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

16 November 2010


Flight 15

a lack of

that time took
to one and another

the time vibrations
that are not as real
as we think

oh no
did you move
when stillness
was all that was

a ballon of
potential that
you could shape
all along the prairie
path to nowhere

15 November 2010

Flight 14

it buckles
and it bends
and it is so
that only it
could have

13 November 2010

Flight 13

you get restless
on the floor
high to achieve
all that was promised
but that means nothing
other than a worldly
wish that could not achieve
anything other than
lust and worth
only to know
that you knew
what you were
through and through
that was not so real
that it felt fleshy

Flight 12

I can't remember
the jokes
that hide
what you really
did you remember
to hide
with what was out there
and within you
all the time
did you

Flight 11

you said you would
trust your belly, and you did
but you waited much too long
and damaged
a precious organ;
singing and praising
so that you could
be the most selfish
and win

12 November 2010

Flight 10

the only way to move
is to not
until your want

the only way to wait
is to move
to flow
that is

11 November 2010

still life

At the Cenotaph

At the Cenotaph - Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,
Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:
Unostentatious and respectful, there
He stood, and offered up the following prayer.
'Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial
Means; their discredited ideas revive;
Breed new belief that War is purgatorial
Proof of the pride and power of being alive;
Men's biologic urge to readjust
The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;
Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;
And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.'
The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph
Bowed. As he walked away I heard him laugh.

DULCE ET DECORUM EST - Wilfred Owen (1918)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed,coughing like hags,we

cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep.

Many had lost their boots,

But limped on, blood-shod.

All went lame, all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-- an ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out

and stumbling

And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight

he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you

too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes wilting in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs

Bitten as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

Flight 9

did you do what you wanted
did you ask for what was worth it
did you know what was right
did you know what was in you
did you feel what one has to

08 November 2010

A writer regarding a painting

Novelist Ali Smith describes being 'mugged by life', abetted by C├ęzanne's The Etang des Soeurs, Osn
y Click here

05 November 2010

Penelope #2

the burned butter sunrise sky
is behind her
where discarded seashells
on the waterline
for the wave's next reach

is a place she doesn’t want to see
and it’s glowing brightly

he is lost at sea
so far away now,
she doesn’t need him anymore
and she doesn't know him anymore
except when she does
and sits
on the beach
like she does tonight

I'm on Fire in Garson, 1999

Tender are my boys, just boys
cradled in steel, plush, vinyl and denim,
the dash lights cooling their faces.
Smoke on their breath and in their clothes,
ageless and aged,
existing in memory, moment and future.

The radio dial demodulates current
to detect a Fire for
my tender boys, just boys.
In a 3-speed automatic Cutlass under defuse-lit sky,
not born in America but
59 ways from Winnipeg
and Springsteen
guiding us home.

04 November 2010


Check out these crazy birds. Makes me kinda wish that I was a bird sometimes...

01 November 2010


Lorne's Media Poetics probe-- Cat Journal

Music -- Tekitek, "Je parle aux chats" http://www.myspace.com/tekitek
Photos-- Lorne Roberts
Video and editing-- Sean De Coste

This video is for my Media Poetics class.

It's about cutting and pasting, collage, randomness, about the right to use the images of others (in this case, taking thousands of pictures of my cats without their expressed consent via a model release form), and about borrowing ideas from the projects people have done before me (in this case, the people in my class).

And mostly it's about cats.

My friend Sean did the editing which turned these photos into a video, which raises other questions for me about art and its production, both historically and today-- questions about who "owns" art or gets to have their name attached to it as creator when, as in this case, multiple people were involved in it from me to Sean to the people who made my camera or the computer programs we used to process and edit the photos, to the people who made lovely architecture and furniture in my apartments, and who made the art that hangs on the wall in some shots. Without those creators, this video wouldn't exist, or else would exist very differently.

Or should this be Tekitek's video, since I've only just now emailed his management to ask permission to use the song "Je parle aux chats". (If they say no, the video stays up, but with no sound or with some other song perhaps.)