CBC’s “Live Chemical Reaction” in Vancouver


CBC Studios (Vancouver)

My wife and I had the pleasure of sitting in on a live taping of Go!  (CBC’s “live chemical reaction”) in Vancouver last Friday.  It was the western finals of the Canada Writes competition, and there were a few surprises in store.

The Go! cast warmed up the audience (and presumably themselves) with banter and a skit.  After that, the show started, and Brent Bambery soon introduced the guest judges.  The panelists included film maker Mina Shum, Spirit of the West frontman John Mann, and commedian Sugar Sammy.


The Judges

The contestants were introduced, and they each performed a piece written earlier on the worst advice they had ever received (memorable among these were “dude, let’s take your Dad’s van”, and simply “jump!”).

In the second round, a vocalist delivered new lyrics that the aspiring authors penned for popular songs.   One hapless contestant had to rewrite the lyrics to a Spirit of the West classic!  After that, it was time for the first contestant to be ejected from the contest by way of the show’s metaphorical trapdoor.

The remaining contestants had to write a movie pitch in five minutes with assigned titles including “the Fourth Cauldron” (shades of 2010, anyone?), and then produced their shortest works of fiction ever (with a 60 second time limit, no less).

In the midst of all of this, John Mann performed two numbers, and Ian Hanomansing popped in to promo a new NHL themed game that he created.  By the end of the show, one more contestant had been ejected and the two Western finalists were proclaimed.

If you live in the Winnipeg or Toronto areas, additional Canada Writes shows are coming up, and tickets are free!


A Very Vancouver Kind of Day

Why is it that I never hit any of Vancouver’s major sites unless we have visitors in town?  My wife’s cousin and his girlfriend have been visiting from Calgary for the last few days, and we’ve seen more of Vancouver in three days than we do in most months!

Today, we started by hitting the Vancouver Aquarium.  The $28.00 admission is a bit steep but, for just $56.00, you can get an annual pass.  We toured through the beluga exhibit first, and saw the new baby chasing her older sister around the tank.

Belugas can live anywhere between 60 and 80 years!  Apparently, the Aquarium pumps water into the exhibit from Burrard Inlet.  It is filtered, and then chilled to temperatures that they would experience in northern waters and estuaries (between 8 and 10 degrees Celsius).


We also toured the Tropical, Amazon and BC exhibits.  The interpretive displays are first rate, although the Aquarium seems a little more commercial than I remember.  Ten fifty for a burger and fries!?!?  I suppose the cost of running a facility like that must be astronomical…


After the Aquarium, we went to the Night Market in Vancouver’s Chinatown.  I avoided the mass consumer products – especially the knock off DVDs – but enjoyed looking at some of the cultural items and goodies.  We tried a few of the culinary delights – the most exotic fare being fried squid and some kind of fish (Sammi?) on a skewer.


We started at the east end of Keefer Street and worked our way through the booths.  There was entertainment at the west end of Keefer close to the Monument of Canadian Chinese, but it was winding down by the time we worked our way to that end.

If you do stop by the Night Market, keep in mind that the bank machines in the area are locked down by 7:00 p.m. or so – probably due to Chinatown’s proximity to Vancouver’s Downtwon Eastside.  This was a bit inconvenient, but it did cut my wife’s shopping down quite a bit…

The view from inside a CBC radio show… looking out on a Métis nation…

So, a colleague and I attended the sixth annual UBC – Laurier Institution Multiculturalism Lecture last night.  I was held at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, and was hosted by the good people from CBC’s Ideas program.  Incidentally, they will be broadcasting this event on June 25, 2009.  I assure you that it will be well worth a listen.

After a welcome to the Musqueam territories, we were treated to a “conscious hip hop” performance by Miss Christie Lee, who hails from the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.  Her music combined elders’ voices, funky beats, and rap lyrics in both Hunquminum (a Salishan language) and English.  She emphasized respect and pride in culture, wherever we’re from.  For me, her performance highlighted the dynamic, living nature of Aboriginal cultures in contrast to the static portrait we are often fed.  Christie also plugged Beat Nation, where you can find out about a number of Aboriginal hip hop artists.

John Ralston Saul then took the stage.  He spoke to the central themes of his latest book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada.  There is nothing surprising in Saul’s premise that Canada is a “small m” métis nation, i.e., that our politics and society have been shaped significantly by Aboriginal worldviews.  His more provocative statement is that Canada will not move forward until we align our political structures with this reality rather than relying on 19th century, colonial myths – the two founding nations construct being one example.

Saul also criticized the political elite’s insistence on holding separate conversations with Aboriginal people and newcomers to Canada rather than involving both constituencies into the dialogue that began in earnest at the time of first contact.  Immigration is one example of where Canada parts ways with its former colonial masters.  We accept well over 200,000 new immigrants each year, 85% of whom become citizens within five years.  Saul calls this immigration as adoption (an Aboriginal conceptualization) in contrast to the USA’s “melting pot” or the racialized approaches of many European countries.

BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Shawn Atleo and UBC Associate Dean for Indigenous Education Jo-anne Archibald then joined Saul on stage to answer questions from the moderator and, in turn, members of the audience.  I am not going to lie, it seemed that some of the people asking questions wanted to hear their own voice rather than what the panellists might have added.  In spite of this, they did manage to offer some interesting perspectives.  At the end of the evening, Chief Atleo called on Ms. Archibald as well as Bruce Dumont, President of Métis Nation BC, to present Saul with a traditional First Nations paddle.

I was struck by a few little ironies throughout the evening.  For example, it took the husband of the Queen’s former representative in Canada to bring recognition of Canada’s Aboriginal underpinnings into the mainstream discourse.  Maybe this is appropriate given the Crown’s special relationship(s) with Aboriginal people; however, the Vice Regent also represents the colonial myths that Saul would have us abandon.

Another irony is that it took Saul’s tool of trade – the written word – to highlight the importance of oral traditions in constructing shared understanding.  Finally, Saul’s new book was printed in the USA, the very bastion of the monolithic capitalist ideology that he also criticizes.  I get that he would probably not describe himself as a nationalist in the conventional sense of the word, but it still seems incongruent given much of his message.

Nevertheless, I stayed for the reception after the fact and shelled out the $35.00 for a hardcover copy of Saul’s book so I could get it signed by the author.  I am strangely gleeful to have this and, luckily, it is an engaging read thus far…

C’est le metro, boulot, dodo…

I learned that expression in my university French class, and it has always stuck with me.  Basically, it means “it’s the train, work, sleep”, and this expression perfectly captures the tedium that can settle in on daily life.  Maybe I need a vacation…

Anyway, I commute to work on the Skytrain, Vancouver’s much loved and much loathed rapid transit system.  One advantage over driving is that I am a much nicer person when I get to work.  The other is that I hate wasting time, and I find all kinds of ways to use the hour long ride each way.  Blogging is perfect for the commute!

In this category, my plan is to capture dispatches from the Skytrain – interesting happenings (when they occur), what’s going on along the route, etc…  Let’s see how much content I can come up with between point A and point B…


Courtesy of rumble1973, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Wicked Coffee!

Coffee is an institution in Vancouver.  Even in tough economic times, most people can afford this simple luxury.  The gigantic chains – two in particular – seem to be continuously busy.  It’s not that the coffee is fantastic, either.

No, I think that their loyal customer base comes from the fact that the product is consistent.  Nothing is worse than a bad cup of coffee, so why take a chance on an unknown quantity?  Well, one reason is that you may just stumble across a truly remarkable cuppa java.

I stopped into Wicked Café, a trendy little coffee shop at 861 Hornby in downtown Vancouver.  The tag line on their website is “coffee you would sell your soul for”.  Hmmm, I am not sure that I would sell my immortal soul for it, but they do make excellent coffee.  I think it comes down to the fact that they brew each cup individually, so it’s fresh just for you.

Look for future posts on this topic when I find a cup of coffee that is truly blogworthy.  In the meantime, let me know if you know where to go for a more than satisfying caffeine fix.

Aaaaah, coffee...

Courtesy of Ballistik Coffee Boy, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License