Night Music: Pet Sounds

May 16, 2016

Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of one of the four or five most influential albums of all time — not to mention my own favourite.  Brian Wilson’s “Pet Sounds” was an immediate hit in the UK but took a while to garner support in the US.

So many songs that just rip out your heart, so many instrumentations that had never been heard before, hard to choose just one.  So I’ll go with the one that affected me most at that time.

Night Music: Lhasa de Sela

May 16, 2016

Poem: Salamander

May 16, 2016


A bright orange salamander silently slithers

the length of the soft-pink stone-chip wall,

making faster speed than I could in this heat.


I sit, staring, mesmerized by this costumed athlete,

this splendid natural explosion of colour,

this distraction from the dull monochrome of my life.


With a desperate reluctance, I crack open the velcro

ties that bind me to the lizard, drawing back my focus

to include my companion and the unfinished wine.


“Let’s review where we are,” she says. “Yes,

let’s do that,” I reply from a distance, forgetting

where we’ve been in this conversation and why.


She clears her throat and continues:  “You and I

seem to be headed nowhere, neh?”    She pauses,

examining me for confirmation.  Perhaps I nod.


“As a couple, I mean.  We have to come to terms

with that.  We have to face the true nature of our failure

you and I.  We are not meant to be, that’s the point.”


I say: “I see.”   I feel her eyes burning me, expecting more.

Across the street, the afternoon shoppers flow in and out

of department stores and groceries and fish merchants.


“Well?” she presses.  “Am I right?  What do you think?”

I sip the wine, close both my eyes, and imagine

the cool cave where the salamander rests.



RIP Katherine Dunn

May 16, 2016

Geek LoveKatherine Dunn, who wrote one of my favourite — and most bizarre — books, “Geek Love” died this weekend at age 70.

Geek Love is about a carny family, the Binewskis, who breed mutant children for their freakshow.  It has much to say about families, and also about how cults work — as one of the children, Arturo, born with flippers for hands and feet, and a monstrous ego — becomes a nationwide sensation.

I read it first in 2000 and several times since; each time it has captured my imagination.

Ms Dunn wrote two novels before Geek Love was published in 1989 and Ms Dunn did not publish another novel after it.  However, she was a prolific book reviewer and a writer on boxing for the Oregon newspapers.