Image: Cozy Apartments

March 31, 2017


Night Music: Africa

March 30, 2017


Brexit Revisited

March 29, 2017

Now that the UK Government has formally signed the declaration that the UK will be leaving the European Community, I thought it an idea to repost my thoughts as they were on the morning after the vote last June. Having re-read this, and with 9 months of thinking about it behind me, I find little I would change from my jubilation on that day:

 

Brexit: The Morning After

The first results, from Newcastle and Sunderland, helped set the mood, with Leave doing better than anticipated. About eight hours later when I went to bed, it was all over and British democracy had spoken — the forty-plus year experiment of Britain in Europe was coming to an end.

The bankers hit the panic button, the pound tanked (taking the Canadian dollar with it), and — part two of my hopes and wishes — David Cameron resigned. It was a grand night.

I am willing to accept that the superficial logic behind the voters’ decision is deeply flawed. Most of Britain’s street-level economic woes are not caused by Europe; they are, rather, a function of the anti-person pro-austerity Tory policies of Cameron and Osborne following on from decades of Thatcherite and Blairite disasters. The vote will do nothing to stop the 150,000 non-EU and mostly non-white migrants that arrive in Britain every year. The vote will do nothing at all to protect the NHS from the ravages of Tory privatization and under-funding.

I am also willing to accept that many of the leaders of the Leave campaign are intellectual lightweights, Trump-like in their extravagant audacity, and some could even be described as evil (though Cameron and Osborne for Remain are equally bad).

But, I would argue, the deeper and most important reason for 17 million Brits to vote the way they did was to reassert local control regardless of the specific issues themselves. And for a radical decentralizer like me, this is an important movement in the right direction, and what makes last night such a glorious business.

So what next?

Cameron has already announced his resignation, which means the Conservatives will conduct another civil war within the party between the supporters of Boris Johnson and everyone else. If they mess that up as badly as they might, the Tories could quickly take themselves out of office.

The Labour Party still has to sort out its position on Jeremy Corbyn, especially as he too lost the referendum.

UKIP will no doubt hang around to be annoying during the exit negotiations. However, having achieved their only raison d’etre and without the intellectual heft to successfully pivot to another issue, I see them fading away, slowly folding themselves back into the Tory Party.

Scotland (and, I hope, Wales and Northern Ireland) will demand another independence referendum in an attempt to regain their position within Europe. My decentralising dream of there being four independent countries — England, Wales, Scotland, and a re-united Ireland — in place of Great Britain may actually come to fruition.

The Brits who this morning are bemoaning their fate will learn soon enough that Britain (or England) can stand on its own two feet and prosper. I suspect that we will see a renewal of Commonwealth-based trade ties, while the bankers will ensure that London retains its place as a major financial centre.

It is a new and exciting beginning.


Image: Arrow Lake From The Leland

March 29, 2017


Breakfast Today #2

March 29, 2017

A stack of blueberry and strawberry pancakes.  Damn fine way to start the day!

 

[select image for a closer look]


Night Music: Spy In The House of Love

March 28, 2017


GWAC, Britannia, and Reconciliation

March 28, 2017

Next Monday evening, in lieu of their regular monthly meeting, GWAC is encouraging its members to attend a presentation on “Reconciliation & Renewal”, given by Yvonne Rigsby-Jones from Reconciliation Canada.

The meeting takes place:

Monday April 3rd, 2017, 

6:00pm:  Community meal

7:00-8:00pm: meeting and discussion

Britannia Community Services Centre, Gym D

 

To quote the GWAC notice:

How can the Britannia Renewal project inspire positive change and engage community members in dialogue and transformative experiences that revitalize the relationships among Indigenous peoples and all Canadians?

The new 2017 GWAC Board of Directors will be there and they welcome your views and comments,

 


Image: Screen Door

March 27, 2017


Poem: Grandmaster

March 27, 2017

 

The plush vermillion drapes

were pushed aside momentarily —

a passing shoulder, perhaps,

or a microphone cord —

and a brindle shadow fell

across the hushed room.

He looked up from the false ivory,

looked out through the frosted glass,

and one tiny corridor

of his labyrinthine mind

wandered at the sudden, shrill, iridescent glow

of life outside.

Moments passed,

and this moment passed;

the drapes fell back,

and his full deliberation returned

to the quickest kind of death

he could inflict

on his opponent’s queen.

 


What I Do

March 26, 2017

Here on the blog I have a great time publishing my photographs, playing music, beating up on senseless developers and crony-politicians, talking about art, celebrating the odd anniversary, and whatever else comes up. It’s play time.

But each day, whether it is for a long time, or just an hour, I work on my history projects; and this is the real work on which I am engaged. To me, it is a bit like playing the piano — you have to practice every day to keep the muscles limber and the mind sharp.

Much of this effort goes into the Grandview Database. I am currently working on the next version which will be published on 1st April. There are several lifetimes of material still available to be loaded into the database and by that means made easily available to anyone who wants to look. If anything is to be my legacy, I suspect that is it.

But I am also keen to produce another book, this one covering the birth of Grandview from 1860 to 1935 (which will tie in with my earlier book, “The Drive“, which starts in 1935.) To that end, I wrote a book-length series of essays last year, but it didn’t work for me (or my readers), as the book tried to cover the entire period from 1900 to 1970 and there was significant overlap with the earlier book. So, I have begun to rework the material into a more focused and recognizably narrative form, and my plan is to publish drafts of it serially at Grandview Heritage Group as I complete sections  The first part was published today.

In the end, the entire work will be produced as a book. But I hope both those interested in the subject and I will gain something from the serial publishing idea.

 

 


Night Music: Don’t Worry Baby

March 26, 2017


Images: Commercial Drive: Licorice Party

March 25, 2017


Night Music: Crazy Love

March 24, 2017


Still Blind About The Subway

March 23, 2017

Now that the Federal Liberals have been generous with our tax dollars and appear to be throwing offers of money at the Lower Mainland’s transit and transportation systems, with both the BC Liberals and NDP seemingly jumping on board, and with Gregor Robertson openly salivating at the prospect of overturning the Transit Referendum and the profits his cronies can make, it is imperative that we revitalize the campaign against the Broadway subway to nowhere.

To begin, here is a piece I wrote before the 2014 municipal election. Some references may be dated, but the facts remain,

 

A Lack of Vision On The Broadway Corridor

Vision Vancouver, the developer-funded incumbent regime at City Hall, have decided to make a subway under Broadway, from Commercial to UBC, a major plank of their re-election campaign. Apparently it is beside the point that they don’t have the money to do it, nor any control over the funding, and that it is a bad and unimaginative idea, suited only for the profits of the regime’s crony partners. A subway we shall have, they say.

Let’s begin by looking at some of the yawning gaps in Vision’s proposal.

First, to claim this is a subway to UBC is simply false.  The subway, as currently proposed, will be dug from Commercial & Broadway only to Arbutus where westbound commuters will have to leave the subway, climb up to the street level and then wait for a bus to UBC to complete their journey, one way.  So, any commuter time savings discussed must take into account the time and inconvenience needed for this transfer. And, of course, the same inconvenient transfer will be necessary when leaving UBC to travel eastwards.

Second, all expert opinion suggests that putting the financing together and then building the tunnel will take eight years at least before delivering one second of improvement.  I suppose we must hang around in long lines waiting for an already-crowded 99B Line for another eight years, as there are no plans to improve the service before then.

lineups

In fact, under Vision’s plans for Commercial & Broadway, the commuting situation will get much worse.  They plan to add about 10,000 more people to that neighbourhood, mostly housed in huge 30+ storey highrise towers at the intersection, without any increase in transit. Those 10,000 people will simply add to the congestion and line-ups that already annoy so many travelers; and which can only be aggravated by years and years of subway construction work.

Third, what would this new commuter paradise look like?  Under Vision, there is little doubt Broadway will consist of islands of massive towers separated by barren wastelands between the stops.

MAIN.Marine-Gateway600px

Even the pro-subway Urban Land Institute, in their Final Report in July, warned that Vision had gone hog-wild over towers. It is worth noting that there will still need to be street-level buses to move people between the stations and their high-rises; so the subway becomes not a replacement, but simply a very expensive addition.

Finally in this review, let’s take a moment for an overview of this $3 billion, 8-year project: Question: did you ever see a government-run mega project go over-budget and/or over-schedule?  I can’t think of one that didn’t.

So, after all that complaining, are there alternatives?  Yes, of course. And there are alternatives whether the $3 billion falls like manna from heaven or whether we have to do this without such largesse.  The prime failure of Vision’s plan is its lack of imagination.

For example, should that kind of money be available, Patrick Condon (who elsewhere has pointed out the contradictions in Vision’s plan) has already described the magnificent transit system we could have all across Vancouver for the same cost of $3 billion that Vision wants to waste on a single line between Commercial and Arbutus. Why would we not want to improve service everywhere rather than service a small slice of our needs?

What else?  We could move large sections of UBC to, say, the Post Office building downtown, and the Emily Carr site on Granville Island.  This would spread the transit load geographically and, at least in the case of the Post Office, would build upon existing transit infrastructure.

And/or we could insist that UBC and the high-tech companies the Mayor and Geoff Meggs have said will dominate the Broadway corridor move to flex-time scheduling, thus spreading the traffic load across the system throughout the day and thus reducing “rush hour” congestion.

And/or we could divert automobile traffic off Broadway to 4th, 12th, 25th and 41st, for example.  Personally, I would be happy to see the entire Broadway corridor become a pedestrian/transit/cycle-only street.  A mix of short-haul and express buses would speed along their own dedicated lanes, as would bicycles, feeding retail along the entire street rather than just in towering shopping centres.

Finally, we can consider alternative technologies for moving people along Broadway.  An at-grade Light Rapid Transit system, costing about a third of the tunnel project but going all the way to UBC, is an obvious candidate.

OffLRTproposal

There are plenty of other ideas floating around.  What we know is that the three billion dollar hole in the ground is the least viable, the least effective, and the least neighbourhood-friendly option and, besides, it cannot be ready for almost a decade at best.  It is time to be creative and make better decisions for our commuters and our City today.


Image: Branches and Clouds

March 23, 2017


Night Music: Go Where You Wanna Go

March 22, 2017


Wise Words

March 21, 2017


Image: DenCity

March 21, 2017


R.I.P. Colin Dexter

March 21, 2017

It is with sadness I read this morning of the death of Colin Dexter, one of the true masters of the English crime novel. He was 88.

His 13 novels about Inspector Morse are erudite studies of murder, police work, and the particular lifestyle of Oxford and its colleges. They spawned three TV series — Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour — that were (and still are) hugely popular.  Morse had a passion for beer, Wagner, and difficult crosswords — not unlike the author, I suspect.  For me, Morse shares an intellectual heaven with P.D. James’ equally literate Adam Dalgleish: both authors pushed the genre into true literature.

From the several obits I have read, Colin Dexter seems to have been a jolly fellow, well liked by all who knew him. He will be missed.


Employment

March 20, 2017

Here is a wonderful 6-minute animation detailing the dehumanization of menial employment:

 

Thanks to Open Culture for the link.