The 25th edition of Sam Sullivan and Lynn Zanatta’s Public Salon inspired by their friend the late Professor Abraham Rogatnick
which started with an extra dose of sunshine, brought out some really special presentations that many proclaimed on twitter as #brainfood. The pre-talk VIP gathering had delicious appetizers generously sponsored by Peake of Catering, provided a rubbing of shoulders of all the sponsors, speakers and anyone else who could pay the $100 ticket.

Before the speakers came on, a trio of culturally diverse musicians were playing seamlessly on stage. Two East Indian musicians Vijay Yamla and Harkomal Singh Chahal along with Kurai Blessing Mubaiwan from Zimbabwe produced soothing electric global fusion sounds/music setting the tune for the diverse voices yet to share the stage with them.

Our first speaker was none other than the famous founder of 1 800 Got Junk, Brian Scudamore a fourty forty something youthful looking man in a blue button down shirt with dark jeans and converse sneakers. He jokingly started his speech saying he had vision early on by showing a picture that his grandmother saved that he drew at age four with him cleaning up the house with a rake. This of course became his business. The second picture Brian showed us was a Province newspaper with a front cover story of him at age eighteen with his first junk removal truck. He talked about how he surrounded himself with amazing people who encouraged him to dream big and dream big they did, getting on the Oprah Winfrey show, having 10,000 shiny trucks all over North America, expanding into other countries, and even getting the 1800 Got Junk logo on five million+ plus Starbuck coffee cups. They even have a dream chalk board at 1 800 Got Junk titled “WHAT IF…” and many of them listed have now come true. He even shared a story from his personal life about the end of his first long term relationship. After eighteen years together, having brought a daughter into this world, it just wasn’t working anymore. Brian wanting to have a loving family like relationship with his ex and to be amazing co-parents to their child. At first, his friends laughed at his vision, but it became true, the his ex even introduced him to his current wife. My gut reaction listening to his story was the same reaction when I watched the movie “The Secret”. There is nothing wrong with what he said, but it seem seemed to be overly simplistic, the think it and it’ll come true. Brian indicated that he put so much of his effort in into his business; his personal life was in crisis. I don’t believe moving onto the next woman will suddenly improve his personal relationships. Unless he finds balance and gives attention to his loved ones, those relationships and marriage will dissolve in time. I don’t know why finding the love of their life and getting married always gets everyone in the audience to go AWWW and clap. Marriage is a life long journey, not one day event. I have seen Brian Scudamore toted as the keynote speaker for SOHO conference for two years in a roll, so I was expecting a speech with more depth. I guess it’s hard to have depth with only seven minutes on the clock.

A graceful, professional lady Minelle Mahtani walked onto the stage and launched immediately into her story of how she began her journalism career. She met a fellow Canadian and through small talk, discovered he just happened to be the Foreign Correspondence Director of CBC in London when she was a scared, homesick Ph. D student. The fearlessness of youth in her blurted out “I would love to work for the CBC”, which landed her a site visit and much more. Her mixed racial heritage brings interesting reactions in people wherever she goes, and so she encourages citizenship, something that is crucial at RoundHouse Community Radio, where she hosts a morning show “Sense of Place” on 98.3 FM. Citizenship for her is more than a passport, or drinking craft beer watching hockey. It means taking action to get to know your neighbours, and getting get involved in community be it a garden, giving input, or volunteering.

This exciting talk was followed by a quirky and funny female composer name Jocelyn Morlock who is a Juno nominated composer with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. , She is also the inventor of the Lumiphone and explains and demonstrates that the piano only has 13 tones, whereas the Lumiphone has 26 tones. Jocelyn shares that the process of music composition is a lot of experimentation, and can lead her to interesting collaborations. She showed one slide of a performance where there are a variety of large glass bowls with different levels of water with marbles. They had to throw the marbles at different speeds to create different sounds, but the musicians had to have accuracy or else they’d lose their the marbles, which got a huge laugh from the audience. Her speech was
followed by a delightful and ethereal performance by Brian Nesselroad and Colin Van de Reep on this truly unique musical instrument called a Lumiphone which looked like a rectangular wooden box with a bunch of glass tubes hanging down from it. The crowd gave their performance a thunderous applause.

Mark Winston, a scientist at UBC and a specialist on bees walked up next. He talked about how social and intelligent the bees are and how they really work together for the whole hive to thrive, something we humans can learn. I learned that bees also have emotion and can get sad from Mark’s speech.

After we learned about the bees, a silvery haired lady with a streak of lilac highlights and glasses came to the stage. She started the Rainbow Refugee organization in 1989 when she sponsored her partner Bridget from Chile. It is an organization that provides support and relief for the LGBT community in countries where their identity could lead to severe punishment from the government, and murder from their fellow citizens. Chris Morrissey showed a world map where large swaths of the map are in red which are countries that do not tolerate LGBT people. I thought it was only Russia. it It was most Muslim countries, including Malaysia which was a shock to me. She showed a photo of a lesbian couple being dragged away by Russian police after one of the women defended herself from an assault by a gang of men. The men went to jail but waswere released after only two hours. It was a startling fact to learn that the protectors in society often are the enforcers or accomplices of the perpetrators of harm and violence. The two women had to leave their hometown that night for fear of their lives. Chris also shed light on the challenges the Syrian and Pakistani LGBT refugees face during their travels. They often have to hide their sexual orientation to stay safe because they have to travel through countries that will prosecute them for their identity. Chris ended her story on a positive note saying that there is currently a group that’s sponsoring a LGBT refugee to come to Canada, so she encourages us to donate to her cause because everyone knows the high cost of living in Vancouver.

Mo Dhaliwal is a very stylish 30 something East Indian man born and raised in Canada dressed in a crisp cream coloured suit jacket over jeans with a giant intricate paisley patterned burgundy scarf wrapped around him. He looked like an exotic character from James Bond; someone who would say a witty one liner that would get everyone to laugh at a fancy party…. and surprise surprise, he certainly delivered on my first impression of him! He began his story with self-depreciating humour using a picture of him as a young man with bleached blonde hair, saying here was a bag of confusion which got everyone howling. He shared his tale of making it big in Silicon Valley as a programmer, then coming came back to Vancouver and getting pretty involved in the Arts and Culture scene, even sitting on several boards and ultimately starting the Bhangra Festival that brings in eighty different dance troupes on an annual basis. He shared
he pain of growing up, being made fun of as a brown child in an all-white neighbourhood, then moving to an all-brown neighbourhood which got him labelled as whitewashed. He challenges us to look past our skin colour as labels, and even give up using the word multiculturalism. He showed a very clean and tidy looking bento box picture on the slide, to illustrate Vancouver and how siloed our society has become, where each ethnic culture chooses a neighbourhood to congregate and live. Mo suggests that we must move beyond mildly tolerating each other and really get to know each other deeply, and let go of the labels we give each other and ourselves to reach the point of true self, which has no gender, no race, and no culture. The crowd loved his speech, and thoroughly enjoyed the colourful and festive Bhangra performance by Hardeep Singh Sohota accompanied by live music produced by Vijay Yamla, Harkomal Singh Chahal and Kurai Blessing Mubaiwan.

Eric Peterson, a self-made millionaire with a flair for environmental preservation and life-long pursuit of science, used his fortune to buy a resort on the remote Calvert Island, and turned it into the Hakai Institute in the middle of the Great Bear Rainforest. Eric is a really down to earth man who’s about 6’2 wearing a long sleeved T-shirt and regular blue jeans and boots. The Hakai Institute collects data on all the animals, and uses the latest drones to take photos of water levels, number of wolves, salmon, and whales. Eric showed a photo the drone took of the island which the Hakai Institute is situated on, and it took all our breath away. It was nature at its best, with deep forest and the ocean all around. I can’t imagine their scientists get depressed even in January. Eric is very serious about preservation, and he says collecting data is the first step to understanding the biosphere and how intricately they are all connected to come up with better solutions for preservation.

The last presenter to come onto the stage is a skinny intellectual looking man in his early 40’s name John Burns, who informed us quickly that he was a journalist and has been for the past 25 years, and has seen so many changes in that time, he could write a book. His jobs in journalism ranged from community sports editor at Burnaby Now, to managing editor of Georgia Straight, to editor in chief of the Vancouver Magazine. Now he works at Echo Storytelling Agency, a Vancouver based custom publishing company that documents the lives and accomplishments of individuals and companies through a range of products. John Burn being the veteran journalist
sure knew how to tell stories that grabbed our attention and had photo slides that grabbed our eye balls too. The first picture he showed was a strange relic of journalistic equipment which put types together for newspapers that nobody in the audience recognized. Then he showed a picture of his educational certificate in typecast, followed by a picture of his first business card with all the information that doesn’t apply now such as a fax number. He then shows a picture of Mario Lopez with his kids at breakfast with Kellogg’s cereal prominently displayed; a sponsored photo on Instagram. John points out the cause of death for traditional media was that it wasn’t a fast enough turn around. People want their news, information, jokes, and celebrity gossip immediately and social media is providing that. He also explained that traditional media relies on advertising, now that advertisers could pay celebrities or powerful online influencers with millions of followers directly; it cut out the middle man which is the media. But one thing that is lacking in today’s social media saturated world is that in this sea of stories, photos and videos, curation went out the window. John showed a cute picture of his poodle, then added a pie chart of where the advertising dollar is going nowadays which brought out much laughter from the audience. 50% is going to google, 14.1% is going to Facebook, The Toronto Star gets 3.3%, Post media gets 2.3%, Quebecor gets 2.2%, Power Corp gets 0.9%, The Globe & Mail gets 0.7%, Rogers gets 0.5%, and other gets 26% of our advertising dollar in Canada. John left the stage with his life philosophy that it’s better to tell stories to a small amount of people for a long time instead of telling stories to a large amount of people for a short time which everyone in the audience approvingly nodded and applauded to.

Twitter was a buzz
with everyone’s excited reactions, quoting one liners from various speakers, and LOL moments such as the Vancouver bento box ethnic silo or the poodle pie chart John put up. Of course everyone loved the Lumiphone performance and how consistently these speakers make us think, question our existing belief system and expose us to new combinations of music, people and technology. Sam good humouredly encouraged everyone to hug an anonymous person, because he/she is our gold sponsor, and without
the sponsorship, the Public Salon wouldn’t able to go on, which got the biggest laugh of the night. He also proudly tells us to check out their new site to sign up for the Oct 13th Public Salon.