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.

Flipping the bird and the house

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Take the corrupted business out of house owning

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. February 17, 2016

I moved many times when I was growing up. It has always been a bittersweet memory. Those experiences of packing all my belongings, changing schools, and saying goodbye to old friends still make me reflect, wondering what life I could have had if I stayed in that neighbourhood. I never blamed my parents for moving, because I can be certain that moving wasn’t their first option either. They were doing it for financial reasons, not to punk me.

My family, like many, took their financial wellbeing seriously, and there are few investments more impactful than real estate. But above all else, a house should be a home. However, there are many—especially in Vancouver—who are trading real estate like Pokémon cards, another bittersweet childhood memory. But I digress. House flipping, the act of buying a house and re-selling it over a short period for profit, is a worrisome obstacle for young people entering the housing market.

For me, I see the place I live as a space where I spend my days relaxing, entertaining friends, and living my life. I don’t think of it as a denomination of a fluctuating market. Perhaps I should, but I don’t, because I never want to derail my life just to make money. Many people think differently. Many people would consider me a schmuck for living in an affordable neighbourhood.

In a recent announcement from BC Assessment, since 2014, 368 single-family (detached) homes have swapped owners twice or more. These houses, not surprisingly, are set in high-profile neighbourhoods: Dunbar, Heights, Point Grey, etc. But let’s be honest: every neighbourhood in Vancouver now is high profile, since nearly all single-family homes are valued in the millions.

Not only are these homes worth a lot, they are also in high demand. People are willing to pay more to live in Vancouver. So savvy—and rather despicable—people are willing to take advantage of that for a profit. That is the prime reason for house flipping, rich people trying to get richer.

Greed fuels the market in Vancouver and the people nourishing this corrupted form of business are the realtors, who are knowingly selling the properties for more than they were previously sold for. This way, the realtor and the brief owner make a profit. Here’s the kicker—it’s all completely legal in BC. While the asking price is visible, the sale price remains private, hidden from the public. This is one reason why it is a corrupted market. If there is no transparency, there cannot be any trust.

The province of BC is now intending to tax the house flippers not just through property tax but also a capital gains tax, but that does not solve the problem, it just makes house flipping a legitimate business. Yes, you can blame it on those who don’t flip houses, saying that they have zero business acumen, but just because you can do it doesn’t mean it is ethical or good practice.

A house is a home, and many people of my generation will go through most of their lives without having owned one. This is a tragedy. This is especially true when we see millionaires making easy money while overvaluing the market, and creating an unstable place for all of us to live.

Vancouver’s viaduct variables

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What shall we do with the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaduct?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 11, 2015

Now that the filming of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool has ended, I guess we can start talking about how awful the Vancouver viaducts are. If you are unfamiliar with these viaducts, they are the two roads that connect Prior Street, Strathcona to Expo Boulevard, Stadium/Downtown. It’s the big concrete bridge that runs alongside the SkyTrain from Chinatown to Rogers Arena.

Built in the 1970s, the viaducts were designed to be an entry point into the urban core of Vancouver. I’ve taken it to and from the city as long as I can remember, and it has never—ever—been a pleasant experience. Now, with the inception of the bike lanes, the viaducts are hazards left, right, and centre. And let’s not forget about it also being a seismic calamity waiting to happen. So when the city council voted to replace the ultra thin, unsettling Hot Wheel tracks with a six-lane, ground-level road that offers neighbouring areas more space for parks, residential, and commerce, I was all in.

But once the viaducts are torn down, what will ultimately take their place will be high rises. Let’s not lie to ourselves, we are running out of room in Vancouver, and building upward seems to be the only feasible solution. While some people have a problem with that initiative, I don’t. Done correctly, buildings can be as beautiful as the waterfront. Buildings can become the ripples of the city, where the waves are the ripples of the ocean; both can be majestic and encapsulating to look upon.

The problem with so many big cities is that their infrastructures end up fencing people from one corner away from people in another corner. Basically, crossing the road becomes a great hassle, so people don’t do it. This creates a divide, which eliminates cross-community engagements. The viaduct truly makes it difficult to traverse. Nevertheless, we should not make the same mistake. The great big cities of the world—London, Paris, and New York—have channels that connect pedestrians, not just vehicles. In Hong Kong, people never have to touch the solid ground; there are walkways connecting to every part of the city, some call it a “pop-up city.” I digress; we shan’t be one of those, albeit it does sound cool to live in such a futuristic metropolis.

Those designing the new roadway systems are assuring us that it is going to be better. I believe them, because honestly, I don’t see how it could be worse. I fear that one day we are going to be like Los Angeles with layers upon layers of highways. With the demolition of the viaducts, I can feel relieved that at least for the moment we are taking a step away from that.

You might like me when I’m angry

Rage Room

Why the ‘rage room’ is a therapeutic blessing

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. September 16, 2015

We live in a society where we have to walk in line, talk politely, and eat with our mouths closed. We put so much pressure on ourselves to stay civilized that often we forget that we are animals. The way we bottle up our rage, stress, and frustration is one of the reasons why we have such an internalized, yet explosive, brand of suffering. When we erupt we do it in the most self-destructive ways: we burn bridges, sabotage ourselves, and mostly likely hurt our loved ones. Talking only does so much, writing in our journals only does so much, and even drugs and alcohol can only mute the pain temporarily. What we need is a safe environment to let it all out.

The rage room is the latest trendy stress-relief activity and I think it’s about time. Toronto has its very own, and I think Vancouver should venture into that market as well. Basically, the rage room is a confined space where you, the paid participant, can release your anger on inanimate objects. The same way dogs love to chew and cats love to scratch, humans have an innate desire to see things break and go boom.

Why not go to yoga, relax in a hot tub, or get a nice massage? If you like trendy, why not go lie down in a float spa? Why not go exercise for an hour or two to get the sweat out? While those activities will relieve stress, it offers a solution from one side of the spectrum. Relaxation has a certain flavour and destruction has a different one. It’s like wanting a White Castle burger and settling for a hotdog from Hot Dog Heaven.

Let’s say your favourite hockey team lost and you feel pissed. You don’t want to go do yoga. You want to smash this lamp here. Let’s say you found out that your ex-girlfriend is dating a richer, nicer, better-looking guy, you don’t want to read a nice book in the bathtub, you want to smash this lamp here. Of course we—controlled, well-mannered humans—never actually follow through with our destructive thoughts, but the fact that many of us have them makes me believe that we need a place to release it.

While a rage room is a fairly new concept, and may only be advertised as a fun thing to do on a Tuesday afternoon, I believe that there should be a rage space for every coffee shop. Just a place where we can walk into, bring something we want to destroy, and leave with the satisfaction that we can still make an impact in this world. We can still alter the outcome of a physical entity, without hurting another human being, of course.

Not everything in life will go your way. Sometimes the Canucks will lose. Sometimes your boss will not acknowledge your efforts. Sometimes your partner will belittle you at a party. Sometimes your life will seem like it’s spinning out of your control. That’s because we are forced to place meaningless objects on pedestals. We worship objects. We shouldn’t. Smash it. Smash it before you find yourself downtown smashing the window of The Bay or flipping over a cop car.

Burning bridges

Image via BC Gov on Flickr

Why closing public infrastructure for amusement is always a poor idea

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. July 7, 2015

June 21 was a day of many activities. It was Father’s Day, National Aboriginal Day, and of course, International Yoga Day. In Vancouver, the plan was to close off the Burrard Bridge and have one of the biggest outdoor yoga events in the world. Om the Bridge, sponsored by lululemon, YYoga, and AltaGas, received enormous backlash as the big day approached. Celebration turned into hostility and mockery—at one point, Premier Christy Clark posted a photo of herself in front of a Tai Chi centre with a caption calling out “yoga haters.” Not surprisingly, the event collapsed as sponsors bailed.

I don’t have any problems with large gatherings of people doing yoga as long as I’m not required to participate. What tends to bug me is the misuse of public infrastructure and taxpayers’ money. Needless to say I’ve never been a big fan of parades, and the money spent on an event like Om the Bridge could be better used maintaining the bridge itself. It’s not because I’m not flexible or that my Chaturanga pose needs significant work, I just think that if you want peace and harmony, closing off a major artery on a busy day is a bad idea.

That is not to say that all International Yoga Day events are failures; in fact, many large cities with greater congestion than Vancouver pulled them off. Paris hosted their event beneath the Eiffel Tower. New York yoga fanatics joined together in Times Square. It’s a little ridiculous both how chill and how stuck-up our city is. Vancouver is like a spoiled brat. You throw a party for it and it’ll just end up throwing a tantrum back, stating that it deserved more gifts and cakes.

This city just can’t handle large-scale events, because Vancouver always has to create mountains out of molehills. Remember when the Canucks were in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins, and the city decided to build a big outdoor screen so that we could all gather together to cheer for the team? The result was billions of dollars of destruction and four goals in the Canucks’ net.

One of Vancouver’s most annoying traditions is the Celebration of Light. For years, residents of the West End have had to deal with hundreds of thousands of rambunctious people coming into their neighbourhood, taking up parking spaces, blocking off streets, and making a mess. All for what? A few nights of bullshit fireworks, polluting the sky with smoke, and disrupting the peacefulness of summer. It’s true that the Celebration of Light is a great opportunity to get your friends together, spend the day on a crowded beach, and then mosey on home via two hours of transit, but it’s really just a large-scale corporate handshake.

A city functions through organized chaos. Someone is always unhappy with something, be it transit, the weather, or some dumb event. I love this city, it’s full of diverse people, but somehow whenever we try to plan a party, a group has to cry and make it all about themselves. Our events become more polarizing—alienating instead of building the community.

BC Ferries strong arm commuters with sea-leg proposals

Illustration by Ed Appleby

Why empty threats will not save money

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 17, 2014

The problem BC Ferries faces is a common one: many transportation enterprises have been known to lose money. But the way they are handling it is classless, knowing that they have a monopoly. Commuters traveling to and from the island do not have another alternative, and to act as though keeping the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo route, one of the most popular routes for BC Ferries, is doing the public a great favour, well that is as if BC Hydro decided to turn off the power in the middle of the night to save money, since well, nobody needs electricity while they sleep, right?

BC Ferries’ clever tactic was to present a whole bunch of despicable proposals. Then, when everybody got pissed enough, they gave us an indisputable alternative: fare increase. Wow, didn’t see that coming. Thanks.

In a viral open letter to BC Ferries posted on Facebook, Campbell River resident Sean Smith explains his frustration claiming that he doesn’t understand why BC Ferries is presenting itself as some sort of luxury cruise ship, embarking on an exotic destination. BC Ferries at its best is a vessel for a weekend getaway, and for most people who use it, it’s an overpriced Sea Bus. Smith goes on to say that the vessel does not need a fancy restaurant, it does not need a marketing department, and it does not need bold advertisements in Rogers Arena. We don’t see ads in public areas telling us to ride the bus do we? What BC Ferries needs to do is get off its high horse and act accordingly.

The government doesn’t want to pay for the ferries anymore and for many who live on the island that is just ridiculous since many of the island taxpayers support infrastructure in the Lower Mainland, and the demand to cross the strait is as high as ever. Someone at some point in the office of BC’s Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry messed up. But it doesn’t seem as though the government is trying to fix the problem; rather, they are subtly adjusting it, turning our attention in another direction. Maybe this whole business is just to distract us while Enbridge takes over. Conspiracy alert!

What we need now is a private organization to stand up and see the opportunity. There is a lot of growth on Vancouver Island, a region in our province larger than many island nations in the world, and connecting it with the rest of the country can only be seen as a benefit. After all, there is a bridge linking Prince Edward Island, a landmass less than half the size of Vancouver Island with approximately six times fewer people, to the mainland.

The solution is right in front of our eyes but for many who make the choices, it’s too big of a commitment. By having the BC Ferries as a scapegoat, the public will have something consistent to complain about. There will always be problems for the government; why not centralize it? Why not foreshadow the worst and act as though they have saved the day by doing nothing except raising the price? Nice trick. Now do your job.

Raw food and nudity

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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.

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.

Warning signs ignored

 

Lacklustre earthquake should alert us, not relieve us

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By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. July 3, 2014

I didn’t crawl under my table during the 6.7-magnitude earthquake near Vancouver Island on April 24. In fact, I didn’t even notice until my social media erupted with comments concerning the swaying of homes and buildings.

I walked away from the situation slightly relieved that the worst that had happened was the reminder that I was spending too much time on the Internet and that I was so unprepared for natural disasters.

But give me a break, it’s hard to think about the collapse of my city when I’ve got so many other immediate things to worry about—that’s right, I’m saying that I’m not the only one who didn’t go under a table or quickly locate the emergency kit. If you did feel the shake, you were probably too busy enjoying the novelty to notice what it was. Preparing for an earthquake is just not a human instinct.

Still I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t anticipating “the Big One,” the name of the megathrust earthquake that was prophesied to hit the Pacific Coast of Canada and the United States in the (very) near future. Images of Japan, Indonesia, and Chile remind me that earthquakes are nothing to joke about. Should it hit with the force predicted, my life would shift, like if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. At this current state of preparedness, I just hope to survive if the Big One hits.

The earthquake earlier this year was a reminder that our government, our emergency teams, and we citizens are never going to be ready for an earthquake. There is just no such thing as “ready.” There is no saying when it would hit and where you would be. Sure, there are protocols to follow after the incident and there are measures to be taken to mitigate damage, but aside from that it’s a crapshoot. I believe natural disasters occur with the consistency of lottery tickets—you might be lucky enough to survive or you might be less lucky.

Individually, we cannot do much after an earthquake, but together we can pump money into funding that will help us survive in the aftermath. Emergency Management BC currently supplies $6.2 million of funding to “emergency services.” There is no plan to increase the figure since no one can really assess the damage before it occurs. Money is one thing, but having experienced teams prepared is another.

Civilians need to know what to do after the earthquake. What would people downtown do? What would people on the coast of Vancouver Island do? What would people sleeping at home do? What about the people commuting on a highway? The government should go into some length explaining the proper procedures following the quake and the aftershocks.

We need a plan we can all follow, because cluelessness will surely lead to chaos. I am often clueless without my social media—and lord knows I won’t have that after the Big One knocks out my Wi-Fi.

Hiding under the table is one thing, but we need to know what to do once we emerge.

Adopt-A-Pylon

Pylon and traffic cone overpopulation yields new campaign

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. June 3, 2014

Since the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver’s pylon and traffic cone population has quadrupled. This sudden boom has caused concerns for many, as these “safety” markers have literally overcrowded our urban streets, highways, and pedestrian walkways.

Such escalation in pylon population has urged many to act. The crisis paved the way specifically for Adopt-A-Pylon, a company with the philosophy that pylons deserve a home, they deserve care, and, most importantly, they deserve to be treated like giant megaphones for children and drunken passersby—that is what they are really meant for. Fun!

Homeless pylons and traffic cones have caught the attention of Devon Détourer, founder of Adopt-A-Pylon. “Seeing all those innocent cones treated in such a way is disgusting,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Other Press. “We should feel ashamed. We drive by and we look at them with distain and pretend like there aren’t a thousand of them just living in the streets, cold and wet… and most of all forgotten. Pylons are a reflection of our society. And Russia is laughing at us right now.”

Détourer is urging British Columbians to band together and open their homes and wallets to traffic cones. “Each night—on your drive home—just grab a pylon from the street and take it back. Give it some love; after all, we all deserve love. If each person does this, there won’t be anything stopping us from getting to where we want to go, and we all want to go towards a happy future.”

Recent Adopt-A-Pylon supporter, Beatrice Oliver said, “We ignore it, plain and simple. We think that pylons and traffic cones are there to make our lives terrible, like garbage cans or fire hydrants. We get angry because the government spends taxpayer dollars buying more and replacing the old ones. Is that how we treat stuff? As soon as they break we buy a new one? Ask your grandma how she feels about that logic, ask your pet goldfish, or ask your stepson. Adopt-A-Pylon’s initiative is easy to grasp, just like pylons. You take one home, you change its life forever, you give it a reason to be. Pylons are not obstructions, they are life changers.”

The trend has made its way through Commercial Drive and all the way to Kitsilano, but has yet to gain traction in less pylon-liberal areas such as Burnaby and the Tri-Cities, where heavy highway construction and urban growth has bred more pylons.

Port Moody resident Fitso Chung spends many hours working as a labourer alongside pylons, traffic cones, and even some wet floor signs. He understands that there is a problem.

“They’re the hardest workers on the team and the lowest paid,” said Chung. “While I’m on break, they’re there. While I’m in the porta-potty, they’re there. I don’t know if Adopt-A-Pylon will change the social stigma. I think what they need is a union. Pylons are not second-class citizens. I believe adopting them is a step forward, but the road is long and we have a long way to go.”

The pylon population is projected to increase by another 28 per cent by the end of 2016, but the support for Vancouver’s forth-largest majority (behind hipsters, yuppies, deadbeats, and tech entrepreneurs) will undoubtedly increase as well. Which offers hope to people like Détourer and those participating in Adopt-A-Pylon.

“We’ll find a way,” said Détourier, “and pylons will help us. I understand that not everyone is a born pylon-lover, but give it a chance. Sign up today or do it anonymously and see where it takes you—maybe to Maple Ridge, maybe to North Delta.”