Political speechwriter for national leaders, provincial premiers and Vancouver mayors. Cartoonist behind Noise to Signal. Online engagement strategist since the days of dial-up modems. F2F humorist ("stand-up comic" for you old farts).
I’m going to plug a friend’s services here because a) they’re terrific, b) she’s terrific and c) I think she can help you be more terrific.
Some of the most valuable conversations I’ve ever had have been with Lauren Bacon. She’s a superb listener, offers excellent advice and is relentlessly curious about the world.
Looking back on it, most of that advice didn’t come with a period at the end. Lauren has a gift for asking questions (that’s the curiousity coming into play) — and she’s put it to work helping a lot of people: leaders, creative professionals, companies and non-profits.
Alex and I saw Robin Williams perform in Vancouver several years ago.
A lot of touring comics start with a few thinly localized jokes to win the crowd over, and then launch into their main routine. I expected he’d do the same — and sure enough, he did a Vancouver joke.
And then another. And then an extended riff. And another one.
There must have been twenty minutes of genuine Vancouver material: not boilerplate insert-name-of-city here stuff, but joke after joke that felt organically, authentically of this place. And his material was savvy and current, not just land-of-pot-and-Birkenstocks stuff.
I once read an article about his USO work: how he would usually eschew VIP treatment and official tours in favour of just sitting down and talking to soldiers for hours. When he finally did perform, he’d draw extensively on those conversations.
That’s a precious gift to give to an audience: using your talent as a prism for their own lives and experiences. It requires some real courage — far safer to rely on tested material that reliably delivers the laughs. But in the hands of someone as talented as Mr. Williams, it was powerful.
I’m sorry I won’t have the chance to see it again, and sorrier still for the pain that led him to end his life. There will be plenty of chances to reflect on his work in the weeks to come, but for now, I’m remembering a performer who did far, far more than just meet expectations.
Recently, a project I’ve been working on for the past few months with some brilliant and capable colleagues launched as a test and learn pilot in Victoria, BC. The project is called Localty, because what else are you gonna name a loyalty program focused on local purchasing?
Localty is a mobile web platform connecting our members and the public to discover Vancity business members, and encourage them to promote these local businesses via social media and to shop locally. We want to encourage more people to steer some of their purchases away from multi-national chains and big box stores to small, local businesses.
I’ve been watching The Amazing Race reruns with the kids. I’m proud of the way they’re able to spot the often-patronizing (and that’s being charitable) attitude the show takes to the countries and cultures it encounters. It’s the ultimate whirlwind, see-the-sites, reduce-a-nation-to-a-simple-caricature vacation.
But I also enjoy the shit out of it, partly as I imagine myself conquering the challenges that trigger my own phobias (heights heights heights heights heights oh god the heights) and partly because of the chance to see people react to heavy pressure.
It isn’t the casual, tossed-off cruelty of, say, American Idol judges sneering at some poor shmuck with a dream that exceeds her or his talents. It’s character revealed under pressure, Robert McKee-style… and often revealed not just to the viewers, but to the players themselves. Moments of self-revelation are surprisingly rare in American TV, and I’ve been surprised at how many I’ve seen in TAR.
It’s a welcome antidote to a disease that can strike any of us. We can work so hard for so long on issues that we start to mistake inside baseball for real-world outcomes.
But sometimes it gets much worse than that. Some people get so swept up in scoring points that they forget the human side of an issue altogether.
That’s the most generous construction you can put on Conservative MP Robert Goguen’s appalling questions yesterday to Timea Nagy, who was testifying before a parliamentary committee on a federal bill tightening laws on prostitution. She’s a sexual assault survivor and the founder of an organization helping victims of human trafficking like herself.
I’m not going to include Goguen’s questions here. To see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice try to use Ms. Nagy’s experience of rape as fodder for an intellectually dishonest argument, watch the exchange here or read about it here. (Trigger warning.)
While it’s hard to imagine anyone I work with getting so detached from their own humanity that they could do anything quite this bad, it can serve as a crucial reminder. No matter how contentious an issue becomes, compassion must never be far from communication — and personal suffering must never become a political punchline.
It’s impossible not to compare John Oliver to Jon Stewart. My take on his guest-hosting The Daily Show stint was that he actually delivers a more cogent, sophisticated and nuanced rant than Jon Stewart, and that’s still the case now that he’s at HBO with Last Week Tonight. Witness this blistering (and funny) attack on FIFA. And I love that his conclusion acknowledges the ambivalence so many of us face, torn between our love of sport or culture, and our revulsion at the ethical sewer that often lies just underneath.
Now Morgan Brayton wants to take that work — and the organization — to a whole new level:
I want to help raise awareness around VOKRA’s work and convince more people to get involved. I want to help make VOKRA an organization with staying power. I know I can have a huge impact on VOKRA’s future but a couple of hours here and there won’t do it.
Instead, I want to dedicate myself to VOKRA full-time for the next six months and help make it a sustainable organization for many decades to come. To do so, I’m asking for your help.
organize a launch event for VOKRA’s new Operations Centre
tell VOKRA’s untold stories online with her unique blend of warmth, compassion and humour
craft a long-term fundraising strategy so VOKRA can focus on its core mission, instead of constantly scrambling for the next piece of kibble moolah
There are plenty of great rewards (or “purrks”) for contributors… not to mention a healthy dollop of accountability:
I’ll regularly post about the work I’m doing, here and on the VOKRA blog http://vokrablog.wordpress.com/. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes peek at a rescue organization through blog updates, videos and photos. And you’ll witness VOKRA saving lives as I report on rescue stories, adoption stories and happy endings made possible through my donation of time, made possible by your donation of funds.
Morgan’s campaign culminates on June 25th with her birthday and a fundraising comedy show at Vancouver’s Wise Hall — one that promises to be easily worth the $25 you’ll pay for a ticket.
I’m delighted to see this going so well, because Morgan’s a dear friend and a mighty soul and I want her to succeed. But even beyond that, I admire her innovation and drive: she knows the difference she wants to make, and she’s taken a real risk to allow her to make it. And I know that, given the opportunity, she’ll blow our socks off. I hope you’ll consider helping her do that.