Andrew Bates

electric newspaperman

April 13, 2013
by Andrew Bates
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Seeing Stars in Vancouver made me feel unreservedly, just like in high school

Myself and Jenelle Davies at Stars at the Commodore in Vancouver. Left: In 2013. Right: Six and a half years earlier, in 2007.

Myself and Jenelle Davies at Stars at the Commodore in Vancouver. Left: In 2013. Right: Six and a half years earlier, in 2007.

It felt so good, just like six years ago.

The Stars concert in Vancouver at the Commodore April 6 was lovely on it’s own. You’ve probably heard they’re amazing live. You have heard correctly. Stars remain my favourite band, although it isn’t like they’re always at the tip of my tongue (though they certainly have been recently.) They’re more of a historical milestone for me, a first love that I’ll always feel for.

The concert was amazing. They played Krush, an EP song from 12 years ago that folded directly into last year’s Loose Ends Will Make Knots like there wasn’t a decade inbetween. They played Midnight Coward and, as if to say “hey, are you the kind of nerd that knows this is a spiritual sequel to Elevator Love Letter?” They played another heartbreaking rendition of Personal, which myself and my concert buddy Dessa Bayrock whispered back and forth to each other. I got to totally lose myself in their music, and it was great.

Stars are a band, I think, that I came to in high school at a time when I was figuring out how to truly express myself. In high school, where I poured myself into a tight group of friends, writing and drama, I learned to relate to other people better, as you eventually do there. But I was really good at not being sure of myself, and I feared making mistakes, especially when it came to romance.

I would sit, listening to concert tapes where they talked about getting drunk and sloppy and making mistakes at Sneaky Dee’s, a bar in Toronto, and realize that good or bad, doing things and learning from them would be the best I could do. I talked about them endlessly.

When the girl who would become my first love asked me out on a date, I stammered and asked for time to think about it. My friends told me what a jerk move that was, and told me to go after her. I ran six blocks to try and catch up, headphones in my ears playing Your Ex-Lover Is Dead. “It’s nothing but time and a face that you lose/I chose to feel it and you couldn’t choose.” It reminded me to trust my feelings. When we broke up, I curled up and listened to Heart to deal with it.

In 2007, I took the bus from Penticton to Vancouver to watch Stars twice in one day, once at a matinee show and once in the evening. My friend Jenelle and I watched from a distance at first. Between shows, we found Evan Cranley and Amy Millan behind the theatre, and they signed our albums. I tried to stammer to them why their music mattered to me, but never managed it, and ask them to play Heart. It was the only change they made on the regular set list between the two shows. She signed herself with the words “Love Harder.”

Stars, more than anything else, are about remembering to love harder. Their music exists at the intersection between sex and death; where desire and conflict seep into personal interaction, the root of everything worthwhile about the human experience. I’m still not perfect at it. The newest single, “Hold on When You Get Love, and Let Go When You Give It” is something I’m still trying to do properly. Loving is big and hard and scary. But live for yourself and for other people, and you can manage it.


January 3, 2013
by Andrew Bates
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All the Canadians that got real racist in the face of World Juniors defeat

Photo jennkuhn4/flickr

So Canada lost 5-1 in the World Junior Championship semi-final. Could it be because they were bad, or because the goalie was black? If you like to think Canadian hockey fans are tolerant, don’t check Twitter.


June 28, 2012
by Andrew Bates
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Science agrees: It was right to pick Ronaldo last in Euro semifinal shootout

Courtesy Kerim Okten/EPA

We all had fun with yesterday’s Euro semifinal, didn’t we? Well, other than the lack of anything like chances over 120 minutes and boring, boring Spain. But Portugese talisman Cristiano Ronaldo looked really sad, and that’s what counts.

The initial reaction from the punters was disbelief that Ronaldo didn’t get to kick in the shootout: slotted as the fifth taker, he was ruled out after poor Bruno Alves hit the crossbar. Shouldn’t they have tried to jiggle the lineup and get him in earlier?

Well, no, according to science. Canadian hero Jason DeVos chimed in on Twitter with a selection from Science and Soccer, a 2003 sports psychology book. As the book points out, the order of your takers is one of the things you actually can plan ahead for in the shootout. Should your best taker be first, to claim the momentum, in the middle, to ensure he kicks, or at the end? Researchers in 2000 ran the combinations in computer simulations, and found that in fact, he should go last.

Analyses indicated that the order of 5-4-3-2-1 represents the best line-up with which to contest a penalty shoot-out–that is, the fifth-best penalty taker should take the first penalty kick, the fourth-best penalty taker the second penalty kick and so on.

So, yeah: if you think Ronaldo (33/34 for club teams since 2007, but had a penalty saved in this year’s Champion’s League semifinal against Bayern Munich) is your best taker, he goes last, regardless of whether or not the team gets to shoot first. But where you can scrutinise manager Paulo Bento’s selection is poor Bruno Alves, whose doomed shaggy mop made all the highlights before he struck the crossbar.

If Ronaldo is the best, he shoots last. But if you don’t consider Alves, a centreback, the second best penalty taker in Portugal, he should be shuffled to the front of the list and they should have chosen Nani or Pepe or another deputy to take the crucial fourth penalty. (We mourn and scorn Alves, but nobody remembers that Joao Moutinho had the first kick saved. It’s less important! Science.)

As DeVos reminds us, Spain picked pretend striker Cesc Fabregas last and if you turn the tables, it would be Ronaldo tasked with closing down the game. But isn’t it nice to watch him squirm? He’ll have to wait for another day.

Somewhere, Lionel Messi is laughing.

June 26, 2012
by Andrew Bates
2 Comments

Penticton loses all credibility, temporarily renames to Westjetville

You know, you can make fun of people that are all “corporations are bad” all the time: it’s a position that lacks nuance and the ability to sift the actual bad things from the other stuff that happens. And then your hometown renames itself after an airline.

WestJet’s April announcement that it was buying planes for a residential service—the airline version of those community buses that serve senior citizens and residence kids—and inviting 30 communities to submit in-person bids to become a stop has got Penticton under the collar. Twitter campaign! Online petition! Okay, I guess. But it’s been getting a little creepy. Watch that flashmob video, where parents zealously force their children to dance on a baggage carrier in Penticton Airport, whose departures room is the saddest place in the Okanagan Valley.

And now Council has issued one of those ridiculous declarations municipalities like to make for the day Penticton city officials travel to Alberta to present the bid, but they’ve skipped right past declaring it a holiday or some bullshit to literally renaming the town to Westjetville:

Mayor Dan Ashton has signed an official proclamation changing Penticton’s name for the same day the city delegation will be giving a presentation to WestJet executives in Calgary.

“WestJet and Penticton are a good fit, and we felt changing the name of the City would be the icing on the cake of our presentation,” said Ashton.

I can’t even start with this. Here are all of the reasons why this is awful:

  • Penticton already has an airport, with an airline. It is the worst, but how many airlines does Penticton need?
  • Seriously, Kelowna is just a 45 minute drive away. Sort out your stuff, BC Transit, and get valley-wide transit.
  • Westjet does not care about you. It is a business making decisions based on how many people will use it. It will break your heart just like every other business that cut fares to Penticton when usage got bad.
  • It won’t make Penticton better. What if you flashmobbed the Regional District until Penticton decided it wanted to work with the regional areas and hook up transit connections across the valley? What if you renamed Penticton to “We Aren’t Afraid Of Youth Under 30-ville” and tried to retain people?
  • Names are important. What the hell is Penticton without it’s name? Names aren’t Dan Ashton’s to change. Penticton is literally selling itself off for a marginally-decent service that will create jobs for almost nobody. You’ve got no soul at this point.

I can’t believe I’m going to be in that goddamn city when it does this. This is the worst. Penticton is the worst.

(Source: Castanet)

June 24, 2012
by Andrew Bates
1 Comment

Truth comes from the mouths of soulless Vancouver Sun condo reviews

Future home of the liquor store, also completely isolated from students. HOORAY! (Illustration courtesy of UBC Properties Trust)

Ah, no form of journalism more pure than the Vancouver Sun‘s condo reviews, where real estate PR flacks unbiased freelance journalists write things about overpriced Vancouver properties that you imagine the developers of those properties would like said about them. But in a review of Wesbrook Village’s Academy condo published in today’s Sun, there’s a nugget of something I can’t decide is true or not. Judge for yourself:

A large traffic circle acts as a boundary between the busy UBC’s student-centred campus region and Wesbrook Village’s dense retail centre, steps away from Vancouver’s iconic Pacific Spirit Park.

IT CERTAINLY DOES. YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH STUDENTS, ESPECIALLY STUDENTS THAT WANT LIQUOR. Have you ever wanted the security of a university without the unpleasantness of ever having to deal with the actual people who use it?

Nowhere in this article does it warn you about the villains who want to do things like volleyball tournaments (pages 1, 3 and 10) in the athletic fields hundreds of metres away.

And students, don’t worry! Density, like a condo on the front lawn of the football stadium, is absolutely necessary and won’t impact your university experience at all. The lovely community members want to co-exist with you!

University Town, everybody.

(Source: Vancouver Sun)

June 23, 2012
by Andrew Bates
2 Comments

How every Euro 2012 team must overcome themselves (and Germany)

Courtesy Grzegorz Jereczek

Almost every team at Euro 2012 is at war with itself.

This is how football works, usually: the defense or holding midfield gains control of the ball and passes the ball upwards to the forward-minded midfield, who move the ball either by passing or running with the goal of getting to the opponent’s final third of the pitch. Once successfully there, depending on the defence’s vulnerability, an attacking midfielder tries to cut through the middle or pass to players on the wing. The final phase is for a player with the ball near the boundary of the penalty area to either pass to a striker with a good chance of scoring or to try their luck to see if they can come up with a piece of brilliance themselves. Either they score or lose possession, and then we start all over again.

If there has been a calling-card to this Euro tournament, it is varying levels of belief in a team’s ability to execute that principle, specifically in the relationship between the midfield and the attack–some teams don’t believe in their strikers, and some too much.

As I write this, France is about to play Spain. The world champions have completed a four-year metamorphasis to a passing juggernaut–2,100 passes in this tournament–that centres around playing tiki-taka, a style of short, one-and-two-touch passes that aims to bring the ball into the final third so that a brilliant player can do something good with it.

The problem with this system is that it was invented by club team Barcelona for Argentina’s Lionel Messi, possibly the most brilliant player currently playing soccer. Messi does not play for Spain. This still worked fine when La Furia Roja could rely on brilliant strikers like Fernando Torres in Euro 2008 and David Villa in the 2010 World Cup, who could convert passes into goals with good service. But Torres has lost his magic between then and now, and Villa is injured.

Spanish manager Vincente del Bosque has preferred in this tournament to name Cesc Fabregas, a midfielder, to the striker’s spot over Fernando Torres, creating the much-ridiculed 4-6-0 formation (in soccer, formations are to be read defense-midfield-attack). Spain’s tiki-taka has no longer meant brilliance, but stubborn stifling of movement. Though they still have the best passers in the world, the passes only lead to further passes which nobody can intercept. When Torres does play, he’s uninspiring, so it’s hard to call del Bosque wrong for refusing to believe in him.

But other teams in this tournament are relying wholly on their attackers. This is how Portugal woke up and qualified through the group stage: no longer the team of heroes Luis Figo and Pauleta, the team has looked up to its remaining legend, striker Cristiano Ronaldo. No longer relying on a balance between midfield and attack, they believe entirely in Ronaldo, and their team has been flat or wonderful depending on his performance.

Italy repose on a more gentle but wavering hope that striker Mario Balotelli can create something wonderful, and England have responded to a crushing national self-doubt by refusing to put its belief in anybody and putting less resources into the attack. The elephant in the room is Germany, who has achieved balance. Striker Mario Gomez has lit up the scoresheet rather than pundit’s favourite Meszut Ozil, a midfielder, although the success of both relies on each other. When manager Joachim Loew pulled both Gomez and striker Lukas Podolski for the quarter-final against Greece, the team still created chances and operated appropriately.

France, the opposite number to the world champions today, have a system of players who may not be great but simply very good. Strikers Karim Benzema and old hand Franck Ribery are being counted on to make some sense out of Spain’s sweltering midfield heat.

When asked about them, Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas scoffed “Benzema and Ribery? Our front line is better.” Spain does not start any strikers. The glaring 0 in its formation is a belief that no front line at all is better than its third-greatest all time scorer Torres. As I write this, midfielder Xabi Alonso has managed to get his head onto a cross and put it into the goal, and France is down 1-0 while not yet seeing a chance.

This Euro tournament is about which team can overcome or ignore their own self doubt.

And Germany.

May 16, 2012
by Andrew Bates
2 Comments

Pierre Berton and the Ubyssey had strong words about tuxedoes

Berton in 1941. Courtesy UBC Digital Collections.

I’m trawling through the Ubyssey archives right now, and I’ve came across this lovely article from Pierre Berton in (what seems to be?) his first year as an editor at the paper. A part of his Behind The News column on January 21, 1941, it takes a tone that you can still hear in Ubyssey editorials today. Here it is, original emphasis retained:

Sometime during every college session, The Ubyssey prints a story about the student passes and how much they are worth to the average undergraduate.

For example, the Ubyssey and the student council will tell upperclassmen that their pass will admit them to their class party which would otherwise cost three dollars.

The pass costs three dollars. Therefore the pass is worth the class party alone. That’s how the drift of the ‘thing runs.

Starched Tradition
But there’s something behind this item of news which The Ubyssey omits to mention, which the student council omits to mention and which the class executive Itself omits to mention :

It is this: THE GREATER MAJORITY OF UPPERCLASSMEN ARE BANNED FROM THEIR OWN CLASS PARTIES BECAUSE OF A CUSTOM WHICH DEMANDS THAT THEY ATTEND IN FORMAL ATTIRE.

Where now is the value of your pass? If the party were to be worth three dollars or fifteen dollars, you still couldn’t attend unless you could afford to buy or rent a tux. If you haven’t got a tux you just don’t go.

Class executives sometimes try to soothe their corporate conscience by telling students they can go informal if they want to. Try it sometime. Try dancing in a ballroom wearing a blue suit while the throngs around you are encased in starched shirts. You won’t try it a second time.

Privileged Few
It is a strange paradox that class parties which are theoretically free to all members of the class, are free only to the privileged minority who can afford the luxury of a tuxedo. They are the ones who could pay their way in any event. The students whom the pass really benefits are banned from attendance by a vicious tradition.

The money for the Junior Prom and the Senior Class party comes in part from the pass system fund. Thus, THE STUDENTS WHO CAN LEAST AFFORD TO DO SO, ARE PAYING THE ADMISSION FEE OF THE STUDENTS WHO CAN AFFORD TO ATTEND THE BALL IN STYLE.

There’s something wrong somewhere.

May 15, 2012
by Andrew Bates
4 Comments

UBC research into Vancouver bikeability lets slip that biking to UBC sucks

The media have been enraptured by the new UBC-research-powered site BikeScore, which creates a heat map of bikeable areas in cities and then ranks them in order of bikeability. Vancouver and Portland are among the most bikeable cities in North America! Hooray!

The Vancouver map is here—you can play around with it a little bit, with overall bikeability maps, hills, bike lanes and destinations where green is best and red is worst. Look at those verdant tracts of bikeability in West 4th! Isn’t Vancouver so sustainable, except for that bruised looking yellow and red patch? What is that, anyway? Oh right, every bike corridor leading to the university.

It doesn’t help that there are some tough hills leading up to the university on West 16th, West 10th, and West 4th. But the real danger is the lack of bike paths on 10th and 16th. (West 4th, which has a bike path, remains punishing because it’s such a longer, more winding route to the campus.)

West 10th and 16th past Alma both send cyclists up challenging hills with no bike paths on particularly busy roads. The bikeway on West 8th is a nice alternative, but nobody knows about it. I’ve taken both routes, and especially in tough weather conditions, West 16th, an angry red blotch on the BikeScore map, can be a deathtrap as giant trucks rattle past cyclists squeezing through construction and cars parked on the side of the road. (See picture at the bottom of the post.) OpenFile’s Open Road cyclist accident map reports two accidents there between 2007 and 2011.

UBC itself isn’t too punishing for cyclists: although studies by the Vancouver Cycling Coalition aren’t going to be entirely happy about what’s going on there, they report that the problem is communication about infrastructure, not the lack of infrastructure. Both West 10th and West 16th pick up bike paths as soon as they enter the gentle embrace of Papa Toope, making this a Fucking Governance issue.

Even though UBC and Vancouver want people to know they’re working hard to be bike friendly, the path between the two isn’t that bikeable.

Try not to get hit by a bus! HOORAY!

UPDATE: Campus and Community Planning sends along some usage statistics from 2011: Only 9% of incoming bike traffic comes from West 4th, which may be due to its generally punishing route. 50% enters via University Boulevard, showing that the 2011 decision to convert to bike lanes was fruitful—only 21% of traffic comes from West 16th, the route that draws much of my ire. The remainder flows through NW Marine Drive from the UEL and SW Marine Drive.

April 27, 2012
by Andrew Bates
1 Comment

Outtakes: SO MANY WORDS about Storm the Wall

Illustration courtesy Indiana Joel (The Ubyssey)

When we did Storm The Wall in March, we all put together a diary of our experiences. I, true to form, wrote WAY MORE WORDS than could be used in the format we were going with. So Internet, you get the full EXPANDED edition. Enjoy!

At The Ubyssey, the requirements for athleticism are “go outside the SUB” and “eat vegetables.”
I’m not too bad. My particular job gets me around campus and I try to bike to school every once in a while. In the summers, I’m a cook in Penticton, so I’m no stranger to hard work. But let’s be real: I am a man of the stout beer, the pizza, and what you can call a gregarious figure. My enthusiasm for outdoor sport is restrained only by the weak arms years of desk jobs provide. Let’s Storm the Wall.

DAY ONE

We filed in for the training video, minus our itinerant captain Jonny and cold victim Geoff. I was a little worried about not getting disqualified, but the challenges seemed workable. I went over the wall first, and it was a flashback to all of the times I failed at climbing fences. Things were real testy, as I forgot the admonishments to keep my legs straight and tried to scrabble over. I couldn’t even haul my leg up to Micki, and I was worried I was about to fall. Once I actually hauled myself over, I found the pulling easy—perhaps I did have arm strength, but just not enough to get me over. It worked out! But there were certainly questions to ask.

That evening, we went over to Arshy’s house to sing along. Jonny and I wandered home through the forest drinking wine and we encountered an owl, who stared us down for two minutes. What did that experience mean? I tried to climb something I’d failed to before my attempt at the Wall in the morning. It was too icy, but still I worried.

DAY TWO

The next day was a journalism day—a job interview, for which I prepared heavily, but for which I didn’t rehearse specific questions. I rambled a little bit. I went to hang out with soccer people, but I felt too tired and hung over to go to a match, so I did good things, like buy groceries and make veggie shepherd’s pie. Then we went out for a drink at Micki’s house anyways. I jumped on my bike for the first time in a few weeks, and felt out of breath scaling Kerrisdale’s weird fucking topography. I turned onto Arbutus and some bikers chirped me. I tried to ignore them, but I knew I had to practice further. Before bed, we planned to go to brunch. It was going to be good.

DAY THREE

Nobody was good on Sunday morning. An hour after I meant to, I texted Kai, asking if the folks sleeping at her place were waking up. She replied “JONNY PUKED ON MY COUCH.” That is how that went. I took time to brunch knowing it could put me late for my assignment—a rugby game at noon. I biked up down West 16th between Ubyssey Haus and Thunderbird Stadium in a bad way. I was wearing a wool coat and a heavy bag. My legs felt empty. I was labouring up it. I was trying to explain it on my hangover, but at that rate, how could I storm the wall?

DAY FOUR

I fixed my helmet in the afternoon, but my new bike, the Rocky Mountain, wasn’t on campus. It was a hand-me down from my mountain biking mom—she brought it from Penticton. I hadn’t checked it, but I was sure it’d be okay, as long as I got Jonny to help me put it together. On the way home, I tried looping the War Memorial parking lot. Turns were hard to master and I didn’t feel quite right, but I felt I was as ready as I was going to be. It’d be fine.

D-DAY

It was a fine morning. Took me a bit to get out of bed, but I had what I always did—cooked spinach, cheese, fried eggs and a pair of English muffins with some green tea. Jonny had already been to class, but although I couldn’t put the front brake on, the back one went fine. And the bike was wonderful! So much more power, suspension made it a much more comfortable ride, and gear changes went fine. It was really a pleasure to ride, and all I had to do was get Jonny or the Bike Kitchen to fit the front brake on.

Did you know that the front brake provides 80 per cent of your braking power? I found out when the nice man at the kitchen repeated it three times in telling me that in transit, the brake cable housing had retreated inside itself and the brake would need to be recabled entirely in order to work properly. I wasn’t able to use my wonderful new bike. 15 minutes beforehand, I was without a ride. Jeff offered me his; entirely appreciated, although a purple touring bike I had never ridden before was not what I wanted. I was worried.

I had the advantage of an early start because of Geoff and Micki’s strong performances and pushed out. The new bike took a bit of getting used to, and finding a rhythm between acceleration in the straights and turning with any kind of speed. In the third lap, I felt like everything was firing properly, and even though I hadn’t entirely picked up in the turns, I was running well. Teammates on the sidelines really helped. In the last runs, I was catching up to a few bikers and trying to figure out when was best to pass—I managed it a few times. Coming out of the last turn, I was neck and neck with a guy and pushed pretty even, but I didn’t want to tap into the end of my tank; there was still the wall to do. I couldn’t push just that bit harder and came in just behind. My legs were made of lead, so I got on my bike and rolled to the Wall. (And for your information, I never used my front brake once.)

I was first up. I failed to lean into the wall on my first attempt, but the bases rearranged themselves and I was able to get together. I remembered to keep my legs straight and got my arms over, but I had to tap into my arm strength—I do have it!—to get my elbows across. I didn’t have any problem hauling my leg up, and Geoff had it fine. I got it over, and the worst was done from there. After helping Jonny over, the last three in the base were easy. We ran around, and we did it. We stormed the wall.

April 24, 2012
by Andrew Bates
1 Comment

The 1980s CUP conference that ended in war in the Ubyssey office


Here’s a fun anecdote I stumbled upon doing some web searches. In the middle of a relationship advice column in the Regina Leader-Post about a UBC study that asserts that women are attracted to scowly men and men to smiling women, the late Ron Petrie, columnist and Sheaf alumnus, drops an anecdote about what he learned at a CUP regional conference in the 80s:

The study supports similar findings at UBC thirty years ago. Back when I was editor of the University of Saskatchewan Sheaf, colleagues from student newspapers across western Canada gathered in Vancouver.

Understand this was an era when campus newspapers weren’t concerned so much with “campus news,” per se, as with social justice in the news media.

We young, humourless journalists saw ourselves as the vanguard of a new society, where males and females were treated equally and where, perhaps, some day, 50-year-old guys wouldn’t go around using expressions like “luuuv,” “chicks,” “gettin’ smitten.”

Anyway, true story: Our conference agenda called for us to break off into groups for earnest, gender-specific deliberations, a male caucus and a female caucus. (How enlightened were we male students back then? Not one of us even snickered at the word “caucus.”) It was agreed the men would gather in the newsroom of the UBC Ubyssey, the woman at another room in the student union building. We split off.

To this day, I don’t recall how it all started. Perhaps a paper jet launched by Alberta’s editor glanced off the forehead of Brandon’s. Regina might have then lobbed a scrunched ball of paper at Capilano, prompting Victoria to declare the largest desk as its fort, and good thing, too, given that Lethbridge had discovered the awesome aerodynamics of the cardboard mailing tube as a projectile. By the time Simon Fraser dropped, rolled, stood up again and raced through the neutral zone, firing staples, manila folders flew, typewriter tables zoomed back and forth, Calgary answered Winnipeg’s volley of flung pencils with a barrage of trash can waste, and it was the only most fun EVER, and then, and then .

The women walked in.

Freeze frame. The respective facial expressions of the female student editors and the male editors, at that exact instant, are best described through Hollywood illustration.

FEMALES: Clint Eastwood, as the stranger in A Fistful of Dollars.

MALES: The dwarf Dopey, as himself.

Just the recent UBC findings have confirmed, there was definitely no post-conference necking that weekend. And we were college students. On a road trip.

Note: Just after publishing this, I noticed that Petrie passed away in February at the age of 52. I hadn’t read anything of his before, but he seemed pretty awesome. Rest in peace.