Attack of Danger Bay – Pender Harbour

Racers ready at the hilltop

You know how sometimes the right interviews just seem to fall in place?

Covering the Attack of Danger Bay, an annual longboarding tournament in Pender Harbour, it seemed everyone I spoke with had an interesting story to tell.

It was one of those events where you find people of all ages, from all sorts of locations, all united in their common love of broken bones, high speed and thin pieces of plied wood.

The most notorious bend on the Pender Harbour course is Carnage Corner. Behold:

Photographer Justin Samson put together an excellent gallery. Check out his work.

Story.

Hunting for the perfect playlist

I’m going through a phase, I swear. Nah, they’re good tunes.

It’s happened to you – kicking it with some friends and marveling at the most excellent playlist your collective minds have produced, you think ‘I wish I could save this for later…’

The thing about a good playlist is that it’s not only pleasant to listen to, it has the ability to capture a moment in time; giving it another spin can transport us back to that place using our ears, like a photo through eyes.

Those experiences are defined in so many ways and the uniqueness each chapter holds finds its way into the soundtrack of your life. The people around you use their emotions to contribute to the beat just like you do, and our times spent together are every bit as valuable as those spent apart.

So why not try to capture it like you would a photo? The soundtrack of your life, catalogued and committed to some form of permanent media. I tried it before but always to no avail. It was far too difficult to keep burning CDs and if you were away from home, it just made the task more challenging.

But as the world of social media has expanded, it naturally didn’t take long for someone to capture our nascent desire to share tunes, with a website.

So here goes the experiment: using Grooveshark, I started a communal account named MJmuse. Follow along if you wish and you can see if this works.

Or at least, get the chance to share in my incomparable taste in music. Of course.

Group playlists are always saved along with the date they were made. Each contributor to the group creates a new one every month and simply adds all the songs they’re listening to. Everyone posting to it gets to share in the memories and the real gems are those shared by the whole group.

It requires a lot less of a buy-in to complete and my hope is that over time, it will become something really special, so long as I get some customers, that is.

So here’s to finding that perfect playlist and more importantly, making sure it is never lost again.

Vancouver man involved in SK residential schools sex case: reports

Beauval Residential School in 1924

Beauval Residential School in 1924

An elderly man from Vancouver is facing sex assault charges stemming from his time spent as a dormitory supervisor at a residential school in Beauval, SK.

The reports seem to have conflicting information, such as the vital detail of his age. Anyways, here they are:

Global Saskatoon

Northern Pride (local independent)

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several survivors from the Beauval Residential School and others. It has been a great source of pain for many First Nations people living in northwest Saskatchewan and all over Canada. Here’s an article I wrote last year about a couple of their experiences.

Republicans debate about how none of them are going to get elected

Anyone watch the Ames Debate tonight?

*crickets*

There’s so much talk about how the United States is imploding in its own debt, that funny word which implies owing money in a system where all money is owed.

Let’s cut programs, let’s purposefully not pay back our obligations, let’s obliterate central banking (a western tradition since 1694) – these are the tactics of an American right-wing coming face-to-face with the super-president Obama.

Granted this is a bit of a spiel, but seriously, nobody will defeat Obama in 2012. He’s a wall. The American ship is sinking, this is true, but the holy grail of solutions is as realistic as…well, the holy grail. There are no candidates that can lead a strong challenge against his rule because there are no candidates that have a workable solution to the problem.

Not saying he, or any political figure or group, has one…

Either America continues spending to maintain its power at an unsustainable level, or it bows out and accepts the eclipse of its status as the modern Rome.

But what about us?

Our country’s political figures are scrambling to find new trade relationships, such as Harper’s current venture in Latin America. It’s an effort to distance themselves from the growing reality that our bulwark of economic security to the South is fading. So many times have nations who’ve enjoyed the warm and fuzzy blanket of safety, afforded by a strong ally, had to deal with that friend’s decline.

So many times have the superpowers of the world had to provide such security for their friends at a heavy cost domestically.

Well here we are, with politicians crying ‘witch!’ and lamenting the loss of a time when writing your local representative actually meant something, when politicians could provide something more real than banter, talking points, and shiny hair.

For us here in Canada, the only thing left to do is cling to a hopeful outlook amid these shifts of tectonic political plates. Sure, we’ve always been somewhat polite, standing up against the occasional crime against humanity and maintaining a reasonable international policy during those few opportunities we’ve had the bravery to stand up for something paramount, but our voice has been a quiet one through the years, asking for sanity and truthfully asking, ‘why can’t we equally enjoy the fruits that this world and life have provided us?’

Many accuse us of being in bed with the Americans. Well, this is true. But let me tell you, this nation of ours didn’t marry for love, we married for wealth.

With all these squabbles about how to dig upward from the hole burrowed by the maintenance of a clandestine empire stretching pole-to-pole, our little responsible Canada should invest in its reputation as a quiet voice of reason.

I may be patriotic, but I think we deserve more international recognition for our thoughts of a humanity holding hands with itself and the world.

There seems to be a window emerging, one where one power will vacate and another will move in. It’s a hole that has historically been occupied by those with large bank accounts and militaries begetting a fear to be trifled with. But what if a simple voice of reason, one that echoes the concerns of an evolved human populace, were to fill that void?

At such a remarkable stage in human history and evolution, what is left to do but try?

But more importantly, what do you think?

Reporting from Saskatchewan’s bread basket

There’s a feeling that anything is possible here.

In a place like Meadow Lake, communities are coming together to enjoy a level of prosperity the rest of Canada can only dream of. First Nations groups like Flying Dust, a reserve anchored against the city of Meadow Lake, are working with the local and provincial governments to build a brighter tomorrow that includes long-term care facilities for the elderly, schools, recreational centres and a truly unique sharing of prosperity through cooperation.

While residents of Saskatchewan are united in the bounty that this spirit of cooperation seems to offer, there is also a fermenting culture of modernity, as a province once defined by a spirit of reaction comes to grips with its new role as a pro-active player.

Farmers in the northwest recently sowed the seeds of their annual prosperity, ahead of the rest of the province which, gripped by the heavy spring rains, found themselves unusually behind. Unfortunately a recent frost served as a reminder that the force of nature can quickly turn on you, destroying a great deal of the early seeding accomplished by the area's wheat growers.

Moving from the hustle-and-bustle of Vancouver, where one hockey team stands poised to once again solidify Vancouver as the Canadian Paris, my transition to an electronically quiet life in Saskatchewan hasn’t been without its challenges.

But like every entrepreneurial spirit in Canada’s rectangle, the room for growth is considerable.

Saskatchewan's teachers march in Meadow Lake to demand a share of their province's prosperity. After requesting a 16.3 per cent raise, mediation was adopted in hopes of finding a middle ground between the union's demands and the government's offer.

Our media, a bulwark of respectability against the Bill O’Reillys of the world, is standing on the cusp of a regretful foray into the world of sensationalism. As it becomes ever more difficult to charge a dollar for truth in the information age, we risk falling towards a journalism that reeks more of gossip than a worthwhile contribution to national discourse.

But in a province such as this, the pathway to modernity smells a little nicer.

I consider myself quite fortunate to be in the employ of not only a profitable newspaper, but one that is independent as well. The corporate scramble to find a raison d’etre in the form of capital that seems to be sucking the life out of media across Canada and the world is less pronounced when working within the confines of an independent and successful media form – one that continues to hold hands with the wants and interests of its public.

There is no fear here, no need to reconcile flowery language with the journalistic need to print an integral story that hits hard against the issues that matter. No photo galleries of cheerleaders smacked on the front page to ‘content farm’ our way to a steady stream of web traffic, no need to copy-and-paste keywords trending in social media and conquer the battlefield of Google’s search rankings.

The city recently dealt with a forest fire larger than the one that claimed Slave Lake, AB. Fortunately, it sparked some 12km outside of town, sparing the destruction and despair of its Alberta counterpart. Interestingly enough, an Albertan helicopter company was contracted to fight the fire, with one of their helicopters crashing during the escapade.

The pathway to success here seems to be that of simply speaking the language of the reader. Where an area of grey space on a page may be filled by a wire story from somewhere else in the country, or a story plucked for its popularity from some other far-flung corporately-allied news source, a media truly in touch with its readership is not afraid to print the stories of little national consequence in favour of an honest loyalty to its public.

The room for growth is high. I recently began building a web presence for my newspaper. On our first day of going live, I noticed 200 hits and four comments on an editorial I wrote regarding an initiative to begin burying Canada’s nuclear waste in Saskatchewan’s north.

In addition to the comments came nods from as far as Egypt and Germany, proving that local news can have an international context no matter what language we speak.

Did I mention this city’s population is a massive 5,000?

At the end of the day, it would seem the most important thing in media at this point is to remain unique, to speak a language which other outlets have seemingly missed. All the while, we must remain loyal to our fundamental readership. What brings Germans to a small city in Saskatchewan is interest in a local German-context – that of moving away from nuclear power – that we share in common.

In a funny way, it seems Saskatchewan’s legacy of playing catch-up could play a role in demonstrating the next step for media.

Take the old and blend it with the new.

Heritage sites in the Langara area, a look at our community’s past

26 SW Marine Drive

The Chrysler Building's brick wall is braced with metal poles while it undergoes restoration. Click for Flickr photo gallery

By BEN INGRAM


Every city is in some way adorned with a legacy of historic buildings, those fixtures of the past which provide a window into the character of previous days.

Vancouver is of course no different. Places like Casa Mia, a mansion built by bootleggers in the 1930s, offer more than just shelter from the storm. They give the city a story, one which can be shared with visitors and newborns alike.

While the rum-runner mansion, currently rumoured to be on the market for more than $10 million, offers an appealing story of high-class gangsters, all of Vancouver’s heritage buildings have a tale worth telling.

The Langara area is home to several heritage sites. They may not be as flashy as the others, but they each represent a worthy piece of Vancouver’s past.

The nuclear family

The Chrysler Building on 26 W Marine Drive is one such example.

It was built in 1956, a direct product of the post-war boom. Canadians were spending more than ever, families were growing and the consumer age rolled full-steam ahead.

All that stands now is the front wall, protected by a top-rating on Vancouver’s heritage register. The site has been rezoned to allow for the building of a retail complex centred around a large Canadian Tire store.

Marco Bordignon, project coordinator

Marco Bordignon points to the old wall's black support beam. The lead-filled beam will anchor the wall to the new building, he said.

Marco Bordignon is the project coordinator on the site.

“They’re using it like a showpiece,” Bordignon said of the intended design. The building’s remains will be fixed against the opening wall of the store, facing outwards towards Marine Drive. He said that a great deal of care is being taken to protect the wall while the new stores are constructed.

The new store was designed by architect John Cheung.

“Part of the agreement is to make sure we retain the wall, [but also] that we have to restore the wall,” Cheung said, speaking of his design for the retail giant. The wall suffers from damaged brickwork and needs supports to prevent it from collapsing while the new complex is constructed.

While the people who worked there didn’t have high status jobs or stories worth making a movie about, their legends are told just as much. The nuclear family and white-glowing television sets, when smoking was okay and letters had to be physically written.

Award-winning design

While a brick wall might not be much to look at, the Langara area is also home to sites that are protected because of the shear beauty of their design.

One example is the Unitarian Church on W 49th Avenue.

A natural wood interior welcomes light and perfected acoustics.

Reverend Steve Epperson knows all about it.

“You’ve got wood, you’ve got lots of light. He wanted to build it so you’d have that sense of inside being outside, bringing nature in,” Epperson said.

The building was designed by Wolfgang Gerson in 1964 with a careful ear towards acoustics. While serving primarily as a church, the building doubles as a highly regarded concert hall.

Reverend Steve Epperson outside the sanctuary

Epperson stands beside a plaque dedicating the building to its creator

So much has the building been praised for the brilliance of its design that it has also been given a top-rating on the heritage register.

Windows into the past

The Langara area is also home to sites that are valued because of their age.

Sir William Van Horne Elementary will be celebrating its centennial this year during the month of May. Built in 1911, the school continues to educate the children who grow up in our neighbourhood. Even at the age of 100, the building is a well-maintained window into the areas past.

Close to that is the C.G. Johnson house on W 58th Avenue. Built in 1912 by one of Vancouver’s wealthier individuals, it later became a nursing home in 1938. Like the school it stands well-preserved, an age-old building amongst freshly dry-walled suburban houses and sprawling retail outlets.

BC Soccer optimistic about Vancouver Whitecaps MLS debut

Proud fans watch the Whitecaps' first MLS victory. Photo by Rosie Tulips

The enthusiasm surrounding Saturday’s Whitecaps victory over Toronto FC has BC Soccer Association excited about the future of youth soccer in the province.

As a director of BC Soccer, Steve Allen said he expects the Whitecaps’ integration into Major League Soccer will boost interest in soccer for both parents and their children.

“In general we expect to see an increase in youth registration. BC Soccer’s programming has changed over the last year in anticipation of the MLS,” Allen said.

Many of the 23,000 screaming fans that witnessed Whitecaps star Eric Hassli score two goals on Saturday, leading the team to victory over Toronto FC, were parents and children.

“Those kinds of activities tend to generate new registrations in the youth game,” Allen said, adding that when the parents become interested, they’re much more likely to register their kids to play.

This February, BC Soccer announced the eight clubs comprising their new Premier League. Top-level talents in youth soccer will be recruited from multiple age ranges to participate in the first ‘mini-season’ this fall.

The league, which recently enlisted EA Sports as a major sponsor, begins its first full-season in March of 2012. BC Soccer’s Premier League will have youth competing on the national level.

“Our reorganization was to bring us in line with the rest of Canada,” Allen said.

Some adjustments

“BC’s in a very unique situation in that we can play soccer all year round. It’s also a double-edged sword because you get lousy weather, more injuries. Summer time, when we should be playing or training, we’re not.”

Like the Canucks, the Whitecaps sell 50/50 lottery tickets at their games and a significant portion is marked for youth programs. Allen said he also expects increased revenue from the Whitecaps to help development.

“More camps, academies and programs that people can take part in. There’s some revenue generation there,” Allen said. He added that many of the kids involved at this level will have their eyes set on a career in soccer that may include university, college, or even the Whitecaps themselves.

While the new league has been organized around the anticipation of the Whitecaps heading to MLS, Allen hopes the added interest in the sport will show at all levels of competitive soccer in BC.

Beyond simply raising interest in the sport, there are expectations that the Whitecaps will have other positive effects on the province.

Around $563 million has been injected into renovations at BC Place, the future home of the Whitecaps and BC Lions. With this, there is added hope that Vancouver will win its bid to secure the 2015 Women’s World Cup of Soccer.

Hope for growth

While increased revenues are expected by people like Allen to trickle down to the lower levels of soccer in the province, he said he also expects merchandise sales and tourism to have a positive effect on the local economy.

“It’s flying off the shelves right now,” Allen said of Whitecaps merchandise. “There’s a lot of [economic] activity that comes from these events.”

BC Soccer expects that games against Toronto, Portland and Seattle will generate the most tourism, with visitors loyal to these teams staying in hotels and enjoying Vancouver’s culture.

The general confidence in the future of the Whitecaps has also led to an all-star line up of sponsorships. Among the names secured before Saturday’s MLS debut are Bell Canada, Bank of Montreal, Electronic Arts and Kia Motors.

With all the investment, sponsorship and enthusiastic fans surrounding the Whitecaps’ ascendancy, it would seem that Vancouver has caught soccer fever.

“The reality is, when the Whitecaps started to look at [entering the MLS], they had other things in mind as well.”

Feature: How to make the perfect compost pile, a definitive guide

Two stakes and a net is all you need if you follow these easy steps

Here in Vancouver, 30 per cent of collected garbage is made of biodegradable materials. These materials can be easily composted, but are instead dumped into the trash. While the city has set its sights on a 70 per cent diversion rate by 2015 – meaning the goal is to have most of the waste avoid a landfill – it requires the willful participation of the population.

Constructing your own compost is actually an easy process, requiring very little expertise. Follow these simple instructions to put a dent in your waste contributions.

Read More

Hundreds of citizens pack city council for first Edgewater Casino hearing

A crowd gathers outside of the W 12 Avenue entrance to city hall

The corridors of Vancouver City Hall were packed tonight, as hundreds of people showed up to express their distaste over the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion.

Before being allowed into the building, protesters jammed the entrance waiting for the security lockdown to cease, a “standard procedure” according to councillor Andrea Reimer, who entered through the Broadway entrance.

While the anger could be felt from all directions, with various groups lobbing words like ‘greed’ and expressing a strong distaste for what they felt the proposal would mean for the city, a small group of casino workers stood off to the side, wondering why nobody wanted to hear their side of the story.

Edgewater employees

“They help me out a lot,” said Edgewater employee Elela Eremina. A Russian immigrant and 13 year casino employee, Eremina said she was recently diagnosed with cancer and that the company had been quite supportive of her needs.

Beside Eremina stood her friend and colleague Shelly Holden, a 38-year-old blackjack dealer that’s worked at Edgewater for over two years.

“It’s pretty heart breaking to see this many people so adamantly opposed to it,” she said, her eyes watering up indicating she was holding back tears.

“They’re making it more of an anger issue than it is.”

Holden said the critics of the development were ignoring the creation of jobs, expected to number some 1,900 full-time equivalent positions.

“Nobody still has a solid argument as to why [there should be] no casino.”

Gaming addiction

Holden pointed to GameSense representatives who are tasked with identifying problem gamblers, around 4.6 per cent of the population, and providing them with services to deal with their addictions.

“You go online and you don’t get that,” she said. “BCLC seems to be pretty much supporting online gambling and they’re forgetting about the people who actually need jobs.”

Those opposed certainly made their presence felt, with several large banners exclaiming opposition to the casino expansion. The group Vancouver Not Vegas, which distributed signs addressed to various councillors opposing the expansion, had collected over 2,800 signatures for its online petition by the time council proceedings began.

Opposition from an unlikely source

Among the 163 speakers in line to speak was Glyn Townson, spokesman for the BC Persons with AIDS Society.

“I think the politicians need to hear the issues around this that they might not be fully aware of,” he said. Townson expressed a degree of confidence in the mayor and council, but added that he worried about the transparency of gaming funds.

“They’re not giving the percentages they said they were going to in the first place … In the beginning where it was 50 per cent, now [it’s] 30 per cent,” he said.

Townson said that his group depends upon an annual dividend of $210,000 in order to finance much of their operations. While told there would be no cuts to that funding, he said he recently found out that the group will have to budget for $50,000 less.

Saying he had witnessed the effects first-hand of these type of cuts on social programming, like arts and athletics, Townson said his group wanted “A full counting of where that money is going.”

A crowd pleaser

While the highly contenious session of council got underway, the crowd became noticeably unsettled by 8:00 p.m. A drunken individual, who was seen consuming alcohol outside of the council chambers, walked up to the BC Pavilion Corporation speaker and interrupted his presentation.

Security officials asked the crowd if the man should be removed and the group answered with a resounding “Yes!”

It was, perhaps, the least contentious issue of the night.