Archive for May, 2011

Summer Students’ Blog

Class Blog

The students in my two, upper-level Professional Communications classes have started it off with posts analyzing “miscommunication.” (Here are the Summer 2010 and Fall 2010 – Spring 2011 student blogs from these classes. This is the communications blog written by a first-year class last fall.)

I wonder …

… whether the work of Vivian Maier would ever have been discovered had she not lost it.

Surprisingly happy


The great Comicshop store at its new West 4th location in Vancouver

I must spend more money per minute at Vancouver’s Comicshop than anywhere else, especially when I haven’t been there in awhile. This afternoon I picked up a big bunch of books, including new titles — love stories — by two of my favourite artists and storytellers: Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes and Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir by Adrian Tomine.


“Scenes” is a winsome and sunny little sketch of a valentine Tomine wrote at the request of his fiancee (now wife).

Mr. Wonderful

“Mister Wonderful,” originally serialized in the New York Times, of all places, is quite a bit more baroque and neurotic — we love Clowes for his ruthlessness — but, unlike any of his recent work, it isn’t *disturbing*; he keeps the doors open.

Vivian Maier’s Found Photographs

Vivian Maier's Photo of a Man in a Car

Vivian Maier's photo of a child

Alex Kotlowitz tells this story beautifully:

“In the winter of 2007, John Maloof, a 26-year-old realtor who was co-writing a book on his Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago, stumbled upon a box of negatives at an auction house. He paid $400, hoping it might hold some vintage photos of his neighborhood. He stuffed the box in a closet. There the images sat for a couple of months, until he had time to scan a few into his computer. There were no photos of Portage Park, but they were captivating images, and it became clear they belonged to a single photographer. ‘Little by little I realized how good they were,’ he told me. He learned the auction house had sold more boxes of negatives, and so he sought out the buyers to purchase those, as well. In the end, he collected more than 100,000 negatives, including a few thousand rolls of film. In one of the boxes, he eventually found an envelope with the name Vivian Maier scrawled on it. He googled her name and found a Chicago Tribune obituary. She had died a few days earlier. She was 83.”

Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for most of her life, in Chicago and in New York. I imagine that many of these “street” photographs were taken while she was out and about with the children in her charge, Rolleiflex around her neck. You can see her reflection in the photograph below.

According the jacket copy of an upcoming collection of Maier’s photographs, the photographer – nanny “lost possession of her art when her storage locker was sold off for non-payment.”

Tens of thousands of Maier’s negatives have yet to be scanned, and a harvest of art and of life awaits us.

Vivian Maier reflection

Cool Kwantlen – Ghana “Classroom without Walls” project

My Kwantlen Polytechnic University colleague Dr. Charles Quist-Adade has helped found a project that brings students from Ghana and students from Kwantlen into the same classroom at the same time using “integrative information and educational technologies” like Wiziq and Moodle.

The course is called “Sociology of Global Inequalities,” in which students “critically examine the various perspectives on development and underdevelopment within a global context, as well as their relation to changing economic, political and social situations in Canada and the Third World.” Students focus on “NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and other regional economic arrangements, paying particular attention to the effect of such processes on communities and individuals.”

According to an article by Gibril Koroma, “The partially on-line course [uses] a mixed mode delivery, combining synchronous video-audio streaming, real chat, online materials, pre-packaged online materials, as well as asynchronous chat sessions. It is the second phase in a pilot project initiated in 2008 by Dr. Quist-Adade and his Ghanaian collaborators, Dr. Akosua Darkwah of the University of Ghana, Dr. Vincent Dodoo of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology [KNUST], Kumasi and Mr. Kodwo Ansong Boateng of Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra.”

Juliet Oppong-Boateng, a graduate from KNUST, says she “decided to take this course because I wanted to get a deeper knowledge of what the globalization phenomenon is all about and [it] also offered me the opportunity to get a live interaction with fellow students in Canada.”

Stand Up for Mental Health

DVD Cover of "Cracking Up," a wonderful documentary

That’s Eufemia Fantetti, above, a member of the “Stand Up for Mental Health” comedy team, a Vancouver group that is the subject of a low-key but inspiring documentary called “Cracking Up.” The documentary follows about a dozen Vancouver-area residents who have depression, schizophrenia, and a range of other mental and emotional challenges, as they learn how to use stand-up comedy to make their lives happier and more rewarding. Eufemia’s first joke when she walks onstage wearing that wedding dress: “Ever feel as though you’re supposed to BE somewhere?”

Pretend We’re Dead

I sing this song to myself many a morn when I wake up. So much joy! L7 was a wonderful band.

Happy Mother’s Day

Michael Meldrum

Michael Meldrum

Michael Meldrum, photo by Rose Mattrey

Farewell, Michael Meldrum. Buffalonians will always remember your generosity to musicians, including good friends of mine. On May 9 there will be a celebration of your life at Nietzsche’s, where you hosted legendary open-mic nights for decades. I was there for a lot of  them, and wish I could be there next Monday. Rest in peace, real good guy.

Michael Meldrum and Friends

Michael Meldrum and Friends


I’ve read that shoes hanging from trees or wires indicate that a crack-house is nearby. These are hanging next to Vancouver’s Lord Roberts Elementary school.