Thursday, March 29, 2012



Let me introduce you to the newest and most remote place for a real getaway.

It's the tiny island of Newtrush in a Pacific atoll, not far from Ridway, uh, Midway.

You'll love it.

Almost uninhabited, there are only two permanent residents there, both fat, babbling old white men.

One of them keeps muttering, "I'm the chief, I'm the chief, I'm the chief," while the other intones deeply into a large conch. He seems to believe that otherS can hear him somewhere. Or would want to.

Once a month, small boatloads of tourists arrive. They all belong to a kind of historical society, They claim, often with tears in their eyes, that they and their parents and grandparents used to be members of something called "The Republican Party."

The man who thinks he is The Chief takes photos with these visitors and charges them $50 each.

Monday, March 26, 2012


He shows up for his first national press conference in blue jeans and a black sports jacket.

And we're talking here ratty blue jeans at that, not some designer conceit.

He's not a teen-ager. He's the leader of a national political party, just elected.

His name is Thomas Mulcair.

Where Bob Rae, former NDP politician, is now the interim, erstwhile, almost Liberal leader, Mulcair, former Quebec Liberal, is now the leader of the NDP.

Are you following all of this?

To make matters worse, he's what the writers of Seinfeld would call a "quiet talker."

Quiet talking, like a host of other devices, is not a nervous tic that visits its hosts unwillingly. It is a sick, sucking passive-aggressive control strategy, designed to bring everyone in proximity to his or her knees.

The quiet talker is a closet Ninja warrior who sees the whole world as a threat. He is always en guard.

Why should I be surprised to learn that this man's biggest deficit is himself? That is, his miserable, combative, uncooperative personality?

Volcanic temper, ego, refusal to work with others - these are the highlights of this fellow's rap sheet.

Why am I not surprised that Ed Broadbent tore strips off the guy last week?

So the NDP are tired of playing maiden-in-waiting. They want the whole schmeer.

Fair enough.

But be careful what you wish for.

This man is toxic.

If you think Stephen Harper is trouble - and I don't, by the way - you ain't seen nothing yet.

Mulcair is an intellectual snob, superior to me and thee in every way.

May he never be Prime Minister or anything even remotely close.

Thursday, March 15, 2012




London Shops Vanish After $1.2 Billion Olympic Payout


Susan Heyes, a Cambie Street shop owner, won a substantial law suit against the Canada Line. That judgment was reversed by the Supreme Court.

Even with some business loss compensation, the detrimental effects of being forced to re-locate, and the surrounding construction
caused massive business failures in London.

Our own Olympic legacy, Canada Line and their many corporate and government partners knew there would be severe business losses when their Olympic gravy train began along Cambie Street.
They lied about the construction plan, refused all financial assistance, crafted a 30 year financial windfall for themselves, and then got away with murder.
In a just and democratic society, none of this should ever have occurred, let alone be legitimized by the courts and government.

Susan Heyes

London Shops Vanish After $1.2 Billion Olympic Payout

By Chris Spillane and Katie Linsell on March 14, 2012
Tony Freail closed his window- dressing business after the world’s biggest sporting event landed outside his workshop in London’s East End. Seven years later, with the Olympic Games less than five months away, he’s still looking for full-time employment.
Freail’s former workplace was demolished as part of the construction of the velodrome, the potato-chip shaped venue where Britain’s Chris Hoy will try to retain three cycling gold medals; the International Broadcast Centre, the base for 20,000 journalists; and the Copper Box, which hosts handball. The opening ceremony of the U.K.’s biggest competition since the 1966 soccer World Cup takes place July 27.
“Once we got the Games, everyone knew it was going to be a nightmare,” Freail said by telephone. “It was a horrible feeling knowing that a year later, you were going to be offered an amount and told to leave. It meant I couldn’t carry on.”
The London Development Agency spent about 735 million pounds ($1.2 billion) to buy land and compensate businesses that owned or leased space at the site that will be used for the Olympics, according to the development agency’s latest accounts. The strategy hasn’t prevented more than 100 companies from going out of business or becoming untraceable after the owners were forced to vacate the 246-hectare (608-acre) site that will be used for the Olympics, public records show.

Fast-Food Companies

Most of these businesses, which range from auto-repair shops to fast-food manufacturers, depended on local customers. As a result, the money they received from the agency didn’t make up for the cost involved in moving to another location and building up a new client base, according to Juliet Davis, a researcher at the London School of Economics, who wrote a paper on the event’s legacy of urban regeneration.
London beat bids from Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow in 2005 to win the Games after the organizers, led by former gold medalist Sebastian Coe, told the International Olympic Committee that the two-week event would rejuvenate the area. Since then, abandoned railways, wasteland and offices have made way for stadiums, homes and Europe’s largest urban shopping mall.
LDA documents show that about 460 companies were paid for their portion of the area, which will be renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after the Games. More than 50 of those went into liquidation or were dissolved, according to Companies House, a register of businesses in England and Wales. Another 50 cannot be traced using public records.
“We would have survived there,” Barry Bell, who closed his car-maintenance yard on the Olympic site, said by telephone. “We had enough business to work there and our customers around us wouldn’t have moved. We didn’t know if we were turning left or right at the time.”

Opening Ceremony

The event will be held in Newham, a borough with about 270,000 residents that had the lowest average income in London in 2010 and the eighth lowest in England that year, according to a survey by the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The migration of businesses from the Olympic Park to other parts of the surrounding boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Hackney caused commercial rents to rise in those neighborhoods, said Davis of the LSE.
“Compensation didn’t recognize market forces,” Davis said by phone. “Anyone running a tight ship because they’re a small business found it quite hard. They had to be able to commit to a new lease that was going to cost two or three times more than their site had been worth.”

Forced Sales

A government minister can force landowners to sell their property if they can’t agree on a fee with the LDA, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The compensation is set by an independent organization and covers disruption caused by the Games, loss of earnings and the value of their land and property interests, according to the London agency. It doesn’t cover the cost of replacing old equipment.
“The London Development Agency went over and above its statutory obligations,” the organization said in an e-mail. “The LDA has compensated firms at the market rate.”
The agency recorded 208 businesses that relocated from the Olympic Park site, according to a Freedom of Information Act request by Bloomberg News. The agency has no record of what happened to those businesses.
Smaller businesses were hurt most because they lacked the time and resources to conduct negotiations and take part in legal proceedings with the agency, the LSE’s Davis said.

Beijing’s Water Cube

London’s Olympic organizers hope to avoid pitfalls of the 2004 summer Games in Athens and the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where facilities have been underused.
In China, the iconic Water Cube needed government sports funding to break even after falling 11 million yuan ($1.7 million) short from its commercial activities alone, deputy manager Yan Qiyong told China Daily in January. Athens has leased six of the 22 venues used in the Games, according to Public Properties Company SA and Hellinikon SA.
The idea that the Olympics can be used as an economic catalyst in the host city may be misguided, said Constantine Kontokosta, a New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate researcher who has looked at performance of the Olympic Games over the last six years.
“We found some negative results in L.A., Atlanta and Calgary,” he said of previous Olympic hosts. “The residential real-estate values in the city underperformed compared with comparable cities over the same time period.”
Some, like Lance Forman, moved nearby when his 107-year-old H. Forman & Son salmon-smoking business had to make way for the Games. His factory, built in 2003, was demolished to accommodate the 80,000-seat, white-steel-framed Olympic Stadium.

Royal Customer

Forman, whose customers include the U.K.’s royal family and London department store Fortnum & Mason, rebuilt his pink and black colored facility on Fish Island a few hundred meters away from the Olympic Stadium on the banks of the river Lea.
“The negotiations were fraught,” Forman, a Cambridge University graduate, said by telephone. “In cases like this, there’s a danger of sacrificing your business. There was no certainty that everything that they thought would be compensated was actually going to be compensated.”
Most small businesses in London attract customers from within a 5- to 10-mile area only, according to Federation of Small Businesses spokesman Matthew Jaffa.
“When they get relocated, they’re stepping out of that comfort zone and losing the customer base they built up over the years,” Jaffa said by phone. “A company that was thriving has to go back to being a startup.”

Failed Businesses

Many of the businesses in the area were industrial, something Newham Mayor Robin Wales wants to change in a regeneration that spreads from Stratford to Canning Town by London’s City Airport.
“High tech and science industries are what we want to bring to the area,” Wales said in an interview last week. “We want jobs that are sustainable. London is moving eastwards.”
London had the highest percentage of businesses failing in the whole of the U.K. in 2010 with 15 percent of companies going out of business, according to a December 2011 report by the Office for National Statistics.
Bell, a 47-year-old company director, was given 60,000 pounds for the site where his automobile garage was. He closed the operation after failing to find a new site with similar rents to what he was paying in the city’s East End.
To stay in business, Bell had to leave London and move 12 miles (19 kilometers) to Rainham, Essex, where his rent has doubled. He also had to purchase new equipment as regulations prevented him using his old equipment.
Freail was less fortunate. After closing the business in 2006, he sold his tools and equipment for a loss to avoid paying storage costs. The 62-year-old was compensated 50,000 pounds by the LDA with the caveat that he couldn’t start up the same business within 30 miles of London for at least five years.
“The East End lost out big time,” he said. “I felt gutted at the time, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012


No writer would attempt to create a character in fiction this stupid.

A police officer not very far from here - in Stanwood, Washington - leaves two children alone in the car.

Also in the car is a loaded gun.

One child picks up the gun, accidentally fires and the other child is dead.

Now, of course, it doesn't help that America is a deeply engrained gun culture with as many as two firearms in play for every man, woman and child in the nation.

But  this level of irresponsibility is breathtaking.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Amidst all the hand-wringing and tears of dismay, one has yet to hear the simple sad truth.

The Playhouse has been doing lousy, boring second-rate work for a long time now.

Membership subscriptions dropped from 8,000 to 4,500? That's not my fault or the city's.

I've loved show biz and the theatre my whole life. Yet, in the almost 50 years I have lived in Vancouver, I may have seen five shows at the Playhouse and four stunk.

The one great show was The Syringa Tree, an import from South Africa. It is a one-woman show written and performed by the author, Pamela Gien. It was (name your breathless adjective) extraordinary.

It is true that the company should have been put on solid funding by various levels of government. It is also true that the arts in Canada net so much less support from governments than they should. It is also devastating for the many actors, writers and people of stage craft that they will have one less place to work. All of that is so.

But nothing can ruin a good day like bad work on a stage and that's what the Vancouver Playhouse has been dishing out and pretending to be high art for a great many years.

And who was the genius who decided about ten years ago that the company would no longer do "classics" and stick only to works since 1950?

And yes, it is a deep embarrassment - in the same week that we will have to pay a few more millions to stop the leaky oil girders from wrecking the $500 million roof at the almost renamed BC Place - that a municipal theatre company folds its tent in a berg that likes to plump itself up with the monicker, "world class city."

So, here's my wish.

I hope a ragtag band of fiery young arts guerrillas (with a real sense of flair and presentation and engagement AND money management) come along and occupy that dead old space and blow some real sexy spiritual life back into the place.

Then I'll be sitting in the front row cheering them on.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


The current and ongoing massacre of completely innocent men, women and children in Syria is so frighteningly familiar.

And so is the refusal of the watching world to intervene.

How many times in the last 100 years have we seen this disregard for "others?"

I am not expecting or demanding that the Unites States be all things for all people, but I would be considerably cheered if the United Nations were something more than a billion dollar a year cocktail party at Tavern on the Green.

How darling it must be to land a UN assignment and be shipped off to the horrors of one of the great food and drink and entrainment and literary and artistic cities in the world...knowing all the while that children are being slaughtered in some dark cupboard of the world by the latest power mad devil.

What was it about Hitler that we didn't get?


A friend of mine told me the other day about the two strikes her husband has experienced.

In the first instance, he was a young man living in an eastern European country where he was born. During that strike, he and his colleagues froze and starved, or something perilously darn close.

In the current strike, as a teacher working in British Columbia public schools, he laughed about the two hours he might put in while sucking on his tall nonfat caramel macchiato.

Then, he's going skiing.

This man, like so many teachers that I have met over the years, not only doesn't agree with his union, the always pugilistic rabble-rousing BCTF, but he feesl intimidated by the union.

Here's my problem.

Maybe teaching and teachers have experienced a dramatic upturn in quality in the past several generations. Or maybe they just talk a better game about how wonderful and dedicated and hard-working and caring they are.

From all the 11 years I  attended public schools in Canada, I can remember not more than three really good teachers. All the rest were downright lazy, ignorant, thoughtless and often cruel slackers who shouldn't have been allowed within 50 yards of a young person. sympathies, so often on the side of union workers, are less than non-existent for the teachers in their annual strike. Show me a year when they weren't pulling this stunt.




Sunday, March 4, 2012


This is a photo of a rock formation in the Atacama Desert in Chile, where not a drop of rain has fallen in recorded time.

Although there is no way to verify this, some claim that this is the actual hand - or possibly an early tribesman's sculpture - of Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo asking his guest star villain if he might just clear up one small, nagging point.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


84 patients have died with an infection at Burnaby General Hospital in the past two and a half years.


84 human persons.

437 cases of the infection at he hospital have been reported in the same period.

Here is the QUOTE OF THE YEAR...

Are you sitting down?

Because this one is breathtaking.

Here it is.

From the lips of B.C. Health Minister, Mike de Jong, "Burnaby Hospital is safe."