Night Music: Smooth

April 12, 2021

Night Music: Harbor Lights

April 6, 2021

Falling Sperm Counts: The End Is Coming

March 28, 2021

I figure this story is either an academic boondoggle or the advance warning of a crisis as important as climate change. Either way, I leave it to you to decide:

It has been reported in the Guardian no less, that some scientists believe we are seeing a catastrophic collapse in reproduction rates due to falling sperm counts. This collapse will lead “most couples … to use assisted reproduction by 2045.”

This news comes from an interview with

“Shanna Swan, professor professor of environmental medicine and public health at Mount Sinai school of medicine in New York City, studying fertility trends. In 2017 she documented how average sperm counts among western men have more than halved in the past 40 years. Count Down is her new book.

Which chemicals are the most worrying for reproductive health and how do they work?
Those that can interfere with or mimic the body’s sex hormones – such as testosterone and oestrogen – because these make reproduction possible. They can make the body think it has enough of a particular hormone and it doesn’t need to make any more, so production goes down.

Phthalates, used to make plastic soft and flexible, are of paramount concern. They are in everybody and we are probably primarily exposed through food as we use soft plastic in food manufacture, processing and packaging. They lower testosteroneand sohave the strongest influences on the male side, for example diminishing sperm count, though they are bad for women, too, shown to decrease libido and increase risk of early puberty, premature ovarian failure, miscarriage and premature birth.

Bisphenol A (BPA), used to harden plastic and found in cash-register receipts and the lining of some canned-food containers, is another. It is oestrogen mimicking and so is a particularly bad actor on the female side, increasing risks of fertility challenges, but likewise it can affect men. Men occupationally exposed to BPA have shown decreased sperm quality, reduced libido and higher rates of erectile dysfunction. Other chemicals of concern include flame retardants and certain pesticides such as atrazine.

How dire is the reproductive crisis? You’ve said we are on course for an infertile world by 2045
It is serious. If you follow the curve from the 2017 sperm-decline meta-analysis, it predicts that by 2045 we will have a median sperm count of zero. It is speculative to extrapolate, but there is also no evidence that it is tapering off. This means that most couples may have to use assisted reproduction.

Remember, of course, she has a book to sell.

Night Music: Refugee

March 20, 2021

Night Music: In Dreams

March 8, 2021

Night Music: Into The Mystic

March 6, 2021

Wise Words

March 6, 2021


February 23, 2021

The Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) is holding its 53rd Annual General Meeting on Monday 1st March at 7:00pm. In our covid-infected world it is, of course, a ZOOM affair and everyone is invited.

Meeting ID: 886 7746 9965 Passcode: 442205

You’re all invited to come, bring your friends and please encourage anyone you think would be a good fit, to run for the Council. GWAC welcomes new Directors and the role need not be daunting – make it yours.

Don’t be put off by the fact I have been invited to make a short speech about the experience of the last Grandview Community Plan and how it could be improved in the future. I will make it as brief as possible and try not to get in the way of the fun!

Hope to see you all there.

Conference on Complete Communities

February 8, 2021

Some may recall I wrote about a very interesting discussion on Vancouver for Renters last month. In the same series of events put on by SFU Public Square, the next event is a discussion entitled “Closer To Home: The Case for Complete Neighbourhoods.” Quoting from their website:

“Many of Vancouver’s early-20th-century neighbourhoods include a mix of housing types, shops, schools, parks and more, allowing many residents’ needs to be met close to home. However, the legacy of planning for most neighbourhoods in Vancouver is one of exclusion and displacement based on income, race, ability and other elements of our identities. Today, many would argue that their neighbourhoods are not ‘complete’.”

This leads to numerous questions, including:

“What do neighbourhoods mean to Vancouverites? 

When is a neighbourhood “complete,” and does a more complete neighbourhood actually benefit residents?  

Can we prevent displacement as we accommodate change? 

What is our best thinking about how to meet diverse needs in our neighbourhoods? 

What has Vancouver missed or erased in the way we have planned and constructed our neighbourhoods in the past century, and what lessons from history can be employed to ensure more liveable neighbourhoods in the future? 

Does strengthening individual neighbourhoods strengthen the city overall? “

Once again, the discussion will be helmed by SFU’s Meg Holden and Andy Yan. They have gathered together a diverse collection of speakers.

This ZOOM conference takes place at 6:30pm on 17th February, and registration is made through the website.

Self-Portraits As Covid Medication

February 3, 2021

The isolation of individuals caused by the covid pandemic and subsequent regulations have forced many of us to re-think our priorities and the ways that we conduct ourselves. In India, a number of photographers have turned to self-portraits to document their solitude. An article in Hyperallergic discusses this phenomenon:

“For some, self-portraits became a coping mechanism to process their emotions during the prolonged quarantine. Many photographers who were used to shooting others were forced to confront their camera shyness and find a new comfort zone as their own muses. “

The article includes some wonderful photography. I was particular taken with these:

Photographer: Urvi Desale
Photographer: Nirali Naik

Finally, A New Blue

January 26, 2021

Over the years I have written a few pieces about the colour blue, including the invention of Prussian Blue, and the philosophy behind the colour. Now, we have a brand new blue discovered by accident in Oregon.

image: Oregon State University

It is called YInMn after its ingredients: Yttrium, Indium, and Manganese — “and its luminous, vivid pigment never fades, even if mixed with oil and water.”

“Blue pigments, which date back 6,000 years, have been traditionally toxic and prone to fading. That’s no longer the case with YInMn, which reflects heat and absorbs UV radiation, making it cooler and more durable than pigments like cobalt blue. “The fact that this pigment was synthesized at such high temperatures signaled that this new compound was extremely stable, a property long sought in a blue pigment,” [Mas] Subramanian [the lead chemist] said in a study about the compound.

The new blue was discovered in 2009, was licensed for exterior use in 2016 but has only now been made available for general use.

Night Music: Skin

December 26, 2020

Night Music: Fairytale of New York

December 24, 2020

Lit. Crit. To The Max

November 21, 2020
Harold Bloom

I am schooled enough in the discourse of literature to recognize that Harold Bloom has for several decades been the critic emeritus. Teaching at Yale for more than fifty years and publishing four dozen books has allowed him to become a celebrity in the field before his death last year at age 89.

I am not schooled enough to be able to fully understand let alone criticize The Critic. However, Philip Hensher, an Oxbridge author and critic, clearly is, and his devastating critique of Bloom’s final book, Take Arms Against A Sea of Troubles, is pitiless. More, Hensher expands his vigorous attack onto the entire Bloom oeuvre, declaring Bloom to be “lazy, solipsistic, vague and plain wrong.”

Bloom is particularly well-known for his ardent defence of the now-orthodox Canon of English Literature — a Great Books and Great Authors list. Hensher describes how limiting that viewpoint can be:

“The truth is that Bloom was really only interested in what literature means, and ultimately what it meant to him, rather than what it is. This leaves rather a lot out. He couldn’t do anything with comedy. The idea that a gossamer master of pure verbal fantasy such as Wodehouse or Elmore Leonard might be a better novelist than 1,000 forgotten prize-winning doomsters is alien to him.”

I know that Bloom’s texts are regularly studied by students of literature, and they may well be concerned reading Hensher’s conclusion:

“Bloom spent his life talking about literature to a captive audience, and at the end it looks to me as if he missed the point.”

At Last — An Alternative to Plastic Packaging

November 17, 2020

The thing about plastic is that the damn stuff is absolutely essential to the way we live our lives today, especially when it comes to packaging and protection throughout the food chain. “A key advantage that plastic brings to food packaging is that it prevents oxygen from getting into contact with the food,” explains Christophe Jordan, Managing Director of the Translucent Paper business at Arjowiggins. “This ensures maximum freshness throughout the supply chain right through to the point of consumption.”

The other thing about plastic is that it is barely if ever degradable and so the detritus ends up in the sea, in landfills, inside animals, and everywhere we care to look. We need something that works as well as plastic but without the downstream pollution.

Arjowiggins has announce the creation of a material they call Silvicta which they claim “provides a more effective barrier to oxygen than plastic, as well as a barrier to mineral oils and fatty foodstuffs.” Moreover, “Sylvicta is entirely recyclable, compostable, and marine biodegradable, thanks to being manufactured from renewable raw materials supplied from protected forests … Unlike other such products on the market, the manufacturing process does not use harmful chemicals to achieve its translucency and functionality. “

Sounds good if the press release is to be believed. Let us hope it gets onto the selves as quickly as possible.

Climate Plan Comments Urgently Needed

November 14, 2020

Next week, Vancouver City Council will vote on the Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP). Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) and the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) oppose this Plan and have sent out a mailer listing their issues:

Eliminating parking minimums in new residential construction gives too much cost saving benefit to developers, while offloading those costs to residents of the new building and surrounding area.

Pay permit parking citywide unfairly offloads developers’ costs onto area residents, who will be increasingly squeezed out of street parking due to the removal of parking minimum requirements, and increased costs will make life even more unaffordable.

Required conversion to zero emission heat and hot water for existing detached homes. This would have huge costs for conversion and operating, making it less affordable for owners and renters.

Annual home energy efficiency testing and fines for not meeting targets or doing upgrades. Would particularly disadvantage existing character houses.

Road tolls proposed for Downtown and Central Broadway which penalizes local businesses and residents while invading privacy by tracking movements.

Promoting growth rather than managing growth. This increases the city’s environmental footprint.

$500 million capital  and operating costs proposed for CEAP over next 5 years. CEAP would be on top of current deficits.  High current budget deficits are already projected for next few years to recover from COVID alone.

No broad public consultation held. The 371 page report was released to the public for the first time 3 business days before being considered at Council and the speakers list closed.

The Speakers’ List for this Motion is already closed, but you can still get your views to City Council.

Submit comments by copying or attaching a pdf through the City’s online form so that staff count it HERE

Also Email To:

  Emails are urgently required by 3:00pm Tuesday 17th November.

Grandview 14th November 1920

November 14, 2020
Vancouver Sun, 19201114, p.28

All previous Grandview 1920 clippings.

Wise Words

November 10, 2020

Battleground Grandview is Now Available

November 8, 2020

If you are interested in Vancouver politics and urban development — and the future of Commercial Drive and Grandview — this book takes you into the nitty-gritty of how City of Vancouver Planning Department and the Vision-majority City Council ran rough-shod over a community, pushing through major changes in the look and feel of a successful and well-loved neighbourhood against the wishes of a significant number of residents.

It describes how public “consultation” was corrupted into nothing more than a public relations exercise, ticking all the progressive boxes while actually delivering the pre-determined outcome preferred by the Planners and Vision Vancouver’s financial backers. CityHallWatch calls it “an X-Ray into the City’s planning” process.

The 288-page book includes detailed coverage of the 2014 civic election, and shows how the Grandview debacle fits in to the trajectory of similar anti-community planning exercises in Mount Pleasant, Norquay, Marpole, Downtown Eastside, the West End, and Oakridge.

Battleground: Grandview retails at $25.00 and is available at:

  • People’s Co-op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Drive
  • SuperValu, 1st & Commercial

You can also get a copy direct from me at — $25 including postage — via Interac Email Transfer, adding a mailing address to the message.

R.I.P. Alex Trebek

November 8, 2020

One of the presents the Everloving bought me for my birthday last month was an Alex Trebek T-shirt. We are both Jeopardy addicts. It is therefore with a heavy heart that I just read he died overnight.

It was apparently in his contract that he only be called the host of the show as he said it was the contestants who were the stars. That is a fine measure of the man.

He will be missed.