Thursday, April 10, 2014

TREVOR LINDEN's 1965 red Mustang is five years older than he is and a classic for all the right reasons.
None of these flashy reptilian Teutonic-Italio imports with more curves than a swimsuit calendar for Johnny Canuck. The Vancouver rookie likes 'em simple, swift and honest.
Back in The Hat (as Linden calls his hometown of Medicine Hat) he keeps a stock Datsun 240Z for off-season spins and has helped his dad restore a 1956 T-Bird - the classic of classic cars.
Classic. The noun-adjective of the '80s. While boomer-oids pine for all things classic (rock & roll, Coke and Gilligan's Island), sports fans, too, yearn for the classic aesthetic - the purity of a Johnny Unitas, the elegance of a Jean Beliveau, the integrity of a Stan Musial.
In an era where sports pages headline marital spats, splits, slips and suits, along with drug suspensions and mega-million-dollar contracts, who doesn't yearn for the bubble-gum-card universe of square-jawed brush-cutters and good old-fashioned, simple-minded hero worship.
Trevor Linden is a little too young - 18 - to humble oneself before quite yet but the Canucks' rookie right winger and first-round draft pick (second overall) should have "classic" stitched somewhere on his jersey.
At a long and hard-edged 6'4" and 200 pounds Linden has been cut from the classic athletic mold. He also carries a classic resume. Two Memorial Cups as a Medicine Hat Tiger and a World Junior Championship a little over a year ago in Moscow. In his last year as a Tiger he led the team with 46 goals and 64 assists in 67 games.
And there is his talent. Workmanlike but aggressive, swift and honest.
Linden's work ethic has paid off with a precocious 22 goals - three in his last two games - and 17 assists in his first 53 NHL contests. Dennis Ververgaert's rookie 26 goals (1973-74) is an endangered record and once again people are mentioning the Calder and Linden in the same sentence.
Canucks veteran Harold Snepsts, who rooms with Linden on road trips, says he's almost afraid to compliment his young teammate. "I've seen so many good rookies get praised and seen some of them buckle under the pressure."
But Snepsts says if anyone can handle the burden of being a No. 1-draft pick and a media favorite, it is Linden.
"He's one of the few young guys I've ever seen who's got his head squarely on his shoulders and isn't caught up with the glamor of the whole thing. He gets praise but it doesn't change a thing. He just accepts it quietly and keeps on working hard at the game."
Snepsts says Linden is - pardon the adjective - a classic hard-nosed, hard-working player - with a bonus.
"I'd compare him with Stan Smyl and say that he can put the puck in the net more naturally."
Brian Burke, the Canucks' player personnel director, isn't afraid to heap praise on Linden.
"If he doesn't win the Calder this year, there should be an investigation, Burke says. "He's the only candidate who's playing well in all three zones."
"He's not as flashy as a (Mike) Modano but he's got fast hands and a big-time shot. If the Canucks can find a centreman who can feed him the puck consistently he's gonna score a lot of goals. He's the type of player who just rises to the occasion. The better team he plays on the better he gets."
But performance and styling do not a classic make. A true classic must have character and Linden's team loyalty, self-discipline and innocence seem to be some Norman Rockwellian dream exported out of some mythic small-town past.
While the NHL's first pick Mike Modano played hold-out games with the Minnesota North Stars until his signing last month, Linden quietly signed a four-year deal estimated at $700,000.
"The money is good, sure, but I'm still playing for the love of the game," Linden says.
Linden is sitting in the living room of the British Properties home where he is a season-long houseguest of the Robinsons, Joanne and Harry. Joanne, the former wife of one-time Chicago Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull and mother to St. Louis Blues' right winger Brett Hull, says she had some apprehensions about taking in an 18-year-old stranger for the season (Burke made the request) but says Linden has fit right in as part of the family.
"You couldn't ask for a nicer young man," she says. "He has so much character for a boy his age. He won't just be a leader in hockey; someday he'll be a leader in the community."
Linden is barefoot in jeans and sweatshirt and sports a close-to-the-bone haircut you might call early Chuck Yeager. You are struck at once with how young he looks out of uniform. But then again he is young. He just finished high school last June and still can't walk into a pub - legally.
Thanks to Robinsons' 18-year-old daughter and her friends, Linden has a social life. But he says girlfriends and the party-animal life are not part of the routine.
"Right now I'm more concerned with just staying in the NHL," he says.
He is an effortless interview, unless you include the difficulty in trying to get Linden to say a negative word about anything or anybody. He will, for instance, tell you his worst problem in adjusting to the NHL involves parking.
"If you want to go out with friends around here you always have to worry about where to park," he says. "In the Hat, you never even thought about it."
And that's about how difficult Linden's promotion to big-city life has been so far.
"For a lot of rookies the biggest problem is just getting over the awe of playing against players like Wayne Gretzky," Linden says. "I just didn't let that get to me and found I could still make the same plays as I did in junior. What was helpful was the fact I played a lot right from the beginning. I've got to give coach (Bob) McCammon credit for that."
Everything he says is nice. Positive. The right thing for an all-Canadian kid to say. Sure, there's the occasional four-letter expletive, but it only makes his ingenuousness seem all the more genuine. It's strange but you kind of want to shake him upside down at times - to see if some unwholesome crumb of vice might fall out. But no - not even pocket lint.
But then "character" - one of the attributes that gets attention on the scouting sheets along with stickhandling and skating speed - is something Linden exudes in buckets. It's a trait he says he's labored at along with his slapshot.
"It's something I've worked hard at," he says. "I guess I have to give credit to my Mom and Dad. My Dad got everything from hard work and being honest and my Mom has shown me how to treat everyone fairly and be a good guy."
However, Edna Linden, Trevor's mother, says Trevor was "awfully strongheaded" as a boy.
"You wouldn't want to get in a confrontation with him - if you know what I mean," she says.
Edna says she likely cured his temper when she kept an 11-year-old Trevor away from practice after he lost his temper during a game.
"He was fine after that but he is still very strong-willed. "
Mom and Dad may have taught Trevor how to be a nice kid but they didn't teach him a thing about hockey. The middle child in a litter of three boys, young Trevor fashioned a dream of his own making.
"Ever since I can remember - and this was every kid's dream in the Hat - my dream was to play for the Medicine Hat Tigers. Hockey was everything to me. It's all I thought about from when I was in grade two."
But Linden says realizing his dream wasn't easy.
"To this day I don't feel like I'm particularly blessed with talent," he says. "I've had to work for any of the success I've had."
Work, here, means more than just skating morning to night in the winter and playing street hockey as a summer obsession. It means building a custom hockey net in your dad's shop - a net with targets in the corners.
"We'd set that up in the backyard and take shots forever," Linden says.
If Linden uses determination to chase down dreams, it may be because of something in the Linden geneology.
Grandpa Nick Linden, a former speed skater in his native Holland, was pinned under a Caterpillar tractor 20 years ago and was later told by doctors that his crushed leg would have to come off.
But Nick said no, suffered through 34 operations and willed his strength back through a curious form of positive thinking.
"He would pace around at night with a cane," Linden says, "repeating over and over, 'Bull----! I can walk!' "
And he can. "I have some problems with the leg when it gets cold," says the elder Linden, 77. "But otherwise it's okay."
He says he remembers Trevor as a 10-year-old running combines "and doing just about anything else you asked him to do" on his uncle's farm.
"He doesn't give in. He's kind of a perfectionist," says the grandfather. "Trevor is a lot like me. When he sets his mind on something, no one can stop him."
"I'm happy here," he says. "Happy but definitely not satisfied. There are a lot more things I want to get better at. I could work on every part of my game for two hours a day and still not be satisfied. If you limit yourself, you know you're in trouble."

© 1989 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.
— Walter Benjamin, Unpacking My Library.

Teetering atop my towering pile of guilty pleasures is a reality TV show
on A&E called Hoarders.
Each episode is a less-than-subtle variation on the same theme: a compulsive hoarder is threatened with eviction, divorce, suicide, state
apprehension of children, estrangement from extended family, or any one or permutation of the above. These threats arose because their homes have mestastasized into grotesque and perilous repositories of clutter — dense jungles of clothing, dirty dishes, uneaten and moldy food, human and animal feces, tacky memorabilia and just about every other artifact of modern culture you could imagine. And some you can’t imagine.
These homes have metamorphosed into kitsch rococo cocoons, claustrophobic crypts in which makeshift tunnels have evolved over time and paths bolstered by strata of junk have displaced hallways, open floors and air itself.
If you haven't seen the show before, the first shots from inside these
"homes" can elicit gasps. Surprisingly the hoarders, while occasionally eccentric, come across as relatively "normal." Some seem as embarrassed and baffled by their mega-clutter as we do, while others simply look past it in an anxious state of denial. Of course the producers, in an attempt to muffle cries of Oprah-style media exploitation, trot out licensed psychologists or "professional organizers" with the film crews to assist the hoarder in getting clean— not unlike the same state of"clean" sought by recovering addicts.
In many respects Hoarders is like a cross between an archeological dig
and a "makeover" show, except here history has been replaced by personal memories and the self has been replaced by the home. You can almost hear a collective sigh of relief at the conclusion, when the camera alternates back and
forth between the home's former thicket of detritus and the fresh, clean
re-claimed living space (a process not without it's product placement,
i.e. legions of trucks from 1-800-Junk and commercial breaks for Hefty Bags or sanitizing cleansers).
In an attempt to rationalize my own addiction to this show (and another competing hoarding show on The Learning Channel called Buried Alive), I have fashioned a theory: the hoarders are artists. Artists who don't know they're artists.
In many ways hoarders can stake a more authentic claim to art than the hoards of self-proclaimed "artists" who clutter gallery space. And I say this not because they pay the sacrificial price of suffering that goes with aesthetic ventures or endure the anguish of being social outcasts —another artistic trope.
First, (as I desperately trying to avoid being glib or to exploit the exploited), consider these tombs of clutter a form of artistic installation. An installation far too grotesque and palpable for even the most avant-garde of galleries. And no curator has sanctioned these “works” with a monograph or wine-and-cheese accompaniment.

"Works of art that react against empirical reality obey the forces of
that reality, which reject intellectual creations and throw them back
on themselves."

So said Frankfurt School theorist Theodore Adorno when he wrote an argument against didactic, polemical art (in this
case represented by the later works of Bertholt Brecht) and in favor of an
autonomous art, one that would "arouse the fear that existentialism
only talked about."
For Adorno, Kafka and Beckett represented this problematic, almost mute
expression (absence plays a part in both of their
works) he felt was a negative shadow of hope in a world without hope. This sort of art does not point allegorically to a higher truth or beauty, but expresses in an almost inexpressible way, the reality of the impossibility of a tidy"truth" or a comforting "beauty."
"As though with eyes drained of tears, they stare out silently out of
his sentences," Adorno said of Beckett.
The hoarders, too, stare silently out through the crevices amid their horrible creations, confined by the very "freedom" and "control" they compulsively sought through collection, consumption and accumulation. But alternatively, their hoards help bridge (or dam) the vast chasm between a fragile psyche and an overbearing society. Their “chaos” is the illusion of an order that re-connects them: photographs and clothing to lost loved ones or the past itself; commodities to a promise of happiness perpetually broken. Even the filth — the dust, mold, cobwebs and in one case the skeletal remains of a litter of kittens — is a testament to deep-seated and futile desire (like that of Miss Havisham’s petrified monument to her tragically interrupted wedding in Dickens’s Great Expectations) to stop the inexorable flow of time in its tracks.
Of course, that’s exactly what photographs attempt to do, and to some extent fashion and taste (read: hipness), and our culture now rests on a growing pile of images — not memories or history. The hoarders we find so luridly compelling only expose materially what we hide psychically or behind the curtain of the pop-culture industry, a compulsive love for things that have buried us in spirit and have in turn made us things. They wear their scars on the outside while we normals camouflage our damage in our need to acquire (no need here to reiterate the commodification Marx aligned with modernism). Sometimes we even adopt the guise of the hoarders’ evil twin — the anal-retentive minimalist who simultaneously lays waste and pays homage to space in Architectural Digest, Home and Gardens or any of the multitude of “style” and “living” guides and magazines.
Those meticulously tidy corners of the culture machine comprise the silent spectacle; they say nothing, purposefully. And most of us are at best like silent ventriloquist dummies, miming in a Beckettian way the emptiness and alienation that the style-makers make so fashionable.

Hoarders on the other hand may “stare out silently” but they have found a voice, an autonomous, if sickly, voice that screams out through the clutter and decay within they are simultanously soothed and tormented.
Yes, hoarders are afflicted people (and I’m not arguing against therapy here), but their pathos has something to say beyond psychology. And that’s what makes them artists, in what I consider the best and at the same time most horrible way.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Time is everything in Carmen, and Carmen, the heroine, plays with her music, as if to delay what she knows is in the cards for her.
Her languourous hesitations, as in such great numbers as the habañera and seguidilla, suggest almost a metaphysical purchase on time, as contrasted with the four-square rhythms of the soldiers' music and other more worldly tunes heard around that Sevillean cigarette factory.
Scored with immense sophistication, the music is full of nuance: that forebodingly anxious augmented second when Carmen's prescient theme makes a fatalistic turn as it recurrently does, the woodwinds that take an unprecedented prominence in an opera, the violins that imitate guitars, the rarely used cor anglais in the Don's flower song ...
Nietzsche adored Carmen, as did Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss. Only the opening night 1875 Parisian audience, shockingly, hated it because its emotions were too unbourgeois and unpretty. But there's a good reason why Carmen's brutal murder takes place outside a bull ring. It's almost filmic the way the music of that last scene plays out, not continously but sharply intercut by roars from the crowd inside, the fractured pace reflecting the mental state of poor Don José with that shockingly bright F-sharp (the death of the bull) also screaming out the death of Carmen.
Vancouver Opera's past attempts at Bizet's masterpiece have been less than stellar. A considerable superstition has grown around mounting an evidently "fail-proof" work, globally suggesting that it's the sure ones that are the most likely to misfire.

Lucian Pintilie's direction of it during Expo '86, though brilliantly effective and not only in terms of shock value, drew thrilling howls of outrage and programs hurled at the stage for his politicized view of the work; not content with that, people then mailed in their torn-up subscriptions. Then there was that French mezzo whose name evoked a can of pineapple and who was a rather pregnant Carmen at the time, making her stormy scene with Don José look more like a slightly vigorous Lamaze class. Then there was the wan Don who more credibly suggested a role in Giselle, and so on.
It was high time for a good production and this time the world's most popular opera gets it. The production has the feeling of good old authenticity, right down to the smoking on stage, and why shouldn't there be? The set, from Austin Lyric Opera, is traditional and attractive, and musically, with conductor Antony Walker, it's all in place, from the orchestra and chorus to the soloists — a fine bunch.
The Israeli mezzo Rinat Shaham is a famous Carmen and we can see why. Not only does the attractive Shaham look the part, she acts it and her singing is seductive, tempestuous and sultry with wonderfully deep chest notes. Escamillo (Daniel Okulitch) locates the low notes of his famous aria with the precision you'd expect from a toreador, and few Escamillos can hold those notes down.
Tenor David Pomeroy is a fine Don José, though he doesn't even attempt a rapturously held, softly sung high B-flat in La Fleur que tu m'avais jetée, which he otherwise sings mellifluously, lyrically, as if to remind us that this is a French opera (if one that, up to then, beat all the Spanish composers in defining a national style). But that aria is all about the B-flat. It shouldn't sound heroic. Strong work, too, from Mariateresa Magisano (Micaëla), Alain Coulombe (Zuniga), Karen Ydenberg (Frasquita) and Majorie Poirier (Mercédès).
The prodution has a feeling of implacability, an indefinable sensation of fate, which you can feel despite knowing how things will all come out. As Nietzsche said, "I do not know of any other instance where tragic humour, which constitutes the essence of love, is expressed in a more shattering phrase than in Don José's last words."
By Lloyd Dykk.