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.