Night Music: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

May 12, 2022

Image: Street Art #2

April 29, 2022

GWAC AGM with Andy Yan — Today!

April 2, 2022

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In an uncertain era of rapidly rising land values and a dramatic loss of affordability, where is Vancouver headed? How do we house our people and keep our vibrant neighborhoods intact? And what is in store for Grandview Woodland? 

For his insights into our present and future, join our special AGM keynote speaker Andy Yan.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Andy is the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University and has a long and noted history as an analyst and commentator on urban regeneration, neighborhood development, public outreach and more.


GWAC AGM with Andy Yan!

March 29, 2022

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In an uncertain era of rapidly rising land values and a dramatic loss of affordability, where is Vancouver headed? How do we house our people and keep our vibrant neighborhoods intact? And what is in store for Grandview Woodland? 

For his insights into our present and future, join our special AGM keynote speaker Andy Yan.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Andy is the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University and has a long and noted history as an analyst and commentator on urban regeneration, neighborhood development, public outreach and more.


Night Music: In Dreams

March 8, 2022

B.C. Transit — Public Webinar

March 3, 2022

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The West Coast Climate Action Network is planning four monthly webinars on the theme of Transportation in a Time of Climate Crisis which “will explore the best policies and practices for transportation in BC, propose a policy platform, and mobilize political action.”

The first of these — Great Public Transit – Urban and Rural — is on March 9th at 4:00pm. Speakers will include Kukpi7 Chief Judy Wilson, BC Union of Indian chiefs, and Eric Doherty, a Victoria-based transportation planner. 

Anyone interested in virtually attending can get tickets at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/great-public-transit-urban-and-rural-tickets-271858103907.

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[h/t to Nathan for the notice]


Local Improvements?

February 6, 2022

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It’s an election year in Vancouver, so we can expect a steady stream of announcements from City Hall showing how well the administration is managing your tax dollars. These are usually delivered in the form of small local improvements or planning exercises. And sometimes they are used to take peoples’ minds off more important matters such as housing affordability, the opioid crisis, money laundering, and the developers’ hold over City business.

So, it was in this rather cynical frame of mind that I read two such announcements from this week.

The first was about the distribution of $2 million in grants to groups — such as the BIA and the Kettle — to help with street cleaning functions using homeless folks. Hard to argue with the utility of that, and it helps employ some of the Kettle’s neediest clients.

The second item involves the beginning of a four-year plan to upgrade the City’s 44,000 street lights, many of which are old and faulty. There is now an app you can use to report lights that are not working.

Much of the talk among my local group when this was announced was about replacing the current lights with ones that dim or switch off when not needed. It was noted that the energy savings alone should be enough to cover the costs of the relevant sensors.

Your tax dollars at work.


R.I.P. Ronnie Spector

January 12, 2022

Pyotr Kropotkin (1842-1921)

December 9, 2021

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Peter Kropotkin quotes (141 quotes) | Quotes of famous people

Today we celebrate the birthday in 1842 of Peter Kropotkin, founder of modern anarchism, and author of the book “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution” which has influenced important thinkers such as Murray Bookchin, and Emma Goldman. In the book he developed a scientific view of the communitarian anarchism that he favoured.


Book Talk: Scot Hein & Jak King

December 9, 2021

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In March 2021, CityHallWatch hosted an online conversation between Jak King and veteran architect/urban designer Scot Hein. The conversation, just over an hour in length, can be viewed on YouTube.

The big news today is that we’ve also produced a transcript, below, and added some links for further background and information.

The book and conversation are all very relevant right now. Many of the same players and processes persist to this day in 2021. Vancouver City Hall is going through several major planning exercises (the citywide Vancouver Plan, Broadway Plan, etc.) that are likely to replace or be superimposed upon all previous plans. Planners hope to have this deemed as Vancouver’s Official Development Plan prior to the next civic election (October 2022). The provincial government has already adopted changes to the Local Government Act, now allowing the public hearings to be waived if a development fits with a municipality’s official community plan. There may already be a scheme even to apply this change to the Vancouver Charter, which governs Vancouver. So, besides Vancouver having flawed consultation processes, the public’s last tool to influence development and the future of the city could be effectively eliminated.

We hope that this interview and transcript will be of benefit not only for the general public, but also students of urban planning, current and aspiring planners, reporters, politicians. Basically, it is important for anyone who has a stake in urban planning, particularly in the Vancouver context.

The transcript is now available here.


More on Sandwiches

November 23, 2021

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A couple of days ago, I posted something about Five Sandwiches that Made America and I received some flack — mainly from the Everloving — that the real American sandwiches had been omitted. Therefore, as atonement, I did a little research on grilled cheese, the hoagie, hamburger, Reuben, and the BLT.

Grilled cheese:

Image: Michael Graydon And Nikole Herriott

The French have had their croque monsieur since the 1890s, but the grilled cheese sandwich as we know it had to await the invention of sliced bread by Otto Rohwedder in the late 1920s, and was further enhanced with the introduction of cheese slices at the end of the 1940s.

As the Committed Pig notes:

“The name “grilled cheese” didn’t actually come around until the 1960’s; before then it was all “toasted cheese” or “melted cheese” sandwiches. Which brings up a very important point – how you actually cook this sandwich doesn’t really matter, and historically the methods have been all over the map. Records show as early as 1902, a recipe for a “Melted Cheese,” designed to be cooked in a hot oven, appeared in Sarah Tyson Rorer’s ‘Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book’. A recipe was also published in 1929 in Florence A. Cowles’ ‘Seven Hundred Sandwiches’ called to broil the ingredients to make “Toasted Cheese.” “Toasted Sandwich,” published in 1939 in ‘The Boston Cooking School Cook Book’, encouraged the ingredients to be broiled or even sautéed in a frying pan coated with butter. And in ‘The Joy of Cooking’ (1953), Irma S. Rombauer wrote that bread and cheese should be heated in a commercial waffle iron – an easy meal for even “the maid-less host” to prepare.”

The Hoagie/sub:

Image: Chelsie Craig

So many names for this ubiquitous American sandwich: hoagie, submarine, grinder, po’boy, hero, wedges, etc. etc. The origin myth is that a local shopkeeper supplied these kinds of sandwiches to the ship workers building submarines at Groton, CT, during the second world war. But a listing two years earlier for a restaurant in Wilmington, DE, serving “submarine sandwiches to go” seems to hit that one on the head.

The concept of piling different ingredients between two long sticks of untoasted bread seems to have arisen spontaneously in several locations around the same time — thus the wide array of local names — hoagie, submarine, grinder, po’boy, hero, wedges, etc. etc. — for what is essentially the same sandwich.

Since its commercialization, the name Subway has become a standard.

Hamburgers:

Where would America be without the hamburger sandwich? It has easily overtaken the hot dog as America’s fast food go-to. Billions are chewed every year, and working a hamburger stand is often a good first step into employment. I’ve never had a Big Mac but I’ve written about them.

According to the Library of Congress, it was Louis Lassen, a New Haven, CT, lunch wagon operator who in 1895 first ground up beef and slapped it between bread. The Lassen luncheonette still exists and they only allow additions of cheese, tomato, and onion, nothing else. But there are other stories from other towns from around the same time. It’s clear that it was an efficient product for both buyer and seller, and pretty soon they were were being sold everywhere.

Competition was so strong that most successful hamburger chains quickly became masters of business efficiency, of delivering an adequate standardized meal and experience for the least cost. Ray Kroc, who opened the first franchised McDonalds in the 1950s, was one such master and he quickly turned McDs into the behemoth.

Reuben:

The Reuben, always associated with kosher delis though definitely not kosher, seems to have come about in the 1920s, probably as a poker game food in Omaha, NE. But Reuben’s Deli in New York has also claimed authorship.

The Canadian version would probably use Montreal smoked meat rather than corned beef.

The BLT:

Although all the ingredients were available there is no evidence of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches prior to 1900. Food For Thought has found a recipe from the “1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book, where a club sandwich included bacon, lettuce, tomato, along with mayo and a slice of turkey.”

This confirms me in my view that the BLT is simply a form of club sandwich. Nothing wrong with that, but not quite as innovative as the other sandwiches.


Wise Words

November 19, 2021

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“We are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer ‘To hell with them!’ The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.” — the late and much missed Michael Foot.

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[hat tip to Steve Paxton]


I’m A Luddite

November 9, 2021

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I would guess that many people who know me would — absent my computer use — consider me a Luddite: I own no car, no mobile phone, no microwave, I’ve never been on Facebook, I don’t watch much TV, and I have very little time for the things out there.

I might have argued that the term should NOT apply to me because I don’t agree with mindless destruction. But an excellent article in The Conversation has straightened me out on the history of Luddism and I now gleefully accept the designation.

“Our circumstances today are more similar to theirs than it might seem, as new technologies are being used to transform our own working and social conditions — think increases in employee surveillance during lockdowns, or exploitation by gig labour platforms. It’s time we reconsider the lessons of Luddism …

“The contemporary usage of Luddite has the machine-smashing part correct — but that’s about all it gets right. First, the Luddites were not indiscriminate. They were intentional and purposeful about which machines they smashed. They targeted those owned by manufacturers who were known to pay low wages, disregard workers’ safety, and/or speed up the pace of work. Even within a single factory — which would contain machines owned by different capitalists — some machines were destroyed and others pardoned depending on the business practices of their owners …

“Luddism was a working-class movement opposed to the political consequences of industrial capitalism. The Luddites wanted technology to be deployed in ways that made work more humane and gave workers more autonomy. The bosses, on the other hand, wanted to drive down costs and increase productivity …

“It wasn’t the invention of these machines that provoked the Luddites to action. They only banded together once factory owners began using these machines to displace and disempower workers …

Sounds so much like today.

“Today, new technologies are being used to alter our lives, societies and working conditions no less profoundly than mechanical looms were used to transform those of the original Luddites. The excesses of big tech companies – Amazon’s inhumane exploitation of workers in warehouses driven by automation and machine vision, Uber’s gig-economy lobbying and disregard for labour law, Facebook’s unchecked extraction of unprecedented amounts of user data – are driving a public backlash that may contain the seeds of a neo-Luddite movement …

A neo-Luddite movement would understand no technology is sacred in itself, but is only worthwhile insofar as it benefits society. It would confront the harms done by digital capitalism and seek to address them by giving people more power over the technological systems that structure their lives.”

Well-worth taking the time to read the article.


Emerging Photography Awards 2021

November 6, 2021

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The Emerging Photography Awards for 2021 have been announced. I really like these:

Kansas: photographer Rob Darby
Chinese New Year Reimagined: Photographer Horace Li
Woman: Photographer Daniela Constantini

Wise Words

November 5, 2021

The True Growth of Grandview

October 28, 2021

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Back in October of last year, I reported on the publication of a City of Vancouver document called Grandview Woodland: Neighbourhood Social Indicators Profile. I mentioned a couple of interesting graphs but didn’t really have time to delve into the details. Today, I was reminded by a correspondent of the document, who pointed out the population and density figures displayed.

As can be seen, Grandview in 2016 had reached a population equal to its previous highest in the 1990s. During the Community Plan, then Councillor Geoff Meggs wrote that Grandview had “flatlined”. He was, as in so many matters, wrong.

Not only were we not flatlining, but we were attracting young families with children who will be the future of our neighbourhood:

“From 2011 to 2016, Grandview-Woodland was a destination for people between ages 20 and 35; there were more than 125% more 25-year-olds in 2016 than there were 20-year-olds in 2011.” (p.13)

Throughout the Grandview Woodland Community Plan process we were told over and over again by Planners that we needed to increase density in the neighbourhood. When the Community Plan was approved in 2016, the same Councillor Meggs declared himself disappointed that Grandview was “not bearing its share of density.” He –and the Planners — were wrong yet again as the City’ own figures illustrate:

“As of 2016, Grandview-Woodland’s population density was 64 persons per hectare, about 18% denser than the City of Vancouver’s average density overall.” (p.10)

Why am I digging up these figures again? Because the Planners when pushing new developments in Grandview continue to press us to take more density than most other areas of the City. They never give the data and just suggest that somehow we are not pulling our weight.

This is particularly important when we look at the massive towers and new density suggested for the Safeway site at Broadway & Commercial. We know that a number of people have declared their support for the Safeway towers based on their belief that Grandview is somehow falling behind in either population and/or density.

These are false beliefs and it is vital that we move forward ONLY based on true and accurate data.


Dinner Tonight #73

October 26, 2021

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Tonight I cooked a wonderfully spicy mushroom cream sauce with rotini. Delicious!


Safeway Site Meeting

October 21, 2021

The PR company — Pottinger Bird — working for the developers of the proposed towers at the Safeway site, Commercial & Broadway, are holding “information meetings” about the project next week.

The meetings are by invitation only for what they describe as the “stakeholders”. Apparently, neither Grandview Woodland Area Council nor any of the community activists who have devoted so much volunteer time on this project are considered “stakeholders”.

The meetings are on Wednesday 27th October, one from 3-5pm and the other from 6-8pm, at the Cultch.

I urge anyone and everyone concerned about this neighbourhood-altering project to write to Virginia@pottingerbird.com as soon as possible and politely ask for an invitation, noting your concern as a local stakeholder.


Image: Street Art #3B

October 21, 2021

Aberfan: The Death of Childhood

October 21, 2021

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Aberfan disaster, October 1966.jpg

Today is the 55th anniversary of one of the saddest days of my young life. A rain-soaked and ill-sited colliery spoil tip that loomed over the south Wales village of Aberfan collapsed, burying houses and a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults. Lessons had just begun for the morning when the 34m tip spilled 140,000 cubic yards of spoil into the village.

I didn’t know any of the victims, and had not even heard of the village until that morning. But I remember weeping as the news came over the radio, and I am tearing up now as I type this.

The National Coal Board and several employees were found to be responsible and money was raised. But nothing could replace the lives that were lost due to management’s callous disregard for public safety.