Robbed by karma

Mayor Rob Ford Stripped of Power As Mayor By Toronto Council.

Rob Ford will go down as an inspiration and a caution

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 23, 2014

Rob Ford—from the moment his crack-smoking images surfaced, to the outrageous sound bytes heard across the nation, to the jaywalking incident—has been a larger than life character. He’s been the butt of jokes and a resilient individual, and whether he wins his battle with cancer or not, whether he ever wins another election again or not, he will still be an inspiration to some and a caution to others.

Although Ford has been diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer, cancer itself is not that uncommon. The majority of us know someone who has been lost due to that disease and it can very likely materialize within our own bodies as well. It’s simply something we cannot control. Obviously nobody deserves such an illness, not even someone as unruly, pugnacious, and so unwholesomely dishonest as Ford. Nevertheless, as compassionate as I am, I do believe in karma and that the world has a funny way of implementing justice and reestablishing order.

Ford has lived a significant and successful life, not necessarily one to be ashamed of. He has a wife of over 14 years and two children. He was mayor of Canada’s largest city for a decade. But he also had many unlawful incidents and even admitted to being in a drunken stupor now and then, placing himself in regrettable situations. Ford proves to many that living the my-way-or-the-highway style of life is better than waiting for death. Ford did it big, and that didn’t happen by accident. He made choices, and that is something we—in our passive culture—often choose not to do because of our play-it-safe indecision.

Life is supposedly full of second chances; Ford had many more, and still reaped the bounty of wealth and privilege. The fact that he got away with so many potential career- and life-threatening scenarios is worthy of recognition. It goes to show that whatever we feel we have at stake, it’s not that high. We should take the risk. We should bet the house. We should be willing to lose it all, because we’ll have nothing in the end anyway.

Ford made bad decisions and became a sideshow in Canadian politics, but his attitude towards life is what’s worth noting. He didn’t back away from the limelight. He chose to leave an impression. He wanted us to care about the things he did, and we did. Above all else, Ford was an entertainer, a topic of discussion, and a snapshot of modern times. There aren’t many like him—and that is a shame.

At the end of the day, you want to live a life with no regrets. However, upon your deathbed, you are more likely to regret what you didn’t do rather than what you did. Ford epitomizes that theory, but not without consequence.

What Sales Pitches, Interviews, and Stand-up Comedy Have in Common – and Why It Matters



There are certain employment epochs I remember fondly.

Through those experiences, I had the opportunity to learn a bit about myself, as well as a certain skill set. But looking back now, regardless of the job, one component always stood out: attentiveness.

It didn’t matter if I was trying to convince someone to sponsor a needy child, seduce someone into telling me their life story, or simply make a crowd of people laugh, being aware of my environment was consistently instrumental towards my success.

Some jobs you can bury your head and work, but not mine. It’s important to look up once in awhile and see how the world is reacting. Then assess: should I stay the course? Or should I get the hell out of Dodge?



When I went about knocking door to door, canvassing for World Vision, I recognized that although I meant no harm, I was still an annoyance. People did not want to be disrupted during primetime television, they didn’t want to listen to my sales pitch, and they definitely were not inclined to open their wallets at the door.

I can gauge in approximately 1.3 seconds whether the big beefy guy with a frown on his face is interested, or whether the sweet old lady with a smile is actually listening—or if she just wanted company; if so, to indulge her would be to trick her.

A good sales pitch is not one that tricks people into purchase—it’s not a performance, it’s not robotic. It’s a conversation. When the door opens or when the customer walks in, that’s your opportunity to educate and engage. And that is done through proper interpersonal communication, not necessarily with showmanship or razzle dazzle.

The best way to make a sale is by recognizing whether the person can actually afford it in their lifestyle; in other words, are they worthy of sponsoring a kid, buying a toaster, owning a Ford Fiesta, etc.? You should be helping them. Lose the stress of the quota and listen.

Engage in a humanistic way. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself as a person, not salesman. A good salesperson takes the time to interact with the consumer, and not simply play the odds. Why do you yourself believe it’s a worthwhile cause? Before you can sell something to anybody, you must first be able to sell it to yourself. And then you roll the dice and see if the door slams in your face or not. No hard feelings if it does.



As an interviewer, people always expect me to come with an arsenal of questions. And I do. I write down as many possible questions I can think of, some pertinent, some filler, but on the day, I set those questions aside. The questions I prepared become a crutch. I’ll use them only if there is a moment of silence that needs to be filled. Aside from that, I do without the questions, the same way an actor forgoes the script when it’s show time.

Imagine arriving at a house party with a notebook full of questions to ask the guests. You wouldn’t sit down with someone and automatically start quizzing him or her on his or her life, right? So don’t do that in a professional interview either.

Before you start with the five W’s they taught you in J-school, consider asking this question: How’s it going? Establishing a rapport is fundamental to a good interview. Odds are the person will say something to trigger your interest and then your curiosity will take over.

A strong sense of discovery will guide your interview, not your prepared questions. A common mistake is focusing too much on what you want to ask and not what your subject is actually saying. Take notes if you must, use a recording device, but above all else have a genuine conversation. After all, as an interviewer you are attempting to tell a story, and stories, at the heart of it, are about relationships.

You can approach an interview with zero questions prepared if you are actually curious about your subject. Questions will come. With that being said, do prepare some stock questions, since some interviewees are nervous, busy, or simply less inclined to offer effective sound bites and insightful responses.



As a stand-up comedian, I learned that not every audience will relate to your jokes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find you funny. A good comedian is one that can adjust to the crowd and is funny through their personality and wit, rather than something scripted and rehearsed. You cannot force a group of people to laugh at you, but you can earn their likings, and that happens through dialogue.

I believe stand-up comedy is a dialogue. I’m not saying you should ever encourage the audience to heckle or argue with you. However, imagine a conversation with someone, but instead of having a response in words, it’s a response through laughter. Laughter is validation. But it can only come through if you understand your audience. This goes for all other form of public speaking.

I remember lectures I had in college where the instructors would just go on and on about whatever. Clearly I learned nothing. But the reason I can’t remember anything is because they couldn’t connect with me. They never looked up from their notes to ask, “Elliot, you get what I am saying?”

For comedians, the presence of laughter is affirmation. For public speakers, an absence of coughing is affirmation. Learn to read your audience and ask for a response if they are refusing to offer it. It’s a dialogue; there is no fourth wall.

Odds are, you are not the only person presenting at any given time, whether you are a comedian, a presenter, or the best man giving a speech at a wedding. In most occasions there is an opportunity for you to acknowledge your audience before you hit the stage.

In comedy, for example: if a comedian before you had made a similar joke to the one you’re about to do, measure whether the audience enjoyed it. If it received a lackluster response, consider swapping it—even if it might mess up your entire set. Don’t be stubborn when you know something wouldn’t work. Is the audience here to actively engage with you or are they just forced to be there and you happen to be on stage?

You don’t need to be the showstopper, but you should at the very least be memorable. Otherwise there is no reason for you to be on stage.

Whether you are selling, interviewing, or just trying to make a group of people laugh, the art of interaction is a two-sided rally. You might do the majority of the speaking, but when you aren’t, you better be listening.


For more information about workplace and hireable skills please check out Webucator’s Most Marketable Skills project. Presentation extends further than a strong speaking voice, and in today’s world, there is a lot of demand for hard technique skills in addition to the soft ones. If you are looking to upgrade your PowerPoint (and other MS Office applications) I recommend trying out the free demo at Webucator.

Speaking of the horny devil

Opinions_Dick devilWhy provocative art is healthy for the city

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 16, 2014

On September 10, Vancouver commuters travelling past Main and VCC Clark got a chance to admire the newly erected statue of the Prince of Darkness—briefly. While some found good humour in the statue, others clearly had penis envy after seeing the nonchalant exposure of the red devil. With one hand up giving some weird Spiderman web-slinging symbol and the other one placed suggestively close to the large member, it’s not surprising that many people were upset and the statue was removed. However, a petition to “Save the Devil!” is now surfacing online and the number of supporters has passed 666 in less that 24 hours.

Phallic and nude monuments and statues have been around since the dawn of man. From the statue of David to the world-famous Haesindang Park in South Korea, the highly touted male appendage had been an inspiration for artists for generations. Nevertheless, Vancouver has once again shown itself to be a prudish, stuffy group with a snobby belief that in order to be a “world-class city,” the only monuments worth presenting are those of animals and of Douglas Coupland’s head with gum all over it. If Gum Head is art, then surely Horny Devil—the name I’m giving it in this article—is art too. What’s the difference?

Let’s be honest, there are much more pertinent things to worry about than those blasted devil-worshippers corrupting our children. If a devil statue with a large penis is going to upset you on your way to and from work, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why. Art is supposed to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable,” but most artwork around the city is so forgettable that it might as well be fire hydrants, garbage cans, or those mystery grey boxes painted with foliage.

When seeing something like the Horny Devil, I get excited—no, not in that way. I feel as though some cultural progression is happening. We get so focussed on what we have to do on a daily basis that we forget what we are: horny, sinful animals. The devil statue reminds us that we are all the same on the inside.

I, for one, would much rather look at the devil than at an empty podium. What the hell is that podium used for anyway? What is that little public square used for? I don’t know, but I guess freedom of expression is not one of them.

I applaud the person or group that constructed the Horny Devil. After all, the city is full of CEOs and thought leaders, but we need more artistic rebels. We need people to break us from our status quo, refresh our memory, and allow us—as a collective—to grow. The Horny Devil does not have to be a display of immaturity, but the general reaction is a perfect example that we, as a city, are not mature enough to handle it for what it is. The Horny Devil is a reflection of ourselves and we are not ready to embrace it yet.

Tilt-themed TEDxVancouver 2014 Builds Upon A Legacy And Inspires Change

On October 18, TEDxVancouver will once again open the stage to inventive and inspiring speakers, as well as establishing a backdrop for deep interactive discussions. Although TEDx is continuing the tradition of delivering “ideas worth sharing,” the theme, Tilt, is an encouragement for us all to break out of the status quo, disrupt the pattern and strive for improvement.

“Tilt—the way we are describing it—represents this transformative sequence that makes us better,” Jordan Kallman, president of TEDxVancouver told Techvibes. “As an individual you have your routines, your comfort zone, your patterns, and other things you follow on a regular bases; we are calling that tradition. And the tilt is when you get out of that moment and out of your comfort zone. But you do it because there is a payoff to it; the sequence ends in triumph.”

This year’s TEDxVancouver applies the theme in all possible areas, including the theatrical elements on stage and the social aspects of the conference. Whether you’ve been to a TEDx event before or not, Tilt has all the makings of a unique and inspiring experience that might just sway you in a whole new direction.

“We want to break the forth wall,” said Kallman, “we want to break the wall between the audience sitting in their seat in the house and the stage. This year, with Tilt, we really want to engage audience members in the experience within the theatre. And we’ve design some really cool things to make it happen.”

Queen Elizabeth Theatre—the largest venue yet for TEDxVancouver with 2,700 seats—is an apt venue for opening up the conference socially. The way the attendees mingle is always on the minds of those preparing the event, especially since TEDx is recognized for the social engagement value of the whole event in addition to the speakers.

“[TEDxVancouver] is a very powerful networking platform,” said Kallman. “The conference itself is a great day of meeting new people, people opening up new social connections and being around like-minded individuals who are thinking about the future or thinking about how things can change or thinking about how to make things better. And the audience cares.”

In an information-overloaded world, ideas become a cluttered commodity, rather lost in the sands, buried in the noise or force-fed by an anonymous avatar. TED conferences, and their distinctive format, have been able to take valued ideas and place them at the forefront of our periphery, still allowing us to discover and digest it ourselves in 18 minutes or less.

TEDxVancouver is an opportunity to learn, but it’s also an opportunity for Vancouver’s thriving tech community to get together and exchange ideas both local and global. It only makes sense; after all, the T in TED does stands for technology.

“Technology has been the core of the TED platform since the very beginning,” said Kallman, “and I feel like a lot of the ideas on stage have something to do with technology. It’s a great place for the industry to self-develop, champion their heroes and talk about big ideas.”

Don’t tease me

Opinions_trailersWhy I prefer to not see trailers, previews, or teasers

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 9, 2014

First things first: I understand that movie trailers and television previews are marketing tools, used to create hype, excitement, and anticipation. They’re a hook to get viewers like yourself to engage with the entertainment, to let it into your home, and allow it to consume anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours of your life. Movie trailers are essential to the industry, but I don’t care for them.

How many times have I been suckered into watching a movie strictly based on the appeal of the movie trailer? I’m looking at you, Cloverfield,and every Superman movie ever. You got me! And how many times have I disregarded a movie based on its uneventful, lacklustre trailer—or one that essentially gave away the whole story.

But how will I know what the story is if I don’t watch the trailer or see the preview? My answer: a movie or television show should unravel as you watch it—you don’t need snippets here and there to propel the plot forward. The plot can do that all by itself. If you are engaged in a show, say, The Walking Dead, I don’t need to know which characters’ lives are jeopardized in the next episode. I can naturally assume that they are all in danger. The same way I would not want someone telling me the ending to a book, I don’t need someone highlighting aspects of the movie for me before I even grab the popcorn.

I get it. Your time is valuable and you want to be in control of your entertainment. Fine. But know this: some of the best movie/television experiences of my life began with absolute unfamiliarity—no hype involved, just brilliant storytelling. Trailers are misleading. They sell celebrities, special effects, and dramatic performances, but they don’t prove the worth of the movie, the same way a commercial does not prove the worth of a product.

For comedies, trailers ruin the jokes. For romance, trailers cram the key relationship into two minutes. For action flicks, trailers showcase spurts of explosions, car chases, and fight scenes that only someone with severe attention deficit disorder would find alluring. For dramas, trailers present a potential Oscar nominee crying out of context over a soft melancholy soundtrack. Gee, I wonder what to expect. Commonly the trailers tell you how to feel before you even buy the ticket. And I believe it’s that no-surprise marketing philosophy that is hindering the movie experience.

The fewer trailers you see, the less likely your perception will be altered when you watch the movie or show. You’ll be surprised to see a familiar actor appear on the screen. You’ll be surprised by the plot twists as the story unfolds before you. You wouldn’t want a magician describing the result of their magic trick before it’s performed, right? So don’t be angry because the theatre experience lacks the movie magic you expected. It might be impossible to avoid trailers altogether, but don’t get too hyped or disenchanted by them.

This time next year

opinions school resolutionsNew school year resolutions and the BC Teacher’s strike

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 9, 2014

Pessimistically speaking, whatever the New Year’s resolution you made in January was, you’ve probably given up on it as we head into the latter-half of 2014. If you weren’t able to reach your full potential this time around, relax: the way I see it, September is the real beginning.

The mark of a new academic year is always refreshing, even though I—like many students in BC—will not be immediately attending class this autumn. My situation, although different from those who’ve been impacted by the labour strike between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Liberals, still offers room for improvement. After all, classroom settings can only do so much in terms of learning. When it comes down to it, the students need to make that extra effort.

So I bring it back to the idea of setting resolutions. Where will you be in terms of your goals this time next year? Never mind what the world around you is doing—what can you do for yourself? And the better question is, how will you reward yourself next summer? Let’s be honest, this summer wasn’t shabby, but you know that if you can make some strides this fall, winter, and spring, summer will undoubtedly pay for itself.

As students, I feel we put a lot of pressure on how well we do in the classroom environment, yet it’s the workplace that we are really striving to excel in. One of my favourite quotes from Mark Twain is, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” What he means is that the courses you take, the homework assigned to you, and the deadlines you need to meet, should not halt your progress towards your ultimate goal, whatever it may be.

Not only is it common to give up on resolutions, it’s also common to get academic amnesia, where a whole school year would pass by without any recollection. So really suck this school year smoothie dry. If you are in class, try to apply what you learn to something, anything. If you aren’t in school—like me—don’t passively await opportunities, but imagine yourself a year from now. Think of what you want to know that you didn’t know yesterday, and learn it on your own merits.

We often make New Year’s resolutions into ambitious, life-changing goals. We want to lose weight, earn more money, and perhaps achieve something we haven’t before. All that is admirable, but let’s make our school-year resolution a building block towards our New Year’s resolution. Let’s work on our self-discovery and our intellectual enhancement. That way, when January rolls around, we can catch our second wind and improve from there. And it doesn’t matter whether we are in school or not.

Learning is all about attitude. But hey, for those kids who are out of school because of the strike or for those unemployed graduates, relax and enjoy this little break while you can before life grinds the crap out of you. Stick with it, and this time next year, you’ll be better.

What’s on the menu?

Illustration by Ed Appleby

… And other questions a person who can’t cook would ask

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 4, 2014

Why are we so indecisive when it comes to food? Everyday, regardless of my workload, obligations, or responsibilities, I’m required to ask myself a key question: “What the fuck should I shove in my face to shut my stomach up?”

Sustenance, pleasure, and an inconvenience: food. I’m not super picky, but I do have my preferences, although sometimes my preferences change due to external influences. These influences include my vegetarian friends, the price of the meal, and of course, what people deem to be healthy. Needless to say, I eat most of my meals in front of the television, at my computer, or even lying in bed. I’m not a role model, I agree.

But the problem is that I choose not to consider what I want to eat until I am already too hungry to cook or even to drag my lazy ass to a restaurant. I just pop something into the microwave or oven and forget about it. Done. I’ll worry about that problem again in five hours or so.

Cooking is a skill that I simply never acquired and now I feel a bit ashamed, especially when I’m invited to potlucks or any social gatherings where I’m expected to craft some edible dish to impress my peers and friends. “I’ll bring the cups and napkins,” I’ll jest, dying a little on the inside.

Correct, I’m not Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen, and I’m not even Guy Fieri in someone else’s kitchen. I’m just a guy who aims to stay alive and not get a steam burn when peeling back the cellophane of my Hungry Man.

It’s a sad position I have found myself in. In life, every person should be able to lick their fingers after a satisfying meal they have made for themselves—and then, of course, clean up after themselves. Nevertheless, I’ll never be an exquisite cook because of my bland taste, just like I’ll never become a tenor in a choir because of my tone deafness. It’s a fact that I have accepted. So I try to make myself useful in other ways: by suggesting meals to those willing to cook for me and by stocking up on crap that I can halfheartedly make at a moment’s notice. I don’t care if you don’t mind.

I have scrolled through Urbanspoon enough times to know that options and variety are far from the solution. Someone at some point needs to make an executive decision. When it comes to food, I have always been hesitant to speak up because I feel as though I have no authority in the say due to my taste. I was wrong. If I’m not the driver, I should at least be the navigator. Yes, true, I don’t care what we eat today, but I should be able to suggest something.

When it comes to picking restaurants or ingredients for dinner, it’s not about caring or not. You’ll have to eat, that is the fact! So make suggestions or pick something for yourself. At least one meal out of your day doesn’t have to be an indecisive mess in your schedule. So when it comes to soup or salad: I always pick soup.

America’s most-watched

Opinions_filming policeWhy police officers on duty should be filmed

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. Sept. 4, 2014

Security cameras are an integral part of many organizations, from low-level retail to big brand manufacturing. Whatever is recorded is rarely shown to the public or even kept for long periods of time, but when something occurs it’s always good to have video evidence, especially in this day and age when it’s essential to justice.

So if the barista at Starbucks has to be on camera all day long while serving coffee, why shouldn’t police officers be on camera all day long while serving and protecting citizens? Law enforcement is a tough job—I don’t deny that; however, I’m convinced that often the coercive measures taken to enforce the law might be overly drastic.

Recently, several police brutality videos have been shared on the Internet to ensure that the citizens being detained receive at the very least an apology for the forceful way in which they were apprehended. It’s sickening to see a police officer throw furious jabs at a man who has his arms behind his back, or worse, see a 200lb man wrestle down a woman and continue to pummel her while she’s on the ground. Whether the victim deserved the physical punishment or the police officer overstepped bounds is beyond me, but what I am sure you can agree on is that transparency is the key to establishing harmony between the law and the people the laws are meant to protect.

In the States—California specifically—there are initiatives for police to wear cameras when they are on duty. Instead of having spectators film police when a wrongdoing occurs, the police should just include that in their operations. If they have done nothing wrong in the course of action, then there is nothing to worry about.

The argument is that if certain people see a police with a camera attached to them, then a certain level of fear is omitted, but I don’t believe that to be the case. After all, I sure as hell don’t want video evidence of me showing disrespect to a police officer. Nevertheless, I would want even less to have a video of me being assaulted by a police officer. Moreover, why the hell should citizens, who have done nothing wrong, fear cops anyways?

Well, that’s because 90 per cent of people are law-abiding, but 99.9 per cent of people are unnerved by the unpredictability of law enforcement officers. Simply put, people just aren’t educated in what the police can or cannot do to us. The RCMP, and other departments in charge of our safety, need to meet us halfway. Certain public places are constantly under surveillance. It seems to me that wherever a police officer happens to be, that is a good place for an extra eye.

Cops are people too, and they perform a tough role in our society. Wearing a camera on the job is not an expression of mistrust. Instead, it should be seen as how guns, Tasers, and other technological advantages are used to help them perform their job. It’s an affordable measure that can save a lot of people from injuries and stop officers from stepping over the thin blue line.

Ice fucket!



Why peer pressure is so effective on social media

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 4, 2014

I, like so many people on social media, am a victim of peer pressure. Earlier this summer, the Ice Bucket Challenge to promote awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) seemed to be another Internet fad that would make an insignificant mark like the No Make-Up Challenge, Neknomination, and Harlem Shake. But that’s obviously not the case. The campaign has been instrumental in earning the ALS Association donations it wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Although some criticism has emerged suggesting the divergence of focus from disease to entertainment, and the ultimate water-wasting effect of the campaign is nothing to be proud of, I want to focus on the successful qualities: what peer pressure can do for us in the future.

The nomination-aspect of the Ice Bucket Challenge is most interesting. For some, being nominated may seem like an insulting gesture, a call-out. For others, it’s an invitation to participate. Initially, I watched the campaign from the perimeter, content. I’m not the most charitable individual, and if there was a cause for me to contribute to, ALS would not be the first—admit it, it probably wouldn’t be your first either. However, after I was nominated by a hockey teammate, it was no longer about the donation—even though it should’ve been. The point now was to continue the chain-letter effect, an idea gone viral.

Now I could have ignored the nomination, and I greatly considered it, as I’m sure many participants have. I hated the idea of someone pressuring me into an act in order to retain my “respect” within the community. Sure, some people might praise me for standing up against such peer pressure. After all, I’m not a conformist, am I?

Then I reconsidered. This social challenge isn’t a test of character. An ice bucket is not, say, bungee jumping. Especially during the hot summer we had, the icy water could actually be refreshing, no?

The Ice Bucket Challenge, like most social network challenges, is a demonstration of creativity. Let’s see how you can make pouring water on your head original. That was the real challenge, as lame and cheesy as they all end up being.

Seeing most of my Facebook friends and various celebrities participate is proof that there’s something about peer pressure that makes the Internet kind of scary. We could say, “No, the Internet can’t make us do stuff—it’s just a machine,” but when I consciously poured water on my own head and filmed it to prove to my friends and followers that I am just another brick in the wall, I knew that in the very near future I would be doing other irrational acts and filming it too. Why? Well, just so that I can continue belonging in the community and network I have worked so hard to include myself in.

This year it was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—it’s unlikely to repeat itself next year; however, that paves the way for the next fad. The Burn Your Shoe Challenge for Legionnaires’ disease. The Parallel Park Your Car Challenge for Parkinson’s. The Mortgage Your House Challenge for MS. And Big Brother will see it all happen on YouTube. Luckily for us I’m no George Orwell, but I will try to grow a moustache this November. I mean, if everyone else is doing it, right?