Deep artsy thought (not mine)

Here are a couple of pithy ideas taken from from the endnotes to Voyage Along the Horizon, by Spanish novelist Javier Marías (written at the age of 21). Longest literate sentences i’ve ever read, by the way.

[The] end of a novel isn’t usually very important. In fact, people never seem to remember the endings of novels … and movies. Conclusions and final explanations are ofter the most irrelevant — and disappointing — parts of a novel. What counts the most — and what we remember the most — is the atmosphere, the style, the path, the journey, and the world in which we have immersed ourselves for a few hours or a few days…. [p. 182]


Nowadays, those of us who are writers spend a lot of time expressing our opinions about almost anything that happens anywhere in the world…. We are constantly being asked to take a “position.” or to demonstrate our solidarity with some cause or disaster or problem. For my part I have always made an effort to distinguish between the novelist and the citizen.
As a citizen, I have an opinion about far too many things…, and in this sense I feel very much a part of the world, and quite obligated to become involved in what is happening around me. As a novelist, however, I am not a citizen. In that area, I try to steer clear of judgments, moral codes, and … morals at the end of the story. [p. 180]


burningmanAnd the following riveting observations (emphases mine) are taken from an interview by Geoff Dyer in MODERN PAINTERS, spring 2003, with Larry Harvey, founder and director, and LadyBee, art curator, of the (in)famous Burning Man festival, held for a week around Labour Day in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, every year since 1986:

LH: The art market is a winner-takes-all system, and there are very few winners. In this country, state support for the arts is almost non-existent so you get a thousand people competing for a tiny bit of money. The ironic thing is that Burning Man has become the largest funder of artists in San Francisco. By making Burning Man a gift economy and treating the artist’s calling as a kind of vocation devoted to gifts we’ve not only been able to give money to artists but have generated a huge amount of communal support for them.

Q: What are you looking for in the artists you choose to support?

LH: The first thing we ask is whether they have a community who can help them and whether they are willing to collaborate with others. Everything in the market drives people away from this kind of approach, because they want to create a unique commodity that has unique value. We ask that the creative process have a social, interactive aspect, and then we ask that the work itself function to convene society around it. That produces a huge amount of social capital, as opposed to normal monetary capital. So in a way we’re creating a new kind of art market which depends on extended social networks that arise around the artists’ gifts.

Q: What was your background, LadyBee, before you started working for Burning Man?

LB: I went to the Art Institute of Chicage and was totally sold on the idea that I’d sell my work and make a living from it. I spent a decade in New York, became disenchanted and moved to San Francisco. Then I went to Burning Man, where artists were renting trucks and hauling huge amounts of material out there at their own expense, and going to huge efforts with crews of helpers to build a piece that would exist only for a few days after which they would actually burn it. This was the most radical thing I had seen artists do. Obviously they weren’t motivated by careers and money — there was something else going on. They had the experience of making the wtork, they had a venue to show it where a lot of people would see it and interact with it, they’d get a lot of feedback from the community, and then the piece would be gone. I hate to use the word ‘pure‘ but it seemed a much purer way of making art.

Pinball browsing

After months travelling with my book-sized Asus EEE PC, with it’s micro keyboard and mighty 7-inch screen, i’m finally working on a fast computer with a large screen and a real keyboard again, for a while at least. (Thanks, Robert!)

firefoxIf you’re not on the Firefox browser wagon yet, i suggest you get with it. It’s free, community-developed, and open source — the way of the future for broad-spectrum apps, in my opinion — and far superior to the Internet Explorer experience. I can hardly believe how cumbersome and nonintuitive IE has become in recent iterations.

Firefox’s spell-checking and form-filling features alone are worth the switch. Download Firefox here for free.

Still better are the hundreds thousands of Firefox add-ons you can get, also free. Most are frivolous, but here are four i’m working with right now that i really like:

  1. Foxmarks Bookmark Sync — This automatically stores all your bookmarks on-line so you can get to them from anywhere, including public computers at whatever divey hostel you’re staying at. And they don’t get lost when your hard drive crashes. Even better, it’ll sync those bookmarks on multiple computers — and who doesn’t use more than one computer these days?
  2. Mouse Gestures Redox — This one lets you execute common commands (like forward/back, close tab, new tab, etc.) by clicking and “drawing” with the mouse, or just clicking its buttons in order (right-left for “back,” for example). Takes a few minutes to get used to, but greatly speeds up page navigation and reduces moving around the screen to use the toolbar buttons on top.
  3. Grab and Drag — Ooh la laa! I installed this little beauty yesterday and i love it. It lets you scroll by “grabbing” the page and moving it, just like in Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Even better, by enabling “momentum” you can grab the page and “throw” it so it keeps on scrolling, slow or fast, until you click again. I had to reduce the “time” and “deceleration” parameters to fine-tune it, but it turns every page into a little video game. Perfectly intuitive once you get the hang of it. It’s nice to work with meticulously designed software.
  4. Adblock Plus — The Internet, and life in general, has for me become an exercise in avoiding advertising, which is the mental equivalent of choking air pollution. Banner ads are endemic on many sites — i won’t even use the Yahoo service anymore. Adblock replaces (many of) the ads with empty boxes of equivalent size. You can still click on the box if you want to see the ad. I used it six months ago and liked it; hopefully it still measures up.

Now if only i could work up the nerve to make the switch to Linux, and get out from under Microsoft’s demanding thumb for good.

“Sound” for all

This came up at the book launch two days ago, when someone asked Margaret about the nautical definition of “sound” (her title being Voices from the Sound). She couldn’t say, nor could anyone else in the audience. In the interests of ready reference, i thought i’d put it down here. I don’t have my precious Canadian Oxford to hand (somebody who does, please plug it into the comments below!), but here’s some on-line elucidation: says, among several other meanings:

sound –- noun  1. a relatively narrow passage of water between larger bodies of water or between the mainland and an island: Long Island Sound.
2. an inlet, arm, or recessed portion of the sea: Puget Sound.
3. the air bladder of a fish.
Origin: bef. 900; ME; OE sund act of swimming; akin to swim

Excerpted from the Wikipedia page:

In geography a sound or seaway is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, wider than a fjord, or it may identify a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land (see also strait)….
There is little consistency in the use of ‘sound’ in English-language place names….
A sound generally connotes a protected anchorage.

I’m still looking for some official nautical definitions.

POSTSCRIPT: Compulsive research maven Heather delved into the Canadian Oxford for an entry that, alas, seems no more germane to Clayoquot or Barkley Sounds than either of the above. Here goes:

sound –- n. 1. a narrow channel or stretch of water, esp. one between the mainland and an island or connecting two large bodies of water.
2. an arm of the sea.

Urban chic, with a side of Toff

So i’m walking back from the book launch at the planetarium and i think, Hey i should blog this for all those poor saps now staring at their TVs in Tofino for lack of anything better to do, late on a Friday night.

I’m on the corner of Broadway and Kingsway and lo, there before me is the Our Town cafe, open late (Are you listening Tofino? Are you listening Ucluelet?) with free wireless (Are you listening, etc.). So i pop in for a $1.80 (Are you …) ginger vanilla tea and sit at a funky table watching Broadway roll by and blogging about the Vancouver launch of Margaret Horsfield’s Voices from the Sound — Chronicles of Clayoquot Sound From 1899-1928.

Margaret gives good slide, and the planetarium theatre was over half full with, at a guess, 150 people. It was a weird experience to sit in the city, watching a historical picture show of my sorta home town a world away with a room full of … well, who were these people? Grey-haired to a man and woman. Margaret seemed to know several of them so maybe it was the home-town crowd. Maybe it was all those absentee owners whose rampant appetite for condominiums is turning the town upside down. There seemed to be no lack of ready money, for at least a third of the attendees bought a copy of the book. The evening’s proceeds went to The Land Conservancy, more power to Margaret.

And now the tea is drained and i’m off to Commercial Drive, theredown to stroll. Who says you can’t have both urban and rural?

Okay, this is ridiculous

I’ve been avoiding this blog because, as usual, the backlog of items to blog has gotten large enough to be seriously imposing, so i don’t want to even begin to deal with it. This is a far cry from my initial intention (and a blog’s raison d’etre) of just slamming stuff-of-interest up there off the top of my head, with little regard for its writerly quality.

So here i am breaking the ice again, with the intention of being a little freer and easier with the posting. I’ll back-date a few of them to a more appropriate day and month, so there won’t be a rush of items crammed into the next few days.

Hm, that sounded awkward — maybe i should edit it…. NOT!