Image: Fog at Sunset

April 13, 2021


A Truly Brave Man

April 12, 2021

The first hero that I remember having was Duncan Edwards, the Manchester United footballer who was killed along with many others in the team in the Munich air crash of 1958.  The second was Yuri Gagarin.

Sixty years ago today, Yuri Gagarin entered history as the first human being in space. A few years earlier, just before my 8th birthday, my father had taken the time to get me interested in the Soviet Union’s feat in putting Sputnik into space. I was entranced and remained an avid follower of the space race for decades. I followed the Russian dogs going up, and Gagarin’s flight was the obvious next step.

It wasn’t revealed for forty years that the cosmonaut ejected from the capsule before it crash-landed, parachuting to earth. And it was definitely sad for Gagarin that he was thereafter too valuable to put at threat and so he was never allowed to return to orbit. No matter.  That first flight was a glorious triumph for mankind!


Poem: Harvest

April 12, 2021

 

It’s raining;

trapped in the house again

with a bottle and the balance

of the sandwich

from yesterday:

I’ll stretch the bread from here to tomorrow.

Harvesting the crumbs

from carpet and cardigan,

I will not be worried

in the midst of such plenty.

It’s raining again.

 


Image: Across English Bay

April 11, 2021


Battleground: A Review

April 9, 2021

Jennifer Chutter has written an interesting review of Battleground: Grandview for the always useful Ormsby Review.

She notes three over-arching themes in the book: Who is the city for? What is a neighbourhood? and What is an expert? For the first, she writes that:

“From the City of Vancouver Planning department’s perspective, the city is for the future residents and not for the current ones. It is clear throughout King’s work that current residents are disregarded as having any sort of role in creating the current vibrancy and functionality of the city; furthermore, the poor are unacknowledged … King’s argument challenges the reader to think through the larger political machinations that are guiding urban growth and the impact it has on smaller neighbourhoods.

As for the neighbourhood:

“King does a strong job emphasizing the difficulty of defining what constitutes a neighbourhood … According to King, City planners misunderstand the complexity of planning for urban growth because they don’t account for the interconnectedness of people and structures. The problem with the initial Community Plan was that it homogenized the entire area and flattened out the distinct features that make the neighbourhood unique, and there appeared to be little understanding that changes to one area would impact the whole.”

And as for the role of “experts”:

“Despite hundreds of residents giving up their time to participate in events hosted by the Planning Department, their expertise from living within the neighbourhood for years was denied as having any value.”

In conclusion, the review says:

“In Battleground Grandview, Jak King presents a strong call to action: it is time for the City of Vancouver to take into consideration the needs, wishes, and desires of current residents to maintain the vibrant areas of the city, rather than persistently planning for future urban growth in the form of tall towers.”

I want to thank Ms. Chutter for taking the time to study and understand the book, and to the Ormsby Review for sponsoring the review.

Copies of Battleground: Grandview are still available at People’s Co-op on Commercial Drive, direct from me at jakking@shaw.ca, and from VPL.


Image: Paella

April 9, 2021


The NPA Soap Opera Continues

April 7, 2021

Since I wrote my first thoughts back in January, we have had a few more months to see how the ground is being set up for the 2022 election. And, for the NPA in particular, these months have been eventful.

Discontent between the NPA Board and the elected NPA Councilors continued to bubble away, with the Twitterverse happy to replay over and over the hard-right credentials of the Board in contrast to the more liberal caucus. The Board seems to have decided to ignore any thought of an AGM for the party, and the preservation of their clique on the Board appears to be the sole factor in that decision. More dirty linen and a thick libertarian streak was exposed when a member of the NPA Board (or only very recently departed from the Board) chose to publicly and loudly refuse to operate his restaurant in line with medical regulations.

And then, yesterday, out of the blue it seems, the NPA Board announced that John Coupar had been selected to run as the 2022 NPA Mayoral candidate. No AGM, no transparent nominations, just a backroom deal done by a bunch of far right white guys.

I happen to have pressed for a decade or more for parties to announce their candidates early rather than leaving it to the last minute when people don’t have time to properly examine the candidates. I also happen to like John as a person; he and I have had a friendly if distant acquaintance even though our politics are miles apart. But…

This was an undemocratic coup. The Board was well aware that there were other candidates in the wings. But they didn’t care. This was a Situationist spectacle, designed to distract attention from the Board members’ backgrounds, to shut down debate before it could begin and specifically to exclude effective women who wanted their say in how their party and city is run.

Three of the four NPA Councilors issued a statement:

Not as strong as I would have liked to see. They were followed today by Clr. DeGenova who was even less satisfactory:

George Affleck, veteran NPA guy, wrote that:

With their decision, Coupar and the board have both ostracized and outed his caucus naysayers, which makes it easier not to have them as part of the NPA team in 2022, and made it clear to failed candidates like Ken Sim that this time the NPA is not messing around. Coupar’s sending a message that he should be the only centre-right candidate to focus on in order to beat the current leftist mayor, Kennedy Stewart.

Ken Sim seems to have deep-pocketed friends and I am not sure that this kind of bravado will scare him off. I suspect that the Board is counting on both Sim and the caucus failing to put together viable non-NPA tickets and organizations by 2022.

We look forward to the next thrilling instalment!


Image: Sumo

April 7, 2021


The Rise and Fall of Blockbuster

April 7, 2021

For boomers like me, Blockbusters was one of those phenomena that bursts onto the scene, appears to be ubiquitous and unstoppable, and then quickly fades like a winter’s twilight.

From a single store in Dallas, TX, in 1986, Blockbuster exploded across the continent until in October 2004 they had more than 5,700 stores in the US alone. They were the Starbucks of their age. But it all fell apart quite suddenly — what with Netflix and other streaming services and much improved internet coverage and speed — until, today, there is just one Blockbuster store left, in Bend, OR.

This map shows how the rise and fall of Blockbuster mirrors a supernova, flashing into view and then fading to nothing.


GWAC Meeting on Britannia Housing

April 6, 2021

The Epicurean Life

April 5, 2021

Something I was reading recently reminded me of my 2013 review of “The Swerve: How The World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt, the John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard.  I think it bears repeating.

The Swerve” tells the story of the re-discovery in 1417 of a long poem in Latin by Lucretius called “On The Nature of Things” which, the author claims, led to a flowering of the humanist movement, to a modern scientific view of reality, and to the disintegration of (or at least a serious challenge to) the accepted world view of the Catholic Church.  Enormous claims, and the author does a fine job of defending them.

Lucretius’ poem is a discourse on the philosophy promulgated by Epicurus (341-270 BCE), that life should be led without any fear of death, that the pursuit of personal well-being should be the prime motivator of one’s existence, and that all life and all things are composed of “atoms” that collide and coalesce and then disaggregate once again upon death.

Epicurus

The Epicurean belief that there is no creation, the universe is eternal, that death is the final end, that there is no afterlife would prove to be a major challenge for the Church, a challenge they met with both cruelty and disdain.  It is from their deliberate twisting of these teachings that most people today consider Epicureanism to be a form of gluttony and greed and little more.

The first half of the book gives an excellent background to the Europe of the late medieval period, discusses the growth of humanism through the re-discovery of Latin and Greek texts, and follows the life of Poggio Bracciolini, a Papal secretary who found, copied and circulated a manuscript of Lucretius’ De rerum natura.

The second half describes the Epicureanism of Lucretius in some detail and it is worth noting the major points:

  • Everything is made of invisible particles that are eternal, infinite in number and are in motion in an infinite void
  • Nature ceaselessly experiments
  • The universe was not created for or about humans
  • Humans are not unique
  • The soul dies; there is no afterlife; there are no angels, demons or ghosts
  • All organized religions are superstitious delusions, and are invariably cruel
  • The highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain
  • The greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain; it is delusion
  • Understanding the nature of things generates deep wonder

The book then travels forward through history to show the extent of the poem’s influence.   Early humanists, such as Giordana Bruno, were burnt at the stake for preaching its beliefs.  Thomas More wrote Utopia as a direct attack on Lucretian Epicureanism, while Lucretius was the direct inspiration of Botticelli’s Primavera.  Montaigne’s Essays are infused with epicureanism, and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a materialist masterpiece, even mentioning “little atomi” in its description of Queen Mab. Gallileo was clearly influenced by the poem,and the Puritan Lucy Hutchinson wrote an early English translation.

Perhaps the most famous political influence was in the work of Thomas Jefferson, a self-confessed Epicurean, who added “…the pursuit of happiness” as one of the three inalienable rights of all people.

This was a fascinating read.


Image: Leaves and Tree

April 5, 2021


Poem: (Lo)ve

April 5, 2021

ecce homo
this Jew ex machina
who’s purloined Pauline
aphorisms
crashed the Whore
of Rome’s machinery

— a sudden stoppage
in the
constant(ine) gears
which had weathered
the (st)orms
of barbarism and buffoonery —

died on a tree
say it
(s)aint so
devoid of (e)motion
qui(e)t, silent even
as the public gawked
and prodded
pierced
b(lo)ody hands agape.

Agape! he cries,
Love!
through the tears
renting his b(lo)ody flesh
almost as ba(l)dly
as we have
rented his b(lo)ody
super(ficial) image
through the years

perpl(ex)ed
(conf)used
gored
in the
par(ox)ysm of death
he begged
his go(o)d forgive
those who
(k)illed him
with their fears

 


Reason #237 NOT to Use Facebook

April 5, 2021

After the Capitol insurrection of January 6th this year, Facebook announced that it was suspending all political donations for at least a quarter while “we review our policies.”

But Popular Information has learned that just 44 days later, Facebook donated $50,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee (the RSLC):

“In addition to supporting the election of legislators that are pushing measures to restrict voting, the RSLC is directly encouraging state officials to make voting more difficult. The group supported a version of the Georgia voting legislation that was even harsher than the measure that ultimately became law. The RSLC supported ending no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia and completely banning drop boxes …

Facebook also suggested its pledge suspending political donations for 90 days only applied to the Facebook PAC and not to direct corporate contributions, which is how it sent $50,000 to the RSLC. But Facebook did not explain why, if it believed as an organization that political contributions should be suspended for 90 days, political contributions from its corporate funds were any different than political contributions from its PAC. “

See other reasons not to use Facebook.


I’m Saved!

April 4, 2021

Got my first vaccination dose this afternoon! It was at the Italian Cultural Centre and it was a highly efficient process.

I waited no more than five minutes to be called in after I arrived, and registration took a couple of minutes. Sent immediately to a table where an attendant waited, the jab was done painlessly and without any fuss. As instructed, I waited fifteen minutes to make sure there were no bad reactions, and then I was home free.

Even the HandiDarts, there and back, were exactly on time.

Whoopppeeee!


Image: Garden Gate

April 3, 2021


Image: Diner #1

April 1, 2021


Image: Meadow

March 31, 2021


Phony Familiarity

March 30, 2021

My name is Jak King. I have a middle name, Roberts, named after my grandfather who was in turn named after a Boer War general. Neither I nor anyone who knows me would call me “Jak Roberts”. The only time I ever use my middle name is when filling out government forms.

So, when I got today in the mail a survey from the BC NDP, which calls me “Jak Roberts” on four separate occasions, I know perfectly well where the party is scrubbing the data from.

They want to make it seem as if we are chums and partners — “Jak Roberts, we’re in this together” — but in fact they are just proving they have no idea who they are talking with even as they ask me for a donation.

I filled out their survey; I doubt they’ll be splashing my answers across the 6 o’clock news.


Snacks Tonight #38

March 29, 2021

A sinfully simple panna cotta with almond and chocolate topping. Mmmmm mmmm.