Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A much younger cjb, and a much uglier fleece, high and offroute on Tunnel Vision (5.7), Red Rocks, Nevada. Photo by dru. Good memories of one of my favorite places.

Same Old Thing in Brand-New Drag

Clear in the west tonight, days incrementally lengthening, rich scents of earth and blossom.

Road salt along the margin where the sidewalk meets the windows, dry powery dust. Tracked through on everything: the front room carpet, the office carpet, the tiles.

The sun shifted along just enough to rekindle the illusion of depth in two-dimensional things. I find myself watching light more than ever before, the way it wraps and contains a magnolia bud, a vendor's sharply drawn-back hair, my brother's cocked wrist.

Recent reading:

Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking
Edward Chancellor, Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation

Fred Herzog's photographs, up for discussion today by Evan and I. Evan's observation that, in these images, powerlines seem to tie the fragmentary, still cohering, and sign-filled city together. Mallarme's "forest of symbols." As opposed to, say, the conservative red-brick community center going up at Main and Kingsway, or yet another shiny white glass condo populated by actors and new media people with short black coats and chunky black-framed glasses.

(Photo credit: Fred Herzog, Howe and Nelson)
Monday, January 29, 2007

Our innovative new doorstop. Baby Tecla gets the door, while mom ferries boxes to and from the car.

Belaying, 2007. Dru's hands. My latest contribution to Four. The rope runs from the belayer to the climber. The belayer's left hand is relaxed, "feeling" for minute changes in the rope's tension. The right "brake" hand holds the rope firmly, ready to yank back if the climber falls, locking the rope up and preventing the climber from falling further. I've wanted to make a picture of a belayer for a while; it's a meditative and tactile process that's much like operating a handheld digital camera. A lot of looking and adjusting.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I am:
Gregory Benford
A master literary stylist who is also a working scientist.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Heh. No "WG" "MJH" or "MMcH" option on this thing, evidently.

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (46), 2007

Tolagson pursues the motif, View Towers, Victoria, B.C.

CJB lays love on Max the Maltese. Courtesy guest photographer Evan Lee.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Tolagson gets rightly and articulately to the heart of the matter in an open letter to Victoria-Based Artist-Run Center:

"I'm a photographer, and photography is an expensive, risky enterprise. Film, developing, scans and prints are astronomical in cost, and make it financially difficult, if not outright impossible, to put together and mount a show while working for minimum wage. This show cost me $500.00 dollars in total, and I worked my ass off to cover those costs. Why spend so much money and time on something that is only going to hang in a tiny, out of the way gallery for a week? Because, goofy as it might sound, I actually give a shit about art, and about the culture that art exists in and contributes to. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that an artist run center, especially one as fiercely and excitingly independent as MOCL, should too."

ART (Aethetically Rejected Thing): Victoria Artist-Run Culture

To Victoria by ferry, across the heaving, steel-colored Straight of Georgia, whipped by a fierce north wind, to catch Tolagson's show of photographs (2 pictures) at Nameless Artist-Run Centre.

JT: I'm a little worried; the curator's out of town, and the guy who's looking after the space hasn't called to say when I can install. Let's grab breakfast and see if he calls.

CJB: Sure!

[Tempus fugit]


JT: Hmm. Let's go distribute flyers around town.

[Tempus fugit]

JT: Maybe we should go back and see if the guy's called.

CJB: He hasn't; I guarantee it. Let's hit the bar!

CJB & JT: Dook, dook, dook!

CJB: Uh, Jamie? It's 5 now. Your show's when?

JT: At 7.

CJB: We'd better get going.

JT'S SWEETIE "V.": Were you guys at the bar?


V: [sighs, rolls eyes]

JT, CJB & V. collect JT's photos, carefully cradled in a tartan blanket, and walk twenty-five minutes in the winter cold to Nameless Artist-Run Center, where a scruffy hipster is guiltily and halfheartedly sweeping the place up with a broom. The "display wall" is not mudded, painted or sanded; nail heads protrude, like raisins in cake, through the uncovered drywall. A few huge gaping holes have been inexpertly and lumpily filled with plaster or Poly Filla, making the wall resemble a Lucio Fontana painting.

JT: I don't think we're gonna be installing tonight.

SCRUFFY HIPSTER: I guess. It's your choice, man. I mean, if you really want to be that way about it.

JT: [showing enormous restraint in not immediately beating SH to death] Maybe I could come back and install some other day.

SH: I guess. We've got other shows coming up! Maybe you could show after those other guys. I dunno, man. It's your choice.

V. & CJB IN CHORUS: C'mon. Let's go home!

JT: That was a truly awful outcome. I mean, I've been totally anticipating awful outcomes. Just not that one!

Rene Daumal:

"You cannot stay on the mountain forever. You have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know."
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Anodyne Inc. Quarterly Report to Shareholders

TSE 300 index, 25 October 2006 - 25 January 2007: 4.75% gain

Anodyne Inc. 25 October 2006 - 25 January 2007: 3.93% gain

Relative result: -.82%

The TSE index and Anodyne, Inc. both made money in the last 90 days, but the index's gain exceeded Anodyne's. I will report total return for the first four quarterly reports, then an annualized result thereafter. I'm pretty happy with the performance so far. Parkland Industries (PKI.UN) and Norbord, Inc. (NBD) have been particularly strong performers. Parkland's recent acquisition of Neufeld Petroleum and Propane was immediately accretive to earnings, raising the income trust's payout approximately 9%. On the other hand, Dominion Citrus Income Fund (DOM.UN)'s unit price declined 16% since late October. This strikes me as a compelling investment opportunity. This small, well-managed income trust generates a steady income flow which the market perceives as massively unsustainable. I disagree, based upon my reading of DOM.UN's financial statements, and will continue to hold DOM.UN for the long term. Anyone wishing to receive a more detailed calculation of the Anodyne-vs.-TSE results, or the current portfolio holdings, should drop me a line. And, as usual, the portfolio's contents are not recommendations to buy or sell any security.

New acquisition: TerraVest Income Trust (TI.UN): 309 units @ $6.54/ unit = $2020.86, plus $25.00 transaction charge. Cash balance, $20.66.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

View Towers Tree, 2006/7

One of an occasional series of unique photographs given to friends as digital files. For Jamie Tolagson, on the occasion of his first second solo exhibition of photographs at Victoria's Ministry of Casual Living.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (45), 2007
Monday, January 22, 2007

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Nexus Books (UK) Publisher's Pictorial Guide to Sexual Fetishes. Worth enlarging, especially for the last entry.

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (44), 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007

An orgy of destruction 'round these parts today. Numerous spooks dematerialized back into the ether, and some other bad photographs for good measure. If your favorite shade was among them, well, sorry. I'm trying to eliminate anything that didn't strike me as a "personality" on first sight -- a presence, something alive and watching. "A picture of a box" or "a plastic bag on the ground" doesn't cut it, not by itself, not without that frisson.

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (43), 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
"My girlfriend wants me at AA, not the party."

(Cellphone guy on the bus, overheard on the way to the UBC MFA show at the Belkin Satellite)
New Year's resolution: food in the fridge, cookbooks on the table, dinner beside them. So here's my version of chef John Ash's Tuna Sauce For Pasta, probably the best meal I've made for myself, ever. ("Fish!" said the cats, clustering round). Can of drained water-packed tuna in the blender. Small can of washed anchovy fillets, ditto. An egg yolk, carefully extracted by tossing the yolk and white back and forth between two small cups, an old Frances Jean trick recalled from childhood. Lots of lemon juice (3 tsp. bottled Real Lemon, though I suppose I could just have easily bought and squeezed a "real Real Lemon." Garlic. Fifteen seconds' pulse in the blender. Chopped cilanto, 3 tsp. chopped capers, a cautious drizzle of cream. The sauce turns a lovely beige-peach color. Fuselli pasta, 10 minutes in salted water on the stove. Sauce over steaming pasta, cilantro garnish, and, in a burst of Aurora Bistro-style inspiration, a sliced kosher dill alongside. "If a tuna-fish sandwich was pasta, this is the pasta it'd be." Small glass of Bonny Doon 2004 Big House Red (BCLDB, $18.95 specialty listing). Rain battering the drafty leaky condo windows, a crisp red Mac apple for dessert, the cats propped up nearby. Laurie Colwin's right: cooking is a lot like love. "Both happy and sad people can be cheered up by a nice meal!"
Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sir Richard Steele clearly divines Anodyne Inc. in 1700:

"Is it possible that a young Man at present could pass his Time better, than in reading the History of Stocks, and knowing by what secret Springs they have such sudden Ascents and Falls in the same Day? Could he be better conducted on his Way to Wealth, which is the great Article of Life, than in a Treatise dated from Change-Alley by an able proficient there? Nothing could be more useful, than to be well instructed in his Hope and Fears; to be diffident when others exalt, and with a secret Joy buy when others think it in their interest to sell."
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
"Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same." (Foucault)

Anodyne Inc.

Dividend paid today:

E-L Financial Corporation (ELF): .0125/[$600] share x 7 shares = $.88!

Not the world's stingiest dividend, but close.

Cash balance, $2066.52

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Anodyne Inc.

Dividends today! (Actually paid at midnight, but it's easier to update the stats now)

North West Company Income Fund (NWF.UN): .22/unit x 600 units = $132.00
Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 1.27/unit x 746 units = $947.42 (includes one-time special end-of-the-year distribution)

Cash balance, $2065.64

The corporation's first quarterly report to shareholders will be live on or around the 25th of January. Don't expect too much, just the performance stats and a few paragraphs discussing the various positions' business results, as opposed to short-term share price changes. I am pretty pleased with the portfolio's performance so far. A few readers have written requesting weekly updates, which is a bit like calling a realtor every week to obtain an estimate of your home's resale value. For full disclosure's sake, I should also mention that I have been conducting a fairly in-depth conversation about one of the portfolio positions on a message board over at I'm not linking to it here, but anyone with sufficient interest should be able to turn it up.

Monkey? Sweeeeet!

On Mission
By Christopher Brayshaw

[Author's preferred version of a CSA Space curator's handout]

Owen Kydd’s video installation Mission consists of three different silent sequences of portrait and landscape images made with a stationary camera and presented side-by-side in the gallery. The sequences differ slightly in length, and their shots are thrown into novel relief by the work’s ceaseless visual permutation. For me, this structure represents Kydd’s ambitious attempt to marry the ancient art of the still picture, whose static images imply an endless plenitude of detail, with the more recent art of cinematography, whose temporality makes it appear more “life like.” Paintings, drawings and photographs seem to belong to an older world; they demand a different attention span than cinema, a probing, self-directed, and more contemplative kind of looking.

Kydd has structured Mission so that the work responds equally well to “pictorial” and “cinematographic” modes of looking. The installation doesn’t really click until the evidence gleaned from each mode has been carefully compared with its other, just as two slightly different aerial photographs will generate the illusion of three-dimensional relief when perceived as a gestalt. Each element works with its other to generate a mysterious third, a composite continuous with both which provides more information than either on its own.

’s subject is a small town hard against the northern edge of the Fraser Valley, approximately forty miles east of Vancouver. The town’s notable features include the highway bridge to Abbotsford and the other communities south of the river; a timeworn downtown strip (pawnshops; liquor marts; Tim Horton’s; architecture and signage implying a certain kinship with the “American vernacular” of photographers like Henry Wessel and Stephen Shore); and Westminster Abbey, a picturesque Benedictine monastery perched high on a hill above the town.

Faced with the difficulty of representing such a heterogeneous place – even views less than a mile apart bear little resemblance to one another – Kydd begins with images which, like still pictures, are complete in themselves. By the time a view of a roadside slough or a suburban cul-de-sac briefly dissolves into darkness, and is replaced by the parking lot at a local car racing meet, or a tangled swath of urban forest, or the nodding fat pink and yellow heads of dahlia blooms in the monastery garden, we somehow feel that we have absorbed the essence of the scene, that Kydd’s camera has shown us more than we might have seen on our own. But because we are never shown just one view, but always several simultaneously, this “essence” is always juxtaposed against other equally self-sufficient scenes, thereby undermining the powerful sense of completeness we attribute to each shot on its own.

Mission alternately employs the powerful air of self-sufficiency that inheres in still pictures, and the fundamental properties of cinematography (movement; duration; time) to indicate that each of the installation’s single shots can only be considered autonomous if it is studied in isolation. The shots’ pretense of being still pictures is also complicated by details that undermine their “stillness.” Wind moves forest branches and the dahlias’ heads. Arcs of water and clouds of drifting smoke obscure the local drag strip. Cars cross and recross the Fraser bridge, sun semaphoring off their windshields and chrome. And Kydd’s portrait subjects -- individuals he met while filming -- can hardly keep still. They blink and shiver and nod; they smile, or rock to and fro, amused by Kydd’s simple command to do nothing, or at least as little as possible, for a minute or two. They are conscious of the camera and maybe a little embarrassed by it, but they control the terms of their depiction, choosing to accentuate certain characteristics or quirks of personality, and to de-emphasize others. A window washer and a Benedictine monk keep their faces straight, preferring to represent themselves through the accoutrements of their respective trades: the cassock, the squeegee and brush. A young Sto:lo man makes a gesture of openness, consenting to the artist filming him. Three girlfriends stay in almost constant motion as they subliminally study the camera and each other. And so on.

Here, I think, Kydd’s project transcends its moment, and achieves a kind of communion with older forms of picture making, exemplifed by the work of artists such as Brueghel, Hokusai, Cezanne, and, locally, the late E.J. Hughes. These artists all use landscape as a jumping-off point for the representation of culture, while withholding any explicit moral or ideological judgment of their subjects. If disturbances do occur – Brueghel’s Icarus plunging into the sea; Hughes’ sawmills’ smoky clouds – they are recorded without comment, as if to comment would somehow break faith with the artist’s obligation to simply depict what is there. Kydd’s refusal to step in front of his subjects by categorizing and judging is fuelled by a similarly democratic curiosity, and by something like an ethics, a position well articulated by the French philosopher Hippolyte Taine: “I want to reproduce the objects as they are or as they would be even if I did not exist.”
Thursday, January 11, 2007

New 3-channel video by Owen Kydd, curated by CJB, with a short accompanying essay. Opening tomorrow night from 6-9pm. Brave the windchill and come!

Grace under pressure. CSA Space co-owner Steven Tong retrieves gallery keys inadvertently locked inside the gallery with a wire coathanger and steady hands.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Self Portrait as a Hydraulic System Under Pressure, 2007

Under the "G," second from the right...
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Uncle Zip's Window

Literary role model, fellow SF writer and climber M. John ("Mike") Harrison's new blog, where tonight I located the following sentence, an out-take from his novel Climbers, and straightforwardly, profoundly true:

"Climbing is not a sport. It is a language by which people try to make known their social & emotional isolation."

(thx. J.!)

Monday, January 08, 2007

To Change The Way Things Are

So if you're out there waiting
I hope you show up soon
'cause my head needs relatin
Not solitude...


E.J. Hughes, Comox Valley, 1953. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

One of my favorite landscape paintings. Hughes (who died, aged 95, on January 5th) and I never met, and probably wouldn't have had that much to say to one another if we ever had. One of the strangest experiences in my life was showing up at a VAG awards evening to deliver a short introduction to Steven Shearer's work. Hughes was also receiving an award that evening, and had chosen, as usual, not to travel, but had sent along videotaped remarks, which were played as a grainy, ever-so-slightly-out-of-focus projection. It was as if a ghost was speaking, slowly and haltingly, to the crowd, as if some disturbance of atmospheric or psychic physics had tuned the video projector into the Group of Seven channel. With his crepe-paper skin and neat white moustache, EJH appeared spectral, almost backlit, a "visitation" akin to the weird voice-from-the-ether that narrates John Shirley's great proto-cyberpunk novel, City Come A-Walkin'.

Hughes had no time for abstraction, conceptual art, land art, performance art, etc. etc. etc. Thus he remains, for me, a weird anarchronism, a figure permanently stuck in the late 1930s and early 1940s, while the world went on around him.

That said, Hughes' paintings and drawings exert a powerful hold on my imagination. They depict West Coast landscapes in a neutral, controlled, and pseudo-"photographic" way that is as democratic in its attentiveness -- to light; to surfaces; to the margins where wilderness and social communities meet -- as Brueghel's work, or Walker Evans', or Stephen Shore's. Ten or twelve years ago, at a very difficult point in my life when I was just becoming interested in art, I visited the VAG every "free Thursday," and always found myself pausing before Comox Valley. There is a kind of space in that picture that is hard to describe, other than to say that it is equally physical and psychic, something I might call -- if pressed -- freedom.

"He went to his office door. She was going away from him, down the deserted hall. He managed to hail her from his berg of grief."
Sunday, January 07, 2007

Team Cat on location in the snow, Lost Lake, Hollyburn Ridge, late December. Nb. poles, comfy fluorescent orange double-lined fireman's pants, stuffed cat (not visible) in Canadian-made purple pack's top pocket. A really weird bulge around my waist; not sure why I seem to have suddenly gained 50+ pounds. Photo by honorary team member Keith Nichol.
Friday, January 05, 2007

Rose and Scat view the Weather Channel, Motel 6, Tukwila, WA

I-5 playlist, Vancouver --> Seattle and return:

Ghostface Killah, Fishscale
Pet Shop Boys, Concrete (2CD live)
Marvin Gaye, Trouble Man
Destroyer, Your Blues
Destroyer, Streethawk: A Seduction
Chan Marshall, The Greatest
Thursday, January 04, 2007
In Seattle for a day or two, Ghostface Killah, Dan Bejar, and Bud Powell in the Sentra's CD changer.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Madvillain, Great Day (Four Tet remix)

I kid you not, on the dotted line signed
Ever since a minor, kids considered him some kind of Einstein...

To my West Vancouver dentist, light slowly leaking up into smeared wet sky.

A swab of anesthetic gel; a godawful big needle in my upper gums.

CJB: Look, I know you're the expert. I'm just, uh, curious. Why aren't you freezing the area you're gonna drill?

DENTIST: I'm not?

CJB [points]: This tooth, here.

DENTIST: 19? But the hygenist's note says 14...

CJB: She's lying.

DENTIST: I always have trouble with her writing!

[More freezing. Godawful big needle redux. CJB loses all sensation in the left side of his face]

DENTAL DRILL: Bzzzzzzzzzzzt!

CJB's JAW: Bzzzzzzzzzzt!

NEIL TENNANT AND CHRIS LOWE, VIA PIPED-IN STEREO: In my life, there've been few / Who affected me the way you do (you do)...


Untitled, 2007
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
2007's first title: Humphrey Jennings' Pandaemonium: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers, recommended to me last spring by Peter Culley and promptly filed away in the office's stacks, where it lay buried in the strata, only to be unearthed on New Year's Eve. An imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution, told in multiple, overlapping, frequently contradictory voices, and a form that I can hardly wait to baldly plagarize for my ever-expanding account of First Contact with art collecting aliens.

Humphrey Jennings:

"And these images -- what do they deal with? I do not claim that they represent truth -- they are too varied, even contradictory, for that. But they represent human experience. They are the record of mental events. Events of the heart. They are facts (the historian's kind of facts) which have been passed through the feelings and the mind of an individual and have forced him to write. And what he wrote is a picture -- a coloured picture of them. His personality has coloured them and selected and altered and pruned and enlarged and minimised and exaggerated. Admitted. But he himself is part, was part of the period, even part of the event itself -- he was an actor, a spectator in it. So his distortions are not so much distortions as one might suppose. Moreover they altered him. The event had its effect on him. Undistorted him, opened his eyes."

A meeting in a quarry. Left to right: Christopher Brayshaw, Adam Harrison, Jamie Tolagson, Evan Lee
Monday, January 01, 2007
Anodyne Inc.

Dividend today! (Actually paid 30 Dec 2006)

Loblaw Companies (L): .21/share x 217 shares = $45.57

Cash balance, $986.22
From Bill Evans' liner notes for Kind of Blue:

"Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result."

Four -- a new web-based collaboration between Adam Harrison, me, Evan Lee, and Jamie Tolagson.

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