Sunday, May 31, 2009

Q: Dr. Wu?

A: Never performed live. Played once a few summers ago at sound check to a stunned audience of open air concert bowl lurkers who couldn't believe the sounds floating up from behind the fence.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Takin' It To The Seats

First glimpse of the Rent Party tour Internet Request Night ballot, and the current voting percentages. No Barrytown, no IGY, no Brooklyn. But then about halfway down. . . .

Aja 1.32%
Any Major Dude Will Tell You 1.10%
Any World (That I'm Welcome To) 0%
Babylon Sisters 0.66%
Bad Sneakers 0.88%
Black Cow 0.66%
Black Friday 0.66%
Bodhisattva 3.30%
The Boston Rag 3.96%
The Caves of Altamira 0.44%
Chain Lightning 4.19%
Deacon Blues 0.44%
Dirty Work 0.66%
Doctor Wu 18.28% (!!!!)
Do It Again 0.44%
Don't Take Me Alive 1.98%
Everyone's Gone to the Movies 0.22%
Everything Must Go 0.44%
Everything You Did 1.98%
The Fez 0.22%
FM 0.44%
Gaslighting Abbie 0%
Gaucho 0%
Glamour Profession 0%
Godwhacker 0%
Green Earrings 0%
Haitian Divorce 0.66%
Here at the Western World 0.66%
Hey Nineteen 1.54%
Home at Last 0.44%
I Got the News 0.44%
Janie Runaway 0%
Josie 0.22%
Kid Charlemagne 4.41%
The Last Mall 0%
Lunch With Gina 0%
My Old School 2.20%
My Rival 1.98%
Night by Night 1.98%
Parker's Band 1.98%
Peg 6.39%
Pretzel Logic 1.32%
Reelin' in the Years (Club Mix) 0.22%
Reelin' in the Years (Dry and Heavy) 14.32%
Rikki Don't Lose That Number 0.88%
The Royal Scam 9.25%
Show Biz Kids 3.30%
Sign in Stranger 0.44%
Slang of Ages 0.22%
Things I Miss the Most 0%
Two Against Nature 0%
Your Gold Teeth 4.85%

Songs not on the ballot, with my disappointment registered in bold:

Almost Gothic
Blues Beach
Book of Liars
Change of the Guard
Charlie Freak
Cousin Dupree
Daddy Don't Live in that NYC No More
East St Louis Toodle-oo
Fire in the Hole
Green Book
Jack of Speed
King of the World
Midnight Cruiser
Monkey in your Soul
Negative Girl
Only a Fool Would Say That
Pearl of the Quarter
Razor Boy
Third World Man
Through With Buzz
Time Out Of Mind
Turn that Heartbeat Over Again
West of Hollywood
What a Shame About Me
With A Gun
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Worldly wisdom from Mr. Munger, equally a propos of ghosts as of business success: "Reality is talking to anyone who will listen."
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Long Zadie Smith essay on Joseph O'Neill's Netherland and Tom McCarthy's Remainder. I'm reading the O'Neill as slowly as I can. Smith seemingly read a different novel than the one I'm reading, and I don't agree with her claim that

Netherland sits at an anxiety crossroads where a community in recent crisis—the Anglo-American liberal middle class—meets a literary form in long-term crisis, the nineteenth-century lyrical Realism of Balzac and Flaubert.

Critiques of this form by now amount to a long tradition in and of themselves. Beginning with what Alain Robbe-Grillet called "the destitution of the old myths of 'depth,'" they blossomed out into a phenomenology skeptical of Realism's metaphysical tendencies, demanding, with Husserl, that we eschew the transcendental the metaphor, and go "back to the things themselves!"; they peaked in that radical deconstructive doubt which questions the capacity of language itself to describe the world with accuracy. They all of them note the (often unexamined) credos upon which Realism is built: the transcendent importance of form, the incantatory power of language to reveal truth, the essential fullness and continuity of the self.

The "literary style" that offends Smith is easily observed in many recent Canadian literary bestsellers. It infests Ondaatje's Divisidero, Adamson's Outlander, and Anne Michaels' The Winter Vault, and these books are almost unreadable because of it. Every object -- tree, river, rock, notebook, card game, W.H.Y. -- is relentlessly allegorized, transmuted from a thing-in-the-world to a literary device. The world becomes text, endlessly embroidered by the novelist. But I disagree with Smith's assertion that this kind of writing has any relationship to the realism of Balzac and Flaubert. Such writing is better described as a species of mannerist prose, whose ostensible realism is easily distinguished by the baroqueness of its description, lapidary detail so thick that you could cut it with a knife.

Smith carefully parses Joseph O'Neill's prose, and pounces on sentences that sidle toward mannerism. "Even the mini traumas of a middle-class life are given the high lyrical treatment, in what feels, at its best, like a grim satire on the profound fatuity of twenty-first-century bourgeois existence. The surprise discovery of his wife's lactose intolerance becomes 'an unknown hinterland to our marriage'; a slightly unpleasant experience of American bureaucracy at the DMV brings [the protagonist] (metaphorically) close to the war on terror. . . ." But when Smith extrapolates from these "high lyrical" sentences in order to claim that the whole book is founded upon a kind of lyrical Realism, she does a disservice to the plain style in which most of Netherland is written. O'Neill's descriptions of cricket grounds, or the more obscure commercial corners of Brooklyn and/or Staten Island, or the list of attendees at a cricket club party, are not lyrical at all; they are prosaic and matter-of-fact, and operate largely through the accumulation of small discrete details, much in the manner of Barth, Pynchon, Foster Wallace and DeLillo: writers who, at least in Smith's version of American literary history, have never been given a fair shake, have "been relegated to a safe corner of literary history, to be studied in postmodernity modules, and dismissed, by our most famous public critics, as a fascinating failure, intellectual brinkmanship that lacked heart."

As the LOLcats say, O RLY? Contra Smith, it seems to me that these writers, like Smith herself, have enjoyed both popular and critical success, and have been mostly praised by "our most famous public critics." (B.R. Meyers, who once went after DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy in the Atlantic, is neither famous nor significant and can't be who Smith is thinking of).

I admire Smith's own writing; I once drove non-stop to Seattle through some of the worst fall weather I have ever experienced in order to get to meet her and to get my books signed (ZADIE [noticing dustjackets wrapped in Brodarts]: Oh. Are you a book collector? CJB: No, I'm a book reader. And I like yours a lot.) Her essay is well written and granular in its analysis of O'Neill's and Tom McCarthy's prose. But she's wrong about Netherland's quality, wrong about American postmodern writing's success in the marketplace, and totally wrong about realism's continuing relevance as an artistic mode.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

San Francisco's Michael Manning, another erotic comic artist I admire, who generously contributed to my friend Robin Fisher's fundraising anthology of dirty comix benefiting Little Sister's ongoing battles with Canada Customs. It's hard to make erotic works that simultaneously serve aesthetic ends. Mr. Fuseli and Ms. Reage unquestionably succeeded. So too have Robert Crumb, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, and Gilbert Hernandez.

Erotic drawings by Jess Fink. Via Robin Bougie's blog. Find Chester 5000, Ms. Fink's impeccably drawn 100+ pp. totally NSFW Victorian robot sex magnum opus here.
Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Case for Working With Your Hands

"An economy that is more entrepreneurial, less managerial, would be less subject to the kind of distortions that occur when corporate managers’ compensation is tied to the short-term profit of distant shareholders. For most entrepreneurs, profit is at once a more capacious and a more concrete thing than this. It is a calculation in which the intrinsic satisfactions of work count — not least, the exercise of your own powers of reason."
Friday, May 22, 2009

Furry North mainline. Photo courtesy Keefer.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Farewell Arthur Erickson, maverick Cascadian architect, designer of the UBC Museum of Anthropology, the Smith House (above), the less than perfectly temperature-controlled Law Courts and many others. "Native materials," "the topography of the site," "leaky," etc. I delivered copies of the Vancouver Sun to many Erickson-designed seaside homes in my youth, and still aspire to live in one, surrounded by rocks, trees, sky, ocean and gestural modernist abstractions, c. 1956 or thereabouts.
Monday, May 18, 2009

Waste My Time, Please

SWAGGERY HIPSTER: I'm looking for this book...Chilean writer...big thick book...

CJB: Bolano's 2666?

SH: Yes!

CJB: Right here.

SH: ...not in Spanish?

CJB: Sorry, dude.

SH: I'm also looking for anything you've got by Kierkegaard. Heard of him? [ACTUAL QUOTE]

CJB: Sure. Right down here. [SHOWS SEVERAL TITLES]

SH: Great. Also Borges. . .


SH: ...Donald Barthelme...

CJB: ...sure, here...

SH: ...Bukowski...

CJB: ...right here...

SH: Fucking awesome!

ACTUALLY PURCHASED: Marley and Me, by John Grogan. All other books abandoned in "Pets and Animals."
Saturday, May 16, 2009

Oooooh, darlin' darlin'
It's your style to change your mind
But darlin' darlin'
Each time you do
I rearrange to suit you
In and out
Round and round again

Oooooh, darlin' darlin'
Life was all glitter
Everything just a game
But darlin' darlin'
Now you're so bitter
Everything's pouring rain

In and out
On and on and you're
Turning me upside down
Turning me inside out
And I feel
My head is spinning round

Round, round we go (round, round we go)

Oooooh, darlin' darlin'
Each day's a new day
A change in the weather
But darlin' darlin'
Each mood is a new one
Nothing remains the same

In and out
On and on and you're
Turning me upside down

Turning me inside out
And I feel
My head is spinning round

Round, round we go (round, round we go)

Anodyne Inc.

Staggering back up onto my feet in Main Street's front room, still swinging. Updated mostly for the three of you out there who care.

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): 4114 units
TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units
Amerigo Resources, Inc. (ARG): 1895 shares

Distributions and dividends:

Parkland Income Fund (PKI.UN): 3901 units x .105/unit = $409.61 (15 Oct) + 4114 units x .105/unit = $3023.79 (15 Nov, 15 Dec, 15 Jan, 15 Feb, 15 Mar, 15 April, 15 May). Grand total, $3433.40.

E-L Financial Corporation (ELF): 7 shares x .125/unit = $1.76 (30 Dec, 31 Mar) <--!!!!!!

TerraVest Income Fund (TI.UN): 1109 units x .055/unit (15 Oct, 15 Nov, 15 Jan, 15 Feb, 15 March, 15 April, 15 May) = $426.93 + 1109 units x .105/unit (15 Dec) = $116.45. Grand total, $543.38.

Norbord, Inc. (NBD): 1820 shares x .10/share = $182.10 (27 Nov)

Loblaw Companies (L): 217 shares x .21/share = $91.14 (11 Dec, 11 Mar)

North West Company Fund (NWF.UN): 600 units x .32/unit = $384.00 (29 Dec, 31 Mar)

Current value (as of Friday): $71204.65. Cash balance, $4651.14
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NITROGEN TRUCKS WEDNESDAY, says the no-parking sign by the hospital. Today, in the spot usually occupied by the Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon, a huge tanker truck, its back gate ajar. Frosty white mist swirls around a man working there with a huge pipefitter's wrench held between a pair of bright orange insulated gloves. A plastic face shield, too, like a welder's, covered in frost.

A frosty grey segmented hose, like one of Dr. Octopus' legs, snakes across the sidewalk to an ice-rimed intake pipe. The crusty white build-up, all sculpted and textured like an alpine cornice, looks strangely out of place beside the hospital garden's huge red rhododendrons and blooming pink azaleas.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dear UK-Based Academic Publisher:

Thanks for your query, which I've carefully reviewed. I do not see any mention of payment for the non-exclusive right to reprint my [15,000 word interview with Frank Miller, originally published in The Comics Journal] in the information you have enclosed. I will be pleased to grant you the right to reproduce the work, but not gratis.

I think a suitable fee for reprinting this text would be $278 USD, the retail price of one of your anthologies. I would like this money to be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a US based charity, by your organization, "on behalf of Frank Miller and Christopher Brayshaw."

I hope that you will find this solution agreeable; if so, please send me an amended release which I will be more than happy to promptly sign and return.

Very sincerely yours,


(Illustration courtesy Frank Miller)

UPDATE: UK-based Academic Publisher promptly agreed. Score one for common sense and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a cause that Frank Miller and I both support.
Monday, May 11, 2009

(In lieu of the second and third periods of the game)

Reading -- stunned by -- Joseph O'Neill's Netherland. Lots of hate for this book from the Village Voice and various other self-appointed gatekeepers of the avant-garde. "Bourgeois realism" is the most frequently thrown-out jibe, which I suppose you could also throw at Proust and Fitzgerald, two writers that O'Neill immediately reminds me of. His book's prose is so clear that it's almost transparent, like water. But just as turbulence produces all kinds of complicated spatial effects in clear water (reflections; distortions; abstraction of detail) so too do O'Neill's sentences slide over, almost surripticiously, into a kind of early Modernism, a linguistic Fauvism packed with vividly-colored and "abstract" details.

O'Neill's protagonist is a Dutch investment analyst with a few million in the bank, but I feel much closer to him than to, say, Doug Coupland's or William Gibson's ostensibly white-collar protagonists, who apparently lack any capacity for interior reflection.
Middle-aged Native guy wearing a black warmup jacket with a stylized silver Haida eagle on the back stands talking on his cellphone in the middle of sidewalk, oblivious to the rain hammering off his head and glasses.

"She's in a persistent vegetative state. Of course I can't talk to her."
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Memo to Defective Kitteh

Dear Mighty Hunter,

That's my penis and testicles under the coverlet, not a mouse.

Please rethink the whole 3am pounce-claw-bite routine. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,


"In 1974, in his State address to Congress, Gurkhal Surjan, Patwallia Dist., stated that the world will be tested by Texas Instruments, and English diction."

Handcream for a Generation

Heavy Soup, Mr. Otis Clay on the mic. "All the way from London. All the way from central London."

Staging the Plaguing of the Raised Platform. T. Rex guitar, tinkly wind-up clock, kiddie chorus.

And the, the presidents that you are against
And consequence that it may all go wrong

And then the badly bricked walls that will leave us all done for

The dope, dope and the colour you want for

The London Radar. "You won't find all that you do here easy."

Slip the Drummer One. Feat. Rob Swift and some great Vo-Coding.
Friday, May 08, 2009

"The Best Way to Achieve Felicity is to Aim Low"

Reasonably complete set of Wesco 2009 AGM notes, courtesy the Yahoo Berkshire message board. (Weirdly threaded, so you have to scroll through some off-topic commentary; look for "Pts 1-6"). Mr. Munger in customarily fine form.

In other news, I'm working on an "investment operation" of my own, probably the biggest of my life, which won't be disclosed here for a few months. Regular readers should be able to figure it out pretty quickly, and the rationale behind it, too. But it involves real -- as opposed to play -- money, and I won't discuss it here until it's complete.

"Canadian Monopoly." Circa 1975. Anyone got one lurking in the rec room or a dusty old box in the garage? If so, please get in touch. I want to relive my Yukon property-baron childhood.

The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell pauses over a psychological dynamic close to my heart:

"David, let’s not forget, was a shepherd. He came at Goliath with a slingshot and staff because those were the tools of his trade. He didn’t know that duels with Philistines were supposed to proceed formally, with the crossing of swords. 'When the lion or the bear would come and carry off a sheep from the herd, I would go out after him and strike him down and rescue it from his clutches,' David explained to Saul. He brought a shepherd’s rules to the battlefield. . . .Goliath does not simply dwarf David. He brings the full force of social convention against him; he has contempt for David."
Thursday, May 07, 2009

Farewell Robin Blaser:

" I don’t know anything about God but what the human record tells
me — in whatever languages I can muster — or by turning to
translators — or the centuries — of that blasphemy which defines god’s
nature by our own hatred and prayers for vengeance and
dominance —
that he (lower case and questionable pronoun) would destroy by a
hideous disease one lover of another or by war, a nation for what
uprightness and economic hide-and-seek — and he (lower case and
questionable pronoun) is on the side of the always-ignorance of
in which we trust — the polis is at the ‘bottom of the sea,’ as Hannah
Arendt noticed — and he (lower case and interrogated pronoun)
among the manipulated incompetences of public thought. . . ."

(Blaser's magnificent long poem Even on Sunday, which he read once, years ago, at a UBC conference that I'd snuck into just to hear him)
Monday, May 04, 2009

Throw Out Your Gold Teeth and See How They Roll

"Referring to it as 'Boffo Total Request Nights,' Becker says they might leave more 'discomfiting' songs like 'Through With Buzz' and 'Change of the Guard' off the ballot. 'Otherwise it might be a fuckin' free-for-all.'"

8 shows in NYC, 16 in Boston (???), 4 in Chicago, 4 in LA.

(Via copy of Rolling Stone in the Safeway check-out lineup)


My friend "K." has a vision:

"I was in a second hand store on West 4th the other day, there I beheld a laundry basket *full* of hard cover copies of The Da Vinci Code, and lo, it made me think of you."
Sunday, May 03, 2009

Berkshire Hathaway AGM 2009

Fox's Liz Claman has this year's best transcript of Saturday's annual Q&A with Warren and Charlie. Lots of food for thought. Probably the first and last time I'll ever link to a Fox News product. Annual press conference the following day here, courtesy CNBC.

"Q: Why do so many people come to the annual meeting?

BUFFETT: Because they have a lot of fun and they feel like they're part of the act. We treat them like partners and they feel like partners. 'It's a real company to them.' We're proud of the companies we've bought and the products they make and we want our partners to feel proud, too.

MUNGER: We're sufficiently peculiar so people don't have a lot of other options."

SUNLIGHT. I haz it.

(Courtesy L.)
March Like an Elegant Elephant Over Mount Everest

Uh, this just in:
20/20 seen plenty plenty
Your brain would burst with one thought from my memory
My style's your enemy
And I won't stop busting until I'm empty empty

(Much love for the quirky ColecoVision-meets-R2D2 beat)


Fleetwood Ghost, 2009

Overgrown backyard of a vacant single level suburban home. Sunset. We came to look at a magnolia in the front yard and went around back almost as an afterthought, where I spotted this fellow lurking unobtrusively by the fence. The light on his face and the foreground weeds are accurate enough, but the mist enveloping the grass at right and the weird blue light on the siding at upper right are digital artifacts, the Blackberry's mistranslation of space and light into something approximating Cezanne brushstrokes.

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