

Run, Michelina! Pen-and-ink illustration by Jamie Tolagson, proof positive that work on this apparently endless project hasn't completely stalled out yet. Worth clicking and enlarging; in particular, note Michelina's worried expression and the fish exploding from the Thing's sleeves and coattails.

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