Saturday, July 31, 2010

Metropolitan (1), 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010

The author in the field. Photographs courtesy my friend Simon Chesterton.
Monday, July 26, 2010

Waste My Time, Please

GUY [of Robert Linsley painting behind the desk]: That's Mission, ain't it?

CJB: Ruskin. Close. Good eyes.

GUY: I haven't been out there in years!

CJB: Still looks pretty much the same. That painting was made about 10 years ago, so the trees are higher now, of course, but, other than that, not much change.

GUY: It's a real problem.

CJB: Eh?

GUY: Vancouver's greening. It's like Sherwood Forest! All you see is the canopy. You can't even see Trout Lake from the Skytrain any more! Just trees! We used to be able to see Livingstone Elementary from our window. . .Little Mountain. . .the Conservatory. . .people walking around. Now it's all just green. Somebody should do something.

CJB: What should somebody do?

GUY: Cut 'em all down. Every last one. They probably won't, though!
Saturday, July 24, 2010

Today's soundtrack: The Dramatics, Just Shopping (Not Buying Anything)
Friday, July 23, 2010

Late Fragment
by Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Last week's Croat mom with the double stroller is back to pick up her special order:

HER LITTLE BOY: [almost inaudible grumble]

CM: Hey cookie! No noise! I'm eastern European, I get scary!
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Charlie La Vere's Misery and the Blues, courtesy a somewhat more familiar performer

Yesterday's culprits at home. Shot this evening with digital zoom from a safe distance, reconnaissance flights droning past on either side.

Kensington Hydrangea, 2010

Flowers in a Window, 2010


"Dear Christopher Brayshaw, thank you for using Your order is now complete."
Third day before the motif. Skytrain, then the walk back along the busy artery, cooler now, post-7pm, than before, noon or one o'clock on a hot Monday, no shadows anywhere, light pouring up off the pavement. Little sprays of broken glass, plastic chips, busted pieces of powder-coated candy apple red aluminum. A dead squirrel. Young crow's croaking awk-awk-awk-huggggh!, as a parent rams a worm or other carrion down junior's throat. A second's silence. Awk-awk-awk. . . .

Blackberries on the other side of the overgrown ditch.

The landscape's still there, in the evening's slant light. Man watering his chainlink-fenced back yard watches me. I watch the Canon's display screen, and watch him from of the corner of one eye. Watching me, he repeatedly waters the same patch of grass. Watching him, I clip off corners of the scene. A street light half in, half out of the frame.

Nothing works. The landscape is too narrow. The landscape is too wide. The power poles curve up and back because the Canon can't correct for parallax. Trees articulate space poorly; grasses dissolve in a cloud of digital grain. I walk a little forward and promptly step on a sand wasp nest. Seventeen stings (nose, ankles, shoulders, underarm).


Limping along the arterial road that runs parallel to the Skytrain track. Hydrangeas. Busted-out rusty fence. Young shirtless Filipino guys in a tricked-out boom car, giving me the eye.

A little piece of waste ground behind the Hilti store. Broken door frames, trashed drywall, alders, trace of a stream. I start to push the alders back, then note, just in time, the pumpkin-sized mud wasp nest hanging from a nearby branch. Its huge black thumb-sized residents crawling all over it, on the lookout for tourists like me.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tove Jansson painting at home in her studio in 1956

The Railrodder, dir. Gerald Potterton, 1965. Twenty-four minutes of constant invention. The goose blind; the large-format camera.
Waiting in North Burnaby for the right light. Traffic whipping past beside me, the long suck and hiss of the big transport-trailers gearing down the hill. White blinds parting in the second floor window of the house across the cul-de-sac, an older curious Chinese face visible there between the slats. Sun sinking behind me, shadows in the long grass. The path between the power poles slowly re-emerging from the glare. Fretwork of guy wires. Inverted triangles, like Sandbacks hung between the trees.
Monday, July 19, 2010

Keaton, via Tower of Sleep (enlarge)

"Matisse purchased the work from Ambroise Vollard in 1899, though he could ill afford it, and cherished it as a talisman until giving it to the Musée du Petit Palais in the 1930s."
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
David Brooks gets it, for once:

"Grinds, on the other hand, tend to have started their own company or their own hedge fund. They’re often too awkward to work in a large organization and too intense to work for anybody but themselves.

[. . . .]

In finance, as in other realms of business life, social polish doesn’t always go with capitalist success. Often it is the most narrow, intense, awkward people who start the best companies, employ the most people and create the most value.

[. . . .]

[M]aybe the real issue is how we are going to light a fire under the country’s loners, its contrarians and its narrow, ambitious outsiders."
Recent reading, the good stuff in red as usual:

David Remick, The Bridge: The Rise of Barack Obama
Jonathan Alter, The Promise: President Obama, Year One
China Mieville, The City & The City
Gregory Zuckerman, The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History
Michael Lewis, The Big Short
Bill Buford, Heat (again)
Herve This, Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor
Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck Cookbook (illus. Dave McKean)
Pierre Gagnaire, French Classics Reinterpreted
Monday, July 12, 2010
This morning's best customer -- the Croat mom who just special-ordered Pohl and Kornbluth's The Space Merchants -- "I read [it], in elementary school, in my country!" -- tries to coax her little kids, boy and girl, back into the double stroller: "Okay! Cookies! Places please!"

Rest in peace: Harvey Pekar, autodidact; curmudgeon; jazz collector and critic; VA hospital flunky; author of the [initially] self-published comic book American Splendor.

There's a short story in one of the American Splendor collections called, "I'll Be Forty-Three on Friday (How I'm Living Now)," in which Pekar simply wanders through a Cleveland park in summer, reflecting on his life, while moving from patches of sun to full shadow and back again. Reading this story, probably twenty years ago now, permanently altered my life. I never would have found Raymond Carver without it, or Chekhov, Tolstoy, Flaubert, and, through them, the kind of art we call "realist" (Courbet; Degas; Manet; Cezanne; Rackstraw Downes; Fairfield Porter; Stephen Shore; Lee Friedlander; Jeff Wall).

"Vastly underappreciated is the display of values in Pekar’s work, stories that would spotlight someone else’s display of virtue and his hearty endorsement of it -- acts of friendship or generosity, a session of intense conversation, small kindnesses." (Courtesy my friend and former editor at The Comics Journal, Tom Spurgeon)
Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Wonderful Reserve, by Robert Linsley. As freeing, in its own way, as Linsley's lecture out at UBC this spring.

"I can’t overstate the shock I felt when I opened Simms’s Cézanne’s Watercolors (published by Yale University Press in 2008), which again features copious details and close-up photographs, to find a very competent academic drawing from Cézanne’s youth. This one reproduction is worth the price of the book. The shock of Cézanne’s academic drawing is the realization that he made a choice—that there was nothing to stop him from following the path of a Degas or a Fantin-Latour; he had the skill. He also had the wit to see that there was no point in going that way, and so he took a different path. He had a choice, and he took a risk. The risk was maybe a greater one than most of his contemporaries were willing to take, but it paid off commensurately because he changed history, thereby ensuring his place within it. What Shiff has shown is that the same risk was available to anyone, that it was within the range of recognized possibilities at that time."

[. . . .]

"Most of the essays in the Philadelphia catalogue that address Cézanne’s successors stick to the conventional modernist line—that Cézanne’s work led the way to a self-referential art of painted surfaces. But while such a mainstream position might do justice to Brice Marden, Ellsworth Kelly and Jasper Johns, it doesn’t apply well to four of the most recent artists included: Luc Tuymans, Francis Alÿs, Jeff Wall and Sherrie Levine, all of whom are definitely postmodernist. Since the theme of the show is Cézanne’s continuing relevance, this component should be the most important, and yet of two reviews that I’ve seen, one in the New York Review of Books and the other in Artforum, only the latter has anything to say about these four, and Jeff Wall is mentioned only in passing. Because Wall’s work does nothing but reference Cézanne’s imagery, its engagement with the master is apparently superficial. I think that a more nuanced reading is called for.

Wall’s piece Card [P]layers is an obvious citation of Cézanne’s late series on the same theme, but his treatment of it is completely different. In the art and literature of the 19th century, provincial life appears narrow, dull and oppressive, and I think that Cézanne, an artist who chose to stay in the provinces, who made a virtue out of provinciality, really did capture the suffocating dead air of provincial life. The card players are the most inert people, engaged in the most boring pastime—at least the most boring pastime to watch. I’ve never been convinced by the claim that uninteresting subjects are redeemed by brilliant paint handling, but in any case, in my view the card-player works are not his best paintings—the surprising conclusion is that in Cézanne’s work the style matches the subject. It seems that the arch-modernist is literary in a very unmodernist way. The result is an irony that may be Cézanne’s most profound response to the work of his older contemporary Édouard Manet. The irony of Manet’s great works of the 1860s, such as Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, is the incongruity of historical art and contemporary life. Cézanne has transformed this into another irony, one as prophetic of Warholian blankness as of the furthest reductions of 20th-century abstraction, namely the utter incompatibility of the people depicted in the work and the people who will be its viewers. The flat quality of his painting leaves those sophisticated viewers no place to retreat to in search of aesthetic satisfactions.

Wall belongs to a different realist tradition, one in which the most banal details of everyday life have intrinsic interest; there is no such thing as an uninteresting detail, and no mask is only a mask: there is always a story behind it. Wall is in the company of those great realists who have expanded the scope of art by rescuing the ordinary for aesthetic contemplation. But since the universe so presented is a continuum from the grain of dust swept out the door to the mountain peak shining in the distance, there can be no irony in its presentation."
Friday, July 09, 2010
Essential reading: A Primer on Scion Capital's Subprime Mortgage Short, by Michael J. Burry
Thursday, July 08, 2010

John Latta at length on George Bowering: ""Easy self-deprecating humor, ferocious integrity and sense of identification with the unlucky, the lost, the poor, the stray’d." (Latta's fine phrase also fitting my late friend Bruce Serafin -- peerless essayist; critic; autodidact; editor; "public intellectual" -- to the proverbial T)

(Bowering's best book pictured above, a series of loose transpositions of Rilke into Kerrisdale's cherry trees, chocolate shops, blue-haired ladies with dogs, and yet-unpaved back alleys. I own Al Purdy's old copy, one of the few books I'll never loan)

Bowering on KE's gestation:

[T]here are some things to be said maybe about Rilke. It turned out a couple decades back that there were a lot of Rilke freaks in Vancouver, including the woman who was his translator into English, well, one of them, maybe the official one. Was she also biographer? Oh, I’ll be vague. There was Karl Siegler, now publisher of Talonbooks, who is a genuine Kraut, did a translation and book of Rilke’s Sonnets, had the launch party at giant Bowerings’ house, with photo montage made of the event by Roy Kiyooka, now where did that go? Blaser was talking about him. Etc. etc. etc. So when I went to Trieste in late 1977 to start writing a novel, I went to Duino, but you couldnt get in because some manufacturer millionaire owned the place and kept the gate closed. But you could walk along edge of cliff overlooking the Adriatic and Duino Castle, and so I did, knowing that Rilke must have walked it, and it was a path made of limestone stones, so I brought 11 of these home to Vancouver, and distributed them.

Also, of course, I had been to the lectures that Jack Spicer gave at Warren Tallman’s house in 1965, a house that was 2 doors from where I would later live, see above, and of course Jack was on about dictated verse, with main models being Rilke and Yeats. So a lot of Rilke in the air. And of course I believe in the idea of verse as given by an inspirer, muse or ghost or whatever, but not subconscious, though I can see how that would do it for some people.

But I didnt like Rilke all that much, partly because he mooched off rich women, but mainly because he is namby pamby or is it airy fairy, well, gushy and all that European lack of restraint. But there I was.

I decided to do a translation of Duino Elegies, partly because Trieste (which Rilke didnt like) was my signature city, partly because of the dictated verse idea. I was starting off on a strange tour, aegis of the Canadian External Affairs dept., so I was seeing some Canadian consulates etc., but I did readings and talks in Dallas, Santa Fe, Phoenix, LA, San Diego, Mexico City, stops in Albuquerque, Tucson, etc. I decided to write, while on this trip, the beginning of a translation of Duino Elegies into English (not sure when the Kerrisdale idea came), and do it that way, you know, with a language you don’t really know, but you take guesses, and come up with some kind of creative translation.

So I started on the plane trip from Vancouver to Dallas, and continued after a day at Dallas, during which a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader kicked me in the ankle at the Cdn consulate, because I said I didnt like either the Cowboys or football. There in Dallas they thought I would like to see the house where that famous TV show was filmed, about who killed ER or whatever, Ewing, but I had never seen the show. I asked to see the site of the Kennedy killing; they couldnt understand why I might want to see that. Anyway, next day I was flying to Albuquerque, and decided to scratch out whatever I had written and didnt like. When I got to New Mexico, I had scratched out the whole page, every word.

Well, of course I had my copy of the Elegies in German with me, and I was sitting in a little student kind of coffee place in Santa Fe, reading them, and at the next table there was a young man sitting there reading Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus. So I knew I wasnt supposed to quit. So I dropped the idea of the guesswork translation, and started translating with the help of a number of English translations, and kept my mind clean by reading French poetry as I went along.

After the first run of ten, took about 6 months, I had notebooks with my version in long long lines, like Rilke’s. It didnt sound enough like the way I hear poems, and I realized that translation had to be more than finding English words for German words; it had to include finding my 1980s poetics, notation, to translate from his long rimed lines. So I worked them over, and wound up with a book I felt most mine of all, serious, musical."

Wendy, courtesy L. & her cellphone. A picture I'd be proud to have made.

Curtis; Young-Holt Unlimited; Funk Inc.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010

And, while surreptitiously browsing X-Women down the block:

LITTLE KID [outside comic shop, heard, off-key, through the open door]: Nah na nah na na, nah na nah na na, nah na nah na na, BATman!

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Milo Manera and Chris Claremont's X-Women. Not a joke! Not an imaginary story!

(The horny 13 year-old in me wants one immediately. Not quite the Ironwood /Fables crossover I've been hoping for, though this [NSFW] comes pretty close)
Tuesday, July 06, 2010

What Does This Mean? OH MY GOD IT'S FULL ON!

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