Wednesday, September 27, 2006

lama spama

my friend susanda just sent a quite lovely mantra that is supposed to have originated with the dalai lama. it's a sort of general guidelines for life that made sense to me in a gentle sort of way. so i passed it on to a few people i care about, not even kinda-sorta everyone, but just the ones who i was fairly sure would like it, or be amused by it. i'm not in the habit of mass email (well, except for that big change-of-address one i did the day before yesterday which was most protestantly pragmatic.) anyway, i felt weird about it afterwards because it's still spam. not that i haven't been appreciating those very thrilling body enhancement ones from the likes guevera p. revolution (poor che, how you've been used.) what do you think? do you believe in mass email? under what circumstances? i used to, for instance, always sign and pass on petitions, but now i find them so annoying. and it seems others do too, because i've seen fewer of them.

this moment in life has given me much opportunity to visit both my angels and my demons (holy! it seems i haven't escaped a judeo-christian upbringing in spite of all my parents' best efforts!) if you can use spam to help yourself and others, shouldn't you?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

the controversial roy miki

Wow, some great things are happening for my peeps these days! Roy Miki has just been awarded the Sterling Prize for Controversy. Congratulations, Roy!

There's a celebratory event on October 11, details below:

The Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of

In 1993 Nora and Ted Sterling established a prize at Simon Fraser University to honor "work which challenges complacency and that provokes controversy or contributes to its understanding."

Please join us for presentation of the 2006
Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy

Roy Miki

Recognizing his long pursuit of justice and fairness in seeking redress for the wrongs inflicted upon Canadians of Japanese descent during the Second World War. A professor of English at Simon Fraser University and winner of the 2002 Governor-General's award for poetry, Dr. Miki will read from, and discuss, his work.

Transformations: The language of redress

Wednesday, October 11, 7 pm
Reception follows
SFU Vancouver
Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue
580 West Hastings Street (enter from Seymour St. courtyard)

Sponsored by the Vice-president, Academic.
This event is free but reservations are required:
call 604.291.5100 or email

new sfu writer-in-residence

Fred Wah comes in this month as the new writer-in-residence at SFU. Congratulations, Fred! He'll be available weekly for consultations.

There's a special reception for him on Wednesday:

Special Reception for Fred Wah - September 27th

The reception will feature a welcome by President Michael Stevenson, followed by a reading by Fred Wah. It is open to all members of the Simon Fraser University community as well as the Vancouver arts community.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Harbour Centre, Simon Fraser University
515 West Hastings Street at Seymour
7:30 - 9:30 pm
Please RSVP by September 25 at:

More info:
SFU Writer-in-Residence

unboxing shadows

My friend, the extraordinarily talented artist Cindy Mochizuki, has just finished her MFA from the Fine Arts Department at SFU. Her graduation project is called Kanashibari Shadow Archive. It includes little snippets of interviews with family members who were interned by the Canadian Government during WWII, racist cartoons, evidence of the confiscation of property and the artist's own quirky animated responses. This website is part of a larger installation that can currently be viewed at

Bartlett Exhibition and Performance Space
611 Alexander Street, Third Floor
September 21-26, 2006
11am -5pm

Check out the online part here:
kanashibari shadow archive

Saturday, September 23, 2006

travelling the interior

Just back from a working road trip through the interior with Roy Miki, Ashok Mathur and Ashok's dad, Parshottam Mathur. Roy and I were the very first readers ever at CiCACs-- Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada, which is Ashok's major project for the Canada Research Chair he currently holds at Thompson Rivers University (aka TRU, which for some reason I always want to call TRL...) Small but very engaged audience. Long, interesting conversation aboutt he politics of form. (Much slagging of the novel-- poor novel, I still love you, in spite of your fascist tendencies.) I had a chat afterwards with a bright student called Natasha, who was just finishing her BA, and trying to decide whether to pursue graduate work or to go into Education and teach elementary school for awhile. Her heart was so clearly with the work with young people that the answer seemed obvious. But it is a struggle, and one I remember as quite agonizing. But now it seems to clear to me. Feed the heart or you will lose it and become a robot like Jason Christie... ;-)

Drove through the old TB Sanitorium (which looked strangely like private school grounds and made me think of Hailsham in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let me Go), then dropped Roy at the teeny tiny Kamloops Airport.

Next morning, breakfast at Hello Toast! and a visit to the Kamloops Art Gallery to view the extraordinary work of a young ceramist (Ashok insists it is "ceramist" and not "ceramicist"-- still sounds strange to me-- I think I need to poll a few practitioners and see what they prefer) called Brendan Tang. Photos included here.

Then on to the exciting metropolitan centre of Kelowna. Lovely dinner and some nice Okanagan wine with hosts Nancy Holmes and Anne Fleming. Afterwards, Ashok and I read at UBC-O. Nancy gave a very thoughtful intro, borrowing from my "Political Animals" essay in the Broadview Anthology of Expository Prose. Ashok and I decided, at the last minute, to experiment with reading form, and went up together, reading snippets from our work in a sort of pass-the-hot-potato kind of way. It was fun to do. We've known each other so long, and been engaged in parallel communities for so long, that somehow in between the banter a sort of history got articulated.

Next morning Ashok, Parshottam and I paid a visit to the ornate, faux-Italianate vinyard Mission Hill, where we had a little breakfast tasting, and bought a few bottles. Here's a pic from that. Happy Birthday, Ashoky.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

butterfly dreaming

Went to see David Khang’s performance “Mediamorphosis” at The Western Front last night. Publicity materials talk about the transformation of experience through mediatization. (Hello Blogger!) The artist performs under a mosquito net, behind a screen with an array of monitors positioned in front of it. There is a camera in the mosquito net room so we can “see” what he is doing. He is wrapped in a swath of white cloth, looking monk-like, tending to a case of monarch chysalides and butterflies. At different moments the monitors and screen display both real time and pre-recorded video of the artist piercing his tongue with a needle, binding an enormous tongue (beef?-- probably its origin isn't nearly as important as its size and fleshiness. yum! uh...) that hangs out of his mouth to the rest of his body, a brushstroke circle at the moment of closure, live monarch butterflies discovered inside a hole in a book and tethered to the inside of the book by long black threads, human teeth embedded in flesh (tongue) that pulsates as though there are lungs beneath it, breathing. In another video segment, the artist slits the giant tongue open, inserts a calligraphy brush into the slit and sutures it shut. With the ink-soaked tongue he paints/writes on a giant piece of paper spread across the floor.

Mediatized yes, but there is so much more going on than that. There is a visceral recognition of the violence in closing the gap between media and experience—the brush in the tongue suggests a kind of hope for closing the gap between speech and writing, but the horror of such an act is palpable. There is a strange visual equation of the chrysalides (32 butterflies) with teeth (32 in a normal mouth). What if our teeth held pupae that could transform into something winged and lively? At the end of the performance, Khang wraps himself completely with the white cloth, and is strung up by his feet—a chrysalis containing a man (dreaming he is a butterfly?) The poetic circle is completed—- perhaps our teeth contain little homuncular versions of ourselves, sleeping, waiting to emerge.

In other news, here’s details on the talk Ashok Mathur and I are doing in Kelowna:

September 21, 7:30 pm
Art 103
UBC Okanagan
3333 University Way

We’ll read a little, and talk about our practices and concerns. The event is sponsored by the Canada Council and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBC-O as part of a series called The Lake.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Tobogganing the Okanagan

Or speaking there at least. Wednesday September 20 at the Centre for Innovation in Cultural and the Arts at Thompson Rivers University, with Roy Miki, and on September 21 at UBC-O in Kelowna, with Ashok Mathur.

Ashok hosts Roy and I at TRU and sends these details:

Renovations at the Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada (CiCAC) are now complete, and to mark this occasion we are hosting two writers on Wednesday, Sept. 20th. Larissa Lai and Roy Miki are both poets, novelists, and critical theorists, and they will be reading from their recent work at this unofficial inaugural CiCAC event. We will have an official launch of the Centre later in the year.

The event is free and open to everyone.

3:30 pm
Wednesday, Sept 20
@ the Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada (CiCAC)
Old Main 1487, TRU

Readings by Larissa Lai and Roy Miki

fruit chips, electronic blips

There was an interview on CBC Radio this morning with the infamous impresario Malcolm McLaren who manufactured one of Britain's earliest boy bands, The Sex Pistols. (I guess you could argue that The Beatles were a manufactured boy band... May be it goes back even further than that. Rock geeks out there?) His latest project is a Beijing-based girl band called the Wild Strawberries, who premiered in Florence last month performing a punked-out version of Hendrix's Foxy Lady, with sounds borrowed from old Gameboys and other early electronic games, an addition which McLaren claims has spawned a new genre called "chip music." Much talk about the innocence and naivite of Chinese punk culture, as a pale imitation of a much hipper late 70s early 80s British version. Grrr. What if it is just different? Then again, may be that's just a handy, irritating spin in true McLaren style. In a recent interview with The Guardian, he said he preferred working with people to working with inert materials, like Damien Hirst's dead shark. "The only problem is that people don't like being used." Well, that's right. And in the meantime, what about the members of Wild Strawberries? May be they are robots. But robots have feelings too.
Hey, do you remember that moment in the seventies when Hostess put out a range of fruit flavoured potato chips? I remember grape, lime and orange. Was there strawberry too?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Turning Points

It's my birthday today, and man, do I feel old. Definitely too old to tell you how old. I think I'll go buy myself a copy of Ron Sexsmith's newish album Time Being as a gift to self-- what a great title, given my recent (rather retro) interest in ontology and the multiplicity of time.

Two items arrived in the mail yesterday: a parcel pick-up notice which I'm pretty sure is for the electric toothbrush I bought on E-bay to keep my long teeth clean, and my contributor's copy of Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literatures in English, edited by Smaro Kamboureli. It's put out by Oxford. Does this make me canonical? Ack! What can that mean? I'll spend the day walking on the beach, I think, and pondering my entry into the corridors of power. I guess I'd rather wander the corridors of power than the prison house of language.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Authentic Happiness

What is authentic happiness? I'm passing up the opportunity to see the Dalai Lama this afternoon, who is in town to open the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. One dear friend of mine, currently visiting from Miami, was suspicious about the claim to authenticity, and in fact, I notice that the PR people have changed some of the original publicity for the talk from "Authentic Happiness" to "Cultivating Happiness." Another friend, while cheerfully mixing a mid-afternoon strawberry daiquiri, said all you need is to be in the presence of the Dalai Lama, and you feel happy. Where does happiness belong? In the head? The body? The heart? Or like the name "Montague" not in any part belonging to a man (or woman)... More at

I think instead I'll go to hear Sabine Bitter and Adriana Kuiper speak as part of the show Architecture and Disaster, now on in the gallery at the Western Front. The show looks at the fetishization of fear and disaster through the built environment.

You see the dilemma though? What if critical practice leads altogether in the wrong direction? Not because it is incorrect, illogical or unethical, but because it engages the wrong parts of the person? Or the wrong conception of how the person is organized? (What if it isn't discrete?)

In other news, a few publications have appeared in the last bit: My short story "I Love Liver: A Romance" just came in The Year's Best Science Fiction. A little slice of "Sybil Unrest" (from the section Rita Wong and I have affectionately, though temporarily, been dubbing "The Empire Strikes Back" or "The Two Towers") came out in The Golden Handcuffs Review, in a poetry section edited by Jacqueline Turner, and in the company of such luminaries as Meredith Quartermain, Peter Quartermain, Jeff Derksen and Steve Collis. Finally, it seems the New York Review of Science Fiction has published a review of When Fox Is a Thousand, which I have yet to see, having let my subscription lapse over the course of the summer's mayhem. Jennifer Stevenson is kindly sending me her copy.