Archive for August, 2014

God Bless Molly Crabapple


Molly Crabapple‘s only peer as an illustrator / artist / journalist is the great Joe Sacco. The tone of their work is very different, though. Whereas Sacco’s reporting is dispassionate and ironic, Crabapple’s is emotional and argumentative. Sacco’s art – black and white illustrations – is famously detailed, and everybody, including the artist, has ugly faces. Crabapple works in colour as well as in black and white; all of her portraits and her scenes are exuberant; even pictures that convey mourning or disapproval are done with a Dionysian, fluorescing density. She hasn’t given up on life, anywhere.

This is from her wonderful piece called “We Must Risk Delight After a Summer Full of Monsters,” published by the irreplaceable

Journalism often feels like vampirism. Before Ferguson or Gaza, I’d been reporting from Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria. Before that, Guantanamo. Sources told me about repression and violence. A journalist on the disaster beat told me to be a funnel for this pain. “Let it go through you. Get it down truthfully. Move on.”

I could not.

Writing about others’ trauma bears no relation to living it. Yet I was a ruin more and more. The word “burnout” is dead from overuse. Constant exposure to pain burns in.

Quinn Norton once advised me to write about what I loved. Rage came more easily. I’d make my lines bloody, my words damning. I didn’t know how to write about happiness. What did it mean, the night I danced on the street in New Orleans? A brass band howled. I’d woven flowers into my hair, but they dissolved beneath the Halloween rain. My friends and I danced for hours. …

Power seeks to enclose beauty—to make it scarce, controlled. There is scant beauty in militarized zones or prisons. But beauty keeps breaking out anyway, like the roses on that Ferguson street.

The world is connected now. Where it breaks, we all break. But it is our world, to love as it burns around us. Jack Gilbert [in “A Brief for the Defense”] is right. “We must risk delight” in the summer of monsters. Beauty is survival, not distraction. Beauty is a way of fighting. Beauty is a reason to fight.

The Salaita affair

Your author joins the debate over at Stupid Motivational Tricks. The Chicago Tribune provides background.

The Riot Baton Club

This cool new website came out of a student project this summer.

Baton twirling is a unique sport that combines the art of dance, the flexibility of gymnastics and the skill of twirling into one amazing activity. Riot Baton Club strives to encourage and develop the highest proficiency in baton twirling through the development and continued support of our recreational, competitive and elite programs. Riot Baton Club is a member of the Canadian Baton Twirling Federation (CBTF) and is a proud member of the Baton Twirling Association of British Columbia (BTABC). All of our couches are both CBTF and National Coaches Certificate Program certified.

My students are astonishing.



Another beautiful bike ride through Olympia … first time I ever saw any bacon, though, was today – on 26th Ave.


Wish I could answer …


Tag beneath bridge, near Tumwater Historical Park, Washington.

The Canadian Arachnoid Cyst Foundation website’s up

With the help of two students from my upper-level Technical Report Writing class this summer, last week Garry Hicks launched an important new website devoted to spreading awareness of Arachnoid cysts and to helping out those who are suffering with them. It is an honour to be a part of this initiative in its early going.

Garry Hicks

Garry Hicks

The point of being a scholar

My friend Jonathan Mayhew takes issue with an author’s defense of lowered expectations in scholarship. I agree with Jonathan Mayhew on this. Short-cuts corrode the mind.

I do, in fact, master my field. That’s the point of being a scholar. I would suggest that this person, so much in awe of [Slavoj] Zizek [who recently admitted to using someone else’s work without attribution], does not even know enough to know whether Zizek is full of shit or not. … I guess the argument that all scholars are incompetent is convenient if you yourself don’t really know enough not to fake it yourself.


I was wearing the Kwantlen school colours out at a neighborhood Oympia restaurant last night. As an older couple was leaving the restaurant, the husband came over to me. “We have been trying to determine what KPU might stand for. We thought it might mean ‘kinetic power unit’.” My date thought this was very funny indeed.

And also …

I prayed to God that when Kurt Cobain died, people would wake up about depression and suicide. That did not happen. I pray, again, that Robin Williams’ death will wake people up. People who kill themselves are falling apart in pain. It is not about you.


People who say suicides are cowards lack imagination even more than they do compassion.

Robin Williams

I pray that the suicide of Robin Williams awakens compassion – and an understanding about the pain of chronic depression.  I will leave it there, except to say to Mr. Williams that you were astonishing in “Good Will Hunting” and “Awakenings.” Bless you. And that I met you once, and you were very friendly. Thank you.

It’s a lovely show

I can recommend Lincoln Clarke’s exhibition without reservation. The curator’s selection and arrangement of photographs: perfect. Below is a photograph I took of Lincoln and two friends, behind the gallery, a few minutes before the opening.


New Photographs by Lincoln Clarkes at the Initial Gallery in Vancouver

lincoln clarkes bus stop, 2010 c-print, 14 x 11 inches

“Bus Stop,” 2010, by Lincoln Clarkes.

My friend Lincoln Clarkes will be exhibiting new photographs at Vancouver’s Initial Gallery (2339 Granville Street) starting this Thursday, August 7, at an opening (6 – 9pm) sure to be packed and sure to be a total gas. I will be there.