Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Anodyne Inc.

All Hallow's Eve distribution:

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

Cash balance, $2080.73

Someone asks what the procedure is for the portfolio's (infrequent) trades. Trades are made in the market when the market's open, at whatever the going market price is. I don't trade off end-of-day values.

Someone else asks if I manage money. Yes: my own. I'm not licensed to provide investment advice and have not completed any professional course of study or licensing exam. Anyone interested in having money managed for them should consult a professional advisor, not me.

Cat Bowling -- 2006's favorite seasonal diversion storms back for a second year

Edition no. 41, Jeff Wall, Searcher, 2007 (thanks to PV)

nb. ghost!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing):

Tonight's Youtube:

That fears'come excavation

No Hidden Path (#1)

No Hidden Path (#2)

Cortez The Killer (live '76, Hammersmith London, a song that only improves each time I hear it)
" Of the four new photographs in Jeff Wall: Exposure, three take a cinematographic approach. Each composition realistically depicts people in familiar circumstances: a group of unemployed workers hoping to be selected for temporary jobs; a woman returning to her dreary apartment building, presumably after a hard day trying to make a living; and a group of boys playing a game with toy guns in an empty lot. The fourth work in this group of new photographs is a documentary image that does not include figures. This magnificent picture depicts a frigid cold storage facility, a desolate environment that quite literally threatens exposure for those who work there."
Next transaction:

Q: Skinny Legs and All...that's a classic, right?

CJB: That's one of Robbins' better-known books, yep.

Q: How about this one? [holding up Villa Incognito] Have you read it?

CJB: No, I haven't.

Q: Why not?

CJB [totally honest]: Tom Robbins isn't really the kind of writer I enjoy.

Q: Why not?

Only half an hour left to go!
Blindness Girl finally settled on Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Q: Have you read this one? Is it good?

CJB: We only have good books here!

And then registering BG's flat, unhappy, totally humorless expression:

CJB: It's Eggers' best book. I'd say.

Q: What about Running With Scissors? Did you like that one?

Nothing but snake eyes today, evidently. It's days like these that feed my desire to permanently retire from customer service. And, before anyone fires off email claiming I'm just a curmudgeonly old man, please consider that I've thought this through. I ask for help all the time when I reach the limits of my retail competence:

CJB [to mechanic]: Should I get new plugs? Or a new battery?

CJB [to produce clerk]: Will this firm persimmon taste good? Or should I get a ripe one?

CJB [to climbing-store clerk]: Will this harness fit over my heavy winter pants?

As opposed to:

CJB: Do you like these plugs?

CJB: Have you ever eaten this?

CJB: Do you wear this brand?

I sympathize with the quandry of the person who honestly doesn't read much, and wants my help in picking out something they'll enjoy. But asking me for something I've read and enjoyed is exactly the wrong way to go about it. In the early days, I used to freely dispense books I'd enjoyed: Adorno, de Duve, Coetzee, Ross MacDonald, Maureen McHugh, etc. etc. etc. The books would inevitably return a day or two later, along with a host of depressing labels: dense, unreadable, sad, pretentious, elitist. Putting me in the unhappy position of not only issuing a refund to a pissed-off and unhappy customer, but also receiving an earful about my disappointing taste.

And, of course, just as I was finishing up that last entry:

Q: Have you read this? [holding Saramago's Blindness]

CJB: Would it make a difference if I had?

Q [long thoughtful pause]: No.
And while I'm warming to the subject of more books than patience:

Q: Have you read this? [holding Jonathan Livingston Seagull]

CJB: A long time ago, yes.

Q: Remember when...[long detailed description of moving, life-affirming conversation between two talking seagulls]

CJB: No.

Q: I thought you said you read it!



CJB: Do you have receipts for these?

GWOBB: What the fuck are you asking me, man?

CJB: Never mind. Grab your stuff and fuck off out of here. Don't come back.

GWOBB [to equally junk-sick girlfriend]: Fucking prejudice! Just 'cause I'm using!
A dumbness bomb apparently detonated this morning at Main and Broadway, because I've spent my entire day fielding unsmiling questions like the following:

Q: Are these used or new books?

CJB: Those books over there [pointing] are new. Everything else in the store is used.

Q: What's that supposed to mean?

CJB: We order those books [pointing] from new book suppliers. All the other books in the store are used.

Q: So are your books new or used?

CJB [deep breath]: As I've just explained, we have both.

Q: Why?


Q: Boy, these new book prices must be killing you!

CJB: Actually our new book sales have gone up. We're carrying more titles, and, with our everyday "20% off" pricing, a lot of our prices are already at US par.

Q: Do you have this used? [holding Steve Colbert's new book, which just came out on Friday]

CJB: That book's four days old!

Q: No, huh? Well, guess I'll go buy the softcover at Chapters.

CJB: That title doesn't exist in softcover. It just came out last week. There won't be a softcover until this time next year.

Q: Chapters'll have the softcover for 30% off, too!

CJB: Maybe. Next year.

Q: Chapters must be killing you! [repeat ad infinitum]


Q: I'll just ask you because I don't know where to look! Do you have Stranger in a Strange Land?

CJB: We should...on the blue wall.

Q: That blue wall? Or that one?

CJB: Only one of those walls has books on it.

Only an hour and a half left to go!

To a forest in a Vancouver suburb. Goretex jacket, nylon rain pants, old beat-up sneakers and "Port Townsend Food Co-op" ball cap. Grey sky, intermittent light rain.

Down a bank through salmonberry and devil's club. Over fallen logs and around rotting stumps. Mist in the air, gentle patter of falling rain. Hebeloma crustuliniforme poking up everywhere through the floor duff.

Aminata fulvas upthrust in the hollows around conifer roots. Deeply striate margins, gleaming grey-brown caps, volvic sac remnants visible upon careful excavation.

Cantharellus cibarius, the fragrant and exceptionally tasty Pacific Golden Chanterelle, gleaming yolkishly yellow-orange like a blinking neon EAT ME sign visible twenty feet away through the bushes.

Boletus zelleri everywhere. I collected approximately fifteen pounds in four hours, including a foot and a half high specimen whose stem was as thick as an English cucumber. Back home, the 'shrooms went into a hot cast iron frying pan along with some scallions, butter, and a heathy dollop of '05 merlot. (Boletes are mostly water, so the mushrooms need to dry-sautee in nothing but their own juices and a sprinkling of kosher salt for five or six minutes before the other ingredients are added. Otherwise, the 'shrooms cook up slimy, like okra). In another pan, an organic steak acquainted itself with cracked black peppercorns.

'shrooms on steak, steak on plate. Simple! And after dinner and washing-up the Incredible Talking Cats helped string the remaining boletes from fishing line, to hang them up to dry.

(Image: Boletus zelleri, courtesy George Barron's Website on Fungi)
Sunday, October 28, 2007

Special Guest Blogger Alison Yip attended last week's big VAG photography panel and files this visual report
One more:

May-December (for D.)
Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tonight's Youtube:

The Boston Rag


Do It Again (live '96, nb. 1.21)

Slang of Ages
Star People

On the express bus:

K: So, are all those other bookstores in the neighborhood stealing business from you?

CJB: Not really. I think of it more as a sharks-and-remoras kind of thing.


CJB: He was in the other day. [Loose approximation of competitor's voice] "If I didn't have porn I wouldn't be doin' any business at all!"


CJB: Mostly I just feel relief. I go by on the bus and see all these guys I've kicked out. "Oh, hey! There's George, yammering on about his short-wave radio and the space people."

GUY IN THE SEAT BEHIND US: Do you have friends in California?

K & CJB: Eh?

GITSBU: Warn them. In six days there'll be a rain of smoke, and ash. Waves of mud. And an angel- -

K: I thought you were kidding!

CJB: Lots of people do, at first.

GITSBU: I've faxed Arnie! And the Red Cross!

K: You're a weirdness magnet.

CJB: Yes, it always comes as a surprise.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Upon Closer Inspection

"That's no housecat, it's a cannon."


Via a reader not previously known to me, a member of Toronto's investment community. Thanks!

Via Pete: a model of Scrooge McDuck's money bin on Killmotor Hill. Nb. housecat at lower left! Also via Pete: Thierry de Duve's keynote lecture to the Frieze Art Fair. de Duve's Kant After Duchamp had an enormous influence on me when I first read it in 1998; I don't think there's a work of theoretical art criticism I've learned more from. de Duve's notion of a Foucaltian "archaeology of modernism" paired with a granular, Greenbergian close reading of specific art works (Duchamp's Fountain; Stella's stripe paintings; Sherrie Levine's gold-leafed knotholes) might strike many readers as counterintuitive or bizarre, but it sure hit home at Anodyne HQ, where an abiding interest in apparently contradictory things (say, de Duve and Scrooge McDuck) is just business as usual.
Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Did you open your ecard yet? You have been sent the Laughing Kitty Kard."

Tonight's Youtube: Bobbi Humphrey's and Donald Byrd's Harlem River Drive

(Another great, funky, totally unrelated HRD here)
Sign In, Stranger

"Just wanted to say, cool blog. You've got a great mix of art, lit, $$$ & mushrooms."
James Nadiger draws my attention to articles combining two of my special interests, bookselling and microeconomics:

Michael Kimmelman, German Border Threat: Cheap Books (via the NYT)

Peter Brantley, Books on the Border

Anodyne Inc. Annual Report to Shareholders

First off, some missed distributions:

Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 3510 units x .0967/unit = $339.42 (17 Oct)

TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units x .041667/unit = $46.21 (17 Oct)

North West Company Fund (NWF.UN): 600 units x .27/unit = $162.00 (15 Oct)

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

Loblaw Companies (L): 217 shares x .21/share = $45.57 (12 Sep)

Current Portfolio

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): 3510 units
TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units
Amerigo Resources, Inc. (ARG): 695 shares

Cash balance, $1957.27


Anodyne Inc., 25 October 2006 - 25 October 2007: 22.46% increase

TSE 300 index, 25 October 2006 - 25 October 2007: 14.45% increase

Relative result: 8.01%

Discussion and Analysis of Results

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 twelve month period, Anodyne Inc.'s gain has significantly exceeded the TSE's.

The TSE figure is important because it shows what you could earn by passively investing your money in an index fund. The index serves as an objective benchmark of my performance as an investment manager. 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 you should, 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.

The portfolio's composition is pretty focused, with one position (Parkland Income Fund, PKI.UN) representing approximately 60% of total capital. I'd diversify if I could find reasonably priced companies to buy, but most of the Canadian market strikes me as overvalued, and, given present conditions, I'd rather stick with companies I'm familiar with than "diworseify" into a host of new names and sky-high P/Es.

Dominion Citrus (DOM.UN) and Amerigo Resources (ARG) are not well-understood by the Canadian investment community. Their present prices represent attractive discounts to my calculations of intrinsic value, which emphasize an analysis of discounted cash flow over liquidation value. Emphasizing liquidation value is foolish in the case of companies whose cash flow conservatively covers their dividend payout ratio. A company like Amerigo is better analyzed as a "bond-like" investment.

TerraVest (TI.UN) has benefited from the involvement of Canadian activist investor George Armoyan. Its monthly distribution rate was recently cut to a more sustainable level; I had originally factored this possibility into my purchase price and timing.

Hart Stores (HIS) and Loblaw (L) are having trouble executing their business plans, which says more about the competence of current management than it does about the sustainability of the underlying businesses.

Norbord (NBD), North West Company Fund (NWF.UN), Parkland (PKI.UN) and Amerigo (ARG) are particularly well-run businesses that I plan to hold indefinitely.

I take my management of this imaginary portfolio pretty seriously, at least as seriously as writing art criticism and running the bookstore(s). It's a funny paradox: all my life, I have wanted to pursue a "creative" occupation (fiction writing; comic book scriptwriting; performance; radio announcing, etc). These ambitions have uniformly not worked out as planned. (I exempt photography and artmaking from this list; my off-the-radar artmaking is more like contemporary art remade as folk or fan art -- "your 'practice'," Neaera once called it, making me smile in the dark). All the things I'm good at are slow, require much patience (irony: a man with no patience meeting occupations that only bloom in time) and are not much valued by my culture as evidence of creativity. (Shopkeeper. Capitalist.) Around the century's end I started thinking seriously about escape.

"You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd agrees with you," says Benjamin Graham, the Shakespeare of my profession. Emerson concurs: What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Aaron Peck, viz. Seminar One: "The joke is your class would actually be interesting, thus totally incomprehensible to the academy."

The joke is that, out of the blue, a local institution emailed yesterday to inquire if I'd be interested in teaching. So, inexplicably, and against long odds, some version of the CJB Monologues on Aesthetics, Conceptual Art, Photography, and "The Idea of the Picture" will be forthcoming in the spring.
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tonight's Youtube: Warwick, David & Bacharach's In The Land of Make Believe

"In 1978, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and Walter Becker produced an album for tenor saxophonists Pete Christlieb and Wayne Marsh called Apogee. The Steely duo also contributed the song 'Rapunzel,' which they based upon th[e] Bacharach-David composition. 'We heard the song on a Dionne Warwick record and thought it would be nice to blow on,' Fagen told Robert Palmer on the liner notes for the album. Dusty Springfield also recorded a 1969 cover featuring sitar/guitar underpinnings."

"Aurora Bistro
Autumn Hunter's Dinner, October 21, 2007

Duck Broth with Prosciutto, Cabbage and Great Northern Beans

Roasted Nicola Valley Grouse
Wild Huckleberry Sauce
Foraged Mushroom Ragout
Brussels Sprouts with House Made Maple Bacon
Pomme Anna

Sugar Pumpkin Tart Tatin with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Guest Chef and Hunter: Jerry Sanders
Executive Chef: Jeff Van Geest"
So, for example:

Seminar One

Hill and Adamson, Thomas Duncan & D.O. Hill at the Tomb of John Naismith, Greyfriars', ca. 1845

Andre Kertesz, Meduon, Paris, 1928

Ian Wallace, La Melancholie de la Rue, 1973

Walker Evans, Truck and Sign, New York, 1928

Stephen Shore, U.S. 10, Post Falls, ID, August 25, 1974, 1974

Robert Adams, Remains of Old Growth Forest, Washington, 1990

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Watertowers, 1967-80, printed 1980

Kelly Wood, Continuous Garbage Project, 1998-2003

Jeff Wall, Still Creek, Vancouver, Winter 2003, 2004

Sylvia Grace Borda, Every Bus Stop In Surrey, B.C., 2005

Jamie Tolagson, Abandoned Store, Bishop, California, 2006

Roy Arden, The Lower Mainland, 2005

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Le Grand Cavalier sous Bois, 1854

Thirteen weeks of lectures. Not my "favorite" pictures, not neccesarily, but ones I could talk about for fifty minutes at a time. Rodney Graham, Brandon Lattu, and Lee Friedlander should appear on this list, too.


Roy Arden, The Lower Mainland, 2005

My favorite piece in the VAG's big Arden retrospective. A very complex first year photography exam could be built on a picture like this one. Attach a high-quality print of the image to two simple questions: How is this picture structured? How does its spatial arrangement articulate its engagement with the world? By "engagement" I mean questions of ideology, history & etc., which will neccessarily be subjective for each responder.

What would a Brayshaw UBC or ECIAD photo class look like? Twenty weeks of lectures, with every lecture based around a single picture or picture sequence, branching out into the image's self-selected brothers, sisters, cousins. Foucaltian aesthetic "archaelogy," deep or inner structure, correspondences.
Saturday, October 20, 2007

Via Craigslist, and probably not funny unless you live in the Lower Mainland:

"RCMP Taser The Shit Out of Crashed Plane

RCMP first responders have been seen tasering the shit out of the crashed plane in Richmond. Apparently handcuffs were not an option, and the plane did not respond to any questions posed to it."
My first post for Toronto's Akimblog. The "portrait-of-the-writer" is Akimbo's crop of a photograph of me ghost-hunting in Victoria, made by Mr. Tolagson, who coincidentally has a fancy new artist site up here.

In other news, I have the flu. Full-body chills, uncontrollable shivering, sweats, no appetite to speak of: the works.

Letter From Vancouver
by Christopher Brayshaw

Anyone tempted to claim that photography in Vancouver is a homogeneous, monolithic, or theory-driven practice will find their prejudice confounded in recent exhibitions by Roy Arden, Chris Gergley, and Evan Lee. All three photographers share a radical openness to their subjects, seemingly motivated by the belief that no subject, regardless of how abject or banal it might first seem, is beneath representation. The Vancouver Art Gallery’s Arden retrospective is a knockout, gathering photographs, videos, collages and sculpture from all phases of this local artist’s long career. Early works like Rupture, which joins black and white archival photographs of the violent suppression of a group of unemployed men with brilliant sky-blue monochromes, are juxtaposed with large format color photographs of the scruffy remains of nature - wild alders, blackberry bushes, urban thickets strewn with garbage and other evidence of transient human habitation - that frame what Arden calls “the landscape of the economy.” Images of plywood stacks, pulp mill dumps, and uprooted trees testify to the West Coast economy’s rapacious conversion of nature into capital, and the scars and traumas the process leaves behind.

Roy Arden, Development, 1993, chromogenic print

A more recent series of photographs depicts hydrangea blooms whose brilliant colors punctuate the city’s scruffy avenues, poking through chain link fences and up from the margins of unkempt yards. A picture like The Lower Mainland, with its seemingly off-kilter composition of decrepit planter boxes, cracked asphalt, and bagged-up yard debris, reveals a compositional subtlety reminiscent of Lee Friedlander, or, more accurately, Cezanne. Like Arden, both artists found beauty and significance in subjects other, less thoughtful viewers might have simply dismissed as beneath art.

Downstairs at the VAG, Arden has curated a group show that contextualizes his own practice. Largely drawn from the Gallery’s permanent collection, it includes strong work from locals Liz Magor, Jerry Pethick, Scott McFarland and Mike Grill, as well as pieces by Ed Ruscha, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Andy Warhol, Robert Smithson, Dan Graham, Stephen Shore, Cy Twombly, and others. A mini retrospective of video projections by Arden’s Monte Clark Gallery stablemate Mark Lewis rounds out the rest of the second floor.

Chris Gergley, Copy Work, 2006

On display downtown at the Contemporary Art Gallery is Copy Work, a three-part exhibition by photographer Chris Gergley. In the largest, most successful part of this show, Gergley reproduces images he originally created for other contexts. These include a documentary photograph of a Christopher Williams piece at the CAG, the front cover of Ron Terada’s recent CAG catalog, a double-page spread which reproduces a Gergley picture from Douglas Coupland’s book Souvenir of Canada, a spread from a Vancouver Art Gallery annual report touting the Gallery’s recent acquisition of a Gergley photograph, magazine and private portrait commissions, and so on.

Through his re-presentations, Gergley calls attention to the often contradictory ways that visually identical images assume different meanings in different presentation contexts. It’s a thoughtful, funny idea that Gergley pulls off well. Less successful are a series of documentary slides of other artists’ work (Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman) projected in a darkened gallery or a series of photographic color calibration chips installed like “abstract art” in the CAG’s big window vitrines. The cumulative impression created by these mild interventions is of an ambitious artist spinning his wheels; they lack the swaggering aplomb of his faux-ironic transformations of commercial and commissioned “copy work” into art.

Only one non-Copy Work piece really stands out: a slide projection of a single white fluorescent Flavin tube, which, like the piece it reproduces, is displayed in the vertical join between two gallery walls. The tiny, thirty-centimeter high projection is a clever evocation of the work it references, much like Richard Pettibone’s tiny handmade reproductions of Frank Stella paintings and Warhol’s Brillo boxes. The tiny projection possesses a delicacy and aesthetic concision that towers over everything else in this ambitious but maddeningly inconsistent show.

Evan Lee, Portrait of the Artist’s Grandmother, 2007, giclee print on archival paper

At Monte Clark Gallery, Evan Lee’s Drawing Photography juxtaposes small graphite drawings of elderly Chinese women with two large scale black and white photographs, one of a woman working in a backyard garden, the other a portrait of the artist’s frail grandmother shortly before her death, reclining on a bed surrounded by framed family photographs of her children and grandchildren. Much of Lee’s work plays, like Gergley’s, with double meanings. Lee has previously photographed cardboard boxes that look like smiling cartoon faces, ginseng roots resembling exotic birds, and transparent plastic drafting tools that imply flamingos or cartoon snakes. In this new exhibition, the “doubleness” of Lee’s work is put aside in favor of the direct representation of his subjects. His pictures’ apparent lack of a straightforward message, moral, or theme is actually the result of Lee’s deliberate decision to represent his subjects as they are, paying careful attention to each woman’s gestures, clothing, and physiognomy, thereby representing their individual specificity and avoiding the temptation to convert them into symbols or representatives of a “class.” Lee’s show is not flashy, and lacks the dry wit characterizing much of his recent photographs, but the work is solid, brave and nakedly biographical.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Why That Outstanding Essay/Review/Correspondence/Microeconomics Homework Isn't Quite Finished Yet


News flash:

"A slightly soft erection is not only troublesome to you, but it's less visually exciting and less stimulating to your partner."
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Tonight's Youtube: Nine Horses' Atom & Cell
ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Strange Advance's We Run

Big hair? Check! Drum pads? Check! Fog machine? Check!

Vancouver Artists Mournful As Civic Strike Concludes
By Paul de Plume

VANCOUVER (CP) Vancouver residents can finally take out the trash after outside city workers ratified a collective agreement on Sunday, ending an almost three-month strike.

As garbage collectors return to the job today, the City of Vancouver said it would throw the maximum number of available staff toward tackling the mountain of waste that has been piling up at residences since the strike began on July 19.

Residents are allowed to put out six bags of garbage -- in addition to their regular garbage bins and their garbage-filled yard trimming cans -- for the next two weeks of scheduled pickups, city spokesman Jerry Dobrovolny said.

At Granville Island's Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, photography department staff and students held two minutes' silence for the late strike.

"My students have been out every day, documenting the bonanza of abjection and informe provided by the strike," said Jerzy Botkin, a ECIAD photo instructor. "That's okay. I wasn't even at the school during my posted hours. I was working on a new series." Botkin showed this reporter selections from a sequence of over thirty-five hundred photographs of street refuse he has made since the strike began.

Botkin's series may have to wait a while for its public debut. According to curators and directors at public galleries and artist-run centers around the city, the nine-week city strike generated an unprecedented number of single-artist and group exhibitions.

"We're booked solid until 2013," said Helene Froufrou, curatorial assistant at Artspeak Gallery. "Upcoming we have studies of fast-food clamshells, plastic vegetable holders, stir sticks, wet napkins, dry napkins, coffee-cup holders, eggshells, cigarette butts, lawn clippings....I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed down here."

Vancouver Art Gallery senior curator Jonathan Tichy declined an interview from his cellphone, en route to the Vancouver Transfer Station with visiting American installation artist Mark Dion. "I'm too busy right now to talk," said Tichy. Dion agreed: "An opportunity to work with this quantity of civic waste only comes along once in a lifetime."

According to some Eastern art critics, garbage is simply garbage. But for Vancouver's visual-arts community, garbage is apparently gold.
Monday, October 15, 2007

Soundtrack to my teenage years: the Plugz' sublime Reel Ten

Q: Hey kid! Hey! Are you hard of hearing?

A: What?

Q: You want to make ten bucks?

A: Fuck you, queer!

Q: Wait, you got the wrong idea! My old lady is real sick. I got to get her to the hospital, 'kay?

A: So what? Take her there.

Q: I can't leave her car in this bad area. I need some helpful soul to drive it for me. . . .
Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tonight's Youtube: Moomin Voices
A BlueBook correspondent observes the Duo's slow leakage into the world:

"Here in my 'hood' we have these garbage trucks with mechanical arms that pick-up and dump the garbage cans. I kid you not, when these 'arms' are activated and reach down and grab the can it is note-for-note the first five tones at the beginning of Josie!"

Not Thinking, Judging

Recent favorites. Ejected deadbeats indicated: [E]. Snappy answer also appended to one.

"Do you have a book called Speeches by High School Principals?"

"Have you read this?" (Inevitably proffering The Alchemist; some manky self-help title, or, once, memorably, a workbook for female survivors of sexual abuse)

"Have you read all these books?"

"How are your books organized? Do you use a computer?" [SA: No, the alphabet]

"Where's all your books on projection holography?"

"So, are your parents paying your rent?" [E]

And just now, right this second:

"Want to buy an extra foot?" (Neighborhood alkie pushing little-old-lady walker overflowing with junk, and, riding on top, a black boot with a fake plastic severed leg and fake plastic blood sprouting from it like a flower)

"Dear cjbrayshaw. Gigantic, heavyweight, king sized. That's how my dick is now described. . . ."

Recent reading (& listening):

George Packer, The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq

James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet

Charlie Savage, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy

Robert Draper, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush

Marvin Gaye, In Our Lifetime? (expanded 2CD Love Man edition)

Miles Davis, Seven Steps to Heaven

Hank Mobley, Workout
Friday, October 12, 2007

The Grief That Made 'Peanuts' Good

Must-read Bill Watterson review of the new Schulz biography, and an uncannily accurate description of many thoughts and feelings endlessly circling in my head.

"Born in 1922, Schulz always held his parents in high regard, but they were emotionally remote and strangely inattentive to their only child. Schulz was shy and alienated during his school years, retreating from nearly every opportunity to reveal himself or his gifts. Teachers and students consequently ignored him, and Schulz nursed a lifelong grudge that so few attempted to draw him out or recognized his talent. His mother was bedridden with cancer during his high-school years, and she died long before he could prove himself to her -- a source of endless regret and longing for him. As a young adult, he disguised his hurt and anger with a mild, deflecting demeanor that also masked his great ambition and drive.

Once he finally achieved his childhood dream of drawing a comic strip, however, he was able to expose and confront his inner torments through his creative work, making insecurity, failure and rejection the central themes of his humor. Knowing that his miseries fueled his work, he resisted help or change, apparently preferring professional success over personal happiness. Desperately lonely and sad throughout his life, he saw himself as 'a nothing,' yet he was also convinced that his artistic ability made him special. An odd combination of prickly pride and utter self-abnegation characterizes many of his public comments."

And, more to the point:

"Lucy, for all her domineering and insensitivity, is ultimately a tragic, vulnerable figure in her pursuit of Schroeder. Schroeder's commitment to Beethoven makes her love irrelevant to his life. Schroeder is oblivious not only to her attentions but also to the fact that his musical genius is performed on a child's toy (not unlike a serious artist drawing a comic strip). Schroeder's fanaticism is ludicrous, and Lucy's love is wasted. Schulz illustrates the conflict in his life, not in a self-justifying or vengeful manner but with a larger human understanding that implicates himself in the sad comedy."
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Paxillus involutus, poison pax, gathered off a Mount Pleasant lawn en route to the bank

Peg, Art Crimes '96

Bad Sneakers
, Lucca 2007

West of Hollywood, '00

Look in these eyes
Can't you see the core is frozen?
You can't ask me to access the dreams I don't have now...
Friday, October 05, 2007
The Way of the Wild Mushroom -- long, impeccably well-written essay by California mycologist David Arora

"[I]t is the wandering 'circuit pickers,' as typified by Nancy and her kin, that intrigue me the most, for they are quintessential outsiders: figuratively, because they stand outside the mainstream, and literally, because they spend most of their waking existence outdoors. They are the latest (some say the last) incarnation of a wandering community as ancient as humanity itself—one that is nature-immersed and moves with the seasons, dispersing and coalescing as conditions dictate. Knowledge is acquired through days spent in the woods and is communicated orally. Respect in this traveling community is won through the expertise that flows from that knowledge; trust and camaraderie are cemented and sustained through the exchange of nature—the buying, selling, and bartering of mushrooms—and just as importantly, from the exchange of stories about nature and mushrooms."

Via dru. Nb. "cold" and "wet" conjoined over Anodyne HQ!
Thursday, October 04, 2007

Introduction To Fall Mushrooms, courtesy Michael W. Beug of Olympia, WA

"Introduction to Fall Mushrooms features some of the many large, showy edible and poisonous basidiomycetes that might tempt the budding mycophagist. The mushroom shown as a backdrop here is Amanita muscaria var. muscaria, one of the most beautiful and tasty poisonous species. Because it is abundant, large and beautiful with a pleasant taste, many people eat Amanita muscaria each year. Most eat Amanita muscaria in error and wind up experiencing intoxication, nausea, muscle spasms, staggering, vomiting and diarrhea usually followed soon by a deep coma-like sleep and recovery within 24 hours. A few eat it intentionally for its mind-altering effects. Amanita muscaria is, after all, the mushroom of Alice in Wonderland - one bite makes you big, another makes you small, another changes time."

(Image: Amanita muscaria, Sapperton, B.C., 2005. Photo by CJB)
Friends I found at Kanaka Creek:

* Hypholoma fasciculare (a.k.a. Naematoloma fasciculare)

* Some old boletes, too decayed to properly identify

* Pholiota squarrosoides

* Pleurotus ostreatus
x 50 million
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Handed-in-to-the-gallery version of a short essay on RBC Painting Competition winner Arabella Campbell. "Why don't you write art criticism any more?" Well, I do, but slowly. Thanks to Constant Reader Doug French for the careful proofreading.

"Artist Using Painting": A Context for Arabella Campbell
by Christopher Brayshaw

Arabella Campbell’s paintings announce their blunt facticity with as little stylistic embellishment as possible. Which doesn’t mean they’re devoid of expressive content. As American minimal art of the 1960s definitively proved, the more sharply limited an art work’s expressive elements are, the more strongly they will figure in whatever aesthetic effect the work creates. The burnish and lustre of Carl Andre’s lead and copper panels; Donald Judd’s plain plywood boxes and serial arrangements of brushed aluminum and colored plexiglass; and the softly colored haloes surrounding Dan Flavin’s arrangements of fluorescent lighting fixtures demonstrate that minimal art did not renounce visual expressivity, not exactly, but reorchestrated it in a minor key. Minimal art enabled the perception of aesthetic possibility – beauty – in materials that had not previously, nor ever seemed particularly likely to possess high art associations. Similarly, Campbell’s paintings call attention to the previously unappreciated aesthetic qualities of the support materials of painting – canvas and linen fabric; wooden stretcher bars; white underpainting -- or, in other words, to all the elements of the prep-work required to clear an “empty” space, a neutral ground prior to whatever is subsequently inscribed on or laid down upon it. The “physical facts” of painting’s supports are the subject of Campbell’s practice, a practice that largely produces blank or monochrome paintings. This is an unconventional but not totally out-of-the-ballpark idea; it is one that was anticipated and accepted, albiet less than happily, by Clement Greenberg in 1962: “By now it has been established, it would seem, that the irreducible essence of pictorial art consists in but two constitutive conventions or norms: flatness and the delimitation of flatness; and that the observance of these two norms is enough to create an object which can be experienced as a picture – though not necessarily as a successful one.”1

Greenberg’s caveat – that a blank canvas already exists “as a picture” – as art, if not necessarily good art – is worth considering for its implications for Campbell’s practice. Greenberg recognized, I think, that morphological criticism (criticism based or rooted in cataloging an artwork’s physical properties) is descriptive, not evaluative. Morphological criticism establishes certain straight forward “physical facts” about works of art: Work X is such-and-such a size, say, and consists of a linen surface, and wooden stretcher bars, and multiple coats of flatly applied white acrylic paint. All this criticism does is describe the work. It doesn’t judge it. How could it? An art work’s aesthetic success or failure can never be rooted in specific physical characteristics or properties, for, if this were in fact the case, it would be possible to determine an artwork’s aesthetic success or failure in advance from a list of those properties, a prospect which Greenberg presciently, and unhappily addressed in 1974: “Did we know specifically what classes of properties and what degrees of such properties always made for superior art, we’d be able not only to prove and infer esthetic judgements, but also to know in advance what kinds of properties superior art would always have, and have to have. From this it would follow that anyone who informed himself [sic] enough would be able to create superior art at will, deliberately; and he [sic] would be able to decide beforehand just how superior to make it. The making, like the appreciating, of art would be reduced to a matter of codified selective procedures that were as learnable as those of accountancy.”2

If a blank or monochrome canvas is art, then any blank or monochrome canvas must be, even the mass-produced and primed- ones sitting shrinkwrapped in the bins at the local art supply store. By itself the blank or monochrome canvas is just another stylistic gesture, a genre that isolates itself from wider (and consequently more risky) comparisons. As a result, most ambitious art which takes up the blank or monochrome canvas further alters, transforms or disfigures it. Few artists of any consequence have chosen to present the blank or monochrome canvas on its own.

For example, Art and Language’s black monochrome, Secret Painting (Ghost) (1968), is accompanied by a didactic text asserting, “The content of this painting is invisible….” Similarly, in 1967 and 1968, John Baldessari hired professional sign painters to inscribe phrases like, Everything is Purged From This Painting But Art, No Ideas Have Entered This Work, on lightly gessoed canvases. The work of local artists like Ian Wallace and Ron Terada is also relevant to Campbell’s practice. Wallace pairs painted monochrome panels with photographs; the monochrome signifies an aspect of the work that either escapes photographic representation or exists in tension with it, as, for instance, the allegorical signification of social forces that shape and contain behavior. Thus, the individual particularity of each of Wallace’s friends depicted in a series like My Heroes in the Street (1986), contrasts with the architecture of the surrounding polis, a signifying system represented photographically as glass doors; street signage; mall escalators and shop windows, but also indirectly, as flatly painted panels that allude to ideological forces that work in and through objects. Similarly, Ron Terada’s monochrome fields represent – at least to me – the “weak” persistence of the art-historical genres parodically cited by the texts Terada superimposes on top of them (Personals ads as portraits; gallery ads as portraits or still-life paintings; Jeopardy! questions as history paintings).

Campbell’s paintings similarly transform the “painting degree zero” of the blank or monochrome canvas. Her works’ surfaces are usually not blank, but covered with pigment, though that pigment often mimicks the color and texture of the surface beneath it. These repetitions take the materials of painting as the subject of painting; they repeat them. Repetition is a way of slowing something down, suspending it, putting it in quotation marks, or subjecting it to what Duchamp called a delay. In Campbell’s case, I think these repetitions are a way of probing painting’s deep, or hidden structure. Campbell systematically examines each part of the painter’s practice, just as someone learning to speak a foreign language might start by sounding out syllables, then words, and finally combining them to create sentences and meaning. This is a intellectually and aesthetically rigorous approach to artmaking, and one whose unfashionability was clearly displayed in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s recent group exhibition, Paint, where the rigorous beauty of Campbell’s work sharply contrasted with the neo-expressionism, realist watercolors, “mixed media” painting-sculpture hybrids and lumpy cartoon abstraction of the other participants, which proceeded as if conceptual art’s interrogation of painting in the late 1960s had either never existed, or had simply been wished away. Campbell’s probing investigations of the materials of painting could not have looked more out of place alongside the hectic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink stylistic promiscuity characterizing the rest of the exhibition, an important reminder that while the example of Duchamp’s readymades authorized artists to “do whatever,” he did not neccessarily prescribe “everything simultaneously.”

Looking at Campbell's work takes time. The longer you are prepared to stand and wait, the more you recognize (with pleasure!) effects that you might have originally ignored: the soft green glow that floats along the top edge of a large white monochrome triptych, or the very slight variations in luminosity that are visible after long study of two identical panels painted with slightly different shades of white pigment. At Campbell's Catriona Jeffries show, these immensely subtle painterly effects were deployed in amongst a welter of other artworks: photographs, monochrome sculptures, videos, and gallery ephemera (press releases; origami boxes made from recycled invitations). There is more than a whiff of defensiveness to these otherwise visually engaging and formally playful objects. They bracket the paintings, as if to announce that their creator is not only a painter, but an artist-in-general, someone whose thoughtfulness and talent extend across media. They also testify to the fact that the creator of the paintings is someone with a sense of humor, revealing Campbell's wry appreciation of the systems- or process- based aspect of her work, which recalls, at least to me, Sol Lewitt's, or, more accurately, Mel Bochner's. The non-paintings -- the photographs of fishing boundary markers, say, or the exemplary video loop Generator Garden, which is simply a very long exposure whose length is continuous with viewers' own time-based experience of it -- testify that the paintings' spareness has been carved out of the clutter of the rest of the art -- and, by extension, the rest of the physical world -- only with great focus and concentration. The non-paintings are "art gestures" that point to the paintings' precariousness, indicating that they have been won back only at great expense from a larger, more cluttered world. The photographs, videos and sculptures purport to be autonomous but to exhibit them on their own would be, I think, to miss the important work they perform. They are better seen as a context for the paintings, other inhabitants of the world the paintings live in. They signify that Campbell is an artist who not only composes in paint, but in multiple dimensions and across media, to produce a kind of hybrid installation art of which painting is just one component, an art as complex as the tangles and thickets it emerged from, which it only purports to hold at bay.

August-October 2007

1 Clement Greenberg, “After Abstract Expressionism,” Art International 6, no.8 (1962): 30.

2 Clement Greenberg, “Esthetic Judgement.” Homemade Aesthetics: Observations on Art and Taste. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999: 14.

Anodyne Inc (USD)

Portfolio's first three month anniverary. Annualized return:

Anodyne Inc. (USD): 1.28% increase

S&P 500 index: 1.33% increase

Relative result: (-.05%)

Both the portfolio and the the benchmark index slightly gained over this first three-month period, but the index slightly outperformed the portfolio, leading to a negative relative result. I judge my performance over a rolling three to five year period, as you should, so this slow start doesn't bother me, and shouldn't bother you, either. I will post a more detailed breakdown of the stats some time in the next day or two for those few readers who are keeping tabs, perhaps even more closely than me.

Anodyne Inc.

Income trust distribution:

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

Cash balance, $1243.27

Monday, October 01, 2007
Tonight's Youtube: The Night Watch, live from Japan
What Ails the Short Story

"Last year, I read scores of stories that felt ... not quite dead on the page, I won’t go that far, but airless, somehow, and self-referring. These stories felt show-offy rather than entertaining, self-important rather than interesting, guarded and self-conscious rather than gloriously open, and worst of all, written for editors and teachers rather than for readers. The chief reason for all this, I think, is that bottom shelf. It’s tough for writers to write (and editors to edit) when faced with a shrinking audience. Once, in the days of the old Saturday Evening Post, short fiction was a stadium act; now it can barely fill a coffeehouse and often performs in the company of nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a mouth organ. If the stories felt airless, why not? When circulation falters, the air in the room gets stale."

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