The Killing of Alma Blackwell

September 14, 2021

In the early 1980s, a small group of women decided they needed a safe affordable place to live and to develop a community for women and their children. To achieve their ends, they established a Housing Society called “Entre Nous Femmes” which eventually built and developed the 46-unit Alma Blackwell housing project at 1656 Adanac Street, named after the grandmother of one of the group’s founders.

Alma Blackwell rapidly became the community the founders hoped for. Many women in need and their children lived in the housing project, often for decades. It has continued to thrive as a community and its success created the ability for the Housing Society to build more and more similar projects until today, ENF has eleven buildings in Vancouver.

Although not legally structured as a co-op, the ENF project operated within that milieu: the residents helped build and maintain the buildings, and controlled the Society. However, as the years passed, the governance became more and more removed from the residents, more distant, until today the residents are not only not allowed to be directors of the society, and are routinely refused access to the Society’s minutes, they even find it difficult to find out who is a director of their Society.

That change in governance has been matched by the recent unwillingness of the Society to maintain the property in a fit and livable manner. Moreover, a number of vacancies have occurred over the last couple of years which the Society has seen fit not to fill — even while the City suffers its worst ever housing crisis. This led to suspicions that something big was afoot — but the Society would not explain to the residents except to suggest that the Society did not have the funds needed to keep the building in good repair. When asked for details of the repair costs, the Society refused to respond to residents’ requests.

In April this year, Vancouver City Council approved a motion that doubled the height of buildings allowed in certain zones, including the RM-3A zone in which Alma Blackwell sits. Almost immediately thereafter, plans to demolish Alma Blackwell and replace it with a much larger building were bruited and the residents were given, by a consultant hired by the Society, an unofficial official eviction notice.

Since that time, the Society has essentially refused to speak with the residents except to pressure several of them to accept relocation to other facilities. The Society has no formal Tenant Relocation Plan, is not offering any compensation, and in at least one case offered a resident a mere 24 hours to decide whether she and her child would move from the their decades-long home and move to another building, the details of which were not disclosed.

This story, and plenty of others, were movingly told by Alma Blackwell residents at last night’s Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) meeting. All the talk was about how great a community had been fostered at Alma Blackwell; people have lived there long enough to have children and grandchildren. They are a close-knit family-like community with good and close ties to the rest of the neighbourhood. Many of the residents are teachers at Britannia.

It seemed a unanimous opinion of the large gathering at the meeting that it is simply ridiculous to destroy a perfectly good low-income community just to build a larger facility that will have to start from scratch once again after a gap of who-knows-how-many years. It is pointless from a neighbourhood point of view, and it is highly destructive to the current residents, families who have spent years developing and nurturing that community.

Councillor Jean Swanson attended the meeting and will be asking a number of questions of staff. However, she was pessimistic about the chances of reversing the course of this development, given the current majority on Council and the previously-approved zoning adjustment. No matter. The wider Grandview community needs to speak up about this, and I hope we can speak so loudly that we cannot be ignored.


The Politics of Climate

September 8, 2021
Purloined from Twitter, artist unknown

The Future of Affordable Housing in Grandview

September 8, 2021

Shanah Tovah!

September 6, 2021

There Was Life Before TV Or Movies

September 5, 2021

None of us today — at least none of us in the industrialised north and south — can remember a time when there wasn’t either the TV or the movies to give us animated entertainment.  But life before us wasn’t dull or without its own mechanical delights.

The always interesting Low-tech Magazine has a fascinating series of articles covering the Panorama, the Stereoscope, the Magic Lantern, and the Peep Show.

stereoscope

Well worth the time.


The Long Lens of History

September 5, 2021

I’ve already lived through several generations of photography. My parents had a little Brownie box, and then I graduated to an SLR; we all had Polaroids of one kind or another, abandoned for digital a decade back; and now we have digital-SLRs and telephone cams of extraordinary clarity.

Of course, this sequence is just the latest in the surprisingly long history of photography. While the work of Fox Talbot and Dageurre from the 1830s and 1840s is quite well known, the latest thought is that experiments could go back a further generation, to the 1790s.

A print, “The Leaf”, due for auction, is now thought to be connected to Thomas Wedgwood and Henry Bright who were experimenting with “solar images”. Humphrey Davy (famous as the inventor of the miners’ safety lamp) wrote about these images in 1802.

Jill Quasha is the photo dealer and expert who bought “The Leaf” in 1989 as she was building the Quillan Collection, a group of world-renowned photographs that Sotheby’s sold (without the leaf print) for almost $9 million on April 7. She said that it was still too early to say exactly what type of research would be conducted on the image. Tests could include those to determine the age of the paper and to identify the chemical makeup of any substances on the paper. “I think it has to be done quickly and efficiently and with the least amount of damage to the photograph,” said Ms. Quasha, who added that she hoped the research could be completed within six months so that the print could be put up for auction again with a more iron-clad, and perhaps stunning, provenance. (As a Talbot, it was estimated to sell for $100,000 to $150,000; if it is determined to be older, it could bring substantially more.)

Interesting stuff for those us who follow cultural beginnings.


Election 2021: Van East

September 2, 2021

As most of you will already know, there is a Federal election on Monday 20th September. I live in the riding of Vancouver East, and the registered candidates in my riding are (in alphabetical order):

  • Golok Buday (Libertarian): His webpage is here.
  • Mauro Francis (Conservative): He is a technology analyst and more info can be found here.
  • Natasha Hale (Communist Party):
  • Jenny Kwan (NDP), the incumbent MP. Since 1993, she has been in turn a City Councillor, a Provincial MLA, and since 2015, Federal MP.
  • Karin Litzcke (People’s Party): A frequent debater on Twitter, her website is here.
  • Dr. Cheryl Matthew (Green). A former Federal civil servant, her website is here.
  • Josh Vander Vies (Liberal): A lawyer and international athlete with Canada’s paralympic team, there is a profile from the Georgia Straight.

Early voting will be available between September 10th and 13th.


The U.S. Taliban Capture Texas

September 1, 2021


Changes Update

September 1, 2021

After posting the most recent Changes post, I learned that Spade Coffee at 1858 Commercial has also closed permanently. They had one of the most evocative websites.

That means we have 21 vacant storefronts this month rather than the 20 shown previously.


“I Have A Dream”

August 30, 2021

We just passed the 58th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

While some progress has been made — notably a black President who survived his term — much of this dream has turned into a nightmare, with racist cops killing black men in ever greater numbers and getting away it, with a famously racist cop receiving a Presidential pardon from an openly racist President, with armed Nazis openly parading with swastikas and uniforms.  We have yet to see serious action from Biden’s DoJ as police departments stand by and watch while people and press are beaten by Nazis on the streets of America.

We have certainly not reached King’s dreamland of equality, but rather we seem to be sliding toward a race war pursued by an all-white far-right mob encouraged by GOP and extremist elites.  Covid-19 and vaccines have provided cover for actions that have at their base hard-core racism, and take attention away from the plethora of race-and-class-based voting rights restrictions they have enacted across a swathe of States, and the full-on gerrymandering of districts to extract the wanted result.

These are sad days, and they can only get worse if the the GOP ultras manage to capture the House in mid-terms.


You Got Problems?

August 29, 2021
Image: Sedat Suna/EPA via the Guardian

“An Afghan boy hides inside a sewer pipe next to a railway after crossing the Iran-Turkey border. People often wait for days for their smugglers to transfer them to the city of Diyarbakir, Turkey. Smugglers charge between $600 and $41,000 (£430 and £30,000) for each person, depending on the security situation at the border.”

Sometime this week when something pisses you off, try to imagine what’s going through the mind of the kid in the picture.

We are damn lucky.


I Love Colour

August 29, 2021

I love colour. I try to show this is in my art work and photographs with varying degree of success. The always valuable Creative Report brings me news of a new book called “The Atlas of Rare and Familiar Colour” that really intrigues me.

The shelves of the Forbes Pigment Collection, based in Harvard University’s Art Museum buildings, are organised mostly by hue. The effect of this “curious chromatic ordering” ensures that the archive resembles “an installation exploring the very nature of painting”, as colour historian Victoria Finlay writes in the foreword to An Atlas of Rare & Familiar Colour, a new book that catalogues highlights from the collection. Published by Atelier Éditions, the Atlas features images by photographer Pascale Georgiev of a handful of the collection’s 2,500 rare pigments and examines their material composition, providence and application …

Violet de Cobalt

Many of the colours are rare and some are unlikely to be made ever again. Finlay writes that Indian Yellow, for example, originally came from the urine of cows that had been fed mango leaves, while Mummy Brown – as the name suggests – really was collected from the mummified bodies of ancient Egyptians (and was still available in London in the 1920s, courtesy of Roberson).

Wonderful stuff!

 

 


The Corona Virus and Urban Planning

August 28, 2021

We are all well aware that two years of living with a pandemic has brought about significant changes in attitudes, work habits, commuting, etc. But I was surprised by a recent Pew survey that showed a large change in housing preferences.

The detailed research shows that this trend carries across all political, age, gender, and race characteristics.

One wonders if this will be a long-lasting change; if so, then urban planners with their favoured densification strategies may need to re-think the futures they are planning.


Fran Lebowitz

August 27, 2021

A few weeks ago I caught Fran Lebowitz being interviewed on a late night talk show.  I had heard of her but never read any of her work.  She was quite interesting in the interview and I duly ordered a copy of The Fran Lebowitz Reader from the library. I guess others had seen her interview because I was third in line for the only copy. I finally got it last week and began to read.

The book is a series of short magazine-style pieces, reprints of her books Metropolitan Life and Social Studies, some  of which were first published as magazine articles in Interview, Mademoiselle, and British Vogue.  I enjoyed the first few pieces, and I can see why she was considered a sardonic wit, perhaps a new Dorothy Parker. Unfortunately, I quickly became bored with the style and the viewpoint; after a dozen or so pieces, you knew what was coming in the next chapter, and the writing seemed no longer witty but, rather, repetitious and small minded.

I suspect part of the problem is the fact that these were written in the 1970s and 1980s. Our television schedules these days are full of brash, outspoken commentary by highly intelligent women. Compared to them, Lebowitz in this collection comes across as little more powerful than a pre-sensimilla spliff. And, like a forty-year old roach, her writing hasn’t aged well.

That’s a shame because I was looking forward to it.


Hospitals’ Lottery Tax

August 26, 2021

The BC Chidren’s Hospital, a wonderful institution that does work I applaud wholeheartedly, is currently conducting its annual fundraising campaign through CTV News and perhaps other avenues. We are told that our donations in this prize-giving lottery will buy equipment urgently required by the Hospital.

The question I have is this: if the equipment really is urgently required, why isn’t the Provincial government paying for it through the taxes it collects from everyone?  Why is the Hospital reliant on volunteer donors for this material?

We either have a public health system paid by us all or we don’t.

Am I missing something?


A Cure For All Political Ills

August 26, 2021

 

Thanks to Fusion Comedy


Still Remembering Sacco & Vanzetti

August 23, 2021

This is the 94th anniversary of the murder by the State of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for the crime of being anarchists.

fe992-sacco_and_vanzetti_protest

“What from the splendid dead
We have inherited –
Furrows sweet to the grain, and the weed subdued –
See now the slug and the mildew plunder.
Evil does not overwhelm
The larkspur and the corn;
We have seen them go under.

Let us sit here, sit still,
Here in the sitting-room until we die;
At the step of Death on the walk, rise and go;
Leaving to our children’s children this beautiful doorway,
And this elm,
And a blighted earth to till
With a broken hoe.”

— Edna St Vincent Millay “Justice Denied in Massachusetts

Lest we forget.


Bye Bye Love

August 22, 2021

Don Everley, last of the Everley Brothers, has died at age 84.

He and his brother Phil were extraordinarily talented singers and song writers giving us a wealth of songs to witness our teenage angst: Cathy’s Clown, Wake Up Little Susie, Bye Bye Love, All I Have To Do Is Dream and so many others.

Their career was sidelined for a while by the emergence of the Beatles and other British bands, but they survived to be recognized as true rock and roll pioneers and innovators.

Phil died in 2014, but they are survived by their 101-year old mother.


Modern Cave Art

August 21, 2021

Due to our acquaintance with cave art from the Mesolithic period (see Lascaux, etc), we have a tendency to associate cave paintings with Europe forty thousand years ago. But recent discoveries in South Africa show that a cave wall could remain a handy artistic surface until much more recently.

An illuminating article in the Conversation called “South Africa’s bandit slaves and the rock art of resistance” introduced me to the runaway slaves of early colonial South Africa and the art they created to process their experiences.

“Khoe-San people were forced into servitude as colonists took both land and livestock. Together with immigrant slaves they were the labor force for the colonial project. Desertion was their most common form of rebellion. Runaway slaves escaped into the borderlands and mounted a stiff resistance to the colonial advance from the 1700s until the mid-1800s. In most cases the fugitives joined forces with groups of skelmbasters (mixed outlaws), who themselves were descended from San-, Khoe- and isiNtu-speaking Africans (hunter-gatherers, herders and farmers).

Thus, we find recorded examples of mixed bandit groups hiding out in mountain rock shelters, within striking distance of colonial farms. Using guerrilla-style warfare they raided livestock and guns. In their refuge, they made rock art, images within their own belief systems that relate to escape and retaliation.”

The images can be reliably dated from their content, which includes guns.

“The paintings themselves are also mixed—some brush-painted, some finger-painted—but are united by subject matter pertaining to spiritual beliefs concerning escape and protective power. Certain motifs, including baboons and ostriches, continued to be used, but now appearing alongside motifs such as horses and guns. This suggests some continuity in the recognition of these animals, mystical or otherwise, as subject matter pertinent to people’s changed circumstances.”

The article provides a good overview of the overlay of colonial exploitation on traditional belief systems. It concludes:

“The rock art of bandit groups is bound up with beliefs in the ability to call upon the protection of the supernatural. Baboons and ostriches, painted with images of livestock and people on horseback with firearms, were heralded for their associated powers pertaining to escape and protection while raiding. For these runaway slaves, rock art was one of several crucial ritual observances performed to prevent the likelihood of ever returning to a life of oppression.”


The War On Drugs: An Honest Ad

August 20, 2021