Saturday, May 23, 2009

we're f*cked: a rant

America Is F*cked.......(graphically at least) from Jess Gibson on Vimeo.

Check this out. This little video clip gets to the heart of North America's cultural erosion -- for want of a better term -- using disrespect for our manmade visual landscape and its history as a metaphor for what ails society in general. I have driven through small towns in Washington state where every single business is part of a huge, anonymous chain. The signs and buildings don't reflect personal investment because let's face it: owning or working in a Jiffy Lube, i.e. someone else's vision of a company, really is just another job. Lots of towns in Canada are almost as bad. I'm pretty convinced that we are deeply, personally influenced by all this visual/corporate homogeneity.

I can't remember where I was or what I was listening to but the speaker said that there are only five cities in all of Canada worth living in because they are the only five cities that have honoured the past by preserving the architecture and charm of their early years, and therefore that important visual link to the past. I do remember the cities, though: Ottawa, Quebec City, Charlottetown, St. John's and Victoria. I lived in Victoria for four years (and Greg grew up there) but we have never made it back in spite of countless tries. It just feels better being there.

Architect and visionary Arthur Erickson died on Wednesday. Will his buildings be flattened in a century's time, dismissed as just more outdated late 20th century glass-and-concrete crap?

OK, Grumpy Pants is done. I have to go kick the dog now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was both funny and sad - I love the guy's passion about the signs.

24/5/09 4:12 a.m.  
Blogger tlc illustration said...

Homogeneity is one of the banes of our contemporary existence I think. It saddens me.

24/5/09 3:31 p.m.  
Blogger Heather Plett said...

That's exactly why, when I head to Toronto tomorrow, I'm staying at an amazing B&B in an old victorian house in the heart of downtown rather than a homogeneous hotel in some industrial strip out by the airport, surrounded by big box stores and thoroughfares.

24/5/09 5:40 p.m.  
Blogger dinahmow said...

You northerners don't have the monopoly on this. All around me, these things I call "concretosities" are burgeoning.
And all in the name of the almighty dollar (Pound/Euro for some of you)
Think I'll take the Fuji across the river where the lovely old houses"live."

24/5/09 6:00 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Citizen: And I thought he was the perfect spokesman for such an issue: the everyman.

Tara: It deadens. Big Brother knows that.

Heather: Take photos!

Dinah: Even concrete has its place (check out Erickson's Museum of Anthropology above) -- it's concretosities that offer absolutely nothing -- i.e. most of them -- that bug me.

24/5/09 7:06 p.m.  
Blogger Ellen said...

PBS has a great doc. series on now about New York. One episode spanned the 1920-30's and highlighted Robert Moses, the power builder who wanted to (and did in Brooklyn) tear down old neighbourhoods and put in expressways, saying "cities are for traffic".

A grassroots movement started to preserve old New York from his progessive vision. If it hadn't, Greenwich Village and Soho would just be a big bridge and ugly, cheap highrises (and no galleries!).

It's good to rant, even for the old signs.

24/5/09 9:32 p.m.  
Blogger Ian Lidster said...

You do a great grumpy pants and I could add nothing to what you write other than to see the human tragedy in this all. I grew up in Burnaby when it was still an essentially rural suburb of the Big Smoke. It was quite lovely then. Today I do not recognize it and have no desire to visit my childhood home. In effect I cannot go home again. I now see the same thing happening in the Comox Valley and frankly I detest it.

25/5/09 11:59 a.m.  
Blogger Kim Hambric said...

I live in a college town in central Pennsylvania. It was a lovely town when I moved here 11 years ago. While most buildings in the small downtown remain the same, the businesses have changed. Small charming boutiques have given over to banks with garish signs stapled over the beautiful facades. Once you walk or drive a quarter mile out of town nothing remains. Everything is a chain. The wooded sites, older homes, and family businesses have all been leveled. It has happened so quickly, I would swear that I heard a "poof".

Nothing is left to give any identity to the area. I could be in Pennsylvania, outside Toronto, outside Las Vegas. There no way of knowing. No way to get it back.

It is a cancer rapidly eating our cities, towns, and villages. I feel miserable each and every time I am forced to drive along those streets.

26/5/09 6:27 a.m.  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I am going to save the video for when my daughter is safely on the school bus and out of ear shot - but I concur - same here in CO.

I think that's why we elected to stay in the city instead of fleeing to the suburbs when we had a kid. Friends questioned our sanity, but I love that I have choices of family owned businesses to frequent in the city (though we have our share of chains). It's all about choice though - choice of how to spend money and time.

I didn't hear about Arthur Erickson - I studied his work several years ago, mainly his and Cornelia Oberlander's collaborations. His architecture and her landscape contributions. Robson Square mainly, but I looked at a lot of their projects. Isn't this photo the Museum of Anthropology?

26/5/09 6:40 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Ellen: There are pockets of that kind in Vancouver fortunately, but it seems to only happen in big cities (as Cynthia said).

Ian: Launch a protest!

Kim: Frightening how fast it happens! 11 years. Imagine. The small towns haven't got the mighty power of the civic dollar behind them so what chance do they have?

Cynthia: Most people flee to the suburbs out of economic necessity. Here, anyway, as the city is a better place to live in almost all ways. And yes, that is the UBC Museum of Anthropology. I love his work.

26/5/09 4:38 p.m.  
Blogger Kikipotamus said...

Thank you, Grumpy Pants. That guy is right on; it is so sad what is being lost and what is replacing it.

2/6/09 6:54 a.m.  
Blogger Donn said...

Jeff Gibson for F*ckin' President!

24/6/09 9:04 p.m.  

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