#OccupyVancouver Has Wasted Our Time Long Enough

by Ed Lau on November 17, 2011

If only you could change the world by sitting around wearing a funny hat…

I’ve resisted writing anything in particular about #OccupyVancouver for a long time but since the city keeps delaying when it will evict the squatters from the Vancouver Art Gallery, I thought I should say my part. I mean, according to some polls, 75% of Vancouver agrees with me, I don’t know what the city council is waiting for. I probably should’ve written several posts over the course of the weeks rather than one enormous essay…but here we go anyways.

I went to Occupy Vancouver on that first day and listened for a good few hours. While I was in disagreement with some of the #OccupyWallStreet, I could see why this sort of thing made sense in America. People were losing their homes due to banks giving people mortgages they couldn’t afford, the economy was low and unemployment was high. People couldn’t afford the health care they needed while they were sick for jobs where they couldn’t afford to miss days being sick. It made sense. While their strategies to solve these problems were a little too extreme left for me, I recognize that these problems exist and that the America that prospered pre-2008 was in a world of hurt financially. To make things worse, the working class are the ones who are suffering while many of the rich get wealthy.

So let me tell you where you lost me and why Occupy Vancouver is massive waste of money, resources and time.

For the most part, none of those things happened in Canada or Vancouver. Canadian banks avoided the sub-prime lending that broke America. You can’t really get a so-called NINJA mortgage here in Canada, as we have strict lending criteria rather than just handing mortgages out like free samples at Costco. Our banks were affected because the American economy takes up a good chunk of the global pie. In Canada, for the most part, the economy has remained rather steady. Few people are losing their homes due to bad mortgages and while the housing market here in Vancouver is expensive, we are one of the most livable cities in the world and demand simply dictates higher prices one way or another.

Still, I thought if someone was really convincing at Occupy Vancouver, I might see the point. I may have arrived a few minutes late that first day but I don’t think I missed much. It took literally hours for the assembly to figure out how to speak to crowd and in the end, the only conclusion was that using a microphone was better than repeated yelling. In their zeal to include everyone in the discussion, more time was spent finding translators for every single language on the planet. While I have no doubt that the multicultural crowd spoke many languages, I have a hard time believing there were many that spoke some of the more obscure ones and not a word of English, evidenced by the lack of people that spoke up for several of those jobs. I saw a man with an enormous beard and wondered if he was clean shaven when Occupy Vancouver started.

Occupy Vancouver tried so hard to be heard that they forgot to actually say something. That about sums up not only for those first few hours but pretty much all of Occupy Vancouver.

The real issues were quickly pushed aside as the sheer lunacy shouted over them. There were all flavors of crazy up there that day including people that didn’t believe in money, 9/11 and Zeitgeist theorists, animal rights activists, and a guy that played the saxophone that was running for mayor (more on him in a second). Look, there are some parts of Occupy Vancouver that are within reason but it is by far drowned out by the Baskin-Robbins of crazy. Free heroin? A “maximum” wage?! An investigation into the events behind 9/11?! C’mon…if you want the city to listen to real issues then you have to filter some of the wackier ones.

I mean, what’s with that saxophone guy that calls himself the “Saxmaniac” (can’t make this stuff up…) running for mayor? I made zero sense of his speech up there that first day and it seemed like much of the crowd had the same reaction as he was booed off stage for taking too much time rambling on about his crazy. If that wasn’t enough, he wandered onstage at the mayoral debate shouting at the other candidates while holding a stuffed red lobster (seriously, can’t make this stuff up). But what really got me was that at the Remembrance Day parade at Victory Square last Saturday, he BOOED. No, really…this man booed someone onstage at an event that honors men and women that served our country. When he wasn’t heckling the speakers, he was talking loudly while people were speaking, asking “Is this over yet?” and other sarcastic comments. If it wasn’t already rather obvious that he won’t be our next mayor, I don’t think I could say enough in hopes of discouraging you from voting for him this Saturday.

It didn’t help that the majority of the Occupy crowd was carrying smartphones. I saw one Occupy supporter with a Marc Jacobs bag and a good number of the crowd volunteered their mobile devices for tethering when a speaker asked if anyone could lend the local media their Wi-Fi. How much does the system really need to change when 50% of the people that claim they’re being oppressed by the upper class can afford a $30 a month option on their smartphone plan? The whole thing smelled of entitlement and arts students looking for any cause at all to protest. I would know as I was an arts student myself and every single year, there are those that came to our classes to rally us for causes that most of us couldn’t be bothered with.

It also didn’t help that a lot of the people at the protests had no idea what they were protesting. More than just a few times, I overheard whispers of “So what the heck is all this about?” and such. I even saw a sign that said something like “I don’t know what this is for but I’m protesting!”. You have to admit that the whole “We are the 99%” is a brilliant stroke of advertising, giving the #Occupy movement a catchphrase that so many can relate to but the thing is, it sucked it a lot of people that are just there because it’s the protest du jour and hipsters that think they’ve found the new edgy thing to do ironically.

And it REALLY didn’t help that there is just so much hypocrisy surrounding the whole Occupy Vancouver movement. I’m not just talking about those decked in Abercrombie talking on their iPhones while chugging a frappuccino. I’m talking about those who say they’re standing up for free speech while rudely interrupting others while they’re speaking. Or maybe since the movement criticizes the media for misrepresenting facts, misleading the public or just plain lying when they themselves do the same thing. A speaker last Saturday was telling a small gathering of occupiers that the police were afraid of them so they brought in the police chiefs and fire chiefs from other nearby municipalities (“big wigs” he said) to put out the “sacred fire”. The Occupy Vancouver people have blown things out of proportion themselves in order to make themselves seem more significant and controversial to get more attention. “Look at me! I’m so badass the police are after us!” like a 17-year old trying to impress a girl.

I mean, I can’t think of any other reason why anyone would claim that two occupiers were kidnapped by a black, unmarked van with no evidence other than “trusted sources” and tell me that I can’t prove her wrong because I have no evidence that says two people WEREN’T kidnapped. This is the kind of logic that seems to flow around Occupy Vancouver that just boggles my mind. For a movement that criticizes mainstream media so much, some sure seem to model themselves after another publications that cites “trusted sources”, The National Enquirer.

And then there’s the drugs. I’m not going to argue with you about marijuana as it is so accepted in Vancouver that I sort of expect it everywhere and Occupy Vancouver isn’t an exception. However, when people start overdosing and dying, then we have a problem. Occupier like to say that this happens in the DTES often and that John and Jane Does found dead on those blocks of Vancouver don’t make the news every day. True but we aren’t looking to the DTES for leadership either. I’m not asking people with needles in their arms how they think Canada should be run because all they’ll end up with on their demands list is “Free heroin.”…oh wait…

My point is…I don’t know how you expect us to take you seriously with all this going on. As far as I and many others are concerned, Occupy Vancouver is a failure. You can say it started conversation and awareness all you want but the fact of the matter is over half a million dollars of taxpayer money went into this along with what must be hundreds of hours of city workers cleaning up and police keeping the peace at all hours. For what? What’s been done since a month ago? We don’t even see a list of demands. The movement has no focus. How can you expect change in society when you don’t really know what you want? With no leadership, the city has no idea who to negotiate with or how they could even get started on getting anything going. They don’t have to look at any of the issues you raised since you didn’t raise any in particular so they have all the time in the world to think up how to get you out of there. Evidence? How much of the political debate these days involves whether or not to evict Occupy Vancouver and how much is dedicated to the issues OV raised such as what REALLY happened on 9/11?

Occupy Vancouver has wasted our time and money. Some businesses in the surrounding area (such as the Re-Up BBQ food cart) have either seen a decrease in traffic and sales while others simply don’t want to deal with their unruly neighbors any more. I was sitting in the A&W getting a root beer on Saturday when an Occupier strolled in holding a large Tupperware container of food and demanding that the service staff let her use the washroom, shouting it while walking in. When they said there was already someone in there and that she would have to wait until that person got out, the woman stormed out, shouting “#*%& YOU!” at the surprised people behind the counter.

That sort of sums up Occupy Vancouver and protesters in general…the sense of entitlement they have that other people need to give them something they somehow deserve. A&W was in no way obligated to allow that woman to use their washroom when she hadn’t purchased anything and even then…they weren’t denying her the washroom, just that she had to wait, but still, that simply wasn’t good enough for the Occupier. I’m not part of this ultra-rich 1% but at the same time, I’m not mad at their success and I don’t feel like the rich owe me anything. I don’t want them to pay my way through school or contribute toward my debt. I try to figure out how I can get to that 1% rather than crying about how unfair it is. I don’t think most rich people are rich by accident. They’ve made decisions, gotten necessary training and are good at what they do. Yes, there’s injustice in how the cast of Jersey Shore is rich since I’m almost sure at least half of them would be dead by now if they weren’t on TV…but I’m not going to hate on the success of the Jobs, Gates, and Buffetts of the world who have earned their place in the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done more for the developing world than all the weekend hippies in Vancouver combined. The real 99% are those who worry about having food and clean water every day…not those who complain they can’t afford an Xbox because they have to pay off student loans.

Alright, so maybe not everyone there is like that but the entitlement comment stands. Protesting in itself is just that to me, especially something like Occupy Vancouver. It says to me “I don’t want to do anything but sit in this tent all day until YOU change something that I want changed.” That’s all a protest is…it’s a temper tantrum until they get what they want. If Occupy Vancouver really wanted to make a difference, they would put together some leadership and form a political party…preferably without people like the Saxmaniac at the helm. Think about what sitting around at the art gallery does…do you really expect anyone to say “Maybe we should listen to the guys sitting in those tents all day.”?

It seems in recent days that someone at Occupy Vancouver has woken up and attempted to filter out the nutjobs, denounce drug use and try to put something that resembles a list of demands together. I think it’s great that they’ve taken advice and sorted their stuff out but it just might be too late. I thought it was silly and doomed from that first day that took four hours before anyone brought up something that wasn’t translators or human microphones. You’ve had your fun, Occupy Vancouver…it’s about time we got all this silliness packed up before Vancouver has another embarrassment on it’s hands.

{ 28 comments }

in Current Events

Firstar Triple Threat T3 Sportswear Review

by Ed Lau on September 23, 2011

I know this isn’t a movie or a restaurant or something else you might expect me to write about on my personal blog and while I might not be a professional (or even amateur) athlete by any stretch of the imagination, I’m probably just as qualified as anyone to give you a real world, actual person review of a shirt like this.

Why? Well, first of all, I’m a born and raised Canadian kid and therefore, I’m built for the cold. I can go outside in the show with a t-shirt and a windbreaker and I’ll be fine but put me anywhere upward of 25 degrees Celsius and you can cue the complaints about the heat within the first ten minutes. I don’t wear anything but these sorts of shirts that are designed to keep you cool at the gym and I’ll seldom wear anything else when I’m traveling. During my Japan trip three years ago, despite being in one of the fashion capitals of the world, I couldn’t wear any of the great clothes I bought since it was damn near 40 degrees out so I needed to wear something appropriate to keep myself from melting in the heat of that rising sun, usually moving quickly on foot carrying 25 pounds of camera equipment on my back. Sure, maybe this particular shirt was designed with someone like Ryan Kesler in mind and while I don’t think I do anything as strenuous as playing 20 minutes in an NHL game, activities like climbing a mountain in Kamakura to see a giant Buddha statue or navigating the streets of Vancouver in the midst of rioters, tear gas, fire and chaos is tough work too.

I’m not exactly sure if they’ve hit the American market yet but Firstar is gaining some ground here in Canada. I can see the appeal…they’re a thoroughly Canadian company and the marketing features the likes of Kesler and James Reimer, who undoubtedly appeal to the target audience of Canadian, hockey-crazed masses. I pass by the Firstar office in Richmond almost every day and hear the commercials on our local radio station often but if I’m honest, I’ve relied on a couple of the other brands for so long that I like to stick to what I know. That being said, I was excited to take their new shirt for a spin when they asked. I buy plenty of similar shirts already. All the better if I know I’m buying from a company that’s located just down the street from my house. They mailed me one of their latest Triple Threat shirts about 6 weeks ago. What do I think of it?

The Triple Threat is made of 92% polyester and 8% spandex, available in a number of different colors. Mine is black with red accents on the sides of the torso. Since it’s probably going to be worn underneath a hockey jersey or something else most of the time, I personally don’t think the styling is all that important but it does look good and functional without getting silly like some others have with weird camouflage and the like. So when you do wear it to work out at the gym, you’ll look like a person rather than a peacock.

This particular shirt is a tighter, compression fit. Even though it’s a large, if this wasn’t made of stretchy synthetic fabric, it would be more of a small and I’d need a shoehorn to get in it. For example, pre-stretch, the shirt is about 2/3s as wide at my shoulders. However, it does fit quite nicely. It’s snug without feeling tight. I’m guessing this is what Firstar calls T3 Technology, which “reduces the muscle fatigue caused by clothing’s restrictions of the body’s movement.” Even though the shirt is snug, I didn’t feel like it was preventing me from a full range of motion.

The fabric is very thin and breathable. As stupid sexy Ned Flanders would say, it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all…nothing at all…nothing at all! While some other athletic shirts have vented sections with tiny holes for extra breath-ability, the Triple Threat is the same throughout but still feels very cool. My only real complaint about the feel of the shirt is that the stitched seams on the inside are quite pronounced and stick out while other sportswear companies have made it a point to keep the seams as minimal as possible to keep in the side of the shirt smooth.

I know this sounds like a nit-pick but these shirts are designed for movement and having those threads rub against your torso repeatedly can get irritating with all the friction. Just ask marathon runners what they have to do to their nipples before a race.

Firstar shirts use something called MST Microfibre Technology, which is their moisture wicking solution. I don’t know if I’m the person to explain the science behind it so if you want to know, click here.

Wearing regular cotton shirts and playing sports means you’ll have a heavy, sweaty shirt afterwards. Wearing something like the Triple Threat basically helps that sweat evaporate more quickly, keeping you drier and cooler, since body heat is lost in the process of boiling your sweat away. So it stands to reason that the quicker this happens, the better you feel during whatever it is you’re doing.

This is quite an arbitrary thing to test but the Triple Threat did a good job at the gym. After a 30 minute run, I still felt relatively cool and dry. After my bike ride and weights, I was getting sweaty but still felt relatively cool and as comfortable as I was going to get after a long workout. That’s not an easy thing to do, really…especially if you’re as sensitive to heat as I am. I’ve had shirts that were nothing more than fancy technology names on plain polyester shirts that do nothing. You know when you’re wearing something designed for activity and the Triple Threat does a good job.

The Triple Threat also features something called BACT-OUT, which apparently kills 99.9% of fungi and bacteria in the fabric.

When you sweat, your body is releasing water, sodium chloride, potassium, fatty acids with the chemical odorants 2-methylphenol (o-cresol) and 4-methylphenol (p-cresol). When these micro particles interact with your body’s outer bacterial skin layer, a strong odour can often be detected. As the particles are solid and are not removed as the water evaporates, Lycra (rubber), used in most performance materials, absorbs and embeds these particles at the microscopic level and, as rubber repels water when washed, a portion of the smell can never be removed. Over time this smell builds up until the garment must be discarded. BACT-OUT ensures your garments maintain their fresh smell longer.

Eeewwww. I’m not a chemistry major anymore so I can’t (and don’t want to…) put this to the test so I’ll just have to take your word for it, Firstar. I try not to smell my gym clothes afterwards but it’s nice to know this is something built into the clothing.

The short sleeve version of the Triple Threat is $49.99 while the long sleeve will set you back another $5 (prices in Canadian Dollars), which is on par with other similar products depending on where you’re buying them and what brand. I’m not a professional athlete so perhaps I won’t notice the finer details but the Triple Threat performs as well as my favorite polyester, moisture wicking shirts. I will say that I do really enjoy the fit as it’s not quite as tight as a compression fit but isn’t a loose fitting shirt either. Like the third bowl of porridge, it’s just right in allowing you to breathe and move but keeping the shirt in contact with as much of your body as possible to get sweat evaporate quickly.

The Triple Threat is a good shirt if you’re looking for a bottom layer under your equipment and jersey or if you’re looking for something to work out in. How comfortable it is for you will probably be unique to you but the fit is great for me. I might try to grab a long sleeve one for a base layer for snowboarding season.

{ 14 comments }

in Sports and Health

San Juan, Puerto Rico

by Ed Lau on August 26, 2011

San Juan, Puerto Rico

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that I’m traveling for the next two weeks in the Caribbean. I’m currently in San Juan, Puerto Rico…swimming in the warm, blue Atlantic waters and sitting on the beach with drinks that have miniature umbrellas.

I thought about renting a car but after going by taxi for a couple days, I’ve realized how bad of an idea that is. I’m not a scared driver on the road by any means. I believe the only way to drive is fast and slow is for the weak but here…well, there’s no discernible traffic laws as far as I can tell. There’s very few ways to tell if the street you’re on is one way other than if there are a lot of angry motorists coming the other way. I don’t know how the right of way works here because I’ve seen several people merge into the tiniest of gaps in traffic and I am almost sure that turn signals are for decoration only. In Vancouver, you could get arrested for talking on the phone while driving but here, every bus driving I see has his cell at his ear and ironically, there’s a sign saying you should never speak to the bus driver while he’s driving…I’m sure that’s just because it would be rude to interrupt his phone conversation.

Things move slowly here and no one seems to mind. I thought I was rather laid back already but apparently waiting 45 minutes for food isn’t uncommon. Gordon Ramsay would explode if he ran one of these kitchens. That and the bus I mentioned before just gets there when they feel like it. I don’t see any sort of bus schedule and even if there was one, they’re guaranteed to be late so your choices for transportation are either incredibly slow and unreliable or what can only be described as certain death. Jaywalkers just walk out into the streets and hold out their hands to tell cars to stop. That would never fly in Vancouver, where pedestrians are only a small step above cyclists when it comes to people we give a crap about when we’re behind the wheel.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

That being said, this place is gorgeous. Despite the heat and humidity, it isn’t seriously uncomfortable and there’s cheap beers, sorbet and other things to cool you down for a buck or two everywhere. There’s good reason this place is one of the most traveled places in the Caribbean.

{ 25 comments }

in Photography,Travel

Spend any amount of time around me and you’ll quickly find that in terms of humor, I’m not very easily offended. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m of the belief that taking offense from jokes just means you take things too seriously. I’m more offended by jokes that simply aren’t funny. If you can find humor in uncomfortable subject matter, then I just can’t see that as wrong. Laughter is a good thing. It’s one part of human life that sets us apart from our animal counterparts. Maybe except the aardvark. Nothing can be named aardvark without being hilarious. That and dogs that look like Chewbacca.

Louis C.K. is one of those comics that really straddles the edge of funny and just plain wrong. I think I first saw Louis C.K.’s standup some time last year after a friend sent me a couple of YouTube clips of his routine. I had heard of him before but never really bothered to look him up. If you’re familiar with his work, then you’ll undoubtedly know what I’m on about but if you aren’t, do a search on YouTube. Maybe not if you’re the sort of person that writes in to complain when someone inadvertently drops an F-bomb or when Janet Jackson can’t keep control over her nipples…as I’m almost sure bits like “The N-Word” will make you throw up in your mouth.

His TV show, Louie, is somewhat of an anomaly as Louis C.K. has almost complete creative control over the show. According to Wikipedia, the show is shot on a RED camera setup and is edited on C.K.’s Macbook Pro. That’s amazing considering how other TV shows employ armies just to make sure the credits scroll properly. It’s a different sort of comedy show with no real structure and the only cast member that shows up in every episode is Louie himself. It seems like the sort of show that C.K. wanted to make and would not be able to if he was controlled by network executives trying to squeeze that extra bit out of the ratings.

It’s a weird show and a lot of it is unexpected. There’s segments of Louis C.K.’s standup at a comedy club weaved in between scenes that reflect his life as a comic and as a recently divorced single father of two girls trying to get back into the world. That’s the quiet portion of the show, which actually happens more often than not. Despite the sort of things Louie says about how much being a parent sucks, it is immediately evident how much he loves his children and how hard he’s trying to be a good father. The things the show says are actually quite profound statements about life, love, and happiness but then it reminds us what kind of show this is with fart, penis and butt jokes just when you’re appreciating the warm fuzzies.

The show just feels very authentic and genuine, like you’re observing an actual moment rather than seeing a show on TV. It’s all actually very well done and brings a sort of strange, artsy feel to some of the dirtiest jokes you’ve ever heard. It might make you see some situations (like with mobile phones, for example) in a different light. I know I find myself agreeing with him a lot on a lot of subjects like censorship, violence and human rights. That’s why this is a great show…there’s still tons of laughs but it’s about more than just the comedy.

{ 10 comments }

in Entertainment

The Eagle…er…Page Has Landed

by Ed Lau on August 9, 2011

I’m still not quite sure what the benefits of having a personal landing page are but after seeing a few familiar faces using free services from some specialized personal landing page sites, I decided to make one of my own. If nothing else, it will give me a URL I can put on business cards that I probably won’t need to change and shows my entire presence on the internet. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve handed out cards but had to add “Oh, but my food blog is here.” at foodie events or “But I also write for Canucks Hockey Blog.” at tweetups. Instead, I can just hand them a card that directs to a site where all my online stuff is.

That and I have to admit, I thought up a somewhat clever domain name (edlauis.me) and registered it on a whim. I don’t like using free services since I think that’s like using Blogspot or Blogger or even WordPress to host my blog rather than having my own URL. I also thought it would be fun to learn how to write a website from scratch using lines of HTML and CSS code rather than having it all done for me with WordPress.

What do you think? O

{ 9 comments }

in Random,Tech and the Net