Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Want Your Text

Big news in Canada today for cell phone users. Two of the country's major carriers are about to implement a new charge for receiving a text message. Currently, the charge is 15 cents for each text message you send. But soon you'll also get dinged the same amount for receiving a text message. Based on the astronomical rise in the popularity of text messaging over the past 5 years, this will become a 1 billion dollar ... yes, BILLION dollar pie for carriers to get a bite of.

As a result of this story, The Province, one of Vancouver's daily newspapers, had a bit of an eye-catching headline today. For some reason it struck as kinda hilarious so thought I'd just post it for anyone not in Vancouver right now. You can see what Vancouverites are seeing today in our newspaper boxes as we walk the streets on a sunny and very warm summer day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

OMG! GM @ GM (place)

It appears as though I'm right on track to relive the 80's as much as possible in the course of one week thanks to checking out a couple live concerts by superstars from that big hair, bad fashion era.

Not only did I manage to catch Cyndi Lauper and the B-52's last week, I also saw George Michael at GM Place last Friday night. Me and the gang took advantage of an actual Ticketmaster sale at the end of May which had George Michael concert tickets available for just 25 bucks! When was the last time you got to see a major recording artist performing live for less money that it takes to fill up your gas tank? Of course, thanks to Ticketmaster's "convenience" fee, the final price was $40.

By the way, Ticketmaster, I've yet to hear a plausible explanation and definition of just what exactly is a "convenience" fee. Is it for the convenience of having about 2 minutes on your website to decide if the seats your software finds for me are appropriate for my requirements and worth an exorbitant total before you timeout and make me perform a ticket search all over again?allowing ourselves to be fleeced in a consumer-driven society which just might leave us behind if we're not part of periodic pop cultural events? Or is it for the convenience of people being enabled to buy a ticket to the marriage of art and profiteering? Or is it for… I digress.

Anyway, I imagine '25' was the magic number for the ticket price because the tour is titled "25 Live" to celebrate GM's 25 years in the recording biz. I've actually seen (and met) George Michael before, but that was a long time ago and I gotta be honest… I definitely didn't expect he'd have the kind of pull he used to have, but sure enough GM Place was packed to the rafters (which, conveniently, is precisely where our tickets placed us).

Thanks to the beer (which is $7.50 a serving), I kinda lost track of exactly how long the show was but I'm sure it was at least 2 hours, plus a 20 minute intermission. The show was high energy and a lot of fun actually.

What was really impressive was the fact that the crowd was so into the show. Let's face it, Vancouver audiences can be pretty reserved (read: lame) in their response to live performances although lately I've seen some rather lively audiences at the Adele and Mika shows. For George Michael, everyone at GM Place was on their feet from the floor seats - all the way up to the nosebleeds.

The set list was just hit after hit after stinking pop hit. When you hear all his songs in a row like we did at the concert, you can realize just how prolific his career has been thus far. He played ancient Wham! tunes like Careless Whisper, A Different Corner, Everything She Wants and I'm Your Man. He also played pretty much everything off of the Faith album except I noted I Want Your Sex was nowhere to be heard. There was also lots of 90's tunes like Too Funky, Fastlove and Praying for Time (that's the one he did on American Idol this past season).

I think one of GM's best tunes is Freedom. After two encores, that song was the final song of the night. It was a definite crowd pleaser. Here's a video of it which is shot pretty much from the same vantage point we had for the show. At the end of the clip, you'll see production credits - those were actually displayed live on stage as the show came to a close. Never seen that before. Anyway, here's the clip - enjoy...

Btw, GM Place is also home to the Vancouver Canucks who we hope will be able to pull out all the stops this coming hockey season. If you need tickets for hockey games or concerts in Vancouver, check out Tickets Tonight at 200 Burrard Street, right beside the Canada Place cruise ship terminal and convention centre.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

She Still Bops

Kinda feels like summer has arrived for good in Vancouver. Not only is there a good amount of sun lately, but the live music scene has picked up in a way that happens only at this time of year ... with outdoor shows and festivals.

You might already know that at the end of July, the first Pemberton Festival kicks off with some pretty cool acts like NIN, Coldplay, Interpol, Jay Z, Vampire Weekend, Metric, Chromeo and LOTS more (it's a 3-day blitz).

It's all going down just a couple hours north of the city - and if you've never seen the Pemberton Valley, this would be the *perfect* time to check it out because it's pretty amazing up there - big mountains, big sky, big fun.

Another summer outdoor festival is the True Colours tour. It hit Vancouver last Wednesday at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby (an eastern suburb of Vancouver for anyone just getting to know this area). The True Colors tour is one of the newest music projects spearheaded by Cyndi Lauper and is named after her hit song from way back in 1986. The annual tour was inaugurated last summer in the U.S. and this year Vancouver was included on the itinerary.

The show features a considerably varied line up of talent representing a fairly diverse selection of artists. The line up in Vancouver included Nona Hendryx, Joan Armatrading, Rosie O'Donnell, Carson Kressley, Margaret Cho, The B-52's, Sarah McLachlan and, of course, Cyndi Lauper was the headliner.

The whole purpose of the tour is to raise awareness of human rights, specifically for the gay community. A portion of the ticket sales goes to non-profit partners and additional fundraising is enabled through merchandise sales and online auctions.

About the actual venue… somehow I've never been to Deer Lake Park before, but am I ever glad I went! It's a great outdoor venue for a concert because the parkland you have to sit on to see the show (for some insane reason, chairs are not permitted) is on a gentle slope toward the lake itself. The stage was setup at the bottom of the slope so the sightlines are all good because nobody's big, fat head gets in your way.

Deer Lake Park is also basically adjacent to the Burnaby Village Museum and the Burnaby Art Gallery so there's definitely more than one reason to go check it out.

Although I had a really brutal case of sinusitis that day, I wasn't about to give up a ticket that cost me $70. Turns out sitting on a blanket outside watching a concert was the same as sitting in the park across the street from my house with my iPod for company. I got through it alright except for going through an entire box of Kleenex during the show.

Here's a clip of Vancouver's Sarah McLachlan and Cyndi Lauper performing Time After Time:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Krazy! is as Krazy! does

A few years ago I made a couple trips to the Hermitage Museum while in St. Petersburg, Russia. Entire galleries within are each dedicated to one master. A gallery for Renoir, a gallery for Matisse, a gallery for Picasso… it's pretty amazing. So last summer when the Vancouver Art Gallery presented its highly anticipated show From Monet to Dali, I was pretty stoked to check it out because my then-recently discovered regard for fine art needed a fix.

Imagine my surprise upon learning this year's really big show at the Vancouver Art Gallery is as much a collection of European modernist art as Wreck Beach is nature's runway for lumberjackets, cowichan sweaters and Ugg's.

This year's show is:
KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art

("My, what a long title you have")...

I finally got a chance to get over there and check it out. It definitely ain't no collection of paintings and sculptures by guys with last names built to adorn the hard covers of coffee table books. Instead it offers something completely different, totally new and, I think, pretty darn fun for Vancouver…

Now, really… when was the last time you sat down at a table top PacMan game and played doubles with a competitive pal? The instantaneous nature of forming an addiction to power pellets is astonishing and all-consuming.

But that's not all the KRAZY! has to offer. No, siree. There's modern and contemporary comic displays, manga, anime, graphic novels, sketchbooks, storyboards, animation cels, films and video. You can even sit down and create your own masterpiece once the inspiration surrounding you proves futile to resist. Just like what happened to these pretty girls, Vikki and Vivian…

I found KRAZY! to be eye-catching, yet not entirely awash in color. The curious aspect of my imagination was very intrigued by what was around each corner; ranging from early 20th century comics...

...to a mid-80's Super Nintendo Entertainment System with a Super Mario World game cartridge...

If the calendar age of some of the works in KRAZY! didn't prove to occasionally rival the age of the building they're found in, it would be an almost defiant notion to curate essentially tech and youth-oriented pop cultural icons in a space like the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The building itself turned 100 a couple years ago and is the former BC provincial courthouse. On the contrary, PacMan hit the market only in 1980 (the same year as CNN, The Empire Strikes Back and Who Shot J.R.?).

Other than this summer, the Vancouver Art Gallery is generally filled with fairly traditional classic temporary and permanent collections by Carr, Warhol, Kahlo and O'Keefe.

All told, I really responded to KRAZY! and definitely plan to go again (yeah, I know how that sounds).

And if you like to get interactive with your art in Vancouver, do like the locals do and go a little crazy for art's sake...

P.S. Her name is Nicole. Yes, she is my friend. No, surprisingly the exhibit was not named in her honour.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Look Out Be...luga!

Three and a quarter hours is how long it used to take for the Red Arrow bus to travel between the two different cities my parents lived in for a short time while I was growing up (a process, incidentally, in which I have quite a ways to go before anyone would consider it complete).

So… Mom in one place, Dad in another. On weekends my brother and sister and I would settle in for round trip passage on the coach line service so we could go visit our father who was three and a quarter hours away (btw, Happy Father's Day goes out to good 'ol Dad today).

Eventually Dad returned to our city and those delightful bus trips came to an end. It's been quite some time since "3 and a quarter hours" held any significance for me, but I couldn't help but be reminded of it last Tuesday.

That was the day I watched and waited for 3 hours and 17 minutes as a pregnant beluga whale named Qila (pronounced: KEE-lah) endured labour and then, finally, gave birth to bouncing baby girl at the Vancouver Aquarium! Qila's labour began at 1:11pm and finished at 4:28pm.

Ever witness a beluga whale birth? There's lots of words I could use to describe this rare, amazing event. But maybe I'll just leave it at that... rare and amazing. You can add more words of your own which I'm sure you'll have no problem doing once you see for yourself what I'm talking about...

...here's a 69 second video of the beluga whale birth, as it happened here in Vancouver on Tuesday, June 10, 2008:

Quite the sight, doncha think?!

As you can hear from the audio, the beluga baby's birth elicited a boisterous response of cheers and applause from the people who saw the birth happen. There was about 250 people who watched from both the underwater viewing gallery and up outside at water surface level. They were just simply in the right place at the right time (if you like these sorts of things, that is).

After the calf swam to the surface to take its very first breath, members of the Aquarium's veterinary and animal care teams went in the beluga pool, wearing wet suits, and quickly lined the perimeter of the animal habitat to help the little gaffer avoid swimming into a solid surface.

But the newborn beluga quickly got the hang of her environment and then everyone removed themselves, teeth chattering, from the beluga pool.

The baby beluga whale has yet to be named although she's probably the most unforgettable thing I'll see this summer in Vancouver.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Apple of my iTunes

All you people with turquoise as your birth stone (like me) may find total and complete glory with a visit to the shiny, new Apple store in Vancouver. That's because the staff members wear turquoise T-shirts.

But if you don't feel affection for that colour (like me), then a visit to this city's first and only Apple store will make you hate your eyes (...like me).

But upon closer inspection, I quite enjoyed the slogan carried across the chest of the shirt.

The guy wearing that shirt represented quite well the good natured vibe of the people working there, each ready to chat endlessly about Apple products. I realize of course that is what they're paid to do, but they certainly have a knack for appearing effortless in their forthcoming approach to you, the customer. One cannot help but get the impression they all sincerely enjoy their work.

A staff member of obvious English origin asked how we were doing and did we have any questions. I let him know that it'll soon be time for me to consider another purchase of a tasty slice of Apple hardware to get me through my computing necessities and obsessions. Yes, it's time to "thinnovate" as the portmanteau on the poster at the entrance to the store encourages you to do.

He let me know that the store offers a personal shopper-type of service. Basically, you can make an appointment for your visit to the store to be accompanied by a staff person to guide you through the tantalizing array of creative products in the store.

The store also carries Bose sound systems which are hot little numbers, indeed. My Mom just got one and the sound it produces kinda makes you wanna believe that not all advertising is a bogus lie.

The reason Bose is in the Apple store is it features an iPod docking station. Fortunately, on the Bose we looked at, we discovered a Madonna song on the sample player docked to it. Because we temporarily abandoned our couth, we turned the volume *really* loud.

Here you can see Nicole & Suzanne diggin' Madge. I believe the tune was Hung Up (the one from a few years ago with the Abba sample). Between them, in the background, you can see another customer attempting to retain a shred of decency to compensate for our lack thereof.

Vancouver's new Apple store is right downtown in Pacific Centre.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lineup. Sample. Repeat

No doubt Vancouver has a lively, thriving and relentlessly morphing restaurant scene. Seems like a new place to eat out in this town pops up as often as local meteorologists offer predictions that never materialize.

The periphery of our local culinary world is also very active, and EAT! Vancouver: The Everything Food + Cooking Festival is certainly proof of that. This annual consumer trade show was just last weekend at BC Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver. I couldn't resist an invite from Suzanne to check it out with she and Nicole to sample some good stuff.

Approaching our meeting place, the Terry Fox statue near the main west entrance of BC Place, I remembered the fact that in 5 months this venue will host Madonna's Sticky & Sweet Tour, as the Eternal Girl brings her Fiddy year old cookies to Vancouver for the first time. I sure hope a second date is added to the Vancouver tour stop since due to a disappointing turn of events I was unable to get tickets for the show.

But for the time being last weekend, BC Place was all about food. An ancient revolving door turned us inside the entrance, where we then proceeded down the long pedestrian ramp to the playing field level in the stadium. That's where all the action was taking place. Zillions of Vancouverites and exhibitors were offering, sampling, cooking, pouring, eating and enjoying. The place was freakin' packed!

A majority of the exhibitors had long lines of people waiting to sample whatever was on offer including everything from fresh focaccia & tomato sauce, chocolate pudding, soy beverage, Belgian waffles, Canadian Club bbq sauce, all-natural granola snack bars and lots more. The 'lots more' stuff required tickets for sampling. So that means that not only do you have to pay to get in to EAT! Vancouver but you also have to pay additional money inside for tickets needed to sample certain food. It seemed like a bit of double gouge to us considering it apparently used to be free.

As we casually strolled elbow-to-elbow through the sampling grid, I had the pleasure of meeting Rob Clarke, the executive chef of C, Nu and Rain City Grill - three restaurants which are consistently ranked among the best in Vancouver.

I did not, however, have the pleasure of meeting another well known local chef, Rob Feenie, who also made a public appearance at EAT! Vancouver. Not only a local and international legend, Feenie is also now the Food Concept Architect for Cactus Club Restaurants.

I wonder if he is the architect of a concept, or the conceiver of architecture? If you're like me, you might be unsure of just what exactly is the nature of this job considering its grandiose and unfocused title. Maybe Wikipedia can help? It says: Although the term architect refers to a professionally-qualified individual, the word is frequently used in the broader sense noted above to define someone who brings order to a built or non-built situation.

That should help us understand more clearly the parameters of this highly-publicized role created for this restaurant chain. At least now we may understand and prepare for any possible *adjustments* in the price of menu items.

As I pondered this "concept", we progressed through the mostly well-behaved crowd to the Food Network Celebrity Stage where Anna Olson, pastry chef and host of Fresh with Anna Olson, was cooking. She was telling her large, seated audience about her experience of baking pastries on a kitchen set in a TV studio where she 'usually has someone telling me how much time is left on the clock'. Hmmm… one would think that one would need to know how to tell the time in order to be accepted into pastry chef school.

As we craned our necks over huddled groups to determine where the good samples were, Nicole nearly fell victim to her own food sampling enthusiasm by mistaking dog food samples for the human variety. Kinda reminded me of my inexplicable eating of two Milkbones in the back yard of my friend Laurie in grade 7. Luckily, Nicole realized the sample she was reaching for was actually of the canine variety. Here's a pic of her with the dog food sampling guy who just seemed happy for the attention.

We only lasted a little over an hour at EAT! Vancouver and I for one was glad to get away from the crowd and return outside where a sunny, warm afternoon awaited. But another few exhibitors from EAT! Vancouver were also setup along the exterior concourse of BC Place. Here's a couple pictures of what was going on there. Trust me, only in Vancouver will you see a sausage stand with a name like this:

It was also nice to see that EAT! Vancouver drew a crowd of all ages, including this elderly couple who, judging by their behaviour, were very well situated considering the name of their chosen food venue:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vancouver's Crane Ballet

The city scape along the False Creek seawall surrounds you with its constant evolution and the resulting vistas will surprise you with their growth unless you show up there every once in a while to check it out.

And that's what we did - we checked it out and so here are a few more pics from the Yaletown waterfront. Looking across False Creek and the Cambie bridge, a dozen or so construction cranes swing around, high over the ground, piecing together a part of the inner city which stood fairly barren as an industrial zone for decades. Soon, it'll be the athletes village during the 2010 winter olympics here in Vancouver.

P.S. 10 points if you can guess where the decent pics from Danny's camera ended, and the crappy ones from my camera phone started...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Write on Vancouver

So my little impromptu photo essay continues today with some seemingly random and not just English words weaved and welded into the handrail between the water and the walkway along False Creek.

Maybe a picture really is worth a thousand words ... or, about 7 words as seen above.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Vancouver Makes Me See Red

Me and Danny were hanging out on the seawall near Yaletown and luckily he had his camera so I borrowed it and got these images of part of Vancouver's evolving False Creek waterfront.