Art Talk

“It’s like summer,” I exclaimed as I sat down across from my cohort Camp at our usual table overlooking the sparkly waters of Gibsons harbour. Campbell, know as Camp in this town, was himself still dressed in woollens and a jacket while I was sporting a T-shirt and a pair of zany sunglasses borrowed from Clare.

“It’s a fake summer and we could still have a frost,” Camp said.

“You’re right Camp and where I grew up in Switzerland we waited for the three ice saints to pass before planting – Pankratius, Servarius and Bonifatius,’ followed by Cold Sophie.”

“Oh yeah, here you’re going medieval on me again. When do these three eh…Saints come to pass?”

“Somewhere in the middle of May,” I said.

“Old wives tales,” Camp said, “but not without a hint of truth. Anyway it’s cool standing in the book store all day long.”

“Can I interest you two in a ‘Blonde Logger’? Vicky offered.

“A blonde what?” Camp asked.

“It’s a new local Craft beer we’re starting to carry? You know, support the local economy.”

“Absolutely,’ I said, holding up two fingers in a victory sign.

Of course Vicky already knew our answer and had two pints at the ready.

We took a sip and smacked our lips in appreciation while Vicky gave us a conspirational wink.

Camp started right in on a topic that obviously bothered him. “Did you hear about that the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) mounted a show called ‘Bombhead’ about a month ago, exhibiting paintings depicting the horrendous, scary power of the atom bomb,” Camp asked.

I had to confess my ignorance.

Camp carried on: “But what was most noticeable about the exhibit was the absence of one of BC’s, and indeed Canada’s, most prolific artist and resident ‘Bombhead’. I’m talking about the iconic paintings, which make up Art Nuko.”

That rang a bell with me. “How could this happen?” I said. “I thought curators work in an objective and inclusive world, above the morass of politics and favouritism?”

“Well, think again. Art is not above politics. I believe one of Art’s function is to challenge the status quo and sometimes even shock the viewers out of their complacency as in ‘Bodies’, the exhibit showcasing real, plasticised human bodies or in the ‘Art Nuko’ depictions of the mushroom cloud over Buckingham palace, Disneyland or the Kreml, amongst many landmarks and locations including one over Vancouver called EXPLO 86. Disney sued over the painting of a fiery mushroom cloud over Disneyland with Mickey looking on. That of course made it even more popular than any other form of promotion could have achieved.”

“I remember the Art Nuko postcards. Kind of cartoonish and very colourful and blatantly explicit.”

“The originals were large paintings, like 3×4 feet, and I think they’re stored in a bunker somewhere in northern B.C. ,” Camp said.

“It’s like leaving Picasso out of a cubist exhibit.”

“Exactly. Guess what the curator said about Carl Chaplin’s, aka Dr. Nuko’s work. He called it ‘inferior…and he doesn’t deserve to be on the same wall as the other artist in the exhibit’.”

“That’s a pretty nasty judgment call for a curator,” I said shaking my head. “A little closer to home we have our own controversy involving art. Due to a scheduling change the annual children’s music concert coincided with the life drawing exhibit at the SC Arts Centre. Apparently there are still some parents who do not want their children to knew that we are all naked underneath our clothes. Words like ‘dismayed, insensitive, inappropriate, unfortunate’ were bandied about.”

“Yes, it’s hard to believe that this kind of prudish puritanism still exists in our midst. Just walk by any magazine rack at the grocery store and kids of all ages can see the sexualised and glamourized versions of body images that look nothing like their moms.”

“Would you agree to subsidise art and artist with your tax dollar?” I asked Camp, knowing the answer already.

“Of course, art is the soul of civilisation, without art there is no culture and if a society does not nurture and support its artists and their art, society fails and disintegrates into randomness without meaning and history.”

“Strong words indeed, but yes I agree that our artist use their talents, mediums and techniques to enrich our world.”

“From the earliest cave drawings to the latest graffiti, art is what makes us human and it is what endures over time,” Camp said rather passionately.  He took a large swig from his brew to douse the fire. “How could we live without music, dance, stories or pictures?  Art is nourishment for the soul and the mind, without it we shrivel up and atrophy; basically turn into technocratic zombies.”

“We’re very lucky here on the Sunshine Coast where Art is alive and well and dozens of creative people work and play,” I said and then cut to the chase: “So what is the difference between art and craft?” I asked, knowing that Camp would have an answer at the ready.

“It’s very simple,” Camp said. “Art inspires and provokes; craft decorates and is utilitarian.”

“Ok, so what about Craft beer? Why isn’t it called Art Beer?” I said.

“It’s where the twain shall meet,” Camp said with a lopsided grin. “It’s the art of making Craft beer.”

“How did you two like the ‘Blonde Logger’?” Vicky asked with a mischievous smile.

”I prefer the ‘Golden Goddess’ by the other brewery,” Camp quipped.

“It’s a silly name,” I said, “but decent beer.” We take a refill.”

“One ‘Blonde Logger’ and one ‘Golden Goddess’ coming up.”





War or Peace

“I can’t wait  for some warmer weather,” I sad to Camp who was already seated, staring into his smart phone which he quickly put away when he saw me. We have an unspoken rule that no electronic devices are allowed at our Thirsty Thursday chinwag. We both have fancy phones but we’re also two of the five people on this planet who don’t subscribe to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social platforms. I admit to this blog, which is my way to let the universe know what the two of us blab on about every Thursday at ‘Gramma’s Pub’ on the serene Gibsons harbour. It’s amazing that we never run out of topics but part of this we blame on the instant news flashes that bombard us at a dizzying pace from all over the world. Sadly, most of it is about disasters, crimes and wars.

“I’m also ready for a spring thaw, in the weather and in international relations,” Camp said rather cryptically. “All this sabre rattling between the west and east is very worrying and reminds me of a schoolyard where the bullies rule and everybody else huddles in a corner crying out for common sense.”

“Teresa May is looking to bolster her flagging political career, Trump thinks he’s still in a reality TV show, Putin wants to be the smartest guy in the room, Trudeau doesn’t seem to know whose team he is playing on which leaves Angela Merkel who, although the chancellor again, now has to make decisions with her eyes closed and holding her nose,” I pontificated.

Camp gave me disapproving look over top of his spectacles, which he forgot to take off. He doesn’t like to wear them in public. “I don’t want to spoil my eyes,” is his vain excuse. “You’re ranting,” he said. “Let’s take it one at a time. The airstrikes last weekend for the alleged chemical attack on Douma did nothing towards ending the civil war in Syria. Nobody will win this war with weapons, chemical or otherwise, and the people of Syria suffer the consequences of this nasty conflict.”

“Well, who do you believe Camp? The white helmets, Amnesty International, the UNCR or Trump or Putin.”

“Nobody has the whole truth but the fact is that the butcher of Damascus is slaughtering his own people. There is no doubt about that.”

“Will there ever be peace as long as Assad remains in power?”

“Doubtful, not as long as both Iran and Russia support him, albeit for different reasons.”

“And there is Yemen whose war is no less disastrous for it’s people, caught between entrenched Islamist groups and blockaded by Saudi Arabia. It’s a big mess, considering Yemen is an impoverished country living next to some very rich neighbours. “

“No peace then in the middle east but thousands of refugees washing up on Europe’s shores, a crisis which will only get worse before it gets better I’m afraid.”

“A lot of doom and gloom for one beer don’t you think?” I said.

“In the end it’s always about resources and  energy like oil, gas or water. Mix in ideology and religion and you have a deadly cocktail of misery,” Camp said.

“We have our own war of words here in Canada over this Kinder Morgan pipe line. What do you think of that?” I asked Camp.

“It’s the twinning of an existing pipeline, a no brainer really if you want to get the oil to a different market than the USA and off the rail to make room for the prairie farmers to ship their grain. The Tarsands Campaign wants to land-lock Alberta oil and prevent it from reaching international markets to fetch international prices. The protesters are backed by the US based Tides and Rockefeller Foundation.  Just go to to find the culprits,” Camp pointed out. “They coordinated a laudatory press release after the BC NDP government announced its plans to restrict bitumen coming into B.C. I call that dirty politics.”

“It’s a war of interest groups fighting the majority of Canadian, B.C. and Alberta citizens. So much for democracy,” I said.

“Sweden has Lego and IKEA, Norway has oil and gas just like Canada, which is also a resource based economy,” I said. “ No getting away from lumber, fish, water and minerals.”

“We’re also the bread basket of the world and then there is the film industry and tourism,” Camp said, “we have everything.”

Just at that point Vicky appeared with a couple of sorely needed fresh pints.

“What do you think Canada’s biggest resource is?” I asked her.

She cocked her pretty head to the side and gave us an amused look. “It’s the people of course and maybe the beer?”

“I’ll drink to that,” both Camp and I responded in stereo.



I picked Campbell, or Camp to all his regular customers, up at his bookstore because I was early. He closed up and we sauntered down to ‘Gramma’s Pub’ on our lovely Gibsons harbour.  Before we were even seated,  he had something on his mind that he wanted to talk about.

“I have just read a review of a book ‘Stand Firm’by Swend Brinkmann, a Danish psychologist, who claims that all these self-help books are inefficient and leave us worse off, confused and inadequate. They are no help at all,” Camp said. “He has some interesting points. People are fed up with self-optimisation and the constant pressure to better oneself, to change, to be flexible, creative, to learn new things, to be a better version of yourself, to fulfill your potential. He points out that all these goals are laudable but they are concentrated on the individual and therefore have lost any kind of ethical foundation.”

“Why? Because we should focus on reaching out and being inclusive rather than self absorbed navel gazers.”

“Yeah, something like that. Self-realisation was the big demand of the youth revolt in the late sixties but today this alternative culture has segwayed into the consumer society of today. Of course it was necessary to revolt against the static and old fashioned societal structures of the forties and fifties , Brinkman claims; to fight for freedom of expression, sexual liberation and emancipation but now that opposition has become the foundation and legitimizes the same old system. Today it’s fashionable to be conservative.”

“Self-realization as an integral part of the market and consumer economy?”

“Exactly, society today wants us to be flexible, adoptive and mobile. Maximise your potential and you are a good worker bee.”

We both took a long swig and thought about all those changes in the past fifty years.  Music, attitudes, values.

“I remember being fascinated by all this lore and spiritual smorgasbord coming out of the east and India in particular,” Camp said.  “That whole fad about the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles and transcendental meditation.  Let go of your material attachments and embrace the inner light.”

“Exactly, give him all your money, close your eyes, add some incense, sitar strumming and hashish and float away into blissful oblivion. Except I never bought into the craze, it just didn’t seem very, how should I say, adventurous.  And besides I liked rock’n roll and the blues and could never get excited about eastern music.”

“You mean to say, you didn’t want to give up your worldly belongings.”

“Which consisted of a record collection, some books, an Omega watch and a cool leather jacket,” I said, laughing at the memory. “But I thought the self-help section is the best money maker in any book store. Anything from the idiot guides to the Venus and Mars books to yoga and diets,” I said. “This Danish guy’s book might cut into your profits.”

“What profits? But you’re right, without the self-help section there would not be a bookstore.  Autobiography of a Yogiby Yogananda is still a bestseller, even though it was published in 1946. It kind of started the whole fascination with eastern mysticism.  Meanwhile I’ve come to view Hinduism as the dogma to uphold the fascist cast system and Buddhism in it’s latest brutal incarnation in Maynamar isn’t very inspiring either. And then there is the other side of the self-help spectrum like ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ by Norman Vincent Peale. He was the pastor at the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, the church Trump attended as a boy. Peale’s main ideas are: Believe in yourself and everything that you do; never accept defeat and when the reality is different then refuse to believe it. “

“Basically a blueprint for Trump’s philosophy if you want to call it that.”

“Yep, he got it from the master of persuasion. But I do agree with Brinkmann. We’re much too self-absorbed and are constantly checking ourselves for flaws in the proverbial mirror of vanity. He states that it is more important to be a sincere and polite human being than a self-improved version of yourself.”

“Speak for yourself,” I said. I’m quite happy with myself and instead of a mirror I have Clare to point out my flaws. They don’t change much either. They’re pretty consistent and reliable.”

“Let me guess: opinionated, impatient, a worrier and drinking too much.”

“Did you and Clare make this list together?” I protested just in time for Vicky, who overheard this last comment, to add her ten cents.

“You guys don’t drink too much but you both worry and talk to much but hey, there is always room for improvement.”




“Camp, did you read about the firewall the Chinese government put up last week?” I asked my compadre as soon as I sat down at our favourite table on the covered patio. “I thought it was an April fools joke but apparently they are seriously restricting internet access for their own people. No more Facebook, no Google, no New York Times or The Washington Post or The Guardian.”

“Censorship apparently works if the censored have no need or desire for the material being blocked,” Camp said. “The Chinese have always been good at building walls, just look at the 20’000 km long Great Wall built about 2000 years ago. Did it keep anybody out? Not sure but it kept about half a million soldiers and peasants busy for hundreds of years.”

“What is it with these walls,” I asked. Are they to keep people out or in? To separate the haves from the have-nots; to keep ‘aliens’ or foreigners out?”

“Good question. Answer is: all of the above. The Berlin wall kept the free people walled inside a hostile East Germany, separating families and friends, while the 700 km long wall along the Green Line in the West Bank is supposed to keep Palestinians out of the holy land,” Camp said.

“Why is it called the West Bank if it’s in the east?”

“It’s only been called that since Jordan annexed it after the Arab-Israel war in 1948. Before that it was called Judea and Samaria. Israel has occupied that territory since the six day war in 1967,” Camp explained.

“I was there just days after that war ended. I still remember the burned out tanks along the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was a grad trip from my Swiss Highschool. We sailed from Genoa around Italy and visited Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. I was probably one of the first visitors at the newly accessible Wailing Wall. I pulled out a slip of paper from a crack as a souvenir and almost got killed by some very upset Jews. I was a seventeen year old idiot and didn’t know that I was removing a prayer from a direct line to god.”

“This Western wall is the last remnant of a temple which was destroyed by Titus and his roman legions in the year 70. The rest is superstition and religion.”

“Is there ever going to be a solution for those people and their shared ancestral lands?”

“Probably not in our life time. Of the 6 million Israelis, about 20% are Arabs but between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean there are about equal Jews and Arabs, about 11 million altogether.”

“How do you know all this Camp, you’re like a walking encyclopaedia,” I said.

“I’ve looked it up last week, after tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered along Gaza’s border with Israel to vent their pent-up frustration against their longstanding blockade of the territory and in support of their claims to return to homes in what is now Israel. “

“We both know that will never happen but many more will die. And then there is the infamous Mexican wall Trump wants to build,” I said, shaking my head in frustration.

“And we all know that is the most stupid wall of all. There are already 800 km of existing walls along the 3200 km border and none of them can stop a quarter million guns finding their way south each and every year from California, Texas and Arizona, where they are legally purchased but end up in the hands of the cartels. Juxtapose that against $ 25 billion in drugs going north.”

“Guns for drugs, once again,” I said, taking a long sip. “On top of that we’re looking at a trade wall or war between the Chinese and the US.”

“Trump plays poker, Xi Jinping plays chess, everybody loses,” Camp says.

“On the other hand there are walls I really enjoy,” I said, “like the Stanley Park sea wall, 10 km of pristine walking or bicycle path along the edge of the park and English bay. I also love the sea wall walk in West Van from Ambleside Park to Dundarave Park.”

“How about our very own sea side walk from the Granthams dock all the way to the Yacht Club and the Gibsons Public Market. A bit rough in spots but surely along the most pristine vista anywhere. I’m advocating of making it an officially and designated walk with park status. I’m going to ask for approval from the Squamish Nation, since it crosses their territory,” Camp said.

“That’s a great idea. Walking and hiking are the best tourist draws for the Coast, and that path leads right by our favourite watering hole.” We both finished our first pint and like magic, Vicky, reading our minds, brought around two fresh pints. Camp couldn’t help himself and asked her: “What do you think about the wall Vicky?”

“Pink Floyd?” she said, “that dirge about education and thought control? You two need to get with the times a bit more. Every heard of Bruno Mars or Drake?”