Monday, 21 June 2004
Marking the fifth anniversary - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER - A delightful evening was had by all on Thursday last. In celebrating this website's fifth anniversary, a few of the principals were there. Technically, the site's been online for exactly one year in September; however I began writing columns and posting those five years ago. (June 29 is the exact anniversary, so if you're planning on sending in your notes of congratulations, you've still got time.) It was gratifying to have such a great turnout. They were there not to bury me, save for perhaps the delightful Matthew Szwaba, whose devastating one liners brought down the table, not to mention me.
I, the convenor of the night, happened to be late. Strolling in some ten minutes after the rest of the party had arrived; I came upon a full table that left the staff at Incendio scrambling for space. They deserve my deepest compliments, for accommodating the large group that got larger at the last minute. Though one-third of The Commentary's masthead was missing, amongst those attendance include, Khorram Country columnist Babak Khorram and his Linda Pham. Both are set to vacation in Cuba in very short time. Khorram will be filing a piece from Cuba for The Commentary. Brendan Newton, the author of one edition of "Brendan's World" sometime in 2003, was there, as was Helen Wang, whose piece on the western films of Sergio Leone remains a popular article. Marlon Richmond, a more prolific contributor was there, and it was a great meeting, as he and I (his publisher and editor) had never met before. How could this happen? Well, though we shared a class at Tupper back in the last decade, we had never spoken, and only knew each other's reputation through e-mails between ourselves and through Brian Nguyen's popular e-mail list. Nguyen was also there, and after, as we trampled up the parkade at evening's end, we both tried to make sense of the words to "Ain't That a Kick in the Head."
The Commentary's Associate Publisher Vishal Dhir picked the menu for the night, and Deputy Managing Editor Richie Leung was in charge of coordinating the evening, after I became indisposed having downed five or six vodka and sodas in quick succession. My seatmate was my old friend Julio Leon, who warned me often, teasingly that I'd had too much too drink. Julio ever an adept drawer is hard at work at his cartooning, and someone should hire this guy right away. He's good. Anthony Young, an old Tupper colleague, was in attendance. It was good to see him, as well as Leona Lin, and Mai Tran.
Our old friends, Matt Szwaba and Rocio Banda came, and it was a great treat to see both again. I've asked to be at their house, but Matt said I wasn't welcome. Rocio gave me sage advice after I complained about getting screwed by a certain Internet hosting company on two recent credit card statements. Szwaba who was by far the funniest guy at the do, had me in stitches, and though I couldn't best him, the night ended at best a draw. He's a supervisor now at some security firm. I wasn't really there to collect items, so I didn't bother asking, or taking notes. Sue me. Rocio was beaming as she showed us all, the ring that Matthew had designed for her. I also didn't ask when the wedding is. I forgot.
They say it's a good sign when events like these come about, that for every person who shows up there is a person or two that wanted to be there. Regular contributor to this site, and Now That's Entertainment's Michael Kwan and his Susanne Shum sent their regrets; as did friends of The Commentary, Edward Lau and Maggie Yau (who are both covering an event for this very publication next week), and Azeema Jamal. Some held their breath to see if a certain former Commentary columnist would show. I didn't. Missed was Rudy Montejo, who was unavailable, as was my old friend Eugene Lee, and Margaret Tse who was otherwise engaged.
It ought to be acknowledged that both Eugene Cruz and Philip Ly sent warm notes congratulating The Commentary, as well as the J-Man on the anniversary. Also, it was very nice of both the offices of The Governor General and The Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, who sent their regards on The Commentary's anniversary.
Though it was expected that I, as Publisher and Editor of The Commentary, would address those gathered, I did not. Instead, I put a letter together expressing my thoughts, had it reproduced, and had those distributed at the dinner. Many appreciated it, not to mention the fact that I did not speak. What follows is the text of said letter:
Later this month marks the fifth anniversary of the inception of my column, and with it the website that bears its name - The Commentary. As in anything in life, The Commentary is very much a work in progress. Year five is one of those seemingly convenient milestones, so it's very much in order that one take a moment to pause, look ahead, and invariably look back.
What I started five years ago - merely composing my thoughts in the form of an editorial or commentary, and distributing them to unsuspecting e-mail addresses - has grown into a site that's well visited and that features the writing of many others. The sharing of ideas, the dispensing of thoughts, and the administration of advice (whether solicited or not) is the order of the day now, not only by myself, but also by a unique group of correspondents. One is naturally very proud of the diversity represented in the current writing roster. It is admirable and astonishing, not to mention gratifying to consider the work turned out thus far. What's also quite pleasing is the fact that the pieces that have appeared on The Commentary website have gotten encouraging reaction from those that visit the site. As well, the debate that's been engaged has been quite motivating.
At this time, my thoughts turn to the many people who have in ways small and large contributed much to the success of the site. Those individuals who make up the masthead: Babak Khorram, Michael Kwan, Dhiren Mahiban, Marlon Richmond, Daniel Chai, Eugene Lee, Brendan Newton, Brian Nguyen, and Helen Wang, have played a vital part in developing the site by turning out writing that is engaging, entertaining, and thought provoking. They, as well as the contributions made by Vishal Dhir and Richie Leung, deserve my compliments and appreciation. Since the website went online in September 2003, many other individuals (many of whom are here tonight) have wrought invaluable and much appreciated support. Whether friends or readers, the encouragement and support, not just since September, but to myself over these past five years, has been immensely welcome and kind; for they too have played a part. The Commentary has benefited greatly from their championing, and our modest little effort is the better for it. It encourages all of us to continue the work we have done.
As one who does not look ahead as much as he looks back, I have no comprehensive grand design, nor any idea as to the future of The Commentary. The gentle and steady course charted thus far is satisfactory, if not already rewarding. Taking stock at the five year mark is worth doing nonetheless. It's a rather personal commemoration, really. I've learned lots and though I'm loath to admit it, I've had some fun. Writing is at once a trial, as it is cathartic and valuable. Engaging in expression and having a place of your own to do so is a gift. Being able to have that bully pulpit for five years has been particularly special. Getting others involved with their own enthusiasm and ingenuity has been an additional treat. Five years hence, who knows? Thus far, it hasn't been so bad. Thank you for marking the time with me.
(Originally signed by Joseph Planta, Publisher and Editor, The Commentary, Thursday, 17 June 2004)
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