I Said ‘Macbeth’ at the Theatre and Disaster Struck

I went to see the Vancouver Playhouse’s production of Red, a play about Mark Rothko at the height of his fame. This is not a review of that play. This is a story. There is a full review of the play in the Georgia Straight in case that disappoints you.

Mark Rothko via http://victoriatopping.blogspot.com/2011/04/rothko-moment.html












As far as communities go, the theatre community is a superstitious bunch. The most well known display of this trait is the taboo of saying good luck to a performer before a show. They would rather be told to break a leg. This one I know but, somehow, after 3 years of living with a theatre major and the daughter of an actor, I failed to learn or at least failed to retain any knowledge of another famous theatre taboo; the “Scottish Curse”. As I read out the stage credits of the lead actor, I learned my lesson. Among his credits was a stint in Macbeth.

In my own defense, if this curse is such a big deal actors should not be able to list the play among their credits. As far as I am concerned, that is just asking for trouble. Doesn’t everyone read the program aloud to their friends?

A little Googling after the fact has since taught that the antidote is a quote from Macbeth for someone to say, “‘Angels and ministers of grace defend us.’ Then the offender must leave the house, turn around widdershins (counterclockwise) three times, swear and knock to be readmitted.”

My companion looked at me aghast but did not call for any angels or ministers. I didn’t turn widdershins even once. So, naturally, disaster befell the production.




A gigantic screen that was used as a vehicle to change between scenes fell off it’s runners and the play had to be halted while four people tried to coerce the sail back into it’s tiny crevasse without dropping it onto the rapt audience in the process.


This could be chalked up to going to see the first preview of a show, but I did say the word and then…could it really be coincidence?


I overheard someone behind me say that it rid the theatre of its magic and mystery when things went wrong with the set. I don’t know that that was a negative thing for me. Particularly, since it was a play about the visual arts and the very next scene contained a reference to the adverse effects of bringing up the lights on a stage set. The line was apt but inaccurate. The lights up, behind the scenes moment gave the production a more physical presence. It gave more importance to the stage and set than the magic of a performance without a hitch would have allowed it to have otherwise.


Perhaps I will use this weapon strategy again the next time I attend the theatre. Watch out!

The Fifth Best and Worst Jobs Ever!

As outlined by the Introduction to the History of Work Series, this is Part 1 of 5 of the Best and Worst Jobs in History. Godfrey and I don’t stand on ceremony or words. We get right down to business. Without further ado, here are the selections:

Best. Job. Ever. Number 5!

Being a Pirate has simultaneously transformed and stayed the same since there was water and people had boats. The mediums have changed (ie. the Internet or a Hedge Fund instead of a ship), but the methods (ie. lying, cheating, killing, hacking, stealing) have stayed the same. Historians and popular culture will tell you the a career as a pirate means freedom, adventure and rum, which is true. It also meant democracy, health insurance and possibly getting hanged, drowned or put in jail for the ridiculously greedy ponzi scheme that you pulled on the financial world. This career is a celebration of independence, entrepreneurship and risk taking.

Summary of Academically Sound Findings and Analysis:






Level of Hardship

Lots of risk-reward here. For example, Bernie Madoff, one of the twenty-first century’s more notorious pirates, is facing a lot of hardship now. This being said, many Somali pirates (flush with cash and power after several years of mostly successful hijackings and coastal defending) are living much richer lives than their parents and grandparents ever did. Pirate ships were, as we all know, the first places where democratic principles were written down (100 years before the French Revolution), they saw health-insurance established, and tolerance of ethnicity and gender were also realized here before anywhere else on Earth…or at sea.

All this being said, having your face exploded by a cannon or your arm semi-hacked-off with a rusty cutlass isn’t really “medium” hardship…

Opportunity for Advancement Why do you think so many merchant sailors and Royal Navy seamen deserted their serf-like existence to become pirates? Because every pirate is only a few votes away from becoming a First Mate or Captain!!!

Women were also able to advance in this profession. In fact, the greatest pirate in history was a woman named Madame Cheng.


Meaningful Nature of Work For someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, loves a tropical climate, and is known to sip some rum every now and then, this job is for you.Whether today or 400 years ago, pirates have always found meaning by thumbing their noses at the status quo and finding different ways to make the world work. Meaning is what you make it when you’re a pirate!


Worst. Job. Ever. Number 5!

The First World War Message Runner was responsible for maintaining a battle’s lines of communication before radio existed – in fact, it would not be uncommon to see a message runner carrying a cage of pigeons through the exploding muck of the Western Front because, well, pigeons were more reliable than transmission cables. Not only was the job horribly dangerous, if you think about the daily nine-to-fives (we’ve all had them) where nothing gets accomplished and you feel like crap walking home in the rain, wondering what it’s all for, the life of the Message Runner was just like that…except, instead of data-entry, powerpoint presentations, or hammering nails, you faced imminent death every single day.

No water breaks or smoke breaks, as the glow of a cigarette would be spotted by a sniper a mile away. Oh, and the mud on your boots would invariably cause your feet to rot (it was called “Trench Foot”). And, remember, if you quit, your friends will probably die.

Summary of Academically Sound Findings and Analysis:






Level of Hardship

It’s not just the getting shot or shrapneled or bayonetted that makes this job one wracked with hardship. It’s the overwhelming knowledge that, if you fail, the lines of communication break down and there is a really, really good chance that your comrades – and your friends – will die in a hail of gunfire and explosions.

It’s also incredibly hard to run through mud that is waist-deep when you’re tangled in barbed-wire and you can’t see anything through the haze of mustard gas.

Opportunity for Advancement Hey, if you don’t get horribly wounded by shrapnel or captured by the enemy you could get promoted to, like, Corporal! …awesome…

Fun historical fact: Adolph Hitler actually started his “career” as a message runner in the First World War. Clearly, this is a traumatizing job (see above).


Meaningful Nature of Work Your work is incredibly meaningful – life-saving, even. But this only makes things worse.


Reflections on these Jobs

GODFREY: The jobs in this series are not always bound by place and time….Take piracy,  well, it’s alive and well, on the financial trading floors of the world. Sure, they’ve swapped their peg legs for Prada, their hook hands for Blackberries and soiled sea clothes for Armani and white collars, but they’re still pirates. I won’t beat this analogy to death, but if you think of the rolling graphs of the Dow Jones index as the high seas, and derivatives as highly risky booty, well there you have it. The risk that everything could sink – you along with it – just makes it better.

First World War Message Runners is probably the most sadly futile and comically absurd occupation that ever was.

JOHN: Amazing! Our matrix totally works! Hopefully we sucked some of the romanticism out of piracy (ie. Bernie Madoff is a pirate and Johnny Depp will never play him in a movie). Every kind of pirate is all about teamwork, adaptability, innovation, and they’re typically great communicators.

As for Message Runners, well, nothing screams futility like a guy running through mud to deliver a message that might possibly affect minor changes along an immovable stalemate in a totally useless war. Sigh. As it turns out, creativity can’t outmatch exploding shells.






Level of Hardship


Opportunity for Advancement


Meaningful Nature of Work


Pirate Communities: Business and Governance

Blackbeard knew branding: I think we get the message, yes?

[Editor's note: Sunday, September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day...I'm just saying.]

Last week two dear friends sent me two different articles about pirate prominence. The first was from Gumbooteer, Stewart Burgess (his pen name is s||A), and it discusses the rise of pirates-as-kingmakers in Somalia. The second article was sent to me by Director of UBC Career Services, Howie Outerbridge – actually, he sent it to my boss and apologized for encouraging me; the article that Howie sent, after all, was entitled “What Business Executives Can Learn From Pirates.” It’s always nice when my senseless rants about pirate communities being benchmarks for progressive ideologies are affirmed by those smarter and better looking than myself.

To summarize, pirates are leaders in governance and business. Here’s why…

Business + Pirates = Awesome

According to, well, me, pirate ships have historically been bastions of democratic principles, where the

interests of many were, naturally, aligned with the overall goals of the organization. Fazil Mihlar’s recent article in up-and-coming “newspaper,” the Vancouver Sun acknowledges what Kurt Heinrich has known since we began chatting about pirates: “since the pirate crew (shareholders/ employees) collectively owned the ship, they had to keep the captain (CEO/management) in check.” Mihlar – with Peter Leeson’s popular Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates as his muse – smartly delves into health care (in addition to democracy, pirate ships were also the first place to see health care benefits and compensation practiced) and corporate branding.

“Awesome” + Community = Governance?

NEWS FLASH: Somalia is in turmoil! The American-backed central government is on the ropes, with a few different warlords vying for power and an Al Queda supported Shabab militant group close to toppling the regime. Jeffrey Gettleman’s article points out the unfortunate situation of Somalia’s government: “Squished between the two, we have to become friends with the pirates,” Mr. Noor said. “Actually, this is a great

Seriously, this is an alleged picture of Mohamed Garfanji

opportunity.” There sure is a great opportunity: for the pirates to take both sides! After all, the most nefarious dude in the Gulf of Aden, Mohamed Garfanji, isn’t you’re typical pirate.  Remember the name, as his clever consolidation of power by creating a grassroots following of local (the community in the pirate enclave of Hobyo), regional (coastal communities pissed off at international fishers and polluters that have decimated Somalia’s coastline) and national (a central government that is teetering on the brink of destruction and needs people-power, firepower and cash) might just see the purple-rain-coated buccaneer become the next leader of Somalia. Like Mitch Albom says, “build a little community of those you love and who love you.” And then give that community millions of dollars and anti-aircraft guns and try your hand at governance in the worst place on Earth!

So, whether you’re teaching Business 101 or planning Phase 3 of your Tea Party Revolution, remember that you can always learn from Pirate Communities!


A Vancouver Transportation Story

For my post this week I was originally going to write about the concept of reputation, with a particular focus on Lebron James and his classless, drunk-on-ego Superfriends performance (filtered nicely through the thoughtful lens of two heroes, Alexandra Samuel and Steve Nash). And then I was going to argue that rural living is superior to urban living in every way. And then I was going to discuss the ridiculousness of how 90% or more of medical, financial, delivery, and professional services operate on a 9-5 time line, which is exactly when most of their clients are working.

But that all changed after an epic 99 B-Line bus ride from Commercial Drive to UBC.

Here is the Cast of Characters who made up our commuter community today:

The Bus Driver of Bus Number R8061: a fortysomething man clad in a hipster hat and in possession of a pocketful of righteousness.

Broadway Bike Rider: a woman dressed all in black, wearing a helmet, fearless, full of conviction.

Jack Sparrow with a Bicycle: nice guy, we chatted logistics as we put our bikes on together at Commercial Drive (mine went on first because I was getting off at UBC)…and he looked like a pirate.

Thoughtful Young Commuter: glasses, short haircut, clever looking backpack: everything about the kid looked smart.

Engaging Senior Citizen: a very “big picture” thinker who tried to find common ground amongst our Wednesday morning commuter community.

The Chorus: the background opinions and verbosity that echoed the primary dialogue and also piped up to fill the heavy silences.

It happened exactly like this, more or less:

Suddenly, there was a fierce braking by the driver followed by a long, loud, incessant honk of the horn (not me, the bus’s horn).

“You’re in the middle of the lane!” said the Driver.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” said Jack Sparrow. “What are you doing?! That was not right. You’re only a foot and a half away from her! Jesus. You could’ve killed her.”

“She’s gotta share the road,” replied The Driver.

The Chorus: “What happened? What happened?”

“She is sharing the road,” spat Jack Sparrow.

“She’s in the middle of the lane. It’s a bus lane,” spat back The Driver.

“You might not agree with what she’s doing,” piped up Thoughtful Young Commuter (TYC). “But that’s no way to deal with it. What if your brakes failed? Hell, what if one brake failed? You would’ve run her over.”

“Look. Right there. It says ‘BUS AND BIKE LANE’!” pointed Jack Sparrow.

The Chorus: “Did you see it? Did you see it? Should we just call Translink or the police, too?”

The bus pulls up to the stop sign.

“Hey! You can’t take up a whole lane. It’s for buses,” The Driver shouted out the window to the Broadway Bike Rider (BBR), who was on his left. “Share the road.”

The light turns green and the BBR sped out in front of the bus. As she rode, the BBR pointed to the “Bus and Bike Lane” signs that dotted the street every 15-20 meters. Interesting.

Honking continued.

“They shouldn’t have a shared bike and bus lane. It causes problems like this one right here,” the Engaging Senior Citizen (ESC) contributed to the discussion, which was very lively at this point.

“Fine, honk at her when she’s 100 meters away, that’s fine,” Jack Sparrow was coaching The Driver on proper techniques. “Keep your distance. Fine. Let her know you’re coming and use the other lane to swing out and go around her.”

“She’s not sharing the road,” repeated The Driver.

“Look, she’s allowed to ride three feet from the curb. It’s her right,” said TYC.

“Okay, here, look to your left. Just pull out into the next lane – even just a little bit – and pass her. See, it’s just that easy. No need to act the way you’re acting, man.” The Driver was steering, but Jack Sparrow was pretty much driving the bus.

Red light. The doors fly open and the BBR finds herself – yet again – to be the target of The Driver’s verbal barrage.

“This is a lane for buses. You can’t ride in the middle of it. Get out of the road before something bad happens,” yelled The Driver.

“The sign clearly says it’s a bike and bus lane. We share it. You can go around me easily,” yelled back the BBR.

“So share it,” retorted The Driver.

The Chorus: “Why isn’t she riding on tenth? It’s a bike street. This guy is an asshole! I’d be riding in front of the bus too if he tried to hit me. What? Do you want to get run over by a bus?”

Dramatic re-creation of the Character "Jack Sparrow...on a bike"!

“There shouldn’t be a shared lane for bicycles and buses,” offered the Engaging Senior Citizen. “It doesn’t make any sense. Especially on Broadway.”

“[INSERT SEVERAL EXPLETIVES HERE],” expressed Jack Sparrow. “You’re encroaching on her! You’re pushing her against the curb!”

Sure enough, the 99 B-Line was inching ever so slightly on an angle towards the curb. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a cyclist on the sidewalk – on the wrong side of the road – weaving through pedestrians. A wry, ironic smile creeps across my lips.

“Do you understand what you’re doing?” asked TYC. “What do you think this is doing to the rider? She’s getting scared. You’re making her an enemy of buses. Stop it now. You’re already in enough trouble. Just stop it.”

Exiting Chorus Members on their phones: “Yeah, the bus number is R8061…”

“You need to get out of the bus lane!” chided the unrelenting Driver, mostly to himself, as the doors were now closed.

“[INSERT MORE EXPLETIVES]!” Captain Jack Sparrow was getting close to vigilante justice. “You’re a terrible person and I hope you lose your job for this.”

Away went the BBR, ahead of the bus, continuing to point at the bus/bike lane signs. The Driver, as he held down his horn, moved out around the cyclist, back into the bus/bike lane, and continued along Broadway (later he would produce another long, angry horning, but it was because of a confusedly-parked driver and, folks, that’s another story for another time). The Driver – clearly – was having a very  bad day.


Vancouver is an interesting place to cycle (and, apparently, take the bus!). In the past year the city’s built landscape has changed a fair bit because of the bike-friendly creations on the Burrard Street Bridge and the Dunsmuir Viaduct. These things are supposed to make cycling safer. And we’re supposed to be future-living in the world’s greenest, most bicycle-oriented city. Or at least that’s the idea.

In the past few weeks one of my pedaling friends was hit by a car and another was hit by pavement after avoiding a car. This year I’ve seen half-a-dozen sprawled-out, injured cyclists at the horrible Clark-and-Tenth intersection, too. And then there’s Kurt Heinrich, whose casual cycling through stop signs and traffic lights has earned him over $300 in tickets. I confront annoying sidewalk-bike-riders on Commercial Drive nearly every time I go outside. And then there’s this – the above tale of a very overzealous bus driver. No matter how you spin or slice it, cycling is a messy business here in Vancouver.

So there it is. This story is just part of the larger fabric. And I bet ten more just like it pop up in your lives by the end of the week.

-  JCH

Kevin Greer – The Editorial Associate (not Intern)

Who are you?

I am a six foot three, competitive yet an easy going student currently attending the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. I love to express my opinion about many different topics, whether it be over the internet or a coffee. Appointed as  editorial assistant for the Daily Gumboot, my goal is to get all of the voices within this blog extended to a greater audience.

What do you do for fun?

I play extreme upside down turbo Ultimate Frisbee (what I like to call it), study, eat way too much Asian food, hang out with my awesome girlfriend Rosa and argue for hours about how we can change the world. I also spend an insane amount of time tinkering with my computers.

What is your favorite community and why?

I enjoy any group of entities that merge to share their stories. It can be as small as a woman and her dog to the massive scale interactions that occur within a city such as Vancouver. Everyone has a story to tell and I guarantee that others will want to hear it. I also find global communities arising through the help of the internet groundbreaking and controversial.

What is your super power?

Having mad hops to jump over anything including the literal, factual, metaphorical and figurative obstacles of the world while simultaneously aiding others to do the same.

How does your power help you to build community?

I have one simple motto which builds community personally, locally and globally: help others.  I may procrastinate, J-walk and sleep in (I am not perfect, just close) but I always do things with the needs of other people as the number one priority. I thoughtfully use these so called ‘hops’ to inspire, lead and present ideas to others unselfishly. My goal is not to be the richest man in the world, simply someone who has the skills and attitude to construct, as well as develop, community and relationships.

My Three Favourite things about Kevin Greer are…

1. The cut of his jib. Kevin the Intern lived on a boat for a year or so and this experience certainly refined his sense of self – he might be 18, but he carries himself in a way that suggests he’s 18 going on 30. Also, his nautical sense and boat-savvy makes him the most pirate-like member of the Daily Gumboot team.

2. The Toolkit. Business + Computer Science + Innovation + Entrepreneurial Spirit + Sex Appeal = Kevin Greer. Kevin came to our first meeting with a lot of ideas that he is carrying out as we speak, and it’s pretty darn inspiring.

3. Lifelong Learning. Kevin the Intern Editorial Associate is the kind of guy who will just keep getting better with age – knowing what I know about the career potential about mid-to-late-twentysomethings here in the Lower Mainland, I can safely say that the young and talented Mr. Greer is well on his way to being a thought/business leader in Vancouver and beyond well before his time. No pressure though, pal.

On behalf of the Daily Gumboot team, thanks for all your hard work, Kevin!

…As told by John Horn…

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!


Baron Godfrey von Bismarck

Who are you?

I’m Godfrey von Nostitz-Tait. Throw my middle name “Marcus” into the mix and I have one of the longest, semi aristocratic-sounding names out there, coming in at 27 letters (plus a hyphen). Being double barrelled has always reminded me of my British/German roots – always a good thing. Still, I’m turning 30 next month and my hunt for a shorter signature continues. Submissions are welcome.

What do you do for fun?

Other than spending 99% of my time coming up with a better signature and designing pajamas/bathrobes/hankerchiefs with my coat of arms on them, I enjoy getting into the outdoors with my binoculars and engaging with Vancouver’s amazing maritime community. I keep one larger pair on my apartment’s window sill to spy on birds and boats out on English Bay. I’m a big fan of boats, especially when I can see them up close. I also have a smaller pair of binocs which I bring on ferry rides (just in case there’s a whale), and walks on the sea wall, in case a seal pops up or there is other fauna deserving closer inspection. Since I moved to Vancouver I’ve also embraced outrigger canoeing and tennis – sports you can do year round here, which is amazing. One day last spring, I snowboarded, paddled AND played tennis all on the same weekend. How cool is that!

What is your favourite community and why?

I love my neighbourhood, the West End, for all the obvious reasons: green space, the people, beautiful cherry blossoms and lots of great eateries. But I’d have to say that my favourite micro community in the West End is the Stanley Park tennis courts. I love how inclusive they are, how you can so easily pick up a friendly match and how the herons lord over it all from their nests in the trees.

What is your superpower?

My vocabulary. I know a lot of words, which makes me a pretty wordy dude. I mean, why say things simply when you can “fance” things up real nice?   I think my wordiness is because as a lad I was deprived of TV. And Nintendo. Books were it. I polished off War and Peace at age 12 followed by Bleak House. Astounding, I know. So normal or not, there’s a reason I sometimes speak like a patrician.

How do you use it to build community?

Well, I like to talk and write, using words to communicate feelings, stories, thoughts and ideas whenever I can. The Daily Gumboot has been a fantastic way to flex a little of my verbal muscle in the name of community and word smithing has sure come in handy in my work promoting education as a writer and researcher for the Canadian Council on Learning.

My Three Favourite Things about Godfrey von Nostitz Tait are…

1. His name and style. We call “Godfrey” by the name “GVB” which stands for “Godfrey von Bismarck” – this name reflects GVB’s colourful family lineage, which, allegedly, connects him with some guy named Bismarck. Godfrey is also a very, very classy dresser. Very.

2. Listening skills. Talking to Godfrey makes you feel like a million bucks. Why? Because he is in possession of a spectacular active listening toolkit, which includes, but is not limited to the following: eye contact, follow-up questions, head-nodding, perfect body language, and a warm smile. I encourage you to talk to GVB today!

3. Passion for the Nautical. I’m not sure what your apocalypse and/or zombi plan(s) involves, but mine involves commendeering a ship and, hopefully, having it captained by Godfrey. His salty love of the sea and the nautical knowledge – knauticauledge – he possessess makes him a fantastic conversationalist about the world of the sea. Hopefully, too, he can navigate a ship away from roaving zombis…

As told by John Horn…


Last week I printed google-map directions from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Media Centre to their National Convention Centre.  I then followed these directions.

At 10:23am, I left the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Media Centre/Convention Centre and using only the times and directions on the map from Beijing, I ended up at the point at which Stanley Park meets English Bay and the West End at 11:17 am.

The derive, or ‘drift’ was an essential method of urban exploration for the Situationist movement (1958-1971).  A ‘drift’ is a day or multi-day long wander through a city, directionally random, yet with a strong focus on the poorer and thus more invigorated neighbourhoods.  Psycho-geography is the method of recording such wanders, and involves the division of the city into non-cartographic sectors, based on such non-specific criteria as ambience, emotion, authenticity, and welcome.  Today, many romantically-inclined urban aficionados might include these terms under the umbrella of ‘community’.

Coal Harbour is a distinct psycho-geographic community from the West End, and they are divided by Robson St.

no dogs in parks; keep your bikes away; control the lanes; keep those evil-deors out of the parking garage


  • The architecture and landscape of Coal Harbour are very authorized (read: planned + manicured), making a true ‘drift’ difficult, as the body is directed along a very specific set of paths and journeys
  • It is possible to have the awkward hallway you-go-this-way-I-go-that-you-go-my-way dodging game in the middle of cross-walk, with only two people present.
  • Coal Harbour is a place of hierarchical spectacle.  This ranges from the spectacle of the mountains and the voyeurism of viewing people on the seawall from your glass tower; to the micro topography of the seawall’s successively higher grade of walking path, benches and bike path
  • Your presence in Coal Harbour on a weekday must be authorized: this can be demonstrated through: conference name tag, business suit, olympic dog-tag, construction vest and work boots, landscaping or rent-a-cop outfit. Servant or served, you cannot be neither without being actively observed and questioned by those with the correct clothing mix
  • North-south penetrations of the city are difficult, roadways, signs and pathways consistently direct you on the west-east axis

name tags are carefully tucked away along with safety vests


  • Predominantly low-rise, residential architecture, combined with a few key commercial strips, filled with drift potential; alleyways, small streets and through-passages abound.  A heterogenous built environment means the body is constantly intrigued by its’ surroundings
  • Also a place of spectacle, yet it is a dinner-theatre event to the formalized national opera house of Coal Harbour
  • Mobility scooters and/or short haircuts are requirements for inhabitation
  • Rent-a-cops take the time to coo at small babies, without looking askance at your loitering
  • Name tags are removed with care and stowed in re-usable shopping bags

The ‘drift’ is a non-judgmental journey, rather the experience is to simply allow situations to happen to you and you turn cause situations through your very presence.  Based on these observations and your personal experience, what do you think of these nieghbourhoods’ psychogeographic feel, or community Have you drifted before?

The Pirates of Copenhagen

This has nothing to do with the Climate Conference - but it truly is a pirate ship with Danish quotations. I say, "close enough!"

This has nothing to do with the Climate Conference - but it truly is a pirate ship with Danish quotations. I say, "close enough!"

During a recent trip to a bookstore I came across Michael Crichton’s newest – and posthumous – book, Pirate Latitudes. That’s right. Mr. Crichton’s legacy, in this humble editor’s opinion, will not be dinosaurs or terminal men or aliens or medical dramas or climate change. It will be pirates. But, wait a second, let’s go back to that second to last topic. The climate change one. Mr. Crichton’s controversial piece on climate change, State of Fear, combined with his newest work, Pirate Latitude, rolled into the most recent – and hilarious – prank by The Yes Men inspired an epiphany and gave me an idea: what can the heads-of-state, protesters, businesspeople, lobbyists, scientists, fake-scientists, corrupt-scientists, students, and spectators learn about the environmental landscape as it relates to pirate communities?

Obviously, the answer is that we can learn a lot about the relationships between pirates, culture and the environment. So, Copenhagen, I hope you’re listening. Because it will be pirates, not lobbyists, businesspeople, scientists, or governments, who will save the environment. Here’s why and how.

Pirates as Environmental Stewards

Copenhagen stakeholders – Copenholders – pirates can teach you, all of us, really, about reducing and reusing; they know how to help people get by with less. Just ask any Fleet Street Banker or Liverpudlian Businessman or West Indies Plantation Owner or Admirals of the Royal Navy during the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries. These Captains of Industry and Government changed the environmental and cultural landscapes of our planet (slaves from Africa and introduction of new crops to the New World) to produce millions of things that made them millions of dollars. From time to time, though, pirates reduced the flow of such overproduction and – ahem - reused it themselves or recycled it amongst their brethren. Here is a specific example of how pirates don’t use the natural environment to produce things, in the recorded and unrecorded history of pirates, only one Captain ever commissioned a ship; pirates don’t build new ships. They reuse them. In 1695, Captain William Kidd (the self-proclaimed “Pirate Hunter”) built himself, I kid you not, a galley in England – no, he was not a viking. This was an odd decision. Speaking of odd decisions, here is a lesson for the COP15 decision makers to consider: use what’s already there! A recent story I had to hear from Fox News, divulged that over 1,200 limosines and 140 private jets had to be imported in order to accommodate the climate conference delegates. Pirates would’ve commandeered a bus and shared it. I’m just saying…

Pirates as Creators of a new Cultural Landscape

What happens on a pirate ship when the captain chooses a direction that the crew doesn’t like? Well, the captain changes his mind or goes overboard. It’s democracy at its finest. A recent article in The Independent by Johann Hari suggests that modern day pirates, like their historic brothers and sisters, have rejected today’s unequal, corrupt and punishing global “system.” Hari cites the last words of William Scott, a pirate hanged in Charleston, South Carolina during the Golden Age of Piracy: “What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirateing to live.” In spite of the consensus amongst the planet’s brightest minds, well, alarm bells aren’t really going off around the world. Greed is a big part of it. Manipulation and spin are parts of it. Fear of difference is a huge part of it. And the authoritative concentration of power is, perhaps, the biggestSeriously? 1,400 limosines? Do you guys "get" Climate Change?! part of it. Many pirates could have been members of the East India Trading Company or Royal Navy – some were and chose to leave the respective greed of the Merchant Marine (merchant ships were notoriously and unsafely under-staffed, as less sailors meant less overhead and more profit for businessmen in London, New York and Boston) and authoritative culture of the Royal Navy (apparently, you weren’t allowed to throw your captain overboard or take a nap that wasn’t scheduled). If true democracy really allows us to chuck our captains overboard then what do we really have now? Most of the world is on board with re-examining and altering humanity’s relationship with the environment. And the majority of our planet is also part of this wholly elaborate, interconnected global system that is moving forward like the smelly inertia-proof juggernaut that it is. For anything to change, our system as it exists today must be transformed. Or rejected and created anew. Whatever the case, pirates can – and should – be the drivers of such change. After all democracy existed on pirate ships before it ever existed in France or the United States. I’m just saying…

Pirates as a Product of their Environmental Landscape

Over the last two decades an unknown amount of toxic waste has been dumped off the coast of Somalia – what would cost $1,000 USD per tonne in Europe costs $2.50 USD per tonne in Somalia. Combine this with the overfishing along Africa’s longest – and most unprotected – coastline (nearly 3,000 kilometers long), and a different story of what makes a Somali pirate a “pirate” begins to develop. Greed and corruption from the rest of the world have thrust upon the people of Somalia, Nigeria, and the Strait of Malacca material conditions that represent just how much we need to take matters into our own hands. For example, over 70 per cent of Somalians refer to their former fisherpeople as “The Somali Coast Guard” not as “pirates.” Let’s take this as a horrible synecdoche of how things may very well unfold for the rest of the world; soon the coastal communities of Vancouver Island may harbour a few more pirates than they do today. I’m just saying…

Whether we all believe it or not, our planet is being pushed to the brink. We are a part of its landscape. As part of Team Earth, the world needs people to protect it from what is happening. So, play within the system or take a Yes Men approach and mock it through covert operations. Just take piracy as a metaphor and be nice about it, okay? I’m glad we had this chat. Now get out there and change the world!

- Sir John the Pirate Piratologist

The Gumboot Turns One (almost)!

Gumboots never looked so good

Gumboots never looked so good

Good day, good readers of The Daily Gumboot. It’s my pleasure to inform you that this modest publication – agreed upon and endorsed by Gregor Robertson, Alex Tsakumis, Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Barack Obama, Batman, and the Vancouver Canucks   as “Vancouver’s coolest community-based blog” – is almost one year old. Our official birthday will be December 1, 2009; however, we have a plan to build some momentum leading up to the big day.

Over the year we’ve been lucky to have a collection of amazing stories written by a team of amazing contributors who, I kid you not, span at least three continents and the entire political spectrum; from militant communist to compassionate conservative, we truly collect ideas from everywhere. But don’t take my word for it, check out our content from the past year. Our stories have discussed everything from pirates to the suburbs to politics to education to nudity in the women’s locker room (it earned the most hits on Google for sure) to Kenyan sex boycotts to public squares to building relationships that build community. And, at the end of the day in one way or another, all of our articles have been creative expressions of community and, in some cases, have even provided some tips on how you can better build your community. So, here’s a question for you: which article from the past year has best captured the essence of community-building as defined by The Daily Gumboot’s mission?

Over the next few weeks, the DG’s editorial staff will be collecting each contributor’s favourite article from the past year. We will then post the articles for you, our faithful readers, to review and discuss. By December 1, 2009 we’ll have a great idea regarding some specific pieces of community building brilliance that our fans believe best reflects this blog’s mission and purpose. Here’s the mission for your review:

The Daily Gumboot is a collaborative online experience designed for people who want to learn more about building community. Or who really, really like pirates. This blog is about fresh perspectives on people, community, nature, pirates, gumboots, and gumboot-clad pirate communities in nature. We’ve got cool ideas from everywhere. And we use them to build community.

We strive to be topical, interesting, snappy, grammatically-correct, edutaining, and, most importantly, positive. The team here at The Gumboot also isn’t shy of controversy or run-on sentences; we have embraced the semi-colon and use its power for good. Learn more about our contributors below and by linking to our profiles.

We might not post daily, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check us out, well, daily. Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to The Daily Gumboot. Thanks for visiting. We hope you have fun with it.

So there it is. Collaborators, contributors and authors, if you are interested in having your best piece from this blog reviewed and discussed, please be ready to post it by Monday, November 16. And be sure you tell us why you think the article you chose best represents the essence of The Daily Gumboot. This promises to be as informative as it is fun. Now. Let’s get out there and make some memories!

Have fun with it!