Long Tan Gone from the Whitecaps

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Sun

Today it was announced that striker Long Tan has been traded from the Vancouver Whitecaps to DC United after starting only four games this season. Tan had played a lot more last season (though the scoreboard didn’t particularly reflect it), but it seems this season he was moved to third string by the more formidable forward presences of Eric Hassli and Darren Mattocks.

Unfortunately, the lack of playing time seems to have caused a great deal of frustration for the 24 year old “dragon” (as dubbed by the local Whitecaps cheer squad). Three weeks ago after sitting on the bench for yet another game, Tan tweeted:

“You don’t give me time to playing. You don’t want let me go. What do you want?? I do not understand! Keep me of win PDL champion?”

Obviously not a happy camper, which is understandable. I can’t imagine how tough it would be sitting on the bench, game after game, as the crowd bellowed Hassli’s name (not yours) at the 70 minute mark. Such a situation would not lead to a happy “work-place environment”.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tan’s trade will be best for everyone. Hopefully, he’ll receive more playing time (and job satisfaction) with his new team. I also have to wonder how much of the decision to trade him was driven by his frustrated online outburst and other tension under the surface?

Photo courtesy of Mafue


Australia’s Strange Sporting Obsession

Last Saturday night, with a level of hype and expectation akin to the lunar landing, a seriously large number of Australians stayed up late to watch the country’s most successful racehorse, Black Caviar, race at Royal Ascot in England. You read right – people lost sleep in order to watch a racehorse compete in a race thousands of kilometres away, in a country that everyone in Australia loves to hate. The reason why of course is that as a community, we are absolutely obsessed with sport. Any sport.

Babies born in Melbourne routinely have an Australian Rules football team before they have a name, and once that minor detail has been finalised, the next step is getting them straight on to the waiting list for membership of the Melbourne Cricket Club. The current waiting list for MCC membership, which entitles the holder to entry to all football and cricket games held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, is somewhere in the vicinity of seventeen years.

So what is it that makes Australians such sporting tragics? One school of thought is that as a young nation with comparatively few competing narratives, most of our national heroes have ended up coming from sport, and sporting success has come to be a key indicator of our success as a nation. We’ve got a small number of war heroes and a couple of cultural icons, but the vast majority of our identity comes from sport, and we measure our place in the world through it.

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Australia slipped to number six on the medal tally, after finishing fourth in 2000 and 2004. We still won half the amount of medals that the USA won (not bad for a country with one fourteenth the population) but the media response in Australia was uncompromisingly hostile. If you were visiting Australia at this time and happened to pick up a newspaper, you could have been forgiven for thinking that we’d come out at the bottom of the medal table, or that our entire Olympic team had been outed as drug cheats.

But while we’re totally obsessed with sport, I like to think we’ve also got pretty decent manners too. Every Friday night for most of the year, up to 90,000 people cram into a stadium to watch an Aussie Rules game. Fans from both teams travel to the game together, they sit together at the ground, and at the end of the night they pile sardine-like into a packed train together to go home. There’s no team-based segregation, no fights and no need for masses of police. Why? Because it’s community at its finest – Australians don’t care what sport you love, as long as you love sport. And they don’t care which team you support, as long as you support someone. It’s obsessive, but it’s kind of nice too.

Masthead photo from this photostream, body photo from this photostream. Both used with the permission of a Creative Commons license.

The Launch of Vancouver’s Healthy City Strategy

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the City of Vancouver’s Healthy People, Healthy City conference. The conference marked the launch of the Healthy City Strategy, which complements the City’s other two strategies – the Greenest City Action Plan, and the Vancouver Economic Action Strategy. Together, these three strategies attempt to address the social, ecological and economic needs of Vancouver. The Healthy City Strategy is comprised of three components – healthy people: taking care of the basics; healthy communities: promoting inclusion, belonging and connectedness; and healthy environments: ensuring livability now and into the future. Within each of these components, a number of ‘building blocks’ needed to achieve a healthy city are identified.

A highlight of the conference was the keynote address by The Globe and Mail public health reporter André Picard. Reflecting on what it takes to create a healthy city, Mr. Picard spoke of the importance of addressing the social determinants of health (for example, income and housing), as well as creating healthier environments through the creation of healthy public spaces, as a foundation of a healthy city. The focus on the social and environmental determinants of health speak to a good wealth of research suggesting that medical care accounts for only about 10% of one’s health. Some of Mr. Picard’s suggestions for creating a healthy city included investing in good public transit, public spaces, greenery, and local farming; developing public institutions in the downtown core; creating mixed-used neighbourhoods and roads; and de-uglifying the city by taking cars out of the equation as much as possible – a key facet in all of these suggestions is the ability to bring people together.

Throughout the morning, a total of 9 lighting-stroke quick presentations (no exaggeration – each presentation was three minutes long) described some of the ways in which the City  was already working towards some of the building blocks identified in the strategy. For example, Bill Briscall spoke of the ways RainCity Housing was creating opportunities for healthier housing, and Miguel Testa and Steven Dang spoke about CitizenU, an innovative initiative that engages young people as leaders in addressing racism, discrimination, and bullying. The afternoon panel echoed some of the key points made by Mr. Picard in the keynote address, with a focus on decreasing health inequities in our more vulnerable populations and creating healthier public spaces and opportunities for increased social connections (something addressed in length in this recently released Vancouver Foundation report).

The strategy put forward by the City of Vancouver is ambitious, and serves as a comprehensive conceptual framework for the City. Mr. Picard offered some good advice moving forward: be bold with the strategy, but remember to have goals and timetable, as well as to prioritize (“if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority”). I look forward to seeing how the plan is put into action, and how it (in the words of Mayor Gregor) will accelerate and deliver.

Photo courtesy of JamesZ_Flickr

Whitecaps FC Community Asset Review – Part 7

Editors’ note: Kurt and John are firm believers that Vancouver can and should be the Canadian epicenter for growing the sport and culture of soccer football soccer. This is a self-described healthy community. We can play outside year-round, as fields are rarely closed due to snow and/or freezing. And, most importantly, Vancouver is the place to expertly develop the sport of soccer because our city’s team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, shares this goal and so demonstrates this vision through its Club Structure and the Whitecaps Foundation, which aims to create the fittest generation of BC Youth by 2020.

As Vancouver Whitecaps FC season ticket holders, Kurt and John are well-positioned to evaluate how the franchise showcases its commitment to “be a significant community asset” – so, following every match we will reflect on this commitment by answering two questions, which are below. Sometimes we bring friends and/or family-members to the game. And sometimes those awesome friends and/or family-members write awesome blog posts about the experience.

Yesterday’s match was a 1-1 tie against the New York Red Bulls.


Photo courtesy of MafueOne of the great things about Whitecaps games is they’re generally jammed with positivity and good sportsmanship. On the playing field, players play hard but rarely overly roughly. Diving is kept to a minimum, partly because it doesn’t seem to be part of the North American soccer culture and partly because referees seem uninterested in stopping the play and humouring a player writhing in (pretend) agony unless he was legitimately crunched. While every once and a while you’ll see a body check (half the time by Eric Hassli) that seems to harken to the NHL, most games begin and end relatively clean. There’s doubtlessly yapping on the field, but it’s rare to see it get out of hand. Dirty play is kept to a minimum.

In the stands it is a similar situation. In our section in particular, the cheers tend to be all positive all the time. All the cheers are aimed at buoying the teams spirits, congratulating great moves, hyping up the nearby fans and acknowledging great players. Even when faced with a Red Bull goalie a mere 15 meters away who’s sporting a mullet, it was exceedingly tricky to elicit a hardy “Get a Haircut” chant out of our crew.

All and all, the general “goodness” that seems to be implicit in the Whitecaps generally contrasts with the angry fans you sometimes see out East (see below) or in other sports where it is de rigour to scream nasty things. Indeed, it was this bad behaviour that forced John and I to stand in an empty stadium in Seattle for two hours last year prior to the match to ensure our crew didn’t “mix” with the Seattle Sounders fans. Such were the fears that Vancouver fans would follow in the nasty steps of other soccer thugs.


On Saturday I attended a game where a group of drucken dudes on a stag started yelling nasty things at the Whitecaps Cheer Captain. “Sit down and watch the game @%%$%@&&”, they screamed.

While these fellows may have been new to the Whitecaps culture or really, really drunk (or both), it would have been nice if the community rallied to let them know their behaviour wasn’t appropriate. I totally understand this is easier said then done (heck, I wasn’t up there telling them to shut up) – but hey, this section is called “What could make the club an even better asset?” Community/crowd engagement of these obnoxious louts would have been nice.

A short history of cacerolazos

Quebec’s student protest turned into something much bigger y diversified when Charest’s government adopted bill 78 on May 18, in various ways limiting rights to assemble and protest. A few days later, people of all ages and backgrounds starting hitting kitchen pans to make noise and express their discontent to this tired, corrupted and incompetent government. First on their balcony, later in the streets. Les casseroles also gained regions outside Montreal, traditionally less inclined to protest and take the streets. How this original form of protest came about? Where does it come from?

A cegep political science profesor first proposed the idea on facebook. François-Olivier Chené thought it could represent a good way to protest without disobeying bill 78, since people would stay on their balcony to protest. Protesters quickly got taken away and les casseroles took the streets. He had heard that Chileans had protested against Pinochet’s dictatorship doing cacerolazos. The first protesters to use this technique were indeed Chileans, but were upper class right-wingers protesting the socialist government of Salvador Allende – killed during a military coup led by Pinochet in 1973. Later, the other camp performed cacerolazos to protest Pinochet’s repressing regime. It also spread to other Latin American countries living under dictatorships. Members of my family in law were proud to show me that some of their pans were in bad shaped, due to the bagging received during the last months of the Uruguayan dictatorship (1985), when they would get on their roof during cacerolazos.

Cacerolazos came to be known worldwide following Argentina’s economic and political crisis starting in December 2001. Following the collapse of its financial system and the uncontrollable capital flight, the government imposed a corralito, strict restrictions on banking activity, forbidding people to take their economies. When the pesos devaluated, many lost their life savings. To draw a parallel, imagine Greece had to leave the Euro and went back to the drachma, individual savings would lose most of its value, just as it happened in Argentina. Hopeless and angered by their collective and personal bankruptcies, middle and upper class Argentineans took the streets, armed only with kitchen pans. First in Buenos Aires, los cacerolazos then spread all over the country. It allowed people to show loudly their discontent and probably letting off some steam in a tense moment.

Casually, while Quebec protesters where making noise with casseroles, some Argentineans took part in new cacerolazos in Buenos Aires. While a small movement, they did get some attention. The 2012 cacerolazos are denouncing the government (centre-left) power abuses and corruption. Because they take place only in very wealthy neighbourhoods, many think these new cacerolazos are mainly due to new restrictions imposed on changing American dollars, in an effort to strengthen the Argentinean peso (Argentina has a double currency system, in which houses or cars are bought with dollars and day-to-day spending with pesos).

It is not clear why hitting on a saucepan has become a popular protest technique. It could be because it symbolizes private citizens making direct pleas to government officials – noise coming out of the kitchen to be heard by authorities. That people love being part of something bigger, feeling as they are not alone to feel anger. Or, it could be that people just enjoy bagging shinny objects… In any case, it seems very interesting to me that protesters can appropriate for themselves another culture protesting tradition and that it could spread so quickly. We will see with time if les casseroles become a traditional form of protest, resurfacing occasionally, when people are upsets, as it was the case in Argentina.

Masthead photo courtesy of jazzjava’s photostream on Flickr

Meet Your Maker

Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning.

Join the ultimate celebration in Making, tinkering, hacking, crafting and inspiring innovation at the PNE Forum on June 23rd and 24th.Originating in San Francisco, Maker Faire is a two-day celebration of making and creating. The Maker Faire mission is to unite, inspire, inform and entertain the general community.  It’s an all-ages family festival promoting the ethos of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) on a large scale.

Maker Faire is a fun, interactive collection of demonstrations, exhibits, workshops and displays.Some Feature Exhibits Include:

Maker Projects – a 3D printer village, an off-road wheelchair, a “bike car”, electric drawing machines, handmade, wooden instruments from locally-sourced materials, urban farmers, a Young Makers section, home-made surfboards, sand sculpting, an Instagram wall, and much much more, such as…

Workshops – A demonstration on how to make bamboo bicycles, mathematical crafts with GeoBurst, how to build bee homes with locally-sourced materials, learn how to knit, solder, and more!
Commercial Vendors: Instructables, Got Craft?,  Blim, Army of Evil Robots, Plush on Main, The Hackery, and more!
Musicians and Performance Groups
 – Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra, flyingoctopus, The Carnival band, Mad Skillz Jugging festival and more!

Event Details:

Masthead photo courtesy of Dan Zen’s photostream on Flickr

Chapbooking with The KidSafe Writers’ Room

An awesome reader from Queen Alexandra Elementary!

Last night Michelle Burtnyk-Horn, Alex Grant and I took in a fantastically edutaining (education + entertainment = awesome) literary wrap-up for the KidSafe Writers’ Room readers and writers from Queen Alexandra Elementary School. The very awesome Sarah Maitland hosted an evening of storytelling starring several young readers, writers and performers from Vancouver elementary schools.

About a dozen kids proudly – sometimes nervously, always awesomely – read aloud their work to an audience of peers, parents, teachers, and volunteers with rave reviews from all in attendance.

Truly, it was a wonderful celebration of a community in which you can be involved over the summer (and beyond) as a volunteer or donor.