In case it’s not already evident from these ramblings, I have a certain pessimistic disposition that rejects hullaballoo, whether its source is real estate agents, politicians, in-laws, or spectacle.
Cavalia produces spectacles. The brain-child of Normand Latourelle, a co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia mixes equestrian and acrobatics, dance, aerial stunts, live music, multimedia and special effects to realize “an equestrian ballet” that explores “the fundamental relationship that humans have developed with horses throughout time, a precious bond that enabled us as humans to build bridges between cultures” -discounting of course the Mongol horde, Cossack pogroms, US Cavalry-led genocides etc etc etc. Like I said: pessimistic.
For no good reason that I can discern, complimentary tickets to the opening night Cavalia’s production of Odysseo arrive in my in-box. Instinctively, I move to delete, hesitate, and succumb to a morbid curiousity. I offer the missus the gift of spectacle, and we have a date.
It’s hard to miss the venue. The show -billed as “the world’s largest touring production”- is housed in an enormous tent, itself part of a complex that includes smaller tents, trailers, a corral, gas generators, floodlights, and a harras of late model white automobiles. The compound takes up a good portion of the former city works yard –somehow undeveloped- between the Olympic Village and the Cambie Street Bridge.
As you would expect of such an event, it’s heavily branded and the branding is heavily Pattison: Save-on-Foods has top billing, along with Pattison Group subsidiaries Everything Wine, Sun-Rype etc. And, to mix things up, The Keg.
There’s a concourse, of course, featuring Everything Wine, Sun-Rype etc, windbreakers emblazoned with “Odysseo,” plush horse dolls and glossy $15 programs. Taped to my seat is an envelope stuffed with coupons for things I don’t understand.
I recognize a few people: artists. The lights dim.
This is opening night –there are speeches. In contrast to all the commerce, M. Latourelle pauses in the proceedings. He calls attention to the internationality of the cast, their diverse origins and religious practices. He addresses the violence at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre. His speech is punctuated by at intervals by what sounds to me a cautious applause. Something like that.
Down to business: this production marks an unprecedented return engagement for Cavalia. Latourelle thanks the Vancouver audience and his local partners by relaying a long and not very interesting story of the business that closed the deal.
Out comes Jimmy Pattison. “Expo” Jimmy doesn’t look a day over 110 in his expensive Diefenbakeresque suit. Jimmy’s quick, and hands off to Darrell Whatisname, the beefy guy from the Save-on-Food commercials. He gets the biggest applause so far, so they’ve papered the house with more than artists. Reading from cue cards Darrel makes his way through his speech like an ox in Aisle 3.
Not yet the horses.
Because it’s election season Peter “the public school system can go fuck itself” Fassbender gets a kick at the can, too. He brings greetings from the Premier (Am I hearing groans?) He rambles on about the contribution the arts make to the economy, and all the jobs that Cavalia brings and whatever.
They are beautiful creatures. Their handlers are attractive and talented, energetic and calm. The equine and human acrobatics are impressive, the projected images phantasmagoric, and the whole thing entirely pointless and repetitive. With so much galloping, trailing banners and shouting, I imagine myself watching a dress rehearsal for a Game of Thrones season finale.
By the time the interval comes I’m thinking about Fassbender but not just Fassbender. Peter alongside Jimmy and Normand, a confluence of oligarchs, of control, capital and spectacle; an unprecedented return engagement, in an undeveloped Vancouver lot just an aquabus ride away from the new casino.
I need air.
On my way out, past the stage, I witness one of those new creative jobs in action: shoveling horseshit.
“The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
Goldman Sachs’ kind walk among us. They’re definitely smaller, a little less conspicuous, but every bit as bloodthirsty. The Beedie sub-species are on display at the 105 Keefer rezoning application open house at the Chinese Cultural Centre. They’re here to observe and spin, in the face of community opposition, a positive impression of the latest iteration of their Chinatown condominium project.
Of course they’re playing the game, making revisions, changing designs. They’re all too willing to shave off a floor, reduce the number of social housing units, and plop some art, somewhere.
But it’s their forth kick at the can. They’re not here to engage in some kind of public dialogue about the cultural life of Chinatown. This is America: time is money. It’s the square footage they want and they’ll take it anyway they can. This is going to happen, by hook, crook, and campaign donation. Patience is running low. The beast must feed.
The tension level is set by the rent-a-thugs at the front door. Beedie’s security drones are thick of limb, thicker of skull, and dead of eye. I saunter past a lunk watching me with all the sentience of an upended chesterfield. Clearly, I’m too legit. With others they take a more hands-on approach.
I enter on a demonstration already in progress: a phalanx of placarded youth are rallying against. Meanwhile, community organizer Melody Ma is being harassed by the aggressively incoherent marketing subordinate Renu Bakshi.
A few City of Vancouver flunkies decorate the periphery, trying their best to blend into the displays. They’re doing well.
Judging by the architectural drawings, Beedie & co. are definitely not wedded to an idea, a “vision.” The concept, if we can call it that, is an out-of scale lump, sporting a few Chinese characters and staggered setbacks.
A street-level passage will invite porousness. It’s fun trying to locate it in the renderings.
And there will be retail and restaurants, if not exactly those depicted.
I thought myself early, but the intrepid Kevin Harding is already here the better part of an hour. He reports a large crowd of very-unlikely locals filling out comment forms and promptly leaving. Stooges, more like, of the lower company echelon variety.
But senior management, the squids proper, remain. In this crowd of the unfashionably but comfortably attired they stand out like highly polished carbuncles – artisanal warts. It’s mostly white male gym jockeys, in form-fitting suits and Italian shoes. I suspect they have lines of credit to accommodate their obviously intensive grooming regimes.
Perusing the bumf, I wander into earshot of well-articulated concern about the private wealth these projects produce for a few and the negative consequences they bring to many others. Bravo.
In response a little company twerp wannabe – sporting a tight suit, a tighter haircut and a flag pole stuck up his ass – offers, “Well, there’s the Community Amenity Contribution.” I snort so hard that I involuntarily power eject a glob of winter mucus out of my left nostril. Not very classy, I know, but I would argue a fitting contribution, given the circumstances.
I wander over the scale model. This is how they see Chinatown: a bland undifferentiated collection of beige polygons begging the gift of their cynical capital.
Squids drift into view. They hover over Chinatown like a pair of outsized, well-healed, coldly calculating aliens, contemplating the lifeforce to be sucked dry. And if its blood they need, the empty lot at Keefer and Columbia is a bulging artery, all too exposed to the funnels that are steadily probing.
Outside, beyond the models and the thugs of various description, in the cold, some other ideas.
1940 to 2017
On December 20, 2016, Translink announced the sale of its Oakridge Transit Centre property.
Previously an army barracks, since 1948 the 5.6-hectare (13.8-acre) site bounded within 37th and 41st avenues and Oak and Willow streets served as a bus depot. At its peak the Oakridge Transit Centre accommodated 244 trolley buses, 182 diesel buses and more than 1,200 staff. By 2006 most services were moved out to TransLink’s Eburne, Hamilton (Richmond) and the Burnaby facilities.
At $440 million, the sale represents the second largest real estate transaction in the province’s history, behind the $480 Jericho land sale also concluded in 2016.
The property is to be developed by Vancouver-based Intergulf Development Group, Richmond-based Kunyuan International Group -a company linked to China-based investors that has acquired more than $740 million in Metro Vancouver real estate over the past three years- and Beijing-based Modern Green Development Co. Ltd. (Developers of the offshore-marketed-by-MAC “sustainably designed” Yu residential project at UBC; “yu” meaning “jade” and jade being green … get it? Cha-ching!)
Curiously, the closed captions of a youtube video on Intergulf’s “conquest of the Cambie corridor” suggests it’s vice-president goes by the moniker Fascist Bus Stop.
With the missus convalescing from a bad cold and that unique form of overexposure caused by family, we opt for an undemanding train ride on the new Evergreen line to deepest darkest Coquitlam.
At Renfrew, we find a love seat with unobstructed views and settle in. Through a world temporarily freeze-dried into an ice-rink, squinting against the sun sitting low in a clear blue sky, we sail over the highway and steadily on through the Eastern Mallships.
At Loughheed Town Centre the train shifts tracks. No longer a circular route sharing a significant portion of the Expo Line, the Millennium Line now runs from VCC Clark to Loughheed Town Centre and back, or -via two-car trains like the one we’re riding- onto the Evergreen Extension to Port Moody and back into Coquitlam.
It starts with a quick confirmation that these above-grade capital megaprojects are less a response than a spur to growth. Pulling out of the station and turning due north, the first thing that greets these tired eyes is a sign for “The City of Lougheed,” a 40 acre master plan community with “23+ stunning high-rise towers, diverse neighbourhoods (sic), shopping and restaurants, striking architecture (sic) and the most connected SkyTrain hub in Metro Vancouver.” If you need something, talk to my Skytrain hub -it’s connected.
The first of the new stops is a local joke that I like to think of as the perineum of Metro Vancouver: Burquitlam. Even here, among the autobody shops, are freshly excavated craters.
Against the concrete and glass bunker with papered-up windows and expensive signage -“The Intersection of Life + Style”- the loose assemblage of unfranchised donair, pizza and coffee shops are the confluence of Living+ Dead. “How long before that turns into a Cactus Club?” she asks, indicating Rhino’s Pub and Liquor Store.
We go underground for a good stretch, turn east again, and resurface at Port Moody –or, rather- “Moody Centre.” (I make a note to stop by the next time I’m suffering the blues.) We pass on the subtle pleasures on offer at Inlet Centre, carry on to Coquitlam Centre, turn north and past Lincoln Centre –actually, just “Lincoln”- and get off at the next and terminal stop, Lafarge Lake-Douglas.
We’re at the foot of the snow dusted Westwood Plateau, itself framed by snow capped mountains. Not all that long ago I knew this place as The Edge of the Civilized World, a where you couldn’t easily distinguish the bears from the yahoos.
Now it’s a civic-commercial nexus, a mix of municipal hall, library and cultural and aquatic centres, with towers and heavily branded malls. (Excepting a surprise clutch of downmarket and idiosyncratic shops and eateries, as well as social service agencies, at Henderson Place.)
Mostly though, it’s just another burgh trading natural capital for a buck. The pines are falling on Pinetree Way, along with the detached homes. In their place a forest of towers and trees made of plastic and fiberglass.
Evergreen? Less green all the time.
2016: the year the music died and “terror clowns” jumped out of bushes and sought elected office. In local news, nominally progressive civic officials condemn the nominally progressive federal government’s approval of oil pipeline projects, while quietly depositing the contributions of their real estate benefactors. Also, Chip Wilson bought everything.
In 2016 word of Our Scam continued to make its way to some new and exotic lands, including Angola, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Curacao, Grenada, Luxembourg, Paraguay, Slovenia, Tunisia and Uganda.
The most popular Scamcouver posts of 2016:
Personal favourite: Home
Over the past year, the most “clicked” media included the following:
In addition to perennial favourites “fuck bob rennie” and/or “bob rennie asshole,” some of the more interesting search terms that drove traffic to this blog over the past year included the following:
A few of the comments posted to this blog in 2016:
“That sums [up] the shithole pretty well in one picture.”
“A future of highrise pied-à-terres, B&Bs and destination events and venues, all walled off from stark poverty and homelessness by gates and private security. The city as high-priced escort.”
Stanley Q Woodvine, on Fantasy City
“Can you imagine being a person who identifies with this ad? Like having that property price arrow shoot right up your ass, while you soar above the clouds high on the delight of purchasing a shred of hideous smart growth in fucking burquitlam that you believe will somehow grow in value?”
Jenables, on The Cringe: Burquitlam
Scammer of the Year
To be eligible for “Scammer of the Year,” candidates must have been character assassinated in this blog’s “Scammer” category at some point over the course of the preceding 52 weeks. Candidates are judged for their ability to present themselves as stalwart citizens while simultaneously deforming the local psychogeography for their personal enrichment; extra points are awarded for douchey behavior. The winner will be notified of their victory by poison pen letter, which will be accompanied by the cash prize of Hell Money I picked up in Chinatown for some loose change. A likeness of the winner will be installed on the “Strip Mall of Shame” page on this blog –pending the establishment of a brick & mortar version that is still awaiting City Hall approval.
The candidates for the forth annual Scammer of the Year award are:
And the winner is … Christie Clark.
The Last Word
Regarding prospects for 2017, I’m young enough to still hope for the best, but old enough to expect something less than that. Either way, I’m ready. I hope.
Bannister v Landy, 1954 Empire Games Mile, Vancouver, Canada
“The build-up to this race was incredible. Athletics, as one of the truly international sports, had followers all over the world. The first four-minute mile had captured the imagination of millions. And now the first two runners to have broken that barrier earlier in the summer, Roger Bannister and John Landy, were to meet in the Vancouver Empire Games.
“The race received huge coverage in the world press. It was given an array of names, The Miracle Mile, The Mile of the Century. As well, the television cameras were ready to supply the new medium live to an estimated 10 million North American viewers. Radio provided live coverage to the rest of the world. Bannister and Landy had become celebrities, hunted down by reporters and cameramen as soon as they arrived in Vancouver.”
Bannister: “At Vancouver [Landy] had the courage to lead at the same speed in a closely competitive race. His boldness forced me to abandon my time schedule and lose myself quite completely in the struggle itself.”
Landy: “I’d rather lose a 3:58 mile than win one in 4:10.”
Just a few metres from the bronze statue of Bannister and Landy, is another image celebrating sport in Vancouver. More colourful and more modern -even post-modern- a prosaic mosaic featuring a self-involved little fella I like to call “Sports Bro.”
An advert offers money to stand in line for a condominium sales offering. Said line-up is reported in the presse faux as evidence of ongoing exuberance in Greater Vancouver’s real estate market, and pretty much ignored by the presse vieux. Apparently, there’s nothing to see here, folks, except maybe a display suite and some floor plans.
Still, I’m curious. Who’s the crowd wrangler? Who is Shannen Carlson?
Appropriately enough, Carlson has a long history of flesh peddling. As the “owner and operator” of Calendar Girl Productions, she oversees such diverse activities as the Whistler Exposed calendar, the Men of Whistler Exposed calendar, and the Bamff Exposed calendar. Fun fact: the inaugural Whistler Exposed calendar won bronze as the Best Wall Glamour Calendar in the 2011 National & World Calendar Awards. “[It’s] like receiving an Academy Award for a calendar,” said Carlson.” It’s a classy calendar; there’s no nudity or inappropriate posing of any sort.”
Marketing one’s goods comes naturally to the native Winnipegger, as evident in her star turn in low budget Cancon feature Scalpers. That’s Carlson in the trailer, being serviced by the pool boy. No nudity, but possibly some inappropriate posing -depending on how such things are defined.