December

Driving from Camrose to Calgary AB in November

It’s been a hell of a run. I am exhausted and happy to focus on my (very busy – not complaining) day job.

November’s tour of Alberta was wonderful, and I’m happy I pushed myself to make it happen (and grateful my publisher was able to wave her travel grant wand my way). I met readers, old friends, new friends, and relatives. I saw Alberta — a place I haven’t set foot in for almost 30 years — with fresh eyes (and a driver’s license). I could not have asked for a smoother tour, and I am thankful.

I am also tired, and am happy to put The Society of Experience to rest so that I can focus on the next book. I don’t want to publicize anything for a while. That said, I will have an essay coming out in the next issue of the Humber Literary Review, looking at our skewed depictions of madness in film and literature – that’s coming out in January, I am told.

If you are reading this, I hope you have a good December, and are able to find light in what was quite a dark 2016 for many.

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Connectedness, Social Media, and Syntheticism

If there’s something to be said about going on a vacation – whether that means renting a car and driving two hours away from your town, or buying a plane ticket and flying six hours away from your country – it’s that it provides something crucial: distance. Physical (and, one should hope, subsequently mental) distance.

When I go away I take that idea of “distance” seriously. I don’t check Facebook, I don’t check Twitter. I don’t even check voicemail (unless it looks important). My only transgression is occasionally checking newspaper headlines to make sure that the world isn’t on the brink of collapse (which it often seems to be).

Upon returning, I find myself staring at my computer (or, more often, my BlackBerry) and wondering: what’s the point? Sure, I’ll go back to checking email, scheduling things, occasionally making sure the world isn’t on the brink of collapse, but re-entering the world of social media is another question. A daunting one, to be honest. I respect social media, yet, against its purpose, I often find it paradoxically alienating.

It started with Facebook, which began as a unique way to stay in touch with friends without relying upon email – a communal sandbox with multimedia extensions. With time (and popularity) came the inevitable mediocrity of a lot of people (along with the watering-down of “friend”-ship) without a lot of ideas posting a lot of crap that I found myself more often than not skipping. Continue reading

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Conversations With Abandoned Chairs

I’m not sure why it hasn’t occurred to me to post this here yet, but perhaps this gives an indication of how stretched my resources are at the moment. Over the last year, whenever I’ve come across an abandoned chair on the side of the road, I’ve taken a picture: a photo which does the abandoned chair justice. This has grown into a small collection of photos (with people submitting their own finds recently). I thought I would share. You can see the collection on my (ugh) Flickr site – just follow this link to see the set Conversations With Abandoned Chairs.

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Images

I think images are worth repeating

images repeated from a painting

Images taken from a painting

from a photo worth re-seeing

I love images worth repeating

project them upon the ceiling

Multiply them with silk screening

see them with a different feeling

– from Images, lyrics by Lou Reed

Every May in Toronto there is what is called CONTACT. It is a photography showcase. What makes it unique is that, rather than two or three galleries being the centre of interest, the photographs are integrated into (and across) the city. Storefronts bear photographs, abandoned buildings bear them, you see them inside bars and cafés. Go along the Junction and you can’t sit down without seeing signs pointing into stores, saying “Temporary Gallery”.

This integration was quite stunning a couple of years ago; someone got permission to have their photographs – printed on clear plastic film – adorn the glass-paned bus shelters along Queen West. Each one responded to each other and the environment. It was thought-out. Choreographed, if you will. It was, photography or no photography, an art installation.

This year I find myself wishing CONTACT would end (if not May). Though I have not seen (what I can only assume is) the A-grade stuff in the chosen galleries, I have to say that I’m going to scream if I have to walk past many more of them. There is no order. Just image, after image, after image. Just images. Rectangular submissions without point, intent, self-awareness.

I am surrounded by photos, everywhere, at a point where I am going through a photographic/existential crisis. The film vs. digital divide has divided me, particularly since my 35mm lens is giving me problems (I sooo don’t want to get out the jeweller’s screwdriver kit). Meanwhile, I’m having great fun (at low resolution) with my BlackBerry’s camera – it allows me to do so much I wish my manual film-camera could do: being spontaneous without lugging a 2lb Soviet brick. Having a preview window is also a great plus. In the end, however, the resolution isn’t good and the colour is often skewed blue/cyan (meaning I often have to import the photo onto my laptop and futz w/ Photoshop before I can upload it).

Just before this all came about, things were quite different. I had joined a local, well-respected photography collective and was expecting a medium format camera to be sent from an eBay seller. My photographic future appeared, allow me this, picture-perfect. In short, the camera never worked, the seller was less than useless in helping the situation, and it simply can’t be fixed locally. Add to this my affair with a shallow cameraphone, my 35mm lens issue, and said well-respected photography collective annoying me with “bulk” emails (filled with both utterly useless and useful information without care for clear formatting). Add CONTACT and stir, liberally.

In short, it has all forced me to face a philosophical and practical dilemma which I never really thought I’d need to face: why do I take pictures? What am I taking pictures of? What is the eye behind the viewfinder? Is it a diary? Is it journalism? How seriously are you going to take this? Professional-seriously or I’m-just-fucking-around-and-don’t-want-to-think-about-it-seriously?

Thus I find myself subconsciously referring to a song from Songs For Drella, a dedication to Andy Warhol by Lou Reed and John Cale. It spins like a mantra, like a whirling dervish, and I stare intently at it hoping that I’ll see the meaning in its elusive centre.

I’m no urban idiot savant

spewing paint without any order

I’m no sphinx, no mystery enigma

what I paint is very ordinary

I don’t think I’m old or modern

I don’t think I think I’m thinking

It doesn’t matter what I’m thinking

It’s the images that are worth repeating

Ah, repeating, images

Images

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