It’s Ferlinghetti Day!

March 24, 2019

Source: Stacey Lewis

Today is the 100th birthday of poet, publisher, and artist Lawrence Ferlinghetti, possibly best known as the founder in 1953 of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco that was essentially the home of the Beat literature and poetry movement.  The City has declared today to be Lawrence Ferlighetti Day.

#Trending: Love

March 23, 2019

The Visual Capitalist has a fascinating graphic showing how the girl (etc)-meets-boy (etc) scenario has changed over the decades.

Select image for a closer view.

“Since the launch of Tinder, hundreds of dating services have appeared on app stores worldwide. Investors are taking notice of this booming market, while analysts estimate the global online dating market could be worth $12 billion by next year.”

That’s $12 billion a year that couples didn’t used to spend, although to some extent, it also involves a switch of spending from one set of consumer items to another.  Either way, it is a significant economic shift.

The Standing Stones As National Arena

March 23, 2019

A month or so ago, I reported on some research that indicated that the stone ring at Stonehenge had originally been built in Wales and only later moved to Salisbury Plain, almost 5,000 years ago.


This most famous of henges was erected in an area that is replete with rings and ritual sites of various descriptions, the most well-known of which would be the Avebury circle, linked by pathways to Stonehenge.  New research has shown that these sites may well have had a national rather than local significance.

“A detailed scientific analysis of 131 pigs found at four key feasting sites in Wiltshire and Dorset … reveals that the vast majority of the pigs eaten at the feasts had been brought there from up to hundreds of miles away … The conclusion is that Stonehenge-era Britons had some sort of “national” intercommunal or pan-tribal identity, as well as presumably their local tribal or clan ones. In that sense, the megafeasts may well have represented the birth of Britain as a cultural or even geopolitical or ideological concept …

“These gatherings could be seen as the first united cultural events of our island, with people from all corners of Britain descending on the areas around Stonehenge to feast on food that had been specially reared and transported from their homes .. The emergence of some sort of country-wide identity now appears to have been part of a package of new cultural and political developments that occurred at around the time the great stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury were built.”

Some 2,000 years later, in the Iron Age, there was a pan-tribal Druid elite extant throughout much of Britain. They may well have emerged from these earlier “national” gatherings.  What is certain is that our Neolithic ancestors were a lot more interesting and organised than we were taught at school.

Image: Playland In Spring

March 23, 2019

Night Music: Imagine

March 22, 2019

The Remarkable Growth of Cities 1500-2018

March 22, 2019

Regular readers will perhaps recognize that I am a great fan of well done data visualizations of historical issues. Here is another one constructed by the folks at the Financial Times. It follows the growth of the world’s largest cities from 1500 through to 2018.  It lasts about 3 minutes and is quite fascinating.

More on TMH at Commercial & Adanac

March 22, 2019

As reported earlier, the No Tower Coalition has been suggesting to City staff and Councillors that the virtually-unused and City-owned parking lot at the corner of Commercial & Adanac would be a perfect site for a Temporary Modular Housing (TMH) project.

I understand City staff have nixed the idea, saying the site is unsuitable, presumably on the grounds of size. I believe that is just nonsense.  Steve Bohus, a GWAC Director, has produced concept renderings showing that a 40-unit TMH — extrapolated from the existing footprint of the 52-unit TMH at 898 Main Street — is perfectly feasible for the property suggested.

Given that we have here a neighbourhood group requesting a TMH in their district (contrary to the City’s experience in some other neighbourhoods) along with a genuine need for such housing, and a suitable property already owned by the City, I think it is incumbent on City staff to explain what their plans are for this site and why those plans would be better for our residents than a TMH; and it is equally incumbent on each Councillor to demand those answers.

How Cooking Made Us Human

March 21, 2019

I just finished reading Catching Fore: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham. It makes an interesting case that food — and the cooking of food — helped drive the evolution of human beings.

Following a detailed energy analysis comparing raw and cooked food, Wrangham, Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard, posits that homo erectus evolved out of autralopithecines around 1.8 million years ago primarily as a result of the introduction of cooking.  The softness of processed food drove the visible changes between the species in jaw and tooth structure and gut size, while the increase of energy imparted to the food by cooking helped accelerate the massive growth in cranial capacity in erectus.

He also suggests that the evolution of homo erectus to homo heielbergensis (a precursor to homo sapiens) around 700,000 years ago is contemporaneous with evidence showing a more complete control of fire.  Moreover, he argues that the societal and cultural changes introduced through the security of fire and the sharing of cooked food are implicated in the emergence of the big-brained homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago.  These are big claims which he backs up with considerable evidence from both the paleo-archaeologcal record and studies of modern hunter-gatherers.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly and I learned a great deal.  However, Catching Fire was published in 2009.  In the decade since, there have been enormous strides taken in our knowledge of the human family tree. In that time we have discovered the Denisovans, re-evaluated the Neanderthals, and added homo naledi and homo floriensis to the list of our forebears, along with much else.  I’ll need to see how Wrangham’s arguments stack up against the new discoveries.

Whatever the result of that comparison, Catching Fire is well worth the read for anyone interested in the origins of humanity and food.

Image: Spring Blossoms

March 21, 2019


To celebrate the first full day of spring this year!

Nowruz Mubarak 2019

March 21, 2019

Night Music: I Can Hear Music

March 20, 2019

Wise Words

March 20, 2019

Happy Holi Day!

March 20, 2019

Some Enchanted Friday

March 19, 2019

The People’s Co-op Bookstore at 1391 Commercial is restarting its Some Enchanted Friday Reading Series this Friday, 22nd March, at 7:30pm.  This week the readers are poet Jennifer Zilm and novelist Candie Tanaka

Admission is free, and the experience will be priceless.

Image: Tree House

March 19, 2019

Vancouver Advisory Committees

March 19, 2019

The City of Vancouver is seeking volunteers from the general public for positions on the following advisory bodies:

  • Arts and Culture Advisory Committee
  • Children, Youth and Families Advisory Committee
  • Civic Asset Naming Committee
  • LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee
  • Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee
  • Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Advisory Committee
  • Renters Advisory Committee
  • Seniors’ Advisory Committee
  • Transportation Advisory Committee
  • Urban Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Committee
  • Vancouver Food Policy Council
  • Women’s Advisory Committee
  • Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee
  • First Shaughnessy Advisory Design Panel
  • Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee

Please apply for the above by 11:59pm on Friday, April 12, 2019.  See the City page for full details.

Night Music: Always On My Mind

March 18, 2019

The History of Sushi

March 18, 2019

“Sushi is not simply a meal to be eaten, but a dish to be savoured. As the celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa has recently pointed out, it is ‘an art’ in itself.”

I love sushi and sashimi and their accompaniments. I have eaten it here in Vancouver (wonderful), in Nairobi (potentially disastrous), in dozens of places around the world, in posh places (often mediocre) and street carts (usually delicious). I seek it out. I was primed therefore to be enticed by an article in History Today entitled A Short History of Sushi.  And it was well worth the read.

Image: History Today

Sushi has a long and involved geographic history,

“Though the evidence for its early history is rather sketchy, it seems to have begun life at some point between the fifth and the third centuries BC in the paddy fields alongside the Mekong river, which runs through modern Laos, Thailand and Vietnam … From the Mekong it made its way south towards Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and north, along the Yangtze and into the Yunnan, Guanxi and Guizhou provinces of modern China … Eventually, nare-sushi reached Japan. It is not known exactly when it arrived, but the earliest reference to it appears in the Yōrō Code, a legal code compiled in 718.”

The manufacture of the food moved unusually from highly complex to simple.

“First, the fish were gutted, rubbed with salt and placed in a barrel to dry for a few weeks. Then the salt was scraped off and the bellies of the fish packed with rice before being placed into wooden barrels, weighed down with a heavy stone, and left to rest. After several months – sometimes up to a year – anaerobic fermentation would begin, converting the sugars in the rice into acids and thus preventing the microorganisms responsible for putrefaction from spoiling the flesh. Whenever there was a need, the barrel could then be opened, the rice scraped off and the remaining fish eaten …

“By the middle of the 17th century … haya-zushi (fast sushi) … did away with fermentation altogether, while preserving the dish’s familiar tart flavour. Instead of waiting for the sugars in the rice to be turned naturally into acids, vinegar was simply added instead. It was then packed into a box, under slices of cooked or cured fish, and pressed with a heavy weight for no more than a couple of days.”

In the 19th century, even the pressing was eliminated, and something similar to the nigiri sushi we know today was introduced in Edo and eventually spread to the rest of Japan, and beyond:

“In the 1960s, Californians even pioneered their own form of sushi – the inside-out roll. Since then, ever more inventive variations have been introduced the world over.”

Our own master Tojo-san might quibble with the invention of the inside-out roll. But this is a fascinating brief history of a wonderful food. Recommended.

Poem: First Date

March 18, 2019


it’s dark and smoky in the back

of the old Lincoln;  smells of old leather

and cheap perfume, nostalgia for the old

days sweep over me like the steady progression

of clouds wheeling around the planet.

And there she is beside me, showing me

more thigh than I can possibly handle;

an immense superstructure peeps

from the straining buttons, and I see

with the clarity of hindsight how this present

future follows the paths of the past.



March 17, 2019

The Grandview Woodland Area Council, the oldest established and one of the most active of residents’ associations, held its Annual General Meeting today at Family Place, About three dozen members were present.

After brief reports from the current Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary, the election of directors took place.  Four current directors (Dana Cromie, Craig Ollenberger, Steve Bohus, and Susan Briggs) agreed to stand again, while Penny Street was nominated from the floor.  All directors were acclaimed and will be the officers for 2019/20.

Cathy Low of Save Our Neighbourhood Parks gave a useful speech about the current Parks Board policy of replacing genuine green turf with synthetic rubber surfaces. She is in particular concerned with the plans for Clinton Park, a two block park in the north east of the neighbourhood.  Parks Board planning has one block of the Park to have the grass stripped out and replaced with synthetic material suitable for soccer pitches.  My understanding is that that section will be fenced off and only made available to paid licensees. This is, as Cathy says, privatizing our greenspace.

Cathy notes that teams from across Vancouver will book times to play and that teams waiting to play on the new surface will use the other half as a practice pitch while they wait.  Thus, the entire park will be lost to the general public.  Moreover, the increase in car traffic will significantly disrupt neighbourhood parking.  The group has a Facebook page and a petition at the link given above.

The eastside in general, and Grandview Woodland in particular, are already deficient in greenspace. It seems nothing but crazy to take away the little we already have. These seems like an issue that would fire up the Greens but Cathy’s interactions with Green Parks Board members has been quite the opposite.  We know how that feels.

The balance of the meeting was a presentation by Patrick Beattie and Duncan Higgson of the Portland Housing Society regarding their history with Temporary Modular Housing (which has lately become an issue here).

There were several important takeaways from the discussion;

  • housing is a key component of the health care continuum for opiod and other substance abuse treatments;
  • providing housing results in significant cost savings compared to long term health care without it;
  • compared to the 5 years of planning, bureaucracy, and building of regular bricks and mortar buildings, TMH can be designed, manufactured, delivered, and opened in five months;
  • TMH, built in BC, are designed for a 50-year life span and each TMH facility can be moved inexpensively from one site to another as need arises.

All in all a useful meeting.  It is a shame that only 30+ people came. The No Tower Coalition, the OCOP group that was active during the Community Plan exercise, the Grant Street and First Avenue projects have proved that large groups of people can be activated for specific projects and issues.  We have yet to successfully educate the general populace that these “single” issues are actually part of a planning and development continuum that are best looked at in a wider perspective, the kind of perspective that an organization such as GWAC and, even more broadly, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods can present.