Articles

New and previously published articles from magazines and newspapers around the world.

Blood Brothers

This article was assigned to me by Gary Ross, to whom I'm grateful. It was one of the most affecting stories I've ever work on. And I'm honored to be sharing it with people more widely.
From Vancouver Magazine March 2011
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It’s an unassuming storefront on a dusty stretch of East Esplanade in North Vancouver, opposite the industrial waterfront. Power Max Auto Repair reads the sign above the garage door which is battered from use. Inside, meanwhile, all the typical sights and sounds of an auto mechanic’s shop: the flash and buzz of an arc welder, the radio playing in the background, the big red box of Snap-On Tools and, of course, the house project car. In this case a 1950 Pontiac StratoChief, which sits in a rear corner of the garage, awaiting the attentions of the proprietor as these are available between other jobs.
It’s an ordinary place, in other words. And yet – through the man who founded this shop, Zahed Haftlang, born in Iran in 1968, a survivor of years of war and torture, and a refugee claimant to Canada in 1999 – it is extraordinary too for the way it connects Vancouver to a critical place and date in Middle Eastern history.
Posted: Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 10:17am
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Maynards and the Future of the Auction Trade

First published in BC Business Magazine

By Timothy Taylor

There was a telling scene at an auction I attended recently. It was the Modern Woman show at Maynards, where the 108-year-old auction house had assembled a group of 35 contemporary fine art works from 24 emerging artists. Unlike the typical Maynards auction of items sourced from estates and other sellers, this show was made up of items selected by newcomer contemporary art specialist Kate Bellringer, a UBC and Sotheby’s Art Institute graduate. And by all appearances, the new show and the new approach looked set to be a smash success. A good-sized crowd had turned out, 60 or 70 people, milling around and sipping pinot gris and Pellegrino water. And while it was a younger crowd than normally came out to auctions, according to Maynards’ VP of fine art and antiques Hugh Bulmer, who also acts as chief auctioneer, it was clearly a fashionable and affluent group, with Manolo Blahniks and Prada frames sprinkled liberally through the crowd. The room looked ready to buy some art, in other words. And the hip work Bellringer had chosen seemed well suited to the audience.

Only the crowd wasn’t buying art.

 

Posted: Friday, Feb. 4, 2011 9:42am

The brutal honesty of Doug Coupland

A fantastic, supportive quote has come in from UBC English professor Laura Moss, who is also an editor at the literary quarterly Canadian Literature, and the author of Canadian Literature in English: Texts and Contexts

In the this quote, Moss compares my work to Coupland. I'm flattered by that comarison, as I admire Coupland a lot. And having had dinner at his house once, I'll tell you a secret. Eve's brother Ali, in the novel, lives in a house that was inspired by my memories of Coupland's beautiful house.

The book is available from AMAZON here. Please give it a look.

Laura writes:

"The Blue Light Project slows down today's accelerated world in order to sympathetically probe the constraints of celebrity, public art, and biopolitics in the context of contemporary terrorism. At the core of this suspenseful novel is a hostage crisis that is terrifyingly real. Taylor forces us to consider probabilities.   What might happen at the confluence of fear, love, and hope?

Just as Taylor's first novel Stanley Park concludes with one of the most memorable meals in contemporary literature, the final illumination in The Blue Light Project will haunt readers for decades to come. 

Writing at times with the incisive vision of Margaret Atwood, the broken lyricism of Michael Ondaatje, the social realism of Rohinton Mistry, and the brutal honesty of Douglas Coupland, Timothy Taylor now firmly ranks among Canada's finest authors.

The Blue Light Project is an important book. Pay attention."

Again, if you're interested in trying out this "thriller that makes you think", please visit AMAZON with this link

Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 6:36pm

As It Is: And/Or/Neither/Nor Work by Andrew (A01) Owen

Andrew (A01) Owen was a huge influence on me during the writing of The Blue Light Project. His street activity was high during the months I was writing and researching the book, primarily in the form of 1:1 scale "re-photo-cubic-surfaces". I became very intrigued by this practice and by this artist. Over the following years, I got to know him a little better, and began to realize that he had 20 years of intense production already behind him, dozens of interesting and beautiful works, not an eclectic gathering as a person might first mistakenly think, but bound thematically. I was able appreciate this more fully when he mounted a show at Marion Scott Gallery last year. I wrote a review of that show for Canadian Art, which I'm re-running below.

Check out more of Andrew's work at A01creative.

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As It Is: And/Or/Neither/Nor  work by Andrew A01 Owen

Andrew Owen’s basic idea is elusive. But then, that’s exactly the core of Andrew Owen’s basic idea: that a great deal eludes us, perhaps nowhere more so than in the consumerized West. We live, Owen asserts – via an impressive range of work at his first solo show in Canada in almost 20 years – on the twilight side of a yawning subjectivity gap, a chasm of personal and cultural bias that separates us from the truth about… well, about anything.

Art objects are crucially affected in this analysis, of course, with both the subjectivity of the artist and that of the viewer contributing to a permanently flawed communication. How to conquer that? Owen asks, in effect. His answer to which is to get the artist as far as possible out of the way. And each work in this show represents a discrete attempt on Owen’s part to do so.

I say “elusive”, because the idea takes some teasing out. At first glance, the MSG show incorporates work so diverse in media and aesthetic tone – from floral impressions to fragmented photographic collages to re-purposed advertisement hoardings – that it would be easy enough to conclude that three or four artists were involved. But it’s all Owen, all tuned to the same conceptual key. And once this harmonization is sensed, the body of work transmutes satisfyingly from multifarious to singular.

The floral impressions are field compositions, positive stencils made by pressing layers of wild flowers to the canvas, and applying a different layer of paint over each. As bits of organic matter tend to remain stuck to these canvases, and paint also ghost in under the leaves, these works are naturally randomized. They’ve been exposed to the whims of wind and other conditions in the field. And so the flowers have been allowed, in effect, to speak for themselves.

The photo collages take a diametrically different approach to the same problem. Using a technique he describes as “photo-cubism”, Owen delivers a portrait – of flowers or groups of people – by rendering them in an intense flurry of different views. This is brought to its most expressive form in the large work Photo-cubic Stoop Punks: Portrait Tableau. That piece – depicting of a group of punk rockers assembled on a stoop in Toronto Kensington Market – is not a collage of objects, but of available perspectives. It’s a collage designed not to bridge the subjectivity gap, in other words, but to erect a sign that reads, roughly, mind the gap.

 

 

 

Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 12:28pm

Those Weird and Wonderful Benford Numbers

From the Report on Business Magazine, December 2010
 
When WikiLeaks released nearly 80,000 classified documents relating to military operations in Afghanistan this past July, a wide range of journalists, politicians and members of the public were eager to see the data. Some of them were looking for a true tally of IED attacks, others for the number of civilian casualties, and so on. One group, led by Drew Conway, a PhD candidate in political science at New York University, had a more unusual goal. They wanted to use an arcane statistical law to determine if the data in the reports was truly raw, or if anyone had tampered with it.
 
The fact that Conway could do so, and reach findings that are considered scientifically valid, has ramifications in many other fields, including forensic accounting and possibly finance.
 
Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011 10:04am

What We Talk About When We Talk About "Buyer's Pain"

Globe and Mail ROB Magazine

My introduction to the topic of “buyer’s pain” came via a colleague, an editor of an American food magazine, who was describing the excruciatingly long line-ups he had to endure to get a hamburger at the Shake Shack in New York’s Madison Square Park. I’ve never eaten one, but I’ve talked to a few people. This is not a particularly special burger. It has your basic beef patty on a squishy bun plus all the ordinary garnishes: American cheese slice, pickle, lettuce, tomato etc. I’m stymied to think why anyone would wait for up to 2 hours (yes, I actually heard that from someone) all for what another foodie colleague, Amy Rosen, Food Editor at Canadian House & Home magazine described to me as “not mind-blowing”.

Painful, yes. And so, the Shake Shake seems to me a perfect example of what a Carnegie Mellon neurological study published two years ago has shown: that when consumer experience discomfort buying certain products, this frequently enhances the appeal of those same products.

Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010 12:00pm

Watching the Waterfront

WATCHING THE WATERFRONT

Timothy Taylor

1.

It’s my central Vancouver image, which surprises people on occasion. If they’ve read my fiction, people tend to expect Stanley Park to occupy the definitive place in my imagination’s geography. But this is not so. I think of Vancouver – and I think of it often, especially when travelling – and I think of container boxes. I think of acres of jetty. I think of berths and ships sliding slowly into place under the looming cranes. I think of the port. Stanley Park may be the city’s lungs. But the Port of Vancouver is the city’s beating heart.

And I hear it beating, too. Anywhere from Seymour to Nanaimo, and roughly north of Prior.  I only have to stop myself in the middle of the day, tune out traffic and sidewalk conversation. And there it will be, both large and faint, something settling and resettling just out of view. It sounds like this: steel plates clanking, train rails and the grind of hull against old wood, the vent of steam, the scream of an ancient whistle, walkie talkie voices and the cry of gulls.

Posted: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 8:33am
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Time Warp

Originally published in Saturday Night Magazine
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You might think it's the year 2000, but a group of prominent Russian mathematicians is arguing that history is all wrong, and it's actually 936AD. They've set off a battle that's now come to Canada, and it's getting nasty
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The man in the tweed jacket sitting ahead of me is growing visibly agitated. We're at a mathematics conference at the University of Alberta just before the end of the school year, and things have been predictably calm so far. But twice in the past minute what's coming from the front of the room has made my tweedy neighbour twist angrily in his seat.
Our speaker is Gleb Nosovskii, a mathematics professor from Moscow State University, a man with a long black beard and dark eyes who is deeply serious about the matter at hand. This is only appropriate, because his presentation is nothing short of a mathematical case against history as we know it.
Nosovskii and his Russian colleagues, led by the famous Moscow State geometrician Anatoly Fomen-ko, believe that our "global chronology" is profoundly flawed. They argue that the conventional sequencing of historical events in the Mediterranean and in Europe from 3000 BC to 1600 AD - a chronology they say was formalized in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the scientists Josephus Scaliger and Dionysius Petavius, and has never been fundamentally challenged since - is shot through with inexplicable duplications. These duplications, Nosovskii maintains, are revealed through mathematical-pattern analysis.
Posted: Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010 9:50am

Garry Kasparov Interview from 2001

Originally published in Saturday Night online, 2001

Chess writers typically describe world chess champion grandmaster GarryKasparov as either the best player in the world or the best player inworld history. He won the title in 1985 at the age of 22. He hasdefeated all human challengers in tournament play since. Last year,Kasparov won a match on MSN that pitted the champ against a collective of 3 million chess players from 75 countries who logged in to vote on their next move. Kasparov is, in short, a legendary chess brain.

Yet Kasparov is also a voracious student of history. He has read a library of books and memorised most significant dates in the human chronology. To him, there always seemed to be discrepancies in the human chronology. Then in 1996, Kasparov came across the famous Moscow State University mathematician Anatoly Fomenko who had published a textbook outlining his mathematical theory that history contained statistically improbable pattern duplications. The two men met and in 1998 Kasparov wrote a supportive Preface to Fomenko’s radical book "Introduction to New Chronology."

Earlier this year, I interviewed colleagues of Fomenko’s for a story in Saturday Night. During these conversations I found out about Kasparov’s fascination. It took a few weeks to track him down – Kasparov constantly travels the world playing chess -- but when I did, he spoke freely about several of the major problems in the chronology; including discrepancies in mapping, military technology, mathematics, and how historians are reacting.

- Timothy Taylor

Timothy Taylor: Let’s talk about maps. You're saying the Romans couldn’t have had them, is that correct?

Garry Kasparov: There is no single original of the Roman time. So we
assume that the maps never existed. Because, if you look at the first
maps of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, you’ll see the quality of
these maps is a joke.

Posted: Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 9:40am
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Food/Crime Fiction

Food is married to crime through the poisoner. Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici reportedly poisoned his brother with a peach he’d just sliced in two, the other half of which the Cardinal had just eaten himself to no ill effect. (Think about it: two sides to every blade.) But food is married to crime fiction for a more complicated set of reasons altogether.
In the old days – that is, the pre-foodie era prior to the late twentieth century – plenty of fictional poisoning went on. Agatha Christie is littered with corpses whose last breaths smelled oddly sweet, or bitter, or of almonds. But what to make of the gourmand sleuth? There were so many. Hercule Poirot grew his own vegetable marrow and was fussy about sirop de cassis. Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret ate endlessly of such fare as bouillabaisse, blanquette, and tete de veau. Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Wimsey was so refined that, in The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste, hecorrectly identified the grape and vintage of a Chablis Moutonne, a Chevalier Montrachet, a Schloss Johannisberger, a Laffite, a Clos Vougeot, a Grand Imperial Tokay, and, to climax, a true Napoleonic brandy with the Emperor’s seal on the hand-blown bottle. And he remained standing, too.
Posted: Friday, Aug. 20, 2010 10:05am
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