scamcouver

fear & loathing in Lotusland

Quick & Nasty

by Zbigniew

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Four-story condominium blocks are popping-up like mushrooms on East Hastings, from Clarke though Sunrise and along to Capital Hill.

The quality of these developments vary dramatically.

At the top end are the all-concrete structures.

The bulk are concrete ground floors topped by three levels of wood frame and plywood.

At the discount end of the spectrum are the concrete base topped by three floors of wood and oriented strand board, or OSB – an engineered wood product made by compressing layers of wood chips with adhesives. OSB has a variety of features that make it attractive over plywood, including larger sizing, uniformity blah blah. And cheaper: a sheet of OSB sells for half of an equivalent sheet of plywood.

Unfortunately, it can also act as a sponge. The National Association of Home Inspectors: “Compared to plywood, OSB swells more when it comes into contact with water, especially at panel edges. Swell is generally greater in OSB than in plywood due to the release of compaction stress in OSB created during the pressing of wood chips into panels. Swollen plywood will return to its nominal thickness as the wood dries, while OSB will remain permanently swollen, to some degree.” (Emphasis added.)

The marketing bumf for Bohème, at Hastings and Clark, claims it’s “a sophisticated new neighourhood of white brick residences, shops and restaurants in the heart of authentic Vancouver … a truly unique lifestyle brought to you by the Millennium Group ….” (Millennium, you will recall, were the developers behind the Olympic Village fiasco.)

Grandiose claims and prices aside -some of the available units are retailing in excess of $446,900- Bohème is a discount OSB special. The shredded wood and glue amalgam sheathing sat unprotected for weeks through several waves of the fall sub-monsoon rainstorms before anyone thought to purchase a tarp, and then only enough to cover half the thing.

But as the sheen on the Blomberg refrigerator fades, and the “Carrara marble inspired porcelain tiles” crack and chip, and rot pushes its way through living room walls, the punters will have their bohème.

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Refuge: Creek

by Zbigniew

Eagle Creek

The salmon negotiated the Fraser, Brunette, and Burnaby Lake, concrete culverts and metal gratings to reach this unlikely spot among suburban homes and warehouses. A stone’s throw from the freeway and a steady stream of speeding traffic shrouded by the flow of water and the rustling of trees.

 

 

Game Day!

by Zbigniew

Game Day

Façade

by Zbigniew

Western Front Front - Another False FrontReece Terris, Western Front Front – Another False Front, 2009

 

The Western Front Front – Another False Front is an architectural intervention constructed on the exterior of the Western Front building. Terris’s addition consists of a new, larger façade, including parapet and cornice. Exaggerating its formal elements, the structure has been built at one-and-a-half times scale, and installed on top of the existing façade at a slight angle.

“Historically, wooden false fronts were ornamental structures erected on the front of goldrush-era buildings to make hastily built boomtowns appear more impressive. This created the illusion of larger, more important buildings mimicking those built of cast iron or brick in more established cities. Symbolizing the pioneering Western town, the false front is both synonymous with the artificial display of wealth as well as the rapid boom-and-bust expansions of early mining, railroad and forestry communities.”

*

The sorry state of our local political discourse is inadvertently encapsulated in Doug Ward’s “Vision’s Angry Voter Double Whammy.” It reads like an overwhelmed teenager’s first social studies paper.

Ignoring the power politics of Vancouver’s civic administration -where the corporatist agenda is in full swing and developers and their ilk organize $25,000 a plate fundraisers and openly brag of their influence- Ward posits the absurdity that there is a ideological difference between heavily sponsored establishment parties, that the election is a contest between the NPA “and a divided left,” i.e., that Vision Vancouver is -somehow, some way- “left.”

What Ward fails to appreciate is that “left of” does not necessarily equate with “left.” Franco was to the left of Mussolini -so what? Obama is to the left of Bush, and to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon. (Or, The Tyee is left of The Province.)

“Left of” is not left when you and your opponent are congenital twins, sharing the same wealthy/corporate/developer donator base, the same mania for development, the same disregard for community input, and the same assholes. Bike lanes and backyard chickens are not significant components of historical materialism.

Ward’s remedial argument rests heavily on Andrea Reimer, who seems to represent something like 98% of Vision’s “street cred,” thanks to her “left-activist history.”

While an activist Andrea Reimer may have been, that career effectively ended with her election to council in 2008. Since then she’s been a stalwart supporter of a ruling political faction that is heavily funded by corporate interests: she votes en bloc, dismisses the ethical responsibility for campaign financing reform, argues against community consultation et cetera. Where’s the activist? What has she done for me lately, beyond apologizing for the tower proposals at Commercial and Broadway? She represents the establishment to the public, rather than the other way around.

The tank is empty. The vehicle is cruising on the fumes of a reputation it never earned -less progressive than “progressive” or, as Wise Monkeys put it so nicely, “fauxgressive.”

So, let’s all say it together, just once, out loud, for shits and giggles: “Vision Vancouver is a right-wing party.”

As for Doug Ward, he is welcome to peruse my copy of Political Ideologies (Gould & Truitt, editors). I would draw his attention in particular to the Alasdair MacIntyre essay “The End of Ideology and the Ideology of the End of ideology.”

Militant Mothers

by Zbigniew

From Black Strathcona:

Militant Mothers: Beating the power brokers

“Sometimes being on the right side is a difficult place to be. In 1971, a group of mothers from the Raymur Housing Project found out when, for the sake of their children’s safety, they were forced to take on the school board, city council and a national railway company. After petitions, speeches and phone calls got them nowhere, they took one last courageous stand.”

Refuge: Fungi

by Zbigniew

With the civic political silliness in full swing, and the day of reckoning drawing near, my mind takes refuge from the hullaballoo in the quiet contemplation of the mushroom.

That is, mushrooms; according to the Vancouver Mycological Society, the Lower Mainland is home to some of the most diverse forms of fungi found anywhere in the world. In the fall, with the rains, they appear in great abundance and diversity.

Some are quite palatable, others less so. There are some that should be avoided for their poisonous qualities, particularly the “death cap,“ which has made it’s way to Vancouver in recent years. Determining one from the other requires a good deal of applied information.

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The Cringe: Trump International

by Zbigniew

Too Much to Ask

by Zbigniew

Babble

My political party doesn’t exist. Should an anarcho-collective of misanthropes ever call a meeting, I might drop buy -at least until somebody fucks me off.

I’m fickle. I play the field with my political allegiances; part of the field, anyway. I’ve voted Vision Vancouver and COPE. I’ve supported the NDP and a variety of independents. At times I’ve exercised my franchise in favour of various looneys, such as the Rhino Party (Rough Tough McGruff was the candidate’s name, if memory serves), communists, and Chretien’s Liberals. (I’m particularly ashamed of the latter, which led to my personal iron rule: no strategic voting.)

I recognize that politics is show business for ugly people, and so welcome a little drama -but not at the expense of content. I want a dialogue, an exchange of ideas. I want the incumbent to be held to account and contenders to put forward an alternative agenda. I want a candidate that will wax poetic my hopes for social justice, appeal to my reason, and show some grit, humour and a proclivity for mixing it up in the corners.

Is that so much to ask?

*

Sunday, October 26th.

Breeching the phalanx of candidates, I trade the squeaky-clean sunshine for the dark tones of the interior of Christ Church Cathedral and take a pew. There’s a hum, a buzz. It’s going to be a full house.

Joel Solomon is prowling about. Methodically, mechanically, he scans the crowd, looking like a George Hamilton interpretation of the Terminator. He runs into Raymond Louie and whispers in his ear…. What? The coordinates of a bag of money?

The Rector and Dean quips about changing service hours to the afternoon to accommodate such enthusiastic crowds, acknowledges the recent tragedies, and confuses the “Polish Catholics” in the crowd by leading us into the national anthem.

Local CBC newsreader Andrew Chang is the moderator. Mr. Chang has that disconcerting corporate tv/radio characteristic of emphasizing certain words … at random. Also, and I can’t emphasize this enough, he has truly extraordinary hair. Finally, I hold him in contempt for being completely inoffensive.

We are introduced to mayoral candidates Robertson, Wong, LaPointe and Kasting.

Opening statements are made.

Questions, with lengthy preambles, are posed by the moderator.

Familiar statements are, once again, articulated.

The public’s questions are written down, curated, and read by Mr. Chang, stripped of the personality and emotions of their authors.

Overall, it was pretty dull day for democracy, with most of the event sounding to my ears like Miss Othmar from Peanuts. But a few moments were worth sifting.

I like Ms. Wong’s platform. She places the right issues at the top of the agenda: serving residents’ needs for affordable housing and transportation. Unfortunately, her communications skills are not the greatest. It’s not her English –that’s fine. She doesn’t inspire.

Mr. LaPointe is articulate, calm, smooth, self-assured, and scored some impressive hits against the incumbent. And he’s also the candidate chosen behind closed doors and financed by developers, but is “beholden to no one.” Sure.

Mr. Kasting is an erudite, avuncular, politically unburdened Mr. Clean, who wants to take us “back past the chickens; back past the bike lanes; back past the upset neighbourhoods; back past the control of development; back past the secret deals between unions and the City, and between developers and the City.” I’d like to get back past the metaphors.

Mr. Robertson came out the worst: repetitive talking points, staccato delivery, the sheer ridiculousness of suggesting that homelessness would –still, somehow- be resolved by his self-imposed 2015 deadline, the blatant refusal to answer questions, the gross desperation of throwing Meggs under the bus. I will give Mr. Robertson this: he spoke clearly, passionately and rationally for the need to contain oil tanker traffic and the damage it will cause our environment and economy. Alas, I don’t believe he’ll do much about it.

The partisanship of the crowd seems evenly distributed. LaPointe’s comments receive applause from part of the room, Wong’s and Robertson’s from another. I’m not quite so divided, even if I didn’t find my star candidate. I guess I was hoping for someone of Bob Kasting’s cleanliness, with Meena Wong’s policies, Kirk Lapointe’s delivery, and Andrew Chang’s hair.

St. Jack

by Zbigniew

Besieged by autocratic Medicis and the aspirations of its city-state rivals, Michelangelo’s statute of the Biblical David, the diminutive Giant Killer, came to represent Florence’s endurance in the face of these many threats to the Republic.

No less a figure than Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) watches over Rio de Janeiro, his outstretched arms an invocation of peace.

In New York Harbour stands Libertas, torch held aloft to enlighten the world.

Where’s our protector, redeemer and/or liberator? Wherefore the aspirational icon? Where is the embodiment of our de facto guiding principles of “lifestyle” and “a quick buck”?

There are quite a few candidates, but they don’t quite resonate.

A bronze statue of Captain George Vancouver graces the top of the steps at the north side of City Hall. The celebrated mariner and intrepid explorer pointing the way to a future filled with promise/North Shore real estate opportunities? The good Captain is tucked away at the back entrance, diminished, half forgotten.

The Reclining Figure at Guelph Park perhaps speaks to a reputation for being “laid back.” In my experience, this was once quite true. Sadly, slack is no longer a widely shared virtue.

A-maze-ing Laughter (sic) at Denman & Davie is a popular tourist attraction. I imagine the maniacal and macrocephalic statutes speaks to the Vancouver Is Awesome crowd.

Much closer to the mark is the fluid, undulating sculpture at Vanier Park. Officially entitled Freezing Water #7, it could easily pass for a cum shot. West cost lifestyle as orgasm on a mountain and condo canvas.

In the same throbbing vein, there was the “Satan-with-a-hard-on.” Installed at the comically named and neo-fascist styled “Piazza Italia,” against a backdrop of glass towers, the Horned Hand of the tumescent Prince of Darkness stood sentinel to those venturing to the fleshpots of the west: perfect. Sadly, this unsanctioned effigy was expeditiously removed by city officials.

And then there’s John “Gassy Jack” Deighton.

On September 29, 1867, Deighton rowed -or had himself rowed by his aboriginal associates- from New Westminster to what we now call Gastown. The choice of landing was strategic: just a few feet beyond the Hastings Mill’s prohibited drinking area. On the promise of an initial free drink, the thirsty locals built The Globe -the area’s first saloon- inside of 24 hours.

Its success quickly led to the establishment of a half-dozen more watering holes –“an aggregation of filth,” in Captain Stamp’s opinion.

As a popular innkeeper, Deighton quickly gained his nickname “Gassy Jack” from his “gaseous” nature -he talked incessantly.

When he ran out of gas, Deighton’s native wife -the niece of his deceased first wife- was disinherited.

Deighton is immortalized in a bronze image that appears to celebrate the effects of cirrhosis. (Not so long after its 1970 installation, the statute was decapitated; the head was exchanged for a $50 ransom.)

Therefore: for taking advantage of proto-land use bylaws to found Vancouver’s first entertainment district, for being immortalized as a grotesque and capturing the imagination of slackjawed tourists, for being of poor moral fibre, and especially for being a blowhard, I nominate St. Jack.

*

I could feel Jack’s presence in the room today, finding purchase with the incumbent mayor his steady stream of spin-laden cliches, obfuscations and non-sequiturs; a staccato beat occasionally punctuated by the rich velvet tones of CBC senior lightweight Andrew Chang. (I will say this for Mr. Chang: he’s got great hair.)

Babble

The Cringe: Hot Bitch in Charge

by Zbigniew

 

Hot Bitch in Charge is a -mostly- Mandarin language reality program featuring the luxurious lifestyles of “ultra rich Asian girls in Vancouver.” Watch as young women with inherited family fortunes engage in various and conspicuous consumptive activities.