Archive for October, 2015

I love English Bay



Watching sports!

In honour of the World Series … a video from back in the day.

My “shadow CV”

Steinway Upright

Regarding Devoney Looser’s ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ article “Me and My Shadow CV: What would my vita look like if it recorded not just the success of my professional life but also the many, many rejections?” my friend Jonathan Mayhew writes,

Nobody cares about your list of rejections and failures. When I first saw the title of this essay I thought it would be about something much more interesting: the parts of the scholarly formation that seem less scholarly but that somehow affect one’s writing: my study of jazz and percussion, my obsession with prosody: all the things I never wrote about but that are essential to who I am: for my friends, it could be their work as zen masters, or being in a band: the translations someone has worked on but not published.

The point the article is trying to make is that we see a cv loaded with stuff but don’t see the rejections and failures that everyone experiences. The longer the cv, the longer the shadow cv too, because someone more active will also have more opportunity not to get grants they apply for. Everyone knows this, so it’s supposed to be great for younger people to see that these successful people have also failed. I get the point, but it is a stupid article because it is not the one I would have written with this title. (Sorry.)

My shadow CV would certainly include a long section on hitchhiking, an obsession of mine for several years during which I learned how to talk with many different kinds of people. (When I graduated from SUNY/Buffalo no one – friend, family, or foe – believed me when I told them, with the exception of my then-future, now-former wife, because I seemed to have spent more time on the road than on campus – or in New York state, for that matter.)

Also on my shadow CV would be my study of the piano (thank you, Mom and Dad, for the lessons and for the summer music camps). I feel my devotion to that instrument pouring into my palms as I type this. After I broke the pinky of my right hand in a stupid fight when I was in eleventh grade – it was poorly reset – my repertoire and record collection for several years thereafter focused almost exclusively on jazz. (I named my son after Miles Davis.) Now I play all kinds of things – this week it’s Arvo Pärt, some old hymns, always some Bach, and some easy & winsome pieces by a fellow named Charles Koechlin.

A third section would have to describe my study of radical politics and conspiracy theories, to which I was introduced, as most of us are, I would guess, in our young university years. It became an interest, and then a hobby, while I was on the road riding shotgun and listening to drivers talk about UFOs, the Illuminati, the CIA, JFK, Jonestown, and lizard people, and those secret and super-powerful, super-rich cabals controlled by Mormon or Catholic or Jewish magnates (or by the British Royal family!). When the drivers got tired of talking, we’d listen to the radio and learn even more. I went from hobbyist to serious amateur while putting together my book on the New Age movement. My correspondence with people in far out religious movements tended to be very vivid, to say the least, and I treasure it to this day. I never became a believer in the conspiracies, or in the religions, alas – not that I ever wanted to – though I do prefer the grand verbal edifices they produce to fictions like novels, and by a wide margin. (My favourite “researcher” is Dave Emory.)


Popular phone


On Commercial Drive a block away from the SkyTrain station.

Taking on ‘Peops’


One of my favourite books from the early 2000’s was “Peops: Portraits and Stories of People” by the artist and author Fly. This morning I had the experience, not unusual for me, of realizing the book was no longer in my library but likely in the hands or bookcase of a friend somewhere. So I searched around and was cheered to find the book available on eBay as well as on Amazon.

On the latter site I found a take-down of “Peops” (by a J W L) that was so lively and specific that I want to quote some of it here, because it brought a morning smile to my face, notwithstanding my own contrasting view:

I used to look at this book while I was staffing at an Anarchist bookstore in Philadelphia. PEOPs is a bunch of portraits of activists, punk rockers, crusties, and artists in the LES from NYC circa 2000. Each portrait is accompanied by little stories about the person on the page. Although this book is popular amongst those scenes, I really don’t think too highly of it.

#1 The artwork is terrible. Fly’s comics in the anarcho-punk newspaper Slug and Lettuce are good. She has great cartooning skills. PEOPs however, is a book of bad portraits that show her to be an artistic one trick pony. Fly’s attempts at realistic looking portraits look like something that came out of a 6th grade art class. I remember being 11 and using a smudging stick for the first time and thinking “Wow, this looks so much more realistic… It’s like magic!” Look ma, I’m an artist! … Could you imagine this woman walking around New York with a sketch pad, telling people she’s an artist, then showing them these awful drawings? Only in a place as pretentious as the Lower East Side could this happen.

#2 I’ve met bunch of the people featured in this book and I can only say a small handful of them are decent people. Other than those few, this book is a glorification of incompetant, crusty-punk screw-ups who can’t get their lives together. The majority of people featured in this book are wingnuts, losers, and dirtbags. The rest are high maintenance whiners or rich kids slumming around NYC and acting like they’re something special because they’re from the big city. The stories featured, are not that interesting. …

Generations from now this can be used as historical documentation of the types of clowns that were involved in punk rock, the anarchist scene, and the squatter movement in NYC around the turn of the millennium. …

Fly will retire a rich woman in a penthouse on the Lower East Side filled with shirtless, crusty-punk, man-servants who smell like a mixture of stale cigarettes, malt liquor, and dog feces. …

On top is one of Fly’s portraits (linked to the artist’s website) provided for your own estimation and (I do hope) gladness.