Poetry On Tuesday

March 31, 2019

There will be a poetry reading at the People’s Co-op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Drive, at 7:30pm on Tuesday 2nd April.

The readings will be by Christina Thatcher, an American poet and author of More Than You Were, and local poet Leah Horlick, author of For Your Own Good.

Admission is free.  How can you beat that?

Image: City Abstract #11

March 31, 2019

It Is Cesar Chavez Day

March 31, 2019

Abstracts In Real Space

March 30, 2019

The Guardian has an excellent selection from German photographer Stephan Zirwes’s series of aerial shots of swimming pools.  The following two images are from his collection.

“His series has been shortlisted for the 2019 Sony world photography awards (announced on 17 April). They were all shot by drone, an essential gadget for Zirwes, who started to specialise in aerial photography 15 years ago. “It was my way to show the world in a new way. With the popularisation of drones, aerial photography has become a new genre.”

One of the reasons I really like these pieces is because they remind me strongly of some aspects of my own work.

Some examples might be left:  Wave #2, and Detail #1; center: Door In Tel Aviv; right: Bold Colour #2 and Stairs #1

Night Music: Blue

March 30, 2019


The album of which this is the title track is one of the four or five that I would always want close to hand. For me, it is as near to perfection that you can get.  In a recent article at Literary Hub, John Corbett agrees with me.

“Seen from the fairly conservative folk enclave that it crawled out of, Blueis a joyful, rambunctious, even shocking outing—take the lines from the title track: Acid, booze, and ass / Needles, guns, and grass / Lots of laughs, lots of laughs—even as it is also gut-wrenchingly melancholic and plainly romantic. I hear it as a full-force embrace of mobility and independence—the former domain of guys, now a right to be enjoyed and cherished and protected by women.”

The album is, he says:

“as eloquent a setting of poems to music as you’ll find, a call to live life where you find it, loving the one you’re with, departing from them eventually in an inevitable moving along, no matter how hard or sad.”

For any lover of music, this is an article well worth reading.

Boycotting Brunei

March 30, 2019

Brunei is a tiny country in south-east Asia, owned and governed as a dictatorship by the Sultan, one of the world’s richest men. Starting next Wednesday, gay people and adulterers in that country will be stoned or whipped to death.

The Sultan owns nine of the world’s finest hotels and George Clooney is using his celebrity to call for a boycott of those spaces.

“Let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery … Are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?

“I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”

The hotels involved include the Beverley Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, the Dorchester and 45 Park Lane in London, Cosworth Park in the UK, Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris, the Hotel Eden in Rome, and the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan.

Staying in any of those hotels is way beyond my reach but I am glad to help support this initiative, and to hope that any tourists planning on visiting Brunei choose a different destination.

Image: Philadelphia Market Street Bank

March 29, 2019

In Praise of Jimmy Carter

March 29, 2019

Regular readers will no doubt know that I am not a fan of politicians, especially senior American politicians.  However, I have always admired and been impressed by Jimmy Carter. The following profile is from an email newsletter from Mother Jones. I hope they won’t mind me reprinting it in full as it says exactly what I would like to say:

“He has never sought great riches, or to capitalize on the presidency for personal gain. He lives in a home that is assessed for a lesser value than the armored Secret Service vehicle that sits outside it.

Last week, at 94, Jimmy Carter became America’s oldest living former president, prompting praise for the human rights champion and Navy veteran. When in power, he looked ahead, installing solar panels in the White House and promoting a slew of judges of color and women to the federal bench, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Out of power, he oversaw election monitoring in many tight votes worldwide and has spent decades volunteering to build homes with Habitat for Humanity.

“We…are grateful for his long life of service that has benefitted millions of the world’s poorest people,” said the Carter Center, an Atlanta-based nonprofit focused on public policy.

As a public servant and after the presidency, Carter embodied the traits we feature each week in this newsletter. He thought of others and refused to take credit for the daring rescue of six US diplomats in Iran (an episode later made famous by the movie Argo). The reason? Carter didn’t want to endanger the lives of other US diplomats held hostage there.

Carter took the hard road internationally, seeking to burnish America’s standing by refusing to coddle strongmen, such as Chile’s authoritarian leader, Gen. Augusto Pinochet. As a young reporter in neighboring Argentina, I witnessed testimony from Carter’s human rights chief, Patricia Derian, on how she directly confronted a leader of that military government on torture. (Busted, Argentina’s naval chief rubbed his hands and replied: “You remember the story of Pontius Pilate, don’t you?”)

Although reviews of Carter’s presidency have been mixed, political scientist Robert A. Strong writes that “some consider him to be the nation’s greatest former President,” and that his work is admired by people on both sides of the aisle.

In a Washington Post interview last fall, the former president said it was difficult to abide President Donald Trump’s constant lies, and he called the current presidency a “disaster.” Carter recalled that he would have been expelled from the Naval Academy for a lie, and hinted that his father, who whipped him six different times with a peach tree branch, would not have tolerated mistruths, either.

“I always told the truth,” he said simply.”

Remembering Radio Caroline

March 28, 2019

It is 55 years ago today since Radio Caroline, the first of the British pirate radio stations began broadcasting.  It was an event and a summer I remember well.

In the previous 18 months, the British music scene had exploded, first based on the incredible success of the Beatles but then quickly followed by dozens of groups from all over the country. Unfortunately, the staid old BBC held a monopoly of British radio and so many of us listened to this new music on Radio Luxemburg which broadcast in the evenings. However, the playlists of Radio Luxemburg and BBC TV’s weekly Top of the Pops were more or less controlled by the major record labels and didn’t cover the full spectrum of pop music then available.

Ronan O’Reilly, an Irish entrepreneur, decided to broaden the choice. He purchased an old ship, refitted it with high powered radio equipment, and parked it just outside British territorial waters. On 28th March 1964, Radio Caroline began broadcasting with a Rolling Stones song, and pirate radio — pirates because they were unlicensed — almost immediately changed the entire British cultural scene.

For the next few years, everyone I knew listened to the pirates (a number of other radio ships had joined in the fun) and no matter the laws the government tried to impose, their popularity continued to increase. By 1967, even the BBC had been completely revamped, with BBC Radio One becoming simply a copy of the pirates. That was, indeed, the Summer of Love.

Night Music: Against All Odds

March 28, 2019

Still Seeking A No Deal Brexit

March 28, 2019

I have spent dozens of hours over the last couple of weeks watching the live debates in the British House of Commons regarding Britain’s withdrawal from the disaster known as the European Community; and I suspect I will spend a lot more hours doing the same tomorrow and next week.  After all this debate, and other countless hours reading about it, I remain a fully committed hard Brexiteer.

At the time of the referendum, almost three years ago, I wrote about my joy at the result. I explained then that my reason for supporting Brexit differed substantially from the reasons stated or implied by many other Leavers.

“I am willing to accept that the superficial logic behind the voters’ decision is deeply flawed. Most of Britain’s street-level economic woes are not caused by Europe; they are, rather, a function of the anti-person pro-austerity Tory policies of Cameron and Osborne following on from decades of Thatcherite and Blairite disasters. The vote will do nothing to stop the 150,000 non-EU and mostly non-white migrants that arrive in Britain every year. The vote will do nothing at all to protect the NHS from the ravages of Tory privatization and under-funding.”

I also mentioned my concern for sharing the same stage as certain other Leave proponents:

“I am also willing to accept that many of the leaders of the Leave campaign are intellectual lightweights, Trump-like in their extravagant audacity, and some could even be described as evil (though Cameron and Osborne for Remain are equally bad).”

My reason for supporting Leave then remains the same today:  I am a decentralizing anarchist, believing strongly that power needs to reside at the lowest most local level possible, forcefully in the hands of the people. The broader the institution (city councils, regional authorities, national governments, supra-national associations) the further power is distanced from the individual and the less democratic it becomes as power is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

So, I would be happy, over-joyed even, to see Britain leave the straight-jacket of Europe as planned tomorrow (or April 12, or May 22) with no deal in place.

A couple of further points.  We can rightly blame the Tory government under Theresa May for the dysfunctional bargaining that has led us to this impasse today. But the truth of the matter is that the elites of Great Britain of all stripes don’t want to see Britain quit Europe and they have combined to make sure that leaving has been as difficult as possible, and they continue to do so.

Second, the devolved parties in Britain — Scottish Nationalist and Plaid Cymru — are guilty of short-term thinking. They want to stay in Europe because the EU has been good to them in terms of financial incentives, and they don’t want to give up that cash. What they fail to see is that, by remaining in Europe, they will never get independence from England; they will be locked in the Union forever.  One only needs to look at how the EU has treated the reasonable demands from Catalonia and Brittany for autonomy, siding always and forcefully with the national governments of Spain and France.

I am a fervent supporter of independence for Scotland, for Wales, as a start to further devolution. Those dreams will be hard fought to achieve within Great Britain but will be impossible inside the EU.

My guess is that we will end up with a soft Brexit, with strings still firmly attached to Europe; a compromise that will allow the elites to continue to profit and for the people to continue to lose their rights.

Baseball’s Background

March 28, 2019

When I was a young lad in London, many evenings I used to lie under the blankets in the dark listening to American Forces radio. I heard about the 1960 Presidential elections, I heard the News in Special English (what I assume was the basis for Bob & Ray’s wonderful “Slow Talkers of America” skit), and I am pretty sure that was where I first heard Bob Newhart. But mostly I enjoyed the word pictures conjured up by the wonderful commentators on boxing and baseball.

I was aware of baseball in a general way because, in those Cold War days, there was a US Air Force base nearby and they occasionally allowed us to visit to watch inter-service games. For a boy brought up on cricket and rugby and soccer, this game — so much like rounders which in England was only played by young girls — seemed tame, slow, and frankly boring.  For good or ill, I have never grown out of that opinion, even as I recognise that this view is not shared by the millions of the game’s supporters.

All this is to introduce a review of Davis Block’s “Pastime Lost: The Humble, Original, and Now Completely Forgotten Game of English Baseball.” 

“David Block’s 2005 book Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game … persuasively argues that an early form of baseball (known by that name) was well-established in England by the mid-eighteenth century. In his new book, Pastime Lost, published just in time for the opening of the 2019 Major League Baseball season, Block reports on his research in the intervening years, adding a good deal of new evidence …

Baseball in those early days did not include bats. The ball was soft and was struck by hand … Beyond the bare bones of the game—that it included running to bases and returning “home”—we still know very little. But I think any fair-minded reader of Block’s book will conclude that he’s made his case.”

Whether the sport was developed in England or invented by Abner Doubleday, both Brock’s history and the reviewer note that baseball has been subject to constant change. I happen to believe it has changed these days into little more than a way in which vast and unseemly wealth is lavished on a few lucky players.  I am astonished that professional cricketers can now make a million or more a year but that pales into insignificance when compared to the $10 million, $20 million, $30 million a year contracts that are becoming commonplace in Major Baseball.

I remain unconvinced that this change is good for this or any sport.

GWAC Meeting April 2019

March 27, 2019

GWAC’s next meeting is on Monday 1st April at 7:00pm in the Room above Britannia Ice Rink.

This will be a good chance to meet with the new Directors of GWAC, including those who have volunteered to serve since the AGM.  There will no doubt be more discussion of Temporary Modular Housing, and perhaps a report from the Open House earlier that day for the large condo proposal in the 2200-block of East Broadway.

Image: Fall 2

March 27, 2019

Night Music: No Regrets

March 26, 2019

Giorgio Morandi

March 26, 2019

There is a useful article in Christie’s Online Magazine about Giorgio Morandi “arguably the greatest Italian painter of the twentieth century”.

“From the early 1920s until the early 1960s, Morandi’s paintings show remarkable consistency. He has by now hit upon his trademark pictures: still-life arrangements of bottles, vases and jugs on a table, painted in largely sombre colours (greys, browns and chalky whites, above all). Superficially, these may all look similar. However, his painting is full of subtle shifts and inflections, dependent on precisely which objects are placed where; in what combination; and under what sort of light. Such was Morandi’s attention to detail that his slight shift of a bottle has been compared to the chess move of a grand master.

Morandi was an ascetic who reveled in frugality:

“He’s remembered as a simple, reclusive figure who went by the nickname of Il Monaco (‘The Monk’). A lifelong bachelor, he lived most of his adult life in a modest apartment with his three sisters, his bedroom doubling as a studio. As he himself put it, ‘I’m a painter of the kind of… composition that communicates a sense of tranquility and privacy, moods which I have always valued above all’.

An interesting article about a painter I barely knew before.

Image: Pink Carpet

March 25, 2019

R.I.P. Scott Walker

March 25, 2019

We have today lost one of the great voices and songwriters of our generation.


Those who know him only as the voice of the Walker Brothers are missing so much of his extraordinary legacy.

Poem: Redress

March 25, 2019



we drifted back

through the apartment,

retracing our twin trails

of panties and socks

sweaters and jeans

boots and belts


until we were

as we were



Night Music: Another Bolero Flash Mob

March 24, 2019