Fashion Hangover a la Vancouver 2010

For better or for worse the Olympics have come and gone. For some of us their departure has left us with the sense of, “Hey, the party was just getting started!” for others, it’s a case of “Good riddance, no more frenzied crowds, no more line ups,  no more searchlight thingies and no more incessant  helicopter chatter overhead.” Still, lingering nostalgia remains,  and it’s not for the spectacle of Koreans kicking butt at  short track, Heineken at the Holland House  or Robson Square Zipliners. These were great things, but nothing compares to the void that has been left by the departure of thousands of athletes. And their outfits. Their really nifty, nifty outfits. For two weeks the world’s athletes accomplished both amazing sporting feats and  pushed athletic fashion to a whole new level. These Olympics can and should be remembered as a  pageant of funky spandex designs, nifty parkas and everything in between. So, while i’m not sorry to see our speed skaters’ saran-wrapped thighs go, there were plenty of designs which i’ll remember fondly.

Some of my personal faves.

I like to call this number (above) the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Intimidation Suit”. The Austrailians did everything right here. Their opponents were probably left wondering, “Are these guys really ‘turtles in a half shell’? And if so, ‘do they have turtle power too?!’Pretty neat stuff. All part of the Australian amazing game plan to compensate for their lack of snow at home.

Personally, I don’t find curling very interesting. Probably because I never watch it for long enough to get into a ‘match’ due to my inability to comprehend anything that’s happening. With so many know-nothings like me apt to reach for the channel changer, Team Norway clearly knew what they were up against and came out with these funky attention grabbing harlequin curling clown pants. Hurry Hard Norway, way to build your curling community.

I’m at a loss for words with this one. But “brilliant” is the first one that comes to mind. This body-hugging spectacle of luminous spandex could do nothing but dazzle spectators and judges alike. Sure, the Ukranians made themselves easy targets with this creation, but let’s face it, it was a ballsy, all-or-nothing move which made them stand out from the pack. They flew in the face of figure skating couture convention. And I applaud them for it.

Ah, the Russians. Off the ice they set the bar pretty high with their street couture, which was flamboyant, stylish and boldly told the world that “watch out we’ll be seeing you in Sochi!” You just couldn’t miss them in any crowd, particularly since they often moved in coordinated packs.  They also took Olympic Swag to a whole new level, with caps and fannie packs for added punch.

Lastly, there was us and our mittens. Something like 3.5  million of these things were bought before and during the Olympics. Well done HBC. Well done Vanoc. I have to say, these hand warmers were a master stroke of fashion and functionality, who wouldn’t want to keep their hand warm and wave the maple leaf at the same time?

Goodbye Olympics. You were fash-tastic and you will be remembered fondly.

Decentralized Dance Partying: Not a Spectator Sport

DDP

The 6th-ever DDP gets underway

Well, fellow Vancouverites and citizens of the world, the Olympics have drawn to a close. They swept this fair city with their upper-middle-class sensibility, polarized audiences across BC, inspired heavy criticism, inspired heavier drinking, encouraged athletic excellence, obnox-ified Canadian pride, and generally left us all reeling.

Love them or hate them, there was something undeniably awesome about the energy the games brought to Vancouver. Be it through political protest or exuberant celebration, communities were galvanized and Vancouver’s many social silos crumbled in the wild 17-day melee of sport, art and culture. And beer. Enormous issues aside, the games quickly became one big party.

Now, of course, BC is set to weather the $8 billion hangover. Throwing a 3 million- invitee party for 17 days runs a hefty tab, the extent of which will only be known tomorrow when the BC budget is announced.

Which is why it’s somewhat ironic that my fondest memory of the Games cost almost nothing to produce, required no lining up, and was only marginally sanctioned by VANOC. I’m talking about the Decentralized Dance Party I attended on the Saturday following the opening ceremonies. And, pseudo-Olympic-dissenter that I am, I have a bold claim to make: it changed my perspective.

Uphill Sidewalk Skeleton: Look for it in 2014!

Uphill Sidewalk Skeleton: Look for it in 2014!

The Decentralized Dance Party (DDP) works something like this: Tom and Gary, BFFs with a die-hard love for parties and a penchant for throwing them, pick a time, location, and costume theme. This information is spread virally, though their website and expansive Facebook group, and when the crowd assembles over 100 ghetto blasters are distributed. Using a radio transmitter to project crowd-pleasing playlists to an empty radio station, the boom boxes act as far-reaching speakers.

All of a sudden it’s a mobile dance party in the streets.

And on Saturday, February 13th, that street party represented the very best of Vancouver’s 2010 events. It was open to everyone, totally free, and completely steeped in fun. Beginning with a rousing rendition of “Oh Canada” at 6pm in Yaletown, the party snaked through the downtown core, picking up hundreds of rogue dancers as it moved. There were trampoline competitions, uphill skeleton races, giant sing-alongs and an overwhelming sense of inclusion.

For a few hours radical, non-partisan community was forged in the heart of the world’s most commercialized event.

It was some powerfully fun stuff.

The author demonstrates the Decentralized Dance Party Spirit

The author demonstrates the Decentralized Dance Party Spirit

I don’t mean to suggest that a mere dance party can right the highly publicized wrongs of VANOC. I’m also not blindly endorsing the street partying that happened during the Olympics. I witnessed some very dodgy, near-riotous crowds during my forays, and I can’t say I’m sorry to see them disperse.

What the night made me realize, however, was how crucial civic events are for creating a sense of place and community. In some ways, the Olympics merely served as a backdrop for experiencing the city and its inhabitants. Strangers conversed on street corners, well-organized protestors drew international attention to Vancouver’s social challenges, and art and music were everywhere. Obtaining overpriced tickets to sporting events became secondary to human interaction, cultural participation, and dancing in the streets.

Luckily, decentralized dance partying is not a spectator sport.

K’Naan’s Cultural Olympiad

knaanpub1My birthday is coming up (it’s Saturday, February 27 and thanks so much for the card, by the by) and you can imagine my surprise when my Special Lady, Michelle, told me we were going to see K’Naan at the Orpheum Theatre. Needless to say, I was pretty darn excited.

Brief tangent: if you haven’t taken in a show or cultural event at the Orpheum, please do it soon. The place is as spectacular as it is intimate.

I will venture a guess and assume that 72% of visitors to this online news magazine know about K’Naan. Whether you do or not, the 10 minute video below acts as a pretty darn amazing introduction to one of the world’s most important artists. Enjoy!

Full disclosure. K’Naan is a sell out. Or so a handful of mangey protestors argued as thousands of fans excitedly lined up to see a young man who defines himself as “made in Somalia and raised in Toronto.” Recently, K’Naan signed a lucrative contract with corporate up-and-comer, Coca Cola – some folks argue this goes against his truly humbling, authentic, “man of the people” image. I will admit, combining a Coca Cola sponsorship with a stopover at the Olympics (the Cultural Olympiad is sponsored by Bell) amid chatter that artists are being “muzzled” by sponsors complicated my shining opinion of K’Naan.

When the protestors approached Michelle, though, things weren’t so complicated. Her argument went like this: Look. I’m not saying that you don’t have a point. But really, at the end of the day, K’Naan’s message is positive, empowering and inspiring. Through his songs he tells a story of forgiveness, respect, tolerance, and hope. Why wouldn’t we want this message to spread through any means possible, reaching individuals it otherwise would not have? Coke is powerful – take the example of GreenPeace, who tried for 15 years to have greener refridgeration technology approved in Canada. Coca Cola, in an attempt to be more environmentally sustainable, was able to get their climate-friendly vending machines and coolers approved for use in Canada in just one year, in time for the 2010 Olympics – opening the door for approval of green refridgerators and coolers. Instead of working against the man, it is often so much more effective to work with the man to effect change.

Michelle and I, being superawesome nerds, developed an evaluation rubric for the concert based on four categories – each category is worth five points. Here we go:

Edutainment

A good amount (like, 30) of parents brought their kids to the concert. In the lineup – amidst the inarticulate, yet passionate, protestors – I struck up a conversation with a little one (and her dad, because I’m not creepy) about the concert ahead. She said she was excited because her class watched a documentary about what K’Naan is doing in East Africa to raise awareness about women’s rights, child labour/poverty and the overall plight of people who live in “the hardest place on Earth.” He also told powerful stories and shook his ass like a maniac. Recent findings show kids love stuff like that.

Final Score: 5/5.

Dancibility

Rap concerts suck. There. I said it. Unless an artist has Timbaland mixin his pop-fresh beats live on stage, well, it all just sounds like muffled talking to the thump-thump of the base. And people can’t really dance to such sounds. Especially white people. And, let’s be honest about the crowd, this was/is Vancouver. But this was not a rap concert. It was a delightful hybird of rock/hip-hop/spoken word/stand up comedy with interludes of musical poetry. Whether he was whispering quietly to the audience or “lighting this mutherf*ckin’ joint” everybody could dance…to the best of their ability.

Final Score: 4/5

Creativity

Still moved by K’Naan’s amazing, humbling ability to wear his heart on his sleeve, this concert truly ran the gamut of sensation: from the hilarious and ridiculous to the tragically sad. Few people on this planet can honestly live up to the title of “Rapper, Poet, Philosopher, Storyteller, and Rock Star” – if he were the kind of guy to have business cards, K’Naan would have the best ones ever.

Final Score: 6/5

Authenticity

Here’s the deal. Sell-out or not, the part of the concert when K’Naan told the feeble VANOC official that he’s “not finished playing” – whether this came about because of his “mood” or his penchent for counterculture or his subscribing to African Time, this part of the show was delightfully authentic. I was not without my reservations, as K’Naan needlessly name-dropped Bob Marley and, to all the fans out there, here’s a piece of advice: when someone is singing/talking about their dead childhood girlfriend who left this world in the most terrible of circumstances, well, it’s not supercool to cheer about it. Idiots. Finally, Coke-fueled or not, seeing that many people sing to Wavin Flag was the most authentic thing I’ve seen during these Olympics. Building community through music? Check! Well done, K’Naan.

Final Score: 5/5

With a total score of 20/20 it’s pretty clear that K’Naan rocked the Orpheum. More importantly, though, in a world where most of us have lost faith in business – just ask Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management – perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to have K’Naan, a poetic champion of the people, as a collaborator with the biggest business on Earth. After all, change takes a community…

- Written by The Bornks!

Olympic Neighbourhoods: The North Shore

As a key media outlet for the 2010 Olympics, the Daily Gumboot is excited to bring you our “Olympics Neighbourhoods” series. 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!

Your Olympic Neighbourhood this week is…The North Shore!

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

JOHN: Do you like boats? I hope so, because getting from Downtown to the North Shore means crossing one of two bridges or, if you go car-less, taking the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay. Here is an interactive map that really ties it all together.

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

JOHN: People from the North Shore will tell you that this community represents the pinnacle of a “West Coast” lifestyle. Truly, no other place in the Lower Mainland possesses the combination of nature, suburbia, urban-chique, and small-town-friendliness. This is the place where a traveler can realize the purest of West Coast experiences: catch a gorgeous view of the cityscape over a steaming cup of fair trade, locally roasted coffee and then move on to a day of skiing, golfing and kayaking or mountain biking and then wrapping it all up with a micro-brewed pint of delicious beer. It’s a beautiful thing.

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

JOHN: I defer to Kelly White’s performance for this one. But, if you’re like 72% of our readership and sneak peaks at the Gumboot during free moments in your cubicle at work, then you might not be able to watch the video. If this is the case, there are, allegedly, super-popular, must-try cheese sticks at the Queensdale Market and the mysteriously fantastic sandwich makers at La Galleria in the even more mysterious Edgemont Village.

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

JOHN: Ummm…everything! Again, I encourage you to watch this in-depth video about the secrets of the North Shore. Of all the places that Kelly took us, the Lynn Loop was the most inspiring. It reminded me of being back on Vancouver Island (where I grew up) and the idea of being able to do everything from a two hour round trip to an overnight camping excursion where, according to the locals, “you need to know what you’re doing” is what makes Vancouver an absolutely unique urban experience.Check out trails and a full list of other west coast activities here.

5. What are your three favourite things about the North Shore?

KELLY:

1. Being so close to trails and forest so that anyone can get away from the hussel and bussel of city life and enjoy the fresh air on weekends.

2. The friendly community-feel of the North Shore~ residents care about their community and it shows.

3. My favorite outdoor summer festvial, Caribbean Days! Every late July, Waterfront Park hosts a Caribbean Days event with music, a parade, food, and a beer garden. It’s the one event I never miss every year, it is awesome!

JOHN: I wholeheartedly agree with Kelly’s answers above (although I didn’t try the pizza at Taylor’s Crossing), but will just add that my Aunt Julie Ann lives in North Vancouver, so I’m always happy to visit her and get up to some shenanigans.

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.

MainandHastings

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.

Olympic Neighbourhoods: The Drive

Your Olympic Neighbourhood this week is…Commercial Drive!

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?

The nexus of the Drive: 1rst and Commercial

The nexus of the Drive: 1rst and Commercial

JOHN: Since Kurt’s “sense of direction” is one of his superpowers, I’ll leave it to him to create the Googlemap that shows Commercial Drive – “The Drive” – to exist in the Grandview Woodlands community, roughly, between East 12 and Hastings Streets. You can get there from downtown or the suburbs by hopping on the Skytrain and getting off at the Commercial/Broadway Station. If you’re coming from downtown and would like to combine your trip with fun adventure, take the Number 20 bus, which travels through the Downtown Eastside and always yields conversations that are as entertaining as they are interesting.

KURT: Click here to go to the Googlemap.

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

JOHN: The hipster culture and eclectic mix of people are great reasons. But the Commercial Drive neighbourhood, in my opinion, boasts some of the highest real estate prices in the city for two reasons: the food (so much local organic goodness) and the sense of community. People here really, really care about where they live and behave with a true sense of pride about it. The. Drive is the perfect place to start your night – most places close at midnight, so arrive for a delicious dinner, a few drinks, good music, and great times and then continue on with your Olympic exploration!

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

JOHN: See our video. It’s spectacular. For breakfast, I like Cafe du Soleil and recently had a fantastic experience at Theresa’s. For lunch, it’s all about Cafe Wazubee. For dinner, I love the no-utensils-sensual-dining-experience of Addis Cafe. Everyday favourites are Pane Vero cafe and The East End Food Co-op; if you are picking up groceries during your trip this is the place to go!

KURT: I’d like to add that my favorites in the area include the Bump and Grind (for some of the best coffee in the city). For a bio of the owner, check out our Get To Know Your Community section on owner Joe Peterson.

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

JOHN: People watch and people talk. There are all sorts of “performers” skipping and dancing and twirling around The Drive. Such folks are great to watch – you can’t help but smile at the stick-twirling antics of Cloud Man – and even better to chat with. Their stories will give you a true sense of the neighbourhood, especially if you ask people what they think about the Olympics.

One of many sites to see.

One of many sites to see.

KURT: Another groovy thing about the drive is the wealth of street and mural art that adorns its walls and sidewalks. There are a number of great murals. To learn more about the murals in the area, check out this earlier post on the Gumboot about the Eastside Mural Project. In addition to the murals of Richard Tetrault, there are a ton of other great ones all along the street.

5. What are your three favourite things about The Drive?

JOHN: First, it’s all about the sense of community and how people are so passionate about preserving their businesses, homes, parks, and public spaces in a way that reflects their collective values. Second, the cultural history of the neighbourhood (did you know that English, while the most commonly spoken tongue, is a minority language in the Grandview-Woodland area?); during a visit to The Drive, a friend of mine from Calgary was heard to say, “this neighbourhood reminds me of New York City, and we have nothing like it in Calgary.” Third and finally, I love the struggle – for me it is both external and internal because of who I am and what I represent – for the future of the Grandview Woodlands community: will it succumb to Yuppification or retain it’s grunge and edginess? Only time will tell!