Yes is always (eventually) the answer

It seems that, whenever a significant construction or infrastructure project (dare I say “megaproject”?) is proposed to government, city planners, or (occasionally) the public, it is only a matter of time before it is approved. Such ideas never seem to be rejected once and for all. I’ve seen it happen many times: from the SkyDome in Toronto, which everyone knew was going to be a white elephant, to the RAV Line, the “Gateway Project,” the soccer stadium, and now the “big box store on Marine Drive” issues in Vancouver. Despite often solid evidence against, debates and votes are held on these issues until a “yes” result is obtained, and then voting stops and the project goes ahead. Those who stand to profit appear simply to bide their time until the political situation aligns in their favour, or else everyone tires of the repeated debates and changes their mind simply to get on to the next issue. Why is it that we always stop at “yes,” even after repeated “no” results? Is it that we have a fixation on “positive thinking”? Couldn’t we at least have a best-of-seven vote-off? In our society, we seemed doomed to go ahead with a project once it has been proposed.

[After I wrote this entry I thought it would make a nifty letter to the editor; I submitted it to the Vancouver Sun and it was published in slightly edited form on Thursday, July 27.]

Woodbridge Chardonnay 2004

A clear, pale gold appearance with a clean, quite light, citrus-yeast nose. A hint of oak. On the palate, dry with nice acidity, and a medium body. Tasteful oaking lets the grape and grapefruit flavours through. A nice finish. A good affordable wine. $15 at the liquor store on the Granville Rise.

Thom Yorke: The Eraser

I have a theory about this CD: it represents ideas Thom Yorke brought to the Radiohead table that were rejected by the band (including, perhaps, Yorke himself) in favour of going back to the drawing board, and/or better demos from the singer, along with ideas from his bandmates. Although “solo” projects often signal a dilution of energy for bands, this bodes very well for the next full band effort. The better parts of “The Eraser” remind me of nothing so much as pretty much what I would have expected from the next Radiohead album, sans band. In other words, I get my pseudo-Radiohead fix (especially from “The Eraser,” “Analyse,” “The Clock,” “Harrowdown Hill,” and “Cymbal Rush”) and look forward to a new band release hopefully within a year or so. (Where I agree particularly with Pitchfork is that Jonny Greenwood’s Bodysong is a better listen.)

Most Overrated Restaurant in Vancouver?

I’ve never fully understood the appeal of The Naam. Sure, it’s a funky sort of place, and it’s always open. But the food is mediocre at best; the service is terrible; and the place is dirty. And as a vegan, it is incredibly frustrating to see it voted “Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Vancouver” year after year. My theory is that when a paper like The Straight holds a reader survey, all the non-vegetarians (obviously the vast majority), when it comes time to vote for a vegetarian restaurant, ponder for half an instant until the first joint that fits the bill pops into their head. The Naam, of course.

Come to think of it, Vancouver desperately needs better vegetarian/vegan restaurants. It’s supposedly one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities, but what we’re really missing is a fine dining experience. I don’t mind eating at, say, Greens and Gourmet. But it’s essentially a cafeteria. We don’t have anything like San Francisco’s Millennium, Herbivore, or the late, great, Now and Zen. Even Roberts Creek is doing better than we are, with their wonderful Gumboot.

Disappearing Corner Stores of Vancouver

Every week or so, on and off for a few years, I’ve walked past this abandoned store. Heong Grocery. It’s been closed for years, and in recent weeks it appears it’s being prepared for demolition. What is its story? How long was it open? Why did it close? Who is or was Heong?

Several years ago the Sun had a feature story about ‘disappearing corner stores of Vancouver.’ I think there was a book published. A quick Web search turned up nothing; I wish I could find it. Every one of these stores has a story, and at the risk of sounding old and sentimental, perhaps a more interesting one than the franchise joint that probably put them out of business.

Ford Pier: Pier-ic Victory

This near-masterpiece, by Ford Pier, may be the most obscure and underrated CD I own. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone else who owns it (with the obvious exception of Veda Hille, in whose wonderful band Mr. Pier played for many years). The songs are frenetic, inventive, insightful, often hilarious, and tuneful. There are at least two potential singles (“Charmed, I’m Sure” and “Why On Earth”). I’m not sure whether it’s available anywhere other than from Six Shooter Records (unfortunately the site is frame-based so you will have to search out the Ford Pier and on-line store pages manually).

Legacies

We’re still almost four years out from the 2010 Olympics, and significant budget concerns have started to emerge (cf. some of Vaughan Palmer‘s recent columns in the Sun). But I’m not going to write another “I told you so” rant.

My perception of the whole affair is coloured by my involvement in designing the original bid Web site (now replaced). I did this partly against my better judgement, and I can’t say much about the experience because I’m probably under some sort of non-disclosure agreement. Suffice to say that my better judgement was increasingly skewed towards the “no” camp as the project progressed.

But there was one experience that stands out for me, and it was apart from my professional activities. The night of the referendum, February 22 2003, I was picking up my daughter from a choir rehearsal in Kerrisdale. Of course this part of town is probably one of those in which many people actually stand to benefit from the games. I overheard a fellow emoting to his friend about the referendum and questioning how anyone could possibly vote against. I immediately stepped in and said that I’d voted “no.” He was aghast. But when I tried to engage him in substantive debate on the issue, all he could really come up with was a tag line from the Olympic campaign. Not even a tag line, a word. “Think of the legacies,” he insisted, gesturing wide with his arms, his tone evoking a world in which, after February 2010, we Vancouverites might awake each morning to find a glass of chocolate milk on a fluffy white pillow waiting on our doorsteps (rather than an abandoned luge track somewhere up Howe Sound for which we are still paying).

Marketing puzzles me, because so much of it seems to be counterintuitive, if not just plain stupid. But the application of this one word was brilliant. It worked. And so “legacies” we will have: besides mounting debt, we’re not quite sure yet what they might be.