31 December 2010

NY 2011

I will
in the
new year
with the violins
of desire
please! please! please!

Lady bugs

so, I have this family of ladybugs living in my bathroom. There's probably ten or more in total, different sizes too. There are also a few aphids/fruit flies in this same corner which I think the ladybugs are feeding on. It's like there is a mini-food chain thing going on. It's nice and warm and humid, not a bad place to live.
What I find interesting is if they were ants or mice or some other bug I might try to rid myself of them thinking they're pests, but because they're these pretty little bugs I like them and so they stay there, is it their beauty that I admire. Do you have any bugs that you live with or tolerate? If I look at my yard there are all these groupings of animals and bugs and birds, we all seem to get along, even the wasps and the bees have a place. Ecosystems

29 December 2010


I think
as you discover
your power
and no doubt
you will be
as everyone
is at this time
but maybe
one day
you will
just rest
in the bosom
of duration
and fall
into your own

27 December 2010

social parasitism

From the 1964 trial of Josef Brodsky by the Communist Party. In a rare move, Brodsky was allowed to testify on his own behalf in court – a move later much regretted as notes were surreptitiously made and through samisdat networks the transcript made its way West

Judge: And what is your profession?

Brodsky: Poet. Poet and translator.

Judge: And who told you that you were a poet? Who assigned you that rank?

Brodsky: No one. Who assigned me to the human race?

Judge: And did you study for this?

Brodsky: For what?

Judge: To become a poet? Did you try to attend a school where they
train [poets] . . . where they teach . . .

Brodsky: I don't think it comes from education.

Judge: From what then?

Brodsky: I think it's . . . from God.

The conclusion - five years of internal exile in the Arctic Circle.

24 December 2010

pastry as art

Wherever you are, whatever your traditions, with whomever you celebrate (if you choose to celebrate at all) . . . happy holidays to all!

23 December 2010


Your ideas
and daunting
teach me
great things
so dangerously
in herself

And your voice
to your middle
that could
last forever

22 December 2010

Seriously, who doesn't love this...

Bhopal Hoax (the Yes Men)

Denis' post below was/is interesting to me partly because right now I'm writing a paper on culture jamming, hacktivism, and "politics by other means".

This video shows one of the most legendary culture jamming/art stunts ever pulled off--

In 2004, a member of the Yes Men art group managed to fool the BBC and convince them he was a spokesman for Dow Chemicals, gaining an invitation to be interviewed live on BBC news on the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal, India, disaster. In this interview, he promises billions of dollars of health care for the victims and full co-operation with authorities, transparency, environmental repair, etc.

All, of course, a big hoax.

Vince Carducci states that, along with the obvious human rights angle, the action was designed "to highlight the gap between companies' environmental posturing and their actual performance."

(Wikipedia re the Bhopal Disaster-- The Bhopal disaster (also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy) is the world's worst industrial catastrophe. It occurred on the night of December 2–3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. A leak of methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals from the plant resulted in the exposure of hundreds of thousands of people. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release.[1] Other government agencies estimate 15,000 deaths.[2] Others estimate that 3,000 died within weeks and that another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.[3][4] A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.[5]

Wikipedia creative commons Attribution: Luca Frediani uploaded by Simone.lippi

50 square meters of the public space

"The appropriation of public space with no apparent intent..." except for art of course!

18 December 2010

Alexa Meade

Check this out, pretty cool. Painting on real people to make them look like paintings.

17 December 2010

Fin Whales

Here's some cool (not by me) pics of fin whales, which of course we've pretty much hunted to extinction. Read about 'em on wikipedia...




16 December 2010

Tadoussac 1

Tadoussac 2

Tadoussac 3


The staff at the Concert Hall was wondering if I recognized the artist of this painting. At first glance, it could be a Tom Thomson. There is no R. Kosh on the net, there is however a "Robert Koch". There is no date, but it has been up since the late 60's or early 70's. Look familiar anyone?

15 December 2010


the flute
tingled fingers
my corpus

all troubles

only if,
I guess
a little

was how
the novel
the issue
of realism

with bearded
that ate


I want to rip
my eyes out
and let
it bleed of

is nothing
but ana-

13 December 2010


A proposal

This is one version of my proposed thesis work.
The format is a two page proposal, so it's a bit bare bones/technical.
Anyways, it's a start...

In North America, Britain and Australia, policy researchers and critical theorists have identified a narrowing and tightening of the controls on teachers’ work: a shift to more intense managerialism and de-professionalization (Ball, 2008; Hilferty,2008; Thomas, 2005). These same pressures have prioritized skills development in literacy and numeracy over other content areas, and highly specified pedagogy and assessments. That prescriptive approach to curriculum limits the effectiveness of teachers by deskilling them, and it leads to more shallow learning and students’ disengagement from school (Goodson, 2005; Lipman, 2006).
In this context, good teachers are assumed to be faithful deliverers of mandated curriculum (Ayers et al., 2008). However, some teachers still actively engage in curriculum construction, particularly in areas that are ignored and underdeveloped in formal policy making. In these cases, teachers may notice the gaps that formal curriculum leaves (even in high priority areas like literacy) and/or the inadequacy of certain curriculum priorities for their students (Dunn, 2009) Teachers may view these challenges as “windows” of opportunity to engage in major curricular decisions and design (Bascia & Young, 2001). These activities result in deep professional development which promotes student learning (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1992). The purpose of my research study is to document this phenomenon: teachers’ active curriculum making in the context of curricular areas that are not (yet) supported with curricular materials and professional learning opportunities. My research will be guided by two questions: What does active curricular construction look like? What influences teachers’ capacity and ability to take on this type of curriculum work?
Conceptual Framework
The social sciences have often relied on Kantian definitions of agency where an individual’s ability to act is either wholly independent of or wholly constrained by circumstances. In education, researchers have overemphasized structure, for example by assuming that the locus of control for teachers’ actions and decisions is always the school curriculum (Clandinin & Connelly, 1998; Sloan, 2006). At the other extreme are conceptions of teachers' actions as heroic and idiosyncratic (Irvine, 2003) More recently, some scholars have tried to understand agency as more than an individual’s possession or act of will and rather as a capacity that is emergent (Archer, 2000), develops over time (Bascia & Young, 2000; Ermibayer & Mishe, 1998) and is influenced by context (Archer, 1998).
My conceptual framework is grounded in the work of Archer (1998; 2000) Bascia and Young (2001) and Emirbayer and Mishe (1998). Archer argues that an individual’s capacity for agency emerges from interaction with the social, practical and natural worlds. Her concepts of morphogenesis and morphostasis set the stage for understanding the way individuals are situated in context, and the concepts of continuity and change. Emirbayer and & Mishe understand agency as being influenced by an individual’s past, present and future. Bascia and Young’s characterizations of teachers’ agency in particular provides education- specific language and terms: taken-for-granted normative dimensions of teachers’ work; pressures and constraints on teachers’ decisions to act; teachers’ career –long trajectories in which different actions are more or less valued at different times; and the broader social and political nature of teachers’ work.
This research is connected to a larger project entitled Teachers as Curriculum Makers. This project will map out the social networks developed in the process of teachers’ curriculum making. My research contributes to this goal, but differs as it will focus on deep investigation into individual teachers. I will have access to curriculum development histories as well as to individual teachers who are or have taken part in active curriculum construction in two areas: Holocaust and genocide education, and the integration of Aboriginal perspectives into the curriculum. I will conduct life histories in each curricular area, and develop detailed documentary history of the subject. Life histories will be gathered through semi structured interviews that involve teachers reflecting on their personal and professional history, and in particular as it relates to their active curriculum making activities. The data will be analyzed using Bascia and Young’s (2001) framework, with the work of Archer and Emirbayer and Mishe providing the theoretical grounding for the analysis.
This research addresses efforts to broaden our understanding of educational change processes and the parameters of teachers’ work in the larger educational system. The formal policy process often ignores teacher-driven curriculum innovations, and this reinforces the domination of powerful interests and may restrict the educational system’s capacity for innovation and improvement. Curriculum reform is system, state, and internationally driven; however this perspective does not provide a complete picture.

One day closer


I dare say you
have the social violence
in you.

Thank goodness I am strong.

I still have your essence
on me,
too much,
much too much.


And after some reflection, I also think that there is no faith involved in thinking that life is entative of itself, that it is its full explanation of being. The study of death and birth I think would clearly demonstrate this, as in both, there is no formal choice, and if I admit of some choice in death, I do not in birth. And without choice, one is faced with the immediacy, imminence, and transparency of being, irrespective of all mediation. The very thing is, however its range, however delimited. And this does not make us a second order presence, as we are this thing, however unique and contingent in presentation. Regardless of the separation, I am present, and so are you.

11 December 2010

Financial barriers in accessing dental care (an example of technical writing for a very specific group)

Social determinants of health frameworks have tended to diminish the role of health services, focusing more on living and working conditions, on the inequitable distribution of income, power and autonomy, and on the psychosocial consequences of such inequities. While these are fundamental to the health of populations and require immediate attention, it is still estimated that twenty-five percent of the differences in health status between advantaged and disadvantaged groups is to be found in differences in access to health care. Lantz et al, while recognizing that there is more to health than health care, state that access to care is a ‘necessary component of population health’. Braveman and Gruskin also consider health care ‘a key social determinant of health’. For dentistry, access to care may be even more significant, simply because of its effectiveness in immediately relieving pain and restoring function when dealing with common oral infections (e.g. toothache), and in its ability to prevent disease with relatively simple and proven modalities (e.g. fluoride varnish). To be sure, using data from a national population health survey in Sweden, Wamala et al demonstrated that access to dental care explained sixty percent of the socioeconomic differential in oral health of those aged 21 to 84 years, while lifestyle factors explained only twenty-nine percent.

In Canada, medical care is funded through provincially managed public insurance programs and free at the point of delivery, yet dental care is predominantly private with only approximately five percent of current expenditures on dental services coming from public programs. Data from national health interview surveys indicate that approximately half of the Canadian population 15 years and over is covered by employment-related dental insurance plans. However, there is substantial variation across individual plans in terms of which services are covered and the extent of deductibles and co-payments. Since this coverage is a benefit of employment in specific occupations or by specific employers, it is also not present in all employment circumstances and may be lost when people change jobs or retire. In terms of the public sector, only approximately five percent of the adult population has their dental care paid for by provincial government or municipal programs, usually as part of social assistance or welfare provision. Such individuals are usually, but not exclusively, from low-income groups. The remainder of the adult population, approximately forty percent, must then pay for care out-of-pocket, which from the point of view of access raises the issue of affordability.

Recent policy attention has been given to this issue, especially within the context of working poverty. Policymakers have argued that a significant minority of the adult population is likely to experience financial barriers in accessing dental care, especially when they do not have dental insurance, public or private. This study seeks to obtain information on the issue of affordability in general. Its importance lies in the fact that financial barriers are perhaps the most amenable to change by government policy and programs or professional intervention. The specific objectives of this study are to document the percent and characteristics of adult Canadians who encounter financial barriers to dental care, to assess the associations between income, dental insurance and financial barriers, and to assess the consequences of these financial barriers in terms of the use of services and health outcomes.

10 December 2010

What you see is only an illusion

The truest comfort possible is staring into another person's eyes and seeing separation and difference dissolve.

09 December 2010

violence and truth

Hi everybody! Long no time no talk. Well I saw that we're posting short essays now, and I guess I figured I would signal my return with one of my own from a few months back. This is just an excerpt, but I don't know, I guess it came to mind because I've been thinking a lot lately about the utility of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions for the purpose of social justice. Plus, this piece mentions one of my favourite conceptions of violence, the 'violence continuum'. There are no ground-breaking ideas here, just a discussion of truth, social justice, and reconciliation. (sorry if it's too long!)

Mahmood Mamdani, a prominent African scholar, has likely been the fiercest critic of the TRC’s exclusive focus on gross human rights violations. Pointing to its necessary exclusion of common injustices of apartheid such as forced removals, pass laws, and broken families, he argues that this mandate has lead the TRC to produce “the founding myth of the new South Africa” as one based on a “compromised truth” that has “written the vast majority of victims out of history.”

Mamdani’s point is revelatory of his broader critique of the TRC as an attempt at reconciliation without justice. While proponents of the TRC’s approach are likely to defend its privileging of national unity and reconciliation over that of retributive justice, Mamdani’s point is that South African reconciliation is in fact impossible without social justice. Indeed, Hayner concurs in her assessment of societies emerging from past oppression with gross inequities, noting that in such cases reconciliation must be conceived as much more than a simple psychological or emotional process.

In the South African context, it is clear that the TRC’s reconciliatory effect has not done away with the socio-economic disparities that were fostered in the apartheid era. In this light, the TRC’s mandate should be critiqued not only for its exclusion of the everyday experience of suffering, but for its corresponding disinterest in the beneficiaries of the apartheid system. In Mamdani’s view, the TRC’s emphasis on perpetrators and victims of direct violence has resulted in a national narrative that privileges beneficiaries by essentially omitting their role in apartheid, and thus denying their responsibilities to the non-white majority. He argues that

“where the focus is on perpetrators, victims are necessarily defined as the minority of political activists; for the victimhood of the majority to be recognized, the focus has to shift from perpetrators to beneficiaries. The difference is this: whereas the focus on perpetrators fuels the demand for justice as criminal justice, that on beneficiaries shifts the focus to a notion of justice as social justice.”

Mamdani’s perspective as one that equates justice with social justice, and social justice with reconciliation, is illustrative of a deep respect for the ordinary experience of apartheid’s systemic injustices. This equation, and its corresponding emphasis on the lived experience of structural and systemic inequity, is perhaps best conceptualized by anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes’s elaboration of the “violence continuum.” In contrast to the TRC’s narrow definition of political violence, the violence continuum is premised on the blurring of such categories to include the symbolic and social structures that determine and legitimize all types of violence.

Comprised of “small wars and invisible genocides”, the continuum serves to illustrate how the everyday acts of routine, legitimate, and rationalized violence inhabit the “peaceful” spaces in between acts of gross violence, and thus operates in all the normative spaces in which a culture reproduces itself, like schools, hospitals, jails, and courtrooms. Ultimately, it is the interrelatedness of symbolic, structural, and direct violence that Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois articulate through this concept. More specifically however, its greatest contribution is its analytical emphasis on ”everyday violence” as legitimate and implicit forms of violence that are the ordinary outcomes of particular social, economic, and political structures.

Mamdani’s critique of the TRC’s rigid categorization and “compromised truth” is strengthened from this anthropological perspective that dismisses any interpretation of violence that does not recognize its multi-dimensionality. Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois echo Mamdani’s disappointment in the TRC’s narrow definition of politically motivated violence. They note,

“the deep structures of apartheid violence that consigned 80 percent of the African population to rural bantustands and to squalid squatter camps and worker hostel barracks in urban areas – social institutions that resembled concentration camps – were left virtually unexamined by the South African TRC. The elderly victim of apartheid who stood before the TRC seeking restitution for the grove of fruit trees uprooted from his yard by security police was treated as a sweet distraction amidst the serious work of the Commission. But the old man spoke to the very heart of apartheid’s darkness.”

Indeed, apartheid is perhaps best understood as a systematized culture of structural, symbolic, and direct violence drawn on racial and ethnic lines. Thus, to exclude its systemic nature from the commission’s truth-seeking essentially constitutes an omission of all that was unique to apartheid and what Mamdani calls its “machinery of violence.” By shying away from the violence continuum, the TRC kept hidden the capacity, willingness, and perhaps even enthusiasm of ordinary people to enforce apartheid’s crimes. In this sense, “the practical technicians of the social consensus” at the heart of apartheid were ignored.

Although difficult to assess, the resulting impact of such overpowering silence within the public record is unlikely to be positive. As anthropologists are quick to point out, the ontics and the epistemology of violence are not separate. In the South African context, it is clear that the TRC’s output was much more than a final report. Indeed, the TRC’s broadly-aired and well-publicized proceedings are indicative of its discursive function in a society in search of a new identity based on an accurate portrait of its past. As such, the TRC acted as the country’s memory-keeper, building an institutionalized truth that would account for what was now past and what would hopefully never be repeated. Although the benefit of airing some of South Africa’s worst atrocities should not be undermined, the picture of truth that emerged from the TRC’s hearings could hardly be said to be representative of the vast majority of apartheid’s lived experience. In this light, it’s unlikely that its narrow mandate has not shaped collective memory in such a way that has benefited some, while alienating others.

In addition to its discursive impact, the long-term ramifications of the TRC’s limited conception of political violence, victim, and perpetrator on South Africa’s reconciliation are equally difficult to assess. Nevertheless, its obliviousness to the apartheid system’s victims and beneficiaries, and thus the pursuit of a more inclusive process, raises serious questions regarding the TRC’s relationship to social justice, and the sustainability of its reconciliatory impact.

06 December 2010

Cool documentaries

 Exit Through The Gift Shop (Grafitti related)

Rip (copyright related)

Another graf movie (part only)

Inductivist methodology supposed that one can somehow move from a series of singular existential statements to a universal statement. That is, that one can move from 'this is a white swan', 'that is a white swan', and so on, to a universal statement such as 'all swans are white'. This method is clearly deductively invalid, since it is always possible that there may be a non-white swan that has eluded observation (and, in fact, the discovery of the Australian black swan demonstrated the deductive invalidity of this particular statement).

05 December 2010

I increasingly try to write witty emails...

Hello Kind Friends,

There was a potential practice planned for this evening, which in the absence of our drummer, I believed would of have been of true importance for our recent developments in a twofold manner:

1. We could have detailed and concertized more fully our individual parts, as is really only possible without the presence of one or more members;

2. We could have spoken about how I sometimes receive the distinct pleasure of seeing our drummer's underwear when she engages with her instrument, which I must report provides me with a tremendous joy.

Nevertheless, I have spoken with Clinton this morning, and apart from the usual raspy-previous-evening-debauch-of-a-morally-impoverished-tone, he has asked that I inform you that there will be no practice this evening, as he has to attend to some duties.

I very much understand his lack of strength during such difficult times, dare I say, our chum is saving his nuts like a squirrel, so that he can purchase a wedding stone for his fashion-is-tyrannical beloved.

With my best of gratitudes, f-ck you fine friends.


After Ernest Hemingway

Sleepless at 4 am
and deprived of dreams of lovers,
contests, great accomplishments, my daughter playing,
instead I dream old man’s dreams
of lions on the beach,
and of my sail, furled, and patched with flour sacks
undulating and turning
on the swells
make my stomach churn
with the feeling
of permanent defeat.

04 December 2010

Last Media Poetics thingy

Here's the final short assignment for the Media Poetics class I've been posting work from.

Impossible Media, and the Nature/Nurture Relationship of Culture and Technology

My girlfriend Anita and I have had a long-running conversation, usually held as we make dinner and drink wine, about the whole nature-nurture question. Anita is more of a scientist than I am, but also a bit more of a philosopher in some ways too, a mystic. And so for her, she always settles on the idea of an endlessly bi-directional loop, on the impossibility of there being two distinct sides to the nature-nurture debate, on the ways that this dichotomy, like so many, is a false one. Each will endlessly inform and be informed by the other. Each will shape the other. Her argument, and she's probably not the first person to postulate this, is that our biological nature in fact creates our nurture, that out of its own needs it shapes and alters the social, which in turn shapes and alters the biological. I.e., our big clunky brains need a long time to develop. They require a long, unhurried infancy and growth period. A long developmental period requires a committed caregiver, so that the bonds we experience between ourselves as the human species could in fact be seen as growing out of the biological necessity. A committed care-giver equals a long infancy which equals a thoroughly socialized and human-developed brain.

All of that was simply about working into the idea of an endless bi-directional loop then, of the ways that to think in dualistic terms is often to start with the wrong set of questions. In Modelling Media for Ignatius Loyola, Siegfried Zielinski writes about the idea of Impossible Technologies/Media/Machines that "cannot actually be built, (but) whose implied meanings nonetheless have an impact on the factual world of media." In this light, his discussion of Mazzolari's cymbalon, a 17th-century Italian "'machina electrica', (where) the discharge of electric sparks over long distances is posited as a means of communication between geographically separated persons" is especially interesting. It's not hard to imagine that Mazzolari describes something very much like the internet, leading to the question of how much his ideas (or similar ones) would have influenced later thinkers which would have influenced the eventual development of the internet itself.

This is interesting partly because, whether or not they were aware of Mazzolari's ideas, we can see that many fiction writers after him, even once the age of electricity had begun, still conceived of very similar ideas. Jules Verne, with his electrical-powered and instant global communication systems in his 1863 novel Paris in the 20th Century, Issac Assimov with A Fine Day for a Walk, and Gene Rodenberry with so much of his Star Trek franchise, all imagined and sketched out ideas of a system where the discharge of energy over long distances is not only a form of communication, but also one of teleportation. It seems that, for quite a long time, humans have thought about the possibility of ideas, images, or even a person being transported instantly and across great distance. What is the shamanistic concept of astral travel other than a variation on Mazzolari's cymbalon, with the sparks of information being substituted by the human consciousness itself? So across various times and cultures, we can see similar impulses and ideas at work, leading one to speculate on the degree of influence culture imposes on this kind of thinking, or in what ways this kind of thinking imposes itself upon culture.

In this regard, Rodenberry, or H.G. Wells become interesting for their often very utopian visions, their conceptions of futuristic worlds that unconsciously represent the purest, cleanest, most excellent development of a western, liberal set of values. Even in the often-bleak works of Verne, we see a world that is in many important ways identical to ours--or at least a world that is perfectly recognizable to us, but that is always somehow better, more peaceful, more refined.

The war-like Klingons, for example, stand out in Star Trek particularly because of their hawkishness, of the ways they stand in such direct opposition to the benevolent and recognizably classical liberal ideas of the Prime Directive, not to mention their distinctly non-European features and dialect. And so even in an imagined and mostly benevolent inter-galactic future, we instinctively seem to paste our own cultural framework on top, westernizing the "good" and orientalizing the "bad".

Thinking back to the whole nature-nurture question then, and back to the bi-directional loop of technology and culture, which creates which? Did Mazzolari's ideas literally shape the future, or was he himself, like the later fiction writers, simply working within his then-contemporary ideas of Impossible Media? Rodenberry was certainly creating the early Star Trek series in a time of increasing awareness of multiculturalism, so his inclusion of African and Asian American characters seems to reflect the spirit of his age. And yet his show was the first major television production to feature either of these so-called ethnic minorities, and so how much can his work be seen to have helped shape the era's thinking? Do cell phones look like Star Trek transponders because Rodenberry invented a whole new meme, or do they look that way because he was borrowing from existing military and scientific work, which then borrowed back from him? Were Rodenberry and Verne, like Mazzolari, incredibly prescient, forecasting inventions long before they existed, or were they simply reflecting social norms about media and culture in various stages of development?

In asking these questions, we seem forced to conclude that the sources of inspiration and action on a cultural and individual level are often inseparable from the actions themselves. Each one endlessly feeds and shapes the other. Certainly Mazzolari's ideas would have shaped later thinkers (such as the inventors of the internet), but just as with Star Trek, what other framework did they (or he) have to work in other than that which was already existing?

In referring to the projection rooms of Athanasius Kircher in late 17th-century Italy, Zielinski mentions the use of images of the Grim Reaper and a woman's soul burning in Purgatory as giving "an idea of how powerful an instrument for the projection of signifiers of the imaginary is being outlined here." Few images would have held as much power for the 17th-century Catholic mind as these two, and so in referring to technology as being "signifiers of the imaginary", Zielinski alludes to this bi-directional loop again, the idea of each fueling the other, of the imagination driving the technology which in turn drives the imagination. Zielinski writes that "the relationship between what is imagined and what in fact exists, between (mere) fantasy and (actual) reality is fluid, unstable." Rodennberry, Verne, Wells, Kircher and Mazzolani, each in their own ways and within the frameworks of their time and culture, conceived of Impossible Media which eventually came to being and thereby gave rise to further imaginings. And so it goes.

3D technology and art history.

23 November 2010

@ work

Lilacs and the Winnipeg Skyline

Romi Mayes & Jason Nowicki at the West End Cultural Centre, 2010

Flight 20

it's minus fifty-five outside
and the wind keeps calling
you can be better
you can be more honest
in a time when the last thing
you felt you can't remember
get over yourself
for what it is
the moment
when confusion
to a moral divination
that kept on giving
when I could be nothing
more than the broken
vessel of my dreams

Flight 19

love begets
love and where
there was no time
there she was
staring back
so sweet
and humble
that I almost
believed I
was dead
with no more
wanting to
make it
better instead

22 November 2010

Lev Manovich, Cinema, and Guy Maddin's "My Winnipeg" as narrative/database

Hi all--

If you're bored, here's another piece I wrote for my Media Poetics class.

If you've never seen "My Winnipeg", or even if you have, I'd suggest you watch these two links first.


Lev Manovich, Cinema, and Guy Maddin's "My Winnipeg" as narrative/database

As Marshal McLuhan pointed out with his tetrads, and as Lev Manovich points out in "Database as Symbolic Form", the rise or development of a particular communication medium brings certain things to the fore, and obsolesces or modifies others. In this regard, Manovich's attention to film and the motion picture, and its relation to the database/narrative duality, becomes particularly interesting.
Manovich stresses that in the twentieth century, the rise of internet technologies have made database, rather than narrative, the dominant communication form, even as most cinema continues to have a narrative structure. While he mentions a few cinematic exceptions to this rule, one that Manovich fails to mention is Guy Maddin, whose 2007 work My Winnipeg engages with some of these ideas, borrowing from and critiquing the conventions of early cinema, of documentary film-making, and of archival or database research.
In titling his film My Winnipeg, Maddin immediately places himself and the film outside of the realm of authoritative documentary into an uncertain realm of the creator's fantasy, questionable research methods, and his less-than-perfect memory. The ideas of archival and database authority are therefore in doubt throughout the film, so that we don't know how much we can trust the narrator's claims about his city having ten times the rate of sleepwalkers of any other city, of the taxis that only run in the backlanes, or of the 11 horses who became frozen into the ice on the Red River one winter, where for the next few months they formed a grisly local attraction.
In presenting "his" Winnipeg, rather than "the" Winnipeg, Maddin explores some of the failings or complications of any claim to authority in the presentation of history, and the ways its telling is immediately subject to the distorting effects of bias, fantasy, even love--in this case, love for a place.
As far back as 1926, however, pioneering film critic Gilbert Seldes wrote about some of these same issues in "The Motion Picture as Art", discussing the relatively new art of cinema, and both its possibilities and weaknesses. Appearing as an entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica, a work that in and of itself certainly aspires to a database-like authority Seldes notes that commercial interests had thus far largely trumped artistic concerns in cinema, meaning that most movies (particularly American ones, he notes), used title or text cards to hold the plot together. With the exception of slapstick comedy and a single ambitious German film (which was a commercial failure in America), Seldes notes that the actors and the scenes often formed simply a backdrop to help animate what was still very much a written medium. So despite Teddy Rosevelt's famous declaration that cinema was "history written with lightning", Seldes points out that in fact one of the great failings of early cinema was its dependence upon text, rather than images, to convey its narrative. More than being written with lightning, Seldes laments, cinema in 1926 was still mostly written on the page--white words on a flickering black screen.
This early work of film criticism looked forward to an age when cinema could become a more distinctly visual and narrative form, when directors' work could be recognized individually, simply by its visual qualities. And even as he calls the advent of sound and colour the "twin mistakes" of the motion picture, Seldes recognizes that they too might one day help push cinema beyond its dependence on text cards. The ideas Seldes puts forward are interesting partly because of how much they show that, while there was narrative in the early films, it was presented in much the same way an internet database presents information today, i.e. as a series of titles interspersed with images. And in this regard, Guy Maddin's work can be seen to exist simultaneously in both traditions.
In referring to the informational structure of new media, Lev Manovich writes that "(d)atabase (the paradigm) is given material existence, while narrative (syntagm) is dematerialized. Paradigm is privileged; syntagm is downplayed" (Manovich 49). And yet as Manovich points out, modern cinema presents a different structure than that of the database.
It's significant then that in My Winnipeg we watch narrative be dematerialized into a seemingly unorganized series of memories, re-enactments, and bits of archival footage. In its affected disorder, the film mimics the database, as we almost have the sense of clicking involuntary on one link after another and of trying to piece together the story from these random and jumbled text cards/database files. The rabbit-hole journey through the reams of information on the internet is mimicked in Maddin's cinema, as if we're watching the narrator compiling a database before our eyes, with only his voice providing a sense of continuity or order. At the same time, a loose narrative of one man's love/hate relationship with his home town, and of his ongoing attempts to leave it, provides the film with its structure.
Just as McLuhan's tetrads point us to the idea that each technology enhances certain things and obsolesces others, Maddin's film seeks to engage simultaneously with the enhanced and the obsolesced. In this regard, it's not insignificant that as the narrator provides his voice-over, we often see him writing, in long-hand, in a notebook. There is no database, My Winnipeg suggests, and there is no narrative, even as all of it is somehow a database, and all of it is somehow a narrative.

Works cited:

Manovich, Lev. "Database as Symbolic Form." Database Aesthetics. Victoria Vesna, editor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2007. pp 39-60.

Seldes, Gilbert. "The Motion Picture as Art." The Treasury of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Clifton Fadiman, editor. New York: Viking, 1992. pp. 246-253.


This is a re-write of one of the pieces I modeled after Grenier. Just to show that it's not jibberish, which I realize it might look like.

A is having a cell phone conversation with someone who's hard of hearing. L is sitting at the computer working.

A (to cell phone) -- Well then you just be/ because/ no because/ no be crazy it's okay. I don't want you to get surgery but if you/ it's not a very/ what?
L-- Who are you talking to?
A-- It's not a very what?, hold on/ hi duck just wait.

21 November 2010

Media Poetics

So, the next three posts are another project I did for my Media Poetics class. (The last project was the cat video.)

Here, I'm borrowing from Robert Grenier's work Sentences.


a lifetime's barometre


you spoil not
neither do you sin

Some away you lived months and planted.

rise of Orion we'd watched
blue-darkened current of wave
smoke of our seasonal rites

Green smudge of road sign
wipers throw back rain
van-white glide through mist
nine people sleep one drives

A (to cell phone) -- Well then you just be because no because no be crazy it's okay. I don't want you to get surgery but if you it's not a very what?
L-- Who are you talking to?
A-- It's not a very what hold on hi duck just wait.

Media Poetics 2: Tetrads

These are based on Marshall McLuhan's tetrads, which were a series of four questions about communication media. Usually he presented them visually, in a square shape.

The questions are:

1. What does the medium enhance?
2. What does the medium make obsolete?
3. What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
4. What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?

(enhance) 1 -- the rapid spread of questionably useful information
(obsolesce) 2-- handwriting; novels; attention spans
(retrieve) 3-- superstition
(extreme) 4-- transmigration of souls (a la Star Trek, mysticism)

Jet travel
(enhance) 1-- weekend trips between Laval and Bora Bora
(obsolesce) 2-- trains, road trips Kerouac-style
(retrieve) 3-- transmigration (and transatlantic migration) of souls
(extreme) 4-- a global village

text messaging
(enhance) --instant interpersonal communication
(obsolesce) --handwritten notes from high school; shoeboxes full of said notes; most long-form written styles of communication; the epistolary novel; visually-induced nostalgia
(retrieve) 3--hieroglyphics
(extreme) 4--language becoming expressed entirely by thumb (and in impermanent form); global politics/social work/psychotherapy conducted entirely by text message

Media Poetics: 3

This one is based on Marshall McLuhan's "Distant Early Warning" deck of playing cards.


Intergalactic Missile Defense System deck of cards

10 of Diamonds/Queen of Hearts-- The medium is a masseuse.

2 of Diamonds-- "Humanity exists so that bacteria has more surface area to breed upon." -- Carlos Quinonez

10 of Hearts-- "Anyone who tries to get out of the army by pretending to be crazy is sane enough to formulate this plan, and therefore must NOT be discharged." -- Major Major Major Major

Queen of Clubs-- Hell hath no soundtrack like McLuhan watching porn.

2 of Clubs-- Affluence IS poverty.

Flight 18

it's only half way done
and you've done nothing that was expected
from the great beast
that I ride
to the end of time

18 November 2010

17 November 2010

Along the Seine (St-Boniface)

Flight 17

winning means nothing
when you're 66 and 0
and what you need is to lose
because that will open up
a sea of meaning
that will teach you more
than 67 and 0

Flight 16

only if you had the hair
that I wanted
only if you had the body
that I wanted
only if
only if
I can't believe
that winning
is all that counts
when losing teaches
us the most of all
things possible
when all you wanted was
to hold my ankle with yours
as we lay there wishing for
there to be more
even though perfect was
not perfect
and vacations were
all that there were