Please and poncho

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Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 19 2013

The practicality and comfort of a great garment

By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer

Unlike cowboy hats and bolo ties, ponchos are a fashionable and practical southern style. It is a shame that Canadian culture has been reluctant to adapt this awesome form of clothing in day-to-day life. Often associated with Latin conquistadors and Peruvian mountaineers, ponchos are considered a style too hip to pull off in urban communities. But as Vancouverites we come into contact with atrocious clothing hourly, and if we are going to be avant-garde with our fashion sense, we might as well dress in something that is pleasing not only to the observer, but also to the person wearing it.

From the Andes to the Rockies, we all live in the perfect poncho environment. Subject to unpredictable weather patterns, it is always handy to carry a poncho in your bag. It might sound like a primitive garment—after all, how effective can a piece of fabric be at insulating the body and deflecting wind? But there is a reason that the poncho is one of the few articles of clothing that has gone unaltered since its creation in Inca culture in 500 BC. It remains more than traditional garb. Its simplicity and functionality make it perfect for poverty-stricken areas. That does not mean it is just for hobos; ponchos are dignified attire worn by military, merchants, and craftsmen alike.

Imagine spending the day in bed, wrapped up in a blanket. Unless you are an infant or in a coma, you are unlikely to have such an opportunity. Ponchos are the compromise for getting up in the morning. A day in one will feel less strenuous. For any social event with an optional dress code, I recommend a poncho. It offers the wearer an approachable demeanor, a carefree attitude, and a nonchalant sagacity. Like a person gaining the placebo effect of wisdom from putting on a pair of glasses, a person draped in a poncho will feel quiet confidence and comfort, one that a dress shirt and tie will never offer. So, why not?

There are countless of situations perfect for ponchos. During a day at a beach, a poncho can keep the sun off and double as a blanket. For a night in with a movie, a poncho becomes the stylish alternative to night robes and that horrendous invention—the Snuggie. Camping trips, wilderness escapades, dreary transit rides, and long road trips are all excellent occasions to cuddle up or stand proud in a poncho.

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Breakup letters

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Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 5 2013

From Elliot Chan, Heartbreaker

Breakup Letter #3

Dear Idiot,

Okay, I’ll try to make this short—just the way you like it. We are breaking up. So please don’t leave your Skype on anymore for me to watch you sleep. The sound of you snoring no longer soothes me—and yes, you do snore. You wouldn’t know that because you’re asleep! You snore and fart too! Argh! I’m so glad I don’t have to have those arguments anymore. And last week when I wore a new sweater and I asked you how I looked and you know what? You said that I looked good. God, I hate you! That is not what I wanted to hear. You didn’t even notice my new sweater. It was like you don’t even care that I looked good. It was a really nice sweater, you asshole! And FYI, my mother didn’t like you even though she was nice to you when you were over. She does that to all the boys I bring over. And out of all of them, she liked you the least. Please return all the things I brought to your house and left there as a means of making sure you were mine.

Have a good life—Not,

Disillusioned teenage girl

 

 

Breakup Letter #26

For my Platonic Love,

It was a mistake falling for you—a grave mistake and now we are both in danger. I have not been completely honest with you or completely faithful. It shames me to tell you this, but I am in love with another. Don’t be cross, for he is a sweet boy that treats me nice, although he does have flaws. You see, he is a fallen angel-vampire-zombie…I know, I know… it has been done, but that is not the point. The thing is that he knows about you and me. He said he’d fight for me, for he is ever so noble.  However I chastised him for being so stern, for you are a mere mortal who doesn’t eat the flesh of the living after judging them Yes, I have seen you without your shirt on and I know that you are reasonably fit. I’m certain you’d put up quite a harrowing fight, but still I care for you and never want to see you hurt, especially for me. So go on, leave me to die in his arms forever.

Painfully dramatic,

Disenchanted fable chick

 

 

Breakup Letter #33

To Client #1664,

Dear valued customer, on January 22, 2012, you signed up for an account on DatingLive.org in hopes of meeting compatible people and developing lasting relationships. We at DatingLive use a complex algorithm through extensive research along with our secretary’s assumptions to find the perfect match. Over the past year we have set you up with numerous women. After each date, you have left comments showing your satisfaction, but still you remain single and a proud client of DatingLive. We are convinced that our secretary was right about you and have matched you with one perfect partner after the other. We regret to inform you that we must terminate your account on the fact that you, in our secretary’s words, have “no game.”  You are playing with us and we don’t like being played with. Each and every girl on DatingLive is like a sister to us. So if you hurt or toy with any of them, we’ll find you and fuck yo’ ass up.

We apologize for any inconvenience,

Disengaging automated response unit 7421 of the DatingLive Organization

Food for thought

 

Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 5 2013

Fast and smart snacks for study sessions
By Elliot ChanStaff Writer

When we eat we often consider our waistline, but forget that food also goes to our head. Therefore, we must feed it the nutrition it needs to function at its full potential. But preoccupied students have no time to show their culinary prowess. Deadlines, responsibilities, and commitments take up time so that cooking properly is often placed on the back burner. Here are some quick recipes for eating well, so students can go from pots and pans back to pen and paper.

Tuna Taco: Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that increase brainpower assisting with comprehension, problem solving, and memory. Yet, fish can also assist in causing a big mess, so for now, let’s stick with manageable ingredients: one eight-ounce can of tuna, four corn tortillas, a quarter-cup of chopped cilantro (optional), half a chopped onion (optional), two tablespoons of mayonnaise, two tablespoons of sour cream, one tablespoon of lemon juice, two tablespoons of cream, and one teaspoon of oil.

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion if you’re using one. Mix in the tuna. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, and cream together. Portion the tuna into the tortilla shells. Add sauce, garnish with cilantro if desired, and enjoy.

Fried Rice and Eggs: Eggs are a good source of essential fatty acids and yolks contain choline, which is a building block for brain cells. Whenever there is leftover rice, consider combining it with eggs in a frying pan to save food and make a quick dinner. The ingredients are: one cup of cooked rice, a half-teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of vegetable oil, half a chopped onion, a half-cup of green beans, one beaten egg, and a quarter-teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Sauté the onions and green beans on an oiled skillet or wok and cook for two minutes. Pour egg, stir until cooked, then add the cooked rice and mix. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve.

Curry: Turmeric, the essential spice for curry, contains curcumin, which helps remove plaque from the brain. Although it may seem like a hard dish to pull off, a quick meal of curry is in fact pretty simple. So don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list: one pound of chicken breast cut into bite-size pieces, two peeled and chopped potatoes, one peeled and chopped red onion, one peeled and chopped carrot, two tablespoons of vegetable oil, two tablespoons of curry paste or curry powder, one cup of chicken broth, one teaspoon of granulated sugar, a half-teaspoon each of salt and ground pepper.

Heat up the oil in a wok and then add the chopped onion. When the onion is soft and translucent, add the curry paste or powder and stir (add a bit of water if using powder). Insert the chicken into the mix and cook until brown. Add the carrots and potatoes. After a few minutes, add the chicken broth, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir and mix well. Cover the wok and allow it to simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Eat, clean up, and then get back to work.

 

Celebrate the Year of the Snake

Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 5 2013

Chinese New Year festivities around Metro Vancouver
By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer

On February 10, the lunar calendar will flip from the year of the dragon to the snake. So forget the doldrums of January and ring in the Chinese New Year before heading off for the study break. Firecrackers, lion dances, and a whole lot of food are available all across town. Here are some of the cultural events happening:

The Aberdeen Centre in Richmond is hosting the Flower and Gift Fair on February 6-11. Since 1989, the fair has been the main stop for all things Chinese New Year. Decorations, flowers, and food stands can all be found throughout the mall.

On February 9, stay until midnight for the Chinese New Year countdown inside of the main atrium. Musicians, dancers, and other entertainers will be performing on the large stage for the duration of the night.

The next morning on February 10, out in the Aberdeen Centre courtyard the Golden Dragon and Lion Dance will present an extravagant performance starting at 11 a.m.

If you want to settle down and enjoy live performances, the Aberdeen Chinese New Year Cultural Spectacle on February 10 and 11 will host two separate shows. On the 10th, the BC Chinese Music Association and Vancouver Academy of Dance take the stage at 1:15 p.m.–4 p.m. On the 11th,the Colours of Dance Academy and Vancouver Cantonese Opera will be performing from 12:30 p.m.–4 p.m.

Popular downtown nightclub, Pop Opera presents the Year of the Snake Celebration on February 9th. Ring in the New Year with a night of dance and drinks. The first 50 people to arrive will receive red envelopes with money.

Come by the Crystal Mall in Burnaby on February 10 at noon to meet the God of Fortune and get a free calligraphy greeting. Then stay for the lion dances and the lucky draw.

The International Village Celebration takes place from February 15-17, containing multiple exhibits and hourly performances and draws. Admission is free.

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Snake Temple Fair in Vancouver on February 17 combines the festive with the spiritual. With a suggested entry donation of $5 you can enjoy food and musical performances, as well as visit exhibitions and learn more about the Chinese tradition. 

And finally, the Chinatown Parade on February 17 is the most renowned event in town. The 1.5 km parade from Pender to Keefer Street gathers a large crowd every year. Martial artistes, dragon and lion dancers, and marching bands will be making their way across historical Chinatown from 12 p.m.–2 p.m. Arrive early to get a good spot and then head over to the Sun Yet-Sen Plaza for the Festival and Cultural Fair from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Happy Year of the Snake!

The ball’s in our court

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 29 2013

Canada versus Spain in Davis Cup 
By Elliot Chan, Contributor

Since Milos Raonic was knocked out by Roger Federer in the fourth round of the Australian open, he has turned his attention back home in preparation for the Davis Cup. The Ontario native will team up with BC’s Vasek Pospisil, Niagara Falls’ Frank Dancevic, and Canadian tennis veteran Daniel Nestor to compete against the first seeded nation, Spain, at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre at UBC on February 1–3.

Though the Spanish team will be missing the prestigious Rafael Nadal due to injury, they are still a formidable group. Nicolas Almagro, the 11 seeded singles player, former doubles champions Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers, and 51 seeded Albert Ramos will be a handful for the Canadians.

“Spain is going to be a real challenge,” said Canadian team captain, Martin Laurendeau. “They are the top team in the world with incredible depth. They have 13 players in the top 100 alone so no matter what team they’re bringing, it will be stacked with talent.”

The winner of the three days will advance to the quarterfinals in April. Meanwhile the loser will fall into a survival bracket, where they will play a must-win tie in order to compete in the World Group in the next Davis Cup tournament in 2014.

The Canadians’ main cause for apprehension is Raonic’s health. He was showing signs of a foot ailment during his lost to Federer. But Laurendeau assured that it was nothing to be concerned about. “He’s fine, no worries about Milos,” he said.

It has been 22 years since Canada faced Spain. It was the only time the two nations had contended against each other in the competition. The result went in favour of the Europeans, who won the tie 4–1 in Murcia, Spain. Although the Spanish team had won 10 out of 14 ties in their homeland, traveling abroad has been a problem. They lost in the finals 2–3 last year against the Czech Republic team in Prague.

Canada, on the other hand, is entering the competition on a positive note. They defeated South Africa 4–1 in September to keep their position in the higher tier. The same quartet that secured their spot in the World Group last year is entering the same challenge this year. Should Canada upset Spain in the first round, they will have an opportunity to face Croatia or Italy in the quarterfinals.

Two singles matches are scheduled for Friday the first, a doubles match on Saturday, and finally a reverse singles on Sunday, where players swap opponents. Tickets are now being sold for both individual days and as a three-day package. There is also a 10% off special for students.

Too fool for school

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Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 29 2013

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

Before you consider skipping class, try to remember why you’re in school. Some of you may desire a quality job or have a thirst for knowledge. Others may be searching for new interests or re-evaluating an important life choice. Whatever your reason for being in school is, I’m sure wasting money and time is not one of them.

But hey, it’s your money and it’s your time, so why should I care? Because education is a commodity. By missing class, you’re taking up a spot for a student who actually wants to be there and learn. Not all of us are blessed with the luxury of time. With class limits and waiting lists, you may end up forcing those people to wait another semester or another year. Hell, you might even be forcing them to forgo the plans of school altogether. That is a crime akin to stealing, and it should be punished. Of course, we all get sick now and then—that’s unavoidable—but to miss class just because of your indolence is unacceptable.

Incentives may help some students to focus and excel, but not all respond to positive reinforcement. Tough love is often required to assist in developing work ethic and responsibility. Some believe that it is the parents‘ or guardians’ choice whether or not to discipline a child, even when they skip class. But I don’t. I remember the old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Many institutions in North America and the UK are starting to adopt that mentality by introducing fines to students and their families for unexcused absences. Those schools that implemented the proposal found attendance improved significantly. Although some students and parents view the law with skepticism, I believe that it might just be what we need, especially when tuition fees are so high. Use the fine for a scholarship, or to improve the education system; it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s going to a more deserving place.

School and work aren’t always fun, but life isn’t always fun. Still, you wake up every day and continue plugging away. If you don’t show up to work, you’ll be fired, so why shouldn’t it be the same with school? Just because you paid tuition doesn’t make it any less of an obligation, especially in a class that relies on you to have certain knowledge. Group projects are a vital part of most courses now. School should be a place to network and meet people and develop employment skills. It is not so strange to think of your classmates as co-workers, or even employers one day. Imagine that. Imagine the reputation you have in the classroom. Ask yourself, are you someone people would rely on to do a class project with? Or are you the chubby kid selected last in a dodge ball game?

Top five rising stars of 2012

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Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 29 2013

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

I brace myself for the unfamiliar. New does not always mean good, especially in the arts. Plenty of young actors, musicians, and writers fall between the cracks of entertainment and are forgotten. These are not the gutter artists; this is the list of 2012’s finest prospects.

5) Jay Pharoah

Perhaps the last good reason to watch Saturday Night Live, Jay Pharoah, the youngest member of the late night television cast, has been doing stand-up comedy since he was 15. Now at the age of 25, he is best known for his perfected impressions of Will Smith, Jay-Z, Eddie Murphy, and Denzel Washington. But the one that got him the most recognition last year was his impression of Barack Obama. Pharoah’s imitations alone were a good enough reason to not vote for Romney—there will be four more years of Obama, but many more of Pharoah.

4) Veronica Roth

For an author, nothing garners stardom like writing for young adults. Following in the tracks of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, 24-year-old Veronica Roth has found her market with the Divergent trilogy. Divergent and its sequelInsurgent are both on the New York Times Best Seller list, and in 2011 she won the Goodreads Choice Award. But most importantly, in April 2012, she sold the movie rights to her first novel. With the third part of the trilogy preparing to hit stores in the fall, Roth is the next rock star of fiction.

3) Frank Ocean

Christopher Frances Ocean, better known as Frank Ocean, had been in the shadows of Kanye West, Jay-Z, and even Justin Beiber for many years. But those days are over, and the spotlights are on him now after his debut studio album Channel Orange. He combines classical R&B, 8-bit funk, and electronic with inventive lyrics. When Ocean’s personal life caused controversy after he announced on Tumblr that he had fallen in love with a member of the same sex, Ocean was able to find more support than backlash. Times are changing, and Frank Ocean is considered an inspiration for those coping with fears of acceptance.

2) Lena Dunham

Finally I can say, “I’m watching Girls,” without sounding as creepy as I am. Lena Dunham is the creator, lead writer, and star of the best comedy on television. HBO’sGirls was nominated for four Emmy’s and won two Golden Globes in 2012. With Judd Apatow as her ally, failure is impossible. For Dunham, the future could not look brighter. With the second season of Girls premiering earlier this month and signing a $3.5 million book deal with Random House, what can’t this 26-year-old do?

1) Suraj Sharma

It is easy to be overlooked when you share a screen with a Bengal tiger, but Suraj Sharma’s performance did not waver for a second. In Ang Lee’s adaptation of one of this generation’s most influential books, Sharma proves that he is another young Indian acting pioneer in America. But there is undeniably something special about this kid. Whether he ends up being a permanent fixture in Hollywood or a one-hit wonder, 2012 was the year of Pi.

Thanks for joining us for our best of the best lists of 2012. If you missed any of The Other Press’ top picks, head over to http://theotherpress.ca to see our top five movies, albums, and video games of last year!

The must-haves in your 2013 fantasy team hockey pool

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 22 2013

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

The first week of the NHL season is underway, and that means our fantasy teams are gearing to go. After listening to the experts and analyzing the rosters, we step back and await the results.

For those who chose the Penguin’s captain, Sidney Crosby, this year in the first round— I’ll say congratulations. But I’m going with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning as my top centre. After all, the 22-year-old was the first player to score 60 goals in a season since Alexander Ovechkin did in 2007–2008. His individual success had been overshadowed by his team’s failure, but playing alongside Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone will always guarantee production from the young sniper.

Now, I might not have selected Crosby, but I did pick up his Russian counter-part and last year’s Hart Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin. With the absence of the captain last season, Malkin had the best year of his career, stepping up in every aspect of the game. Finishing with 109 points, the most in the league, the man teammates and fans refer to as “Geno” will make a big impact, regardless of Crosby’s condition.

Although his stock has decreased immensely this year, Ovechkin is still a great pick, and cheaper than ever. With 40 points in 31 games in the KHL this season, Ovechkin would be on route to a 100-point year should the games and stats be combined. That would make it his first triple digit season since 2009–2010. He is still a phenomenal player and I wouldn’t be surprised if he elevates his performance this year to prove he is still in the same class as Malkin and Crosby.

On defense there was no hesitation, I took Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators. With 78 points in 2011–2012, nobody expects the 22 year-old Swede to replicate the dream season. But with a seven-year contract and a Norris trophy, expectations are higher.

I could have chosen Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara as my second top line defenseman, but instead I went back to the Penguins and selected Kris Letang. Often flying under the radar on the team, Letang is one of the leagues most consistent D-men. With a plus/minus rating of +26 in six NHL seasons, Letang is reliable in all big game situations, including shootouts.

Finally, my number one goalie will be none other than Vancouver Canucks’ Cory Schneider. Regardless of Roberto Luongo’s situation, pressure is high for Schneider. Fortunately his first year as a starter is in a shortened season. With a total of 68 games in the NHL, the season will still have a familiar backup feel for Schneider.

As for some dark horses, on offense I chose Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis, Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson, and Edmonton’s Magnus Paajarvi. On defense I picked up, Detroit’s Kyle Quincey and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. As for my backup goalie I went with Michal Neuvirth of the Washington Capitals.

That is my team for this year. I’m sure by February I’ll be regretting most of my picks. But until then, best of luck and hockey pool responsibly.

Rising up down under Milos Raonic not among the elites… yet

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 22 2012

Milos Raonic not among the elites… yet
by Elliot Chan, Contributor

After a shaky first round in Melbourne, Canada’s golden boy of tennis, Milos Raonic, defeated Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol in straight sets advancing him to the third round in the Australian Open. Overcoming the scorching 40 degree Celsius heat, Raonic rallied through a first set tiebreak and then cruising to a 7–6 (7–2), 6–2, 6–3 victory. Although he is a win away from matching his best grand slam performance, should he succeed he would end up facing Roger Federer in the fourth round.

“It was a little tough,” said Raonic, addressing the heat and not about the prospect of facing Federer, “you found yourself getting light-headed. Other than that it didn’t seem that hot. The sun was covered by clouds. But the air was thick, it was hard to catch your breath.”

It might help Raonic breathe a bit easier knowing that he defeated Rosol, who got most of his fame from ousting Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last June. But with Nadal’s absence from the tournament, there really isn’t a point comparing him to Federer, Novak Djokovic, or Andy Murray. After all, they are the top dogs; the finals without the presence of two of them will be a surprise. But the idea of an upset might not be too far-fetched.

We can all agree that Federer is not the player he once was or that competition had stiffened against him. Either way, with pink shoelaces, the Swiss second seeder defeated Russian Nikolay Davydenko as the sunset in Melbourne last Thursday. After a 6–3 6–4 6–4 win, Federer heads into third round preparing to face home country favourite Bernard Tomic. Tomic had risen rapidly up the ATP standings. At 18 years old, the 71 seed Australian is the youngest player to reach the top 100.

For now, Raonic cannot worry about Federer. He has to focus on Saturday, when he takes on German, Philipp Kohlschreiber. But for fans, all eyes are towards the horizon, wondering what lies in store for Canadian tennis. It is hard to think about tennis in January, but the sport has been gaining popularity for years. With so many alternatives to hockey during the summer, it seems the powder keg is going to blow. With advancing victories from Milos Raonic, he might just be the one to light the fuse.

Where’s Waldorf?

 

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 22 2013

Enjoy Vancouver’s cultural landmarks before they disappear

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

Along the edge of East Vancouver, in an austere part of town, are relics of the old city. By day, the stretch of road down Hastings from McLean to Clark contains nothing more than a few auto mechanic shops and an abandoned Canadian Tire. For 65 years, the Waldorf Hotel has been a beacon for the district, but not for much longer. On Sunday January 20, the final lease expired and the new owners, Solterra Group, a real estate developing company, took over.

Since releasing the news earlier this month, the Waldorf has received overwhelming support from Vancouverites who want to preserve their local art and culture hub. Already, over 15,000 signatures were gathered for a petition to save the venue. For the moment, all that was accomplished was a postponement on the demolition until April, while city council determines its heritage values. So, if you are heading in or out of downtown these next few months, detour down Hastings and check out a unique city landmark before it goes.

But Vancouver is a big city crammed into a small space. Sure, the Waldorf is precious, but there are other notable spots that cater to arts and culture. Uncertain when the next one will be sold for development, we must seize the chance to visit them. I still remember four years ago, attending one of the last concerts at Richard’s on Richards, now a Yaletown apartment complex. Heartbreaking.

If you treat music like a religion, then a venue should be your cathedral. In Vancouver, the Commodore Ballroom on Granville is the Canterbury. Roomy, yet intimate, I can’t imagine the city without it. Hosting a wide range of popular and independent artists, you’ll have a hard time finding a show you don’t want to see.

Up Mount Pleasant on Kingsway and Prince Edward is the Biltmore Cabaret. Since the ‘60s, the public house has been a prominent site for influential music and art. After its renovation in 2007, the venue incorporated weekly and monthly events. Every third Friday of the month, Biltmore hosts the Ice Cream Social, featuring DJs spinning music from the ‘50s and ‘60s. And if there is nothing planned for Sunday nights, drop by for Kitty Nights Burlesque.

Out by the banks of False Creek sits the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. Most notable for the idle indoor locomotive, progressive community programs, and live performances, the events hosted at the Roundhouse are always culturally relevant and worth checking out.

Way out on the other side of town at Commercial and Broadway, amidst the coffee shops and train tracks, is the Rio Theatre. Built in 1938, it has gone through a metamorphosis turning from a movie theatre into an arts headquarter. It showcases talent in live music, stand up and sketch comedy, burlesque, and independent cinema. Along with new releases, Rio holds screenings of classic movies on Fridays. It just so happens that Zoolander will be playing on January 25th. Two dollars off for those who decide to come in costume.

It is a great disappointment to see the Waldorf being sold, but Vancouver is still home to some of the most diverse entertainment locations in the world. As some heritage sites disappear, others will surely take their place. Let the renaissance begin.