Thursday, August 31, 2006
New Kem Nunn interview -- one of my faves, author of The Dogs of Winter, Unassigned Territory, the Wild Things screenplay, and numerous Deadwood episodes...

"Q: Something I've thought about, and it seems almost particular to California novels, if you read something like Nathanael West's Day of the Locust, Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, What Makes Sammy Run?; they're not 'crime' novels, but they're 'California' novels, and they seem to have sort of a 'crime' edge to them without formally being genre novels.

KEM NUNN: Yeah. One of the novels we talked about tonight (at the Q&A after the reading), [Newton Thornburg's] Cutter and Bone gets into that. John Fante, some of his work… Some of that comes, I think, out of this desire to write against the myth of California. California has always trafficked in its own myth. You know, from early on, with books like Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson, with its idyllic vision of the Indians and the padres. The mission life - there was a whole 'mission style' that grew out of that.

Some of the early noir writers, guys like James M. Cain, were guys that came to California to work for the studios, and became disillusioned with what they found here, and wanted to write against that myth. They came believing that everything would be great, and then discovered that there were shadows: discovered that in fact, L.A. was a rabidly anti-union town, that there was a lot of racism. You find that in Chandler - the corruption in the police force is something that always gets in there. So I think there's that desire to somehow write against the myth that's informed a lot of the noir writing, and accounts for some of the stuff you're talking about."
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
That Thin, That Wild Mercury Sound

Bob Dylan interviewed years ago by Playboy's Ron Rosenbaum, via the New Yorker's Louis Menand:

"Q: You hear the sound of the street?

A: That ethereal twilight light, you know. It’s the sound of the street with the sunrays, the sun shining down at a particular time, on a particular type of building. A particular type of people walking on a particular type of street. It’s an outdoor sound that drifts even into open windows that you can hear. The sound of bells and distant railroad trains and arguments in apartment buildings and the clinking of silverware and knives and forks and beating with leather straps. It’s all—it’s all there. Just lack of a jackhammer, you know.

Q: You mean if a jackhammer were

A: Yeah, no jackhammer sounds, no airplane sounds. All pretty natural sounds. It’s water, you know water trickling down a brook. It’s light flowing through the . . .

Q: Late-afternoon light?

A: No, it’s usually the crack of dawn. Music filters out to me in the crack of dawn."

"Book meme," via Arquival:

"Meme instructions : Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you've read, italicize the ones you might read, cross out the ones you won't, underline the ones on your book shelf, and place parentheses around the ones you've never even heard of."

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J.R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkein
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zagon
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert

Two unsolicited observations:

1. This is a pretty mainstream list, the sort of thing that could be safely assembled at your local Chapters/Indigo or Borders. That said, where's Ursula K. LeGuin, Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri?

2. If I had to manually code HTML tags all day long, I would kill myself. Right away.

Wednesday morning, leaves skating along in the gutter, clouds furling off Crown Mountain's summit. The city's sewer crews and paving crews expertly blocking Main and Broadway like a professional NFL team, no one getting through. Deep vibrato of jackhammers, of front-end loaders shifting and collecting huge chunks of excavated pavement, of tamping machines trundling along behind the dump trucks spilling steaming, stinking asphalt into the open trench I plunge-stepped into this morning, illegally crossing mid-block. Lost kids trudging up and down Broadway, looking for the 99 B-Line express bus stop that wanders through the neighborhood like the magnetic pole.

Today's incongrous Internet research juxtaposition: Dotski's scoop-neck, "bright primary color" fashion fetish (scroll) vs. the lovely synth-pop set playing over at All The Little Live Things. That instrumental break from 2.17-2.41 stopped me dead with a whole spectrum of feelings I had just assumed were permanently gone.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Someone stateside writes to suggest that my insinuation, this morning, that lessons learned from the U.S. military's adventure in Iraq are also applicable to running a used bookstore is evidence of my classism, conservatism, "false consciousness," and numerous other, even more poorly argued charges.

Maybe. But consider the following.

Pulpfiction buying counter, 4pm:

DIRTY SCABROUS CRACKHEAD #1: [eating a McFlurry; lines delivered around a mouthful of ice cream and caramel sauce] I got a great record here...a guy said I should bring it in. [Proffers completely trashed Beatles LP in a dirty, mould-ridden sleeve].

CJB: Thanks, but I'm not buying any records right now.

DIRTY SCABROUS CRACKHEAD #2: [also eating a McFlurry] The guy said he should bring it in!

DSC#1: Twenty bucks, man. That's all I'm asking.

CJB: Thanks, but no. I'm not buying any records at the moment.

DSC#2: You just can't wait to get us out of here, can you?

CJB: Yeah, pretty much.

DSC#2: You're a fucking goof, man! A fuckin' goof!

DSC#1: [to #2] C'mon...

DSC#2: Fuckin' kick his ass...fuck him up... [Exits store; throws McFlurry against the window]

Thomas Ricks, Fiasco:

"Major Wilson, the historian and 101st planner, later concluded that much of the firing on U.S. troops in the summer and fall of 2003 consisted of honor shots, intended not so much to kill Americans as to restore Iraqi honor. 'Honor and pride lie at the center of tribal society,' he wrote. In a society where honor equals power, and power equals survival, the restoration of damaged honor can be a matter of urgency. But that didn't mean that Iraqis insulted by American troops necessarily felt they had to respond lethally, Wilson reflected. 'Honor that is lost or taken must be returned by the offender, through ritualistic truce sessions, else it will be taken back through force of arms.' In Iraq this sometimes was expressed in ways similar to the American Indian practice of counting coup, in which damaging the enemy wasn't as important as demonstrating that one could. So, Wilson observed, an Iraqi would take a wild shot with a rocket-propelled grenade, or fire randomly into the air as a U.S. patrol passed. 'Often the act of taking a stand against the "subject of dishonor" is enough to restore the honor to the family or tribe,' whether or not the attack actually injured someone, he wrote."

Thus, cjb, enlightened, makes no further response, and DSC #1 and #2 exit the premises. No name-calling, no fistfight, no 911 call, no broken window. Peace reigns. Thanks, Thomas Ricks! Does Hanging Lake

I wasn't on this trip, but I sure wish I had been. BW5+ on the Cascade Bushwhack Rating Scale. Check out all 3 installments of the trip report, plus pictures!

PHONE: Ring!

CJB: Pulpfiction Books, good evening.


CJB: I don't recognize that title. Can you tell me anything about it?

FC: It's a book.

CJB: Is it fiction...nonfiction?

FC: It's a novel.

CJB: OK, hold on, please. [Searches on-line]. Hello? No, I'm afraid we've never had that one through.

FC: It's a bestseller!

CJB: Not here, evidently.
ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Art Jargon

I think this may be the silliest and most poorly conceptualized paragraph of art writing I have ever read. Received wisdom city, baby! (Eccentric punctuation and capitalization preserved unchanged from the original).

"Since at least the Renaissance, Western civilization, its History and Culture have been promulgated and imposed from a single-point perspective, from the point of view, the privileged position, of the enfranchised European heterosexual white male. The global technologies of our era, which are the outcome of this single-point perspective, have been reductive, totalizing and oppressive, if only because they inscribe universalized versions of humanity, institutions, and power relationships within a relentlessly material and singular and seamlessly teleologic History."

Annette Hurtig, "Eyes of the Beholder," Jerry Pethick: Material Space (Lethbridge: Southern Alberta Art Gallery, 1992)
About half way through Thomas F. Ricks' superb Fiasco, the best account of the ongoing conflict in Iraq I've read. Detailed reporting, and an even more impressive critical synthesis of that reportage. Essentially a 500-page "briefing book" whose strategic lessons are as applicable to running a chain of used bookstores as they are to occupying and pacifying a hostile foreign nation. The book bristles with insights, including many like the following:

"The Army War College, the service's premier educational institution, became a leading center of dissent during the occupation period, with its analysts issuing scathing reviews. Containment of Iraq had worked, while the Bush administration's hadn't, argued a study written by Jeffrey Record and published by the War College's Strategic Studies Institute. He argued that a war of choice had been launched that distracted the U.S. military and government from a war of necessity in Afghanistan and elsewhere that already was under way. 'Of particular concern has been the conflation of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat,' Record wrote.

This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored crucial differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action. The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) but rather a detour from it.

The unexpectedly difficult occupation, Record added, had 'stressed the U.S. Army to the breaking point.' This was not some politician or pundit offering that assessment but an official publication of the U.S. Army."
Sunday, August 27, 2006
After some hesitation, Anodyne migrated over to Blogger's new platform this afternoon without a hitch.

The new publishing interface is still in beta, and may generate numerous weird errors for months to come.

Please email me if you observe ongoing strangeness (layout issues, non-displaying photographs, gibbled fonts, & etc.) or if posting seems to inexplicably cease for more than a day or two at a time. Thanks!
Ashes to Ashes -- Sunday floor-washing, scent of Vim Tropical Oxy-Gel rising off the tiles

I've never done good things
I've never done bad things
I never did anything out of the blue....
Dad Loves His Work

Up with the sun, ghost-hunting in the West End's alleys, the grey pre-autumn slant light more aminable to pictures than July's hot sun. To a fruitless estate call by bus on Friday, down Nanaimo below East Hastings. The North Shore's mountains, blue-grey, bone-dry, above chestnut trees and maples, their green leaves bleached by the summer's heat. Scuffling along, sneakers crackling through fall's first evidence, past whirling sprinklers, a glass truck, parked pickups. The amplified tinkling of an ice-cream van, two blocks over, circling the park.

Forty boxes under a back porch, dusty and duct-taped, haphazardly stuffed with hardcover remainders that no one in their right mind would ever want to buy (Elizabeth Jolley, Cynthia Ozick, 80s Saul Bellow, Nadine Gordimer, Shampoo Planet, Paul Theroux novels, & etc.)

Thanks anyway!
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Her Town Too

Latenight 70s following the Subaru to Kits, all the stoplights winking yellow after midnight. Sweet Baby James in navy blue plaid, the double vocal lines rising and falling like waves.

Well, people got used to seeing them both together
But now he's gone and life goes on
Nothing lasts forever, oh no
She gets the house and the garden
He gets the boys in the band
Some of them his friends
Some of them her friends
Some of them understand
Lord knows that this is just a small town city
Yes, and everyone can see you fall....
Reading Thomas E. Ricks' superb Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, full of striking anecdotes like the following:

"On April 6 [2003], Douglas Hoyt, a platoon leader with the 3rd [Infantry Division], saw looters for the first time. 'I remembered looking through the sights on my tank at people and trying to determine if they were hostile or not,' he recalled later. He didn't stop them. 'It was not our mission at the time.'

The division's official after-action review states that it had no orders to do anything else: '3RD ID transitioned into Phase IV SASO with no plan from higher headquarters,' it reported. 'There was no guidance for restoring order in Baghdad, creating an interm government, hiring government and essential services employees, and ensuring that the judicial system was operational.' The result was 'a power/authority vacuum created by our failure to immediately replace key government institutions.' In a surprising criticism for an Army division to make -- especially one that had led the way in toppling an enemy government -- the 3rd ID report laid the blame for all of this at the feet of its chain of command, leading to [General] Franks to Rumsfeld and Bush: 'The president announced that our national goal was "regime change." Yet there was no timely plan prepared for the obvious consequences of a regime change.'"
Friday, August 25, 2006
The Mondo Spider Project Blog -- lots more information on yesterday's spooky mechano-arachnid, fabrication notes, etc. The sight of that beast scuttling across the Black Rock desert playa at twilight would be enough to send me instantly sprinting for higher ground.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Vancouver-built passenger-carrying mechanical walking spider. Footage shot by my friend Keith Dunsmuir. Funnily enough, not sourced off Bruce Sterling's blog, which, so far as I know, has made no mention of it. Hah! Take that, Austin!

(More spider beta, courtesy designers

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Simply Red's "Sunrise," its clever quotation of the tinkling melody of Hall and Oates' "I Can't Go For That." (Goofy YouTube video provided as audio evidence only, and not aesthetically claimed)
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Adolescent white-tailed ptarmigan, Lagopus leucurus, one of a peeping brood of six watched over by a scrupulously attentive parent bird just below the summit.

Needle Peak emerging from the fog. Another Bartoszewski/Brayshaw midweek extravaganza. Straight up the ridge in the middle of the picture, over crumbly granite and small sandy ledges to the summit cairn and no views at all beyond a small red memorial plaque and a world of billowing white clouds.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Nah na nah nah na na, nah na nah nah na na, Batman!

"Who will call me crazy now, BatFool???? What's the matter, fish got your tongue? HaHahAAhaHAhahAAAAhahHahahahaHAHAHAHaha"

(via dru)

Gone scrambling; back Thursday!

It is Happening Again

Another context for the ghosts, and a late entry into the scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-cjb sweepstakes. Extreme and disturbing imagery, probably not suitable for all viewers. Still, a useful & important source.

Why I Hate Your New Age

"We put distilled water into a bottle and tied a cellular phone on it with a string. We called the phone ten times and kept the line on in silence for a minute each time. The result was the picture above; however, the one with the label, 'love and gratitude' formed a crystal."

Exposed scrambling on Stonerabbit Peak's SE face. The flat terrain at upper right gives some idea of the relative angle and exposure. Photograph (plus the two below) by Simon Chesterton.

Low angle slabs on the approach, Stonerabbit Peak. Left to right: cjb, Denis Blair, Ted Oliver.

The author in his trademark oversize plaid, North Skwellepil Forest Service Road
Pulpfiction Books
Business Hours

Mon-Wed 10am-8pm
Thu-Sat 10am-9pm
Sun 11-7pm
Minor Deviations Likely

9:45am. Folks with coffee on the doorstep. Lights off, door locked.

BROWSER #1: [rattles door]

BROWSER #2: [reading sign, above] 10 a.m.

BROWSER #1: If this was Starbucks, they'd be open now.

Thoughtful review of Robert Niven's show @ CSA, plus good photographs of the gallery and most of the works in the exhibition (scroll)

Finding an Easy Way to Break Your Heart
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Trip report posted to

"Killer Wabbit"
Ascent of Stonerabbit Peak, SE Face, "The Rabbit's Coat"
16 August 2006

Participants: [ members] cjb, dblair, tedoliver, simonc, Rose T. Cat (mascot)

There's a picture on North Vancouver climber Brad Braun's website that I kept returning to all spring: Stonerabbit Peak's huge southeast face under a bright blue August sky, grey granite waves rolling up to heaven. With a few days of sunny days and warm nights, I figured that the face, which is basically a waterfall, or series of falls, when the weather's bad, would be in condition. I posted a trip to go look at it, which generated phenomenal interest, and several 4x4s that disappeared as the trip approached. What to do? Cancel the trip, as things turned out. Then, just when it looked like interest was at its lowest ebb, dblair came through with his old Toytota truck and a team of Retreads and Retreads-in-training: coastal legend tedoliver and "Speedy Gonzales" simonc. Right on! I thought. I'm getting out with some real West Coast hardmen! This thing's in the bag! Read on...

We rendezvous Tuesday evening at the Sasquatch Inn and drive up the Chehalis mainline in dark and dust, somehow missing our turnoff by a sweet 15km. Out in the dark in the middle of nowhere Simon calibrates his GPS to passing satellites. Where are we? Not on the map at all, is the answer. Back down the road and to bed in the mossy and pleasant Skwellepil North Forest Recreation Site. Up at dawn. Coffee brewing, bouldering on the mossy low-angle slab back of the campsite, views of Chehalis Lake down the hill past the little green outhouse in the trees.

Gear stowed, we proceed up the steep and rocky Skwellepil N Forest Service Road (currently deactivated). Waterbars, rocks pinging off mufflers and tailpipes, alder branches swiping at paint jobs and mirrors. The road follows the north bank of the creek, slowly gaining elevation and contouring into the head of the valley below Stonerabbit Peak. 3.5km in, we reach the first of the serious waterbars and I park my Subaru. Everyone gets cozy in Denis' truck as we slowly roll over tank trap-style waterbars and boulder gardens to the 7.5km mark, where the road has been completely torn apart by a flood. A ten or fifteen foot drop from the road to the creekbed. The SE Face looms above us like the moon, intermittantly visible through the trees. It's big, far bigger than I had ever imagined, easily as wide as the Apron and the Grand Wall. My pulse starts to tick a little faster.

We strike off across the creek, following the logging road as it sharply turns and parallels the creek draining Stonerabbit’s south face. When the road next crosses the creek we turn and proceed upstream, boulder-hopping and walking along the bank. Soon, as the flat creek bed gives way to low-angle slabs and short vertical granite steps, we enter a smaller side drainage that rises west of the main drainage. We follow this through traditional West Coast bush: mixed brush, slimy slabs, vegetable belays, yellow cedars whipping us in the face, loose rocks bounding down all around. Mixed 2nd and 3rd class. “Good training for Judge Howay,” is the refrain. Our consensus is that the approach would not be enjoyed by most, and we’re not having that great of a time ourselves.

As we enter the alpine, we contour east, through shrubby meadows, to emerge in a boulder field directly below the center of the SE face. A large chunk of late season snow marks this spot, high and scenic, with views back down the valley, and father-off views of Baker, Slesse, Rexford & etc. We are also able to look back down the main drainage to where several large headwalls block a direct retreat down the creek bed. Thus our ascent route, though ugly, looks to be the correct line.

Onto the rock. We follow slabs steeply up from our perch, snaking up and around water-worn slabs and grooves reminiscent of the Apron’s Banana Peel. The rock is polished and warm, with numerous large holds. Occasionally the holds pinch out and we find ourselves slab climbing in mountaineering boots – not the world's best sensation. As the climb steepens, we move up and left (west) across the face, heading up toward a series of darker overhangs. As the angle continues to steepen, we head steeply up and left on a series of diagonal grass-filled cracks, aiming for a prominent bushy “shoulder” to the left of the overhangs. Our plan is to sneak past the overhangs on the shoulder, and then back over top of them. This plan, in retrospect, is different from the line shown on Brad Braun’s website, which suggests climbing straight up to the overhangs and passing them to the right.

We now face considerable exposure. We’re all nervous. We reach the bushy shoulder, rest a minute, and then proceed to traverse across a steeply angled slab with 500’+ of air under it. Beyond the slab a sharply angled crack leads up to more bushes. Denis and Simon crabwalk across the slab and pull up the crack. I follow across the slab – boots skittering around on tiny holds – and reach a fragile stance. The next move is a pull up off the slab and into the crack – maybe only 5.5 or 5.6. But, I realize, if I slip, I will bounce out over the overhangs and down the face. Denis and Simon are thirty feet or so above me; their stance isn’t much more secure. I can feel my feet starting to skate around on the slab. Ted announces that there’s no way in hell that he’s coming up without a rope, which he won’t be, because he’s behind me and the rope’s in his pack. OK. Fuck it. Ted and I will go down together. I call the plan up to Denis and Simon, and then slowly downclimb the slab. In my mountaineering boots. Ted downclimbs ahead of me, one hand, one foot at a time. The angle isn’t awful, but the holds are just nubbins, and less than fifteen feet away is that awful granite lip, with the breeze rising up from it, eddying, hovering there….

“Good work there,” says Ted, as we sit together, shaken and moreorless speechless, on the bushy shoulder. “We can head over to the west ridge and make the summit that way.”

A moment of confusion here. I’m sure I ask Ted to wait up while I rearrange my pack. Ted’s sure that I’ve understood his plan. We’re both shaken by the events of the last ten minutes. I dig down in my pack, drink a litre of water from my Platypus, take some photographs. When I next look up, Ted’s gone.

Where? Straight down, is my guess. I make my way down the shoulder, calling and getting no answer. The shoulder pinches off into bushy bluffs. No Ted. Did he fall? I don’t know. I call again, still getting no response, and can feel myself starting to panic, the whole situation spinning rapidly out of control. Sit down, I tell myself. Relax. I drink some more water, talk to Rose the stuffed cat, and then, refreshed and level-headed, make my way down to the far end of the ridge. Steep-sided cliffs, and, thankfully, a crooked 3rd class ramp dropping off the shoulder to the boulder field below. Down in the boulders I drop down below the face, so that the entire shoulder is visible to me. I look for Ted. No sign. I think about heading up the west ridge, decide against it. If Ted’s fallen, or hurt himself, I want to be doing something useful, something to help him. I scan the face again and again, calling and calling. No answer.

A whistle from high above. Denis and Simon are visible on the summit ridge. I wave to them, gesticulate, aiming them away from the bluffs and down across the face. They begin to descend, heading far to the east. I angle across the boulders to intercept their descent path. An hour or so later we meet up, and they ask the natural question: “Where’s Ted?”

“Haven’t seen him,” I say, and tell my story. We review our options, and decide that an immediate descent is most prudent. It’s getting late, the sun sneaking down across the sky. We have one headlamp between us, and little in the way of overnight gear. The keys to Denis’ truck are in Ted’s pocket. So, either Ted will be snoozing in the back of the truck, and we will have a funny story to tell our friends and family, or Ted will be missing and presumably injured and we will have to hotwire the truck, drive back to civilization, and initiate a search and rescue callout.

Down the drainage to the headwall. West through the bushes to intercept our ascent gully. Down, tripping and falling, in the failing light. I take a header off some bushes and put a pretty good bruise on my left leg. Denis cuts his hand. Simon slows from a blur, keeping pace with us. At twilight, we stumble out onto the logging road and make our way down to the dark, empty truck. Simon breaks into it and we hunt for a spare set of keys. Our mood’s grim, all the day’s early humor in reserve. And then, just as Denis finds a spare key and guns the truck to life, there’s a shout, and, lo and behold, there’s Ted, strolling down the road in the twilight.

Much astonishment. “I went to the West Ridge,” says Ted, amazed. “Got the summit, too.” Did not see Denis and Simon, because they were descending to the east as he ascended from the west. Did not see me, because I was far below him, hollering up from the boulder field. And so off we go, in the dark, down to my Subaru, and the long drive out, which is interrupted only by jamming a rock the size of a shoebox up under my wheel (which Ted helpfully pile-drives out of the way) and the 35km drive back to the Sasquatch Inn, and beer, and the wooden sasquatch in the foyer, and the end of a stressful, amazing day in the mountains.

Lessons Learned:

Some readers will probably second-guess decisions that we made. That’s fine; in climbing, as in art criticism, there are multiple correct answers, and the correctness of one’s reponses often correlates with taking reponsibility for one’s own decisions. We are not inexperienced climbers, yet we all found ourselves challenged, sometimes in less than pleasant ways, by our route. So, a few observations, applicable both to our own trip, and to alpine scrambling in general, based on an ever-increasing number of people getting out onto trips like ours:

1. It’s easy to get off-route on a big face where the correct route is not obvious.

2. The rope should not be in the last party member’s pack.

3. Exposure ups commitment considerably. Unprotected 5.6 slabs at Murrin Park are different than unprotected 5.6 4 hours into a long alpine climb.

4. An alpine rack should consist of more than slings. No one wants to haul 20 pounds of unneccessary gear up a climb, but climbers should consider that fewer pieces of gear may result in not being able to protect all conditions adequately. I am a big fan of small tricams; any alpine rack, even an “express” rack, should contain a few. They’re handy, cheap, and easy to place.

5. No one likes to sweat under a helmet, but in my view, a helmet is the most fundamental piece of scrambling equipment there is.

6. Headlamps are essential even on day trips. Even a few hours’ delay can turn a day trip into an “after dark” trip. Consider the difference between downclimbing a 3rd class vegetated gully with a headlamp, and by starlight.

7. Route finding and bush travel are important West Coast mountaineering skills. Alpine scramblers should be comfortable and confident with off-trail travel. “Non-aesthetic” approaches like Isolillock, the Needles, etc. actually teach skills which are never considered part of “scrambling,” yet in my view are harder to acquire and practice successfully than the skills deployed after the approach.

8. I had a great time out with Denis, Simon and Ted, and we look forward to travelling together again in the not-too-distant future.

ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Composition Pilot

"Achieve the most harmonious composition in your photos!"

The Scare-the-Bejeezus-out-of-cjb-Sweepstakes (Runners-Up)

Grant Munro's Toys (1966) -- screened at Poorly Socialized Kids' Camp some time in the mid-1970s.

John Carpenter's Hallowe'en 2 (1981). The Horror Channel's then-and-now scouting guide for the first two films convincingly fuses vernacular landscape photography and implied supernatural menace to great effect.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

David Lynch's Twin Peaks, episodes 1, 2 (1990), and 22 (1991).

Alan Parker's Angel Heart (1987), from William Hjortsberg's fine novel, Falling Angel (1978).

Nevil Shute's On The Beach (novel, 1957)

H.P. Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness (novella, written 1931, published 1936)

John Varley's "Press Enter■" (novella, 1985)

Charles Dickens' "No. 1 Branch Line: The Signal-Man" (short story, 1866)

Ridley Scott's Alien (1979)

Peter Straub's Ghost Story (novel, 1981)

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (novel, 1983)

Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

George Sluizer's The Vanishing (1988), which yesterday evening scooted past John Carpenter's Hallowe'en (1978), George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001) to take first place in the scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-cjb sweepstakes.

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (25), 2006
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Hey, Wes Anderson!

"The other change that we would have to make would concern Mark Mothersbaugh. Everyone in Hollywood knows that he is a first class professional musical supervisor. Obviously you and he have a lot of great history together and we can imagine there is a certain rapport both professional and personal. But we certainly can't work with him, anymore than he would consent to work with us. Same thing for the mandolins and the twelve-string stuff and the harpsichord, they're out. You yourself may be partial to those particular instruments. We're not. Remember, we saw 'Tom Jones' in its original theatrical release when we were still in high school, we had to listen to 'Walk Away Renee' all through college and we fucking opened for Roger McGuinn in the seventies, so all that 'jingle-jangle morning' shit is no big thrill for us, OK?"

Midway up the SE face, the route steepening above, far from internets and cheapskate hipsters seeking deals on table books. Photograph by Simon Chesterton.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Review of an exhibition of photographs and bookworks by Hans-Peter Feldmann, curated by Roy Arden, at Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery. Forthcoming in the Fillip Review. Obsessively re-edited Saturday morning.

Feldmann's Tact

By Christopher Brayshaw

Hans-Peter Feldmann’s recent exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery implies a staged confrontation between two antagonistic versions of photographic history. 100 Years, a series of 101 black and white portrait photographs, is installed in the larger B.C. Binning Gallery. Each subject’s specificity is enhanced by Feldmann’s camera’s sharp focus and the artist’s attentiveness to the smallest details of physiognomy and gesture, which enables his sitters’ personalities to fully emerge.

In the smaller Alvin Balkind Gallery, the look of the late 1960s, of photography as, or in the service of, conceptual art, predominates. Unframed prints are ganged along the wall in sequences and series. Many hang from long thin pins; the prints’ curled edges shiver as you pass. Other pictures are gathered in books or cheaply bound and printed booklets, and laid out on a white examinination table, with their places marked by blurry black and white photocopies of their covers. The pins and the table are deliberate artistic choices. They indicate that the photographs are not unique and precious, but are just containers for content, or “information,” in 60s-speak. The aesthetics of display indicate that the content of each individual image is insignificant. A single picture of a ripe red strawberry, or a car radio, or the view from a hotel room window is meaningless on its own. Only when these banal images are joined as a sequence or series under the guiding hand of a larger anthropological, sociological, or philosophical program, as in the work of artists such as Douglas Huebler, Ed Ruscha, or Feldmann himself, do they yield deeper meanings.

These considerations are reinforced by the many different styles Feldmann employs. The single berries that comprise One Pound of Strawberries are shot in lush color and high-focus close-up, a “look” meant to inflame desire, a kind of visual pornography I associate with the Woodward’s and Stongs grocery flyers delivered to my parents’ West Vancouver home in the 1970s. Other pictures, of sunsets or of brilliant blue skies marked by white wisps of cloud, emulate the look of photographic amateurism, or, alternately, the bank calendar/corporate lobby photomural landscapes reproduced to devastating effect by artists such as Vikky Alexander, Louise Lawler, and Lynn Cohen.

By juxtaposing these styles with appropriated commercial studio portraits, landscapes, amateur snapshots, pornography, and others, Feldmann puts the whole question of photographic style into quotation marks. Style here is not the expression of a unique sensibility or subjectivity, but a grammar, a set of rhetorical tools chosen for its ability to perform specific work, or to do a particular job. Style is something that can be freely chosen, put on, taken off, or recombined, just like the items that make up All The Clothes of a Woman, another Feldmann photo-sequence from the 1970s.

Feldmann’s thinking about style differs from that of other artists who employ appropriated images, such as Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and Barbara Kruger. All three of these artists use appropriated photographs, or cropped details from the same, to question notions of photographic authenticity, and to explore how images’ meanings change as they are produced and re-produced in a kind of Borgesian infinite regression. Feldmann is not concerned by photography’s capacity for infinite reproducibility; he seems to take this as a fundamental characteristic of the medium, and, as such, not specifically worthy of attention.

Many commentators on Feldmann’s work describe the enormous image archive his various projects are drawn from. Indeed, Feldmann seems to make no distinction between photographs he has made, and photographs taken by others and re-presented by him. A Sherrie Levine copy of an Edward Weston or a Walker Evans photograph, on the other hand, derives its critical authority from the recognition that the image presented under Levine’s name is not originally hers, that it has been wrestled from another artist, as if by force. Levine’s works allude to an inter-generational struggle whereby young artists gain critical space for their own work by overturning or transfiguring the work of prior generations. Feldmann side-steps this farcical “quarrel between the ancients and the moderns.” If an appropriated image serves his purpose, he cheerfully employs it. If he cannot find a suitable photograph, he makes a new image. Feldmann thus shifts the critical focus of his work away from the by now clichéd distinction between “original” and “appropriated” photography by letting his program of work guide his decisions to make or take images.

Some Feldmann projects like Birgit, All The Clothes of a Woman, or Women in Prison depend on the artist’s special relationships with his subjects. Feldmann knows more about them than we do; his camera goes places and records things which depend on his ability to negotiate privileged “back stage” access. Other photographs, like those comprising the early bookwork Women’s Knees, could have been made by anyone. Feldmann’s specifications and limitations shape and guide the project, but its photographs are deliberately banal, anartistic, “unauthored.”

Significantly, Feldmann does not assign different aesthetic weights to these projects. His tact and restraint imply an equality between them. The subtlety of this gesture obscures the radical philosophical position behind it. By implying an aesthetic equivalence between his different projects, between artist-made and appropriated imagery, and between singular images and images whose meaning depends upon their being linked with others in sequences and series, Feldmann short-circuits the Hegelian narratives of succession and displacement governing western art history. Conceptual and stylistic linearity is dispersed into a field, or fields, of possibilities, turning viewers’ attention back to each individual work's content. The staged confrontation implied by the exhibition’s installation at the Contemporary Art Gallery is revealed as a conceptual gesture in its own right, one that pits supposedly incompatible techniques and styles against each other, yet finds equal value in both.

This paradox – that content had to vanish, that artists had to believe, or at least pretend to believe, in the “dematerialization” of content in order to re-engage with it, is an old theme in the history of conceptual art. But the paradox’s applicability is not limited to conceptual art. Indeed, it is integral to depiction itself, a position that can be illustrated by reference to some of Feldmann’s extended series, such as his ongoing portraits of “car radios while good music was playing.” These snapshot photographs show what they purport to depict: there the radios are, and the pictures’ humor resides in our recognition that the ostensible content of the work – “good music” – cannot be represented photographically. While the pictures purport to document an event, that documentation is profoundly incomplete. We cannot tell, for example, whether Mozart, Gnarls Barkley, Miles Davis, or Bob Dylan inspired Feldmann’s picture-making.

It's easy to liken the car radio series to other conceptually related projects by artists like Douglas Huebler or Robert Barry, whose photographs deliberately fail to capture content, thereby gesturing at photography’s representational limits. This is a critique of the omniscience of picture-making. But good representations – pictures – have always been at pains to acknowledge these limits. The blurs, mismatched contours, and raw surfaces of Cezanne’s late paintings are a way of getting at the same thing: a content, whether the color of leaves or a song on a car radio, that can only be represented indirectly, by being gestured at, or pointed towards. In this way, sophisticated picture-making always stops short of claims of universal mastery, remaining open, its structure flexible, like an earthquake-proof building designed to flex but not collapse when the ground moves under it.

Feldmann’s tact, then, is to not ally his work with “conceptual art,” “straight photography,” or that weirdest of bastard offspring, “photo-conceptualism,” but with the older forms of depiction that permeate photography, forms that do not require their practitioners to choose between competing versions of history, but simply make many different ways of depicting simultaneously available to artists like Feldmann who have the intelligence, wit, and good judgement to employ them.


Another Pulpfiction purchase sidles into art history. Painting by Brad Phillips.
Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stonerabbit Peak southeast face, 16 August 2006. From left to right: Ted Oliver, cjb, Denis Blair. Courtesy guest photographer Simon Chesterton. Lengthy trip report coming soon.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Off with some Internet friends to climb this lovely 1000m granite face tomorrow. Pretty exposed, but no rope required, according to the few parties who've made the burly 4-wheel drive high-clearance approach. Photo courtesy Vancouver climber Brad Braun's website. Check out the very last picture of the jeep-gobbling logging road-cum-rock garden!
A.L. Kennedy's FAQ


ALK: They’re the best I could do at the time. But no, I don’t like them. And it’s not part of my job description to even find them bearable."
Monday, August 14, 2006
Long essay on German photographer Hans-Peter Feldmann forthcoming in Fillip magazine. I'll post it here when the copy-correcting's done.
Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stolen pickup, 8th and Main. Piloted up Main at better than 70 miles an hour, narrowly missing a pedestrian I had been talking to less than five minutes before, and rammed into the decorative chain fence outside Architectural Antiques. Junkie Thief the driver and Junkie Thief Jr. the passenger leapt out, grabbed all their stolen loot from the cab, and ran like hell down 8th Avenue and into the alley behind the Lee Building, where they were boxed in by the VPD and numerous irate neighbors.

Anyone tempted to romanticize or dismiss Vancouver's totally out-of-control drug problem is welcome to work a shift at either shop, where you will repeatedly encounter obnoxious crackhead thieves, harmless but disfunctional crackheads and meth heads, and self-righteous long term heroin addicts as a basic part of your 8-hour day.

Smiley Faces

"He was the music of the last century."

Squonk 2.0

Toronto's Jennifer McMackon wastes no time in relaying this tale:

"When my older brother moved out of our parents' house to go to university, we spent a delirious weekend painting all his furniture Naples Yellow and then endowing it (to scale, ie. sides of bookshelves etc.) with creatures from Trick of the Tail.

I had it on eight track!"

An album I have loved (& still love) on cassette (2 copies), vinyl (3 copies), CD (regular; "definitive edition remaster") and assorted bootlegs since my teens. I own every Genesis album ever issued in some form or another (even the lame CD released by Ray Wilson-fronted Incarnation #3, after Dr. Evil departed for a solo career singing "sensitive" James Blunt-style ballads and scoring Disney soundtracks), but TOTT and its follow-up, Wind and Wuthering, are the only two I still listen to with pleasure.

Just for fun, Incarnation #1 of Strangest British Supergroup, featuring an even younger Dr. Evil, and a very young, very androgynous Peter Gabriel on vocals.

In Season, Out of Season

Today's Youtube: Squonk, an old guilty pleasure, the man soon to be reborn as Dr. Evil fronting this strangest of British supergroups.

In one hand bread, the other a stone
The hunter enters the forest...

Over my speakers, Sunday morning, the scent of tropical Vim Oxy Gel rising off the floor. Outside, quiet Main Street in the dusty August sunlight, still-curing curbs wrapped in red caution tape and pylons. The occasional car or bus bumping over the big steel plates in the road, covering the excavation the city's works crew dug across Broadway on Friday in preparation for a new sewer pipe or water main.

Class act 101: the city flagger who wandered into Cuppa Joe around noon on Friday, barged to the head of the five-person line, short-circuited complaints by holding up her big red reflective STOP sign, and ordered coffee to go.

Five cases of new books (60 linear feet!) cleaned and priced since Thursday, with the same amount again still waiting on the counter.
Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gato Barbieri -- his Last Tango in Paris filling the room
Kind words about the ghosts from Isola-di-Rifiuti's John Latta (ex- Rue Hazard, ex- Hotel Point), a fiercely independent poet, thinker, photographer:

"I am certain that 'seeing' is all, and that 'seeing ironically' is nearly, of late, all we do. Is it that before seeing occurs, a sort of interposing scrim must be present? (One scrim is 'irony,' another 'awe,' another 'beauty'? 'Scrim' is used to identify period, or fashion.) I keep thinking of Christopher Brayshaw’s photographs, a series called One Hundred Famous Ghosts. An unfinished series that begins with some unassuming pictures of the commonest urban dejecta, tossed off plastic shopping bags. Not prettify’d, not ironized, just undeniably made noticeable, 'seeable.'

One long weekend in New York City, I saw Brayshaw 'ghosts' everywhere—detritus made present—all, I think, one asks of art. (All art is able to do.)"

Raindust, 2006, by special guest photographer dru B. dru's Flickr photostream has lots more, plus copious frame-within-the-frame annotations. My current favorite: a rare shot of our friend Guy Edwards, now deceased, in his duct-taped pants, hacky-sacking a pile of orange autumn leaves.

Withdrawn From Circulation (2.0)

Staff member X inadvertently picks up yesterday's copy of Griffin and Sabine and attempts to sell it to a customer. A panicked-looking blur with Ralph Steadman eyes leaps between staff member and customer and repossesses the offending tome.

"What was that all about?" inquires X, not unreasonably, after the customer's departure. So the whole sad tale is told.

"What is it with that book?" X wonders, upon the tale's conclusion. "Griffin and Sabine is the devil!" Then, having been promised anonymity, recounts the following, even sadder tale:

X once dated a woman, Y, who broke X's heart. Early on in the relationship, Y gave X a copy of Griffin and Sabine, explaining, "I think you'll really like this." X did, at first. The book, by Canadian writer/illustrator Nick Bantock, consists of a series of lushly illustrated postcards and letters between two lovers, one of whom may or may not be the creation of the other's imagination. So far, so good...that is, until X opened one of the book's envelopes and found a typewritten letter to Y by Y's old boyfriend, Z. Heartbeat accelerating, X opened the next envelope. A handwritten poem by Z, to Y. And so on.

X's analysis of the proceedings: "Z gave Y this 'special' book; she said, 'Thanks baby,' put it on her shelf and never looked at it...till she gave it to me! It was a real watershed in the relationship."


ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): shitting one's pants while answering the phone.

At the store, during work hours.

Suggested course of action: don't ask. Seriously. Don't ask. And if you were planning some "industrial espionage" by crawling through Pulpfiction's mighty (locked) dumpster, you might want to give tonight a pass. Tomorrow's not looking too good, either.
Friday, August 11, 2006
"Critic's notes" handwritten in the inside front cover of a New Canadian Library paperback edition of Hubert Aquin's Next Episode:

"1. The earthquake note.

2. Getting rid of the dresses

3. A book of practical spells

4. Falcon."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Self Portrait (365 x 3)

Silly "trip-hop" soundtrack, but a pretty solid idea, and visually compelling all the way through.

Withdrawn from Circulation

Much amusement at the shop over the arrival of signed "gift" books, particularly those sporting long, heartfelt, and thoroughly cliched handwritten declarations of love on the flyleaf or the title page (Jonathan Livingston Seagull; Griffin and Sabine). So tonight, when an old flame arrived offering not one, but three Nick Bantock books for sale, I had the good sense to surripticiously check them all, quickly locating the embarrassing handwritten cliches, the all too familiar signature, and the inscription, "Valentine's Day 1992."

Lots of physical symptoms we won't dwell upon, followed by the growing conviction that the book in question is going back into circulation sometime shortly after hell freezes over.

(Update, having just re-read the offending passages with granular attention: flashes of the nascent "uninflected realism" the author would later inflict on the Internet's tubes and on the local visual arts community, plus great dollops of suffering purple prose. Not a total write-off, but, like I say, not for sale at Vancouver's Favorite Used Bookstore any time soon).

Untitled (Truman), 2006

D. in the approach gully, Mount Strachan. About 1000' of snow, loose rock, black flies, comparatively stable rock covered in slime and running water, mosquitoes, hellebore, wet blueberry bushes, wet krummholtz, miscellaneous biting insects, etc. A great half day out!
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
One of Our Submarines -- live Golden Age of Wireless track for those who somehow missed Mr. Dolby up until now. Computer drums, weird electronic effects reminiscent of radar noise from bad 1970s war pictures, the bleached-blonde synth-goth leaning over his keys.

Thomas Dolby, The Golden Age of Wireless, 1982. Purchased (cassette tape), also c.1982, at A&A Records in Park Royal's south mall, with money made by scavenging bottles, cans, and marine batteries out of the dumpsters at Thunderbird Marina.

Mancini -- an appreciation by Mr. Fagen

"Beatsters! My brothers in the subculture of the Early Resigned! Remember it now. You lie if you say you don’t. First, we’re enticed by a suspenseful, highly stylized teaser. And then we thrill to that driving boogie ostinato on bass, doubled in the lowest octaves of the piano and tripled by raunchily picked electric guitar, the same bar repeated throughout, never changing; the drummer is on auto-cook. Brass, voiced close and tight, plays the angular, blues-based theme. On the screen we see the title animation; a pseudo abstract expressionist canvas with cryptic, splattery forms pulsing in the foreground. Even then we may have suspected it was jive, but who cared? The titles, action-painted on top of all this, told us the show was created by Blake Edwards and that the music was by Henry Mancini."
ABC Funds' Irwin Michael interviewed by ROB TV
Received in the mail, verbatim:

"Dear Bookseller:

We have enclosed for your perusal some descriptive material regarding Divorce! But, on My Honeymoon! by Kelowna, British Columbia resident Joanne Kemila. This poignant book shares a personal struggle from ruin to reformation.

Having a newly published author in your local area presents unique opportunities to the bookstore. Foremost among them is the chance to invite the author in for an autograph signing. Such an event can only burnish your business as a cornerstone of the community's literary realm."
Today's playlist: Dusty Springfield, "Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa."

Oh, I was only twenty-four hours from Tulsa
Only one day away from your arms
I hate to do this to you
But I love somebody new
What can I do?
And I can never, never, never, go home again...
IRRITATING LOCAL ACID CASUALTY: Anne Rice...she builds universes like Isaac Asimov...should have stuck with vampires...zombies, mummies, Christianity...

CJB: Next time I see Anne, I'll take your critique up with her. Thanks for coming in.

ILAC: Okay, great! [exits]

ILAC: [popping head back through door] You were just kidding, right? You don't really know her?

CJB: Nope! Just "playfully flaunted irony."

ILAC: Just thought I'd check!

Walter Becker Blindfold Test, via Thomas, where today Mr. Dolby expressed interest in touring behind my pals. Needless to say, should this ever occur, I will be immediately booking time off work so as to be front and center at the shows. Mr. Dolby's "One of Our Submarines," "Flat Earth," and "Budapest By Blimp" have been an enormous influence on me, to say nothing of his goth-BDSM-nerd persona. Richie Rich with a lab coat, synthesizer, aviator goggles and black vinyl pants!

"EMERSON LAKE & PALMER: 'Promenade' (from Pictures at an Exhibition, Cotillion, 1972)

WB: At first I thought that was gonna be a power trio playing an instrumental version of 'Incense and Peppermints.' Then I realized it wasn't gonna be that, but I still wished it would've been, 'cause that would've been better than what it was: a ponderous series of unrelated minor triads played on an organ, then there was a solo played on a Moog synthesizer or some such piece of equipment. Not my cup of tea. Maybe it was Emerson, Lake & Palmer. One star."

2006 Summer Bloom of the Amorphophallus titanum "Corpse Flower"
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Bite & Burn
More art criticism, a brochure essay on Jason W.F. Fitzpatrick published by Toronto's Open Studio in June 2006.

Jason W.F. Fitzpatrick is a Vancouver-based sculptor and installation artist whose works evolve out his process-based reappraisals of minimal abstraction. Early minimal artists like Tony Smith, Carl Andre, and Richard Serra stressed their work’s kinship to the toiling bodies and hard physical labor required to realize sculptural objects from industrial materials like rolled aluminum or rusty Cor-ten steel. A performance like Serra’s
Splashing (1968), which consists of the artist aggressively tossing molten lead into the corner of a room, recalls Serra’s summers spent working in steel mills and shipyards, and the aggressive physicality such work requires. Serra’s performance materializes this energy not as the object of a disinterested, aestheticizing gaze, but as a process constantly in flux, which refuses to settle in any fixed or final form. Whereas the art of sculptors like Donald Judd and Andre luxuriates in the sensual aspects of industrial materials – the opalescent shine of polished brass or the hoarfrost patterns of brushed aluminum – Serra’s process-based abstraction relentlessly deflects attention from art’s materials to the mind that chose them, and the physical actions -- splashing; joining; gathering; scattering; binding -- that activate them as “art.”

Following Serra, Fitzpatrick’s art begins with the recognition that the artist’s body is just as much an art material as aluminum, Plexiglas, or molten lead. Fitzpatrick’s readings of minimal and process-based abstraction are also deeply informed by the thinking of the German artist and social philosopher Joseph Beuys, whose performances and “actions” employed unconventional sculptural materials – fat; felt; wax; honey -- as symbolic equivalents for the body.

For Bite & Burn, Fitzpatrick’s new exhibition at the Open Studio, the artist has constructed a small chamber out of plywood inside the gallery. Viewers cannot enter the chamber, but they can peer into it through spaces cut into its sides. For the exhibition’s opening, Fitzpatrick will enter the chamber, where a Toronto tattooist, specially commissioned for the occasion, will create an original design down the artist’s spine. Pain and blood are unavoidable byproducts of the tattooing process. During the session, “monoprints” made with a mix of tattoo ink and the artist’s blood will be taken directly from Fitzpatrick’s back. After the opening, the prints will remain in the gallery along with the unoccupied wooden chamber as Beuysian relics of the opening’s process-based performance, proof that his performance’s energy has not dissipated but changed.

Many decisions are contained in Fitzpatrick’s working process. Though made with unconventional materials, his “monoprints” are technically conservative artworks created through the application of a surface to a pigment emulsion, a process the artist can direct, but never entirely control. The unoccupied tattoo chamber can be seen as a minimal artwork in its own right, the equivalent of one of Carl Andre or Sol LeWitt’s serial constructions in plywood or fir. But Fitzpatrick’s aim in developing Bite & Burn is not to parody minimalism or process-based abstraction, but to deflect them, checking their formal and conceptual progress just as an athlete might by applying body English to a billiard or basket ball, thereby putting a new spin on things.

In Fitzpatrick’s hands, this straight forward process seems more unusual than it really is. Similar operations unfold all the time in film, music, and, needless to say, in social history, too, as purportedly “incompatible” versions of the same ideology meet, collide, and collapse…or, less often, mingle, as each form absorbs its other and carries that other within it, as a kind of trace, or psychic scar.

Artistic modernism has long been considered a “strong force” to be resisted at all costs. Strategies of resistance have been theorized at some length. Deleuze and Guattari’s allegory of the rhizome, a series of interlocking social networks dispersed into those historical cracks and crevices where modernism cannot easily penetrate, and Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo’s notion of “weak thought,” a kind of parodic thinking that deforms modernism from within like termite tunnels through a board, are two concepts that come to mind. Fitzpatrick takes a different tack, pitting two “strong” forms of sculptural modernism against each other, with the artist’s body the ground zero on which these forces meet and mingle.

In Fitzpatrick’s view, modernist abstraction and Beuys-esque social allegory turn out to have much more in common with each other than partisans of either form might be tempted to admit. Modernist abstraction has always been at pains to distinguish itself from popular culture – from tattooing; from the kind of ferociously loud growling guitar rock music that will serve as a backdrop for Fitzpatrick’s opening night performance. Similarly, Beuys’s admittedly rambling and pretentious invocations of German mythology and folk history have often seemed diametrically opposed to the formal and intellectual concision characterizing the work of modernist sculptors like Andre and Serra. To Fitzpatrick’s credit, his work effects a synthesis of these two ostensibly incompatible aesthetic positions, using his body as the ground on which this process unfolds.
Here Come Those Santa Ana Winds Again

Well I should know by now

That it's just a spasm
Like a Sunday in TJ
That it's cheap but it's not free
And that love's not a game for three...

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing)
: Frank's Chile 'n Lime

"FRANK'S® RedHot® Chile 'n Lime™ Hot Sauce is a party-hearty surge of flavor. A heat wave of chile and spice blended with a tangy burst of lime, it's a match made in hot sauce heaven."
Love Comes Quickly
Saturday, August 05, 2006

A 2CD mix for the office. CD1: Ms. Baxter's lushly orchestrated tunes. CD2: Kamakiriad. Sci-fi lullaby city, baby.
Someone writes to ask "why [I'm] not writing art criticism any more," and offers the unsolicited opinion that the criticism's better than the photographs. So here's a piece on Matilda Aslizadeh's video projection Office, recently published in Montreal's Etc. magazine.

On Office
By Christopher Brayshaw

Matilda Aslizadeh’s video projection Office is a slippery mix of forms: part narrative film; part projected “picture that moves,” a la Gillian Wearing or Sam Taylor-Wood; part succession of still, fractured images. It is also a totally engaging and satisfying art work. I think its success as art – its aesthetic success, in other words, the sense of visual and intellectual pleasure obtained from watching it -- is directly proportionate to the ways in which Aslizadeh deliberately mixes and hybridizes narrative and pictorial structures, blending them until any sense of being comfortably rooted in a conventional point of view is inverted, turned inside-out like a glove.

Disassembling structures does not mean relativizing their components. Aslizadeh is not interested “deconstructing” narrative or point of view per se, however much her subject – the repressed inner lives of the workers and managers at a ficticious American insurance company’s head office – seems to cry out for such an approach. Office succeeds because Aslizadeh repeatedly shifts the ways in which her narrative is told. She thereby implies compositional parallels between her video’s formal (pictorial and durational) structure and the broken, fractured and necessarily incomplete narratives that her characters tell themselves and each other. In this respect, her shifts of compositional and stylistic tone are not arbitrary, relative, or “postmodern,” but are deliberately tied to her characters’ psychological states. Aslizadeh’s stylistic shifts are expressive of her protagonists’ conflicted fragmented inner lives, an ostensibly stylistic avant-gardism -- what Aslizadeh calls “a visual language that owes much to the avant-garde traditions of distancing and radical breaks” – employed in the service of greater psychological realism.

Office’s 23-minute narrative traces the lives of a group of office workers and managers at Western Life, a ficticious American insurance company. While the company managers plot strategy and deliver speeches whose content seems largely derived from Jack Welch-style managerial how-to handbooks, the white collar workers argue, gossip and flirt with one another in between browbeating and cajoling clients into buying insurance packages that they seem to have no real need for. Most of the action takes place in around the offices, halls and courtyard of the Western Life head office, a geometrically precise cube of metal and glass surrounded by a lushly landscaped southern California garden. Nature is visible everywhere in Western Life’s offices: lush-leaved trees; bright flowers; pools and waterfalls along an exterior terrace; palm trees; the dappled patterns made by California sunlight falling through wind-stirred leaves. The nature imagery’s sense of organic integration – the way it brackets and contains the pictorially and psychologically fractured setpieces unfolding within the Western Life building’s rooms and hallways – implies that the office is a microcosm out of step with a larger world. Office life’s physical isolation from the integrated imagery and symbolism Aslizadeh associates with nature generates a corresponding psychological, or psychic, isolation among those who work and scheme there.

Aslizadeh increases the Western Life offices’ physical isolation by repeatedly fracturing and dividing her projection’s image plane. Sometimes two or three different narratives simultaneously unfold on the same screen, and while the characters appear to be in close physical proximity to one another they are actually further apart than they seem on screen, a point emphasized when they walk or reach “in” or “out” of one space, disappear for a while, then reappear, thereby calling attention to an implied, but visually unrepresented space between two or more narratives. As Aslizadeh observes in her director’s notes, “[such elements] declare that the world is transitory and arbitrarily organized.” At other times, these visual fractures present the same event from two or more points of view. For example, when an energetic but rhetorically challenged executive makes a strategic pitch to a circle of colleagues, Aslizadeh depicts the executive and his colleagues’ respective viewpoints on the same screen, so that as we study his nervous, energetic, and verbally leaden performance we also observe his colleagues’ bored, unimpressed and vaguely hostile assessment of his pitch.

Aslizadeh’s repeated fracturing and disintegration of the screen image is a metaphor for the psychological disintegration of her film’s characters. Aslizadeh implies that the conditions responsible for this disintegration are pervasive and pernicious, and that they infect not only her ficticious workers, but all of “western life.”

Aslizadeh’s thinking connects to a larger debate within western aesthetics that historian Peter Burger illustrates with reference to the work of philosophers Georg Lukacs and Theodor Adorno. Berger argues that Lukacs and Adorno disagreed about the significance of the avant-garde’s dismantling of the principle of of the organic unity of works of art. In Burger’s words, “[t]he man-made work of art that pretends to be like nature projects an image of the reconciliation of man and nature. According to Adorno, it is the characteristic of the non-organic work using the principle of montage that it no longer creates the semblance (Schein) of reconciliation.” Thus, for Adorno, “the avant-gardiste work is the only possible authentic expression of the contemporary state of the world.” Lukacs, on the other hand, “holds onto the organic work of art (‘realistic’ in his terminology) as an aesthetic norm and from that perspective rejects avant-gardiste works as decadent.”

Throughout Office, Aslizadeh depicts nature as organically unified, and “western life” as pervasively estranging. Yet the circumstances that prevent the reunification of nature and western culture are also those which, as Adorno foresaw, underwrite and guarantee the authenticity and aesthetic force of a project like Aslizadeh’s, whose pictorial and narrative dis-integration thereby allegorizes the real social conditions underpinning its creation. In this respect, Office is a project which, while it does not abide by the norms of narrative and pictorial unity typically associated with realist art, is nonetheless a form of critical realism, an authentically post-avant-gardist art that employs avant-gardiste strategies reflexively, in the service of a searching critique of the culture it emerged from.
Friday, August 04, 2006

John Tweed, 4 August 2006, 2006
J.M. Coetzee, "What is a Classic?":

"So we arrvive at a certain paradox. The classic defines itself by surviving. Therefore the interrogation of the classic, no matter how hostile, is part of the history of the classic, inevitable and even to be welcomed. For as long as the classic needs to be protected from attack, it can never prove itself classic.

One might venture even further along this road to say that the function of criticism is defined by the classic: criticism is that which is duty-bound to interrogate the classic. Thus the fear that the classic will not survive the decentering acts of criticism may be turned on its head: rather than being the foe of the classic, criticism, and indeed criticism of the most skeptical kind, may be what the classic uses to define itself and ensure its survival. Criticism may in that sense be one of the instruments of the cunning of history."
Thursday, August 03, 2006
That almost imperceptible change in the light that says, "Fall." The coolish breeze through the balcony door at dawn. The dusty sky. A sky the color of the unwatered boulevard along King Edward Avenue!

The store ticking along, books in, books out. A stack of lightjet prints to appraise. UBC MFA Robert Niven's exhibition of sculptures and painted objects, opening tonight at CSA Space, #5 - 2414 Main Street, above the bookstore, 7-9pm. Y'all come!

Just finished: Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem

Just started: Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This Time

A deeply obscure B-side (1997), a song that lightens me, lofted high this morning over the bridge, dusty August sunlight through the window, NYT in my lap.
Peg #1 (1977) -- composition, vocal phrasing, etc. "I like your pick-cha..." Nb. numerous weary session players!

Peg #2 (post-2000) -- impromptu instrumental, Jon Harrington solo
Ride Like The Wind -- just another day for the hardest-working yacht rocker of them all (thx Pete!)

Untitled (Drain), 2006

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