scamcouver

fear & loathing in Lotusland

Month: December, 2012

2012: The Scam Reviewed

by Zbigniew

Gullet stuffed? Eyes bloodshot from reading all those “year in review” articles. So what’s a little more?

This blog launched in earnest on March 9, 2012 with the mission of uncovering and presenting the scam that runs so vibrantly beneath this city’s glitzy sales pitch. It’s off to a good start: 81 posts, almost 3,000 views, a small but growing cadre of followers and commentators, and a growing roster of contributors (thanks DJKlueless and Sadiethievery).

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Scamcouver‘s readership is Canadian. However, US readers accounted account for a substantial portion and visitors to the blog were located in another 36 countries. Aside from those like former resident and occasional commentator “Ian from Hamburg”, this globally distributed readership begs the question: “what the devil are they looking for?” Scamcouver readers can be found in:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bangladesh
  • Belgium
  • Bermuda
  • Brazil
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • the Netherlands
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • the Philippines
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • the Russian Federation
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • the United Kingdom
  • Venezuela

Scamworld

While property development was a singularly popular subject, surveillance, egomaniacal shenanigans and oddball bits of our past and present also drew attention. The 10 most popular postings were:

  • Boom/Bust Town
  • Rennie Overdrive
  • Thinner Streets, Fatter Revenues
  • No Gold, But Lots of Brass
  • Here Was Man
  • Full Colour Epitaph
  • Soon
  • Seen in Passing: Terminal & Begg
  • Some Shiny Thing
  • Friendly Surveillance

Some of the more unusual search terms that drove traffic to the blog included the following:

  • best security cam pic
  • bob rennie asshole
  • booms booms hastings sunrise
  • chimera fish
  • deborra hope global tv is hopeless
  • delusion (noun)
  • dorothy stratten
  • east village hastings vancouver ugly banners
  • electric lotusland
  • encased in concrete fetish
  • fake spring loaded hypodermic needle
  • ferdinand marcos cash account scams
  • “fine grain” retail frontage
  • fixation synonym
  • gigantic constructions car
  • grass on yoga pants
  • illusion synonym
  • “john furlong”+”asshole”
  • monster chimera
  • mountain monster fantasy
  • petition to replace the east villiage (sic) banners in east vancouver
  • photo violation technologies corp
  • podium defile
  • tawdry romanticism
  • tom burrows on second narrows
  • ugly reflective jacket fire marshall
  • vancouver severely scotch
  • yoga weed

Scammer of the Year

With all that quantitative stuff out of the way, it’s time for some pure subjectivity in the form of the first annual Scammer of the Year award. To be eligible, candidates must have been character assassinated in this blog’s “Scammer” category at some point over the course of the year. Candidates are judged for their ability to present themselves as stalwart citizens while simultaneously deforming the local psychogeography for their personal enrichment; extra points are awarded for overall douchebaggery. The winner will be notified of their victory by poison pen letter, which will be accompanied by the cash prize comprised of whatever Canadian Tire money I happened to have pinned to my refrigerator. A likeness of the winner will be installed in a future “Strip Mall of Shame,” pending a development permit approval from City Hall.

The candidates for the inaugural 2012 Scammer of the Year award are:

  • dead-but-still-kicking former CPR boss, Cornelius van Horne;
  • master of the condo shill, Bob Rennie; and,
  • CBC deadweight, Rick Cluff.

And the winner -for extreme self-aggrandizement couched as public service, “philanthropy” and a penchant for uncivil discourse- is … Bob Rennie! (Cue the half-hearted smattering of applause.)

2013

Writing this blog is a personal necessity. But this evisceration of beasts is also an emotionally messy process, for it’s about my home. Perhaps 2013 is too soon to hope to lay down the knife and hose off the altar, but not too soon to wish you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year.

“New York”

by Zbigniew

Tear Down

Brief is a Lower Mainland sunny afternoon in near winter, a quiet drift through golden light and past trees encircled by shrouds of dead leaves.

And like a tongue to a sore tooth, or a bit of cosmic fluff to a black hole, I’m drawn to the destructive force. At Keefer & Main I find the remains of a brick structure, its dismantling temporarily suspended.

Locals walk past, barely breaking their stride to register the shift in the topography.

Others linger. John’s an actor from New York in town to shoot Fringe.

I remember my first trip to New York, and the pleasant disorientation of having already been, an innate familiarity with its space and iconography. I had been prepared, my experience pretextualized through years of exposure to its popular narratives, everything from The Amazing Spider-Man and Barney Miller to The Fountainhead and The Warriors.

New York looms large. So large that John has left his home to travel to Vancouver to work on a television program set in Manhattan.

And Vancouver?

“It looks like it was built last week,” he offers.

“It was,” I assure him.

Tear Down 2

Seen in Passing: Brunswick & 7th

by Zbigniew

Brunswick _7th

Full Colour Epitaph

by Zbigniew

The promotional material for “Alba” -a 108 unit condo development with expanded London Drugs, suggests that Hastings Sunrise is “comparable yet more affordable than Commercial Drive and the ‘SoMa’ area of Main Street.” More affordable? Relatively speaking, sure. But comparable?

There’s nothing particularly exciting about this stretch of East Hastings. The recent addition of a few trendy eateries has not changed the low-key character of this low-rent street. There’s no bookstore, no music shop, no refuge for the videophile. The Cultch is quite a ways off, the Waldorf farther still. There was a movie theatre here once –The Roxy, if I recall correctly. The Dairy Queen on Lakewood could claim the distinction of being the location of small time pimp and hustler Paul Snider’s discovery of Dorothy Stratten, but it doesn’t.

The strip lacks pizzazz. But it excels at eclectic functionality: delis, butchers, and fishmongers; doctors, dentists and chiropractors; crowded grocery stores of Chinese proprietors conversant in Italian, Portuguese and English; second hand stores of decidedly low end merchandise; a hundred year-old hall; a nondescript sports bar; a tap dance studio; a pool hall; a barber; a cobbler.

It is, however, a little less eclectic these days.

Alba

Once given the green light by their city hall associates, the developer’s modus operandi is pretty clear: 1) an initial distribution of promotional material; 2) clear the target property to generate a sense of forward momentum, of the inevitable; 3) open the sales centre with model suite and collect the pre-sell capital; and, 4) slap the damn thing together (cutting corners as necessary to squeeze a little more margin out of the bottom line).

So long as demand and prices are high and rising. But in a slumping market facing an uncertain future, this shtick has apparently encountered a glitch, as fellow Scamcouverite DJKlueless and I recently discovered on a visit to the Alba sales centre. Passing ourselves off as investors -or, possibly, a gay couple- the sales rep jumps to attention, creating the distinct impression that we are the first people to cross his doorway in a fortnight.

We’re handed copies of promotional bumpf. Along with the usual asinine quotes and moped lifestyle images are photographs struggling to make the neighbourhood look fashionable, to transmogrify quotidian service availability into something worthy of a minimum of $316,000/quarter century investment.

The show suite manages to look simultaneously “lived-in” and sterile and altogether a little too American Psycho.

“A great place to have the guys over for the game,” announces Klueless loudly, testing my “cover”.

It’s been seven months since the property was cleared, but the building sales map indicates 10 units sold, including one purchased by the builder, with another 11 having offers made –correction, the rep removes a sticker during our chat: 10 standing offers.

We take our leave and walk a half block west to Penticton, to the current London Drugs that has yet to be sacrificed to make way for its larger reincarnation. Klueless regularly asks staff when they are to move to their interim location. The answer keeps shifting: it was January, then March, now unclear.

We move north on Penticton then west again down the alley, behind the half-block long Hastings Street hoardings, to a weed covered waste where a dozen storefronts once stood: Happiness Invitation & Greeting Cards, The Art Garden, Windysoul Arts -eclectics lost.

There is no discernible security presence. We stroll unimpeded through a ready break in the fence and onto the nascent construction grounds to have a peak at the ghost sign under the west side tarpaulin.

We make our way out and around the block to the busy Hastings Street side, where anti-development graffiti has been slowly accumulating on the blank canvas conveniently installed by the builder.

Above us a large placard, more promotional material, displays a smiling, elderly man: “I want to see Hastings Sunrise stay like this.”

He might just get his wish.

Wasteland

Sunrise!

Chilling’s End

by Zbigniew

Consciously or otherwise, artists and developers are inextricably, symbiotically linked. Attracted by the relatively low rents, a critical mass of artists transform underutilized space in marginal neighbourhoods into studios, galleries, performance venues, diversifying and amplifying the local economic base, and attracting still more complimentary activities, such as used book and second hand stores, artist suppliers, independent coffee shops and eateries, and -hopefully- a wide range of idiosyncratic activity. This organic, fine-grained entity draws the attention of developers. They weave its “feel”, it’s distinctive elements, into colourful promotional material and photograph-intensive hoardings, then promptly hack it into sub-600 square foot parcels for c. $350,000 a piece to any punter capable of signing a bank form. Land values rise, along with rents, reducing the viability of any activity not connected to large pools of capital. Artists and associated creatives are forced to seek out new territory, and so continue to ride the pressure wave of a more-literal-than-virtual bomb blast that leaves a monotonous, depressing sameness in its wake.

*

Located in the heart of Mt. Pleasant, Guelph Park has served as a nondescript and functional amenity for a neighbourhood traditionally home to those of less-than average means. Today that includes those whose drinking habits tend towards industrial grade product, young families, and artists, amongst others.

Surrounded by century-old houses and modest three-story apartments of more recent vintage, the park is comprised of a tree-lined field, a playground, tennis courts, a community garden. Its two distinct attributes are Michael Dennis’ rough log sculpture of a reclining figure and the absence of a sign heralding “Guelph Park.”

Local resident and artist Viktor Briestensky took it upon himself to rectify the sign oversight and manufactured and installed a remarkable replica of a Parks Board placard; however, instead of referencing the bounding street -and the House of Welf trunk from which sprang Queen Victoria’s Hanover offshoot- he opted for “Dude Chilling Park”, the popular local name for the space reflecting both the log sculpture and a certain subset of the park’s habitués.

The deftly executed, if sophomoric, prank has caught the public’s imagination, resulting in an online petition seeking public support to permanently adopt the new moniker.

“Imagine,” reads the petition. “Imagine a visitor from Toronto sharing his photo relaxing with the ‘chilling dude’, instead of just another boring picture of him riding the downtown bull statue.” Certainly, nothing should set as at ease more than the knowledge that visiting Torontonians will enjoy a diversity of choice in their photographic antics.

Unless -of course- I’m missing some irony in the poorly written and hastily prepared boilerplate petition? That’s hard to say, as there’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek about this issue. Frances Bula, for example, suggests that it’s a “fun initiative that we can all get behind”, something we can accomplish in the absence of stopping climate change or ending poverty in Africa. Hey, that’s funny. I guess.

But under all the shucking and jiving and tweeting over renaming, the immediate area is undergoing significant development. Projects completed or in the works within a four block radius of the park include “District” (103 units in phase one, 148 in phase two), “Social” (125 units), “Carolina” (37 units), “Collection 45” (45 units), “9 On the Park” (guess), the highly contentious 19 story, 241 unit Rize development at Broadway & Kingsway, and the recently announced Ryan Beedie-backed residential towers and anchor supermarket redevelopment of Kingsgate Mall.

In a radio interview on CBC Radio 1’s national programme As it Happens, Mr. Briestensky notes “I do have a fear … I’m concerned … that if this park gains attention then all of a sudden … maybe the people for whose park it’s been –the dudes who have been chilling- may not be able to drink their mouthwash …. I would feel really bad if my work kinda served as a catalyst to … end the chilling.”

A catalyst? Hardly. The Parks Board has already replaced Dude Chilling with an official Guelph Park sign. (And apparently does not have the authority to rename in any case.)

The displacement of those that enjoy the use of the park, those that currently reside in the area, is the result of larger forces -much larger. Mr. Briestensky’s act is simply a tiny part of the ongoing sublimation, a distraction among the endless series of changes that bury our past and direct us in a less than democratic fashion into a proscribed future where even chilling will be a premium-grade commodity.

Go_Away

Refuge: Wild in the Gaps

by Zbigniew

Nature’s dance made all the more remarkable by its industrial stage. An organic kaleidoscope accompanied by a symphony of traffic, airplanes and pressure release valves.