Sunday, January 29, 2006

flesh machine

Critical Art Ensemble rocks. Check this:

"... unlike the military (where the soldier is supplied with the technology to transform he/rself into a weapon system) the civilian force will buy the technology of their enslavement..."

and later:

"... the body must be trained to meet the demands of the technology..."

A bit deterministic, but still disturbing.

(From _Flesh Machine: Cyborgs, Designer Babies and New Eugenic Consciousness_)

gung hei fat choy

Happy Lunar New Year friends, family, readers and lurkers! Hope the Year of the Dog is a good one for all of you.

Starting the year auspiciously, working on the new novel, reading poetry submitted by two students for my first consultations tomorrow. I'll hang with Rita later. She has assembled all the ingredients for a New Year's vegetarian recipe that the Chinese American poet Frances Chung used to make.

I am sort of allowed to drive now. "You probably can," said my physiotherapist, "as long as you stay away from my route home."

Big party last night put on by birthday boys Steve Lee and David Khang. Great seeing more old friends and making new ones. Stuffed my face with chap chae.

On the way home we saw a single huge firework go off at the end of my street. The things you can get over the counter these days!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

soggy slice

Just in case you imagine that it's stopped raining, it hasn't. Spent yesterday working at home to the delightful crooning of the backhoe on the construction site outside my window, while in front of the house the city is tearing up the road to replace the water mains or some such. Thank goodness for the email from Monika containing the essay she wrote on the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre which we visited together in New Denver last summer. Some really interesting thinking on the relation of the memorial garden to trauma. I like the ideas of a "living archive" and "tender research." It was a day of good email, actually. (Good machine, good machine.) My friend Jay sent along a link, and two songs from Pacifica. I think he said he's friends with one or some of them. Lovely elusive Ivana dropped a note also. She is on her way to Mexico tomorrow.

In the evening, more gastronomical adventures at the old Daimo (I think it's called Kwong Chow now. "Kwong Chow" I said to Rita, in a flat toneless accent because I think the transliteration is funny. Which set her off an a rant about why CBC announcers can't say "Gung Hei Fat Choy" properly.) Stewed beef muscle and tendon with daikon, bitter melon and eggs, soup noodles with gailan-- I was happy. Then off on the Wong rounds-- to see the Janets perform at Emily Carr. They are very cool, interesting zine girls. They take their name from the Janet of Three's Company. First issue is a John Ritter memorial. Hilarious. It was pub night at ECIAD. We got our Tarot cards read (for $2.50!) by a smart young student running a Tarot table. Then off on the hunt for ma ku li, a kind of Korean rice wine we drank with Ashok at a downtown restaurant last week. I told Rita, I told her. It's illegal for them to sell it to take away. But she wouldn't believe me. So down to the West End we went on this (of course) unsuccessful mission. Stubborn girls on a rampage. ;-) Then to London Drugs to see about buying a sunlamp. It isn't just me. Rita is also having a hard time staying awake in the rain and dark.

Friday, January 27, 2006

new name

better. now if only i could think of a name for the no-name novel.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

please come to my party

So the writer-in-residence gig is now in full swing. There's a reception on February 3 and you are invited. Please see the invite below. Also, if anyone is interested in getting feedback on their work, or just coming and talking to me about writing, there is now a process in place for that. Details below.

And, while we're on the subject of good news in my writing life, my story "I Love Liver: A Romance" will be coming out in The Year's Best Science Fiction #11, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer in the US. Yip!


The Department of English at Simon Fraser University is pleased to invite you to a special reception for Larissa Lai, Writer-in-Residence for 2006 (January - June). The evening will feature a reading by Larissa Lai, followed by a reception.

Friday, February 3 2005
Segal Building, Simon Fraser University
500 Granville Street at Pender
7:00 - 8:30

This event is open to all members of the Simon Fraser
University community as well as the Vancouver arts community.
Please RSVP to Simon Fraser University,
Harbour Centre, at or phone 604-291-5100
(fax 604-291-5098) by January 31.

Sponsored by the Writer-in-Residence Program with funding
assistance from the Office of the President and the Dean of Arts,
Simon Fraser University.

About Larissa Lai

Larissa Lai's first novel, When Fox Is a Thousand, was short-listed for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and has recently been republished by Arsenal Pulp Press. Her second novel, Salt Fish Girl, about an ageless female character who shifts shape and form through time and place, was shortlisted for The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and The Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. She has also published short stories, critical articles, and poetry. She is an accomplished editor and curator, and she is currently completing a doctorate in literature at the University of Calgary. In 2005, Lai's work was the subject of a special issue of West Coast Line, an established periodical on literature and art.

For Writers

Larissa Lai will be available for consultation at Simon Fraser University from January to June, 2006. To contact her call the Department of English at 604-291-3136.

For information on the Writer-in-Residence Program, please consult the Department of English website ().

why vancouver is great

lovely dinner with sophie, david and their daughter maya on monday. maya hid on us and we couldn't find her. thought she went behind the picture frame, or into the olives or under the table. she can also walk like a penguin, and had us following her around the living room in full waddle. delicious food, great talks about books (dionne brand's _What We All Long For_ in particular), david's novel-in-progress (which he promises to share, but so far has not coughed up... david...). they gave some super helpful feedback on paper i'm working on.

working at school has been productive. i've got several projects starting to gain momentum. though the no-name novel is still giving me grief. students have starting coming by to introduce themselves. there's a recently started up student mag at sfu called _iamb_. lots of energy behind it. i'll have my first student consultations next week.

last night had supper with my old friend haruko okano. she's working at a community gallery right in my neighbourhood, at the britannia community centre, and doing a bunch of her own art, all with found, organic materials that decompose and change over time. haruko's work is amazing because it breaks all our expectations about gallery art as permanent, archivable, transportable and (financially) valuable. every thing is time-based, slow-paced and biodegradable.

i've been riding to school on monday and wednesday mornings with roy-- great chats about the election, citizenship, the global world order. much fun.

tonight-- a panel on citizenship at sfu harbour centre, with roy miki, david chariandy, lorena gale and daphne marlatt. some heated discussion. a bunch of very conflicting discourses. question of the value of citizenship when it can be suspended at any time through moments of exception, invoked through the patriot act, the war measures act, the anti-terrorism act etc. some anxiety in the room about the notion of 'belonging'. afterwards, caught the tail end of the launch of the new _west coast line_ at the honey lounge. i'm tired, but it's great to be in the midst of all this thinking and doing.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

dead reckoning

roy miki gave a talk yesterday at a space on hastings street. some really interesting stuff about knowing oneself proprioceptively, as opposed to knowing oneself by how one is hailed, internalizing the name and acting it out.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

it's all still there

on the way back from physio this evening i saw a (white) man with a cane get on the bus. the bus was crowded. he saw me notice him (of course i noticed), and eyed my seat like he wanted it. understandable. and i'd have given it to him, but it is a gloomy fact of my sad-sack post-operative state that i can not stand up on a moving bus without falling down either. a seat came up two rows ahead. he moved towards it but an oblivious (white, able-bodied) woman took it. a (chinese) woman in front of me saw what happened and gave him her seat, which was right in front on mine. he turned around to snarl at me. "f-ing chink," he said. it was an unpleasant jolt. i could have said something. i should have said something. i didn't. where do you start? how do you unravel this? was it him, me or the city?

how to

is watching knowing? a couple of days ago the construction guys tarred the outside of the foundation, presumeably to keep the copious groundwater out of the basement. today they are pouring gravel. i will know how to build a house after this, at least theoretically. is this voyeurism? how about what you are doing now? ha ha. don't go away. it's nice having you here.

new housemates

aren't they pretty? i like them.


there was the biggest raccoon ever sitting by the steps to my house when i got home tonight. it eyed me suspiciously, daring me to pass. i was quite daunted. i crept around the house and went in the back door. can a raccoon be a sign? of what? it's presence was insistent and otherworldly. once inside, i watched it from the living room window for awhile. then i went upstairs. when i came down several minutes later to get something from the kitchen the raccoon was gone, though there was an indent in the grass to prove it had been there.

yesterday slogged through edits on the no-name novel-in-progress. had a fun evening with the housemates. all three of us went to the gym together, and made supper afterwards. drank wine and explored the not-really-all-that-coincidental coincidences in our lives. i'm liking living with people.

today-- reading kevin chong's _baroque-a-nova_. did a little shopping. had supper with ashok and hiromi before they bomb off to kamloops tomorrow. and rita, who called this afternoon wanting to know, with some urgency, what marx meant by "socially productive forces." thank goodnesss i have a sociology degree... ashok has set up a series of mini-residencies in the loops for a bunch of writers. hiromi will be the first.

after supper, we ran into my friend nadine chambers, for the second time in two days. nadine is a talented writer/performer i've known since we were young things. she has a friday night ritual of dinner and cake at two local establishments i also frequent. she and ashok had a long chat about trinidad, where he is headed shortly, and where she spent a couple of years in high school. it's always interesting to see who the universe places in your path, and at what moment. nadine's presence makes sense. but what about that raccoon?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


lots of intervention from the classical world these past months. first it was achilles. now it's spartacus. there was the bookstore on saturday, where steve collis read. it has a new very beautiful space just doors down from the old location, which burned. (nero anywhere in sight?)

i got a call yesterday from herb at spartacus, and i was wondering what in dog's name he could be calling for, until i realized it was herb dasilva from spartacus gym, across the park, where i signed up about a week ago. i'd asked for him because he is the one trainer there who specializes in rehab. so i had a session with him tonight, to help me get back in shape after these patient months as the one-hoof wonder of the west. everything is tight and weak. let's not discuss it and pretend we did. but herb was great. very supportive and also really good at explaining technique, sometimes repeatedly, until i got it.

so what do an anarchist bookstore and an eastside gym have in common that they should adopt the same name? (i wonder how many of the same people they attract?)turns out spartacus was a thracian soldier captured by the romans and sold as a gladiator. he escaped, raised an army of rebel slaves and defeated two roman legions before a third roman army got him. those were the days of crucifixtion. apparently 6000 slaves were crucified and put on display as a warning against slave rebellion. there was a movie in the 70s, starring kirk douglas and directed by stanley's all coming together--- hollywood, body-building, political rebellion. i wonder if spartacus would have gone to spartacus the gym, spartacus the bookstore, both, or neither? once, of course, he escaped the romans a second time and joined the banale herd of the thracian middle class. the romance of the mind or the romance of the body? apparently i need both. but come the revolution...

just add water

more rain. i'm ready to start killing kittens.

cool events of the past week:

the opening of cindy mochizuki's "wake" at video in on thursday. it's a video installation piece about a murder at the pool on the pne grounds in vancouver, where japanese canadians were held during the war, in preparation for internment. there's a detective searching for the truth, and a witness who insists on the importance of memory, however fragmented, broken and inconsistent. very interesting in relation to recent psychoanalytic work on trauma and memory. also in terms of local history. it's a new take on internment history from a smart, sensitive young artist. worth checking out.

the launch of steve collis's _anarchive_ at the new spartacus books on saturday. engages the history of the spanish civil war, the anarchist revolution that erupted in the middle of it, and much of the experimentation in art at poetry at that moment.

it's great to be back in an environment where people are actively confronting the hard parts of history. i'll survive the rain.

after steve's reading, sophie, david, rita and i went to check out a potential venue for my writer-in-res reception early next month. then-- more fabulous late night snacks,this time at zakkushi on denman.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

geek day

The sun is out. I wasn't sure it was still there, so this is a great relief. We are one day short of having experienced the most rainy days in a row on record for Vancouver. The construction workers next door have laid the concrete foundation for the house. There's just one guy out there today. His hood is off. He looks happy.

Went to hear Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, and N. Katherine Hayles at UBC yesterday. Enjoyed the Krokers for a wide open riff on the problem of post-human subjectivity. Discussion on police/state surveillance of performance artists such as Critical Art Ensemble's Steve Kurtz (who was arrested under the Patriot Act while in the midst of work on a project interrogating new uses of the biological) and Steve Mann, the Toronto professor and cyborg whose electronic implants were forceably removed by Canadian airport security at the St. John's International Airport. Fun discussion about second-order postmodernism, marked by the emergence of the "remixed body," in which the nervous system is externalized-- ie technologized and social. They closed with a discussion of the biometric state, with all its intricate invasions of the body in its quest for perfect control. Lots of stuff, a bit hard to hold onto given the rate at which it was delivered. What made it productive for me was the juxtaposition of a wide range of arenas-- from conceptual art to the war on terror to popular music to medicine to computer science to feminism to Babylonian mythology, and the attempt to pull them together into a theory of subjectivity.

N. Katherine Hayles spoke very differently. Arguments laid out in Powerpoint and meticulously constructed and communicated. (I'm thinking very much in terms of pedagogical strategy these days. In my mind, both methods work. One generates excitement around the range at which it is possible to think, the other demonstrates how logic works.) Hayles illustrated the ways in digital and print culture in our contemporary moment are interconnected, and specifically how contemporary print is influenced by the digital. She sees books, in fact, as part of digital culture-- a particular form of output.

Afterwards, off to the Koerner Library (since we were up there) with Rita, to scope journals and new books. And then another marvellous culinary discovery-- the Modern Cafe on Dunbar. It's an okonomiyaki restaurant. Delicious. Though my robot leg did not like the slippery floor.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

it's been raining for 24 days straight. it's unpleasant enough inside, but do i ever feel for these guys, who are hard at work every weekday outside my window. i hear them yell to one another in cantonese as they hammer away in the rain and mud.

rime with reimer

hung out with nikki reimer at a cozy supper club on the drive last night. it's called "rime." trio ochs, an experimental group featuring saxophone, cello and dulcimer was playing. we ate turkish food. i was curious about a dish purported to come from an ottoman empire cookbook. the dish is made with grape molasses, orange zest, green apple and lamb. did not try it. ate kebabs made with pistachios. next time.

it's been a decadent eating adventure this week. went to my favorite vancouver restaurant, gyoza king, the night before with my friend lenny. his last night in the rain. gyoza king is a sort of snowboarder children's japanese nouveau cuisine place. i live for the tuna tataki. and salt grilled mackerel. have i ever missed the food here!

thank goodness i've also been productive so i needn't feel so guilty about my indulgences. i'm working away on the no name novel. can't come up with a title to save my life, but thanks to the comments of the diligent frances kruk, the gaps are slowly getting filled in.

i also had to move offices yesterday. not sure what happened there. but i now have a corner office that i share with my friend david chariandy, who is not teaching this semester. (david has what sounds like a very interesting novel in the works, and is on his way to trinidad to do research. go david!)

my physio has given me the go ahead to do yoga and go to the gym. so yesterday i went to my first ashtanga-based class (they call it power yoga here) at the gym across the park. it felt so great to practice. one more week in the aircast, aka my robot leg. almost human.

Monday, January 09, 2006

hair and other traces

why are people disgusted when they find a hair in their food? is it actually germs they fear, or the body of the cook? today i found a hair in the box of a prefab ikea drawer unit. i don't want to eat the unit. but who made all these uniform pieces? what happens to bodies paid to enact the movements of machines? or to repetitively operate machines, and have to move in accordance with the idiosyncracies of the machine? the individuality of the third world worker is constantly erased so that we can have uniform goods. there's a benjamin article about this somewhere.

my friend louise, who lives in england, has the same shelf as one i just bought last week. neal stephenson's burbclaves are real.

who counted all the screws and bolts in the plastic bag that came in my prefab package? they left a trace-- "60" or "09". was it satisfying to know that there was exactly the right number of each kind of wooden peg?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

gyoza night in lotusland

rita and tamotsu assembling gyoza. many friends and children participated in the making of these dumplings. there were a lot. after all was done, hiromi made a round of elvis onigiri (onigiri grilled in butter). i was too full to even have a bite, which says a lot because i love those things. we watched the hockey game (vancouver vs. calgary) as we ate. it was hard to know who to root for, though i admit my loyalties fell to calgary. afterwards we went to the opening of a show by an artist called liam wake at a venue called "blim", run by lenny's friend yuriko iga. quick stop for a drink (or rather, some tea) at a new place at main and 10th called "habit." it reminded me distinctly of husky house with its orange seats, 70s nouveau-retro post-soviet chic tiles and forest scene wallpaper. where were the pancakes with bad strawberry sauce and whipped butter? afterwards the die-hards went dancing. i went home to bed.

first dinner of the year at the goto/tongu house. i ate so much i had to lie down afterwards and make curmudgeon the rat-puppet do darth vader impressions.

Friday, January 06, 2006

wireless surrealist cyberpunk

that will be the genre descriptor for my new novel, which i can't seem to name. i wore two normal shoes yesterday, shopping on main street with rita. afterwards we drove back to my place (in the dark vancouver wet) and made spaghetti with putanesca sauce. (oh the trade off-- rain for food). played exquisite corpse with my room mate kevin, and my friend lenny who is here shooting a documentary called "tailor made" about an old chinatown tailorshop and the two elderly men who run it.

the day before, roy took me up to sfu to meet people, get paper work in motion, and set me up in my office. i have a lovely view of indian arm and the snowy mountains behind.

i am learning the city again. everything is in a different order.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

hippie multi vegan culti

i ate sushi tonight (today? tonight? it's all dark and wet regardless) at one of the many sushi places that populate the drive. they are mostly mom and pop operations, run by chinese or korean immigrants. i was sitting there, slurping my miso soup, when a cute young white girl walked in wearing a baggy toque, thick glasses and a funky coat. in a loud, determined voice she ordered avocado roll, yam tempura roll and a couple of inari. "please make sure there's no mayonnaise in any of the maki," she said to the woman who runs the shop.

"maki?" said the woman.

"you know," said the girl. "rolls. please make sure there's no mayonnaise."

"no mayonnaise in the rolls," said the woman, nodding gravely.

oh yes. at so many levels i know i am in vancouver.

Monday, January 02, 2006

fallow la la la

a houseguest of rita's had turned the ringer off on her phone. so i was calling, and she was waiting for my call, both activities in vain. i about to take the bus when she called me. good thing that mishap belongs to the old year. so we were late-ish, but not so late. ashok greeted us at the door in a shiny copper shirt and a backwards baseball cap with elephants all over it, looking ready for trouble. it was great to reconnect with vancouver folk, many of whom i hadn't seen in years, and many of whom are practically legendary figures in my constellations of vancouver arts, writing and politics. long conversation with cheryl l'hirondelle, kirsten mcallister and a few others about the role of body politics in the thinking of younger students and activists who get the globalization thing, but are fully disdainful of any discussions around identity. may be it's ok. may be it really is over. as i've been saying once you get in, there's no escape from the master-slave dialectic. could there be circumvention? it was fun and interesting to talk to people who were around when these questions were burning.

woke late today, checked horoscopes for the new year and drank tea made with water from my new electric kettle. did a bit of yoga, including a few modified warrior poses, which felt great. i'm aching for a full practice. the achilles tendon was twangy, not in a painful way, but i really have no desire to re-rerupture it, so backed off.

tackled the new novel. mostly went through edits and comments generously provided by the absent frances kruk. they are so good and helpful. eager to get rolling on projects. for me, body and writing practice are very connected. patience is not my forte.

supper tonight with rita. we made spaghetti with ground venison instead of ground beef. "fallow venison" said the package. what on earth does that mean?