Monthly Archives: May 2009

Kitsilano: I visit Bon Ton Patisserie and Mel Lehan's campaign office

My favorite cake shop in Vancouver is Bon Ton Patisserie.

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I started my addition to Bon Ton as a young child. My parents would usually purchase a Bon Ton diplomat or a Mexican Hat Cake for birthdays and special events.  Sometimes my grandmother would take me there for tea and pastries… decades later, I would take her.

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The butter icing is light, and the wafer pastries are heavenly.

Mel Lehan's campaign office is on Broadway

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Mel Lehan's daughter Shaena was standing outside encouraging passer-bys to vote.  It was great to finally meet Shaena after hearing so much about her.  She had been in Japan, when the St. James Hall Society honoured her father with a Tribute last October, and when he was acclaimed for his nomination as the NDP candidate in January.  Shaena had also heard about me…  I played accordion, when her father walked into the Tribute event, and I was a seconder at the nomination meeting.

2009_May 179 by Toddish McWong pictures in the window at the Mel Lehan campaign office.

Mel is known as “The Mayor of Kitsilano” for so much of the community work he has done in the neighborhood.   He founded the Kitsilano Farmer's Market, he helped save the Tatlow Salmon Stream, he helped save St James Hall and turn it into a community centre, he is campaigning to save the UBC Farm, as well as to prevent a Sky Train tunnel construction disaster for Kitsilano merchants that befell the Cambie St. Village… and so much more.  Mel is a wonderful community activist and community leader.  Any neighborhood or community group would be lucky to have Mel on their team.

Inside the office, I discover another thing Mel and I have in common!  Besides being both cancer survivors, community leaders, leading the campaigns to save important sites from demolition (St. James Hall, Joy Kogawa House)….  we are both born in May.  My birthday is May 11th.  Mel's birthday is May 22.  (hum the Twilight Zone theme….).

Jericho to Kitsilano… Lots to do on a sunny day… motor boat, fly kites, or bike!

May 9th… finally the weather is warming up.
Saturday was a beautiful day, so we went biking from Kitsilano to Spanish Banks.  We saw a convoy of motor-yachts stretching from Kits Point to the Vancouver Yacht Club.  A very strange site!  We quickly discovered it was the opening day for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club so the exercise for the day was a “sail past” with everybody dressed in their navy blue blazers and white pants to salute the commodore.

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Deb and I parked our bikes to watch the sail past.

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It's a very cool dragon kite – I want one!

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The tide is really really low, and the sand Spanish Banks sand flats are revealed. Lots of people went walking on the sand… to boogie board, bicycle, wind-surf or just to explore.

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Lots of kites were in action.  This is a stunt kite!

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Deb pauses at the salmon stream by Locarno Beach.

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It's a shark kite!!!

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Kayaking lesson off Jericho Beach.

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Another dragon kite!

Jordan Parente is the NDP candidate for Vancouver False Creek

Jordan Parente is young energetic and an activist

I met Jordan Parente at a constituency fundraiser on Wednesday.  Although he has only officially been a candidate for two weeks, he is surrounded by lots of good community organizers, and has been active on issues for the past while.

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Margaret Birrell is a longtime community organizer whom I first met in 1991, when she was executive director of the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities.  Under Margaret's guidance, I worked for Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Yukon, and we led a provincial election campaign on disabilities issues.  With Jordan under Margaret's wing, he will soon be flying strongly.

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Jordan's family supporters showed up with support signs!

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Jordan receives a cheque from Paul Faoro, president of CUPE 15.  Jordan works for City of Vancouver, and Paul describes him as being a hard worker and busy with the young workers movement.

Kilts Night in May at Doolin's Irish Pub

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Every 1st Thursday many of our Gung Haggis dragon boaters attend Kilts Night at Doolin's Irish Pub.  It's a fun social, with great music by Halifax Wharf Rats, and just a fun excuse to wear our kilts. – photo Todd Wong
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Michelle of the Halifax Wharf Rats plays a flute solo – photo Todd Wong

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We introduced two kilt virgins to the joys of wearing kilts.  Oops, they were kind of shy and insisted on wearing their pants under the kilts!

Cultural Diversity for BC Provincial election candidates… Carole James is Metis and Scottish!

Carol James could be BC's first Premier with Metis (and Scottish) ancestry
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Carole James and Todd Wong at a reception during the BC Federation of Labour Convention.

There are lots of candidates touting their ethnic diversity in their appeals for ethnic votes.  The most significant mention is NDP leader Carole James, who has both Metis and Scottish ancestry.  While she is developing a clan war with Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, the James-Campbell rivalry may not be as deep as the generations long Campbell-McDonald feud or the recent NDP-Liberal clashes.

I have met Carol a number of times.  She is always warm, thoughtful and engaging, the kind of person you could easily invite home for dinner.  When I saw here earlier this year at a talk for the CLC Winter School, she greeted me with a warm hug.  When I asked a question to her, regarding gender equity and what inspires her, she turned to the audience and said “He always asks such good questions!”

A win by James would be significant, in the 150th year since the founding of BC by Gov. James Douglas.  Douglas himself was of mixed Scottish and Creole heritage, and his wife Amelia was Metis.  He envisioned a British Columbia that would welcome people equally from all around the world, where the law was equal for First Nations and Whites, and his actions spoke loudly.  The creation of the Victoria Pioneer Volunteer Rifle Corps also known as the “All Blacks” was created with his support. 

If elected, she would join BC's first aboriginal Lt. Gov. Steven Point, in leading BC's provincial government.

2009_April_BookPrizes 025 Commander King Wan, Lt. Gov. Steven Point and Todd Wong at the 2009 BC Book Awards.

When James was elected as NDP leader in 2003, she was accompanied by First Nations drumming and stood on the podium with Chinese-Canadian Jenny Kwan and Celtic-Canadian Joy MacPhail.  Under James' leadership, she has guided the provincial NDP from 2 seats in 2001 to 35 seats in 2005, and a very possible win for 2009.

The following pictures are of the BC election candidates and present MLA's that I have met over the past year,

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Jenny Kwan was the first Chinese Canadian to become a BC provincial cabinet minister in 1998. I've known Jenny over the years, as she has attended many community and political events.  She is a cultural hero and a tireless activist for many issues, for her Vancouver Mount Pleasant constituency. I greatly admire how she supports many causes such as saving the Mount St. Joseph hospital campaign in 2005 and 2006, as well as the Chinese Head Tax Redress campaign.  In 2005, she and Joy MacPhail, were featured guests at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.  This picture is from a fundraiser Garden Party at Jenny's home, we are standing with Dan, a teacher and an executive for his union.

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Raj Chouhan (Burnaby Edmonds and Harry Bains (Surrey -Newton) are both incredible leaders in the Farm Worker and Labour Union movements.  I first really got to know them last year at the CUPE BC Workers of Colour Conference, where I found them both to be very inspiring speakers.  Raj was has been a tireless advocate against racism, and has been the the founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers' Union, and
he served as the Director of Bargaining at the Hospital Employees Union
for 18 years.  Harry is equally impressive as he shared stories about being a union leaders for lumber mills that helped improve both productivity and worker relations for the mills.  He has also served on the Kwantlen College Board of
Governors between 1993 and 1999. He has also volunteered with
organizations like Habitat for Humanity.  This picture was taken at the CLC Winter School.

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Mel Lehan is Jewish-Canadian, and running in Vancouver Point Grey.  Mel is known as the Mayor of Kitsilano for his incredible work in helping to build community such as the Farmers' Market, the saving and creation of St. James Hall into a community Hall, and the saving of the foreshore and the Linden trees, and so much more.  Mel greatly admired the community work I have been doing for the past years, and asked me to be a seconder at his nomination meeting, which I gladly accepted.

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Jenn McGinn is definitely Irish/Celtic-Canadian.  We give a high-five at a fundraiser earlier this year.  Jenn has been one of the delightful surprises along with Spencer Herbert of the Fall 08 by-elections, as they both quickly proved themsevles adept speakers during question period.

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Mabel Elmore is an incredibly spirited community activist, with one of the biggest smiles and warmest hearts.  She could be  the first Filipino-Canadian BC MLA. which is long overdue because Filipinos were likely the first Asians who came to Canada, with Captain Cook.

DSC_7740_107139 - Gabriel YIU by FlungingPictures

Gabriel Yiu is running in Vancouver Fraserview.  I got to know Gabriel during the 2005-06 Chinese Head Tax Redress campaign.  Gabriel is very passionate about social justice issues, and really got behind the Save Mount St. Joseph Hospital campaign alongside Jenny Kwan.  He is an astute poltical commentator.

Not to be personally biased against Premier Campbell and the Liberals, but I haven't really bumped into them much over the past year, except in Victoria when I went to receive the BC Community Achievement Award from Premier Campbell.  It was great to meet Ida Chong, who is in the BC cabinet minister, and was an advisor for the Awards.

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Victoria April 2008.  I received the BC Community Achievement Award from Scottish-descendant Gordon Campbell (although I have never seen him in a kilt, only Chinese jackets for Chinese New Year.) and First Nations Lt. Gov. Steven Point.

Richard Lee (Burnaby North) is always busy in the community.  Richard served as
Parliamentary Secretary for the Asia-Pacific Initiative and addresses many issues on multiculturalism.  He has long supported many of our past activities for Asian Canadian Writers Workshop.

Terry Glavin endorses Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong to be an Olympic Torch Bearer for the City of Vancouver

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Terry Glavin is one of my cultural heroes.  I have only known him personally since 2007, but his name on newspaper articles and books are significant.  The above picture was taken at the BC Book Awards, when Terry received the Lt. Gov. Award for Literary Achievement.

Here is Terry's endorsement for me:

than any other Vancouverite, Todd Wong has helped bring to light the
great cultural achievements of one of Canada's least-understood and
most unappreciated cultural groups – by which I mean of course the
Scots. But much more than that, he is the happy embodiment of all that
is most grand and bold about this city and province and country,which
is the great pride and joy we are privileged to take in one another's
many languages, songs, stories, kindnesses, cuisines, poems, paddling
styles, and malt liquor varieties. With quiet pride and boundless joy
we are honour bound to see to it that the torch of our forebears is
passed to Todd Wong, so that he might carry it to the world. Or at
least to the next torch bearer. Or not for all these reasons, then, but
at least for the lark of it, which Todd Wong has earned.

Todd Wong's video application to be one of ten torch bearers for the City of Vancouver

There was NOT enough time to list everything I wanted, my aspirations, my understandings, my endorsements… to be an Olympic Torch Bearer for the City of Vancouver.

They didn't want me to name my city councilor endorsements because they said they wanted to keep it non-political.

feared if I said I was endorsed by Shelagh Rogers, it wouldn't be an
even playing field, and it could unfairly influence judges.  But
suggested I read endorsements without naming the endorser.

Thankfully, I brought the Terry Fox Gold Medal plaque and BC Community Achievement Medallion along with me.  These are two awards that I am very proud to have received.  The SFU Terry Fox Gold Medal may be given annually to somebody who has demonstrated Courage in Adversity and Dedication to Society.  The award was first given to Terry Fox in 1981, and it was later awarded to Rick Hansen.  Last year, I recieved the BC Community Achievement Award, for my work saving historic Joy Kogawa House, creating Gung Haggis Fat Choy, as well as community work for dragon boats and speaking at Terry Fox Runs, as a cancer survivor.

Please see these videos that speak greatly to the creativity that I brought to the video sessions.  Thanks to my friend David Wong, who videoed the event with my camera… okay we will try to find a way to rotate them.  David's like me… we shoot to get the best photo, and forget that vertical does not work for videos.

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WELCOME to VANCOUVER with Chinese Lion mask

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ALOHA, Welcome, O SIEM, Welcome.  Todd says welcome in Hawaiian and Inuktitut

The directions were to say “Welcome” in English, and if possible in another language.  I chose “Aloha” in Hawaiian, and “O Siem” in Inuktitut.  “Aloha” also means love and compassion, and is used as “hello” or “goodbye.”  “O Siem” was used in a wonderful song by Susan Aglukark, and she says “What it
basically means is welcoming and honoring guests, whether that is a
gathering or a meeting of sorts, a conference etc..”
  Gee… perfect to use as a greeting to Canadian Olympics in 2010, which is using an Inuit inukshuk as it's official logo.

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Todd says why he wants to be torchbearer, and lists his accomplishments
and understanding of the symbbolism of the Olympic Torch.

Here are endorsements from city councilors, community leaders and Shelagh Rogers

Review: Vancouver Opera's Salome is breath-taking, visually and aurally

Salome Dazzles… and Dances in Vancouver Opera's production of Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss 

It's a biblical story set in Judea, retold by an Irish writer, originally written in French, turned into an opera by a German composer and sung in German, with a Sri Lankan tenor has a crush on the Russian star soprano, with Asian Jews for support.

European Opera is a great example of intercultural art, or sometimes it is cultural appropriation.  But whatever the perspective, great art has always come from pushing conventional boundaries, cross-cultural pollination, and heroic boldness in the search to tell old stories in fresh and exciting ways.

This is evident, as soon as you walk into the Q.E. Theatre.  The angular set in bright deep yellow commands the attention.  The lighting is horizontal on the characters standing by the prison.  After a long extended silence, the music and singing begin, as Narraboth (Sean Panikkar), captain of the guard, gazes on the princess Salome, describing her beauty.

But Salome (Mlada Khudoley) is not interested in the young captain, and bored with the banquet, she asks Narraboth about the imprisioned prophet John the Baptist, and whether it is true he questions her mother's sinful life.  Smitten by Salome, Narraboth submits to her pleading to meet the prophet.  And this is where many of the humanities dark sexual obsessions come to clash in a dysfunctional family, where the former King's brother-in-law killed the king, to take his wife and is obsessed with his step-daughter.

This sets the stage for wonderfully dramatic music where all principals display fine voice.  John Mac Master plays King Herod with a strong presence, in the face of Judith Forst's mocking Herodias.  Greer Grimsley's Jokanaan (John the Baptist) is an amazingly strong figure, especially when tugging against the ropes that bind him.

salome_en_03_180x160_lighter.jpg  Vancouver Opera continues to push cultural boundaries by introducing Manga styled Graphic pictures into it's marketing programs.





Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong wants to be an OLYMPIC TORCH BEARER for the City of Vancouver

Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong wants
to be an OLYMPIC TORCH BEARER for the City of Vancouver

Could this man in a kilt be an Olympic torch bearer? Todd Wong aka “Toddish McWong” creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, stands on guard with Constable Bob Underhill, and Joy Kogawa at the 2006 “Order of Canada Luncheon” hosted by the Canadian Club for which Todd is a director.  Wong is wearing the “Maple Leaf Tartan”. – photo Deb Martin.

The City of Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Olympics.  As Host City, Vancouver has a small number of torchbearer spots in the Vancouver portion of the 2010
Olympic Torch Relay.  So they are creating the torch relay challenge.  All
staff, except those who are auxiliary or part of Olympic and Paralympic
Operations or members of the Corporate Management Team, may
participate. Torchbearers will be chosen from each of these work areas: City of Vancouver, Fire and Rescue, Library, Park Board and Police.

Hmmm… I've worked for the Vancouver Public Library for 30+ years, and am eligible.  This will be a great way to be a torch bearer.  Other ways are to win spots through many of the corporate sponsors such as RBC, Coca-Cola and McDonalds.  But I would rather represent the City of Vancouver, where I was born.

The City Wire website says that: “The Vancouver 2010
Olympic Torch Relay begins its 45,000 kilometre, 106-day journey across
Canada on October 30, 2009. It will visit every province and territory,
passing through over 1,000 communities and places of interest across
the country. It arrives in Vancouver on February 11, to travel through
the city for two days. At the end of the day on February 11, there will
be a community celebration. On February 12, the Torch Relay concludes
at 6:00 pm at the Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter

Torch Relay summons people to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games
and brings together Canada and world under an Olympic Flame that
symbolizes peace and friendship. The purpose of the Torch Relay is to
touch the soul of the nation, light the land, and inspire the country
by creating an extraordinary experience for all Canadians in
communities across the country.”

How to be a Torcher Bearer?

City of Vancouver staff who want to apply have to reserve a spot in the try-out sessions, which are on-going for this week. At the try-outs you state – on
video – why you want to be a torchbearer. There is an option to submit your own
video. These are short!  There is only about one minute to
tell why you should carry the torch.  All submissions will be reviewed by a selection committee will review
all the submissions, which might also be featured on Citywire or perhaps shown at the Host City Pavilion at the PNE.

My video application is 11am tomorrow at Sunset
Community Centre. So far endorsements from CBCer Shelagh Rogers, city
councilors Raymond Louie, Kerry Jang, Suzanne Anton, community leaders
Kelly Ip, Linda Johnston, David Kogawa, fellow library workers
Alexandra Youngberg, Neil Atkinson…