fear & loathing in Lotusland

Month: October, 2013

Terminal Markets

by Zbigniew

Picture 1286Photo: Johnny Drift

It’s the antipode of fashionable shopping: an ur-mall.

On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays a loonie gets you past a wooden gate, past the greasy haze of a chipboard-clad food stand to a roughly organized tsunami debris field of consumer product.

There’s an impressive range of goods, from the strict utilitarianism of screwdrivers to the sheer uselessness of a generic “coat of arms”, from fully functional radios to busted cameras. Treasure and junk, but mostly junk. While the distinctions may be subjective, market forces do apply here –but flexibly, in a manner that‘s open to debate.

Without a goal in mind, it’s overwhelming: table follows table, the smell of old goods a kind of soporiphic. Energy and resolve are quickly sapped.

I accompany Johnny on his search for a “plastic Indian” figurine, the object of an esoteric desire. Forty minutes in, success.

“Ms. Demeanor” seeks boxing gloves to facilitate her exercise regime. The “quan wang” pair work out okay, with the support of a little duct tape.

My own searches usually take me through the defunct technology stalls, with decidedly mixed results.

The Accura CD Clock Radio functioned perfectly, but nonetheless had to be returned to the junk stream, its ceaseless hum a curse to the light sleeper.

Larry Kent’s High Stakes on VHS was a find, but the exceptionally poor quality of the tape destroyed the host VCR. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of VCRs.

Pay dirt: a Bell & Howell 16mm sound projector in fully working order, 50 lbs of solid metal machine, price negotiated to within tolerable limits. It’s a find that activates my personal store of prized rubbish, a cache of reels accumulated through the years and patiently awaiting the arrival of the instrument of their transmutation: the home movies of strangers, travelogues of places that don’t quite exist anymore, educational briefs on the safe operation of automobiles.

Road Safety

Slowly, it’s changing: collectors, the curators of crap, are moving in; ads are finding their way into the Georgia Straight. Suddenly, there’s less room for the undifferentiated, the insufficiently marketable. Its getting serious, micro-economically speaking.

But take one step outside the twin peaked, tarpaulin-patched structure onto Terminal, and its apparent that the whole exercise is marginal to the real action. There’s a much bigger game at play, one that renders the very idea of a flea market as quaint and irrelevant as a little plastic warrior.

DSCN0932   DSCN0938 DSCN0939    DSCN0935DSCN0944DSCN0946DSCN0937DSCN0948DSCN0942Repair Shop

Beyond the Pale

by Zbigniew

VPD Charger

The Vancouver Police Department is replacing its fleet of Ford Crown Victoria Interceptors with the Dodge Charger Enforcer.

In place of the non-descript and utilitarian is a curious nexus of RoboCop aesthetic, the convenience of illuminated front cup holders, and the green credentials of “a highly efficient 3.6 litre engine … [that] will reduce fuel consumption by approximately 25%.”

Whether racing to the scene of the crime heralded by the deep baritone of a “rumbler” siren, or deploying the “Stealth Mode” to creep up on their prey as an “undercover hunter”, the new, TV-ready, badass ride will take Vancouver’s Finest Beyond the Call –in theory.


“The City of Vancouver has filed statements of defence on behalf of its police force in a series of lawsuits related to the Pickton case.

“The city has filed statements of defence insisting it acted reasonably when it received reports of sex workers disappearing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“The statements also argue there is no evidence any of the women named in the lawsuits actually disappeared from Vancouver or died as result of activity that happened in the city.”

The Province, “Vancouver police force insists it made ‘reasonable efforts’ to find missing women found on Pickton’s farm” (October 7, 2013)


Seen in Passing: Union & Heatley

by Zbigniew


Tabula Rasa

by Zbigniew


City of Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Duke of Conn P25

“A remarkable historical photograph of the space at its height of public use shows Vancouver society out in full force to welcome a visit by Canada’s new governor general (HRH the Duke of Connaught) in 1912: the court house and surrounding buildings, including the old Hotel Vancouver, are decked out in flags, bunting and swags, people crowd at every opening, and the space itself is full of officials, soldiers, cadets and citizens in their best finery. The photo illustrates how this space once functioned as the city’s main public square. This kind of public assembly is almost inconceivable in this space today ….

“As part of the Robson Square conversion, the main entrance to the court house on the north side was permanently closed in favour of a new one facing Robson Street to the south, thereby radically distorting the square’s public function and downgrading it to a kind of backyard. The grand steps up to the former court house now lead to nowhere.”

Lance Berelowitz, Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination


As public space goes, it lacks most of the aesthetically pleasing characteristics of its notable counterparts: a vehicle-free/socially-oriented perimeter, a coherent functionality, a pleasing building height to space width ratio, or a fine-grained connection to surrounding streets. The Piazza del Campo it isn’t.

More crucially, it even lacks a proper name, a defined identity. “The Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza” doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue and isn’t so much a title as a description of its location.

Originally the Courthouse Plaza, its official designation, long out of use, is Centennial Plaza, so-named in 1966 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of that stirring event, the unification of the Vancouver Island and the Mainland colonies; the Centennial Fountain still marks the occasion and still does its best to impede public gatherings.

Shortcomings aside, it very much is a public space, the preferred venue for everything from Family Day programming, and City of Bhangra and Jazz Fest performances, to the Olympic Clock, an impromptu dance party during the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, and that noblest form of social expression: dissent, be it 420, Occupy Vancouver, or confrontations with reactionary civic officials.


The City of Vancouver has presented proposals for a redesign of the plaza, all developed by Nick Milkovich Architects –whoever they are- together with consultants form other firms, and employing “public feedback from consultation sessions” –whatever that means to the current Council.

Do these proposals support or compromise a diversity of activities? Do they enable or constrain the expression of dissent? Let’s consider:

Option 1: “Wet”

Option 1

Option 1 would see the plaza dominated by a reflecting pool/water park. “To add another level of play and excitement (sic) to the feature – the design team imagines the inclusion of scattered misting spouts and small water jets ….” No doubt this design would appeal to law enforcement officials; who needs to employ water cannons when you can clear the area with a flip of a switch? As a venue promoting social activities, “Wet” is all wet.

Option 3: “Plalo Ring”

Option 3

Option 3 would see a multipurpose floating circular ring, supported on masts, and incorporating lighting and sound. While the ring would not constrain the range of use, it shouts ENTERTAINMENT of the increasingly annoying “Viva Vancouver” variety.

Option 2: “Active Edge”

Option 2

Option 2 demarcates the space through a cascading water feature on the Georgia Street side, but otherwise leaves the plaza free, a blank slate to be written by the public. Okay, but how about a podium or soapbox for the steps?

For what it’s worth, the City’s questionnaire on the proposals is open until October 22, 2013.