The Out-Sourcing of Memory

May 27, 2014 § 2 Comments

Four or five years ago, we saw Josh Ritter at La Sala Rossa in Montreal.  Sala is one of my favourite places in the world to see a gig.  In fact, I’d rank it just below the legendary Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, with its bouncing dance floor.  Anyway.  We made our way up to the front which, frankly, wasn’t that difficult, Josh Ritter fans aren’t exactly scary people.  But after Ritter took the stage with his excellent Royal City Band, something strange happened.  The crowd around us became younger.  A lot of early 20-somethings.  And very female.  They were cooing over Ritter himself, and his bassist, Zack Hickman.  This had happened to me once before, at a Grapes of Wrath gig in c. 1992.  The teeney-boppers at this all ages gig in Ottawa went nuts when the Grapes hit the stage and nearly mauled my companion to death.  She required first aid.

Anyway.  This Josh Ritter gig happened just after cellphones began to be equipped with decent phones.  There was still some novelty in them.  But all these 2o-somethings watched the gig through the lens of their phones, snapping picture after picture of Ritter and Hickman.  It got incredibly frustrating, especially when they stepped on us to get a better shot.  But I just felt sorry for them, their entire experience of Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band was mediated through their cellphone camera lens.  They wouldn’t take any memories away from the show.  Not that I really did, either.  I remember getting stepped on and all the 20-somethings with their camera phones.

But photos aren’t memories.  I recently went through some old photos for some reason I no longer recall.  Included in these files (all photos are on the hard drive of my MacBook now, of course) were pictures of a trip to Tanglewood in the summer of 2006 with my then-girlfriend, now wife.  I have very distinct memories of that day.  It was the July 4 weekend, we went with her sister and her parents, to see Garrison Keilor and a live performance of A Prairie Home Companion.  I had no idea what any of this meant, frankly, I’m Canadian and lived in Canada then.  And avoided NPR and PBS like the plague (I’ve modified my stance somewhat since).  But in looking at these photos, I found they didn’t necessarily match up with my memories. In fact, I think I’ve conflated two or three trips to Tanglewood in my memories of that day.  I think this because I remember the night time stars and sitting with Margo by ourselves looking up at them hearing classical music.  But that couldn’t have happened in 2006, it was the time we saw Yo-Yo Ma with the Boston Pops in 2008 or 2009, after we got married.  But such is memory, it’s dynamic and our memories evolve over time.

Indeed, this is the point made in this article on (so clearly I’ve modified my views of public radio in the US) today by a psychologist, Linda Henkel.  She notes exactly that,

It’s also a mistake to think of photographs as memories. The photo will remain the same each time to you look at it, but memories change over time. Henkel likens it relying on photos to remember your high school graduation.

“Each time I remember what my high school graduation was like, I might be coloring and changing that memory because of my current perspective — because of new ideas that I have or things that I learned afterwards,” she says. “Human memory is much more dynamic than photographs are capable of.”

The larger context of the article is our addiction to taking photos on our cameras, due to its simplicity.  No kidding.  I have over 1,000 photographs on my iPhone.  And I’ve probably deleted another 1,000, some because they’re bad, some because they’re not all that remarkable in the long-term.  And this from a guy who probably took a grand total of 50 photographs from 1989-2006.  We’re hyper-memorialising everything.  I presume I’m not all that different than anyone else in how often I look at old photographs, which is close to never, unless I’m looking for something.  And yet, every time I see an old photo, my memory of the events doesn’t entirely jive with the photographic record.

Henkel did an interesting experiment with her students.  She sent her students to the university art museum and instructed them to view some items and photograph others.  Then she gave them a sort of test when they got back on their memories:

[She] found what she called a “photo-taking impairment effect.”

“The objects that they had taken photos of — they actually remembered fewer of them, and remembered fewer details about those objects. Like, how was this statue’s hands positioned, or what was this statue wearing on its head. They remembered fewer of the details if they took photos of them, rather than if they had just looked at them,” she says.

Henkel says her students’ memories were impaired because relying on an external memory aid means you subconsciously count on the camera to remember the details for you.

“As soon as you hit ‘click’ on that camera, it’s as if you’ve outsourced your memory,” she says. “Any time we … count on these external memory devices, we’re taking away from the kind of mental cognitive processing that might help us actually remember that stuff on our own.”

And so I come back to those early 20-something girls at the Josh Ritter gig in Montreal on a cold, snowy February night four or so years ago.  What do they remember from that night? Probably next to nothing, they outsourced it all to their phones.  But, of course, the phones we had in 2010 compared to the phones in 2014.  The camera in my two year old iPhone 4s is infinitely better than the camera that was in my then-state-of-the-art Motorola Razr.  So, chances are, their photos are long lost.  And they just have a vague recollection of a gig.

Compare that with an old friend of mine who, whilst bored and sick this week, attempted to reconstruct her entire concert-going life over the past 25 years.  Relying largely on her memory, and aided by the internet and some photos, she did manage to reconstruct most of her concert-going life.  Why? Because she didn’t outsource her memory to her phone.  Largely because we didn’t have phones to take pictures on (or even digital cameras, for that matter) in 1992.

Alienation and Belonging

March 28, 2014 § 2 Comments

An old friend visited us this weekend, and as he and I drove up the Massachusetts coast to hunt down the best pizza in the Commonwealth (Riverview in Ipswich, if you’re wondering), we got to talking about New England.  Despite having lived in New England, he always feels like he could never penetrate the insularity of New England culture, and he always feels alienated here.  I found that interesting, given I don’t feel that way at all, despite obviously being a transplant.

This might be the advantage of being an Anglo from Montréal. Anglo Montrealers are always at least slightly alienated from the city and dominant culture.  We are a (small) minority, and we speak a minority language.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

I’ve always felt alienated from my surroundings. I grew up in British Columbia, very aware of the fact I didn’t belong, which came out in everything from my distaste of the wet, soggy climate to continuing to cheer for the Montréal Canadiens, Expos, and, when they existed, the Concorde or Alouettes of the CFL, as opposed to my friends who cheered for the Vancouver Canucks, the BC Lions and either the Toronto Blue Jays or Seattle Mariners.  I felt similarly alienated in Ottawa.  It was only when I moved back to Montréal I finally felt comfortable in my surroundings.  But I still felt alienated from the larger culture, mostly due to language, even as my French language skills improved.

But, as with all things Montréal, it was never this simple.  My Anglo friends and family dismissed any suggestion I might be a Montrealer, by continually reminding me I grew up out west.  On the other hand, my francophone and allophone friends made no such distinction, and this is also true of my separatist friends.  Go figure.  Anglo mythology would have it the other way round.  One of the most amazing moments of my life in Montréal came during the 2000 federal election campaign when I answered a knock on my door and found Gilles Duceppe, the leader of the Bloc québécois, with Amir Khadir, who was the BQ’s candidate in my riding (Khadir has since gone on to be the co-leader of the sovereigntist provincial party, Québec solidaire, and is currently the MNA for the Montréal riding of Mercier).  Duceppe, Khadir, and I spent a good 15-20 minutes talking about place, identity, and belonging in Québec.  Largely in English.  Even the leader of a separatist party and the candidate for my riding didn’t dispute my bona fides as a Montrealer and a Quebecer (maybe, in part, because I assured them the BQ had my vote).

Since 2006, I have spent a lot of time in New England, before moving here in 2012, on account of my wife being American.  She lived in Western Massachusetts when we met, so we did our best to split our time between Montréal and Western Mass.  After all those years spending time out there, I came to feel like it was Home.  Sure, I was never going to fully fit in, be a part of the scenery, but that was ok by me.  And, even now, living at the other end of the Commonwealth, in the massive urban sprawl that is Boston, I feel similarly at home.  The ways I feel alienated here are mostly due being Canadian.  But I don’t find myself feeling excluded by New Englanders, or, really, Americans as a whole. In other words, I can deal with my alienation, it has kind of become my default way of being.

No doubt this is due to being an Anglo Montrealer and experiencing some degree of discomfort and alienation my entire life in my hometown and anywhere else I lived in Canada, tainted as I was, so to speak, by being from Montréal.

Wither the Working Classes?

April 7, 2013 § 3 Comments

South Boston is undergoing massive redevelopment these days, something I’ve already noted on this blog.  Every North American city has a Southie, a former industrial working-class neighbourhood that is undergoing redevelopment in the wake of deindustrialisation and the gentrification of inner cities across the continent.  In Montréal, the sud-ouest is ground zero of this process, something I got to watch from front-row seats.  In Vancouver, it was Yaletown.  Cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh have done brilliant jobs in re-claiming these post-industrial sites.  In Boston, however, Southie’s redevelopment has attracted the usual controversy and digging in by those working-class folk who remain there.  It’s even the locale of a “reality” TV show that is more like working-class porn than anything else.

The same discourse always emerges around these post-industrial neighbourhoods under redevelopment, something I first noticed in my work on Griffintown in Montréal.  Today, in the Boston Globe there is a big spread ostensibly about a sweet deal given to a Boston developer by City Hall, but is really more an examination of the redevelopment of Southie’s waterfront.  In in, James Doolin, the chief development officer of the Port Authority of Massachusetts, one of the players in this redevelopment, reflects on the ‘new buzz’ surrounding the area, going to to talk about how this ‘speaks to a demographic that is young, employed, and looking for social spaces.”  

Right. Because the Irish who lived and worked in Southie during its life as an industrial neighbourhood were really just bums, always unemployed and so on.  And, of course, those unemployed yobs would never look for social spaces, all those little cretins hung out in back alleys and under expressways.  This attitude is unfortunate and is part and parcel when it comes to the redevelopment of these neighbourhoods: the belief that the working classes never had jobs, had no social lives and were just drones.  I’ve seen it in literature from developers in Griffintown and other parts of Montréal’s sud-ouest, so it’s no surprise to find this attitude in Boston.  But it doesn’t make it right.  In one sweeping, gross over-generalisation, Doolin (and the Boston Globe) sweep away centuries of history, of life in Southie, and the day-to-day struggles of the working classes in the neighbourhood to survive and live their lives on their terms.

Getting Redevelopment and Community Right

March 12, 2013 § 2 Comments

Yaletown in Vancouver has undergone massive redevelopment in the past two decades.  It was once the site of Expo 86 along False Creek, and before that, an urban wasteland (actually, after Expo, too).  But today, it is a sea of glass towers; one statistic I’ve seen said the population just in Yaletown approaches 30,000, though I find that hard to believe.  All along False Creek is a string of residential condo towers; all along Pacific Boulevard, from Granville to Cambie streets there are towers and pied-à-terre condos.  Some of them even look nice.

IMG_1128As I went out for my morning run today (I’m staying with my sister here), I noticed something: this is actually a well-thought out urban redevelopment.  There’s a billboard on Pacific Blvd that says that Concord, one of the developers is building community here.  It’s easy to scoff at that claim.  But it’s not a ridiculous claim. My sister knows her neighbours.  More than that, she has friends amongst them.  Dog owners around here have claimed a patch of Cooperage Park on False Creek as a dog run.  They police each other, making sure nobody leaves their dog doo behind.  They also police each other’s dogs, making sure they behave.  There’s a bunch of cafés and restaurants along Marinaside Drive (I know, what a horrible name), and they’re populated with regulars, the neighbours around here.  People nod and say hello to each other on the streets and along the path that goes along the bank of the water.


There’s more, though. There’s actual, real parks here.  Cooperage stretches almost from the Plaza of Nations at the head of False Creek towards and under the Cambie Bridge.  A few blocks on is David Lam Park, which lies between Pacific, Drake, and Homer streets.  But it’s more than that.  These parks are actually used.  There’s basketball and tennis courts at David Lam, and a playground. An elementary school is on David Lam and the children can be seen playing in the park at recess and lunch and after school.  The path along the water is almost always busy with joggers and cyclists, as well as roller-bladers and walkers (Vancouver was experiencing one of its trademark torrential downpours when I was out taking pictures today, thus, aside from one intrepid jogger, there was no one out playing).

When I lived in Vancouver in the late 90s, there was a lot of hand-wringing about the redevelopment of the old Expo site. The city was determined to increase density, to follow the model of the West End, which is apparently the densest neighbourhood of North America that’s not Manhattan.  So the old Expo lands saw these condo towers grow out of the ground.  The major difference between the West End, which lies on the other side of the Burrard and Granville Street bridges and this area, which is part of the larger Yaletown neighbourhood, is that Yaletown tends to be resident owners, whereas the West End is largely rental units (there are, of course, many exceptions to both).

IMG_1111At the end of the day, however, Vancouver got it right.  There is community here, the public spaces are widely used.  The cafés and restaurants are, with the exception of one Starbucks (this IS Vancouver, after all) independent operators (this isn’t as true as Pacific Blvd., the main east/west thoroughfare, which has plenty of chains in between and around the indie stores).  This also contributes to community, as the small business owners connect to their local community in a way that Starbucks and Quiznos can’t.  And studies show that locals are more likely to patronise these small businesses than the chains.  Indeed, this morning, Bojangles, the local indie café was busy, filled with both commuters on their way to work and those with more time to sit and enjoy their coffee.  Whereas the Starbucks, while it got a fair amount of foot traffic from commuters, it doesn’t have the same community feel.

I fear, however, that Montréal is getting it wrong with Griffintown.  The early plans for the massive redevelopment of Griff by Devimco called for massive shopping areas and big box stores.  The commercial developments were supposed to pay for the residential developments.  As for anything else that urban residents might need, well, “Whatever,” Devimco seemed to say.  Of course, Devimco’s bold plans were thwarted somewhat by the recession.  The redevelopment is now a mixture of Devimco’s big District Griffin (how tragic it would be to have that old English name on the neighbourhood, eh, OQLF?) and a smattering of smaller developments, with the massive redevelopment of the old Canada Post Lands at the other end of Griff at the foot of rue Guy.

Missing, though, from all these redevelopment plans in Griff was any idea of what residents were supposed to do.  There still are no plans for schools in the neighbourhood.  It wasn’t until early 2012 that the Ville de Montréal announced that it had earmarked some money to create public parks.  It’s still not entirely clear where they’ll be, other than the already extant Parc St. Ann/Griffintown at the bottom of rue de la Montagne at Wellington.  And given Montréal’s history of development and redevelopment, and the fact that the mayor, first Gérald Tremblay and now Michael Applebaum, just has dollar signs in his eyes when talking about Griffintown, I have zero hope of Griffintown being redeveloped right.  In fact, I am almost positive it will be a disaster.

It’s tragic, as Montréal has a chance to redevelop a huge swath of valuable land at the foot of downtown, to emulate what Vancouver did with Yaletown in the 90s and 00s.  But it has done nothing to suggest that it will get it right.  And that’s trafic.


Ten Thousand Saints and the Nostalgia of the Record Store

March 12, 2013 § 2 Comments

Last week I read Eleanor Henderson‘s excellent début novel, Ten Thousand Saints.  This was a book I randomly came across, and, like most books I randomly come across, I was lucky.  Ten Thousand Saints tells the story of Jude, a disaffected teenager in Burlington, Vermont (disguised as Lintonburg, for reasons I don’t quite understand since the rest of Vermont gets to keep its names), a sad sack little city about two hours from Montréal on Lake Champlain.  Jude, I should also point out, is about a year older than I am.  His best friend, Teddy, dies of an overdose on New Year’s Eve 1987, after he and Jude huff pretty much everything, including freon from an air conditioner, but Teddy also did coke for the first time, introduced to him by Eliza, Jude’s step-sister, who’s in town for a few hours from NYC.  Teddy’s older brother, Johnny, also lives in NYC.

The novel then follows Jude, Johnny, and Eliza through the hardcore scene in the NYC underground in the late 80s (looking at Henderson’s picture on her website, she does not look the sort who would).  Jude transforms from a pothead huffing high school dropout in Burlington to a straight-edge hardcore punk in NYC, frontman of his own band, the Green Mountain Boys (a clever play on their Vermont roots and Ethan Allen during the War of Independence).  Henderson does a great job of illuminating the culture of the hardcore scene of the late 80s, both in NYC and around the rest of the East Coast, as well as issues of gentrification on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, especially around Tompkins Park in Alphabet City, where Johnny lives, and around St. Mark’s Place, where Jude sometimes lives with his father.

Ten Thousand Saints made me nostalgic.  At the other end of the continent, in Vancouver, I was starting to get into some of this music, if not yet the scene.  Many of the bands Henderson references were in my cassette collection by 1989-90, a couple of years after Jude and Johnny were rocking out in the Green Mountain Boys. Though I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why the standard bearers of the straight edge scene in the late 80s, Fugazi, are not mentioned, though Ian McKaye’s earlier band, Minor Threat, are the gods of Jude, Johnny, and their crowd.  What made me nostalgic was record stores.  This is how Jude got into the scene in NYC in the first place, hanging around the record stores of the Lower East Side.

As I mentioned in my last piece here, on the Minutemen, Track Records in Vancouver was where I began to discover all these punk and hardcore bands in my late teens.  Track stood on Seymour Street, between Pender and Dunsmuir, and as you went up the block, there was an A&A Records and Tapes, then Track, then A&B Sound, and then Sam the Record Man.  Two indies and two corporate stores.  And between the four of them, you could find anything you wanted and at a reasonable price.  Zulu Records also stood on West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, a short bus ride from downtown on the Number 4 bus.  Of those stores, only Zulu remains.  I’m in Vancouver right now, and I think I’m going to make my way over there today.

But it was in record stores that kids like me learned about this entire universe of punk and alternative music in the late 80s.  In places like Track and Zulu, we heard the likes of Fugazi and the Minutemen, as well as the Wonderstuff and Pop Will Eat Itself and the Stone Roses playing on the hi-fi.  This is where we could find the alternative press and zines, I found out about all these British bands from the NME and Melody Maker.  You’d talk to the guys working in the stores (and it was almost always guys, rarely were there women working in these stores), you’d talk to the older guys browsing the record collections about what was good.  Some of these guys were assholes and too cool to impart their wisdom, but most of them weren’t.  And then you’d rush home to the suburbs and listen to the new music, reading the liner notes and the lyrics as you did.

For the longest time, I held out against digital music.  I liked the physical artefact of music.  I liked the sleeve, the liner notes and the record/cassette/cd.  In part, I liked it because of the act of buying it, of going into the record store, even the corporate ones, listening to what was playing in the store, looking around and finding something.  There’s not many record stores left.  The big Canadian chains are all dead and gone.  Same with the big American ones.  In Boston, the great indie chain, Newbury Comics, isn’t really a record store anymore.  The flagship store on Newbury St. has more clothes, books, movies, and just general knick knacks than music.  Montréal had a bunch of underground stores up rues Saint-Denis and Mont-Royal, but they’re slowly dying, too.  And here in Vancouver, the only one I know of is Zulu (though I’m sure there’s more on the east side, on Main, Broadway or Commercial).

I miss the community of music, it just doesn’t exist anymore.  I suppose if I wanted to, I could find it online, discussion groups and the like.  But it’s not the same.  There’s no physical artefact to compare and share.  There’s just iTunes or Amazon.

Mon pays

February 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

My erstwhile colleague, Matthew Hayday, has written an interesting critique of John Furlong and VANOC’s attempts to use the Québécois singer Gilles Vigneault’s song, “Mon Pays” for the 2010 Olympic opening ceremony. Except that VANOC made no attempt to contact Vigneault for permission before planning the festivities and they were left holding the bag when Vigneault refused permission.  As Matthew notes, quelle surprise, Vigneault is a well-known separatist and “Mon Pays” was the song people cried in their beer to after the 1980 Referendum loss for the “Oui” side.

Matthew goes on to note that Furlong demonstrated a total lack of understanding of Québec here. I have a few things to note in response.

First, Matthew is bang on, deciding to use a Vigneault song for Canada’s Winter Olympics is missing the entire point of Vigneault’s long career. Second, choosing a song that was recorded in 1966 shows a devastatingly pathetic grasp on pop culture in Québec.

But more to the point, the lack of understanding about Québec from some in the ROC is not all that shocking to me. I have been told many times that I speak “very good English” for a Quebecer. The most recent time being last summer when I was in Vancouver. Indeed, it is impressive an Anglo-Montrealer would speak English well.

Something is Rotten in the Country of Canada

September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Seriously, there is something deeply and fundamentally flawed in this country.  According to The Globe & Mail, Ontario is making a push to become the centre of the digital entertainment industry in Canada.  That’s all fine and good until one realises that the industry is presently centred in Vancouver and Montréal.  So, basically, Toronto, backed by the provincial government, is now going to take on the other two major cities in the country, backed by their own provincial governments, in order to see who wins.  This is just wrong.

Certainly, the provinces have had flashpoints, economically speaking, including Québec’s infamous deal with Newfoundland for Churchill Falls.  But that deal was made because Newfoundland lacked the ability to harness the power of Churchill Falls.  Vancouver and Montréal, on the other hand, are already the centre of this industry.  What Toronto and Ontario are doing here is nothing short of cannibalisation.

Something is wrong, very wrong, in this country.

Modernist Architectural Behemothology

March 11, 2010 § 6 Comments

Years ago, I lived in Vancouver, perhaps once the greatest example of Modernist architecture in Canada, if not North America.  Vancouver is the city that unleashed architect Arthur Erickson on the world.  Sadly, Erickson died last spring.  Yet, Erickson’s buildings live on in Vancouver, especially his modernist designs, most notably Simon Fraser University in suburban Vancouver (where I completed my MA), and the Canadian Embassy in DC.

Indeed, one of my favourite architecture books is Rhodri Windsor Liscombe’s The New Spirit: Modern Architecture in Vancouver, 1939-1963.  Modernist buildings haven’t really stood the test of time, I have to say, especially those designed to look like concrete bunkers, such as the Canadian Embassy.  SFU is one of the most depressing places in the world on a cloudy, rainy day atop Burnaby Mountain.  Unfortunately, it is often rainy and cloudy atop Burnaby Mountain.  University campuses across North America are dotted with modernist buildings, as the great boom of construction on these campuses came at the height of modernism in the post-War era.  In many instances, modernist behemoths look as if they were dropped into more classical settings, such is the case of Student Center Building at the University of Masscachusetts, Amherst.  In the picture below, you can see those older, classic buildings scattered around the Student Center and the residence towers behind it.

So pervasive is modernist architecture on campuses that it is oftentimes pejoratively referred to as “Neo-Brutalist” architecture.  Indeed, buildings such as the Student Center, or the entire Burnaby Mountain campus of SFU, re-enforce this.  The buildings are concrete, massive, and imposing.  Inside, there is a lot of dark browns, dark woods, and black.  Gloomy is about the only way to describe these interiors.

Long and short, the term “Neo-Brutalist” quite often fits, not that there aren’t some beautiful modernist buildings to be found, such as Vancouver’s old BC Hydro Building, which has since been condofied, or MOntréal’s Palais de Congrès.

But, despite this, I can’t help but chuckle when I read stories like this one in the Globe & Mail yesterday, about the Public Safety Building in Winnipeg.

This particular behemoth, built in 1966, is a textbook case of Neo-Brutalist Behemothology.  Frequently the several hundred employees of the Winnipeg Police Force are required to vacate the building because of noxious fumes that waft up into the building.  This happens frequently, apparently.  This time it required the Hazmat to come.  The PSB is built out of

brittle Tyndall limestone, hasn’t held up against Winnipeg’s climate. Dozens of steel brackets cling to the building’s exterior like Band-Aids, preventing the facade from avalanching into the street. A $98,000 awning encircles the building, stopping pieces of the gaudy structure from braining pedestrians.

And this is the crux of the problem with many Neo-Brutalist behemoths, from SFU to Montréal’s legendary Stade Olympique, known in English as the “Big O”, or more fittingly, the “Big Owe,” as it took 30 years for the city to pay off its legacy from the 1976 Summer Olympics, by which time the Expos had decamped for Washington and the Alouettes had been re-born in McGill University’s quaint Molson Stadium at the foot of Mont-Royal.  But the Big Owe and the PSB, and SFU, for that matter, all have something in common.  The materials used to build them aren’t all that well-suited to the climate they are in.  Hence, the PSB is falling apart, the Big O has had large slabs of concrete fall off it, and SFU, well, that much concrete in a rain forest isn’t the best idea, either.

But the bigger question is what to do with these buildings, especially those that are falling apart or being abandoned, as is the case with the PSB.  Urban preservationists in Winnipeg argue that the PSB is worth saving,

According to University of Winnipeg Art Historian, Serena Keshavjee,

It’s not a love-hate relationship people have with these buildings; it’s just hate.  People grew up with these buildings and don’t see them as heritage buildings, but the same thing happened 40 years ago with Victoria structures.

Had we ripped out every Victorian building in the country we would be very sorry these days,” she said. “And these are the times when they become vulnerable. The country is coming out of recession and people are gearing up to tear things down.

UW historian David Burley echoes, arguing that modernism

reflects a time when the federal government lavished money on public projects and Canadian pride soared ahead of Expo 67 and the centennial. “It was a nationwide movement,” he said. “There was this great optimism. The central parts of cities had deteriorated and there was a sense it was time to redevelop things.”

Personally, I’m not so sure that a modernist building is worth saving just because of its own merits.  A building like the PSB is an ugly imposition on the urban landscape.  Buildings like it seem to mock their landscapes, they don’t fit in, they crush them, they impose upon them.  They belittle us.  Of course, granted, that’s the point with a police station, or at least it was in the 1960s.  But that doesn’t mean a building should be saved just because it’s old.  Sometimes, old things are just junk.  And the PSB is an example of that.

Oh for the love of God

January 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is entirely off-topic, but: the Winter Olympics in Vancouver are coming up next month.  And this is Canada.  In Canada, we expect to win every gold medal on offer in international hockey.  We do win a lot.  Just not in men’s international hockey.  At least not in the Olympics, with only 2 in the past 60 years (1952 and 2002).  In 2006, Canada bombed out of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament in most embarrassing fashion.  Anyway, I digress.  For this year, Pepsi and Hockey Canada have teamed up to commission an “official” chant for the fans.  Yes, that’s right, “they” want to tell “us,” the fans, what to chant at a hockey game.  The chant, moreover, is so godamned lame it’s not even funny: “Eh! O, Canada Go!”  It’s being test-driven at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Saskatoon right now.  One word: Awkward, try saying it yourself.  Go on.  Seriously, an “official” chant for the fans.  One coming from a marketing campaign.  I can’t even begin to tell y’all how much that depresses me.

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