• Nov27

    Liberty Distillery Old Tom Release Party-12

    The Liberty Distillery has two great reasons to celebrate this week: the Granville Island distillery turns one and just launched its Endeavour Old Tom Gin. Liberty is at the forefront of offering hand-crafted, premium spirits made from 100% BC grain.

    Liberty Distillery Old Tom Release Party-9

    At a small gathering at the 110-year-old saloon bar and tasting room, friends and media were gathered to sample from the newly-launched gin, one that begins with Liberty’s base Endeavour white gin that’s then aged in barrels.

    Liberty Distillery Old Tom Release Party-4

    The party also gave us a chance to sit down and chat with Master Distiller Laurent Lafuente, who aims to create spirits with enough complexity to be enjoyed on its own. The Old Tom’s infused with locally-sourced botanicals; its toasty character comes from a three-step process — distillation, maceration, and barrel aging in American oak.

    Liberty Distillery Old Tom Release Party-1 Liberty Distillery Old Tom Release Party-2
    The gorgeous, customized handmade copper stills in their distilling room are crafted by German Master Christian Carl.

    Toulouse native Laurent’s been with the company for two years now, having previously worked in Switzerland, Antigua, Senegal, and both French and British Guyana. Between stints in the rum distilling industry (British Guyana, French Guyana, and Antigua), he trained as a winemaker.

    Liberty Distillery pouring Honey'd Sour
    [Pouring Honey’d Sours]

    A good percentage of the wine-making process involves many of the same steps as distilling. Laurent studied 75% theoretical distilling knowledge, picking up the rest via experimentation.

    Liberty Distillery Old Tom Release Party-5 Liberty Distillery Old Tom Release Party-3 Liberty Distillery The Mascotte
    [The star of the evening: The Mascotte]

    Meanwhile over at the busy bar, seven cocktails were offered to guests, including the feature of the evening: The Mascotte. This delightful sipper is created with Endeavour Old Tom, blackcurrant cordial, fresh apple juice, macerated cranberries, lemon zest, and a cinnamon stick.

    Liberty Distillery Honey'd Sour
    [Honey’d Sour: Railspur No. 2 Wildflower Honey Whiskey, fresh lemon juice, honey syrup, egg white, bitters]

    Liberty Distillery The Gem
    [The Gem: Endeavour Origins, fresh lime juice, muddled blueberries, tarragon, soda]

    Liberty Distillery The Basford
    [The Basford: Endeavour Gin, rosemary-grapefruit cordial, fresh lemon juice]

    Liberty Distillery The Whistle Punk
    [The Whistle Punk: Truth Vodka, ginger cordial, fresh lime, basil, soda]

    If you’d like to order The Mascotte, it will be available along with Old Tom Gin tastings on November 29 (Liberty’s official birthday).

    Liberty Distillery Old Tom Release Party-8

    The Liberty Distillery is located at 1494 Old Bridge Road on Granville Island.

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  • Nov27

    Samsung Galaxy S5 Micro SIM card-4

    Grabbing at that tiny micro SIM card inside your smart phone can be an exercise in futility, even with small fingers. Here’s an easy solution though, if you have a piece of adhesive tape handy.

    Samsung Galaxy S5 Micro SIM card-2

    Place a tiny corner of the tape onto the micro SIM, with just enough pressure for the tape to have contact with the edge of the micro SIM. Gently press the card and pull it out of its slot. And voilà!

    Samsung Galaxy S5 Micro SIM card-1

    I used a piece of matte-finish Scotch brand tape for this experiment, but if you have masking tape, that too should work just fine.

    Samsung Galaxy S5 Micro SIM card-3

    We’re also giving away a new unlocked Samsung Galaxy S5 Active over here. Contest open to Canadian residents only.

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  • Nov26

    Kraken Eggnog Cocktail Competition-4

    Earlier this week, Kraken Black-Spiced Rum and certified organic Avalon Dairy joined forces at Legacy Liquor in the Olympic Village to put five Vancouver (and one Whistler) bartenders to the test in an eggnog cocktail competition. The Kraken name is derived from a mythical sea beast that cleverly translates over to the company branding, with clever, detail-rich labels and packaging.

    Kraken Eggnog Cocktail Competition-2

    Judging the contest were Dennis Pang, Natasha John, Craig Scherer, and Victoria Chemko, in a socially-charged evening hosted by Emcee Jeremy Szafron.

    Rim Rock Café's Anton preparing the Elf Helper Kraken Eggnog Cocktail Competition: The Elf Helper
    [Rim Rock Café’s Anton preparing the Elf Helper]

    The bartenders:

    Rim Rock Café’s Anton, fixing up an Elf Helper
    La Pentola’s Martin, with a West Point Nog, the evening’s winner!
    Tuc Craft Kitchen’s Ryan, with the Kraken Egg Cream
    Bambudda Gastown’s Dominic, mixing the Eggspresso Martini for us all
    Four Season Vancouver’s Todd, concocting his While The Children Are Sleeping

    In case you’ve not yet had the chance to try 94-proof Kraken, it’s produced by a Jersey City-based distributor that sources base rum from Trinidad and Tobago, distilled from molasses made from local sugar cane. The rum is then aged for 12 to 24 months, after which time Kraken adds a blend of spices to the mix, including cinnamon, ginger, and clove.

    All added ingredients are natural, gluten-free, and vegan.

    Although I didn’t sample the Kraken entirely on its own, the dark and stormy rum sure added a splash of flavour to the cocktails being shaken onsite at Legacy Liquor’s cozy back space and bar.

    Kraken Eggnog Cocktail Competition-8

    Making the evening even more festive were eats from Tap and Barrel and Aqua Sushi and Juice Bar, plus sweets from Archimallows, Sweet-E’s Creative Confections, and the Food Gays (homemade gourmet marshmallows fired up on the spot and amazing eggnog-caramel apples!).

    Kraken Eggnog Cocktail Competition-3 Kraken Eggnog Cocktail Competition-6

    For more information on Kraken and some tried-and-true recipes to boost your holiday parties, check out their very cool website. Their Android and Apple-compatible game, The Kraken: The Simulation Application for Nautical Maneuvering is likely to be as entertaining as is the company’s handsomely-illustrated book.

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  • Nov25

    Adam Henderson, Director Duncan Fraser, Lee Van Paassen, William Samples
    [Adam Henderson, Director Duncan Fraser, Lee Van Paassen, William Samples]

    Banned for over half a century, Samuel Beckett’s entertaining and deeply affecting Irish play, All That Fall, remained unseen by audiences. At long last, that ban has been lifted, granting theater goers in London and New York the double delight of seeing a radio play produced on stage.

    Blackbird Theatre, whose Waiting for Godot was a held-over hit at The Cultch, has been granted the rights to present this first Canadian production of All That Fall.
    All That Fall is a 75-minute radio play written by Samuel Beckett in 1956 for the BBC. After an initial broadcast in 1957, several prominent theatre producers – including Laurence Olivier – tried to obtain the rights to produce it as a stage play, however Beckett refused all requests.

    Two years ago, English theatre, film, and television director Trevor Nunn succeeded in persuading the Beckett estate to allow theatrical staging of the script as a radio play and All That Fall premiered in London (2012) and New York (2013) to rave reviews.

    Adam Henderson, William Samples, Lee Van Paassen
    [Adam Henderson, William Samples, Lee Van Paassen]

    “Reveals a different side of Beckett’s artistic personality…genuinely funny… There is also a mystery at the play’s heart which, as in a thriller, is only resolved at the very end” —The Daily Telegraph

    “You’re unlikely to find a more salty or succinct embodiment of his fathomless sense of humor” — Ben Brantley, New York Times

    Directed by Duncan Fraser, All That Fall stars Leanna Brodie, Adam Henderson, Lee Van Paassen, Gerard Plunkett, and William Samples.
    The Cultch Presents Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall
    Dates: December 29 to January 24, 2015
    December 29 to January 3, 6 to 10, 13 to 17, 20 to 24, 8 pm
    January 4, 11, 18, 2 pm matinee
    Venue: Historic Theatre at The Cultch, 1895 Venables Street, Vancouver 
    Tickets: From $19, available online or via phoning 604.251.1363
    Enjoy a lively post-show Q&A session with the artists on January 4, 11, 13, 18, and 21.

    About Blackbird Theatre
    All That Fall will be Blackbird’s 12th major production since its founding in 2005. The company and its artists have received numerous Jessie nominations and awards, including Outstanding Production for Peer Gynt and The Triumph of Love, and their work has been acclaimed by both the public and the media.

    Photos by Tim Matheson.

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  • Nov25

    Samsung GALAXY S5 Active

    Samsung’s newest smartphone also happens to be one rugged player in the world of mobile technology. The Galaxy S5 Active is shock, water, and dust-resistant, perfect for keeping active with your phone in tow. It can withstand being immersed in one meter of water for 30 minutes too.

    Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-unboxing

    I was recently sent an S5 Active to test drive and my immediate thought was, how will this compare to the iPhone?

    Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-unboxing4 Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-unboxing3

    After all, I’ve been using Apple technology since 1992. Would the Android-based phone win over this longtime Apple fan? For the past four years, I’ve religiously kept iCal populated with events and my iPhone’s photo library filled with sharable moments.

    Let’s begin. Out of the box, the GALAXY is pretty easy to set up. There’s a Quick Start Guide to walk you through the basics, and many video tutorials to be found on the S5 Active web page. A USB 3.0 charging cable, plug, and earphones are included in the box.

    You’ll need a Google Gmail account to access Samsung’s app store (aka Play Store). Once there, you’ll find numerous apps, comparable to Apple’s. Once I’d downloaded my favourite social media, photography, and travel apps, it was off to check out the Smart Remote and S Health apps.

    If you own Samsung Galaxy Gear devices (Gear Fit, Gear 2 watch), you can sync them to record steps taken in the pedometer setting, as well as keep records of hiking, walking, and running—and your heart rate. You can also sync music and make a workout playlist within the app.

    Your Phone Remote Control SelectyourTVbrand

    Smart Remote will find your tv service provider’s channel list and turn it into a remote control. A few basic setup steps, and you’re done.

    Watching TELUS Edit Channel List Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-unboxing2

    The 16 MP camera’s loaded with options. I took several shots in and around town in a variety of lighting conditions using Auto focus. While I’m not ready to leave my Nikon DSLR anytime soon, I must admit that the GALAXY S5 Active outperformed my beloved, long-lasting Canon PowerShot Digital Elph camera.

    Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-9 Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-8

    The camera is set for Beauty face (airbrushed effect portrait pictures for enhancing the ultimate selfie), burst mode, panorama, virtual tour (for capturing a 360-degree video), and dual camera (take pictures and record video with both front and rear cameras using a variety of picture styles).

    You can also download extra modules to your phone such as Surround Shot, Sequence Shot, Animated Photo, and Sports Shot. Note that for the extra modules, you must create a free Samsung account to download them, or create a Google ID using your Gmail address.

    The S5 Active sports a gorgeous, crisp, and clear 5.1” Full HD Super AMOLED screen that automatically adjusts contrast and brightness levels.

    Another cool feature? Palm swipe for grabbing a quick screen shot! I love this one. Solidly move the side of your palm over the screen from left to right, and the camera will capture the screen for you.

    And then there’s one of my favourite features to turn OFF: that annoying intermittent light that flashes on top of the phone. Easy enough to fix: just go into settings and under Display, you’ll find LED indicator. Once you click there, you can select options such as low battery indicator, voice recording indicator, and notifications. Problem solved.

    Ultra Power Saving mode Ultra Power Saving mode

    An Ultra Power Saving Mode2 feature conserves battery life when you need it most by switching to a black and white display and limiting app options, getting up 24 hours on just 10% battery. Severe weather alerts are also available to keep users updated on extreme conditions.

    Other tech specifications:
    – 2.5GHz quad-core processor
    – 16 megapixel rear-facing camera with digital zoom and a full editing suite
    – Expandable up to 128 GB with an SD memory card
    – Voice Search
    – Easy access to Google Chrome, Gmail, G+, Maps, Drive, YouTube, all on same screen
    – KNOX WorkspaceTM creates a virtual, separate, and more secure space on the GS5 Active that lets users keep business data secure
    – On-demand nutrition tips via the built-in S Health App
    – Locqus Field Service Management, ideal for electricians, contractors, home repair service technicians and others to schedule and dispatch jobs, track employee location, and get real-time status

    Steven Smith Teamaker-1
    [Pretty impressive detail and shadows in this shot!]

    Easy to set up
    Excellent photo quality and features
    Numerous apps available
    Expandable up to 128 GB with an optional SD memory card

    Not 100% sure/ready to synch my iCal with Google’s calendar (but here’s how)
    Getting used to a larger-size phone compared to an iPhone 5S

    Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-3 Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-2

    Don’t just take my word for it. I’m giving away another one of these powerhouse smart phones (CDN $750 retail) to one lucky reader! All you have to do is follow Vancouverscape and Samsung Canada on Twitter, and tweet the following:

    I’ve entered to win a Samsung GALAXY S5 Active courtesy of @SamsungCanada and @Vancouverscape [http://ow.ly/EHdUx].

    I’ll draw a winner at random on December 5 at 4 pm. Did I also mention that the phone will arrive to you completely unlocked, so you can use it with any carrier?

    Winner must reside in Canada to be eligible for the prize.

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  • Nov24

    SFU Choir Group photo

    Join the Simon Fraser University Choir in their upcoming Global Village concert, as they bring music from countries around the world, including China, Norway, Australia, India, Cuba, Tanzania, and Bali to North Burnaby’s Cliff Avenue United Church!

    Featuring Jai Ho from the movie Slumdog Millionaire and Christopher Tin’s Kia Hora, come explore the music of many different cultures and languages, in a show sure to please all tastes.

    Over its 20-year history, the SFU Choir has attracted members from all areas of study. With nearly 100 members, the choir is open to students, staff, alumni, and the community. The SFU Choir sings a wide variety of music from various genres, and prides itself on being a fun and welcoming environment for all.

    Musical styles range from traditional, including requiem masses, to the fun and slightly nerdy — the SFU Choir has done it all. The choir takes great pride in the musical abilities of its members, and frequently performs pieces arranged by their very own choristers.

    SFU Choir’s Global Village
    Date: December 6, 7:30 pm
    Venue: Cliff Avenue United Church, 1600 Cliff Avenue, Burnaby
    Tickets: Adults, $20; students and seniors 65+, $10; children 12 and under free; tickets available online (prices exclude service fee)

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  • Nov21

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-1

    Vancouver craft beer lovers have one more beautiful space to raise a glass: Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House officially opened its doors on Tuesday in the old Chambar space on Beatty Street.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-5

    “In one of the earliest English legends, the Devil’s Elbow is said to have been a meeting place for two lovers – a young man and woman – whose woman’s father did not approve of their union. The father swore that he would rather the Devil take his daughter than have the two lovers meet again. On their next meeting, the Devil appeared and chased the terrified couple across the moor. When the Devil reached out to claim his prize, a loud voice boomed out and turned the Devil’s arm to stone. The Devil tore off his bent arm and threw it to the ground, and this crooked place in a road in Derbyshire became known as The Devil’s Elbow. Today, the term “Devil’s Elbow” is found as a place name in many areas of the world, where there are extreme bends in a road, trail or river. The Devil’s Elbow Class IV rapids on the Elaho River north of Squamish, BC is one such place, and is the namesake for Howe Sound Brewing’s Devil’s Elbow IPA, which lends its name to this alehouse.”

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-4

    The space is warm and inviting, seats up to 170 people, contains lots of rustic wood furnishings, a full range of Howe Sound Brewery beers, and a sweet tasting room in back.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-7 Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-6

    The theme of the art pieces was to combine beer, breweries, and devils or Hell. Howe Sound Brewery’s graphic designer Tom Pedriks commissioned six up-and-coming artists to create their own interpretation of that theme.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-10 Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-12

    The Devil’s Elbow owners have sourced rustic leather seats and gorgeous wooden tables; a large hollowed-out canoe hangs from the ceiling towards the side kitchen.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-11 Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-8

    The menu features smoke house dishes including ribs, smoked duck BLT’s, beef brisket, and beef and lamb sausage. Several other options (soups, salads, light dishes) will appeal to non-meat eaters. I can highly recommend the Asian sticky ribs ($13) with a sweet, spicy sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds. Goes down well with a Pumpkineater Ale or a Hopraiser IPA. You’ll likely not go wrong with the IPA Mac ’n Cheese either.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-2

    And desserts? How about a slice of deep-fried cheesecake with phyllo pastry, served à la mode, or a hemp fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce ($8 each).

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-3

    I’ll be returning for more of those sticky ribs, and a glass of seasonal brew. Also look for other BC brewery selections (such as Parallel 49’s Ugly Sweater Milk Stout) a whiskey-charged cocktail list, a nice assortment of North American whiskeys, plus a few red and white wines.

    Worth trying: the triple pub trifecta in a cocktail: Beer, Bourbon and Bacon: 12 oz. pale ale, 1 oz. bourbon, smoked bacon on the side; $12.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-9

    Keep an eye out on their website for cask nights, beer and whiskey events, and food-pairing dinners as well. Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House is located at 562 Beatty Street in Vancouver and is open 11:30 am to midnight from Monday to Friday, 10 am to midnight on Saturday and Sunday, plus weekend brunch.

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  • Nov21

    Smith Teamaker bags

    I was recently invited by Travel Portland to sample Smith Teamaker loose-leaf teas, and am finding a fast favorite in the Jasmine Silver Tip, a full-leaf Chinese (Fujian province) green tea combined with delicate jasmine blossoms.

    Steven Smith is one of America’s great tea pioneers. He started Stash Tea Company in the early 1970’s, later went on to co-found Tazo (a company he sold to Starbucks in 1999 for a cool $8 million), and in 2009, Steve Smith returned to the tea world together with his wife Kim to create a new line of tea, Smith Teamaker, raising the bar yet again on high-quality loose-leaf tea.

    Hand-packed boxes

    To back up even further, Smith was part of Portland’s natural foods scene in the early 1970’s, serving as a partner in the city’s first organic foods shop. After a trip to Southeast Asia, Steve was inspired to begin a tea company, and Stash was founded along with two partners. The team was at the forefront of the domestic mint business as they harvested and processed hundreds of tons of mint leaves annually, selling to companies including Celestial Seasonings and Lipton.

    No.55 Lord Bergamot String Tie

    Tazo arrived after Stash was sold to Japan’s oldest tea company, Yamamotoyama, in 1993. Smith was after developing a tea brand that would involve artful blending using high quality teas and botanicals, sourced through trusted global suppliers.

    To his credit, Smith developed over 60 proprietary blends for Tazo, many of which continue to be their top sellers. Once Tazo was sold to Starbucks, Smith and his family took off to Southern France. Once there and settled, he met with small artisanal food and wine producers, again fueling the desire to create a new breed of tea, and in early 2010, that dream took shape in a century-old NW Portland blacksmith shop as Steven Smith Teamaker was born.

    Steven Smith Teamaker-1

    Each ingredient that goes into their teas can be traced through a batch number on the teabags and box. If you’d like to see how this works, visit the batch lookup page and type in 91418. As a graphic designer, I admire the attention to detail that goes into their branding, right down to the messages on the tea bags and on the bottom of the string-tie carton box.

    A range of green, white, herbal infusions, and black full leaf teas are available in the US at Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods, as well as at various hotels and resorts. I noticed one Lower Mainland retailer in Port Moody: Eden West Fine Foods and Gifts.

    Smith Teamaker retail shop

    If you’re in Portland, check out their Teaworks tasting room, with teas to taste in pots or flights, tea products, and other tea-related merch at 1626 NW Thurman Street.

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  • Nov20

    No Exit cast photo

    The fine cast of Never You Mind have taken the grandiose task of mounting Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, a 1944 existentialist play about three damned souls stuck in Hell together. This particular version of hell has no torture devices, nor burning pokers.

    Upon entering Granville Island’s Waterfront Theatre, the stage remains dark with a sole chandelier suspended from above, right until the start of the performance. When the dimly-lit stage and red glow finally do expose us to Hell, we see a sparsely-furnished drawing room in the style of the Second French Empire, containing three seating options of varying shapes and sizes, a mantle with a bronze bust, and the aforementioned chandelier. No windows, no mirrors, but a door that encloses an angular room.
    Continue reading »

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  • Nov20

    Portland in Vancouver-2 Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-2

    If you happened to have wandered along West Georgia and Homer Street on Monday, you just may have been fascinated by an enormous, detail-rich cuckoo clock bearing the iconic Portland White Stag neon sign above it. This beautiful, not-so-little clock forms the centerpiece of Travel Portland’s lively and well-designed winter tourism campaign, “Portland is Happening Now”.

    Portland in Vancouver-5

    The 24-foot, 7,000-pound clock, handcrafted and painted in Portland by entertainment prop designer Nicolas Gros, spent the day in Seattle as well, with the bird chiming on the hour (from 9 to 6 pm), and a surprise element coming out of the doors below. The clock is reportedly the tallest freestanding clock in North America, and spent one day in each of the two cities.
    Continue reading »

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  • Nov19

    Touch Of Evil film still

    Each month, Melanie Friesen invites a distinguished guest to Vancity Theatre’s Cinema Salon, in order to present his/her favourite film. After the screening, both audience and speaker have the opportunity to engage over drinks and snacks in the Vancity lounge. This month’s film is Orson Welles’ 1958 film Touch of Evil.
    Continue reading »

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  • Nov19

    Saladworks Yaletown-1

    VanEats, a dining package deal website that’s offered a variety of culinary dining passes over the years, has recently partnered with American-based Saladworks (in Yaletown) for a pretty sweet three-course deal, on now though January 10, 2015.
    Continue reading »

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  • Nov18

    Roam Mobility SIM Holde

    If you’ve travelled to the States with your mobile phone in the past, you’ve surely either experienced sticker shock at your bill the next month, or have paid your Canadian provider a handsome fee to provide coverage south of the 49th parallel.

    A few years ago, I discovered Roam Mobility, a Vancouver-based company specializing in talk, text, and data plans for USA-bound travellers.

    Whether you’re on business or taking a well-deserved holiday, Roam is there with several plans, starting at $1.95 per day for text and data, through to unlimited talk, text, and data, including 400 MB 4G LTE Data for $3.95 per day.

    Roam Mobility USA Travel SIM_560x345

    Simply purchase a SIM card in Canada (either online or at outlets including London Drugs), activate the SIM, pick a plan, and you’re off! You can always access your account online (or via texting ‘topup’ to 7850 by SMS) for topping up a current plan. They also have a toll-free number you can call if you get stuck or need help.

    When you activate a Roam SIM you get your own US phone number that’s yours to keep as long as you as you top up once every 365 days. Your Roam SIM card and US phone number can be topped up and reused anytime you travel. I’ve used their service on several occasions to date. Schedule the start date and time of your plan, arrive at the airport, and you’re good to go (provided your phone is unlocked).

    If you don’t own an unlocked phone, check out the Breeze ($49.95), an unlocked, dual-SIM USA travel phone great for unlimited talk and text plans. The quad-band Breeze includes a hands-free headset, US roaming number, and Dual-SIM cards.

    On business with your laptop or tablet? The Liberty Mobile Hotspot ($99.95) will hook up to five devices within a 150-foot radius.

    Roam Vancouverscape Contest 150

    Now I know many of you are longing for a holiday break or a great gift idea for a travel lover in your life. I’ve partnered with Roam to offer two readers a fab bundle for your next American vacation or business trip:

    GRAND PRIZE: Family Travel Bundle
    2 x Roam LTE SIM Cards
    2 x 7 Day Talk+Text+Data Plans
    2 x Roam SIM Holders
    Approx. Value: $100

    Runner-Up Prize: Roam Prize Bundle
    1 x Roam LTE SIM Card
    1 x 7 Day Talk+Text+Data Plan
    1 x Roam SIM Holder
    Approx. Value: $50

    For a chance to win, you’ve got three options:
    1) Like Roam Mobility and Vancouverscape on Facebook.

    2) Follow Roam Mobility and Vancouverscape on Twitter and RT the following:
    I’ve entered for a chance to win a Roam prize pack via Roam Mobility and Vancouverscape http://ow.ly/DWNBO

    3) Name your favourite USA winter destination in the comments section below.

    Do all three for an extra two entries! I’ll draw two winners on December 9 at 4 pm. Contest open to Canadian residents only. Good luck to all entrants and happy roam-free holidays!

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  • Nov18

    Plan Less TravelTonight banner

    If you’ve ever run into the scenario of being stranded at an airport due to flight delays, or been convinced to stay “just a night longer” while visiting friends, there’s an app for spontaneous travel decisions such as these.

    HotelTonight is a last-minute hotel booking app currently available in over 30 American cities and throughout most (not all) of Canada. Here’s a great solution to booking for a same-day stay. The app promises to find and book a deeply-discounted (up to 70%) room at one of the hottest local hotels for you. Sounds good so far.

    Recently listed in Mashable’s 14 travel apps to download before your next adventure, here’s how the service works:

    Each day at noon local time, HotelTonight releases three featured deals for that night in each city (via the free iOS and Android apps).

    NYC, San Diego hotels on HotelTonight

    You can scroll through each hotel’s details and book in “just three taps and a swipe.” You’ll have until 2 am to complete the reservation, and will be able to book one to five nights at a time.

    BC hotels in HotelTonight

    Notable hotels include Toronto’s Cosmopolitan Hotel and Thompson Toronto, and Vancouver’s Moda Hotel and Pan Pacific.

    This is a great concept for visiting friends and family who are looking for a great deal and perhaps have already booked their flight weeks earlier, in order to take advantage of a cheaper fare.

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  • Nov18

    Aaron Craven, Craig Erickson
    [Aaron Craven, Craig Erickson]

    In David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, hugely bankable star Doug Brown agrees to appear in a sure-fire commercial hit, and film producers Bobby Gould (Craig Erickson) and Charlie Fox (Aaron Craven) are convinced that this is their lucky break.

    When temporary secretary Karen (Kayla Deorksen) derails their dream movie by persuading Bobby to dump the blockbuster in favour of a story which can only be described as box-office poison, Charlie is forced to resort to desperate measures.

    This well-known and often-mounted David Mamet play starts with Bobby’s recent promotion to the studio’s Head of Production. Charlie’s been at his side for 11 faithful years, and enters the office brimming with excitement as Doug Brown literally walked across the street to Charlie’s house to say he’d do their film. Now all that’s left for Bobby to do is green-light the production.

    Lots of wit gets fired off between the two colleagues as they build momentum to take a meeting with their boss, studio head Richard Ross.

    In the meantime, a book has been sent Bobby’s way for a courtesy read. This horrible-idea-for-a-movie has been sitting idle on his desk, until Bobby asks the temp (Karen) to give it a read and report back to him later that evening. She leaves the office and Fox begins to tease Bobby, convinced he’d try to seduce her. A $500 bet is made by the men, Bobby certain that he can win the bet. Typical Hollywood film industry banter, thus.

    Craig Erickson, Kayla Deorksen
    [Craig Erickson, Kayla Deorksen]

    Later that night, the scene changes to an intimate, dimly-lit apartment with a city view, with Karen and Bobby on the couch sipping wine. He’s trying to follow her hyper-enthusiasm over the book, but having a hard time staying awake. Her original entrance into the play paints her as somewhat naïve and new to the Hollywood scene, however there’s more to it than meets the eye with this gal.

    The next morning, things have drastically changed. Charlie can’t believe what he’s hearing, and is livid, becoming more aggressive by the moment. The wedge driven between the two men by Karen becomes painfully evident, and she’s called into the office to reveal her motive behind wanting the horrible book made into a film. When things turn back once again, it’s evident that boys stick together in this biz and Bobby, aka an “old whore”, really doesn’t piss on money but sleeps with it.

    Aaron Craven, Craig Erickson

    The stage consists of two rooms at either side: Bobby’s office (with a Hollywood view backdrop on the wall) and his apartment (also adorned with a killer city view). Set Designer David Roberts succeeds in keeping the two main scenes separate but close enough on the small Studio 16 stage to portray a sleazy lifestyle that easily morphs from business deals to evening flirtations.

    Jeremy Piven once performed the role of Bobby on Broadway, and I can easily imagine Ari Gold in this choice role. Craig Erikson does a commendable job of schmoozing and scheming, while Aaron Craven plays the whiney childlike assistant to his boss. He got under my skin in a slightly irritating way at times, but fits Charlie’s mocking, selfish character traits to a t.

    Kayla Deorksen gets the job done, coming across as a powerful, intelligent woman when necessary. In the end though, we realize that it’s every man (and woman) for themselves — Hollywood thrives in that soul-sucking way.

    Directed by David Mackay, Mitch and Murray Productions’ Speed-the-Plow continues through November 29 at Studio 16 Theatre at 1555 West 7th Avenue in Vancouver.

    Photos by Shimon Karmel.

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