Friday, June 30, 2006

Coffee Ginger ale and Diet Coke with Bernadette, first time in seven years.

"HANNA: So, you never wanted a regular type life?

MCCAULEY: What the fuck is that? Barbecues and ballgames?

HANNA: Yeah.

MCCAULEY: This 'regular type life,' is that your life?

HANNA: My life? No. My, my life is a disaster zone. I got a stepdaughter so fucked up because her real father is this large-type asshole. I got a wife; we're passing each other on the down-slope of a marriage, my third, because I spend all my time chasing guys like you around the block. That's my life.

MCCAULEY: A guy told me one time -- don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out in on 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.

Now if you're on me and you got to move when I move, how do you expect to keep a... a marriage?

HANNA: That's an interesting point. What are you -- a monk?

MCCAULEY: I have a woman.

HANNA: What do you tell her?

MCCAULEY: I tell her I'm a salesman.

HANNA: So, then, if you spot me comin' round that corner, you just gonna walk out on this woman? Without sayin' goodbye?

MCCAULEY: That's the discipline.

HANNA: That's pretty vacant.

MCCAULEY: Yeah. It is what it is. It's that or we both better go do somethin' else, pal.

HANNA: I don't know how to do anythin' else.

MCCAULEY: Neither do I.

HANNA: I don't much want to either.

MCCAULEY: Neither do I...

HANNA: You know, we're sittin' here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, I do what I gotta do. And now that we've been face to face, if I've been there and I got to put you away, I won't like it, but I'll tell you, if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are goin' down.

MCCAULEY: There's a flip side to that coin. What if you do get me boxed in and I've got to put you down? Because no matter what, you will not get in my way.

We've been face to face, yeah. But I will not hesitate, not for a second.

HANNA: Maybe that's the way it'll be. Or who knows?

MCCAULEY: Or maybe we'll never see each other again."

Rose T. Cat, Grouse Mountain summit, elevation 1250m., climbed from sea level on the 28th and 29th of June (well, just to the chalet on the 29th, visible above, dead center). Terminal City and harbor beyond, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands blue on the far horizon. A nice breeze rising up off Capilano Lake (nb. that windsock, erect on the second tower), cooling 30 degrees Celcius down to the much more liveable mid-twenties.

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (20), 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Sunshine, blue sky, 30 degrees: perfect mountaineering weather! See y'all Friday.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Recent reading, notable titles in red as usual, most completed on the deck at my parents' place on Bowen Island, or some combination of ferry and bus on the way to and from Bowen.

J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians

Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine

Lou Krieger & Sheree Bykofsky, Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You About Winning Hold 'Em Poker

J.M. Coetzee, Youth

I first ran across Coetzee's Disgrace on a "contexts for my work" list Jeff Wall wrote for his recent Tate Gallery retrospective. Faced with a line-up including Kant, Hegel, and every volume of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, I opted to begin in the shallow end of the page-count pool: Bresson's Notes to the Cinematographer (aphorisms; fragments) and Disgrace. Disgrace begins by recounting a typical middle-aged male academic's brief and unhappy liason with a student, then takes a screaming left turn into political allegory about sixty pages in. Its final paragraph, which describes its protagonist relinquishing an injured young dog he loves to the euthanasist's needle, is one of those moments that quieted me on the morning bus. My heart keeps missing a beat. Well, yes, as if one of those less friendly ghosts of mine had materialized there, in that packed cattle-car. Pointing. Saying, We could relinquish you. 8a.m. sun, Broadway's camera shops and Thai restaurants and Dairy Queens reeling past, the low, constant buzz of conversation and Coetzee's narrative like an echo of that ghost's grim verdict: In the end we will all relinquish you.

So, no red boldface for Disgrace. But I Wikipediaed the bibliography, most of which I'd never seen, and started looking. Waiting for the Barbarians, purchased in Calgary on the way to Banff for the comics conference, is a masterpiece. This strange allegorical book, which recounts the life of a frontier magistrate in the pay of an unnamed internally collapsing empire, and his act of witness as his outpost slowly melts into the shifting sands it was founded upon, reminds me of Kafka's best parables, and the Cormac McCarthy who wrote Blood Meridian. It's a remarkable novel. The Kafka comparison isn't overstated; Barbarians is as well-written, as merciless and as clear-eyed as any of Kafka's work. Read it!

Youth, which I finished last night, is a lesser but no less well written book, a thinly fictionalized account of Coetzee's emigration from South Africa to London as a young man. I red-bolded it, too, while recognizing that, objectively speaking, it's not up to Barbarians' standard. How could it be? Most writers are lucky to have a single masterpiece; not everyone's career flops an ace-high flush. Most of us must be content with a single or two pair. But certain parts of Youth struck deeply with me: the narrator's acute provinciality, his sense of always somehow pacing a step or two behind the the avant-garde. And Coetzee's London is as grey as Vancouver in November, all sulphurous, chilly fogs and freezing rain.

"Anyone can photograph a ghost!" Dru spotted these spooky characters (#101 & #102, respectively) yesterday out at UBC. A picture I'd be proud to make, those skinny trees in the middle distance a particularly nice Corot-ish touch.
Sunday, June 25, 2006

James Brayshaw, 22 June 2006, 2006
Waste My Time, Please -- yet another gripping episode

PHONE: Ring!

CJB: Pulpfiction Books, good evening.

FEMALE CALLER WHO SOUNDS APPROXIMATELY 9 YEARS OLD: Do you buy short story essay books?

CJB: What are you proposing to sell me?

FC: I don't know. The book's not here. Just wait, okay?

[60 seconds of silence. CJB hangs up]

PHONE: Ring!

CJB: Pulpfiction Books.

FC: The author's name is Roger.

CJB: And his last name?

FC: I don't know!

CJB: Well, I'm not buying any of Roger's books at the moment. Thanks for calling.

FC: Your ad doesn't say that!

CJB: What, that I don't buy books by Roger?

FC: That's right! You should put that in, so you don't confuse people.

CJB: I'll get right on that.

Locked door and cold frosty beer on the way momentarily!
Out on the sidewalk:

LULULEMON CLAD UPWARDLY MOBILE YOUNG WOMAN (to friends): That's the restaurant where I had my New Year's Eve date -- you know, where we broke up!
R.M. Vaughan is R.M. Vaughan

Jamie Tolagson checks in from Victoria:

"About that article in Canadian Art: It seems like it should be obvious to anyone at this point that photography did away with the kind of subject-hierarchies that are implied by a phrase like 'garbage is garbage' sometime around the 1920s, if not earlier. The idea that there are worthy subjects and unworthy subjects is so hilariously antithetical to the very idea of art (and especially photographic art) that it seems degrading to even have to respond to such a claim. It's the kind of opinion you'd expect to read in the letters section of the Province, not in a national art magazine. . . .Garbage is garbage? A pepper is also a pepper, that didn't stop Weston from making a photograph of it that most people had no trouble calling art. It feels ridiculous to even type something so self-evident. But why stop there? A flag is a flag, a jukebox is a jukebox, a starry night is a starry night, a human face is a human face! Replace the word 'garbage' with any other word and let the phrase put an end to art history as we know it!"

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Parlez, les petit chats!

(via Erin Ashenhurst; slow to load but worth it. Distant relatives of the Incredible Talking Cats. My favorite: the close-captioned black-and-white with the enormous whiskers who obviously watched both seasons of Twin Peaks)

Untitled (Missing), 2006
Friday, June 23, 2006

Rush hour, Kingsgate Mall liquor store:

GUY HORNING IN ON A DISPLAY OF CHEAP BEER: 'scuse me. I'd like to get Lucky tonight.

ADAM HARRISON: Sorry! Can't help ya there!
Thursday, June 22, 2006

For All I Know
Marisse Aguilar
CSA Space #5 - 2414 Main Street
Vancouver, B.C.
Opening Friday, 23 June 2006, 6-9pm
Curated by Adam Harrison
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Open Letter to Richard Rhodes, Editor, Canadian Art

Dear Rick,

I’m writing to add another voice in opposition to R.M. Vaughan’s embarrassing attempt at reviewing the Intertidal exhibition. Vaughan’s gossipy travelogue crystallized a dissatisfaction that I have felt with Canadian Art for some time now. It seems that what was once Canada’s visual arts magazine of record has, over the last few years, somehow been transformed into something resembling Art News lite, full of rambling first person accounts of visiting exhibitions and various amusing factoids and squibs.

Vaughan’s review is a sad mess. He provides no basis for his condescending dismissals of the work on display, beyond block quotes from curator Dieter Roelstraete (who, I imagine, is appalled at being exploited in this fashion), followed by banal put-downs like, “Uh-huh.” I can’t believe that you, as an intelligent editor who has published much good work by critics like Nancy Tousley, Roy Arden, Trevor Mahovsky, Ken Lum, etc., would judge this piece suitable for publication. Vaughan’s lame attempts at critical analysis would not pass muster on a Fine Arts 100 midterm, let alone in a national Canadian magazine.

Ultimately, the presence of Vaughan’s writing in the magazine sends a strong, and, I think, dangerous signal that Canadian Art may no longer be a viable forum for well-written, carefully considered criticism.

As Canadian Art does not have a letters section, I will post this letter for an extended period on my blog, Anodyne,

Very sincerely yours,

Christopher Brayshaw
Vancouver, B.C.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (2), 2006
Monday, June 19, 2006

ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Predatory Antiquarian Booksellers

VENDOR: much for this one?

CJB: I'm gonna price it $14.95. $7.50 cash to you.

VENDOR: I paid $30 for that book!

CJB: Where?

VENDOR: [names local dealer]

CJB: Ah-hah.

VENDOR: Was I ripped off? Or are you ripping me off?

CJB: Let's check and see. [Consults,, & etc.]

INTERNET VERDICT: 20 copies available in identical condition for $7-15USD.

VENDOR: That guy's a shark!

CJB: That's one way of describing him, yes.
A cool summer so far, bright sun this morning but a cold wind blowing, more early September than mid-June. Clouds furling off Crown Mountain, little bits of twig and leaf on the sidewalk in front of the shop shaken down by the vigorous gusts.

Apartment-hunting. The overpriced Kitsilano suite. Its overpriced Main Street sibling. The dingy batchelor suite with stained and flapping curtains above a convenience store with a view of the Second Narrows Bridge.

Car-hunting. The Legacy with a huge lump of mud and rust in the left wheel well. The Legacy with transmission trouble. The Legacy owned by the huckster. The Legacy owned by the guy with the full voice mail box.

Vendors. The woman with the rolling suitcase of Danielle Steel books. The guy with the hardcover set of 1980s microwave cookbooks. The girl with the underlined and water-damaged cultural studies textbooks. The Goosebumps. The Baby-Sitters Club. The Day in the Life of Alberta. The Day in the Life of Russia. Snow Falling on Cedars. Fugitive Pieces. The Margaret Atwood Library. David Baldacci. William Bernhardt. Richard North Patterson, spined and dog-eared. What do you mean you can't use them? Just put your hand in the till and give me the fucking money. Please.
Sunday, June 18, 2006

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): The Force of Soul
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Still Running IE?

"There's really no comparison between the two. Firefox is relatively safe, extensible, and quickly patched. Internet Explorer is unsafe, slowly patched, has stupid overtrusting defaults, and is essentially just a security hole that lets you go to websites."

(via user tuwa at
Friday, June 16, 2006
25% off red tag sale this weekend at Book Warehouse, Vancouver's self-proclaimed "favorite independent bookstore chain," home of numerous Oprah favorites and the entire CBC Canada Reads list. Lots of interesting stuff mixed in with the middle-of-the-road backlist, including, to my delight, Past Things and Present: Jasper Johns Since 1983 (Walker Art Center, 2003), an expensive hardcover catalog I put off buying new, reasoning that it would arrive over the transom used sooner rather than later. But hardly anyone ordered it in Vancouver, and used copies were conspicuous by their absence. Not what I expected to ever pull out of BW's tiny North Vancouver location, but a pleasant surprise nonetheless, and a good long walk at twilight back down Lonsdale to the Seabus, cool wind blowing, thunderheads piled up over Georgia Straight, unexpectedly pleasant art-historical conversation on the ride across the harbor back to town.

Au revoir Mack's Leathers, Inc., closing out on Granville Mall, outfitters of many of my leather and PVC-loving pals, members of -- in Pulpfiction record guy extraordinaire John Tweed's words -- "the shiny pants club." Sayanora too to the geek-hooded and flogger-toting mannequins in Mack's big barred display windows. There's something heartwarming about the sight of a not even remotely anatomically correct life size white plastic mannequin with a genital piercing.

"Desolation in solitude." South (First) Peak, Stawamus Chief Mountain, looking southwest from Second Peak slabs, glacial green Howe Sound in the distance. Leading Peak on Anvil Island is just visible at the far left below those remnants of blue sky. An overcast and spectacularly muggy day, but it was great to get out scrambling on the Chief's steep granite slabs. And Dorothy's organic bison sausage sandwiches were delicious.
Thursday, June 15, 2006

Recent reading:

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

"Bechdel literally acts out each scene that she draws, complete with props and costumes, posing as each person in a frame and capturing it all in photographs. In a video clip available on her website she describes this routine from the studio of her Bolton, Vt., home of ten years as her cat ambles in one corner of the frame. 'It indicates a weakness in my drawing technique,' she now says. “I can't make stuff up in writing or in drawing; I can only reproduce it.' While Bechdel uses this method with Dykes to Watch Out For, it has a different impact when the subjects are her own family members, including herself. 'With my family it has this weird other role, like I'm reliving my past, moment by moment.'

For Fun Home Bechdel found herself reenacting difficult scenes in her life and 'marinating in it.' A few years ago she actually visited the stretch of highway where her father was hit by a truck and took photographs of trucks rushing at her down the road. She describes the creative fodder she relied on for Fun Home as the 'detritus' of her childhood: drawings that go back to her seventh year, journals she began at age 10, an income/expense log she has kept since she was 13. She also dredged up maps of her hometown, grocery lists, sugar packets, and more ordinary mementos, such as photos, letters and ticket stubs. Her mother gave her a box of her father's letters, 'several hundred pages of his thinking.' Bechdel transcribed them all and incorporates fragments in her book."

Gone scrambling. Back Friday.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Q: Did you cry when you wrote that song?

DONALD FAGEN: No, but when I hear one of our less successfully realized songs on the radio, it's easy to trace the tracks of my tears.

Vacationing staff member Katie Davis checks in from the east coast:

"Now I'm in Buffalo NY at the Holiday Inn waiting for my train. Chris, you know that movie Buffalo 66 (Vincent Gallo) ? That movie is no joke, it sucks here, and the air smells funny."

Ms. Gwynedd Pickett, neurosurgeon and longtime fellow Moomin fan, checks in from cyberspace:

"Guess what I did last Saturday?

I went to Moominland!

We were in Helsinki for a week (I was attending a live operative microneurosurgery course which was *really* good). . . .So on Saturday we got up early, took the train to Turku and the bus out to Naantali, and went to Moominland.

It's nice, actually. I was a bit dubious about the whole themepark thing, but I trusted the Finns not to mess it up too badly. The park is on a small island, and it's still all mostly rocks and trees and lichen and moss and beaches - just with little boardwalks and the Moominhouse and a maze and a boat and a beached submarine and various activities scattered through the forest. There's also Theatre Emma - we watched two short (15 min) productions there - one was singing and dancing, the other was the story of the Hemulen and the Hattifatteners, in Finnish (or we had an option on Swedish, an hour later). Since [son] Galen knew the story anyway, it didn't matter too much that we couldn't follow the dialogue.

Much fun. The best time was on the very small beach, though. Still a bit cold for swimming, but there was sand to dig and reeds to dig with, stones to throw out to sea, and sunny rocks to lie on. And we had 'big yellow pancakes with raspberry jam' in the cafe."

Jesus Christ! It's Dr. Evil!

(Ostensibly conclusive proof of my sketchy musical taste. But perservere (or fast-forward, depending on your tolerance level for slow-mo fog machines, lasers, & endless distorted 80s guitar) exactly 1m 10 sec into the "performance." Priceless!)
Monday, June 12, 2006

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing) (& role model!): Jack The Cat

"Look at that picture above. That's Jack the cat protecting his owners' yard in West Milford, New Jersey from a visiting black bear. When the bear first came into the yard Jack went after him and scared him up a tree. After fifteen minutes the bear finally got the balls to come back down, only to be chased up another tree minutes later. Finally, worried for the safety of their 15-pound-pussy Jack's owners called him back into the house and the bear went away."

"....that guy yesterday had a point," says brother dru, all too briefly in town.
Ask Me
By William Stafford -- another birthday poem!

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.


Who the hell is Ryan Aronofsky?
Did you have a show and not tell me?
"Granville Street Studio?" I went there yesterday and there's just a boarded-up storefront. WTF?!!!

I spent Friday night looking through several discs of pictures, and wasn't too impressed with what I found. I started making a list of "defects," but had a lot of trouble doing it in note form, and switched to a narrative voice. I tried to think dialectically, drawing out every major flaw or shortcoming I could, to externalize them.

Ryan writes for Woo and Fillip. He gets around to openings: Blim, Blanket, the Western Front. If he's not yet in the Curatorial Studies program at UBC, he should be. His lineage is jumbled: Pale Fire's Charles Kinbote; Dale Cooper's "Bob"; Magritte's doppelganger (above); Rodney Graham's 007. We met, once, across the Pulpfiction buying counter when he tried to peddle a bunch of highlighted October back issues and a water-damaged Thousand Plateaus. Now we meet every morning, when I shave.

Ghost-hunting, East Broadway.

I'm 36 today, hard as that is to believe. Pulpfiction is 6 as of 11am. Originally I had not thought to open on my birthday, but the shelves were built and the books were on the shelves and my two weeks of free rent were rapidly eroding, so I propped open the front door, put out the signboard, and made approximately $80 in eight hours, much of that from the already established used bookseller down the block, who dropped by late in the day, attempted to remove everything good and/or underpriced on a dealer discount, and then indulged in a little trash-talk. "You'll never last," he informed me, having firmly secured the H.P. Lovecraft section under one arm. "We'll see," I replied, still struck by the novelty of twenties in the cash box.

He's still here. So am I.

William Stafford

"...One afternoon each year
is yours. It stands again
across a certain field and is the same --
a day no year can hold, but always
warm, paused in the light, looking
back and forward, where everything counts..."
Sunday, June 11, 2006

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (19), 2006
Chris the bookscout spins a tale:

"I'm talking to this dealer, he's got to hire a part-time clerk, and he says, 'I'm just so tired of them answering, "Lifelong love of books," to, "Why do you want to work in a bookshop?", that I'm almost ready to hire anyone who answers differently. What answer would you give, Chris?'

'I want to work in the shop so I can dip the till.' And he just about fell off his chair. No sense of humor, that one."

Stanislaw Lem, A Brick From The Stars, undated

"Donald Judd
'Review and Previews'
Art News, October 1959

Stuart Gilden [Artzt; Oct. 3- 13] uses established abstract techniques to convey little; his vocabulary exceeds his knowledge of its meaning. All of the paintings are slashed and excoriated, for the most part without vigor or even brutality."

(via my well-thumbed Donald Judd: Complete Writings (above), more here)
The Honorable Member for the Opposition

Review from Woo magazine, Summer 2006:

"Pictures 2005-6

Christopher Brayshaw at Granville Street Studio, #205-850 Granville Street

Reviewed by Ryan Aronofsky

Christopher Brayshaw’s biography says he is an art critic, a curator, the co-director of a hip new Main Street gallery, a bookstore owner, and some other things I didn’t bother writing down. He’s also an amateur photographer. Judging by this show, his first, photography is a hobby he practices in and around his other jobs. As a result, none of the pictures on display are particularly strong or memorable.

It’s not that Brayshaw hasn’t thought about what he’s doing, but rather that he’s thought too much. The photos suffer for all this thinking. Some are of abstract shapes – a paint spill on the pavement; a boarded-over window; newspaper boxes – that suggest unearthly or supernatural presences. Brayshaw calls them ‘ghosts.’ Most do look like ghosts, but they also look like the work of local photographers Brayshaw admires and has written about – Jeff Wall, Roy Arden, Adam Harrison, and, in the case of the ‘ghost pictures,’ Evan Lee, for whom Brayshaw recently wrote a long and not particularly memorable essay for a Presentation House Gallery catalog. You expect this kind of lazy emulation-pastiche from entries in the grad show, and not from an ‘independent critic’ who is at least theoretically meant to be able to distinguish between okay and better art.

Besides the ‘ghost pictures,’ there are also some urban landscapes that name-check Walker Evans and Stephen Shore, and a few inexplicably cluttered studies of magnolia trees. These crowded photos seem like attempts to put a whole bunch of ideas (about landscape; about portraiture; about snapshot photography) into play simultaneously, but ultimately fail to resolve any of them.

Most of the pictures aren’t technically embarrassing (with the exception of the magnolias, the photos are competently composed, well-printed, and expensively framed). But it’s Brayshaw’s slavish imitation of the kind of photography he likes that renders his own work of only passing interest."
Friday, June 09, 2006
Brokaw -- late night, fan whirling, stacks of mass market paperbacks all over the desk.

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Sample and Hold

"This is still a pretty cool song for someone baffling his audience and record label."

Untitled (Napkin), 2006

Roy Arden, East Vancouver, 2006

A photograph I don't think I would have paid much attention to a year or two ago. Lots of subtle things going on, though. The "emulation of a glance." First, and most successfully, the horizontals -- yard fence, patio railing, and cinderblock wall -- staggered through space, and the way in which the hydrangea blooms (fading, brown like the grass, obviously past their prime) disrupt this grid-like architecture. Second, the way that this compositional structure is imbedded in a style that emulates casualness, amatuerism (that little corner of window, half-visible behind the tree; the tiny piece of cinderblock at upper right that indicates that the patterned cinderblocks are further back in space than you might first believe). The whole picture is oddly cropped, as if by someone unfamiliar with art photography's codes. Yet it hangs together just fine.
Allen Ruppersberg's New Five Foot Shelf

"By presenting his studio, work, and traces of his sources—pictorially and literally—Ruppersberg invites us to stand in his shoes, or at least sit at his desk. For an artist whose practice is centered around reading, to make available these texts is metaphorically equivalent to handing viewers the painter's brush and palette and letting them loose in his studio."

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Robot Baby Dinosaur

"UGOBE's designers and engineers recreated Pleo's physiology from the fossils of the original. His height and weight are consistent with that of a one-week old infant camarasuarus.

Pleo is a 'designer species'. He incorporates all the basic traits of autonomous life. He is specifically engineered and enhanced to mimic life and relate to his owner on a personal level.

Pleo is equipped with senses for sight, sound, and touch. He learns as he explores his environment. He will exhibit genuine reactions to sensory stimuli. Every Pleo begins life with certain tendencies but, interaction with his environment has subtle effects on his behavior. Every Pleo eventually exhibits a unique personality."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006
In Seattle for a day or two.

The office ADSL line is up and down, taking Web/email with it when it goes; anyone needing to get in touch in a hurry should call the shop.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ten Most Ridiculous "Black Metal" Pix of All Time -- thx dru!

"He's in a cave with a large hunting knife, but by the way that thing is glowing, you'd think Orcs were near. Go black metal Frodo, go!"
Sunday, June 04, 2006

ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Misprision

"Do you have Da Vinci's Inquest, by Dan Brown?"

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (18), 2006

Woken at 6am by talking-cat noises. Which was a surprise, because the Incredible Talking Cats are stuffed and dependably quiet unless animated.

Q: What the hell? Tinnitus?

A: Pigeons out on the balcony, cuddled in a pink Tupperware bowl lined since yesterday with nesting materials.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
M. John Harrison reviews David Mitchell in the TLS

"The thing that all those beautiful, scary, civilized women had in common, even the ones who spent less than a morning in his life, was that they were waiting for him to understand."
Friday, June 02, 2006

Pitchfork's Nitsuh Abebe, my favorite reviewer there, carefully considers Chris & Neil's latest:

"Sometime in the late 1970s, rock music officially reached adulthood. The fans who grew up on rock as a wild, youthful counter-culture were getting older; they had careers, kids, fancy stereo equipment, and whole new sets of concerns. The same went for the stars themselves: Suddenly it was natural for them to look like adults, wear tapered suits, and act like they probably knew a lot about wine and real estate. Think of Rod Stewart, Dire Straits, Mick Jagger at Studio 54, and all those California guys who grew beards and indulged in self-employed guitar-strumming on self-owned houseboats. The British dreamed of an adult high life and the Americans dreamed of white-collar vacations, and they began to make music about those dreams.

By the time Pet Shop Boys came along, pop was fairly adult, and they certainly sold adult-like pop: reserved and witty, even arch. Funny thing about them, though: They're one of the first acts I can think of to have navigated their own career-long growing-up with a form of electronic music. It's been fascinating to watch an act like this become elder statesmen of the British charts, and to bend synthesized dance-pop around the kind of music elder statesmen make-- music that's more careful, eloquent, and subtle, music that's wiser and less demonstrative. Rock guys, after all, usually turn to acoustic guitars and 'roots' to pull this off, and plenty of non-rock acts (hello, Madonna) can never quite do it gracefully. But Pet Shop Boys have the qualities to make it possible: Pop music that always came from clever heads, a style that was always a bit distanced, and a sound-- Neil Tennant's clear, airy voice; Chris Lowe's lovable building-block electronics. . . ."

Someone else, a fairly regular correspondent, writes to suggest, viz. this week's YouTube links, that my musical taste, or what passes for it, has self-destructed. "Donald Fagen...the Bee Gees...Michael this." To which the only possible reply is that when you live in a state of near-permanent pessimism and deep depression about the significance of everything that comes out of your head, pop music is more often than not an anodyne, a cure for pain.

Another, slightly more complicated answer is that at the time Neil Tennant met Chris Lowe, he (Tennant) was working both as a pop music critic and as a comic book writer/editor for Marvel UK. And I've always been a big fan of professionalizing one's interests.

(1.5 hour interview & BBC live concert here, including superb outtkes of Dreaming of the Queen and You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk (requires intrusive Realplayer plug-in))

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