On Understanding the Otter and Suffering Vancouver’s New Apartment Architecture

Tea & Two Slices is a long-running news round-up by NEEDS frontman and veteran restaurant dishwasher Sean Orr, who lives and works in Gastown. He is very aware of his privilege, so there’s really no need to remind him of it.

Andrey Pavlov: Vancouver rent control is not the advertised win for renters. In case you missed it, local paper The Province, long the torch carriers for the Fraser Institute-loving booster class, gets a real estate finance prof to trot out all the usual supplyist tropes (…but we’re running out of land!) with extra anti-government flair: “This is a prime example of a nanny state gone rogue, as our politicians clearly believe they know better what’s best for the tenants than the tenants themselves.” Your contempt for people-powered political movements shows. How much you wanna bet this guy is not a renter?

And then there are the myths perpetuated around Vancouver’s property tax. Watch Tom Davidoff adeptly dry those West Side homeowner tears:

Broken promises, but no fix, for Downtown Eastside condo building. If only there had been some sort of foresight from local activists to not let one man’s property rights outweigh the needs and will of an entire community. No, instead BC Housing greenlit a project from a guy who said East Hastings was a dead zone, compared drug users to rats, and said libraries are just places where poor people loiter. “We tried our best, but nobody’s perfect,” Williams said. Indeed.

Why do all new apartment buildings look the same?

A Twitter query seeking to name this ubiquitous style was a goldmine. Some suggestions seemed inspired by the uniformity of design in computer programs and games: Simcityism, SketchUp contemporary, Minecraftsman, or Revittecture. Some took potshots at the way these buildings looked value-engineered to maximize profit: Developer modern, McUrbanism, or fast-casual architecture. Then there are the aesthetic judgement calls: contemporary contempt, blandmarks, LoMo (low modern), and Spongebuild Squareparts.

Or we could just call it Vancouverism. Runners up: Rennietecture, BOSA (Buildings of Structural Apathy), Glass City Style, and Yaletown Effect.

Fewer Americans are flipping homes — and that’s a bad sign for the housing market. Hmm. Maybe it’s the market itself that is bad. Just a thought.

Alberta yellow vest protests lack violence seen in Paris, but anti-immigration anger simmers. A reminder that populism and socialism both come from a failure of liberalism. That doesn’t make them equivalent. Compatible perhaps, but the left needs to be better at preventing these leaderless movements from being co-opted. The French aren’t protesting a fucking gas tax, they are protesting their inability to live decently.

The Problem with #TeamOtter.

As I found out more about the koi, and why the staff were so desperate to save them, I was struck by an epiphany: the story was no longer so simple. Beneath the fun and games (#TeamOtter and #TeamKoi were super cute, even earning their own illustrated pins) lurked the same complexities of race and identity that seem to play a role in nearly all of Vancouver’s ongoing issues.

Sure, and like Vancouver’s ongoing issues, the absence of class analysis is egregious. When we talk about foreign buyers, we are talking about capital. And although it’s a flight of fancy to project these issues onto an otter and some koi, it’s nevertheless illuminating that Montecristo would publish an essay that fails to look at the structural imbalance of power that led so many to side with an indigenous animal over an imported luxury animal.

And I suppose there are some parallels to this whole Huawei debacle: Huawei exec’s arrest may put Canada in China’s crosshairs, trade experts warn. I haven’t really been paying attention though. Here’s Irwin Oostindie’s analysis:

And the media whoop up their white nationalism and cajole Canadian citizens to fight capitalist economic war against (state capitalist) China and Iran (etc) in our name. I reject that and won’t be a nationalistic subject against China or pretend Huawei should be blocked and damaged and Apple and US tech corps meanwhile should be subsidized and supported.

The Chinese head tax was a similar instrument to meddle in the rules of capitalism to favour one side over another. Back 100 years ago it was to block Chinese-Canadians from competing with real (European) Canadians in the colonial resource extraction economy. Capitalists are such hypocrites espousing free trade to drive down workers’ wages and environmental conditions, but oh cry afoul when they need no free trade against non-western capitalist competitors.

This is security theatre: Vancouver police will continue to arm officers with rifles at public events to deter terrorism. Ah yes, not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game: Spotted on Airbnb: $25 ride on a SeaBus and ‘a commute like no other’.

TransLink approves introduction of washrooms into the public transit system. One step closer to becoming an actually city.

Canadian kid quits job at Walmart with epic rant over intercom. A logical outcome of austerity and precarious labour.

Bonus: Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche.

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