Monthly Archives: May 2007

James Erlandsen: 2007 honourary drummer for Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team

James Erlandsen: 2007 honourary drummer for Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team

James Erlandsen is the 2007 honourary drummer for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team – photo courtesy of Aynsley Meldrum

2007, our honourary drummer is James Erlandsen.  James is presently
undergoing medical treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  James
has no siblings, so it’s pretty challenging to find a matching Eurasian
donor for a bone marrow transplant.

James' great-grandfather Chen Sing emigrated to Canada in 1885, paid the
head tax, worked on the CPR line until his head tax debt was repaid,
and then was one of the first Chinese pioneers in the Nicola Valley
region of B.C. James' great uncles George Sing and Ernie Sing served in

On the other side of James' family, his grandfather Edmund
Erlandsen emigrated from Norway as a young man. I've been told that
Edmund taught himself the carpentry trade from a book, at a time when
his English was very limited.

haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team paddled at Lotus Sports Club's Bill
Alley Memorial dragon boat reggatta on May 19th – photo Sean Kingsley

When I first met James at the St. Paul's Hospital on
May 7th, I gave him a Gung Haggis team shirt and invited him to come
out to paddle with us when he gets better.  I also hope to share with
him my own experiences of being a successful cancer survivor. 

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team annually hosts a Robbie Burns
Chinese New Year dinner to celebrate BC's pioneer cultures of Scots and
Chinese, as well as many inter-cultural topics and events. 
Our entire
dragonboat team gives its  encouragement for James’ return to health,
and to also help raise awareness for the need for Eurasian bone marrow
donors.    We have 3 Eurasian paddlers on the team… and 3 Caucasian/Asian
Canadian couples!  Very Gung Haggis! 

And James' cousin Hillary Wong has just joined the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.

and I discovered that James and I both went to Carson Graham high school in North
Vancouver, and we were both students at Simon Fraser where James was
diagnosed with leukemia at age 23, while I was diagnosed with a germ
cell tumor at age 29.  Wow!!!  too many coincidences…

In years past the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team has had honourary drummers, steersperson and paddlers.  This is to highlight the person's contributions to society, or a worthy cause.

The first honourary steersperson was architect Joe Wai, who designed the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens which has the mission statement of “building bridges.”  Joe is also my elder paternal cousin, and I have always claimed him as one of my early role models.

Community activist and former city councilor Ellen Woodsworth was our honourary drummer for the “Gung Haggis Fat Choy float entry” for the 2005 St. Patrick's Day parade.  Ellen loves the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners!

Ellen Woodsworth (honourary drummer) and Margaret Gallagher (honourary) paddler join GHFC paddler/steers Dave Samis in the 2005 St. Patrick's Day Parade – photo Todd Wong

CBC broadcaster Margaret Gallagher describes herself as Chi-rish (Chinese and Irish ancestry), and is involved in many intercultural activities in the Vancouver arts community, and has supported Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner events many times.  Margaret was an honourary paddler for the 2005 St. Patrick's Day parade.

Joy Kogawa receives her team jersey from paddlers Dan Seto and Gail Thomson – photo Todd Wong

Joy Kogawa was our honourary drummer for 2006.  She is one of Canada's most important writers, the author of Obasan, Naomi's Road and The Rain Ascends.  I am one of the leaders of Kogawa House Comittee, as we strove to successfully save Joy's childhood home from demolition.  It was this same house that her family was removed from because of the internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2, and that she wrote about in her award winning books.

I think I will have to give James a Terry Fox loonie…
Terry was
an 18 year old student at SFU when he diagnosed with his cancer.

James Erlandsen wrote today at 8:54pm

Hey Todd,

I would be honored to become the honourary drummer for your dragon boat team. Sorry I haven't responded sooner, I've been without my computer for the last few days while at the hospital.
Thanks for everything, and talk to you later.


Todd Wong wrote back today at 9:25pm

Most Excellent Dude!!!

We hope to do two major things with this honourary position:

1) lift your spirits so you can handle anything, conquer anything and give you goals to look forward to;

2) help raise continued awareness for a matching bone marrow donor for YOU!

How to help James:

Bone Marrow Donors


23-year-old James Lee Erlandsen, who was
recently diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, requests your
assistance.  James requires a Bone
Marrow Transplant, but has not been able to find a suitable donor.  He is of Asian and European parentage,
and the best chances for a match would be from donors of similarly mixed


If you are a healthy individual between the
ages of 17-50, and particularly if you are of mixed heritage, please consider
registering with Canadian Blood Services' Bone Marrow Donor


Individuals can submit their information
online, and they will be contacted by Canadian Blood




Please share this
information with others in your circle who might be potential bone marrow

Thank you for
your willingness to help

DADAWA is playing at the Chan Centre to wrap up the explorASIAN festival

DADAWA is playing at the Chan Centre to wrap up the explorASIAN festival

is an internationally recognized musical performer that only a
few  people are aware of in Vancouver.  She has currently
been an artist in residence at UBC.  explorASIAN executive director Don Montgomery has been telling me stoked he is that Dadawa is performing in Vancouver.

The Chan Centre has really gone all out to bring in interesting
cross-cultural and inter-cultural artists to create a wonderful program
this year.  This should definitely be a show to watch this week!

Following information from

Tickets: $28 / $48 / $88-includes post concert reception with Dadawa and her band

Ticketmaster by phone at 604.280.3311 or (plus service charges)

Chan Centre Ticket Office (in person only)

tickets (10+) are available for only $20/person. (Regular price is
$28/person) Please quote the promo code “sevendays” when ordering from
Ticketmaster (standard ticketmaster fees apply) or purchase in person
at the Chan Centre. Limited quantity of group tickets are available.

Complimentary parking offered to all concert guests. Please use the Rose Garden parkade adjacent to the Chan Centre.

The 2007 explorASIAN Grand Finale Concert with International World Music Artist DADAWA (Zhu Zheqin 朱哲琴)

May 31, 2007 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, University of British Columbia

a delightful evening of contemporary world music blended with the
traditional sounds of Pan Asia featuring international world music
artist DADAWA, presented by explorASIAN, the Chan Centre, and the Alma
Mater Society of UBC.

This concert is also a fundraiser for the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, presenters of the explorASIAN Festival.

(Zhu Zheqin 朱哲琴), is the first contemporary Chinese diva to achieve
worldwide stardom. Dadawa is a native of Changsha, Hunan. She has
traveled China and the world extensively as both a musician and
adventurer. She is considered to be the pioneer “indie” artist in
China, having independently produced her music, videos and films for
over a decade, and an ambassador of contemporary music from China.

REVIEW: Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre's Sketch-Off Competition

REVIEW: Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre's Sketch-Off Competition

Liu attended this year's annual Sketch-Off Competion, hosted by
Vancouver Asian Comedy Theatre.  Here is his review – special to

Each year, Vancouver
Asian Canadian Theatre
offers an “Annual SketchOff* Competition.” Now for those
of you who are wondering what this is, just try and imagine Russel Peters x 6,
minus the brown, mixed in some yellow, and voila! (groups of Asian comedians,
in case you didn’t catch my drift) .
For some background
information, VACT was made to promote and increase Asian
actors on stage, and what better way to do this than with laughter?

This years’
SketchOff* performance was my first, I must admit, but it surely will not be my
last. Two performances were held this year on May 18th and 19th,
and DISORIENTAL, I find it hard to
believe that anybody would want to miss out.

Throughout my entire life (19 looong years), I have never
EVER seen an Asian comedian. Maybe it’s cause I was in Canada most my life, but

All 6 teams were given 2 weeks to come up with their skits,
and boy o boy was I amazed at some of the absurd yet hilarious jokes that were
brought out of nowhere. They weren’t all original, but hey, they still did the
trick, cause my chin was bruised from laughter by the end of the night.

Most of the jokes incorporated Asian aspects such as hygiene
issues (eww…), stereotypical Chinese accents, STRONGLY over-emphasized Chinese
accents (hehe, fork… f-o-o-r-k…. f-o-o-k…. f-u-o-k… f-u-u-k… :P), and many
more. But best of all, everything that they did had a Western spin on it (like…
white style chinese comedy).

I would go on… but you guys can catch another showing of something
similar if you’re interested.

I HAD A BLAST, well, almost a blast… cause I went late and
got a shitty seat on the side where I couldn’t see everything… and I bought a 2
hour parking pass, but the show went on for 2.5hours and I got a $40 dollar
fine… SO, if you go early, and pay for 3 horus worth of parking, than I can
guarantee you (in spirit), that you’ll have a blast!

Outrigger Paddling to English Bay: Huli drills in the rain

Outrigger Paddling: Huli drills in the rain

Outrigger canoe racing is one of the fastest growing water sports on
the Pacific Coast.  Many of my paddling friends have paddled
outrigger canoes.  My friend Craig Brown has pretty well quit the
sprint racing of dragon boats, for the long distance paddling of
outriggers.  There are many clubs in Vancouver, Gibsons BC,
Okanagan Lake, Washington, Oregon, California and of course Hawaii.

The Hawaiian style canoes featued in Hawaii 5-0 opening credits are called outrigger canoes, also known as OC-6
canoes. Dragon Zone has brought in 2 six person outriggers.  I have paddled them out at the Lotus Sports Club from
Burnaby's Barnet Marine Park in years past, and I have also paddled
OC-1 and OC-2 from False Creek Racing Canoe Club on Granville
Island.  To make sure people are properly trained to use these
boats, Dragon Zone is asking its members to take orientation
courses.  I signed up for this course before I hurt my pinkie

I went out this morning for my outrigger canoe
orientation.  It was lightly raining.  I drove to Safeway and
bought waterproof bandages and a Starbucks coffee.  I had put on
about 8 waterproof bandages, hoping it would help keep my finger and
stitches dry.   The weather was cold and drizzly.  The other four people were
wearing shorts, knowing they would get wet.  I wore my running
tights, thermal long-sleeved undershirt, thermal Sugoi long sleeved
biking shirt + my paddling jacket.  I stayed warmer thany they
did.  Good choice. 

Our instructor Darby gave us an orientation identifying the
parts of the OC-6 such as the ama (pontoon), the aku (pontoon brace),
the moku (end of the pontoon brace attached to the canoe) – belonging
to a tradition of Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe tradition.   Because it was so c-o-l-d, we moved back to the Dragon Zone clubhouse to stay
warm, and Darby filled us in and described what to do for
a huli drill. 

All canoes can be tippy.  Outrigger canoes were designed to handle
the surf in Hawaii.  If an outrigger canoe tips over it is called
a huli.  Every outrigger paddler needs to know how to right the
canoe in the water, so they can get back in and get back to paddling.

We paddled from Dragon Zone, at the Southeast corner of False Creek, beside Science World. And we paddled all the way out to
English Bay – around the green and red harbour buoys marking the
entrance to False Creek (past Vanier Park and Kits Beach). It was the
longest non-stop paddle I had done in a while…

We took a
rest once west of the Cambie St. Bridge, a 2nd rest before the
Granville St. Bridge, then a 3rd rest beneath the Burrard Bridge. then
a l-o-n-g paddle out to English Bay harbour buoy markers, then all the
way back into East side of Granville Island.

We did our huli
drills just west of Cambie Bridge. We all leaned over to the right
side… knowing we would soon be in the cold False Creek water. 
Flip!  Everything was wet and cold, as I tumbled into the water in
full clothing.  I held onto my paddle and surfaced.  I swam
out and went to the front of the boat.   Darby called out

“One!” I yelled, as each of us counted down our seat numbers.  The
paddlers from seats 3 and 4 climbed onto the aku then straddled on top
of the upside down canoe.  They stood on the moku, reached across
the upside down canoe hull to grab the aku.  On Darby's cue, they
leaned backwards to pull the canoe over right side up.  I swam
over beside seat one, as seats 3 and 4 climbed into the boat and
started bailing the boat.   End of huli drill #1.

Next, I climbed into seat 3, and the former seat 2 paddler climbed into
seat 4.  It would now be our turn to help right the canoe for
huli drill #2.  Again we leaned to the right side, anticipating
the cold plunge into the water.  Into the water we fell… much
less a shock this time.  I bobbed up between the akus and the ama,
beside the canoe.  I swam up under the aku, then remembered I had
to climb up onto it.  The other paddler was already straddling the
upside down canoe hull.  I climbed up, straddled the canoe hull,
then we both stood on the moku, leaned over to grab the aku… and
leaned back to pull the aku up into the air. 

Flip!  The canoe rolled over and fell right-side up.  I
fell back into the water.  To climb into the boat, I
scissor-kicked my legs and
simultaneously lifted myself up with my arms, launching myself out of
the water like a seal onto the gunwale of
the canoe.  Next job – bail out the water from the canoe. 
Seats 3 (me) and 4 bailed the canoe, while seats 2 and 5 climbed into
the canoe.  Seat 3 started bailing the canoe too.  Seats 1, 5
and 6
climbed into the canoe and started paddling us back to dock.  Half
the water was out, and seat 2 started paddling.

Climbing out of the canoe at the end of the practice, we could feel the
cold bite of the breeze.  Glad I had my running tights on. 
Dripping wet, we had a debriefing with our instructor.  We were
cold, we were wet, but we were glad we'd had this experience.  Now
we can confidently go outrigger paddling, knowing that if we ever flip
the boat in a huli, we know what to do.

Wow!  We paddled all the way out to English Bay, did 2 huli
drills, then paddled non-stop back to Dragon Zone – while bailing the


Gung Haggis dragon boat team does well at Lotus Sports' “Bill Alley Memorial dragon boat regatta”

Gung Haggis dragon boat team does well at Lotus Sports' “Bill Alley Memorial dragon boat regatta”

Gung Haggis team backing out for race #2 at Lotus regatta – photo Sean Kingsley

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team was a happy team today!
We attended the 10th anniversary of the Lotus Sports Club's “Bill
Alley Memorial dragon boat regatta.”  Monies raised go to the
“Bill Alley Memorial scholarship fund” for the young members of the
Lotus Race.  I have attended these races since 1998 when it was
first known as the “Golden Spike dragon boat regatta” and it was held
at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody.

had good races at Barnet Marine Park today.  In races with four boats –
we came second twice, and first once… then in the Rec B final – We
won!!! against a team that had beat us in the first race!!!

The weather was a real mixed bag.  It was overcast and damp. 
Rain sprinkles throughout the day, with gusty winds.  The sun came
out, then it disappeared, then it came out again. 

This race regatta is a lovely friendly event.  I know so many of
the Lotus Club members, that when we were at the start line for a race
– instead of saying “Boat 1 – move up,” they say “Todd's boat – move
up!”  Grace Morisette, one of the event organizers, was my first
dragon boat coach back in 1993.  Jim McArthur came by our tents
asking where his brother McWong was.  Race organizer Jane Yeoh,
scowled at me in a friendly manner, when I called her by the name
“Joyce,” which is actually the name of her older sister.  Nigel
Elphink waved hello, he started paddling with the Gung
Haggis/Celebration team back in 2000.  And of course there is Barb
Alley, who asked me to take a picture of her as she called herself the
“rubber lady,” dressed in neoprene dry suit holding onto two rubber
tires she was carrying down to the dock on the beach.

We also got say hello to our dragon boat friends from the Eh Team, a
senior's team based in Vancouver, Pirates from Chilliwack with whom we
joined for Victoria races last year.  I also chatted with friends
Manfred Preuss from the Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club who had a brand
new team called The Crusaders, Karmen Alukh captain of the the Sudden
Impact team.  Manfred and Karmen, along with Ian Paul of Pirates,
all helped out Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team in 2005 at the
Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  I also was happy to see Cheryl of the
Ft. Langley Canoe Club with her team Fort Fusion and many of the
paddlers from the WOW (Women on Water) team also from Ft. Langley.

We had a mixed adult crew featuring a GHFC core with 3 rookies + 7
rookies from the UA Power Dragons + 2 GHFC alumni + 2 friends for a
total of 23 people.  Everybody
contributed admirably to both team performance, and a positive
community team environment. Everybody is stoked, and can't wait to
paddle together again!  We never came last, we never came
3rd.  Combined times were added up for placement in the
finals.  There were women's division, Junior division and senior
division, so we placed 6th seed overall for Mixed teams, and raced in
the B Division. 

Gung Haggis team in the marshalling area at Lotus regatta – photo Sean Kingsley

We were nervously excited.  We had 9 rookies on the boat.  We
knew that the Thunderstrokers from Chilliwack had beat us by 8 seconds
in our first race.  We knew that our second race through the
waves, wind and brief rain had been our slowest race.  And we knew
that we had placed a faster 3rd race time than both the Thunderstrokers
and the Crusaders – a new team from Chilliwack coached and captained by my friend Manfred Preuss.

How to make up 8 seconds?  “Get the paddles deeper,” I told the
team. “Reach out farther, lean outside the boat, fall on your blades,
use your leg drive, keep your heads up with your eyes on the lead
strokes, and your top hands outside the boat.  We switched
steerspersons for our final race.  Rookie Adam took the steering
helm, allowing veteran steers and paddler Dave to apply his many years
of paddling to the task.

Gung Haggis team paddling out to the start line for race #2 at Lotus regatta – photo Sean Kingsley

The airhorn went off.  From the drummer's seat I called “Go! 2! 3!
4! 5! 6!”  Our lead strokes Wendy and Kristine worked together,
gradually increasing the rate with each stroke.  “Up! 2! 3! 4! 5!
6!” and each paddle entered the water together as one.  “Up! 2! 3!
4! 5! 6!” and the boat speed increased with the faster rate. 
“Reach with Po-wer!” and the powerful leg drive kicked in, thrusting
the boat forward with each stroke.

It looked like we grabbed the early lead – but it was really
close.  All three boats were surging ahead together.  I heard
the Thunderstrokers call a power series.  I watched them take 6
strokes, starting to get creep closer to us – then I called “Power
Now!” and our paddlers dug deeper, and our boat moved farther
ahead.   “Heads Up! Top Hands Out! Leg Drive! Kick it!” I
encouraged our paddlers… and the boat surged strongly forward.

Oops… we suddenly realized we seemed off-course, further away from
the two other teams, as our steers person corrected out direction, and
straightened our path to the finish line.  Steering a dragon boat
is challenging work.  Adam only started dragon boat racing in
March.  This was the first time he had ever steered a BuK dragon
boat which is more sensitive to handling, and prone to over
correction.  This was the most powerful team Adam had ever
steered, and sometimes a powerful team can overwhelm an inexperienced
steersperson.  But I had faith in Adam.  He had handled the
UA team during the ADBF sprint regatta, handled avoiding crashes while
steering a Junior team at the same regatta.  And he had been
coming out to Gung Haggis practices and already knew how strong we
could be.

“Keep going,” I yelled to the team “We're doing great, We're on
target… Power Now!” and we surged forward again, with twenty paddles
snapping forward in time.  Adam later admitted that he had
over-corrected – but easily managed to get us back on track.  We
headed toward the finish line vectoring closer with the other two boats
which were battling it out, side by side, neck and neck.  The
Crusaders and the Thunderstrokers – both teams from Chilliwack
developing a strong rivalry.

“Finish! Now!” I called to the team, as this time I called an early
finish, insipiring our paddlers to give everything they had. 
“More!  More! Give us More!”  and they reached farther, and
dug deeper.  I never saw a paddle out of time, as we focussed our
task and crossed the finish line.  “Let it ride,” Dave and I
called at the same time.  Paddlers suddenly relaxed and dropped
their shoulders, leaning forward, their bodies heaving with
breath.  Wendy looked up at me from her lead stroke position and I
held up one finger.

On the way back to the docking area, we chanted “Ice cold beer,” then
we chanted “We want beer.”  Everybody was jubilantly happy. 
After we had put away pfd's and paddles we gathered back at our tent
for a debriefing.

“Six seconds!” shouted Stuart, jumping up and down.  We had won
the race by six seconds.  Graham, our cheerleader for the day,
said we had been in first place all the way, as he watched from the
shore.  We had beaten the 5th and 7th seeded teams to win B Division – and we
posted a faster time than our friends the Pirates – who had earlier
placed 4th overall, and raced in the A division.  

Everybody is happy…   Then… we went to the Mountain
Shadow Inn Pub to celebrate Jim Blatherwick's birthday.  More

Hip and Hapa and Happening for May 18-21, 2007

Hip and Hapa and Happening for May 18-21, 2007

Lots happening this long holiday weekend.  But I can't type much because of my injured finger – or get out much.

Asian Heritage Month continues with many events during the explorASIAN festival.
Check out writer Luis Francia

'Too Asian to be American, too American to be Asian' – May 15 to 18

“Too Asian to be American, too American to be Asian” with Luis Francia
Luis Francia is the PEN award winning author of
“Eye of the Fish: a Personal Archipelago”. This is an account of the
author’s childhood memories of his Philippine homeland and his visits
back as an adult journalist.

One of my favorite events is the annual VACT Sketch-off. Lots of local talent including “Lick the Wax Tadpole” organized by CBCer and Hot Sauce Posse veteran Charlie Cho.  Come see the event that featured “Assaulted Fish” before they became famous…  Bring your friends, so you can organize a team for next year.

May 18 and May 19
Roundhouse Community Centre Theatre, Vancouver

comedy night time again and this year, we have 6 new sketch groups
competing for the coveted Vancouver Rice Bowl. Etch-YOUR-Sketch
SKETCHOFF!#$%!! – 8th Annual Asian Comedy Night is happening on Friday,
May 18th and Saturday, May 19th. The first night, the teams are judged
by people in the industry and on the 2nd night, the audience is the
judge with their applause and measured with a decibel reader. Teams
have a chance to win up to $350!

Vancouver Children's Festival is always a lot of fun, and there is always a lot of multicultural entertainment.  I am hoping to check out the Vietnamese Water Puppets.  Sounds very cool!

Vietnamese Water Puppets – May 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

30th Annual Vancouver International Children's Festival at Vanier Park

Tickets at Ticketmaster

Vietnamese Water Puppets
Duration: 55 minutes

May 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

An ancient performance art is brought to life by skilled puppeteers.

“…reflects the true beauty of Vietnam – a country of colour, grace and humour.” San Francisco Chronicle

as expert puppeteers make glittering fairies dance, fiery dragons
seethe and gentle ducks paddle – all inside an elaborate set created in
a pool of water! Enraptured audiences will witness the magic of this
800-year-old traditional Vietnamese performance art, from moments of
mirror-like calm to churning action.

Asian Canadian standup comics are on the rise.  Remember Tommy Chong, Pat Morita and Jack Soo?  Well the newest generation is here now, and they are coming to River Rock Show Theatre.  Paul Bae and Jeffery Yu have both been featured by Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre for past productions.  They are hilarious… you will want to bring your friends, so you won't have to tell them what they missed.

The A-list Comedy Tour 2007 – May 19 – 8pm

River Rock Show Theatre, Richmond, BC
Check out the A-list Comedy Tour which features the most hilarious Asian comedians in Canada: Ron Josol, Paul Bae & Jeffrey Yu.