fear & loathing in Lotusland

Category: Agitprop


by Zbigniew

It’s a cast of thousands!

The story opens with the driver of the 135 and …. whoosh! He thunders past, running roughshod over delicate concepts like ”full” and “bus stop.”

Here’s the operator of the 19, trying to run the red, but stopping short, his ass hanging out in the intersection -blocking pedestrian and car traffic- because an 8 and another 19 already lay claim to the curb ahead.

There’s Cubic, supposedly working on Compass. It’s coming, the stale signage assures, while the budget doubles and other cities abandon the system altogether.

Hey! Why settle for one CEO, when you can have two at twice the price?

There’s also the Board, Kevin Falcon’s gift-that-keeps-on-giving. These Faceless Ones put me in mind of Bill Hick’s routine about the Gideons: “Ever met one? No! Ever see one? NO! What are these people? Ninjas?” Ninjas -with monthly driving allowances.

And the oligarchs, of course. I imagine them perched on generously apportioned bundles of $500 bills, beady-eyed, salivating, ready to pounce. Ready to tear Broadway a borehole, to gut and annihilate and unleash the cranes on the remains.

Speaking of which, even “Expo Jimmy” makes a cameo. And nothing says guardian of the public good like the 86 year-old local chapter president of The Global Elite.

There’s a lot of Fifth Business in this tale, roles being neither Hero nor Heroine, Confidante nor Villain, but for that no (more or) less essential to bringing about the denouement.

And so, enter the Civic Officials, heralded by emails and a stale rehash of recent election tactics: “Will you pledge your support?” What’s with all the pledging? When did we start taking our cues from The Waltons?

But wait, there’s more: politicos and police chiefs, pundits and Podmores, plot twists and skullduggery. There’s a hockey player-turned shill, and a goddamn chorus, to boot.

There’s an admission price, of course. While it seems modest, those of means all appear to have comps.

Nah, I’ll pass. I prefer something with a stronger narrative, and more convincing characters.

The Spirit of Mr. Peanut

by Zbigniew

On a day reserved for heart-shaped pancakes and/or assignations, I opt for the Grandview-Woodland Hastings Sub Area Community Clusterfuck.

I’ve cogitated much on my approach, my own rules of engagement. And then, I am moved by the spirit of Mr. Peanut.

Testing, Testing

by Zbigniew


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.”

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.


by Zbigniew


Greenest City Chainsaw Mash-up

by Zbigniew


by Zbigniew

The limits of Vancouver’s arts and culture were in plain view at Vision Vancouver’s one-night-only production of Protecting Vancouver’s Cultural Spaces. (Fox Cabaret, April 28, 2014).

From a preposterous narrative that asks us to believe the incumbent party on City Council has the interest or capacity to save space for anything other that branded lifestyle residential units and No Frills outlets, to the thin performances by the leads –Geoff Meggs and Heather Deal, as “Smart Councillor” and “Happy Councillor,” respectively- this show was a dog, of the poodle sculpture variety: expensive, of questionable aesthetic merit, and “why am I looking at this?”

Okay: redeeming elements. Some genuinely warm performances. Kate Armstrong, Ernesto Gomez and Esther Rauschenberg –all clearly ad-libbing- broke out of the dialogue straightjacket to bring some life to the proceedings.

Otherwise, some pretty strange ideas arose from the clunky, clichéd-ridden morass. The need to negotiate harder –much harder- with The Organization -a kind of collective ego and a vortex of destructive energy- definitely peaked my curiousity. At any moment I expected Bob Rennie, dressed as Jupiter and hurling lightning bolts, to descend from the rafters for a Battle Royale. I was mightily disappointed.

And confused, too. “Art carts?” “Digital spaces?” Does the future lie in crevasses and virtual space?

Or: What’s there to negotiate when you take their money?

The production’s ultimate failure -its pointlessness- lies in its inability to acknowledge and explore such fundamental questions.

These inconsistencies seem to have been lost on the mostly simpatico sold out crowd. But clearly a soft crowd, intensely papered. How would it have stood up to a more discerning audience? Yet another question to go unanswered.

Unfettered Vision

by Zbigniew