Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's Not That I Don't Trust You

The couple up top are old enough to remember when Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher were in power.

I took their picture last week, in Kerrisdale, on a break from our walk along the Arbutus Corridor.

Bean Brothers has a high stool bar that runs along the inside of their south facing window. Below it, on the outside, are tables and chairs.

The camera on my phone is strong enough that I could zoom in on the contents of the letter the man is holding and read it, but I didn't. Nor should you. That's why I am posting the first picture, even though the second one is sharper, clearer, more focused.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Heads of State

The spectacle that is the Trump campaign has transitioned from media incredulity to death watch. This is a transition authored as much by the media as it is by the candidate.

Meanwhile, not enough has been said about what it might mean for the United States to have a woman as president, and a white woman at that.

Did it make a difference that the current president is a black man? It made a difference insofar as we heard a lot more about America's increasingly militarized police forces and their ongoing war on young black men.

When I was younger, in the 1970s, there were some pretty tough woman running their countries. Golda Meir in Israel, Indira Gandhi in India and Margaret Thatcher in the UK -- all of whom, regardless of their political stripe, took their countries to war.

Will Hillary Clinton take her country to war? If so, I wonder what war it will be.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Concept of Face

“To me, your ‘face’ is your position and standing in the eyes of others, and it also has to do with the degree of respect you receive. Face can also be saved up over time and used to accomplish things later on. If you drove a fashionable or luxurious car to attend a friend’s party, then the majority of your friends would feel that you had face. Also, if you can achieve something through your personal contacts that others cannot through normal channels, you would also be thought to have face. You can gain face if you are praised by your boss, or if you accomplish a difficult task at work. However, if you greet others warmly at social events, but are met only with indifference, then you would lose face. Questioning someone’s ideas or opinion in a public setting would cause that person to lose face.”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Caricature as Critique

The same year Faulkner published Light in August (1932), the German artist John Heartfield gave us this photo-montage, which translates as "Adolf the Superman Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk".

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Tragically Hip

Yesterday Dan asked me if I watched the Tragically Hip's final concert and what I thought of them. The first part was easy -- I watched it. The second part required some work.

I first met the band at Amigo's in Saskatoon in 1988. We were in the middle of our last song when the Hip arrived from its gig at the Broadway Theatre up the road. Amigo's was a rollickin' joint that served great Mexican food; The Broad was a soft-seater where the serious bands played.

The Hip were nice, the kind of guys who got decent marks in high school, played on school teams and never messed up. Basic guys, except for Gord, who could pass for basic had he not made so much room for his poet, which, as far as poetry goes, was closer to the Group of Seven, with maybe a dash of David Milne, than what the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E-influenced, new lyric vanguard was writing at that time. So: a figurative poet. Landscapes, portraits -- in that order.

Last week's concert was the first time I had seen the band perform since the early 1990s, when I saw them at a festival in Southern Ontario. Not much has changed -- the band still emits that boys-in-a-treefort vibe, with Gord its witch doctor, acting out what has been repressed. 

My favourite part was the opening shot, where the band was waiting to go on stage and Gord kissed his bandmates on the lips. 

As for Gord's pro-Trudeau comments, I blanched at first, but later realized his selfless genius: that in order to get somebody to do something (Inuit suicide prevention strategies), sometimes you have to flatter them. Poets are not generally known for their pragmatism, but Gord is Gord, and when he passes, he will be missed.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Light in August (1932)

Above is the edition of William Faulkner's Light in August I started reading on a train to Portland years ago and finished years later on a train from Berlin to Kassel.

I came upon the book during a recent purge -- not the copy I read but one I purchased later, to read again.

Below is what I wrote inside the book's back flap, a passage whose page number I forgot to include:

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. Knows remembers believes a corridor in a big long garbled cold echoing building of dark red brick sootbleakened by more chimneys than its own, set in a grassless cinderstrewnpacked compound surrounded by smoking factory purlieus and enclosed by ten food steel-and-wire fence like a penitentiary or a zoo, where in random erratic surges, with sparrowlike childtrebling, orphans in identical and uniform blue denim in and out of remembering but in knowing constant in the bleak walls, the bleak windows where in rain soot from the yearly adjacenting chimneys streaked like black tears.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Arbutus Corridor

Years ago one winter we walked the CP Rail lines from 2nd and Fir to 49th and Arbutus. It took a while. There are community gardens along the way, but nothing as elaborate as those that run south of 49th to the north arm of the Fraser River, past 70th, where residents have erected schrebergartens.

We said we would resume our walk one day, and until yesterday we left it at that. In the meantime, CP and the City got shirty with each other over the future of what is commonly known as the Arbutus Corridor -- despite the fact that CP was given thousands of forested acres in the 1860s for making Vancouver, not Port Moody, the terminus of its national railroad. Last year CP calmed down and sold the Arbutus Corridor (back) to the City for less than market value. Just recently it removed most of its railway tracks.

The City says it wants the Arbutus Corridor to be a green space, a commuter bike lane. While I am sure that certain stretches will be given the "green" treatment (including some very un-green asphalt bike lanes), those that run through commercially zoned areas like Kerrisdale might be made to behave similarly. Whether this means public markets with portable kiosks or more permanent structures with market or social housing remains to be seen.