The Boss in Vancouver

Bruce Springsteen in Vancouver

Stop. Before you read any more of what I have to say, go read Lauren’s beautiful take on the concert. She’ll describe it much more beautifully than I. She also experienced a very different concert than I. Perhaps the one I wanted to have.

Much like Lauren, seeing Bruce Springsteen live was on my musical bucket list (& perhaps my actual list). I knew going into the show that this would be a tidy, soul-based, big-band experience. But it didn’t connect for me. Maybe it was my vantage point. I was high up, slightly behind the stage as you can see from the instagram above.

It irked me that the band started the show in “mid-concert” form – there was no warming up the crowd, we were just suppose to already be fully swayed by the awesome that is the band, and call-and-answer, sing-along and glory by the end of the first bar. I wasn’t. I don’t care you are, you earn my devotion through the course of a show, not before I show up.

Watching from above, the show seemed so choreographed,  so pre-planned that nothing felt spontaneous. I got the distinct impression that the hand gestures, the rock-god posing – it would have happened whether there was an adoring audience or not – not that there’s ever any fear of there not being an adoring audience at a stadium rock show.

What I love most about live music is seeing musicians on stage who appear to truly love being there, who are present in that moment, with whom I can share a sense of a special moment. At one point Bruce said that he loves his job. Which is great, I’m glad. But I guess I want him to pretend, for me, that playing live shows isn’t a job – it’s a passion, something he simply couldn’t exist without. Because no matter how much you love your job, you can walk away, leave it behind and get back to your life.

I can’t fault the band’s stellar muscianship, his showmanship or the effort put into the show. I cannot believe that at his age Bruce Springsteen can still work a stage the way he does. Hell, I couldn’t keep up with him, and I’m only slightly over half his age (he’s, I believe, 64; I’m 35). But the whole event felt clinical, precise to me. Cynical, even.

The Paradigm shift needs to start here

Tonight I took Liam to see the Vancouver Giants play the Portland Winterhawks at the Pacific coliseum. It was a fundraiser night for the Vancouver Thunderbirds, Liam’s hockey league, so the place was full of kids. Guy LaFleur was also on hand. For the most part, it was a great game: the home side won 8-4; Ryan Gallagher had a hat-trick (7 points overall), and they celebrated the return of a bunch of plays from the World U-17 & Junior championship.

But, there’s a few things that really disgusted me:

  1. One of the “highlight-of-the-night” film reels they showed on the big screen was of a recent fight. They provided play-play celebratory commentary and the crowd cheered wildly
  2. The biggest cheers of the night were all for fights – bigger than LaFleur’s ovation – bigger than the cheers for Gallagher’s hat-trick goal.
  3. While getting drinks, listening to 2 mums talking about how stupid it was to delay the introduction of hitting, one complaining that her kid was big, so she didn’t have to worry about anything happening to him.

The media talks a lot about how the hockey world needs to catch up to the public on their take on concussions and fighting. The recent NY Times piece on Derek Boogaard certainly has people I know talking about fights differently:

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And yet everyone at the rink was nuts for the fight – even so far as to have the overhead scoreboard show a graphic “It’s Clobbering time!” during a fight. And remember, these are all kids out there: 18-22 year-olds. During the intro video for Guy LaFleur, they showed him whizzing around the rink, his hair flying, helmetless. A few shots showed some players wearing helmets. They grandfathered that in. And you know where they started the change? with the kids. These days, U-17s have to wear full face protection. Juniors have to wear at least half-visors. That’s still not a requirement at the NHL level, but it shows how this could work:

  • Ban all fights. Or if not fights, all hits to the head, in fights or otherwise: teenage boys are nothing if not inventive in thinking up new ways to hurt each other. All & any contact to the head could be an immediate suspension, with minimum lengths for intent-levels.
  • Refuse to release rights to the media to show any fights or head-hits – if the media doesn’t glorify it, it might fade.
  • Remove all encouragement/fighting graphics from scoreboards
  • change the padding rules for the kids – grandfather it in as they progress up the ranks.
  • fine coaches & teams for fights, repeat offenders. Hell – punish teams via the draft if need be.

Hockey will never be a “safe” sport. But I don’t believe for a second that fighting is an integral part of the sport. I also believe that players can learn to stop, to avoid the dangerous head hits. Most people respond well to financial (dis-)incentives.

A Milestone, of sorts

Earlier this week, the NPA launched their new website for the fall 2011 civic election campaign. With this, I’ve reached a personal milestone: Over the past decade, I’ve built election campaign websites for each of the Vancouver civic parties – COPE in 2002, then Vision‘s in 2005 and now the NPA this year. I like to think it shows a professional non-partisan manner than is to be commended. You might say it’s pure capitalism at work (or worse yet that I’m a sell-out). Regardless of your opinion, given how entrenched political parties and their service providers seem to be, I’m quite proud that these various groups have all chose me &/or my company over the years to provide them with professional, quality web-related services.

For this latest project, we were purely the technical team – I’ll have no hand in the ongoing messaging or marketing. Design & project management was provided by our frequent collaborators at Myron Advertising + Design.

At the provincial level, this year I’ve also completed the BC trifecta: I’ve built sites for each of the BC Liberals, BC NDP, and waaaay back in the 90s, the BC Green Party.

So I’m an experienced campaign website builder. If you need a website for your campaign, let me know.

What is “Open” Government?

Having attended the #VanChangeCamp the other day, and with my involvement in Think City I’ve been thinking alot about what open government means, and asking around to see what this means to other people.

For me, “Open” Government is a government with a policy of transparency, where appropriate. It means that information that the public should have is made available in the most accessible, re-usable way possible, where appropriate. It means that process is made transparent, so everyone who cares, can find out what that process is, where appropriate. It means that public consultation and “thinking out loud” is encouraged, where appropriate.

You’ll note the repetition of ‘where appropriate’ up in the paragraph above. This is for the simple reason that not everything should be public. James Fletcher last night reminded me of the unintended consequences of the American “Sunshine” laws was that suddenly public servants are loathe to publish anything that’s not on message, and fully behind the goal, because those will be exposed, perhaps taken out of context and misused. Government has a right to privacy too, when speaking internally. Likewise, I’m a firm beliver in whistle-blower protection, because sometimes anonymity grants courage that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

After sitting in and discussing what #VanChangeCamp’s goals are, it strikes me that there are 2 distinct schools of open government people, and they are widely divergent. The first school of thought goes something like this:

All data should be open, standardized, accessible, reusable. Government should provide access to raw data, through APIs and let private citizens, NGOs build interfaces for the general public to use. Without public data, we can’t make informed decisions so everything should stem from this. Consultation is largely secondary.

This school tends to be populated by younger, more tech-savvy people who barely remember a world without Google, and believe that everything should be mashable.

The second school of thought goes something like this:

Government is for the people and of the people. At all times, people should be involved in governmental descision-making. Process must be truly consultative and be congnizent of many different stakeholders. Data is largely secondary.

What I call “greybeards” are for the most part found in this school. These are people who have been activists, and often, have more experience in interacting directly with government than those in the first school.


In the news…

The Vancouver Courier’s Sandra Thomas has a summary write-up of potential Vision Vancouver Park Board nominees in this week’s edition. To date, Aaron Jasper, Sarah Blyth and myself are the stated Vision hopefuls. Constance Barnes is apparently still considering whether or not to run. With the nomination meeting now set for September, it’s heads-down time as we each set our agendas and find supporters. I’m thrilled to be running alongside such talented people, and look forward to working closely with them in the years to come.

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