Monday, April 30, 2007

Bruce Nauman, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign), 1967

Off to Seattle tomorrow to see this and many other fine neon texts by Mr. Nauman at the University of Washington's Henry Art Gallery. Today largely spent strolling outdoors, walking and talking. Green trees gently bent in warm grey overcast.

"I once saw a cartoon sequence of a painter painting a very long landscape. When he'd finished he cut it up into four landscapes of the usual proportions. Mostly one doesn't meet others from the same picture. When it happens it can be unsettling." (Russell Hoban)

was declined by the folks I proposed it to in Toronto. I'm going to Toronto by myself in early June to make it anyway, a D.I.Y. "gesture" that probably reads as quixotic or arrogant. I don't agree with either assessment; I just want the experience of inhabiting the piece, and evaluating it after-the-fact: did it work out more or less as planned, or was it DOA from the start? Critically analyzing one's own production seems all the more neccessary if not traversing the path that leads from high school to art school to artist-run center to regional art gallery to grants, institutional sales, biennale participation & etc.

Call this counter-path disenchanted utopianism.

Quandry: you admire institutions -- the artist-run center; the commercial gallery; the regional gallery; the international art fair -- because they were the conduits that first brought you close to works you still admire (Shadbolt's; Rauschenberg's; Ian Hamilton Finlay's; Richard Serra's; Yoshitoshi's; Kay Rosen's). But those institutions are either too busy to care about what you're doing now, or beseiged by people just like you, or have noticed you, negatively. Eg., your work's not that good. And early work is a lot more likely to be not that good than merely adequate or (even less likely) good. So, do you want to remain subordinate forever, proposing things to institutions, or get on with the (harder; more rewarding) work of making things, getting them out into the world, and improving?

Or do you want to make work, and criticism, and a distribution system, and exhibition venues? That sounds like exhaustion. That sounds like early alcoholism, failed relationships, angry ex-friends and colleagues, bewildered institutional employees. . . .

Or like culture. Like a life.
Anodyne Inc.

Distribution today:

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

Cash balance, $172.91
Sunday, April 29, 2007

2:04, kids. Name the players.
Two games of Scrabble with Douglas at the cafe around the corner:

#1: CJB 220, Douglas 253
#2: CJB 146, Douglas 244

James writes: "Brayshaw, if you have enormous affection for either evil inchworm Mr. Mind or Skeets, Booster Gold's robot pal, you are advised AGAINST reading 52 #51."

Wikipedia synoposis: "Rip Hunter, Booster Gold and Skeets arrive in the Rocky Mountains headquarters of Professor T.O. Morrow. Morrow is exhausted and stares wearily at the android face of Red Tornado in his workshop. Skeets begins shaking and the others discover that his robotic carapace has been functioning as a super-advanced cocoon. Mister Mind emerges from the cocoon and threatens to consume the Universe. . . ."


Roger Ebert: "The girls walked into the wilderness, and were seen no more. Aborigines might speculate that the rock was alive in some way -- that it swallowed these outsiders and kept its silence. As Russell Boyd's camera examines the rock in lush and intimate detail -- its snakes and lizards, its birds and flowers -- certain shots seem to suggest faces in the rock, as if the visitors are being watched."

Joseph Beuys, La Rivoluzione Siamo Noi, 1972

Today's soundtrack: Archer Prewitt, "Without You"
Injunction, 2007

Waiting at the edge of a busy urban crosswalk with an automatically controlled pedestrian signal.

Dressed unobtrusively, posture relaxed, not visibly calling attention to myself.

Standing still for sixty minutes, alternately obeying and disobeying the signal's command.

JW: "I like the term 'painting of modern life,' but I don't use it as a formula, as total identity. It's a very interesting way to think about what you're doing. Basically it means using the standards that have emerged over a long time, very high standards one hopes, and the memory that recognizes the existence and importance of those standards, and applying it to the now. That doesn't mean that 'painting of modern life' means just 'scenes off the street.' It means phenomena of the now that are configured as pictures by means of this accumulation of standards and skills and style and so on. That means that there are no single themes, genres, or anything else that [could] be called 'painting of modern life.' 'Painting of modern life' is an attitude of looking, reflecting, and making."
A Life, and an Oeuvre, Plagued by Shadows

"For a moment Bryce stood quiet, staring at him. Then he walked around the table and, kneeling, laid his arm across Newton's back, and held him gently, feeling the light body trembling in his hands like the body of a delicate, fluttering, anguished bird.

The bartender had come over and when Bryce looked up the bartender said, 'I'm afraid that the fellow needs help.'

'Yes,' Bryce said. 'Yes, I guess he does.'"
Dru calls my attention to these fine Portugese ghosts

Why so green and lonely?
A couple in their early twenties at the 7-11 counter. Suburban kids, just coming down off their big night on the town. Both twitchy, coked-up. Huge wide pupils. The clerk dutifully bags their navel oranges and bright blue Gatorade. The boy attempts to count out change, but his arithmetic's off-line. He shovels a handful of coins onto the counter, arranging them by size and color. The coins hop about like bugs in a microwave. "Five, six, seven. Fuck." Coins hit the floor in a slow-motion shower, escaping under the hotdog machine and the condiment stand. "Twenty-five. And a dime. That's forty, right?" The clerk shakes his head. "Fuck."

"Just leave it, baby," says the girl. "I have a twenty." She opens her tiny shoulder purse, shovels out papers, breath mints, BCID. "Where'd it -- fuck."

"Fifty-five. Fifty-seven. That's a dime, right?"

Out on the street, an explosion: a huge glass bottle hits the sidewalk as if aimed from space. Around it, a ring of miscellaneous debris: the remains of a plastic lawn chair; a curtain and a curtain rod; condoms; a trashed shoulder bag.

Another bottle hits the pavement.

Two bicycle cops pump strenuously up the hill. They park their bikes against a lamppost and lean back, studying the scene.

Another bottle. Bam!

The cops cup their hands to block the early morning sunglare and survey the hotel's upper floors.

A middle-aged head pops out of a window near the roof, hesitates a second, pulls back.
Saturday, April 28, 2007

Plant Study (Rhododendron), 2007
Drivel, or, Why I Can't Take the Globe's "Books" Section Even Remotely Seriously

"Janice Kulyk Keefer finds a measure of calm through those luminous moments in everyday living when our bodies liberate rather than imprison us." (Photo cutline)

"Flying to the West Coast a couple of weeks ago, I was struck again by just how singular and interesting a place Canada is." (Mediocre Canlit pundit and CBC mainstay Noah Richler)

As my friend James says of cultural products he despises, this stuff is ass.'s "New Weekly Lows," St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale, late sunlight deflected through drifting cloud: bliss.
When's Godot coming?
Tomorrow? I dunno. Not
now. Maybe never.

(Self-evident, hopefully)
earth. Man, son slowly trudge on
aimlessly. Man dies.

(Cormac McCarthy, The Road)
Uncle Zip commands, "Write a list of people whose work is so neccessary to your way of seeing that, if you don’t read it, you become anxious, one-dimensional & unknowingly alienated from yourself. (I do not neccessarily mean as a writer. In fact I definitely don’t mean that.)"

Walter Tevis. Russell Hoban. Leonard Gardner. Orwell the journalist and critic. J.M. Coetzee. Denis Johnson. Tove Jansson. Philip K. Dick. Philip Larkin. Ursula K. LeGuin. Franz Kafka. Kem Nunn. The John Updike who wrote the Rabbit Quartet. Cormac McCarthy. Jack Spicer. Maureen McHugh. And the MJH who wrote Climbers and Light.

Guest ghost photographer dru spots a spirit lurking among bare Kitsilano trees
Yet more literary haiku:

"A screaming...." Bombs fall.
Tyrone's prick points up, erect.
Odd Nazis await.

(Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow)

"It's curious how the mind works. I see the world through turtle-coloured glasses now. Because of the turtles I expect a stranger to speak significantly, am prepared for signs and wonders, my terrors freshen, I feel a gathering-up in me as if I'm going to die soon, I await a Day of Judgment. Whose judgment? Mine, less merciful than God's. It is not always a comfort to find a like-minded person, another fraction of being who shares one's incompleteness. The bookshop man has many thoughts and feelings that I have, I sense that."
Friday, April 27, 2007

New Star Books and Pulpfiction Books proudly present an evening with John Armstrong, launching his new memoir, Wages.

Pulpfiction Books
2422 Main Street, Vancouver, B.C.
7-9 pm tonight!

More literary haiku:

Thinks he's a poet.
Maybe he should have stuck with
Smashing those pumpkins.

(Billy Corgan's Blinking With Fists, courtesy Pulpfiction manager Chris Clarke)

Console jockey Case
Flees through the net. In orbit,
Evil Wintermute schemes.

(William Gibson's Neuromancer, a CJB original)

Jeff Wall, The Stumbling Block, 1991

Germaine Koh, Watch, 2000

Sleeping man (found photograph)

Julius Komjati, Old Man Reading the Bible, 1928

"Every city that is formed collects its slums and the ghost of it. Every city that is formed collects its ghosts."

(Jack Spicer, The Heads of the Town)

A bumpy night flight over the Rockies, the long prairies spread out below. Little constellations of lights: Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay. Grey clouds obscuring the earth. The long jolting descent into Pearson: the eee-yunk, eee-yunk of hydraulics. Blinking white light on the wing tip illuminates cloud-vapour flooding over grey metal. A delicate white web of frost in the gap between the double layered plastic of the passenger window.

The clock in the empty terminal says 12:45 a.m. My backpack comes off the rotating carousel by itself. Out into Ontario December, dry cold, the quick chill settling into the pads of flesh under my eyes, and my toes, and the tips of my fingers. A little grey snow drifting down. Night bus to Malton. Brick apartments flashing by in the dark. I'm alone on the bus, and it's easy to pretend the driver's dead, a TTC Charon, whose face, should I glance beneath his cap, would be smooth and white as bone.

Empty racketing train. Subway stops all abandoned in the snow. Red LED displays: 1:25am, 1:27am, 1:37am. 2am finds me in an all-night Yonge Street cafe, eating maple-glazed donuts, drinking coffee, and pondering my options. No money for a hotel, too late to check into a youth hostel, and definitely unwelcome at a certain suburban apartment. Thrown out of the cafe when I nod off at the table, I walk along Queen West in the cold, and quickly decide that freezing to death is a definite possibility. Into an alley behind a hotel, and into an ungrated steam duct. The corrugated metal smells like piss, but the air pushing past my face is moist and warm. I fall asleep with my big backpack tucked up under my neck like a pillow. In the morning, off to the bus station in my stinky and slightly damp clothes, and on to Ottawa, where it's even colder and windier, and where a huge Jack Shadbolt butterfly on the side of the National Gallery of Canada implies the presence of compensations in this life, after all.
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Making Riverside Magnolia. Photograph by Keefer.
Am I bad as that?
Dan Brown reads the Code reviews,
Sadly concludes, crap.

CJB-penned "literary haiku," for the Geist Interactive Haiku Evening, B.C. Book & Magazine Week Main Street Literary Crawl

Riverside Magnolia, 2007

"Culturally modified tree," Mount Seymour Parkway, North Vancouver, B.C. From yesterday's walk in the rain with Keefer.

Heracleum maximum (Heracleum lanatum), cow parsnip, reposing by the Seymour River
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): those umbrellas, under the lights, in the rain

"I hope you've been able to get something out of this performance."
Anodyne Inc. Quarterly Report to Shareholders

TSE 300 index, 25 October 2006 - 24 April 2007: 10.12% gain

Anodyne Inc. 25 October 2006 - 24 April 2007: 12.51% gain

Relative result: 2.39%

Anodyne Inc. and the TSE 300 index have both been on a tear since my first attempt at public portfolio management toddled out into the world in late October 2006. For this first six month period, Anodyne Inc.'s gain has exceeded the TSE's gain by a small but significant margin.

The TSE figure is important because it shows what you could earn by passively investing your money in an index fund, thereby missing out on annual report reading, financial statement deciphering, and ceaselessly worrying when the CFO of one of your largest positions is dismissed just a week or two before the annual report's release. The index also serves as an objective benchmark of my investment choices. For example, if Anodyne Inc. reports a 5% gain, while the index gains 15%, Anodyne's gain sounds OK on its own, but actually represents poor relative performance. Similarly, if Anodyne loses 12% while the index loses 18%, the relative result indicates better-than-average performance, despite the objective loss.

I judge my performance, as should you, over the mid- to long- term. I hope to consistantly beat the TSE 300 index over a rolling three year period, a benchmark that many professional Canadian fund managers find hard to meet. Over shorter time periods the portfolio may fluctuate in value, sometimes impressively. These fluctuations don't bother me, and they shouldn't bother you, either.

That said, I have certain advantages that most real fund managers don't. I'm running money for myself, as a purely didactic enterprise. Real managers have clients, and need to maintain a cash position to satisfy the needs of clients who, for whatever reason, need to cash out in a hurry. I am not constrained by investment "themes" or "styles" -- I don't have to buy "mid-cap growth," or "large cap value," or maintain a certain percentage of the portfolio in a number of different sectors of the economy in the name of "diversification." I don't have to buy the stock of companies I don't personally like or understand. And I don't have to trade like mad, with all the frictional costs that implies, in order to hit a quarterly performance target that benefits the marketing department more than the fund's investors.

A few thoughts about some of Anodyne Inc.'s holdings:

Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN) is by far the fund's largest position. Parkland is a diversified fuel retailer; they operate gas stations and convenience stores all over Western Canada, run a fuel transportation service, and own a refinery in Red Deer, Alberta, which was mothballed for many years, but has recently begun to process fluids for the oil drilling industry on a toll basis. I've owned Parkland in real life since my teens; it's the first company I ever attempted critical analysis on back in the 1980s, hunting up its annual reports in the old Vancouver Public Library at Burrard and Robson, and then writing away for more detailed information. It's steadily, consistantly profitable, and, to my mind, fully priced at $41+. I wouldn't add to my position at this price, but am more than comfortable to hold the units long-term. The 2006 annual report, which was just released a week or two ago, and is currently available on the SEDAR website, is a model of fiscal clarity.

Dominion Citrus Income Fund (DOM.UN) is a produce wholesaler with operations in Toronto and Quebec City. Most produce wholesalers are private companies, and the whole produce industry is undergoing massive consolidation as monolithic customers like Loblaw, Sobeys, and Wal-Mart attempt to trim their own costs by relentlessly squeezing their suppliers. On paper, Dominion lost money in fiscal 2006. But a little closer examination of the financial statements shows that much of that one-time loss was the result of a goodwill writedown (Goodwill is an accounting term, used to account for the excess an acquirer pays above and beyond the tangible value of an acquiree's assets). An adjustment to accounting goodwill doesn't neccessarily imply the impairment of a business' operating results. Dominion's margins are being squeezed ruthlessly by its customers, and its gross sales have definitely declined in the last few years, but it is still generating enough cash to cover its mouth-watering 15.5% yield.

A similar situation exists over at Hart Stores (HIS), an operator of mid-size bargain department stores in tertiary markets in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes (ie., towns not large enough to attract Wal-Mart). Hart's recent financial results look ugly, until you consider that most of the charges are related to a single situation: the termination of a head office lease and the move to a new distribution complex. How many times is head office going to move in the forseeable future? Just once. So, the one-time charges should logically be backed out of the operating results. The consequence? Modified results that show consistant, steady growth. Hart even pays an annual dividend, which has slowly been increased each year. I own Hart in real life as part of my RRSP portfolio, and took advantage of the market's recent inability to figure out the significance of the termination-of-lease charges to load up on some more shares at bargain prices. (It should also be said that I sold some of Anodyne's position in Hart on the same day that I was adding to my real-life position, underlying my frequent warnings to not treat any of my purchases or sales as a recommendation to do likewise).

I don't get correspondence about Anodyne Inc. nearly as often as I do about magnolias, ghosts, art-crit & etc. That said, I will be happy to entertain questions about the portfolio's holdings, or what passes for my "investment philosophy." I've learned a lot by reading the writing of investors like Marty Whitman, Warren Buffett, and Toronto's Irwin Michael, who have generously shared their analysis of specific situations with readers not personally known to them. Working out philosophical problems in public
-- aesthetic; financial; W.H.Y. -- seems to me to be a good way to go about things, and I'm proud to be able to make a small and idiosyncratic contribution here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Heroclix Galactus

Profile of reclusive investment manager Louis Simpson in today's NYT, one of only two I know. I admire Simpson's humility, patience, and deep independence of mind.

"'If I have the Bloomberg on, I find I am looking at what the market is doing,' [Simpson] said. 'I am looking at every news story. I really like to be the one who is parsing the information, rather than having a lot of irrelevant information thrown at me.'"

Dru writes to remind me of Bill Peet's The Wump World. I adored this book as a kid, obsessively checking out the copy in the Caulfeild elementary school library, and even attempting to write and draw my own version at one point, which, fortunately, no longer survives. The Pollutians' huge fat-bellied spacecraft and impossibly skinny landing legs permanently lodged in some deep part of my psyche, as did their huge tree-crushing and paving machines, which reappeared, decades later, thinly disguised in "Fairway Four," one of my few published pieces of short fiction that doesn't now seem like a total failure. I didn't see the machines that took down the Pine on the Corner a week or two ago, but they probably looked a lot like the Pollutians'.
Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Three dollars...three dollars...three dollars..."


Legendary Vancouver cartoonist Rebecca Dart (Rabbithead, q.v. numerous previous entries) shows off her hideous yet somehow charming Vancouver Comic-Con door prize. Also nb. a certain familiar someone proudly displayed on Reb's chest.

"Dear Sir,

I have received notice of your 'little problem' - as we in the business are euphemistically calling it - and write to offer my assistance. I am Wallis Warfield Simpson Helps English and have extensive experience as a trained rodent eradicator. I propose the following plan of action:

1. I will arrive in my high-tech plastic box carried by my human servant to your place of employment or residence on a date at your leisure;
2. My human servant will set my tech box on the floor and will open the magic gate;
3. My humans will take you for that beverage that makes them giddy; and
4. I will perform for several hours my main function in life.

It would do me a great honour if you would consider my services. I suspect in one evening I would drive the little problem out of your life.

Sincere regards,
Wallis Warfield Simpson Helps English (and human servants)"
Saturday, April 21, 2007

Checking out the quick descent routes
Friday, April 20, 2007

Azalea porn. A title that showed up mid-afternoon along with six liquor store boxes full of art catalogs. Promptly purchased, pilfered from the shop, and stowed in the ailing Legacy, for my next visit to the Secret House of Heritage Perennials. Memories of stacks of Sunset magazine in the living room of the old house in West Vancouver, by the fireplace, where Charlie the cat could scramble up and knock them down over and over again. A "lifestyle magazine," sure, but still a lot more attractive vision than that currently on offer from, say, the Georgia Straight or Vancouver magazine. Redwood, post-and-beam construction, batik hangings, Asian-themed California stir-frys, pots with delicate celadon glazes, and a big patch of sativa somewhere out in the back forty. Which -- sans the paranoia- and depression- inducing sativa -- sounds pretty good to me.
Anodyne Inc.

World's stingiest dividend:

E-L Financial Corporation (ELF): .125/share x 7 ($700+) shares = .88 (record date 17 April 2007)

Cash balance, $49.45

Brilliant sunlight through huge pink trees. Yesterday's forced march ongoing as "body memory" = a deep comfortable ache in my quads. Guided By Voices on the box, doing their thing. Azaleas in bloom all up and down 10th Avenue, little purple star-shapes cupped in dark green foliage. And a few changes in buying policy at the shop, a shot across the bow of my local competitors, spurred by yesterday's very useful reading on the ferry. Happy today, I guess, or as close as I ever get, anyway.


Cates Park magnolias. Courtesy guest photographer Michael Hayward, who was actually taking West Coast magnolia photography's narrow window of opportunity seriously yesterday, instead of piling yet again onto a grubby old B.C. Ferry bound for Duke Point. Another 16km walk in bright spring sun, accomplished at fairly high speed, in order to make the 9 o'clock boat home from Departure Bay. Brief detour into Gina's Mexican Cafe for a cold Corona and the vegetarian platter. Tangy green tomatillo sauce; cheese and tofu burrito slathered with molé; free chips and pungent tomato-and-cilantro salsa. Then on through sundown, out along the waterfront and Stewart Avenue to the ferry, pale pink afterglow visible above all the mainland peaks. Crescent moon over Newcastle Island's dark trees.

Recent reading (& re-reading):

Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn, Competition Demystified: A Radically Simplified Approach

Bruce Greenwald, Judd Kahn, et. al., Value Investing: From Graham to Buffett and Beyond

Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Ontario Food Terminal

Warren Buffett, Robert Smithson and the Center for Land Use Interpretation meet with a bang somewhere high above the Gardiner Expressway.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Warm light overcast, leaves green on the local trees. One of my good-until-filled market orders closed out this morning, courtesy some panicked "investors" who apparently can't read a corporate balance sheet to save their lives. So, a little extra spring in my step. Off momentarily to Simon Starling and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy at Presentation House Gallery, along with a handful of useful papers printed off the net. And then? A high-level walk through North Vancouver, and a wander down the Capilano River, followed by corporate espionage at a Park Royal Village coffee counter. Another CSA studio visit tonight. Sounds like a decent day off to me.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What a Shame About Me

I said babe you look delicious

And you're standing very close

But this is lower Broadway

And you're talking to a ghost

Take a good look it's easy to see

What a shame about me.


E-Flora BC: An Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia

Lots to see here; a resource I keep returning to. Invasive species, too, including Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed, above. Photograph by Hugh Griffith, from the atlas.


The mouse is back. Today's unenviable task: unplug the keyboard, walk it to the trash container behind the front desk, shake out numerous little brown fecal crumbs. A great-looking day so far. Beginning with a burnt-toast smell in the apartment around 2 a.m. Lights on, stuffed animals blinking sleep out of their shoebutton eyes. Not us, nossir! Blue smoke coiling lazily out from under the front door. Out into the hall. Idiot neighbor fanning thick grey clouds out of her apartment. "Fell asleep, left the toaster on. It happens, y'know?" Do I ever. Back to mumbling sleep, head under the covers, the thick scent of carbon still hanging heavily in the air.

Lights off, power off at the coffee bar. What do you order when there's no hot water? "Iced drinks." Cold scone and the NYT, SWAT troops fanning out across a green Virginia campus. A video clip on Steve's laptop last night at the Whip, the flat harsh crack of each shot, campus police crouched uselessly behind their vehicles. Meanwhile, an authoritative-looking woman walks around the restaurant, tapping a knife against the side of a highball glass. Some lame-ass New Age West Coast ritual? No, speed dating, and the tapped glass is the signal for every man in the restaurant but Steve and I to get up and move to a different table. All the participants have little scorecards, and some of their pens start moving even before their prospective partners sit down. Hipster A doesn't sit in the chair provided, but cozies up to Bachelorette B on the couch. Smoothie C slouches in his chair with his legs splayed out under the table. Women outnumber men, so Bachelorettes D and E stare moodily off into space, or frowningly study their scorecards. Cougar F is all physical -- lapel brushes and cleavage flashes that make me wonder why she and Rude Boy G are even bothering with the scorecards, instead of just exiting the premises. Lost Guy H sits down opposite Ice Queen I, who shakes her head, offers him a tight-lipped smile, and indicates her "friend" next door, who doesn't seem too thrilled by Lost Guy, either, but at least allows him the courtesy of a 2-minute chat. Everyone smiles and gestures over-animatedly, as if auditioning for the job of host on a Food Network show.

"Never doing that," is Steve's and my resolution, as we roll out of the high-pressure world of meeting total strangers into the equally high-pressure world of trying to be usefully critical of the work of artists we admire, while not wanting to destroy their legendarily fragile self-confidence, nor our own.
Monday, April 16, 2007

Brad Phillips, Nature Morte

Studio visit tonight with this great local painter.
Born Under Punches

Steady grey rain, stripping the petals from the local trees. A clump of bright green grass at the foot of the little tree outside the door: Durer turf! The usual procession of Monday morning drive-ups: FedEx, Canpar, Canada Post's delivery guy, the one with the duty-due-on-delivery parcels and his hand out. Today, though, a useless freebie: bad movie posters from the promotional service John signed us up for years ago (a 300 clone, by the look of things, starring hordes of CGI-generated demons, someone named "Moon Bloodgood," and a prominently displayed "18A -- Frequent Gory Violence" warning). Talking Heads' Name of This Band on the deck, all I seem to play lately, really. The shush of tires in the rain. Lost souls, wandering in with that distinctive funny walk that says selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in block capitals. A perpetual questioning air. As in, I'm not really making statements? I'm just contemplating them?

"I'm looking for this novel?"

All I want is to breathe, thank you.
Thank you.
Won't you breathe with me?
Find a little space so we move in between.
I'm so thin.
And keep one step ahead of yourself.
I'm catching up with myself.

And keep one step ahead of yourself.
I'm catching up with myself.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mouse turds on my desk this morning, on the keyboard and my Everyman's Kafka. A little fecal bread-crumb trail across my papers and the staff's T4s. The stuffed cats lurking guiltily nearby: What did you expect? We're inanimate....

Brief murderous thoughts of adopting a lean and vicious SPCA stray. Or of sending #54, below, by to sort out Mus musculus.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Approximately 2000 new books since 10am. A madhouse day, more like the week before Christmas than mid-April. Door open, light breeze curling round. Live Talking Heads on the deck, all jittery fast guitars and start-stop rhythms. Sunlight, green leaves curling in the wind. Purple posters for John Armstrong's launch -- Friday 24 April, 7-9pm, a joint Pulpfiction/New Star Books presentation -- in the window.

"So, what kind of books do you buy?" (Aggressive spurned hawker of Reader's Digest, John Grisham, & etc.)

"Not these ones."
Anodyne Inc.


Hart Stores (HIS): 4000 shares x $4.85/share = $19,400.00
Transaction charge: $25
Net cash: $20904.57
Share balance: 1769 shares


Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 400 units x $37.75/unit = $15,100.00
Transaction charge: $25
Net cash: $5779.57
Unit balance, 1170 units

TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 800 units x $6.34/unit = $5706.00
Transaction charge: $25
Unit balance, 1109 units

Cash balance, $48.57

Hart Stores' CFO either resigned or was let go toward the end of March. Massive insider selling in the last few weeks. Nothing fishy in the most recent set of financials, but it seems prudent to substantially trim back Anodyne's position. Quarterly report scheduled for release this coming Friday.

Someone wrote last week requesting an updated list of Anodyne Inc.'s holdings:

Dominion Citrus Income Fund (DOM.UN): 12,346 units
E-L Financial Corporation (ELF): 7 shares
Hart Stores (HIS): 1769 shares
Loblaw Companies (L): 217 shares
Norbord, Inc. (NBD): 1208 shares
North West Company Fund (NWF.UN): 600 units
Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 1170 units
TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units

No pure resource plays; I don't have any skill at evaluating the operation of a diamond mine, gold mine, copper mine or a natural gas field. No airlines, no biotech, and definitely no high tech. These things are totally outside my extremely small "circle of competence." And, as usual, the Anodyne portfolio is a "didactic enterprise," and not a recommendation to buy or sell any security.

Gavin Turk, Cave, 1995

Sunshine after rain, damp steaming from the pavement in the hot spring light.

I'll be ready when my feet touch ground
Wherever I come down
And if the folks will have me
Then they'll have me....

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (56), 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
Anodyne Inc.

A string of distributions today, including yet another missed one caught with the new and vastly improved stats checker:

Norbord Inc. (NBD): .10/share x 1208 shares = $120.80 (21 March 2007)

Parkland Industries (PKI.UN): .24/unit x 770 units = $184.80

Northwest Company Fund (NWF.UN): .22/unit x 600 units = $132.00 (15 April 2007)

TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): .08333/unit x 309 units = $25.75

Cash balance, $1529.57


One Hundred Famous Ghosts (54, 55), 2007
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Recent reading: Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach. HC/DJ, 166pp., $27 CDN! A longish short story bound in boards. Two young English newlyweds, on their wedding night, in the honeymoon suite of a creaky old beach hotel:

"[A] certain way he had of looking away from her and going silent. It was the brooding expectation of her giving more, and because she didn't, she was a disappointment for slowing everything down. Whatever new frontier she crossed, there was always another waiting for her. Every concession she made increased the demand, and then the disappointment. Even in their happiest moments, there was always the accusing shadow, the barely hidden gloom of his unfulfilment, looming like an alp, a form of perpetual sorrow which had been accepted by them both as her responsibility. She wanted to be in love and be herself. But to be herself, she had to say no all the time. And then she was no longer herself. She had been cast on the side of sickliness, as an opponent of normal life."

And there I stopped reading, and gazed a while out the window, at the bright backlit cartoon animals across the street from the coffee shop (Telus Corporation's geckos, flamingos, and little pink piglets). Rain was falling, lightly, through the green trees, onto the sidewalks and hurrying commuters, some of them awkwardly bent as they wrestled umbrellas out of their briefcases and purses to block the shower.

A very clear memory of sitting up in bed by myself some distance from Vancouver. Noisy vomiting clearly audible over the running water in the bathroom.

Mismatch city. Lots of sympathy for both parties. Decades later, the big box of coming-out books that offered retrospective clarity.

Desire's a funny thing, the source of more black comedy in my life than I might readily admit.

Finished Chesil Beach pissed off and furious at its aging single male protagonist, at his anger and wounded pride and confusion.

"He would never attend the concerts, or buy, or even look at, the boxed sets of Beethoven or Schubert. He did not want to see her photograph and discover what the years had wrought, or hear about the details of her life. He preferred to preserve her as she was in his memories, with the dandelion in her buttonhole and the piece of velvet in her hair, the canvas bag across her shoulder, and the beautiful strong-boned face with its wide and artless smile."

I identify with this point of view, with its hopeless weak lyricism, and its need to suspend the past as if under a transparent glass bell. McEwan doesn't, but he's a lot more hard-headed than I am in matters of the heart. More of a realist. And I recognize that realism's strength every day -- have reconciled myself to it, you might say -- though perhaps more intellectually than emotionally. "L'amour est un oiseau rebel; il ne jamais jamais connu le loi." As for those decades-old memories, which Chesil Beach brought back tonight with violent, unwelcome, and completely unexpected force, Wittgenstein's cryptic admonition will have to do: "What we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence."
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
"Only thought which does violence to itself is hard enough to shatter myths." (Max Horkheimer & Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment)
You Should Know the Program

Lots to listen to (and maybe even right-click) here, including the studio remake of Gaucho's apocryphal Second Arrangement (below), all the extant studio demos, and a fine curated selection of live recordings.

Here comes that noise again
Another scrambled message from my last best friend
Something I can dance to
A song with tears in it....

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Salsbury and William, courtesy Sharla Sava, via Pete. I walked over this evening for a casual reconnoiter, but as it turns out, Ms. Sava has it nailed. As Goya says, "I've seen that."

Untitled (W), 2007

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....


(via Monolithic Internet Bookseller)

Young Magnolia in a Curbside Garden, 2007

Untitled (No), 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
Sentences on Conceptual Art (1968) -- rest in peace Sol Lewitt

"23. One artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstruing.

24. Perception is subjective.

25. The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.

26. An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own."

Kitty Scott gets the conceptual, ethical, and economic implications of Brian Jungen's magnificent Habitat 04 in a flash:

"One of the primary reasons the SPCA concerns itself with the welfare of cats today is that the supply far outweighs the demand. In this situation the institution functions as a feline halfway house between life and death. One of the SPCA's goals is to find prospective homes for cats. Sadly, the remaining cats that do not find homes are put down. As I understand your proposed scenario, the cats brought to Quartier Ephémère will remain there until adopted and new cats will replace those that leave. Effectively, this means you are extending the lives of a number of cats and for those that find homes, you are giving the gift of life.

Your proposition is worthy enough. Still, I cannot escape the art context and the value of your increasing fame within this system. For every cat passing through the Safdie inspired compound becomes a ready-made imbued with all the worth your name signifies in the current art world. In other words, the value-added cat becomes a Jungen artwork, or perhaps 'multiple' is a better word. Such signification will hopefully increase the chances a cat will be 'collected' and thus survive."

(Nb. silkscreened kitty-carrier "multiples" at far right, stacked up like Warhol Brillo boxes, ready to carry new friends home)

Brian Jungen, Untitled, 2001. 10 handcrafted red cedar pallets. My favorite work by this ambitious uneven artist, and crucial to my thinking about appropriation, remaking, remixing, & etc. (My other favorite Jungen work, Habitat 04, is an "inhabited sculpture" that balances great formal rigor with rare and clear-eyed compassion).

Lots of email about Theft, below, including genuine incomprehension about how and why the piece was made. Short answer: in much the same spirit as Untitled. A source photograph not by me, which I then color-corrected, digitally touched up, printed, framed, and hung. A sincere attempt to show the source image off to its best advantage. Title's a nod to Peter Carey's great comic novel about the venal contemporary artworld.
"Like the satellite in miniature in the film Valis, the microform of it run over by the taxi as if it were an empty beer can in the gutter, the symbols of the divine show up in our world initially at the trash stratum. Or so I told myself." (Philip K. Dick, Valis)

Terry Winters, Rates of Change, 1996

Curt Swan, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #65, "The Human Porcupine"

Sources for Warp (4/7/7), which puzzled more than a few readers. A little stump chopped off almost right at the ground, quite obviously & permanently deformed. Endless energy spent "fixing" or amelioriating its hopeless situation: sucker shoots, scraggly leaves, desperate wild creativity. Kindred spirit city. Click!

Theft, 2006-7

"The earth's a door, if you press your ear against it." (David Mitchell, Black Swan Green)

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