fear & loathing in Lotusland

Month: October, 2014

Too Much to Ask

by Zbigniew


My political party doesn’t exist. Should an anarcho-collective of misanthropes ever call a meeting, I might drop buy -at least until somebody fucks me off.

I’m fickle. I play the field with my political allegiances; part of the field, anyway. I’ve voted Vision Vancouver and COPE. I’ve supported the NDP and a variety of independents. At times I’ve exercised my franchise in favour of various looneys, such as the Rhino Party (Rough Tough McGruff was the candidate’s name, if memory serves), communists, and Chretien’s Liberals. (I’m particularly ashamed of the latter, which led to my personal iron rule: no strategic voting.)

I recognize that politics is show business for ugly people, and so welcome a little drama -but not at the expense of content. I want a dialogue, an exchange of ideas. I want the incumbent to be held to account and contenders to put forward an alternative agenda. I want a candidate that will wax poetic my hopes for social justice, appeal to my reason, and show some grit, humour and a proclivity for mixing it up in the corners.

Is that so much to ask?


Sunday, October 26th.

Breeching the phalanx of candidates, I trade the squeaky-clean sunshine for the dark tones of the interior of Christ Church Cathedral and take a pew. There’s a hum, a buzz. It’s going to be a full house.

Joel Solomon is prowling about. Methodically, mechanically, he scans the crowd, looking like a George Hamilton interpretation of the Terminator. He runs into Raymond Louie and whispers in his ear…. What? The coordinates of a bag of money?

The Rector and Dean quips about changing service hours to the afternoon to accommodate such enthusiastic crowds, acknowledges the recent tragedies, and confuses the “Polish Catholics” in the crowd by leading us into the national anthem.

Local CBC newsreader Andrew Chang is the moderator. Mr. Chang has that disconcerting corporate tv/radio characteristic of emphasizing certain words … at random. Also, and I can’t emphasize this enough, he has truly extraordinary hair. Finally, I hold him in contempt for being completely inoffensive.

We are introduced to mayoral candidates Robertson, Wong, LaPointe and Kasting.

Opening statements are made.

Questions, with lengthy preambles, are posed by the moderator.

Familiar statements are, once again, articulated.

The public’s questions are written down, curated, and read by Mr. Chang, stripped of the personality and emotions of their authors.

Overall, it was pretty dull day for democracy, with most of the event sounding to my ears like Miss Othmar from Peanuts. But a few moments were worth sifting.

I like Ms. Wong’s platform. She places the right issues at the top of the agenda: serving residents’ needs for affordable housing and transportation. Unfortunately, her communications skills are not the greatest. It’s not her English –that’s fine. She doesn’t inspire.

Mr. LaPointe is articulate, calm, smooth, self-assured, and scored some impressive hits against the incumbent. And he’s also the candidate chosen behind closed doors and financed by developers, but is “beholden to no one.” Sure.

Mr. Kasting is an erudite, avuncular, politically unburdened Mr. Clean, who wants to take us “back past the chickens; back past the bike lanes; back past the upset neighbourhoods; back past the control of development; back past the secret deals between unions and the City, and between developers and the City.” I’d like to get back past the metaphors.

Mr. Robertson came out the worst: repetitive talking points, staccato delivery, the sheer ridiculousness of suggesting that homelessness would –still, somehow- be resolved by his self-imposed 2015 deadline, the blatant refusal to answer questions, the gross desperation of throwing Meggs under the bus. I will give Mr. Robertson this: he spoke clearly, passionately and rationally for the need to contain oil tanker traffic and the damage it will cause our environment and economy. Alas, I don’t believe he’ll do much about it.

The partisanship of the crowd seems evenly distributed. LaPointe’s comments receive applause from part of the room, Wong’s and Robertson’s from another. I’m not quite so divided, even if I didn’t find my star candidate. I guess I was hoping for someone of Bob Kasting’s cleanliness, with Meena Wong’s policies, Kirk Lapointe’s delivery, and Andrew Chang’s hair.

St. Jack

by Zbigniew

Besieged by autocratic Medicis and the aspirations of its city-state rivals, Michelangelo’s statute of the Biblical David, the diminutive Giant Killer, came to represent Florence’s endurance in the face of these many threats to the Republic.

No less a figure than Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) watches over Rio de Janeiro, his outstretched arms an invocation of peace.

In New York Harbour stands Libertas, torch held aloft to enlighten the world.

Where’s our protector, redeemer and/or liberator? Wherefore the aspirational icon? Where is the embodiment of our de facto guiding principles of “lifestyle” and “a quick buck”?

There are quite a few candidates, but they don’t quite resonate.

A bronze statue of Captain George Vancouver graces the top of the steps at the north side of City Hall. The celebrated mariner and intrepid explorer pointing the way to a future filled with promise/North Shore real estate opportunities? The good Captain is tucked away at the back entrance, diminished, half forgotten.

The Reclining Figure at Guelph Park perhaps speaks to a reputation for being “laid back.” In my experience, this was once quite true. Sadly, slack is no longer a widely shared virtue.

A-maze-ing Laughter (sic) at Denman & Davie is a popular tourist attraction. I imagine the maniacal and macrocephalic statutes speaks to the Vancouver Is Awesome crowd.

Much closer to the mark is the fluid, undulating sculpture at Vanier Park. Officially entitled Freezing Water #7, it could easily pass for a cum shot. West cost lifestyle as orgasm on a mountain and condo canvas.

In the same throbbing vein, there was the “Satan-with-a-hard-on.” Installed at the comically named and neo-fascist styled “Piazza Italia,” against a backdrop of glass towers, the Horned Hand of the tumescent Prince of Darkness stood sentinel to those venturing to the fleshpots of the west: perfect. Sadly, this unsanctioned effigy was expeditiously removed by city officials.

And then there’s John “Gassy Jack” Deighton.

On September 29, 1867, Deighton rowed -or had himself rowed by his aboriginal associates- from New Westminster to what we now call Gastown. The choice of landing was strategic: just a few feet beyond the Hastings Mill’s prohibited drinking area. On the promise of an initial free drink, the thirsty locals built The Globe -the area’s first saloon- inside of 24 hours.

Its success quickly led to the establishment of a half-dozen more watering holes –“an aggregation of filth,” in Captain Stamp’s opinion.

As a popular innkeeper, Deighton quickly gained his nickname “Gassy Jack” from his “gaseous” nature -he talked incessantly.

When he ran out of gas, Deighton’s native wife -the niece of his deceased first wife- was disinherited.

Deighton is immortalized in a bronze image that appears to celebrate the effects of cirrhosis. (Not so long after its 1970 installation, the statute was decapitated; the head was exchanged for a $50 ransom.)

Therefore: for taking advantage of proto-land use bylaws to found Vancouver’s first entertainment district, for being immortalized as a grotesque and capturing the imagination of slackjawed tourists, for being of poor moral fibre, and especially for being a blowhard, I nominate St. Jack.


I could feel Jack’s presence in the room today, finding purchase with the incumbent mayor his steady stream of spin-laden cliches, obfuscations and non-sequiturs; a staccato beat occasionally punctuated by the rich velvet tones of CBC senior lightweight Andrew Chang. (I will say this for Mr. Chang: he’s got great hair.)


The Cringe: Hot Bitch in Charge

by Zbigniew


Hot Bitch in Charge is a -mostly- Mandarin language reality program featuring the luxurious lifestyles of “ultra rich Asian girls in Vancouver.” Watch as young women with inherited family fortunes engage in various and conspicuous consumptive activities.



by Zbigniew


Inarticulate Vanity

by Zbigniew



A Vancouver House advert from Vanity Fair, July 2014.

A discordant agglomeration of text, images and tropes. What’s going on here?

Vancouver House, yet there’s no Vancouver, just a house -which isn’t a house, really.

“Canada’s first super prime real estate,” as opposed to sub-prime.

“A Total Work of Art,” but as Andy Warhol observed, people in Vancouver don’t but art. They do, however, buy property: so, property entrolloped as art to civilize/sucker the local philistines?

But with one local and five international sales offices, this isn’t really being sold to Vancouverites.

And how about those offices: London, Toronto, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing -the latest manifestation, the echo, of a 19th century British Foreign Secretary’s imperialist dream.

“Reserve your interest” meaning “get in line” or “return on investment”? Both, maybe.

And then there’s the accompanying photo of architect Bjarke Ingels -of the modestly entitled Bjarke Ingels Group- looking as if he just received a text informing him of the untimely demise of a pet. The caption suggests the photograph was taken on Vancouver’s seawall in front of Vancouver House -a physical impossibility, as the thing doesn’t -as yet- exist.

What does it all mean?

Perhaps the last dribs of text are a clue, the words that read like the subliterate expression of a hulking brute in the midst of a destructive frenzy, or -perhaps, suffering serious insecurity: Westbank BIG.

The Cringe: In the City

by Zbigniew