An Historical Day

March 31, 2015

Out bright and early this morning, to get to the Nikkei Centre in Burnaby by 9.  Michael drove, while Penny and I complained about planning and suburbia.  We were there to witness and cheer on the final student project presentations for the UBC Geog 429 course taught by David Brownstein.

For each of the last few years, Professor Brownstein has linked up his final year students one-on-one with a wide variety of community groups, to conduct a research project suggested by the group and accepted by the student. This was the third year the Grandview Heritage Group (GHG) has participated. The first two years were not entirely successful; but this year we struck gold with Kevin Shackles.

The project he agreed to undertake was a review history of the corner grocery stores in Grandview (not those on the Drive or Hastings) and to track their decline into non-existence.

Kevin really threw himself into this project and met with several of us on several occasions for discussions and suggestions.  His presentation this morning was excellent, polished and focused.  He will be making a more detailed presentation to the next meeting of GHG and we will publish his final papers on our website.  The final paper will include a detailed spreadsheet covering the histories of all the grocery stores that used to colour our neighbourhood.

There were a total of 10 presentations this morning, covering subjects as diverse as the Point Atkinson military park, the history of air pollution in Vancouver, and a study of social divides in northern canneries and fisheries. Good stuff, all of them.

So, a good morning, and I was planning to come straight home and write about it. But in the car coming back, I had a small epiphany about how to handle a particular part of my current research, and as soon as I was home, I was buried deep within the 1901 Census of Vancouver and hardly came up for air until now.

A day full of history, and all the better for it.

Image: Landscape V

March 31, 2015

Landscape V

Night Music: Tell Her No

March 30, 2015

Poem: Exchanges

March 30, 2015


Needle exchanges

are just

stock exchanges     really


stock exchanges

for those


those on the



like over-stretched


in a bare   market


leveraged hedges and

currency options



no different

than heroin from opium


stock exchanges

are just

needle exchanges

juicing up

a different



Image: Greenspace I

March 29, 2015


Night Music: When A Man Loves A Woman

March 28, 2015

The Kettle/Boffo Site: Massing Issues

March 28, 2015

This morning, I attended the presentation by the Kettle Society and Boffo to the Citizens’ Assembly about their plans for the site at Commercial & Venables that would include the Kettle’s property on Venables, the “Ace of Suedes” and “Astorinos” properties owned by Boffo, and the City-owned car park to the north of those lots.

Daniel Boffo fronted the presentation for the developer, with Nancy Keogh leading out to explain the benefits to the Kettle and its population.  Mr. Boffo was reluctant to commit to much detail on issues such as the number of market units and parking particulars, stating on several occasions that the project was still too tentative and conceptual at this stage.

But Ms. Keogh was keen to be specific: about 12,000 feet of custom designed admin and drop in space; about “thirty” housing units for Kettle clients; twelve to fifteen storey building.  This led Mr. B. to suggest that they would need about one hundred and fifty market units to finance the Kettle requirements.  Once again that leads us to a twelve to fifteen storey structure.  They were keen for us to hear the design concepts they were working with, thus drawing our attention away from the height issue.

The design presenter did a fine job of explaining how they wanted to use the eccentricities of the site-shape to play with the mass they needed, whiler creating an attractive streetscape.  They first created a “plaza” area in an area where now the car park stares at Uprising Breads. They then shifted some mass from the south end to the north end of the site. This allows them to use the natural slope down to Adanac while pushing the mass (height) to a point almost diagonally opposite Adanac Towers. The Venables frontage and the Commercial corner would be at the low end of the massing (height).

However, in none of the diagrams she used to explain these concepts, did she ever show a massing higher than about five or six stories. In other words, while perhaps “conceptually” correct, these diagrams did not and do not indicate the reality of the proposal.

The folks at CityHallWatch and others have shown us how easy it is to create accurate models of proposals.  We did not get that today. Instead, we got a PR view, perhaps designed to plant inaccurate images of the proposal into the public domain and thus feed into some future “approval” process.

The Kettle said their presentation will be available at their website, and that a public meeting would be held as soon as possible to cover the same ground.

It is hard for me to believe that any truly representative Citizens’ Assembly gathered as the Commercial Drive sub-area group could support this proposal at anything even close to the proposed size.  There have to be alternatives that will allow the Kettle to improve and grow, while still preserving the low-rise nature of the neighbourhood and the spirit of the Venables Greenway that the Kettle says they adopt as their own.  And here is one:

The City is said to have collected $178 million of CACs that they want to use for social housing. About 5% of that money is all that would be needed to build what the Kettle needs, based on a low rise design on their current property plus the City’s car park.  Given Mayor Robertson’s expressed desire to help solve the mental health issues some of our community suffer, it is hard to imagine a better use of this collected CAC treeasure.

Such a solution provides for the Kettle, advances both mental health and social housing agendas, preserves the low-rise neighbourhood skyline, and allows Boffo to exploit their two properties under the current C2C zoning. What’s wrong with such a plan and why aren’t we planning for it?

The Inevitable Decline of Fixed News

March 27, 2015

Even as a CBC supporter, I read with a certain equanimity of the latest staff cuts announced this week. The harm will be to the affected families, not to me as a consumer. My understanding of the lay-offs is that they are designed to make CBC more flexible in the digital space; and that is vital.

This announcement, along wuth cuts to the length of local news broadcasting, recognises the present redundancy and imminent death of the fixed-time news broadcast event: what used to be the 9 o’clock news and then became the 6pm news show with an anchor or two.

Long gone are the days when we rushed home to sit in front of a TV to find out what had happened since the previous evening’s show.  We consume news in real time now, all day, through a variety of electronic sources. The 6pm News format simply rehashes stuff we already know, and has lost its purpose. The old media news departments are falling behind even drama and entertainment shows, most of whom have already migrated to an anytime access model via Netflix and online streaming services.

There is still a place for the 15-min news highlight & wrapup show (delivered through both old and new medias). But the celebrity-anchored 6pm shows should be canned, and the resources put into improving the online streaming news experience which is where most of the audience can now be found.

Puppet Deaths On the Calendar

March 27, 2015
Photo by Jason Strang

Photo by Jason Strang

The next show at the York on Commercial is called “Famous Puppet Death Scenes“.

With a name like that, how can it fail to gather a crowd? The Warning Label promises: “mature content, smoke, strobe lights, and puppet nudity”: What more could a puppet show need?

It is playing from 31 March through 19 April.  Go to the box office or The Cultch website for tickets.

Image: Flower Offering

March 27, 2015

Flower Offering_blog

Should We Dump The Vancouver Charter?

March 26, 2015

Over the last couple of years, I have often thought about the value — or lack of same — of having a Vancouver Charter, separate from the regular Muncipalities Act that governs all other civic bodies in this province.  It is certainly clear that some of our Vancouver politicians use or fail to use some parts of the Charter that suit them in a politically expedient manner. It might be more difficult for them to get around provisions in an Act that covers all other towns and cities.

While conducting research for another history book, I realized that questions over the Charter go back a very long time.  Here is an excerpt from an editorial in the Vancouver Daily World of 28th October 1903 about changes to the Charter that the then-Council wanted to make:

Why should Vancouver’s lawmakers not take the more comprehensive and altogether more businesslike course of asking for a cancellation of the charter in its entirety, bringing this city as every other city in the province under the general Municipalities Act, and therefore ensuring desirable uniformity throughout British Columbia.

It goes on to call the Charter “a piece of legislation that so long as it remains upon the statute book continue [to be] a handicap to civic process.”

Are there any reasons — other than political theatre — to keep the Charter today?

Night Music: God Only Knows

March 26, 2015

Reason NOT To Use Facebook #213

March 26, 2015

As we know, Stephen Harper’s Canada has simply caved in to every demand made by the American national security state apparatus.  Therefore, Canadians are automatically caught up in all the data sweeps of personal information conducted on a second-by-second basis by the US and its corporate partners.

The same cannot be said for Europe who at least try to push back, most recently with their Safe Harbour framework that was designed to ensure that European personal data stays in Europe.  However, even that seems to be failing against the US’s greed for every tiny piece of information about everyone on the planet.

The European Commission has warned EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services, finding that current Safe Harbour legislation does not protect citizen’s data. The comments were made by EC attorney Bernhard Schima in a case brought by privacy campaigner Maximilian Schrems, looking at whether the data of EU citizens should be considered safe if sent to the US in a post-Snowden revelation landscape. “You might consider closing your Facebook account, if you have one,” Schima told attorney general Yves Bot in a hearing of the case at the European court of justice in Luxembourg.


Previous Don’t Use Facebook posts.

Image: Building Blocks

March 25, 2015


Lecture on Len Norris’ Editorial Cartoons

March 24, 2015

Grandview’s own Michael Kluckner will be giving a free lecture and presentation on the editorial cartoons of Vancouver’s Len Norris on Thursday at the Museum of Vancouver at 7:30pm.


As Michael has written:

Norris’s editorial cartoons are unusual in remaining as funny and relevant today as they were a half-century ago – unlike most newspaper cartoonists, he used “the common man” rather than caricatures of politicians to comment on the events of the day. He remarked once that there were few good ideas for cartoons, but fortunately for him society kept repeating its mistakes.

These Vancouver Historical Society monthly events are always fun and informative. Well worth the visit.

Night Music: Kiki Dee & Elton John

March 24, 2015

Excuses, excuses!

March 24, 2015

I never need an excuse to take a nap; it is simply one of the perogatives, the perks if you will, of advancing age.  However, if ever I needed one, today would provide it.

First, I stayed up until well gone three this morning (like some foolish young ‘un) to cheer on New Zealand’s incredible last-ball victory over South Africa in the semi-final of the Cricket World Cup.

Then, still at a decent hour this morning, we paddled off for what turned out to be a remarkable amount of stunningly good dim sum at Western Lake.

Now, sated and exhausted, I’m turning in for the afternoon.

Image: 54 Stories Of Old Ireland

March 23, 2015

54 stories of Old Ireland_medium

Art — Whatever

March 23, 2015

Six years ago today, we went down to the Art Gallery to see a show.  This was my report:


Three distinct shows are on offer right now.  The main ground floor space has the show “Legacies of Impressionism in Canada” featuring late nineteenth and early twentieth century works by Maurice Cullen, James William Morrice and others.  Primarily, these works are of the Canadian landscape — often bleak and cold — and I think the collection speaks more to changing views of that landscape than it does to changing styles of painting (but I may not have thought that through completely).


I was not really aware of Maurice Cullen before this show but there were many canvases of his that really spoke to me.  “The Ice Harvest” shown above is very effective, as is a night scene called “Ste Catherine’s Street, Montreal” from 1899.   His later works, mainly of the uninhabited Laurentians or of Newfoundland villages, just shine with a gorgeous light. There is also “Brittany Farm” (1900-1902) that shows his ability to use a colour palette that stretches away from the greys and into orange, blue and green.

His contemporary, James William Morrice, however, seems to exemplify  Impressionism as murk.  I wasn’t impressed with any of his canvasses, and for me he suffers badly in comparison with Cullen.

Talking of colour, I also want to note “Spring Thaw, Quebec Village” by Clarence Gagnon — bright with snow and multi-coloured roofs.  A marvelous piece.  In looking for a version of that painting to show here (I failed), I found a whole raft of Gagnon’s work that I liked.

The second and third floors of the Gallery were given over to “How Soon Is Now” (an exhibition of contemporary BC art) and “Enabling Abstraction” (the development of Abstract Expressionism) respectively.  Both shows are full of creativity, with styles ranging from expressionism, through video cutups, conceptual art, pop art, and everything in between.

They are tough shows if you have to “like” most of the works you see.  Quantities of black canvases, white canvases, piles of everyday objects, a pile of soil called “The Island”, several large installations that don’t appear to have a point, obvious creativity put to banal and mundane uses at times. I have long ago given up “liking” or “disliking” non-figurative art in general.  There are pieces I like and pieces I don’t.  Knowing exactly what it is to face an empty canvas, I deeply appreciate any artistic impulse.  Sometimes, though, I think it best not to share works that have meaning only to me. In many cases it seems that to be shown, all one needs is an Artist’s Statement as full of inflated phrases as possible;  that the statement is as important as the finished work.

I was glad to see an expressionist piece by Tony Onley called “Blue Figure“.  I also really liked Landon Mackenzie’s “Tracking Athabasca (Short Line)“, a massive canvas.   It was a good visit and we saw a lot of art.  Hooray for public galleries!


First published:  23rd March 1909

Poem: December 31, 2000

March 23, 2015