fear & loathing in Lotusland

Month: May, 2012


by Zbigniew



an imaginary monster comprised of grotesquely disparate parts

a fanciful mental illusion or fabrication


dream, fantasy, delusion


“The touristic fixation of Vancouver as chimera functions to blind the visitor, just as it functions to blind the permanent inhabitants of the city itself; it hides more than it reveals, it renders invisible ….

“Digitally instructed by an airmail aerial postcard, Vancouver may appear as a metropolis that has passed directly from the pre-modern to the post-modern, leaving only a ghostly trace of the modern. A city that has emerged whole and intact, like a chimera.”

From Two Impossible Films: Das Kapital, by Mark Lewis


by Zbigniew

This ephemeral little glimpse, just a few painted words by an anonymous artisan; a reminder of an unlikely place organized by an alphanumeric code.

Relax; it still exists. At one or two or maybe three removes, sure, but it’s right there, as fast as “hastings sunrise ghost sign”. Simulacra, a chilly consolation.

Too late. A temporary shift in habits, a few days without need of haircut, or deli, or aimless highstreet drift, and the violence is done, the bodied covered by tarp.



Seen in Passing: Adanac & Woodland

by Zbigniew

Toxic Exports

by Zbigniew

We live in a modern day entrepôt: goods come, and goods go. But what’s actually produced?

Beyond the traditional hewing of weed and canning of fish, local production leans heavily towards the strictly ephemeral: generic cityscapes for the Hollywood dream factory and fashion concepts like wearing yoga pants in all possible social circumstances.

That the local development sector is a close relative of all these industries is reflected in its shared characteristics: tightly packaged, paper-thin, unsightly of appearance, and hallucinogenic.

But it’s the high-functioning, high value-add sibling. Mountain and water glimpses and/or aspirational lifestyles are neatly presented; parcels of air are retailed with all the panache and skill of a midway barker; a network of contractors quickly assembles the product, deftly hiding defects beneath granite countertops and stainless steel refrigerators. An ancillary phalanx of realtors and home stagers stand ready to facilitate the optional flip.

This well-honed flexible manufacturing network has outgrown its mountain, water and border constrained host and has itself become a product for export.

The utopian model is promulgated by Larry Beasley O.C. and his coven of former city planners. From Dallas to Abu Dhabi they conjure organic geographies through community input, mixed-use designs and generous applications of the high-density-mid-size-tower-on-a-townhouse-podium-with-public-amenity trope.

But there’s a dystopian version, too. One manifestation has spontaneous erupted, like a weed, as Beijing’s Vancouver Forest.

It’s also evident in the “Vancouverization” of Toronto. Bosa, Concorde Pacific, Westbank, Concert, and Onni have all invaded Hogtown, gobbling HAM (Hot Asian Money) and TO’s penchant for inhuman scale to produce giant towers on bloated podiums with unobstructed views of the Gardiner Expressway. Outside the core and transportation corridors, the door-to-door house hunter has arrived in spirit from the West Coast: couples walk up to every house in a neighbourhood and in person or by personal letter deposited in a mail box inquire as to the possibility of purchasing.

Savvy: as Vancouver’s market cools, Toronto’s heats up.


This little niche on the coast has always endured an inferiority complex, one not entirely mitigated by the hosting of world expositions and international sporting events. But as the OECD, Bloomberg, The Economist, and others express concerns regarding a property value implosion and the associated impact it would have on the national economy, our long-awaited moment in the spotlight may not be far off.

Refuge: Surprise!

by Zbigniew

Between the drone of an arterial road and the empty monuments of globalized real estate: a ravine. A green defile of fern and hemlock so narrow and brief that it almost wasn’t there at all; a gap in the continuum.

I followed the steep trail down. The traffic noise fell off then all but disappeared as I arrived at what felt like the bottom of a bowl.

I could hear water: the ghost of Macdonald’s stream, hidden beneath the path.

A raven, throat-singing from the trees. I waited for it to show, heard its wings beating the air and caught a brief glimpse of a blue-black giant.

A wee refuge from the franchised grid-space, made colossal by its unlikeliness.

Hotel Devonshire

by Zbigniew

Clip from an experimental film by Chris Gallagher (1982).

Seen in Passing: Cambridge St.

by Zbigniew

Rapax mutilo

by Zbigniew

“’I think we’re here,’ she told them, as Ollie turned off a street where everything seemed to have been built the week before.”

Spook Country, William Gibson


In the zero-sum game of local property development it’s not enough to do away with the physical manifestations of our past. The very idea of longevity and durability must be cleared away. Ground and minds must be continuously tilled to improve the attractiveness of all those quick and nasty stucco bungalows and leaky condos in waiting.

Sure, history does represent some value add. Like the names of former local landmarks transferred onto the otherwise indistinct towers of concrete and glass, the inhabited tombstones inscribed with the names of the dead: Salt, Opsal, O’Keefe.

Sometimes the past serves a more practical function. Take the midden at Xwayxway, in what’s now Stanley Park. Thousands of years of habitation produced a calcium-rich shell cache 2.5 metres deep, enough raw material to pave a cement road from Coal Harbour to just shy of Prospect Point.

These are exceptions. Typically, history imposes costs -like the mandatory preservation of an art deco façade, say. Or, worse yet, it eliminates opportunities altogether. The ultimate scourge of those with $s for eyeballs? Class ‘A’ Heritage.


The Musqueam First Nation doesn’t own the property on the 1300 block of Southwest Marine Dr., they only occupied it for some 4,000 years. The remains of their ancestors occupy it still.

The National Historic Site designation offers no protection. The civic mandarins, unable to withhold a building permit for archaeological discoveries (sic), shrug their shoulders from the sidelines.

The carnage was underway when the Band presented a rare vision: a win-win; a property swap and the transformation of the threatened site into a public park.

But the Development Coordinating Committee, better known as the provincial cabinet, hesitates. Threatened -perhaps- by a past not quite completely buried, by the diminished splendour of a future fettered by unsightly historical complications. Possibly fearful of rights unceded, of a resurgence of the River Grass, of the subtle communication to all those heading north on the Arthur Laing: Welcome to Musqueam Territory.

Lolowered Expectations

by Zbigniew

This recent Intracorp blog, dutifully recited by Victoria, “part of Intracorp’s fabulous Sales Team”, is a veritable cypher for the current state of Metro Vancouver’s condo market. Of course there’s the ubiquitous generic micro living/investment space, and the soul-crushing branded lifestyle campaign -in this specific instance for Versatile in “LoLo”, the neighbourhood previously known as Lower Lonsdale.

But there’s a new element, one accompanied by the distinctive scent of desperation: ” … we will lowering [sic] your monthly mortgage payments dramatically for the first 2 years of your term.”

It’s tough out there for real estate pimps. And when the going gets tough, the tough go sub-prime.

The Cringe: Vancouver Song

by Zbigniew