Tag Archives: kk

#VirtualTrickOrTreat: Resistance Fighters

Resistance fighters narrowly escape their own subterfuge (w/ Kris Krüg) somewhere near Flanders or Wallonia, circa 1942
from Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BMNyZbXhfqA/

Revolutions, Punks & Poets: Vancouver’s Forgotten Stories

Storymaker Dave uncleweed Olson shares an eclectic variety of stories from Vancouver’s counter-culture history on a stage adorned with a record player, campfire & cub scout blanket, art easel, flowers and an Expo 86 mug – plus pulls artifacts from an old-timey suitcase to illustrate forgotten past of a city which is/was much cooler than most realize.

Presented at Northern Voice, June 2013 in Vancouver, Canada, his 11th presentation to this noted personal expression conference (and his last talk before a medical “retirement”).

Filmed by Bruce Sharpe and Andrew Lavigne
Edited, Directed, Produced by Andrew Lavigne (also: With Glowing Hearts and Generation Social).

Music: Derek K Miller (RIP) “(You’re the) Big Sky”

Dave uncleweed Olson shares Forgotten Vancouver Stories
Dave uncleweed Olson shares Forgotten Vancouver Stories

 Topics:

  • Frederick Varley – Group of 7 painter who lived in Vancouver for 10 years
  • Grateful Dead – (tried to) play free shows at Second Beach and Kits Beach in 1966
  • Bob Masse psychedelic poster artist
  • Gastown Riots, March on Blaine, Rock Against Racism
  • bev. davies – rock n roll photographer, community chronicler, punk rock mom
  • Blues in Vancouver – Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee at the Bunkhouse
  • Vancouver punk rock glory days DIY spirit and fanzines (+ final days of The Clash and importance of ephemera)
  • Clayoquot Sound logging blockades
  • Jake Milford and the Canucks recruiting Swedish players in the 1970s
  • United Empire Loyalists + Burner Boys bringing jam band culture
  • Venues of note: Afterthought, Retinal Circus, York Theatre, the Cave, the Bunkhouse
  • Cubscout campfire blankets
  • Howard Hughes, Errol Flynn
  • ++ bits of Kris Krug, Bob Kronbauer, Rebecca Bollwitt, Dan Mangan, Jason Vanderhill and campfire helpers: Mark Blevis, Kemp Edmonds, John Biehler, James Lester, Ariane Colenbrander, Nicholas Demers

Continue reading Revolutions, Punks & Poets: Vancouver’s Forgotten Stories

“Return to the Scene of the Crime” Punk Rock Photos at Smilin’ Buddha with bev. davies

At the iconic Smilin Buddha Cabaret and Restaurant in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside, legendary punk rock photographer bev. davies (sic) shows the photos in her recent “(Return to the) Scene of the Crime” exhibit featuring photos taken at his landmark venue between 1979 and 1983.

Bev Daviesbev. davies by Kris Krug

Dave uncleweed Olson — with attorney Lindsay Lazlo Bailey — asks about her process, the stories behind photos, anecdotes about the subjects and flashbacks about the shows.

Plus, they discuss:

* various parenting tips and stories with heavy metal warlords (Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy Killmister, Dee Snider)
* ideas for a book of bev’s photos (form, cost, etc)
* the history of her remarkable calendars with Nardwuar
* some friends who’ve died (RIP Dave Gregg, Brain Goble)
* hollandaise sauce and skateboards ramps

Note: As a fan and supporter of bev’s work, i’ve also interviewed her (along with new-school photographer and activist Kris Krug) at Northern Voice in a talk called “Building a Scene — Rock n Rock Photos” and another interview to appear soon.

Links:

* Smiling Buddha Cabaret Restaurant
* bev smilin buddha photoset
* Rock n Roll Photo talk video
+ videographer’s notes
* Rock n Roll photo recap
* Rock n Roll Photo talk slides
* Bev on Twitter
* Miss 604 annotations from talk
* DaveO photos from 144 punk photos

++

More bev. davies articles:

BEV DAVIES AND DOA in the Skinny Magazine

Bev Davies and D.O.A.: Returning to the scene of the crime in Beatroute magazine

SKULL SKATES PRESENTS RETURN TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME WITH D.O.A.

Public Speaking BadAss, Part 1 A Practical Guide to Inspiring Audiences

Dave Speaks! photo by Kris Krug
Dave Speaks! photo by Kris Krug

Note: Draft

Ever since performing alongside my Mom in old folks’ homes as a little leprechaun, I’ve always seemed close to a stage, a lectern or front of a classroom — although it’s never been exactly my job per se. Though working at various high-tech-focused start-ups and participating in the surrounding creative community as a whole, I’ve come across a number of opportunities to share my stories through presentations in front of groups of all kinds. And throughout, i’ve challenged myself with audiences, topics and methods to “increase the degree of difficulty” and, as a result, become more a master of this craft.

I’ve spoken to conferences of Financial Services Ombudsman’s, destination tourism pros, two solo “core conversations” at Austin’s South by Southwest filled with the smartest, techiest people around who i managed to engage and educate despite using no technology expect boardgames, onto conferences for both the dying daily newspaper industry and the still plucky alternative newsweeklies, plus telling stories of revolutions at Toronto’s NxNE after a rock and roll train trip in which i mentored bands, and all other speaking series who would give me stage time including 4 times at Pecha Kucha (including headlining the Vancouver All-Star edition), a killer TEDx romp, dozens of endearing student groups, and all sorts of others.

I’ve never been taught how to do this and I’ve never really read a book about public speaking. I also don’t watch others too closely as i want to create my own way of presenting.

So, for what its worth, here are tactics and distillations of what works for me. I expect you’ll remix, re-envision and re-create your own way and share on with others.

Mantra: Edutainment and Inspiration

First of all, no matter what kind of presentation you’re going to give to whatever kind of audience, you have to think of your chance as a little bit of performance art, not a “talk” not a “presentation” — this is storytime. You’re there to entertain as well as to educate. But there is also a piece of inspiration, that something more that’s going to get people talking about you and what you had to say, which will of course turn into more gigs and more success for your tour or other aspirations. Remember this as you read on. Entertain, Educate, Inspire.

Slides Are Not The Talk

Think about your goal, it isn’t just to tell people about your topic. They can find the information in other forms elsewhere. Your goal is to find a little bit of a state of flow with your audience and take them on a journey. Along the way, they pick up nuggets of knowledge.

To commit to this throughout your talk, I give them something more than they’re expecting.

Here’s how to get them there:

First of all your slides are not your talk. Over the last bunch of years as various presentation software tools emerged with handy pre-planned templates of bulleted lists and flashy transitions, public speaking in the corporate world has (often) turned into reading from bulleted lists over a blue marbled background on a dreaded PowerPoint slide and trying to interpret poorly displayed graphs and apologize for bad clip art. This is ridiculous and should never be done. In fact, this destroys storytelling and i’d suggest is amongst the poorest ways to share information. The inspiration is lost, the entertainment gone in a series of groans from the audience as they spend the time checking emails before flaccid clapping at the end.

Instead, there are many different ways to augment and add a mixed media component to your talk if you choose. Do you play accordion? Bring that up for a little bit. When I saw Josh Fox, a documentary filmmaker sharing stories about the negative impact of “fracking” on health and communities, he lightened the heavy topic with a banjo accompaniment. Unexpected and changed the mood and made for a talk no one spaced out on.

Either way, don’t depend on your slides. Let me give you an example: When I spoke at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas,I knew the audience would include many of the most digitally curious and technologically connected people really on the planet. They’ve all seen the gadgets and gizmos and they have all sat through loads of talks at dozens of conferences that pop up for this industry. So I knew I had to do a little something different.

So instead of a slide deck and a microphone, I went a little “acoustic” as it were and brought an old, timey suitcase (made in Alcatraz with prisoner labour) filled with various props for a talk called “Fck Stats, Make Art.” Some of props were collage art, some hardback books, a smoking jacket, postcards, letters and artifacts all arranged in the suitcase as it corresponded with my talk.

This gave a real intimate tactile experience, as I was able to interact and walk around with these props through the audience which building anticipation about “what would come out next”. People could get an up-close look, pass it around amongst themselves and even participate in an interactive component where they reached into an envelope to pull out a card — the kept the cards as a momento which also provided a reason to come say hello to me and ask more about the image on the cards or just get a signature. These artifacts all supported the educational points which would otherwise lived as a bulleted list on a PowerPoint slide, but instead the “analog” components kept the audience involved in a very tactile way that they weren’t expecting.

It was so much fun that i recreated the vibe two years later at the same conference in which i channelled Mark Twain and shared stories about crowd-sourcing while using Tom Sawyer’s story of white washing the fence as the over-arching metaphor and then articulated the examples of projects with boardgames boards which were liberated and decorated with artifacts. I could stroll the room, in smoking jacket and pipe, while giving up close views who were eager to see the details rather than rolling eyes at a fancy slide transition.

Make Awsum Slides

I often times do use slides, so don’t get me wrong. But these images are meant to be wallpaper, decorations, and inspiration behind you, not to be the notes or the cliff notes of what you’re talking about.

My usual style for slides is simple: one interesting picture which i can build mystery and metaphor around (stretched and bled out to the edges) and three words (usually in white san serif on a black bar towards the bottom of the image. I keep the slides simple and this also gives me a chance to dig into my own photo collection from over the years and pull out all those weird photos that somehow you can tie a story to which has nothing to do with the original image.

My Mom scanned in thousands of childhood photos (including all the dorky ones you’d never want anyone to see) which provided me a rights-cleared stock archive of interesting images which no filters or disclaimers required.

Another way to prepare slides it to “papercraft” each into unique works of art which can “storyboard: your points out with a variety of imagery. And these images all act as reminders of the stories and points to cover without relying on cue cards or teleprompters.

In some cases (i.e. SXSW) when i was in a more intimate sized room, i could walk around or pass around the paper artifacts. The audience were gentle as they realized the care of the construction and could “find their favorite,” take a photo to share because they experienced a physical connection to this information which is usually created and displayed digitally and coldly. Holding something made from scissors and glue creates an entirely new emotional reaction and sensory hit which harkens back to early days when we all used seemingly rudimentary materials for art projects.

The other benefit for you as s speaker (besides having a set of wicked paperpoint slides in your files) is: when preparing the slides, we easily fall into a state of clear understanding of your talk. You’ve spent an hour or more on each slide, so you no longer need the scaffolding of cue cards, the stories are self-evident in the art you’ve created.

When presenting the same talk in a larger venue requiring slide (Pecha Kucha), my pal, the noted photographer @kk, took photos of me in his brick walled loft holding each sign. My hands, my sweater, the wall, and occasionally a bit of my beard appears but, this too allows the audience to see the analog/digital remix process which went into the creation.

Even though I work (often anyhow) in social software technology, and I’m often talking about software, I very, very, rarely ever show a screenshot unless it’s to support a story — and heaven forbid — please never add another pie chart or graph going up and to the right. Those results can be a great thing to tell in your story, or pass along resources that people can download later, but don’t burn a slide on a visual which has lost meaning due to overuse.

Overall, the sentiment that “serious technical information needs to be presented in a linear, serious way which we’ve always done (since Office 95 anyhow)…” to be is simply wrong. I’ve seen engineers, programmers and scientists be candid, insightful, and even funny by tailoring their remarks to the audience in a compelling, calculated manner using stories the attendees could relate to.

Let Robots Help

It used to be at the beginning of talks, the moderator would politely ask, “Please turn off your cellphones, pay attention, and put those laptops down.” But i protest! I want you using devices and amplifying my thoughts and sharing the bits you found useful. Whether they are taking notes, sending tweets, live blogging, mind mapping or drawing pictures, taking photos, whatever — encourage the audience to get up and participate.

Sure at some conferences, there are people who are tuned out and checking their e-mail — I don’t even know why they show up, or others who may get prickly at the rights and atmosphere of capturing media (i.e. they have an “official” photographer who is now where to be seen after taking one shot, posting it a low-resolution and adding a copyright watermark on it, Forget that, i’ll take the snaps from the audience so encourage people to pull out their phones: Ustream in their buddies for a few minutes,;take some Instagrams; and, send out some Tweets.

Make sure you declare a hashtag for your talk. (If you don’t know what this is, that’s the little Twitter thing with a number sign in front of it that allows people to tie into the conversation easily). I often use #daveostory or something simple and not confusing. Also consider displaying a Twitter feed right alongside of your talk where people can add in their comments and their thoughts, and add another dimension to your talk. This scares some presenters and some event promoters as a crappy talk can turn the audience unruly in a hurry and embarrass, insult or disagree with the presenter. Set some ground rules, have a moderator and remind the audience that there “dickhead” comments are public and you’ll be shaming them later.

You’ve heard a million times that people fear public speaking more than… well anything… so the curmudgeon in the audience is likely just letting their inner-jerk out. Roll with it as the benefits of having dozens of hundreds of tweets with your #hashtag and name and thoughts contained within are too valuable to pass up. Suddenly your talk is sorta live everywhere and you’ll know from the reactions, what points hit home and what fell flat.

Wear Your Uniform

I’ve read articles positing that you are supposed to dress “a little bit nicer” than your audience is expected to dress — you are hired help remember. The audience might be at a retreat so they might be business casual, but you should take a step up with a tie and polished shoes.

I don’t really subscribe to this assertion (though I’m sure it rings true for many) because I think any public appearance you make in a (professional or otherwise) capacity as a speaker is an opportunity to show who you really are. Ergo: Show your real personality and show what kind of character you are. What would you usually wear if you were just going out and about on another day out? You don’t want to be too schleppy or casual but think about it this way. Soldiers have their uniform. Athletes have their uniform. And you as a public speaker should have your uniform, too.

In my case, and also there is a mental thing to it where you never have to worry about what am I going to wear and there is some good luck that rubs off in those accoutrements you add to yourself on “game day.” In my case, I have an old timey trilby-style hat which goes with me everywhere when I go to speaking gigs and has become part of the shtick. When I have that hat on I know it’s game on, right.

Now I also had a red velvet jacket that mysteriously went missing at South by Southwest this year and I have worn that for the last whole bunch of speaking gigs. So I hope not all my magic is lost with that! In the meantime, i often seek unique pieces which will be comfy on stage, photograph well, and accentuate who i am rather than being “just another tech dude in a off the rack grey suit.” Boring.

One of my favorite public speakers is global political columnist, Gwynne Dyer. He always seems to wear a beat up old brown leather jacket — the jacket has taken on a bit of a personality of its own and become part of the crowd’s expectations of his brand, although he would likely loathe to admit this.

This comfort of having a uniform removes another decision to make while you are visualizing your talk and prepping to inspire the audience.

Don’t Re-introduce Yourself

I can’t stand it when the first impression a speaker makes is talking about themselves. In my mind, your time in stage isn’t a chance to give your comprehensive bio or C.V., you’ve just been introduced where they shared the relevant info. Also, any savvy person who is truly engaged in the event have likely taken the time to look you up and get your whole dossier.

They’ve read the program, they’ve seen your website, checked your Linkedin, and maybe poked around on Twitter, Youtube or elsewhere. So don’t go up and say, “Thanks for the kind introduction Bob, I’m really glad to be asked to come speak here at this event. As Bob just pointed out, I am the Senior Vice President for Widget Analysis and after 17 years of doing that I’ve also did this and so we will get into that a little bit. So, today I’m going to be talking about…” Everyone already knows that, right. So get right into the point.

Also be genuine about why you are excited to be here speaking. I often choose speaking events in industries in which I’m curious (news media, tourism, youth education for example) so explain where you’re coming from and — assuming you genuinely are — tell them you are here to learn from them, ergo: What challenges do their industry face? What are their misconceptions about new technologies? How are they adapting social tools to fix business problems?

Non-linear Story with Characters

The Greeks got it right centuries ago about the secret to good storytelling is starting somewhere right in the action. Don’t start at the beginning, start just before something terrible goes wrong and work back to it. In other words, start just before the end, then go flashback to the beginning and wind it all up in the end in a way they don’t expect.

Now, this attention to structure may sound more appropriate for dramatic productions or creative writing but this is powerful skill and something you want to think about as a speaker.

Instead of starting them off by re-introducing yourself, begin with a story — not a short anecdote but instead start a meta-narrative which may extend through the whole prezo. Talk about a real case scenario, situation or study with characters that they can get interested in. When speaking for HootSuite, i’d often start with a current event (Egyptian revolution, Japanese earthquake) and how we found ourselves involved — albeit inadvertently — and the unique point of view we saw with our social media tool. This context would keep the topic relevant and also allow me to demonstrate logistical ways to use the tools without having to resort to abstract examples.

By setting up this non-linear story framework, you can share the important points and content with them but you’ll take them on a journey by establishing a context in which to discuss these topics. By weaving a story through the talk, and adhering to the same characters, and real examples, you’ll build interest and credibility.

If you are planning on talking about the changing role of exports from Eastern Europe to South America with Poland joining the EU (I’m making this up), don’t start with, “In 1967 the trade statistics show…” Instead start with introducing the characters: who are the people on the ground; who are the government officials; or, who are the characters who are going to weave in and out of your talk to support the annotations in your talk.

I saw the English folk/punk-singer, Billy Bragg and he did a great job of weaving a story in and out of his in-between song banter throughout the evening. Rather than mumbled “thanks” he he kept on bringing up the band the 80s new wave band OMD who are out on a tour as well and they seem to be showing up in the same city as Billy every night at the club down the road.

Sure enough, this was the case in Vancouver and he was grousing about different things about how they have better busses, they’re always getting the better venues and worked them into all sorts of different context including how he met the Queen and somehow OMD came into that story. So, it was a great way to kind a keep of forward momentum going with your talk.

You can do the same, no matter who your audience is, you just have to find out who they are so you can build this rapport.

Longboard Hockey in Vancouver – Reportage Notes and Artifacts

Originally published in Heads Magazine Toke on the Porch blog on January 22, 2007

Out n’ about on assignment for a forthcoming Heads article, I witnessed a sport hitherto unknown to me which combined many activities I enjoy into one sublime recreational pursuit: full contact hockey, tasty weed, chillaxin’ and longboarding (I am a newb – just cruised the Stanley Park seawall a couple times).

Anyhow, ace photog KK+, fashionista Kdon and my rolling amigo Cousin Herb chronicled the action – both the ongoing hockey games and boarders running the six story garage kamikaze style while sliding hard stops at the bottom and riding elevator back up for another go.  Besides KK‘s tasty snapshots, I shot some video I’ll cobble together into a clip soon.

Here are a few outtakes, anecdotes and pics of the exploits:

On the stuffed elevator ride to the 6th floor, before I can pull the fattie of Chocolate Jack Herer from behind my ear, a smiling chick in blond pigtails and a Team Canada jersey sparks a beauty doobie.

Turns out she’s The Bloods’ goalie Natasha getting in another run before playing her former team, the North Shore Slashers after they finish off the Shitmix.  She doesn’t seem insane yet she eagerly faces wildmen firing beer cans at her head, “It’s nuts out there, there are no rules, everyone should try it.”

Some incredible boarders (behold the mightiness of King Brian!) and a bewildering assortment of boards, mostly Landyachtz and Rayne.

“The Meathheads” are up 2-1 thanks to a wiry dude sans helmet who snakes through defenders – hard sliding to the left while shooting off the right, one foot flying behind.

Just when it looks easy, he takes a hit goes Bobby-Orr-flying through the air onto the pavement, then leaps back up before being run down.  Turns out this savant is “King” Brian who skates for the 9-0 Chilliwack team.  He’s also the Longboard Hockey League’s defending scoring champ and frequent curator of the Chanley Cup.

Besides the Longboard Hockey LeagueCoastlongboarding organizes a 4 day festival in May on the Sunshine Coast with a downhill race, championship hockey game and punk bands at a reserved campground at Danger Bay.

I ask another Chilliwack Meathhead called Tyson what possesses them to drive out from the farthest burb of Chilliwack – a town I remember mostly for grow houses and cow shit – “it’s about the community” he says rolling up a huge cone from my ample first aid kit of bud.  His buddy adds, “Yeah, all we do is skate and smoke weed.”

Sounds good to me, pulling a hoot with my head fogged and face grinning. “Good stuff” he says, as i dodge a bearded dude on a six wheel skateboard barrelling down the garage ramp.

An intriguing evening at the LHL games for sure – I spread the custom Heads rollies around Cousin Herb rolled up the aforementioned Chocolate Jack Herer using the “made in Spain” Raws and those clear rolling substrates I’ve become so fond of.

Of course, I recorded interviews and action for a forthcoming Choogle on with Uncle Weed podcast.  Recent episodes make fine companions to my HeadFirst articles, “Rebagliati Positive for 2010” and “Zen Rambling in Japan.”   Check out “International Heads and Hemp Oil – Choogle on #34” for some behind the scenes commentary and anecdotes from the articles plus my interview with Ross is at “Coffee talk with Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati.”

Enjoy!

The Rule of Longboard Hockey is … artifacts, drafts etc

Originally appeared in Heads Magazine (now defunct) in the XX, 200? issue with photos by Kris Krug

See also:

Video clips

Podcast – Choogle on with Uncle Weed

Photo set by Kris Krug

The Rule of Longboard Hockey is …

Driving into the forested far reaches of the University of British Columbia campus I really wasn’t sure what to expect – the note told me to show up saturday, midnight at a secret parking garage location – wondering should i have left a note with someone?

With mild trepidation, I followed the echoing noise to the basement as a chain of longboarders cruise past me, carving wide turns before dropping into the “rink” with a game of longboard hockey in full swing sprawling beyond the nets: Burnaby Blood vs. Chilliwack Methheads. Gotta learn quick to stay alert as the game action intersects with the de facto tailgate party of longboarders and boards of every shape – hi end drop decks downhill racing boards to decks homemade from old wooden water skiis.

This is no slop fest, this games has rules. You gotta have one foot on the board to play the puck, (exception goalies whose board becomes part shield, part deadly cricket bat), and you gotta play for the city you live in – you move, you’re traded, that’s it. The game is tough and full contact like they were taught by “The Jacks” an outlaw California skateboard gang who brought the game north (for the record, the Canadians now routinely quash their yankee mentors).

The puck is a beer can but your standard aluminum container would quickly disintegrate so you must use a heartily constructed Sapporo can imported from Japan – though I spy a few odd Polynesian guava tin juice can on the sidelines as practice pucks. After each goal, the teams line up along the goalline, the puck/can is placed in the middle and a metal coil is rung to signal the teams to maniacally trade ends, including the goalie who charges fullbrunt atop a longboard in full battle gear into the gauntlet of opposing players.

The Methheads are up 2-1 thanks to a wiry dude sans helmet who snakes through defenders – hard sliding to the left while shooting off the right, one foot flying behind. Just when it looks easy, he takes a hit goes Bobby-Orr-flying through the air onto the pavement, then leaps back up before being run down. Turns out this savant is “King” Brian who skates for the 9-0 Chilliwack team. He’s also the Longboard Hockey League’s defending scoring champ and frequent curator of the Chanley Cup, the beaten trophy (bought at a Flea Market for $5 and clever negotiation) which is tossed onto the pavement each night and ‘seasoned’ with the game play and hauled home by the vanquishing team each night. In May, the top two teams from the year battle for ultimate supremecy as part of a four-day longboard fiesta at the appropriatedly-named Danger Bay.

On the stuffed elevator ride to the 6th floor, before I can pull the fattie of Chocolate Jack Herer from behind my ear, a smiling chick in blond pigtails and a Team Canada jersey sparks a beauty doobie. This is the Blood’s goalie Natasha getting in another run before playing her former team, the North Shore Slashers after they finish off the Shitmix. She doesn’t seem insane yet she eagerly faces wildmen firing beer cans at her head, “It’s nuts out there, there are no rules, everyone should try it.”

She was auto-traded to Burnaby when she moved across the 2nd Narrows bridge so her old mates are stuck with a scrub in goal. With the game underway, she’s clearly not intimidated – batting cans out of midair and hurling the beerpuck back at Wolfman and his Slashers teammates. I also notice a skinny, curly-haired teammate who is skating like the wind and taking a serious beating … elbows to the ribs, cans to the face, sticks to the shins … but he keeps rolling. A husky dude with blue hair exclaims, “I’ve never seen anyone take that kind of abuse in the LHL!” He’d know since Striker’s is a 5 year veteran and his consortium “Coast Longboarding” are the ringleaders of grassroots longboarding events around the wet coast and bearer of the wisdom from the Jack’s gang.

At the end of the game, Natasha yanks off her helmet with a grin and I wave her over for another fat cone rolled by another Methhead. “There’s only one joint going here?!” She’s appaled.

“Yeah, but it’s a big one,” someone answers through the cloud of smoke but she’s already grabbing another. “Hash plant, with hash too.” It’s coming on 4:20AM and she passing a heavy indica around! Beer can slapshots to the face is one thing but this is really tough! She nonchalantly says they leave, “around 5 or 6 when they kick us out and then come back next Saturday, every Saturday.”

A few cones later, I look over to see Striker, playing for the Downtown Eastside Dirty Dogs, charge into a loose can from the left wing, twisting his fireplug frame to rip a shot top shelf short side on the sprawling goalie and I realized the community and the game are equal co-conspirators to this strangley perfect recreation. No wonder they keep the secret.

##
The Rule of Longboard Hockey is …

by Dave Thorvald Olson

Driving into the forested far reaches of Vancouver to the University campus, I really wasn’t sure what to expect – the cryptic note said to show up Saturday, midnight in the basement of parking garage for full contact longboard hockey. Maybe I should’ve left a note with someone?

I followed the echoing noise as a chain of longboarders cruised past me, swooping wide turns before dropping into the “rink” where a game versus the Blood Thirsty Bastards and Methheads. Gotta stay alert as the game sprawls beyond the nets with frantic skaters on boards of every shape – hi-end dropdeck downhill racing boards to homemade rides crafted from old wooden water skiis – charge vigorously at a beer can. No regular beer can though, must be a burly Japanese import Sapporo can.

This is no slop fest, there are rules and serious skills required. The rules: You gotta have one foot on the board to play the puck, (exception goalies whose board becomes part shield, part deadly cricket bat); and you gotta play for the city you live in – you move, you’re traded, that’s it. The game is tough like they were taught by “The Jacks,” an outlaw California skateboard gang who brought the game north (but are now routinely beaten by their Canadian understudies).

After each goal, the teams line up along the goal-line, the puck/can is placed in the middle and a metal coil bell signals the squads to maniacally change ends – including the goalie charging fullbrunt in full battle gear atop a board to defend the net.

The Methheads are up 2-1 thanks to a wiry dude who effortlessly snakes through defenders, sliding hard to the left while shooting off the right foot, the other foot flying behind. Just when it looks easy, he takes a hit and goes Bobby-Orr-flying through the air onto the cold pavement but leaps up quick avoiding errant boards crushing his bare noggin.

This savant is “King” Brian who skates for the 9-0 Chilliwack team and is Longboard Hockey League’s defending scoring champ and frequent curator of the Chanley Cup. The battered trophy (bought at a Flea Market for $5 and clever negotiation) is tossed into the rink and ‘seasoned’ with the gameplay and hauled home by the vanquishing team each Saturday.

A skinny, curly-haired teammate is skating like the wind and taking a serious beating … elbows to the ribs, can to the face, sticks to the shins … but he keeps rolling on as a husky green-haired boarder exclaims, “I’ve never seen anyone take that kind of abuse in my five years in the LHL!” Beside playing for the Downtown Dirty Dogs, this boarder named Striker is the ringleader of Coast Longboarding and organizes these grassroots longboard events including the LHL championship at the appropriately-named Danger Bay.

After the game, Natasha, The Bloods’ goalie, yanks off her helmet with a grin as I wave her over for a Chocolate Jack Herer cone. “There’s only one joint going around here?!” She’s appalled and grabs another. “Hash plant, with hash mixed too. It’s almost 4:20AM as she passes the heavy indica around.

Glancing over, Striker charges at a loose can, twisting his fireplug frame to rip a shot top shelf, short side on the sprawling goalie as Natasha nonchalantly tells me they leave, “when they kick us out around 5 or 6AM and then we come back next Saturday, every Saturday.”

Seeing the community vibe like a chilled out tailgate party co-existing with the intense blood sport, I realize it’s probably a good thing they keep this strangely perfect recreation a secret.

http://coastlongboarding.com/hockey.cfm

##

Hopping the parking garage elevator with a overstuffed crowd heading to run another circuit down the five levels, i reach for the thick cone in raw paper with transit pass filter Cousin Herb rolled up for the mission but, .

skill level all over the place, some pro quality riders while others are patiently learning and taking bruises along the way – no sausage fest, at least a dozen hockey playing skater girls too. Everyone says, this is a light turnout. “But it’s secret,” i say. Maybe they just don’t want short boarders to show up? Anyhow, May long weekend is when the real fun goes down, the 4 day Danger Bay long board fest – the two top team show down for one epic game and everyone speaks of Danger Bay hippies talking about a Dead show. downhill longboard races on the sunshine coast with bands and buds? hmmmm pencil that one in.

I ask another Methhead called Tyson what possesses them to drive out from the farthest burb of Chilliwack – a town i remember mostly for grow houses and cow shit – “it’s about the community” he says rolling up a huge cone from my ample first aid kit of magik bud. his buddy XXX adds, “something else about the positive vibe.”

Sounds good to me, pulling a hoot with my head fogged and face grinning. “good stuff” he says, as i dodge a bearded dude on a six wheel skateboard barrelling down the garage ramp, “I grow some outdoor, its just do easy to put a few here and there.” i ask him what he does the rest of the week, both reply “skate and smoke.” one frames houses sometimes – that’s it, the rest is skating and toking – but they don’t talk like burned out losers, it’s just they don’t care to work, they live is a cheap place and save their time. sign me up.

On a stuffed elevator ride to the 6th floor, before I can pull the fattie of Chocolate Jack Herer from behind my ear, a smiling chick in blond pigtails and a Team Canada jersey sparks a beauty doobie. This is the Blood’s goalie Natasha getting in another run before playing her former team, the North Shore Slashers, after they finish off the Shitmix. She was auto-traded after moving and here old mates are stuck with a scrub in goal despite their high-powered offense led by Wolfman. I question the sanity of taking Sapporo cans to the face but undeterred she explains, “It’s nuts out there, there are no rules, everyone should try it.”

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At the end of the game, Natasha yanks off her helmet with a grin and i wave her over as i gather up a few more Methheads and and a few hangers-on for another fatty. “there only one joint going here?” she asks “it’s a big one someone answers but she’s already grabbing another. “hash plant’ she says giving it a light, “with hash in it too.” it’s coming on 4:20AM and she passing a heavy indica around – beer can slapshots to the face is one thing but this is really tough but nonchalantly says they leave “around 5 or 6 when they kick us out.”

Rebagliati Positive About 2010 in “Heads – the Marijuana Lifestyle magazine”

Ross article - Heads magazine coverMy article “Rebagliati Positive About 2010” was published in “Heads – the Marijuana Lifestyle magazine” Vol. 6 Issue 10 “The Stoned Cold Issue.”

Like “Zen Rambling in Japan” the Ross article is the “Head First” lead article and over 3000 words and I also managed one photo in there (the one with the big nug). A great layout and Kris Krug‘s fine shots of a candid Ross frame the article nicley indeed.

The article discusses 1998 Nagano Olympic snowboard gold medalist and Canadian sporting legend, Ross Rebagliati’s quest for 2010 Olympics in Whistler/Vancouver plus his training routine, fundraising efforts, quest to make the team role on tour and recreational interests.

Importantly, he breaks down the events and emotions of the big shakedown in Nagano. Hear more about the fallout from his positive marijuana test from an interview I did in Vancouver during the 2006 Turin games.

Ross article, Heads magazineRoss article, Heads magazine, pg. 2
See full size images on Flickr in the Magazines of Note set

Choose between this (not really updated) Heads magazine or this Heads magazine on myspace but better off just scorcing a copy for yourself.

UPDATE: 2015, Heads magazine sadly folded a few years back. Ross is now a father and marijuana entrepreneur.

See also: Ross’ site, Ross on Flickr

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Rebagliati Positive About 2010

by Dave Thorvald Olson

Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati is training for 2010 Olympics on his home course, defending his reputation and spreading his wisdom to the youth

Ross Rebagliati rolled into the early morning Vancouver coffeeshop looking composed and chillaxed, deftly juggling cellphone radio interviews and answering questions via a live symposium connected to the 2006 Games in Turin. While others yawned, he grinned for snapshots and scribbled Sharpie autographs before heading back up the twisty road to Whistler for an afternoon of training.

Somehow, the thirty-something Ross manages to escape any stereotyping – balancing an elite athlete’s intensity with the laid back ease of a sagey mountain monk. No stoner drawl or disheveled appearance here, Ross is all dialed in – looking simultaneously chiseled and cherubic. Part James Bond and part Jeff Spicoli with ruddy cheeks which must get him carded 8 times out of 10 buying beer in the States. His healthy lifestyle is evident and he’s got something 007 and Spicoli dude don’t – a Gold Medal. Says so right on his business card, “Olympic Gold Medalist.”

Though his 1998 gold medal performance still draws occasional cliched punch-lines, these days Ross is a busy guy who stays rolling with good food and exercise from kick boxing to kite sailing to keep him relaxed, focused and healthy while facing a constant schedule.

Eight years after his big win, he’s become part of Canadian culture as more than, “that guy who won the gold and got busted for weed.” And it’s not just stoners toasting him when toking Nagano Gold buds or boarders admiring his success of winning the controversial inaugural event – his candor and perseverance qualified him for folk hero status to many civil libertarians.

Albeit unintentionally, Ross is a role model or an accidental martyr and is irrevocably synonymous with the positive weed test after winning the snowboard gold. But more importantly, he is known for the way he handled the incident, notably, his persistence in fighting to keep his hard-earned medal while sticking to his ideals, staying loyal to his friends, speaking out and showing that cannabis use can be a normal part of a healthy lifestyle.

Not content to rest on past accomplishments, Ross plans a return to the podium and is eyeing a place on Team Canada to compete on his home course, before his hometown friends at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler.

Recreation Renaissance Man

Ross’ public schedule is a stream of autograph signings, car dealership appearances, media interviews and spots on every cheesy radio and TV morning show in the nation sandwiched in between grueling training sessions, playing with his beloved dog and hanging out with, you know, his peer group, the ones with gold medals. Kicking back with Donavon Bailey or strolling into the NHL awards ceremony with Captain Cassie Campbell – just like its no big deal.

He’s dabbled in broadcast work like many victorious athletes and toyed with a bit of TV acting but mixes in adventure sports action with his training retinue – racing stock cars, riding dirt bikes, kite-sailing, surfing, mountain biking the technical trails and whatever else you got, … including golf.

These days, he’s set on 2010 but also keeps new adventures in mind, “Right now from here to then, 2010 is obviously my main focus, after that i’d love to race in the Paris Dakar rally race on a motor bike – that’s one of my main goals for my life.”

As for politics, the contemplative and well-spoken Ross says, “That has crossed my mind as well but I don’t think it would give me enough free time.”

Currently taking up valuable time is a “misappropriation of personality” lawsuit he filed against the producers of a gaudy TV program featuring a blond-haired, blue-eyed, goldmedal-winning snowboarder whose murder leads to uncovering a hedonistic and unsavory past. Ross says, “I’m the only former gold medal snowboarder in Whistler so yeah I think it is confusing and detrimental to my image and hurts my ability to secure sponsorships.” However, the producers say that Ross’s name never came up in the meetings and the character is purely coincidental (yeah right).

Either way, the locals know the truth that Ross is the real deal in Whistler where visitors can ski Ross’ run on Blackcomb and finish the day by sparking a doob in the Village park named in his honor.

The Message

Ross approaches the weed topic with a “been there” sigh, but he’s reluctantly aware that he’s become an unintentional role-model for the millions of weekend athletes and herbal enthusiasts who seek to balance turning on with working out. Indeed, whenever Ross’ name appears in the media, “marijuana” isn’t far behind and he is still vilified by crusty conservatives who pull out the “what kind of message does this send to the kids” rhetoric.

Turns out, contrary to the misleading rumblings, Ross sends a great message to the kids, particularly aspiring Olympians, saying, “If you have a goal to become an Olympic athlete and if you devote your life, it is definitely a obtainable thing, it is just about making the time and committing to it.”

He also sends a positive message to the community with his considerable charity work, hanging out with kids across North America and genuinely enjoying the good work. Besides actively participating in sports programs for kids with disabilities, diabetes awareness with his mom, and visiting terminally ill youth, he also does a kids day at at EA Sports where he is patiently worked over by wheelchair-bound kids playing video games. He explains, almost excitedly, “Due to their various conditions, gaming is an integral part of their lives and let me tell you, they are pros at it!”

His epic performance also sent a very powerful message to the nay-sayers like the ignorant politicos who won’t admit that responsible marijuana use in not anti-social behavior and pompous blowhard crusaders like International Olympic Committee’s dope chief, Dick Pound who struggles to differentiate between harmful, synthesized substances or damaging steroids, and non-toxic THC (which is only maybe a performance enhancing substance) and clings to the tired and unproven gateway drug rhetoric.

However, his open opinions supporting cannabis and refusal to “sell out” his toker friends raised the ire of do-gooders who sought to leverage him into an anti-herb crusader to atone for his error.

No such luck for the draconians as Ross chimes in on decriminalization, “Right now the whole idea of it being decriminalized makes the legal system function at a level that it should be functioning at and not clogging up the courts and the judicial system and even jails or whatever for something like that.”
{ref: Olympian Rebagliati urges pot decriminalization, Canadian Press, Updated: Thurs. May. 8 2003 6:18 AM ET)}

His out-spoken nature has caused problems crossing borders into USA, Europe and Australia and he still faces annoying travel restrictions when heading into the USA and required minor diplomatic intervention to facilitate his trip to watch the Games in Salt Lake City 2002.

While the excess attention caused problems crossing borders, the resultant hassle was the impetus to take a break from competitive snowboarding allowing him precious time to purse his other various interests, but now, he is back on his race board and ready to win again.

2010 – What’s it gonna take

Competing in the Olympics is a Big Deal for anyone, but a bigger deal for 38 year old (well, unless you’re 39 year old 2006 Skeleton Gold Medalist, Duff Gibson but that’s another story). Sure, sometimes you see a grey haired curler but the snowboarding circuit is dominated by spry twenty-somethings who combine the rare mix of health, motivation, skill with ability to cobble enough income to support themselves to train, travel and compete in a challenging discipline where milliseconds count and injuries are easily come by.

But first, Ross has got to make the team. There are no automatic slots on Canada’s Olympic Snowboard team – even for a gold medalist & BC Sports Hall of Famer. Instead, the egalitarian system rewards boarders for long-term amateur participation for Team Canada. Candidates must compete in prescribed events and participate in group training sessions to rise through the ranks to qualify. Which means you have to be fast and race a lot where and when they tell ya.

So what is it gonna take for Ross to make the team against guys 15 years his junior?

As part of preparing himself physically, he drink most of his meals – mixing protein powder, raw egg, blueberries, flax seed, grape nuts, banana and yogurt in a blender for breakfast and lunch and eating chicken with broccoli for dinner. That’s part of the difference between an elite snowboarder and the dude down the street who pounds a few twinkies before hitting the lifts.

Ross continues, “I’m riding every day, back on my race board running gates at Blackcomb, most days you can see me training on Jersey Cream at the Race Centre. Plus I do an extensive kick boxing routine and have a basement gym with weights and punching bags.”

Just in case he isn’t working hard enough, he worked with Sasha, a Russian conditioning coach who defected from the Army 20 years ago who Ross describes as “pretty hardcore.”

For snowboard-specific training, he hooked up with a former competitor Thedo Remilink who finished 10th in Nagano, boarding for Holland at age 35. Ross says, “Thedo and I were on the same pro team around 1996. He will be a familiar face for me as well as someone who knows my history.”

After a summer on the mountain bike and early training on Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor, he’s ready for competition in Europe this fall.

The Path Back Home

Specialized, international training isn’t cheap and must be funded by company sponsors or privately as Canada doesn’t kick down the expenses to the level of some countries where elite athletes are feted and coddled like sacred cows. Instead, Canada spreads sports funding across a wide swath of athletes rather than fully funding a few top performers,

This policy can lead to situations evidenced in Turin 2006 when independently wealthy freestyle mogul skier Dale Begg-Smith, who hails from Vancouver and train in Whistler, competed for Australia because he didn’t care to participate in the required group training procedures and risk missing out on the Games by these missing required events. Instead, he paid his way, waited his time and brought the Aussies a rare Winter Gold.

With snowboarding, the Canadian Olympic powers doesn’t fund anyone who doesn’t train with the team which causes a conundrum for someone like Ross who expects to make the team yet wishes to train with his preferred coach. No worry though, Ross insists he will compete only for Canada and is headed back to take his lumps as the cagey veteran racing against up and comers on the World Cup circuit where (back in the day) he won the European Championship plus his hometown World Cup event and was a regular in the top three.

Besides the coaching expense, until he makes Team Canada, he’s on his own to fund the $1000/week needed for the basic travel expenses for life on the circuit from plane tickets to entry fees to lift tickets for training, etc. Like a rock band scraping gas money for the tour van, he sells t-shirts, toques and other Ross paraphernalia on his website but of course, his accomplishments and high profile draw sponsor’s attention, notably iconoclastic Canadian brand, Roots. “They’ve been there for me every step,” Ross says, adding,”I lost some sponsors after the Olympics, but Roots picked up the slack.” Looks like the exposure works for Roots too who now make Olympic uniforms for several countries. Besides Roots, he shills body space for ads for googles and gear enough to keep rolling to the next race.

But don’t worry too much about the enterprising Rebagliati – after losing a pre-Olympic sponsor who was covering his mortgage payments, Ross sold his house and realized a considerable profit. He says, “A light bulb went off in my head and I realized I could continue to flip houses.” So he pulls enough flips in the hectic Whistler real estate market to keep the homefires burning and suggests, “The midnight infomercial about buying houses with no money down is true.”

Know Your Role

On his return to the circuit, he is savvy to the trials of the road in the hyper-competitive environment and the effects of the inter-personal dynamics on race results.

“Aside from the underlying stress of the financial commitments with no guarantees, there is considerable time on the road and the particular dynamic of the inner team relationships. These are the factors which, if dealt with wisely or not, contribute to either success or failure. The ‘reality TV shows’ like Big Brother and Survivor are very good examples of what life on the racing circuit is like.”

As a first to have a rare boarder pass at Blackcomb, Ross, who started as ski racer, met snowboarding at 15 and never looked back and as someone who loves the sport, and as the “not-quite grizzled” veteran teammate, he’s prepared to help other boarders cope and succeed by bringing a cooperative attitude into a competitive environment.

“I will be the veteran with all the experience. When I first started with professional teams 15 years ago, me and the others were in our early 20’s, and sometimes younger, with very limited life experience away from the comforts of home. Dealing with things about growing up along with race life on the road is a challenge for anyone, especially at that age.”

After a five year competitive hiatus, he’s gotta be realistic with his expectations though, he expects, “to make top three in at least one race and he in the finals (top 15) or better on a regular basis by mid-season. My goals will become more or less aggressive depending on where my level of riding is ay compared to the current top guns.”

His quest to be a competitor in 2010 was inspired by his involvement with bringing the games to his hometown as an unofficial ambassador for his hometown. “During the Plebasite, I did a bunch of media to get people out to vote ‘yes’ and having the Games come here has created the motivation I now have to get back on my race boards.”

The historical significance is not lost on Ross who says, “To race in the games here would be a cool thing since when I first started snowboarding here we weren’t even allowed to ride the chairlifts anywere in Canada. It’s kind of a full circle which I am proud to have been have been a part of since the beginning.”

Don’t underestimate the advantage of competing on a familiar course (let alone sleeping at home with race-day breakfast at your favorite cafe) and with his steely-eyed focus, love of boarding, healthy lifestyle and balanced demeanor, don’t bet against Rebagliati being back on top of the podium in 2010. After a few seasons back on the board, the still-distant February morning might just feel like another screaming day on the slopes for the cagey veteran.

Backstory (sidebar?)

As one of the later boarders to ride the chopped up and foggy Shiga Kogen Giant Slalom course which had claimed over a dozen DNFs on the day – Ross hurdled down the slope, pushing each turn tighter and harder and arrived at the bottom in sizzling time – moving from eighth to first and winning the Gold Medal with two hundredths of a second to spare.

From the victory celebration, the elated Ross headed back to the athlete’s village to hang out with his buddies and co-competitors. They passed his Gold Medal around and talked about the race with friendly camaraderie when the coaches walked into the room and asked everyone to leave, everyone … except for Ross who they advised to sit down.

Ross says, “They basically told me I had failed drug test but they didn’t know what for.” So he gathered the various supplements and sports drinks he’d ingested for analyzation and headed to Nagano city by bus with his backpack. When I got to Nagano, they set me up with the Head of the Canadian Olympic Association, and she explained that i had failed a test for weed.”

After 11 years training for this win, he stopped smoking in the previous April knowing testing was part game. “This was something that was part of my life for years on end leading up to that moment. We knew that it would be somewhat of an issue going into the games, and we’d gone to great lengths to educate ourselves and learn about it and to make sure it wasn’t an issue and all of a sudden, here it was right at the most crucial point of my career so it was bad news for sure. They wanted to know if I had an explanation of course I didn’t except that I’d been hanging out with people over Christmas and New Year’s and at a wake that I’d been at for a friend that I’d dedicated my winning run to.”

Suddenly statistics appeared about how much smoke would have to be in a room for the THC level to reach that point and instantly everyone was an expert on whether or not cannabis was a performance enhancing drug.

Rumors began to spread that the issue was moot as marijuana wasn’t even included as a banned substance in the agreement which added snowboarding to the Games as the International Ski Federation allows for 15ml contrary to IOC regulations permitted which permit none. Regardless, a duplicate Gold was awarded in a hastily planned ceremony trying to defray attention from the controversy.

The following morning, the ordeal continued as Ross was taken into custody by the Nagano Prefectural police who took their turn to grandstand. The local cops had managed to separate him from his RCMP escorts and Canadian Olympic Association Representatives and worked over his frazzled nerves. Ross adds, “They put me in a jail cell and interrogated me for 4-5 hours about the different things about weed. I was really starting to feel the reality of the situation because the translator could barely speak English and I didn’t even know if she was telling the chief what I was telling her.”

During that anxious, isolated time in the dark hours in jail cell, worn-out but strident, with the disputed gold medal still stuck protectively sequestered in his pocket, “They came in and told me that I’d in fact won my appeal and I could keep my medal. ” And not a moment to soon, as Ross continues, “Otherwise the Japanese police wouldn’t have let me out, they were actually pressing charges.” Tense times in a country with a 7 years jail term the norm for possession.

With the 3-2 decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sport didn’t see the issue as sharply as Ross who states emphatically, “Weed was not on the list of banned substances at the time and in my opinion the fact that they tested for it anyway was a violation of social privacy.” But with the announcement, the IOC shuffled the medals once more, with Ross back on top.

Despite the relief, Ross says, “This all started less than 24 hours after the race. I only had those hours of pure exhilaration to enjoy winning the Olympics and then it all went downhill and it’s never felt the same.”

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Ross’ website: www.rossrebagliati.com/
Roots website: www.roots.com/new_canada/html/ath_update_RossM05.shtml

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Bonus

Aside from the underlying stress of the financial commitments with no guarantees there is considerable time on the road and the particular dynamic of the inner team relationships. These are the factors which, if dealt with wisely or not, contribute to either success or failure. A high level of training and racing become effortless and when the social side of things is kept in check. We are constantly in a competitive atmosphere within the team during training. Whether on snow or in the gym, do to the fact that at the end of the day we all compete against each other, the atmosphere always has this element. There will always be those who deal with this better than others and it is the responsibility of each team member to do their best to either help or distance them selves to make the most of any situation. I have made my share of mistakes and positive contributions to my team over the years and from those experiences I have come to learn how I can best contribute to not only my own success but also that of my team. I will be the veteran with all the experience but when I first started with professional teams 15yrs ago I and others were in our early 20’s and sometimes younger with very limited life experience away from the comforts of home. Dealing with things about growing up along with race life on the road is a challenge for anyone, especially at that age . The ‘reality shows’ that are on TV like Big Brother and Survivor are very good examples of what life on the racing circuit is like.

My expectations for this season are to make the top three in at least one race and to be in the finals (top 15) or better on a regular basis by mid season. As this is my first full year of racing in around five seasons my goals will become more or less aggressive depending on where my level of ridding is at compared to the current top guns. The most important thing about setting goals is to set lots of small ones that can be easily accomplished that eventually lead up to ones that are not so easy.

I am involved in what seems to be countless charities of which most of them are for kids. I am involved with the special olympics, the adaptive ski and snowboard programs for kids with disabilities, ‘make a wish’ and ‘hole in the wall’ for kids with terminal illness’. The Canadian diabetes association and myself of partnering up to raise money along with my mother who has diabetes. EA Sports and I also do kids days at their headquarters which involves me gaming against some of the best in the business,(kids in wheel chairs). Due to their various conditions, gaming is an intrigal part of their lives and let me tell you,” they are pros at it!”.

As far as the weed is concerned and the ‘rumor’ I honestly don’t know and further more would’nt want to speculate one way or the other. What I do know is that weed was not on the list of banned substances at the time and in my opinion the fact that they tested for it anyway was a violation of social privacy. All snowboarders at the Nagano Olympics followed the rules.

Aside from certain travel restrictions which are still upon me with regards to the USA I have had only a small corporate fall out with at least one of my main sponsors I had going into Nagano. I would like to point out that I don’t blame the sponsors at all for there decision although it was disappointing none the less. ‘Roots’ has been there for me every step of the way and are design leaders in healthy living and lifestyle and their clothing line reflects that.

Varley in Vancouver, Part 3: influencing and remixing art – join the G7

Originally published on Aug 17, 2014 at Vancouver Observer. Republished here intact for posterity.

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What follows is Part 3 of a three-part series exploring the decade which Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley lived in Vancouver and played a pivotal role in the creation of a west coast art movement and sensibility. 

Trained in Belgium, and unlike the rest of the G7, primarily a portraitist, Varley explored his rugged new location – from a Jericho cabin to summer-long camps in Garbaldi – and often with a group of students and artists along, before moving to a cheap place in Lynn Canyon with his mistress. While there, broke and often drunk, he painted true masterpieces on insulation paper. Commemorated with only a trail along Lynn Creek, come along to learn about one of Vancouver’s (almost) unknown shapers. 

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Cheakamus canyon by Frederick Varley
Art creates our future. When master craftsman skills, meet emotional intent, and is amplified by originality and integrity, a piece of the human experience – a chapter in the collective history – is minted.

As these artifacts are assembled and cherished by subsequent generations they inspire and demonstrate the struggles of existence, evolutions of culture, sagas and stories, and idealized figures, through paintings and other medium.

But art is not static – or shouldn’t be anyhow. In the best works, the influences and interpretations are able to inspire beyond generations. And of course, there is no end of stories about artists who are undiscovered or underappreciated in their own time.

Frederick Varley fell somewhere in between.

Early notoriety came with the  Group of 7 and adventures with Tom Thomson and the idea of hearty artists clambering mountains, canoeing rapids, and laying thick swaths of paint in free forms in the then emerging country. These painters created a new kind of  Canadian hero, artistic Coureur des bois, adventurers seeking views, rather than pelts.

Unlike his peers, Varley was a portraitist and a reluctant landscape painter. However his landscapes were often so stirring, when complete the images somehow “felt” like nature more than “resembled” nature. So it goes, the painting which defines Varley to many art historians and enthusiasts is “Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay” which hangs in the Canada’s National Gallery.

“Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay”  by Frederick Varley

The public (read: art dealers) always wanted more grand natural scenes like others of his Group produced – to great acclaim and often financial success. But Varley felt there was no challenge in landscapes, and since several other of his G7 colleagues had painted this same bay over the years, so he saw no point in creating an industry of this one location.

By any measure, during his time in BC, he produced his most transformative works. The mix of his eye and energy, coupled with the stunning, rugged vistas and interesting human faces, was a perfect match for Varley to create without restraint or direction from anyone. 

By fusing Chinese scroll paintings and unique perspectives, colour symbolism, and pushing the subject to the outside of the canvas, he created a purely original aesthetic which was unlike any paintings hitherto created on the rugged West coast. 

Though not a landscape painter per se, towards the end of his time in Vancouver area, flat broke living in Lynn Canyon he returned to landscapes because there were no other models besides the two of them, both of which he’d painted many times. 

Self portrait by Fredrick Varley

The results of these final months are often watercolour gouache on insulation backing paper, or odds and ends of colour tubes, and board. Yet even with scraps of supplies, his subtle technique captured both the tranquility and promise of unexplored nature, and the quiet potential power of the same nature around him.

Winter Lynn Valley by Frederick Varley

Remixing Varley

While your humble writer attended school diligently in then barely sprawling suburbs of Vancouver, stomped around Lynn Canyon (and the free suspension bridge!) with my brothers, as a scout hiked along the Baden Powell trail, at no point did I hear of Frederick Varley – until I moved to a new neighbourhood, and found a perfect trail which led me to learn who Varley was, and what he left behind. 

From a practical standpoint, he left debt to his partner in BC Arts College, his wife Maude and children (who later bought and lived in the Lynn Canyon house for many years until she died in 1975), his mistress/muse Vera Weatherbie, who after relationships with both Varley and Vanderpant, married Harold Mortimer-Lamb, a painter (whom Varley painted). 

Later in her life, Vera received more appreciation of her art but, by that time, she had left her artist life mostly behind and preferred to promote interest for her husband’s works. 

We know Varley left Vancouver towards Ottawa. We know he easily found art-minded ladies to be his patrons, he emerged for sketching and painting journeys to the Arctic, the USSR, and returned as far west as the Rocky Mountains. And he emerged for this film in 1953. Still somewhat spry, still somehow sad. But, tracing his steps amidst the neighbourhoods in Vancouver, where he captured his artistic lightning, i can’t help to feel like something of importance is missing from these seminal days of local art. A slice of the story, yet unpreserved or underused.

Author’s Resources

Link Library: Further Frederick Varley reading: This link library contains dozens of links to Varley bios, critiques, histories, plus anecdotes from local historians and hikers. 

Film: In 1953, Varley played himself in a 16-minute film directed by Allan Wargon and produced by the National Film Board. 

In the film which really has no dialogue, we see Varley returning from a hike in the hills. He hitchhikes back into town and into a small apartment and studio with canvases in various states of completion. Fred mutters and fumbles around before going out for bread and cheese. Soon after a nibble, he finds his spark, his flow, his inspiration and begins a new creation. 

In the background, you’ll notice the his late masterpiece, the translucent and radiant “Liberation”. A skeletal man in a state of bliss or transcendence – or perhaps he is suffering?

Varley by Allan Wargon, National Film Board of Canada

The film also available for download or on DVD. 

CBC Interview: A Visit to Frederick Varley” was again created by Allan Wargon. While not available for embedding or downloading, this interview which aired on CBC on April 20, 1965 (4 years before his death), is likely the last video footage of Varley. In this clip he candidly discusses his technique for painting portraits – including his opinion about beautiful people.

Book: Frederick Varley: Portraits into the Light (available as Google eBook)

A voluminous tome with great care given his artistic legacy and includes many rare sketches of Inuit from his trip to the Arctic. 

Ephemera: Illustrated Vancouver’s Fred Varley tag — @JMV’s carefully curated collection of murals, folkart, beer labels and lost fine art and pointed out Varley’s sketch of, what looks like, a lady on a laptop.

Blogger: Eve Lazurus in Spacing.ca also turns in a charming personal account of hiking around Varley’s Lynn Canyon home (and also stopping in at End of the Line cafe) in her Frederick Varley’s Vancouver. 

Photographs: Kris Krug displays his favourites Kodachromes from the exploration of addresses on Flickr, KK Varley tag.

Megaphone Magazine: Published a 1500 word version of my discourse as  Varley’s Vancouver, Discovering the City’s Artistic Hearts in Frederick Varley’s Past

Gallery: There is a Varley Art Gallery in as part of the Varley-McKay Art Foundation of Markham, Ontario and a street in Unionville, Ontario bears his name. McKay refers to a patron who supporting Varley later in life. 

VAG: Vancouver Art Gallery has collected 19 Varley paintings or sketches as well as a fond of personal papers including some illuminating letters from his son who became an art dealer and was agent for selling the elder Varley’s work. 

Varley paintings at Vancouver Art Gallery 

Portrait of H. Mortimer-Lamb, c.1930
Untitled Figure Study, 1939
Dawn, 1929
Steeple Mountain, Kootenay Lake, 1956
Sketch of Garrow Bay, c.1935
Mountain Vista, B.C., 1929
Untitled, 1929
Untitled, 1929
Untitled, 1929
Swimming Pool at Lumberman’s Arch, 1932
Untitled (Vera and Mr. Weatherbie), 1929
Young Artist at Work, 1924
Ice Floes, Low Tide, Cape Dorset, 1938
Blue Ridge, Upper Lynn, 1931
Bridge Over Lynn, 1932
Girl’s Head, c. 1931
Evening-Georgian Bay, c.1920
Mount Garibaldi, 1927-1928

Letters from Varley’s son (who became an art dealer and was agent for selling the elder Varley’s work).

Artists influenced by Varley

 Along with the aforementioned Ms. Weatherbie, other painters influenced by Frederick Varley – either as students or contemporaries – include: Emily Carr, Charles Scott, Jock MacDonald, Irene Hoffar Reid, Beatrice Lennie.

Varley Remixes

There is a variety of ways to connect your contemporary experience with Varley’s era. Whether you  paint, record, dance, hike, write or otherwise, find a way to create and share your work. 

Below are more examples, resources, ideas, ephemera and creative prompts to inspire and celebrate the birth of a Vancouver art culture, and the renegades who shaped it, and us.

Poem: 

“Varley at Jericho”

Two swimmers, heads bobbing way out there beyond the buoys
Varley solid after a bottle of red
with gaggle of glowing students
striving for direction and inspiration about how to go beyond
~ what is the level above?

when human and nature,
face and landscape  portrait
and treatment are lost ~
all forgotten in the sublime asymmetry

 Vanderpant and his photos showing more than
just the realness – tell the story beyond the moment –
the river doesn’t stop after the shutter closes
where did the rivers without end begin?

Look closely across the inlet
and you can see where to wander to find the first
drops of melting cascading over lichen and rock,
filters through alpine moss & gravel into a ravine, the
gullies collect the raw material
to begin the rivers which continue to flow until they find their end

Blackberries grow where Varley sat
Jericho now leisure-time activities
weddings for international industrialists
sandy for blue- haired lounger – leathery from routine
silhouette of grey and green, cypress to seymour divots for Capilano and Lynn
the horseshoe toes slipping into the sound
the only clears for the sky

island and headlands
fjords and freshers
lighthouses & old growth anoint the end of land
give away to the space in between

higher now they climb
wooden pioneers drifted into the concrete and glass
cantilevered over cliffs craning
to see what is directly ahead.

the veranda hosted parties
fraternized student faculty
late conversations with wine
moving rugged frontier forms and
vocabularies of culture
not contrived, not crafted
but not wrestled,
– coaxed from the confluence of river, sea and land
sit with your tools
where were you when no one was here but beachcombers and
outliers and occasional picnicers

 the ferries would carry you from Jericho to Ambleside, forays and for day of weekend holiday respite
but the more, someone needs to the tell the story of how the tree became logs and people grow into the land and emerged after exploration and surrender – well affected

Varley Residence & Studio Map: 

Artist Joanna Ambrosio remixed the Google Map into something more “Varley-ish”.
 

Choogle On with Uncle Weed, audio podcast: Portrait of Varley 

Varley in Vancouver, Part 2: Following Varley’s Trail from Jericho to Lynn

Originally published in Vancouver Observer, Aug. 15 2014. Republished here intact for posterity etc.

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What follows is Part 2 of a three-part series exploring the decade which Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley lived in Vancouver and played a pivotal role in the creation of a west coast art movement and sensibility.

Trained in Belgium, and unlike the rest of the G7, primarily a portraitist, Varley explored his rugged new location – from a Jericho cabin to summer-long camps in Garabaldi – and often with a group of students and artists along, before moving to a cheap place in Lynn Canyon with his mistress. While there, broke and often drunk, he painted true masterpieces on insulation paper. Commemorated with only a trail along Lynn Creek, come along to learn about one of Vancouver’s (almost) unknown shapers.

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Frederick Varley, a founding member of the noted collective of Canadian painters called the Group of Seven came to Vancouver after working as a commercial artist in Toronto along with fellow G7, Arthur Lismer. Varley’s paintings are in the National Gallery (including his seminal work Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay).

After a tempting offer, they became the founding professors at Vancouver’s first arts school (which grew into Emily Carr University). His unique teaching style and exhibits were critical catalysts for the young and artistically “unsophisticated” city.

Varley’s Vancouver

In a decade living in Vancouver (1928-37), the transplanted Brit and Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley changed addresses frequently as he rearranged living situations between his family – wife Maude and a bundle of children – and his mistress/student/collaborator, Vera Weatherbie.

He also accommodated his desire for weekend excursions into the North Shore mountains using a ferry from Jericho to Ambleside, and often further afield with long summer painting camps in Garibaldi, complete with a clutch of students in white canvas tents and easels abounding in the vibrant landscape.

Frederick left Vancouver with wreckage in his wake in the form of an abandoned family, a dismissed mistress, significant debt from the BC College of Arts failure (which he left for colleague and “friend” to sort out), plus 18 months back due on rent on the Lynn Valley house – which wife Maude later bought and raised her children in while she eeked out a living with odd jobs including door to door sales in her neighbourhood.

He also left a legacy of painters he inspired and a sense of a true west coast style which is evident in the works of his former students.

Wander the Varley Tour

Time and development have erased most any sign of Varley as most addresses which are replaced with office buildings, tennis courts and apartment blocks. However, his spirit is perhaps felt most strongly along the Varley Trail in Upper Lynn Canyon where you can practically determine right where he set his easel to paint these evocative, rugged scenes – the mountains swirled in colour and dimension, clumps of bushes giving way to darting trees in the recently clear-cut canyon, and Rice Lake through season renewal and decay.

Follow along to see the if you can catch Fred’s shadow at one of his former homes, schools or watering holes.

Former Vancouver “Parakontas” artist studio in West End — Photo by Kris Krug

The trail goes from Jericho to Lynn Valley with many stops along the way. The accompanying photos of the current, rather ordinary, structures contrast with often surprising stories from an artistic past. Notably, as he changed addresses, he also changed his listed professions, identifying himself sometimes as school teacher, sometimes as artist, and finally as President of BC College of Arts.

With this annotated map created from city directory and census records with thanks to Vancouver Archives, you can explore his home and work addresses via transit, or load up a car for a day out with fellow artists.

Badminton Hotel: 7 1/2 – 603 Howe Street

Varley kept personal studio space at the Badminton Hotel at Howe and Dunsmuir – then an artist’s hangout and registered address of many of Vancouver’s early intellectuals and artists amidst a small city of longshoremen, traveling prospectors and tugboat racers.

Now another grey tower, and shiny baubles in department store windows leave no trace of the artistic area of past.

Left: Jericho beach photo by Kris Krug. Right: “ocean from Jericho” by Frederick Varley

 Jericho Beach House: 3857 Point Grey Road (rear), Vancouver

In 1928, he moved his young family to a small house right on Jericho Beach where he hosted lively discussions into the night on the wide veranda with full view of the North Shore Mountains.

From here, Varley would gather with his students, colleagues, and artists – fraternizing and partying into night with Varley often leading charges in the cold water or playing classical music on a piano, and falling hard for Vancouver.

Now, the address can be most closely assigned to a gardener’s shed behind a retirement manor and manicured tennis courts for Vancouver’s leisurely athletic.

Right: Jerico house, left: artist’s bedroom in Jericho — Both by Frederick Varley

Delighted with the natural splendor in front of him and pleased to have successfully moved his family from Toronto, Varley painted the tiny cabin, steps from the sea, in lavish sea-greens and blues. You can imagine a strong drink and stirring conversations on wide porch in this charming painting which sold at auction in 2006 for a thrifty $207,000.

Vancouver School of Applied Arts and Design: 590 Hamilton Street, Vancouver

Frederick lept into his position of Department Head of Drawing and Painting at Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (which eventually evolved intoVancouver School of Art, and later Emily Carr University). This was BC’s first art school and was conceived a few years earlier by the BC Art League, citizens who sought to spark art and culture in the city with the creation of a gallery and a school. The new VSAAD opened with 89 day and night students, and a first graduating class comprising of nine women and two men.

Graduation Program from the First Class of VSDCC

At the Hamilton St. campus (in the upper floor of Vancouver School Board offices), he extolled his students to “think for themselves without fear” – his innovative teaching methods, quest for perfection, and passionate personality inspired his students – including his first meetings with a striking student named Vera Weatherbie, who would play a variety of roles in the ensuing years.

BC College of Art: 1233-39 West Georgia St., Vancouver

The depression hit and Varley’s wages and hours were reduced by 60 per cent. Infuriated, in 1933, he and Glaswegian abstract painter and craft teacher Jock MacDonald started a competing school called BC College of Arts and set up a campus in a former car dealership showroom on West Georgia St. now swallowed by skyscrapers.

With the beloved Varley as President, many of the key students migrated over, while recent plum graduates joined the faculty working alongside with mentors in a hitherto unknown bohemian work environment.

For two years, the school offered a full slate adding commercial and theatre arts, design and colour theory for over 250 students while also fostering a lively lectures and performances and frequent forays into the hills. Finally, financial pressures caused the school to close.

Parakontas / West End Studio: 1087 Bute Street, Vancouver

“Parakontas” West End artists’ studio – photo by Kris Krug

With help from a student’s wealthy grandfather, the faculty and students worked in a studio on Bute St. in the West End called Parakontas.

Here, they worked with a sense of urgency trying to keep the school operational while evolving a west coast aesthetic.

The studio is now replaced (likely soon after their use) with an apartment block. But it was here in a relatively inauspicious unimpressive location where Varley created a Canadian masterpiece – Vera painted in a painter’s smock was unlike any portrait created in Canada and new for Varley himself who changed his technique to suit the subject and alludes to the true role of the artist in a letter to his sisters in 1936.

“The artist’s job is to unlock fetters and release spirit, to tear to pieces and recreate so forcefully that . . . the imagination of the onlooker is awakened and completes within himself the work of art.”

(F.H. Varley, letter to his sisters Lili and Ethel, February 1936)

Varley seemed to embrace the tension to produce some of his finest portraits in fresh colours, unique shapes and a fusion of European, Native and Asian styles  to create arguably the first truly Canadian portraits created by a master artist. And in return, Vera painted a portrait of Varley, showing her now matured technique and became a feature in her shows.

Portrait of Varley by Vera Weatherbie

Kits House: 3318 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver

Mailbox at Varley’s Kitsilano home – photo by Kris Krug

By 1934, he’d moved the family into a house on 1st Avenue in Kitsilano – perhaps trying to salvage family life, or create the appearance of a “normal” household. But while Maude and the kids settled in, Varley spent most of his time on forays to the mountains with his band of artists, intellectuals and explorers. And more and more time with Vera.

Along with Varley and MacDonald, the wanderers included John Vanderpant, an experimental photographer whose Robson St. studio became the site of salons, discussions and concerts.

Photo of Frederick Varley by John Vanderpant

The classic Kits house with porch and mailbox which remains today is likely the original “bones” of the house, but has obviously been renovated to the times. On a personal visit to the site, I learned the genial homeowner didn’t have any knowledge of the art-ish backstory.

Varley’s Kitsilano family home – photo by Kris Krug

Lynn Valley Retreat: 4400 Lynn Valley Rd, North Vancouver

It was on a mountain excursion in 1935 that Varley spotted a house on the trail to Rice Lake. There he set up living arrangements with Vera and although poor, they painted together. Vera was often the subject, as well as dozens of paintings on the local mountains, trees, and boulders. Significantly during this time, he showed his full range of styles and pushed his experimentation with colour theory and symbolism.

Varley had found his retreat. He quickly set up “irregular arrangements” with Vera while Maude and the kids remained in Kits… with a front porch view of Lynn Valley.

The green 2-storey house sits on a slope looking at a bridge crossing Lynn Canyon and the trail onto Rice Lake, or, a left turn takes you to the trailhead of his namesake trail. The address is now listed as Rice Lake Road rather than the historic address.

The Varley Trail

Trail marker sign for the Varley Trail along Lynn Creek in North Vancouver, BC – photo by Author

The Varley Trail meanders up and down gullies and weaves between the massive stumps of trees cut years ago. Many benches share memorials of loved ones, and there are many natural places to sit and think or paint. Now there are more joggers then bears, but the boulders remain the same.

As the trail comes out at Lynn Valley Headwaters, you can read an interpretive plaque about Varley and pop into the Heritage Museum on Sundays to catch a picture of life in Varley’s time with various artifacts from the early logging days on the area.

You can cross the river at the Headwaters and return by the more graded trail, and even extend your wander with a loop around the Rice Lake, which freezes enough for skates or ice fishing every few years. But for me, doubling back along the heavily treed westside feeds my artistic dreams.

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Getting to the Varley Trail by Transit

Take the SeaBus from Waterfront station (14 minute crossing) and then catch 228 Lynn Valley bus and ride to end of the line.

Take the 210 Upper Lynn Valley from Burrard Station and ride (via Ironworker’s Memorial Bridge and Phibbs Exchange) to the very end of the line.

Start your foray with a stop into The End of the Line shop by the trailhead. A remarkable selection of candies (including Popeye “cigarettes” and Pop Rocks) plus salty licorice, a variety of chutneys, lattes, and loads of to go snacks including my favourite “Trail Pucks.”

NOTE: The images were captured with one of the last rolls of Kodachrome film by globe-exploring BC photographer, Kris Krug of Static Photography or @kk on Twitter & Flickr.

Sharing “Oft-Forgotten Vancouver Stories” at Northern Voice 2013

Dave at Northern Voice 2009 by Megan Mallen
Dave at Northern Voice 2009 by Megan Mallen

I’m speaking at noted, long-time personal expression/blogging conference: Northern Voice, this time held at Museum of Vancouver. I’m bringing an old-timey suitcase and possible costume changes.

Details and tickets are at northernvoice.ca but basics are: June 14-15 (my gig is last on Saturday, 15th 3:30-4:30) at Museum of Vancouver (same building as the Planetarium with the crazy metal crab out front).

Blurb: Vancouver, The Untold Stories 

The core of personal expression is in the stories we create. Indeed, we humans are defined by the stories we tell and the people we tell them to. No matter what form your stories take – digital or analog – they come alive when shared with an audience.

By exploring an oft-forgotten and eclectic variety of Vancouver stories, Northern Voice veteran (this is his 10th talk) Dave Olson @uncleweed, will send you on personal quests to discover new heroes, sort out conundrums, and collaborate with other storymakers to and remix artifacts from our local life. Along the way, you’ll explore forms your mixed media stories might take, and ways to share with audiences you’ve yet to meet.

Start your journey by finding inspiration and interestingness in the  history of our own Vancouver, perhaps: forgotten breweries and legendary blues venues, wealthy recluse at the Bayshore, intrepid punk rock photographer, bohemian group of seven painters, storytellers past and future, true heavyweight champ in an unmarked grave, a dead Hollywood star and his grisly autopsy, stoner comedians’ first meeting, Jimi/Janis/Jerry, summer of love shakedown #nofun, Sammy Sr. at the Cave, Jello at the York, everyone at the Buddha,  and a host of our distant forebears and peers.

Your speaker Dave grew up in Guildford > Whalley > Newton and now lives in Lynn Valley and works in Mt. Pleasant – while he’s spent time in 29+ other countries – he takes distinct interest in getting lost in neighbourhoods seeking craft ales, chill gardens and curious tales. You may have caught him sharing at Pecha Kucha, SXSW, TedX or local community clubs.

History:

For the record, my previous talks were:

  1. Blogging your Passion (with Rachel Ashe, Andre Charland and …)
  2. Three Ps of Podcasting (intro’ed by Roland Tanglao)
  3. Crazy Canucks panel (with John and Rebecca Bollwitt, JJ Guerrero, Alanah McGinley)
  4. Fuck Stats, Make Art (dedicated to Derek K Miller)
  5. Story of a Story (Letters from Russia)
  6. Rock n Roll Photo (with Kris Krug and Bev Davies)
  7. Citizen Journalism and Vancouver 2010 Olympics (with Robert Scales, Andy Miah, Kris Krug, Debbie Lander)
  8. Japan photo project (with John Biehler’s photo camp)
  9. Finding your Voice with Storymaking (delivered via video due to hospitalization)
  10. Vancouver: The Untold Stories (with you, i hope)

My blurb follows, perhaps we’ll see ya there? Oh, a load of my pals are spieling too.