123

today is january 2, 2003, also known as 01/02/03. one of those peculiar days that is not remarkable in any way other than being cute in a recognizable, numerical manner. nonetheless, it amuses me so. 123.

18 1/2 hours

my work sometimes takes me into strange and sketchy parts of vancouver. on occassion the city insists on bringing forth the bizarre.

it was a long day, eighteen and a half hours in total. after fifteen or so hours of hard work one begins to get a bit spotty, exhausted and peaking out on all sorts of weird chemicals. the universe likes to pile the absurd on you when you least need it.

throughout the evening we graciously obliged various requests to provide tourist-guide type information to those from out of town/country. hot requests for the evening include the cambie pub (always excellent) and stanley park (at this hour??). then the evening began to mess with us.

11 pm – a man patrols his turf with a 2×4. this is not all that uncommon, and i hardly blame the fellow. it is, nonetheless, unnerving to have someone stroll by you with a deadly piece of wood and then strike up lively chit-chat. as i always say, crazies and junkies are nicest folks you’ll meet. tourists and business-folk are the vicous and dangerous kind.

12 am – the dutch girls, as they are now known, insist upon taking their picture with the two of us. the few words they passed with us indicated they were celebrating some demented version of christmas. of course we obliged their peculiar request with grins and feliz navidads. charming.

1 am – we are videotaped. i figure i exist in several thousand photos and videos around the world – my daily commute home includes a walk by the dreadful steam-clock in gastown. until this point i haven’t felt so put on the spot.

2 am – a young couple fucks with vigour on the park bench across from us. they are oblivious to our yells and the passing motorists. she begins by hiking up her skirt and taking it from behind. then she rides him across the bench. after completing they begin berating us. somehow amusing and memorable.

3 am – the work day comes to a close and we go home, weary and wasted. goodnight burrard and pender.

vancouver jazz festival 2002

gavin bryars is one of those few beasts to whom the word ‘lumbering’ is entirely accurate. he walks as though it were an involuntary action, imaginary rope pulling his mid-section along without the express consent of his legs or arms.

that said, his compositions are dreamy. drifting and heavy, pulsating with emotion.

while many double bassists tend to exhibit serious facial ticks and body twitches, perhaps due to the shocking physicality of the bass itself, gavin bryars does not. he is an enormous statue, quietly dwarfing his instrument. an instrument which, incidentally, he resembles in every way.

holly cole, on the other hand, is quite a lot smaller than i imagined. she is slim and dainty, and even her female tom waits voice was tinier than i would have thought.

all said, last night’s performance was fulfilling.

this was preceded by another great year of jazz at the roundhouse. while i did not suck back du maurier cigarettes (still the sponsor), i took in a few decent acts.

the eivind aarset trio combines rock instrumentation and electronics, most of this played over by a frippish guitar player. while there were some moments of serious cheese with this group, it was mostly interesting. it was the live instrumentation that saves these guys, with the drummer giving the group extra kick.

the matthias lupri quintet was like stumbling across some musical group masturbation session. too many skilled musicians playing together apart. while the vibraphone rocked, and the bassist was neurotically polished, the combined effort of the group was drivel.

this was followed by the combined improvised efforts of torsten müller, françoise houle, and dylan van der schyff. this was a lot of fun to watch. we sat across from müller – he left an impressive puddle of sweat, pouring from his large, bald, dome onto the stage.

the efforts of these three collaborators was another window of insight into the improvisational process and how musical communication. while there were some awkward moments, such as waiting for houle to find his entrance point in the third piece, it was rewarding overall.

finally, this day was capped with a performance/discussion with jason roebke. roebke definitely falls into the category of bassists who display spastic facial expressions while playing. his were like a combination of facial surgery and having a limb falling asleep (very impressive).

roebke is a highly articulate musician, and was capable of answering all of the audience’s questions/attacks regarding improvised music. it is the first time i’ve heard someone express such coherent thoughts about the form. if you get a chance to see him, do so.

tales of the wind

spent many hours at the pacific cinematheque absorbing several documentary films by the late, great joris ivens. a tale of the wind is a sort of autobiographical piece, weaving metaphor and the fantastic. joris’ love of film and of life is pure inspiration.

his early films, the bridge, rain, industrial symphony, new earth, and misère au borinage are all visual feasts. his cut rate is frenetic, something i hadn’t expected. the silent films are glorious. the annoying part is listening to either the people complaining about the lack of sound or the yahoos in the projection room yapping it up. take your pick.

the spanish earth, narrated by hemingway, reads like classic propaganda. it is a great film, and is necessary watching to follow up your reading of orwell’s homage to catalonia.

there aren’t enough words to describe the 17th parallel, iven’s film about the vietnam conflict. it was filmed while he and his co-director/wife marceline loridan lived with the vietnamese people. aurally, the film is a constant bombardment of american armament falling on vietnam. one of my favourite scenes is when the vietnamese are describing how useful a supersonic jet is to them. this is followed by a shot of a man taking some bolts from the wreckage and using them to repair his bicycle rear wheel. this film is an absolute must for anyone, anywhere, who wants to understand war.

call for general strike

it was a drizzling day, may 25, 2002. citizens around british columbia dropped in on vancouver to voice their dissent with the present liberal government of gordon campbell. the theme for the event was “call for general strike.”
vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

vancouver call for general strike

2001: a space odyssey

tonight i watched 2001: a space odyssey for the first time since i was 8 or 9 years old. i’ve always remembered the film fondly, knowing the impact it has had on me in all sorts of ways. it is the first non-cartoon film i remember clearly. while watching it tonight i could anticipate the scenes coming up, the small details, kubrick’s beauty having burnt itself into my head. the way these things can affect us is astounding.

i don’t recall the ligeti pieces in the score specifically, though i recall my young ears being amazed at the sound of the film. at the time ligeti was not any kind of ‘music’ as i recognized it, but rather incredible and haunting soundscape.

this evening brought me back to a heady few hours of my youth – bringing back the first time i remember feeling completely cooked by cinema.

a few other important film experiences were when i saw a clockwork orange in grade 10, and the shining around the same time, or perhaps a year earlier. i didn’t realize until some time later that these all came from the same director. this explains why i have such reverence for kubrick.

there are few things i value more than personal landmark experiences in film and music. looking back at some of my other favourite filmmakers (tarkovsky!), i can see how my tastes were formed. thanks, stanley.

calgary. climbing. experience.

so i didn’t go to calgary. or anywhere else. thankfully.

not so long ago i made a trip out to g.e. polymershapes in vancouver. it is the lollypop land of plastics. i now want to grab every piece of plastic i can find and paint it. the rubbermaid shudders in the cupboard as we speak.

after much family visiting i’ve succeeded in doing almost no reading. still working through martin amis’ experience. i’m still entertained and intrigued 207 pages into it, so it must be alright. there are some little rambling bits which lose me, but i chalk that up to the walkmen, chatterbugs, cellphones, and altogether buzzing atmosphere of the city bus.

my current lust is rock climbing in squamish. indescribable, thus far.

eastside

looks as though i may be heading back to calgary sooner than later. at least it will be warmer, although i was told it snowed almost a foot there a few days ago (freakish, i was assured).

in the meantime i scurry through the streets of vancouver, spending far too much time watching people shoot up. the other day my co-worker almost lost his lunch watching a guy shoot up into an open wound on his hand. it’s amazing that if you spend long enough down there the extreme becomes the ordinary. disease and infection nothing more than pedestrian affairs.

everyone has a theory on how to fix it (most involving some kind of mass murder), but no one really considers the root, the social causality. everyone is in the downtown eastside for a reason. the overarching social problem is comprised of these thousands of “reasons”.

i want to document this, observe it, work on it. but how? even after only a year of being down there i’m getting jaded and cynical about the whole mess. the shocking become routine, my empathy turned to disgust.

all i have is words, but they feel useless after i have written them. who gives a fuck what some middle class shit has to say? i’m nothing more than a privileged voyeur.

calgary. anarchy. amis.

recently spent a week in calgary for work purposes. i hadn’t been there in probably 12 years. there’s no need for me to be snarky and comment how i don’t plan on going back, but for christ’s sake could you people provide at least ONE vegetarian dish?

i have to admit that the people in calgary are incredibly friendly. case in point: my co-worker is lifting a dolly of grouting equipment over a parking barrier. a kindly calgarian, dressed in a suit and tie, give him a hand. you do not see this kind of behaviour in vancouver. in vancouver the suit would have knocked my co-worker over and urinated on him. in conclusion, calgarians are very friendly folk. i like them. if we could transplant some of that down to earth humanity to vancouver i’d be plucky.

now that i’m back to the more reasonable coastal climate, i’ve returned to reading at a decent pace. here are the latest:

douglas fetherling’s bio on george woodcock “The Gengle Anarchist” is a worthy primer on the legendary writer and activist. the book is short, but that is as it should be. it introduces us to the incredible and well-travelled life of woodcock. fetherling’s personal relationship with the subject enhances this bio (although i’m not entirely sure what i think of his insanely literate weekly column for the vancouver sun), and i can do nothing but recommend it beyond measure.

another recent read is martin amis’ “night train”, which, unfortunately, was not so great. i can understand why writers branch out and try new things, but why a brilliant british turner-of-the-phrase would try is hand at the yank hard-boiled detective novel is beyond me. sure, there is some good play on the genre, i’ll give him that. and the phrases are of course well tuned. but it just didn’t do it for me. i’m cranking through his “experience”, which is proving far superior. update to follow.

ballard. bowles. crowley. delillo. prison.

life has been a blur of work, reading, and procrastinating.

as the observant would notice, if they were diligent enough, it has been months since i’ve last written anything here. time does not have meaning here, even with the odd current events item. it’s all a slush of being at my place.

things that have pleased me since we last spoke:

  • a little J.G. Ballard never hurt anyone (except its characters). High-Rise was a disturbing work which begs to be filmed, but to which film could never do justice. it would be too campy or too unbelievable as a movie. somehow Ballard is capable of taking distressing concepts and acting them out believably with a cast of misfits.

    still, this book was not nearly as scary as The Atrocity Exhibition, which kept me compulsively flipping pages, part of me hoping no one on the bus was reading over my shoulder. Ballard’s notes are probably more interesting than the book itself, but the surreal snippets of prose are akin to nails being pounded into your head (if such a ridiculous analogy may be employed). where is the world going, and do we want to be on it when it gets there? if Ballard is a visionary of the future, i’d like to take the next off ramp. yet, as Ballard knows, we will be too caught in the headlights to escape what our own hands have created.

  • Lawrence Sutin’s bio of Aleister Crowley, Do What Thou Wilt was a lengthy and interesting read into the oft misrepresented icon of the deviants (Crowley does seem to have misrepresented himself plenty, though).

    what i primarily got from this was the complex dealings of new religious movements, their organization and foibles, and insight into the type of personality that starts their own framework for finding meaning. Crowley comes off as a battered human struggling to make sense of the world, his own way.

  • Don DeLillo’s Mao II is slipping so far into my memory shards that i can barely recollect. let me skim it for a moment… ah, right, Bill Gray and the world of the reclusive writer. good book. DeLillo knows how to throw a sentence together and pick compulsively at the sore that is western culture. i seem to recall it being not particularly uplifting around december.
  • Martin Amis is someone i’d read briefly in the past, but have been getting more into. Success was a lot of fun, snappy as hell. one of my favourite Amisisms in it is: “I want all that and I want all that. And I want all that and I want all that. And I want all that and I want all that. I don’t want what he has. But I want what he wants.”

    i chased this little book down with The Information, which I found tedious and drearily long. too many digressions. too much too much. still stylishly written, but poorly executed.

  • Paul Bowles has ran ahead of the pack and planted himself as one of my all time favourite writers. brisk, austere prose. working through the big Selected Stories, and just finished off The Sheltering Sky. delicious and vicious. filled with anxiety.
  • the most recent nonfiction, nonbiographical book to smack me good upside the head was David Cayley’s The Expanding Prison, in which he tears apart the criminal justice system and explores the major issues therein. a substantial and accessible book, bound to shock and anger you.
  • perhaps i should write here more often, becoming something more than a retrospective life in point-form.