Tag Archives: facadism

The Douglas Coupland School of Marketing

What the heck is this box doing at the corner of Carrall and Cordova, next to an old disabled couple camped out on the stoop of the empty Rainier? What is “House in a box”, a new form of housing for the poor? Is some charity collecting appliance boxes and giving them to homeless people? Is this so crazy that I should visit the website, or drop by the address on the box to check it out?

Well, it was only a block out of my way, so I walked by, and it was a bloody “concept” furniture store having a grand opening, and this box in the street was their cynical little marketing ploy to generate foot traffic on a block where there generally isn’t that many pedestrians owning new condos that need professional design and furnishings, if you know what I mean…

I found this marketing ploy to be totally disrespectful and sickening (and I fully realize that I’m playing right into their hands by posting pictures), but unless the owners were just simply too clueless about their new neighbourhood to see why this was not ethical advertising, they should be ashamed of themselves. Then again, if they knew the neighbourhood and the high rate of business failures in Gastown, especially since the recession, well, they probably wouldn’t have moved here in the first place….

As if that brush with guerrilla advertising wasn’t enough, I was walking along later that night and there appeared to be another opening at the old kicks store that just went belly up on Powell after 3 years. When I saw the sandwich board with “RootsxDouglasCoupland” in black and white beside a rainbow banner, I thought, hmmn, maybe he’s launching a new book.

Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship to Douglas Coupland as a writer. On the one hand, I thought Generation X was boring as hell when it first came out, and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. This is supposed to be the defining novel of my generation? Compared to Trainspotting or Fight Club or American Psycho, Generation X was embarrassingly cute fluff. Pffft. I could write a better novel than that, no sweat, and I have a drawer full of unpublished fragments to prove it!

But on the other hand, Coupland is only a few years older than me and grew up just up the mountainside from where I did. His locally-set novels and non-fiction reflect an eerily similar geographic perspective on the city to the one I grew up with. Vancouver is one of those places where geographical location can play a big part in shaping your psyche, and Coupland has captured that sense of ironic distance to the city one gets from growing up across the water and high up on the side of the North Shore mountains. As Rudyard Kipling once mused, “Vancouver is a beautiful but fickle woman, best admired from afar….” Well, the North Shore mountains are an ideal place to admire her from.

Coupland’s writing grew on me over time, as did a shared fascination with historical minutae. And then, about ten years ago, I went to a VIWF event featuring Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh and local boy Douglas Coupland in an intimate conversation. I thought the foul-mouthed, hard-living Scot would make a meal of Coupland, but it turned out to be the other way around. Coupland disarmed Welsch immediately by taking off his sweater to reveal a Hearts jersey, and then proceeded to have everyone laughing and enthralled for two hours, including Irvine. Since then, I’ve gained a definite appreciation for Coupland’s work. Although I still don’t like everything he creates, there’s no denying there’s a certain genius at work behind it.

Well, the small group of smokers and texters milling around on the sidewalk outside the store looked just like the impeccable hipsters on the rainbow RootsxDouglasCoupland posters I had seen in a couple of places around town earlier in the week. In contrast to the fashion slaves, I was three days unshaven, flying the flannel, and sporting twelve-year-old Docs worn razor thin at the sole – clearly a local and not on the guest list.

One of the chics rolled her eyes at me as I walked up and poked my head in the door just to see if Coupland was actually there. He was talking to a small group, the last few left in the store, which I now noticed was full of Roots clothes that I would never wear, mainly because I couldn’t afford to these days, but also because if I were to buy some new clothes, it wouldn’t be these ones, yunno, cause they looked kinda touristy. Though I might have gone in and dropped $20 on a book…

But oh, Doug, you can’t be serious! You designed a clothing line for Roots? And you’re launching it here in Gastown because, what, it gives you some kinda cred? You make me wanna puke! And so does your technicolour yawn of a marketing campaign, complete with the obligatory photo collage (like Rennie’s Woodwards ads) and the flurry of canned tweets it links to. I dare anyone to view the RootsxDC splash, marketing video and click through to the collage and not feel immediately nauseous and the need for a hot shower.

I’m sorry, but I’m not sensing any irony here, just a pure, unadulterated shill.

Thankfully, it was a one-off event, and Roots isn’t opening a store permanently on Powell. I guess they have a little more business sense than MAD, no matter how questionable their latest clothing line may be.



Heightened Senses: A Late Night Walk in the Rain

What’s that you say? Public support for any tower proposal was virtually non-existent?

At the risk of being tossed in the klink for a sideways glance on Day Six of the DES popo pre-Olympic sweep, last night I took a late stroll around Chinatown to check out the only TWO tower sites approved, right? Huh? Right? Um, well, unless we consider… the financial considerations… cause someone, I’m not sure who, might have maybe inquired, so we thought maybe we’d look into it, on the City’s dime…

Nothing like a walk in the rain to heighten your senses! It’s money well spent, so to speak. Unlike other things….

I reconfirmed in my own mind that the Budget Rental site one could sorta swallow a high rise on, given Fung owns it and it’s still under the height of the Sun – pretty much anything will improve this intersection, And hey, now someone will be there to complain to Alex Tsakumis about the pissing drunks, loud groups of girls, too many furries coming and going, or the constant reek of McDonald’s deep fryers from across the street in Tinseltown.

But 8 East Pender on the SE corner at Carrall (bordering the new Greenway no less) is right across the alley to the north of Sun Yat Sen. So how the heck is this site any different than the site Council nixed at Keefer Square or the Cultural Centre site that didn’t even make it to Council? It’s still 150 feet over and above Sun Yat Sen, and much closer to it than Keefer Square. Remember, the business plan here says: go for UNESCO World Heritage Site. But, but… the Scholar’s Room won’t see this one unless you stand on your tippy toes, so, yeah, its totally OK, and there’ll be no shadows coz it’s to the north? A fine logic, indeed.

Yes, a tower and podium proposal to set it back …yawn… and lessen the spatial impact, but then, on the other side, across the street on Pender, a string of heritage pearls lie low, awaiting polishing. Either way, aspect ratio be damned, the sun will hardly illuminate the pearls, you know. And we’re gunning for FIFTEEN storeys here! Blah! It won’t matter what size plate you serve this thing up on…

And speaking of nimbys, I bet all these new high risers on Carrall will band together and force Rennie to take down Everything Will be Alright, or at least turn it off by nine pm so they don’t have to stare at it every bloody night from their roosts.

And, in an ode to how fast council quorums can make real estate decisions, the For Sale sign is already up on the old (unprotected heritage) service station in Keefer Square – the one tower site that got nixed by Council. I guess there’s really no point in updating the Heritage Register at this point, eh? It certainly wasn’t on the agenda presented to council by Planning, because hey, this review is all about high ideals, right? Groans (from speculative heights). More groans.

Twelve storey Paris-style apartments traversing the Hastings parade route! Think of it, even higher than the ugly Luxling! Quick, wall that whole sucker in before an Area Plan process is approved! The 20% is already institutionalized; so there’s really no limit to what we can do here now, old boy! Ever been to Greenwich, mate?

For Wendy P, and all the starving or successful artists who used to live around here, a final thought to ponder about the INTENSIFICATION! policy that’s behind all this, as quoted from a Skyscraper:

“These changes should allow the populate to increase from 8000 today to just under 17000 upon build-out in about 20-40yrs.” (Sic)

Most of you will be dead by then anyway, eh? It doesn’t really matter if it’s livable.

And either way, I’ll still be a ghost.

So I’ll give it a rest, already…

.  .  .

Quick! Disinvoke reality. Commence non-committal dance party.

“Captain’s Blog… Um… you know what, I’m so over my blog. Whatever.”

Because there’s nothing worse than the sudden realization that you are lame, even if you are the only Hipsters in Space.


Last of the old Woodwards building…