scamcouver

fear & loathing in Lotusland

Category: Scammers

Sleeping Rough, with Marmalade Notes

by Zbigniew

Okanagan RV

Unknown RV

Chinook RV

It’s difficult to say exactly how many people are being turned away from Vancouver shelters, as those numbers are no longer collected.

It’s difficult to say how people many are turning to vans, trailers, and RVs for affordable housing.

And its difficult to say “Langereis”: Lang-er-ays? Lang-er-ees?

Bruce Langereis is the local factotum of the Delta Group of Companies, an international property development, investment blah blah Ltd., and the co-owner (sic?) of the up-to-$6,000-a-night Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

But for four nights earlier this month -in the midst of the Welfare Food Challenge– Langereis slept in the parking lot of the BC Liquor store outlet at 39th & Cambie. His objective: the acquisition of the only 50 year-old bottle of Glenfiddich available for sale this year in Canada. Langereis’ single-minded perseverance, and $36,000, yielded him that reputable object of desire.

For expenses both physical and financial, Langereis consoled himself with a holiday in the Bahamas. And, a taste of the veritable Scotch of Christ: orange marmalade with a faint wisp of smoke, and a velvety, self-involved finish.

His other compensation will be a solid return on investment: Langereis plans to sell the rarefied ambrosia to patrons of the Rosewood’s bar at $2,000 an ounce. With a guess of two ounces consumed, 24 ounces less investment costs yields $12,000; or, $3,000 a night.

Bailout-D0150080Wally Oppal, Bruce Langereis, and Uwe Boll on the set of Boll’s Bialout: The Age of Greed (Photo: Chris Helcermanas-Benge)

 

Dîner en Douche

by Zbigniew

It is a truly remarkable sight, the exceptional sophisticate and occasional socialite, standing stoically at the edge of their penthouse balcony / apartment window / town house fence / flat door, with a glass of champagne / scotch / wine / baileys / beer loosely in hand, gazing philosophically across the most beautiful city in the world, contemplating the disconnect from their peers. Vancouver, it has: culture, romance, flair, charm, and an essence of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. But as that elegant citizen, who, let’s face it, is you, scurries around the city, you always find time to lament that Vancouver is just too much amalgam of difference. For sure difference breeds splendid variety and unique fusion: however it prevents the manifestation of a clear Vancouver spirit – which you lament. With a population so diverse it is a challenge to unite the citizens of this glorious city for even a single occasion (Canada Day withstanding). Truth be told, there is nothing that brings the different people of Vancouver together particularly well …..

…. Or is there?

Dîner en Blanc Vancouver

*

It’s a late capitalist pseudo-event par excellence: the status hungry scramble to be invited to pay a fee to dress in uniform and adhere to a strict set of rules to feed themselves: picnic extrapolated into a consumerist public spectacle.

Of course, it’s possible for those of lesser means to demonstrate their innate elegance. Gentlemen can get by with an entry-level Indochino White Cotton suit, you say. But that’s the wrong attitude altogether -so demi-douche, really. Why stop on the ground floor when Premium, Essential and Tux versions offer so much more … blanc?

And because concepts themselves are so passé, Dîner en Douche has its own Dîner en Douche. The truly ambitious and/or socially insecure can opt for le douche-plein, the riff-raff-free Hawksworth-Restaurant catered option.

The “manifestation of a true Vancouver spirit”? It’s de rigeurmortis.

Douche en blanc

Their Own Thing

by Zbigniew

I question the wisdom of the Museum of Anthropology watering its lawn, given the region-wide prohibition on such activities in the face of drought conditions.

“Yeah,” says the security guard. With a craggy face and a full head of wavy hair, he looks like a world-weary character from 1970’s Canadian television. “Their kinda doin’ their own thing out here.”

July 28, 2015:

MOA Sprinklers

MOA Sprinklers 2

Mind Numbing

by Zbigniew

Mrs. Cylbulski notes some acquisitions from one of the surfeit of garage sales in our neighbourhood. She picked up some LPs for me, but on the walk home abandons them in an alley, thinking I wouldn’t be interested.

“Oh? What albums?” I ask

“Strange Advance and …. What’s the matter?”

We spend the wee hours of Saturday morning driving around quiet alleys in search of martial harmony and a memory in an analog medium.

*

A sunny weekday morning in early June 1983, the loose end game of a high school schedule, and we ply into an early ‘70s Plymouth Fury, a goodly-sized apartment posing as an automobile, to drive up Mt. Seymour. But for the two chair lift operators, we appear to have the hill all to ourselves. Splitting into pairs for the last leg -me with Jim and his recent acquisition: a boom box of impressive size and specifications. Against a clean blue sky we float above the treetops, riding a slow moving wave of warm sunshine, crisp air, and a haunting tune carrying along the hillside. A carefree afternoon in the sun; a world away, punctuated only by occasional yelp induced by the sobering impact of well-hurled ball of loosely compacted slush.

Worlds collide, with all the attendant friction, disruption, and destruction.

The agglomeration of ugly clustered northwest of main and 2nd (the “Greater Village”?) is entering its 3rd stage -“The Creek” etc etc etc- and it’s metastasizing south, with development proposals in for the 1800 and 1900 blocks, an excavated pit on Sophia bordered by a now-evicted tenant’s flowers, the active destruction of the old Jantzen swimsuit factory to make room for the tower, the maker of shadows. There’ll be more: Aquilini owns most of the parcels in between. Disappearing Main Street gets more relevant by the week.

1965-1981 Main Street 1

1965-1981 Main Street 2

Downtown and the Post Office is on the chopping block, the province is ready to deprive all those new condominium inhabitants of a hospital, and even the CBC wants to join the seller’s market.

UBC proposes 145 square foot units –less spacious than the interior of 1970 Plymouth Fury- Surrey is “go” on a 50 story tower on its “civic plaza,” Brentwood is a massive construction site preparing for 10 new buildings, including a 53 story monster, and even White Rock –of all goddamn places- is “reviewing its official community plan.”

1837-1847 Main StreetThe political leadership is busy. Counting the proceeds of the sale of his home, he who occupies the mayor’s chair suggests “ a collaborative” solution, and takes policy cues from the likes of self-proclaimed “thought leader” Bob Rennie -a glorified car salesman legitimized by an investment portfolio comprised of expensive art and even more expensive influence.*

lai-changxingQuartz

Bob says complaining about foreign investment is racist. Tell that to the Chinese officials running Operation Fox Hunt to repatriate fraudulently acquired funds laundered in Vancouver real estate.

Or the apparatchiks that freely acknowledge the presence and influence of Chinese money and that “[t]here is a huge stake for a lot of local people in keeping this thing going.”

3 Civic Plaza Surrey

And so a blogger at The Economist says were “mind numbingly boring.”

Day in, day out: it’s in my face or I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye or I walk through a shadow that had never been. The corrosive capital hard at work, the corruption at play, the worn and tattered façade masking a profound political failure, and the social and economic catastrophe that’s in the works. Mind numbing, sure, but boring it isn’t.

Not yet, anyway.

*Rennie’s capacity for self-aggrandizement is really pretty impressive. At the Jim Green memorial held at the Orpheum on April 15th, 2012, many a speaker waxed eloquently about Jim and the impact he had on their lives; Bob Rennie presented a slide show that prominently featured -who else?- Bob Rennie.

The Foreign Service

by Zbigniew

Geers

This graphic -on display at the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, Hastings Sub-Area Workshop on February 14th– caught my jaundiced eye.

I find the choice of “gears” to represent the relationships between the community, city, senior levels of government, and developers to be an apt metaphor: mechanistic, kinetic but rigid and predetermined. That the community is depicted as having no direct influence on developers is a nice honest touch, however unintentional. Intentional?

Labeling the civic gear as “the city family” also rings true, if I think of the traditional family structure (at least the ones I have suffered): paternalistic, hierarchical, unequal. In this particular scheme, that would leave Cultural Affairs as the runt, without substantive influence. Social Development enjoys a profile, sure, but occupies a rung below Real Estate and -in these spin intensive days- the loud-mouthed and superficial sibling, Communications.

Planning, of course, is in charge -the pater familias, the master of the house.

*

Circa 1960, Vancouver’s Planning Department was popularly known by city employees as The Foreign Service.

“Foreign,” for it was the last redoubt of the once mighty ex-pat British colonial administration. In lock step with the sun setting on Empire, the local detachment abandoned the command and control of lesser functions. While a few remained behind, like characters out of a Graham Greene novel, to carrying on in wog-held territory and supervise the care of the destitute or the manicure of civic lawns, the smart and smartly dressed ones -right down to the scented kerchiefs stuffed into their shirt sleeves at the wrist- retreated to the safety and influence of the high ground, upstairs. The brave few daring to exit the elevator were greeted accordingly: “we’ve a visitor from the colonies!”*

“Service,” for they served the money. In the 1950s and ‘60s that was public money, federal cash earmarked for highways and “urban renewal.” Building the paper case for the improvement of Strathcona by bulldozer, this Service consisted of “windshield” surveys –the wholesale condemnation of housing stock conducted from the removed comfort of an automobile. (I picture a couple of toffs in an MG, marking tidy rows of Xs on a clipboard, and making pit stops for G & Ts.) And so, the modus operandi: an understanding defined on the Q.T., with legitimacy endowed via process and public farce.

*

I open with a salvo aimed squarely at the bureaucratic minstrels. I do admire their thick skins. They nod dutifully at my complaints -the last minute distribution of information, the questionable blah blah- and promptly move on.

Certainly, I try to be helpful. I suggest renaming the neighbourhood Treeless-Poorview, and I pounce on the proposal for a plaza at Hastings and Commercial as an ideal location to enjoy the downwind aroma of the waste reduction plant. Alas, my ideas fail to gain purchase.

Sharing my table is Solterra VP Mike Bosa. In his opinion Burnaby is more affordable because they’re building more. (Personally, I think Burnaby is more affordable because it’s Burnaby.)

The corporation owns the entire north side of Hastings, from Clark to McLean. This includes the Waldorf Hotel. Mr. Bosa’s eagerness for a rezone and as much allowable height as possible + additional density for amenity is offset by the mute placards calling for the preservation of local heritage.

Throughout the course of the day Mr. Bosa exchanges involved but sotto voce asides with the ranking planner, Andrew Pask. Scented or otherwise, I assume Mr. Pask left his handkerchief at home -or possibly the office.

* I’m not inventing any of this.

Sub-Area Monopoly

by Zbigniew

InfillThe “Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, Nanaimo Sub-Area Workshop.” How it rolls off the tongue and seizes the imagination.

There’s a sizeable crowd at the WISE Hall; to my eye, a good 70 civilians. The Planning Department is in force, too. Estimating a conservative two per table, nine tables, plus graphic interpreters (two), floaters (several), the lieutenant, including volunteer wannabes … circa 25. A platoon!

Name tag affixed (“Concerned Citizen”) I see Matthew waving me over to a seat he’s saved.

“Did you get the email?”

I did. A 30-page backgrounder that arrived in my inbox just the evening before, for those wanting to “get a head start on things.” Oh, and by the by, “we’ll be looking at the specific policies that were proposed for the sub-area.” In other words, back to the soundly rejected 2013 community plan. Just thought you should know.

Sure enough, the hall is surrounded by the very same “emerging directions” propaganda prescribed 14 months earlier, although a few placards now sport an “I Heart GW” sticker. Emerging, like a flower, or a turd.

Laneway

Node

The 11th hour plan is for Matthew and I to do the initial session together –to get the lay of the land and compare notes- before splitting forces.

It’s a tight agenda.

And we’re off, and there’s no room to consider the destructive forces that hover just beyond the walls or even discuss the problematic math of population projections. “What do you like about the neighbourhood?” “What do you dislike?” We spend a lot of time on built form, and very little on social form, on the possibilities of tenancy -except ownership, of course.

Greenway

I feel herded directed lured towards more and higher. Wait! There are discrepancies between maps: does the plan stop at the alley behind Nanaimo or go on to Kamloops? I’m thankful for the vocal people at my table, asking pointed questions, repeating apparently misunderstood statements, and expressing frustration with staff’s tone deafness. At his table Matt is calling for votes and, more often than not, finds unanimity.

Over the course of the afternoon I hear a majority opinion calling for a modest approach: two-lot aggregation limits, the amputation of “the fingers,” and height restrictions to respect the current scale of the neighbourhood -to preserve the Grand View.

Apartment

Mixed

Parklet

The bureaucratic forces are diligent. Dissenting opinions –from the invested and/or deluded favouring more and higher- are meticulously reported. It’s just the cover the development troops need for flexibility and interpretational wiggle room. At the development sign up ahead … a Policy Twilight Zone.

And then, out of the blue, a foray: the closure of Templeton Pool because Britannia. So: more density, with fewer amenities? Less for more -is that what you’re saying? The speed of the retreat would impress the Italian Army.

Parks

For the last table exercise a set of colour-coded cards are distributed, indicating the planning/development-friendly generic components of a neighbourhood. They evoke the cards signifying ownership in that real estate board game. We’re asked to place these on a map.

StoreThe Monday evening following I’m standing near the corner of Main & Hastings, being passed over by the not full Sorry Bus Full 135.

I opt for the next local heading east. It’s an old school diesel, from the ‘90s, from the era when our transit system won international awards. It’s a rarity, a functional piece of history.

It looks at capacity. But the driver gets on the blower and encourages everyone to move back and remove backpacks, to make room for those still on the street, and we do.

Maybe it’s the mild winter evening, or a collective relief at the conclusion of a Monday, for the crowd is buoyant. I’m surrounded by conversations, some between apparent strangers and others from the chance encounter of friends. I take note of the little kindnesses, the youth giving up seats for the elderly and people gently squeezing by others.

With every stop -starting already at Gore- there’s a steady exchange of fresh passengers for those alighting. I picture a motorized needle making a detailed stitch along East Hastings.

From his seat a pensioner, a little guy, uses his cane to ring the stop. Only when the bus comes to a standstill does he get to his feet. More or less steadily he works his way through the crowd to the exit, deploying a Buddy Hackett/Jerry Lewis shtick to keep the doors open: “Thank you Mrs. Driver! Good Job! Watch out for me! Sometimes I fart and stink! Watch out!” I admire the laughter-inducing effectiveness of his routine. One day, it might come in handy.

By the time things settled down, I’m already at Renfrew and aware that I could’ve missed all this theatre for the dull, if speedy, SFU Express.

I think back to a card dealt out at the workshop, a blank “Wildcard” we were asked to fill in. I had left it unmarked.

What I want -for Nanaimo Street, Grandview-Woodlands, and Hastings Sunrise, for myself, my family and my neighbours- is far too fine, ephemeral, and grand for the confines of a Monopoly title deed.

Wildcard

 

Game Day!

by Zbigniew

Game Day

Façade

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

Babble

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.

Division

by Zbigniew

Division