Earth Day 2016

April 22, 2016

Earth Day 2016

Time to go out and appreciate this glorious earth that we inhabit. Time to reflect on re-using and re-cycling in our daily lives, and helping to restore the damage that we have done to our one and only planet.

Another Day In Salsbury Park

April 21, 2016

I just love little Salsbury Park. It is on my way to and from everywhere and I often sit on the benches, especially on fine days like today.  I have written before about eagles, squirrels, and slackliners in the Park. Today, my joy was with little kids.

As anyone who knows the Park is aware, the eastern end has a very steep slope — grassy in summer, perfect for sleds on a snowy day.  There were two young lads, perhaps two or three years old, trying to scale the hill.  One of them found it no problem; he ran to the top and raced down again.  However, his pal just couldn’t get the hang of walking up the slope: he would run a few steps and then fall back on his backside, over and over again.  Also because of the slope, he was having trouble getting himself standing upright again after each fall.  His little friend came over — over and over again — and gave him a hand up.

I spoke with one of their fathers who told me it was the little one’s first ever hill.

Finally, after much endeavour, both boys stood proudly at the top of the slope, laughing and enjoying their joint success.  It was wonderful to watch such an important triumph.

Image: Coming In

April 21, 2016

Coming In

Killing Mosquitos With Advertizing

April 21, 2016

A huge amount of commercial advertising is bad for you, sucking the life out of your brain and your wallet by inducing unnecessary consumerism. However, that cannot be said for a wonderfully innovative design being tried in Brazil where the mosquito-borne Zika virus is flourishing.

A company has developed a billboard that mimics the smell of humans and attracts mosquitos from more than a mile away. They are trapped in the billboard and are killed.  Not only is this a remarkable use of design and engineering, it has been released under Creative Commons, allowing any city to use it.

Bravo to everyone involved, and thanks to Creative Review for passing on this information.

Night Music: Smoke Two Joints

April 20, 2016

This seems suitable for 4/20:

Back To Reading

April 20, 2016

One of the few benefits of being so unwell in February and March this year was that I didn’t want to do much of anything, and so to fill the time I went back to my old habit of reading voraciously. And since the spring chills finally disappeared, I have kept up the renewed habit.

I have managed to get through a new Ian Rankin (“Even Dogs In the Wild”), John Irving’s recent and magnificent “Avenue of Mysteries“, the second volume of the Ranson Riggs “Miss Peregrine” series, Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything“, a strangely compelling history of life in the 19th century royal household by Kate Hubbard called “Serving Victoria“, and I have re-read the exquisite Terry Southern short stories collected in “Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes” that I hadn’t read since the late 1960s. I am about to begin a huge tome by Franklin Rosemont called “Joe Hill: The IWW and the making of a revolutionary workingclass counterculture.”

My first thought was to review all the books I have read, but I don’t think I’ll do that, at least not in detail. Here are some snippets of opinions.

The Rankin was a little disappointing, though competently written as usual, and I was bored with it by the end.

Irving’s “Avenue of Mysteries” is perhaps the finest novel of his that I have read — and I was already a huge Irving fan, having read all but two of his considerable ouevre. It is an unabashedly complicated tale, moving backwards and forwards in time, about an elderly novelist who travels to the Philippines to honour a promise made to someone in his youth in the wastelands of Mexico. There are many comic sections in the book, as is usual with his novels, but this was the first time I realised his immense skill at slapstick (Diego’s arrival at the hotel in Makati, the business with the gringo in the bathtub, Dolores’ collapsing shower). There are very few answers to the mysteries in this beautifully composed novel, and that is how it should be.  Thoroughly recommended.

I have earlier written my praise of Ranson Rigg’s first novel about Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, and this second novel (“Hollow City“) did not disappoint. However, I began this one knowing it was a book for young adults and so the charm may have been different this time.

Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” is simply a vital read for anyone concerned about our economic and environment future.  Earlier, I mentioned it in connection with a take-down of technological imperatives, and Bill Gates in particular.

Kate Hubbard’s fascinating history of Victorian royal service is structured as a series of biographies of senior household members, running chronologically through the reign. There is just enough political background to place court events in a wider perspective, and I learned a great deal from this excellent study.

I read Terry (“Magic Christian”, “Candy”, “Dr Strangelove”, “Easy Rider”) Southern’s collection “Red Dirt Marijuana” at the end of the 1960s in a central London library. I thought it was magical then, and my re-reading some 47 years later confirms my view that he was a most under-rated writer, especially of short pieces. His ability to catch the nuances of accented speech of another place and time is quite extraordinary.  Well worth the read if you haven’t read him before


To All Those Celebrating 420 Today ….

April 20, 2016


… have fun!

The Practical Alternative To Work

April 19, 2016



Credit:  found on Twitter

Image: The Gardens

April 19, 2016


Night Music: Stand Tall

April 18, 2016

Reason #217 NOT to use Facebook

April 18, 2016

Because they have way too much power over content.

This week they suddenly, and without any explanation, closed the FB page of The Shade Room.  The Shade Room, apparently, is a celebrity gossip/news site. I have never visited but I learn it has earned more than 4.4 million likes; and the owner/manager of the site, Angie Nwandu, was listed as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 In Media this year.  Ms Nwandu reports that she has been targeted before by Facebook.

Because no explanation has been forthcoming, one can theorize that one of Zuckerberg’s Hollywood pals didn’t like something The Shade Room wrote and he agreed to censor them without further ado.


Other Reasons NOT to use Facebook.

Poem: Another Sunday Morning

April 18, 2016


the air

after all that rain

had the texture of twilight fireworks



gently above the ground

then bursting into a sun-splashed grey.


the chill

had gone while those

of faith pondered greater mysteries


and those

who preferred a faster tempo

drew other conclusions from the game.


The Big One Is Coming

April 18, 2016

While we in Vancouver await what the experts tell us is the certainty of “the big one”, time to remember that 110 years ago today, the great city of San Francisco was laid waste by an earthquake and fire.

Sacramento Street, from Nob Hill, with the Ferry Building at foot. (National Archives)

Sacramento Street, from Nob Hill, with the Ferry Building at foot. (National Archives)

Nearly 500 city blocks were flattened and more than 25,000 buildings destroyed. At that time, San Francisco was home to 400,000 residents, of whom 250,000 were left homeless.

Image: Street Art #3B

April 17, 2016

street art IIIB

Night Music: Benny Goodman & Peggy Lee

April 16, 2016

There ARE Positive Alternatives

April 16, 2016

Boffo Properties and their allies, including City planners, have claimed for several years that the only way to achieve an expansion in the good work performed by the Kettle Friendship Society in Grandview is to impose a huge for-profit tower on this low-rise neighbourhood. Their multiple PR companies have tried hard — and no doubt spent a good fortune — to sell this unimaginative “our-way-or-the-highway” project.

The No Tower Coalition and its thousands of supporters have found many reasonable reasons to oppose the Boffo Tower at Venables & Commercial; and they have not been quiet in expressing that opposition.  However, much more importantly, they have taken the time and effort to put together a number of alternative positive solutions to getting the Kettle the expansion it needs without throwing our beautiful community under the unfeeling wheels of the developer’s bus.

Now, they have produced even more evidence that a community-friendly alternative is possible; after all, their suggested solutions have been put in place successfully elsewhere, including for the Kettle at Kingsway.

These new suggestions don’t even take into account the fact that both BC Housing and the City of Vancouver in the last few weeks have put serious money into projects remarkably similar to the Kettle’s requirements on Commercial. Nor do they include the Federal government’s new commitment to funding such projects

The facts are clear: the claim made over many years by the Kettle, Boffo, and City planners that there is no money available for projects of this kind is certainly no longer true. Whatever excuses that may have been used in the past to justify having mental health housing kidnapped by profit-driven developers have evaporated.

It is high time that the Kettle and City Planning started to talk to the community about solutions that the neighbourhood can get behind.

The Library in 2020

April 16, 2016

I use the Vancouver Public Library system a great deal, and I think it is a fine organization.  However, the management of VPL are wondering what it should look like in 2020, and they are asking the public to give their opinions and ideas.

“Your voice is a key part of how we’re developing the library’s next strategic plan, VPL 2020, which will guide us in meeting the future needs of the community and the city …

Two ways to participate

If you are concerned about this vital public resource, please take the time to have your say.

Beer Tour of Grandview (Mostly)

April 16, 2016

Here’s a date for the calendar of all those who love local brews. The Hop Circuit Open House is on 24th April from 3:00pm to 9:00pm.

“Join East Vancouver’s craft brewing community when they throw open their back doors to welcome one and all to take a FREE behind-the-scenes tour and the chance to sample some really fresh beer. Walk, skate, or bike your way around the neighbourhood, or sign up for a guided tour with Cycle City Tours or Vine & Hops.  Maintain your strength with grub from the many food trucks scattered around the circuit.  Call 604-215-0092 for more information.”

brewery tour

Sounds like a great idea!

Image: Red Tulips #2

April 15, 2016

red tulips II

Vanishing Vancouver

April 15, 2016

Last night I attended the Vancouver Public Library’s talk on “Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition and Revival” at which Michael Kluckner, Eve Lazarus, and Caroline Adderson gave presentations before answering questions from the floor.  The room was almost full, with perhaps one hundred in the audience.

Ms. Adderson acted as MC and also gave the first presentation. She is a very fine writer and this was reflected in the quality of her speech last night.  She talked about how a period house starts with the seed of a tree which grows and is then transformed by hand into a structure (comparing this favourably with much of the machine- and factory-built houses of today). She then took us through the history of her own house and rhapsodised about the emotional narratives that become embedded in homes.  Adderson deplored the vast number of demolition permits issued in Vancouver over the last 18 months, noting that these not only took away the buildings but the narratives attached to them; and we are all the poorer for that. As she noted: “It is going to be quiet around Vancouver when all the old houses are gone.”

Next up was Michael Kluckner who began by describing his beginnings in heritage preservation during the post-Expo “demolition derby” as he described it. He noted that Vancouver used to be a city of “shared landscapes”, with small houses on large lots with trees and gardens. It had been a front-porch society where neighbourhoods were shared, while today we have become a backyard society protected by hedges and walls. He recalled the concerns of the 1979-1980 period — when mortgages ranged from 15% to 20% — wherein newspapers and residents wondered if there were still properties available in Vancouver for $100,000.  As Michael stated, Vancouver has gone through many booms and busts before.

The final speaker, Eve Lazarus, noted that her interest was piqued when, as a newcomer to the city, she had looked at old photographs of downtown and wondered where all the fine buildings had gone. She then gave us a guided tour, illustrated by many before and after images, through the many splendid buildings that have been lost in the West End.

In answer to a question from the floor, the panel agreed that the heritage situation in Vancouver was worse than in, say, Toronto or Montreal. Our primary heritage building material, wood, is a lot easier to demolish than stone or granite, for example.  Also, especially on the west side, the standard comparatively small house on a comparatively large lot from the 1920s and 1930s almost invites demolition and redevelopment on a larger scale. This is not the case in Strathcona, Mount Pleasant or Grandview because the houses fill much more of the small lots and therefore the scope for rebuilding is much less.

Following a further question, the panel agreed that the current situation makes a mockery of both the Greenest City and pro-density ideals. As we all know, the greenest house is the one that is already built. The energy it takes to demolish and rebuild can take a modern “green” building up to fifty years to recoup — by which time it will probably be demolished once again. As for density, many of the older houses had multiple suites and are being replaced by large single-family dwellings, thus actually reducing density in many cases. The general feeling was the current Greenest City programs are more akin to Monty Python than a serious attempt to solve a problem.

All in all it was a very worthwhile couple of hours.