Monthly Archives: July 2009

Briony Penn speaks about upcoming election for The Land Conservancy of BC

Here's an article about the
current issues and upcoming extraordinary meeting for The Land Conservancy of BC.

I am a
running mate with Briony Penn, for the Save TLC slate – to become new
board members of TLC.

Mail-in ballots have now been sent out for the upcoming extraordinary general meeting and voting for new directors.  The Save TLC committee has had four conference call phone meetings and one in-person workshop meeting.  It's a great group of organizers, volunteers and candidates – all committed to the future of a strong and viable TLC.

TLC founder Bill Turner (2nd from left) and TLC co-founder Briony Penn (2nd from right sitting) with new candidates for the TLC Board: (standing) Todd Wong, Ken Millard, Magnus Bien, and (sitting) Cheryl Bryce, Elspeth McVeigh.

from The Saltspring Island Driftwood News:

co-founder Briony Penn,
who is running for a spot on the new board, hopes that the membership
will educate themselves on what she believes was a false accusation
resulting from a lack of due diligence by the board and their lawyers.

allegations were that the moneys donated by the land trust had been
used for other than that intended by the donor. That’s simply not
true,” Penn said.

subtlety of it is that they were confusing what is known as pooling
trust fund accounts instead of setting up independent separate accounts
for every project.”

to Penn, the funds were pooled until the time that they were needed,
and the lawyers were misinterpreting the Charitable Purposes
Preservation Act.

Gabelman was unavailable for comment, however, Penn recalls that he was unable to back up the board’s claims.

called up the lawyers and treasurer Colin Gabelman and asked: ‘What was
your written interpretation? What was your evidence?’ And they didn’t
get any written interpretation. They didn’t get any evidence.”

“[Turner] has raised over a hundred thousand dollars [since he was fired],” Penn said.

Sunday morning I was up at six with him at a bottle exchange in
Victoria. He’s been treated really badly by the board but he’s still
raising money as a volunteer to keep the organization going until it
gets back on track. I might add, I saw no members of the board at that
bottle drive.”

despite a major disparity between what Penn believes happened and what
TLC’s bean counters have reported, the environmentalist is willing to
work with anyone on the new board should she be elected.

“We’ve gotta put the trust back in land trust,” she said.

For more information see:

Save TLC Committee:

The Land Conservancy of BC

Powell St. Festival celebrates Japanese Canadian heritage – even if you are half-Japanese or non-Japanese

I like attending the Powell St. Festival.  Somewhere in my clothes drawer I have a t-shirt from the 10th Anniversary festival back in 1986.

Powell St. Festival '07 - photo by Todd Wong  IMG_1459 by Toddish McWong.
This year's Powell Street Festival will take place at Woodland Park – moving Eastward between Clark Drive and Commercial Drive, North of Venables St. – but South of Hastings St. – photo of 2007 festival by Todd Wong

Many of my friends have Japanese ancestry such as Jeff Chiba Stearns, John Endo Greenaway, Julie Tamiko Manning, or Joy Kogawa…. I grew up folding origami cranes, and relating to Japanese culture in a Pan-Asian-Canadian kind of way…

I have even performed my accordion at the Powell St. Festival main stage.  One year I played with my friend Sean Gunn as part of the “Number One Son” band… or maybe it was under the name of “Yellow Lackey Dogs.”

My friend Walter Quan is always there to sell his unique “sushi candles” and once when he was wearing a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team cotton shirt, he was asked if he was “Todd Wong.”

 Walter Quan and his famous sushi candles - photo by Todd Wong IMG_1466 by Toddish McWong. Walter Quan and his sushi candles booth at the 2007 Powell Street Festival – photo Todd Wong

Check out the Powell Street Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

Here's a great article in the Vancouver Sun by Kevin Griffin:

Powell Street Festival: Metro Vancouver's Japanese Canadians celebrate a resilient culture

Powell Street Festival: Metro Vancouver's Japanese Canadians

Julia Aoki, volunteer coordinator for the Powell Street Festival. Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun. VANCOUVER — Unlike other festivals that strive

Review: Koto Concert at National Nikkei Museum & Hieritage Centre July 26

The Japanese Canadian National Museum
Koto Concert – Chikako Kanehisa, a benefit concert for the National Nikkei Museum & Heritage Centre
Sunday, July 26, 2009, 3pm

Review by Devon Cooke
– for

Certain parts of Japanese culture export very well.  Sushi and anime are so popular in the West that they have a life of their own that is separate from their Japanese origins.  This is wonderful, but it may leave a somewhat distorted image of Japanese culture as a whole.  Japan is much more than raw fish and giant robots!

Judging by the audience at the Koto Concert put on by the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre, the koto, Japan’s national musical instrument, still has a long way to go before it penetrates Vancouver’s cultural consciousness — nearly all of the crowd was of Japanese origin, with the odd Japanese-by-marriage family member and a few curious seniors mixed in.  If only everyone was so curious!

The concert, which featured professional koto player Chikako Kanehisa and shakuhachi master Mitsuhashi Kifu, was presented as part of the 80th anniversary of Japanese-Canadian relations that also brought the Emperor of Japan to Vancouver earlier this month.  Those fortunate (or curious) enough to attend got to see a part of Japanese culture that is barely visible in the West.

Certainly, I had never heard of the koto before the concert, but the sound is familiar.  Anyone with a passing interest in Asian cultures has probably heard a koto — or one of its relatives — without knowing what it was.  It’s not an easy instrument to describe; it resembles a huge, six-foot long zither with thirteen movable bridges.  The strings are plucked (or strummed, or thumped, or rubbed) with the right hand on one side of the bridge while the left hand is used to create pitch shifts or vibrato on the other side of the bridge.

Listening to it was a complex experience — it’s the kind of music that would be impossible to put in writing because there are so many intangible aspects that aren’t captured by quarter notes on a staff.  It had a very organic feel, like listening to birdsong.  Ironically, the song entitled “Like a bird” (鳥のように) was one of the least like this, it carried a more regular rhythm and more clearly defined pitches than some of the others.

Perhaps because of this, it was one of the more accessible, exciting songs to my Western ear, but I couldn’t help but feel that the beauty of the instrument was captured best in some of the other songs — the ones with slightly bent pitches and somewhat irregular rhythms.  The (Japanese?) idea that beauty is inherent in small, slight imperfections is one that has always resonated with me, and the Koto struck me as an instrument where the skill in playing came from creating just the right pattern of imperfections.

The shakuhachi flute is an instrument that I am more familiar with, but it too impressed me with the range of sounds it could produce.  Like the koto, many of the notes were bent in a way that seems more reminiscent of a saxophone or a trumpet than a flute.  A number of times, Mitsuhashi impressed me by playing a continuous note that rose or fell almost a full scale — an impressive feat for an instrument with only a small, “fixed” set of notes.

I think I enjoyed the duets most of all.  The instruments (and musicans) complimented each other well.  On its own, the lonely, longing timbre of the shakuhachi threatened to overwhelm me with its sadness, but the sharp, epic, almost militaristic presence of the koto helped bring the sound back to earth and remind me that, whatever I was feeling inside, there was still a whole world out there to explore.

For most of the audience, the Koto Concert would have been a breath of familiar air (or, perhaps to the second-generation Canadians, a possible answer to the question “Where did I come from?”)  For me, my personal interest was piqued because it was foreign.  This is not a side of Japanese culture I had previously discovered, and I was happy to have to opportunity to explore it.  Koto concerts in Vancouver do not come along every day (or even every year), so I was happy to discover a new side of Japanese music.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team heats up Vernon Races

2009_July_VernonDragonBoat 005

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team at the start line for 5th Annual Vernon Dragon Boat Races.

2009_July_VernonDragonBoat 004Steven Wong is steering our first race on Saturday.

Vernon Dragon Boat Races are one of our favorite races of the year.  We love the hot weather, lots of sun, the beach and the clean clear cooling water of Kalamalka Lake.  This was our 4th visit to these waters.

Our first race was a 200m sprint.  We finished in 53 seconds…. and some of our stronger paddlers weren't even in the boat.  I videoed the race on my camera.

2009_July_VernonDragonBoat 008 Video of 1st Race – 200m sprint.

were loaded in the boat for our 2nd race of the day. We had already
posted a 53 second 200m spint… and we were ready for the 500m.

The winds picked up. Two other teams were already out on the water….

The race was post-poned.  We were told to wait it out on land. But the wind started to blow all the tents away. We were told to go look after our stuff.

We saw the band stand tent nearly getting blown off the stage.

The races were being post-poned for about 40 minutes.

saw the big wave action at the beach, with lots of white caps, and
encouraged the team to come “wave jumping” with me. I took two paddlers
into the lake with me – and we tried body surfing.

Then the rain started…. Somebody said there was hail.

Jimmy B. reported that the races were being canceled for the day. Our
500m race would rescheduled for 9am first race of the day….

The 1000m race was canceled 🙁:-(

packed up the tents and equipment, loaded up our cars in a downpour,
then went to Deb's parents' lakeside home, where we were hosting the
team bbq.

We have a picture of 13 people in the hot tub… as the sun was coming out.

2009_July_VernonDragonBoat 014 Hot Tub at Martin's Nest

5:46pm I received a phone message, “This is Vernon Dragon Boat Races,
We are live… There is sunshine on the beach. Come down to the beer
garden and help save the festival.”

But we were already relaxed, and preparing our traditional bbq at Martin's Nest – childhood home of my girlfriend Deb Martin, former paddler/drummer/steers for the team.. Some of our paddlers went canoeing and kayaking…. at the private dock.

Sunday Races

2009_July_VernonDragonBoat 023 Jane drums for the re-scheduled 500m race at 9am Sunday morning.

We were in the first race heat on Sunday morning, rescheduled from Saturday afternoon.  It was an easy 500m race.  I (Todd) steered. I think we came 2nd. After we got off the boat, I was quickly pulled over to steer for another team, then another team.  I had to take a break after being on the water for about an hour in the heat.

raced our Semi-final around noon, but we spun out, after steers Dave
Samis lost control. We clipped another boat – but finished under

was right after, I had steered a boat for DRAGNUM…. and hit boat
waves… losing control of the boat. DRAGNUM had posted a 2:12 quarter-final time, and was a top seed… but because
of the spin-out, narrowly missing another boat, they got bumped down to
B Final instead of A final.

Because of our spin out, Gung Haggis was bumped to D Final instead of C Final.

We had a good race final finishing 2nd with a time of 2:25.

Then I (Todd) steered again for the Kelowna Blazing Saddles.  The team had a strong race finishing 2nd, after catching up and passing a boat that had been neck and neck with us.  Final time 2:16.

Time for the beer gardens Gung Haggis team got the dancing going in the beer garden on
Sunday with a “revised lyrics” version of 500 Miles.  eg.  “I WOULD
PADDLE 500 MILES”.  Lethal Weapon – we will have to teach your teams
for improved DB spirit!  We even put a kilt on a Calgary paddler, known
to this forum.

2009_July_VernonDragonBoat 029 “I Would Paddle 500 Miles!” – Kilts in front of the stage. Bruce from Calgary, Debbie from Kelown with Dave and Todd.  more Gung Haggis paddlers on the right.

2009_July_VernonDragonBoat 033 Colleen, Alissa and Debbie show our 2nd place ribbons!

Calgary Teams ruled the fastest times along with Kamloops' Extreme Currents, and Extreme Curves women's team.

to all teams that participated and contributed to the truly friendly
atmosphere, and willingly volunteered to help make these races run
smoothly, in the wake of so many challenges (eg. Dynasty Boats ugh!)

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Team Captain Jim Blatherwick pointed out that:

1) Fastest 200m by GHFC at Vernon at 53 seconds.

Our 2nd place time in our final (2:25) was 1 second behind the Bronze
medal time of the A Final. It was also our 2nd fastest time in Vernon
ever for the 500m.

3) Our steerers raced with countless other
teams. Todd, Steven, and Dave are to be congratulated as it seemed like
they were somehow involved in every other race.

4) During our
unfortunate collision of the semi-final, everyone followed instructions
and Dave was able to keep his wits about so that we only clipped the
other boat and didn't hit it in the middle. Bruised egos are better
than bruised people and as a group we did well.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team racing in Vernon

The Greater Vernon Dragon Boat Festival, is “THE FAVORITE” race of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  This is the the 4th straight year we have entered, and the 5th annual race in 2009.

In 2007, the Gung Haggis dragon boat team won the gold medal in B Division.  In 2008, we finished 2nd in the C Division Finals.

We posted the 6th fastest time for 200m sprints this morning.

Coach/paddler/steers Todd Wong, and paddlers Dave Samis and Steven Wong are also helping out to steer boats for other teams.

On Saturday afternoon, the team had just gotten seated in the Calgary based Dynasty dragon boats, when the races were temporarily canceled due to
 high winds.  The team waited out the wind and rain in the racer's village.  But thunder and lightning storms continued the delay, until the races were canceled for the day.

Gung Haggis Fat
Choy dragon boat team retired to Martin's Nest, the home of our hosts, and 14 paddlers jumped in the hot tub.

Now we have to paddle the first race of Sunday, and do 3
races on Sunday…. Team is in good spirits…  and now doing bbq.

Team Canada sets the new standards for Celebration of Lights

Celebration of Light 2009 Team Canada VF2_3279.JPG by vfk.
Team Canada featured the music soundtrack from The Wizard of Oz for its fireworks presentation on Wednesday July 22. 

Highlights for me featured different fireworks for each of the characters.  The Scarecrow was a red curly-cue for a brain, The Tin Man for a heart, and a Medal for the Lion…. 

Also featured was one of my favorite classical music pieces: Night on Bald Mountain.

See my friend VFK's photos.

Tonight, Saturday July 25th, features South Africa.

Chef Sam, of Foo's Ho Ho, passes on the the Great Kitchen in the Heavens.

2009_July_Foos_Ho_Ho 030 by Toddish McWong.Chef Sam, of Foo's Ho Ho, passes on the the Great Kitchen in the Heavens.

Here is the Obituary:

SAM James “Sam”

Born on April 8, 1942
in Sun Wui, China. He peacefully passed away on July 19, 2009 after a
short battle with cancer. Predeceased by his first wife, Shirley, James
will always be alive in the happy memories of his family: wife, Joanne,
children, Joseph (Yasuko), Helen (Rod), and Lily and grandson, Ryan,
and extended family: Bruce, Phong, Yvonne, Tony, Jimmy, Liz, Rita,
Belinda and Brandon. Having immigrated to Canada in his teens, he
worked diligently in many kitchens including: WK Gardens, Marco Polo
and Best Wun Tun House and he also established his own restaurants
including Foo's Ho Ho. Throughout the years, he has served many
faithful friends and customers. We thank you so much for your patronage
and loyalty! We know he will miss you all dearly as it was his life's
passion to serve great original home-style Chinese food! The family
would like to extend sincere thanks to the staff and especially Sarah
at the Palliative Care Unit at VGH. A memorial service will be held on
Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 10:00 am at the First Memorial Funeral
Chapel, 602 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC. Reception to follow. A viewing
will also take place on Friday, July 31, 2009 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm.

See my article

Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant to close in Vancouver Chinatown: It's the end of an era for Cantonese restaurants

Recognizing the 213th anniversary of the death of Robert Burns: we read poetry!

Robert Burns death acknowledged and remembered in Stanley Park
2009_July_Robert_Burns 021 by you.

Ian, Deb, Sarah, Robert and Lilias sit and read Burns poetry beneath the Robert Burns statue in Stanley Park. – photo Todd Wong

It was a unique event last night at the Robert Burns Statue
in Stanley Park. Several people met there to commemorate the death of
Robert Burns 213 years ago. Burns is the marshalling point for
Scotland's Homecoming year and we read some of his poetry and
reminisced about the big event back in 1996 in Stanley Park to commemorate the
bard's 200th anniversary, with the parade and the ceilidh after at the
Rowing Club.
  Robert Barr told us how pipe bands and people gathered at the parking lot of the Bayshore Inn, and paraded down Georgia Street to the Stanley Park Entrance.  A ceremony was held at the Robert Burns statue that had been erected 81 years ago August 25th, 1928.

2009_July_Robert_Burns 005 Gerard, Deb, Sarah, Todd, Ian and Keng enjoyed good company, good food and good drink.  A toast to Rabbie!

It was a gathering of friends who enjoy Burns poetry and the
friendships of each other. We started off meeting at the Irish Heather
Pub, and were given the Shebeen Whiskey Tasting room for our group. We
tasted the Famous Grouse (official scotch for Homecoming 2009 and the
Burns Suppers 2009), the official Robert Burns scotch whiskey, and the
Jamieson Irish whiskey.

2009_July_Robert_Burns 007Ray the bartender at the Shebeen, looked after us verrrry well.

Then off to Stanley Park for some poetry
readings. We had a moment of silence following the 9 O'Clock Gun. We
each took turns reading a Burns poem, and telling Burns stories, and
how Burns events had touched our lives. Robert Barr shared his
reminiscence about the big re-dedication event in Stanley Park to
commemorate the bard's 200th anniversary of his death, with the parade
and the ceilidh after at the Rowing Club.

It was wonderfully informal, yet still endearing. What a wonderful way to spend a
summer evening… reading Robert Burns poetry beside Coal Harbour at
sundown. I am grateful for both your friendship and Ian's, and the
mentorship in the ways of Burns dinners.

2009_July_Robert_Burns 013

2009_July_Robert_Burns 012 Sarah read Ae Fond Kiss


Anniversary of death of Robert Burns – July 21st.

2009_January 108 by Toddish McWong.Pipers Allan and Trish McMordie at Robert Burns Statue in Stanley Park on the 250th anniversary of his birth, January 25th, 2009.

The 213th anniversary of Robert Burns death is July 21st.

He was 37 years old in 1796.
He is one of the world's greatest and most recited poets.
He wrote about equality of the sexes, and equality of station for men the whole world over.

2009 is the 250th anniversary of his birth.

I've decided NOT to organize a dinner at the rowing club.
This is easier….

Meet me at the Irish Heather for drinks,

Then we will go toast Rabbie when the 9 o'clock gun goes off, at the statue in Stanley Park.

We can read some poetry, tell some stories, and have a moment of silence….
I think we can arrive at the statue for 8:45pm or so…

Wear your kilt or tartan….

2009_January 186 by Toddish McWong.

Flowers, pictures of virtual statue and wreath + glass of scotch, all left at Robert Burns statue on January 25th, 2009.

Michael Jackson was a fan of Robert Burns: “King of Pop” loved “King O'Men”

Michael Jackson was a fan of Rabbie Burns
– dinna ye ken?

The honest man, though e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Imagine comparisons between the poetry and songs of Robert Burns vs songs of Michael Jackson.

Burns' “For A' That” vs Jackson's “We Are the World”

That man to man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that!

Burns' “Aye Fond Kiss” vs Jackson's “Remember the Time”

Never met — or never parted —
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

Burns' Tam O'Shanter vs Jackson's “Thriller”

Here is a news article sent to me by Ron Macleod:

Michael Jackson was a fan of Robert Burns and once recorded an album of the Bard’s poetry set to music.

The album plans were revealed by his friend, concert promoter and I’m a Celebrity… star David Gest, a year ago.

Gest, once married to Liza Minnelli, told the Daily Telegraph the disc would give a modern twist to the work of the Bard.

He said: “Our favourite poet in the world is Robbie Burns.

“Michael and I were originally going to do a musical on his life
with Gene Kelly directing and Anthony Perkins as executive producer –
but they both died.

“So Michael and I put all the poems to contemporary music in his studio in Encino.”

Gest went on to reveal that he and Jackson shared a profound fondness for Burns, both greatly admiring his “brilliant mind”.

Gest continued: “We did Ae Fond Kiss, Tam O'Shanter and all that. We
turned his work into show tunes. It is beautiful and I still have the

“I am thinking more and more about bringing Red, Red Rose back to
life because I went on that bridge when I was last in Scotland looking
for Tam O'Shanter