What a Treasure this band is - Part Modest Mouse, Part Tom Waits, Part Richard Thompson, Part Warren Zevon, Part Carole King….


The New Pornographers — Brill Bruisers (Live, September 3, 2014)

The New Pornographers were on Letterman tonight, performing the title track from their new album Brill Bruisers.

(If you’re wondering, that’s Coco Hames from The Ettes joining them on guitar and ba-ba-ba-bas.)

Comment on Allan Wargon Blog Re: Frederick Varley

Hello Mr. Wargon, 

I feel a little bit surprised, and a little bit ashamed, that I didn’t find your blog until after I had published my piece on F. Varley. I’ve heard you had a chance to read my three-part, mixed media project exploring Varley’s 10 very interesting years in Vancouver. I hope you enjoyed and also hope i was close to accurate and true to the characters.

I was first sparked onto this project from hiking the Varley trail when living in Lynn Valley. Once I learned the trail was named for a renegade member of the G7, I dug into everything I could find about his time in Vancouver including census records for addresses, painting lists, wife and mistress, collaborators, colleagues, museum fonds, bars, school and studio locations, teaching techniques… and added my own remix’d bits to it in form of an audio podcast, free verse poetry, annotated maps and other intentions.

I was personally charmed by your NFB film and enjoyed explaining it to people about how the artist plays himself coming back from the hills, hitching a ride, buying bread and cheese and trying to find his artistic flow while a marvellous painting sits in easel behind him. 

He died in 1969 and I was born in 1970 so i missed him by a year :) but I consider it a great joy to spread his story about the impact he made on the Vancouver art scene. From my vantage point, he was the original source and the first real portraitist on the west coast of Canada. When I look at his paintings I can see the lineage and the similarities between Matisse, van Gogh, Gauguin, Chagall, Munch, Tom Thomson - and some of his G7 contemporaries - but to me, he was unique and challenged himself (and his students) in more powerful and unique ways than his G7 contemporaries (not to take anything away from them). 

Last week at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I had the pleasure of seeing a large exhibit by contemporary Canadian mixed-media artist Douglas Copeland then going upstairs where a few Varleys were displayed. However, I do wish Vancouver Art Gallery had a larger collection, or at least displayed more often, the paintings he did in Vancouver, specifically Bridge over Lynn Creek. I understand some of these are very delicate now and I may be the only one so fascinated.

I look forward to reading through your entire blog and sharing it with my audience. If you have a moment, I would be most appreciative of the note to tell me any comments, corrections, or colour commentary to add to my piece. 

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Comment on Local’s Tip: a Transit-Accessible Hike in North Vancouver

Local’s Tip: a Transit-Accessible Hike in North Vancouver


May I offer a few tips from someone who has marauded through these trails in various patterns over many years?

First, by starting the trip in Deep Cove and ending up in Lynn Valley, it makes for a little bit of a shorter trip getting home if you live in Vancouver. But either way I advise a stop at The End of the Line Café.

This location has housed a general store of some kind since the old logging days and now is filled with a ridiculous assortment of imported candies (esp. England and The Netherlands), plus a variety of chutneys to make your picnic lunch extra special, neat toys (balsa wood airplanes and sock monkeys) and decent coffee… and my favourite: trail pucks. Tell them Uncle Weed sent you. You won’t be disappointed whether you start or finish there it’s right by the trailhead.

Next, as a young Scout growing up in Surrey, we hiked along the Baden Powell trail in various parts a few times when it was still more primitive (or i recall it that way) and the houses weren’t built up so close to the trail. I remember camping along the Baden Powell trail - which seems like it would be verbotten now.

I remember one particular night sitting around the campfire at about 12 years old with the other scouts from Whalley when a mountain lion came and sat right in our camp fire circle with us. You could see his/her muscles, sinews, teeth and quickly realized there was nothing you could do except chillout and make no sudden movements. Fortunately my fellow Khaki Scouts didn’t freak out as we watched this creature, larger than any of us, including our wide-eyed volunteer scout leader. I don’t know if s/he stayed for 10 seconds or 20 minutes but it’s moment I’ll never forget.

Finally, one more transit tip. If you decide to go from Deep Cove to Lynn Valley (this was my preferred method because my house was right by the Lynn Canyon end of the trailhead and had a sauna for warming up after and autumn or winter hike) and you’re eager to get home, you can take the 210 bus.

Catch it just around the corner from the aforementioned End of the Line Café, and it’ll roll ya to the very houseline to the top of Mountain Highway, then all the way down through Lynn Valley Centre, to Phibbs Exchange, across Ironworkers Memorial Bridge and then express service through East Van (stops at Renfrew, Commercial, Nanaimo & couple more) finally ending up at Burrard Skytrain station.

Certainly not as scenic as the “three dollar harbour cruise” Sea Bus, but if you are in a hurry, and especially if you live in East Van, this can be a winner.

Great article Leah! I’m hoping your next one is a brewery tour of the North Shore with 3 stops (at least) now pouring.

We had the pleasure of spending some time with Stefan Sagmeister at the recent FITC Toronto conference in April, 2014, and he had some things to say.

See Sagmeister in Calgary at the CAMP Festival
Calgary, Alberta • Sept 8-9, 2014 •

Stefan Sagmeister
Partner, Sagmeister & Walsh

Stefan Sagmeister formed the New York based Sagmeister Inc. in 1993 and has since designed for clients as diverse as the Rolling Stones, HBO and the Guggenheim Museum. Having been nominated eight times, he finally won two Grammy Awards for the Talking Heads and Brian Eno & David Byrne package designs. He has also earned practically every important international design award.

In 2008 Stefan authored a comprehensive book titled “Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far”, published by Abrams. Solo shows of Sagmeister Inc’s work have been mounted in Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Prague, Cologne, Berlin, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul and Miami.

Stefan teaches in the graduate department of the School of Visual Art in New York and lectures extensively on all continents. In 2012 young designer Jessica Walsh became a partner and the company was renamed into Sagmeister & Walsh. A native of Austria, he received his MFA from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and, as a Fulbright Scholar, a master’s degree from Pratt Institute in New York. After his studies he worked as a Creative Director for Leo Burnett in Hong Kong and for M&Co. in New York.

A wonderful podcast, following Dave Olson who interviews Foot Man, as they hike up Canaan Mountain to drink from a fresh natural mineral spring, eat ripened coconut and fruits and as they drape from the trees, and explore a natural weed farm baking in the hot Jamaican sun. Here’s a small taste of Jamaica, mon :) Meet Foot, a Rasta bushman called Fire, and Dave- guiding the adventure.

Edward Snowden

A young man from North Carolina; a patriot or a traitor? Edward Snowden began slipping into kitchen conversations all over the world in 2013 when he made headlines being touted as both a national hero and a criminal. Growth in technology created the crimes, but did it create a criminal? Someone very wise once pointed out that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Snowden stood up to these questions by exposing government information which was collected, and some would say stolen, from unknowing private citizens. By revealing the abuse of power by the government, Snowden returned some of it back to us, asking us to make up our own minds about who should have so much control.

Jesselyn Radack

It takes a strong man to stand up to his government and peers to say “this is not right”, but it takes an even stronger woman to do the same. Jesselyn Radack was born and brought up in the American center of politics and lawmaking, Washington D.C. She is best known for her work as the ethical advisor to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, as well as her defense of “whistleblowers” Edward Snowden and Thomas Drake. In the early wake of the events of 9/11, Radack spoke out on behalf of John Walker Lindh, an American citizen captured, tortured, and interrogated by the U.S. government in violation of his constitutional rights. Radack has been one to stand up beside some of the most influential American dissidents to support and defend their rights, despite how radical they may be.

Daniel Ellsberg

An early radical, Ellsberg was one of the first responders to government conspiracy and deception in America. By revealing what would come to be known as “the Pentagon Papers” he proved the government was obscuring information about the Vietnam War and lying to the American people about the outcome of the war. He planted significant strongholds for the protection of the First Amendment, specifically for the freedom of the press. Ellsberg stood for the representation of the Constitution, rather than the men in government claiming even the president, every president, is a liar.

Rosa Parks

"All I was doing was trying to get home from work." Such a seemingly simple task would spark a civil rights movement that would change America forever. During an age of segregation, Rosa Parks started a revolution by simply refusing to move to the back of the bus. Working with the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., her ideals sculpted the advancement of women and people of color as we know it today. She helped us understand that laws and policies are fluid, and it’s up to those who would oppose them to guide our history through them.

John Adams

A prominent forefather, John Adams envisioned the United States as a shelter for independence and freedom of thought, liberty, and speech. During the separation of the United States from the control of Britain, John Adams helped shape and advise the formation of an ideal government. His ideals were in favor that many people would actively engage and question their leadership freely, and those responsible would make careful decisions in the best interest of the citizen majority. Although those ideas were radical in his time, they paved the Declaration of Independence and many of the principals the United States still claims to foster to this day.

Arthur Miller

A victim of persecution and accusation himself, Arthur Miller is perhaps best known for The Crucible, speculated to be his metaphor for the United States’ witch hunt for communists in the early twentieth century. One of the best and most influential playwrights in history, Miller faced denunciation and accusations of being a communist and of spreading false messages. Protected only by his freedom of speech, Miller never wavered or backed down and continued, in the face of adversity, to write and produce some of the most definitive works in history. His voice was small, but his messages were huge, as he communicated his beliefs through his art.

Emma Goldman

A rebel before her time, with a powerful cause, Goldman made a scene for women and anarchists in an age of convention and order. Dissenting even from her own contemporaries in favor of her own principles, she fought to keep the anarchist movement focused on the joy and freedom of individuals rather than rebelling just to do so against the government. Goldman’s extremist and radical views still apply to our current society. Although she died in 1940, her contributions to the anarchists’ agenda made resurgence in the early 1970s and rang as true as ever for the feminists and hippies of the twentieth century.

Lenny Bruce

Pushing the envelope all the way to the edge, Lenny Bruce was the thorn in the side of the conservative patriot of the sixties. Before Vietnam and the hippies who opposed it, he was the voice piping up about anything and everything that nobody wanted to hear about, but everyone wanted to talk about. Under steady persecution and run-ins with the laws he challenged, Lenny Bruce was a torchbearer for the First Amendment, particularly freedom of speech, as a comic labeled obscene by a critical society. Unafraid to tackle any tough subject from racism and politics to sex and drugs, Bruce provided an outlet for the voice of a squeamish but curious generation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson is best known for his literary works, but it is his ideas and tenacity which have made him an icon in American culture. Facing certain persecution as a prominent abolitionist, he stood up for his own beliefs and supported the ostracized beliefs of his friends and peers. In a time of rigidity and order, Emerson dared to question the foundation of society in religion by founding the transcendental movement. Criticized for his anti-religious teachings, he believed that the truth is to be found within ourselves and our considerations of the world around us, and the rules which are laid before us are not always unswerving.

Noam Chomsky

One of America’s leading living political activists, Noam Chomsky has gained himself a reputation as of one of the most influential minds in the fields of linguistics and philosophy. Throughout his life, he has opposed and criticized the U.S. government’s foreign policy, as well as the mainstream media numerous times with essays, public lectures, and teachings. Becoming a figurehead of anarchy, he created a movement against the “business party”. A self-described anarchist, Chomsky’s teachings focus on standing up for oneself and fostering community rather than becoming a slave to those who attempt to wield power over others.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge found no evidence that Mayor Gregor Robertson was in conflict of interest over the lease of city building to HootSuite.

But Justice Christopher Hinkson took issue with the level of secrecy surrounding the deal in his July 21 written verdict.

The court petition led by Cedar Party mayoral candidate Glen Chernen sought Robertson’s disqualification from office for failing to disclose a direct or indirect pecuniary conflict of interest. Hinkson said there was no evidence that “modest campaign assistance” given to Robertson by the social media company in 2011 was linked to the lease and option to purchase the property and he wrote that a big city mayor’s job includes interacting with corporations to help benefit the community.

The East Eighth Ave. building was put on the block in February 2012, three months after HootSuite hosted Robertson’s re-election campaign “Twitter town hall” two days before the civic vote.

The former Vancouver Police building was assessed at $9.619 million, while an appraisal set it at $9.95 million. A $7.5 million offer was the highest of the four received by the April 13, 2012 deadline, so the city pulled it from the market. On May 15, 2012, an agent for HootSuite offered $7 million. City council met behind closed doors on June 27, 2012 and agreed on a five-year lease with an option to purchase for $9.3 million.

“While the (Vancouver Economic Commission) and the City of Vancouver both have the corporate goal of maintaining quality employers in Vancouver, the City of Vancouver has a policy of only selling or leasing property at (or if possible above) its fair market value, unless it is to a non-profit organization, which would not include HootSuite,” Hinkson wrote.

“The agreement negotiated by the Real Estate Department with HootSuite satisfied the Real Estate Department’s mandate of realizing at or above fair market value for city-owned property.”

Hinkson rejected the notion by Robertson’s lawyer Joseph Arvay that Chernen and his fellow petitioners acted maliciously or were engaged in scandalous or outrageous conduct.

“While it is true that I have found that their petition lacks legal merit, the proceedings are at an early stage, and the process followed by the city in leasing the property was somewhat shrouded in secrecy until a point after which the petition was filed,” Hinkson ruled.

He noted that the city initially refused to provide lease and option details via Freedom of Information until after an inquiry was scheduled by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The city finally revealed in January of this year that the deal included a seven-month rent holiday, $17 per square foot lease rate and $700,000 tenant improvement allowance.

“Additionally, the petitioners have learned that HootSuite also entered into a contract with the city, that was not put out to tender and bid, whereby it is paid on a monthly basis for services involving social media management and tracking,” Hinkson wrote. “The city has refused to disclose the value of this contract.”

In February, city hall revealed via FOI that HootSuite paid $692,145.80 for rent, parking and property taxes in 2013, slightly less than the $698,922 paid by city hall to HootSuite under the tenant improvement allowance clause. City hall also spent $42,438.92 of taxpayers’ money to use HootSuite software in 2013, including $1,667.34 for the mayor and his staff.

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The history of the nation is inextricably linked to the written word; Icelanders produced the Sagas and the Poetic Edda, captivating historical (and sometimes fantastical) records of the country’s early years, filled with heroes, villains and monsters, written down almost a millennium ago and inspiring countless writers, include J.R.R. Tolkien. (A new translation of the Edda will be published by Canadian poet Jeramy Dodds this fall.) Literature has always been part of Iceland’s national identity.

“We really feel, and think, that our little contribution to world literature is worth noticing,” says Sjón, one of the country’s foremost contemporary authors, sitting in a bookstore in downtown Reykjavík on a rainy April morning. “This was a very poor country — a third-world country — until well into the second, third decade of the 20th century,” he says. “We have no cathedrals to show from the past. We have no paintings. We have no symphonies. We’ve got nothing.

“Literature is the only constant cultural activity that has been going on here throughout the centuries.”

It’s an ongoing cultural activity. While the Icelandic Publishers Associations boasts about 40 members, including Forlagið, the largest of the country’s publishing houses, Loftsdóttir says the real number is north of 100 when you factor in tiny indie publishers and pop-up concerns that release a book or two before vanishing. (Although I never got my hands on one of their titles, I kept hearing about Tunglið (Icelandic for moon) which publishes two books every full moon in editions of less than 100.)

“We don’t know very much about banking, but we know about books,” says a smiling Agla Magnúsdóttir of the Icelandic Literature Center, which was created last year to promote Icelandic writing abroad. (Curiously, the economic crash, which was just beginning to strike the country last time I visited, in 2008, may have actually helped book sales: “People kept on buying book, if they didn’t just buy more books,” says Magnúsdóttir. “Instead of weekend trips, they spent the money buying books.”)