fear & loathing in Lotusland

Month: October, 2015

Imminent Displacement

by Zbigniew


“Then as now, there was a recession, a global banking system in shambles, a housing crisis and a shadowy external threat (the Cold War then, terrorism now), all of which are formally similar even if they have very different causes and our governments propose very different solutions. One thing peculiar to the postwar period was the reorganization of urban life in virtually every city in North America. The case of Vancouver, BC, is a local example of a continental condition: the suburbanization of the middle class and the razing of ethnic inner-city slums so that the poor could be warehoused in modernist towers. The 1,200 or so homeless veterans who initially squatted the old Hotel Vancouver are emblematic of the former, and the multi-ethnic residents of Hogan’s Alley whose homes were earmarked for demolition as early as 1947 represent the latter. In the end, the hotel was torn down before the alley, but the fear of imminent displacement is a source of anxiety for all of our characters.”

From Circa 1948, Artist Statement by Stan Douglas

Full Payment for an Hour of Perfect Bliss

by Zbigniew

Kenneth Millar

“In his novels, Millar resolved his contradictions: there he hid and revealed an aching loneliness, a melancholy humor, and a lifetime of anger, fear, and regret.”

Ross Macdonald, A Biography, by Tom Nolan

Dashielle Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Kenneth Millar aka Ross Macdonald, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of hardboiled detective fiction.

Millar was born in 1913 to Canadian parents in Los Gatos, California. His father, Jack, was a Scots atheist, mother Annie a Christian Scientist. They argued violently. The family moved to Vancouver.

Tom Nolan:

“His father was a harbor-boat pilot there, and Millar recalled the ‘unforgettable’ occasion when his dad took him to sea: ‘I stood beside him in the offshore light, with his hands and my hand on the wheel.’ At the age of sixty-three, he judged this ‘the happiest day of my childhood if not my life.’”

“The boy later remembered a less happy incident: when he looked through a hotel balcony grating and saw a body spread-eagled in the alley below. The man wasn’t dead, only dead drunk; but the frightening image stayed in his mind. For the four-year-old, his parents’ separation was as sudden and awful as the sight of that body. Like a child in a fairy tale, he blamed himself. His father’s absence marked him forever. The world, it seemed, was a place that took full payment for an hour of perfect bliss.”

Green Fantasy

by Zbigniew


It’s a dark shade of green -the colour of parks and an urban forest, of mountains against the sunset of a cloudless night. It figures large in the imagination: the city on the edge of the wilderness; the city as wilderness.

It represents a tremendous stock of natural and symbolic capital, insinuating itself into everything from flags to the bureaucratese of Urban Forest Strategies and Greenest City Action Plans.

It’s potent. Proximity to green space, or just a glimpse of water or peak, goes a long, long way in justifying indentured life in a concrete sarcophagus.

But it’s fragile, too. To get at it, to package and merchandise that quotient of nature, it must be destroyed. And so, trees are falling, views are disappearing, and the wilderness is in full retreat.

The hard sell is getting harder. Irresistible forces, meet the immovable reality of finite resources. The impact is creating shock waves, distorting perceptions of local space, generating images of some other place, some other reality liberated from contradiction. The glimpses of green fantasy: generous parks and open skies; towers rising above a forested plain; thoroughfares cum orchards; and green spaces immune to influence.

False Park

The Cringe: Suncom

by Zbigniew


The Leaders In Land Assembly

Sun Commercial Real Estate Ltd.

The main focus of Sun Commercial Real Estate is property investment and land assembly management. We have a unique and competitive edge in the market, and have crafted an investment modality that sets us apart from the crowd. Our comprehensive process makes the best use of commercial real estate resources, and with our business partners, our team, our corporate culture and the SUNCOM brand influence, we have shaped our tried-and-tested system to maximize returns. We have become leaders in Vancouver real estate assembly investments.

At SUNCOM we are experts in the commercial real estate process, giving us a unique advantage when it comes to FSR (floor space ratio). Over the years we have helped our clients achieve impressive returns on their investments, ranging from 16% to 150%. When the economic crisis hit in 2009 and one of our projects didn’t grow in value as much as we hoped, we were still able to garner a 16% return on investment for our clients. Our company has a large amount of investment capital, and we always invest in every project we put together. With our experience and leadership, we guide our clients to come together and secure large investments. With a relatively small amount of capital, our clients participate in and gain access to the profits of some of the largest investment projects in Vancouver.

As a professional commercial real estate investment company in Vancouver, we have had a stellar track record. In 2014 we completed 9 projects, with the sale amount of CAD $209 million. We aim to purchase CAD $418 million worth of projects this years. We are both confident and capable that we can deliver the right investment opportunities and generate the most profit possible for our clients in 2015.


The Leaders in Land Assembly

Sphere of Influence

by Zbigniew

Where’s the perimeter? Where does the psychopoleconomic entity that is “Vancouver” play out? What lies beyond? How far do I have to go to break free of its gravitational pull?

Politically and bureaucratically, Vancouver extends out to the confines of Metro Vancouver –the Greater Vancouver Regional District- an area comprised of 24 local authorities –cities, municipalities, townships, the University Endowment Lands, and that vaguest of constructs, “Electoral Area A.” By this reckoning the edge is marked by Bowen Island and Lions Bay, the nether reaches of Maple Ridge and the Township of Langley, and the US border. However, like too many official demarcations, it’s artificial, ignoring well-established links to other communities and coherent as natural boundaries. It’s too tightly packaged and constrained.

Metro VancouverMetro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy

It’s imprecisely defined, but the “Lower Mainland,” or the Lower Fraser Valley, generally covers the swath from Squamish to Chilliwack. This offers a certain coherence, bookended as they are by First Nations place names, and naturally excluding those distinct others: Whistler and Hope. (We are, definitely, this side of Hope.) Chilliwack in particular resonates nicely with Ethel Wilson’s Swamp Angel, being the initial rest stop for Maggie Vardoe’s escape from a loveless marriage to a real estate agent. However, too much is missing. Whither the near-by-ferry: the Sunshine Coast and the Gulf Islands? What of the communities just south of the border?

Lower Mainland 1946The geography assigned to the 604 area code is way off. Aside from being defined in an office by people wearing ties, its both massive -reaching from Desolation Sound to beyond Hope- and omits so much that’s nearby; again, there’s the border. It’s simultaneously too big and too small.

bc_lower_mainland_area_code_map_highresCanadian Area Code Maps

I’m want something organic, a system that transcends municipal and international borders and bodies of water, but respects distance. I find it in FM radio, the footprint circumscribed by local radio broadcasts.

It’s the very high frequency voice of the metropolis, invisible, but physical over virtual. A sphere produced by economics and regulation, but an imperfect one, flattened and deformed by local circumstance. There’s a consistency, too: with most transmission towers located on Mt. Seymour, the footprints of Vancouver’s FM radio broadcasts are virtually identical.

Radio RangeRadio Locator

With Squamish, Chilliwack, Nanaimo and Bellingham within reach, and Whistler, Hope and Victoria beyond, there’s a symmetry and balance –the periphery may lie a bit far by road or ferry, or the political hurdle that is the border, but as the crow flies not far at all.

The area described as a “local” signal corresponds exactly to my own free form and long-term research conducted by the limited receiving capacity of a car antenna. Driving south on the Pat Bay Highway on a return from Vancouver to my then-home in Vitoria, the CFMI signal craps out completely halfway down the Saanich peninsula, somewhere around Keating Cross Road. The switch over to 100.3 serves as a confirmation that I cross a boundary.

Because of FM’s line-of-site broadcasting, the complex topography of the geography means that not all stations can be heard in all places. This makes for interesting idiosyncrasies. While Horseshoe Bay is virtually a dead zone, it’s possible to enjoy a crystal clear edition of low wattage CFRO’s Royal Aloha Mondays program on Saturna.

On the Sunshine Coast, driving north in search of the skookumchuck, the CBC signal fails at Halfmoon Bay, or thereabouts. Instead, airwaves from Whistler, Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley all offer circa 1981 to circa 1998 top 40. But driving back much later that night, on a long and winding road, in the rain, in a twilight zone just beyond the psycho-gravitational pull of the teeming masses, I snag the past floating through the ether, a piece of 1930’s radio theatre, “designed to keep you … in SUSPENSE!


Within this ephemeral space, physical connections are being forged. The writhing mass of turgid economics is growing in mass, extending its reach -it’s capital- out, to the edges.

On a seemingly bucolic Southern Gulf Island I overhear a conversation regarding the merits of “higher density.”

There’s another attempt to realize a foot passenger ferry service to Nanaimo. Will this be the lucky one, the enabler of the Harbour City’s long-sought aspiration of bedroom community to the metropole?

And Gibsons -Gibsons Landing, to be precise.

In my TV-damaged imagination Gibsons is far away, apart. It isn’t. Gibsons lies fully exposed, to everything from FM radiation to the dreaded turmkrankheit: the tower disease.


Seen in Passing: East 22nd & Lillooet

by Zbigniew

Standard HolinessFor all your standard holiness needs.

Two Suits

by Zbigniew

Overheard, two suits on Georgia & Granville:

Suit One: “Nordstrom’s is open.”

Suit Two: “Hmmmm.”


Suit One: “What’s the valuation of The Bay?”

Suit Two: “One hundred fifty million.”

Bay Logo



by Zbigniew

Beeba BoysBeeba Boys

Deepa Mehta, Canada, 2015, 103 MIN.

“Vancouver finally gets its answer to Goodfellas and it comes from a somewhat unexpected source. Internationally renowned for thoughtful dramas such as Water, and having previously made a successful foray into comedy with Bollywood/Hollywood, Deepa Mehta now seamlessly transitions into adrenaline charged crime cinema.”

Vancouver International Film Festival, 2015

Alas, a slap-chopped clump of cliché, under-seasoned, under-cooked, and underwhelming.

However: featuring obliquely motivated and unsympathetic characters acting out a coke-fueled consumerist fantasy punctuated by violence and bad dialogue against an attractive vista of golden hues, with an incoherent sense of both local geography and social realities -in its own, inadvertent, way -a quintessential Vancouver film.