[ notes preceding my death ]
Randy Adams aka runran is a Canadian media artist with a background in creative writing, journalism and the visual arts.
[ 1997 - 2008 ]
the thundering snow white van & notablog
24 july 2007
You can see the nose of the Thundering Snow White Van behind the red tent. The machine is long of tooth, a 1981 one-ton extended van, once owned by the City of Calgary. The gas tank is held by two of three straps, the third strap is rusted, snapped and broken. Who knows what's holding the rear springs together? Or the brake lines? Some things survive long past their time. The Thundering Snow White Van is one of them. So is this website, but I'll get to that further on down the line.
The Thundering Snow White Van got its name from the sound the roof makes when the vehicle hits a bump. The welds that hold the three rear roof struts have been broken for years, and the extended roof sometimes wobbles and snaps like a tin sheet. My stepfather, who died over a decade ago, once owned the old machine. When I inherited the van, it had a half-million kilometres on the odometer. It's well over a million klicks now, to the moon and back and part way back to the moon.
The rear doors are roped shut from the inside, the floor is rusted to nothing in spots, there's corrugated panelling from a Winnebago screwed to rusted patches over the rear wheel wells. But the engine still runs like a charm, and doesn't burn a lick of oil. The van is a bit like this planet of ours, wonderful and still spinning, even though the body is being ravaged.
Needless to say, the Thundering Snow White Van hasn't a prayer past this festival season. It has opened its doors and spread forth its goods - like a half dozen camels on some trade route - for the last time. In the following photograph, you can barely see the van behind our two tents. It rests, home and storage space, a reliable and benevolent behemoth - a herbivore, like the mythical creature, running on organic materials.
The Thundering Snow White Van has been, variously, camper and haulage unit for over a decade. One year it sat in a friend's backyard over winter, loaded floor to roof, front to back with household goods, while my partner and I travelled Europe and Turkey. The next year it was home for several months while we looked for a place to live on Vancouver Island. It has been reliable transportation during my transition from analog to digital - from a vehicle used to explore the Canadian prairies with an old Nikon F camera, to more recently transporting computers and electronic keyboards to conferences and VJ gigs.
The van has largely fascilitated my new lifestyle as a merchant of summer. It's last official duties were to deliver the goods to three music festivals on the Island. Every year vendors take to the road in all manner of vehicles, some have specialized rigs, others cram their goods into small cars. One man straps three dozen large-sized cat scratching posts to the roof and rear hood of his 1970 Dodge Polaris.
Merchants come from up and down Vancouver Island, and from the various Gulf Islands. Some spend winter in seclusion to make handcrafted goods, others travel abroad where they design and manufacture clothing and accessories. One Italian couple imports costume masks and glass from Venice. Many young vendors are fresh from university art classes, silk-screened T-shirts are quite the rage. Other vendors are veterans of the market and festival circuit - the cranky fortuneteller, the ex-rodeo cowboy who sells belts and watches.
Catfish, a Metis with two bad hips, a gregargious and intelligent soul who wears many hats. Last year he tried to sell us the case that now holds his Peruvian jewellery. He travels in an old school bus with his dog, a Husky who once wandered off for several weeks, returned one day wildish like a pack animal. The dog likes most humans, but will not tolerate other animals.
The vendor community is temporary and highly-charged, a sudden burst of camaraderie that lasts the season. Respect is hard-earned. Markets are an ancient tradition. Herodotus writes about them, and they were already part of an ancient tradition. The Phoenicians gave us ledger sheets, scrawled in the sand. Some places in the world still rely on markets for tailored goods, foods, novelties, and stories from distant places. Modern markets, like the ones on Vancouver Island, are still storied, and still frequented by travellers. The rewards are unique, and have as much to do with celebrating the human spirit as with monetary gain.
A couple of years ago, at the Saanich Fair, some carnies went on a rampage through the booths and robbed several vendors.
The challenges are many. Sometimes it's the weather. Already this season a mighty wind rose off Victoria harbour and slammed into the Sunday street market like an angry demon, sent tents flying, smashed pottery and stained glass. An unprepared novice can lose a season's profit in one unlucky blow.
Some town shopkeepers consider vendors no better better than gypsies who don't pay taxes. They constantly lobby to end the markets, patrolling for any infraction. Unlike retail shops, markets provide a festival atmosphere - can it be that local merchants are jealous? Thievery is a constant concern. Tents get slashed at night by drunken teenagers at music festivals. If you last a full season, you're already a hardy soul.
Joann, of JoJo's Emporium, my partner and sweetheart. We live together like the fur traders and mixed-blood women of so long ago - “a la facon du pays” (according to the custom of the country). She is a brave soul, a shrewd business woman, and a seasoned traveller.
Excerpt from: Adventures of the Red Tent
The Thundering Snow White Van has played a big part in establishing the Red Tent as a popular festival and street market venue for clothing, hats and jewellery - some handmade, some vintage, some imports. JoAnn is the brains, I am the roadie, onsite promotion, information gathering and security dude.
Sadly, it's time to put the Thundering Snow White Van to rest. My neighbour is going to strip a few parts, and then the van will be hauled to the scrapyard. This is the end of the line. The van has outlived it's time. Coincidentally, so has this website - notablog. This will be the last post. Handcoded websites are too restrictive and time-consuming. The creative possibilities of publishing with software like WordPress are simply too alluring to ignore (read: avoid).
runran, jojo's roadie, bartender, social convener, techie, media artist, writer (git outta dodge, foolish human)
I continue to create work for the remix, and post digital images to the runran catalogue.
notablog has morphed into runran [ notes preceding my death ]
updates & interactive futures
18 may 2007
The remix has kept me busy of late. All other work is suffering: writing an interview article about new media for a good friend (sorry Milsey - it's like writing about writing); preparations for a season of travelling with the red tent, (The Merchants of Summer - another article I'm late with); a website design for a digital media event (IF07 - see below); a pile of editing tasks; a crime noir novel, or at least a short story about a blind ex-police detective who becomes a restaurateur/bartender; bringing a stone gargoyle to life, who can read minds; creating a cyborg, Ponder Cajole: a walking, talking con[of]science. Sigh.
What you get from me instead is a free-range cow - virtual dinner.
- Steve Gibson premieres his new work, Grand Theft Bicycle: A Game-Installation, June 2nd at the Open Space gallery. Experience the excitement, glamour, fear, violence and mayhem of a genuine Middle Eastern battle!
- Bits and Bytes: A Conversation with Chris Joseph: Trying to give a clear account of the history of new media work is like trying to keep hold of two dozen slippery eels.
- The remix has a mention on poet Jenny Sampirisi's Other Clutter blog. Great to see this kind of collaborative work being done on the open waters of the blogosphere.
Call for papers, panels, performances & screenings
Deadline: Monday June 25, 2007
Interactive Futures: The New Screen
Nov. 15-19, 2007 - Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Part of the Victoria Independent Film and Video Festival
Co-sponsored by Open Space Artist-Run Centre
INTERACTIVE FUTURES is a forum for showing recent tendencies in new media as well as a conference for exploring issues related to technology. The theme of this year's event is The New Screen. IF07 will explore new forms of screen-based media from a diverse body of artists, theorists, writers, filmmakers, developers, and educators. Interactive visual environments, screen-based performances (with or without sound), new forms of narrative experiences, web-based environments, and innovative educational models will all be explored in The New Screen.
The development of tools and strategies for the presentation of screen-based environments has radically accelerated in the past few years. Artists and writers are exploring new ways of controlling narrative flow, formal structures, and ways of viewing. Immersive tools for experiencing visual environments have allowed artists to provide radically subjective experiences of visual surroundings and forms. With the introduction of interactivity, multi-screen environments, and media-rich web-based applications, a new era of performed, live, streaming and/or improvised media art is contributing to the creation of new modes for the screen that are distinct from older forms such as print, film or video art.
The New Screen will include installations, screenings and performances by visual artists, writers and performers. These practitioners are critiquing usual modes of visual interface, such as rectangular screens and determined techniques of interactivity. Interventionist strategies, public participation, experimental projection methods, and destabilizing interactive interfaces are some of the approaches that are used in their work. For IF07, leading Canadian and international artists, researchers, and educators working with screen-based media have been invited to present their work and to participate in the installation, performance, and panel events.
Download details: IF07_Call_final.doc
intruder & the media whore
12 may 2007
jesus-is-lord and other press releases
the creation of one life and links
similar pages beyond compromise
medical training, dining, daily news
a vast unknowingness
my (neverlasting) space
tag, you're it
In the the consul, Ralph Rumney talks about the gaze penetrating the image. Start with nothing, but never quite nothing, stretch the no thing. Rumney was called a media whore. I aspire to be a media whore. A cultural plugin. Unpure. What do we know about outsiders unless we've been outside? Pure text, my ass. This computer knows the browser is a plugin.
un poco desorbitado & the remix
12 march 2007
Look at a map of the coast and imagine the islands like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. See how it all once held together, see where the broken shore
came suddenly unattached, or peninsulas drifted apart. Gauge this movement in centimetres per year. Two metres is a fortunate span.
Viewed from Nanaimo the mainland appears a mystical landscape of cloud and mountains. Beyond the mountains lay the prairies - my old heartland. In winter, when the high passes are deep in snow and the roads are dangerous, especially then, I used to suffer a terrible sense of dislocation. There is a saying in Spanish - un poco desorbitado - which means, a little dis-orbited, out of one's orbit. No matter how hard I tried to come to terms with the coastal landscape, it was too wet and green. The forests made me claustrophobic. Now, after 10 years, I am finally at home here, and hope to always live by the ocean.
My most recent journey inland lingers like an old lover, hauntingly familiar, yet remote as the moon. We left on a sunny day with the barest hint of new green on the trees in Vancouver. We slipped through most of the way, over the Coquihalla and Roger's Pass without incident, no bad weather. The highway was bordered by high snowdrifts. Occassionally, the blasted, sheer rock faces along the road were decorated with huge icicles. We came across massive icicles dyed red, yellow, and green. It was an avalanche area, with no way to take a photograph. When I mentioned the icy kaleidoscope to my old friend Harry, once a long-haul trucker, he said: "Probably a trucker did it. Thought about it one trip. Did it his next."
Every passage through those mountains is part of my memorybank. This time we stayed a night in Revelstoke. I remember back in the late 60's, a young hitchhiker named Kaiser was stranded in Revelstoke. With his greasy rocker hairstyle, dressed in an iconic Pea Coat, and wearing Beatle boots in winter, he was a sight hitching to the coast. I was with three friends in a 1946 Desoto 4 Door Sedan. The two rear doors were held secure with a rope stretched tight across the back seats. We were going to Vancouver to catch the predicted earthquake. We rescued Kaiser. He sat in back with big-breasted Crystal, both clutching the thick rope. She was bubbly, a wonderful companion. Kaiser was dour and full of himself. The weather was very cold, and the car heater barely worked.
I remember another time driving through the Rockies in a red 1949 Ford Panel truck. It burned so much oil that I stopped at gas stations to buy five gallon barrels of drippings from oil changes. The steering wheel had a quarter-turn play and made it tricky to navigate the winding roads. Another time, late at night, driving in a 1981 Dodge 1 Ton Van, I stopped just short of hitting a moose. It ambled lankily across the headlights, not five feet from the snub nose of my van. From my high seat, we were eyeball to eyeball. The highway glistened with black ice.
Driving the road into my hometown, Edmonton, felt particularly like being on the cold side of the moon. The streets of Edmonton are inscribed in my mind. I have lived, at one time or another, in almost every corner of the city. My first employment was behind the wheel of a hack, a huge 1967 Polaris with ripped upholstery. It smelled like the day driver and on good days had two gears. I was a shy twenty year old. On my first day snow was falling in big lazy flakes and the Polaris drifted like a boat over the fresh white. (from: fisisix)
Follow the street to the river down at the heart of this place, frozen and dangerous. Walk the bottom flats where the river bends, where ice heaves like teeth up the edge of gravel bars. Stand amid night-black maples as this glistening city steam blasts a thick neon sky - a half million lives. It’s all wrong, though gallant, to use the archaic sense - to persist at the edge of cultivation, consuming every speck of old life, contingent upon the spark. But I was born to this, marginal and abbreviated, mixed-blood coupled on the land. My vapored breath and the city’s join, can’t escape that, whatever our differences. We huddle here together on the edge of frozen tundra, still waiting for the light of day.
My first real sense that things had changed drastically at home wasn't the gleeming new buildings, or the advertisement offering $14hr to work at Chicken on the Way, or the price of beer - instead, it was while listening to the CKUA radion station that I suffered the deepest culture shock. It was all the onair plugs for Syncrude and Dow Chemical, representing them as good corporate citizens who make life better for everyone.
Dow's track record includes the manufacturing and distribution of DDT, Agent Orange, Dursban (pesticide) and asbestos. Elsie Fabian, 63, an elder in a native Indian community along the Athabasca River, has said of Syncrude: "The river used to be blue. Now it's brown. Nobody can fish or drink from it. The air is bad. This has all happened so fast. It's terrible. We're surrounded by the mines." Both corporations contribute greatly to global warming. As for Dow being a good corporate citizen, ask the Bhopal survivors of the worst chemical spill in history.
CKUA was once an alternative radio station with a conscience. The announcers and DJ's were among the most strident advocates for responsible media on the airwaves. Now, while Bob Chelmick's show, The Road Home, is taped from his cabin in the woods, where he practices Transcendental Meditation and lives a responsible and rustic life - his show is punctuated with coy adverts for Dow and Syncrude. The irony here is as tall as the mountains that separate my new home on the coast from my old heartland.
While in Edmonton, I still listened to CKUA, but felt clearly un poco desorbitado in that media landscape, with so much corporate sponsorship of the arts. I thought: Who can blame people for wanting a steady, stable stream of funds to keep the station thriving - lots of decent jobs and freelance gigs. But I questioned whether certain controversial programming was possible in that environment, and wondered if the airwaves in Alberta might be ripe for a new alternative radio station? Some idealistic young folk to stir the pot? Again.
- I have vanished into the remix. It was inevitable. It is a space mostly free of theorizing or critical comment. A digital playground where I am joined by a few online friends whose prime motivation is creativity. A blog that is not about myself.
My stay in Edmonton included an evening in a recording studio with two old friends, mixing 3 spoken word tracks for the remix - pitterdefunct live, machine_language, cool functions - which can be found in the spoken word section of the remix.
- After a short blitz of comments on the Writing and the Digital Life blog, Nottingham Trent University restored the redirect on the trAce Archive. The trAce site now announces that the community has moved and is being managed and relaunched by the Creative Writing Team at the University of Bedfordshire. The Bedforshire trAce page has been posted for almost a year (with typo), and an email sent months ago to former members announced the creation of a new Wiki space. Nothing has happened, and my guess is that NTU and Bedfordshire wish everyone would simply forget that trAce ever existed.
- My friend and sometimes collaborator Steve Gibson has launched his Grand Theft Bicycle website: "Experience the excitement, glamour, fear, violence and mayhem of a genuine Middle Eastern battle! Get your fat shooter-playing ass off the console and onto the revolutionary Borgcycle™, a sensor equipped bike that allows / forces users to get a heart-pounding workout while hunting down some baddies."
notablog picks & party
09 january 2007
L'Ardoise - the Slate - An interactive installation by Nicolas Clauss. "Through drawings and recorded interviews, nearly 300 teenagers express their own perceptions of the world. Words intermingle, drawings post and erase like on a school slate, an interactive fresco, both poetical and sociological, to which the spectators movements give life. (interactive device with heat sensors)."
Leonard Paul's original soundtrack for the award-winning Canadian documentary film, The Corporation. Released for free distribution (December 19, 2006).
Circling the sun - The alien adapted quickly to Canadian culture and hung out in the kitchen. But it overcompensated by chosing the sink as its prime vantage. A cabal of party goers became resolved to teach the alien a proper lesson. "It's got to learn this is our planet," Azin said, deadpan.