Description 13 - Partial Pussy

What happened to the Canadian Tire Guy? What was I doing under Chautauqua's Athenaeum Hotel? How do you pronounce "athenaeum" anyway? And why should I care if those people in the car see me? Featuring music from National Anthem, true confessions and objects of guidance.

This is what you use to subscribe like the Canadian Tire Guy, who would always employ new and useful technology to make life easier.

This is where you download this one podcast like the new Canadian Tire couple, who just go for what they need for the moment.

Associated links:
CTV.ca story on the Canadian Tire transition
Maclean's beats up on the Canadian Tire guy last fall
Canadian Tire Guy Fan Club
National Anthem @ myspace, and buy the records from notlame!
Athenaeum Hotel at Chautauqua
Ninjalicious obituary from Torontoist

(Update: April 6, '06: Thanks to John in Indiana for telling me that Athenaeum is pronounced "ath-a-nay-um," derived from Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom. Says John: "Athenaea were widespread as meeting places for the discussion and debate of 'great ideas'. We have one in Indianapolis and they are particularly associated with christian denominations which expressed secular attitudes with respect to governing....Like your show." Cool. Looks like the States could use a hell of a lot more Athenea. Anyway, thanks very much, John. Love how it all fits together.)

That Canadian Tire family helped me through many a holiday. It seemed just when I had to come up with something to get my parents (especially my dad) for Christmas or a birthday or something (made more difficult by them not wanting anything), there would be that guy with a cool wrench you can turn like a screwdriver for hard-to-reach places, or an air compressor the size of a lunch box to have in your trunk for emergencies, or - God help us all - that laser level thing. Frickin' brilliant.

The phrase "I ain't no Ninjalicious" was in reference to the man who was at the forefront of "urban exploration" in this town. He would sneak through old and/or abandoned buildings (or "places you’re not supposed to go") as other more plebian explorers would go through caves or caverns in search of ancient civilisations. Unlike many of those other guys, he made a point to leave as small a footprint as possible - it was about adventure and knowledge and appreciation, not acquisition of land or objects. Dude could've eaten that hotel for breakfast. Much of his legacy remains in his Infiltration site.

And holy crap - I was on Dawn and Drew 275! I've dug their show for quite a long time (in podcast years), and something came up where I considered phoning on their comment line about the use of the "C" word, but I sort of let the moment pass. But then Drew started talking about a solar eclipse of the thumb (you had to be there...), and that damn Bonnie Tyler song got stuck in my head. That did it. I changed some lyrics and phoned, and added the bit about the "C" word. A day before my comment ran, they ran some other girl singing the first line of the original song, which then made me seem not quite as original, so I figured I was too late. But then there I was in the next episode! Absolutely bizarre. So thanks, D&D, and hello to any Minions who have happened by.


Another Day Job Plug

While I'm blogging today, a heads up that you can catch a couple other examples of the day job for which the podcast is named: description, or described video, or...whatever. These shows will air on CBC, and that means they'll be streaming on VoicePrint's website everywhere in the world (click here and then click "listen now"). All times are eastern, Toronto time.

Tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8pm, the great Canadian opera Filumena will air on CBC-TV as part of the "Opening Night" show. For our description for the vision-impaired, my voice gets to say stuff like when our Italian-immigrant heroine grabs the gun from an aspiring politician, only to have him grab another one to aim at the constable that may have killed his son with whom she was having an affair. Uh, only I say it more succinctly while the stuff happens.

Then, this Sunday and Monday at 8pm each night, one of my favourite things we've ever worked on: the two-part miniseries Prairie Giant: the Tommy Douglas Story. This is about the guy who won a tv election for "The Greatest Canadian" a couple years back. And why was he voted first? Well, besides the fact George Stroumboulopoulos presented an awesome argument (as he usually does), Douglas helped make happen a lot of social policies that sort of define Canada as a country: universal health care, old age pensions, labour reforms...the list goes on and on. In fact it literally does at the end of the second night; I got to read that list, and I actually found it the most moving part of the show, and that's saying something because it's rife with moving moments. But the establishment of those social policies was the culmination of a pretty amazing story, and Michael Therriault (best known as Leo in the Toronto production of The Producers) does a remarkable job of bringing this tenacious and funny guy to life again. No matter where you're from, this is a great story, but if you're a Canadian living outside the country, you may want to check it out to remind you of where you came from.

By the way, The Tommy Douglas Story was originally supposed to air in January, but when the federal election was called, the CBC postponed it, which I and other people found veeeery suspicious. Here's a movie explaining the events and compassion that led to the establishment for the New Democratic Party. Was anyone actually nervous the NDP could've eclipsed the Tories and Grits with the story fresh in the voters' heads? The world may never know...

Description 12 - Chautauqua On Chautauqua

What is this strange yet painfully quaint place where I spent my birthday? An asylum? A cult headquarters? The model for Stars Hollow on "Gilmore Girls"? I crunch around the melting snow and try to explain my history and Canada's history with the "Institution".

This is what you use to subscribe like an a Gate Pass holder.
This is where you download directly like some visitor who sneaks in off-season like me (that's actually not a good metaphor, but whatever).

Associated links:
The official site of Chautauqua Institution
The Institution in Wikipedia
Heather's Inn
Notes on the Chautauqua Movement (with the answer to what CLSC stands for)
Buckeye Local Schools (my old school district, where, I learned from this site, still has Project Allegro, only it's called "Allegro Enrichment.")

The title is a reference to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which a "chautauqua" is an oral essay working through various thoughts and ideas for education and sometimes entertainment. It was sort of a 19th century podcast, now that I think of it.

In this podcast, I didn't finish my story about Project Allegro, the program that took me to Chautauqua in the first place. You'll notice listening that I didn't sound very positive about the program. It did have its merits, and I do appreciate the opportunity I was given to be exposed to some new things. I just had this nagging feeling throughout that these opportunities should have been given to kids who were having a harder time with school, including kids who lived in beat-up trailers in the country and were in the school lunch program.

Anyway, a couple weeks into it, I was riding on the school bus from Kingsville to Jefferson one morning, and it occured to me that it was summer and I was getting up to go to school just like I had during the school year. Why? Sure, it was a good program and everything, but I still had to get up to go to school and I was doing it in the middle of summer. It just felt wrong. If they really wanted to be innovative, they should have started classes at noon or 1pm so we could sleep in like kids are supposed to do in the summer. But no. So I just decided it wasn't worth it, and I quit. I wrote a very nice letter to the director of the program thanking him for the chance and the experience, but that I just wanted to enjoy my summer and pursue what I wanted to pursue on my own time without the schedules and obligations. The reaction was pretty amusing: the people running the program were very concerned that I'd quit because of something that had gone wrong there - perhaps I'd been bullied or abused somehow. Was I okay? :-) I had to get my parents to write a letter saying no, she's just fine, there was no ill treatment, she just doesn't want to have to go to school in the summer.

That's something that sort of annoyed me when I was a kid. Adults, especially those at schools in positions of authority, didn't really give me much credit for thinking and making my own decisions based on my logic and feelings. They knew I was "smart," but didn't really consider what that meant beyond scores and needing to be challenged according to their well-studied ideas of what challenges a smart kid. There's a little human being behind that test score with a network of thought and gut processes that never shuts off (though sometimes wishes it would). Then again, I look at kids the age I was then, and I probably don't give them much credit either. Then again again, one day last summer when I was hanging with Dubber and Spoons, I was lucky enough to also hang out a little with Dubber's son Jake, who is a little older than I was then, but is very bright without being annoying (though that may have changed since he's reached teenage). I found myself talking to him like talking to a normal person, as I'd wished to be talked to back in tha day, and he gave good and often better than he got. So maybe it just depends on the kid...which maybe was my point about the whole Allegro thing.