The Other Side of A Christmas Story

So I'm going home as usual for Christmas next week (U.S. border guards permitting) and it's unlikely I'll be recording any festive podcasty stuff this time. You may remember last year I went with my friends Ron and Julie to "A Christmas Story House," the house in Cleveland which was featured as Ralphie's house in the movie. That trip served as the soundseeing tour for Description 49, which was about the connections A Christmas Story has to my birthplace and where I live now. While I did talk about the Canadian significance of director Bob Clark and mention how the most of the movie was shot in Toronto, most of the episode out of circumstance focused on the American side.

Now the beautiful people of Torontoist, whom I will miss dearly when they stop publishing on New Year's, are filling in the Canadian side. The latest (last?) edition of their awesome "Reel Toronto" series, pinpointing exact locations in made-in-Toronto movies, features none other than the adventures of Ralphie and his pals. So enjoy the historical and geographic trivia here to prime yourself for non-stop showings of the film on tv. And keep digging through Torontoist for excellent news, reviews, commentary and nostalgia about Toronto - for that old acquaintance should never be forgot.

(Update: Literally due to popular demand, Torontoist is staying alive! Woohoo! So I'll keep linking there as much as I can. You keep going there, so they can...er...keep going.)


Description 62 - Citizenship

To celebrate my 10th anniversary of being officially Canadian, I look through my old application, friends and family share memories of misplaced hats (goofy and otherwise), and the government implodes.

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(in 96 kbps for your drive space pleasure)

Associated links
Feed for the QN Podcast
Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Applying For Citizenship
CBC Becoming Canadian: From Immigrant to Citizen
A Look at Canada
Shawn Micallef covers a citizenship ceremony at the AGO for Spacing Toronto
Town & Country Buffet is closed?
My initial post about the coalition thing
Rick Mercer on the coalition thing (pre-prorogue)
CBC.ca archive on the coalition thing
Canadians For a Progressive Coalition
Rabble TV on the coalition rally
The Tory site for winning hearts and minds

My humble thanks to Sage and Amit (my good friend going back to the mid-'90's and the TPOH mailing list) for their wonderful, thoughtful contributions. And of course, there are my parents...

I neglected to mention the singer early in the rally montage was Richard Underhill, sax virtuoso of the Shuffle Demons (Spadina Bus!) and member of the Kensington Horns featured in my PS Kensington video.

Here's a wacky thing: if I'd stayed in Oshawa, my local MP now would be Jim Flaherty, the guy who presented the budget update that started this whole mess! *shudder*

Shortly after he spoke at the rally, Stéphane Dion stepped down early as Liberal leader (which he was going to do in May anyway) so the party could continue marshalling its forces for when Parliament convenes again January 26. To replace him, the Liberal caucus has chosen our star (at least in words) of Description 14, Michael Ignatieff. He has come a long way as a politician since that speech of his I read in that episode, going through much of that buzzsaw faced by fresh "philosopher kings" and still standing with some of his ideals intact. Those ideals factor into his statements about studiously reading whatever it is the Tories come up with for a revised budget update when Parliament meets up again before lowering the non-confidence boom. He's not saying coalition-no-matter-what, but also maintains the preparation to present a coalition if necessary. While that takes a little of the air out of the passion about a coalition, it is also definitely, prototypically Canadian (ah, "reason over passion" - Trudeau strikes again), holding out for compassion and compromise to the bitter end. We will see how bitter Stephen Harper chooses to make it.


6th Photo Meme: Yoko at the El Mo

Yoko at the El Mo
Originally uploaded by Valerie27
I'm back so soon because I've been tagged by Rob Lee of Unconventional Wisdom (and husband of the previously mentioned Katherine) for the 6th Photo Meme. Since he's such a nice, level-headed fellow and I don't want a dolphin to be killed, I'll see if I can pull this off (since it's my first proper meme).

So here's how this goes: when you're tagged and if you are on Flickr, you go to the sixth page of your photostream, pick the sixth photo and post it to your blog. Then you tag six more people to do the same thing. Yes, it's a chain letter, but somehow when it doesn't feel like a chain letter (like something I received recently and blew off), I'm okay with following along - though having to contact people to further it tweaks my anxiety.

I haven't been posting a ton of photos to Flickr lately, so this goes back to October 2007. As part of my unofficial series of photos taken in reflections, this is in the women's restroom of the legendary rock club the El Mocambo in Toronto. Since the men's restroom is called the "John", the ladies' is called the "Yoko". (Ha! Rock comedy!) IMO, it's one of the nicest, most spacious rock club restrooms in the city, though I think it does still have two stalls.

Now to tag those six people - man, I hope this works out. Sorry in advance...
Justin Beach (my Podcast Landlord and lord of publicbroadcasting.ca)
Bob Campbell (longtime listener and blogger of Note to Myself)
Adam Gratrix (of Transpondency, Foreskin Radio and whatever else he comes up with which upsets whatever balance I possess)
Ninja (of Hot Fossils and Rebel Matters, Ninja Radio and many a supportive Facebook comment)
Dan Misener (of Jim Dupree: Enthusiast, Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids, CBC's Spark, etc.)
Rob Winder (recent photo blogger, promoter of the great band Jackdaw4 and friend going back to the TPOH mailing list)


When everyone started caring

Before I get to the meat here: the next episode is probably coming next week, and I've set a deadline for calling the Description 62 comment line. Please call 206-376-1528 before the end of December 8 with your comments about what Canada or Canadian citizenship means to you, and it'll likely get in the episode. I'd really love to hear from you.

And for the last few days, Canadians have been thinking A LOT about what Canada and citizenship means to them. Some extremely complex and I think damn interesting stuff has been happening in Canadian politics that, believe it or not, has started to make the machinations of the last U.S. Presidential campaign (hell, even Bush-Gore 2000!) look a little pale in comparison. By the time that deadline for your phone call passes (and you will have called by then, RIGHT?), it's possible, though not definite, that we'll have a new Prime Minister under a coalition government. Like that presidential campaign, it has been every bit as depressing as it's been wildly fun. And it's all been packed into a week. Man, I love this country!

I'm not going to even try to explain all this stuff to you as I try to explain other Canadian stuff - and believe me, part of what makes this so awesome is how Canadian it is, and what makes the debate about it so sad is how many people don't get that. Fortunately, another blogger has explained it for novices (and we all sort of are) in as complete a fashion as I could ever imagine. Her name is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and she has a blog called Yarn Harlot, which is most often about knitting and her life. (She was referred to me by my friend Katherine Matthews, who runs in similar circles as Stephanie, and I thank her.) If you have several minutes, please go to this post of hers and stick with it, because this stuff is very very key to what Canada is about. If you've ever thought there isn't much difference between the U.S. and Canada, and I haven't done much to convince you otherwise, Stephanie will.

I can only add this: through this trial, the ruling Conservative party has become only more American in their attitude and language, and what tears it for me is that their American-ness now defines assumptions they have made about the Canadian democratic system. Seriously. I can hear it, I can smell it. And to me, it is absolutely intolerable. So we will see what happens.



First off, in case it hasn't come up, I wrote an update in the post for Description 57 regarding the death of Kenny MacLean of Platinum Blonde, just so you know.

Now for something more fun. November was National Podcast Post Month (NaPodPoMo), where podcasters post a new episode every single freaking day of the month. I can see how that would be a great experience for someone...who isn't me. There's also the point that "National" may not include Canada, so I was probably exempt anyway. Still, I saw an opportunity to maybe stretch my listener muscles (ouch) and look for new podcasts I'd never heard before. And so I invented National Podcast Subscription Month (NaPodSubMo, or NaPoSubMo when I'm feeling lazy or forgot how to do the proper truncation), in which every freaking day, I would subscribe to a podcast I had never heard/seen before. If you follow me on Twitter (not a requirement, I assure you), you may have seen my daily mini-reviews of each one. It took some doing, and maybe I didn't find all the podcasts you may think are best, but whatever - it was still a very good experience.

Some of those podcast subscriptions have been chucked in the bin already, not because they're necessarily bad, but because for some reason, I just didn't connect enough to them to sustain a commitment. There are others I like enough to hang onto a bit longer. And then there are those I fell in love with, look forward to spotting in the podcatcher and will commit to for a good long time...which in podcasting, is maybe at least another month or two. And it's those podcasts I want to share with you now. They're in no particular order.

MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show (video)
For those who know, you're saying "duh!".
For those who don't know, this is a current-affairs show on the U.S. cable news channel MSNBC (which I don't get here), which like many such shows is hosted by someone known for being more pundit-y than journalist-y. Unlike those other shows, it does not make me want to hunt the talking heads down and punch them. While I don't always agree with Rachel Maddow, she's smart, funny, talks like a normal person, isn't spoiling for a fight and isn't annoying. I usually watch this while I'm having lunch at home, but the audio version is perfectly fine too.

Ken P.D. Snydecast
I tried this for the same reason most people do: because the super-awesome SModcast (with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier) hasn't put up a new episode in a while. The guy who picks and edits the music for that podcast, Quick Stop Entertainment editor-in-chief Ken Plume, does his own two-hander with Adult Swim voice star Dana Snyder (you may remember him from such shows as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies). Like SModcast, it's two guys jabbering about whatever for about an hour, but has less of that crazy "what if?" stuff and is usually more confrontational. Funny on its own terms.

Speaking of podcasts where guys sit around and talk...

Talking Canadian
...Which I tried while waiting for new episodes of The Bob and AJ Show. Three friends in the Ottawa area - the producer of the Sens Underground hockey podcast, a guy from Sudbury and a guy from Newfoundland - "get together twice a month, have some beers and just shoot the 'stuff'." (Note: on the podcast, they would not say "stuff" in that context.) It's basically like sitting around at a non-chain bar in a medium-sized Canadian town waiting for the game to start on the tv. Funny, natural, good-natured, not pushy. After all, they are Canadian. :-)

East Meets West
Another two-hander, CNET's Tom Merritt and noted geek Roger Chang talk mainly about current affairs, sometimes associated with tech and science stuff. This is one of those deals where I don't know why I like it besides being comfortable with these guys and their rapport. Notable, though, is how much of their discussion is fueled by discussions in the blog comments.

Zen Is Stupid
The subtitle is "Everything Wrong With Western Buddhism", but it actually feels more like a couplecast just shot through a Buddhist prism. Usually meeting up virtually from far distances, Gwen Bell and Patrick Reynolds talk about what's been going on in their lives and eventually (if at all), incidentally relate it to general Zen Buddhist concepts. Just a nice, smart chat.

Is it Just Me?
Two people shooting the breeze about life again, but this time they're Australian media veterans Wendy Harmer and Angela Catterns. Their 16-week season ended recently, but it's well worth revisiting while they hope for a renewal from ABC Radio (home to many great podcasts).

Dinner Party Download
From California public radio station KPCC, fun info to use at your next dinner party. Each show includes a joke, a drink recipe inspired by history and the same two questions asked of a very cool guest (Irvine Welsh! Robert Wagner!). You'll wish the next dinner party you attend would be as classy and entertaining as this.

The Digested Read Podcast
That podcast monolith known as the Guardian newspaper presents John Crace satirically summarizing hot books in the style of the author. Sneaky funny, and funnier the more you know about the author or book.

Zunior.com Podcast
A monthly podcast featuring a great variety of excellent new music (most of it Canadian) available from the pioneering digital music store Zunior.com. Utterly painless promotion.

The Zygiella Podcast (RSS)
Maybe the next generation of something like Zunior, Zygiella is a Toronto-based online music community with a music player, gig calendar, and links to band sites and merch, all with a brilliant design. The podcast is simple: it "discusses shows in Toronto over the coming week that cost $10 or less and play songs from the bands and performers featured on that week's list." It's as enjoyable and unpretentious as you can get for something this cool.

And that's it! Not a bad harvest for a month. Hope you find something in there you may like, or just be content that they're out there.


Description 61 - Nuit Blanche in the Crystal

For the third edition of the annual all-night art festival, I finally go into that iceberg that crashed into that nice old building to check out dozens of ID cards, British soldiers curling and people wildly applauding me in a stairwell.

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Associated links
Nuit Blanche Toronto
Royal Ontario Museum
Sobey Art Award

The Shortlist:
Raphaëlle de Groot (the masks)
Tim Lee via Lisson Gallery (the Goldberg Variations)
Terence Koh (the sphere)
Mario Doucette (the curling soldiers)
Daniel Barrow (the projections I read from)

Luba @myspace and the whole song
The Tap @myspace

And hey! Remember to help me celebrate my 10-year anniversary of my Canadian citizenship by calling the Description 62 comment line: 206-376-1528 Long-distance charges apply, and you have until Description 62 is posted in December.

Btw, as I write this, the Michael-Lee Chin Crystal at the ROM is no longer the new architectural bauble in town. All attention is now on the renovated Art Gallery of Ontario, redone by former homeboy Frank Gehry. After a week of press-exclusive ooo'ing and ahh'ing, it's now having a free grand opening weekend. As amazing as it looks, I'm going to avoid the rush and wait a little while - after all, buildings like this should be around forever, no? :-) When I do get down there, the iRiver will be coming along, of course.

I'll be honest - Nuit Blanche was kind of underwhelming for me this year. There were a couple really great things, including this stuff at the ROM, but otherwise, meh. It's very possible one problem (which other critics expressed) was that many exhibit sites were just too far apart. Whatever energy you were given at one site would be depleted by the time you got to something else. That could've just been in my zone (there are three) - one of these years, I really should get out of it and head down to West Queen West. Anyway, I still think it was worthwhile, and since the organizers tweak things each year, I suspect they'll tighten up the map for next time.

One project that made the distance problem bearable won the People's Choice Award for this year. The folks from Project Blinkenlights in Germany had an installation called "Stereocope," where they took over the lights of City Hall for an amazing lightshow that included everything from Pong to Rickrolling. But I didn't make it down there, so how do I know? I got to see a live simulation on an iPhone (Touch) app! Showing it off to Gilby at The Tap, he simply had to have it - so I told him to get it from the App Store on his iPhone, which he did, and after much gushing and playing, he showed me how to swoop around Nathan Philips Square with two fingers on the screen. w00t! Another thing that makes Project Blinkenlights so cool is the open source nature of the design and participation, so if you're geekier than me (and you are), go dig through their website and find what fun can be had.


Extra: Participate in Description 62!

A little announcement about the only kind of party I can afford, why I'm having it and how you can help with it by phoning Seattle. Btw, though I didn't mention it, you can get in on this even if you were born in Canada and have never left. Because I'm inclusive like that. :-)

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...Okay, here's the subscription link too.


An Update on Description 60

Out of the two things I voted for in the second half of Description 60, one of them lost. That would be Bill O'Neill for Representative to Congress in the 14th district (Canadians: that's the equivalent of an MP). You might have heard the other office I voted for went the way I was hoping.

Pretty much everyone knows that overall, Obama won Ohio, since it was a "battleground state" and all (now get the hell outta there, foreign journalists!). In Ashtabula County, Barack Obama got 55.35% of the vote, while John McCain won 42.17%. Folks in my county had to vote for at least 23 different offices (11 were uncontested) and 5 state issues (5 and 6 got all the damn commercials); with 45 different levies/tax-raises and zoning things spread out for different districts and townships.

I spent election night at a little party at Kristin's place, where the landed immigrant from Michigan and I were watching CNN and Indecision '08 while answering questions from our Canadian friends (which no doubt hipsters in the packed Bloor Cinema were asking at their big party): yes, they vote for all that different stuff, so it takes time to count; no, usually they don't get a head start counting the early ballots; this is how one of those old machines works; most of us don't understand the electoral college much either; everything differs from state to state. With the chatting and the snacks and the switching back-and-forth with the hockey game, once the big news came down, it was for me a little hard to process. It barely started to sink in when McCain conceded (in a speech that presaged a return to McCain 2000, hopefully). And then of course came Obama's speech: it was another one of those great Obama speeches...but HE'D WON. We were all different levels of misty. But it just felt so wierd.

Of course, Obama is all anyone has been talking about ever since, how it is a new day in America, some Torontonians saying "welcome back America". Okay, fine - it is a historic thing in a couple big ways.


In the baptist church basement (where I went to Brownie meetings) where my parents voted, 214 people voted for McCain and 208 voted for Obama (8 people voted for Nader - that guy's always gotta screw things up!). 46% of the whole country voted for McCain and Palin. In many states, a lot of dumb stuff won. But then, some smart stuff won as well. I suppose everyone feels that way, depending on what side they were on. The U.S. is as much of a crazy quilt of selfish and selfless, guarded and self-flagellating, sane and nuts and ethnocentric as it's ever been. It's not like the U.S. was a mess, went through a week-long extreme makeover and last night they moved that bus to reveal a shiny new hearts-and-flowers country with one big Great Room. It ain't gonna happen. There's a hell of a lot to be done, and it might not get done. Obama's going to run into that buzzsaw that everyone else with good intentions has run into in any government; people will fight, people will screw up, people will get lazy and greedy, merde will happen. People might even die.


At Kristin's party, I checked my email on her laptop and found a note from my ex in San Diego. We've had plenty of conversations about voting, and he's explained how he used to be energetic politically when he was younger, but started getting beaten down by circumstance and the system and had concluded f-ck it, what's the point. But with this election, through the primaries and onward, he started getting lifted. He found himself battling his cynicism. Finally, last night, he emailed me when Obama took California big-time: "We did it!! It actually happened!! Holy crap...Voting today was the best feeling ever..." Again, he's not a flighty kinda guy - it takes a lot to bring him up like that.

I think there are millions of people like him with similar stories; people who've had the commercials and yelling and noise shoved down their throats and up their asses. I also think there are tens of thousands of them in Canada, who didn't bother voting last month because it wasn't enough to vote against something - they felt they had nothing to vote for. That's just the way Stephen Harper wanted it, which is why he's still Prime Minister. But in the U.S., there was something to vote for, and it was enough to get them to feel voting mattered, and in turn that they mattered. That is absolutely what made the difference, and if anything good gets done, that will be why.

What I take away from this experience is that although terrible things may happen, everything may fall apart, humanity's worse natures may win again, it is always possible to go from discouragement to hope to action - and there is ALWAYS something to vote for.

Bonne chance, Québec.


Description 60 - Vote Early, Vote Often

Two countries, two elections, two advance polls, two sets of dorky commercials and two chances for me to screw something up (which I do). Features music by Laura Barrett, golf pencils and defiant envelope-licking.

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Associated links
The previous election episodes: Description 11 and Description 26
Elections Canada
Conservative Party of Canada (boo!)
Liberal Party of Canada
New Democratic Party of Canada
Bloc Québécois
Green Party of Canada

Earth SciencesLaura Barrett
"Deception Island Optimists Club" (mp3)
from "Earth Sciences"
(Paper Bag Records)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album

(that up there is the snazzy thing IODA has me do.)
Other Laura Barrett links: @myspace, @CBC Radio 3 and @Zunior
Federal Voting Assistance Program
The Democratic Party
Republican National Committee (boo!)
Ashtabula County Board of Elections
Presque Isle Downs

The Congressional candidate I voted for is named Bill O'Neill, not Dick O'Neill. Maybe I had too much dickishness on the brain after watching all this U.S. election stuff for a few days. >;-)

There was a lot of editing in both of those election scenes. Voting in Canada took about 15 minutes, while voting in the States took about a half hour. Listening back to the one in Jefferson, I think I sounded like a bit of a jerk, not just laying out my whole situation right off and later sticking in that thing about getting the wrong ballot in the mail previously. But then when I did get around to explaining, the woman at the counter was shaking her head through the whole thing. So I guess we both loosened up.

Now for crossing the border. Since I sold my car in the spring (more on that in another episode), and I'd be home longer than would be thrifty for a rental, I took the bus to Buffalo, then caught another one to Erie, where I'd be picked up. At the U.S. border at the Peace Bridge, the passengers get off the bus, go through the immigration part, then pick up any luggage they have and go through the customs part. Even getting to the point of getting off the bus took about an hour in line, which I later learned was a result of not only neglecting to bring in more staff for a long weekend (in Canada), but deciding it was a good time to bring on trainees.

Once I got to an immigration person, I gave her my one-way bus ticket (since Dad was having surgery, I wasn't sure when I'd be able to travel back up) and my Canadian passport which says I was born in Cleveland, U.S.A.

"Do you have an American passport?" she asked.

When I said no, she gave me one of those lectures-trying-not-to-sound-like-a-lecture saying that a Canadian passport listing my birthplace in the U.S. is not good enough proof of my U.S. citizenship, and that and a one-way bus ticket does not prove I have the means to go back to Canada. She was letting me off this time (you can feel a finger wagging, can't you?), but suggested next time I also bring my birth certificate, so I could have what she termed as "the best of both worlds" and be questioned as an American.

Thing is, a U.S. birth certificate doesn't prove my citizenship any more than the designation in my passport does - it only proves I was born there, not that I've retained my citizenship since then. Of course I didn't tell her that, or question whether she thought my Canadian passport could be bogus. I just smiled, nodded, thank-you'd and shuffled off to my suitcase, which went through customs very easily. This gave me the chance to sit in the bus for another hour as my multicultural brethren went through. The last of them was part of a small group of women (one of whom was in front of me in line) who were dual citizens like me...only they happened to be Canadian and Iranian, which meant they had to fill out a separate form. I guess it was some "Axis of Evil" form, which so far, we Canadians don't have to fill out yet.

And with that in mind, we Canadians humbly remind we Americans to please vote November 4th - or anytime before that...
GoVoteAbsentee.org / learn how to vote absentee!


Description 59 - Montréal Avant Podcamp

Before attending the first big social media "anti-conference" in Quebec, I buy fabulously unhealthy food, sit on a very high balcony and celebrate how Everyone In Montreal Is Cooler Than Me. Features music by David Usher and a last-second cameo by Julien Smith which emphasize this last point.

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Associated links
The other Montreal episodes: Description 28 and Description 29
Podcamp Montreal
Gare Centrale @Wikipedia
Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana
History and various versions of O Canada
Les Halles de la Gare
Première Moisson
A recipe for Feuilleté au jambon (but keep those mushrooms out!)
David Usher: official site, myspace, Maplemusic, CloudiD (his tech/social media blog) and the Podsafe Music Network
Six Pixels of Separation by Twist Image (Mitch Joel)
McGill Station and Place-des-Arts Station
Place des Arts
Le site officiel de Youppi! (I keep forgetting he's mascot for Les Canadiens now.)
Trylon Apartments
Katherine Matthews and Rob Lee
A recipe for Tarte au Sucre
And where I ended up.

Those murals at Gare Centrale weren't even remotely trompe l’oeil, which I reminded myself later is an artistic technique of making two-dimensional things look like they're three-dimensional. I then wondered if I meant clin d'oeil, but that seems unlikely (though any Google research is overwhelmed by the fact Clin d'oeil is a huge women's magazine in Quebec). I was trying to come up with a style of French design typified by dark blue details against a stone/bone-coloured background - and even then the colours in the murals were reversed! Argh. Here's an example of those murals. I should've just said Art Deco and shut up until I had a chance to watch more HGTV.

I didn't go out and say that David Usher is a resident of Montreal, so I'll say it now. He's bounced around various places throughout his life, but had lived in Montreal a few years ago, and is now back - again, when he's not touring. More consistently from Montreal is Julien Smith, pretty much the first podcaster in Canada (Bob and AJ are the cause of me putting that "pretty much" in there) and not surprisingly one of the brilliant organizers of Podcamp Montreal. You can get an idea about this guy from watching his Podcamp presentation, which is still available (as of post-time) via the Ustream Podcamp Montreal channel. While you're there, check out the presentations I attended by fellow organizer Sylvain Grand’Maison and previously-mentioned "standard bearer" Scarborough Dude. They really aren't too inside-baseball, but just very engaging talks by very intelligent people.

And here's the view of Montreal from my 18th-floor balcony:


Again with the Nuit Blanche?

Yes, it's time (a little late) for the third edition of Nuit Blanche in Toronto, which was the subject of Description 25 and Description 45. It's an exception to my unofficial rule to not do shows about annual events every year, maybe because each year is different, and also because I've experienced it at different times in its 12-hourish overnight time span. Since I went through it early in the first year and late in the second year, this time (tomorrow) I'm trying to go for something in the middle. Of course, much of it depends on how well I do at staying awake. If a show comes out of it, it'll probably turn up some time next month (after at least one other episode).

Regardless of any of this, if you're in town, go yourself! It's fun - seriously! It's three zones of a bunch of pieces of contemporary art, presented in ways that are accessible to everyone (even, as Stephen Harper would say, "ordinary Canadians"), no matter what your feelings are about Contemporary Art. (I can vouch for that - I'm more of an Impressionist fan myself.) Check out those podcast episodes and see what you think. Then if you dig it, dive into a pile of guides for info: there's the official site, Torontoist's guide, NOW Magazine's guide, eye weekly's guide and a brilliant Google Map mashup from BlogTO. And if you see someone walking around pretending to talk on a cellphone and wearing a little white mic clipped to her purse strap, say hi.


Holy Phoque Indeed

(Props to Nathalie Petrowski's Cyberpresse column for the title.)

I don't usually find myself swept up in viral video fever, but this one is particularly Canadian and worthwhile.

While in Montreal this past weekend (more on that next episode), I was puttering around the hotel room with the Francophone breakfast show "Salut Bonjour" in the background, and noticed people talking about some film clip of a musician appearing before some sort of dismissive commission. Recognizing Stéphane Rousseau (from the film The Barbarian Invasions, but also a comedian and singer) as one of the inquisitors, I guessed it was a new feature film. Since my French sucks, that was as far as I could get.

Thanks to a link today on Twitter from Gilles Duceppe (or his people - he's leader of the Bloc Quebecois), I've found out the story, and it's pretty important for me to include here for a couple reasons.

First to go back for a second: last month, the Tory government decided to make a lot of cuts to some pretty helpful arts funding (Marc Weisblott did a fair job explaining some of this in the Scrolling Eye blog), which was preceded by a proposed bill which would effect funding for Canadian films with supposedly questionable morals (CBC has a good thumbnail here). Now we're in the middle of a federal election campaign (yes, us too), creative people who have to go through enough crap without all this are very concerned with what more could happen if the Tories win again. Many of them have organized into groups like the Department of Culture to educate and support each other and do some effective lobbying for once.

One group which is so far anonymous, but which seems to be without party affiliation and from Quebec, has made this three-minute film about the situation, "Culture en Péril (Culture in Danger)". The musician, Michel Rivard of a legendary band called Beau Dommage, appears before a government funding committee (including the fey fellow played by M. Rousseau) to propose a music festival to help promote Quebec music in France, and somehow hilarity ensues. No, it really does ensue, centred in part around the fact that the French word for "seal" (the swimming animal) is "phoque".

So here we have Quebeckers, who are way better at promoting their own stars and pop culture than in English Canada, bringing all their talents to bear to truly entertain and also illuminate some important issues - including issues important across the country regardless of language. And there are even English subtitles available (if you can't get them here, follow the YouTube link and follow the simple instructions to turn the captioning on).

I don't think it gets any more Canadian than this.


Description 58 - Queen Street West

It was the coolest place in (English) Canada, and then it wasn't. Three wise men walk me through it, with help from Bob Wiseman's music, some giant ants, some Trotskyites and a toaster oven.

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Associated links (deep breath...)
Last year's Jane's Walk episode
Queen Street West @Wikipedia
CondomShack (there'll be an episode about that someday)
Official description of this Jane's Walk
Duke's Cycle
Torontoist covers the Queen Street West Fire
Gary Duke's first visit of the fire site
The Big Bop
Bovine Sex Club and The Shanghai Cowgirl
Kickass Karaoke
Mercer Union (now on Bloor)
Art Metropole (now on King)
The Red Head Gallery (now on Richmond...sheesh...)
General Idea
Bob Wiseman: official, @MySpace and podsafe @publicbroadcasting.ca
Blue Rodeo
Parachute Club @The Canadian Pop Encyclopedia
CBC on the invention of Trivial Pursuit
Cameron House
Among its past denizens: Molly Johnson and Holly Cole
VideoCabaret's History of Small Villages
Horseshoe Tavern
Steve's Music Store
Mary Margaret O'Hara @Musician's Guide
Cowboy Junkies
Club Monaco
The Rivoli
A Tribute to Richard O'Brien
Original "I'm An Adult Now" video
Peter Pan Bistro
Silver Snail Comics
The CHUM-City Building @Wikipedia
Ontario College of Art and Design
NOW Magazine covers the Beverley Tavern closing
Video for Meryn Cadell's "The Sweater" (If you haven't heard this, please do that now. Definitely wear lip gloss.)
KITHfan.org (Kids In the Hall)
Queen Mother Cafe
The Nylons
The Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar

What? I'm supposed to write more after all that? Don't you have enough to go through with all those links? I'm tired...

Okay, one more little thing: a door down from CondomShack is Kops Kollectibles, where I would often visit my friend Chris Edwards, who eventually moved upstairs to what became Vintage Sounds, a bastion of vinyl (albums, 45's, whatever) bought and sold and ordered. Unfortunately but maybe not surprisingly, their online presence is woefully minimal, but Fodor's has said some nice things about them and has contact information. If you're a High Fidelity-level music geek and can't bear the strip mall, start there and you may not go anywhere else on the street.


P.S. Kensington Video

I featured Kensington Market in Description 24, but frankly I was a bit slack about describing it, and the place is always worth revisiting. These days, I'm usually there about once a week to do some grocery shopping, and lately I've found myself there on a Pedestrian Sunday (aka P.S. Kensington).

The idea of P.S. Kensington is to show how much more human a neighbourhood becomes when cars are taken out of the equation - on Sundays from May to October, the main streets of the area are closed to car traffic. To be honest, I've found this a little redundant, since Kensington is already dominated by pedestrians and bicycles regularly taking up the little one-way lanes, very few people with cars and no time choose the place to hurriedly drive through, and everyone pretty much understands that. Shutting it down, then, doesn't seem to be a tremendous effort (unlike the Blackout Anniversary celebration that turned Bloor and Spadina into a piazza). Still, P.S. Kensington means more fun things than usual are made to happen in the streets, and it's a great attention-getter to bring people who aren't usually there to wander and visit the many wonderful independent vendors of the Market.

So here's some video I shot at P.S. Kensington a couple weeks ago while I was on my way to the store, and hopefully you'll get a better idea of the vibe of the place than I gave you a couple years ago. If nothing else, hey - tuba solo!


Description 57 - Flippin' to the 'A' Side

With the help of some slabs of vinyl I bought in St. Catharines in the mid-'80's, we travel back to a time Canadian pop music was trying to find itself - and so was I.

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(November 25 update below)

The Videos on YouTube
It Doesn't Really Matter by Platinum Blonde
Flippin' to the 'A' Side by Cats Can Fly
L'Affaire Dumoutier (Say to Me) by The Box
Terry David Mulligan on Good Rockin' Tonite
There Was a Time by One to One
Stay in the Light by Honeymoon Suite

View them all as a playlist!

Associated links
Platinum Blonde: official site, @iLike and @last.fm
Standing in the Dark: A Platinum Blonde Fansite
Cats Can Fly @Wikipedia
The Box: official site (Anglais ou Français) and @MySpace
The Box @ CafePress
Terry David Mulligan @CKUA, which has his radio show "Mulligan Stew"
One to One @The Canadian Pop Encyclopedia
Honeymoon Suite: official site, @MySpace and @iLike
Buy from Amazon.ca and from iTunes
St. Catharines Public Library
Fanshawe College (wow, fancy site!)

To you audiophiles...uh, you're here why? :-) Yes, these are over-20-year-old records played on a chintzy record player with a dubious line-in connection to the iRiver. It's still not too far off from how they sounded to me back in tha day. I'm hoping the audio quality, the Fair Use talk, the fabulous links to buy and my best of intentions will keep me from getting some very official-looking emails.

In my research, I found that Terry David Mulligan was one of the growing number of casualties of CTV/Globemedia taking over CHUM/CITY. After Good Rockin' Tonite, TDM moved to Muchmusic, and he was the CHUM/CITY voice of Western reason for a couple decades. But at the end of last year, still under contract, he got turfed just before his home province of B.C. eliminated 65 as the age of mandatory retirement (TDM turned 66 last June). This of course is a load of crap. This article from the Vancouver Sun talks about his wrongful dismissal case against them. Regardless, we have not heard the last of TDM. He has his CKUA thing and a great project about wines called The Tasting Room. Frankly, I think he'd be perfect for podcasting - we'll see what happens.

Okay, the Platinum Blonde stuff. Btw, the lead singer (and original bassist), Mark Holmes, is still a man-about-town around here. You wouldn't recognize him unless you kept in mind that he's sort of the local authority on British mod culture (he's from Manchester, yet another ex-pat). His DJ nights of mod/Britpop music with Bobbi Guy became so successful, they gave birth to The Mod Club, one of the major dance/concert venues in Toronto. He even finally did a solo record, which you can find on iTunes.

But back to tha day...

So here are these teen idol popstars, the most commercial band in Canada. Even Canadians could sell these guys.

CBS/Epic/whatever the hell became Sony in the States picks them up. And what's the first single/video for the USA? This:


It was around this time, in May of 1986, I left study hall with Ron, Lori and Brandon, and we drove to Cleveland to meet Julie and others to see Platinum Blonde play a free show WMMS was putting on somewhere downtown. Here we are:

That's me with the flag, of course. After the show, we all meandered around and got each member of the band to sign my flag. We found them one by one hanging out in completely different places (I remember Mark singing the Man UFC fight song on the bus), both relieved to not be hounded by crowds and pleasantly surprised there were Americans who actually knew who they were.

This was a pretty good attitude to have - considering they were there as the opening band for Blue Öyster Cult.

That's right. This new wave/pop/rock band, the "Canadian Duran Duran", with the makeup and the hair and fancy suits, the most commercial girl-scream-inducing band in Canada, was opening for Blue Öyster Cult.

It was the kind of story I had only just begun to hear. We've come a...well...a moderate way.

(Update, Nov. 25, 2008)
One of the guys in the videos up there (with the long face), who I met that day in Cleveland, is Kenny MacLean. He was found dead yesterday.

While the cause of death is still undetermined, the Toronto Star has a very good article here, which includes comments from Mark Holmes and Chris Steffler.

Yet another person who came to Canada from elsewhere (Scotland), Kenny joined up after Standing in the Dark to play bass so Mark could be more lead-singery. So he was part of Alien Shores and everything that came after, which is a lot. In my work on the radio later, it was nice when I got to play stuff from his first solo album, which got a fair bit of airplay everywhere. In the years that followed, I'd see him around at the odd show, but of course wouldn't say hi. When I lived near Allan Gardens, I would often walk by a bar on Gerrard just off Yonge which would perpetually have his name on its marquee, because he had a regular gig there. I'd always see it and get his first solo single "Don't Look Back" in my head, where it is now.

While he was at the start of a lot of great things at the time of his death - another solo album, a venture mentoring aspiring musicians - it would seem he had a tremendous finale. The last time anyone saw him alive was at his CD release party Friday night at the Mod Club, which is impressive not just because that's such a big venue now, but because it's Mark's. They had their moments over the years, but performed together again that night as a part of what was considered a personally triumphant show. I think that's how a lot of musicians would like to go out.


Extra: FutuRéale Interview

As if it wasn't already nuts that someone would want to interview me for a magazine, I was also allowed to bring you stuff that didn't make it to the article.

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FutuRéale is viewed through a Flash Magazine Viewer (sorry, text readers - let me know if you need a text version), so go to the August '08 issue here, hover over the Table of Contents on the left, then click on "An American in Toronto."

Some clarifications: I watched hockey games on Wednesdays (Leafs on CHCH) and Saturdays (Hockey Night in Canada, natch); my Canadian radio influences were Steve Anthony, Pete & Geets, Chris Sheppard, Brent Bambury and Liz Janik (who I was up against musically in the Edmonton and Vancouver CRTC hearings - yikes). And of course, the numero uno directory of Canadian podcasts is canadapodcasts.ca.

Also, Irma reminded me that her first transcript of this thing was 10,000 words, she cut it down to 5,000 and then it was cut down further to 1,800. Whew.

To learn more about Irma Gagnon's other cool projects, check out Yoko Sanchez Speaks and the myspace site for the Yoko Sanchez Radio Show.

As for Eric Rosenhek, there's his blog And Now, A Word From the Hek, the recently-faded Audio Circus and - bringing it back around - the FutuRéale podcast.

And okay, it's not like there's absolutely no way to make money in podcasting. But coming into it cold asking how to make money doing it is still goofy. It can be a part of a larger, comprehensive social media effort to help promote your product (even if it's yourself and/or your creative talents), and it can be a successful part when you take seriously your audience and how to best connect with it - which is pretty much always done by not starting with dollar signs in your head.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.


A couple Edmonton updates

You may remember in the Edmonton episode, Description 55, I asked you to bug St. Albert's own Fabulous Singing Suchy Sisters, The Ambers, to get their new music onto their myspace page. Well, they've done it, with a song that was my second choice to play on that episode, as well as another song which I featured on the "Potluck Music Mix #2" episode of the Talking Stick Podcast. So head to myspace and enjoy...then bug them to put up more. ;-)

(Speaking of Talking Stick, that's a wonderful collaborative podcast where all sorts of folks record pieces talking about certain themes, with episodes grouped by theme. It's a really interesting concept, and it's a great chance for people who aren't (yet) podcasters to share a little piece of themselves when a subject strikes their fancy. All you need is the ability to record an .mp3 and something to say for a few minutes! So look into it, and you may find yourself on there someday.)

Okay, back to Edmonton. In last year's episode about the Toronto Fringe, Description 41, I noted how lots of cities around the world have their respective Fringes, which is a terrific way to enjoy little bits of theatre and comedy in one crazy festival. Indeed, the grandaddy of all of them, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is going on now in Scotland, brilliantly covered by Ewan Spence and his Edinburgh Fringe Show podcast. But a Fringe is also underway in Edmonton through next weekend, and the podcast done by one of the city's alt weeklies, VueWeekly, has put out two episodes rife with clips from Fringe shows (way better-recorded than mine, but I was being sneaky). So check them out through the Vue Wave Podcast feed.


Description 56 - A Bridge For Obama

On the Fourth of July, I show enough audacity of hope to dress in the colours of my old flag (sorta) and walk over a bridge so people can take pictures. With music by The Diableros and the inspirational honking of passing cars.

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Associated links
Another excuse for a Doodlebops link!
Barack Obama (duh)
Blog post about primary voting
Democrats Abroad
VoteFromAbroad.org (and it's Linux!)
The World Wants Obama Coalition
Bridges For Obama pool on flickr
The Diableros @publicbroadcasting.ca (with other links)
The Fringe show from which I got the flyer
CBC story on Corey Glass

An unintentional running theme of this podcast has been people who have moved here from the U.S. and made a difference here in Toronto - Jane Jacobs and Ed Mirvish likely near the top of that list. Another person to add is the woman I spoke to in the second half of this episode.

At the time, all I knew of her was that she came to Canada with her then-husband as he was evading the draft for the Vietnam War, had absolutely no citizenship from anywhere when the U.S. took theirs away without telling anyone, regained it in 1994 (allowing her to move toward getting dual status), recently had a show of her photography in Washington D.C. (an article about it in the Post earned a nasty email from some bigtime military guy), made a movie with her son about Iraq War veterans coming home, and currently teaches at George Brown College here.

That sounds like enough, doesn't it? But with the details, it gets better.

Her name is Laura Jones. Once she moved up here with her husband John Phillips, they owned and managed the The Baldwin Street Gallery of Photography for 13 years. That show in D.C. consisted of her photos from Martin Luther King's "Poor People's Campaign" of 1968, which was about economic inequality among all races. Significant as it was, it's only a part of her ongoing career in photography. The movie, Fayetteville: Forward March Toward Peace, which is about a bit more than those veterans coming home, is available via stream through the NFB's CITIZENShift website.

But there's more. She spent a couple years as a research consultant for the Riverdale Immigrant Women’s Centre, then was a member of Toronto City Council for another couple years. Throughout, she's served in all sorts of capacities on any number of environmental committees and projects, and was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

Man, good thing I didn't know all that stuff then, or else I'd have barely gotten out a few words to talk to the woman. :-) Most of what we actually talked about was blogging and podcasting: she wants to learn more about it so she can talk about it with her students and maybe use it for some of her other work. So I gave her cursory introductions to the world of Blogger/Live Journal/Wordpress; mentioned Google Video and Vimeo for possible longer-form video; and pointed her sharply toward the Rabble Podcast Network (which of course includes CITIZENShift).

So I have a very strong feeling we have not heard the last of her. And we will be the better for it.


What else happens when I talk too much

Like a post I wrote in April, this is going to be one of those self-indulgent things bloggers write that's really just of some passing interest to maybe a few people. You're more than welcome to pass it by.

So anyone as cynical as I've been in my life would probably listen to what I said in Description 54 and wait for the other shoe to drop. Indeed, these concepts of transparency and honesty in podcasting and among those who do it have their shades of grey, and leave it to me to eventually tromp through them.

Around the start of this month, keeping up the PAB momentum, I met up with a few podcasters at a pub in town. Conversation and alcohol flowed freely, and moved to another pub down the street. At some point, while being recorded by one of the podcasters, another podcaster, perhaps the greatest standard-bearer among us of transparency/honesty, started dissing yet another podcaster who wasn't there, who's liked among much of the community but who I've found in my limited experience with him to be kind of a blowhard. Not evil by any stretch, but sort of annoying. I said something like, "well, I'm not one to talk about that guy..," gave the impression I was agreeing with the dissing, and then demured when a gesture was made to the recorder doing its thing. Demuring was clearly not the favoured activity of the night, so I was prodded, and I felt like I would get more hell for not saying anything more than if I had.

That, of course, was wrong.

So I went on, just basically giving my perception of the guy in a way that can only be fueled by three Guinnesses, one Steam Whistle and a lack of experience with small, Hemingway-esque groups. After that, we all continued with other directions in conversation, and only near the end, the recording podcaster announced that nothing would be edited out. I was in no headspace to dispute this, especially considering the temper of the night, so I left it alone, thinking he may reconsider. Not surprisingly, that's not how he does things, which I completely respect.

A week or two later, the recording was posted, and I could suddenly feel some empathy for Jesse Jackson - although there were no calls for the removal of appendages. :-) While I don't think I sounded as bad as I might have, I was still pretty mortified, all the more because I knew I had no one to blame but myself. However, I also waxed and waned about saying anything about it, in part because I hoped it would blow over, and in part because I didn't want to seem like I didn't believe in this honesty/transparency thing. But to be truly honest, I don't believe in dissing people by name in public (though I don't think Stephen Harper counts - see the complexity of the grey areas?). People have enough to go through without other people throwing crap at them. I'm not a flame war person, a person who starts fights and calls it debate, a person who thinks she can let any hurtful thing fall from her mouth and then hide behind the mantle of honesty to call it some noble deed. That's the US talk-radio mentality that I hate, which had actually fueled any anger underlying what I had said.

And yet, there I was.

When I heard that the "blowhard" in question had put out a new episode of his podcast, with a clip of what I'd said and a reaction to it, the bottom dropped out of my guts again. Of course, to react was not surprising, even warranted, but it just threw the reality up in my face again. Finally, I sent a message to the podcaster who'd recorded everything - not to say what he should or shouldn't have done, because that would've been stupid, but just to say how I was feeling because I respect him and care about his opinion of me. He gracefully explained his point of view and assured me not to worry, and even posted a comment to his podcast's blog saying how he'd been in a similar situation once upon a time that had worked out in the end.

After several days, a couple hours ago, I finally listened to that response to my drunken rambling. It was done mainly not by the guy I'd dissed, but his partner, and she gave as good as he got, though in a very very different way. Of course, that's as understandable as everything else. And because it was public, that's why I'm here writing this, when probably 90% of everyone has forgotten the whole thing.

When people get together, eventually dumb stuff is going to be said, people are going to get hurt. That's probably a big reason why I've not been good at getting together with people - I've been afraid of that happening, in one direction or another, or actually any direction. But that reality has to be faced. At least that's what I've been told by people who to me have made the messy messy process worthwhile - and considering all this messiness, that's saying something. But nevertheless, here on out, I'm keeping a tight rein on my own dumb stuff, and anyone who doesn't like that can kiss my ass. :-)


Description 55 - City of Champions

Done with business, I look around Edmonton and find what's changed since the days I admired it from afar. Includes music from The Ambers, wading in wading pools, and taking pictures of Wayne Gretzky's immortalized nose.

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Associated links
Get "Gretzky Rocks" from Maplemusic!
West Edmonton Mall
Sir Winston Churchill Square
Art Gallery of Alberta
That building I thought was part of the university is Edmonton City Hall!
Stanley A. Milner Library
Edmonton City Centre and CBC Edmonton
Citadel Theatre (it's rambling because it's a few theatres in one)
Winspear Centre @wikipedia
The Ambers @myspace! (Go bug them to put up more new music!)
Southbound on the LRT on YouTube (I went from Churchill Station to Health Sciences Station, later from Coliseum to Corona)
Whyte Avenue @Trip Advisor
Old Strathcona (of which Whyte Ave. is a part)
Blackbyrd Myoozik
Blues on Whyte
Rexall Place
Edmonton Oilers Heritage Website

The CD I was looking for at Blackbyrd is by these guys, who are not remotely Canadian.

Thanks again to Pam for her local knowledge that finally got me to Churchill Square. She'd also wanted to take me to Rexall Place, but she was doing her main work on our CRTC project while I was doing my running around and found my way up there myself on the LRT. The previous night at dinner, she'd also told me an amazing story from her youth that made my jaw drop further and further as she went along. I'll try to recount it here, though I know my memory will screw up the details very badly.

During those halcyon days of the Oilers in the '80's, she was a teenager. One hot summerish day, she and some friends held a car wash around the West Edmonton Mall to raise money for something (a dance, or a kids' charity...can't remember). Things were going pretty slowly. Out of nowhere arrived an extremely expensive car requiring no washing whatsoever, and it was soon followed by another one, more of a very sexy Italian sports car. Some young men stepped out - including Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. Of course, the girls did their best to not totally freak out. Everyone chatted a little bit, autographs were signed, pictures were taken, and Messier asked what was going on. Seeing these kids were suffering in the hot sun, he offered to get them something to eat and/or drink. A trip was made to a nearby store for many Slurpees. Then he asked how much money the girls were trying to make, and the reply was something like $1500. The guys looked around among each other like any other group of guys pooling together for cab fare to get an out-of-town buddy home after a long night at the bar. Scrounging in their pockets, they easily found enough money to reach their goal, and then some. With smiles and hugs all around, they got back in their extremely expensive cars and drove away.

I couldn't have daydreamed that any better reading my Sports Illustrated back in Ohio.


Canada Night and Fringe

I'm a little late here, but if you remember Description 41, you'll know the Toronto Fringe Festival is a very cool thing with bits of theatre hanging out all over the place. Well, we're in the middle of this year's edition around here (it goes to the 13th), and if you're in town, you'd do well to check it out. Take a look through the official site about all sorts of partyin'-type events going on, and Eye Weekly's Fringe section for up-to-the-minute reviews of the shows.

We're also done with this whole Canada Day / Independence Day week. I've never done a show about any of that, though there will be something in the future about what I did on the 4th of July. Canada Day, of course, is much more important to me, and that night, I went down to Harbourfront Centre (the site of Description 50) to enjoy the festivities, including a free concert by Martha Wainwright and Basia Bulat. For those of you who haven't been to any Canada Day anything, here's video of what some of that looked like as day turned to night.

Canada Night '08 on Vimeo.


Description 54 - Standing In the Way of Connection

It's new media vs. old media, and only one makes me break out into song. I give an idea of how podcasting helped change my life and why commercial radio is the way it is, featuring a mashup, some power tools and not enough water.

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Associated links
Podcasters Across Borders
Mark Blevis and Bob Goyetche
Danny Michel and Wallace Hartley
Canadian Podcast Buffet
The QN Podcast
Talking Stick Podcast
Wooby Communications
Christopher S. Penn's Awaken Your Superhero
In Over Your Head (Julien Smith)
Tod F-ing Maffin :-)
Terry Fallis' The Best Laid Plans
Nora Young: CBC's Spark and The Sniffer
Dan Misener: Jim Dupree: Enthusiast and Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids
A plus D
The CRTC and the transcript of my day at the Edmonton hearing (my group was second)
Painting With Ella videos on myspace

Tech note: because this episode is so long, it's at 96kbps to save on file size.

You can find Danny Michel doing the second verse of "Hartley" by going to his music page, scrolling down to his 1999 album Fibsville, playing the streamed sample and listening for the third clip in the montage. Yep, dude makes it easy, don't he?

Of course, no kind of media is all good or bad. Podcasting is not all a warm and fuzzy diary room, nor should it be, and commercial radio is not inherently evil. Even the prevailing mindsets involved have their myriad variations. The people I worked with for the CRTC hearings were wonderful, the commissioners themselves were understanding and patient (I wouldn't give my worst enemy their job of having to listen to people like us for days and days at a time) and mean well. Also while I find the attitude behind CCD programs sometimes patronizing, I also know artists/bands who have been really helped by them (The Ambers, for one - money from Rawlco funded the recording of the song I'll be playing in the next episode). It's just Joe Average and grassroots podcasters don't know well the motivations of "old media" and radio/government folks don't quite get what's behind much of this "amateur" podcasting thing.

There wasn't much time to mention Bruce Murray, known as being the force of The Zedcast, and the kind of guy who would walk up to me on the boat cruise last year, start chatting with me, and introduce me to some great people to give me some social momentum. This year, he had to stay in Nova Scotia, and was greatly missed at PAB. Yet he made his presence known in a very funny video he sent, that was played during the opening of the conference. It was a riff on podfading (when podcasters stop podcasting so much, which Bruce can be accused of) which included some silly video footage he'd shot during past PABs...including of me. This of course I didn't see coming. So along with everything else, I'm known as the girl who flipped her hair and said she was feeling "conferency". I gave him hell in my special way over the phone later, but certainly it could've been more embarrassing (he's probably working on ways to make it so in the future), and considering his past work, it was an honour to be included.

And no, I'm not being diplomatic about that.

(Update: June 25 - okay, now Bruce has that video on you tube. Will his wonderfulness ever cease? Could it? Please? Anytime now?)


The Description PAB Teaser

Part of me going to Podcasters Across Borders this weekend has involved sending in a "PAB Teaser," or a 2-3 minute sample of the show. So I went through all 53 episodes of this podcast, took clips from all of them, then edited everything down into under 3 minutes. The process was a bit of a trip, and I hope listeners get a kick out of the result.

Here's the Description PAB Teaser!

As for folks who are actually going to PAB and haven't been here before, it doesn't look like I'm getting Description 54 done in time, so scroll on down past Gooch and the Doctor (which you can thrill to later) to the latest episode, Description 53.


Gooch & The Doctor!

It's my last day in Edmonton, where I've recorded enough for two episodes, one of which I'm hoping to pull off before going to Podcasters Across Borders in a couple weeks. But in the meantime...if somehow you remember Description 07, you'll know I was a small part of a certain culture headquartered at 6 Ross. During that halcyon time, there were some short films made by and featuring some of the residents of that house, and another of them is on youtube, hopefully with more to come.

To review, Frank (The Gooch) and Craig (The Doctor) are friends from way back in Sault Ste. Marie. I got to know them when they were in Memory Bank, whose music I played here a couple times. They've gone on to other things, but they're still Gooch and The Doctor, and I'm privileged to know them.

As for their sitcom personae, The Gooch is somewhat similar in real life to Frank, and The Doctor is a little bit like Craig when it's about 2am and he's just finished a mickey of Bacardi. His iconic haircut is no more, and there's no way he would've gotten that far moving that couch by himself.

As for whether they can communicate with each other telepathically? The world may never know...


Description 53 - On the Hill

I'm in the seat of Canadian power (probably), reading a pamphlet, admiring statues of people holding documents, reducing an important monument to a Renaissance Faire hat and saying "awesome" too much. But the kitty-cats make up for it.

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Associated links
Ottawa Tourism
National Arts Centre
A Treasure to Explore: Parliament Hill, including history, the "Hill Cam" and a Flash Virtual Tour
The statues discussed: John Diefenbaker, Queen Victoria, Lester Pearson, Baldwin and Lafontaine, Sir John A. MacDonald
Lester B. Pearson @The Greatest Canadian
Canadian Parliamentary Cats @Wikipedia
Canadian Museum of Civilization
The Women Are Persons! Monument

The song I "sing" at the beginning is a mocking Rhapsody In Blue. In one of the sections I had to cut for time, I talked about a kiosk with ads of upcoming events at the NAC, and one was for Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the NACO in a program which includes George Gershwin's Piano Concerto In F. I was relieved they were doing that instead of that other Gershwin piece that has become such a cliché, then demonstrated what a cliché it's become.

To give you an idea of the multimedia brilliance of the NAC, on that page I've linked for the event, there's a link to an episode of their "Explore the Symphony" podcast, which discusses another composer featured in that night's program, Johannes Brahms. I just had to stop writing this post to listen to it. The NAC has been an important part of the Canadian podcasting community (a word used almost as much as Rhapsody In Blue has been played) for a few years now - in fact, I remember them doing video blogs before the concept was even invented, as early as 2000 (my friend Gavin worked on them). I highly recommend you explore all of their podcasts in English and French. There's even a cooking podcast, for heaven's sake! Other great podcasts produced in Ottawa include Fear and Loathing In Ottawa, The Gaelic Hour, and pretty much everything done by Mark Blevis.

Something else I cut was any mention of the big event going on in town at the time: the Canadian Tulip Festival (though there is the odd mention of tulips). Basically, through most of May every year, there are tulips just about everywhere they can be planted in Ottawa and Gatineau, with the biggest display at Major's Hill Park, sort of across from the U.S. Embassy. It is a pretty spectacular thing if you're so enclined.

Btw, I remember the location of that park in relation to the embassy not because of my background, but because of a time I attended the other big event that happens in Ottawa, Bluesfest in July. A few years ago, I went to see Danny Michel play in Major's Hill Park. During the set, Danny noticed an inexplicable echo. Trying to figure it out, he started playing short bursts to bounce back at him. The echo was a result of the sound going across the park to the tremendous wall of glass on the modern, imposing embassy. Once that was determined, he played a couple more echo games with us, then noted how symbolic it was that no matter what we tried to say to the Americans, it would just get bounced back at us.


One of the good guys in radio

I just saw on CP24 that Marc Chambers passed away today, so I did some googling for confirmation, and unfortunately found some.

When I started working at CJOJ in Belleville in 1995, I heard rumblings that this guy who'd been big at CHUM was going to ride shotgun with our morning man for ratings period. This of course intimidated me since 1) most things do, and 2) CHUM (AM and FM) was kind of an institution to me, and anyone who did well there was automatically a radio hero, even if I hadn't heard him/her. But the only thing really intimidating about Marc Chambers was his voice: a booming, but smooth piece of work that's the sort of thing you think of when you think of real radio. Not surprising, then, that he was one of the most used "image" voices in the business, the guy who declares the name of your station or network. The one he may have been best known for was The Weather Network.

I've probably given the impression that commercial radio people are a weird bunch, and a lot of them have a distinct kind of neurotic desperation to them that can make them assholes. (I'm guessing I could be put in that group at times in my life.) Marc was not one of those guys. He'd do his thing, never being too out-there or cloying, and be done with it, joking around off-mic and just being cool. He had a deep love for radio that emanated from him; he'd been around the block enough times that it could have worn him down, but I sensed no bitterness or cynicism from him. He was confident in his talent, but quietly so, and he was supportive of everyone around him, including me.

I only worked with him for a few months, and maybe talked to him a time or two after that. So for all I know, he actually could've been an asshole. ;-) But I observed the work he did on the mic - which he earned by being a hustling freelancer - and also his work providing support in the business, doing things like his columns in Broadcast Dialogue magazine. All that good stuff still showed through. He was one of those people I'd kept telling myself I should get back in touch with, but never did. And here we are.

But I wanted to let you know that, to me, Marc Chambers was one of the good guys in radio, and that there actually are some. To learn more, 1050CHUM has a great tribute here.


Description 52 - Covered By OHIP

Breasts! Refrigerator noise! Gowns with three sleeves! Baskets of knitting! And me actually talking to people! It's all to celebrate our fine health-care system just slightly less than Michael Moore has. Also with great music by Colleen Brown...and by the pesky neighbours downstairs.

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Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
"The Birth of Medicare" @ CBC Digital Archives
Health Care in Canada @ wikipedia
St. Michael's Hospital
CIBC Breast Clinic
Rethink Breast Cancer
Colleen Brown: official site, myspace, New Music Canada, CD Baby and... publicbroadcasting.ca!
Second Cup
CP24 (They don't have it on a stream anymore? Crap!)
Stand Up Tragedy X, totally explaining the TTC Strike (Thanks, Todd!)

Until this experience, I'd never been in a waiting room where so many people were talking with each other. To me, waiting rooms have always been places where you come in, (present your health card if you live here), sit down and read something, or in my case listen to an iPod. But when I donned the three-sleeved pink gown and entered, about four other women in similar gowns were chatting. Three of them had finished and were waiting for the okay to go, and they were trying to comfort the other woman, who was waiting to get her mammogram and was very nervous about it, having had a bad experience last time. My rationale was 1) my mom said it's never been too bad, and 2) compared to other exams we have to endure, how bad can it be? Another said it was nothing compared to being in a full MRI machine closed in around you like a smooth white coffin for a half hour. Totally soothing, weren't we? But if nothing else, we emphasized that however bad it would be, stressing about it would make it much worse. True enough. So that nervous woman is the one I'm talking to in the episode after we'd both done our thing; she'd survived, and was a bit calmer.

The waiting room chat was an odd thing for me not just because of the waiting room, but in being some sort of female bonding experience. As you might have figured, I've never been part of many dishy, soul-baring little coffee klatches you might find on any number of tv shows; or identified myself with a kind of sisterhood. But there we were - people with the same pink gowns and the same body parts being tested for cancer. No avoiding that. So somehow talking happened, and it was okay.

Now that I think of it, that idea of strangers connected by a medical procedure reminds me of a more trivial but stranger circumstance. I briefly mention in the episode that I had (and still do to an extent) scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. I put it down to slumping and always cocking the same hip when I stood. I was diagnosed when most kids are, at about 12 or 13 years old, and it mainly involved skipping school once every couple months to get x-rays (for which I waited all day at my local hospital) and then an examination by some doctor who'd come in from Cleveland to check a bunch of us to see if we were getting worse. When he found I was, I was assigned exercises and later a brace (not for the neck, but more like a big thick corset) for a lovely couple years in 8th and 9th grade. Eventually, things solidified, they didn't have to run a steel bar up my back, and I went on with my life with the odd back complaint. Hardly a rare story...and by the way, Dad had excellent health insurance from his work up until a few years after his retirement.

Shortly after Kurt Cobain died, I read a report of his myriad ailments both natural and man-made. Among his natural ones: scoliosis. Suddenly, I could picture the poor kid going through those screenings, the x-rays, the exams, one of the few boys. Still, I concluded that for all the suffering Kurt Cobain endured, I was very thankful scoliosis was the only one to which I could truly relate.