A Christmas Visitor

November 7, 2021


In North America, the big time for major TV commercials is the Super Bowl. In England, it is Christmas, with the major department stores leading the way each year.

This year’s commercial from John Lewis & Partners features an alien visitor:

Is the Vancouver Plan Already A Bust?

November 7, 2021


The Vancouver Plan — the much vaunted Official Community Plan for all of Vancouver — has just kicked off, with “consultations” on-going this month. I understand the projected budget for this Plan is $18 million, but you have to wonder what the point of it all is.

Major parts of the City already have 30-year Community Plans less than 10 years old: Mount Pleasant, Grandview, Marpole, the West End, and DTES. Oakridge and the Cambie Corridor are already heavily re-zoned. False Creek South, the Jericho Lands, the Senakw development, and the Broadway corridor are also subject to their own plans.

The “Streamlining Rentals” proposal that is before Council again this week rezones EVERY arterial road in the City plus makes changes to C2 zones city-wide.

And that doesn’t include the scores of spot rezonings for individual projects that continue to flood out of the Planning department on a bi-weekly basis.

What is left, then, for the Vancouver Plan to cover? Is the Vancouver Plan designed to over-ride all these other approved or in- process rezonings? I doubt it. It is hard to imagine developers making commitments without an understanding that their agreed zoning is guaranteed for some period. So what is the point of this much-ballyhooed expensive exercise?

It seems to me that Vancouver southwest and southeast are the two main areas that might need plans; and they could be handled more efficiently and with more focused consultation by individual Community Plans for those areas. Let’s scrap the Vancouver Plan and put the money saved to better use — such as affordable housing.

Postscript: Scot Hein was far more eloquent than I about this topic in an article he sent me from the Tyee from last January.

Image: Bird’s Breakfast #2

November 7, 2021

The Oldest Art

November 7, 2021


Each September I celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of the Lascaux Caves and the revelation of the glorious 17,000-year-old images to be found there. The historical value of Lascaux lies in the fact that they were the first such art gallery to be found. However, they are far from the oldest art that we now know about.

As the discovered art got older, it also shifted eastwards. The ancient art in Europe, at Lascaux and Altamira is dated to the period immediately following the last global maximum of the Ice Ages, 15,000 – 20,000 years ago. The caves at Chauvet are from about 30,000 years ago, but Indonesia has images firmly dated to 40,000 years, and the Sulawesi pigs can now be dated to 45,500 years ago. Images in India and China may even be older.

“The discoveries in Sulawesi could imply that representational art began in Asia, but more likely, [archaeologist Adam] Brumm says, it’s just part of a trail of representational art through human history. He expects the oldest rock art will eventually turn up from before Homo sapiens’ diaspora out of Africa.”

But, as this fascinating article from PNAS illustrates, the issue of what is the oldest art is inextricably linked to an answer to the question: “What is art?”

“The most common criterion for what’s considered art is behavior without any apparent practical use … Still other archaeologists would like to see stronger evidence that the art was actually intended to convey some kind of aesthetic principle or meaning … Beads, for instance, are decorative but can also signal group identity… Evidence of abstract images dates as far back as 500,000 years ago, when Homo erectus etched zig zag lines into a seashell in Java (5). And just this year, archaeologist Dirk Leder discovered 51,000-year-old abstract triple L-shaped patterns carved in deer bone 

Is this art? Or do we only want to think about representational images, such as the Sulawesi pigs? Perhaps, as the article concludes, they may be two strands — one symbolic, one practical — of independent derivation that will not be forced into a linear history.

I just hope we find lots of more of both.