Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Incredible Talking Cats and some new friends (African Penguins) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Monday, January 19, 2009

The Tragic Downfall of Chesley B. Sullenberger III

"Feb. 2, 2009 - PETA sues US Airways on behalf of families of the ducks and birds sucked into the Flight 1549 Airbus A320, claims Sullenberger had lifelong animosity toward flying creatures and waterfowl; Sullenberger locked in guarded US Airways bathroom for ''his own safety.'

Feb. 3, 2009 - Old video footage of Sullenberger telling Marx Brothers' 'Why a duck?' routine at party becomes widespread hit on YouTube; Sullenberger claims to have never seen 'The Cocoanuts' but, ironically, has seen 'Duck Soup.'"
Sunday, January 18, 2009

On the road for ten days or so. A mixture of downtime and picture-making in California and Nevada. Back soon with images and news from the road.
Friday, January 16, 2009

Are family responsibilities overwhelming you?
Is work causing undo [sic] anxiety?
Do you become depressed for no apparent reason?
Have you ever been affected by panic attacks?
Is there some behavior you feel helpless to change?
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Do you feel you are drowning in money issues?
Do everyday matters get to be too much for you?

Everything is going to be all right!

(via L., via hospital daytime television)
Thursday, January 15, 2009

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): US Airways Hudson River plane crash iPhone photo by Janis Krums
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Via -- awesome tale of piloting a homebuilt motorized kayak katamaran up stormy, sheer-sided Knight Inlet in order to haul 90+ lb. packs of corn nuts, Fritos, and climbing gear up into a hostile landscape full of crevasses, avalanches, and misdescribed "walking routes" up remote peaks.

"The outrigger kayak we found on Craigslist for $40. It's obvious why it was $40. It was a poorly built home built job. We had to fix it up to make it strong enough. It had been folded in half already. . . .Some epoxy and glass cloth fixed that problem. You can't even get in the cockpit. We took a standard Pygmy Cockpit cover and placed it over the smaller 'outrigger' kayak then put a doubled strap around it for a seal. Connected the kayaks together with 2" Stainless Steel tubing that we had picked up from a junk yard who knows when. The outrigger kayak has a piece of garbage bow on it and splashes like crazy, but it was cheap. Looking for a replacement. It's no fun getting a continuous face full of sprayed water in choppy conditions.

The whole thing bolts together with 6 bolts. . . ."

Travel update: after contemplating two weeks trapped in a small car with me, the cats, and Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, L. decided that "emergency gall bladder surgery" sounded a lot better, and promptly checked herself into the hospital. Needless to say, I'll be around until further notice.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Things You Think Are Precious I Can't Understand

L. contemplates two weeks trapped in a CD-equipped car with me and The Dan, and spot-improvises:

Am I bleeding from the ears?
Are you mucking up my mind?
Are you listenin' to my sneers?
Leave the Steely Dan behind. . . .
Monday, January 12, 2009

Gearing up for two weeks' shooting in the States with L. and the cats. Special bonus prize for any Constant Readers who correctly guess the undisclosed destinations pictured above before I go.

(Hint: think of Thomas Harris' Barney Matthews, Hannibal Lecter's Vermeer-loving orderly, who plans a world tour to see every extant painting. Or Vija Celmins' stones.)

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Anthony Hernandez, Automotive Landscapes #35b, 1979-1985. Courtesy Christopher Grimes Gallery.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Flat January light through the door, a brighter grey out over the ocean. Dirty remnant snow still receding at the curb, leaving a tide-line of soggy cigarette filters, gum wads, and corrugated cardboard cup holders. Steady procession of folks through the door with unsaleable books. The usual suspects: the BC Health Guide, Lawrence Sanders, manky "illustrated" kids' books produced in Vietnamese animation sweatshops and bulk-remaindered over at Bookland in the mall.

Two tweens dressed like 1980s hookers (teased-out hair; tube tops; leggings) and their frantic harried mom carry in box after box of totally trashed self-help, Gossip Girl sequels, travel guides and assorted wadded-up airline reading, some of it still damp from apparently sitting out overnight in the rain.
Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy 61st birthday, Donald Fagen!
Friday, January 09, 2009

Grey January rain. Tank-traps of dirty snow at the curb, studded with gravel, cigarette butts, aluminum pull-tabs. A skirt of bright green grass at the foot of the little tree outside the door. Rain beads on the little tree's branches, on the edge of the shop's awning, on the steel-blue roof of the Honda cozied right into a curbside drift. The woman in the passenger seat briefly contemplates getting out, thinks better of it, scrambles out the driver's door into traffic. Honk of a startled bus.

I'm describing these things because I want to record them. Here in Vancouver, where forgetting is the order of the day.

Water erasing the alluvial fans in the gutter.

Timber erased by glass.

Individuality erased by the consensual hallucination of Lotusland.


Douglas Coupland; Ikea; Eckhart Tolle.

New Broadway condos.

Cooling hollandaise on your Sunday brunch eggs.
Thursday, January 08, 2009

Adam Harrison, Palette, 2009, unique pigment jet print

"Monte Clark Gallery announces 52 Studies, a new web-based project by artist Adam Harrison. Every week during the course of 2009, Harrison will produce and present a new photograph that deals with or introduces new aspects of his practice.

52 Studies continues a strain in Harrison's work that explores temporally based image production and the web-based distribution of photographs. This began with his daily online project 356 Sketches in 2005, and continued with the 2007 project Four, a collaborative website with Evan Lee, Christopher Brayshaw and Jamie Tolagson. Since Harrison's pictures are often planned and conceived beforehand, he has utilized this practice similarly to the painter's use of sketching or studies to create a space for experimenting with new subject matter and pictorial strategies.

The ideas around the structures of production that such projects intrinsically evoke are central to Harrison's practice, which is generally concerned with depicting situations that relate directly to the creation and reception of art itself. Where he often photographs artists and artisans in the process of making their work, these studies themselves can be simultaneously viewed as in-progress, cursory traces of art production, as well as resolved and autonomous artworks that reflexively deal with their own independent concerns.

The photographs will be posted each Thursday by 11:00 a.m. PST to

They will also exist as unique prints in an edition of 1, available through Monte Clark Gallery in Vancouver and Toronto."

"Hey CJB, it's JT. Just thought I should let you know that I ran into one of your little friends today. I was snorkeling about 20 meters off shore and ran straight into one of these guys, a Hawaiian Day Octopus. He was moving pretty fast, about 12 feet off the bottom, with one or two fish pestering him. He dropped onto a rock right below me and just sat there, about 4 feet away. When I lifted my head out of the water to clear my mask, he disappeared. He was deep burgundy red, and absolutely beautiful.

Life's rough out here. How's BC? [chuckle, snort]"
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Torrential rain, sluicing the record-breaking snowpack into massive grey glacial lakes along the curb. Loose sidewalk awning by the bingo hall with Niagara Falls' slightly smaller cousin pouring off it, right through the loose, live wires that hold a fluorescent fixture in place. Aggrieved hum of the fixture's ballast. The lights blink on, off, on again. The shorting fixture blinks in perfect unconscious union with a small string of Christmas lights in the window of the convenience store, twined around the display boxes of Cadbury bars and the rubber plant behind the till.
Friday, January 02, 2009


CJB: Hey there.

OTWAPIT: Is this place doin' any hiring?

CJB: Nope.

OTWAPIT: Well when will ya be?

CJB: No time soon.



PHONE: Ring!

CJB: Good afternoon, Pulpfiction.

MALE VOICE ON PHONE: Got some questions for you, guy.

CJB: Uh-huh?

MVOP: Do you have Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies?

CJB: Sure, I'm looking right at it on the new book wall.

MVOP: And are you doin' any hiring?

CJB: Nope. Should I put the Lynch on hold for you?

PHONE: [dial tone]

Logical consequences:

1. Calling me "guy," "bud," "buddy," "man," or any variation thereof automatically reduces your chances of being hired here by approximately 99.9%

2. Wandering in the door hands-in-pockets and asking if we're "doin' any hiring" just makes it seem like you're bored off your ass. Unbuttoning your blouse an extra three buttons before you ask conveys the same impression, plus a serious lack of self-respect.

3. The best way to get hired here is to show up with a resume describing your new or used bookselling career to date, or a resume demonstrating copious common sense and good judgment, or a mixture of both.

4. If the thought of you working here gives me and/or the other staff a migraine, we're not hiring. If you want to work in a bookstore because you think it's a slack-ass job where you'll get paid to sit around and read all day, we're not hiring. If you really like reading and talking about books, but don't like shelving, lifting boxes, or pricing books non-stop for six to eight hours at a stretch, we're not hiring. And if your other life commitments prevent you from working except on Mondays from 4-6pm and Thursdays from 8am-9:45am, again, we're not hiring.

All of which aside. . .

5. Out of the 10+ people who've worked with me in the almost nine years the shop's been around, at least half walked through the door with a resume in hand. Two, including the shop's super-bright and ultra-competent manager, had no previous bookselling experience of any kind.
Thursday, January 01, 2009

I Don't Owe You Anything

PR bumpf from the Vancouver Art Gallery regarding How Soon Is Now, their upcoming survey of local contemporary art. No judgment passed on the works on display or the curation -- the show isn't even open yet! -- but I vehemently disagree with every assertion in the following:

"The exhibition is an inquiry into alternative narratives of art production, recognizing important shifts in contemporary art practice that privileges the event over the object, the process over the product, interaction over contemplation. Gallery spaces become a venue for a range of experiences, be they critical, transformative, social, introspective or political. Together this exhibition looks to the work artists are creating as a reflection of and insight into the ideas that continue to resonate in the broad field of cultural production."

Specific disagreements:

1. "Privileging the event over the object" or "the process over the product" obviates the neccessity of aesthetic judgment. The "art work" is reduced to the status of wallpaper, backdrop, ambient noise. A lot of second-rate or merely pleasing work thereby scrambles in the back door.

2. "Interaction over contemplation" turns the gallery into a science museum, full of buttons to push and xeroxed hand-outs to color, or an architectural container for tortilla festivals, reed mat distribution, listening parties, etc.

3. The elevation of "interaction" over "contemplation" mistakenly assumes that "contemplation" doesn't also produce "a range of experiences, be they critical, transformative, social, introspective or political," an assertion which is politically reactionary and contradictory to the first-hand experience of good art.

4. The production techniques the VAG's PR refers to have produced some interesting work (I am thinking of works by artists like Andrea Fraser, Mark Dion, or, locally, Kyla Mallett or Kristina Lee Podesva), but to presume, as the VAG seems to, that these techniques are somehow superior to, or more current than, art "objects," art "products," and the process of contemplation seems intellectually blinkered and deeply weird.

(Upper image: Jasper Johns, Target, 1958. Lower image: Kristi Malakoff, Target, 2005/8)

Farewell Donald E. Westlake, aka Richard Stark, aka Samuel Holt, aka Tucker Coe, aka Alan Marshall, etc. etc., author of Dancing Aztecs, one of my favorite comic crime novels, and (under the Stark pseudonym) one of the best first lines ever: "When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man."

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