Night Music: One O’Clock Jump

November 30, 2018

At The Murder, Inc., Christmas Party

November 30, 2018

Image: False Creek #1

November 29, 2018

Night Music: Down To Zero

November 28, 2018

Calendar Date: Aboriginal Arts & Crafts Fair

November 27, 2018

Hospital Lotteries — Again

November 27, 2018

Various hospitals in the Province, institutions that do work I applaud wholeheartedly, are currently conducting their annual fundraising campaigns through CTV News and perhaps other media outlets. We are told that our donations in these prize-giving lotteries will buy equipment urgently required by the Hospital.

The question I have is this: if the equipment really is urgently required, why isn’t the Provincial government paying for it through the taxes it collects from everyone?  Why are hospitals reliant on volunteer donors for this material?

This equipment and these services are either needed or they are not. We either have a public health system paid by us all or we don’t.

Am I missing something?

Image: Egg Playing With Cat

November 27, 2018

Night Music: Stayin’ Alive

November 26, 2018

Poem: In Progress

November 26, 2018


The older woman at the bar

thrusts out her breasts

exposing her defiance

of gravity

only to reveal

the clever architecture of her foundation


etched in lines and grooves across her back.

Such women

with such pretensions

shouldn’t wear white sweaters

tucked tight into yellow stretch pants.

the shadows of the lines and grooves

accentuate the engineering

drawing our attention

away from the points she wants us to watch.

And once you notice the bra-lines

across her back

you ignore the synthetically pleasing roundness

of her surgically-enhanced bosom

across her front

and instead you focus

the lines and shadows that dog

her face

even through the most post-modern make-up

and you ask

probably silently

why this woman needs to hide her age

why this woman needs to pretend

she is still a sexual object.


why the sexual attribute has become so all-fired damn important

when sex lasts for but minutes

and friendship lasts forever.



Image: Coming In

November 25, 2018

Night Music: Hungarian Rhapsody #2

November 24, 2018


Watch the extraordinary poetry of her hand movements.

The “Art” of Kitsch

November 23, 2018

Over the years, I believe I have made clear my dislike of Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Takashi Turakami and their ilk. They are the highest earning “artists” alive today, coining tens of millions per piece with work that I happen to think have the same value as those paintings on velvet you can still find in junk stores around the world. Everyone’s taste is different, and I don’t expect others to buy into my opinion.

I think of most of these pieces as bad or failed art, but an excellent article by Roger Scruton has allowed me to understand them better as part of the history of kitsch.

Nobody quite knows where the word “kitsch” came from, though it was current in Germany and Austria at the end of the 19th Century. Nobody knows quite how to define the word either. But we all recognize kitsch when we come across it. The Barbie doll, Walt Disney’s Bambi, Santa Claus in the supermarket, Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, pictures of poodles with ribbons in their hair. At Christmas we are surrounded by kitsch – worn out cliches, which have lost their innocence without achieving wisdom …

The kitsch object encourages you to think, “Look at me feeling this – how nice I am and how lovable.” That is why Oscar Wilde, referring to one of Dickens’s most sickly death-scenes, said that “a man must have a heart of stone not to laugh at the death of Little Nell”.

Scruton describes the work of Koons and others as “pre-emptive kitsch”:

The worst thing is to be unwittingly guilty of producing kitsch. Far better to produce kitsch deliberately, for then it is not kitsch at all but a kind of sophisticated parody. Pre-emptive kitsch sets quotation marks around actual kitsch, and hopes thereby to save its artistic credentials.

koons jackson

Take a porcelain statue of Michael Jackson cuddling his pet chimpanzee Bubbles, add cheesy colours and a layer of varnish. Set the figures up in the posture of a Madonna and child, endow them with soppy expressions as though challenging the spectator to vomit, and the result is such kitsch that it cannot possibly be kitsch. Jeff Koons must mean something else, we think, something deep and serious that we have missed.

There are three copies of Michael Jackson and Bubbles.  One was sold more than a decade ago for $5.6 million.

Pre-emptive kitsch is the first link in a chain. The artist pretends to take himself seriously, the critics pretend to judge his product and the modernist establishment pretends to promote it. At the end of all this pretence, someone who cannot perceive the difference between the real thing and the fake decides that he should buy it. Only at this point does the chain of pretence come to an end, and the real value of this kind of art reveals itself – namely its money value.

The intersection between “art” and “commerce” is always a tricky one.  Good thoughtful article, well worth the read.

Image: The Gardens

November 23, 2018

Night Music: Don’t Worry Baby

November 22, 2018

JFK and False Memory Syndrome

November 22, 2018

Fifty-five years ago today, my mother and father visited their closest friends, Ron and Betty, who lived a few miles from us in West London. I was in the backseat of the small black car.  It smelled of leather and my parents’ cigarettes. I was sullen because I was just turned 14 years old and I had far better things to do than visit my parents’ old fogie friends to play cards.

I remember this all so clearly because, just as we pulled up outside Ron and Betty’s row house, the car radio broke off its normal programming and a solemn voice replaced the happy chatter.  The voice announced that President John F. Kennedy of the United States had been shot and probably killed.  I can still feel the goose-flesh that crawled over my skin. I remember the loud gasp as my father realized what had been said.  John Kennedy was one of my father’s heroes, and he was mine too. He was our hope for the future, and now he was dead. Nothing else about that evening do I remember. I’m sure my folks and their friends discussed the assassination, but that has passed from recall.

Within two years of that day, though, JFK had — in my eyes at least — fallen from the pedestal upon which his charisma, his beautiful family, and his martyrdom had placed him.  He was quickly revealed as just another centre-right US politician who was happy to send the boys to war, who was happy to squander the nation’s wealth on weapons and imperialism, who had no answer to segregation but brother Bobby’s federal agents.  We also learned (perhaps we always knew) he wasn’t quite such a great family man, either; that Camelot was an expensive sham.

Kennedy and his people lived in the tuxedoed world of High Society that was soon to be swept away by the real world of Soul on Ice and Revolver.  We might have hated that big Texas bully who followed Kennedy, but it was Kennedy not Johnson who pushed the US into South Vietnam, and it was Johnson not Kennedy who brought forward the Civil Rights Acts. Looking back, we can now see that both Kennedy and Johnson were equal participants in the cabaret that is America the Superpower. Unfortunately for the truth, Kennedy will always have the smile, the beautiful wife, the cute John-John and Caroline, while Johnson will always be pulling the ears off those damn beagles.

Ballad of Buster Scruggs

November 21, 2018

Thanks to Netflix, I just watched the Coen Brothers’ Ballad of Buster Scruggs, their latest wonderful film. It is a collection of six unconnected vignettes, each set in the Old West and each re-inventing some aspect of the classic western genre.  It is, I believe, a complete success.

I just checked their filmography and once again I am amazed by their record of one cinematic masterpiece after another, decade after decade. With the exception of their remake of The Ladykillers, they have never let me down; most often they have stunned me with their elegant brilliance.  I’m not one to screen favourite movies over and over, but I have happily and usefully watched nearly all their movies more than once: Somehow, each new viewing of Miller’s Crossing or O Brother or A Serious Man (I could go on and on) adds to the pleasure.

The anthology of stories in Buster Scruggs allows for some remarkably fine acting cameos; Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs in the opening story is perfect; Harry Melling’s odd brilliance as the Artist; the lovely relationship between Bill Heck and Zoe Kazan the Girl Who Got Rattled.  Compelling stuff.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is another notch on the lifetime achievement belt of the Coen Brothers.

Image: Street Art #3B

November 21, 2018

Rene Magritte

November 21, 2018

Today we celebrate what would have been the 120th birthday of Rene Magritte, the Belgian surrealist whose work of provocative kitsch inspired so many others.



Night Music: The Air That I Breathe

November 20, 2018


Giller Prize 2018

November 19, 2018

Congratulations to ESI EDUGYAN who won this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Washington Black.  This was her second win, having taken the Prize in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues. Washington Black was also on the Booker shortlist this year.

I have to admit to having not read either of her novels before tonight.  This will change.