bear plugs dog

A couple of summers ago, this page took in The Only Animal's production of Other Freds, a poignant and very funny look at what our lives would be like if they were just a little different. The production took place between the ferry docks at Granville Island, and (literally) in False Creek itself. It was one of these things one had to see to believe, and be amazed. Unfortunately, the show lost money because the company never had the promotional resources to bribe this city's celebrity & crap-obsessed entertainment media into recognizing this show was brilliant.

Fortunately, The Only Animal is back with Dog Eat Dog, playing this week at the PuSH festival. The show isn't just based on a true story, it's based on five true stories of people trying to hold on to humanity in a world that chews them up like so much kibble. The show plays until February 4. Show up for tonight's performance (8:00 PM, Performance Works, Granville Island) and tell the folks at the box office "I have a dog bite" and get your ticket for only $15.

And now back to The bear604 show, already in progress....


Cut the fuse and damp the powder

Once again, the Celebration of Light fireworks festival is in danger of not going ahead this year. This page says it's time for Vancouver to stop shovelling money into the overrated summertime spectacle. While taking a sniff of reality (rather than what's being illegally passed around English Bay on a fireworks night), one realizes that:

-The fireworks do not make the city "World Class", unless one believes that assaults, underage drinking, and bitchy "they sat right in front of us" letters to the West Ender enhance the civic reputation.

-The fireworks do nothing for local businesses, unless one has a party boat or pepper spray concern. If one pokes his head out from the herds shrieking their way up and down Robson or Davie Street, it becomes apparent that very few merchants stay open on a fireworks night, and some are shuttered for fear the crowd is going to party like it's 1994.

Civic leaders shouldn't try to hurry to fill the alleged void left by the fireworks either. Remember the slipshod efforts to resurrect the Vancouver Sea Festival? Why can't we just have a summer to catch our breath from this bizarre winter, and enjoy the 'little' things like Greek Days, the Powell Street Festival, Illuminares, the PNE, and evenings at English Bay watching the sun go down without fearing it could be our last.


Hit the mute button

This page has come to the conclusion that the Harper Conservatives are having trouble cancelling their subscription to Failed Republican Strategy. It's the only explanation I can come up with as to why with no immediate federal election in the offing, the Conservatives would launch a series of attack ads against Liberal Leader Stephane Dion. The Tories appear to have forgotten what happened to their GOP soulmates when they resorted to attack ads to fend off Democratic challengers in last year's elections. They also appear to have forgotten their own history with attack ads. In the tight British Columbia races of the last federal election, the Tories even went after the NDP with attack ads, and ended up losing four incumbent seats to the New Democrats.

It's particularly annoying that the Conservatives are concentrating their air assault against Dion during this Sunday's Super Bowl telecast. Canadian viewers have long complained that regulations allowing the Canadian rights holder (Global TV) to superimpose its feed of the game over the host U.S. network denies fans the sweetest entertainment plum of the afternoon: the clever and creative pleas for attention that are Super Bowl TV commercials. On Sunday afternoon, viewers won't be asking themselves if they can trust Stephane Dion, they'll be asking "I'm missing the Bud Bowl for this?"


It didn't count as drunk driving either

Gordon Campbell says that owning shares in Alcan and at the same time authourizing BC Hydro to purchase surplus electricity from the aluminum concern doesn't constitute a conflict of interest. This page says bullsh*t, Mr. Premier.

Campbell's claim that the Alcan shares are part of an RRSP and that he has no control of what shares go into his portfolio simply doesn't wash: that's like saying one isn't guilty of drunk driving because he didn't know what the host put in the martinis. I know that the facts posted here are not always as precise as they should be, but this page is absolutely certain that Canaccord Capital is not the only RRSP on the market. For example, these people handle mine.

Either Gordon Campbell puts his investments in a blind trust, or takes his RRSP somewhere. Better yet, this embarassment of a Premier could do British Columbians the favour he's owed us since Maui and step down. Weasal words will help Alcan's appeal to the BC Utilities Commission, and they won't help Campbell either.


The cheque's in the mail

A few months ago, the Tories axed a billion dollar mittful of government programs to make Stephen Harper feel like a big man, and to pass out tax cuts to their rich friends. Among those programs was the Supporting Communities Partnership Strategy, which funds 23 social service agencies in the Lower Mainland. Supporting Communities is supposed to be replaced with something called the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, but Ottawa isn't saying when the money is going to be released.

According to federal sources, the money is supposed to be released by the end of the year. Given the tight-fisted and belligerent nature of the Conservatives towards people at the margins of society, that would be when hell freezes over. If people in the Vancouver area thought this winter has been awful...


State of the Union quiz

If you watched the State of the Union last night on CNN, the cutaway reaction shots to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pretty much said it all. One was all "oh....my....gawd", while the other was "I don't believe this sh*t". Meanwhile, John McCain looked relieved to be outnumbered by Democrats and that he wasn't going to have to back the Bush pony on its way to the glue factory.

1. President Bush's speech left this page with the impression that:

a) The President is an idiot.
b) The President is a Sociopath.
c) I would never play poker with Nancy Pelosi.
d) I should switch to cold medication that induces fewer hallucinations.

2. Reducing domestic oil consumption by 20% over five years to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil will work if:

a) The U.S. doesn't waste fuel by bringing all those troops home from Iraq.
b) Enough movies based on Marvel Comics characters are released to convince Americans of radiation's positive effects, thereby softening the public's response to nuclear power.
c) The President and the remaining Republican members of Congress sacrifice their first born children to the oil industry to make up for Big Oil's inconvenience.
d) Canada doesn't count as a foreign country.

3. Which geographic location was not mentioned during the State of the Union address?

a) Afghanistan
b) Iran
c) North Korea
d) Independence, Kentucky
e) New Orleans, Louisiana

4. The President's concept of a "civilian reserve corps to help fight the war on terror" amounts to:

a) Fantasy Camp for '24' fans.
b) Another good excuse not to talk to your neighbors.
c) A backdoor draft like what happened to the Army Reserve.
d) Forget the backdoor, this is just shoving people through the bathroom window.

5. The President plans to make health care more affordable for Americans by:

a) Taxing health care coverage.
b) Increasing taxes to employer-funded health care plans .
c) Demanding 'reforms' to Medicare and Medicaid .
d) Reducing strain of the private system by putting 92,000 more Americans on the Army's health care plan over the next five years.


"The city is haunted by ghosts from broken homes"
-This could be anywhere in the world, by Alexisonfire

Yesterday while watching the NFL playoffs, this page was advised by a Global TV news update that "the most anticipated trial in BC history starts tomorrow". My immediate reaction was surprise, given that I didn't think the Basi/Virk trial was starting until April. However, once it was obvious that the anchor was referring to the Robert Pickton trial, my feelings changed, and I'll share some of them with you.

I don't think anything will happen in this trial to save the lives of Downtown Eastside prostitutes. In fact, the attention the Pickton trial will receive will more than likely make women living on the margins even more vulnerable. For every gory detail that comes out about the murders, the screaming for tougher sentencing will get louder, which plays directly to the Harper government's social conservative base. Never mind emergency assistance or funding for social housing, two areas which if properly funded could prevent women from trying prostitution, it's all about longer sentences, bigger prisons, and collecting enough timber for the gallows should the Tories ever win a majority government.

The ongoing lack of economic security under an aggressive capitalist regime inevitably leads to a lack of personal security. For the next few months, this fact is on display at the courthouse in New Westminster.

A note to 206 - area readers: there is the strong likelihood of a publication ban in this trial, which means that I may not be writing about anything in Western Washington until I'm back there in a few weeks. There's a problem with having the cable company as your ISP, and during previous bans Seattle area TV stations went dark during the news and the Times and P-I sites were firewalled. Stay tuned - we'll probably hear more about a publication ban from the mediots during the trial than we will about inadequate welfare rates or effective addiction treatment strategies.


Catastrophe times Five

The U.S. Department of Energy wants Canadian companies to increase production in Alberta's Oil Sands at five times its current rate.

In his State of the Union Address, George Bush said he wanted to reduce America's dependence on oil from the Middle East. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean reducing America's oil consumption, it means that Canada pays for America's oil addiction with our environment and our sovereignty. Currently the Oil Sands produce a million barrels of oil a day, and a barrel of oil produces about 80 kg of Greenhouse gases. The Oil Sands also razed the Northern Alberta where this page grew up into a barren, toxic sewer, and the volume of water required to extract the bitumen (four barrels of water for a barrel of oil) creates ongoing shortages for Alberta farms, families, and communities. Imagine what those shortages will be like for Albertans if the Oil Sands demands 20 million barrels of water a day.

If the Harper government abandons its recently discovered environmental foothold (out of political convenience) to cater to the whims of Big Oil (and its Conservative puppet regime in Alberta), 400,000 metric tonnes of Greenhouse gases a day will make it too late for any Tory Greenwashing, or for that matter, anything else. Remember the Conservatives' campaign slogan from a year ago "Stand up for Canada"? Either they do it on this one, or there may not be a Canada left to stand up for.


Please please Obama don't hurt em....

Senator Barack Obama (D - IL) has established an exploratory committee for a run at the Presidency in 2008. In the hours following yesterday's announcement, pundits and various talking heads juggled enthusiasm with skepticism about the nascent Obama candidacy. A key question is whether or not the Junior Senator from Illinois has enough experience and political skills to take a shot at the White House.

If it's a question of political skills, this is a man who, when faced with the challenges of becoming the first African-American President, and what the Muslim - sounding words "Barack Hussain Obama" might conjure up in the minds of nervous swing voters, started his candidacy on the day between Martin Luther King Day and Muhammad Ali's 65th birthday. By doing so, Obama has planted himself in the country's subconscious between its two greatest African-American icons, proving his political skills in one stroke of inspiration and good timing. Beat that, Hillary.


Too "Inconvenient" for Federal Way

The Federal Way School district has effectively banned showings of former Vice President Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

According to the Seattle Times story, parents objected to the free screenings offered to school for "political or religious reasons", and using the same tactics to disrupt teaching the Theory of Evolution, bullied the School Board to suspend the use of a valuable teaching tool. The Board's action abuses District policy which allows parents to pull their children out of school activities they find "objectionable". There is nothing objectionable about Gore's engaging explanation of widely accepted scientific facts, and unless Seattle - area schools continue to be closed every other day because of the ongoing bizarre winter weather, the Faith-based Climatologists can't stop their kids from being exposed to those facts.

Conservative parents may freely claim that weather patterns are "natural", of course they are. The real question is: why have those weather patterns accelerated? Is it that Soviet satellite the media thought was screwing with the weather back in the 1970's still up there? Is God angry that Washington elected too many Democrats and helped lame-duck the Bush Presidency? I could go on, but then I would have to submit overwhelming research proving that Science has absolutely nothing to do with Religion or Politics.


Unlike a lot of hockey fans, they really like the shootout...

The continuing militarization of Canadian culture took place Saturday night at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, when the start of the Toronto Maple Leafs game vs. the Vancouver Canucks was interrupted by military intervention. To paraphrase Don Rickles, this page tuned into a hockey game and a "Support our Troops (tm)" rally broke out. I am sure that the throng assembled were more entertained by the soldiers rappelling from the arena ceiling and the military brass band playing "O, Canada" than they were by the Leafs dropping a 6 - 1 decision to the visiting Canucks. However, one does need to ask why last Saturday was the best time for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) to stage "Salute to our Armed Forces Night" when the game was already wrapped in the trappings of the CBC's "Hockey Day in Canada" festivities.

The answers lie with the Harper government's ongoing Americanized efforts to make Canadians attach our nationhood to the military rather than with such unmanly pursuits as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or Universal Health Care. MLSE and a cowering national broadcaster appeared only too happy to comply, sticking this charade just before (thanks to the NHL's unbalanced schedule) the only game this season between the teams from English-speaking Canada's two biggest TV markets (a similar stunt in Montreal, where Quebeckers reject the Conservatives' Afghan misadventure outright, would be jeered off the ice). The cynical capper to this propaganda exercise was the recruiting commercial stuffed in right before the opening face-off, which I'm sure had at least a couple young and uninformed puckheads thinking about enlisting right after they finished their beer and donuts

Let me know when "Salute to the Peace Movement" night takes place, and Dave Bouchard is in the lineup. I'll buy tickets for that one.


Don't bother me, I'm reading...

This page received an excellent Xmas gift from Walnut Boat: a copy of Tariq Ali's Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope. By no means, do not confuse this title with the Disney movies starring Johnny Depp: the only similarity is that Ali probably hates the Bush administration even more than Depp, who relocated to France in protest a few years ago.

In his previous book Clash of Fundamentalisms, Ali spelled out in rich historical and political detail a rise of Militant Islam in the Middle East that long predated September 11, 2001. In Pirates, he turns his focus to the rise of the New Left in Latin America, led by Evo Morales in Bolivia and the unrelenting Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. I'm about a third of the way through this book, but I can recommend it already. Here's a more detailed review.


...and a side order of Body Bags....

In 2000, George W. Bush stole an election. in 2004, he rigged an election. In 2007, the President goes one step further: by ordering 21,500 more troops to be deployed to Iraq, he completely ignores the 2006 election. How many doomed Republican Congressmen does it take for Bush to grasp the meaning of the phrase "It's the war, stupid."? At the least, more than the bunch who were smoked at the polls last November. When Americans went to the polls last year, they were voting for a way out of the Iraq occupation before it permanently damages the United States ability to play a leading economic and political role in the 21st Century. They may not have been certain as to which route would bring their soldiers home, but the direction was clear: out.

21,500 more troops is not a 'surge', as the President puts it, and it's certainly not a step towards withdrawal. It's escalation, further instability, and a hard-headed betrayal of reality and young Americans in uniform. Haven't Americans had enough of this Faith-based warmongering and Project for a New American Century bullsh*t? Bush may be proud of his Texas roots, but the State where he's really coming from on this one is Denial.


It's not the tax that's stupid....

Once again, the Park the Tax Coalition is selfishly bitching about having to pay their share of the Lower Mainland's transportation budget. The coalition is calling on area business owners to challenge their property tax assessments and what spokesperson Laura Jones describes as "the stupidity associated with this parking tax".

This page does agree with members of the coalition that it should be easier for Lower Mainland residents to park their cars - at home. Doing that requires an adequately funded public transit system, and unfortunately, a system of that scale is can't be a user-pay, 100% cost recoverable model. There are a lot of people who do think it should be that way: they're the same people who regard driving their car as 'free', and they're probably members of the Park the Tax Coalition.

Ms. Jones, and members of your coalition, pay attention: Stupidity is not when vacant lots are mistakenly counted as parking spaces. That's a surveying error. Stupidity is when ignorant, reactionary business owners unite to steal a vital source of funding from Vancouver's public transit system, the same transit system that brings many of your customers (and your employees) to your door. Either shut up and go away, or watch the likes of the Bus Riders Union spark a boycott of your members.


Keep a lid on it

Last week, this page had a prime vantage point as the elements ripped BC Place a new one. The mediocy that followed made mountains out of deflated molehills, with questions being asked about the viability of the stadium for the 2010 Olympics, or the "vital" trade show scheduled in a couple of weeks. For those of you scoring at home (and the talking heads who spat out that piece of hysteria), it's the Contractors Exhibition that's supposed to be taking place, and I'm sure if the roof hasn't been fixed by then, a few of those delegates might want to give it a go.

My favourite hole in her logic to match the hole in the roof came from CBC Vancouver's Mi-Young Lee, who reported that "a lot of people feel the stadium should be torn down and condos be built". At press time, this page could not identify whether or not "a lot of people" refers to Lee's CBC bosses, who sold part of their parking lot for the TV Towers development going up on Robson Street, or just herself (and maybe her friends) who aren't making enough to buy that much-wanted Yaletown address developers keep telling 20-something Vancouverites they can't live without.

BC Place Stadium should not be torn down. Since the Plaza of Nations was turned over to the underwhelmingly popular Edgewater Casino, the stadium is one of the few remaining outposts of public space in an increasingly privatized and segregated city. Similar mishaps have occurred with domed stadiums in Minnesota, Indianapolis, and Detroit: all were built around the same time and all are still in use today. The building's primary tenants, The BC Lions, are happy playing there and aren't screaming for something better. Greg Kerfoot's proposed waterfront stadium hasn't progressed much past a chimera to hypnotize Whitecaps season ticket holders, and it won't be big enough for football, trade shows, or really big rock concerts. BC Place is our stadium, we paid for it, and we won't be suckered into bulldozing just because it needs a patch or two.


Run From Rona

It's somewhat funny for this page to pick up the Globe & Mail and read how "unseasonably warm" the weather is "across the country", when I can look up from the article and see the second snowstorm in a couple of weeks outside my Vancouver window. Whether you're golfing in Montreal or toboganning in Victoria, global warming and climate change should now be obvious. It might not be The Day After Tomorrow yet, but that day is circled on the calendar sooner than we think.

Climate change, or an imminent federal election, is now also obvious to Stephen Harper. The Prime Minister has finally pulled Rona Ambrose out from under her lack of depth and replaced her with John Baird as the new Minister of the Environment. Unfortunately, the only competency Baird showed in the first day on the job was to bash the Liberals for sitting on the Kyoto Protocol, and making vague promises for "real action" and "results not rhetoric". To date the Conservatives' "real action" consists of eliminating nearly all federal funding for environmental and climate change programs and turning a blind eye to the stinking oil sands crater in Northern Alberta .

I miss the rain. It was much easier to shovel.


Paper House

Yesterday this page received his annual notice from BC Assessment, and based on the apparent value of the 600 square feet the I'm buying from the bank, I'm 50% richer than I was a year ago. On average, homeowners in Vancouver are supposed to be 25% richer, and across the province, the value of our homes has shot up like so many New Years fireworks.

Pardon me if I don't think this is such a wonderful development. One of the saddest things about living in Vancouver is that this is a city which makes nothing. Seattle makes software, airplanes, and a decent cup of coffee. Vancouver makes drug deals and real estate deals, and this page can't tell anymore which is more corrupt. Why would my home be worth 50% this year, when it went up 50% last year? The Skytrain station that opened in my neighbourhood last January won't be opening again for the first time this year, and there's no other improvements to the neighbourhood beyond a set a traffic lights and a bus stop. That's worth over half the value of my homes original purchase price from three years ago?

Real Estate speculation and Market Value Assessment are two key tools to maintain a permanent underclass in North American cities, and to keep the wealthy in control. Sure, your home may be 'worth' substantially more, but where can you move to in order to cash in? A psychotic real estate market like Vancouver's means that either property taxes shoot up to match housing prices, or City Hall strips program spending to the bone and takes away money from parks, infrastructure, and support for the people who shoot up and don't have homes at all.


Papa's Got a Brand New Year

This page spent part of New Years Eve in Seattle honouring two notable Americans.

To be honest, I wasn't as moved by the truncated moment of silence at the Sonics-Celtics game for America's 38th President, Gerald Ford, as I was by the roof-lifting rendition of 'Sex Machine' by the Sonic Funk Band at the Center House dance afterwards, a tribute to America's Soul Brother Number 1: James Brown. It could be callousness, ignorance, or shallowness, but all I know is that "Shake yo' moneymakuh" resonates with this page a little more than "Our long national nightmare is over". In Ford's defence, however, he is the better conversation starter. What would have happened if he hadn't pardoned Richard Nixon? What if the deal to put him on Ronald Reagan's ticket at the 1980 GOP convention hadn't fallen through? Would anyone have ever been forced to choke on the words "President Bush"?

As for New Year's Eve itself, it rocked for this page and Walnut Boat. Saw a little hoops, shook the collective moneymakuh, put back something called "California Champagne", and took in the fireworks at the Space Needle. Note to anyone who's still enamored with Vancouver's "Celebration of Light": It is possible for tens of thousands of young people to gather for a fireworks show and NOT throw punches, scream obscenities, or stab each other. In fact, this page was able to calmly scarf back Hostess snack cakes and watch Cartoon Network in his ground floor hotel room, directly facing the dispersing crowds, and not fear for his life.

Get up, get on up....get up, get on up....