Emerging from beneath the Beijing umbrella

Opinoins_protesters-hong-kong-walking-web1Protests are necessary for democratic Hong Kong future

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. September 30, 2014

There is certainly more to the Hong Kong protest situation than what we see and hear on television and the Internet. With a foreign eye though, I can only assume that those protesters are just striving for what we have here in Canada—surely that cannot be wrong, although the method of obtaining it’s not necessarily kosher.

When a chief executive is elected by a 1,200-member committee for a region of over seven-million people, that can hardly be defined as democracy; the same democracy that was promised in 1997 when Hong Kong was handed back to be ruled under the Chinese “one country, two system” structure; the same democracy that citizens of Hong Kong have still yet to experience; and the same democracy that mainland China is now keeping at arm’s length, making protocols ever harder for equality to be achieved. The word democracy is a lie. So began the unrest in Hong Kong that resulted in 80,000 people crowding the streets, using umbrellas to fend off law enforcers armed with tear gas.

“Crowded” is the apt word for life in that metropolitan city. My father spent much of his childhood and teenage years there, and I continue to have family residing in Hong Kong; what they always tell me is that the conditions are cramped. A living area the size of a Yaletown micro-suite, with far less lavishness, will commonly house a family of four, five, six, seven, and more. I should be grateful, they hint.

Although Hong Kong is a main hub for international commerce and is an economic powerhouse, the citizens are not wealthy. The majority are middle-class and they are getting by. In addition to this, 50 per cent of the population is living in government-supported or -subsidized housing. And the future influencers—the current students—are looking pessimistically at what can be and what probably will be: a government with a fist full of dollars and a region at its knees. Hong Kong is not what it once was. Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou have now taken Hong Kong’s dominance as China’s gateway from the west. It can be said that Hong Kong needs China more than China needs Hong Kong.

However, Hong Kong’s culture and the Hong Kong people have long been removed from the mainlander’s ideals and values. A simple point is that the two regions don’t even speak the same language. There is no doubt in my mind that the two places need one another, but with a strong desire to take steps further apart, I accept the fact that those of Hong Kong are identifying more with Western culture as opposed to the traditional Chinese way of handling politics.

People of Hong Kong want money and they want status within the global economy—not just China’s. We know what it would be if it stays. I’m interested to see what the people of Hong Kong can do if they depart further.

The 2014-15 fantasy hockey picks

SidneyCrosby2012

Top 16 players in the NHL

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 7, 2014

The NHL season has officially arrived, and fantasy pools are filling up fast. If you haven’t joined one yet, I highly recommend it: it’s a fun way to get distracted from homework, work, or anything else that is totally bumming you out—there, I’ve convinced you. Now with that being said, there’s no time to be wasted, so here are the top 16 players (four from each forward position and four defencemen, goalies omitted) you should do anything you can to acquire:

1) Sidney Crosby, Centre: Since his concussion, I’ve been hesitant to select him first. Needless to say, every year that I don’t pick him, I ended up regretting it. He is the best player in the league, there is no point arguing.

2) John Tavares, Centre: The last few years showed Tavares coming into full form. I’m convinced he’ll have another 90-point season.

3) Steven Stamkos, Centre: There is just something about Canadian centres. Many will argue that Stamkos should in fact be the second pick behind Crosby, but I say, it really doesn’t matter. You can’t go wrong with either of the top three.

4) Anze Kopitar, Centre: And the fourth is not too shabby either. Coming off of a Stanley Cup victory, Kopitar is finally stepping into the spotlight as one of the league’s most dominant players.

5) Patrick Kane, Right Wing: With the memories of the Western Conference Finals loss to LA still fresh in Kane’s mind, I foresee a more determined Chicago squad.

6) Corey Perry, Right Wing: Always a sound player alongside his line-mate, Ryan Getzlaf, Perry can realistically reach the 40-goal mark again.

7) Alex Ovechkin, Right Wing: Once the titan contending for number one spot, now a potential candidate to fly under the radar. Ovechkin is still a prized choice regardless.

8) Martin St. Louis, Right Wing: An inspiration to his team and a 30-goal scorer last season. St. Louis was a slow starter when he was traded to the Rangers, but with eight goals in the playoffs, things look promising.

9) Gabriel Landeskog, Left Wing: The captain of a young Avalanche team has done nothing but impress. This season will surely prove that Landeskog and Colorado’s success was not a fluke.

10) Zach Parise, Left Wing: Always consistent and clutch. That’s how every sniper wants to be described.

11) Jamie Benn, Left Wing: Benn would not likely be your first pick, but if he is still an option in your second or third, don’t hesitate—he was one point away from the 80-point mark last season.

12) Taylor Hall, Left Wing: There is so much potential and hype. Could this be the year that Hall takes it to the next level? He’s a gamble that might pay in dividends.

13) Erik Karlsson, Defenceman: No argument. Karlsson is the best offensive defenceman in the league.

14) PK Subban, Defenceman: He has finally found his style and a new contract. This season will determine what type of player he’ll be going forward, and I predict he’ll be excellent.

15) Shea Weber, Defenceman: Weber’s big shot from the blue-line is just one asset you’ll gain if you select him. I won’t bother mentioning the others.

16) Zdeno Chara, Defenceman: The veteran with still much to prove.

So there are my top 16 picks. If you can get at least one player in each position onto your fantasy lineup, I can almost guarantee success—but I won’t, because I know this season is going to be full of surprises.

Reasons Why Rural and Urban Car Buyers Are So Different

Posted by  | August 28, 2014 |
Originally published on Unhaggle.com 

Reasons Why Rural and Urban Car Buyers Are So Different

Ever wondered why rural dwellers prefer noticeably different cars from their urban counterparts? The cliché is that rural inhabitants prefer trucks and SUVs, while urbanites prefer hatchbacks and sedans. The truth is that rural and urban car buyers live in completely different environments and lead completely different lifestyles, which, of course, means that their automotive needs are completely different as well.

Let’s tell a tale about two car owners: One lives in the congestion of the city, the other lives in the open countryside. One considers their vehicle as an option, the other considers it to be a resource. When a city dweller’s car breaks down, runs out of gas or is parked someplace they can’t remember, they can take a bus, call a cab or get a Car2Go or ZipCar membership. But if someone from the country is without a vehicle, their options for getting around are limited at best – much more limited than you may think.

When you look at the stats presented by Newspaper Canada, the cost for transportation is approximately 12 per cent higher in rural areas, with gasoline and fuel expenditures being  4 per cent higher annually than in heavily-populated urban areas. Automobiles are an integral part of rural living, which means that when someone from the country purchases a vehicle, there are a few factors to consider:

Point A is Further from Point B

On average, a Canadian living in a rural area will travel 33 kilometres more to a supermarket than their city counterpart. In addition, they will travel 54 kilometres more to a car dealership, 37 kilometres more to a local department store and 56 kilometres more to a discount store.

Running errands simply takes more effort and mileage when you are not in an urban area. However, getting stuck in stop-and-go traffic is also less common. So, when every outing is a little road trip, rural car buyers will need to consider a vehicle that has good highway fuel economy and a reliable engine that won’t give up.

Weather Conditions May Apply

When snow falls in the city, ploughs and salt trucks take to the road and clear the path for commuters. When snow falls in the countryside, you can rather wait for rescue or beef up your vehicle so it can take on Mother Nature.

Regardless of where you live in Canada, the unpredictability of weather causes many car owners to consider the performance of their vehicle. People demand their cars to handle rain, snow and storm. Because of this mentality, some drivers choose to rely on trucks, SUVs and other vehicles with four-wheel drives as opposed to sports cars.

Admit it, you’ll probably feel a lot more comfortable driving through a storm in a Ford Explorer than you would in a family sedan.

Rough Roads, Rugged Terrain and Lack of Maintenance

Constructions, repairs and regular maintenance can often drive commuters nuts. However, for rural car buyers, the grass is greener on the other side.

The further the road is from the city core, the less attention it’ll get. Resources are often spread heavily where the population is the most dense. So, oftentimes, a gravel road within a rural neighbourhood will be so low on the priority list that potholes and trenches will form over time, which can cause damages to a vehicle not built for off-roading.

Variety is the Spice of Life and a Lifeline

Due to limited space and expensive parking spots, most household garages and condo underground parking lots in the metropolitan areas can only occupy one to two cars – if they can afford it. But in rural areas, car owners can have a whole line-up of vehicles.

Rural car owners may travel further to get to a car dealership, but they also visit them more frequently. Excluding regular services, 13 per cent of car owners in rural areas will visit a dealership more than three times in a year. Whereas, only 7 per cent of urban car owners will visit it more than three times.

Having several spare cars is not only a luxury for car owners in the country, it is also an insurance knowing that if, say, a truck is not performing appropriately, they can still count on the SUV or the sedan.

Living in a rural area with one vehicle is like having one pair of shoes for every occasion.

Get Control Of Your Business With the Hootsuite of Mobile Payments

In a global economy where everyone and everything is here and there, Vancouver-based Control places the control back into the hands of the business managers with mobile payment access and upgraded analytic tools.

“We’re seeing all these new types of payment methods in the market,” said Kathryn Loewen, CEO and co-founder of Control, “but one of the commonality amongst all of them is that they are all moving toward open standards.”

Bitcoin, Dwolla, Apply Pay and credit card processors such as Stripe and Paymill have changed the way businesses operate. And as many as 70% of those finance managing companies have chosen an open protocol, which when integrated with Control will offer their users a more diverse payment managing experience.

Loewen added: “People have called us the HootSuite of payments.”

HootSuite capitalized on their success because they were able to build business applications on top of the Twitter API. At one point, Facebook tried to purchase the social media management dashboard and make them the primary dashboard for Facebook, but Hootsuite declined the offer, knowing that the bigger opportunity comes by connecting to every platform.

Control is doing what Hootsuite did for content developers, social media coordinators, etc. and is applying that model to payment stacks for businesses. And like Hootsuite, Control is “platform agnostic,” which is one of the reasons why they have integrated so well with numerous online payment companies such as Stripe.

Stripe’s easy merchant onboarding makes it simple for users to sign up and for businesses to freely access their API. It was Stripe’s push toward this open API model that shifted the momentum of the industry. Even PayPal—a traditionally closed platform—who’ve spent many years enjoying their monopoly are now participating in this open-data economy.

Moreover, the high demand for quality analytic tools adds another valued element to Control. The same way Hootsuite built better analytics than Twitter, Control refined that aspect for payment platforms.

“We’re solving two problems: Online business managers—who start using Stripe or PayPal to manage their business—they are still dealing with the fact that they are using different platforms or different dashboards to manage all those different payment methods,” said Loewen, “and also, no good mobile app exist for those payment platforms.”

Although any merchant or business manager can benefit from Control, the most prevalent users are those that run a SAAS, online or global business, which requires the business managers to be somewhat like “modern nomads.” The ability to manage transaction activities directly from the mobile app, while they are on the go, will ease workflow, improve customer service and be more vigilant against fraud through mobile payment.

“Our target market may have a checkout that’s optimized for mobile, they might not, it doesn’t really matter,” said Loewen. “What we really care about is helping them manage their business better.”

Control’s iOS and Android apps are now integrated with Stripe, in addition to being the first Paymill app in Europe. Currently Control is building the control board for the web-based analytics and preparing to launch beta within the next month. By the end of the 2014 Control will go live anywhere Stripe is available as well as targeting the 9 million PayPal merchants across the globe.

Post-apocalyptic fantasy picks

Graphic by Joel McCarthy

Who would you choose to survive with you when it’s all over?

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

It’s moments before the end of the world and you have a shelter large enough to fit five people. That means now is the time to draft your top picks. These elite individuals will help you survive on a planet that is no longer safe for humans or celebrities. Zombies, earthquakes, and rival survivors are coming for you, so you better make the right choice. Here are mine:

Brad Pitt: If you don’t take Brad Pitt right away, lord knows your competitors will. Don’t wait! Draft Pitt as early as possible. Not only is he the perfect specimen of a Caucasian male, he also proves to be a game changer in post-apocalyptic scenarios (source: World War Z). There are two rules when the world ends. Number one: you don’t talk about Fight Club. Number two: you draft Brad Pitt first!

Jennifer Lawrence: Why is Jennifer Lawrence my second pick? She’s not only a radiant superstar, but she’s also a super survivor. We saw her survive the Hunger Games. We saw her survive a leaked-photo controversy. We saw her survive her climb up the Dolby Theatre stage to retrieve her Academy award. Moreover, Lawrence is totally a perfect candidate for any post-apocalyptic reproduction initiatives.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: In modern times, Arnold is arguably the most successful human being in the world. He’s a bodybuilder; he’s a politician. He has several memorable catchphrases; he has an illegitimate family. There isn’t anything the Terminator hasn’t done and there isn’t anything he can’t do—except for enunciating words properly. I’ll grab Arnold as early as possible, because if you don’t, you can say: “hasta la vista, baby” to your chances of surviving.

Les Stroud (Survivorman): I know you might go camping occasionally and think of yourself as a Wildman, but let’s be honest, sooner or later you’ll need some help. Picking Les Stroud will not only guarantee a good honest living off of natural resources, you’ll also have terrific home video of your post-apocalyptic experience, which you can then share with your grandchildren and in-laws during family dinners and holidays.

Seth Rogen: Think of the most ideal person to be with during the end of the world, and Seth Rogen will naturally come to mind. Not only will he give you are reason to live with his mirth-filled, bellowing laughter, he’ll also transcend composure with his stoner demeanour. Just ask Jay Baruchel who he wants to listen to Backstreet Boys in heaven with, and you’ll know that everybody—including Baruchel—wants it to be Seth Rogen. So don’t hesitate, he might not seem to be a priority pick, but believe me, he is.

And for the Wild Card, I choose Will Smith. Although he was disappointing in the ominously titled M. Night Shyamalan movie After Earth, he is still a formidable choice because of two things: his resiliency in I Am Legend and his drive in The Pursuit of Happyness. Plus it’s totally a race, equality thing. You don’t want to live in a weird secular world, right?

Well those were my top five picks and one wild card to survive with me in the post-apocalyptic world. Sorry if you’re not included. Remember, it’s every man for himself, and every man needs a Seth Rogen, so good luck! Meet you at Terminus.

New-look: Canucks can do no worse

Sports_Jim Benning (GM for Canucks)

Expectations are low to open 2014-15 season

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

With no time for reminiscing, the Vancouver Canucks are looking optimistically to the future and hoping to regain some prowess within the Western Conference. It was easy to cheer for Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, and John Tortorella when things were going well, but ultimately they—as key leaders within the team—were to blame for the 2013-14 farce of a hockey season.

For once in a long while, fans and ownership agreed that change was the only route going forward. Bringing back Trevor Linden was undoubtedly a morale boost that will change the characteristics of the whole organization. The hiring of Jim Benning as general manager officially marked the next era for the Canucks, and after the abusive relationship with former GM Mike Gillis the players can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that their requests wouldn’t turn into a melodramatic affair. And finally, Willie Desjardins will take over behind the bench. The man has won at every level except for the NHL, and although that doesn’t mean much in the short-term, it’s better than acquiring another has-been head coach.

As disappointing as the Canucks’ season was last year, the same can be said about Ryan Miller’s whole career. The 34-year-old American goaltender’s highlights include backstopping the underachieving Buffalo Sabres for more than a decade and losing the gold medal in the blockbuster 2010 Olympics. However, the St. Louis Blues expected him to be the saviour in the playoffs last year. He was not. It seems fitting that Miller has found his way to the goalie graveyard at the latter part of his career. But it might not be the end yet! He is a terrific, outspoken goalie. Perhaps now, it’s Miller time in Vancouver.

While the core—the Sedin twins, Kevin Bieksa, and Dan Hamhuis—will maintain some stability within the team, the microscope will be on wily sniper, Radim Vrbata, resident tough guy, Derek Dorsett, and skillful, yet unproven centre, Nick Bonino. All three of them were brought in for a specific reason, and if they can’t perform the task, it’ll be a bust for sure.

For the past decade or so, the Canucks’ image within the league is that the team is full of whiners, incapable of standing up for themselves. They are highly skilled but are always pleading to the referees for favours. Benning has made the necessary moves to change the attitude, and only time will tell whether Desjardins’ game plan will measure up to the competition.

The juggernauts from California continue to be Vancouver’s most challenging oppositions, while Chicago games will no doubt gather a crowd. But the most important thing for Canucks to do this season is to win the games within the Canadian border. Beating down the Oilers, Flames, and Jets will go a long way to winning the Stanley Cup, but at the moment those are the only freebies. They need to take it.

The Canucks, at best, are a bubble team, destined to finish between 10th and seventh within the conference. They could either have another valiant run in the playoffs or be incredibly disappointed. Fans are excited to see the new look, but they aren’t getting their hopes up. After such a humbling season, the organization will benefit from anything positive. We must remember that the Canucks are in a rebuild. The slogan “Change is coming” speaks volumes, but it doesn’t inspire much optimism.

Raw food and nudity

Opinions_NAKED_SUSHI

Naked sushi and other gimmicky dining might not only be for acquired taste

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

Toronto-based restaurant, Naked Sushi has brought—the somewhat traditional and somewhat taboo dining experience—nyotaimori to Vancouver. Critics in the feminist camp were quick to address it as “sexist,” “discriminatory,” and “gross.”

Although sushi is an acquired taste for Westerners, eating it off of a naked human (usually female) body seems to go against every human custom in the world. But after hearing about the platters’ discipline—how they splash cold water on themselves to lower their body temperatures and how they stay completely still during the two-hour long experience—I’m able to see the artistic value of Naked Sushi.

I don’t imagine many little girls dream of being serving dishes when they grow up, the same way girls don’t aspire to be strippers. However, those who do choose to pole dance would tell you that in order to perform skillfully, the dancer not only needs to be attractive, but also well-practiced, athletic, and artistic.

But the question remains: would I eat sushi off of a naked human body? Yes, I would and I wouldn’t even consider the five-second rule. It’s true that I might be nurturing a culture that objectifies women—after all, I would be much less inclined to eat off of a man’s torso, double-standard acknowledged—but there is nothing wrong with using natural resources. If the opportunity arises where I am invited to partake in such a unique experience, I won’t decline.

Keep in mind that the models are not being mistreated, and they are willingly offering their bodies to be decorated with food. The caterers have strictly prohibited lewd acts, both physical and verbal, and sanitation is always the overriding factor. When it comes to restaurants, sultry servers have always been a key attraction for patrons. Do I know that the waitresses at Earls or Hooters get more harassing comments during their eight-hour shifts? Of course not. But would I be surprised if they do? No.

Food brings people together and pulls others apart. That’s the beauty of dining: everyone has a different taste. I enjoy gimmicky restaurants, at least the idea of them. I personally get tired of the same old meal every day, so I’ll take anything that allows me to refresh my senses—whether it’s just turning off the lights in Kitsilano’s Dark Table or allowing me to create art while I eat at Yaletown’s Raw Canvas. New experiences are what life is all about, and with three meals a day, there isn’t much to lose.

I don’t believe Naked Sushi is sexist or discriminatory or even gross, but I do believe that it’s not for everyone. After all, not everyone likes sushi. Not everyone likes nude models. Not everyone likes to break out of their comfort zone. But hey, everyone has different tastes, and that shouldn’t be condemned.