Archive for April, 2016

Mr. K-Tel

I did not know that the genius who founded K-Tel – the company that brought us the Veg-O-Matic and all those music compilation albums – was a Canadian. Philip Kives, who died this week at the age of 87, was raised in Saskatchewan. Margalit Fox’s New York Times obituary is funny and beautiful and begins like this:

Act now! Be the first on your block to read this obituary of the marketing guru who — as seen on TV — sliced, diced and polkaed his way to fortune!

Reared in penury, he bewitched and beguiled the public to become an international tycoon, only to lose everything and then, undaunted, make it back again!

Just two dollars and five thin dimes at any New York City newsstand gets you the print edition of this obituary — along with dozens more articles at no extra charge — commemorated with the date and suitable for framing! Quantities are limited, so don’t delay!

Those blasting K-Tel commercials were unavoidable on television in the 1970s. I purchased a K-Tel record once, as a birthday present for my older brother, who wondered why I did that.

At any rate, I want Margalit Fox to write my obituary. And I hope it shares a theme with the one she wrote for Mr. Kives: He was audacious, and he had tons of fun.


… in West End garden alleyway…




The other day a fellow flâneur and I found ourselves in front of a storefront off of Main Street in Vancouver, on E17th. The place is shared by a little gift shop called The Pleasant and a charming ‘learning environment’ called Chorus and Clouds. Jessica Schellenberg runs Chorus and Clouds and gave my friend and me a tour of her lovely space. It was easy to imagine how much delight little children would feel here, and how safe. Jessica’s approach:

I’m an Early Childhood Educator motivated to provide meaningful experiences to the youngest members of our community, to connect with children on their level, to respond to their needs, and to respect their individual nature. I’m dedicated to bringing back what childhood is all about: exploration, guidance, growth and the celebration of small victories. My approach is deeply Reggio Emilia inspired, which stresses the recognition of every child’s strengths and potential and values free and creative expression. Children are encouraged to be active participants in their community. …

One tenet of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is that the environment is a child’s third teacher (after parent and teacher). That’s why great care was taken in the creation of this space to make it not only warm and inviting, but also…beautiful! Chorus & Clouds is an inspiring environment that will encourage you and your child to explore together. [From Jessica’s website – link added]


Jessica Schellenberg, of Chorus and Clouds

During our visit I couldn’t help staring at all the Crayola ‘pip-squeak’ markers on the little table in front of me, and I was whisked back to my own second grade, in St. Paul’s Catholic school in Wellesley, Massachusetts. (A particularly distressing series of episodes there involved crayons. I know: *crayons*!) “Look,” I said to my friend, almost gasping: “crayons.” “Do you want to leave?” she replied. “No, but thank you. I would like to imagine being seven years old *here*.”

So, we stayed awhile longer, having a happy discussion, while in my mind I went back and forth, again and again, from 57 to seven.

Being at Chorus and Clouds was a real tonic for me.

Jessica gave me a “leprechaun green” pip-squeak washable Crayola marker as my friend and I were leaving. I am very grateful.

And more tonight …

My friend Lincoln Clarkes is known internationally as a photographer. Tonight’s exhibition focuses on his written words.


For the exhibition MESS AGE, photographers Katie Huisman, Mel Yap, and Alex Waber appropriated and visually responded to Lincoln Clarkes’s mid-’90s text pieces. The photographic works invite the viewer to step into a less literal reality, leaving behind ingrained political thinking while suggesting that we reconnect to our own ideological mindset.

Clarkes’s pop conceptual text pieces from 1995 maintain poignant relevance today. Though they appear to be aggressive propaganda at first glance, the messages are anti-political and playful in their duality of meaning. Clarkes’s text works emphasize an individualistic ideology, drawing a comparison between the clichéd “Keep Calm and Carry On” motto of the twenty-first century and the reality of the “MESS AGE” we really live in and think about.

The exhibition opens tonight and continues until April 28 at The Remington Gallery, 108 East Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC.



Tony Conrad


Tony Conrad was a genius and a beloved friend to so many of us in Buffalo, NY. He tried to teach me how to act on camera during the filming of “Tammy and the Jesuit” (I was the Jesuit) (never finished, never released!). Here is his obituary in the New York Times. Here is his work Outside the Dream Syndicate.

My friend Mike Niman on Facebook wrote,

I first met Tony in 1972 when he was, I believe, a visiting artist teaching a summer class at MediaStudy/Buffalo on Bailey. My brother was a student, and me, a high school sophomore up for a visit and sitting in on the class. Tony spread out a large piece of brown grocery bag grade paper on the wall and proceeded to paint it yellow. When he was done, we watched it dry. Three years later when I was a freshman at UB, I took Tony’s experimental video class. From where I sit and write this, I can turn my head about 30 degrees and see my final class project, a 5 and a half inch heavy reel of SONY video tape, V30H, in its original black box.

Since making it, I’ve never watched or shared it in any other form. Never put it in a machine. Never needed to. The work is complete as its displayed. Tony inspired me to look at Art through an eclectic lens, or no lens. Whenever I met up with Tony over the next four decades, it was always good to see him. I never pictured him dying. But like most of his art, you couldn’t really imagine it until it happened. He is so much a part of the soul of the Buffalo where I choose to spend my life.

NPR’s retrospective is perfect. RIP, Tony.

My morning reading

This plus my Twitter-feed. Only when I’m done do I find peeking at Facebook irresistible.

Aeon: Intellectual Culture


My new favourite place to go very morning is Aeon, a marvellous multimedia site devoted to intellectual culture: “big ideas, serious enquiry, a humane worldview and good writing.”

From the About page:

Aeon has four channels…. Most weekdays, it publishes Essays – longform explorations of deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers.

From Monday to Friday, it also publishes Opinions – short provocations, maintaining Aeon’s high argumentative standards but in a more nimble and immediate form.

Aeon’s Video channel streams a mixture of curated short documentaries and original Aeon content, including a series of interviews with experts at the forefront of thought.

Finally, Aeon’s Conversations channel invites the reader in to put their own arguments and points of view. With Conversations, old-style web comments give way to a new form of collective inquiry.

This morning I read a lively, lucid opinion piece by Cory Powell arguing that Galileo’s reputation might be more hyperbole than truth – the author chooses “is” for “might be,” no surprise. (Hint: Kepler was the real giant of science who explained heliocentrism and the laws of planetary motion.)  A 4-minute animation directed by Sharron Mirsky showed me how to enjoy a blackout. Reading an essay by Frank Furede called “The Ages of Distraction,” I learned that moralists and philosophers have complaining about how distracted humans are for hundreds of years:

Attention was promoted as a moral accomplishment that was essential to the cultivation of a sound character. The philosopher Thomas Reid, the foremost exponent of 18th-century Scottish ‘common sense’, argued in his Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind (1788) that ‘there are moral rules respecting the attention’ which are ‘no less evident than mathematical axioms’. The moral rules of attention required cultivation and training and it was the job of educators to ensure that the young were protected from acquiring the ‘habits of inattention’. Inattention was increasingly perceived as an obstacle to the socialisation of young people.

Countering the habit of inattention among children and young people became the central concern of pedagogy in the 18th century. Educators have always been preoccupied with gaining children’s attention but in the 18th century this concern acquired an unprecedented importance. Attention was seen as important for the nourishment of the reasoning mind as well as for spiritual and moral development. Advice books directed at parents, such as Maria Edgeworth’s Practical Education (1798), insisted that the cultivation of concentration and attention required effort and skill.

After reading this wonderful essay, I quickly zipped over to The Drudge Report, alas, to see what crazy things were happening all over the world – well, mostly all over the United States. Shame on me!

Returning to Aeon I got caught up with a high-toned and truly friendly discussion that addressed the question, “Can a mystical tradition within a religion be said to express its true spirit.”

As an author, editor, and publisher, I could not be more impressed and gratified by this initiative. Salut to co-founders Brigid and Paul Hains.

cross-posted at NoContest.CA

This morning there’s a really good opinion piece, “Why mothers of tweens – not newborns – are the most depressed,” by Suniya Luthar and Lucia Ciciliola, who explain:

That tweens roll their eyes at their parents is not news. What is new is evidence, in our study, that these behaviours can be deeply hurtful to mothers. Women who saw their children as rude and rejecting were among those who felt most distressed.

A central take-home message from our findings is that the big ‘separation’ from offspring, the one that really hurts, comes not when children leave the nest literally, but when they do this psychologically – in their complex strivings to become grown-ups, in their tweens. …

And all this comes at a time when many mothers first experience the signs of approaching middle age, with declines in physical and cognitive abilities, and increased awareness of mortality. It also is a period when, according to studies other than our own, marital satisfaction is the lowest and strife the highest.

It’s no wonder that middle-school mothers are so stressed.

Aeon has a lively twitter feed.