Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CJB's latenight I-5 soundtrack:

Blue Line Swinger

Music and lyrics by Yo La Tengo

You, you won't talk about what we see when the lights are out
And I'm willing to hold your hand while you're lost,
while you're so full of doubt
Walk for miles, on your own loose ends, I'll find you there
I'll find you there

You, you walk up thin blue lines possible with reality
And I, I see through small red eyes,
glowing still at your uncertainty
Out of darkness you will come around, I know you will
I know you will
And I'll find you
And I'll find you there

ACTs (Aesthetically Claimed Things): Bobby Womack, Across 110th Street, 0:00-0:35, 0:52.

(And that tile wall, too)
Monday, October 27, 2008
A Google Keyword Search by Which Some Wiseass Arrived Here

"Anodyne Inc. bankruptcy."

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Terre Rouge, Esch-Alzette, Luxembourg, 1979

Jonathan Monk, Golden Arms II, 2006, gold plated coat hangers

Neue Sachlichkeit?

(Slightly expanded FB exchange viz. SFWGT, below, and aesthetics in general)

ALEX MORRISON: Oh no, not the "new" "sincere" "objectivity" ??!!

CJB: Realism is an old mode. Sincerity isn't a defect in art, no more so than the reflexive skepticism/irony that pervades contemporary practice, but it doesn't guarantee aesthetic worth or "quality." (In passing, I don't like the "weakness" of much contemporary "sincerity": the hand-drawn and lettered 'zine; the big blue Bic ballpoint drawing of a robin or wolf in the middle of a huge expanse of expensive white Arches: the reflexive "protests" of young people so intimidated by their older peers that they flaunt their own belatedness and presumed inconsequentiality as the subject of their work. Yawn!)

Objectivity is a historical construct, and maybe interesting as a style ("objectivist style," qv. the Bechers, above) but I don't believe that it, in and of itself, is any guarantee of quality or worth, either.

Contemporary theorists of
Neue Sachlichkeit were very eager to pin down specific physical differences between Expressionism and its antagonists. Here's Franz Roh in 1925, drawing distinctions: "Expressive deformation of objects / Harmonic cleansing of objects. . .Rich in diagonals / Rectangular in frame. . . ." Binary opposition is what they call this kind of prescriptive "criticism." Walker Evans' notion of "realist style" seems more reasonable to me: the recognition that compositional techniques are grammars that generate meanings that shift over time. (Evan Lee's photographs of everyday objects seem exemplary to me in their conjuction of a deadpan "realist" compositional style with a philosophical preoccupation with the irrational, the absurd, the supernatural: the high-speed collision of "objectivity" and its others).
Sunday, October 26, 2008

Recent reading:

Jack Ketchum, Hide and Seek
Bob Woodward, The War Within
Barton Gellman, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency
Dominique De Font-Reaulx et al., Gustave Courbet
Alice Schroeder, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
Michael Asher, Writings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979
Saturday, October 25, 2008
All in time will be
Later on we'll try
Hollow peaks we've climbed
All these things I've seen
How it feels to be something on

That's how the days go
If I break down all that I am
A field of wires. . . .

Late afternoon in a Vancouver suburb. White sky. You can't see me in the photograph, because I'm parked behind the viewfinder, that unfamiliar mechanism, loading sheet film into a borrowed camera, while "classic" rock incessantly blares from the open back door of the tire shop across the alley. Cold wind, a few leaves sifting down across the grass. The flawless black liquid-crystal numbers on the equally unfamiliar light meter's face. An occasional car.

What am I doing, exactly? Making a portrait, but of what I'm not sure. "Beyond the symbolism associated with the oak, tree of justice and peace, a majestic tree with solid roots and a powerful trunk, the title indicated by Courbet in the exhibition booklet signified the opposition of Alaise to Alise-Sainte-Reine, or Vercingetorix to Caesar, of individual courage to centralizing power, of Courbet to Napoleon III." (Dominique De Font-Reaulx on Courbet's The Oak at Flagey (The Oak of Vercingetorix)).

Q: So it's a piss-take?

A: Hardly. I took the best example I knew, the plainest recognition of the world I inhabit, and applied that plain seeing -- faithful, unironized representation of what is there -- to a minor element of a composition whose production techniques are utterly beyond me. Irony doesn't work too well in art, at least in my experience.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Christopher Brayshaw, Study For War Game Tree, 2008

Jeff Wall, War Game, 2007

Gustave Courbet, The Oak at Flagey (The Oak of Vercingetorix), 1864

"Manet was a trenchant social commentator, Courbet a revolutionary. Mr. Haacke next wants to look at a Courbet in the following room, Oak Tree in Flagey, Called the Oak of Vercingetorix. Again, the politics behind the image intrigue him. In Courbet's day, the people of Burgundy and of the artist's native Franche-Comte region were in heated dispute over the site of Alesia, the ancient capital of Gallic resistance to Julius Caesar. Particularly in the 1860s, when Napoleon III ruled France, Alesia became a symbol of anti-imperialism. The giant oak, Courbet said, represented the Alesian site in Franche-Comte where Vercingetorix, the Gallic general, battled the Romans. The oak was a kind of surrogate portrait of the general by Courbet. It was also, maybe, a reference to the trees planted during the French Revolution as emblems of liberty.

'The tree is very strong,' Mr. Haacke says. 'The whole thing's painted with a palette knife, so there is a thick texture to the pigment. No trompe l'oeil.' It reminds him of Brecht: 'Brecht wanted his actors to present themselves to the audience as actors, in contrast to pretending that they are the people they portray.'"

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Paterson Ewen, Full Circle Flag Effect, 1974
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dru, his partner Eryne, and my dad Jim (age 71) went hiking in Garibaldi Park last week, on one of the last really good days of fall. Nb. dad's classic old-school look (faded bluejeans, running shoes, ball cap) and the park inhabitants who showed up -- OH HAI! -- to bum handouts or to simply pose down. All photos courtesy Dru and Eyrne.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Wet grey quiet morning, red and yellow mixed with green in the gutter leaves. Cool blue western sky, the last traces of last night's storm rolled up like a folding convertible roof. Warm in my long brown winter coat, the comfortable one with the turned-up corduroy-lined collar and the worn brass buttons. Sunlight and shadow on wet black pavement, on the VPD cruisers and yellow crime tape strung around the targeted shooting/traffic fatality just east of Kingsgate Mall.

"The everyday." John Latta:


Mind brushes off
What it cannot
Hold, nor hold

Itself against, rebuffs
Opacity and indigence
And hatred alike. . . .

Neaera's quick intelligence works like lightning; she gestures with her hands and shining eyes. It continuously surprises me how fast she names her feelings. Most of the time I don't really know what I'm feeling, or am only really conscious of feeling after-the-fact. "I've been thinking..." The world apprehended as a blizzard of discrete details. Schizophrenia: faces leering from trees and boxes and highway dividers. "Ghosts." No background, everything (even "fallen" or '"abject" things) stridently insisting on its own distinctive presence. Lookit me!

"Sometimes I think that this whole thing, this whole business of a world that keeps waking itself up and bothering to go on every day, is necessary only as a manifestation of the intolerable. The intolerable is like H.G. Wells's invisible man, it has to put on clothes in order to be seen. So it dresses itself up in a world. Possibly it looks in a mirror but my imagination doesn't go that far." (Russell Hoban's William G.).

L. and I go walking. L. talks fast into her mobile, squares her shoulders, effortlessly steps into her public persona, the one that parses and constructs narratives for a living. Her loud clipped diction expresses nothing but certainty and confidence, qualities I guess I possess too, but only after-the-fact. I don't know what I'm thinking at any given moment, or what debris might inexplicably bob up from the "drowning machine"'s turbulent recirculation. An inner tube, a smashed kayak, sticks and leaves, a waterlogged canoeist's corpse. But the water's surface looks deceptively calm.
Monday, October 13, 2008

Words and music by Chad VanGaalen

I think I'll go sit by the river
Just to get away for a while

Like jumping off of the water

And time, it aligned, is swirling and swimming

Clouds rolling over themselves

Twisting and boiling and growing out of nothing

The hills bitten off at the edge

And the whiskers and the tails

Running round

Running running round

I think I'll go sit by the river

Just to get away for a while

Listen to the conversations

Eavesdroppin' on the whiskeyjacks and the wax men

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask

Sunk into the rocks plastic face half buried

The stone bottom bumps out a rhythm

It sings the same song

That it's always been singing

Think I'll go sit by the river

Just to get outside of my mind

I'm wishing I could stay here forever

But the river won't stay that long
it's moving on.

Shopping cart stuck on an island

Stranded in the middle getting hotter and thirsty

Not really moving just waiting

For this water to rise up again

And pull me along

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Via the NYT:

"Martin J. Whitman, a professional investor for more than 50 years, said that as long as economies worldwide could avoid an outright depression, stocks were amazingly cheap. Mr. Whitman manages the $6 billion Third Avenue Value fund, which returned 10.2 percent annually for the 15 years that ended Sept. 30, almost two percentage points a year better than the S.& P. 500 index. The fund is down 46 percent this year.

'This is the opportunity of a lifetime,' Mr. Whitman said. 'The most important securities are being given away.'"

Green half-moons of lime repeatedly stabbed with a kitchen knife and left to sink down, the citrus oils rising in long smoky coils through the clearer tonic.

"All this time looking for love and you want to find peace but you find me."

Dusty blue sunlight cut by the park's yellow trees. The clatter of the bus' poles swinging free of the trolley-wires, the resigned-looking driver donning orange safety vest and gloves to fish the poles back up onto the wires. Brief spark-shower.

The Chinese pentecostal church letting out, little constellations of middle-aged folks in Sunday dress clutching bibles and flapping paper handouts.

Clark Drive's warehouses and sidewalks empty in the sun.

Voices From The Street

Overheard by Keith around the corner at Budgie's just now:

Q: What's the difference between jelly and jam?

A: I can't "jelly" my cock in your ass.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Through the open door:

LADY SKID [to GUY SKID, viz. guy cycling past]: I've seen him down at Wreck! What a wang he's got on him!

Anodyne Inc.


Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 213 units @ $6.33/unit = $1348.29
Transaction charge: $25

Unit balance, 4114 units.
Cash balance, $5.36

And some food for thought, courtesy Dave Leonhardt:

"How cheap are stocks?

By one important measure, they’re cheaper than they have been since 1985. They’re 20 percent less expensive than they have been, on average, over the past 100 years. And yet they still may have a ways to fall."
Thursday, October 09, 2008

Today's soundtrack (and tonight's live show): Chad VanGaalen, Red Hot Drops

South Wellington's Appraisal of Anodyne, Inc.'s Recent Performance

"$100,000 CDN in gold Oct '06 worth about $166,000 in March. Left in a sock drawer..."
Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The NYT's Tom Friedman has some pretty simple questions for Sarah Barracuda:

"Palin defended the government’s $700 billion rescue plan. She defended the surge in Iraq, where her own son is now serving. She defended sending more troops to Afghanistan. And yet, at the same time, she declared that Americans who pay their fair share of taxes to support all those government-led endeavors should not be considered patriotic.

I only wish she had been asked: 'Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects — printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?' That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.

Sorry, I grew up in a very middle-class family in a very middle-class suburb of Minneapolis, and my parents taught me that paying taxes, while certainly no fun, was how we paid for the police and the Army, our public universities and local schools, scientific research and Medicare for the elderly. No one said it better than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: 'I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.'"
Some foreign power, some group of terrorists.

(Classic Bomb Squad production, c. 1990)

Anodyne, Inc.

"Bloody but unbowed."

Various distributions, dividends and miscellaneous housekeeping:

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): 1820 shares
North West Company Fund (NWF.UN): 600 units
Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 3901 units
TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units
Amerigo Resources, Inc. (ARG): 1895 shares

Distributions and dividends:

Loblaw Companies (L): 217 shares x .21/share = $45.57 (1 Oct)
Norbord, Inc. (NBD): 1820 shares x .10/share = $182.00 (21 Sept)
Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 3901 units x .105/unit = $819.22 (15 Aug, 15 Sept)
TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units x .055/unit = $121.98 (15 Aug, 15 Sept)
Amerigo Resources (ARG): 1895 shares x .065/share = $123.18 (5 Sept)

Cash balance, $1378.65

Just for interest's sake, the portfolio was worth $100,000 CDN on October 25th, 2006, and is worth $61,193.71 today. In comparison, $100,000 invested in the S&P/TSX Composite index on the same date would now be worth $81,482.70. Did I mention this stuff isn't for the faint of heart? Repeat after me: "I will grade my performance (as should you) over a three to five year horizon. Over shorter periods of time, the portfolio may fluctuate in value, sometimes impressively. These short-term variations don't bother me, and they shouldn't bother you, either."

Owl and Pussycats Run From Thunder, Mount Crickmer
[Trip report and photograph posted to]

Endless logging road.
Hard rain. Hail-storm. Thunder's roar.
Wet owl, cats retreat.

Video grab courtesy Mad Owl Woman. Nb. torrential driving rain and hail, several hours from the car. Not illustrated: thunder and lightning bursting all around, which encouraged us to stop just short of the flat, open summit, where we would have been the tallest things for miles.
Monday, October 06, 2008

Should I Join the Market's Panic?

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Have the operating results (as opposed to the share prices) of the businesses I own changed dramatically?

2. Do I need money today? (As opposed to, say, in thirty to fifty years).

3. Is the best time to buy an asset I plan to hold for the long-term (eg., a car; a house; a transparency mounted in a lightbox; a share in a business) when it is fully priced, or when it goes on sale?

If you can answer these questions to your own satisfaction, turn off CNN and Google Finance and go for a walk. Vancouver smells crisp and wet and clean today, and not like panic at all.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
New hour-long Buffett interview with Charlie Rose.

A photograph I wish I'd made. Found here.
Saturday, October 04, 2008

Wet October grey, yellow leaves cast down in the gutters. Brisk west wind, ink-black clouds piled against the North Shore mountains. Waking in low light, the tattered beanstalks tap-tap-tapping on the apartment's windows like rain. The bus creaks and hisses across the bridge, through showers that remind me of sitting with K. on the bakery deck in Lund, B.C., watching squalls move in across the Salish Sea. "Black sheets of rain." (Bob Mould). The yellows and faded greens of tired earth, the patter of rain on salal. Recent keyword searches: mushroom poisoning; amanita toxicity; winter chanterelles Vancouver B.C. Like I'd ever tell! "I'd read your blog more often, but it's just so fucking cryptic." (A good friend, over beer). An attempt to set images down one after the other with no embarrassment or shame. An associational chain. "Dress: smart casual." (My high school 20-year reunion organizing committee's instructions). Black pants; grey turtleneck; grey climbing jacket; scuffed black leather "dress" shoes; floppy climbing hat. What you could call a "style." It's not fancy but it's mine.
Friday, October 03, 2008

Tonight's Youtube:

SC: Nobody knows my sorrow

TS: But it wasn't you

SD: A case of aces done up loose for dealing
Fail to Get Hired at Pulpfiction Books in 2 E-Z Steps!

1. "Do you want to fire any of your staff so you can hire me?"

2. [viz. CJB's suggestion to apply at Local Chain Discount Bookstore, as CJB answers the phone, processes trades, rings up sales, and receives and prices 650 pounds of remainders] "I don't really want to work at a place where they'll just, y'know, make me shelve all the time."

CJB [sharply]: What did you think you'd be doing here?

PERMANENTLY UNHIRED GUY [not registering tense change]: Uh, talking about books?
Thursday, October 02, 2008

"The robbery went down in tiny Monroe, Washington. The thief wore a ventilator mask, and sprayed the armored truck guard, outside a Bank of America branch. Then he dashed for a creek running into the Skyomish River. He got in an yellow inner tube, and took off.

Meanwhile, 'at least a dozen unsuspecting decoys' were standing around to confuse any potential pursuers. They were all recruited on Craigslist. . . ."

(via dru)

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