Netflix is killing the Video Store

Just as video killed the radio star, now Netflix is killing the video store. And I most certainly do not feel fine about this.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Netflix in some ways. I recently enrolled in their “program” and have been immersed in a steady stream of semi-current movies. In the evenings when I run out of tasks to do (which happens frequently) and am too tired to read a book, I’ll frequently find myself scrolling through their selection of films, trying to decide whether I feel more like watching Doogie Howser (aka Neil Patrick Harris) eat shrooms and drive around the South in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay or witness the latest “terrible” comic book adaptation in The Last Airbender. Shudder.

It’s cheap (around $8 a month) and it’s easy as pie. In fact I was so complacent in my video watching that I almost missed a short article in the Globe and Mail one weekend announcing the imminent closure of Videomatica – a signature video dealer in Kits. Videomatic was known far and wide as the place to go to get the movies you couldn’t find anywhere else. Their selection was extensive – so extensive in fact – that apparently a decent portion of their collection will likely be preserved – hopefully by Herman Wosk (of the Wosk Centre) simply because it can’t really be replicated anywhere else. It was harder to miss a recent article that game out today in the Vancouver Sun proclaiming the close 146 Blockbuster stores across the country. The demise of both Blockbuster and Videomatica tell a sad story of the gradual demise of the video store.

I have my own neighbourhood version of Videomatica. It’s called Black Dog Video. There are many things that endear Black Dog Video to me. Here are some of the reasons:

1. The dudes that work their are chill, helpful and “educated” in the subject of good films

2. Their mascot is a black dog

3. They publish a wicked by-monthly newsletter that gives me great tips for what I should be watching and makes me chuckle out loud about what I shouldn’t be watching.

4. You get paw prints each time you rent a movie

5. They are dog friendly and even have tasty treats for your mutt should you bring them into the store

6. Their selection is extensive. They carry all sorts of terrific foreign films that you’d never see at a glitzed up Blockbuster

7. Their shop is close by to Vera’s burgers and the Liquor Store – sort of a one stop shop for a movie night

8. If you have ridiculous late fees you may find (some of them) forgiven

9. They aren’t a chain (well, they have 2 locations so they sort of are, but you know what I mean)

10. They are known far and wide in the community.

Black Dog, like hundreds of other small video stores around the province, is in danger of going out of business in the coming years thanks to the growing power and consumer buy in of content-on-demand being led by companies like Netflix. They have a difficult time competing, both in price and convenience. If they do disappear, they are likely to leave a big gap in our communities and take with them the opportunity to discover a film we might never had considered searching for or might never have found without a friendly recommendation from a staff member.

This could be a real tragedy, both for Black Dog community lovers and film buffs. While the selection of Netflix is likely to continue to expand and be augmented by other on-demand sites, there’s something to be said about the corporeal existence the old way of picking a film. Like the movie theatres, there is something special about going to the movie store, browsing the titles and heading home in anticipation that would be missing by just punching a bunch of buttons. I guess we’ll soon see whether this “certain special something” is enough to compete with cheaper prices and more convenience. I hope so, but I suspect not.

In Defense of the Mule

Last weekend, I wrote an email to the Globe and Mail Style contributor, Leah McLaren, in reaction to an article she wrote on Jeggings. It wasn’t so much the subject matter that caught my attention but rather the author’s less-than-kind comparison of Jeggings to mules. Mules, as in the animal.

You can read Ms. McLaren’s complete article here, if you’d like. Otherwise, I would recommend reading the passage below. It captures the content in question.

And no, she has not written back, yet.

“More important, [jeggings] are an astonishing reminder that, in the world of design, two rights can and often do make a wrong – in extreme cases, one so painfully incorrect that it denatures both itself and the wearer. Jeggings, in other words, are the fashion equivalent of the mule – ugly, indestructible and thankfully unable to reproduce.”

- From “Jeggings are About as Hip as Skorts and Sandal Boots” by Leah Mclaren, The Globe and Mail, August 14th, 2010

Here’s My Email to Ms. Mclaren

Dear Ms.McLaren,

My name is Theodora Lamb and I live in Vancouver, British Columbia. As per my Saturday morning routine, I read your article on “Jeggings” this morning in the Cafe below my apartment building. I couldn’t agree more with you on the latest fashion phenomenon. Although, here in Vancouver, you’re more likely to see a pair of Jeggings on 4th Ave, which is Starbucks mama and hot yoga central.

One thing you’re far less likely to see in the “wilds” of Vancouver’s urban streets are mules. From what I know about them, they are gentle, hard-working animals and totally helpless when it comes to their reproductive situation. Simply put, I see the mule as nature’s underdog, which is why I thought it was a little unfair that you used the mule as your comparison to a fashion faux-pas. Yes, I know they’re the perfect example of nature’s hybrid. But unlike the “fashionistas” in the world that wear Jeggings, a mule has little to no control over
the circumstances of which it finds itself in nature.

Can I suggest another animal, perhaps one more appropriate for your comparison: the Skunk. Yes, I know it’s not a hybrid but, like the Jegging, Skunks scuttle our city streets both night and day turning heads the way only a freak of nature can do.

Incidentally, if you enjoy Science Fiction from time to time, I highly recommend Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” Trilogy. In particular, the second book in the series introduces a character called “The Mule.” Asimov quite cleverly embraces the animal’s characteristics and incorporates them into a character full of dimension and a story rich in epic suspense.

All the best,


Artists, politicians, and the lost art of letter writing

Last month, our book club* did something a bit different. Instead of the usual book club agenda, comprised of the reading and then discussing of a book (in addition to the not-so-usual quizzes, plays, and trophy bestowals), we wrote and shared letters. The inspiration for this letter writing was none other than Canadian author Yann Martel (of Life of Pi fame), and his book What is Stephen Harper Reading?

For those of you who are unaware of this ambitious endeavor – here’s a brief summary: In March 2007, Yann Martel and 40 other Canadian artists were invited to the House of Commons to celebrate 50 years of the Canada Council for the Arts, our national arts funding agency. Gathered in the visitor’s gallery, the artists waited patiently to be acknowledged for their collective contribution, representing all Canadian artists, to Canadian culture. And brief it was -  an address less than 5 minutes in length followed by a lackluster dusting of applause; a Prime Minister who did not even raise his head from the stack of papers sitting before him. And so begins Mr. Martel’s relentless pursuit: to find out what drives Stephen Harper. What makes him tick? What informs his soul, what type of art does he appreciate, what makes up his cultural self?

Barack Obama's letter to Yann Martel about his Book, Life of Pi. C'mon, Harper!

Biweekly since March 2007, Yann Martel has been writing Stephen Harper letters, with suggestions for books to read. And biweekly since March 2007, there has been no response from Mr. Harper – unless you count a few generic responses from his Communications Officers thanking him for his letter.

Tackling this in book club was a treat. We, of course, discussed Yann Martel at length – what continues to motivate him to write letters? Is this becoming a personal vendetta, or is it a clever, politically-driven, advocacy attempt to increase arts funding? Is it pretentious? We discussed the ideas in the letters – what role does art play in defining our identity as Canadians? Do business schools have a place in Canadian Universities? Should there be a required reading list for our prime ministers?

As interesting as the discussion was, the most  intriguing aspect of the club was the writing of our own letters: the homework assigned to each member was to write a letter to whomever they would like, with a book suggestion, and then share it with the group. Recipients ranged from, well, me, to Stephen Harper to Lindsay Lohan to Yann Martel to Australia. Each member confessed that it was pretty darn hard to write their letter – in this age of text messages and emails, where responses are fairly immediate and the process fairly interactive, having to convey all of your thoughts in one correspondence where responses are not immediate was a tough endeavor.

Our letters will be sent along to Mr. Martel. We’ll wait to see when – or if! – he responds, and how he will react to our activity, our thoughts, our book suggestions. Hopefully, he’ll see how his activities have prompted our small group to become engaged advocating art through the means of a lost art, with the people, ideas, and nations that surround us.

*Do you like books? clubs? Well, you’re in luck! Stay tuned for an up-and-coming section of the Daily Gumboot, where you will be able to read all about the shenanigans of Vancouver’s coolest and least pretentious** bookclub, The Circle of Literary Judgement
**As reported on by The Globe and Mail

Oh Canada, Oh No…

Everything is okay...except, perhaps, Canada's declining international reputation.

I’m on vacation. And, I’ve gotta say, things started off pretty fantastically. Until this morning, that is. As I took an extended dose of daily media, things got a bit weird.

Today I had a little extra time to peruse my Facebook news feed. Wow. Some weird things have happened in Canada over the past few days. No fewer than 30 of my friends have posted videos, stories, infographs, and links about the G8 and G20 meetings in Toronto – the information and opinions range from critical to scathing.  Headlines like “Erosion of Rights” and “Wasteful Spending” and “Is this what the world thinks of Canada?” and “What was Stephen Harper Thinking?” Even the National Post gave a fairly biting review of the event.

I mean, I know that Oh Canada is – as far as national anthems go – fairly terrible, but should its being sung in the streets of Toronto be reason to send throngs of riot police into the crowd of peaceful protestors? Check this out:

Sure, the video is out of context – who knows what was said, spat or thrown before – and the Toronto Police did their best to troubleshoot a truly unwinnable situation, but it certainly reflects the powder-keg-esque circumstances into which the City of Toronto was thrust.

Needless to say, Amnesty International has asked for a full review of the 900 arrests that took place during the summit and Stephen Harper is receiving a heckuvalot of criticism from all sides – the left, right, middle, and, haha, anarchist* – for paying too much in human, natural and economic capital because the G20 was held in Toronto.

When I came to this morning, I groggily awoke to the dulcet tones of our iconic Canadian friend, Jian Gomeshi. He hosted a panel discussion of how this event – and the way it was well-handled and simultaneously mishandled – reflects poorly on Canada’s international reputation.

Speaking of our international reputation. The Queen arrived today. And she said, “it’s good to be home.” Okay. That’s a bit weird, eh? And it also nicely reflects the weirdly contradictory nature of Canada.

We’re an independent, democratic nation, but technically exist under the rule of a foreign monarch. We are an open-minded, multi-cultural society with a high self-perception of our stance on human rights, but suspend civil liberties when it suits our aims. We’re multi-lateral, but collude with dictators. Like I said, it’s all a bit weird.

Oh Canada, what kind of community are we?

Readers of the Daily Gumboot, what say you on this question of Canadian community?


*sorry, jackasses, but global capitalism still exists and will continue to exist as long as there are hardworking businesspeople who wake up early in the morning and rebuild their enterprizes that you heartlessly broke en route from your aimless protest back to your parents’ basement.

Community From Chaos

We take more than we give, consume more than Earth produces.

Too many I’s and not enough teams.

From me-to-we an unovercomeable struggle, it seems.

Confusion breeds ignorance, media is negative, and we’re out of excuses.

A bringer of change.

With myriad range.

The Gumboot’s recipe.

For you all to see.

Creative solutions for community!

So there it is. And here we are. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a bit bleak out there. I mean, Obama just brought healthy tyranny to the world’s most important democracy – times are scary. Sure,  “scientists” and “business leaders” and “David Suzuki” will tell you that melting glaciers, rising seas, catastrophic earthquakes, desertification, staggering poverty, and the decline of the honeybee present far more serious reasons for us to fear for – or just plain fear – the future, but some of those ideas are complicated and the words that explain them are hard to spell. Solutions need to be easier!

In the spirit of positivity and community-building, the Daily Gumboot is pleased to provide you, the people, with some fantastic options that you, the people, can consider as we lurch forward. Feel free to apply one, some or all of the options to your life and, most importantly, have fun with it!

Option 1. Embrace Chaos.

THE IDEA: A few weeks ago, I saw Career Development Phenom Jim Bright speak in Vancouver. His theory is Einstein-esque – simple, but nothing simpler – and here it is: there is no linear career path, as where we work has more to do with chaotically interconnected random events – both lucky and tragic – than with education, training, self-assessment, counselling, research, and/or the cultural landscape of our home town (though all these things are important). Our careers – like life – exist in chaos and we need to prepare ourselves for it. Here is the concept explained in video form:

OUR ACTION: Stop trying to plan and control everything, Batman/Kurt. You can’t organize the trillions of random variables – like fuel prices – that make up the enormously complicated fabric of our planet’s community. What we need to do is create both personal and community-based “adaptability toolkits” that allow ourselves and our neighbourhoods to roll with the punches that life throws our way. After all, every neighbourhood needs food-growers/makers, artists, leaders, accountants, builders, designers, fixers, and creators to collaboratively thrive within chaos. So begin preparing your “adaptability toolkit” today!

Option 2. Get to Know Your Business Community.

THE IDEA: Many folks will argue that business got us into this mess. And many folks, myself included, will argue that business can get us out of this mess. Mostly because it has to. Henry Mintzberg’s article, “Rebuilding Companies as Communities” outlines a from-me-to-we solution for the many wrongly-worshipped CEOs out there. “We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves,” says Mintsberg. “This is what is meant by ‘community’ – the social glue that binds us together for the greater good.” Mintzberg cites several examples of forward-thinking, people-firsting companies who ‘get it’ – one such organization, federation of Basque super-cooperatives, Mondragon, definitely jives with a les Nordiques as co-operative notion, as told by Gumbooteer Martin Renauld. As it turns out, putting people first is really good for business!

OUR ACTION: All around the world – in business, education or non-profit and with volunteerism, neighbourhoods, families, and politics – the simple, age-old concept of “community” is being re-applied everywhere. So, whether you’re sitting at your work-desk, sipping coffee in your ‘hood, or chatting with your mouth full during family dinner, reflect on this very important question: “how is this activity- this one I’m doing right now – positively contributing to my community?” Because if your idea/action involved a plan to create a superawesome social networking community that specializes in volunteerism and philanthropy, well, Chris Hughes, of Facebook fame and who only 26 years old, stole your idea before you even had one. It’s called Jumo and, like Chris, it’s pretty awesome.

Option 3. Reset Ourselves to Natural Capitalism.

THE IDEA:Termed by entrepreneur and world-changer Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism seeks to solve the dirty, dirty problems being created by our outdated global system that is driven by Industrial Capitalism. Hawken argues that this can be done in four key ways:

  1. Radical Resource Productivity.
  2. Biomimicry.
  3. Service and Flow Economy.
  4. Investing in Natural Capital.

OUR ACTION: Make love to Mother Earth! Dig a hole in the ground. Put a little water in it. And go to town. No, wait, this is an inappropriate use of natural capital and, more importantly, such action has already been taken by Will Ferrell with great success. Anyway, we basically need to incorporate this stuff called “nature” into our economic formula, which currently employs a ridiculous equation that seems to assume our planet’s resources will keep pace with the exponential consumption of industrial capitalism. Be the change, people!

Option 4. Become a Radical Homemaker.

THE IDEA: Wency Leung presented the notion of Radical Homemakers in a recent edition of an up-and-coming print newspaper called the Globe and Mail. Again, a simple idea: give up the rat race and take care of your families and communities by growing local, organic and, more than likely, healthy food.

OUR ACTION: “In pursuit of a more personally fulfilling and ecologically sustainable lifestyle, these so-called ‘radical homemakers’ are relying less on monetary income and are, instead, picking up domestic skills such as vegetable gardening and cooking to help meet their basic needs,” says Leung. Accept the honest fact that a reduction in income does not necessarily equal a drop in your standard of living. If you need a place to start, check out a recent post by Pete’s favourite Correspondent, Katie Burns.


Option 5. Piracy.

THE IDEA: Forget the global community. Heck, forget everyone outside of your neighbourhood! This option is all about you and your closest friends/family/shareholders. Sure, people outside your immediate circle might vilify you. But, remember, it’s not about them, it’s about you and your very local community.  Somali pirates aren’t really “Somali pirates”, after all; according to over 70% of Somalians, they’re actually a necessary component of a patch-work coastal defense structure!

OUR ACTION: Find some friends. Secure a boat, truck, web server, and/or multinational corporation. Pillage things from people and places without asking and, if necessary, use force, coercion and, possibly, the Internet to do it. Sure, pirate ships were and are bastions of democracy at it’s truest, but they’re also pretty violent. So, any action taken by us, I hope, is conceptual and only literal if necessary.

Have fun with your consideration of such options. May they inspire us all to create many, many more!


Olympic Neighbourhoods: The Downtown East Side

Your Olympic Neighbourhood this week is…The Downtown East Side (with special appearances by Chinatown and Gastown)!

As a key media outlet for the 2010 Olympics, the Daily Gumboot is excited to bring you our “Olympics Neighbourhood” segment. Here’s how it works: each week, Managing Editor, Kurt Heinrich, and Editor-in-Chief, John will profile a different Vancouver neighbourhood with a specific focus on things that might interest out-of-town visitors who arrive in The Couve for the Olympics. We will do this between now and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and the story will be told be the Gumboot’s editors asking and answering the five questions below. These are the straight goods that you can’t get from VANOC, the Ministry of Tourism or the City of Vancouver. Let’s get to it!

1. Where is this neighbourhood exactly and how do I get there?

JOHN: Well, I will once again leave it to Kurt to create and deliver an amazing Googlemap. This neighbourhood is part of the “Olympic Corridor,” so you will be walking to it, my tourist friends. As mentioned in the video, many a tourist has aimlessly wandered or bicycled into “Canada’s poorest postal code” while trying to navigate their way from Gastown to historic Chinatown. Many tourism bloggers will tell you to be wary of such misadventures. We say “explore all communities” and “talk to strangers” here at the Daily Gumboot; just be sure to bring common sense along during your exploration.

KURT: Here’s the map. The big red icon  (surprise, surprise) shows roughly where the neighbourhood is.


2. Why should a tourist/traveler be interested in it?

JOHN: Well, there are a lot of problems in the Downtown East Side; addiction, abuse, poverty, neglect, violence, and injustice are right out in the open. In spite of many political and business leaders’ best efforts to “clean up” the DTES before the Olympics, the homeless remain in this neighbourhood. And so does hope. Believe it or not, a lot of good people do a lot of good things in this neighbourhood. From Tradeworks, a woodworking cooperative, to United We Can, a collection of social enterprises that create employment for disadvantaged folks, to the Potluck Cafe, see the video, the DTES possesses some fantastic stories of human innovation. Look. Go to the West End, Yaletown and Kits and strike up a conversation. Then go to the Downtown East Side and have a chat with a local. Which conversation is more interesting and memorable? Yeah…that’s what I thought.

A tough life on the streets.

A tough life on the streets.

KURT: There are also a lot of terrific places to see. Some of Vancouver’s best heritage sites exist in the Gastown area (right next to the DTES). There you can see dozens of turn of the century (and older) buildings. The brick buildings with wood ceiling beams are fascinating to see and not duplicated anywhere else in the city.

3. What good and/or unique things are there to eat?

JOHN: Chinatown is full of unique things, such as duck, which is a favourite of my editorial partner, Kurt Heinrich. With the delicious restaurants of Gastown just a stroll away, you will be in position for good eating.

KURT: Good places to check out include Nuba (for healthy middle eastern and Mediterranean food), the Potluck Cafe (mentioned in our video), the Carnegie Cafeteria (if you’re all tapped out after paying thousands for Olympic tickets and want to buy a meal for just 2 bucks), the Cambie (great for burgers and really cheap beer), and Hons (a Chinese cuisine experience like no other).

4. What can I do for fun in this neighbourhood?

Gastown - chock full of heritage...

Gastown - chock full of heritage...

JOHN: People watching is always a good bet. Many Canadians affiliate altruism with fun, so lending a hand and helping out at one of these fine establishments would certainly add an interesting and meaningful chapter to your Olympic visit.  I also highly recommend taking in some kind of performance at the Firehall Arts Centre (if you have time you can check out the Vancouver Police Museum, too). And, if you’re lucky, you will be in the ‘hood on a day when the Portland FC street soccer team is playing a game.

5. What are your three favourite things about the Downtown East Side?

1. Holy crap, this is hard. I will forgo one answer to just say that, in the eyes of the world, what does it say when a country as rich as Canada lets people become marginalized in such a way? It doesn’t say much. And we can do better. We must do better.

2. Bus rides on the Number 20. A return trip on the last bus to my neighbourhood, Commercial Drive, from Downtown is, well, an experience. I’ve had my fortune told. Been asked to sell my girlfriend. Intervened in what was possibly a gang fight. Held a baby. Sang carols. Debated the meaning of life. Been educated about micro-lending and community currencies. And had my hair brushed. If you really value personal space, perhaps take a cab.

EastHastings3. The DTES Bazaar. Nice try, Marrakesh, but Vancouver has a pretty darn good street bazaar where you can find all kinds of stuff – sure, mostly none of it is obtained legitimately and the whole bartering economy serves to provide temporary fixes for people who are holding on to some sort of life by the skin of their grubby and malnourished fingertips. Or something less dramatic. Besides, where else in Vancouver can you come across this delightful – and possibly not hypothetical – scene?

DTES BAZAAR WHOLESALER: Anyone want to buy a bike? Nice bike here. Good price.

DISTRESSED TOURIST: Hey! That’s my bike!

DTES BAZAAR WHOLESALER: No. No it’s not. It’s my bike. But I’m selling. Wanna buy it?

DISTRESSED TOURIST: I’ve had this bike for three years. My wife and I rode over from Victoria yesterday. I left it for a few minutes outside while I went into a grocery store to buy some fruit. That scratch – right there – that happened riding the Galloping Goose trail in Saanich! It’s mine!

DTES BAZAAR WHOLESALER: No, that didn’t happen. And these two guys say that it’s my bike.

FIRST BAZAAR BYSTANDER: Yeah, it’s his bike.

SECOND BAZAAR BYSTANDER: He rides it all the time. I seen it.

DTES BAZAAR WHOLESALER: So, do we have a deal?

[and scene]

So there it is. In 2006, when I landed at the airport in Nairobi, a gentleman named Mohammad gave me some good advice; he called it the Two Rules of Africa: “never underestimate peoples’ kindness and don’t trust anybody.” The same might apply for your visit to this Olympic Neighbourhood, too.

Thriving in an Employer’s Market

I bet he had friends on the Death Star, too...

I bet he had friends on the Death Star, too...

As it turns out, the recession is effecting the global economy, which, consequently, is negatively impacting the Canadian economy. Shocking, I know. And you heard it here first, from The Daily Gumboot.

“What’s that? Oh, everyone already knows this? Um, okay, we’ll have to think of something else, then.”

So, it turns out that the Canadian jobless rate is going to hit 10%, or so says Mark Carney and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to the OECD, Stephen Harper and the Conservative government need to act quickly and decisively if the country is to avoid a crisis of joblessness. Depending on when and where you read “news” in BC, we are in the midst of a terrible recession (unfortunately emphasized by massive youth unemployment and under employment), or we are on the “cusp of recovery” because of cool new job numbers. No matter what, the employment situation in Canada is tougher than it’s been in a long, long time. A recent National Post article even revealed that many job seekers out there are dumbing down their resumes in order to remain competitive. And, to close the loop on this terrible situation, Tavia Grant’s article in Tuesday, September 22nd’s Globe and Mail accurately paints a picture of Canada’s workplaces being part of “an employer’s market!” Are you searching for work in your community? If so, we wish you the best of luck.

I mean, you can wait for Stephen Harper, the Canadian government, industry executives, Mark Carney, your mom, and Batman to do something about it, or you can combine some savvy career advice from this publication with your own awesomeness, and get out there and find meaningful work.

Here are some sure-fire, can’t-miss, foolproof, golden, and amazing tips on how you can thrive in an employer’s market.

1. Learn about emerging industries and new trends. The world is changing. Obviously. And now is the time for you to find your new place in it. For example, first year university and college students in Canada will, most likely, finish school and secure a job that doesn’t exist today. And whether you’re a 50-plus year old forestry worker from Prince George or a nickle worker from Sudbury, you are in a position to re-invent yourself as an employee. Things are changing, after all. Even when they stay the same. Alternative energy, corporate social responsibility and information technology are all pretty hot right now. It turns out that we will continue to use technology and people to overcome envirnmental challenges and the sinful human practice of greed. Not bad things to get involved in, if I do say so myself. Oh, and by 2012 immigrants will account for all net labour market growth in the Canadian economy, so, yeah, I guess do some reading up on where some demographic-related holes are going to emerge, too.

2. Hide in school. MBA applications to North American B-Schools are way up, according to Business Week. Why? Well, school is a great place to add value to your professional toolkit during an employer’s market, where opportunities are scarce and hiring and promotions are in a bit of a holding pattern. Now is a great time to invest in your education and get trained in anything from urban planning to social media marketing to library science to any shot-term, additional degree/diploma/certificate that compliments your existing education. Just make sure that your value is being increased while in school (ie. if you think a communications certificate is going to land you a project management position in a public relations firm when you have no work experience in the field, well, then the recession isn’t your biggest problem).

3. Get up early. Then network. This kind of thing is common sense, but it’s not common practice. Listen to leadership gurus like Robin Sharma to learn what it takes to get up early. Every day. It seems simple enough, but it’s not; especially for people who are un-employed or under-employed, as they lack motivation. Figure out what it takes to motivate yourself to get up early and be ready for action. Then go and talk to the people who work where you want to work (in a specific position or in an industry/organization about which you are thoroughly passionate) – we in the career development business call these folks “decision makers” (ie. they make the decision to hire you or not). Twitblog the interscape, read newspapers and magazines, peruse the Yellow Pages, visit libraries, and talk to people in order to find out where the decision makers you want to meet hang out together. Then go there and learn more about what it takes to work in their industry and/or for their organization. There are countless resources and tips about networking, especially for all you introverts out there. After you get up early, make sure you relax, too!

A good impression on paper, sure, but how about in person? You can barely see the guy!

A good impression on paper, sure, but how about in person? You can barely see the guy!

4. Manage your expectations, and love change. So you want to be a Product Developer with Google. Well, a lot of people do. And since a lot of Product Developers just got laid off, um, everywhere, things just got a lot more competitive. Needless to say, now is a great time to consider where (geographically, functionally, by industry, and by company) you can find the type of professional experience you are looking for, even if it might not be your dream job. CareerLeader, a Brookline, Massachusetts career consultancy has the following to say about bringing discipline to the dream during the recession: “We need the discipline of analysis to identify the skills and experience we need to advance toward our dream and to explore all of the various work settings where we can gain those skills and experience. If we have our vision before us, to revisit for renewed inspiration, then we won’t experience these skillful adjustments as failures or the abandonment of ‘the dream.’ Rather, we’ll feel new energy when we see them for what they are: true progress toward something that is real and important, toward what we want to be doing, and to be.” Your dream job will come eventually (even for you, Astronaut Cowboy), you just need to be patient. For you graduates, remember that where you start your career usually has nothing to do with where you finish it.

5. Make a polished and professional first impression: in person, on paper and online. This one is complicatedly simple. It all begins with knowing your audience and doing the research that will make them say, “wow, that was a great question!” Knowing the most about anything will make you stand out from the crowd. Being appropriately dressed (ie. if you want to be a server in The Bump ‘n’ Grind on The Drive, don’t show up in a freakin’ suit!), groomed and offering a solid handshake are all key. Eye contact and active listening are also phenomenally important for making a good impression in person. As for the impression on paper, here’s the deal: if you are a student, go to your university or college career centre right now; if you aren’t a student, check out the multiple career centres around your community and make an appointment to build a great resume. Here’s a tip: no matter how amazing, professional or experienced you are, try to create a one-page resume that you can use as a follow-up after meetings or networking events. As for your online impression, well, it turns out that the internet is on computers these days. Whether it’s something as simple as cleaning up your Facebook account, creating (and using) a LinkedIn profile, or showcasing your knowledge and style by blogging about an indutry in which you are, having a positive and interesting online presence is becoming more and more important.

So there it is. A healthy and sustainable community, after all, is made up of people who do meaningful work – and you deserve nothing less. Once again, as I say to my students, such ideas might be common sense, but they are not common practice. As you begin to create good career habits, be sure to have fun with it, too!


It is Jamming and Jarring Time

Let's all jam it up!

Let's all jam it up!

It’s that time of year again. Time to start thinking about finishing up harvesting all those summer vegetables and getting them into jars to preserve them for the coming winter. Time to bust out the old mason jars and get ready to jelly up that fresh Okanagan or [insert your local region] fruit.

Last Friday the Globe and Mail had an article about thirty-somethings and the new wave of jamming that’s sweeping across the yuppie world (thanks to our friend Jim for posting the article on Facebook). For me, up until recently anyway, jamming was something I tended to associate only with my folks and grandfolks. No longer. Here’s what the Globe and to say about canning and jarring these days:

The new breed of canner is driven by politics as much as practicality. A desire to eat locally and regain control over what goes into our food is fuelling a resurgence in farmers’ markets and backyard kitchen gardens.

For many people interested in getting on the canning bandwagon, a tutorial or lesson is the first step. These are offered in many cities by Canning Across America – who enthusiastically encourage people to join the canathon. They’ve got workshop events, twitter feed and a facebook group with events throughout cities in the US and Canada.

Donna "Antipasto" Heinrich

Donna "Antipasto" Heinrich

I’d like to join the canathon. But I need a guide. Fortunately, I need not look very far. Lucky for me I happen to share some genes with my very own jamming expert: my mom Donna.

For as long as I can remember Donna has produced all sort of delicious jams and antipastos (no vegetable canning – for that, I defer to my co-editor’s family). This year, I’m hoping to learn from the master.

My interest in getting involved in this project isn’t driven my food politics – though that’s neat too.

My biggest reason for wanting to join the canathon is two fold. First, a successful jamming session will doubtlessly yield me dozens of great Christmas presents that I can proudly present to my friends, colleagues and family. Homemade is always great and there is nothing better than a homemade jar of antipasto – especially when you’re a foody like me.

The second reason I’m excited about jamming is the opportunity to engage in a bit of team (dare I say, community) building. I can just imagine the proccess of picking up the ingredients (ketchup, olives, baby shrimp, peppers, ect), mason jars and then hussling back home to the Heinrich kitchen to cook and prepare a huge batch of delicious antipasto. We’ll chat about food and other stuff. We’ll spend hours together shopping, cooking and then divvying up the stuff. At some point,  my mom and I will launch into a hilarious discussion/debate about the merits/drawbacks of a) proper measurement of ingredients and b) the kitchen philosophy of “clean-as-you-goes”. As you may have guessed, we have polar opposite positions on each issue and frankly it wouldn’t be much of a cookathon (let along a canathon) without that back and forth. Laughs will be shared. I’ll learn what’s going on in the Heinrich household and she’ll discover what’s happening in our home on the Drive. By the time we dollop the last scoop of antipasto into the last mason jar our mother/son connection will be refreshed and reinvigorated.

Best of all, at the end of the process, we’ll have more than just a great gift – we’ll have a terrific experience to remember each time we pop open a jar.

The Symbiotic Connection or “Socioeconomironmentaleducationealth”

Hopefully these little guys or gals will be around next year to see the Olympics

Hopefully these little guys or gals will be around next year to see the Olympics

I have a wonderful friend named Catherine. And she really, really likes bears. Especially polar bears. But especially grizzly bears. So you can imagine how upset and angry she is over the recent Globe and Mail article that predicts thousands of black and grizzly bears will starve to death this year. BC’s Environment Minister, Barry Penner, has even issued a bear count, as many conservationists have already reported a drastic drop in numbers. Are there less tourists for them to eat? No. In fact, there are more tourists in grizzly country – and they are much more delicious – than ever before. But the sockeye salmon population – from which the bears gluttonously grab most of their food – in BC has been cut in half. And there will be problems to overcome this, um, problem, as we humans have a very, very difficult time articulating the interconnectedness of warming oceans, depleting salmon stocks, suburban sprawl, starving bears, soaring food costs, slowing eco-tourism, unemployed Parks Canada people, and an un-balanced (which means un-healthy) ecosystem. I mean, we just “misplaced” 510,000 cubic meters of water in Lake Louise for crying out loud! Like a coral reef and Kevin Bacon’s global reach, everything on this planet is connected. And, still, we continue to separate it. Sure, it makes things simpler to compartmentalize ideas and things, but life on this planet is made of complicated stuff, so I say we owe Earth a more complicated, interconnected attempt at problem solving.

Take this example, for instance. A few months ago, Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, outlined the top five issues that Canadians wanted addressed during the last four federal elections. In no particular order they are: the economy, health care, the environment, education, and social problems (ie. why do we have poor people in Canada?). Mr. Robinson’s

argument is that these are not separate issues. They are all connected because they are all environmental issues. Here’s what he had to say in a recent interview with Vista Magazine Online: “the link between human health and environmental health is not being addressed properly. Part of that has to do with putting a value on what nature provides us as human beings other than monetary. We’re exploring a full ‘systems assessment’ for each natural resource. For example, when we build a dam, traditionally all we consider is the value that is contained in the water as an energy source, used like a battery to generate power from the force of the water. And a forest, in traditional accounting, has no value until you cut it down. But in fact, a forest provides many other services in terms of filtering CO2, and various species that we rely on within it, like spawning grounds for fish, that only remain if the forest remains.”

The Walrus‘s Chris Turner has a much funnier assessment about the need for global symbiosis not unlike that of a teeming coral reef: “And then there’s the extraordinary symbiotic web the reef’s myriad denizens have woven, enabling this aquatic Babel to thrive more or less self-sufficiently for

Don't get too close to this photo: there are sperm and eggs everywhere.

Don't get too close to this photo: there are sperm and eggs everywhere.

millennia. Hermaphrodites and sex changers abound. A great many of the reef’s coral polyps mate once a year, simultaneously, in a great cloud of eggs and sperm whose release is precisely timed with the lunar cycle.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if our planet is going to survive we need more hermaphrodites engaging in orgies based on the lunar cycle.

Moving on…

Educationally, there are several effective strategies for teachers to incorporate environmental issues (which nicely include health and economic topics as well). My personal favourite is the BC Ministry of Education’s CARE document, which outlines four environmentally-based learning outcomes that teachers from kindergarten to post-graduate seminars can role into their classroom. Such an interdisciplinary approach is where the world of education needs to go if we are to solve such complicated, interconnected problems.

The social determinants of health as outlined by the World Health Organization certainly interconnect with economic, educational, and environmental issues. Check this out: the 1986 Ottawa Charter pretty much started the discourse of environmental factors having to do with health. Let’s walk the talk here, Canadians. Perhaps start walking down to the cool graph in the article, which shows how people with permanent jobs have much, much higher rates of mental health. Like I said, it’s all connected.

Unemployment, underemployment, stressful or unsafe work is associated with poorer mental health (Source: Wilkinson and Marmot, 2003)

Unemployment, underemployment, stressful or unsafe work is associated with poorer mental health (Source: Wilkinson and Marmot, 2003)

And for all you Canadians out there who are concerned about unemployment, GDP and the economy, well, I encourage you to consider what exponential growth on a finite planet looks like. Is the expansion of humanity and the shrinking of biodiversity sustainable? Will shrinking of biodiversity result in the detrimental function of our world? Is using the word “sustainable” sustainable? David Suzuki has some ideas about what we need to start doing with our global economy – bottom line: stop being selfish. David A. Wilson, President and CEO of the GMAT exam, recently gave a talk at UBC’s Sauder School of Business regarding the role of the MBA in a new sustainable business model. Mr. Wilson’s arguments were fairly simple: as humanity moves forward, economic growth can, and should, only happen within environmental and social contraints. And if biodiversity and/or people are compromised in order to make a buck, well, then such growth is truly unsustainable and – ahem – musn’t be sustained any longer.

Here are three things you can do to encourage a discourse of connectedness between environmental, economic, health, educational, and social issues:

1. Read things and talk about them. Whether you learn about the science warning about the danger of climate change or about the science warning against the science warning about the dangers of climate change, learn about the issues and have an educated opinion about them. As for talking about what you read, I recommend public transit as a fantastic place to strike up a complicated conversation. People like learning new things when they can’t escape…

2. Demand more from our political “leaders.” I use “quotations” because modern democracy is based more on self-interest and party-preservation than it is on large, collaborative, global strategies for real, positive, effective, longlasting change. Still, write letters to Steve, Mike, Jack, and Gilles about how the environment – and all things symbiotically existing within it – is slightly more important than who gets to be Prime Minister during the Olympics. Perhaps you’d like to speak with Gordon Campbell about why the HST is great because it taxes consumption, but should probably be higher for Hummers and not apply to bikes, lightbulbs, seeds, and vehicles that are more environmentally friendly (like our Premier). Just a thought.

3. Be the change you want to see. If you think the disappearance of millions of salmon, starving bears, ferocious pine beetles, and a global economy that feeds (and is fed by) a population that expands while biodiversity shrinks are important challenges, well, do something about it. Join a community group, start a business, teach a class – whatever you do, get involved.

So, the next time someone asks “what’s your issue?” Think about responding with something along the lines of “all of them.” Because it’s not just about the economy or the environment or health care or education or social issues. Our challenges are completely and symbiotically connected and the environment is the thing that binds it all together (mostly because it’s where we live). So it is with coral reefs and salmon and grizzly bears and tourism and my friend Catherine, who, like millions of people around the world, is none too pleased that so many cuddly, naturally peaceful and delicious creatures are about to starve to death.

“In spite of what such signals as the gross domestic product or the Dow Jones Industrial Average indicate, it is ultimately the capacity of the photosynthetic world and its nutrient flows that determine the quality and quantity of life on Earth.” Well said, Paul Hawken. Well said.

Now. Go out there and read, demand and be the change. Most importantly, have fun with it!


Mentorship Builds Community

Perhaps the Most Iconic Mentor-Mentee Relationship

Perhaps the Most Iconic Mentor-Mentee Relationship

We here at The Gumboot are all about planning for the future. For some of us this means canning food – according to The Globe and Mail, this is being done by “hipsters” more than anyone else (in fact, we have a canning-hipster on our staff). For others  “planning for the future” means scheduling a tennis match or being financially independent from their parents (it’s called being “viable”). Or perhaps “planning for the future” means simultaneously creating organizational strategery for a wedding while laying the groundwork for a worldwide social transformation based on a first name. Regardless of what you’re planning, it’s a great idea to learn from someone who has been there before. So, with this in mind, let’s explore the supercool idea of mentorship.

Briefly and historically, mentorship was possibly invented by Aristotle and/or Plato, but recent findings indicate that this may not have actually been an example of mentorship, but a clever ploy to drunkenly socialize with taut young boys. The knight-squire relationship in the Middle Ages presents a great example of the internationalization of mentorship, as this business relationship saw the mentee learn everything from swordplay to “crusading” to getting the most out of peasants at the swordtip of their mentor.  The rise of mercantilism saw artisans take on apprentices and teach them the way of their craft so that they could either inherit a business or strike out on their own and, eventually, crush their former Master. This may or may not have been where the idea of “internships” came to fruition. And then, for awhile, nothing new happened in the world of mentorship, until 1940 when Batman and Robin made it cool again. The Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder formed one of the most renowned mentor-mentee relationships, which has been discussed by scholars, Wikipedia and business-oriented blogs like The Next Women. In this example, mentorship is important because Batman’s job is, like, crazy dangerous, so, to protect the community of Gotham, it is important for Robin to learn the ways of The Dark Knight should something terrible happen. Rumour has it that the first Batman and Robin mentorship lesson was growing taller and having facial hair. The second: not sucking as a superhero.

Moving on…

Now. These examples of mentorship are throughout history are great, sure, but they’re not really helping you find one, are they? Well, here’s a suggestion for how and where and when to look.

To quote a twitblog from the interscape: “A mentor is a more experienced person who acts as a role model, guide or leader. They have experience in the work world, and share this experience, advice and encouragement, with young adults who are in the process of determining their future career path. Mentors suggest resources you can access, gives feedback about your skills and abilities, and helps you to make links between career interests, your abilities and your education. Mentors help to bridge the gap between the classroom and career.”

To paraphrase three former students who are collectively and individually smarter than me: In its most basic sense a mentor is an advisor to help model a path – the path could be life, career or world-domination oriented. They are usually (but not always) someone older, more experienced, and a good person to help advise (but not decide) on the best path to take. A mentee’s role is to ask questions, think about the response, and provide opportunities for feedback on their progress. The secret to a successful mentor-mentee relationship is that 90% of the work is done by the mentee in preparing, organizing, and maintaining the relationship. Speaking of 90%, the Recent Findings Institute published a study showing that 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs cite mentorship as the defining key to their success. So, nothing ventured, nothing gained! Remember advice is usually worth the price people put into it, but in this case it is the mentee’s time. If a mentee does not put the work into the relationship they will not have much to show for it.

Here are some tips on how to find a mentor (start by making a list of people in your personal network). And here are some best practices for making the most of your mentor-mentee relationship (ask really, really, really good questions and demonstrate to your mentor that you are acting on the advice you receive).mr-miyagi

Obviously, I think Mentorship is great. In fact, I have more than a few mentors, and I recommend you find a wide variety of people to mentor you through life, the universe and everything. Here is a list of ‘em (their names have been altered for anonymity and humour)  as well as a few topics of conversation and what they do to help me plan for the future of my community:

El Heffe

Who is he? A former teacher, coach, and climbing toy. Current outdoorsman, gardener, adventurer, and father (of me).

What do we talk about? Global issues and provincial politics, food security, the Vancouver Canucks, leadership, and that I am not special, no matter how cool I think I am.

Here’s an example of some recent advice: “okay, John, you want to write a blog. That’s great. But why am I reading it? If it’s just about you, no one’s gonna read it, including me. It has to be about something.”

The War Horse:

Who is he? Someone who has seen and done it all: started companies, developed organizations, led people, destroyed companies and organizations (hopefully not people).

What do we talk about? We talk about career advancement, winning friends and influencing people, making money, balancing career and life, preparing young people for the future, mentorship, and how to have adventures that will provide you with great stories to tell your grand children. After all, life is about doing so much  good and being so nice that you get lots and lots of people to show up at your funeral. Right?

Here’s an example of some recent advice: A recent survey showed that my team and I had much to improve on in terms of our service to students. Frustrated by the kids “not getting it,” I called The War Horse who simply said: “are they right?” To which I mumbled, “yes.” And then to which he said, “then fix it.”

The Knight and Squire "Internationalized" Mentorship

The Knight and Squire "Internationalized" Mentorship

The Academic

Who is he? A fellow believer in Johnism, he helped me find the humour in seemingly inhumourous things, such as the First World War.

What do we talk about? History, tea, scones, cricket, class-based-humour, bad teeth, The Queen, British stereotypes, the power of academically researched storytelling, and keeping pirates out of schools.

Here’s an example of some recent advice: “giant cups of coffee and drinking fountains are the most prominent symbols of North American gluttony.” (not a direct quote, but more of a well-researched piecing together of ongoing conversations)

The Beauty Queen

Who is she? So easily are people distracted by this one’s downright cuteness. And you’d be wrong if you think you could pull a fast one on her, as she is a brilliant, talented and capable leader. She’s just one who likes pink, fluffy things a lot.

What do we talk about? Leadership, overcoming politics at work, kindness, wedding planning, things that are pink, and the general deliciousness of food.

Here’s an example of some recent advice: My attention to detail sucks and that I have much to learn about this weakness before being great (but I have a lot of potential).


Who is she? A former boss who is “strictly business” and who continues to lead her team through some difficult changes. She is honest, fair, fiercely creative, and has high expectations.

What do we talk about? Books, creativity, strength, ideas from everywhere, standing up for idiots, being the “bad guy,” believing in people, and what it means to be a professional in a public institution with business-oriented goals.

Here’s an example of some recent advice: “you have a history degree and learned about four different technology programs in a few months; you will learn business.”

The Role Model

Who is he? The guy I want to be. A leader at a certain university who doesn’t take himself (or anything else at work) too seriously. This comes, I think, from his deep, beautiful family values as well as his countless tales of friend-based global adventure.

What do we talk about? Work and goals and building relationships. Mostly work. Always work, really. Love, shenanigans and ideas from everywhere are also on the list from time to time.

Here’s an example of some recent advice: No matter how many “out of this world” accomplishments I rack up at the age of 28, this does not qualify me for positions requiring the experience of a 40 year old. These things can only be solved by time. He also showed me the now obvious rationale for drinking black coffee.

Sure, we can learn about humility, networking, attention to detail, food security, governance, fatherhood, love, adventure, and strategies for having a kick-ass funeral by reading books and blogs. But, really, if you think shelling out for a copy of Rich Dad Poor Dad is the same as financial  mentorship, well, it’s a good thing you’re reading this post. Look. People collect experiences and stories. It’s kinda sorta what we do. Learning from the mistakes and successes in these stories as they relate to our communities is how we are going to make them stronger.

I challenge you to, first, do some reflecting on what your community needs and how the strengths you possess can help meet those needs. And, second, find a mentor who can help you to create a strategy, role it out and, most importantly, keep you confidently humble along the way.

Sound good? Great! Now get out there and find someone who can help make you better. And then help make your community better. And then – well, you get it by now, and it’s a beautiful thing!

Have fun with it!