Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wettest November on Record (Vancouver Province headline, glimpsed in a coin box)

A full-on case of flu. Chills, throwing up, deep-seated ache in my neck, cold feet, the works. Today's plan to go play in the snow with D. was quickly scrubbed in favor of lying huddled in a blanket in front of the electrical heater, moaning occasionally and trying to do something resembling "sleep."

Tonight's clear sky has frozen the damp streets into sheets of ice. Cars and people, skittering about like water drops in an overheated pan.

Back soon!
Anodyne, Inc.

Cash distribution today!

Dominion Citrus Income Fund (DOM.UN) .01/unit x 12,346 units = $123.46

Cash balance, $653.07

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor:

"Critics of the value approach to stock investment argue that listed common stocks cannot properly be regarded or appraised in the same way as an interest in a similar private enterprise, because the presence of an organized security market 'injects into equity ownership the new and extremely important attribute of liquidity.' But what this liquidity really means is, first, that the investor has the benefit and changing appraisal of his [sic] holdings, for whatever that appraisal may be worth, and, second, that the investor is able to increase or descrease his investment at the market's daily figure -- if he chooses. Thus the existence of a quoted market gives the investor certain options that he does not have if his security is unquoted. But it does not impose the current quotation on an investor who prefers to take his idea of value from some other source."

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (39), 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Protect Your Store From Sketchy Book Thieves!

"'In-store ownership' is a popular shoplifting technique among students. While you're not looking, I remove the price tag from the book I want, then scribble my name on the fly-leaf. Time permitting, I might use a highlighter on a page or two. Perhaps I'll artificially age the book by cracking its spine and giving the cover dog-ears. By the time I make my exit, the book appears well-used. Was I supposed to leave it at the counter when I entered your store? Sorry, I didn't see the sign. I'm distracted by exams. I've lost my glasses. I'm in love. Anyway, this is obviously my book, as you can see from all the personal touches. So long, sucker."
Q: If I dig a very, very deep hole straight down from my office through the earth, where do I end up?

A: Glub, glub, glub! (Underwater, in the Southern Ocean)

Cat's Cradle. Representations of Sky, Clear and Cloudy

Snow still dumping down. Vancouver drivers staring up to heaven, amazed at this strange sight, while their vehicles climb the curb, sideswipe the boulevard trees, execute lazy 180 degree spins into the oncoming lanes, or turn turtle, completely blocking the downtown exit from the bridge and backing up traffic for miles....I drove home from near UBC late last night, only to discover, once downtown, that I could no longer turn the steering wheel to the left without the steering wheel and the right hand AWD wheel vibrating like a 747 coming apart in midair. Hmm. I drove pretzel-shaped patterns through downtown's lanes, then finally had the sense to park, climb out, and knock 15 pounds of packed snow out from the wheel well and around the brake pads with the trashed old hockey stick I keep in the back seat for just that purpose.

Arctic air moving in behind the snow; it's supposed to be -10C tonight! "Wind warning in effect," & etc. I was careful not to park under trees.

Snow families all along Cornwall Avenue by the beach. A line-up of snow people waiting at the bus stop, including a realistically rendered snow cat with a Cheshire grin and a huge white tail.

Bernadette's little girl in her stroller, passing by yesterday with her parents at twilight, waving her hands in the air, delighted, oblivious to all the pandemonium.

Mr. Al Green on the deck, powder snow sliding off the shop's awning, "slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn."
Sunday, November 26, 2006

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): YouTube user review of Shipwrecked, the "hit single" from the short-lived, Ray Wilson-fronted incarnation of World's Strangest British Supergroup:

"Nice song and video. But it just doesn't seem like a Genesis song. It's like a kid at vocals and his dad and uncle at guitar and keyboards playing a alternative song."

(Shipwrecked video not linked to, and if you're bored or curious enough to find it on your own, you'll soon see why)

Niche Marketing's Finest Hour!

"This album is a mesmerizing and serene take on the kind of quirky, romantic songs that the Cure helped make famous. If only tonight we could sleep as soundly as your child will after hearing these interpretations of The Cure."

Inspecting the weather. Courtesy guest photographer Don King.

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Roy Ayers' Mystic Voyage

Snow still falling, vibes a-tinklin', hot chocolate sippin', customers not in evidence.

A picture by New York photographer Jerry Shore, profiled in this week's New Yorker by staff writer Adam Gopnik, and accompanied by an image slideshow. I'm not totally sold on Shore's work -- the image above being a notable exception, a picture I'd be proud to make -- but Gopnik's contextualization of Shore's practice made me, reading in bed at 4 a.m., with the cats propped up nearby, listening to a mixture of snow and freezing rain landing outside on the balcony in the dark, sit instantly upright and alert. Gopnik's is one of the better non- artworld insider essays I've read on photography, and the paragraphs reproduced below are as accurate a description of the "conceptual impulse"(s) behind my own pictures as any I've ever found.

Adam Gopnik:

"Shore’s photography is, to use the ever-reductive language of art criticism, an attempt to reconcile the subject matter of the New York school of black-and-white street photography of the fifties—the love of the overlooked, the stray, the strange, the gutter, and the slummy—with the high finish and compositional poise of the Meyerowitz-Eggleston school of color photography. His own ambitions for his photographs seem to have been almost purely formal and even abstract: though he was always on the streets, he never saw himself as a documentary street photographer, in the familiar Eugene Richards sense. His attention was devoted to space and color and form. And, to be sure, it is the organization of the pictures that first strikes one—what was called, in formalism’s rosier days, their interpenetrating planes and surprising deep space.

But it’s the descriptive bits of the pictures which register most strongly. Dignity opens the door to sadness. Just as each Atget façade is a study in shape and space and gleaming particulate light but is also about a Paris that was passing, or stilled, so in Shore the will to memorialize the commonplace mirrors our own sense of how things we love get lost, and can be recalled only in pictures."

Later, Gopnik offers further criteria of his own for judging and evaluating Shore's work, which I reproduce without comment, because I'm still trying to decide what larger implications they have for contemporary photographic practice:

1. "[A] city, so recognizable that sight alone becomes a kind of love, is opened up before us in these pictures. The peeling billboards and the plastic bags are all registered, as a camera can register things, neither as subjects, made emotional by the artist’s will, nor as objects, emptied of meaning at the artist’s whim. They’re just there, as uncontroversial as crabgrass."

2. "The sense of things ugly in themselves—ugliness registered not defiantly but passively, as if nothing could be truly ugly—filled his work."
Saturday, November 25, 2006

"It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight." (J. Joyce)

Tom Waits' Early Years v.2 on the deck, Glenlivet in a plastic cup, big white flakes slowly end-over-ending in the pumpkin-colored light outside the shop's front door.

"The beginner should be cautious when handling a crab since the pinch of the powerful claws can be extremely painful. (The inexperienced crabber should probably wear thick gloves). Always approach from the rear when picking up a crab. An experienced crabber can quickly grab the base of one of its swimming legs while holding the claws down with some object. Should a crab get a hold on a finger, it is usually best not to pull it off. First, try letting it hang; many times the crab will release and drop. If the crab will not release, use the free hand to immobilize the other claw and slowly bend the offending claw backward until the crab releases it." (Received wisdom hauled up from the intenets' depths)

"It's all oobleck out there!" (Overheard, totally decontextualized, in the Kingsgate Mall BCLDB lineup)
Friday, November 24, 2006
OK, it's official as of ten minutes ago: Michelina, With Pictures, a children's fantasy novel written by yours truly and illustrated by Jamie Tolagson, will be published by Vancouver's Simply Read Books in spring 2008. Launch party at Pulpfiction, natch.
A Google Keyword Search That Somehow Inexplicably Directed Someone Here

"Cervical spondylotic myelopathy cartoon" -- via an Egyptian IP address, no less!

Kayaking the North Shore's Capilano River, via today's NYT. One of my favorite afternoon-out-of-the-store trails is visible on the canyon rim at upper left.

"The Capilano, which serves as a natural boundary between North and West Vancouver, is named for Joe Capilano, the great 19th-century chief of the Squamish tribe of the Coast Salish, who led expeditions to explore area mountains and valleys.

Some of the Capilano’s canyons feature rock faces 200 feet high. A few majestic cedars and Douglas firs stretch 300 feet skyward. Cable Pool is the nearest landmark under a footbridge connecting the Coho Loop Trail, part of a system of walkways amid the towering evergreens in the Capilano River Regional Park."
Catching Signals That Sound in the Dark

Over the Cambie Bridge near dawn, the Legacy coughing and laboring, snow on the mountains, snow forecast down in the city tomorrow, the gruesomely enthusiastic radio DJ on my clock radio still echoing in my ears: "It's six a.m., and here's all the news you need! The weather sucks, the water sucks, the economy sucks, and the Canucks suck!"

Boil water advisory in place until Tuesday! But tomorrow I suppose we can simply melt snow, instead of turning on the tap.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Then, on a distant slope,
He observed one without hope
Flee back up the mountainside
He thought he recognised him by his walk
And by the way he fell
And by the way he
Stood up, and vanished into air

(More mid-80s footage of Strangest British Supergroup Ever, occasioned by the news that they're reforming the 80s-and-90s trio version (Banks, Rutherford, Dr. Evil) to play a string of European shows in summer 2007)

William S. Burroughs' slow gravelly drawl:

"The ancient Egyptians postulated seven souls.

Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that's where Ren came in.

Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power. Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons.

Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she or it is third man out...depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and a head of light. The sort of thing you might see on a screen in an Indian restaurant in Panama. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense - but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go back to Heaven for another vessel. The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the land of the dead.

Number four is Ba, the Heart, often treacherous. This is a hawk's body with your face on it, shrunk down to the size of a fist. Many a hero has been brought down, like Samson, by a perfidious Ba.

Number five is Ka, the double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead to the Western Lands.

Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives.

Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains."


Safeway parking lot, 71st and Granville. Not Seattle. Awoke at 7 a.m. to patches of blue sky, light cloud, brisk west wind. Back to bed. Re-awoke at 11 a.m. Phoned rental company. No cars 'til noon! Peeked through the blinds: steel-grey sky, rain thrashing down. Passport, US$, overnight gear, CDs, carefully annotated Seattle-Tacoma mapbook. Coffee, NYT, brief excursion to visit Gavin at Book & Comic Emporium. Gavin scarcely visible behind a mound of recent trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks.

GAVIN: Day off?

CJB: Yep.

GAVIN: Where're you heading?

CJB: Seattle.

GAVIN [indicating books]: You know Skip [owner of Book & Comic Emporium] was there yesterday, right?

CJB: &@$#%*!!!

Off through the rain to Expensive Car Rental Chain. Customers lined up eight deep at the counter.


CJB: Hi. I'd like to rent a vehicle.

RENTAL CLERK: For which day?

CJB: Today. Right now. Pronto!

RENTAL CLERK [indicating crowd]: See all these folks? It's American Thanksgiving. We're kind of strapped for cars right now. But I can offer you this nice SUV!

CJB: I was actually hoping for an energy-efficient vehicle. Like a Corolla, or a Focus.

RENTAL CLERK: The SUV rents for $124.95/day, plus kilometers.

CJB: How much to fill it up?

RENTAL CLERK: Oh, $100 should cover it.

CJB: &@$#%*!!!

RENTAL CLERK [totally oblivious]: There's even a flatscreen on the back of the passenger seat!
Posting via wireless, waiting patiently at Expensive Car Rental Chain. Meanwhile, someone writes to draw my attention to the following:

"M. JOHN HARRISON: I found this quote from Zadie Smith on the excellent Anodyne blog at --- 'But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, "I should sit here and I should be entertained." And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you.'

Though I would normally, as a matter of principle, disagree with ZS over anything, even an established fact like, say, the distance to the Sun from the Earth; and while I may not agree with all the implications the word 'skill' has in her argument; I'm embarassed to find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with this. A book spends only a short part of its life being written into existence; it spends the greater part being read into existence. Every reading --every 'performance' --is a creative misreading, a misappropriation. I don't just welcome that; I often write to encourage it. As far as I'm concerned we aren't talking about photocopying here, or player-piano, or a computer running a programme: we're looking at something much more like the expression of genetic code."

It's pouring rain again, and the rental queue is approximately eight deep, but my day just seriously brightened. Thanks, MJH!

Jeff Wall, Rear View, Open Air Theatre, Vancouver, 2005

It's a Toyota AWD white wagon!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Larry McMurtry quote on the wall above my desk: "The fact that, for twenty-six or twenty-seven days each month, I lead an intense life as an antiquarian bookman -- on the sorting floor all day, unboxing, pricing, sorting, and responding to the public's endless curiosity about Lonesome Dove--in part explains the brevity and intensity of my drives. I don't want to be gone from the bookshop long, but three or four days on the road, just looking and moving, isn't long. Working with books always relaxes me, but the books bring people, and people are a mixed bag; there comes a point at which I want to be away, drive somewhere, see some sky--"

So, on the road south for a few days, accompanied by Mr. Pynchon, Mr. Lovecraft, and the usual collection of anywhere-from-the-mid-70s-to-early-00s tunes, an unearthly mix of soul, funk, disco, yacht rock, & Britpop, all but guaranteed to drive unsuspecting passengers round the bend. "How many different versions of Green Earrings are there, anyway?" Well, the studio track on The Royal Scam; the live track on Alive in America; the acoustic version on the Marian McPartland radio show; the 3 different 2006 shows supplied by Internet penpals and burned straight to CD....Passengers run screaming like extras in Burroughs' Nova Trilogy: "Godsake don't let it take me alive!"

Forty-eight hours on the road through grey November rain, the blower on the dashboard sweeping warm air across my face. The smell of rain, the low fields along the Skagit inundated with water. Flooded pastures, and occasionally an unhappy-looking horse or cow. Offramps: gas stations, motels, diners whose decor and menus haven't visibly changed since 1965. Chicken-fried steak, a scoop of chalk-white mashed potato, mixed frozen vegetables, "salad" composed of iceberg lettuce, dressing (ranch; Thousand Island), and croutons. A stoneware mug of hot but watery coffee. Lemon pie, a wedge cut from a bigger pie in the reflecting case behind the counter, or an individually plated portion covered with cling wrap. The motion of the waitress' arm absurdly birdlike as she removes the wrap from the plate, an "unthought gesture" beautiful in its own way.

Lake Washington's floating bridges, Stephen Morrissey or the Smiths somehow appropriate for the sensation of taking flight over water. The oncoming traffic with its headlights on. The tidal slough in Everett by the freeway; the logs stacked beside the sawmill; yellow folklifts trundling to and fro under the lumber yard's big, bright lights. Thrift-store interiors, the in-house stereo system inevitably playing the Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, Toto, or Foreigner. Fellow booksellers, most glad to see me. Leaning on the end of the big wooden counter at Magus Books while my purchases are tallied, trading gossip and watching one of the staff buy a stack of recent trade fiction from the last scout of the day. Outside, darkness and rain, a few UW students hurrying past. The UW Bookstore bright and quiet like Spielberg's mother ship. Down a block, in the alley by the Allegro Cafe, a restless queue for the food bank, men and women in dark clothes. No umbrellas, heads bowed against the torrential rain, some with pack sacks or shoulder bags: ripped, patched, soaked through. Inside the cafe, just out of sight of the line-up, students on their laptops: term papers, IM chat, Internet poker. The screens' light reflected in the cafe's big windows, which in turn reflect the wind and rain outside.

Jonathon Keats' First Intergalactic Art Exhibition

"The discovery of artwork from beyond the solar system did not come as a surprise to Keats, who has frequently collaborated with scientists across multiple disciplines. 'It's a familiar story,' he says. 'Researchers expect intelligent life elsewhere in the universe to behave just like them. Since scientists are mathematical, they expect extraterrestrials to broadcast the digits of pi or the Pythagorean theorem.'

Keats began seriously to question the wisdom of these assumptions while conducting independent research early last year. 'If I were an extraterrestrial trying to communicate with beings elsewhere in the universe, I certainly wouldn't transmit something they already knew,' he argues. 'I'd try to express something about myself, as profound as possible, in the most universal language I could imagine: I'd send art.'"

Rain again tonight, and, just to switch things up, a cold wind that whips the rain before it, spattering the awning, the sidewalk sign, the sodden boxes of paper-mache formerly known as the bargain mass market paperbacks. The fifth? sixth? day of the GVRD's boil-water alert, Mike Love singing along in ironic counterpoint:

Suntanned bodies
waves of sunshine
California girls
and a
beautiful coastline
Warmed-up weather
Let's get together and
Do it again...

"At last we had encountered an outpost of the great unknown continent and its cryptic world of frozen death." (HPL, above)
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When my beard first appeared, age thirteen or so, it announced itself as two little symmetrical patches on my jawbone, just slightly left and right of my chin. For as long as I can remember, those patches have always grown in like kudzu. So yesterday, when I missed shaving the left hand patch, there was a quarter inch of stubble on my jaw by sunset. White stubble. I ran my fingers across it, thinking, How did I end up with paper stuck to my face? And then, when that possibility's plausibility was exhausted, concluded, Shit! I'm an old man!
Monday, November 20, 2006

ART ENTHUSIAST: Can I look at that book? [The Tangled Garden: The Art of J.E.H. MacDonald, 1st edition HC/DJ, NF/NF, 1978, $49.95]

CJB: Sure!

ART ENTHUSIAST [flipping pages]: Was he one of the Magnificent Seven?

CJB: Something like that, yeah.
Sunday, November 19, 2006

Untitled, 2006
Today's soundtrack: Yo La Tengo, Almost True

Zadie Smith, trawled from somewhere deep in the internets' trenches: "But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, 'I should sit here and I should be entertained.' And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you."
Something about In Front of a Nightclub nagged at me the longer I looked at it, some alteration from the physical site. I know that pictures are inventions and don't neccessarily correspond to reality, but I was interested to see what the change was, and, if possible, to figure out why it had been made. So, downtown late night in the pouring rain, through puddles, police roadblocks, and hooting drunk suburban nightclub crawlers, to conduct some basic "compositional analysis."

The camera faces north by northeast. In reality, the space beyond the furthest left-hand pillar of the nightclub is the blank black wall of the Granville Rock Shop (concert tees; lighters; bongs). The video surveillance camera and the budget pizza awning are actually located to the right (south) of the nightclub, outside the camera's POV. So the picture is a composite of two different views of the location, one "documentary," one "mirror-reversed," and the surveillance camera's lens points to the vertical seam between them.
Saturday, November 18, 2006

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (38), 2006

Jeff Wall, In Front of a Nightclub, 2006. From a new exhibition of photographs at Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris. Exhibition available online through 9 December 2006. Rear View, Open Air Theatre, Vancouver, 2005, and the underutilized bus stop directly in front of 1082 Granville, above, are pretty useful, but the best pictures are Basin In Rome #1, 2005, and A Woman Consulting a Catalogue, also 2005. The low-rez thumbnail images on the Marian Goodman site enlarge nicely when clicked.

Untitled (Meter), 2006
A Tsunami in the Coast Range

Someone writes to accuse me of dramatic exaggeration.

Via brother dru the geoscientist and industry professional [italics mine]:

"MoFR [BC Ministry of Forests staff] told me Foley Creek was really hit hard by the last storm. Landslides came down into Foley Lake and made a tsunami (!) and Foley Creek jumped its banks below Airplane [Creek] and now runs where the Foley road used to be. Airplane bridge is completely washed away. No access to Foley Creek above Chilliwack Bench turnoff for the foreseeable future. Ling Lake, Welch Peak, Williamson Lake etc. will all be more difficult to access for the forseeable future. This will be an expensive road to reconstruct."

Via BCMoFR website: "Chilliwack-Foley Creek FSR [Forest Service Road]: This road is closed at 0.0km due to flood damage."
Friday, November 17, 2006
Today's soundtrack: Talking Heads' Stay Hungry, all jittery guitar and Eno keyboard flourishes...

Here's that rhythm again.
Here's my shoulder blade.
Here's the sound I made.
Here's the picture I saved.
Here I am....
Two Million Told: Don't Drink the Water (Vancouver Sun headline)

Rain (surprise!) again, this morning's deluge turning the West End's slippery back lanes into a maze of irrigation canals. Yellow leaves reflected under a foot and a half of rainfall. Lane Lake's placid surface punctured by raindrops punching into the water like bullets. The parking lot at Main and Broadway just one big sheet of liquid, draining sideways into a new storm drain, around which the city crew's recently and loosely packed gravel has eroded and been unceremoniously dumped out onto Broadway, an alluvial plane crisscrossed by tire tracks and sodden pedestrians leaping into the road to avoid the white sluice of run-off toward the distant drain.

A bad smell in the bathroom. The water in the toilet bowl brown and rank. I held my nose and flushed, and an even stinkier sample came swirling in to replace it. I took the lid off the tank and gagged, thinking someone had shat in it. But no: just "turbidity" caused by landslides, tsunami waves, etc. unfolding in the drenched mountains. Reliable reports of fish exiting the local mocha-colored rivers ASAP, willing to learn to fly and take their chances overhead.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Recent reading:

Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9-11
Christopher Browne, The Little Book of Value Investing
M. John Harrison, Nova Swing

Working late, copying out paragraphs of Nova Swing in longhand, trying to slow the sentences down far enough to see how they're constructed. Eg.,

"A sun-diver like the Saucy Sal was more mathematics than substance. It didn't really know what to be, and without an active pilot interface would revert instantly to a slurry of nanotech and smart carbon components, a few collapsing magnetic fields. It was in the class of emergent artifacts, a neurosis with an engine. You don't so much fly your hyperdip as nurse it through a programme of dynamic self-reinvention. You have to tell it a story about itself."


"The call was short, and it prompted Vic to open a drawer from which he took out two objects wrapped in rag. One was a gun. The other was harder to describe -- Vic sat by the window in the fading light, unwrapping it thoughtfully. It was about eighteen inches long, and as the rag came off it seemed to move. That was an illusion. Low-angle light, in particular, would glance across the object's surface so that for just a moment it [would] seem to flex in your hands. It was half bone, half metal, or perhaps both at the same time; or perhaps neither.

He had no idea what it was. When he found it, two weeks before, it had been an animal, a one-off thing no one but him would ever see, white, hairless, larger than a dog, first moving away up a slope of rubble somewhere in the event site, then back towards him as if it had changed its mind and become curious about what Vic was. It had huge human eyes. How it turned from an animal into the type of object he finally picked up, manufactured out of this wafery artificial substance which in some lights looked like titanium and in others bone, he didn't know. He didn't want to know."
Bookstore cliche city: my charcoal grey zip-up turtleneck sweater mirroring the morning sky and the black trees along the North Shore slopes; Chet Baker on the deck; little whorls and eddies of steam from the surface of my cup of jasmine tea.

Evidence of Christmas approaching: the once-or-twice-a-year-every-November-and-December-like-clockwork call: "Any signed Tolkeins?"

A line-up of vendors six deep at the counter.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dario Robleto, Texas sculptor, "neoconceptual artist" and material poet. The Nascanti would love this guy!

"So far to date, amazingly, there’s never been a material that I haven’t somehow been able to track down. It’s a really strange process because - swamp root, cramp bark, white willow - it just has to sound right. It has to work on the page first. The chain of reasoning will often lead me to find things I hadn’t thought of before like the trinitite glass led me to other forms of really strange glass. Certain meteorites have led me to extraterrestrial lava. Some asteroids are large enough that they produce some internal heat which produces an active lava system. If they’re not big enough to form a legitimate atmosphere, when those volcanoes erupt, it just spews out into space, there’s nothing to hold it back and it can eventually find its way onto earth. It’s lava from another world! I couldn’t even imagine that such a thing existed until I had done the research on other things. 'Extraterrestrial lava,' the way those syllables work next to each other has to satisfy me as much as the material itself."
In a strangely typo-filled review (Tefahuchi?), the Guardian's John Clute nails the conceptual motor behind M. John Harrison's intricately constructed sentences:

"There are moments of high science fiction action, beautifully sustained by Harrison through the side of his mouth; and when we gain access to the interior of the site, we begin to get the point of Harrison's sometimes stiff style - a gnarly clarity of diction as much like 'ordinary' science fiction writing as the language of Peter Carey's The Unusual Life of Tristram [sic] Smith resembles a travelogue - because that style is deeply devotional to the perceived world."

(Alternate by-the-numbers Independent review here, either machine-written or transcribed from dust jacket copy, noting but not further explicating the trademark style, its "precise images...")
OK, more complaining about the apocalypse outside:

Dark by 3:20 p.m. Gusts of wind stripping the last few leaves from Main Street's trees. Solid, steady rain soaking the awning and bargain table. The lights continuously flickering but not actually having the courtesy to go off and let me leave for the day. Sporadic customers, 100% saturated and alternately grouchy or shell-shocked. Stunned-looking crackheads, shopping cart trundlers, and fake $20 passers streaming up the hill, toward higher ground. I draped my soaked canvas coat over the office radiator, where it promptly formed the indoor equivalent of tule fog.
Anodyne, Inc.

Cash distribution today!

Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN) : .20/unit x 746 units = $149.20.

Cash balance, $529.61.

I am tagging all the Anodyne, Inc. posts with Blogger's new labels so value-minded readers can find them without having to wade through weather reports, bad science fiction, mountaineering trips, stuffed animals, manic-depressive behavior, tales of retail hell, and weird-ass photographs of West Coast garbage.

[Prompt edit: No I'm not. The Blogger labels look like visual Tourette's on the current layout. Punching "Anodyne Inc." into the searchbox at the top of the page seems to work just fine, though]
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

This morning's surprise: approximately 600 missing email messages. Scheduled on my own for six hours and unable to lock myself in the office with the misbehaving box, I gamely reinstalled Thunderbird, built a new user profile, stewed all afternoon, and then, at 8:01 p.m., with the door locked against the wind and intermittent rain, sat down and tried to puzzle out the problem:


Where were the reams of pithy correspondence from collaborators, interlocuters, photo critics, muses & long-suffering editors?

C:\Documents and Settings\user\ApplicationData\Thunderbird\Profiles\[HIDDEN VALUE].default\Mail\Local Folders

Create folder. Select all. Copy to. Move to. Uninstall Thunderbird. Reinstall. Create new user profile. Migrate data. Repeat, repeat, repeat.


All the old folders simultaneously blinked back into existence.

A rare moment of pure satisfaction, the coach class passenger who got called up to the cockpit when the pilot and co-pilot died and everyone else on board came down with food poisoning, the mechanically clueless critic who piloted the lumbering plane down the Fraser Valley through the clouds, out over the ocean, dumped fuel, banked the plane, dropped the wheels, hit the glide path at the right angle, put the plane on the runway, and didn't even graze the terminal as he brought the aircraft to a gentle, graceful stop.

In the event that this fantastic voyage

Should turn to erosion and we never get old

Remember it's true, dignity is valuable

But our lives are valuable, too.

We're learning to live with somebody's depression

And I don't want to live with somebody's depression

We'll get by, I suppose....


Via Environment Canada:

"Tonight another strong but complex storm system will sweep across the south west corner of BC. Southerly winds will increase this evening. South or southeast winds will likely continue to increase to 50 to 80 km/h in the Greater Vancouver area early on Wednesday morning. Winds will likely ease somewhat later on Wednesday morning and then shift to northwest winds of 40 to 60 km/h during the afternoon. During this time, rain, heavy at times, will begin to fall late this evening and then ease off late on Wednesday morning. The highest amounts will be along the mountains with 24 hour rainfall amounts of 60 to 120mm."
Monday, November 13, 2006

Packing Internet orders late into the night, Tennant & Lowe keeping time. A cold front moving through, a brief respite from rain. Wind, too, enough to make me turn up my collar and join the big brass buttons that fasten the collar's canvas ends together. pictures: digging out a car in Coquihalla Pass; snowshoeing up Seymour; carrying a pair of ancient skis up the McKay Creek trail through dark trees; through vertical sleet; through snowflakes floating down like splotches of paint on a Sigmar Polke photograph. Winter's here!

Neil Tennant sings:

And clumsy as I felt

At stumbling on this theft

To save further embarrassment

I made my excuses and left

and I pull another packslip from the printer, pop it in the front of the book, swaddle it in bubble wrap, seal the envelope, attach the postage label, the customs label, complete the customs manifest, and drop -- gently place! -- the parcel alongside its outbound sisters and brothers. Grab the next book, repeat...

(Grouse Mountain snowpack courtesy legendary coastal hardman Ted Oliver)

Porn Set Diary

Livejournal kept by one of the shop's regulars, Robin Bougie, publisher of Cinemasewer magazine, and (more recently), producer and jack-of-all trades on a low-budget, Biblically-themed porn film, The Cumming of Jizzus. Ultra low-budget set dec by Robin's talented cartoonist wife Rebecca Dart (q.v. numerous previous entries on Rebecca's Rabbithead, one of my favorite comics ever and the subject of my most recent attempt at "comics criticism"). Not work safe, but deeply fascinating, particularly for its weird pictorial juxtapositions, ie., multiple cock shots vs. Rebecca's little white paper cutout nursery-school clouds.
Sunday, November 12, 2006

ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): The VIP line

Late night Main Street, renewed monsoon outside, Mr. Petty on the deck....
It's good, folks!

"Liv Hula sometimes watched the rockets too.

Near dawn, you got her and the fat man standing by the window together as two tubby brass-looking freighters lifted from the corporate yard. Then a K-ship exited the military pits on the hard white line from its fRAM engine. In the backwash of light a warmer expression came on her face than you would expect. By then the Kefahuchi Tract had begun to fade from the sky, which was tilted like a lid to show one thin eastern arc of pale green, false dawn. Offshore winds would come up soon and, forced along the narrow pipe of Straint Street, churn the low-lying fogs of the event site."

Live From the Sea of Stone (via WG Blog)

"A desolate ocean, grey now under a deathly white, rolling with enormous force, but still with no life upon it apart from these two ships, now dismasted and tossing like paper boats on a millstream. They were at some distance from one another, both apparently wrecks, floating but out of control: beyond them, to windward, a newly-arisen island of black rock and cinders. It no longer shot out fire, but every now and then, with an enormous shriek, a vast jet of steam leapt from the crater, mingled with ash and volcanic gases. When Jack first saw the island it was a hundred and eighty feet high, but the rollers had already swept away great quantities of the clinker and by the time the sun was clear of the murk not fifty feet remained."

(Image: crew of the yacht Maiken; text Patrick O'Brian, The Wine-Dark Sea)
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now -- well, I was, up until 10:19 a.m., when someone started repetitively knocking on the (locked) front door.

Customers? The bailiff? Nope, just a soaked Canada Postperson, with a special express air parcel delivery from the UK (4 copies, hardback), a nice jumpstart to this rainy grey Sunday.
Saturday, November 11, 2006

Recent reading:

Diana Wynne Jones, Witch Week
Randall B. Woods, LBJ: Architect of American Ambition

The best children's book I've read since Gaiman and McKean's Coraline, and an 1100 page political biography. More to say about both shortly. And for those who still go to multiplex movies, Christopher Nolan's The Prestige is a lovely stew of Dickensian atmosphere (as in Charles, not Philip K.), gothic intrigue, cascading plot reversals, and Tesla technology. Ryan Aronofsky was in tonight's audience at the Paramount on Burrard, and apparently enjoyed himself as much as I.
Friday, November 10, 2006
In Moonsoonland

Raining hard enough this morning to drive the drops back up off the pavement, like water skittering in the bottom of a hot pan. My day off, natch. Impossible to make pictures in almost zero light and 100% humidity; just taking the Nikon out of my pocket filmed the viewscreen with condensation. Mountaineering, photography, road trip to Bellingham or Seattle? Not today. Laundry, apartment rearranging, Arthur Ransome, E. Nesbit, The Little Book of Value Investing? Check, check, check.

Gore Vidal on Nesbit, from his NYRB essay:

"I do not think it is putting the case too strongly to say that much of the poverty of our society's intellectual life is directly due to the sort of books children are encouraged to read. Practical books with facts in them may be necessary, but they are not everything. They do not serve the imagination in the same way that high invention does when it allows the mind to investigate every possibility, to free itself from the ordinary, to enter a world where paradox reigns and nothing is what it seems to be; properly engaged, the intelligent child begins to question all presuppositions, and thinks on his [sic] own. In fact, the moment he says, wouldn't it be interesting if…? he is on his way and his own imagination has begun to work at a level considerably more interesting than the usual speculation on what it will be like to own a car and make money."

(Not that speculating about making one's fortune doesn't have a creative and/or an imaginative component, adds this early admirer of Uncle Scrooge and his Duckburg money bin, now departing into the storm with a cup of coffee and Clarke, Inc.'s annual report).

Untitled (Stelco), 2006. Anthropomorphism; allegory; coded art-historical references.
Thursday, November 09, 2006

Untitled (Repent), 2006. For John Latta, the Ann Arbor-based poet and critic recently turned digital photographer.

Some years ago, I attended a Don DeLillo reading in Seattle, then waited patiently in line with a well-loved hardcover copy of Mao II for a signature and some simulacrum of "conversation." Conscious of the massive crowd queued behind me (sharpie book dealers bearing mint stacks of Underworld; grad students; Kennedy assassination theorists; the insane) I struggled to reduce what I wanted to convey to DDL to telegram syntax. What finally emerged was, "Thanks for your book. It made me look really closely at Warhol's work, and see it in a new way." And it had; it had made me look past Warhol the showman and media star to the laconic and intensely thoughtful artist who made the Tunafish Disasters, and the Race Riots, and Mao II, too.

DeLillo scrutinized me; he looked suspicious. Had I just fucked up? Apparently not; he just wanted me to know that, in his experience, gratitude and original thinking didn't often go together. "But I'm glad," he said, signing my book on the title page, "that my novel had that effect on you. Warhol certainly did on me."

So: a chain of deferred associations, each thing creating a thing not quite like itself, but something like it. Vancouver lacks Ann Arbor's strong even light and richly decorated walls, but I hope the juxtaposition of words and colors is enough to suggest some correspondences between the two.
Charging up the camera battery for a ghost-hunting expedition in the suburbs. The last vestiges of the weekend's storm trailing off to the east, patchwork of cold blue sky and dappled sunlight. A strange sense of internal calm after the circus routinely accompanying the first of the month: rent cheques, paycheques, staff deductions all due simultaneously, coinciding with everyone in the neighborhood deciding that they need money more than books. Thus days like yesterday, with the paid-out tally well into four figures by noon, contrasted with a whopping $121.75 of sales. These stats even out over time -- even over the course of an average business day! -- but are certainly responsible for more than a bit of the encroaching grey in my remaining hair.

What did I do yesterday? Appraised six bankers' boxes of modern firsts: Jim Harrison, Richard Russo, Richard Ford & etc. Wrote a cheque. Bought twenty different collections from twenty different walk-in vendors. Politely turned vendors #21 through #37 down at the door. Cleaned, priced and shelved all the new arrivals. Paid the gas bill, the new book distributor, and the phone company. Ejected the door-to-door sales guy peddling "the world's smallest digital camera." Ejected the babbling crackhead. Ejected the guy with the fake $5 (not bad color; toilet-paper consistency). Politely tolerated the incomprehensible old French Canadian guy who looked more like a Seth drawing than anyone I have ever met (hunting cap with earflaps; plaid hunting jacket stretched tight over barrel-shaped chest; thick black rubber gumboots). Checked people in and out of the gallery. Discussed gallery business over Thai food with Adam Harrison. Discussed gallery business with Steven Tong out in the street, while making anecdotal snapshot photographs of Gene and his blower. Shelved science books, history books, erotica and self-help. Blogged. Locked up, drank Cannery Brewing Blackberry Porter. Swept the store. Washed the floor. Dry-mopped the floor. Sang along to Cat Power, to Stephen Morrissey, to good old androgynous Davey Jones. Caught the last bus home. Read 30 pages further into LBJ's unsuccessful adventures in southeast Asia. Rearranged the cats. Slept briefly, with a short excursion to the bathroom to cough my lungs out at 3:27 a.m.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Close Your Eyes, and Think of Someone You Physically Admire

Latenight karaoke, 2422 Main Street, only skeptical stuffed animals looking on.

The Greatest -- Ms. Chan Marshall keeping me company tonight, sweeping up, washing the floor....

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stop me
And then came the rush of the flood
The stars at night turned you to dust....

Gene wields the Blower of Doom out on the sidewalk, while Steven Tong (rear right, the "S" in CSA Space) looks on.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Untitled, 2006
I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Still a few leaves clinging to the little tree outside the front door, and lots more out on the sidewalk, despite Gene's frequent visits with a gas-powered blower.

Chris C. vaccuums the carpet every morning, but as soon as he finishes, a few leaves come sneaky-peteing in. Hard to vaccuum in a store full of customers, so out comes the old, decrepit broom. Energetic elbow-moving ejects the worst offenders, but when one's attention is diverted the sons, brothers, sisters-in-law and illegitimate offspring of the ejected bowl right back in. Grab the broom, repeat...
Randall B. Woods, LBJ: Architect of American Ambition:

"LBJ did not want to give conservatives an excuse to block passage of the remaining components of the Great Society. He knew what happened to a democratic society fully mobilized for war. Patriotism and xenophobia would run rampant, respect for civil liberties would decline, the war machine would consume every available resource, and any chance of domestic reform would disappear."
Monday, November 06, 2006

"Hi, I'm looking for Of Mice and Men, by Jerry Seinfeld."

Today's soundtrack: early Bowie (Cygnet Committee; Starman; Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud); T. Rex, Zep & etc. Four thumbs up from the Nascanti for Radio One!
...and this too:

Fairway Four (Arc, 1991; "chanson pour Bernadette")

"The mayor dreams of a wilderness far more vast than any seen before, all green grass and terraced hillsides, with trails and strings of electric lanterns to light each walker's way. Then a vision of rainsoaked trees intrudes and he shudders. Something didn't work out, he got lost in the woods as a boy, was stung by wasps and devil's club, floundered on through wet bushes, soaking himself to the skin. Sighing, he turns over, going back to his restless dreams. Outside his window drops of water hang from the telephone wires."
An old flame arrives bearing several boxes of general stock and this rarity, which I fortunately had the good sense not to sign or inscribe. "J.G. Ballard meets On The Beach," but not nearly as terrible as many others of that decade.

Climbers (Horizons SF, Spring 1991)

"He found an apartment block just north of the highway that overlooked a tidal slough and the abandoned lumber yards. Because the building was concrete he could get out of the car, have a look around. The electricity still worked: it was running off a portable generator. He broke into one of the apartments, drew the curtains to stop the sun from glaring into the living room. Searching the place, he found a faded photograph of the apartment's former owner, a stout, motherly woman with grey hair and a little dog. How would its mistress have reacted when they told her she couldn't take it along? That night he dreamed of both of them, walking together along a long grey beach in the contaminated rain."

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Russian techno-goth vampires! (Nochnoy dozor, a.k.a. Night Watch, 2004)

"When a renegade warlock battles a vampire on his own, he breaks the truce between the rival orders, the first step on the road to total war. Drenched in Gothic atmosphere and techno sleekness, replete with pulse-pounding action. . . .[an] innovative fusion of science-fiction horror and noirish urban realism."

The season's first Pacific storm. Sunday afternoon: curdled grey sky, light wind, curtains of rain drawn one after the other across the North Shore mountains. Light rain at six, dampening the awning and the bargain table. Down to Chinatown for a studio visit after dark, rain picking up now, sluicing off the aging red and green awnings. Faded backlit color transparencies of dim sum c. 1975, white steamed buns in bamboo baskets. The street-litter found nowhere else on the West Coast: leaves, needles, old Kleenex, gravel deltas banked along the curbs. A stooped wet figure repetitively knocking an empty pint bottle against the green brick side of "the world's narrowest building."

Walking on into downtown, rain harder now, the oncoming headlights on Georgia Street illuminating a wall of water. The numerous buckets full of copper-colored leakage in the men's room at the Lennox Pub. Granville Street deserted at 11pm. Shoes soaked, canvas coat soaked, indestructable orange rain hat soaked. Rain battering the apartment windows all night long. On the slow bus this morning, shifting Bay of Fundy tides in the aisles. Wet wadded Kleenex underfoot, a chorus of hacks and coughs. Rain rattling off the roof. Condensation filmed on every window. My pale face reflected, distorted, in the dripping glass.
Sunday, November 05, 2006

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Granville Island Brewing's Lions Winter Ale. "A approved product." If vanilla low-fat yogurt was a beer, this is the beer it would be. Seasonal availability only, notes of almond, vanilla, and chocolate.

Did I mention it's raining again?
Sixteen Minutes Silence (2007)

"During this period, Toth bought his first digital video recorder – tiny, handheld – and made what are clearly studies for the later self-portraits.

Recently I went to see one of these studies at NY MOMA’s video-art archive, located on the eighteenth floor of the huge midtown complex. A wide window in the archive’s reception room opens onto a view of the monorail guideways far below; the long, low silver trapezoids of new residential construction dropping away toward the East River; and, beyond them, on the river’s far bank, one of the Nascanti towers, black, featureless, smooth as glass. The usual swarm of helicopters and light aircraft surrounded it, their running lights winking like fireflies in the early dusk. It was hard to tear myself from the view, yet what I saw inside, in a video-screening room, was no less remarkable.

Sixteen Minutes Silence was made in a Colorado Springs motel room in spring 2007. A fixed shot depicts Toth’s face in a bathroom mirror. The video’s ambient soundtrack records the gentle buzz of an electric razor; a truck gearing down out in the street; melt water running in the building’s drains. Toth methodically shaves his long brown beard, scalp, and eyebrows, until his head is entirely bare. His unsettled blue eyes cautiously examine himself in the mirror.

I asked Toth about this piece. He did not seem particularly pleased that I had seen it. 'That’s – it’s personal work,' he said. 'It wasn’t meant to survive.'

This was disingenuous. Toth exhibited the work twice, once at a commercial Los Angeles gallery, and once in a UK video-art biennale. The work sold to a private Italian collector, who sold it to NY MOMA for an undisclosed sum, six months after Toth’s return from space."
Saturday, November 04, 2006

Today's soundtrack: Yo La Tengo, "Blue Line Swinger"

Seven p.m., rain again, a light wind shaking the few last leaves still remaining on the spindly little tree opposite the open bookstore door. Through which comes cool air, the scent of rain, the sound of wet tires on pavement, the twang of the trolley wires. Inside, Lions Winter Ale and not much in the way of customers. Not that I blame anyone for not coming in this evening; if I wasn't at work, I wouldn't be within a mile of outside.

One of those rare introspective evenings. "So, are you going to keep on doing this?", a friend of a friend inquired last week, her tone suggesting that it might be time to leave retail and go back to school, to get that MA or MBA and move into teaching, or law, or architecture, or something that would let me grow gracefully old and bald with a BMW, small Kitsilano house, and tenure. Well, no. The plan is to keep persisting, writing stories, making photographs, organizing shows, climbing mountains, and unlocking the store in the morning, until I either topple over from exhaustion or the ice starts cracking. As I've probably said before, I take for granted that I'm not as smart, well-off, or emotionally secure as you, but I'm sure as hell going to try and outlast you. As one of my latest competitors, the trust fund kid who paid mid five figures for his so-called "business," is now learning the hard way. "You keep score," said D., amazed, I thought, at discovering that flinty and hard side of my personality, the cold bedrock underlying the pliant mantle and constantly shifting continents. Well, yes.

Last week's mail: a couple smart-alecky emails wondering how Anodyne, Inc.'s doing, given the Conservatives' recent alterations to Canadian income trust law. Down on the week, less than the TSE. The changes don't kick in until 2011. And questions like these, as far as I can tell, betray a fundamental misunderstanding of how the stock market works. In the end, share or unit prices can only track the financial results of a business. It shouldn't matter if the business is an income trust or not, the only questions worth asking are, 1/ is the thing profitable?, and, 2/ is it likely to be profitable in the future?, and, 3/ what portion of the profits are available to the owners? Buying or selling shares or units in a business on the basis of endlessly mutable Canadian tax law strikes me as an odd way to go about "investing."

CSA Space's next six months are programmed, but not yet available on line, as the result of a strangely productive late-night meeting between the principals at Wazubee Cafe on Commercial Drive, a meeting during which, inexplicably, no alcohol was consumed.
John Crowley, Daemonomania:

"As he worked, he heard or overheard in some space of his soul phrases spoken, a voice, narrating the things he did to her even as he did them, things even that he had not yet done or dared to do. He knelt before her and placed his cheek against the hot marks he had made. It was a voice he was coming to be familiar with, accompanying these encounters. She offered to him the gift of her crying-out. As though he were able to do the deeds and at the same time, even somewhat in advance, read a histrionically somber and slightly phony account made long afterward."

Twilight, Great Northern Way
Friday, November 03, 2006
The Things I Miss The Most

February 6, 2006: CJB places online order for Gillian Rose's Hegel Contra Sociology

February 20, 2006: Book shipped from western Massachusetts

May 1st, 2006: CJB files credit card chargeback when book fails to arrive

November 3, 2006: Surprise!
Thursday, November 02, 2006

Reece Terris, Bridge (Wooden Arch), 2006

A huge wooden arc spanning the distance between the artist's house and his neighbor's porch. I did not see the actual sculpture, just the photo-documentation, but this image made an unusually deep impression on me. Bridge appears, loosely disguised, in the new story; I had originally thought to write a review, but decided it was better to just describe the artwork. Description is a variant species of criticism that honors objects with attention and time.
Clippings for The Nearest Faraway Place. Back in university, when I was regularly writing (but seldom publishing) science fiction stories, I kept files of found images, texts, song lyrics, etc. that had entered the stories on a deep, or entirely subliminal, level. (Eg., the Paul Simon lyric, I believe in the future / I shall live in my car / My radio tuned / To the voice of a star, out of which grew my first published SF story, Climbers (Horizons SF magazine, 1991? 92?)).

The Rodney Graham Band in concert

Bruce Nauman double self-portrait

David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (35), 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Matthew Collings interviews Bob and Roberta Smith:

"B: Orwell is a big figure for me. Orwell is the constructor of inventive political thinking, and he comes up with a really good structure, which is like The Prisoner really. The idea of individuals working within systems and how you operate with that. And he also did fantastic things, like acting the role of a tramp. He must have been a very unconvincing tramp, walking around, having been to Eaton.

M: I think another notable thing with him is that he has a great intellectual capacity, but it leads him to despise and be suspicious of intellectuals -- he sees them as a real source of problems and difficulties within the community.

B: Maybe. It's too Radio Four to get caught up on him. I think that idea you mentioned about that little drop of self-importance, which -- my God, making a book of all this stuff is completely an act of self-importance. But it's one of the key things that entertains me -- this realisation that all artists are astronauts flying spaceships fuelled by self-importance."

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