Sunday, November 22, 2015

Regarding the new book and Facebook Community, Vancouver Vanishes, I have to say it reminds me of the Modernist heritage battle I was part of in the early 1990's over the fate of the Main Branch Library, a silver Governor General's award winning building designed by Semmens and Simpson in 1957.

It's not that different an issue in the sense that the old character homes being leveled for the uber rich are the victims of the same old gang: greedy developers, super wealthy buyers who care nothing for Vancouver's history and may not even live in these giant houses, plus weasel politicians who dance to their tune.

Like Caroline Adderson, co-author of  both the book, Vancouver Vanishes and the Facebook Community of the same name, I believe whether it's character homes from the early 20th Century or the mid-century West Coast Modernism of my father's generation, we need a collective roar of disapproval from Vancouver's caring citizens.

This never came in the Library issue because at that time Modernism was the enemy. One wag wrote to the Georgia Straight calling that building "evil, phallic Modernism", despite the actual shape of the place. I blame many academics for fostering this ignorant attitude by systematically, and with the apparent blessing of so-called Post Modernist critics, laying at the feet of this movement all the ills of western society.

Doubtless they would say these early houses now being destroyed are relics of colonial and eurocentric thinking and are better off gone. Like the architect of the new library, Moshe Safdie, who called the attempts to save the old library nothing but sentimentality, we are again being over run by a cabal who cares nothing for Vancouver  history, short as it is, who will remind us that, like the old Main Branch VPL, these structures are not worth saving. 

I urge everyone to write Vancouver City Council and join with Caroline in her efforts to save our heritage:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Let in the Infinite?
Text by Paul McRandle
Collages by Gregg Simpson

Let in the infinite? What a racket it makes tumbling from the closet like a host of clown-shaped sponges rising in a water jug. The infinite is a porpoise trained by the CIA to attach listening devices and strange boring mechanisms that harvest the words onboard along with every noise—forever. So there isn’t to be more said than what might occur in the hull of a Russian trawler. 

I’m sitting on shore sucking a lozenge, pondering the shapes in the waves, the shadows of the surf, rocks, subtle things fleeing out to the horizon. It’s my way of garnering some bit of the world in this hideous present. The sea is a vast personality. A twisting, confused melange of impulses at war with itself and the world on every scale—diatoms having it out with flagella, carcids rising from sandy pits to pinch off angelfish fins, mankind scouting about above like children rubbing their butts against asphalt, dragging their deep-weighted prisons.

 It’s a numberless volume of death, energy, chaos, night, and we can do little more than watch its light from the shoreline flashing up towards the infinite from the skin of that denser infinite beneath.

A Phony War
Text by Paul McRandle
Collages by Gregg Simpson

 A phony war plagued the Balkans for the off-seasons of three consecutive decades. Generals babbled on television screens to the populace about necessary sacrifices to avoid the devastating consequences of an unjust peace. For Shlomo, it was a weary day when he finally had to pack up his family and move to a place in which he might be able to read a newspaper without unattributed sources speculating on the necessity of continued attacks. He found a roadster with a roof rack and attached a wide trailer to a new hitch.

With these he was able to pack a lifetime’s collection of pewter figurines, ewers, world atlases, and a range of pot plants from the exquisitely hued to the shockingly poisonous. His children rode in the trailer, playing cards on an old canasta table and inviting passersby to gamble with them. His wife drove and he consulted atlases at random to lead them across the continents in search of an intelligible realm. 

The passage over the Rhine into Austria involved acts of bribery he would have shunned in previous days. The guards were the usual sadists and Shlomo’s display of tears and hat-wringing, an act he’d practiced before in dealing with this border, proved insufficiently degrading.

 He was asked to unhitch the trailer and de-articulate the transmission of his roadster to demonstrate neither contained a bomb. When that had been done, they impounded the roadster anyway and Shlomo understood that it was the only bargaining chip he had. He left pulling the trailer, a roadster short, while wife and kids alternately heckled him and played canasta. 

What kind of a life had he let himself in for? He took counsel on occasion from his wise namesake, but as he trod the bitter miles he found himself increasingly bereft of uplift. He never had these kinds of problems. What kind of advice could a guy like him give a Balkan refugee? Shlomo shuddered on, feet plunging into the muck of the road until he’d sunk to the shins and then the knees.

He urged his family to climb out and help him, but they rigged a sail and set off across the mire sea without him, waving and wishing him well as they dwindled in the distance. 

He was truly encased, couldn’t move a toe, and felt vermin crawling about his calves. With some internal tugging, however he found that very gradually he could slough off his external husk, pulling himself up through aged skin and disposable organs until he managed to climb out his own mouth—happily he didn’t get turned around—and land with a splash naked on the ground. 

His new form had pleasing adaptations. He possessed a large and daunting third ear in the middle of his back and his eyes could be removed and relocated to sockets scattered across his body. He possessed a spare brain in a bucket, which would do him some good so long as he held onto it. His feet had long growths jutting forward from the toes like two ski-tips, allowing him to glide across the muck with grace. This wasn’t the body he wanted, but it wasn’t the world he wanted either.