Night Music: You and Me

September 30, 2020

Why Is The Nanny State Against Me?

September 30, 2020

These days you cannot get a bag of peanuts on an airplane, and peanuts and peanut products are completely banned at schools. Why? Because the rest of us have to sacrifice in order to protect the small minority of kids and adults who have a life-threatening allergy to the snacks.  I actually don’t agree with the ban but, OK we’ll let it go.

Years ago, the nanny state banned lawn darts even though no child had ever been killed or seriously damaged by one.  That’s a really dumb rule, but still …

My wife and I and several other folks I know have a tendency to stop breathing when confronted with heavy perfume smells. Not get upset or angry or disturbed, but actually stop breathing. I wouldn’t want people to stop using whatever perfume they want but I would like a campaign to educate those people doused in the stuff not to get into crowded spaces, like transit or elevators.

Is that too much to ask from the nannies?  Where are they when I need them?

Wise Words

September 30, 2020

art quote

The Quiet Dark

September 30, 2020

I spend some of my waking time with my eyes firmly shut.  I find it peaceful, and it allows me to concentrate on what I want to think about with far less distractions from the outside world.

I shut my eyes through a large number of TV commercials, most TV news, and, indeed, a wide range of general programming.  I shut my eyes when I am relaxing outside on the patio, listening to the neighbourhood. I shut my eyes when I am listening to the radio, when I sit at my desk doing nothing in particular, when I am traveling on my usual bus routes. I am not usually asleep (though I guess it is always worth checking), but nearly everyone who sees me in this condition assumes that I am. Usually I am not.

But I can understand this assumption because almost everyone else spends the entirety of their waking lives (other than blinking) with both eyes resolutely open, and for most of you sleep, yoga practice and prayer seem the only reasonable excuses for keeping them closed. Perhaps you all don’t want to miss anything, or are fearful of the dark, or something.

I really enjoy being awake with my eyes shut. External audio — TV, radio, the street — can be trained to be just one of the thought-threads running through your mind.  Shutting the eyes allows one to focus on the available audio or simply to ignore it in favour of your own thoughts. Visual stimuli, with the eyes open on the other hand, seem far more difficult to overcome or channel.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a painter and photographer: I love and often crave visual stimulation. But there are times when I just need to shut it all out  — and closing my eyes is simple, immediate and always available.  I urge you all to give it a serious try.

Grandview 30th September 1920

September 30, 2020

Vancouver Sun, 192009230 p.8

All previous Grandview 1920 clippings

Covid-19 Warning for Commercial Drive

September 29, 2020

This afternoon, according to Vancouver is Awesome, Vancouver Coastal Health issued a warning for patrons of the ABRUZZO Cappuccino bar at 1321 Commercial.

The incident occurred between 23 September and 26 September, between 1pm and 3pm.  Anyone who was in the cafe at those times should self-isolate for two weeks.

The Policies of Deliberate Exclusion

September 29, 2020

For those who haven’t already seen this brilliant TED talk by “professional rabble-rouser” Dave Meslin given a decade ago now, please spend six minutes to watch and learn. Meslin explains in compelling simplicity how policies of “deliberate exclusion” work to create an apathetic and inactive electorate.  It is timely given our own electoral happenings.

That’s what Civics lessons ought to be about.

Even In War, Simple Often Wins

September 29, 2020

There is an article in the Independent on Sunday on the recent discovery of sunken German submarines from the Second World War, and the underwater archaeology that has shown how many of them were sunk. It appears that many more were destroyed by mines than has previously been acknowledged. The author, David Keys, notes that “over-enthusiastic airmen and escort ship commanders … sometimes claimed they had sunk U-boats with depth charges or anti-submarine mortars,” claims which research has shown to be unlikely at best.

While the article had general historical interest, I was also intrigued to note that the simple and comparatively inexpensive solution to the problem of coastal-patrolling German U-Boats — mines — was not publicly recognized by the senior military and civilian brass.  They preferred to go with the fiction that their expensive anti-submarine toys on and above the oceans had created success.  That decision allowed them to design and order ever more expensive and sophisticated “solutions” to problems in a never-ending process rather than learn whatever lessons the cheap mine could offer.

And the beneficiary? The military-industrial complex (as Eisenhower so carefully warned us a half century ago) and the politico-civil service infrastructure that supports and feeds the complex.

It’s just nuts that we allow this to go on.

Image: Life Like A Movie

September 29, 2020

Grandview 29th September 1920

September 29, 2020

Vancouver Sun, 19200929, p.7

All previous Grandview 1920 clippings

The French Really Know …

September 29, 2020

… how to advertise orange juice!

Remembering John Dos Passos

September 28, 2020

I have a number of favourite writers whose works I re-read as the decades pass.  Joseph Conrad, Nabokov, Dylan Thomas, Brautigan, and John Irving, are among that pantheon.  As is John Dos Passos who died fifty years ago today.

Hemingway and Dos Passos

Every time I read Manhattan Transfer and the U.S.A. Trilogy, I get the exact same thrill of excitement that grabbed me in the 1960s when I first came across them.

Dos Passos moved dramatically from the left to the conservatives in his later years, but his work of transcendental value came well before that.

Night Music: No Woman No Cry

September 28, 2020

Grandview in Their Sights Again

September 28, 2020

Thanks to the ever-watchful CityHallWatch, we know that tomorrow’s City Council session (Tuesday 29th) includes a Motion supporting a new Kettle development at Commercial & Adanac.  There are few details about the design of the proposed development, but I am sure that if it is a 3- or 4-storey residential/drop in centre on the current parking lot, it will be welcomed by the neighbourhood.

However, the whole agenda may be thrown off-schedule by an attempt by the Mayor to piggyback his “Making Homes” 6-plex on a lot idea as an amendment to Councillor Dominato’s Motion expanding the failing and misnamed Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Project citywide. The arguments can be complicated by arcane procedural requirements and once again CityHallWatch has done the hard work of deconstructing what this is all about. They start with Dominato’s Motion:

  • “If the idea is approved, it would mean that out-of-scale apartment buildings with multiple dwelling units, without onsite parking, could be built anywhere in Vancouver.
  • Housing options should be determined through neighbourhood-based planning through the comprehensive Vancouver Plan. Not through random spot rezonings, which would create major precedents everywhere.
  • Spot rezoning do the opposite of creating order and certainty. They create uncertainty for the community and developers, and undermine local area community plans or visions.
  • Options for strata ownership will inflate land values and undermine rental incentives.
  • Increased development pressures cause more displacement, demolition of character houses, and loss of existing affordable housing and suites.
  • The MIRHPP program already sets major precedents with applications for developments that are too large for their surroundings. The MIRHPP program should be cancelled. Not expanded for even larger buildings.
  • Former CityPlan demonstration projects (referred to in the motion) were only for housing types and locations approved in each Community Vision and only for one project per neighbourhood. The text of the motion actually gets that wrong.”

Mayor Stewart’s amendment to allow multi-plex lots citywide:

“would undermine character retention and rental incentives while increasing development pressures leading to demolition of existing homes and displacement of current residents … his proposal risks inflating land values, therefore making things less affordable overall.”

The Dominato Motion and the Stewart Amendment are opposed by the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods.

Vancouver-Hastings Election #1

September 28, 2020

We are now well into our Election of Broken Promises, with election day just 26 days away. Here in the imperial NDP riding of Vancouver-Hastings, our long-time MLA Shane Simpson is taking his golden parachute and flying the coop.  He was often approachable as an neighbourhood MLA, but frankly as Minister of Poverty he was a disaster for failing to fix the Shelter Allowance for those most in need.

It is assumed that whoever gets the NDP nomination, gets the seat in Victoria. And that “whoever” now becomes Niki Sharma, once and always a Visionista hand-me-down. Nothing could steer me away from a candidate more quickly than seeing endorsements from people such as Kevin Quinlan and Maria Dobrinskaya. Does she even live in the constituency?

The BC Liberals are running with Alex Read, described as a private school principal. As any party I supported would have the elimination of tax-payer supported private schools as one of its policies, I doubt he and I would agree on much. Update: Not sure where I got the principal info from, but it seems he is a franchising entrepreneur, with interests in health care.

The BC Greens candidate is Bridget Burns.

Where is the BC Ecosocialist candidate? Where are the other alternative candidates? Hopefully some interesting local characters may raise their heads above the parapet and take a run at this thing, if even just for name-recognition next time.

Wise Words

September 28, 2020


Grandview 28th September 1920

September 28, 2020

Vancouver World, 19200928, p.16

All previous Grandview 1920 clippings

Poem: Rolled

September 28, 2020


The woman with crow’s feet wrinkles

and smeared makeup

unfolded the billfold

removing the twenties and leaving the fives

— she had doubled her money and was willing

to leave him

cab fare home.

She waited a minute,

sharp ears listening to the spattering rain

and the flight of an early flock

flying north for the summer.

Slipping on the plastic green raincoat

she slipped out of the room,

leaving him undisturbed

in the empty barn

of his sex-sodden dreams.



Happy Birthday Gemma!

September 28, 2020

Gemma 2016


Happy birthday to our beautiful grand-daughter!  She takes after her gorgeous mother.


What Slums Can Teach Us

September 27, 2020

In Prospect Magazine Online, there is an insightful article about how modern urban planners are learning concepts and specific ideas from the squatter slums of India, Brazil and elsewhere.  This is the latest incarnation of the new urbanism that emerged in the 1970s.

One billion people live in these cities and, according to the UN, this number will double in the next 25 years. There are thousands of them and their mainly young populations test out new ideas unfettered by law or tradition. Alleyways in squatter cities, for example, are a dense interplay of retail and services—one-chair barbershops and three-seat bars interspersed with the clothes racks and fruit tables. One proposal is to use these as a model for shopping areas. “Allow the informal sector to take over downtown areas after 6pm,” suggests Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil. “That will inject life into the city” …

The book’s optimism derived from its groundbreaking fieldwork: 37 case studies in slums worldwide. Instead of just compiling numbers and filtering them through theory, researchers hung out in the slums and talked to people. They came back with an unexpected observation: “Cities are so much more successful in promoting new forms of income generation, and it is so much cheaper to provide services in urban areas, that some experts have actually suggested that the only realistic poverty reduction strategy is to get as many people as possible to move to the city.” The magic of squatter cities is that they are improved steadily and gradually by their residents. To a planner’s eye, these cities look chaotic. I trained as a biologist and to my eye, they look organic. Squatter cities are also unexpectedly green. They have maximum density—1m people per square mile in some areas of Mumbai—and have minimum energy and material use. People get around by foot, bicycle, rickshaw, or the universal shared taxi.


The article concludes with the following sobering thoughts:

And just as this was true during the industrial revolution, so the take-off of cities will be the dominant economic event of the first half of this century too. It will involve huge infrastructural stresses on energy and food supply. Vast numbers of people will begin climbing the energy ladder from smoky firewood and dung cooking fires to diesel-driven generators for charging batteries, then to 24/7 grid electricity. They are also climbing the food ladder, from subsistence farms to cash crops of staples like rice, corn, wheat and soy to meat—and doing so in a global marketplace. Environmentalists who try to talk people out of it will find the effort works about as well as trying to convince them to stay in their villages. Peasant life is over, unless catastrophic climate change drives us back to it. For humanity, the green city is our future.

Well worth the read.