Monthly Archives: December 2010

Shelagh Rogers: Sounds Like…. Order of Canada

Rogers named Officer of Order of Canada
She co-hosted the 2005 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner and we are creating a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow to celebrate Scottish and Chinese pioneer cultures with First Nations

“For her contributions as a promoter of Canadian culture, and for her volunteer work in the fields of mental health and literacy.”

Here is the Governor General's website with the full list of appointments.

Also great that some local BCers were also appointed.  I have met a few of them.  Martha Lou Henley receives the Order
of Canada for her Philanthropy work, recently I saw her at the Leslie Uyeda
concert at Nikkei Place this fall. I met Trevor Linden in July at the
BC Hockey Hall of Fame Dinner when I was part of the Larry Kwong pioneer award cheering group – Trevor graciously came over to give congratulations to Larry – the first Asian-Canadian to play in the NHL. Dr. Bob Hare came to one of my
psychology classes as a guest prof.  Eric Peterson lives in Ontario, but he was a co-writer with BCer John McLachlan Gray for the immortal iconic theatre work “Billy Bishop Goes to War” as well as recently playing the curmudgeon father “Oscar” in Corner Gas to BCer Brent Butt's “Brent Leroy”

In October 2009, Shelagh Rogers came to Kogawa House and brought CBC writer Paolo Pietropaolo and author Richard Van Camp of the West Coast Aboriginal
Writers Collective to share conversation with Japanese Canadians and First Nations members of the community.
  We are working on planning another event @ Kogawa House, possibly for February, that will again bring First Nations together with Japanese Canadian issues.

Shelagh and I now are planning to create a
Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner to bring together Scottish, Chinese
and First Nations pioneer heritage in one dinner!


In May 2009, Shelagh helped to host an event with with our inaugural writer in residence at Kogawa House – John Asfour.  Special guests were authors Anne Eriksen and Gary Geddes.  Gary is an old friend of John's and was one of the first people John called to do a reading at Kogawa House.  I already knew that Gary's poetry collection “Falsework” about the building and collapse of the Iron Workers' Memorial Bridge, was one of Shelagh's favorite books of 2008… so it was a natural to invite her to participate.

Here is the Globe & Mail story about the 56 Order of Canada recpients:

Creating the First Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner to celebrate First Nations, Scottish and Chinese pioneer history in BC

Scottish and Chinese pioneer history in BC mixes with First Nations:

What if the first Scottish Pioneers celebrated Robbie Burns Day with their First Nations hosts, and the Chinese carpenters they had brought wanted to celebrate Chinese New Year too?

Todd Wong and Shelagh Rogers, 2004 Christmas Eve morning at CBC Studio One.  Shelagh
is holding the brand new 2005 Gung Haggis Fat Choy poster that features
her name as special co-host.

Here's an idea that I have discussed with my friend Shelagh Rogers, legendary CBC broadcaster.  She has been working on reconciliation issues between Aboriginals and non-aboriginals for the past while.  One day she asked me about creating a similar event to Gung Haggis Fat Choy, which brings together the Scottish tradition of Robbie Burns Day, and (con)fuses it with Chinese New Year Dinner tradition.  I simply said “How about a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner?”

I have long appreciated First Nations traditions, history and culture.  I have traveled to Haida Gwaii, Alert Bay and Kyuoquot Sound.  I am blessed to have many friends who have shared their First Nations history and culture with me, especially my mother's cousin Rhonda Larrabee, Chief of Qayqayt First Nations, and her daughter Shelly who accompanied me at my first Pow Wow event this past summer in Squamish territory in North Vancouver.  This past October, I took part in the “Paddle for Wild Salmon” that paddled down the Fraser River stopping at First Nations Villages from Hope to Chilliwack, and onto Katzie, New Westminster and Musqueam.

Shelagh Rogers was being interviewed for CBC Radio's “As It Happens” for a story about her appointment to Officer of the Order of Canada.
  The Governor General's website states she is being named “For her contributions as a promoter of Canadian culture, and for her volunteer work in the fields of mental health and literacy”  She just sent this Facebook message:

Todd Wong, YOU Rawk! And hey–I talked about the GHFCPW
on As It Happens. It will be on right after the 7pm news!

all makes sense… Chinese have documented Fou Sang, a legendary land
East of China since 5th Century.  A buddhist monk is said to have visited Fou Sang, and documented his trip. 

The Songhees Nation website documents Scottish and Chinese as being the first non-aboriginal resident and first permanent residents.

John Mackay becomes B.C.'s first known, non-aboriginal resident,
spending a year with Chief Maquinna, at Nootka Sound.

trader John Meares establishes a base at Nootka Sound. He leaves a
shore-party, including 30 Chinese carpenters, to build the first
ocean-going commercial ship in these waters. The Chinese carpenters are
abandoned, a year later, becoming the first permanent immigrants to B.C.
Their fate is unknown.

Shelagh and I have decided that Vancouver
Island will be site of the soon-to-be-legendary inaugural Gung Haggis
Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner. Limited seating – invitation only… (so call
me if you want to come!) We will share their pioneer
family histories as my great-great grandfather was a Chinese methodist
minister on Vancouver Island, and my mom's cousin is Chief Rhonda
Larrabee of Qayqayt First Nations. Shelagh has recently discovered her
First Nations (Cree) heritage, and has long celebrated her family's Scottish

This Gung Haggis Pow Wow Dinner will not be the same kind of extravaganza as the present 400+ people Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner at the Floata Dinner, with a 10 piece pipes and drums band, lots of poets and musicians, and multi-media presentations.   Instead I will try to replicate the initial smaller Gung Haggis dinners when the first Gung Haggis dinner was in a living room with 16 people, and the first public restaurant dinner for 40 people.  Shelagh's Reconciliation dinner events have been pot luck dinners where people are encouraged to share and speak.  For the first Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, guests were all invited to make contributions that were musical, poetical or culinary.

What will happen?  We will each be inviting friends to be guests.  Some of the friends are known for the musical, poetical or oratorial skills.

It's going to be interesting.

My kilted Swedish-Canadian Glogg Christmas Eve

Kilts, glogg and Swedish Christmas Eve.

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Jay, Todd, Angela,
Trish and Allan – bedecked in kilts!

There are many many cultures in
Canada, and they all celebrate Christmas or Winter solstice in many ways
  This year was my first sharing Swedish traditions… even if we mixed it up with Scottish kilts and music.

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Even the Christmas tree was decorated with Swedish flags!

Scandinavian Gløgg

Glögg is the term for mulled wine in the Nordic countries (sometimes misspelled as glog or glug);
(in Swedish and Icelandic: Glögg, Norwegian and Danish: Gløgg, Estonian and Finnish: Glögi).  Glögg recipes vary widely; variations with white wine or sweet wines
such as Madeira, or spirits such as brandy are also popular.

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Here is the preparation glogg – or mulled wine.  There is a ritualistic setting on fire!

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Check out this video! 
I was the appointed lighter of the flame!   What an honour!!!
Next time, we will be creating an “Address to the Glogg!”
The McDonald Swedish Christmas
Eve Tradition.
Create a mulled
wine with fruits and spices and

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The wonderful buffet of food.  So much to choose from!

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In this
Lax (smoked sockeye salmon), Pressgurka
(sweet-sour cucumbers)
, Mini-smoked
, Jansson's
, Pate, Sausage, Skinka
, Rouladen (pickle wrapped in beef slice), Swedish
, Gravlax (salted and brined spring salmon)

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Clan McMordie: Allan on bagpipes, Janet with vocals, Trish on accoustic guitar and vocals.

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Nick on bodrahn (irish hand drum) and Todd with accordion

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Erin on tin whistle, Jay on double bass – when not on fiddle, guitar or vocals

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And there was even a surprise visit from

What to expect at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2011 Dinner

What to expect at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2011 Dinner

DSC_3644_103213 - view from middle of the hall by FlungingPictures. picture by Patrick Tam

Special for 2011
Every year, we invite new people to perform and co-host. For 2011, there seems to be a Hapa theme emerging… people who have both Asian and Caucasian ancestry.

Patrick Gallagher, Co-hosting will be Glee's Coach Tanaka – who has performed in movies and television shows, such as Da Vinci's Inquest, the bartender in Sideways with Sandra Oh, Master & Commander, Atilla the Hun in Night At the Museum + many more!  Patrick also performed theatrically in the touring production of “Naomi's Road” (based on the Joy Kogawa children's book – that preceded the unrelated Vancouver Opera touring production).  I have known Patrick for many years, and his sister Margaret Gallagher has previously co-hosted in 2004, as well as performed.  We will sing a special version of” Chirish Eyes Are Smiling” to celebrate Patrick's Chinese and Irish heritage

Jenna Chow is the voice you hear on CBC Radio One, for the traffic reports on The Early Edition and On The Coast. 

Jocelyn Pettit is a fiddler that people rave about.  Some are calling her the next Natalie McMaster… and she is only 15 year's old.  Jocelyn's mother is of Chinese ancestry and her father is of Scottish-French Canadian ancestry.  2010 was a special year for Jocelyn because she was able to carry the Olympic Torch in her hometown of Squamish.  I met her and her family at the BC Highland Games this summer in Coquitlam.  Check out Jocelyn on CBC Radio website:

Jeff Chiba Stearns is a repeat Gung Haggis performer.  In 2005, his short film “What Are You Anyways?” thrilled our Gung Haggis dinner guests.  This year, his new film takes it to another level, as Jeff explores why all his family members of the Japanese side married non-Japanese partners in the full length documentary, One Big Hapa Family.  His take is that there are no halfs – everybody in the family is now 100% Japanese Canadian.

Other performers include Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums, bagpiper/musician Joe Macdonald, Vancouver poet laureate Brad Cran + lots of surprises!.  More on them in later posts…

The Arrival

Arrive Early: 

The doors will open at 5:00 pm, All tables are reserved, and all seating is placed in the
order that they were ordered.

you bought your tickets through Firehall Arts Centre, come to the
reception marked Will Call under the corresponding alphabet letters. 
have placed you at tables in order of your purchase.  Somebody who
bought their ticket in December will be at a table closer to the stage
then somebody who bought it in mid January, or on the day before the event.  We think this
is fair.  If you want to sit close for next year – please buy your ticket

If you are at a table with one of the sponsoring organizations: Historic Joy Kogawa House, ACWW/Ricepaper Magazine, Gung Haggis dragon boat team – then somebody will meet you at the reception area and guide you to your table.

The Bar is open at 5:00 and Dinner Start time is 6:00

expect a rush before the posted 6:00pm
time. We have asked that the 1st appetizer platter be placed on the
table soon after 6pm.  Once this is done, we will start the Piping in of
our performers and head table.  We sing O Canada from the stage, and
give welcome to our guests.  Warning: We usually ask you to sing for
your supper.

Buy Your Raffle Tickets:

Please buy
raffle tickets… this is how we generate our fundraising to support this organizations dedicated to multiculturalism and cultural harmony.  We
purposely keep our admission costs low to $60 for so that they are affordable and the dinner can be attended by more
people.  Children's tickets are subsidized so that we can include
them in the audience and be an inclusive family for the evening.
We have some great door
and raffle prizes lined up.  Lots of books (being the writers we
are), gift certificates and theatre tickets + other surprises.

FREE Subscription for Ricepaper Magazine:

Everybody is eligible for a subscription to RicePaper Magazine,
(except children). This is our thank you gift to you for attending our
dinner. And to add value ($20) to your ticket. Pretty good deal, eh?
Rice Paper Magazine
is Canada's best journal about Asian Canadian arts and
culture, published by
Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop,

This dinner is the primary fundraising event for:

The Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dragon Boat team
continues to promote multiculturalism through
dragon boat paddling events. Some paddlers wear kilts, and we have been
filmed for German, French, and Canadian television documentaries + other

Since 2001, Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop,
has been a partner in this remarkable dinner event. ACWW works actively
to give a voice to ermerging writers.  ACWW is the publisher of RicePaper Magazine.

Histoic Joy Kogawa House committee joined our family of recipients in 2006, during the campaign to save Joy Kogawa's childhood home from demolition.  The Land
Conservancy of BC
stepped in to fundraise in 2005 and purchase Kogawa House
in 2006 and turn it into a National literary landmark and treasure for all
Canadians. In 2009, we celebrated our inaugural Writer-in-Residence program.


This year haggis dim sum appetizers will
be served. Haggis is mixed into the Pork  Siu-mei dumplings  Last year we introduced haggis pork dumplings
(su-mei). This year we are adding vegetarian pan-fried turnip cake to represent “Neeps and Tatties.”  The secon

after 6:00 pm the dinner formalities begin. People
are seated, and the Piping in of the musicians and
hosts begins.  We will lead a singalong of Scotland the Brave and give
a good welcome to our guests, and have the calling of the clans – all
the reserved tables and large parties of 10.  This is a tradition at
many Scottish ceilidhs (kay-lees), or gatherings.

From then on… a new dish will appear every 15 minutes –
quickly followed by one of our co-hosts introducing a poet or musical
performer.  Serving 40 tables within 5 minutes, might not work
completely, so please be patient.  We will encourage our guests
and especially the waiters to be quiet while the performers are on stage.
Then for the 5 minute intermissions, everybody can talk and make noise
before they have to be quiet for the performers again.

Check this video from past year's Dinner

07:59 – 

The Performances

Expect the unexpected:  This year's dinner event is full of surprises. Even I don't know what is going to happen.  The idea is to recreate the spontaneity of the very
first dinner for 16 people back in 1998 – but with 400+ guests.  For
that dinner, each guest was asked to bring a song or a poem to share.  I
don't want to give anything away right now as I
prefer the evening to unfold with a sense of surprise and
wonderment.  But let it be known that we have an incredible
array of talent for the evening. 

by Robbie Burns and Chinese Canadian poets.  What will it be?  We often
like to read “Recipe for Tea” – a poem by Jim Wong-Chu, about the
trading of tea from Southern China to Scotland

Musicians and dancers?  Some surprises for 2011

Our non-traditional reading of the “Address to the
Haggis” is always a crowd pleaser.  But
this year, audience members might also be reading a different Burns poem to
tie their tongues around the gaelic tinged words.  Will it be “A
Man's A Man for All That,” “To a Mouse,”
My Luv is Like a Red Red Rose,” or maybe even “Tam O-Shanter?”

The evening will wrap up somewhere
between 9:00 and
9:30 pm, with the singing of Auld Lang Syne – with a verse in Mandarin
Chinese. Then we will socialize further until 10pm.  People will
leave with smiles on their faces and say to
each other, “Very Canadian,”  “Only in Vancouver could something
like this happen,” or “I'm telling my friends.”

Hogan's Alley Cafe: Best Coffee Shop to have a Christmas Eve snack at

Hogan's Alley Cafe coffee shop acknowledges Vancouver's Black History

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Hogan's Alley Cafe is a new coffee shop on the edge of Chinatown.  It's along the historic “Hogan's Alley” area  at the corner of Union and Gore, just at the East end of the block, down from the Jimi Hendrix Shrine @ Main & Union, off the lane.

I asked owner Jennifer Halley why she re-named the former Bean Around the World, as Hogan's Alley.  Her answer simply was to reflect the historical nature of Vancouver's heritage.  Eventually, she would like to add more artwork and artifacts to acknowledge the lost chapter of  Vancouver's only Black neighborhood, which was torn down to create the Georgia Viaduct connector to Prior St.

We chatted about the area, and asked if she knew about Black History Month in February.  Jennifer said that some of the organizers had just been in that morning and were looking to set something up in the new year, as one of them is Terry Hunter, creator of the Heart of the City Festival with his partner Savannah Walling.  I shared with Jennifer, that I had been featured in the recent Heart of the City Festival, when I moderated a showing of the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy.  My great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, had ministered at the old Chinese United Church, which used to stand at the Northeast corner of Pender and Dunlevy St., before it was torn down in the 70's to make way for condominiums.  My grandmother and her siblings, as well as my parents all went to Strathcona Elementary School.  The houses they lived in still stand on Pender and Princess Streets.

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Food!  I asked Jennifer for the house specialties.  She made me an Americano coffee and served me up one of the pan-pressed eggwich with feta cheese and spinach.  Delicious!  But the favorite at the cafe is the eggwich with bacon!  Already sold out  🙁

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Jennifer takes a pose on top of the coffee maker, after she climbed onto the top of the counter.  And yes… she is 7 months pregnant.

It was a wonderful visit a a new-to-me coffee shop, and a great meeting with Jennifer and her husband Mike!

Check out the Hogan's Alley Memorial Project Blog

More later…  Merry Christmas.

What is Defensive Driving & Its Benefits?

What is Defensive Driving & Its Benefits?

Photograph of someone practicing defensive driving on a two-lane freeway by following other cars at a safe distance

For many people across the United States, driving is a daily necessity. Whether you commute to work on weekdays or you need to visit the grocery store, it’s important to practice safe driving techniques that will keep you and your passengers from harm. Defensive driving refers to a set of driving practices that protect you and your loved ones from collisions caused by poor weather, distracted drivers, and other roadside hazards.

Car insurance industry data suggests that an average driver files a claim for a collision once every 17.9 years. By maintaining awareness of your surroundings, quickly reacting to changing roadway conditions, and avoiding distractions, you reduce your chances of being involved in an accident. In this article, I’m going to discuss what defensive driving is and how you can practice it everyday. For more detailed information click here.

What Are the Components of Defensive Driving?

Although each defensive driving program is unique in its emphasis on certain driving techniques and safety procedures, the central focus is to protect you and your passengers from harm. This goal is achieved by giving you the tools and training you need to effectively react to unexpected hazards and threats on the roadway. Some of the most essential components of defensive driving are:

  • Maintaining Awareness of Your Surroundings: It’s essential to stay alert and focus on your surroundings while driving. If you’re not focused on the road, your response time to an unexpected problem decreases and you may not be able to react quickly. 9% of fatal traffic accidents in 2019 involved a distracted driver, and 13% of those distraction-affected crashes involved cell phone use. By keeping your attention on the road, you reduce your risk of being involved in an accident.
  • Identify and Process Roadway Hazards: You need to be able to quickly identify potential hazards while driving. By constantly scanning the roadway and staying aware of what’s going on around you, you can identify and avoid potential obstacles or unsafe situations. If you’re driving on a freeway, you should be scanning ahead to check for accidents, large numbers of cars braking suddenly, or debris on the road.
  • Evaluate Evolving Roadway Conditions: You’re enjoying a nice drive on the freeway, maintaining a safe following distance behind a pickup truck that’s transporting furniture. Suddenly, one of the straps securing the furniture in place snaps, and a recliner armchair flies onto the roadway. Do you have enough space and time to safely change lanes and avoid the obstacle? What happens if you collide with the object at your current rate of speed? When a hazard arises, you need to be able to quickly decide on the best course of action. You must get to safety without causing additional risk to yourself or other drivers.
  • Decide on the Best Course of Action: A crucial component of defensive driving is the ability to make good decisions under pressure. In the previous example with the pickup truck, you need to find a way to avoid the obstacle without endangering yourself or other drivers further. It’s important to keep calm and make a rational decision. If you reflexively swerve to avoid the threat without first checking your blind spot, you risk causing a serious collision with another car. Using all of the information available to you, decide whether evasion, braking, or another emergency maneuver best fits the situation.
  • Carry Out the Best Course of Action: Now that you know which defensive driving maneuver you’d like to carry out, it’s time to implement your plan. Safely perform the actions necessary to protect yourself and any passengers. It’s important to remember to carefully maintain your vehicle, so that you have the maneuverability and capacity to avoid dangerous driving situations.

By identifying and minimizing risks while driving, you’ll be equipped to enjoy safe travels for many years to come. Remember to keep your head on a swivel, stay aware of potential hazards, and practice the principles of defensive driving to avoid a crash whenever you get behind the wheel of a car. Enjoy your drive!

Chinese Canadian National Council rejects Macleans Magazine “non-apology” for “Too Asian?” article

Macleans Magazine gave new meaning to the term “Yellow Journalism” in the article “Too Asian?”
(since renamed “The Enrollment Controversy” on-line).

The Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) has rejected a
letter from Rogers Publishing, the parent company of Macleans. In its
letter, Rogers Publishing reviewed some of the steps taken by Macleans
to address the community's concerns over the Too Asian? article.

Not only did Macleans change the online title twice, once protests were made against the article, but most of the interview subjects all state that their quotes and research were taken out of context and mis-represented.  The CCNC (Chinese Canadian National Council) has not only tracked down the people quoted in the article, but also launched a national call for an apology from the magazine.  CCNC has organized the Facebook Group Not Too Asian

Here is the CCNC press release that lists all the out-of-context quotes:

CCNC Press Release – CCNC Rejects Letter from Rogers Publishing

I see the problem with the article is that the writers and editors
probably did not know the history, and have not lived through
generations of systemic racism, and were not sensitive to how their
article and tone would be received and perceived.  It is
commendable that somebody actually tracked down all the quotes and asked
the people what they actually said and meant. “Too Asian?” is clearly a
piece of biased cookie-cutter journalism, where the writers made the
quotes fit the theme they wanted.
– Unfortunately, the article is a
reminder of all the “Yellow Peril” journalism and cartoons that were
racially biased against Asians in colonial BC and Canada, that led to
the 1885-1925 Chinese Head Tax, 1925-1947 Chinese Exclusion Act, and
1942-1947 Japanese Canadian Internment, property confiscation and
dispersal policy.

In September 1979, CTV's W5 Campus Giveaway story, similarly misrepresented a story that “foreign students” were taking spots in university that should go to Canadian students.  An investigation revealed that the “Asian faces” panned by the television camera, actually belonged to Canadian students of Asian ancestry, or students with resident status, and thus eligible for the program.

Thirty years later, “Campus Giveaway” is now used as an example of racist and biased media story, and how the community united to fight against the perceived racism.

Here is the Macleans article:

Meanwhile, three city councils in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto have passed motions, calling for Macleans Magazine to make an apology. 

Arts Club Theatre adds a new play to Vancouver's Holiday Theatre repertoire with Patron Saint of Stanley Park

Patron Saint of Stanley Park, written by
Hiro Kanagawa, is welcome addition to Arts Club Theatre's Vancouver's Holiday Theatre repertoire

The Patron Saint of Stanley Park
Arts Club Revue Theatre
written by Hiro Kanagawa
Starring Jillian Fargey, Brian
Linds, Derek Metz, introducing
Valsy Bergeron and Joseph Gustafson
Director Stephen Drover

Think of Christmas in Stanley Park, and we normally think Bright Lights Christmas Train… but if it was December 2006, there was an ice storm that destroyed many trees in Stanley Park.

Now imagine that a teen-aged girl and her techno-geek younger brother are going to Stanley Park to lay some flowers in memory of their father who mysteriously disappeared on Christmas Eve last year, while flying his seaplane to Vancouver Island while dressed in a Santa suit.  They are supposed to be taking the bus to their Uncle's Christmas Dinner on the North Shore.  But their mother is pre-occupied working two jobs.  They are each working out their grief in different ways, acknowledgement, denial and false hope.

We are introduced to Skookum Pete, a homeless man in Stanley Park, who speaks to the audience, breaking down the fourth wall.  Pete talks about the park, the weather, and about the voices he hears – through his fillings!  Brian Linds does a wonderful job playing Pete.  He is friendly and the audience quickly builds trust, while laughing with Pete at his distorted yet perceptive view of society.  Pete pushes a shopping cart and carries a torch with a cheese grater to protect his lantern.

Valsy Bergeron wonderfully plays the older sister Jennifer, on the brink of womanhood, looking out for her brother Josh, played by a young Joseph Gustafson.  They easily capture the family dynamics of push and pull, caught between Jennifer's rebellion against her mother, and her wish to memorialize her father.  Meanwhile Josh continually asserts that he believes that their father will turn up somehow, while recognizing that their mother is spending lots of her time at work.

The Arts Club has really developed a Christmas theatre repertoire for Vancouver.  “It's a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas” are currently playing at the Granville Island Stage and the Stanley Industrial Arts Alliance Stage.  They have also brought original theatre to Vancouver for Christmas with Nicola Cavendish's “It's Snowing on Saltspring” and Ann Mortifee's “Reflections of Crooked Walking”, as well as “Beauty and the Beast” in past years.  

“The Patron Saint of Stanley Park” was commissioned to Vancouver area playwright/actor Hiro Kanagawa as part of the Silver Commission, helping to develop new work.  Kanagawa is probably more familiar to Vancouver television audiences on many Vancouver filmed shows such as Caprica, X-Files, Highlander,  Smallville (as Principal Kwan), and Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet In Heaven.  Kanagawa often appears on stage, and was recently in “After the Quake” at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.   His past work has also included “White Balance” and he wrote “Tiger of Malaya.”

This family Christmas tale fantastically integrates Science Fiction, mythology and Stanley Park icons.  It is amazing to think there once really was a signal tower and bunker on Prospect Point, as there houses along Brockton Point.  Kangawa wanted to incorporate elements of Vancouver such as seaplanes into the play, to help build Vancouver's own theatrical references and recognizability.  And the audience loves it!  People can relate to the huge trees in Stanley Park and imagine the trees crashing down during the infamous 2006 windstorm that dramatically re-arranged the landscape of the park.

The multi-leveled stage is plain, covered with grays.  At first it appears boring.  But it soon comes to life, full of surprises as “trees” drop from the ceiling, darkness envelopes the theatre during the storm sequence, and bright lights appear in unexpected places.  Stage direction is clever and inventive, making good use of the levels, and the projections into the audience.  I am also pleased to note that music is by Noah Drew, whom I've known since he was a child 24 years ago.  Drew has matured into one of the city's finest theatre sound composers.  His work is subtle and unobtrusive, while being ambient and enhancing to the action on stage.

The play development is good.  At the end of the first act, the children have been rescued during the storm by Skookum Pete, meanwhile their mother is frantic and trying to reach her children by phone.  This perfectly sets up the second act for revelations for each of the characters, as well as resolutions to their issues.  There are some wonderful surprises in the second act which I won't reveal.  This play is definitely suitable for families, as the young characters carry the play along with Skookum Pete.  But as expected of a Christmas play, we are encouraged to empathetically share emotions with the characters, and discover what makes Christmas meaningful for each of us, while recognizing what is also meaningful for others.

Poetry + Christmas at Kogawa House with George McWhirter, Christine Lowther and Joy Kogawa

Poets George McWhirter, Christine Lowther
and Joy Kogawa give a special reading
at Kogawa House

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Joy Kogawa with Beth and Christine Lowther… old friends reunited. – photo Todd Wong

It was a special Christmas present for supporters of Kogawa House, when author/poet Joy Kogawa spoke to Christine and Beth, the daughters of her long deceased friend and fellow poet, Pat Lowther.  Joy spoke of light and dark, ugliness and beauty, of carrying things in our lives that won't go away, and how we become stronger through our transitions.

The atmosphere sparkled with anticipation and friendly greetings.  Kogawa House board members came early to set up food and drinks.  Supporters of Kogawa House came to witness a special event, and to come see a rare appearance of the house by Joy Kogawa.  Friends of Christine Lowther came as she launched her new book MY NATURE, and read poems from the book for the first time in Vancouver.  George McWhirter and his wife came because they love Kogawa House, and we love them.

Greetings and introductions were made by Todd Wong, president of Historic Kogawa House Society, he introduced the board members and thanked them for helping to create this special event, especially Ann-Marie Metten, the executive director, and chief volunteer.  Todd explained that this was a special one-of-a-kind event, because reunions were happening, new friendships were being made and first time events were going to happen.

Tamsin Baker, the Vancouver Area Manager for The Land Conservancy of BC spoke about the next stage for the house restorations.  She explained that heritage assessments had been done by Donald Luxton and Associates, and we were ready to move towards a restoration of the main floor.  The idea is to re-create and restore features of the house to what it was like when a 6 year old Joy Kogawa lived in the house with her older brother and parents, before they were sent off to internment camps in the BC Interior during WW2.  Tamsin also shared with the audience that City of Vancouver has agreed to a grant for $25,000 if we can secure matching funds.  2011 will be exciting, as we have waited four years since the purchase of Kogawa House, to be able to take out the added bathroom to restore the size of the living room, and to return the French doors to the Music Room, also to help enhance event space, and to restore the house, prior to renovations by the last owner.

George McWhirter was the first poet to read.  Todd and George spoke about the first time they met, right after George had been named Poet Laureate of Vancouver in 2007, and Todd had invited him to speak at the 2007 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Dinner, that Todd organizes each year as a shared fundraiser for Kogawa House.

George read two poems from The Anachronicles, a collection that moves backwards and forwards through time. reimagining the West Coast, from the view of the Spanish explorers as they explore and see the future simultaneously.   McWhirter prefaced his reading by talking about the magnificent sockeye salmon that happened in the fall, and how life must have been like for the First Nations with such bounty.  The poem is also cheeky, because it imagines that the Spaniards comment on the the beach where the movie 10 was filmed, and also about Bo Derek.

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Christine Lowther reads at Kogawa House, while Angela Mairead and George McWhirter look on – photo Todd Wong

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Christine Lowther explained that she lives outside of Tofino, on a float home, and so she writes about Nature a lot.  She described the beauty of the last unpaved road in Tofino, and the sealife and beaches.

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Joy speaks about light and dark, and how it's important to acknowledge the ugliness sometimes.  It was a very thoughtful and emotional moment as she channeled the role of sage, as she spoke with the audience.  The subtext is the internment of the Japanese Canadians, and the untimely death of Pat Lowther.  Joy made the transition seemlessly to say “Now we are in this house.  And it's saved.  And we are happy.  And our joy has come through our tears.”

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Joy read a poem from the anthology Verse Map of Vancouver, edited by George McWhirter.  George explained that after the house had been saved.  Joy sent out an email expressing her happiness.  McWhirter saw the poetic potential of the words… and arranged it by lines.  This was the first time that Joy had read this poem in public.  A magic moment.  Happy Birthday House!

Ricepaper Magazine 15th Anniversary + ACWW Community Builder Awards

ACWW Community Builder Awards
to Evelyn Lau and Tradewind Books
at the 15th Anniversary Ricepaper Dinner

December 11th
Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant
Vancouver Chinatow

It was a successful evening, when somebody tells you that they can hear people laughing from down the hall.  Co-hosts Tetsuro Shigematsu and Todd Wong had the audience laughing and feeling they were all part of the Ricepaper community.   From their opening welcomes, they acknowledged all the writers in the room: Sean Gunn, Faye Leung, Charlie Cho, Lee Su-Feh, Larry Wong, Jim Wong-Chu, Evelyn Lau, Jenny Uechi, Bob Sung, Gail Yip, Ken Yip.  They introduced the Ricepaper editors, Eury Chang and Patricia Lim + Ricepaper volunteers, ACWW Board members, Allan Cho, Ray Hsu, Tetsuro and Todd, as well as the members of the Friend's of Foo's Ho Ho Committee that had helped to organize the event with ACWW, and Ricepaper.

Tetsuro worked the crowd talking about the role that Ricepaper Magazine plays, while Todd playfully held up a cover of Ricepaper Magazine with Tetsuro's picture on it – “The Icon Issue”. Todd gave a very quick history of Ricepaper Magazine from it's humble beginnings as a newletter, acknowledging some of it's founders in the room, Jim Wong-Chu, Sean Gunn and Sid Tan, opening up the 15th Anniversary issue, to the Ricepaper origins stories Jim and Sean had written.  Todd also pointed out the people that had been profiled in Ricepaper such as writers Wayson Choy, Joy Kogawa, Denise Chong, environmentalist David Suzuki, dancer/choreographer Andrea Nann, and many others.

Good old Cantonese Pioneer “Soul Food”, is how attendee Bob Sun described the menu.  It was very fitting considering the pioneer history roots from which many of the ACWW and Ricepaper organizers have.  Soup was followed by an appetizer plate of garlic ribs, pan-fried squid and deep-fried chicken wings. Pan-fried sticky rice chicken is a Foo's Ho Ho specialty.  Mushrooms and Bok Choy, followed the black bean vegetables. Pan-fried prawns were followed by black bean fish, and more dishes.  It was good eating all around. 

During the dinner courses, volunteers sold raffle tickets, people socialized, and also checked out the many prizes such as theatre tickets to Red Letters and Rising Phoenix, bottles of wine,  + more.

2010_December_Ricepaper_Dinner 008 Co-host Todd Wong – photo Deb Martin

Tradewind books by Paul Yee, were a very successful live auction item.  Todd successfully conducted the live auction taking bids from both sides of the room with Tetsuro's help.  The book set contained “The Bone Collector's Son” which is the only children's book to be nominated for the Vancouver Book Prize. Also included were The Jade Necklace, What Happened This Summer, Shu-Li and Tamara, Shu-Li and Diego and also Bamboo – which was a nominee for BC Book Prizes Childrens' Literature Award. Lively bidding went between many different bidders… finally going to Vancouver City Councilor Raymond Louie.

What an introduction to Tradewind Books!  Todd next gave a brief history about the ACWW Community Builder Award, citing the first recipients were Paul Yee, Wayson Choy and Roy Mah in 2002.  In 2003, awards went to Roy Miki, Fred Wah, Harvey Lowe, and The Japanese Bulletin Magazine. In 2005, recipients were Joy Kogawa, Scott McIntyre publisher of Douglas MacIntyre and Gim Wong.  And earlier in May 2010, ACWW had acknowledged Edmonton writer/playwright
Marty Chan as a ACWW Community Builder, while he was in Vancouver for
the book launch of Henry Chow and Other Stories.

And with that, Carol Frank was invited up to the stage to receive a certificate for the ACWW Community Builder Award.  Carol gave thanks for the award and talked about working with ACWW and Ricepaper on the “Henry Chow and Other Stories” anthology which also included stories by Paul Yee and Evelyn Lau.  She talked about the important role that cultural diversity makes in the books published by Tradewind Books, and acknowledged how grateful she was to Ricepaper Magazine was in helping them find writers for Henry Chow project.  It was an earnest and sincere thanks that closed with her hope and promise to work with Ricepaper more in the future

Evelyn Lau was acknowledged for her trail blazing contributions to the community and significant body of work.  Tetsuro talked about how her works are studied in classes, as well as inspiring to writers.  Todd mentioned how as a young teenager she had first met with Jim Wong-Chu to submit her work to Jim's anthology “Many Mouthed Birds” and how she had only two weeks ago, received the City of Vancouver Mayor's Arts Award prize for Literary Arts.
2010_December_Ricepaper_Dinner 011 Evelyn Lau gives thanks for the Community Builder Award and shares stories of being a writer – photo Deb Martin

Evelyn shared with the audience how strange it is to be considered a community builder when as a writer she spends much of her time alone writing and thinking, but it was so gratifying that her work was able to touch so many.  She specifically thanked Jim Wong-Chu and Marlene Enns for sharing time and meals with her when she was a wayward youth.  It was a very heart-warming acknowledgement.   She next went on to read two poems: A Grain of Rice from the 15th Anniversary edition of Ricepaper; and a poem about Sidney Crosby's goal that won the Olympic Gold Medal.  Evelyn joked about how her poems are mostly dark, and she wanted to read something happier for the occasion.

It was a wonderful evening, as lots of fun was made when Tetsuro led the raffle draw prizes.  More than 25 prizes were shared amongst the ticket buyers.  The room became smaller and friendlier as all the winners were introduced to the audience, and many of the prize donors were acknowledge.  It was a great end for a small organization and small magazine to acknowledge its community, and its community builders.