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19 December 03: Northern Lion Gold Corp. has received the results of the Phase II exploration program at its Haveri gold project in Finland.

The program consisted of a three-dimensional (3D), induced polarization (IP) survey, carried out by SJ Geophysics Ltd, Vancouver, B.C., in October, 2003. The survey, on north-south lines spaced 100 m apart, employed a modified pole-dipole array. A total of 28.2 line-km were surveyed, covering an area approximately 1.2 km by 2.3 km. Data collected were processed by SJ Geophysics using proprietary inversion software to yield a highly visual, readily-usable portrayal of resistivity and IP (chargeability) information.

The program has identified a broad, NNE trending region of low resistivity, up to 750 m wide and more than 2 km long. The region encompasses a number of areas of anomalous chargeability response, several of which exhibit significant depth (in excess of 200 m). Four of the known mineralized zones (Haveri, Shaft, Sankari, Haveri North) appear to correlate well with anomalous chargeability and a number of similar features have been identified that require further investigation.

In addition, the program has identified a prominent, arcuate chargeability anomaly, approximately 700 m across, which partially encloses a marked resistivity low, located on the Ansomaki claim, in the center of the Haveri claim block. In the mid-1970's, Outokumpu OY completed two diamond drill holes within this anomaly, both of which encountered elevated gold values over significant widths (1.3 gr Au/tonne over 11.0 m and 8.0 gr Au/tonne over 5.4 m). The Company owns 100% of the recently-acquired Ansomaki and Ylojarvi claims, free of royalties.

The results of the Phase II program are being correlated with the extensive Haveri data set that the Company compiled in its recently-completed Phase I exploration program. This information will be used to plan a campaign of at least 5,000 m of diamond drilling that is expected to commence in late January, 2004. The drilling will test newly identified targets and further define and upgrade the present inferred mineral resources in the Haveri Mine/Shaft and Peltosaari Zones.

The Company's exploration activities on the Haveri project and the preparation of this news release are under the supervision of John R. Fraser, P.Geo (B.C.), Vice-President, Exploration, for Northern Lion Gold Corp., a "Qualified Person" as defined under National Instrument 43-101.

The Haveri project is located 175 kilometers north of Helsinki, in Finland, a mining-friendly and infrastructure-rich member of the European Union. Northern Lion is fully funded to earn its 70% interest in the Haveri project.

1 November 03: TNR Gold Corp. has amended the Opikiegen Property agreement between itself, Slam Exploration and Pure Gold Minerals. According to the amended agreement, TNR will have the right to acquire a 50-per-cent interest in the project by spending a total of $500,000 over the first three years on exploration and project maintenance including taxes. Of this amount TNR will commit to spend $250,000 on or before Oct. 15, 2004, and spend an additional $250,000 on or before Oct. 15, 2005. TNR will issue to Slam and Pure Gold an additional 300,000 post-consolidation common shares over the term of the amended agreement.

1 November 03: The Ministry of Trade and Industry of Finland has granted to Northern Lion Gold Corp. the Ansomaki mineral claim, located adjacent to the company's Haveri claims. The Ansomaki claim covers 54 hectares and was held previously by Outokumpu Oyj. The Northern Lion geological team believes the Ansomaki property to be strategically important. Although there is only a small amount of data available at this time, the property hosts some encouraging magnetic targets, which are in line with trends from the company's adjacent Haveri claims. Also intriguing, are the results of historical drilling done by Outokumpu at Ansomaki in the mid-1970s. One drill hole encountered 0.1 per cent Cu and eight grams per tonne Au over 5.4 metres, and appears to be related to an electromagnetic anomaly identified in airborne data acquired by the company earlier this year.

The company's geological team is currently on site at Haveri conducting a 3-D IP geological survey that will form the basis of target selection for the company's impending drill program. The Ansomaki claim will be surveyed during this geophysical program.

Northern Lion's Haveri gold project is located 175 kilometres north of Helsinki, Finland, a mining-friendly and infrastructure-rich member of the European Union. Northern Lion is fully financed to earn a 70-per-cent interest in the Haveri project.

29 September 03:  Northern Lion Gold's five-million-unit private placement has now been completed. The agents, led by Pacific International Securities, have fully exercised the 15-per-cent overallotment option, bringing the total gross proceeds of this offering to $4,312,500. A total of 5.75-million units have been issued. Northern Lion management is very pleased at the response to this placement. In particular, the strong institutional investment is a real endorsement of the merits of the Haveri gold project.

The proceeds of this financing are sufficient to finance all of the expenditures required to earn a 70-per-cent interest in the Haveri property, in southern Finland. With the company fully financed, its geological team is now able to focus clearly on the company's goal of establishing the Haveri project as a viable multimillion-ounce gold deposit. A state-of-the-art three-dimensional IP geophysical survey is currently being implemented with groundwork set to begin in early October. The results of this survey, combined with continuing analysis and interpretation of a vast catalogue of historical data, will be the basis for an aggressive exploration drill program expected to begin early in the new year.

Management continues to view Finland as highly prospective for new mineral exploration. In addition, Northern Lion's experience to date working with Finnish government officials and with the Geological Survey of Finland has been excellent. While it is focused on Haveri, the company's geological team continues to assess other exploration opportunities within the Fennoscandian shield.

Northern Lion's stock closed at $0.99, up $0.07, upon release of the news. 

See the company's slideshow.

4 September 03: TNR Gold Corp. continues to get joint-venture partners for its Argentina properties: 

The company has signed a Letter of Intent  with Secureview Systems Inc.  to enter into a formal agreement by which Secureview will acquire an option to purchase a 50% working interest in TNR’s Las Carachas Property in Argentina.

The Las Carachas Property consists of 10,000 acres located in the Andes mountain range in the northern portion of the San Juan province of Argentina The property is an accessible (by road) project in the heart of the Maragunga Belt.  Detailed sampling has identified strongly anomalous gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper values.  Three distinct exploration targets have been identified: high-grade polymetallic fissure veins, volcanic hosted disseminated mineralization and a porphyry copper/gold system.  Further drill target definition and drilling is contemplated.

This Letter of Intent exemplifies TNR’s program of aggressively seeking joint-venture partners to fund exploration on prospective assets in its sizable project portfolio.

20 August 03: Kwantlen University College's Fall term starts September 2.  I will be teaching classes in the Applied Communication Department and the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program.  This will be my first time teaching in the latter, and my colleagues have been their generous selves in supplying me with insight and materials.

23 July 03: Read Northern Lion Gold Corp.'s updated factsheet.  The company is trading near its year high.

17 July 03:  After a review of recently acquired geophysical data, Northern Lion Gold Corp. (formerly Vision Gate Ventures Ltd.) has applied for, and has been granted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Finland, two separate nine-square-kilometre reservations of land adjoining, to the east and west, its existing Haveri property at Viljakkala.

The Company has completed its initial review of airborne geophysical mapping (total field magnetics, multi frequency EM) of the Haveri property and adjacent territory carried out on behalf of Glenmore Highlands Inc. in May, 1996.  The mapping was flown on lines spaced 100 meters apart, for total coverage of 311 line kilometres. These data suggest that prospective gold-bearing lithologies and structures at Haveri extend well beyond its boundaries and are consistent with the Company’s initial interpretation that the gold-copper mineralization at Haveri was formed in a volcanogenic massive sulphide environment.

The Company’s geological team is proceeding with the planned Phase 1 exploration program, comprising data acquisition, compilation and interpretation, and ground geophysical surveying, to identify Phase 2 drill targets. Phase 1 activities will include an evaluation of the two newly acquired reservation areas noted above.

29 June 03: In early June management of Vision Gate Ventures Ltd. visited the Haveri gold property in Finland to confer with geologists and other technical specialists previously involved with the property and with government officials at the national and municipal level. Local politicians, representatives from Finland's ministry of trade and industry, and the Geological Survey of Finland showed strong support for the company's Haveri project, reflecting Finland's position that mining and exploration activities are a vital component of its economic well-being. Management was briefed by various Finnish government officials on the willingness of the European Union (EU) to promote and finance EU mining projects, especially projects located within the Fennoscandian shield. John Lando, company president: "The response from government at all levels to our undertakings in Finland has been nothing less than outstanding. Support for our redevelopment at Haveri and also for other potential mining opportunities in Finland is very encouraging."

The company has recently commenced the phase 1 exploration program on the Haveri gold property. This work will consist of compilation and analysis of the vast quantity of analytical and geophysical data acquired by previous operators Voukseniska Oy, 1942 to 1962, and Glenmore Highlands Ltd., 1996 to 2000, as recommended by John R. Fraser, PGeo (BC) in the N143-101 report entitled Summary report on the Haveri mine property, available on the SEDAR Web site. Additional work by the company's geological team will include the mapping of geology, alteration and structure, as well as ground geophysical surveying, such as induced polarization, if required. The purpose of this work is to develop an overall geological model and an understanding of the high-grade gold occurrences present at the Haveri deposit and the other known gold zones on the property.

Targets are being defined in phase 1 with the expectation of a significant phase 2 program consisting of further geophysics and extensive diamond drilling. Phase 1, with a budget exclusive of geophysics of $210,000, is expected to be completed by the end of September.  The company has an option to earn up to 70-per-cent interest in the Haveri property by spending $1.7-million over three years. The property hosts an area of widespread copper-gold mineralization with several high-grade gold occurrences in a volcanogenic environment. Management is optimistic of the potential for the Haveri claims to host a viable multimillion-ounce deposit.

24 June 03:  Effective June 25, TNR Resources Ltd.'s name was changed to TNR Gold Corp., following a 4-to-1 share consolidation. The Company now trades under the symbol TNR on the TSX Venture xchange. Its new CUSIP number is 87260X 10 9.

For more information about the Company and its exploration projects please visit the company's website or call 1-800-667-4470.

30 May 03 -- Gold Exploration News:  Geocom Resources Ltd. (OTCBB: GOCM) has signed two joint-venture deals with TNR Resources Ltd.  The details ...

29 April 03: Vision Gate Ventures Ltd. (VGV) is up and trading again, having received all the regulatory approvals for its change of business, its recent financing, and its property acquisition in Finland. You can witness investor reaction here.

28 April 03:  An important announcement from Basil client TNR Resources Ltd.: TNR and NovaGold Resources Inc. have restructured the agreements on the million-ounce Shotgun and Rock Creek gold projects in Alaska. Under the new agreements TNR will focus it efforts at targeting a potential “Donlin Creek Type Gold System” at the Shotgun deposit located south of the 25 million ounce Donlin Creek property in the Kuskokwim Gold Belt. NovaGold will provide technical assistance to TNR for initial targeting and development of the exploration model. NovaGold will also participate in an upcoming private placement financing for TNR with the funds to be directed at the Shotgun Project. Under the agreement TNR can earn up to a 50% interest in the Shotgun project by advancing the project to a production decision by spending US$3 million dollars on exploration by May 2006 and issuing to NovaGold up to 1 million TNR common shares. TNR can earn a further 20% interest in the project by spending an additional US$6 million toward project development and issuing to NovaGold a further C$1 million in TNR common shares. 

4 April 03: Vision Gate Ventures Ltd. (VGV:TSX-V) just announced that it will undertake an equity financing to raise gross proceeds of up to $650,000, to be utilized to advance the highly prospective Haveri Property located near Helsinki in Finland. An extensive amount of data is available from previous work conducted on the property in the late 1990’s by Glenmore Highlands Inc. (now Mountain Glen Mining Inc.). Compiling this data as well as conducting a detailed structural analysis of the Haveri Property will allow management to construct a comprehensive exploration model over the next 3-4 months.

13 March 03:  Numerous colleagues and clients are returning to Vancouver after spending the last several days in Toronto for the annual PDAC convention.  PDAC stands for Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, and I assure you that the prospecting and developing that took place were not always limited to geological phenomena.  Deals were proposed, structured, and massaged; old friends were sought out and new ones were made; hangovers were shrugged off; and new speculative ventures now proceed with audacity and drama.

Basil Communications Inc. clients were busy on numerous fronts:  Vision Gate Ventures Ltd. promoted its Haveri Gold Project, and Argent Resources Ltd. introduced its new Timmins Gold Camp acquisition acquisition.  Here's hoping the price of gold stays up.

24 February 03: Beginning in May I will be teaching part-time in the Applied Communication program at Kwantlen University College,  and I could not be more excited. Kwantlen has a fine reputation; my colleagues have sent their sons and daughters there.  It has been too long – seven years – since I stood in the front of a classroom.

I shall be continuing my Basil Communications Inc. projects, working out of my Scotia Tower office in downtown Vancouver. My work in business and publishing should usefully inform my teaching, and my friends know that I do like to be busy.

4 February 03: Finland opened up its resource-rich nation to international investment only in the last decade.  Opportunities to reexamine legendary properties with modern techniques are plentiful.  Basil client Vision Gate Ventures (VGV:TSX-V) has recently signed an option agreement to acquire 70% of the famous Haveri Property.  Mining has taken place at Haveri for over 250 years, with early activities being directed towards production of iron ore.  A rich, fault-controlled, native gold deposit was discovered by Vuokseniska Oy at Haveri in 1960. This mineralization, which according to local miners was not mined, was located on the 96-metre level near the bottom of the open pit, on the east side.  This is thought to be the source of the spectacular gold samples in the possession of retired local miners. Despite this discovery, the mine closed due to low gold prices (1960: US$35.27/oz) and the fact that Vuokseniska Oy was developing iron deposits elsewhere in Finland. 

25 January 03:  Visit Basil clients TNR Resources Ltd. and SJ Geophysics Ltd. at the Vancouver Resource Invesment Conference and at the Cordilleran Roundup this week.  The Investment Conference is being held at the Vancouver Exhibition Center Jan 26-7, and the Round-up's at the Westin Bayshore Resort and Marina this year, January 27 - 30. 

At the Roundup on January 27, 28-9, SJ Geophysics will be exhibiting its latest updates and innovations on the company's 3D IP surveys and inversion and on its cluster computing. SJ will be displaying 3D, GIS and cluster software on a 30-inch LCD display supplied by NEC and Patch computers. 

At the investment Conference January 26-7 and at the Roundup on January 28, TNR will be highlighting its recent drill program at Rock Creek, near Nome Alaska.  (Download TNR's PDF brochure -- 1.8 MB.) The above photo, courtesy of Chris Gierymski, is from Rock Creek.

9 January 03:  Esteemed resource-sector analyst John Kaiser, author of  The Bottom-Fishing Report, issued an optimistic update to his subscribers yesterday, noting, "My sense is that we are heading into a major bull cycle for resource sector juniors that will last several years. Speculators in junior resource plays are virtually in a no-lose situation, because either gold soars as the global economy shrivels in response to a stricken American Empire, or base metals climb as a strengthened American Empire encourages the global economy to get back into expansion mode. There is, of course, a muddle along scenario which the Europeans prefer, but Europe is not calling the shots. ... And with a bubbling economy will come a revival of interest in luxury items such as diamonds, the hottest grassroots exploration target for resource juniors if world class trophies like Diavik and Ekati are your quarry. Call it intuition, call it delusion, I feel bullish for the first time in a decade."

About the Company

Robert Basil is President of Basil Communications Inc., a private Vancouver firm, founded in 1996, that  provides high-end marketing, strategic planning, and multimedia services for public and private companies in Canada and the United States. The company's current's clients are in the high-tech, engineering, and natural resource sectors. "Essentially what I do is stop pages from being blank," he says.

Basil received his Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, at SUNY/Buffalo, and received a graduate degree at Stanford University, where he also taught American Literary and Political Culture Studies (1993-1996). Basil has been a professional writer and editor for twenty years.  He has contributed dozens of articles to books and journals – and has served as Executive Editor for Free Inquiry Magazine (1985-1989) and as the Acquisitions and Senior Trade Books Editor for Prometheus Books, Inc., (1990-1993).  His two essay collections, Not Necessarily the New Age and On the Barricades, received critical praise and wide attention. Basil has been interviewed by more than a hundred radio and television programs, including “Larry King Live,” and has been quoted as a communications and cultural expert in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and many other newspapers.

In 1997 Basil launched Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture, an internet publication that has won plaudits for its articles, interviews, fiction, columns, and virtual art and photo exhibits. 

A patron of the arts, Basil plays some jazz piano and has become quite the photo enthusiast since moving to North America's most beautiful city a number of years ago.



Notes & Miscellany

26 December 03:  New York was enchanting.  I stayed with my best friend, whose spare bedroom is actually called "The Bob Room." I saw Bernadette Peters in "Gypsy" and wept from beginning to end.   I ate at least one knish and one slice of pizza every day.  At the Frick museum I finally figured out why J. M. W. Turner is a painter of staggering talent, and at the Whitney the drawings of Arshile Gorky finally made perfect sense to me.  From a street-vendor I bought the new Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus books. My sister and brother-in-law treated me to a lavish dinner in Brooklyn. Riding the subways I had numerous conversations with emphatic and charming New Yorkers (more or less an impossibiity before September 11, 2001).  My Greek breakfast came to the table about ninety seconds after I ordered it.  Women everywhere were beautiful and walked rapidly. My heart felt good.

28 November 03: Vancouver Sun reporter Peter O'Neill must have been beside himself – with professional if not with personal elation – when Saskatchewan MP Larry Spencer told him the other day that homosexual activity should be put back in the Criminal Code.  That's Page One bigotry. 

16 November 03:  Congratulations to the younger of my two younger sisters, Dr. Jennifer Basil, for getting tenure in CUNY/Brooklyn's biology department last week.  In addition to being a brilliant scholar and teacher, Jenny is probably the fastest articulate talker alive.  This is from her website:

"My research examines the sensory ecology of a number of marine invertebrates. I am particularly interested in how animals extract local information from their environment, and use it to 1) navigate to distant goals (food, territories, mates) or 2) create representations of familiar environments. I place the orientation behavior and spatial
abilities of animals into an evolutionary context and then generate hypotheses based on this perspective. I can then test my predictions in the field as well as in controlled laboratory settings. All of the animals I study are primarily nonvisual, using their senses of olfaction and touch to obtain information about their environment. I am currently using the Chambered Nautilus (Nautilus pompilius) as a model for olfactory behavior and the Freshwater Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) as a model for tactile behavior." 

10 November 03:  Basil family friend and ally Paul Matulic is quoted by William Safire in the latter's recent Sunday New York Times magazine column.  Apropos recent comments by American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the occupation of Iraq will be "a long, hard slog," Paul contrasts the "slog" of Iraq with the "quagmire" of Vietnam:  "Quagmire denotes being stuck and sinking, while slog connotes moving through with difficulty." 

10 November 03: One of my brother's clients is a terrible scoundrel. He caught on to this only recently, despite warnings from me and other colleagues.  My brother is unfailingly generous and sweet, and he is hard-wired to see only the good in people, even in people who are no good at all.  I am taking an odd pleasure in watching the emotions evolve:  from good cheer to puzzlement to irritation to cursing indignation.  I have never heard cursing indignation from my brother before (it's on the daily to-do list of yours truly, though).  He's found his first bastard, as it were.  It's like my brother has learned a new instrument. 

27 October 03:  See what my Kwantlen University College students are studying, at

23 October 03: In her recent book, Diane Middlebrook concludes that "depression killed Sylvia Plath." (See Arts & Letters, 15 October 03.) Friends of the masterful musician and songwriter Elliott Smith (pictured above), who committed suicide two days ago, have been concluding the same thing about him. People are beginning to understand that suicide often is "death by depression." Of course things are happening in and around a depressed person -- "in" as in drugs or alcohol abuse, "around" as in self-destructive or very unhappy relationships -- but it is fallacious to say that these elements drive one to suicide.  Depression is both the train and the track, as far as I am concerned.  Everything else is just buzzing by the windows.

Depression, like homosexuality, is an animated identity that's invisible ... until it's enunciated by the one whose life it defines. That is why by some people depression is regarded as a capricious and irresponsible choice:  It seems to be brought into being by the spoken words of the suffering individual, who seemed not to suffer when silent -- when in the closet, as it were.

Elliott Smith's death is awful.  If you haven't heard his sweet and tuneful and indeed magical music, do please give it a whirl.  It is part of heaven.

20 October 03:  After the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the seventh game of the American League Championship Series last Thursday, I wrote some (male) friends an email:  "God was said to rest on the seventh day. Now we know that God rests until there are five outs to go.  Then God wakes up. And damns the fans of Boston and Chicago. Pains given by destiny are worse, I think, than ones given toward the heart."

To which a charming colleague replied:  "Pedro Martinez was put on earth and given sway far beyond his station. It was a travesty that he started the eighth inning."

Bill Simmons of ESPN2 has written the best two pieces on the Red Sox loss: Paradise Lost, Again and Paradise Lost, Postscript.

10 October 03:  Yesterday the Vatican urged the people of Africa, including people with AIDS, to stop using condoms when they have sex.  Today the Vatican urged the people of North America not to let the media over-excite them regarding the pedophile priest sex scandal. "It is fair to condemn evil, but one must keep it in proportion," said Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, according to a Washington Post story

Various Catholic family members remind me that the Vatican is not the Church; the people are; and I don't argue with them, though I sometimes want to. This is from an editorial published in the National Catholic Reporter today: "American Catholics have rarely been as angry with the leadership of their church, and therefore as angry with Rome, as they are today. Polling, even before the crisis, suggested that a substantial block of Catholics in the United States regarded the institutional dimension of their faith, especially the hierarchy, as increasingly irrelevant," the editorial says.

"Unless one is willing to discount the opinion of American laity simply because they are not ordained, then the reasons for the poll numbers are a serious matter. While those reasons have hardly been explored, it is not too great a leap to surmise that the sense of hierarchical irrelevance stems in no small way from the pope’s appointments and the pope’s expectations of those appointments.

"Loyalty, not leadership, has been the hallmark of this pope’s bishops, and loyalty, furthermore, to an agenda that brooks no questions and demands that certain topics of great interest to some in the church be eliminated from discussion. The result has been that bishops, laity and the priests in between often get the sense that they have been shackled. Pastoral instincts are submerged under the need to adhere to a growing list of rules and to be cautious of increasing sanctions from on high."

6 October 03: A correspondent notes that it's been "slim pickins" around basil.CA lately. I could say that I've been knocked down with the flu, but that might explain maybe the last four days at most. I think rather that I'm in a  pre-compositional fugue state — *gazes dimly* — in which amorphous sensation can begin to ploop sentences.  That, at any rate, was the way it used to work. 

October has always been my favourite month; it was Kerouac's, too.  For the author of Dharma Bums and Tristessa it was pals and football and autumn in the northeast, and then memories of that.  For me it has been the same (substituting cross country running for football). 

Speaking of sports:  Yesterday the Bills won in overtime and the Red Sox came from behind to force a deciding game with the A's.  This is demise deferred.  Life is tragic.  It is also the best possible miserable situation.

17 September 03:  I need a word that means "temporary happiness," the emotion a Red Sox fan has going into the playoffs or a Bills fan has when the team is undefeated. Ideally the word would also convey futility and delusion.

15 September 03: "The next time you read about a rich person donating $100 million to charity, you should be aware that this seemingly generous gift may never actually reach the institutions that need it," writes philanthropist Lewis B. Cullman in The New York Review of Books. "The chances are that the donation is being used to set up a private foundation. The gift will earn the donor a full deduction against income or estate taxes. But the little-understood trick of this form of philanthropy is that the $100 million that launched the foundation need never go to charity."

I ought not have been surprised that "charity" is used to maintain and even extend the property rights of the wealthy. Writes libertarian Bruce L. Benson:  "If self interest in preserving a private property arrangement is even a significant part of the motivation for voluntary wealth transfers, then it follows that preventing the evolution of or undermining the stability of private property rights will also prevent the evolution of or undermine voluntary charity. A theory of charity based on an assumption of altruism alone implies that the institutional environment does not matter." One need only examine the true role of church charities throughout history to see the accumulation of money, land, and power camouflaged as loving generosity.

2 September 03:  The CBC's report on Alberta's missing women is reminiscient of BC's own terrible story.

29 August 03:  When I watch track and field, I always watch it alone. That is because I'm sitting in front of my TV emoting wildly and often wetly, and I know that it would discombobulate my friends to see me. My favourite events are the women's running events.  I have a picture in my bedroom of plain-jane New Englander Joan Benoit winning the inaugural Women's Olympic Marathon in 1984. I have spent a lot of time wondering why the women's running events move me to trembling.  It is not because the atheletes are beauties; often they are not, though they *all* are lovely.

25 August 03:  Twenty-year-old Carolina Klüft of Sweden won the Heptathalon at The World Track and Field Championships yesterday. "I don't put any thoughts about records in my head," she said. "I just try to have feelings.  That's important for me." 

Me, too, girl.  The feelings I get watching track and field are the ones I was probably supposed to get in church.

20 August 03:  I came across this maddening item via Reason.Com's Hit and Run column.

A "sober bar" in Edmonton, Alberta that caters to recovering alcoholics was told to get a liquor licence and start serving alcohol if it wants to let customers smoke. ... A bylaw inspector's warning creates a painful Catch-22 for the owners of north-side Keep it Simple club. If they stay dry and ban smoking, they say they'll lose 90 per cent of their business. ... If they start selling liquor, they'll be tempting many patrons to return to addiction. ... "The city is forcing us to promote alcohol as the only way we can keep smoking," co-owner Tom Charbonneau said. "Other restaurants and bars have that option, but we don't." has the complete story.

8 August 03:  I'm not an out-of-control hypochondriac.  When I'm not sick, I don't feel sick.  During those rare times in which I do feel sick, however, I tend to believe it's brain-tumour time for Bobby here.  Don't most brain tumours start out as scratchy throats?

I have been studying a psychiatric condition known as hypochondriasis.  One of my closest buddies has been practically incapacitated by it for more than two years.  Talking with him has become an unbelievably frustrating experience.  He is paralyzed by fear, and he is thinking in loops, and there has been no reaching him. 

Jerome Groopman has an excellent piece in this week's New Yorker called Sick with Worry: Can Hypochondria Be Cured? The author interviews Arthur Barsky, one of the world's few hypochondria researchers:

“We teach patients to argue against themselves,” Barsky said. That is, the therapist consistently reminds the patient that it is possible for a healthy person to have symptoms but no actual disease: a headache is almost always a headache, not a sign of a brain tumor. The therapist also tries to reduce the amount of attention that the hypochondriac pays to bodily sensations. (Hypochondriacs are unusually attuned to physical sensations; studies have found that they are better than other patients at measuring their heart rates, and can more accurately distinguish between two flashes of light delivered in rapid succession.) Research has shown that focussing on some minor physical symptom amplifies the sensation. For example, if a person holds a sheet of paper between his thumb and forefinger, he will notice a tiny, natural tremor in his hand. A person who stares at the tremor will start to shake more, whereas a person who is diverted by conversation or watching a video will tremble less. “I also tell people to pay attention to their throat,” Barsky said. ‘‘If you do it long enough, you’ll probably start thinking, well, it feels a little dry. Then it starts to feel a bit scratchy and itchy, and you may even cough. The more attention you pay to your body, the more uncomfortable your symptoms will become.’’

4 August 03:  I have not yet found an appropriate critique of President Bush's remarks in response to a reporter's question regarding gay marriage. He said: "I am mindful that we're all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of their neighbor's eye when they got a log in their own." By making this call for tolerance, Bush cleverly camouflages his bigoted stance it is more than merely a "personal religious belief" that homosexuality is a sin.

Thoughts of Bush and the Pope came up rather too often yesterday, clouding an otherwsie spectacular "Gay Pride Parade" Sunday.  The Gay Pride Parade has in recent years become a huge, completely inclusive and citywide festival.  You see 90-year-olds holding the hands of their great-grandchildren alongside the Dykes on Bikes and young men covered in silver-speckle body paint.  This event always fills me with joy and makes me cry ...  cry with that joy but also with the memories of how f*****g ignorant I was in high school, alas, how I let my gay friends down.

30 July 03:  Hussein Agha and Robert Malley demonstrate astonishing "negative capability" the phrase Keats used to describe Shakespeare's dramatic empathy in their recent New York Review of Books piece on the Middle East.  The section on Sharon is a masterpiece, I think.

21 July 03:  Unless I am with a medical professional, I try not to complain. There is a story in today's Washington Post that has made me ever so grateful for the good fortune I have had.

17 July 03: "Maybe bullies are cowards, but losers are name-callers," notes one basil.CA reader, an American who points out that "Donald Rumsfeld is the most articulate Defense Secretary in Bob Basil's life."

15 July 03:  Another dispiriting demonstration of common wisdom: bullies are cowards.

4 July 03:  I denounce Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for saying a ban on gay marriage should be put in the Constitution and for adding, "Matters such as sodomy should be addressed by the state legislatures. That's where those decisions — with the local norms, the local mores — are being able to have their input in reflected." (Great syntax!) "Local mores" and "local norms," if I remember correctly, have historically been used to crush civil rights (letting blacks vote was not part of the American South's "local mores") and vanquish individual liberties (distributing sexual images online is still not the "local norm" in Muttfug, Tennessee). "Local mores" and "local norms" are code phrases  hypocrites employ to hide their bigotry.

20 June 03:  The lead letter in today's New York Times was written by Paul Matulic, a dear friend of the Basil family.  The letter was on a subject dear to basil.CA's heart. Matulic writes: "The Catholic Church must purify itself of its grave sins in the sex abuse scandal.  In putting public relations over conscience, it failed to recognize its own preaching on confession and penance."

I wrote Paul, "I've been following this issue since the early nineties -- back when I was an editor at Prometheus I bid on Jason Berry's groundbreaking book  on clerical sex abuse -- and I write about it occasionally on, never losing my dismay, alas. As an adult I have been a vocal and published critic of the Catholic Church -- but never, mind you, a critic of a Catholic's or anybody else's individual religious spirit and experience, if that makes sense -- and I must say that in the past I never considered the Catholic Church capable of this villainy, but MAN OH MAN.  This morning I checked out -- not sure why, perhaps fishing for a item -- and I just had to hold my head in my hands." 

17 June 03: Cathy Young of has this illuminating Father's Day note

The Family Violence Prevention Fund marked this Father's Day with a campaign to honor men who have pledged themselves to an effort to stop violence against women and children. It sounds like a positive and inspirational effort. Yet on second thought, one can see why some fathers' activists are rankled. Imagine a Mother's Day campaign that focused on stopping women's abuse of children. [...] Aside from child abuse (which is more often committed by women) and violence in same-sex relationships, study after study shows that anywhere from one-third to half of spousal or partner assaults are female-on-male. While men are less likely to be injured because of gender differences in size and strength and less likely to be murdered by their partners, violence by women against men is no laughing matter —as it is often treated in popular culture. Earlier this month, a New York woman was charged with beating her former boyfriend to death with her high-heeled shoe.  The domestic violence establishment still clings to an ideology that denies or minimizes violence against men.

Canadian author Patricia Pearson's When She Was Bad: Women and the Myth of Innocence is a wonderful book-length treatise on the subject. As Pearson helpfully points out: 

Women commit the majority of child homicides in the United States; more than 80 percent of neonaticides; an equal or greater share of severe physical child abuse; an equal rate of spousal assault; about a quarter of child sexual molestations; and a large proportion of elder abuse... The rate at which infants are murdered by women in the U.S. is higher than the rate at which women are murdered by men.

11 June 03: A buddy from New York writes:

So if it's true that the Bush Administration lied about evidence of WMD (not yet clear, but increasingly plausible), and if it's true it lied about ties to Al Qaeda (almost certainly true), and if it's therefore true it took America to war on the wings of these lies, would this be the greatest US government deception in our lifetime?

It certainly seems to be bigger than:

* Kennedy lying about his health

* Johnson lying about the Gulf of Tonkin (there were larger reasons --
misguided, yes -- for getting into that war)

* Nixon lying about lying

* Reagan lying about tax cuts bringing in more money

* Bush I lying about "no new taxes"

* Clinton lying about sex

I suppose the right-wing, always in search of dishonesty in government (witness the Clinton impeachment) will soon call for Congressional hearings on the subject.

5 June 03: Come see what my delightful Kwantlen University College students are learning.  Syllabi, some assignments, and powerpoint presentations are online at my teaching-resource site

30 May 03:  I generally defend my once-adopted nation, the United States, when I am out and about among the Canadians, but when I return home I hold my head in my hands.  In this issue of The New York Review of Books, Stanley Hoffman writes:

Less than two and a half years after it came to power, the Bush administration, elected by fewer than half of the voters, has an impressive but depressing record. It has, in self-defense, declared one war—the war on terrorism —that has no end in sight. It has started, and won, two other wars. It has drastically changed the strategic doctrine and the diplomatic position of the United States, arguing that the nation's previous positions were obsolete and that the US has enough power to do pretty much as it pleases. At home, as part of the war on terrorism, it has curbed civil liberties, the rights of
refugees and asylum seekers, and the access of foreign students to US schools and universities. It
holds in custody an unknown number of aliens and some Americans treated as "enemy combatants," suspected but not indicted, whose access to hearings and lawyers has been denied. The Republican majority in both houses of Congress and the courts' acceptance of the notion that the President's war powers override all other concerns have given him effective control of all the branches of government. The administration's nominees to the courts would consolidate its domination of the judiciary. ...

The anti-Americanism on the rise throughout the world is not just hostility toward the most powerful nation, or based on the old clichés of the left and the right; nor is it only envy or hatred of our values. It is, more often than not, a resentment of double standards and double talk, of crass ignorance and arrogance, of wrong assumptions and dubious policies. Whether our current leaders are capable of self-examination at a time of military victory may affect the planet for a long time to come.

25 May 03:  Please pardon my brief absence from I've had guests in town: most recently John and Lily Glionna, in from San Francisco. I don't think there is anything more delightful than introducing one's own friends to one another. Now our throats are hoarse and our bellies are round and our eyes are red and now John and Lili have several charming places to stay when they come to Vancouver.

16 May 03:  Richard Gregg is riding around the world on his bicycle.  He stayed with me earlier this week after crossing the border into Canada for the first time.  It took almost thirty minutes just to unpack 200 pounds of stuff from his bike and carry everything up three flights of stairs.  Richard is a charming guy, bold but not blustery.  He is puzzled  by people who are bored or stifled. "Our life means our ride" could be his motto. 

9 May 03:  After seven years, I am back in front of a class, teaching Applied Communication in Kwantlen University College's School of Business.  "If you have an important point to make," wrote Winston Churchill, "don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time--a tremendous whack." Yes it does feel great. 

28 April 03:  I cannot make it through a nine-to-five day without reading The Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web.It is a combative, rightwing summary of the day's political and cultural goings-on.  The website is obnoxious with self-satisfaction, but I always learn something, sometimes about the world and sometimes about the word.

15 April 03:  I had the honor of spending some time with Al Arsenault this weekend.  Arsenault is a Vancouver beat cop and the Director of Odd Squad Productions, which brought out the great documentary "Through a Blue Lens" in 1999.  The film follows Vancouver policemen who videotape their interactions with bedraggled drug addicts who live in the city's downtown eastside.  It is a brilliant piece of work, filled with humanity and more than a little charm, too.

Arsenault is an opponent of harm-reduction programs like safe-injection sites that many Canadians believe are a worthy alternative to American-style punishment protocol.  And he's happy that, for the time being anyway, cops can be seen everywhere in the downtown eastside.  Don't give our citizens the means to get high, he says; give them access to treatment, so they can get well.

10 April 03:  This Monday Vancouver  tripled the number of police patrolling the city's most beguiling neighborhood.  It is an odd site seeing people getting arrested everywhere in an area that until a few days ago had been an open-air drug market tolerated by city citizens for generations.  Since Monday night, hundreds of "dealers" have been thrown in jail.  (The term "dealer" is polyreferential, as my philospher friends'd say.  For every gangster with a bucket of crack, there are a dozen "middlers" who sell it on the street, essentially earning a small portion as a commission. In other words, virtually every drug-using downtown eastside resident is at least a part-time dealer who helps the occasional dopers, West End interlopers, and surburbanites in their cars get drugs and get high.) 

3 April 03:  My favourite libertarian, Virginia Postrel, has revamped her web log.  While you're there, you will want to read the interviewshe did with the American Institute of Graphic Arts previewing her upcoming book The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness. 

31 March 03:  You don't have to be a revolutionary Trotskyist to enjoy and benefit from the literature of the International Communist League, a small but articulate organization I have been following for more than a decade, twice utilizing pieces from the League's "Women and Revolution" series in my "Writing and the Bill of Rights" class at Stanford University.  I always learn something that helps me win an argument, let me put it that way.  Recent polemics on Iraq and the Near East are worthy of your attention.

26 March 03:  The above photograph accurately represents the attitude not just of my neighborhood but of my nation's government toward the war between Iraq and the United States coalition. This attitude is distressing as hell.  Said American Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci: "So many people in the United States are so disappointed that Canada is not fully supporting us now. There is no security threat to Canada that the United States would not be ready, willing and able to help with." True, true.

I asked an American TV-news-producer friend of mine what he thinks of Canada's screw-you posture.  "The United States can hate only so many allies at once," he said, "and for now France is using up all the oxygen.  In truth we Americans don't think of Canada much, and when we do we wonder why Canada just doesn't become our country's biggest, prettiest state. In my opinion you would do well to remember, gratefully, that Canada is protected by the nuclear umbrella of the United States."

17 March 03:  It's button time again in Vancouver, as protests become a regular feature on the grand lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

3 March 03: So the British war protestors who had travelled to Iraq to become "human shields" against future American bombing are returning home out of fear for their safety. Iraqi authorities had begun dictating which sites they could protect. C'est la guerre.

24 February 03: Joyce Lee Malcolm in an excellent ReasonOnline article called "Disarming History" analyzes the scandal of Michael Bellesiles' book "Arming America:  The Origins of a National Gun Culture." Bellesiles claimed that gun ownership was rare in early America.  Supporters of gun-control hailed the book, which won numerous awards. Friends with whom I had had spirited Second Amendment arguments sent me more "I told you so" emails than I cared to save.  I was forced to start baiting friends to argue with me about the other Constitutional amendments, but the joy was just not the same.  I was thus happy when the tide turned.  Writes Malcolm: 

As we’ll see, not only have virtually all aspects of his work been "challenged," but Bellesiles’ critics have discovered wholesale and systematic misrepresentation of the historical evidence. If anything can be learned from this extraordinary episode, in which one of the most extravagantly praised scholarly books in many years has been exposed as one of the most fraudulent, it is the importance of maintaining rigorous intellectual standards even when they work against one’s political preferences.

11 February 03:  Canadians have a socialist sense of entitlement but a capitalist expectation of accomplishment. Alas.

3 February 03:  The older I get, the more impressed I am by the perspicacity of my old colleagues at the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal – CSICOP – who attempt to encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims. They have the hearts of Sisyphus.  I have lost entire weekends inside their website.  I recommend a recent media case study by Matthew Nisbet on Bjorn Lomborg, whose often dubious scientific claims received worldwide, credulous attention. 

Lomborg's thesis fit the polarized, black and white style in which most public controversies are covered, with journalists featuring Lomborg's counter-claims against the most extreme arguments of environmentalists. In other instances, journalists evoked a
"dueling scientists" frame, with Lomborg challenging conventional scientific wisdom. Finally, most journalists fell victim to the smoke screen of scholarship that the book projected. Over and over again, as supporting evidence for Lomborg's claims, journalists made reference to the book's 515 pages, 2,930 endnotes, and 182 tables and diagrams, as if sheer volume of words and data were proof enough of scientific merit.

13 January 03:  My favourite parts of BC Premier Gordon Campbell's desperate, disingenous news conference yesterday: 

Q: Premier, how often have you been drunk and driven in the past?

GC: I have never broken the law as a British Columbian to my knowledge and I don't intend to.

Q: Is that because you have never been caught, Premier?

GC: I've never been driving under the influence of alcohol to my knowledge.

Q: Premier, isn't that an incredible coincidence, that the very first time you did it, you were caught?

GC: I think I made a terrible mistake and I've said that.

Q: How often have you made that terrible mistake previously?

GC: To my knowledge I have never made that mistake.

Q: Can you remember when the mug-shots were taken and why you were smiling?

GC: I remember when the mug-shots were taken. I remember when they processed me and ... part of that processing is pictures. I don't believe I was smiling. If it looked like that, I read one report that said I was grimacing and that would be a far better definition of what was taking place in my head.

9 January 03: Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell tells the Vancouver Sun that he wants our city to copy a controversial but successful Swiss program of prescribing heroin -- AND COCAINE -- to hard-core addicts. "I can see this kind of a program operating in Vancouver," Mr. Campbell said. "It's an effective way of treating a small but very resistant group of people addicted to heroin. In fact, by rights we should be offering prescription cocaine to the hardest addicts, because they often are hooked on both."  Our new mayor oversaw too many autopsies as the city coroner to stick with conventional North American "anti-drug" policies.

6 January 03: Today's New York Times reports that President Bush's National Security team is planning to "call for a heavy American military presence in the country for at least 18 months, military trials of only the most senior Iraqi leaders and quick takeover of the country's oil fields to pay for reconstruction." I love the relaxed manner in which the third element of this sentence was appended.  The United States here blatantly and without apology admits its ambition to control Iraqi oil.  I imagine that these "reconstruction" costs  (a) will be defined rather broadly, and (b) will not be going to Iraqi construction workers.  I called a TV news producer friend of mine and read him the story.  "You sound surprised," he said.  "Living in Beautiful British Columbia has perhaps made you a tad more naive about these things than you were back here in New York."

5 January 03:  The business culture of Vancouver is unlike what I experienced in the States, goodness knows.  This is never more true than during the Christmas Season.  As a publisher and editor and teacher, I think I worked on every Christmas Eve until I was 36, when I moved to Vancouver, where you are lucky to surround a conference table with the people you need at any time between, say, December 15 and when the kids go back to school in January.  I will never really get used to this annual citywide relaxation -- I still come to my office every Christmas Eve -- but I have come to enjoy it, as an exile would take to exotic food prepared for him with humour and affection.  Cheers, Vancouver.


Arts & Letters

26 December 03:  Rodney Decroo's Christmas story, God Damn Us Every One, is the funniest thing I have read all year.  This is how it starts: 

“Great. Fucking great. Hey, I know, why don’t we get a gun and play Russian Roulette while we’re at it?” I said glumly into the phone. 

“What,” asked Laura, “you don’t like it?”

“No, I don’t like it. I think it’s a profoundly bad idea.”

“It’s great idea. If you don’t like it, go have Xmas somewhere else. We’re not having a commercial Xmas in our house.”

“A commercial Xmas? What the hell are you talking about?” I asked. “What’s fucking commercial about a turkey, gravy, cranberries, a few beers and some friends?”

“No. If you can’t see why that whole concept is playing into western corporate cultural
imperialisation, then, well, then that’s really sad. I thought I married someone who was more politically conscious than that.” 

“Great,” I said. “Hey, I know. We can make up some chants and protest the neighbor’s Xmas celebrations. A progressive variation on Xmas caroling.”

“That’s not funny.”

“Yeah, well, we wouldn’t want to be funny.”

“We’re being fair. I said an activist Christmas. At least we’re celebrating Xmas. Ali isn’t happy about that, but I said we had to compromise out of respect for your traditions.”

“My traditions? What… what are you talking about? Listen, tell Ali if he doesn’t like it to go celebrate whatever he wants to celebrate at his own fucking house.”

“He’s a refugee and you’re being racist.”

“Great. Terrific. Now I’m a refugee hating racist. Look, I’m at work. I gotta get off the phone.”

There’s an old adage “you become what you hate.” Well, it’s an adage because it’s true. During this particular Xmas, I morphed into the doppelganger of the malicious, drunken uncle who staggers through the party insulting family members and groping second cousins. … 

4 December 03:  The archives of Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture are back online.  When my "server guy" told me yesterday that I had let my domain-name registration lapse, I literally almost fainted, like the time I thought my then-infant son had expired of heat stroke in his stroller.  (He chose that summer afternoon in Buffalo to become the way-deep sleeper he is to this day.) 

Included in the Ellavon archives, by the way, is work by Kat Kosiancic, Kristi Coulter, Julie Damerell, Robin Plan, Joseph Conte, Jonathan Mayhew, Marilyn Suriani, John Sindelar, John Glionna, Diane Middlebrook, Paul Kurtz, Jeanne O'Day, and my brother Chris Basil. I'm relieved and grateful that these essays, stories, galleries, and interviews are back online.

Except for very specific sectors of human activity – teaching, editing, research, food-handling, and I suppose showing up on time – I am not an especially fastidious or organized person.   This summer, for instance, I did not notice that Kwantlen University College had stopped direct-depositing my paycheck after the first two checks.  (They were holding my checks in the Human Resources office instead.  Why?  To encourage me to pass along documentation I'd promised them in the Spring.  Nothing serious, just nothing that made it to the top of my to-do-lists, either.) When in early September I walked into Human Services to collect three months worth of paychecks, everybody on the floor, it seemed, stepped out of their offices to take a look at this new teacher in the Business School.  "You must be very rich," one lady said.

"No," I said, remembering that because Canadians are all very polite, this lady was probably not needling me but needlessly trying to praise me. "By the way," I asked, "can one of you help steer me back to door that, uh, leads back outside?" I am in love with Canada:  You need help, you get help.

24 November 03: Richard Rogers upon meeting Lorenz Hart for the first time:  “I left Hart's house having acquired in one afternoon a career, a partner, a best friend and a source of permanent irritation.” 

10 November 03: I generally refuse my downtownstairs neighbor Merrylynn nothing. She is charming and she means the world to me, and it is fun to say "I'll be right there, Merrylynn" and then zoom down the stairs. We are like brother and sister; we take care of each other.  Yesterday she left a message asking me to return her video-copy of the movie "The Hours." I had to refuse.  I needed to see it again, several more times.  The movie has overwhelmed me.  I felt this way the first time I heard John Coltrane and the first time I read Frank O'Hara and the first time I visited Pigeon Park – a beautiful cry of mortal reality that joins joy and sadness to transcend them both.

22 October 03: Author and pianist Charles Rosen relates this delightful anecdote in a recent New York Review of Books piece:  "The very elderly and supremely distinguished art historian Walter Friedländer once returned a paper to a student at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University with the laconic remark that it was not good. The student asked Friedländer to tell him where it was wrong so he could correct it, and Friedländer replied sadly, 'It wasn't even wrong.'" 

As a teacher I have had some similar experiences, always at the beginning of the term.  Generally, however, I regard all of my students as being smarter and more talented than me.  This belief falls somewhere in between an hypothesis and an act of faith. 

(By the way:  The editors of the New York Review of Books, bless their hearts, have placed the entire Fortieth Anniversary Issue online — a magnificent treat.)

20 October 03:  Congratulations to Kat Kosiancic for sharing in the award for "Best News Magazine Segment" at the 18th Annual Gemini Awards last week.  Kat was part of the team that produced "Searching for Sarah," a humane and heart-breaking downtown eastside narrative that appeared on "CBC News Sunday" last November.  The piece was produced by Martin Cadotte, reported by Frederic Zalac, shot by Georges Laszuk, and edited by Denis Grenier.  Kat was the researcher. 

A related item:  Kat has provided basil.CA with a wonderful photograph of the late Denise Greyeyes. (See September 11 note, below.)  Denise shone in Kat's documentary "Be My Junkie Shadow."  It's my favourite part of the video:  You see two women meeting for the first time and becoming soulful friends.  It is a duet.  It is an astonishment.  It is a privilege to witness.  Here's the photograph of Denise, taken before she moved to the downtown eastside:

15 October 03: Diane Middlebrook's biographical account of the marriage between poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, Portrait of a Marriage, has just been published.   I am sure it is brilliant.  I attended a lecture at Stanford University at which Diane discussed Plath's work:  She ended by reciting the poem "Daddy" with such focused ferocity that we all gasped.

Diane's Anne Sexton was the best literary biography I've ever read, and it really disturbed me.  I had hoped that I would have found Sexton to be weak and immoral, but I couldn't, at least not with any comfort and honesty.  Diane situates Sexton in moral difficulty without moralizing, explicates Sexton's decisions so that they all appear to be acts of creation.  Diane got me to empathize with a woman whose miserable, powerful books my mother would leave lying around in the den or living room when I was a child.  I realized that I had been graceless, for a very long time indeed.

23 September 03:  I have been irritated but not surprised by the notices of film-maker Leni Riefenstahl's death at age 101.  Los Angeles Times film critic Manohla Dargis said, "She was vile — she was the apotheosis of an amoral collaborator. I've been waiting for her to die for years." 

This used to be my view.  I remember years ago in Buffalo being invited out for drinks by Richard Chon to meet some of his artist friends.  It had been a lovely afternoon, until one woman, whom I regarded as being obviously disturbed, started to defend Riefenstahl's art.  "She was not promoting political ideology, even in 'The Triumph of the Will,'" this woman said, "and certainly not in 'Olympia,'" Riefenstahl's documentary about the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I became livid with righteous outrage and wine, and I ripped this person I'd just met a new one.  That ended the merriness of that afternoon gathering of Buffalo's artists and intellectuals. 

As I was leaving, that woman followed me out the door and asked me, "Why are you so angry?" I don't remember why I was, and I forget what I said, and I don't know whether I knew even then. I also don't remember when my view of Riefenstahl changed to that one held by the woman I scolded in Buffalo — maybe after I had seen "Olympia" for the fifteenth time? maybe after I had grown reluctant to condemn aesthetic souls for being unable to predict political events that are unimaginable even in retrospect?    It is a puzzle.

There is no cunning in Leni Riefenstahl's odes to joy.  It is true that there is not much messy humanity in them, either. One German journal noted: "Her art always remained superficial. Not once did she manage to portray a person as an individual."  Riefenstahl's individuals were always emblems of a team — of team spirit, as it were. 

11 September 03: Denise Greyeyes (shown above) recently passed away. This image is from Kat Kosiancic's 2001 documentary Be My Junkie Shadow. A tribute is being prepared and will appear in Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture.  My prayers are with the family and the pals of this generous soul.

6 September 03: Vancouver readers of basil.CA, go check out The Diane Farris Gallery, which opens the 2003 Fall Season with an exhibition of portraits by gallery artists in varying mediums including oil, watercolour, drawing, collage and photography.  There's wonderful work by Shannon Belkin, Justin Ogilvie. Jesse Garbe, Phil Borges, Janieta Eyre, Chris Wood, Cherry Hood, and Lincoln Clarkes.

And: I know where I'm going to be the evening of September 11: the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, where poet Robert Creeley is reading with Robin Blaser.  Creeley was a professor of mine back in the day, at the State University of New York at Buffalo.  He's a surpassing poet and essayist, if a middling teacher.  I must say, though, that to me he showed such generosity and decency that he left me trying to deserve it in a world of new words and more humane aspiration. Bless that guy.

16 August 03:  In You Don't Look 35, Charlie Brown! the late Charles M. Schultz writes, "There must be different kinds of loneliness, or at least different degrees of loneliness....  The most terrifying loneliness is not experienced by everyone and can be understood only by a few.  I compare the panic in this kind of loneliness to the dog we see running frantically down the road pursuing the family car.  He is not really being left behind, for the family knows it is to return, but for that moment in his limited understanding, he is being left alone forever, and he has to run and run to survive.  It is no wonder that we make terrible choices in our lives to avoid loneliness."

Comix artist Seth illustrates these words in a remarkable series of panels called "Good Grief!" published in Drawn and Quarterly, Volume 2, Number 4.  I came across these panels many years ago and have been looking for them ever since, locating them in my disorganized files only this morning.  I now realize that my Pigeon Park Sentences were variations on Schultz's theme, that I could not have even started without its echo in my imagination.  "It is no wonder that we make terrible choices in our lives to avoid loneliness."

11 August 03:  Elvis Costello once said, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture it's a really stupid thing to want to do."  Why Costello was complaining about the rock press always baffled me:  Music writers adored him.  What also baffled me was the quote itself:  We are almost *always* dancing about architecture unless we are dancing about in the fields. 

To be fair, Costello was probably using the word "about" in a different sense, making the point that it's folly to utilize one art form as a commentary on another.  But this point is absurd, too, both as it applies to music criticism and generally. Written commentary on restaurants and cooking is my favourite nonfiction (though this enjoyment does not extend to writing about wine, which as a subgenre is snotty and obscure). I might add that cooks often fashion recipes as commentaries on food writing (and food writers). 

Back to "dancing about architecture."  Here is a thought experiment:  Imagine yourself dancing in a beery roadhouse, then at a Lower East Side loft, then in a Greenwich, Connecticut mansion, then in your bathroom, then beneath the stars at the Berkeley Greek Theater.  Now try to imagine your dancing not existing, in part, as a real commentary on the architecture;  I bet you can't.

6 August 03:  Just to let y'all know I've added The Fifteenth Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style to my wish-list.  (My birthday is September 1.)

5 August 03:  Today's National Post has an excellent feature by comix artist Seth.

31 July 03: Vauvenargues wrote:  "The weak sometimes wish to be thought wicked, but the wicked wish to be thought virtuous."  That was in 1746.  Today his insight might be amended to note that the weak and the wicked both, mind you would happily accept the designation "mentally ill" if their initial wishes came to naught.

22 July 03:  Rest in peace, pianist Rosalyn Tureck. I am heartened that I had a chance to praise you while you were alive.

19 July 03:  From The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan:  "Replaying an old Miles Davis L.P. I recall one of my encounters with the satanic elf.  Some time in the late 50's I went to Birdland to hear him. Between sets he joined our table for a drink, and chatted in his rasping whisper quite amiably.  Suddenly we were approached by a timid white teen-aged boy with an autograph album.  Nervously he asked Miles for a signature and as Miles obliged he said: 'I've always admired you, Mr. Davis.  I play trumpet in my high school band and I think you have a wonderful embouchure.  How do you get an embouchure like that?' Miles said casually:  'I got it from sucking off little white boys like you.'  The boy absolutely froze.  We all did.  The words were spoken without passion, but they taught me more about feeling towards whites than dozens of liberal fund-raising sessions with Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte."

Another favourite Miles Davis quip — I think I first heard it related by drummer Max Roach:  Upon learning that Charlie Parker had died, Miles said, "That motherfucker died before we could get even."

3 July 03:  basil.CA's poetry page has added a link.

1 July 03:  The French artist Jean Cocteau was asked what he would do if his house was on fire and he was allowed to remove only one thing.  "I'd remove the fire," he said. 

This anecdote conveys the essential elements of cognitive therapy.

22 June 03:  This week The New York Historical Society opens an exhibition called "Remembering the Forgotten Ones: The Photographs of Milton Rogovin."  Rogovin is a 93-year-old photographer from Buffalo, New York.  I first came across his pangenerational portraits of neighbors in the city's Lower Westside when I was an undergrad at the University of Buffalo in the late 1970s. I could silence a room simply by bringing in a book of his photographs.  I'm completely delighted  that he is now getting big national recognition.  Today's Washington Post has a profile of the true-blue photographer and his wife Annie.

21 June 03:  Getting older has been, on balance, a wonderful thing for me.  I cannot run anymore, and, while I used to love running more than anything else, I loved it right, which means I loved it as a mortal element of my life, not a given and infinite thing. Getting older has also meant that I have lost whatever looks I might have had as a young man, so I am indeed gratified that I was never vain (that way, anyways) in the first place; it has come in handy. 

It seems perhaps too obvious even to note, but you have to be well into middle age before you can have the experience of enjoying things that go on and on a very long time:  Like decades-long friendship, and like loyalty that lasts even when love hides out.  As Kato Kaelin said to Jay Leno a few years ago, "You can't make new old friends."

We are put on this planet to witness and to foster creation, and orations can begin as praise.

I heard the piano-playing of Rosalyn Tureck for the first time the other night, on the radio:  "The Goldberg Variations," a 1982 recording of a live performance. I remember the first time I listened to the versions recorded by Glenn Gould and Charles Rosen (in Richard Chon's apartment twenty-two years ago) and by Murray Perahia (in my Vancouver office last year). Each performance is a living miracle, and I wondered whether this person whom I'd never heard of before could play in their company.  My goodness, yes.  I am so glad there is more.

12 June 03:  Happy birthday to Jim Goad, who often appears to be my favourite writer and whose boldness I admire entirely without reservation.

6 June 03:  Vancouver's great Pacific Cinematheque and the Carnegie Community Centre are sponsoring The Downtown Eastside Film Festival.

The flyer reads:  "This festival is a community forum that uses the prism of film shot in and inspired by the downtown eastside as an entry point to explore the passions and prejudices of this compelling area."

The festival is showing dozens of films and videos.  I like this "show a lot" approach.  Sometimes I believe that the downtown eastside contains all of creation, or all of mine.

1 June 03:  My buddy the photographer Lincoln Clarkes is starting to receive big press in the States for his portraits of women who live and work in Vancouver's downtown eastside. His "Heroines" series is featured in this week's Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine cover story  (registration required).  The story was written by my friend John Glionna,  who tooled around with me 24 years ago in Buffalo, New York's skid row neighborhood as I wrote a series of stories for our university newspaper on a similar subject.  Our friendship, and our interests, and that kind of world, have remained.

May's Photo District News has an interview with Clarkes and a review of his book.  Author Christopher Ringwald's description of Clarkes' manner is terribly arch but also priceless:

In our conversation, I eavesdropped on Clarkes's self-searching ruminations on the nature of art, the influence on "Heroines" of raising two now-grown daughters, and the parallels between his work and that of Gustav Klimp, the early-20th-century Austrian Painter of semi-abstract, gemlike mosaics.  Clarkes speaks in soft tones, oblivious to interruptions, girded by a firm purpose.  He will get to his point, even if he is still figuring out what his point will be.

15 May 03: During night-time dreams I often discover shared etymologies among words, and often I wonder what took me so long to make the most obvious connections.  Last night I dreamed that the words "plea" and "please" came from the same root -- something everybody reading no doubt figured out by the sixth grade. From the latin placere -- "to please" -- and placare -- "to placate." I'm happy to be alive.

4 May 03: These days I live alone, and more or less buoyantly, in an apartment in Vancouver's West End, where on a good day I get to watch the boats of English Bay go by from my balcony, and I can try cooking something new in the kitchen. I like to cook; I like the patience and the onions good cooking requires. 

I cannot eat enough on my own to justify making entire feasts, so I have specialized in making soups, and I feast on food-writing instead, first turned on to the genre by Ruth Reichl when she wrote reviews for the New York Times.  Sara Dickerman's recent Slate piece, Eat Your Words: A Guide to Menu English, charmed me:

Menus are the Pavlov's bell of eating out. They are a literature of control. Menu language, with its hyphens, quotation marks, and random outbursts of foreign words, serves less to describe food than to manage your expectations. [...] Traffic-jamming menus exist in part to convince diners that they could not replicate such food at home—the sheer number of components on a plate helps persuade you that you are getting your money's worth. Take, for instance this offering from a ritzy San Francisco hotel: "Rosemary Basted Loin of Venison, Maple Glazed Endive, Vanilla Spiced Sweet Potato Purée, Chocolate Venison Jus, and Pickled Cranberries." Nothing says "don't try this at home" like Chocolate Venison Jus.

17 April 03:  I find it easier to admit to enjoying guilty pleasures when these pleasures were born in Canada. I can count at least three times I woke up in my West End apartment suddenly loving an Alanis Morisette song that hurt my head only the night before.  And I'm singing that new Avril Lavigne song, "I'm With You," to patient colleagues at my office.  And I've learned that it is good for one's soul to submit to Shania Twain.

14 April 03:  I have found that as I have gotten older, in most ways I have become an appreciably more patient person.  I get too tired to tell people to hurry up, and I am too aware of my own ignorance to tell people to smarten up.  I can now listen to opera all day Sunday, and I can listen to my downstairs neighbor complain about British Columbia's premier all day Monday.  I am, on balance, almost a patient man.

There are areas, however, mostly having to do with the arts, that have seen my patience dwindle to nothing.  I can now hardly bear watching movies or television shows (excepting "Law and Order") that depict brutality (particularly rape), mental illness, or adultery. (I watch lots of chick-flicks and sports documentaries.)  And I will literally cover my ears when by some accident poetry starts coming out of my radio; I just can't stand it.  "Poetry should be as well-written as prose," said Ezra Pound.  It almost never is, alas. 

"The crying of a nice child is ugly," wrote Anton Chekhov.  "So in bad poetry you may recognize that the author is a nice person."

31 March 03: An update has been added to's "Pigeon Park Sentences."

24 March 03:  My colleagues here do tend to revere American documentary-maker Michael Moore, who has ingratiated himself to Canadians to a ludicrous extent, telling the world that Canada is so safe and gun-free that people don't lock their doors in Toronto, which is less a fantasy than an outright lie.  But it is a lie that serves a purpose, no doubt.

I can't stand Michael Moore:  His work is too heavyhanded to appeal to me aesthetically, too loose with the facts to appeal to me academically, and way too unfriendly to appeal to me as a man.

His acceptance speech at the Academy Awards last night was a predictable display. (Read Fametracker's excellent take.)

What galled me was Moore's invitation to the other documentarian nominees to join him on stage.  One can suppose they believed Moore wanted to share his spotlight in order to honor their work, but in fact he was enlisting their support for his upcoming outburst without their permission.  These film-makers were bamboozled in front of a billion people; they looked crestfallen.

17 March 03:  I'm an amateur photographer who carries his Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera around with him most of the time.  Occasionally I point my camera in the right direction – the alpha and omega of my picture-taking technique (having photogenic friends has come in handy) – and I spend nearly endless hours happily enhancing my images with Corel PhotoPaint and Adobe Photoshop.  One could say that I am an average talent, but is any craft that is so inflected by merry initiative ever really average? 

I have a small but nifty collection of photographs, which I'd carry out of my burning apartment building before I'd grab anything else.  I started collecting seriously the day my friend Marilyn Suriani showed me six of her photos and offered me my choice of one as a gift. I became completely perplexed.  "You want me to give you all six, don't you, Bob?"  I would have loved Marilyn forever anyway, and her photographs.

There's an excellent article on collecting in Photo District News. Numerous photographers are now limiting the number of prints they make of any one negative – or digital file – to  "editions."  One photographer told the magazine:  “The escalating prices and limited [supply] drives interest toward an artist’s entire body of work. When you run out of one image, interest is deflected toward other images, and as the price of one image rises, the price of the entire body of work can also rise."  The practice of locking away your negative after making a set number of prints is unlikely to become universal:  Its effect on raising prices is unclear, and many photographers don't want to hamstring themselves. 

None of the photographs in my collection belongs to a limited edition.  Would I value the work of Marilyn Suriani, Laura Rubin, Lincoln Clarkes, et al., more if there were fewer prints in the homes of other patrons and collectors? It's hard to believe.  Then again, Steve Martin once wrote that you don't really know what it means to be a collector until you try to sell a piece of art from your expensively assembled collection, which is an experience I am not looking forward to having.

25 February 03: Richard Chon and his band The Saddle Cats are gigging around the San Francisco Bay Area and assembling tracks for their debut CD.  When Chon released "Li'l World" a few years back, I sent out copies to my family and some friends, many of whom have asked me to pester the fiddler for a new release – his music is that charming and winsome. 

And pester him I have, thank you very much. Here are two new recordings – "Oklahoma Stomp" and "Get with It" (special AM mix) – from a champion and master of Western Swing Music.

10 February 03:  In my first year as a graduate student in the English Department at Stanford University, I took classes in Old English (which resembles today’s Icelandic, I was told) and Middle English (the language of Chaucer).  Never has my interest in a subject been so unbuttressed by ability.  I squeaked by, thrilled by the smallest achievements.  My Middle English Professor, the late Donald Howard, was as funny a person as I have ever known; I adored him.  (The most hilarious piece of writing I have ever read wasn’t by Twain or Mencken but Howard’s review of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” scholarship.) I used to stop by his office during lunchtime several times a week, just to shoot the breeze, and our honking laughter—we shared that trait — would resound through the Stanford Quad.  “You have no talent for languages,” he told me one time, “and I know that you know I can’t do anything for your career.”  Professor Howard correctly believed I was spending time with him for the mere pleasure of it.

Professor Howard could read cultural and political history in every word – in every syllable.  His expertise and artistry eradicated my arrogant pretensions to scholarship; I was a naïf with some talent and initiative, perhaps little more.  I started to study etymology, the way a butcher takes up the harp, with earnest humility and no schedule for achievement.  A friend of mine gave me The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language – a grand reference book! – which has an entrancing “Word Roots” section at the back.  I found out that the word “teach” descended from the same root that gave us “touch” and “toe” and “digit – ah, of course! Teaching is about pointing! – and that “learn” comes from the Latin “lira,” which means “furrow” or “track” … and “lira” is also the root of “delirium,” to fall out of the furrow, to lose track …  in other words: to be incapable of learning, to go crazy.

I returned to my favourite dictionary the other day to learn about “ridiculous” and “ludicrous” – words used pretty much interchangeably to mean “absurd.” I wondered whether they were etymologically related. They’re not; they are thematically related, though.  “Ridiculous” comes from the latin “ridere” – to laugh.  And “ludicrous” from the latin “ludus,” play. (I wonder if rapper Ludakris is aware of this salient echo.)  To play!  Hence “prelude” – to play before.  That night I dreampt about the word “allude” and realized in my dream state that it also must have come from the latin word for play:  allude: to play with.  I woke up and found Donald Howard’s celebrated biography of Chaucer, which was completed by his colleagues and students in the months after Howard died of AIDS, and took it back to bed with me, and opened it up.

5 February 03:  Phil Spector, arrested yesterday for the slaying of B-movie actress Lana Clarkson, has long been a pitiful and rather creepy guy, blest by musical genius but also captive to narcissism and paranoia.  Early on, his sense of entitlement grew to a malignant size:  It was not enough that his fans be guided and engaged by Spector's musical creation; they had to admire every bit of it.  He took the tepid success of his composition for Ike and Tina Turner, "River Deep, Mountain High," as treachery.  I remember paying attention for the first time to the words of "Be My Baby," which he wrote for the Ronettes and which was sung by Veronica Bennett (who soon thereafter became Spector's wife "Ronnie").  Spector's demand for -- and expectation of -- adoration from his lover made the song hard to dance to after awhile:

For every kiss you give me
I'll give you three.
Oh, since the day I saw you
I have been waiting for you.
You know I will adore you
Till eternity.
So won't you please
Be my baby ...

29 January 03:  Jonathan Mayhew's blog continues to charm.  We're lucky he adds to it so often.  Today's take on poetry is a keeper:

There's a presumption I've never understood: the idea that iambic verse is thumping and monotonous. Actually, it can be extraordinarily supple and flexible, almost infinitely variable. It only gets stiff when it is used as a sign of the poet's moral rectitude, as in J.V. Cunningham. Where did Pound get that line about "not in the sequence of the metronome"? The metronome is a device for measuring tempo, not rhythm, and the tempo of the iambic pentameter is marvellously malleable. It does stiffen up a bit with Dryden and Pope, of course, but is quite free both before and after: from Chaucer to Milton, and from Wordsworth to Browning. … The problem with some current "formalists" is they write as though Pound were correct in his metronome remark. The verse might scan, but it lacks a convincing rhythmic feel. It often sounds cramped and cranky rather than expansively Shakespearian. You don't get that forced, counting the syllables on the fingers feel from Shakespeare that you get from the neo-formalists of today.

15 January 03:  I doubt that anybody who comes to basil.CA believes that Pete Townsend is a pedophile or a disseminator of child pornography. Rock Critic and Who biographer Dave Marsh has been distributing an essay Townsend wrote last year in which the songwriter/guitarist -- a great man, a witness and a warrior -- describes his (at first inadvertent) research into internet child pornography. The piece ends this way:

But it must be time to do something more concrete to stop the proliferation of questionable pornography that seems so readily and openly facilitated by the internet. Another danger is this: I think it must be obvious that many children are becoming inured to pornography much too early and - as I have demonstrated - the internet provides a very short route indeed to some of the most evil and shocking images of rape and abuse. The subconscious mind is deeply damaged and indelibly scarred by the sight of such images. I can assure everyone reading this that if they go off in pursuit of images of paedophilic rape they will find them. I urge them not to try. I pray too that they don't happen upon such images as did I, by accident. If they do they may like me become so enraged and disturbed that their dreams are forever haunted.

13 January 03: In an Instant Messenger conversation with my bud Richard Chon today, we were talking about the Gordon Campbell DUI, how much our culture has changed in its attitudes toward alcohol, especially drinking and driving, and Chich made the following point:  "MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] have killed live music in the United States." Chich is a professional musician, and formerly a professional fan, ie journalist-critic; I bet he's right.  What a sad consequence of an enlightened cultural commitment!

9 January 03:  There is something wistful about finding out that somebody loves your sweetheart more than you do. My buddy Richard Chon has introduced me to an astonishing website devoted to one of my favourite movie-loves, "Heavenly Creatures," the true story of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, exquisitely close friends who murdered Pauline's mother, Nora Parker.  (The real pair is shown above, Pauline on the left and Juliet on the right; the actresses who portrayed them in the movie are shown below:  Melanie Lynskey played Pauline and Kate Winslet played Juliet.) Chon writes: "I've never seen such intensive minutiae on display. This guy" -- Adam Abrams -- "is obsessed."  The site includes an encyclopedic FAQ including material about the protagonists' real-life families and schools; sections on the Real People; Missing Details; The Film vs. Real Life; Comparisons, Narrative Gaps, Statements; Movie-making details about the Cast, Crew, Locations, Effects; an exhaustive list of articles and references; Other Art Inspired by the Film; Timeline, Bios, Diaries, Writings, Testimony; video and audio files; reviews; reader input; and a "Heavenly" Quiz.  The film certainly warrants this affectionate treatment. In love no attention is unwarranted -- our film's heroines attested to that.

4 January 03:  The Movie Review Query Guide is the newest entry in the New York Times CyberNavigator.  The "primary intent [of this New York Times online service] is to give reporters and editors new to the Web a solid starting point for a wide range of journalistic functions without forcing all of them to spend time wandering around blindly to find a useful set of links of their own. Its secondary purpose is to show people that there's still a lot of fun and useful stuff going on out there." The Query Guide is an astonishingly complete selection of movie reviews.  Yesterday I happily wasted several hours finding out everything that has ever been said about the movies of Mary-Louise Parker.  Here is what a reviewer for the Christian Spotlight said about that great chick flick "Boys On the Side: 

    When I completely ignore God's perspective, I like this movie. One of its themes is that friends love and support each other despite their differences. It sensitively portrays AIDS in a world that still wants to abandon AIDS victims to "the consequences of their actions." The police officer turns Holly in for murder because of his personal integrity, but remains in love with her, and after her brief jail term, marries her and apparently adopts the child as his own. On top of all that, when Jane suggests to Holly that she abort the baby she is carrying, Holly refuses on the grounds that she would "feel like a murderer."

    For most Christians, however, those values are best viewed in other movies. The characters constantly interject profanity in their conversations, culminating in a scene where Holly [the Mary-Louise Parker character] is supposedly liberated by the ability to use a word that even most non-Christians find too offensive for polite conversation.  [That word would be"cunt,"alas. -- Ed.]


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