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Monday, February 20, 2006

Gordon Sheppard (1937-2006)

Gordon Sheppard passed away Sunday afternoon.

Visitation will take place on Thursday, February 23rd from 2 to 5pm and from 7 to 9pm in the evening, and again Friday the 24th at 9am. All this will be at Alfred Dallaire Memoria on St. Laurent and Rachel in the downstairs space where Sheppard had his photographic exhibition of Watervisions last summer. The funeral will take place Friday 11am at St. George's Church on Peel and LaGauchetiere. (online guestbook)

View some of my photos of the reception, after the funeral services. I didn't take many. The whole funeral was filmed as were the last several months apparently. Look for a documentary film as directed by Francine Pelletier, journalist and filmmaker.

'His brilliance broke down barriers'
Gordon Sheppard was an award-winning filmmaker, photographer and author perhaps best known for HA!, his book about the suicide of Quebec literary luminary and separatist Hubert Aquin.
Sheppard died of cancer Sunday at the Montreal General Hospital at age 68.
"He was at the front ranks of whatever he was doing, be it filmmaking, photography, writing, or restoring and renovating a Victorian home," veteran Montreal film producer Harry Gulkin said. "He was at an extreme level of being there, no matter what he was into.
"Gordon was not a shy person. His brilliance broke down barriers. He not only moved but was accepted in French circles.
"He had a facility and an ability to get into the culture. He mastered the French language, both spoken and written. While he retained a certain order of personal priorities - he was a strong federalist all his life - his brilliance broke down barriers. He counted separatists among his closest friends."
Gordon Harry Sheppard was born in Montreal on April 9, 1937. He grew up in Toronto, where his father was president of IBM Canada. Sheppard obtained a bachelor of arts degree in political science and economics from the University of Toronto in 1957, then spent three years studying history at Oxford University, where he obtained his master's degree.
Montreal Gazette paid subscription
Ron Burnett, B.A., M.A. (Film and Com.), Ph.D. (Com.), McGill University, muses on the work of Hubert Aquin in a couple of his recent weblog posts.

Toronto Star Obit. (link is already bad as of 10 March 2006.)
Globe & Mail Obit.
Marilyn Gear-Pilling on Gordon Sheppard.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Life on a Press Pass

Catchy title for a book on photojournalism, eh? Going out for a trip to the real country this afternoon - in Merrickville - to see Mr. Lynn Ball talk about his book, Life on a Press Pass co-authored with his brother, Doug. The talk was presented by the Heritage Merrickville Foundation and the Merrickville and District Historical Society. From the first few minutes of hearing him speak, it's very apparent that Lynn does not have a jaded bone in his body. His stories have an excitement about them that take you along for the ride and leave you wanting to read more. The photos speak for themselves, but the accompanying text adds another dimension that is often humorous and sometimes poignant. More photos in my gallery. Read brief intro to book as appears on

Lynn Ball exhibiting his "museum piece" 1950 Leica 111F film camera which he used to capture the departure of Pierre Trudeau's casket from Parliament Hill (page 152).

Lynn talks about his "$1,000 Blue Heron" photo (page 162). Serendipity in the mist lands Lynn a thousand dollar bonus from boss.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

what is the purpose of poetry?

Amatoritsero (Ama) Ede, Writer-In-Residence, Carleton University, editorializes on this very question. An academic approach but food for thought.

The avant garde is irrational in mood. It is anti-enlightenment generally even though it appropriates empiric tools like arithmetic in its permutation-combination of choice words. In its irrational postmordern mood it hybridises language with other interactive media, it incorporates the computer and its dynamics – all in an effort, ironically, to communicate even though it fails at the end of the experiments and becomes simply subjective art mostly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Book Nerd

This is Jennifer Whiteford, author of Grrrl (Gorsky Press, 2006). Another photo or two of her can be found on in the poets and writers section of my gallery. This photograph was taken at the New Octopus Bookstore where she works as a bookish stock mistress. I believe this photo is a great addition to my gallery where there is a predominant pictorial glut of old men with beards...

I wanted to achieve something similar to the Robert Mitchum photo where he portrays Harry Powell in the film The Night of the Hunter - one of his hands is tattooed with "LOVE" on his knuckles, the other tattooed "HATE". I originally wanted to incorporate the title of her book as a knuckle tattoo, but the letter 'l' in Grrrl would not fit on one hand. She came up with the idea of having 'book' and 'nerd', and that's what I drew on her fingers with a sharpie. Jennifer told me, "It's funny, because one of the reasons I chose the photo I did for the cover of the book was because the girl in it has 'rock' and 'star' tattooed on her knuckles."

Jennifer will be reading this Wednesday evening along with Festri, Indri, Jess Carfagnini, and Sean Zio as part of Ina Julien's quirky zine, the dyketionnary vol.1. Lookout Bar 7pm.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Who Says Canadian Literature is Boring?

A local bookseller, Richard Fitzpatrick, gave some sage advice during a recent interview with CKCU's Nigel Beale (of The Biblio File, aired Monday's 6-7am EST). He suggested to those seriously persuing book collecting as a hobby or a profession was to "handle as many books as possible in order to gain as much knowledge as possible."

Umm... Taking his advice to heart in a recent purchase at his bookstore, it was not too difficult for me to add Max Braitwaite's paperback edition of A Privilege and a Pleasure to my CanLit collection. Braithwaite's 1973 novel was published by J.J. Douglas Limited and reprinted by PaperJacks two years later. The soft cover book's design was done by Peter Maher with cover photo by Peter Paterson. The original hard cover's image differed, but not too significantly. Instead of a photograph, it was done as a black and white illustration of a man and a woman's head along with drawing of a nude woman, stretched out somewhat modestly and lying full length along the page. The PaperJacks edition features a nude woman along with a priest in the background. Cutting edge stuff for the 70s, and especially so for CanLit I would say.

I believe it's important to underline that this is not erotica fiction, as one may be quick to conclude from viewing the (profane?) book cover. It is a book of fiction from the author of the humorous Why Shoot the Teacher? (1965), which was eventually made into a film of the same title in 1976. Because I see my weblog as a 'family-friendly' place to visit, I bowdlerized the paperback image below with some very Canadian maple leaves similar to what Susan Musgrave did with her recently published memoir of sorts, You're In Canada Now...Motherfucker [Oops! The censors forgot to get that one] when she placed maple leaf stickers on one of her books in a (futile/tongue-in-cheek) attempt to bowdlerize her book's title.

I would like to comment on the novel, A Privilege and a Pleasure, but as a "serious" book collector I do not wish to open the cover because it would further damage the book's spine. ;-)

Max Braithwaite, a Stephen Leacock Memorial Award winner, was born in Nokomis, Saskatchewan in 1911 and died in 1995 at his home in Brighton, Ontario. I do have a high-res uncensored photo in case you were wondering. And, oh yes, I do take credit card payments via It is likely that you wont know this 'cause you simply stopped reading this rather long weblog post long ago just to ogle at the photo below you cheeky monkey.

Interesting in viewing more books in the same naughty theme? Cf. the following works of mainstream fiction:

  • Hugh Hood, A Game of Touch (1970, ECW Press; original ed.; buttocks of a man or woman?)
  • Brian Moore, I am Mary Dunne (1969 ed., soft cover, A Bantam Book)
  • John Metcalf, Going Down Slow (1972, hardcover, illustration by Hitoshi Nishi)
  • Marian Engel, Bear (1977, Soft cover, Seal Books, colour illustration)
  • Hollis Hampton-Jones, Vicious Spring (2003, hard cover, Riverhead Book; not Canadian)
  • Terry Griggs, The Lusty Man and Rogue's Wedding (1995, 2003 respectively, both soft cover eds.; bonus points for her!)
  • Lisa Zeidner, Layover (2000, soft cover, Perennial, not Canadian)
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2005, UK edition anyway; not Canadian)
  • John Updike, Villages (2004, Ingres painting, The Turkish Bath; not Canadian)
  • Thomas Berger, The Regiment of Women (1973, similarly 'bastardized' version of Ingres painting, The Turkish Bath; not Canadian)

...and I am sure the list is waaaay longer that I care to post here. These are just some of the books within my reach.) Got more titles? Let me know.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Blog About Town Valentine Style

For those cultures which celebrate St. Valentine's Day, the exchange of gifts between spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends seems obligatory. The first gift - a book - I received from my girlfriend on St. Valentine's Day in 1995 was, Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise and Other Imponderables by David Feldman. Classified under Reference/Humour, the book answers questions like "why can't they make newspapers that don't smudge?" and "why hot dogs come ten to a package while hot dog buns come in eights?"

Given we had only been dating one month, a book was a safe, neutral gift. I recall giving her something more conventional like a dozen red roses and a box of Monsieur Felix and Mr. Norton chocolate cookies. Needless to say, my ulterior motive was to be able to share in the delight of the cookies. Looking at that book again, 11 years later, I see she inscribed it to me somewhat cautiously: "May this book provide you with moments of joy... xoxo". Moments of Joy?! Surely, I merited more than just x's and o's?

It got better, however. Three months later, the second book I received from her was A Poet to His Beloved: The Early Love Poems of W.B. Yeats. She brought two copies back with her as a memento of her recent trip to Dublin, Ireland. Only lately did she tell me that she bought one for me and one copy for herself in the event that our relationship ended prematurely. "Thinking of you in Dublin! Love, Julie" went the inscription. Finally, the word 'love' made it real, and it was printed in ink. Today all three books sit on the same shelf but the cookies and flowers are but a memory. We eventually married three years later and still carry on the tradition of gift exchange on St. Valentine's Day. I no longer get books, however, as I buy plenty of them myself already.

Speaking of gifts, I recently brought home another gift of sorts - a painting from the poet and artist bill bissett. The poet and publisher jwcurry invited bissett to Ottawa for a reading. His artwork, to me, seems reminiscent of a Keith Haring painting in that it has the short, intense blue brush strokes on a bold lemon-yellow background. It's brilliant. The small problem, like the above-mentioned hot dog conundrum, is that the painting is on a 9 x 12 inch canvas. You may or may not know that it is nearly impossible to find a suitable frame to fit this size of canvas. I did eventually find a limited choice of black, white, or metallic frames, but all were horrible-looking for this painting.

I was told by sales staff in several art stores that this canvas was a non-standard standard size.
"Good luck in finding a frame off the rack." "They're discontinuing this size frame" some even told me. I can have one custom made but it would, of course, cost extra. The oxymoronic description of the frame size aptly describes the poetry and art of bill bissett: a non-standard standard poet-artist. An online biography, or as bissett would have it, 'biographee', he writes "ium wanting 2 xtend th boundareez uv th langwage n th form." And he does it like no one else.

Those still searching for a different Valentine's gift this year and who are poetically inclined I suggest attending the upcoming Tree Reading Series on Tuesday, February 14th at 7:30pm. Rhonda Douglas, the new director of the reading series asks us, "In the throes of new love? Living the routines of old love? Wish you'd never heard of love?" If you answered 'yes, her reading series team are inviting Ottawa to bring your own work or your favourite poems from someone else. Love and anti-love poems will be the theme of the evening in this all open mike Tree event.
originally published in the Ottawa Citizen in a slightly different edit.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shani Mootoo

One goal of Carleton University's 2006 Munro Beattie Lecture is to act as bridge between academic and public audiences. Judging by the attendence in the Azrieli Theatre, with a good mix of students and what looked to be the general public, it works. Introduced by Sarah Casteel, the resident 'Shani Mootoo expert', Shani's lecture was titled "In the Temple of the Recurring Dream: Notes on Becoming a Writer".

She told several stories on how she approaches her art and her writing. Clearly, her works acknowledge the importance of the artist's "freedom to self-define", and she resists being kept in any pigeon hole that critics are wont to label. She does admit that her work contains elements of very personal experiences which, when she is honest with her art and writing, leaves her raw and exposed. "People can usually tell when I have lied in my work", she told the audience.

To me anyway, Mootoo is the poster-child of the author who is imbued with the "labels" so many people (straight men?) groan about when they hear them: the sexually repressed sailor-suit wearing girl child, who was once a victim of incest, who grew up to become a lesbian writer/artist, born in one country, raised in another, now living in Canada, who writes about place, time, gender, with stories rooted in race and in the Canadian immigrant story. She's the whole package. However, she does it very well apparently. Carleton University has two courses which feature Mootoo's work to date, one undergraduate and one graduate-level course.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Poetry In Motion

For the second time since 1999, the work of local Ottawa poets will appear on OC Transpo buses.

On Thursday afternoon, Michelle Desbarats [left] takes a ride on the poetry bus along with all the other selected poets and other supporters of the program including Melanie Rutledge [right] Head of Writing and Publishing, Canada Council. And if you look hard enough, another transpoetry poet and recent Carleton University graduate, John Cloutier stands at top left of photo.

John Cloutier tells me that he has a enough poems for a book which he's currently assembling and he is ready to shop it around to willing publishers.

Along with Michelle, who represents Glebe, there a dozen poets in all who were also selected to appear on the inside of more than 800 buses in Ottawa. The others include Stephen Brockwell, John Cloutier, Heather Cullen, Christine Dickson, Susan Robertson, Anita Utas, Margaret Michele Cook, Nicole Champeau, Jacques Flamand, Myriam Legault, and Denyse B. Mercier.

Brockwell reads Brockwell


Ottawa author Mark Frutkin has a new web presence @
I love the fact that website designer/student/poet/renaissance woman, Wanda O'Connor, incorporated the Japanese characters, , into his site which represents booklover.

Mr. Frutkin is the author of three books of poetry and seven of fiction, including Atmosphere Apollinaire, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, the Trillium and the Ottawa Book Award. His novel, Fabrizio's Return, will be released next week, and will be launched officially at Library & Archives Canada on 22 March 2006.

bookstore for sale

Speaking of booklovers... After 8 years (3 years onWellington Street) Eric Letts of The Weekend Reader, is downsizing his book business. The Weekend Reader (1315 Wellington) is officially for sale and looking for a bibliophile to take over as a hobby or a full-time venture. 4000 square feet with close to 35,000 books is all up for grabs. Interested? Call Eric @ 878 7680 or email

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

buses, poetry and lectures

Transpoetry Launch: February 9 at 1:30 pm. Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. West, Jean Pigott Hall, Main Floor. Meet the poets then get on the poetry bus. Neat!

The Capital Poetry Collective proudly presents Capital Slam: The BlackHistory Month Edition on Friday, February 10. Doors open at 8 p.m. at The Gap of Dunloe 263 Bank Street. Feature is Andrea Thompson from Toronto.

2006 Munro Beattie Lecture: February 10 at 8:00 pm. Carleton University, 101 Azrieli Theatre with Shani Mootoo: "In the Temple of the Recurring Dream: Notes on Becoming a Writer" free and open to the public

Kwame Dawes: Library and Archives of Canada, 395 Wellington Street., Room A
Telling Our Stories: Celebrating Ourselves; Voices in the African Diaspora;
Weekend Pass $20; Individual Events $10 each
February 10 - Welcome reception, reading and book signing- 6:00 pm
February 11 - Reggae & The Art of Bob Marley: 7:30 pm
February 12 - Writers' workshop: 9:30am-2:30pm

(Many, many other cool lit events happening, too. See 'events' @

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Listen to Lauzon

Kathryn Hunt's Blog posts a link to Dave Lauzon's December 18th's performance at the Dusty Owl reading series. It was the best intimate musical performance I've seen in 2005. But that's not really saying much as I don't get out to bars for the live music. Thanks for the link Kathryn!

The actual link to the twelve or so tracks is on [Look on the left side of the page a couple of page down clicks for the header 'Live Music": Dave Lauzon Dec.18, 2005 Ottawa, ON.] I say twelve or so because the first track is basically just an introduction. Give it a listen; his guitar melodies are truly mesmerizing. Apparently all the songs were performed for the first time in public, save for track 3 (Betty's Funeral). Betty was a chicken by the way...

Friday, February 03, 2006

pizza mason

julie and i went out for a pizza tonight in the south end of ottawa.
it was delish' but the experience made me queasy.
i know that fingers were invented before forks and all that crap and pizzas are supposed to be made by hand.
how else is one supposed to make a pizza?
but i made note of two things that went on in the restaurant that turned my stomach.
isn't there some sort of (by)law about handling food and money...
at the same time?
there must be.
touch a bill - wash your hands - touch food.
that's how it should work.
oh yeah, then there was the pizza maker who was ladling out the tomato sauce on the dough with a big spoon from the big pre-prepared bucket of red stuff.
must of got some on his ham-fisted hands somehow and he then proceeded to scrape his paws off into said bucket of sauce like a master mason's trowel lest any of it go to waste.
yeah, who needs to rinse when you can recycle with a deft scrape or two?
he did pound on the cheese like it was going out of style, however.
I have two slices left over.
Want some?

canal cars

in the rain
in the rain
there were more cars
in the rain
on the canal
in the rain
than skaters
in the rain