Death of the hoodie

Revolution Rock – The Clash

(Isn’t it funny) Rape is a crime but WAR is not

For when was it last, that a general was shot?

1.No. I’m not building a case for A JUST RAPE. No, this poem isn’t a joke. Nor were its subjects lightly considered. Perhaps you think the men outside my window, the ones operating the VERY LOUD TREE EATER,

perhaps you think they are joking?

 

2. BUT: I like you. You give us hope. You understand. You understand THE BIG LIE. You understand MOST EVERYBODY IS ASLEEP. You understand ALMOST ALL THE ARTISTS ARE JOKING. You stand under a tarp in the rain, the tarp we shall call: 21st Century Globalized Arts-based Research/Practice-based Arts Methodology & Theory Production (whew!).

And the tarp is good and fine but the rain is now blowing sideways and the rain is coming from below and the rain is the scientific paradigm and the rain is looking to dole out some funding and the rain is in our eyes so we’ll have to wrap ourselves in this tarp (if this be allegorical, what really is this rain, anyway?) and so we wrap up in it but then they bury us in the tarp (suddenly we realize that’s what they meant by Alter-modern) so now we’re in the ground with artists who fought the evil, like Lorca, insouciant,

and, like the other glorious dead, we can’t move we daren’t speak and we can’t create.

 

Some questions: %. Since when does a painting combat a clear-cut?

  1. Can creative work serve humanity and corporations at the same time?

^. Did your poem prevent fracking? Cruelty to animals? Greed?

  1. Does the pace of desecration oustrip the pace of cultural/critical response? of illumination?

 

Some Answers: (audio: the sounds of empty spaces, like the moon)

3. ARTIFESTO

(image: a dog fight) suck it up / forget the past / fight each other for the grant money / learn to sing and shin-kick at the same time

4. A Place of Mind goes banking

We’ve been writing Linda Josh who works at UBC Treasury and we’ve been asking why HSBC? why does UBC employ HSBC? especially when HSBC is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt banks in the world? and we keep asking and Linda Josh keeps saying “We have to give HSBC a chance to explain themselves” and the months are rolling by and HSBC isn’t answering and Linda Josh keeps saying “UBC Treasury awaits a response from HSBC”.

and we come to understand THIS IS THE EXPLANATION.

NO EXPLANATION is the explanation.

We are students/workers for a corrupt institution, one that supports terrorism because its bank supports terrorism and we support drug cartels and murder

because our bank profits from drug cartels and murder and we engage in corruption because HSBC evades taxation (taxation that paves our road, pays our teachers, puts gas in the ambulance, supports our seniors)

HSBC hides executive monies in offshore accounts HSBC manipulates LIBOR                     HSBC violates securities laws in multiple nations…

 

BUT WE SEE THIS BORES YOU

YOU’D RATHER BE IN YOUR STUDIO

MAKING A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION

TO ARTS-BASED RESEARCH

 

well, don’t let the door hit your assumptions ON YOUR WAY OUT.
BUT WAIT!

We’re sorry.

Okay?

Didn’t we say we liked you?

We’re just trying to SPEAK with you.

We didn’t mean to get all RAGEY.

 

and, shit, maybe THIS IS RESEARCH?

and maybe THIS POEM WANTS A GRANT?

THIS POME WANTS SOME MONEY

SO IT CAN WRITE SOME POEMS

THAT FUNCTION LIKE

TOTALITARIANIST-DISSEMBLERS

 

so we’re no better than you.

that’s what we wanted to say:

we’re no ARTS-BASED FREEDOM FIGHTERS

and you’re no Ezra Pound,

licking the boots of Mussolini

(Mussolini, who said gov’t + corporations = fascism).

 

okay? sorry.

anyhow, we’ve more important things to talk about.

5. How to Measure Your Success in the Arts:

there’s really only ONE WAY.

 

if they come in the night, and the jack-boots kick down your door, and they DRAG YOU FROM YOUR BED, and you end up in a scene from a horror movie, with chains and torture and fake blood (except, well, maybe the blood isn’t so fake) THAT’S WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT, A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO THE LIFE FORCE.

YOU’RE AN ARTIST, BABY! Like the Romans with Jesus, or the Russians with Rasputin,

or the Fascists with Lorca, or the countless patriarchs who lynched the WOMAN PROPHET, POWER HAS COME TO IMMORTALIZE YOU.

YOU’VE MADE IT, KID (so why are we shouting?).

6. On Forbidden Methods

permitted:     students competing for money

permitted:     people fighting for position

permitted:     enforced boundaries (FN, fine arts, Whitey, economics,

Asian, anthropology, African American, medicine, Arab, biology)

permitted:     feeling like a mashed potato under the weight of grad school [heavy bond]

permitted:     spouting eco-centric from the heart of Plastic Mountain

permitted:     making sausages out of a perennial supply of high school kids

 

NOT PERMITTED: A GROUP MFA

NOT ALLOWED: opting out of hierarchy

GROUNDS FOR EXPULSION: breaking with Malthus

PROBABLY MARTYRDOM: a student strike to draw attention

to the corporatization of the academy

7. In Praise of Despair

 

“…rise up, children, shake the Devil out your soul,

rise up, children, shake the Devil out your soul,

rise up, children, shake the Devil out your soul,

rise up, children, shake the Devil out–”

 

We’re sorry, but perhaps you forgot:

we’re searching for dignity and fulfillment,

we didn’t come to join the ranks

of the sons of educated men.

 

We didn’t come to the IVORY TOWER

to take part in PRETENDING EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT,

to join in telling the BIG JOKE to September’s arrivals,

the BIG JOKE

that runs:

 

This guy with a gun walks into a university and tells everybody to relax,

“Just go on about your business like nothing is out of the ordinary,”

he says.

 

Meanwhile, THE BIG CRASH SMACK-DOWN COLLAPSE APOCALYPSE

IS HEADED STRAIGHT FOR US like a SHIT TORPEDO

and it seems like he wants us to PRETEND IT ISN’T.

or maybe not that,

maybe he just demands that we TALK IT OVER FOR AWHILE,

BALANCE IT AGAINST COUNTERVAILING THEORETICAL MODELS,

SPECULATE ON THE VALIDITY OF THE METRICS,

ENDORSE PYOTR’S RELATIVE APOCALYPSE

RATHER THAN MARWEATHER’S TOTALIZING CATASTROPHE.

in essence, the guy with the gun says

“do whatever you like, just don’t:

WANDER DOWN THE IVORY TOWER STAIR-WELL

TO THE LAY CAMP BELOW,

TAKING TWO TABLETS,

AND START  WARNING PEOPLE FOR REAL.”

 

And, sure,

maybe we should call the police,

but the guy with the gun IS THE POLICE.

the guy with gun IS THE CHANCELLOR.

guy with the gun IS THE FUNDING AGENCY.

guy with gun WON’T RELEASE THE MORTAR BOARDS.

 

and guy-with-gun is teaching us how to hold it properly,

where the safety catch is, how to reload,

how to tuck it in your pants so it IMPLIES HIERARCHY,

and how to wave it around so it resembles COLONIALISM.

 

8. And Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County,

Down by the Green River where Paradise lay?

Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking,

Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away. – John Prine

 

Did we mention we’re studying MARIJUANA WORKERS?

We did.

Did we mention they have MUCH TO TEACH US?

We did not.

 

Do you suppose they could teach us

what it must be like

to be SUBALTERN?

 

Do you suppose they are becoming legitimized,

moving from the illicit margins of the sub-continental floating casino

to the metropole of the glorious congregation of legal capitalism?

 

JOE TRIMMER: “No, man, we’re here to show you

how to SURVIVE IN THE UNDERGROUND

because of Bill C-51,

and EVERYBODY IS A TERRORIST

according to Stephen Harper (except his favorite Aunt and the RCMP),

so you’re all gonna need to know

how to live outside the law.

 

And as Prof. BURTON CUMMINGS has pointed out,

life isn’t any fun as a fugitive.”

 

CLAY MCCANN: “When the organizers of WORLD WATER DAY

asked to see the poem I was to read for the crowd,

the crowd then assembled,

to make sure “it isn’t political” (whatever THAT should mean)

I realized we are all taking part in EXHUMING STALIN,

We are already ON A SLOW TRAIN TO TREBLINKA.

 

We’re on our way t’ward

YOU HAVING YOUR LECTURE NOTES APPROVED

before the kiddies get to see your SONG & DANCE.

 

Executive summary:

It’s not morning in the academy, and it hasn’t been for a long, long time”

(thank you Nelson Algren).

9. Bourriaud, meet Badiou.

Bourriaud:  “How, finally, to make art anything but a secondary type of merchandise in a system of values entirely oriented towards this ‘general and abstract equivalent’ that is money,  and how can it bear witness against ‘economic horror’ without reducing itself to sheer militancy?”

Badiou: “The ambitious artist has arrived upon a cruel impasse, to steadfastly produce nothing rather than contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which the Empire already recognizes as existent.”

Burroughs: When you cut into the future, the present leaks out.

Bongwater: I don’t want harmony. I want harmony.

10. How should an artist behave?

Stop calling us “artist”.

We must stop calling us “artist”.

When the chair is empty and the barber shouts, “artist!”

we must pretend we are reading Vanity Fair.

 

“Artist” is alone in a giant studio that used to be a factory.

 

Cultural workers sweat the whistle blow rivet horn the silversky…

hands unbound raise high a roof-a-lo…

picket line assembly line party line…

stitched/titch/titch/titch/titch/titch…

the objects now…

that fight desire, sooth a fever, kiss the baby, jail the banker…

objects that defy Post-modern dissemblage, despair, dementia…

the performances that corrode the capitalist capo de tuti…

props, proposals, propaganda that dismantle the Earth-eaters…

the paintings, sculpture, constructions,

the recordings, the video, the starlings in wild formation…

songs and drums and dance and burst FANDANGO!!!

 

don’t call us “artists” you’ll wreck the dance

don’t say “artist” you’ll start believing in mirrors

cut it with that “artist” crap or you’re out on your ear

 

SORRY: MAYBE WE’RE NOT BEING CLEAR…

cultural workers = a gang of genius rainbow love

artist = a lone, lonely loner, mad with grief and echoes

 

STILL NOTHING?

to focus on the art, the artist,

means to overlook the souls down here, dreaming it all into day.

 

Selah.

 

Just ask yourself:                                is this machine working for me? or do I work for it?

 

 

 

(B)advice column #1.

Dear Stretch-the-truth-to-fit-the-climate: Recently I have been throwing up. A lot. I work at a public art gallery and I think it might have something to do with the various administraitors (sic). What should I?

Dear Molly Ringwald: Mostly I just go around singing hip-hop in my head, hoping that the workday will end in screeching tires, a smoke-show, and

Dear Horrible Swelling:

Dear Ministrations of Uncoupling: Ever since Ferguson, I get the feeling that cops are pointing their guns at me. How can I be sure?

Dear Elastic Waistband: Since you gone I have taken to the bottle. Since you went, I have had to walk to the Bulk Barn. Since you.

Dear Tears of a Clown: Not until Nancy Reagan.

Dear Hotel-in-a-handbag: Unsubscribe/See all your alerts.

Dear Manga-junkie: Who’s the old guy in all those photos with you? And why do you resemble the “It’s Gone Forever” girl? And who took the pictures? And why am I just hearing about this? And I feel like I met you somewhere? And don’t you know me? You know me. You.

Dear For-fuck’s-sake: Okono Miyaki. It of the dancing egg flakes. A hard rain burns the skin.

Dear Tulsa Tampons: I dreamed a gang of horrid killers were chasing me through a BMX maze. I launched a fat air and for a second, the only time since my birth, I was flying. From somewhere came the tinny music of a Blackpool dancehall. And the smell of fried fish. Suddenly, a woman’s breast struck me in the face. “Relax,” I said to the gathering clouds of evening, “you can land this.”

The Bitchcombers.

Remove all doubt. Wash the grid iron with life-giving solvents. Improve back strain by gargle. Inch.

We’re eating for two. Both of us. Your mother tapeworm and I. These are words from beyond the grave. A half-rotten brain, off-gassing the last entropic fragments of consciousness.

Blood on my hands? No. It’s hot sauce.

Where the wild CFOs go to blood match.

In a trailer in sunny Houston. In a pixie ring made of curls. In a diner south of Hamilton. That’s where you’ll find their

In a train broke down near Sask-a-won. In a plaster worker’s tools. In the radon gas emissions pouring out of the better schools (in Porty Hope). In

In a magazine read by hipsters. In a coffee drink costs too much. In Booger Brie’s depictions of the inflatable parking lot spaghetti string cappuccino man, legless except for a screaming fan. Inna

Why won’t you listen scary fascist? Why won’t you trust our tea? What was with the rag bag and discarded Elastoplasts by the sea? And what have you done with the hangovers of Karen Dalton?

In a burned out Chevy Malibu. In a sperm bank near La Jolla. In the wigs of Betty Crocker. In the comment section of Musgrave’s airbnb, that’s where you’ll

 

Condolences, vanishing pita

My life as a failed cilantro baron:

“Oh you think it’s over, think it’s over to me, someone who sells pot in the subway…” – Foxygen

Sometimes I think it will never get this good again. All my enemies are dead, or trapped in the reeking husk of the Republican National Convention facility in Cleveland, slowly going insane over the new Hitler. The Quathiaski grocery now stocks Prick IPA. The tourists are leaving Quadra Island, albeit without the mountains of trash they brought over from the dump we locals describe as “Campbell River”.  I am filled with the light that can only be gathered by a full day of watching 911 conspiracy videos. And Boomer, the dog I fell in love with, has vanished from the baby apocalypse that is the south Slocan.

And the academy, by which I mean UBC, has so devolved into corporate shill-dom that not even Santa Ono (also, strangely, a Cleveland reference) can save it. I wonder what d.a. levy would make of this late corporate-capitalist age of sickening greed, complicit governmental hand-jobbing, and a judiciary both bloated and decidely anti-human. No-one, it seems, can go to jail in Canada unless wretchedly poor or hyper-violent. Sex crimes? No problem. Environmental degradation? Carry on, Mt. Polley. Graft, corruption, and erstwhile pillaging of the public weal? You go, girl—by which we, in BC, mean Christy Clark.

Meanwhile,  while I was away on workation, my cilantro plants were destroyed by Quadra’s starving giant squirrels (also called “deer” by recently-transplanted Vancouverites). I will NEVER make it in agriculture (again).

Mt. Polley Disaster

There is no question in anybody’s mind whether B.C. supports mining. If anybody is ending up being criticized it’s not the government of British Columbia. It’s not B.C. that folks are concerned about.

– Bill Bennett, March 11, 2014-1

 

Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

 

Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay;
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.
                                                                   – from “Paradise” (1971) by John Prine

 

 What happened? (Bill Goddam Bennett)

Mount Polley, Mount Polley, all night the catastrophic grey waters of Mount Polley whirled in my head. I woke up in a rage that August morning and wrote Bill Bennett. “Thank you for your letter,” said his web page, “we will be in contact with you shortly”. This was all I would ever hear from Bill Bennett.

I wrote Bill because I didn’t know who else to write. I mean, in the face of what happened, surely he would have some answers. That was the rationale. He’s responsible for the protection of the public within his domain. As far as I knew, he was busy as hell with what happened–a man like this, a meat and potatoes sort of a guy, a take-charge politician, would have updates, he would have someone working night and day to fix this broken mining regulatory process.

But perhaps you don’t know Bill Bennett, the Honorable Bill Bennett, BC Minister of Energy and Mines and the Minister Responsible for Core Review. Bill Bennett is a ski fanatic. He loves skiing so much he wants to build a ski resort on the Jumbo Glacier. He wants to build it so bad he’s willing to ignore the public’s pleading with him to reconsider, this is a pristine glacier, this is virgin wilderness, this is abuse of power, this–wait a minute, why is a French consortium Bill’s choice to own and operate this ski resort?

Bill Bennett loves Smart Meters. As Minister of Energy he’s willing to shove the $4 billion dollar program down the public’s throat, regardless if the things do start house fires and endanger the health of a concerned public.

Bill Bennett loves the Site C dam, even though it will probably cost $12 billion and only service 750,000 homes annually. And he’s willing to hike hydro rates by 28% immediately to do it.

But Bill’s indefinite image first appeared to me in the frantic days following what happened, splashed over the media, smiling from government information pages, shimmering in the unknowable, a bald-on-top, golf-shirt wearing people’s sort of politician. The first thing I learned about Bill is that neither he nor his ministry would respond to questions about what happened. You could write him about it, or you could ask something innocent, like did he own dogs? Does Bill take cream and sugar? Will the Canucks go all the way this year? Will the Minister respond to observations that his campaign received monies from certain mining companies? The answer would always be the same.

“Thank you for your letter. We will be in contact with you shortly.”

The next thing I learned about Bill came from watching YouTube. On August 5th Imperial Mining Corporation’s Brian Kynoch presided over a press conference/ community information session in Likely BC. This is the now-infamous briefing in which Kynoch boasts that he would drink the water from the tailings pond, as soon as the solids settle (he also unequivocally declares “there is no mercury in that water”). At the 37sec mark in video 4 (of 5), the camera inexplicably begins to pan left. We drift with it, off Kynoch’s panicky face, along the stage, down into the wings. And who is standing immediately off-stage? It is Bill Goddam Bennett!

I recognize him from his GOV BC photo. Strange, he looks unprepared, uncomfortable even, with the camera shining on him. By 43sec the camera has panned away. In the interval (6secs) Bill blinks 9 times. He makes the supreme effort of looking at the camera while trying to look like he is not looking at the camera. He shifts his weight ever so slightly, with the look of someone who is trying to remember where he parked. His right arm leans against a discarded podium, his left thumb crooked into his jeans pocket. Dressed in a green golf shirt and blue jeans, he is casual, our Minister of Energy and Mines and Core Review, a casual brand of uncomfortable.

By the 3:30 mark in the video an angry citizen is raging at Kynoch about what happened. At 3:33 the camera pans left once more as the citizen continues to speak. And there’s Bennett again! But Bill has moved, and now it is his left arm leaning against the podium. He seems a little closer to the exit. The camera slow pans over our Minister and comes to rest on the angry citizen, the angry citizen who wants to know what happened but, more importantly, what will happen next. At the 4:04 mark the angry citizen begins his final question and at 4:09 the camera begins to pan right to cover what will be Kynoch’s response. We drift along the side of the meeting hall, over the personages, drifting along with the camera. But where is Bill? Bill is gone! Why would our Minister suddenly leave an important press conference/community information meeting at such a moment? The angry citizen asks: “Could what happened have been prevented?”

“Thank you for your letter. We will be in contact with you shortly.”

Things I learned about Bill Bennett: #3, August 12th. The Minister has difficulty telling the difference between the effects of avalanche and those caused by 25 million cubic meters of toxic sludge, slurry, and supernatant. “What happened was not an environmental disaster. Get up in a helicopter and go and look at what happened last spring with the events in the Rockies with water coming down and doing exactly what happened in Hazeltine Creek. The difference is that snow melts, (but) you are left with exactly the same (result) — it looks exactly the same as what happened in Hazeltine Creek.”

 

Ferguson

Ferguson drew us away. On August 9th an unarmed teenager was killed by a St. Louis police officer while those in power stopped to paint colours on the characters. But an innocent boy, Michael Brown, had been shot dead. It was Ferguson that drew us away.

His murder was so clearly our murder. Don’t we walk the streets of our town? On occasion have the police not appeared? We are struck to stillness by their shouting. The moment soars to crisis. Where do our bodies end and Brown’s begin? Shots race past us in the sweltering Missouri sunshine. The boy looks down as bullets begin to pierce our right forearm, our thumb, our shoulder. We stare with mouths agape. We are falling. Where do our bodies end?

As we lay dying, Ferguson rages on. Police drag grainy black and white film of the Civil War/Rights era into the streets, spread mace and snapping German shepherds, creep SWAT-clad, pointing rifles at women and children, and dance like armed drunks in their Iraq War military surplus. They pierce the night with eerie machine noise and close ranks like a fist ‘round officer Darren Wilson, insulting the dead, cracking a community’s vigil with lies. And the bloody fandango burns as it rises, blood in its eyes.

Two days after we are murdered, Ezell Ford is shot dead by transit police in San Francisco. Witnesses place Ford on the ground complying with commands when he is fired upon. August 20th: Kajeime Powell, shot by police 14 times, dies of his injuries just four miles from the Brown slaying. The killing continues unabated. On October 8th an off-duty St. Louis police officer kills 18-yr-old Vonderrit Myers, Jr. in the Shaw neighborhood of the city, firing 8 rounds into the body of the boy.

Our body moulders on the street for hours, days, weeks. We are there yet, dragged this way and that by the grief and rage of our mothers. We lie there yet.

 

Lemon Creek, 26 July 2013

Some cleaning up remains to be done on Lemon Creek in southeast British Columbia following a massive jet-fuel spill last month, but environmental officials said on Monday that most of the other affected waterways are back to normal, with no lingering signs of the fuel. 

 – “Cleanup efforts continue for Lemon Creek spill” Globe and Mail, 19 Aug. 2013

We are evacuated from Winlaw (ten minutes south of the spill site) after dark. Out in the yard, at first, a pall of kerosene fills all the air, thick in the lungs. It’s everywhere along the river, mixed in with the receding heat from the day. We’ve barely unpacked from our Kelowna trip the day before, and wonder whether we really need to leave. But soon the vapours have entered the house, stupifying, thick, swallowing all the air. It feels like a lit match, the pilot light on the hot water heater, the stove, anything could cause an explosion. No longer hesitant, we evacuate.

The highway is busy with area residents driving south toward the junction. A serious forest fire had been raging for days on Perry’s Ridge (up our mountain). Six bucket helicopters and a water bomber are in action to bring the fire under control, their refueling station located on a peninsula south of Slocan City. A fuel truck, intended for the helicopter station, took a wrong turn up a deactivated logging road. The driver managed to turn his double trailer around and was moving back toward the highway when he went off the bank into Lemon Creek, spilling 35,000 litres of jet fuel into the water. 5,000 of us had to be evacuated immediately.

Officials let it sit in the river for three days as they deliberate, the truck’s own diesel tanks leaking into the water, adding to the desecration. Executive Flight Centre, owner of the truck and fuel, is magnanimous at first but then resolutely refuses to pay a cent for damages to the waterways, private property, or human health. The forest fire on Perry’s Ridge rages on. The overworked water tanker nearly crashes into Slocan City beach [where Unity Fest is underway, over a thousand people milling in attendance] when one of its engines fails during a landing. Along the Slocan River, residential wells begin to fill with gaseous and liquid A1 jet fuel [the jelly goo component lies there yet]. One of the cleanest rivers in North America before the spill [with 12 years of longitudinal data to back up such a bold claim], residents that were permitted back in their homes were warned “do not approach the water [riverbanks]” by Interior Health Officials.

In the over-capacity parking lot at Winlaw Hall before the meeting, I circulate with friends to try and get a sense of the local mood. Some of the more spiritual-looking locals are passing out information sheets which promote the use of mushroom booms, a floating mycoremediation technique using fungi and/or bacteria to draw petroleum products out of the water. Others are fraught, their riverfront properties home to grazing livestock, organic farms, their incomes and their homes tied to the health of the river. The hall is packed to fire code numbers. Mosquitos attack mercilessly those of us who remain in the parking area. Audio speakers are brought outside. Inside, the press conference/information session gets underway. Interior Health Medical Officer Trevor Corneil speaks briefly, answering select questions. He issues an “extremely severe risk” associated with water consumption then perfunctorily declares,  “I do have to depart in ten minutes in a helicopter”.

“What I’m not hearing from you is what we can do about the airborne fuel,” one resident speaks into the microphone.

“Engage the fire department if your house smells of jet fuel,” responds Corneil.

A woman on the mic now, “So my local volunteer fire department is responsible? [entire audience erupts in applause] … because of a fuel supplier’s horrible mistake? That’s outrageous!”

My room-mate, Billy Corker, is hired on by Quantum-Murray [environmental remediation contractor] as a clean-up labourer. He is issued hip-waders, gloves, and a scrubber that looked like a curling broom. He is asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The Quantum manager suggests Billy’s payroll documents won’t be processed until he signs. He states calmly, “I’ll sign, but it won’t stop me from talking.” He works 7 days a week, 11 hours a day, picking rocks out of the swift-moving current and scrubbing away the gelatin-like fuel solids. At night he answers phone calls until after 11pm from frantic locals, reporters, and family concerned for his health.

What we learn from Larry A., former Highways employee: “This spring, some idiot moved the barricade on Lemon Creek Rd. with his Cat. And I talked to the local Highways administrator about going up there to put it back but he says, no, you gotta wait until September. But any driver that comes to a road in that condition with a truck like that, you gotta wonder what he’s thinking.” As it turns out, it is federal budget cuts to Highways that makes replacing the barricades a non-eventuality. “But, man,” says Larry, “Highways is responsible for all those roads, 4 kilometers from the highway into the bush, that, or they have to deactivate the road.”

Quantum burns through $4 – 9 million in taxpayer funds [we’re still not clear on the number but it sure went fast] supplied by the Ministry of Environment in 22 days, declaring the clean-up “complete” (for what it’s worth). MOE Minister Mary Polak agreed and permanently suspended operations, turning her back on affected residents and destroyed ecosystems.

The dogs go down to the river the day we get back. Two days later I am in the water, a strange stickiness on my skin. The fumes have almost become imperceptible. A scorching August sun on my bald and buoyant head.

 

Imbecile et Idiota

I imagine meeting British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett. It is likely a lunch date at the Radium Montana’s. I want him to be comfortable, you know, in a familiar context, so I will play a savvy corporate tzesto to Bill’s Ministerial bricoleur…

INT. MONTANA’S RESTAURANT – DAY

Clay is seated alone in an oversized booth. A female server is taking his order. She is shaking her head.

FEMALE SERVER

Well, we have giant Paralyzers on for $6.99.

CLAY

I dunno, I mean who wants to drink something with a name like—?

A loud car horn is heard, playing the opening bars of the Hockey Night in Canada Theme. Both Clay and female server look off camera right.

FEMALE SERVER

Is that a Hummer with a tank turret mounted on top???

CLAY

I think it’s more a tank on wheels with a Hummer grill. You see how the—

A very loud hissing sound is heard and steam or smoke enters the scene from right. female server runs off left. A short, bald-on-top fellow bustles in, immaculately dressed in suit and tie, black reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. He walks past the waiting hostess to a table left. At the table are children celebrating a birthday.

BILL BENNETT

Which of you is Carl McMann?

The children stare dumbfounded.

BILL BENNETT

Well? Come on!

CLAY

Bill, goddammit! BILL!!!

Bennett spots Clay and makes his way to the booth. He has trouble getting up into it and when he does, his feet dangle noticeably from the ground. They clasp hands, the grip seems interminable. Finally they come apart, annoyed, then composed.

CLAY

Minister, good to—

BILL BENNETT

Carl, I am very—

CLAY

I’m so excited, I was ho—

BILL BENNETT

So this is East Side Mario’s. I always—

The female server returns as this shilly-shallying carries on, until Bill Bennett sees the server and he sits bolt upright.

BILL BENNETT

Wendy! What are you—?

FEMALE SERVER/WENDY

You really didn’t think I was going to stay on that stupid space station for the rest of my life, did you?

BILL BENNETT

But you said you would wait for me. You said you loved me.

WENDY

Oh, for god sake. (Beat) Would you like to hear the specials?

BILL BENNETT

But I just have a few more things to take care of and we can retire to Owl City’s gated Martian suburb for Masons and Mensa.

WENDY

I don’t want to live in Owl City, god. You’re such a bore. Why can’t you just leave your wife like everybody else?

Turning to Clay.

Would you like to hear the specials?

CLAY

Incredulous.

The band? The ska band?

BILL BENNETT

Weeping into hands suddenly.

I can’t leave her. She’s hidden all the gold.

WENDY

Exasperated.

No, not the band. The food, the food! Jee-sus!!!

Walking away.

CLAY

After her.

Just bring us two of those Paralytics and some Goldfish.

BILL BENNETT

Recovering.

What were we talking about on the phone?

Pulls massive lap-top from the depths of his dress jacket.

CLAY

Looking at notes.

Let’s see… privitization of armed forces. Closure of schools and hospitals. Etc. etc. etc.

BILL BENNETT

Yes, yes. Oh, wait a second—what’s this about control? It states here we’ve selected the “Loose” option?

CLAY

That’s right.

BILL BENNETT

What is “Loose” in this context?

CLAY

Loose control, as opposed to Tight.

BILL BENNETT

Tight? Why wouldn’t we want Tight control? I mean, we’re paying your company—

CLAY

Our company, William.

BILL BENNETT

Right. Our company, we’re paying our company a lot of money—

CLAY

Quite a lot.

BILL BENNETT

—Right. We’re paying our company quite a lot of money and, frankly, I think we should be getting our money’s worth. Shouldn’t I choose the Tight Control option?

CLAY

Well, not right away.

BILL BENNETT

Not right away?

CLAY

Yes, not right as soon as we abolish the civil liberties and shift all savings from individual accounts to the new Corporate State Account. These things have to be handled delicately.

Wendy approaches with two enormous milky plastic tureens bedecked in straws like bamboo staffs.

BILL BENNETT

Staring longingly at her.

Ah, delicately, I see…

Wendy sets the drinks down carefully and walks off.

CLAY

We have to give the new private forces time to collect the dissidents. Otherwise they go into hiding and we’ll have the devil to pay—

BILL BENNETT

And then we go for Tight Control? What is Tight Control, anyway?

CLAY

Standard stuff, concentration camps, forced labour, summary executions, widespread panic.

BILL BENNETT

Oh, widespread panic

CLAY

Yes, why?

BILL BENNETT

It was just… I was hoping we could keep the widespread panic out of my neighborhood. It bothers my wife, you see, and she knows where the gold—

CLAY

Well, of course we’re going to keep it out of your neighborhood! Ha-ha hahahahahaa! We’re keeping all sorts of Tight Control out of the, well, better neighborhoods. Oh, goodness me! No, this Tight Control is for the non-subscriber areas, for the mass of the population.

BILL BENNETT

Ahhh, good. Good…

CLAY

I thought that was clear from our, our—

BILL BENNETT

Ah, right, right—

CLAY

Besides, Loose Control is designed only for the outset of these, um, manufactured calamities: nuclear meltdowns, mass evacuations, you know? It isn’t something we would want to stick with as the, ahem, crisis mounts.

BILL BENNETT

Ah, good, good.

CLAY

Attempts to take a large haul on the bamboo straw, stops before he can.

Well, if there’s nothing else—

BILL BENNETT

I guess I don’t understand the distinction between Tight and Loose Control, you know, completely.

CLAY

You don’t understand?

BILL BENNETT

I can’t seem to distinguish between the two, uh, positions of this control mechanism.

CLAY

Fingering the Goldfish snacks.

What’s to distinguish? They’re both control.

Eats one.

BILL BENNETT

If they’re both control, why not simply have one form of control?

CLAY

But we have two: Loose and Tight.

BILL BENNETT

Yes, but why?

CLAY

Because, well, because two sounds better, it sounds more organized, more disciplined. That’s one reason.

BILL BENNETT

Okay.

CLAY

And, two, because control without, uh, phases or gears, different gears, is, uh, well it isn’t control. No, it’s not. It’s more like, um, un-controlled, uh, normal, you know, norm—

BILL BENNETT

Warming.

What you’re telling me is that without two phases of control we don’t get control at all.

CLAY

Right! It’s very complicated—

BILL BENNETT

Ya, okay.

Attempts to take a drink, pauses, puts drink down without drinking.

CLAY

It’s as though control is in the phases, without phases, no control. The boys down in Coercion have punched all the, the numbers and this is the way it works, you know, according to them. We pretty much go by whatever they come up with, this two-phased control system was their idea.

BILL BENNETT

Looking vainly for Wendy.

CLAY

Besides, Tight Control costs so much that we have to have an early Loose Control to help pay for it, otherwise the budget is shot right out of the gate.

BILL BENNETT

Of course. We can’t blow the budget right off. We slowly eat away at it and then burn through it just before we seize—

Clay moves to correct him.

—I mean move funds into the Corporate State Account.

CLAY

Exactly!

Moves to drink, is stopped by Bill’s statement.

BILL BENNETT

But that doesn’t really answer my question.

CLAY

No?

BILL BENNETT

No. This might be mere semantics to you corporate types—

CLAY

—Well, we’re all corporate types now, Bill—

BILL BENNETT

—Yes, of course. It’s just that I’m stuck on this notion that control is control no matter how you slice it, and if it isn’t control, well, it’s something else, like chaos, but not chaos, not in this case, maybe—

Wendy, eavesdropping. Leaves.

CLAY

I see where you’re going… Alright. How about this: We call the opening stage something like, “the Incident”. And then we call the genocidal stage “the Control.” How about that?

BILL BENNETT

Yes, but, I will still know that we had this thing called Loose Control cooked up from the start, it will seep into the everything, don’t you see? It’s too late to re-name Loose Control. From the moment the term was invented it infiltrated everything, polluting the normal, uh, normal state of affairs with it’s perverse non-normal, um, and what’s worse is that it hints at Tight Control. I mean, you don’t have Loose without Tight, right? They’re relative, and so the whole thing is saturated.

CLAY

Oh.

BILL BENNETT

Is it me, or do you see the problem here?

CLAY

No, I get it, I get it. It’s like you can’t say the word “control” without it destroying the free impulse in everything, is that what you’re saying?

BILL BENNETT

You see it, too! Yes, yes!

CLAY

Hmmm…

Bill and Clay both drink from the tureens. Instantly the change washes over them, both clutching at their throats.

What the fuck???

BILL BENNETT

Gasping.

Oh my GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!

CLAY

Spitting, choking.

Ahhgg-h-h-h-ck-k-k-k-k—!!!!!

Wendy returns, triumphant.

WENDY

So, boys? How’d you like the drinks?

BILL BENNETT

You bitch, what have you done?

WENDY

You don’t like your Paralyzers?

CLAY

Sputtering.

There’s not even any milk in this!

WENDY

You morons, it’s water from the Mount Polley tailings pond. Billy? Didn’t your ministry say it was safe to drink?

BILL BENNETT

Turning green.

You cunt.

Dies.

CLAY

Sentimental.

You never even played the ska band.

Dies.

Fade, Wendy clears the table as she sings:

Weighted down, by possessions,
weighted down, by the gun;
I waited down, by the river,
for 
you
to come… (from “Schizophrenia” by Sonic Youth).

 

Fire next time“It’s not a question of the sky is falling or the mining industry should be shut down, but we know that tailings management has advanced to the point that most really sophisticated mines dry and stack their tailings,” Ritchlin said. “They just don’t build the mud walls and put a bunch of wet, toxic soup behind it anymore”-2.

The woods at night are not silent. Twigs snapped by the careful tread of animals. The distant drone of a high altitude aircraft. The wind. The wind comes up out of nowhere, a slow rise, from a hush to the sea. A soft whisking through the coniferous needles, then a ratchety scrape sidles in as trees rub together, a creaky door, back and forth, as they lean like falling drunks in the howling wind. It’s not a question of the sky falling, more like it has been whipped into a really sophisticated cyclone.

On this night, other sounds: a gurgling like an immense indigestion shitting down the mountain-side, a rumbling that sends birds fleeing into the blackness. A massive cracking, like thunder breaking through the night, and a sudden torrent like the craziest Niagara Falls of exploding rock, gravel, sand and mud leaping through the trees, smashing hundreds of trunks and branches as it flies, flattening the wilderness in its path, invisible at this hour, hurtling down along Hazeltine Creek. Hot on its heels, several million cubic meters of a grey gooey muck, like toxic oatmeal toothpaste, thirty feet thick and two hundred feet wide, like grey paint splooshing through the darkness, moving toward Quesnel Lake.

And right after that: a government silence descends through the night, covering everything.

 

Ingredients:

antimony (52.25 tonnes)

arsenic* (471.6 tonnes) [manual data total = 969 tonnes]

cadmium* (8.6 tonnes)

cobalt (652.8 tonnes)

copper* (38,745.5 tonnes — wasn’t Mt. Polley a copper mine???)

lead* (277.7 tonnes)

manganese (24,260 tonnes)

mercury* (2.6 tonnes) [manual data total = 5.197 tonnes]

nickel (311 tonnes)

phosphorous (49,384.7 tonnes)

selenium* (23.96 tonnes) [manual data total = 21.14 tonnes]

vanadium (7,106.1 tonnes)

zinc (2,250 tonnes).

*most hazardous heavy metals to human and environmental health

Gerald McBurney was at home in bed. It had been a fretful evening. He had quit as Tailings Foreman at Mount Polley just two months earlier and money was getting tight. For two summers the McBurneys had had money to go camping, buy a boat, an RV. They had explored The Cariboo, taken their two kids to Arts Wells, Barkerville, and down to visit family in Grand Forks. But this summer money was tight.

Gerald had quit in June, a month and a half before the breach. The job paid well and it was a difficult decision to leave. But the position came with an incredible amount of stress. For two years the the North-East section dam wall with the elbows, two obtuse angles formed by three straight arms of the dam, had posed real challenges for engineers and, by extension, for Gerald. “Engineers (from Knight-Piesold) told us the pond had five times the amount of water it was designed for. We had a breach in May. I asked for rock every day to reinforce and build up the dam. They [management] told me they had to build a road first. And all they did was build the dam up, not out. Well, you can’t do that”-3.

Vehicle operators reported experiencing strange vibrations on the top road, the access road along the top of the dam’s circumference. McBurney reported the phenomena to his supervisor but was informed it was normal. But a breach was not normal, and the one in May resulted from high water, a combination of Spring run-off, rains, and other factors. Workers were adamant that something was wrong with the hundred-foot high section over the Hazeltine discharge point. But there was something wrong elsewhere at Mount Polley Mining Corporation as well. It was, as several employees have articulated, in the management of operations. One worker noted, “I worked at other mines before this, but I never seen such things. High voltage cables, fuel lines running across work sites, guys gettin’ put on warning for requesting proper safety gear.”

“Fuel and lube” man at Mount Polly, Larry Chambers reported to the Ministry of Energy and Mines multiple instances of negligence, safety violations, and discrimination he experienced while on duty. “We had several letters [dating back to December 2013] into the Ministry of Mines that the tailings pond was pushing out, it was breached.” In response, MEM Inspector of Mines Steve Rothman reportedly used his influence to have Chambers dismissed, “I got a phone call stating my services were no longer required. Half the employees there knew there was a problem. I got told the pond had too much back pressure and it’s pushing out.”

Gerald McBurney doesn’t say it specifically but something even more grievous than his normal routine had forced him out. “It was stressful. You couldn’t get the materials to do your job. Management needed to do so much there and they just weren’t doing it. Engineers told us the dam walls had to be wider to reinforce the volume of tailings in there. But you can’t get the rock and management, meanwhile, is having rock shipped to the waste dump.” If the dam was moving, pushing out, and materials to reinforce it were not forthcoming, is it any wonder McBurney resigned? As Tailings Foreman he would likely have been held partially accountable in the case of an industrial accident.

The Olding Report (2011), written by an independent third party consulting firm, indicated the pond (5 years ago) “was accumulating water so quickly it would have to discharge 1.4 million cubic meters a year to keep its levels stable”-5. In 2012 the discharge was approved by the provincial government. But at that time, records show, Olding urged Mount Polley Mining Corporation retain an engineering firm to conduct structural analysis tests on the dam wall. This request was ignored-6.

When the dam collapsed, after 1am on August 4th, over 600,000 cubic meters of construction material roared down Hazeltine Creek, followed by well over 20 million cubic meters of sludge, slurry, and supernatant. Resident and owner of the now-bankrupt Northern Lights Lodge, Skeed Borkowski described the thunderous noise as “exactly like standing next to Niagara Falls.”

Management at Mount Polley must have seen the writing on the wall. They applied to more than double annual discharge levels out of the tailings pond****. Had there been the understanding at the executive level that volumes inside the pond were getting dangerously high? Evidence suggests this is the case. In August 2012, Ministry of Environment inspectors noted that Mount Polley failed to report dangerously high water levels inside the pond-7. And in May the incident occurred again, this time resulting in a warning being issued by the Ministry.

But a warning is not a cease operations order. And the difference between the two shed light on yet another problem at Mount Polley and places like it. Government oversight of mines in BC has been consistently cut back, so much so that in 2010 and 2011 the province failed to conduct a geotechnical inspection at Mount Polley-8 even though a ten- to fifteen-meter crack in the dam was reported that same year to Mines Inspectors. The incident was forgotten until Vancouver Sun reporter Gordon Hoekstra found the inspection reports in the Williams Lake Library in late September of this year. The report reveals a series of problems at Mount Polley’s tailings facility, all of which were handled as notes issued by the Ministry of Energy and Mines. The resulting culture of indifference is alarming, especially so in light of the disaster.

And the coup de grace in the process is the stonewalling of the public by BC’s Liberal Government. Citing provisos by BC’s Attorney General, Christy Clark’s government is saying nothing about the disaster, including who is to blame, what inspections were conducted, what findings were made, and actions taken by Imperial. Thousands of public requests for information under BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act have been quashed by Clark’s government, making it one of the least transparent government in Canadian history-9. Over 45% of FOI requests, including three made during research for this paper, were extended by the FOI Commissioner well beyond the legislated deadline for release of information. One, asking about toxic constituents of the Mount Polley sludge, was slated for release mid-January 2015. The nature of these materials has yet to be made available to Soda Creek First Nations and residents of Likely, even though their health is directly affected by these heavy metals in their drinking water and immediate environment.

**** This means Imperial Metals/Mt. Polley Mining Corp. were knowingly releasing the above-listed toxins—lead, mercury, and a host of others—into the receiving environment throughout this period, and were asking to be allowed to release more.

 

Closure?

Hi Andrew, what happened at Mt. Polley is minuscule compared to the looming disaster at Logan Lake. They have used Logan Lake as a tailings pond for at least 2 decades, probably even much longer than that. If you ever have the oppurtunity to drive by it, you’ll notice that the SE end of the lake is full of tailings, and this is causing a tremendous amount of pressure on the natural barrier on the SW end of the lake, which sits about 3000 ft above Merritt and the Nicola Valley. If this barrier ever breaches, potentially from an earthquake or some other cause, it will make the Mt Polley disaster, comparatively, look like someone peeing in a mud puddle, as the Lake itself is about the same size as Quesnel Lake. Could you imagine that volume of water running down a 3000′ mountain and into Merritt and the Nicola Valley. Never mind the pollution, just that size of an inland tsunami, then into the Nicola,Thompson and Fraser Rivers.

– from public forum correspondence between Art Green [Hope   resident] and Andrew Weaver MLA, Aug. 6, 2014

 

Appendix A: The facts are backing up! Open the fact gates!

Bill Bennett loves wordplay: “Tailings dams at operating mines in Canada have not breached” (August 12th, 2014); and another press release the next day: “Tailings dams in Canada and around the world don’t fail”-10. So breaches at such facilities as the Lac Bloom, P.Q. mine, which (2011) released 50 million litres of tailings, affecting 15 downstream lakes, do not count for Bill because the mine wasn’t operating that day. The Opemiska mine breach near Chapais P.Q. (2008) released 11 million litres. And 8,000 cubic meters of mercury-laden tailings found their way into BC’s Pinchi Lake after a Teck Cominco tailings breach (2005), but whatever, that mine had already shut down (twice). Then there was the Mount Polley tailings dam collapse on August 4th of this year. And I can’t see how he could forget about what happened there, unless his statement was implicit about the disaster — but can you be implicit in this context? The fun with semantics continues: a tailings dam collapse (1998) at Canadian-owned Los Frailes mine in southern Spain resulted in the destruction of thousands of hectares of farmland after the release of 5 million cubic meters of slurry; 1.6 million cubic meters of tailings from a Canadian-owned mine spilled through a drainage tunnel (1996) in the Philippines resulting in the evacuation of 1,200 nearby residents; and in Guyana (1995) 4.2 million cubic meters of cyanide slurry spilled from a Canadian-owned mine into the Essequibo River. But these don’t count according to Bill, because even though they were “operating mines,” they weren’t in Canada. He loves his wordplay.

For example, on August 6th Bennett responds to questions from concerned residents of Likely BC. Available on YouTube, the short series called “Mount Polley incident update from ministers” features a concerned Bennett — “the only thing I can tell you is I am losing sleep over this” he says in video #8 and we are left to assume he means “the only thing I know for certain is that I have lost sleep because I am so very busy dealing with this dam collapse”. At 3:52 a caller asks was there a change in volume of either water or solids prior to the breech in the dam, Bennett looks to his right to a woman seated next to him (Jennifer). The camera fails to pan to her in time but she either shakes her head or says nothing, Bennett then affirmatively says, “No” (although evidence will later show the correct answer to be “Yes”). This is a different sort of wordplay. Next: “Is it true there has been no sampling of solids from the creek or the (Quesnel) lake?” and Bill doesn’t even bother to answer this question. The woman to his right affirms, “No. And that’s because it is unsafe.” Bill is looking at the ceiling at this point, like he is trying to remember who played Superman in the 1978 version.

Next we have a question that is likely on everyone’s mind, “The concern isn’t the water, it’s the solids. If you’re not sampling the sediment how do we know what heavy metals and whatever else is in the sediment?” To which Jennifer responds, “Right. And that’s where we’ve asked for the characterization information on the solids from the company, okay, and it is a requirement of the order that they are to characterize the materials that were released into the receiving environment so that includes the supernatent and the solids. And that characterization is due by the end of today” (Aug.6, 2014 — this information has yet to be released to the public).

Earlier in the video Bill claims there are “20 active mines with ponds in BC” (but, in a different, more real reality, there are 98) and that his ministry doesn’t know what’s in those ponds. Here, he takes the opportunity to pass the buck: “the mining companies in BC track the components of their process, so they actually track the metals that are detected as part of their milling or refining process, and so they know generally what goes into their tailings pond”. And, by extension, what comes out of their tailings pond when their tailings pond explodes all over the pristine wilderness.

This is an extremely interesting statement for the Minister of Energy and Mines to make. As head of mines, Bennett would know that Environment Canada manages something called the National Pollutants Release Inventory, an annual categorization of released pollutants data submitted voluntarily by companies. And he would know that Imperial Metals Corporation — Mount Polley Mine (NPRI ID 5102) pollutants data is readily accessible on the NPRI web pages. The significant pollutants by volume (2006 -2013) formerly contained in the Mount Polley tailings facility were:

antimony (52.25 tonnes)

arsenic* (471.6 tonnes) [manual data total = 969 tonnes]

cadmium* (8.6 tonnes)

cobalt (652.8 tonnes)

copper* (38,745.5 tonnes — wasn’t Mt. Polley a copper mine???)

lead* (277.7 tonnes)

manganese (24,260 tonnes)

mercury* (2.6 tonnes) [manual data total = 5.197 tonnes]

nickel (311 tonnes)

phosphorous (49,384.7 tonnes)

selenium (23.96 tonnes) [manual data total = 21.14 tonnes]

vanadium (7,106.1 tonnes)

and zinc (2,250 tonnes).

*most hazardous heavy metals to human and environmental health

Appendix B: References

  1. http://www.biv.com/article/2014/3/bennett-on-a-post-new-prosperity-bc-mining-sales-m/
  2. http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Mount+Polley+breach+environmental+disaster+Mines+Minister+Bill+Bennett/10109949/story.html?__federated=1
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmrHtuNTVRw
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iXuqA8zKK0
  5. http://www.andrewweavermla.ca/2014/08/06/mount-polley-tailings-pond-breach/
  6. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/mount-polley-mine-tailings-pond-breach-followed-years-of-government-warnings-1.2728591
  7. http://www.andrewweavermla.ca/2014/08/06/mount-polley-tailings-pond-breach/
  8. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-didnt-inspect-mount-polley-mine-in-2010-2011/article21084272/
  9. https://fipa.bc.ca/were-not-waiting-for-2016-to-get-action-on-transparency-and-privacy-4/
  10. http://thedrivefm.ca/mount-polley-incident-sparks-tailings-pond-fears/