Tag Archives: Photos

Still Hanging On


Docs on a Wire


Into the Belly of the Beast

PUSH and Shove

After kind of a crazy week of attending public meetings and commenting rather obsessively on the civic blogs about the Historic Area Height Review, not to mention endless work meetings and documents due, it sure was nice to take in a little fictional drama, as the PUSH festival’s production of La Marea (The Tide) has taken over the unit block of Water Street.

Each night they close the block to cars, cut the streetlights, and 9 different scenes take place concurrently along the street and in the storefront windows. Each one takes ten minutes to play out, then there’s a break for a couple of minutes between each playing so that the audience can walk to whatever scene they want to see next. They repeat over and over for two hours each night. Over the course of the week, I’ve managed to see each scene at least once now. There’s something rather stimulating about going to pick up a paper or buy milk, and stopping along the way to watch a mini-play for a ten minutes.

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Giant Birds Are Freaky

The giant mutant bird landed so silently that the woman and her daughter didn’t even notice it, transfixed as they were on the skateboarders across the square doing tricks against the benches and rails.

The bird sized them up like little worms, and prepared to peck them off the bench and fly home to her nest to feed her young. She wondered if she could snatch them both at once, thus saving her a trip, but decided in the end to snatch the big one first, and leave the little one to plump up a little more…

My son called these giant birds “freaky” when we rode through the Olympic Village the other day, and wished sincerely that they be removed. When I told him it was supposed to be public art, he said, “I see,” and shook his head, still not convinced of its merits. On the other hand, he and I both thought the restored Salt building fronting the square is a gem.

Cool to look through the building and see all the exposed rafters. Even the underside is posted up and visible to passers by on the north side.

And this door is a bit of a head scratcher… Watch your step!

But back to the birds. It turns out that they are a reference to the public art in a social housing quartier built outside of Paris in the late 1960’s called La Grande Borne (thanks to architect Ron Simpson for pointing this out). The pigeons were designed by artist Francois LaLanne.

Hailed as an innovative urban design feat, the quartier was built between a triangle of freeway in the Paris suburbs, and features all sorts of public art and interesting building features. It is an excellent example of low-cost, high density housing.

So perhaps the Olympic Village architects were trying to suggest that their village design is also groundbreaking and innovative. I dunno. La Grande Borne, in some ways, is a high concept ghetto, and was a focal point of the mostly immigrant youth protests outside Paris in 2008.

The Olympic Village, on the other hand, is still empty streets and barren boulevards. Even the rich, from home or abroad, can’t afford to live here.


Powell Street Festival Returns to Oppenheimer

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.