fear & loathing in Lotusland

Month: November, 2014


by Zbigniew


“The view of the whole district when reconstructed. Isometric (three-dimensional) scale; also follows the topography of the area. This illustrates the adaption of main traffic routes, retention of some existing buildings, community and administration facilities, tree belts, as well as the planned arrangement of different kinds of accommodation.”

Leonard Marsh, Rebuilding a Neighbourhood (UBC)

Quick & Nasty

by Zbigniew


Four-story condominium blocks are popping-up like mushrooms on East Hastings, from Clarke though Sunrise and along to Capital Hill.

The quality of these developments vary dramatically.

At the top end are the all-concrete structures.

The bulk are concrete ground floors topped by three levels of wood frame and plywood.

At the discount end of the spectrum are the concrete base topped by three floors of wood and oriented strand board, or OSB – an engineered wood product made by compressing layers of wood chips with adhesives. OSB has a variety of features that make it attractive over plywood, including larger sizing, uniformity blah blah. And cheaper: a sheet of OSB sells for half of an equivalent sheet of plywood.

Unfortunately, it can also act as a sponge. The National Association of Home Inspectors: “Compared to plywood, OSB swells more when it comes into contact with water, especially at panel edges. Swell is generally greater in OSB than in plywood due to the release of compaction stress in OSB created during the pressing of wood chips into panels. Swollen plywood will return to its nominal thickness as the wood dries, while OSB will remain permanently swollen, to some degree.” (Emphasis added.)

The marketing bumf for Bohème, at Hastings and Clark, claims it’s “a sophisticated new neighourhood of white brick residences, shops and restaurants in the heart of authentic Vancouver … a truly unique lifestyle brought to you by the Millennium Group ….” (Millennium, you will recall, were the developers behind the Olympic Village fiasco.)

Grandiose claims and prices aside -some of the available units are retailing in excess of $446,900- Bohème is a discount OSB special. The shredded wood and glue amalgam sheathing sat unprotected for weeks through several waves of the fall sub-monsoon rainstorms before anyone thought to purchase a tarp, and then only enough to cover half the thing.

But as the sheen on the Blomberg refrigerator fades, and the “Carrara marble inspired porcelain tiles” crack and chip, and rot pushes its way through living room walls, the punters will have their bohème.


Refuge: Creek

by Zbigniew

Eagle Creek

The salmon negotiated the Fraser, Brunette, and Burnaby Lake, concrete culverts and metal gratings to reach this unlikely spot among suburban homes and warehouses. A stone’s throw from the freeway and a steady stream of speeding traffic shrouded by the flow of water and the rustling of trees.



Game Day!

by Zbigniew

Game Day


by Zbigniew

Western Front Front - Another False FrontReece Terris, Western Front Front – Another False Front, 2009


The Western Front Front – Another False Front is an architectural intervention constructed on the exterior of the Western Front building. Terris’s addition consists of a new, larger façade, including parapet and cornice. Exaggerating its formal elements, the structure has been built at one-and-a-half times scale, and installed on top of the existing façade at a slight angle.

“Historically, wooden false fronts were ornamental structures erected on the front of goldrush-era buildings to make hastily built boomtowns appear more impressive. This created the illusion of larger, more important buildings mimicking those built of cast iron or brick in more established cities. Symbolizing the pioneering Western town, the false front is both synonymous with the artificial display of wealth as well as the rapid boom-and-bust expansions of early mining, railroad and forestry communities.”


The sorry state of our local political discourse is inadvertently encapsulated in Doug Ward’s “Vision’s Angry Voter Double Whammy.” It reads like an overwhelmed teenager’s first social studies paper.

Ignoring the power politics of Vancouver’s civic administration -where the corporatist agenda is in full swing and developers and their ilk organize $25,000 a plate fundraisers and openly brag of their influence- Ward posits the absurdity that there is a ideological difference between heavily sponsored establishment parties, that the election is a contest between the NPA “and a divided left,” i.e., that Vision Vancouver is -somehow, some way- “left.”

What Ward fails to appreciate is that “left of” does not necessarily equate with “left.” Franco was to the left of Mussolini -so what? Obama is to the left of Bush, and to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon. (Or, The Tyee is left of The Province.)

“Left of” is not left when you and your opponent are congenital twins, sharing the same wealthy/corporate/developer donator base, the same mania for development, the same disregard for community input, and the same assholes. Bike lanes and backyard chickens are not significant components of historical materialism.

Ward’s remedial argument rests heavily on Andrea Reimer, who seems to represent something like 98% of Vision’s “street cred,” thanks to her “left-activist history.”

While an activist Andrea Reimer may have been, that career effectively ended with her election to council in 2008. Since then she’s been a stalwart supporter of a ruling political faction that is heavily funded by corporate interests: she votes en bloc, dismisses the ethical responsibility for campaign financing reform, argues against community consultation et cetera. Where’s the activist? What has she done for me lately, beyond apologizing for the tower proposals at Commercial and Broadway? She represents the establishment to the public, rather than the other way around.

The tank is empty. The vehicle is cruising on the fumes of a reputation it never earned -less progressive than “progressive” or, as Wise Monkeys put it so nicely, “fauxgressive.”

So, let’s all say it together, just once, out loud, for shits and giggles: “Vision Vancouver is a right-wing party.”

As for Doug Ward, he is welcome to peruse my copy of Political Ideologies (Gould & Truitt, editors). I would draw his attention in particular to the Alasdair MacIntyre essay “The End of Ideology and the Ideology of the End of ideology.”

Militant Mothers

by Zbigniew

From Black Strathcona:

Militant Mothers: Beating the power brokers

“Sometimes being on the right side is a difficult place to be. In 1971, a group of mothers from the Raymur Housing Project found out when, for the sake of their children’s safety, they were forced to take on the school board, city council and a national railway company. After petitions, speeches and phone calls got them nowhere, they took one last courageous stand.”

Refuge: Fungi

by Zbigniew

With the civic political silliness in full swing, and the day of reckoning drawing near, my mind takes refuge from the hullaballoo in the quiet contemplation of the mushroom.

That is, mushrooms; according to the Vancouver Mycological Society, the Lower Mainland is home to some of the most diverse forms of fungi found anywhere in the world. In the fall, with the rains, they appear in great abundance and diversity.

Some are quite palatable, others less so. There are some that should be avoided for their poisonous qualities, particularly the “death cap,“ which has made it’s way to Vancouver in recent years. Determining one from the other requires a good deal of applied information.








The Cringe: Trump International

by Zbigniew