A night at the salon: Global Civic Policy Salon, October 28

I liken the Global Civic Policy Salons to a tasting menu at a high-quality, innovative restaurant. Each course is well-prepared, and some are exactly to your taste, but the other courses are still intriguing and fun.

The salon follows a format of seven minutes per speaker. It is always astonishing how much can be said in that time with a well-prepared speaker.

At the October 28 salon, I was particularly taken by Alexander Weimann on the harpsichord. In seven minutes, he not only explained how and why he had moved to Canada, and eventually Vancouver, in his dual roles with Early Music Vancouver and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, but performed a couple of beautiful pieces on a lovely harpsichord. I am constantly encouraging people to take advantage of the great cultural opportunities Vancouver offers, rather than pining and complaining about what it does not. The music that Weimann brings to Vancouver is top-quality, and we are very lucky to have his talent in our city. I strongly recommend you look up the Early Music Vancouver schedule and attend a concert.

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Sam Sullivan, who with his partner Lynn Zanatta, pioneered this salon format which originated from personal dinner parties they gave, said that he specifically tries to avoid themes when selecting speakers, but that themes always emerge. That phenomenon was clear when we heard both from Judy Graves, a tireless and well-spoken advocate for the homeless in Vancouver, and from Bob Rennie, better known as “the condo king”. Graves reminded us how the homeless crisis has mushroomed, how we never used to see homeless people hanging around downtown, because just about everyone, save for a very few, could somehow find some room somewhere. Things have changed fundamentally, for various reasons. She urged us to consider the plight of a homeless person stuck in the rain, with wet socks and shoes. The average homeless person loses 20-30 years of life expectancy. Graves often tried to find shelter spots for homeless people, and did not always succeed. For such a complex subject in seven minutes, Graves masterfully led us through the current situation, how it got this way, and what the consequences are.


In a way, I thought Bob Rennie was brave to speak after Graves, knowing that many people blame him for the current high prices of real estate in Vancouver, and see him as an evil force of gentrification, which I consider to be a gross oversimplification. But Rennie did not mention that, nor talk about condos. Rennie was there to talk about the art he has collected, including some explosive American photographic images that make very serious points about gun violence. Rennie has a public art gallery in the Wing Sang building (which he has renovated), and is Chair of the Tate North American Acquisitions Committee (have you ever been to the Tate Modern in London — if not, go!).

Another speaker, Daniel Kalla, focused on how to have a dual career, in his case as an emergency-room physician and as a fiction author (it’s interesting that Rennie also has a dual career of sorts as an art collector and condo developer). The key, as one might expect, is not to waste time on frivolous pursuits. Kalla claims to be lazy, but his literary output suggests otherwise. It is true that emergency room physicians do have the benefit of strictly defined shifts, but that just means they have what approximates to a 40-hour work week. I am always trying to balance my cultural pursuits with my need to stay current in my technical field (which I also really enjoy), so I can relate somewhat.

Corey Ashworth talked about his campaign to help LGBT seniors who have been forced by circumstances to go back into the closet. How can this be, in 2015? Sometimes they have to rely on people who are not accepting of who they are. Take a look at Ashworth’s March Sweater Project:

Nicole Bridger spoke about the importance of fashion with a conscience, and the sadness of recently closing her Vancouver factory, although she hopes to develop some other approaches to this problem. Kevin Chong sounds like a very interesting author, and Dale McClanaghan offered us the promise of a Granville Island with a lot more creative spaces, once Emily Carr University makes the move to east Vancouver.

For the $20 ticket price, you will rarely find such a stimulating and diverse set of ideas in one evening. Not to mention, the evening started with the folk duo “No Mothers” playing some fun music. Sign up so you can be sure of finding out about the next salon in a few months time.

Food For Thought – Awaken the Senses (Urban Thai, Jan. 21, 2014)

On Tuesday, BeyondYVR went to Food For Thought: Awaken the Senses, a set of presentations hosted by Urban Thai Restaurant in Yaletown. A partnership between FHS Events and Dine Out Vancouver, it was a reception interspersed with some vocal performances and a fashion show.

Being a fashion show in Yaletown, we were curious and a touch apprehensive about what the scene would be. We’re the kinds of people found in the back rows of a play, enjoying obscure Argentine piano music or randomly gazing at art nouveau from an open show that we just happen to wander into. High fashion with highballs is usually not our scene.

But we’re adventurous! Walking into a very fashionable crowd, we each started off with a nice glass of red and noshed on a few Thai snacks. While Urban could have easily thrown completely standard fare at us, they didn’t – satay chicken skewers, slightly sweet peanut rice dumplings in the shape of blossoms, and pad thai packed onto endive were some of the special offerings. The food was solid, and it kept coming, so the crowd was happily sated.

First came a slightly folk, slightly rock acoustic performance by Dante Jovillar. A nice voice, his songs were easy listening and good to relax into the evening. Leading into some spinning by DJ Kean, the energy was building for the fashion exposition.

It’s hard to comment on fashion because I’m not very stylish. What was nice, though, was how relaxed the atmosphere was. Urban Thai really kept the tone light, and the models didn’t take themselves too seriously. That definitely came in handy when the DJ’s music cut out in the middle, and one of the models was left showing off her outfit for more than a few minutes.

The clothes themselves seemed to be a spring and summer show, put on by Xixo leather boutique. Guests were designer Cuadra and stylist Dona, and the variety of pieces was nice for both genders. From warmer dresses with boots to leather top with miniskirts, to deck sweaters, jackets, boating shoes and the ever-essential business suit, the selection was entertaining, varied and surprisingly quite useful. I actually found myself looking at some of the pieces, thinking that I’d like to wear them.

After the show, we were treated to a few closing numbers by Solontra. Concluding the night with some power singing from a trio, this event made Tuesday a night for high fashion, lovely singing and good food.

Many thanks to Frances Hui and TicketsTonight for our tickets, and to the organizers for putting on a great event! I feel like my fashion IQ raised a few points over the course of it.

A rather special watermelon!

A rather special watermelon!

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