Thursday, 24 July 2014

Where ART thou?!

Each and every year, the city of Vancouver hosts its annual culture crawl.  It's an opportunity for you to get out there to get to know your local artists and aritsans. The rest of the year, if you want creative genius, your best bet is to get out and about - go on. Go outdoors for a stint. It's good for you. In the best of all possible worlds, you can taste the sweet scent of the great outdoors while imbibing in the heady flavours of high art in an open air museum.  Vancouver is nothing if not the best of all places, so join me.  Let's see what the Biennale collection has on offer this year, shall we?

Beauty is truth, truth beauty.  Keats
Forget ArtWalk. Go for an ArtRide, a Tour de Biannale all your own.  In this town you'll find your trail blazed with art and sculpture easily enough.  It's simple. Just stick to the waterfront paths. Take the beautiful seaside journey, and you'll find all sorts of art out there, just begging for your appreciation.  C'mon.  Saddle up.  Let's see what we can find.

The reflecting pool is undergoing maintenance, so it's dry.
Today's guided tour starts in the heart of Kitsilano at the planetarium.  Do you ever feel crabby?  Ever get that nebulous feeling, you know, where you need to get far, far away from it all?

Grab a bike and follow me on an interplanetary adventure! Well, but maybe we'd better not get outta this world just yet.  For those extra-terrestrial adventures, we'll have to planet better.

Ahoy there!  What's this I sea?

Huh.  Well, what do you know?  It's a floating installation, an exhibit in Vancouver's third Biennale Open Air Museum. I wonder what Ai Weiwei is going to get up to...?  His contribution is still being kept secret, though it's sure to be provocative.  I can't wait to see it!  In the mean time,

you'll find all sorts of interesting sculptures along the waterfront.

What's that?  Feeling a bit rusty?  Never mind.  You'll fit right in.

Something weighing heavily on your shoulders?  

No problem! This bridge might not be built over troubled waters, but a ride across it is sure to ease your mind.  Art is always meant to be provocative, isn't it?  Its purpose is to engage its audience, to cause thought, reaction, and emotion, and in that sense, the Biennale collection certainly does its bit.

This installation is all about urban densification.  Can you tell? healthy cities have to grow taller.  Here in Vancouver, people always fight the development of high-rises along the light rail transit lines, but really, it's the healthiest choice. Urban sprawl is ugly, and counter-productive. And as Vancouver's west end so beautifully exemplifies, it is possible to create dense neighbourhoods which remain livable, tight-knit communities. This sculpture also reminds us that despite our many differences, we are all connected.  We are one.

Time ticks inexorably on, but a bit of electrolysis as it was submersed under water for at least a year has left a distinctive patina on this particular Time Top

Some exhibits are beside the water, others in it.

Every city should have a floating ray gun whose target changes with the tides. Don't you think?

Some exhibits are touched by the tides,

while others artistically express the wind's whims.  The wind as artist... that's soooo lotus land, don't you think? :) Biennale suits Vancouver, too.  It is a temporary thing, a fleeting artistic expression that is also one day gone with the wind, a thing of the past.  Unless someone does something extraordinary, that is.  Yue Minjun's A-Maze-Ing Laughter

was so well loved that Lulu Lemon founder and creator of the sheer yoga-pant Chip Wilson donated 1.5 million dollars to purchase the work and ensure that it could stay

to entertain Vancouverites and tourists alike for generations to come.  

Dennis Oppenheim's Engagement Rings stayed, too. 

If ever an exhibit had a ring of permanency about it...

On the other side of the park, sitting in the sand in all of its corroding glory, you'll find what amounts to a poignant reminder of the impermanence of absolutely everything, and despite being on permanent display: 
Bernar Vanet's arcs of steel.

I love how this art represents both the artist's unique world perspective, and and at the same time, it's a unique perspective from which to view the world.  

Imagine what this propeller's pilot  might have seen!

There is a lot of blue sky to explore up there!

So often you see toys made to look just like teeny-tiny copy of real life things. So for example, you'll see one of those London double-decker busses, only it's two inches tall.  This sculpture is great, because it is the exact opposite - it's a toy made larger than life!

Art, art everywhere...

sometimes it is tucked away, out of sight and out of mind till you stumble upon it. Whether you see it, whether you are aware of it or not, it is still there, silently standing vigil, waiting for each of us to come and explore, to enjoy.  Like this:

And people say I get around. :)

 Mmm balls.  :D 
Art always interacts with the world around it.  It challenges your pre-conceptions, it makes you think, makes you feel.

The thing I love best about Vancouver's Biennale is that it takes art outside, away from the traditional museum venue and into the real world. This way, it becomes an integral part of the world all around, so that our interactions with it are genuine.  Art becomes a part of daily life.  Continuing along on our way, we ran smack dab into the Olympic cauldron.  There's a thin line between art and propaganda sometimes.

I heard that they lit the cauldron when they opened up the Cactus Club restaurant next door.  Strange, that. I always thought that the Olympic flame is supposed to represent the spirit of competition, the athlete's passion, drive and determination, not mojitos and hot buffalo chicken wings.

double double toil and trouble, fire burn and corporate interests bubble
It sits idle, awaiting the next corporate grand opening, comfortably at home among the financial district's grand glass towers.  Imposing, not interacting.

But don't worry. We've still got Douglas Copeland.  All's well that ends whale!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Why are big companies so short-sighted? It's time they learned to maximize their prophets!

Q:  What do bicycles and airplanes have in common?
A:  Bike seats!

You might think that business class travellers wouldn't stand for such seating arrangements, but really, they have nothing to complain about, because for the money they have to shell out, surely they will be upgraded to Brooks saddles. 

If they implemented recumbent technology, they could just stack the seats on top of one another! Imagine how many more passengers you could fit into a plane that way!  And what's that?  Bit of turbulence causing issues?  No worries. There's always the old shark fin saddle.  The soon to be released ribbed version will add an extra dimension of pleasure to any turbulence you may encounter along the way.

Yeah, ok, so the future of air travel is nothing to rave about, but have hope.  There are still bikes.

And if you happen upon a bike rave in Vancouver, you'll find thousands upon thousands of them.

What's that?  You've never  been to a bike rave?  Lighten up!  You're sure to love it.

Let go of your pre-conceptions.  It's not all about the glow-schtick. 

Actually, Vancouver has lots of things to rave about these days.  Like the Point Grey bike lane, for example.

Have you ever noticed how the level of resistance to new bike infrastructure is directly proportional to the affluence of the neighbourhoods involved?  This particular lane created unprecedented opposition and controversy before it was built, though it sure is popular now.  This used to be a very dangerous, difficult road to travel, a congested and fast-moving thoroughfare, and now it is a pedestrian and bicycle paradise.  The houses along Point Grey used to have to deal with endless heavy traffic, twenty four hours a day, and now the road is almost like their own private drive.  It's really hard to understand just what all of the fuss was about.
Resistance = no place like ohm.

And don't I know it.  Ohm sweet ohm.  

And in other current events, Kinder Morgan wants to build a tunnel through Burnaby mountain to triple the amount of oil they transport to their  Burnaby tanker terminal, and they can't understand why Vancouverites don't dig it.  Never mind that an oil spill in this harbour would be devastating.  Never mind that ramping up petrochemichal production is counterproductive to planetary health and the greater good of its inhabitants. Kinder Morgan has to placate its shareholders and we all know that's really what matters. As the Canadian Pacific railway demonstrates, people don't count.  The environment?  Poohey.  Who cares?  Sacrifice it on the altar of profit.

And me?

After spending some time in Alberta, home of the tarsands, and where Car is King, I am just happy to be home.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Playing in the face of defeat.

News Flash!

Vancouver's carbon footprint went through the roof this week when somebody torched the train bridge over the mighty Fraser river. You know, the bridge that feeds the Arbutus Corridor which I was railing on about the other day?

It's pretty convenient, don't you think, that opening the corridor to rail traffic is off the books for the foreseeable future?

For the record, I didn't do it, though it certainly is a victory for Vancouver's guerilla gardeners. I was no-where near that bridge at the time.  I was downtown, where an oblivious race official was smoked by a pace car. When that fire was set I was all set to watch the women's Gastown Grand Prix...

It was BC Superweek, and I did my best to support the girls at every turn. Superweek's organisers claimed that there would be pay parity for the women this time round, and while it's true that the podium winnings were equal, there sure was a discrepancy between the amount the women could win in a prime lap, and what the men made.  The girls had a few $200 laps sprinkled evenly throughout the race, and the men's race started out the same, but they had a lot more primes, and the men's laps paid better, with a few $500 primes and even one $1200 lap!

Still, it did my heart good to see the girls giving it their all like that.  It was great.  I spent a lot of time hanging out at the races,

dreaming of riding fast...

as everybody went whizzing past.

That was last week.  It was a pretty good time, all in all. It was happy, and it was fun. I spent a bit of time outdoors under the sun,

and some time indoors with friends, too. 

Then I heard that my dear, sweet Auntie Em is gravely ill.   We quickly made our way across the Rockies to spend some time with her in Edmonton while she has time to spend, and that's where we're at.   Horace Mann advised us to "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity," and perhaps he was right.  I aspire to improve this world for sure, but perhaps I'd best take a page from Emily's book.  She lived a simple life. She served the greater good. Her kindness, her cheerfulness and her helpfulness made the lives of the people she touched much more beautiful for having known her.  That spells victory in my books.

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” 

Here's to the divinity in humanity, and to a life well lived.  Thanks for checking in.  Talk to you soon!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Fit to be tied: railing on over the Arbutus corridor.

Gidday, Peeps! What do you know? It's time to train again! You know that old saying "The more things change, the more they stay the same"... ? 

Don't believe it for a minute.  This photograph, looking south-west at Granville Island from downtown Vancouver in 1946, shows the Granville Bridge, the Burrard Bridge, and the old railway bridge over False Creek, which ended at the old Canadian Pacific (CP) railway yard on the north shore of the creek. All that's left of that yard today is the Roundhouse, Yaletown's community, arts, and recreation centre.

False Creek looks quite a bit different today.

Notice how the train bridge has disappeared?  See any train yards?  Funny, that.  They've been gone for yonks.
At the south end of the Burrard Bridge today you'll find the terminus of the Arbutus Corridor, a hotly contested tract of land running through Vancouver, from the Fraser River to False Creek.  In 2000, Vancouver City counsel passed a bylaw which determined that the corridor should be a public thoroughfare. CP contested the bylaw, but the Supreme court upheld it.  Since then, they have made an awful lot of noise about selling that land to develop it.  Since the public, the city, and the country all object to their plans, they have decided to pretend they are planning to re-opening that corridor to rail traffic.  Never mind that it goes no-where, dead-ending at a marina.

The Arbutus Corridor terminus: an overgrown patch of grass.
CP's letter to area residents this week states that 

“The Arbutus corridor is a valuable asset for CP; therefore, as with all our assets, we must optimize its use on behalf of our shareholders,” CP said in a recent letter to area residents. “CP has discussed the future of the Arbutus line with the City of Vancouver for several years. Unfortunately, discussions have now ended without compromise. CP remains open to further discussions but, failing that, we must move forward with our operational options.”

The overgrown track runs along under those power poles.
According to the Globe and Mail, CP's "letter says all personal items, such as sheds, structures and gardens, within CP land are to be removed by the end of the month. Survey stakes have been placed along the route and CP has also posted a map of corridor boundaries on its website.

CP has not yet decided whether trains will be reintroduced on the route, CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said on Thursday.
“This is the next stage of reviewing operational options for this corridor,” Mr. Greenberg said, adding that the encroachments need to be cleared so that engineers can determine what needs to be done to bring tracks up to federal regulatory standards." But what for?!  What could they possibly run a rail line TO? 

There are a lot of gardens along the corridor, 



productive spaces.

Lovely Gabriel gave me a turnip and some greens, bless his heart.

He called what he does Guerilla Gardening.  Draft me, Uncle Sam. I am all for that kind of Guerilla Warfare. In fact, in my imagination, (where you know I spend as much time as possible) I have tons of cash at my disposal. I use it to grow vertical gardens (with symbiotic fish farms) on every available southern facing surface in town. Sigh... always the dreamer... :D

As it stands now, you can walk, or ride a bike all along the tracks, making your way through the city in the most peaceful possible way.  

And hey!  If you ride from the Fraser River to False Creek along the corridor today, you can stop right near the end for a cuppa coffee to enjoy along with the view once you reach the grassy terminus.  And really, you might as well stop, because the route takes you right THROUGH the Starbucks at Granville Island.

Do you suppose that means the structure will have to be removed by the end of the month?

You'll find the corridor flush with all sorts of interesting gardening ideas.

That's probably because it goes through all sorts of Vancouver neighbourhoods.

Including some of the hoods up in the hills...

Oh, I know!  Maybe they can re-open the railway line to serve the new McLaren dealership down there on second ave, right across from Lamborghini, and down the road from Lotus.  

What with the cost of living here in Vancouver, we're all growing tremendously, unbelievably wealthy and are in need of a fuckload more high end, luxury cars.  Across the board.  All of us.  We'll need train loads full of 'em.  For sure.  Yeah that's it.  

Where were we?

Oh yeah... the line also crosses its fair share of roads, arterial and otherwise.  

Can you imagine Broadway, 

-already the busiest transit corridor on the continent- ground to a halt to make way for pointless rail traffic? 

 Sure, that'll go over well.

I never thought of Bea as a track bike before, but you see?  Sometimes things change.  When the Arbutus corridor line was built, there was a tangible, viable commercial purpose for the track.  You simply cannot say the same thing today.  What does CP intend to move through here today?  Bitumen from the Tar Sands? They could unload it at the dock by the farmer's market on Granville Island. That's certain to be a very popular choice.  Or maybe they intend to move Vancouver's  water treatment chlorine along this corridor. What could possibly go wrong with that?  Orrrrrr they could use it to haul crushed ice to the yachtsmen at the marina. Ah yes, that MUST be it. Prolly the very same fellas about to make a killing off developing that corridor....

Let's be serious for a minute. It's just greed, pure and simple. CP is doing this because they want money. The bosses in the 'C' suite offices, along with the rest of the major shareholders, want money for it, despite the fact that they paid absolutely NOTHING for the property in the first place.  The province granted it to them in 1886, presumably because what suited CP's interests at the time also suited the province.

Ha! It looks like I was dead wrong. CP doesn't have a very good track record, and they're not doing anything to improve it. This nation was built on greed, and the appropriation of territorial and community lands for the benefit of a few specific individuals, and at least in that respect, nothing has changed.

PS.  Hello!

Strangely enough, the bridge at the bottom of the Arbutus corridor burned down this week....