hue sweater painting fall 85

Hugh, studying an art book (at a guess) in the ‘lab room’ of the Halifax Youth Hostel, which we shared during the fall of 1985. He’s wearing a sweater with one of his oil paintings sewn onto the front. Big Icelandic mug full of coffee near at hand, various guitars, his bed lifted up and nestled near one of the big tall windows. My writing desk behind him, electric typewriter for ‘mailing copies’ (my old manual typewriter down in the parking lot booth where I worked), current reading on top is Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. Velvet Underground book on the shelf. Hugh left Halifax early in ’86, I left in 1992. Hugh died in 1996. The Halifax Youth Hostel was torn down. Nothing left now but the recordings.

Our conversation to start with is on the topic of paying the rent on the room.

Hugh: Yeah, that’s … yeah, I knew that.

Me: (holding in a toke) And then … after that I pay the next one, and by then you should have some shit sold or something.

Hugh: (holding in a toke) Yeah, maybe …

Me: Go drum up some sales …

I start strumming acoustic guitar.

Hugh: We’ll see what happens.

Me: Hm?

Hugh: We’ll see what happens, don’t worry about it.

Me: No, I mean, I’m not … it’s just like … like my horoscope said today: “A temporary setback will turn into a greater opportunity.” (Rustle of newspaper page.) I took that to mean my short story.

We both chuckle. We’re clearly very stoned, both talking sotto voce.

Hugh: Those horoscopes. Harsh-scopes. (He chuckles some more.) Getting your short story back, pretty harsh.

Apparently I’d sent ‘Bird Dancer’ somewhere and it had come back forthwith.

Me: No, it didn’t bother me. I didn’t really expect to get it – to get anything from them. I just thought it would be nice. Sort of … the way it goes. I’d like to hear back from my pals at New Quarterly.

Hugh: They probably lost your story. That’s why they haven’t written back, they’re too embarassed.

Me: What about those fuck-ups at Poetry Montreal? They never, ever wrote back. (Hugh chuckles.) Not even after I sent them a letter from here. Saying, “What the fuck have you done with my poems?” (Hugh chuckles gleefully.)

Hugh: Hilarium, eh? It probably no longer exists.

Me: That’s what I think. You know, it’s one of those really – but they were doing, like, one a month, eh? Like, they were pretty hot while they were around. They didn’t stink, either, compared to most of those things. Like Xero. (I laugh.) Harsh-O.

Hugh: Yeah, really.

Me: We should get an ad for our show in the next one of those Republicovers.

Hugh: Yeah, you’re right. The end of submissions is like November twenty-fifth, or something like that. For the next issue. It’ll be good to get something in.

We’re talking about advertising our CKDU FM radio show in a NSCAD student publication. This never happened.

Me: You looked at any of the little things I’ve been writing lately? They’re just on little scraps of paper here.

Hugh: Little poems and stuff?

Me: Yeah.

Hugh: I read a couple of poems. They were pretty good.

Me: Any that struck you as worth … collaborating with?

Hugh: Oh!

Me: There’s two over here, I think.

Hugh: (hunting around amidst the crazy morass of stuff on our counter) Yeah I saw those two …

Me: There’s another weird little one that has to be revised a bit. (Laughing) This one’s weird ‘cause it’s ah – it’s not actually written by me. All I did was uh – you know … it’s all album covers, right? Album titles? And I noticed a few, how they … transpositioned with each other or whatever?

Hugh: Mm-hmm. (I hand him some sort of confection.) Oh, thanks.

Me: Rum and butter flavoured. I ate a whole bag of them.

Hugh: Oh, wow. (He’s working on the confection, his mouth full.) Mmmm. Hard not to.

Me: Well, you know. Sitting in the booth is the only really harsh thing to deal with, not smoking.

Hugh: Mm-hmm.

Me: You’ve gotta be – I’ve gotta do something (chuckle).

Hugh is schmecking on the confection and rummaging around his pottery pieces.

Hugh: Yeah, I like how boxy these things are.

Me: (groaning) Oh, the Rog would be so upset.

I’m not sure what Rodger, the Youth Hostel ‘houseparent’, would’ve been upset about – maybe Hugh was firing his clay creations in the hostel’s oven.

Me: ‘Kay, you want me to read you this one? It’s called ‘Record Sale Poem’.

Hugh: Okay.

Me: ‘The dream of the blue turtles’. No, no. Sorry. Start again.

I’m having a little difficulty because I want to recite the lines in an order quite different from the way I have them written down.

Me: ‘The Record Sale Poem.’ (I laugh.) By Vince Tinguely. (Hugh laughs.)

Once upon a time
The dream of the blue turtles
Greatest hits

Black cars
Alien shores
Here’s to future days
Dancing in the street

Brothers in arms
Live after death

Me: (laughing) It’s all just titles.

Hugh: Yeah. That’s good.

Me: Quite amusing (I clear my throat). Well, I’m stoned.

Hugh: I’m still fooling around with these weird blobs (chuckling). Just clay, man. Clay and glazes.

Me: (laughing) You’re having a good time are you?

Hugh: We’re talking – The Universe, right? With this stuff.

Me: (in vigourous agreement) Oh yeah, oh yeah!

Hugh: The Uni – or, it’s like being God.

We fall silent. For a while, I’m just trying to tune the guitar.


hues pottery fall 85 edit

Some of Hugh’s pottery work on display on the ‘lab counter’ of our room in the Halifax Youth Hostel, fall 1985.

Notebook Entry 8 Nov 14


Just remembered a nice coincidence that occurred last week when I was walking to the book store. On Esplanade before Fairmont, I was crossing the street and, beside a tree, I noticed one of those cheap end tables – this one happened to be black – and I wondered why it had been put out on the curb. As I got closer, I saw it lacked a leg, and I spoke to it (sotto voce, hopefully!), saying, “Ah, you only have three legs!” I continued on to the sidewalk and looking up, I saw a woman walking her black, three-legged dog along Fairmont.


Photo by Nicole Gingras.

Photo by Nicole Gingras.


On June 8, 2014, I took part in Bodies of Water, a performance organized by Victoria Stanton. Here’s what she wrote about it on her website:

Along the river, I would like to propose a group walk: an invitation for few or many to join me in a consciously constructed trajectory on the bike path. Bodies meeting in unison where sounds, movements, silence and stillness could simultaneously take place (our bodies of water next to this one).

Bodies of Water is part of the event Les Voisins, a Festival of Urban Actions. 27 Quebec and International artists are presenting more than 35 actions where the location, the date and the duration of the performance are determined by the artists themselves. Curated by Eric Mattson, Les Productions MINUTE.

Afterwards, I told her I’d like to write something about my experience. Here it is.



Hot in the sun
Cool in the shade
We hesitate on the edge
Of MacDonald’s parking lot

High rise condos
Sentinels as we
Small group
Following Victoria’s lead.

First subtle action
(After the walking in itself
Walking along the
Verge of the bike path)
We’re all
Flopping on the grass.

We lay on the grass
I focus on a tree branch
Waving in sparkling sun

A couple nearby
Grow silent a moment
To digest the presence
Of Victoria’s Zen Gang
Then they pick up
Their conversational thread
And weave away

We breathe
Watch the trees
Feel the grass
Under collective ass

Photo by Nicole Gingras.

Photo by Nicole Gingras.

We’re quiet as we
Regroup and walk
The verge
Past treed park pathways

Quiet, in the midst of
Voices voices voices
Picnickers, baby strollers
Bicycles, roller blades

Quiet and by our quiet passage
We attract curious stares
Kids, especially
Stop, and gawk

But we’re nothing
A breeze along the verge
Dogging Victoria’s
Studied steps
In a loose formation
Taking in

The River

Glitters teasingly
Through screen of

With clusters of humans
Secreted along its shore
In the trees
Fishing or looking or
Talking or just

There’s that song.
Song of the Redwing Blackbird.

After I moved from
West to East as a kid
I lost the song of the Meadowlark
Gained the Redwing
Blackbird trill

Down by The River

Victoria distributes twigs
From a bundle
Each of us chooses one
We stand overlooking
The gravel road
Where the boat trailers
Are hauled
And boats launched
Into The River

I’m holding twig
Between two extended
Index fingers
Flexing the stick
As I contemplate boats
And water and

Slowly our gang is
Infiltrated by as many and
More camera-wielding
Men and women
Video cameras and still
All focused intently on
What, exactly?

Victoria leads us
Over an arching bridge
We make
Ratcheting, clanging
Rhythmic sounds
With our twigs
On its surface
And railings
Then leave our twigs
Like offerings
On empty
Boat trailers.

Photo by Nicole Gingras.

Photo by Nicole Gingras.

Onward along the verge
To the jetty where
Noisy families gather to
Paddle and babble and
Scope the strange
Zen Gang come to
Silently cool our
Aching feet
In The River

Again the group
Distrust of this
Silent incursion
Shifts soon to
Friendly indifference

Ducks, mama and
Babies trailing
The silent, focused
Flap of the Heron
As it follows
The River
And the guy out on
A kayak, standing
Like a gondolier
Until he loses balance
Pitches into the water

Cut by the
Thrum thrum throb
Of a racing
Motor boat
Towing a skiier
Who goes
Thump, thump, thump. Read More


The authors digesting a Vietnamese brunch.

William wrote to Annette, to Coleridge and the Frenchman – I received a letter from Mrs. Clarkson, a very kind affecting letter, which I answered telling her I would go to Eusemere when William went to Keswick – I wrote a little bit to Coleridge. We sent off these letters by Fletcher. It was a tremendous night of wind and rain. Poor Coleridge! a sad night for a traveller such as he. God be praised he was in safe quarters. Wm. went out, and put the letters under the door – he never felt a colder night.

– Dorothy Wordsworth, from her journal, February 24, 1802

This email thread began when a mutual friend ‘finally’ joined Facebook, and Scott and I began ruminating on the nature of this social media.

January 14: Vince to Scott

Facebook is pernicious, but it fills a need for an atomized ‘community’ (ie. spread across the planet rather than sensibly in one physical location). And it fills the same need even when we live in the same city, where people don’t have the time to ‘see’ everyone they know every day. I don’t see X for months at a time, for instance – about as infrequently as I see you, actually!

So as a Facebook user, I’m not happy to be part of a data-mining experiment, but I like the way FB brings together various things (photo albums, messaging, etc.) that we were doing already in a less integrated way. But what is FB doing to human consciousness? What strange shapes will it be taking? And what is next?

January 14: Scott to Vince

Nice summation of Facebook man, and good questions. I am undecided. It is really good – I mean in the same way that email is really good, for cutting down distances. I have friendships that frankly would not have existed without it.

January 22: Scott to Vince

Hey, a contribution to this discussion in The Guardian.

The article doesn’t go very deep, but it’s interesting to note that there is some negative coverage. The closing sentence (‘Before everyone travelled on the bus or train with their heads buried in an iPad or a smart phone, they usually just travelled in silence.’) seems odd to me – as if we have no short term memory. Before people were on iPhones or BBs they listened to music on walkmans – tapes first, then CDs. And before that, I suspect there was more chatter or at least present-mindedness. My mother tells a story about taking the horrid tram as a young adult in Ottawa, being forced to breathe in the smell of sweat from working girls reaching up to steady themselves on transit.

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In the fall of 1987, I was living in Point Saint Charles with a friend, down on Rue Center across the street from the old abandoned Sherwin Williams paint factory. We’d decided to see what life would be like living without a phone. What happened was that almost all of our Plateau friends forgot we existed – we might as well have moved to Mars. On rare occasion we’d receive visits from the very few who still remembered we were alive.

I’d been doing campus / community radio since 1985, when I’d landed a bi-weekly all-night radio show on the Halifax station CKDU. After a brief stay in Vancouver in 1986, where I had a show on CITR, I had moved to Montreal, where I was astounded to learn that Montreal still didn’t have a campus station on FM! WTF?!?!

I’d gone down to McGill to apply for a show – but the closed-circuit McGill station was totally swamped with applications at the time, since they’d recently won their bid for an FM license. I got a show on Concordia’s cable FM station, CRSG, but having done FM shows for a couple of years, I missed the sense of having a substantial audience out there.

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Dusty tapes.

listen to your present time tapes and you will begin to see who you are and what you are doing here mix yesterday in with today and hear tomorrow your future rising out of old recordings

everybody splice himself in with everybody else

– William S. Burroughs, as quoted in the online introduction to Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs, curated by Mark Jackson at iMT Gallery, London.

And I just can’t wait to … document it
And then I can’t wait to … archive the … document …

– Fluffy Pagan Echoes, from ‘The Pharmacopaea’, 2003

It’s a lie to look to the past and pretend there was ever any plan or strategy to the life I’ve led. In fact, it’s been perfectly random. I’ve pursued avenues, activities because they were rewarding or because they were unrewarding; I’ve created work because there seemed to be a call for it from the world at large, or else because there seemed to be a call for it from within myself and to hell with the rest of the world. Texts, images, audio recordings, performances, the impressions I have made on other human beings I’ve encountered – these are the traces of my path.

I was never an artist, until I looked back at my trajectory, the faint traces of my path through time and space, and decided that calling myself an artist made more sense than calling myself anything else.
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Scene from Derek Jarman's The Last Of England.

(Notes for an article that never got written.)

The other night, I went to see David Lynch’s Inland Empire, and was struck by how ‘old school’ his film-making has become. In a very real sense, this film is a return to the nonlinear nightmare structure of Eraserhead, only in colour, and much, much longer. After a certain amount of time the viewer must surrender any expectations of conventional plot, and accept a kind of funhouse logic of pure emotional terrorism. The revelatory moment came, for me, in a sequence where Laura Dern is advancing along a dimly lit corridor, and through cinematic sleight-of-hand she suddenly lunges toward the viewer, face distorted grotesquely (by computer animation). It’s a moment of shock, but at the same time, it’s a moment of recognition – it’s the same device, after all, as the rattling plastic skeleton lunging out of the darkness on a wire during a trip through a carnival’s Haunted House ride.

We’d go to the old Haunted House, or we’d go to a David Lynch film, in order to scare ourselves silly. A peculiarity of modern society, where we like to exercise the primordial frisson of fear simply because otherwise, it doesn’t get much play. There are no tigers or grizzly bears jumping out of the woods to chew on us – no packs of wolves – if we obey traffic laws, and if our police force has a handle on the problem of gang crime, we can generally expect to get through our day without having our lives threatened by anything more tangible than the cloud of toxic smog that hangs over our cities.

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I was just reading Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus, and was thinking about how that text seems to be bleeding through into the other huge tome I’ve been reading, Slavoj Žižek’s In Defense of Lost Causes. Somehow the flow of ideas in both books compliment each other. The combination of the two thought streams (thought rivers) set in motion some arcane series of mental associations in my mind. I suddenly had an insight about my own poetic practice.

The key was what I had just read in Lipstick Traces, in reference to Czeslaw Milosz’s The Captive Mind: “But if everyday life in Communist Poland was a play, then Solidarity, the clandestine Polish publisher Czeslaw Bielecki wrote in an essay smuggled out of prison in 1985, was ‘antitheater.’ For the first time, countless men and women spoke in public, for themselves, and were listened to; they acted, and found themselves changed into new men and women, unwilling to go on as before.”

The image these words immediately conjured in my mind was the Montreal spoken word scene of 1994 and 1995, when poets spoke from multiple stages in multiple languages, and people flocked to hear them. My experience of that moment in time was the giddy joy of being heard; in the instant that the word leaves the mouth of the poet and enters the consciousness of the listener, something new might be born. The circle of awareness might widen, or shift, if only temporarily. The world itself takes on new colours, new dimensions. Momentarily, the intitative has been seized from the television stations, the newspapers, the advertising industry, the endless cornucopia of information that rains down on us all day every day – ads in metro stations, spam email messages, ‘free’ papers, the latest pop sensation, the humdrum ‘discourse’ of last-night’s-television everyday refried / rehashed during coffee break or over dinner.
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Art matters.

On February 25 my name was published along with those of 499 other Montreal artists in support of the growing international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state. It’s a strange thing, to feel one has no choice but to take a stand against something happening on the other side of the planet. But I feel that I am implicated in the struggle by my own Canadian government’s complicity with Israeli state-sponsored oppression and exclusion of the Palestinian people. I can in no way agree with the Israeli government’s utterly corrupt and indefensible policies concerning the Palestinians. I choose to claim my soul instead.

I have been aware of the struggle as long as I’ve been a conscious human being. My first encounters with the word ‘Palestinian’ always had the refrain ‘terrorists’ – in Life magazine and Time magazine in the seventies – ‘Palestinian terrorists’. There was never another side to that particular story, according to corporate media sources – because the other side were ‘terrorists’.

I became slightly more enlightened on the topic of the struggle of the Palestinian people when I read Jean Genet’s great book, Prisoner Of Love. It marked the transition point between being aware of Palestinians only as ‘terrorists’, and gaining an insight into their actual political situation. In other words, it was an artist who made this issue ‘real’ for me. In subsequent years, the more I learned, the more I became convinced that the current deadlock of injustice must end.

To put it country-simple: social justice and peace for all. Uphold human rights. A single-state solution would be best, in Israel/Palestine, but if necessary, a two-state solution based on the UN-defined borders of 1967.

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I keep putting off writing for my blog, mainly because I have discovered the limitations of time. I only have so much time, it seems. This goes for my life – hey, I’m getting older! – but also, it goes for the day-to-day realities. Like, if I have to do my laundry, cook my dinner, write a freelance piece, read a bit, take a dump, get groceries, go to the library … somehow in the midst of all the dailiness, it becomes difficult to wedge in a bit of time to write. I can spend an hour online reading the latest atrocities, but write? Meh.

My blogging habit of the past couple of years monopolized most my creative / writing time, to the point where I was no longer being ‘productive.’ Not that blog writing isn’t productive, it’s actually very productive, but I was no longer doing anything else, like making zines or chapbooks. So I stopped blogging last summer, lazed around for a month, and then I spent the whole fall working on several projects. I made a couple of CDRs of recent sound art / music / noise projects, and slapped together not one, but two new chapbooks, one of which came with another CDR full of poetry. I found that, besides doing the laundry and suchlike, just doing these little projects took up all my creative energies.

So in the last few months, there has been no blogging done other than quick announcements and a recent batch of poems that I happened to have handy. For this holiday week, the cusp of 2008 – 2009, I’ve decided to write a ‘ramble’. Whot’s a ramble,you may well ask? It is not an essay, it is not a review, it is not a story, it is not a poem – but it may partake in all of the above as it rambles along. My objective with this particular ramble is to ruminate on many things that have come to my attention over the course of the past several months, be they films, books, events, people, philosophical conceptualizations, or whatnot. Mainly whatnot. I don’t know where this ramble will go, which is as it should be, if it’s to be called a ramble.

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