Description 18 - Valerie Takes the Streetcar

(Note: this blog post has an update at the end.)

Dubber, Spoons and Queen Victoria: three members of the Commonwealth worth a tribute, and that's what I give while riding a Red Rocket. May include a possibly illegal amount of music from The Supers, a sting-y little wasp, and the Mystery of the Missing Golf Course.

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Click here to download directly, chasing after episodes like an Entertainment District cab on a Saturday night.

Associated links:
Victoria Day!
Dubber and Spoons Take the Bus
Dubber's blog, The Wireless
Spoons' photoblog
Spoons at DeviantART
The Supers
Graham Powell of The Supers on tour in Europe
Graham's myspace (with amazing solo demos!)
The Spadina Streetcar in Transit Toronto
Harbourfront Centre

Yes, we Canadians have the sense to start summer with a three-day weekend a whole week earlier than the Americans. For those new to Canadian culture, it's known as the "2-4 weekend" for three basic reasons: 1) while we celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday on the fourth Monday in May, her actual birthday was May 24, 2) Victoria Day weekend often includes the 24th anyway, 3) a "2-4" is a case of 24 beers, and taking those cases up to the cottage is as much a part of this holiday weekend as...well, as blowing up fireworks you bought off the back of a truck in the local Dominion parking lot. I still haven't figured that part out yet.

Y'know, The Supers is not all about Graham, although I played two songs he wrote and sings lead on. It's actually the collaboration of him and Maury LaFoy, who I first knew from playing bass in Danny Michel's band in those unforgettable gigs at C'est What. In fact, I had gone to see Danny play at the Hillside Festival a few years ago, and after his set, I wandered to another pavilion, which was where The Supers played, and I just fell in love with their stuff. Maury writes some of the songs, which he sings, and Graham writes some, which he sings. Maury's kind of the Lennon (rocky, sardonic) to Graham's McCartney (smart, but pretty). And I guess I'm just in more of a McCartney mood these days... Btw, the guys are finally putting out a new album soon, so keep checking that gorgeous official site of theirs, with designs by local art/music hero Kurt Swinghammer.

When I first moved to Toronto, there was no Spadina streetcar, but a Spadina bus. So beloved (or reviled by some) was it, The Shuffle Demons did a song about it. You can hear a sample of it on CDBaby, and I highly recommend you do. Where it cuts off, they're singing "77B, on the TTC / Now 77A, well I guess that's okay / give me 77B / on the T-T-T-T-T-T-C!" Those were the different routes. The streetcar line I ride in the episode has only been around since 1997 (the Queen and King Red Rockets are way older), but it's MY streetcar line.

Update Dec. 4, 2006: Hey, look! It's the "Spadina Bus" video! I found it on the Shuffle Demons' myspace page when they asked to be my friend! Thanks, guys! Isn't Web 2.0 awesome? :-)


Description 17 - Jane Jacobs and the Annex

Celebrating my neighbourhood and another American immigrant who helped make it what it is. Featuring music by Jennifer Foster, little boys play-wrestling, and the unwelcome strains of James Blunt.

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Associated links:
Jane Jacobs' house in Flickr
Jane Jacobs via the Project For Public Spaces
cbc.ca on Jane Jacobs
(and video from shortly after she moved to Toronto!)
Ideas That Matter
Robert Fulford interview
The Annex in Wikitravel
Jennifer Foster (and on Maplemusic and myspace)

Jennifer Foster was also mentioned in Description 05 when I missed her opening for MonteForte. Koop called her "J-Fo". :-)

As usual, there was a lot to cut from the soundseeing, so most of it is spent among the tree-lined streets and old houses. I'll have to do another one where I walk Bloor Street proper and talk about the stores and stuff. I didn't mention the Bloor Cinema, Trinity-St. Paul's Church (the home base of the world-famous Tafelmusik baroque orchestra and chamber choir), not even The Tap where Moe and Dave do their DJ thang.

And then there's Future Bakery, where I wrote the essay for this episode. I'd been having some writer's block and also needed a late Sunday brunch, so I went over there to take care of bizness. When I got there, I noticed that across Brunswick Ave. at the side door of the Brunswick House, a group of people were standing around, one of them sitting on the steps with a laptop. I recognised that these were members the improv/sketch group The Sketchersons, who I think were waiting to be let in to rehearse their Sunday Night Live show for later. One of them was the stand-up comic Fraser Young, whose work I admire and on whom I've had a persistent crush for about two years. I admitted as much when I added him as a friend on myspace, and he took it well. So I got a table by the window at Future, had my bacon and eggs (and those spicy home fries!), nursed my coffee and basically stared at the guy from across the street, with his emo windbreaker and soul patch and laid-back non-stoned-Mitch-Hedberg delivery, being all patient and stuff. Well, it's not like I was stalking! I didn't know the dude would be there! And I got my writing done - stalkers aren't very productive while they're stalking, are they? No. So there.

Did I go over and say hi? C'mon, you've been listening to this podcast long enough to know I wouldn't. I just ate and wrote and hawked until some kid finally let the Sketchersons into the Brunny. So thank Fraser for sort of...but not...helping me get my podcast done.

Damn, I love my neighbourhood.

Addendum: Great news from the Tony nominations in NYC: The Drowsy Chaperone, which started here at the Toronto Fringe, has been nominated for a crapload of awards, including Best Musical and Best Book for another crush of mine, the ubiquitous Don McKellar. Meanwhile, a young actress I worked with on my description day job once, Alison Pill, has gotten a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Play for her work in The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Yay, everybody! And don't make Elaine Stritch kick you in the shins!


CBC podcasts, Grits and Danny Michel

Well, here comes the big CBC podcasting coming-out party, several months after we were all hunkered together at a downtown Casey's with unformed dreams inflating our heads as the guy with the biggest dreams, Tod Maffin, was poking away at his Sidekick.

For those who don't feel like going over there right now, it kinda goes like this: you have a new best-of-the-week podcast from a favourite show per day all week, then there are various not-all-radio-content (uh, I think...) shows with various release frequencies (CBC Radio 3 is in that group, along with a version of Sounds Like Canada), then you have weekly shows covering each region.

I've tested a couple of these. My favourite CBC show, Definitely Not the Opera (updated Sundays), had lots of original host content from the always fabulous Sook-Yin Lee, but mainly featured an interview FROM FEBRUARY with Ricky Gervais. That may have been a pilot episode, since the whole schmeer just started. I'm hoping from here on in, the content will be from the previous day's show. However, the As It Happens podcast, to be updated each Friday, did have content from the past week, including a fine interview with former Toronto mayor John Sewell about the late great Jane Jacobs (more about her next podcast episode). So far, then, a well-intentioned but mixed bag. Dig in there and see what you can come up with. Oh, and Tod or whoever: why not link the show photos on the podcast page to the show's main site so new listeners can find out more? And btw, congratulations on making it this far, Tod. It's a major achievement.

Another update: Michael Ignatieff has been joined in the Liberal leadership race by a couple other guys who could qualify for his category of smart-guys-you-wish-would-run-for-office-but-then-what. Ken Dryden is known for two things: being a legendary hockey goalie and being a verbose egghead. (obviously I can relate to the verbose part) Posing probably a more serious challenge may be Gerard Kennedy, who has a couple provincial government years under his belt, but who I know best as being the guy who ran the Daily Bread Food Bank for a while. If Scott Feschuk writes his speeches, I'm afraid my heart may head for a fall. :-) So anyway, now there may be too many aspiring philosopher kings in this fight. Let's see which one gains his senses first.

And now for Danny Michel. Sigh. I've been an unsettlingly big fan of this guy for several years. I have made THREE attempts to do a podcast episode about him, and aborted all of them. Why? If I could explain here, I would've finished one of those podcasts by now. But this much I can do. Or maybe I can't, but I'll do it anyway.

Danny's FINALLY releasing his next album next month, stocked mainly with songs I've been hearing him play live for about two frickin' years. He and his people (he has a couple of them at least) have started the promotion thing going for it with a welcome redesign of his site, including a "sampler" of many of the album's tracks. So if I don't have the balls to ask him if I can play one of his songs in full someday, you can hopefully enjoy this skip tra-la through this upcoming opus Valhalla. Pay particular attention to one clip near the end for something called "Midnight Train", which is such a single, I can barely contain myself. Then go to his site's free mp3 page and download everything, then go to his space at Maplemusic and buy all the damn albums. Thank you.

Now here's the sampler for download.

(Note: I realised the podcast subscribers would have no idea what this thing is when it pops into their feed, so I added a little intro reading the last two paragraphs of this post. To avoid the redundancy, you can fast forward about 3 minutes in to get to the juicy music. Thanks!)