Sirens

Sirens, which premiered on BBC Channel 4 on June 27, 2011, is a TV show about three paramedics (British comedians Rhys Thomas and Kayvan Novak, and Richard “King of the North” Madden) and other emergency services personnel in the UK. It’s apparently based on a book called Blood, Sweat & Tea and is even apparently set for an American remake. All in all, it’s a really good show.

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Bikes and Vancouver

Vancouver’s love-hate relationship with bicycles might be, to the outside observer, strange. We’re a people that pride ourselves on our healthiness and our green attitudes, whether it be backyard chicken coops or office composting. We have a great recycling system in most outlying cities in Metro Vancouver, not to mention the city itself. We have pretty decent air, beautiful water, majestic mountains — Vancouver’s natural beauty and it’s obsession with green makes a lot of sense, really.

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City of Vancouver Reveals Plan to Do Nothing to Prevent a 2012 Stanley Cup Riot

Following the 2011 Stanley Cup Riots and the arrest and prosecution of several of the thousands of rioters, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has announced a bold new plan to keep the same thing from happening again: no more “big” celebrations. Robertson’s message? Read the rest of this entry »


One Woman’s Brave Battle to Fight Richmond’s Assault on Whiteness

Chinese-only signs dominate the Richmond Night Market, an example of the cultural cesspool threatening to drown to Richmond’s noble white heritage.

January 14th’s Vancouver Sun raised an important question: When will it finally be okay to openly hate the Lower Mainland’s rapidly expanding Chinese population?

To be fair, the question was couched and carefully sugar-coated as a debate on whether there should be a restriction on the number of “Chinese”-only signs in Richmond, but let’s face it: white British Columbians love being able to complain about the Chinese whenever they can smoke-screen it behind a debate on common decency or civic responsibility.

We all long for those dreamy, care-free days when “those damn UBC condo owners” were blocking the progress of a hospice because of their culture’s phobias and superstitions regarding the dead and dying taking up residence in their backyard. But we weren’t attacking them because of their race or culture, we were attacking them for being bad, selfish, nasty, rude and insensitive human beings who just so happened to be Chinese.

But when the Sun’s Douglas Todd brought us the story of a Richmond woman who was getting the “bureaucratic brush-off in her efforts to restrict the predominance of Chinese-language signs in her hometown,” I knew that the glory days of uninhibited Chinese-bashing might just have returned to us again.

First, allow me to pick apart that opening sentence: a “Richmond woman,” who we can only assume is not of Asian descent is getting the “bureaucratic brush-off” for trying to restrict Chinese-language signs in her hometown. Unlike those immigrants who aren’t really “from here.”

The Richmond woman in question is Kerry Starchuk, whose linkedin profile states that she works as a Personal Home Manager at Kerry, the Social Butterfly which does not appear to be a business, but rather a personal statement about her winning personality. If it is a business, however, you can bet your ass its sign is in English — as God intended. But not French, that would be a little gay.

Kerry, the Social Butterfly.

Todd argues that there are many reasons to support Starchuk’s campaign, which has since been “stonewalled” despite her many letters to the editor and “buttonholing” of politicians. Todd argues that Starchuk is not alone in her feeling that the many Chinese-only restaurant and retail signs around the city need to be reduced, or at least offer an English translation, but fails to mention anyone that has taken up under Starchuk’s banner (other than himself, of course). He goes on in the article to outline how British Columbians need a common language to flourish, taking his talking points from studies released in the Fall by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney:

1) Learning English may be good for immigrants’ health.

2) Everything that encourages new-comers to learn English, including having to understand signs, contributes to their financial well-being.

3) An emphasis on English-language signs will help reduce the segregating effects caused by the rise of Canadian ethnic enclaves, which have expanded from just six in 1976 to more than 260.

Then there’s this doozy: “Although these dominant foreign-language signs are permitted under provincial legislation, presumably in the name of freedom of expression, they constitute a misguided approach to multiculturalism.”

Kerry Starchuk and Douglass Todd think Canada’s mosaic could use fewer Asian tiles.

I’m the first person to say that “legal” and “moral” aren’t exactly synonyms, but come on. First, it is currently legal. They are not breaking any laws. But second – and this is probably the most important element of all – if a store does not have any English signage, what are the chances that its owners speak a great deal of English? What are the chances that the menus are in English or that anyone will be able to assist you? In short: for many of these retail or restaurant locations, wouldn’t English signage effectively amount to false advertising?

Then there’s the second issue, which is that no one thinks that calling an Italian restaurant “Luigi’s Ristorante” is terribly exclusionary and a misguided approach to multiculturalism. It’s expected because even someone with no exposure to Italian can probably figure out that Luigi’s Ristorante isn’t a sporting goods store. But that’s because English and Italian and French and Spanish and a whole pile of other languages share the same basic alphabet. Chinese – or, more accurately Mandarin and/or Cantonese – do not.

Another example of a culture trying to destroy Canada’s values by refusing to offer an English translation.

You can absolutely make the argument that if someone is going to immigrate to a new country they ought to learn the language first. And it’s a fine argument, but the trouble is that current Canadian immigration laws might require one person in a family to learn English, but then once that family member becomes a citizen, they are able to bring over their mothers, fathers, siblings and grandparents without the same language requirements being applied to them. If you have a problem with the predominance of Chinese-only signs (but really Chinese-only people, let’s be real), then your issue should be with immigration, not a provincial law on signage.

Ultimately, signs are a reflection of the behavior and attitudes of a society, not its cause. A town with a population of great drivers doesn’t need to have a thousand traffic lights, stop signs and crossing guards. And a city – or a province, or a country – with a firm immigration policy on English or French language requirements for its residents and citizens wouldn’t need to restrict its number of Chinese-only signs.

I’m not saying that Todd and Starchuk are wrong, but I am saying that they’ve aimed their fight at the very tail end of the actual issue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece previously referred to Douglas Todd and Kerry Starchuk as “racists.” Todd, although he did not directly request we remove the reference to him as a racist, tacitly threatened legal action were we to not remove it. While as editor I take a different stance, Arboleda has requested this line be removed.

So The Pletteau is no longer directly alleging that Douglas Todd is a racist, although About does refer to Todd as an “anti-atheist bigot,” so take it with a grain of salt. We have been wrong before.

 

Sarah Arboleda contributed this article to The Daily Pletteau. Read about her here.


Driving Rules You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Rule 1 in action.

I have spent the last several weeks researching driving and looking up obscure rules. I pass these rules on to you, free of charge.

PARKING RULES:

RULE #1: IF YOU CAN FIT YOUR CAR IN, YOU CAN PARK THERE

A lot of people don’t understand quite exactly how parking works, and it’s basically like this: if your car can fit in the spot, you can park there. Fuck, it doesn’t even have to be a spot. It can be adjacent to one, you can be cutting through lines, whatever. If your car can fit in there, do it up.

RULE #2: IF THERE’S NO FIRE, THERE’S NO FIRE LANE

Fire lanes are awesome because they allow fire departments quick access to hydrants and such and allow them to put out fires in large buildings quickly. But did you know that if there is no fire, legally you’re permitted to park in a fire lane? Hand-to-God, it’s true. So the next time you can’t find a parking spot at Walmart, just pull up to the fire lane.

There’s an additional myth that you can only park here 1) if you leave the engine running and 2) someone remains in the vehicle. Both of these things are falsehoods. Just park and go. If you hear a fire alarm, you have about four minutes to get to your car before a fire truck shows up. So take your time!

RULE #3: HANDICAP PARKING SPOTS: FAIR GAME.

Handicap parking stalls are, believe it or not, unconstitutional. All men are created equal, which means that we all get the same access to parking stalls. Fact: rolling is easier than walking. Why should I have to walk across a parking lot when it is easier for someone in a chair to wheel across the lot? I shouldn’t.

DRIVING RULES:

RULE #4: STOP? STOP WHAT?

Stop signs are awesome because you can recognize them just about anywhere you go: they’re reddish and stuff. What’s key to remember though is that they’re entirely optional. As cyclist Randi Gurholt-Seary argued in Vancouver last year, traffic rules are for sissies. Stop signs only apply to people who want to stop, so don’t bother. Especially if no one else is in the intersection. But if you do decide to stop…

RULE #4A: STOP SIGN PROCEDURE

If you’re a dumb enough clown to stop at a stop sign, you’ve entered stop sign procedure hell. Everyone else has to stop because of you, so here’s what you do: if you’re the first one there, go on through. If you’re the only one going straight, just drive through.  If the other guy looks slow, go on through. And if you’re confused, just wave the other guys through until the place is clear, then go on through. Really easy, guys.

RULE #5: HALF-MAN, HALF-CAR: CYCLING RULES (GET IT?)

Noted hero Randi Gurholt-Seary holds up the traffic violation ticket Vancouver Police Department officers gave her for no good reason.

Bicycles are awesome because no rules of traffic apply to them? Why? Because they’re also pedestrians. So when you need to take the road, take the road. If you need to bypass traffic or a stop sign or a light or whatever, just hop up on the sidewalk. Make sure you have one of those bells so that if some dumb walker gets in your way you can beep at them. You’re a car, too, so don’t take shit from anyone. And if some cop decides to give you a ticket for rolling through a stop sign, quickly contact anyone who cares and fight it in the court of public opinion first. Why should bicycles get tickets when cyclists are singlehandedly saving the world from global warming? They shouldn’t.

RULE #6: TURN SIGNALS ARE POINTLESS.

There, I said it. By law, you don’t need to activate your turn signal ever. In fact, it marginally drains your car’s battery and is therefore bad for the environment. Why would you need to use a turn signal anyway? People can see where you’re going when you move there, so it shouldn’t be necessary to indicate you’re going to do so as well. That’d be like saying to people around you what you’re going to do before you do it. That’s stupid.

 

There you have it, folks. Seven rules that may one day save your life driving. Commit these to memory and make sure to print out a copy for your glovebox.

 


Canada’s New Nationalism: Part Two of Two

On Monday, I wrote about my theory on Canadian nationalism: how I perceived we had changed from a whiny bunch of America haters to a bunch of patriotic, nationalistic individuals who just loved their country – like Americans, I guess. I mean, that was the response a lot of my post-Olympic discussions were about; how the outcry of pride struck people as being so American, as if that meant anything. It was my theory — and the theory of dozens of Canadian journalists and politicians, too — that something had happened (and what it was wasn’t exactly obvious). With a bit of time to think about it, I think I’m only partly right… well, maybe completely right. But like I said at the end of my last post (in what those in the know call a cliff-hanger or hook), I kind of wish I was completely wrong.

WHOOOO! WE'RE NUMBER ONE--wait, NUMBER TWO, WHOOOO!

It’d be easy to write a thousand words about how the Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot of 2011 was completely stupid: how millions of dollars in damage was caused in several hours, how regular people turned into idiots under the mob mentality, how the Vancouver Police Department was lil-prepared, in no small part due to the city administration, and how, well, absolutely preventable the whole thing was. Sure, I could write that, but I’ll save us all some time: it was absolutely stupid.

So, what happened? How did we go from a mature bunch of friendly Canadians who could host the world without an incident to a bunch of ignorant Canadians intent on setting their own city in flames? While a large part of it has to do with police presence (ie, the city was crawling with cops during the 2010 Olympics; during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, not so much), I think part of it is well, that nationalism Canada once seemed to yearn for. Maybe. It’s hard to say that when one contrasts this riot with the one in 1994; while there seemed to be a lot more focus on Canada this riot (more anthems and flags, whoo!), what you have at the end of the day is, well, another riot.

But it was my hope that our experience, our growing up since last riot, would have prevented this. But I think it exacerbated it.

I think Canada still has huge penis-envy for the USA. Sure, we spend all our time talking about how much better we are than the USA, but at the end of the day, I think there is some serious jealousy. Canada gets shat on all the time, especially in Hollywood. And while our credit overseas might extend a bit further, let’s be honest with ourselves: we (Canadians) watch more American TV and movies than we do Canadian or international ones. So when South Park declares war on Canada or Robin’s Canadian heritage is made the butt of every joke on How I Met Your Mother or when every other episode of The Simpsons has a Canada joke, it hurts a little.

I’ve been to a lot of hockey games (because I’m Canadian?), and this is something I’ve only noticed Canadian fans do: they boo the American National Anthem. The last game I went to, in fact, one fan shouted “This song sucks!” during the US anthem and a bunch of folks laughed; another person just straight up booed the thing. And while it wasn’t sung particularly well, that’s not a good reason to boo it (on a side note, and hockey fans can relate, it really bugs me when people shout out “free!” in response to the lyric “glorious and free!” in the Canadian anthem; it’s stupid and, well, disrespectful). Part of this, I think, is due to Canada’s love for the anti-American nationalism movie Bowling for Columbine; I think that movie has left an indelible mark in the Canadian psyche on how we view America. Especially, since (like I mentioned), so much of that movie is spent saying how much better Canada is than the US. Regardless,  booing the national anthem of any country has to be one of the most disrespectful things you can do. I mean, ignoring the fact that the US anthem is awesome (bombs bursting in the air? ramparts? sounds like a Michael Bay movie in the making, if you ask me), it’s just plain tacky: which is why you have this crazy response from American fans when the Canadian anthem is played:

I don’t want to read too much into it or to argue that all Americans are like this, or that all Canadians are like this (because I’ve never booed an anthem myself, anyway). But I think it’s terribly tacky and terribly, well, unCanadian to boo an anthem.

And I suppose that’s my next point. For a country of allegedly polite, warm, and friendly people, Canadians are fucking rude. And I think while this anti-anthem bull had been going on before the Olympics and thus before my timeline suggests, I think its gotten worse. A big thing that a lot of people noticed during the Olympics was how often the anthem was sung; and since the Olympics, I think it gets sung (especially at Canucks games) with more vigor. But there are so many tales of drunk Canadians heading south of the border to American events to boo the US anthem and sing their own, off-key, slurred, and with incorrect lyrics, that it has gotten pretty absurd.

Here’s where I’d like to end it, I guess: I’m not positive Canada has truly grown or changed at all in the last ten years, and if we have it must be for the worse. Following the Vancouver 2011 riot, a lot of people blamed the thing on a “small group” of anarchists, but one just has to watch the footage to see how many fucking people were involved. Sure, a bunch of folks, the very next day, went to help clean up. But I tire of the rhetoric that it was these people — and not the rioters (though the groups are not mutually exclusive) — that were the “true” fans, as though (especially in Vancouver), there is such a thing as a “true” fan, as though a particular group or person can “own” fandom. No. When sports riots happen elsewhere, it never happens when the final game is lost by the home team in the home city. Of all the instances in North American sports riots, it has only happened twice, both times in Vancouver, British Columbia.

So, this article and the last (over 2000 words), and the paper on which the first article is based, have all reached this conclusion: things really haven’t changed. Me? I still think Canada is the best place on earth and I’m more proud to be a Canadian than I was a few years ago. But I find myself wanting to spend less and less time around other Canadians.

addendum:

Last June this open letter popped up on the Canucks forums, and I think the OP — an American — has some insightful things to say about Canucks fans. Check it:

For most of my life I’ve often wondered why Canadians hate America and her people so much. Sure, I’ve been told over and over and over again that we’re ignorant hicks who treat Canadians rude when they come to Canada to visit her cities or fish in her lakes. The same can be said for French-Canadians in the east who visits cities like Boston quite frequently, due to the proximity. I used to live in Boston (went to school there), and by far the most rude people I’ve ever met were French-Canadians! They would literally tell us to our faces how dumb and ignorant we Americans were. They wouldn’t even try and hide their resentment. Folks in Western Canada are far more subtle about their resentment, but when given the opportunity, will freely share with us all of our short-comings, weaknesses, fallibilities, etc. About ten years ago I sad down at a restaurant in Vancouver and the waiter was very friendly and cordial. He asked us where we were from and my heart sank, because I knew that as soon as I said the USA, his attitude towards us would change, and sure enough, it did.

At first I thought Canadian hatred towards Americans must be jealousy, but as time went on, I learned that it wasn’t jealousy at all – it was the opposite. From my perspective, and from the perspective of many of my friends and even family members who now live in British Columbia, its seems most likely to be a bad case of superiority complex!

I do think it’s a combination of jealousy and superiority complex. We wish we could be an economic/militaristic/cultural superpower, and still be this bastion of civil rights we perceive ourselves to be. We think we’re better than the US overall, but wish we could combine what the US is great at with what we’re great at, and we’ve subscribed to the philosophy that if we bring America down to raise ourselves up, it’s fair game (like the old joke: you never have to outrun the bear when you’re running away, you just have to run faster than your friend).


New Year, Old Stunts

Jagrup Brar poses with welfare recipient Fraser Stuart to demonstrate that welfare recipients are people too and that he isn't too good to touch them.

While most people spent January 1st recovering from a hangover, BC MLA Jagrup Brar headed into work. Kinda. Sorta. Ok, not really.

Brar, a Surrey MLA, has taken on a challenge to survive the month on only $610, the amount of money a single, unemployed individual would make on welfare. The goal of the challenge is to demonstrate that it isn’t easy, I guess.

This is a political stunt of the laziest kind. Brar, who is a member of the New Democratic Party (the closest thing to socialism in Canada and, in fact, a self-proclaimed socialist party), is doing it not to demonstrate how tough it is but is doing it to score points with party leaders and voters. I’m going to be honest: the current welfare rate is too low. But a blanket increase would be silly, because while not every welfare recipient in BC does drugs, a lot do (oh yeah, for non-Lower Mainland readers, Vancouver has one of the worst homeless problems in the world, which involves a lot of illicit drug use and mostly-untreated mental disorders), and that would mean a lot of misappropriated tax dollars. We should spend more money, but spend it smarter, if you ask me.

But there are a few problems specifically with what Brar is doing:

1) His effort implicitly assumes that all welfare recipients are homeless.

Fact: not all welfare recipients are homeless. Duh.

2) Brar gets to go home and to his office once a week.

In 1854, Henry David Thoreau published Walden; or, Life in the Woods. It’s basically a long essay about the time he spent living outside of society… at first glance. Cursory research has demonstrated that Thoreau went to town now and then and his sister brought him pies and occasionally did his laundry. Thoreau did not “live off the grid”, but just pretended to. And that’s exactly what Brar is doing. No homeless person — as he is pretending to be — gets to go home and hang out with his family for a day before heading back onto the streets. The fact is that life for the average homeless person is pretty hard. The whole not-having-a-home thing is a bit of a drag, and you never get a break from being homeless. What Brar is doing is the equivalent of slumming.

3) For Brar, his homelessness began on the 1st and ends on the 31st.

Relating to the above, Brar only has to pretend to be homeless for 31 days. Someone who is more or less permanently homeless, again, doesn’t get the break Brar is going to get. He has the 31st to look forward to; a real homeless person has another month of homelessness to look forward to.

4) Brar is robbing the homeless.

This is what pisses me off the absolute most and does so to no end. All the above? Those are just flaws in what is otherwise a lame political stunt recycled from decades past. It’s not new or inspirational whatsoever. It won’t change anything and isn’t meant to, and that’s that. Brar’s money, fortunately, is not coming out of social housing or anything like that: he’s not literally collecting welfare. What he’s doing, I think, is worse.

Every time Jagrup Brar eats a “free meal” or spends a night in a “free shelter”, that’s one less meal for someone who needs it and one less bed. Brar is kind enough to highlight the waits at the Front Room (a shelter in Surrey), for example, that only has 40 beds but 50 people in line. The demand for these beds is higher than the supply. For Brar to essentially take a bed that someone else needs, just for a stupid political stunt, is absolutely disgusting and Brar should be ashamed of himself.

You can accuse me of partisanship, but I firmly believe that 1) the homelessness problem of Vancouver is ridiculous and 2) something needs to change. I work with drug addicts and people with mental disorders every day. The vast majority of them are great people with severe problems. Through life, every now and then, you stumble. You take a fall. Maybe you pull yourself back up, but sometimes, you can’t. I firmly believe that these people need help and that as a society, it is our responsibility to help. I don’t think Brar is entirely wrong in saying there’s a problem with welfare in this province, or that $610 isn’t a lot to live on. He’s right, and we need to find a solution to it.

But spending a month slumming and taking food and beds away from the homeless is probably not a solution. It’s a cheap political stunt and it’s disgusting.