Moleskin vs Leuchtturm1917: Which is the Better Notebook for Writers

All writers need notebooks. Even if you do the majority of your writing on the computer, you’ll want something physical to jot down your ideas. I find notebooks to be a fantastic way of qualifying an idea. It’s how I decide whether there is juice in it worth squeezing. 

If you talk to 10 different writers and you’ll find 10 different ways of using a notebook. But what is the best notebook? Two brand comes to mind: Moleskine and Leuchtturm1917

I’ve always wanted a really nice notebook, but I’ve never allowed myself to splurge on one — and I know a lot of you feel the same way. But then I thought, hey! I’m a writer. My expenses are pretty low (pen and paper, is really all I need), if I can afford it — and I feel like I’m going to use it all the way through, why shouldn’t I have a nice one. 

So, if you have that thought as well, now you get to pick: Do I want a Moleskine or do I want a Leuchtturm1917? Well… I did splurge and I bought both of them and I want to share my experiences so far with you. 

Moleskine

Moleskine Plain Notebook

This is the Moleskine Classic Collection: Plain Notebook with 240 plain pages at 13 cm x 21 cm (or 5×8.25 inches). It cost $24 CAD retail price 

Behind the label, it has this area for you to record your travels, so this notebook is clearly designed for someone traveling… although they didn’t market that on the front. It has one string bookmark and a foldable pocket in the back with a pamphlet that includes the history of Moleskine. 

It feels nice in my hand and is pretty solid and sturdy. I’m sure it can take a beating in my bag and survive, but honestly, the texture of the cover is a little underwhelming. Perhaps I expected it to be a bit softer, but maybe that’s just me. It has the standard elastic band strap to keep the book closed and like I mentioned the pages are all blank, which as a writer with messy writing, it’s not super ideal. 

When I open it, I find that the binding is a little tough. But I’m being knit-picky with that as the more I use it the more it’ll give. The paper, however, is a little thinner than I hoped for, but once again, I’m knit picky. Overall, it’s a pretty good looking notebook. $24, I don’t know. 

Leuchtturm1917 

Leuchttrum1917 Notebook

This is the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook with 251 dotted pages, and here’s the bonus: the pages are numbered. It’s 14.5 cm x 21 cm, so it’s slightly bigger than the Moleskine. The retail price is also $24 CAD.

It also includes a lot of features including a table of contents, which I don’t think I’ll ever use because my notebooks are never organized in any logical way, as well as: 12 perforated sheets, 2 bookmark strings, stickers,  and expandable pockets, much like the Moleskine.

Honestly, off the bat, I like the feel of this one a lot more. The cover does feel a bit softer which is what I like. However, I don’t necessarily want it to be bigger, but it is… The texture of the pages is less smooth than the Moleskine one so I can grip it and turn it a little bit easier. And the dots does help me write straight. I also feel that it folds open a bit better than the Moleskine one too, which is nice because I don’t have to break it in. 

I’m very impressed by this Leuchtturm1917 notebook to be honest. I hear a lot of good stuff about Moleskine, but for writers, I think this one may be my go to from now on. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Pen Test

Let’s put these two books through the pen test. 

I used 5 different types of pens on the book to see how each of them performs. 

  • Classic blue Bic ballpoint pen 
  • Papermate Ultra Fine felt pen
  • Papermate erasable gel pen
  • Energel metal point rollerball gel pen
  • Pilot Kakuno fountain pen

Surprise: The Bic ballpoint pen wrote delightfully well on both notebooks. It’s almost surprising how well it performed. If you spend all your money on this notebook, you don’t have to worry about the pen. 

Disappointment: The erasable gel pen was unpleasant to write with on both notebooks. Unless you are really worried about the condition of your notebook that you need to erase things instead of scratching them out like a chaotic good person like me, then go with another writing tool. 

Best: The best writing experience is with the Energel metal point rollerball gel pen. It’s so smooth, it looked and felt like I was writing with the fountain pen, but without the mess that comes with the fountain pen. 

Ghosting

However, with the pages, this is the ultimate test, the ghosting on the other side. If you plan on writing on both sides of your notebook, then this is important to know which holds the ink better. 

Here is what it looks like on the Moleskine. As you can see, all the pens are visible, but the one that got through the most is the Energel metal point rollerball gel pen. 

On the Leuchtturm1917, to me, performed a little bit better. The Energel metal point rollerball gel pen was still the one that got through the most. Overall, it’s just a little bit fainter than the Moleskine.

Verdict

Winner: Leuchttrum1917

At $24 CAD each, these are two pricey notebooks. To me, it is clear that the Leuchtturm 1917 gives me much more value for the same price. I feel like Moleskine has a lot of clout, maybe because they have a brand name that is easier to say, I don’t know. But when I’m done using these two books and I was to get another one, I am certain I will get a Leuchtturm 1917 again. 

As a writer, it’s everything I need and more. I’m really looking forward to filling it up with my dumb thoughts. 

For more writing and editing resources, please consider signing up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, it’ll include only work that I’m most proud of.

This is not a sponsored post and none of the links are affiliate. However, if you like this article and found it helpful, you might consider buying me a mocha, it helps to keep me writing.

5 Coffee Shops in Vancouver for Writers and Freelancers to Work

Writing at a coffee shop — cliche, yes, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some symbiotic relationship between the two acts: writing and drinking coffee. There is something beautiful in it.

Additionally, working at a coffee shop is often a departure from the household distractions that many remote workers and freelancers have to face. If I’m at a coffee shop, I have to focus on writing, not on the dishes and other chores.

So, in an effort to find some nice local coffee shops to work from this NaNoWriMo, I visited 5 of Vancouver’s popular coffee houses. Here was what my experiences was like:

Propagenda Coffee, Chinatown: 

Watch the video review

WiFi: (5/5 stars) Yes! You have to go up and ask for the password, but once you have it you should be all set. I didn’t have any issues with it and overall, it was a pretty solid experience. 

Coffee: (4/5 stars) The most delightful thing about the mocha at Propagenda was that they served it to me in a glass. There is something salacious about drinking caffeine from glass — all of a sudden it becomes a cocktail and I’m doing six shots of tequila. Although this glass of mocha didn’t get me wild, it was a nice treat. Certainly not the best mocha I’ve ever had, but it’s pretty good. Not great, but good. 

Comfort: (5/5 stars) Propagenda is an incredibly comfortable spot to work. It has a wide-open space so that nobody is bumping into you as they line up or have to maneuver around a series of obstacles in order to bring the coffee to the table. However, glancing around, I didn’t see any power outlets, so you might want to bring a fully charged laptop. In fact, always bring a fully charged laptop. 

Noise level: (4/5 stars) It’s the usual coffee shop sounds: espresso machines, conversations, and the tapping of keyboards. Even when people are talking it isn’t that loud. There weren’t any obnoxious laughter or anything like that. It had a lot of nice wooden finishing and a nice balance of communal seating, lounge-y seating, group of four seating, and higher stool seating by the window. Overall, it’s a chill place to work. 

Buro The Espresso Bar, Gastown:

Watch the video review

WiFi: (3.5/5 stars) Yes Buro does have WiFi, but it’s a pretty weak signal for such a high foot traffic place. We sat at the far end at first but had to move closer to the bar to get a better signal, and that put us in a less comfortable spot. 

Comfort: (3/5 stars) Buro has a few comfortable seats, such as the corner window alcove right beside the pastry area, but it is also a lot of seats in this place and not all are created equal, especially when it gets crowded. 

If the WiFi signal was better, we did not have to move to the other end of the coffee shop where we had to sit right in front of the awkward bathroom where people kept coming and going, confused because they had to get the keys to open it. 

Noise level: (3/5 stars) It wasn’t particularly busy when we were there, but the noise tended to echo, so when a few groups of people were talking, the volume increased a lot. We were also sitting in the narrow hallway, which causes the noise to funnel in towards us. Overall, it was not easy to focus. 

Coffee: (3/5 stars) I got the Spanish Latte and my wife got an Americano. It’s not particularly pricey, and they do offer two sizing options, which can make it a bit more expensive. But the thing is, the coffee wasn’t amazing. The first sip of my Spanish Latte was good, but over the course of the drink it felt too sweet, so maybe there was just a bit too much condensed milk in it. However, my wife found her Americano to be a little watery, which is kind of unacceptable. 

This was not an enjoyable working experience. It didn’t feel like a treat; it felt like a place I would go to if I didn’t have another choice. Like I said, it’s in a high foot traffic area, so there are a lot of people coming and going. There are tourists, there are locals, and it is just not the best laid out coffee shop to concentrate.

Matchstick Coffee, Yaletown: 

Watch the video review

WiFi: (5/5 stars) The WiFi was solid. And on top of that, it didn’t even require a password to log in. There was a guest account and it was seamless. In this day and age, that is a nice experience. Especially when there were so many people using it in the coffee shop. 

Comfort: (3.5/5 stars) Matchstick was very busy when I got there. It’s a popular spot but it’s also strangely laid out. One side there was a communal desk and a couple of stools and on the other side there are some comfy seating and then some two seaters — and a weird bench area. We had to wait for a bit, which was totally awkward in a coffee shop. But eventually someone did and we were able to sit at a two seater. The tables aren’t that big; it’s not great for two laptops and the chairs were pretty stiff. It’s nicely designed and I love the homey feel, but there were a lot of people there. 

Noise level: (4/5 stars) The bar is at the center of the shop, so there wasn’t anywhere you can go to avoid the noise of the espresso machine or the people ordering. Matchstick also serves food so people will be eating a meal near you. I feel that if you are at the communal table, it’ll be more quiet, however, if you are on the other end, where we were then it’s a bit noisier because that’s where people were hanging out and having conversations. However, it was never at an overwhelming or unpleasant level. Still, there is a lot of movement in this coffee shop because it was busy.

Coffee: (5/5 stars) One of the reasons why I think Matchstick is so popular is because they serve great coffee. I got the mocha and it was phenomenal. It was the perfect amount of sweetness and the milk was super soft and smooth. It was like drinking a chocolate cloud. For it’s price, it was certainly worth it. 

Finch’s Market Cafe, Strathcona 

Watch the video review

WiFi: (5/5 stars) Finch’s Market had excellent WiFi. They post the password in visible places, so I didn’t have to ask, which is wonderful because I’m an introvert. The WiFi was consistent and there was no issues to mention.

Comfort: (4.5/5 stars) Finch’s is a cozy and homey place. I enjoyed all the old-timey decorations hanging on the wall, as well as the wooden aesthetic. It gave off the atmosphere of a rural cabin and there are few places more comfortable than a cozy cabin. 

Keep in mind that this place is also a store, you can buy fruits and milk. It’s not only a place for coffee, it’s also a restaurant that serves some pretty awesome fresh sandwiches, salads, and soup. I recommend not going there during lunch hours as it’ll be a bit busier, but while I was there, it was pretty chill. I got a whole four-six seater dining table all to myself, so I was pretty comfortable. I would have been more productive, but I was writing about a pretty challenging part of my story, so I didn’t get as much written as I wanted, but it was still a really chill place to work. 

Noise Level: (4.5/5 stars) I was there during a quiet time, but even then, there were people coming in and out and there was a group of girls having lunch. However, none of that bothered me. It’s not a big space so now and then someone who is ordering would talk loudly or move around and bump into a chair at your table,, but overall it was pretty chill. 

Coffee: (3/5 stars) At this point, I thought I should stay consistent with the coffee I order, so I got a mocha again. Well, also because that is my drink of choice. Anyways, how was it? Honestly, I was a little disappointed. It was probably the most photogenic cup of mocha yet but it wasn’t that creamy. It didn’t taste like I was drinking a chocolate cloud like it did at Matchstick. Also, they had two sizes, and I got the smaller one, which was indeed small. It was served in one of those diner coffee cups, which made it feel like it’s not the best deal. I should have gotten the large, which was also a double shot as opposed to the small single. 

Overall, I had a wonderfully pleasant time working at Finch’s Market and it’s definitely a place I see myself coming back to work soon. 

Kafka’s Coffee and Tea, Mount Pleasant

Watch the video review here

WiFi: (5/5 stars) Kafka’s does have WiFi and it was a pretty solid experience. No problems to speak of, but I had to ask for it as it wasn’t displayed. Besides that, it was great.

Comfort: (5/5 stars) The way Kafka’s is laid out in a very organized fashion. There are a bunch of two-seaters up against the wall, a few larger tables closer to the window along with a comfy couch, and a big communal table close to the bar. I thought about sitting at one of the two-seaters, but then decided to be selfish and take up one of the big communal table since nobody was there at the time. I had my front facing the rest of the coffee shop. To me, that was the best. I don’t like having someone right behind me, in my blind spot, it’s unnerving and definitely affects the comfort level. But this time, I was really comfy. 

Noise Level: (4/5 stars) When I first arrived, the coffee shop was pretty quiet. An hour later, it started to pick up and it got pretty busy by the time I was ready to leave. Kafka’s is located at the intersection of two of the busiest streets in the city: Main Street and Broadway. Therefore, it surely experience a lot of foot traffic. While I was there a lot of parents brought their children along, so that increased the noisiness.I anticipated a very noisy environment, but even at its busiest, it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t great and got a little distracting, but not to the point where I couldn’t work. 

Coffee: (4/5 stars) With the coffee, I shared the review with my friend, Billy from YouTube channel, The Best of 604 who will give his thoughts on his oat milk latte. If you want to hear what he thought, check out the video here.

Best of 604 is a channel about the best places to get pizza, wings or any other type of delicious food in Vancouver. I recommend checking out Billy’s channel if you live in or plan on visiting Vancouver. 

As for me, I got another mocha. There was a lot to like about it, especially how they filled it up to the very brim. However, I feel one area that it didn’t completely nail was the chocolate flavour. It was subtle — and even though, I do like subtle flavours in my drink — I felt that this one was almost too light and could really use one more level, a slight turn of the dial in chocolate up. 

Vancouver is full of unique coffee shops and I look forward to visiting more. If you have one you like to work at, please let me know! Startbucks are cool too!

If you like this article, you might consider buying me a beer (or a coffee), it helps to keep me writing.

4 Funny Books You Should Read

It always amazes me when a book can make me laugh. But there is no doubt that a one-of-a-kind type of laugh in life is the kind that comes from reading something, processing it in your brain, and emoting it through your body.

A great writer like any great artist or musician can make you feel emotions simply from the mastery in their craft. The problem is, there aren’t that many writers that have made me laugh through their stories.

Nevertheless, I have highlighted four of the funniest books I have read, and I’m going to share it with you today.

My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black

Michael Ian Black is best known for his role in Stella and Wet Hot American Summer, but few know him as a writer, even though he has written a few books now, including children’s books and some movies. Black also has a podcast where he interviews amazing people called How to Be Amazing, and if you look through the archives he did a revolutionary podcast series called Mike and Tom Eat Snacks.

When people talk about a book that changed their lives they usually talk about some self-help or emotionally impactful book, but this one really did.

This book is a collection of absurd essays. Some of them questions only a really famous celebrity like Michael Ian Black would know such as What I Would Be Thinking If I Were Billy Joel Driving to a Holiday Party Where I Knew There Was Going to Be a Piano and Hey David Sedaris — Why Don’t You Just Go Ahead and Suck It?

Michael Ian Black does such a great job playing with different genres in these essays such as erotic fiction, letters, and even a chapter from a novel that is sponsored by Barqs root beer. Each one of them is simply drenched in Black’s snarky humour and although I am certain it will go over the heads of some, it is all laced with intelligent observation of the modern world… or at least the world in 2008.

It’s hard for me to pick a favourite story from this book, because it’ll be trying to pick a favourite song from Green Day album American Idiot, but if I had to choose, I would say A Series of Letter to the First Girl I Ever Finger… where Black, as a middle age man, tries to reconnect through mail correspondence with the girl he had a temporary relationship with in summer camp as a child. It sounds uncomfortable, but that is the quintessential Black comedy that you can expect from this book. I’ll say no more.

A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk

Yes, that Bob Odenkirk — or better known as Saul from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Odenkirk has had a long history in comedy, and it is so refreshing to see, even when he has achieved the pinnacle of stardom with his dramatic television role, he still give his comedy fans something to sink their teeth into.

A Load of Hooey is a collection of short stories, poetry, comics, and unabridged quotes from famous individuals, including Walt Disney, Winston Churchill and Isaac Newton.

The beauty of this book is the commentary that Odenkirk has about the lives of those that have achieved and those that strive. What’s it like to be someone creating and what it is like to be someone aspiring… struggling… and critiquing. Believe it or not, I think we all fall into one of those categories, and that is what makes it such an approachable book.

By far the story that stands out the most in this book for me is the reimagining of what it must have been like that day the Beatles wrote the iconic song Blackbird. It amplified the drama within the room between an arrogant McCartney (who is said to have written the song solo) and the rest of the band (who leeches off his brilliance).

Please, if you are looking to kill a few hours in an airport or simply have nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon, pick up this book, instead of rewatching The Office.

One More Thing by BJ Novak

Speaking of The Office, BJ Novak also writes books… and they’re pretty awesome. One More Thing is a collection of stories that touches on a many subjects including celebrity escapades, relationships, and the complicated yet mundane decisions we are dared to make in our daily lives.

Novak is a compelling storyteller who is supremely witty. He finds the nuances of everyday interaction and injects it into his story, reminding us of our idiosyncrasy. While unlike Black or Odenkirk, Novak’s writing style is a bit more refined — not necessary better or worse — but I can actually see some of these stories appearing in literary magazines or in the New Yorker.

My favourite piece from this book, or at least the one that has really stuck with me, is one called If I Had a Nickel, which goes through the narrator’s thought process as he tries to figure out how he can get rich if he gets a nickel for everytime he spills coffee on himself. As someone who is always thinking of a way to make more money, this one just hit the right note for me.

This along with many other stories proves that BJ Novak is more than simply a background character in a television show and Inglorious Basterds, he is a witty writer and genuinely relatable.

Sick In the Head by Judd Apatow

I don’t understand how so few people know about this book. Let me explain. You know Judd Apatow, the guy who produced Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, Forty Year Old Virgin, and Girls. Apatow is a comedic legend, no doubt about it — but he is also a fan of comedy.

Since an early age, he had a fascination with comedy royalties. A memorable story is that he was once driving with his grandmother and passed by Steve Martin’s house, with Steve Martin outside. Judd got out and asked him for his autograph, which Martin declined. He later wrote a letter to Martin pouring his heart out, saying he was a big fan and bought everything he had and the least he could have done was give him an autograph. In the end, Martin wrote him back saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was speaking with THE Judd Apatow.”  

As he got older, the task of sitting down and speaking with his peers and idols became easier.

Yes, this includes Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, John Stewart, Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey… and it goes on. If you have any interest in, what I feel is, the golden age of screen comedy then you need to pick up this book.

There you have it, those are 4 funny books you should read. Please let me know if you have a book that always makes you laugh. I’d love to read it.

Looking for some books to read? Follow me on my journey as I read a book in every subgenre of every genre. There might be one for you?

Book Review – This One Summer

Formerly published in Ricepaper Magazine

51pPqSnhtBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_THIS ONE SUMMER
By Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Groundwood Books (May 6, 2014)
320 Pages, $17.99 (Paperback Graphic Novel)

 

REVIEWED BY ELLIOT CHAN

 

Awago Beach has been a summer sanctuary for Rose and her parents for as long as she can remember. Fresh air, a private lakeside cabin, and Rose’s friend, Windy, make up for the monotonous humdrum of childhood vacations. But, this one summer, Rose dares to overstep her boundaries. Fueled by fascination, naive yearning, and repressed angst, Rose becomes entrenched with the complicated lives of the local teenagers and her parents themselves—in addition to bingeing on candy and horror movies.

This One Summer flows like a dreamy, lazy July afternoon, the kind that doesn’t last forever, unless in our memories. The humorous yet meditative storytelling plays on the reader’s nostalgia, while the illustrations offer a vantage of yesteryears that many of us are beginning to misremember. The coming-of-age graphic novel is sincere, captivating, and poignant, but most of all it is a faithful rendering of both ephemeral and intense moments that makes up a season in a life.

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki skillfully capture the subtleties of adolescence, teenage-hood, and even adulthood. With a few simple frames and some indispensible words, the hesitation of youth, the dynamic of a modern family, and the consequences of reckless decisions are fully presented with a heartfelt attitude that is pure and powerful.

This One Summer is the Tamaki cousins’ second full-length collaboration. In 2008 their graphic novel, Skim, a story about the culture and conflicts at an all-girl Catholic school, received wide acclaim for its equally passionate presentation of the younger generation. There is no doubt that there is a harmonized understanding between the two artists. The ability to place the microscope on such a tender corner of existence is an element that is often absent in most of life’s maturing ventures.

Mariko and Jillian remind us in This One Summer that new experiences have no age restrictions, and that coming of age is actually a lifelong endeavour. Although the focal point of the story is on Rose, she is in fact the supporting character to the real drama of those around her. We have all stood where she stood, at the perimeter of other’s lives, helpless to assist, and powerless to disengage. We ride the turbulent waves, while witnessing the ebb and flow of those around us. This stunningly candid graphic novel, in the end, encourages us all to stand by those we love and overcome the adversity of another fleeting summer.

Book Review – You Are A Cat! by Sherwin Tjia

by ELLIOT.CHAN on Feb 3, 2014

Formerly published by Ricepaper Magazine.

youareacatwebsmall

You Are A Cat! 
by Sherwin Tjia

Conundrum Press, Oct. 2011,
240 pages, 80 b/w illustrations $17 (Paperback)

Reviewed by Elliot Chan.

As someone who finds felines endearing and adorable—but is also allergic to them—I’m trapped in a love-hate relationship with those sometimes cuddly and sometimes savage domesticated beasts. Regardless of your own personal experience with cats, Sherwin Tjia’s choose-your-own-adventure-style story, You Are a Cat, will offer a fictionalized insight of what it takes to walk a mile with paws and claws.

You are Holden Catfield, or should I say, I was Holden Catfield, the beloved cat to an average family of four—or at least everything on the exterior seemed average. What began as a relaxing day chasing squirrels turned dark as each decision I took led me to discover the shadowy intentions of humans. Tjia paced the story brilliantly, moving from the monotony of a catnapping tale to a daring escape, and then becoming a wallflower, overlooking the misdeeds of the family.

Tjia’s subtly placed illustrations offer a sometimes menacing and sometimes tantalizing viewpoint from a cat’s perspective. With only the extension of the paw, I, as well as Holden, could clearly see the expression of each human face and recognize the looks of adoration, danger and guilt.

Although my adventure ended in a tragically anticlimactic fashion, yours might not. You Are a Cat is a fantastic light read that you can pick up over and over again and find new adventures, because the brief excursions of Holden Catfield allow it. Where does your cat go when you let it wander out the door or the window? Who does it meet? That’s your cat’s decision. Unless you keep constant surveillance on it, you’ll never know.

You Are a Cat is not only an exploration of what it is to be a pet, but also what it’s like to interact with animals. Take a look at your own pet and ask yourself: what weird stuff has my cat seen me doing? You should feel a little embarrassed after reading it.

I recommend you choose your own adventure, but if you want to read the story I read, here are my page-turning choices in You Are a Cat:

2, 6, 17, 23, 170, 27, 49, 142, 10, 35, 92, 104, 124, 119, 128, 134, 143, 136, 140, 64, 86, 182, 81, 174, 84, 186, 177, 189, 194, 199, 200, THE END

 

Book Review – My Year of the Racehorse by Kevin Chong

My Year of the Racehorse
by Kevin Chong

My-Year-of-the-Racehorse-Cover

Greystone Press, Mar. 2012,
224 pages, $22.95 (Paperback)

Reviewed by Elliot Chan.
Published in Ricepaper 18.1, Summer 2013.

In the outset of Kevin Chong’s memoir My Year of the Racehorse, he did not know a lot about owning a racehorse, why people decide to own racehorses, or even how to make any type of extravagant purchase at all, least of all of a live animal. Chong’s pre-purchase considerations include whether it really makes sense to add more complications to our lists of things to do when one could just buckle down, save up for an apartment suite, attempt to find true love and end one’s days with no regrettable tattoos. A racehorse, well, that just seemed like an unnecessary gamble.

For most Vancouverites, the Hasting Racecourse has just always been there, like the hollow tree in Stanley Park or some other historical landmark of no relevance, but still worth saving. Until I read this book, I too would drive by it on Renfrew Street and dismiss it, unaware of all the jubilance and heartbreak exploding inside. Chong’s story
brought me into a world within the stables and upon the tracks. From bandaging an injured horse to finding a spot in the winner’s photo, Chong brings to life the glamour and austerity of horseracing. It is a culture so close to home, but so different, as if it was a machine taking me back to a bygone time.

The result is Chong’s sometimes heartfelt, sometimes comedic, but always relatable retelling of the year he spent as a racehorse owner. Or at least the owner of a portion of the racehorse: the hoof and a hank of hair, maybe. Relatable may at first strike readers as an odd choice of word, since most likely don’t own racehorses. But the book is somehow just that, relatable, as it explores that eternal enigma; the thin line between rational and irrational, and the happiness we find with uncertainty and hesitation. In this light, Chong shows how his compulsiveness is not so foreign, nor his ultimate solution: in order to accomplish everything on his to do list, he must compromise.

At first Chong admits that buying a horse was an act of exploitation. He wanted to see what would happen to him, with no awareness of the consequences; it surely must be a chance for growth. But as the story develops, we begin to see
Chong’s eclectic decisions mirroring our own. We flip through old photo albums and see all the phases we went through growing up: the awful haircuts, the skinny jeans era, and the year as a racehorse owner. My Year of the Racehorse offers a glimpse at our own life, the things we do to avoid the things we actually should do. With dry wit and plenty of adventure along the way, Chong perfectly captures the complexities of choosing between what we have to do and what we want to do.

BUY 18.1 ISSUE HERE.

A Tofu Review: The Eatery – Modern Sushi in Vancouver, B.C.

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Formerly published in TofuMag.com.

Published on April 26th, 2013 | by Elliot Chan

Modern artist Andy Warhol was famous for his paintings of Campbell’s soup cans and distorted celebrity photographs, so if he was to open a sushi restaurant one can only imagine that it would mirror the flare of The Eatery in Vancouver. Contrary to the traditional vibe and décor, The Eatery lacks the usual paper walls, wooden panels and thin cushions of an authentic Japanese restaurant, instead it has papier-mâché monsters hanging from the ceiling, glow in the dark figurines standing sentinel on elevated shelves and Astroboy portraits on any remaining surfaces.

Initially the restaurant’s atmosphere rushes you, like entering a nightclub after a couple hours of pre-drinking, but then you take a moment and adjust to the candlelight illuminating from the Dad’s Root Beer bottles and listen the audio melding of jovial conversations and boisterous music. Suddenly, you are ready for anything — but you are here for sushi.

For all those indecisive folks who read menus like textbooks, The Eatery is a dining experience that you shouldn’t study for. Don’t try and cram, the more you evaluate each selection the more disheveled you’ll become. Deep breath. Ignore the fact that you are ordering food, look at the artwork the menu offers and embrace the possibilities. After all, with names like ‘erotica roll’, ‘drunken monkey roll’ and ‘x-rated roll’, how can you go wrong?

Two special rolls lured me. One was the ‘crazy-spice roll’, because whenever something claims to be crazy — I’m intrigued. The next was the ‘Godzilla roll’, my strange childhood obsession with the Tokyo destroying monster had followed me to adulthood and now it is controlling the food I eat. Go figure. eaterysmall

Over the years of eating sushi, I’ve learned to strategize my meal accordingly. If I take a bite from a piece with an overwhelming taste, I follow it up with one that is subtler. Coincidently, the ‘crazy’ and ‘Godzilla’ paired nicely. While the ‘crazy’ supplied the gentle singe of any good spicy tuna and salmon, ‘Godzilla’ followed up with the gentle cleansing of crab, avocado and unagi eel. It seems a little contradictory that ‘crazy-spice roll’ was the one causing havoc and ‘Godzilla roll’ was the one to sooth the palette. But I guess in the funky dimension where The Eatery’s artistic chefs craft their work — the plate as a canvas — sculpting with rice, painting with sauce and slicing each piece into a mosaic, there is no boundary for creativity. Each meal evokes a story, but do I dare say it leads to a happy ending?

The classic model for Japanese desserts is usually mango and green tea ice cream. Although sometimes you might have a laugh misleading sushi-novices to believe a spoon of wasabi is ice cream, after time the novel prank wears off. Time for something new. Instead of staying culturally conservative, The Eatery branches off when it comes to sweets. Such simple carnival delights like deep fried Mars bars and root beer floats are available as well as more exotic selections. Dreaming of summer, I chose a showstopper in a steel martini glass, ‘Caribbean Fantasy’. Here’s a phrase to remember, bananas sautéed in rum and brown sugar. If ice cream is sunshine for the taste bud, the ‘Carribbean Fantasy’ might as well be a supernova. There is a lot happening for such a small serving. Individually, the saccharine flavour is too much to handle, but with the neutralizing effects of vanilla ice cream, suddenly the dessert is gone – black hole.

Sushi always had a futuristic aura, but now it has entered a post-modern phase. It has gone to a place where it no longer needs to be associated with serving plates shaped like boats or bento boxes. In this brave new world, sushi is the pizza, burger and burrito. In Vancouver where so many restaurant march to the same beat of knife to cutting board and Hobart machines, it is refreshing to know that there is a place breaking the mold. Warhol would be proud; then again, he might just say it was The Eatery’s 15 minute of fame.

The Eatery is located at 3431 West Broadway, Vancouver BC.

For more information visit their website at http://theeatery.ca.

Matt and Kim

mattandkim1

Formerly published in Beatroute. Oct. 31 2012

COMMODORE BALLROOM – OCTOBER 29, 2012

It is hard to imagine high energy on the Sunday night of Halloween weekend. But Matt and Kim supplied the perfect double-shot-espresso kick to end the late October rituals. Packing into Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom with the fanatic opening performance by Oberhofer, Matt and Kim made a custodian’s nightmare out of the dance floor. Confetti, balloons, and derelict garments scatter across the venue as the crowds bounce to the pair’s ecstatic beat.

Gratefully sipping the 5% Budweiser from north of the border, Matt and Kim mixed their classic tunes with popular dance hits including Sir Mixalot, Alice Deejay, and Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP to name a few. Surpassing any nightclub experience, watching Kim laying the fury on the cymbals with her permanent smile was worth the ticket price. The pair used the stage like a jungle gym, striking poses on the bass drum, stool and even climbing upon the audience. Aside from being agile, the most memorable moments include Kim’s proposition. After hearing a collective chant from the crowd, she said she would remove her bra if the audience would take off an article of clothing and wave it in the air. Adhering to her words, Kim continued to drum away mildly exposed in her white-netted tank top.

There was no denying that Matt and Kim’s performance was both audibly and visually pleasing. Multiple cameras were attached to their microphones and the image was projected on a screen behind. Occasionally they would cut to the camera’s perspective showing the audience what the performance would look like if it was presented through Skype. But this was no small screen performance. It was a spectacle. Few musical duos could sustain the vigorous energy like Matt and Kim. They weren’t only hosting the party; they were the life of it.

After ending on a high note with “Good For Great,” an optimistic centrepiece on their third album Sidewalks, the couple guaranteed the crowd that their love for Vancouver would bring them back sooner than later. The reassured audience members finally catch their breath and wipe the sweat off their brows. It was indeed a workout of a concert. Feeling fit and undaunted, the costumed crowd steps out into the rainy night recollecting a successful weekend.

By Elliot Chan

Arnold’s back in ‘The Last Stand’

 

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 22 2013

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

3/5

If you want a night full of cerebral challenges and dynamic character development, just ignore Arnold Schwarzenegger’s major comeback to cinema last week. But if you fancy gunshots, car chases, fist fights, and explosions, then The Last Stand will be for you.

The Last Stand offers exactly what you expect it to, including Schwarzenegger’s bang-on impression of himself playing an American sheriff. Yes, there was a novelty to his return, but in the end it leaves the same empty feeling most get when a once popular film star attempts to repeat their all too timely success. Fans will ultimately be disappointed in the efforts of the aging Austrian action hero; he is no longer Mr. Universe.

For the price of admission, The Last Stand offers quick cuts, fast-paced action sequences, and cringe-worthy comedy. The film’s Korean director, Kim Ji-woon, beloved overseas, is clearly taking tepid steps toward the very different world of American cinema. But at the very least, his vision is clear and concise, which makes his collaboration with Schwarzenegger worth checking out.

‘The Hobbit’: an unexpected trilogy

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 8 2013

Better than the book!
By Elliot Chan, Contributor

4/5

Like most, I was skeptical when I heard that The Hobbit was being stretched from a 300-page children’s novel into three movies. But as the credits interrupted the story I was so engulfed in, I realized that I could have sat for six more hours. The rumour of Peter Jackson making The Hobbit into a trilogy to milk money out of loyal fans had been vanquished, for Jackson told the story the way it should have been told.

J. R. R. Tolkien can be referred to as many things: academic scholar, linguistic genius, an imaginative author, yet nobody reading his novels can ever say that he was a compelling storyteller. The Hobbit, though immensely popular, always read like a second draft awaiting Tolkien to fill in some key information. Since discovering Middle Earth at the ripe age of 11, I revisited the novel twice, each with a declining appreciation. But don’t get me wrong, I love Tolkien, and I am forever thankful that he created his fantastical world, only so that Jackson could make it one that generations to come can enjoy.

However, the new technology caused the film to lose some authenticity. Some may argue that combining 3D with the new 48FPS made for better image, but during dialogue scenes and sequences with little to no action the film felt jarred and sped up. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, where Jackson relied mainly on stunt actors for battle scenes, the over usage of CGI in The Hobbit cannot be ignored. Many of the generated characters were unimpressive, and caused the film to actually look dated.

Still, the flaws were few and far between—and most of them were caused by Tolkien’s eclectic storyline. The 13 dwarves were the most problematic, but Jackson coped by centering the plot on Thorin Oakensheild (played by Richard Armitage). Like Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom, Jackson has a knack for finding talented heroes. After two decades in the film and television industry, the dues have finally been paid. At moments pitiful and others despicable, Armitage shows off his range as a brooding dwarf king determined to reclaim his home from a dragon named Smaug.

Another gem of the film is Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo Baggins. The long time British television star famous for playing alongside Ricky Gervais in The Officeand Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, has the charm and sense of comedic timing that gives classical gags an organic feel.

From dwarven tomfoolery to tension-building riddles, the first installment of The Hobbit has raised the bar for the second and third. But with its cliffhanger ending, one can only imagine that the worst part of the up-coming movies would be the waiting, and not the walking.