Description 75 - Be...In This Place

And that place would be New Brunswick, an underrated province where I spent a beautiful, breezy and fire-y Canadian Thanksgiving. Includes music by The Monoxides, a mangling of history and stringy red seaweed you eat.

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Associated links
VIA Rail Ocean train from Montreal to Halifax
City of Moncton: Our Tide Is Rising
Woodstock: New Brunswick's First Town
(You're starting to get the idea that people in New Brunswick are good at slogans.)
Woodstock Sanctuary House
George's books @Google Books and his books @Amazon.ca
History of New Brunswick @Wikipedia
The Acadians @CBC.ca
Meduxnekeag River Association
The Best Dulse!
Paris 1919
The Monoxides: @myspace, @Facebook and @ReverbNation
The Monoxides Annual Holiday Show @Facebook
Iron Giant @myspace
Thanksgiving (Canada) @Wikipedia
Tourism Saint John
Irving Nature Park

The person on the phone ended up being my birth grandmother: one of the people who would call and know who I was.

The photo for this episode was taken at a convenience store on the way down to Saint John. I had seen those flags on houses as the train was heading along the east side of the province, only I hadn't seen the stars on them, so I thought they were French flags, which my hosts thought was strange in that the Acadians are not so crazy about the French French that they'd go around flying their flag. After some discussion and Wikipedia, we determined they were Acadian flags. On the whole trip, I had kept my eye out for an image of New Brunswick I couldn't get anywhere else, and it turned out to be the display in this convenience store.

I have two major regrets about screwing up the sound for the soundseeing tour of Woodstock. One is that my birth mother's arms almost falling off from the cold came to no purpose. Another is that I didn't get to mention Fusion Coffee Company, which we went into briefly. It's a really wonderful licensed café with coffee and food and drinks and music (sometimes live) and a very nice atmosphere. It serves as a creative hub for the small town, and my birth mother goes there often. When we went in there, I met the owner, who knew who I was and could not have been more welcoming. It's the sort of place that a lot of people in small towns wish they had, but usually don't, so I wanted to give this one all the support I could. Hopefully, I'll have other chances to do that audio-wise. But, hey, at least it can get more Google juice in text form.


Lost November, Lost Episodes

Ooookay, so I guess I couldn't do a weekly podcast and a daily podcast without the monthly podcast falling by the wayside. Sorry about that. That daily podcast for National Podcast Post Month, No Mood Swing, is finished (though still available at that link - and hint: there's a tiny Walking the Walk update in the last episode), and hopefully that means I can get back to business on this thing. I think I can post Description 75, about my Canadian Thanksgiving trip to New Brunswick, either this week or next.

Something else I've been working on is re-archiving the episodes after learning a while after the fact that my .mp3 host had stopped hosting. Episodes after Description 49 were moved to a couple different spaces of mine. As for episodes before 49, they're going to the beautiful and venerable (and very deserving of your donations!) Internet Archive, home of No Mood Swing, most of Movies For the Blind (that weekly podcast) and thousands and thousands of other things way more important than anything I've cranked out. So far, I've uploaded three batches, which are now arranged on three convenient pages:

Description 40-49 - (July 2007 - January 2008) Featuring Sam the Record Man, the Toronto Fringe, the Jays game, the Dalai Lama, my day doing location support and my trip to the Christmas Story House.

Description 30-39 - (January-June 2007) Including the trips to London, Paris and Hull :-) along with me making Kraft Dinner, driving home and going to Tim Horton's.

Description 19-29 - (June-December 2006) With the two-parter on NXNE, the Montreal Christmas parade, The Doodlebops, the Cleveland visit and the first episodes about Nuit Blanche and the U.S. absentee ballot process.

I want to wait a short while to put up the first 18 because I'm still missing a few, and maybe you might be able to help if you have a troubling habit of archiving podcast episodes you've listened to over the years. (Heck, I did it with Dubber and Spoons to an extent.) If you go into those archives already up, you'll see I'm already missing Description 23 (Honest Ed's) and the enhanced version of Description 37 (The Drive Home). At the moment, I'm still working on finding Description 18 (Valerie Takes the Streetcar), Description 14 (Michael Ignatieff's First Date), Description 05 (Monte-freakin'-forte!) and the first two Descriptions. I must have them somewhere, but let's just say that while I've been pretty good at backing things up, I suck at keeping them together and organised. So as I keep searching - and create that new episode for you, don't forget - if you happen to run across any of those missing episodes somewhere, please let me know and you will get props to no end. Thanks!


Toronto Tourism Done Right

BlogTO pointed out today that the Canadian Tourism Commission has an amazing series of videos about Toronto on YouTube. In fact, they have a YouTube channel of amazing videos about places all over the country, but me being me, I'll focus on the Toronto stuff for now.

Clocking in at no more than about two minutes, these videos look fantastic, but aren't cheesy. They just naturally let the awesomeness shine through about everything from West Queen West to the Distillery, Casa Loma to the Islands, from the AGO to the Brickworks to Woody's in Boystown...and even more. If you don't live here, you really need to check them out. If you do live here, check them out anyway and I'll bet they might get you to feel maybe a teensy bit proud of this place.

Here's an example below, featuring an area I walk through very often: Yorkville, but you'd do best to go through the comprehensive playlist (and don't forget it's two pages).


For NaPodPoMo: No Mood Swing

Evidently, it's not enough I have this monthly podcast and another weekly podcast - I have to come up with a daily one. But it's just for National Podcast Post Month (NaPodPoMo), which I dodged last year, but this year won't. A podcast episode every day in November, and in my case, each will be under 10 minutes. Yikes.

But don't worry - I'm not foisting it on you, unsuspecting Description listener. The podcast, No Mood Swing, will be on another feed...with this one exception: my mission statement for the project, where I give an idea of what I'm going to do on this thing. If you want to subscribe, awesome! If not, no problem, and thanks for putting up with this one thing in your feed. That's the one thing about being less than 10 minutes: compared to what I usually do here, it goes by like (snapping fingers) THAT!

Download the mission statement
Subscribe to No Mood Swing


Description 74 - GOing

I venture into suburbia in a big green and white clanging flattened metal hexagon, and live to tell the tale. Featuring music from The Most Serene Republic, a surprise cameo by a constable, looking up a word I didn't know and a bird in a nice suit.

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(Yes, you can download it. I'm migrating all episodes to other hosts, working backward. Thanks for your patience on that.)

Associated links
Go Transit Official Site
GO Transit @Wikipedia (and follow the link in the article for "conurbation".)
The GO Concourse @ Union Station
That Paul Janz song (Again, because much of the video was shot in Union Station. Sorry.)
The Most Serene Republic
And here comes the IODA Promonet stuff...
...And The Ever Expanding UniverseThe Most Serene Republic
"Heavens To Purgatory" (mp3)
from "...And The Ever Expanding Universe"
(Arts & Crafts)

Buy at Napster Buy at Rhapsody
More On This Album

Canoeing the Credit River
Lakeshore Lions Arena

The Most Serene Republic are forging on with their tour (at the Mod Club here tonight as I write this) although recently they had a lot of their gear stolen in Vancouver. That's a hard blow for any Canadian band, so check out their official site in the links for details on what was stolen, so you can watch for it if you're in that area.

A GO Train was the location for the tv series Train 48, which aired on Global from 2003 to 2005. A version of an Australian soap, it centred around a group of commuters heading home each night from Toronto to Burlington (technically, that would have to be Aldershot, right?). The train was the only location for the show, and the episodes were taped the same day they aired (having great improv actors helped), so things could be topical and cheap - and the cheap part was how Global was able to do an original drama series at all back then. That's grist for another episode, I guess, if I could find a way to keep it from being depressing. :-)

I cut quite a lot of the soundseeing tour of the concourse hall. Sure, I could go on about the Second Cup and the juice place and the Cinnabon and the Dairy Queen, but...meh. As you might have noticed by my boundless energy in this episode, the place is nothing more than functional.

When I first lived in Toronto way back when, there was a bar where the newer food court is now - called Choo-Choo's, I think (whatever it's called, it has moved nearer to the stairs to the Great Hall of Union Station). It was actually where I made my first mixed drink order. Due to my fairly uneventful teenage years, I had very little context for concocting a beverage in my head. I knew I loved Coke, and thought I'd like Kahlua because it wasn't fruity, so I walked up to the barkeep at the age of 19 and asked for a Kahlua and Coke. He asked me to repeat that, and I did. He stood there perplexed for a moment, then went to fill my order. He poured a shot of Kahlua and a highball glass of Coke, then gave me the glasses.

"Um, no, I'd like them together," I said.

He raised his eyebrows. "Together?"

I nodded, he shrugged, then poured the shot into the Coke. He watched as I drank this mix perfectly content, because it was exactly what I wanted. I would go on to perplex less seasoned bartenders than him for the following two years, before university life would mature me to the level of gin and tonics.


Hang in while our host is down

You might have noticed this in the last little while, but our lovely hosts at publicbroadcasting.ca have been down and are not connecting. Really sorry about this, and we'll get things together as soon as possible.


Updates on Updates and Nuit Blanche Again

As usually happens when I do a post without a show, a new episode is coming next week. One of the things I've been doing instead of an episode lately has been FINALLY transitioning a part of my first website to blog form. Incompletely Conspicuous, my almost-10-year-old (holy crap!) website about the band The Pursuit of Happiness, has always had a news section called Updates, and I figured it was time to drag it kicking and screaming (if it felt like exerting effort) into the 21st century by turning it into a blog, so I could...er...update more easily and include more doodads and interactivity. So if you like TPOH and want to know about some of the interesting things its people do because the band isn't really around anymore, take a look and feel free to subscribe.

Now, it's also time for good ol' Nuit Blanche, what I've called "NXNE for modern art" during the now-four years I've been doing podcasts about it. The subject of Description 25, 45 and 61, the all-night city-wide art exhibition - starting tomorrow night - will most likely be the subject of Description 76 (yes, two podcasts away...not guaranteeing that). My focus this time is probably going to be the happenings around the Art Gallery of Ontario, because it will be open FOR FREE from 6:55pm to 3am for various snazzy things. Since the AGO re-opened with its full Frank Gehry makeover, I've wanted to do a soundseeing tour there, but hadn't yet made it there during the couple hours on Wednesday night when I could afford admission. So here's my chance. Yay!

But what I'm going to do is more about the AGO than Nuit Blanche (sort of like Description 61 was as much about the Crystal at the ROM than Nuit Blanche), so this does not in any way get you off the hook if you're anywhere near town to experience the event. There are at least 130 projects of all kinds to explore and sometimes participate in, reportedly closer together in the downtown core than last year (which was my beef then), helping out even more with car-free zones and open-all-night TTC with a $9 pass to take as many trips as you want. There's also the Nuit Blanche app for my iPod Touch and your various smartphones to help you out when you're pounding the pavement in the dark not knowing which way is up (correction: whoops, it's not for the Touch - I have to stick with the mobile version of the official site). For info on all that stuff I just mentioned, go to the official Nuit Blanche site, and also check out suggestions and tips from our friends at Torontoist.

Granted, some years are better than other years, but even at its worst, Nuit Blanche is as accessible as contemporary art gets, and frankly, it's as accessible and happy and warm-fuzzy as Toronto usually gets. So celebrate art, the city, and each other.


Description 73 - The Dual Citizens

In the temporary Canadian embassy of Ashtabula, Ohio, I talk with my birth mother about why she went to Canada, why she stays, and how it's even more our home than I'd ever known.

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Associated links
The beginning of the story is at the end of Description 68 and throughout Description 69
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee @Amazon.ca
The Bank of America Center @Wikipedia
1972 U.S. Presidential Election @Wikipedia
The Port Angeles-Victoria Ferry
Oak Bay Tourism
"The Last Streetfighter: the History of the Georgia Straight"
Canada and the Vietnam War @Wikipedia
"What Is An Affinity Group?"
Tourism New Brunswick
CBC.ca article on election for AFN national chief
Walnut Beach Cafe Photo Gallery

By the end of the year, you will be hearing more about Aboriginal people in Canada (having already recorded some stuff) and more about New Brunswick (because I'm going there for Canadian Thanksgiving). Maybe I should say "perhaps on either side of the end of the year," just to keep it safe.

In case you were wondering, this experience has been a big one for my parents. They always said they would support me if I ever wanted to search out my birth mother or father, and when my birth mother's family found me, they were as happy as anyone. Knowing that they were familiar with some of them (there are even more odd connections than I've mentioned) and then learning with me how great these people are, it made what could've been a fairly daunting thing even happier for them, and therefore even happier for me. We had our own driving, eating and talking while I was there too. (Btw, it should come as no surprise I gained five pounds over that week.)

There's not much more to be said here, except that I had a much better time than I made it sound with my morning semi-cold voice. The week with my birth mother's family was remarkable, but exhausting. Strangely, one thing it wasn't was awkward (although I seem that way in our talk - it's no more awkward than I usually am). My birth mother and I had been communicating freely and deeply through phone and email almost every day since June, so a lot of ground had been covered. I hadn't communicated as much with the rest of the family, and even with my birth mother, there's nothing like being in the same physical space. But the whole thing, while a whirlwind, all felt perfectly natural - like we were all supposed to be there.

And we were.


Description 72 - Between Mud and Sky

Volunteering for a theatre company, I explore Dufferin Grove Park, where the play's the thing in more ways than one. Featuring a naked kid, a pongophone, ice cream truck music and Stephen Harper getting beaten with a stick.

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Associated links
(Update: November 21 - Jutta Mason opens the Dufferin Grove rink for the season with her own two hands)
Friends of Dufferin Grove Park
You may know Todd Tyrtle from such podcasts as The QN Podcast and Talking Stick
Blog post: The Tyrtles Have Landed
Clay and Paper Theatre
Trailer for Between Sea and Sky with ASL
Ryerson University Centre for Learning Technologies
Citizen Z @NFB.ca (not with description, which kind of sucks)
Dufferin Rink
The Brick Oven @Project for Public Spaces
Barbara Klunder
"Dufferin Grove Park" poem by RM Vaughan
Okay, technically, the wading pool is not a Splash pad...
For the Birds by Margaret Atwood
What is Cob?
The QN perspective on the Punch and Judy show with Stephen Harper

In case you think Dufferin Grove Park is some sort of hothouse of gentrification in some well-to-do, lily-white neighbourhood, you would be wrong. That area has had a history of poverty and crime and all kinds of people from everywhere doing their best to get by, so making the park what it's become was an uphill battle and continues to take strength. The fact you wouldn't immediately know that from being there speaks volumes.

If you could only click through one link in that list (and that's not true, so go to all of them), it would be the one for Friends of Dufferin Grove Park, because not only does it have all the information about everything going on in the park (rink! oven! cob! campfires! farmers' market! arts! history!), but it sort of evokes the vibe of the park - there are forums and public discussion sections everywhere. The transparency of process in how things work is really impressive.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that the editor of the site is Jutta Mason (from Germany - yet another immigrant), who was a major part of the "friends" creating what Dufferin Grove Park is now. She won the Jane Jacobs Prize in 2001, and continues to help hold together the spirit of freedom and community the park embodies every day, inspiring work beyond that block through the Centre For Local Research Into Public Space (CELOS). Mind you, she only helps to hold it together, because this sort of thing doesn't work the way they've done it through the control of a person or two - it has taken a deep but not-foolish trust in one's fellow neighbours.

I think many of the greatest thinkers concerning social media can relate to that. So if you have any interest in any kind of community, you'd do well to study that one site as deeply as you can, and take notes.


Coming Around Again

A new episode is coming next week, but a couple old episodes somehow seem to fit with some current events.

In Description 46, I talked about working "location support," and did a soundseeing tour of one of my long days guarding a location film set. The film in question was The Time Traveler's Wife, which is finally getting its release this weekend. In the previews, I've already spotted a scene (in front of a tv store in the '70's) in The Junction neighbourhood where I had a couple shifts, and even the gazebo/bandstand in Kew Gardens, where I started the tour of the last episode. Other settings where I stood/paced/sat for 12 hours at a time included a very wood-lined mansion (the Christie Mansion, where I finished Description 45) and an old hospital ward (actually an abandoned part of the Centre for Mountain Health Services, aka Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital). But if you check out the movie and notice scenes inside a house where you can see snow in a yard outside, that's where I was for Description 46, with leftover "snow" cushioning my butt on the concrete steps and keeping me warm in the autumn dusk. It's more than likely you won't notice a thing beyond the romance of the story, which is testament to the talent of the hard-working Art Department and those people whose job I would not wish on my worst enemy: the Location Managers. I don't know if I'm going, but if I do, I'm sticking around to see their names (especially A.J., Warner and Don) way down in the credits, and applaud.

And for something completely different...perhaps you've noticed the "debate" in the U.S. about proposals for reform of the healthcare system. I've been a bit more vocal about this on Twitter and Facebook, but suffice it to say it's been fantastically stupid and most of its stupidity has been fueled by very distinct economic interests. One element of the stupidity has been fearful and silly attacks of the healthcare systems in Great Britain and here in good ol' Canada (NDP leader Jack Layton said his piece about the matter in Huffington Post a couple weeks ago). I remember in the miniseries "Prairie Giant," the protests Tommy Douglas had to deal with a few decades ago from doctors spooked about his proposed introduction of healthcare reform in Saskatchewan (which eventually led to the systems we have today). Douglas must have thought the doctors' strike was pretty scary at the time - it's not quite like the more literal "strike threats" President Obama is dealing with now.

Anyway, a couple years ago, without such clouds of comparison over me, I did an episode illustrating a typical experience of mine with the healthcare system in Ontario (healthcare being under provincial jurisdiction) with a soundseeing tour of my trip to St. Michael's Hospital to get my first mammogram. So you can follow along in Description 52, but don't expect any death panels. ;-)


Dubber Takes the Subway, Spoons Makes the Archive

(As usual, the part of this post you'll actually find really useful is near the end.)

Anyone who's in the Canadian podcast fishbowl or has listened to Description 18 might know my big tipping point in becoming a podcaster was listening to and guesting on a podcast called Dubber and Spoons Take the Bus, in which two media profs in Birmingham England would have an often-funny conversation on their bus ride home from work. On vacation in 2005, I rode on the bus with them for an episode on Canada Day, we hung out afterward with their respective wives and Dubber's son and all were lovely to me; then when I got home, I sent them an audio message saying how lovely they'd been and other general things, inspiring Dubber to say I should do a podcast, which eventually resulted in me doing this one.

In the years since, they podfaded - Spoons (James) moved to Australia with his wife to another prof-type job and furthered his career as an excellent photographer, and Dubber (Andrew, and originally from New Zealand) became one of the preeminent authorities on using various tools on the internet to create, promote, share and make money from music.

Dubber's expertise on that and radio brought him here to Toronto to speak at a big academic conference about radio at, of all places, my alma mater of York University. A couple nights ago, he came downtown and I was happy to reunite with him in actual physical space, having drinks with some great guys who had been to the latest edition of DemoCamp nearby that night. When things broke up, Dubber had the idea he was going to drop the equivalent of a week's rent to take a cab all the way back up to York, but I told him that was insane when he could get more than halfway there on our own public transit (actually, he could get the whole way up, but those buses to York from Downsview Station have always been kind of a drag). So I gave him a token (which he found really small and really odd) and introduced him to the wonders of the TTC. He survived to present the next morning, and will now go on to share his wisdom in consultancies with bands in Hamilton and Montreal. For more on his multitude of works which you'll find useful (most of them, anyways...), take a look through the links at andrewdubber.com.

But say you're a podcast listener who's noticed that many of your favourite podcasts have been less frequent in the summer as folks step back or recharge or do whatever it is they do. Looking for something to listen to in their place for a while? Consider the fact, then, that James has gathered most of all the old episodes of Dubber and Spoons Take the Bus (there were just under 50, and Dubber didn't really keep anything), and has put them on a new blog, thebuscast.com. Get a taste of it with these promos I helped them do back then, and decide for yourself if they'd be good summer replacement material.


Description 71 - Back to the Beach(es)

Taking Queen Street to its eastern end, I extend one previous journey and correct another. Featuring music by Luke Doucet, a dog that sounds yippier than it looks, a walk around a picket line and not a single soul bared. :-)

"DL Burnside?" Where did that come from? It was NQ Arbuckle! Damn!

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Associated links
The Beaches @Wikipedia
The Beach Business Improvement Association
An even better tour of The Beach by Doors Open tour guide Gene Domagala
Beyond Landscaping
Ivan Forrest Gardens
That Luke Doucet song in full @the Mod Club
You know about Rick Danko, right?
Official sites for Luke Doucet, NQ Arbuckle and Justin Rutledge
Six Shooter Records
Garden Gate Restaurant (aka "The Goof" because sometimes the "d" was missing)
Fox Theatre
Torontoist stories tagged "city workers' strike"
The kicking at Christie Pits
History of the Neville Park Loop
Harris Water Treatment Plant @Wikipedia
Harris Water Treatment Plant History
QTVR Harris Treatment Plant tour
I ended up on Balmy Beach (Flickr photo by Diego_3336)

Woodbine Avenue is also kind of a signpost for me because it's where my friend Julie (now in Western PA) once lived long ago when I was first living in Toronto. I'd go out there to see her, thinking I was going to the far edge of the city. Obviously I was wrong.

Hey! Speaking of being wrong...

When I should have said NQ Arbuckle (and he was my favourite part of that show at Lee's! Argh!), I must've been thinking of RL Burnside, the legendary Delta Blues guy who passed away a few years ago. That was weird. My subconscious has better taste in music than I do.

If you or your subconscious has great taste in music and you're in town when this episode is posted, you'd do well to go where I walked, because for the next few days you will be smack dab in the middle of the annual Beaches International Jazz Festival. More than 50 jazz and jazzish bands clogging up Queen Street East and Kew Gardens with coolness, so go if you can..and take your garbage with you when you leave, because the strike is still on and it's nice to help out those residents who work so hard to keep their neighbourhood lovely without kicking people.


The Spirit of Radio

At the start of Description 70, I mentioned that I did the episode I did then inspired by something I had listened to the previous night. On The Rock 94.9 in Oshawa (the last place I had a full-time radio job, when it was owned by other people), David Marsden, one of the architects of CFNY (in fact, they were called "The Spirit of Radio"), did a tribute to one of the last men to inhabit and breathe life into what he built, DJ Martin Streek, who had killed himself days earlier (and a couple months after being let go by what had become "102.1 The Edge"). Left entirely to his own devices, Marsden spent his five-hour shift playing music Martin loved listening to and playing, as well as sharing his memories of the man along with reading the memories of others. Those others seemed to fall into two categories: people who knew Martin as a kid, and people who were with him at CFNY over the years. In the latter case, what emerged was a feeling of family which is seldom sustained in radio to this extent. 102.1 The Edge themselves will be having their own tribute tomorrow from 5-8pm eastern, and I understand it will include many messages from CFNY alumni. While that's great, it will have a lot to do to live up to Marsden's tribute a week ago last Thursday.

As I listened to the show, lying in bed, letting it wash over, I was able to record some of it, in the hopes I could share it with people who had missed the show at the time. To their credit, The Rock 94.9 and David Marsden have allowed all five hours to be made available as .mp3 downloads. Here they are available via Toronto Mike's Blog with the playlist all in one place.

I point this out for a couple reasons. CFNY and Los Angeles' KROQ were basically the first alternative stations in the world. In fact, they were alternative stations years before anyone came up with the term "alternative" to describe them. Once that term became a format, things began to go downhill. So there is historical relevance here. Also, podcasters and others sometimes aren't sure what I'm talking about when I say radio used to be different, and that while nothing was perfect by any stretch, it had elements to it that now exist in much of podcasting and other social media: an intimacy, an honesty, a sense of community even if you were by yourself. Even if you listen to a part of one of those .mp3s, I think you'll get a sense of what I'm talking about. If nothing else, you'll get some great music.


Description 70 - Walking the Walk in Midtown

In a productive overreaction, I blather about the nature of desire unedited while going from a busy intersection far away to a pair of twins in a stroller to the grave of a Prime Minister.

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Associated links
Martin Streek remembered by Liisa Ladouceur in Eye Weekly
Marsden's playlist from last night (Again, more on this later.)
Eglinton Way (via boldts.net)
Belt Line Railway @Wikipedia
Beltline Reach (This looks like the whole path where I walked.)
Podcasters Across Borders
Forest Hill @Wikipedia
Baldwin Steps (to Casa Loma) @Wikpedia
Forest Hill Village @BlogTO
Ajahn Brahm website
Davisville Subway Yards @Transit Toronto
Mount Pleasant Cemetery
Feed of the Ajahn Brahm Dhamma Talks podcast The joke was in "The Power of Mindfulness and Compassion" and the sample was from "The Secret (Lo-Fi)" Figures I would sample the one with the technical problem. :-)
Mackenzie King @CBC Digital Archives
The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King

After the recording, I continued on through the cemetery until I realized I was getting tired, then had to work to find my way out the place. But I did and got back to Yonge just north of St. Clair, where I finally sat down again for a little bit, then kept going south and finally made it back home. I mapped out what I remembered of the walk on Running Map, and it said I'd walked 6.5 miles in total.

Thanks again for putting up with this. It's pretty important, but I know it's not exactly what you signed up for. As always, listening is optional. A more typical episode, which I was originally going to make Description 70, is really coming in the next week, so if you took out these Walking the Walk episodes, the time between that and the last typical episode (Description 68 - Gretzky) is still ahead of my usual pace.

And really, I'm fine. What happened isn't a bigger deal than I made it sound in Description 69 - I just had these extra realizations that made me have to kick my ass in a big way.

If I was so earnest and stuff all the time, would I still find this video 20 kinds of awesome? Not bloody likely. (Warning: not Canadian.)


Description 69 - Walking the Walk

So what was the deal with me mentioning rejection and acceptance in the blurb for the last episode? I explain and try desperately to avoid ChickLit as I make my way to Lake Ontario on Canada Day. With music by The Constantines and some douchebag with a bicycle bell.

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Associated links
Coach House Books
An Online Archive for bpNichol
BlogTO in bpNichol Lane
Toronto Fringe Festival (Ha! I made it in time! It's on until July 12! Go!)
The Robarts Library
The redesigned Art Gallery of Ontario
Grange Park on flickr
OCAD @Wikipedia
The Vagina Monologues @Wikipedia
Loose Moose Tap and Grill
Harbourfront Centre
Air Canada Centre

Yes, already. But I wanted to get this out there while it was fresh and before it seemed too reactionary.

As often happens, it takes me a while to get going on this thing, but stay with me because I do get going.

For once, I guess I should explain a reference I made that is more American than Canadian. Lifetime is a tv network in the States sort of like the W Network in Canada, with programming aimed at women (Oxygen is a younger, louder variation on it). So you have makeover shows and movies with Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in them, and basically shows that are supposed to be empowering when maybe sometimes they're more enabling. Then there are the Lifetime TV movies (which often appear on W as well), which are often shot in Canada because it's cheap. The typical Lifetime TV movie stars some actress who used to be in a successful tv series which was cancelled years ago, who plays some woman who goes through some sort of great difficulty ("based on real events" and often caused by some man or men or psycho woman or "the system") and comes away from it a stronger person. Of course, there is much drama and sturm and drang along the way.

THAT is what this episode is NOT. You know why? Because drama should be the exception, not the rule. There are no good guys and bad guys, everybody does the best they can, sometimes they screw up or have intentions that don't match, life sometimes sucks by its nature and life sometimes rocks by its nature, and it's all good. And EVERYONE deserves to be empowered, regardless of gender.

And you know I mean that because I used CAPS. :-)


Six String Nation Army

So yesterday was Canada Day, and I spent the end of it walking from home to Harbourfront (which is kind of far) and talking most of the time, and that will probably be Description 69 maybe next week...if I don't puss out on it because it was mainly talking about me and some stuff I've been experiencing lately, which was hinted at in the latest episode.

One of the many wacky things that happened in June was Podcasters Across Borders in Kingston. What I said about PAB last year in Description 54 still stands - there was just way more of whatever I had talked about - so there wasn't much point to talking about it this time on my show, although I did talk about it on other people's shows. Also, I was a bonafide presenter this time (last year I gave a five-minute "Jolt"), talking for 25 minutes about the work I do on the other podcast, Movies For the Blind, and how its thought processes may relate to other forms of podcasting and new media. Needless to say, I was freaked out about doing it (though fortunately other things distracted me leading up to it), but part of the idea of PAB is getting out of your comfort zone and sharing your knowledge and passion in a welcoming environment, so I straightened my spine and got it done. The reaction was pretty great - the questions afterward were really interesting and interested, and while I got to the point I felt like I was talking too much about myself and my work, it was only because people were asking, so that's cool. I thank those people who were so interested, those who didn't ask anything but took it in (like I would have), and especially those people who got my ass up there in the first place.

Since this podcast is (usually) about little elements of this city and this country that somehow add up to something, anyone who listens would probably be interested in a project that does pretty much the same thing, although much more elegantly and precisely: Six String Nation. The creator and guardian of this project, Jowi Taylor, gave the opening keynote address at PAB this year, and he kind of swept us all off our collective feet. Basically, it's about this guitar which was constructed with pieces of things that each have some significance to this country - mammoth ivory, a Massey Hall seat, the oldest rock in the world, Louis Riel's school, a Rocket Richard Stanley Cup ring, the sacred murdered Golden Spruce, it goes on and on. Every one of the 63 pieces has at least one remarkable and very Canadian story attached to it, making it not merely an object but a sort of national encyclopedia for a people who would otherwise leave it on a shelf. Among those people, unfortunately, are people at the CBC (for whom Jowi worked for years, winning some major awards) and the federal government, who have intermittently supported him and left him hanging because of their own petty troubles and typically Anglo-Canadian angst. While he worked hard to suppress his bitterness resulting from those battles while talking to us, it had to sneak out sometimes, making us all the more empathic to his cause, since podcasters have some small idea of what it's like to be passionate about something but keep feeling as if you're rolling that big boulder up a hill forever. Regardless, what mattered in his talk, and through all of PAB, were stories - how to find them, how to let them find you, how to share them.

Other people who were there with me have done a great job lending their support to Six String Nation, both financially and in terms of getting the word out (helping get the story told, of course). This is my meagre attempt, but hopefully it combines with those others to, again, construct a greater whole. Today, a Canadian who wasn't at PAB but has much in common with its principles, Cory Doctorow, wrote a post about Six String Nation in the popular and influential blog BoingBoing - oddly enough, inspired by a Canada Day interview with Jowi which appeared in the radio and podcast editions of the CBC show "As It Happens" (Jowi and the CBC remain in a push-pull relationship). Cory's post is here, along with some links to the interview, the official site and the site regarding the Six String Nation book. The YouTube channel, with some of the stories, is here.

Because you may have noticed that I haven't really done an episode about Canada Day. To me, when it comes right down to it, every day is Canada Day. So any time to learn these stories is the right time.


Description 68 - Gretzky

I go to Brantford to start a month in which I got some rejection, but way more acceptance from people I could never have imagined. Featuring music from me and The Pursuit of Happiness, a stuffed cow in compromising positions, Canada's Dad and a surprise ending.

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Associated links
The original song by The Ambers was in Description 55
Walter Gretzky Online
Gretzky.com (check the video section for Kevin's visit to the Gretzky home)
The seeds were sown in Description 64
The thread on the View Askewniverse Message Board
The View Askew Street Hockey Podcast thread
Puck U Game 1 video on YouTube
You Tube playlist of more highlights!
Tournament wrapup from Brantford.com
"Silent Bob plays hockey" from joblo.com
Hockey54.com (home of The Schwartz, who did most of the commentary of the games)
Who is Mooby?
The Dutch Rudder Fan Club on Facebook
The Pursuit of Happiness (yes, my site)
Brantford Via Rail Station
Kel's Family Restaurant (the one I was in was much smaller, but still awesome)
Brantford Civic Centre: "Home of the Brantford Blast"
Brantford Charity Casino

My song has nothing to do with anything in the rest of the show, but rather other stuff that happened in June. It's sort of a sequel to what I did at the start of Description 54, which some people really liked, and it was in me to do. As for the other song, that live version of TPOH doing "Gretzky Rocks" was recorded at The Bombshelter at the University of Waterloo January 25, 1996, and you can download it via the Audio/Video page of tpoh.net.

Again, I can't thank enough all the Boardies who were so awesome over the weekend, especially the patient souls (and Mooby) who talked with me at that diner. Some of them are already getting prepped for more ball hockey craziness in Kevin's native Jersey in July. To learn more, check that link for the Gretzky tournament thread.

Due to time and technical crap, I had to cut out two major parts of the weekend. On Saturday night, we all went to the lovely Sanderson Centre (thanks to syracuselaxfan and Tears In Rain for getting me to cut the line and being otherwise amazing) for "Stocky Night in Canada", which ended up being a live version of SModcast. Scott Mosier, unused to this star-type stuff despite his magic on the ball hockey court, was reportedly nervous about performing live, but he did brilliantly, and it was like any ol' SModcast, only even better with guest stars from Puck U: Jennifer Schwalbach (Mrs. Smith), old friend Bryan Johnson, Church and Wellesley's own Malcolm Ingram, webmaster/logistics genius/co-MVP Ming Chen, porn and Zack&Miri star Katie Morgan, and ex-Degrassi crew member (and Katie's new fiancé!) Jim Jackman. You can hear all of it as SModcast 88. Then again, maybe not all. They cut the part where the captains of the other View Askew teams went up on stage and presented Kevin with a gorgeous replica of the Stanley Cup. Here's a photo of Kevin lifting it in triumph.

The other thing you missed was me actually meeting Walter Gretzky. Seemed like everyone else had, which was easy because he was out there meeting and greeting everyone. But I was my usual gutless me. Sunday, watching those kids, I remembered that I'd produced description for a tv movie about Walter's recovery from his stroke and knew that he'd done a lot of work for the local chapter of the CNIB. So I walked up to him, waiting for him to finish laughing and joking with someone.

When I introduced myself and told him what I'd done on the movie, he raised his eyebrows and beamed. "Really!?! You did that!? Wow! What a little world!"

He laughed in amazement, which I think he does with many things in his life. I thanked him for everything, he thanked me, we shook hands, and I walked away as giddy as I could be.

At that moment, I couldn't have imagined being happier.

Considering the end of this episode, it's clear my imagination is limited.


Description 67 - The PATH

From Toronto's oldest hotel to its oldest store, I go underground and show that not even a free breakfast can make me a morning person. With music from Modernboys Moderngirls, places where the water gurgles up, free radio consulting and a Correction From the Future.

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Associated links
City of Toronto: PATH
The PATH @Wikipedia
Erin Davis writes about getting the 2009 Rosalie Award
Rosalie Trombley and CKLW in The Walrus Magazine
Janik Media
Valerie Geller's Creating Powerful Radio
The Fairmont Royal York Hotel
The Royal York has a podcast?
Lisa Brandt isn't at 680 News anymore? Told you I'm not a morning person. (Congrats on the new job, btw!)
Royal Bank Plaza @Wikipedia (Yes, it's coated in gold.)
Toronto Dominion Centre
First Canadian Place
Atrium on Bay and the Toronto Coach (Bus) Terminal
BCE Place (It's called Brookfield Place now? Sheesh.)
Montréal's Underground City @Wikipedia
Modernboys Moderngirls: official site, @myspace and @publicbroadcasting.ca
NxEW (not a typo)
Sheraton Centre
Hudson's Bay Company @Wikipedia
Eaton Centre

That thing I sent the boys at Canadian Podcast Buffet was an audio comment in response to a discussion they had about, oddly enough, CKLW in CPB-141 - an episode I listened to while starting to put together this show. I talked about listening to that station when I was very little and the notion that its heyday was brought to an end in part by the advent of FM radio (yes, kids, it was that long ago) and in part by the less graceful advent of Canadian Content regulations by the CRTC (though I'd say it was more FM than CRTC). I got to tell them all that stuff, so you are spared from it. :-)

You were not spared from my trying to figure out what the furthest points of the PATH are. Technically, the southernmost point is the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, I guess because they count Skywalk (which you had a taste of in Description 44, connecting Union Station to MTCC and the CN Tower/Rogers Centre area) as part of the PATH. The previously mentioned bus depot...er, "coach terminal", is the northernmost point. And that's the limit of my geography geekiness.

Since PATH is capitalized, you may think it's an acronym. Alas, it's not. The logo is supposed to help you remember the directions: the red P for south, the orange A for west, the blue T for north and the yellow H for east.

Well, that makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

For its part, the Montréal version is officially called RÉSO, which is just a play on the word "réseau," meaning "network". So not much different in that respect.

The idea of underground and/or linked malls/office complexes is fairly common in Canada, where many people in suits would like to be saved from having to go outside at least four months out of the year. In Calgary, for example, they're connected by covered walkways above ground: the skywalks of +15. I haven't been to Calgary yet, but I know about it because of a very cool movie I did description for once called waydowntown, about a group of office drones who live in the system, so they make a bet of one month's salary and compete to be the one who can go the longest without going outside. To the relief of Jane Jacobs, I would guess, they each slowly start to go a little squirrelly in bizarre ways. It's well worth a rental, and it will definitely get you to go outside afterward and get some fresh air - even if it's -30 or +30C.


Opening More Doors Again

Yes, it's another of those posts I write when there's a new episode coming within the week. It won't quite have the stuff I wanted for the next one, because the H2 recorder had some sort of SD card formatting craziness that has so far destroyed about an hour's worth of audio. SIGH. So a pretty great soundseeing tour I did in February will be moved up to the next episode - which I guess is just as well, because, c'mon...it was February.

But as usual, that's not why I'm here.

This weekend is the weekend for the highlight of the Description content-gathering year: Doors Open Toronto, or as I call it, NXNE For Architecture. Last year, I shared the event with my visiting parents, so there wasn't as much recording going on, but this year, I'm going to be all over the place. My overstuffed schedule is mostly taken up by sites that are new to Doors Open, including more parts of Artscape Wychwood Barns, the Don Jail, the first new building in the Regent Park "Revitalization", Shamrock Bowl and the Toronto Reference Library. Not all of those will become future episodes, and I still haven't even scratched the surface of all the amazing places to check out, so if you're in town this weekend, please go to the Doors Open website and look through all the 175 possibilities to explore.


The Tyrtles Have Landed

You'll remember Sage Tyrtle from the opening of Description 60, the episode about Canadian citizenship. I'd said the driving force of the brilliant QN Podcast was in the process of applying, with her husband and son, for Permanent Resident/Landed Immigrant status in Canada, having come, like I did, from the U.S.

Well, they made it. They were accepted not long ago. Yaaayyy!

Thing is, when most people apply for this status, they're usually not living in Canada at the time. When I applied, still living "in exile" in Ohio, it was emphasized quite strongly that you needed to go through this outside the country. But the Tyrtles have been living in Toronto for the past few years, with Todd working for a large company which was able to send him here. Very fortunately, that company wanted him and his family to stay here, so they had their own immigration lawyer work on the case for them (I had my Radio York friend Dani Zaretsky for my case, so we all have our legal angels...except for the people who don't). After the usual hoop-jumping and allowance for the times and tides of bureaucracy, they were successful.

However, as landed immigrants, they still had to "land": arrive in Canada from their original country. For me, in 1994, this meant packing up the AMC Eagle (built in Canada, so no import trouble), going to a TPOH concert in Detroit (okay, that wasn't part of the deal, but the timing worked out for a goodbye get-together), then driving up the gut of Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie on my way to my new radio job in Dryden. I had my landed immigrant document, a detailed inventory of what I had in the car, a document that said the car was built in Canada, the job offer letter from CKDR, and I think some receipt from my Canadian bank at the time to prove I had money there (when approved in my interview at the Buffalo Consulate, I was asked to have enough money to live for a couple months before getting myself on my feet, basically). I thought when I crossed over from Michigan to Ontario, people were going to inspect the car against my list and make we wait for hours. But that never happened. They didn't even look at my bank stuff. They just looked over the landed immigrant document and job offer, glanced around the car, had me fill out a one-page form about what I was bringing in, stamped a couple things and sent me on my way. It was only dramatic in its complete lack of drama.

Of course, if you know anything about Sage and her work, it could not possibly have gone that way for the Tyrtles. :-)

Going through a process which has changed over more than a decade, they had to leave Canada and come back to officially land, which they did a few days ago. She tells the story of that trip in today's episode of the QN Podcast, and you would do well to listen to it.

Welcome to Canada, immigrants, and remember if the line was really so imaginary, we would never have thought to cross it in the first place.


Description 66 - Everywhere, part 2

The Citytv odyssey continues, as I go from the kindness of a great music video director to the kindness of a former provincial policeman. Features a mashup of two Canadian music pioneers, being on live television and a million-dollar truck.

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Associated links
Again, 299 Queen Street West @Wikipedia
Toronto Rocks with Brad Giffen (you don't have to stay around for the Monkees fans...)
Joel Goldberg Productions
Video for "Let Your Backbone Slide"
Breakfast Television
eTalk on CTV
Again, CityNews
"Remember Bravo?"
Again, CP24
CP24 now in the former venue of Live at the Rehearsal Hall
Ann Rohmer CP24 bio and @Wikipedia
Frog the Dawg @Mashupciti
"The Hockey Song" by Stompin' Tom Connors Actually, you have to watch this, or you're not allowed to listen to this show anymore. :-)
Cam Woolley CP24 bio
Cam talks to the National Post
A Tribute to Colin Vaughan
Adam Vaughan of Toronto City Council
Amber Mac!
Paedric O'Sullivan
Bob Cook's public LinkedIn profile
Citytv moving to Dundas Square

So here's a killer: in talking to these other CHUM/CITY people from Cleveland, I totally missed the biggest one - the guy I started these episodes with, Mark Dailey, aka "The Voice" of Citytv. He's actually from Youngstown, about an hour south of Kingsville. I've been nearby the guy at odd things, and Bob knows him well, but I've never talked to him. Too intimidated. Besides...I'm a citizen now! I don't need any more advice from people who've moved up here! Pffft! :-)

The guy on the CP24 set making me say my name was Bob Summers, amiable CHUM traffic reporter guy who of course is now doing the same with CP24 - almost exactly the same, since the legendary oldies station CHUM1050 has been made into an audio simulcast of CP24. Yes, this is about as depressing as Citytv running back-to-back episodes of "According to Jim" in prime time.

A couple months ago, I stumbled past CTV Newsnet (CTV's 24-hour news channel), and this strangely familiar guy was presenting the news. The hair was shorter and completely white, but the voice was the same: it was Brad Giffen. It turns out in the years after Toronto Rocks, he followed a similar path to JD Roberts, into American tv news, and that path has brought him back up here. I must say, when I cross paths with him on tv, I stick around for a while. There's something kind of comforting about listening to him. And the hair.

You can find all of Joel Goldberg's music videos in this section of his company's website, but for convenience sake, here's another one, via YouTube:

He won a Juno for directing Maestro Fresh Wes' "Drop the Needle":

That video I especially loved because they sampled this:


Description 65 - Everywhere, part 1

Go with the flow as I do a soundseeing tour of my television screen, then approach a big old building where cameras, ideas and egos ran free. Includes exclusive music from Memory Bank, an impending bathroom break at Second Cup and people pressed against the glass.

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Associated links
Citytv @Wikipedia
"Vintage" Video of The New Music @Muchmusic
"Lament for The NewMusic" @CBC
Citytv @Museum of Broadcast Communications
Moses Znaimer official site (Flash-heavy)
Opening of TVTV: The Television Revolution
Moses Znaimer and TVTV @Media-Studies.ca
City Pulse Tonight intros: from 1985, from 1988, from 1990, from 1996 and from 2003
CHUM Limited timeline @Canadian Communications Foundation
"Whatever happened to Muchmusic?" @EYE Weekly
Scrolling Eye talks to Christopher Ward about City Limits and the birth of Much
When things started to turn (Globe & Mail via Friends of Canadian Broadcasting)
Zoomer Magazine
Citytv Official Site
CityNews (what was City Pulse)
Memory Bank @myspace
299 Queen Street West @Wikipedia
Speakers Corner @Ryerson Review of Journalism
A 2006 episode of Speakers Corner
Intro to Electric Circus
CP24/CHUM Christmas Wish

I have to say that in researching this show, I discovered there's a pathetic amount of Citytv/CHUM stuff out there on the ol' internet. For all the content that has been created, it was incredibly hard to find what little I did find. Maybe back then we thought of everything as being so of the moment, we didn't consider saving it for the future, like the whole vibe of the thing would always be there.

Yeah, that's what we used to say about the Oilers. :-)

So if you have some old tapes knocking around of stuff you recorded off City or Much or who-knows-what back in tha day, no matter how lame it may seem, think about converting it and putting it up somewhere. I know I will. It doesn't seem very likely that the parents in this divorce are going to do it for us.

Yes, JD Roberts of The New Music and City Pulse and any other number of things (because City people multi-tasked) is now John Roberts: previously Dan Rather's anchorman heir at CBS News and now the American Morning guy at CNN. And yes, Jeanne Beker remains the face, heart, legs and spleen of Fashion Television; which started the revolution of runway shows, supermodels and superstar designers on television - and is now a multimedia force unto itself (though it is worth noting she was the editorial director of @fashion, the first major fashion website EVER, in 1995). They are only two of the many, many Citytv people in front of the camera who took their work ethic and lessons learned into the rest of broadcasting and beyond.

But I haven't talked enough about the many more people not in front of the camera with the same elements of creativity and intelligence which made Citytv and its spinoffs what they were. More on a couple of those people is coming in the next episode in a few days. Just one example, though, is the late John Martin, who came up with the idea for The New Music and drove it for most of its (and the rest of his) life. For a great in-depth look at this work, check out this 1997 article about him from the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

He also applied his sensibilities to Muchmusic, about which he was quoted as saying, "My gig was to sort of mould the anarchy. It was a bunch of absolutely crazy people reinventing their lives every day. It was fun."

It sounds a little like what social media (including podcasting) has been going through. Mark well the achievements and issues of the past as they come back around.


Description 64 - The Jersey Canuck @ The Bloor

I go to a place where I worked illegally to listen to a famous American guy caught up in a romance with Canada that echoes my own. Includes music by The Ambers, candy bars in Tupperware, Alanis yelling and the return of the King of Kensington.

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Associated links
Degrassi: in Canada and in the U.S.
"Degrassi Classic"
Quick Stop Entertainment
Quick Stop covers Kevin Smith at Degrassi (including press conference video)
The View Askewniverse
The Bloor Cinema
Torontoist (of course) on The Bloor
Kevin Smith Fest
Q&A from the night before
Mill St. Brewery
The Ambers on CDBaby!
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Dogma @IMDB
Dogma in full on YouTube
The Sweater @NFB.ca
An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder (2006)
The parking garage scene in Dogma
The same scene re-enacted
SModcast 76: The Great One
The View Askewniverse Message Board
The Message Board makes plans for The Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament

I have a couple more dots to connect. Alanis also played God in Dogma. When that film caused a big ol' ruckus among panicky, crusading people who thought it was anti-Catholic (it's not), movie distributors got all spooked about releasing it. Who had the cojones to take it on? A fledgling outfit at the time called Lion's Gate Pictures - which, faithful to its name, was born in Vancouver. When I worked at AudioVision, we described quite a few films of theirs, but unfortunately not that one. I had to content myself with narrating and producing description for American Psycho (filmed in Toronto, btw), another film that courted controversy and my favourite one we did while I was there.

Speaking of Vancouver, Kevin is doing another snazzy Q&A ("An Evening With...") at the Centre For Performing Arts March 27. It's not confirmed as of me writing this that he'll turn up the next night at a Clerks Festival showing I&II at the Rio Theatre, but it still sounds like a good time.

If you're new because you've found this through some sort of Kevin Smith/View Askew-related search/link, hiya. Here are some useful things to know:

1) This podcast isn't about me going to movies, although I've now done two episodes in a row where that happens. Those are the only two movies I've seen in six months, and that's a lot for me.
2) Yes, I realized too late my spring jacket makes rustling noises when I walk.
3) I can't believe I said "I'll drink the Kool-Aid" twice. That was just wrong.
4) Yes, there may be samples in this episode that aren't the most legal in the world. I'm gutless, but I don't make money off this thing.
5) The editing isn't meant to be tight - it's a style I took from the Modern Roadie Cast. For more professional-sounding editing, check out my other podcast.
6) To the question "When does she stop talking?", the answer is "Eventually. Pack a lunch."


TO In 6 Words

(New episode next week. I hope.)

Today is the 175th birthday of the city in the title of this podcast. In part to celebrate, Jaime Woo of Torontoist (yes, they're still around!) and Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto put together a short film with various Torontonians - well-known, partially-known, unknown - to do the same things: introduce themselves (usually involving how long they've lived here), name their favourite part of the city, and describe Toronto in exactly six words. Jaime writes about the process here. For those who haven't been here, it's a really nice snapshot of the place and the people who help make it what it is...whatever that is.

So how would I have done what these people did?

Well, I'm Valerie and I first came from Ohio to live in Toronto in 1986 for university and lived here for about four years, then was able to come back for a year in 1996, and have been back again for 10 years with no sign of stopping.

My favourite place in Toronto is The Annex, where I've lived for about five years. I love all the things I can experience here just by walking around.

And how would I describe Toronto in 6 words? Jeez, I haven't even pulled it off in 63 podcast episodes! But I formulated what I would've said before watching this video that I've embedded below, and one of the people came sort of close to it.

Home home home home home home.


Description 63 - The Annex to Rexdale

If a goofball vegetable cutter can go from a Delhi market stall to China to fulfill his warrior destiny, then I can go from my downtown neighbourhood to the outer reaches of the GTA to help celebrate a friend's birthday and muse about the multicultural mosaic in practice.

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Associated links
Katherine Matthews: 42point1, purl diving and cinefolle
Rob Lee's blog Unconventional Wisdom
Rexdale in the Urban Dictionary
Albion Cinemas
Chandni Chowk to China: @Wikipedia, official website, official trailer (large) @Apple.com
Aishwarya Rai Official Website (find your own mousepad...)
Yorkdale Shopping Centre
OMNITV Ontario

Thank you to Rob for instigating the festivities for Katherine's birthday. Everyone who wanted to join in no doubt hopes all your plans work out next time.

The bus was one of those accessible low-floor deals with a step that lowers and raises for folks to get on easier, and that's what the beeping was about. No one was actually using it at the time, though - maybe the driver was trying to shake snow from it? Anyway...

Yorkdale ended up as a footnote in this episode, but as snazzy as the place is now, it has no small historical significance as one of the first major malls in Canada and the largest in the world when it opened in 1964. Shawn Micallef (that's two podcast posts in a row mentioning him) wrote an interesting piece about it on SpacingToronto a couple years ago. While not near any of the places I've lived, I would often go there because of its relative proximity to York University (for people who drive cars, which included me) and because it was a place to park and get on the TTC heading downtown. While it was never, to use a word I was suddenly using everywhere in this episode, skeezy, it was also nothing like the dizzying labyrinth it is now.

Up there at the top of this post, I use the term "multicultural mosaic", which I didn't use in the episode. But this business of various ethnic/cultural groups living among and not-among each other has to do with that. For people from outside Canada, "mosaic" is used to distinguish itself from the American term "melting pot", which suggests more assimilation required of immigrants. As thumbnailed in this Wikipedia article, the mosaic idea grew in Canada throughout the 1960's, and multiculturalism became part of official federal public policy in 1971. The CBC Digital Archives has an interesting section about that. You can pretty much figure, though, that when the government starts making rules and laws and initiatives about such things, it can get pretty tricky. But it has become as much a part of the Canadian identity as anything else - and so here it is in an episode about me seeing a bad Bollywood movie.

Speaking of Bollywood, in my previous job describing movies, I did get to work on a singularly Canadian version: Bollywood/Hollywood, Deepa Mehta's romantic comedy centred on a well-to-do Indo-Canadian family in Toronto. Dance numbers and everything. Well worth renting, maybe with some take-out curry chicken poutine from Smoke's Poutinerie.

Now that would be f-ing nuts. ;-)


Obama's Canadian Playlist

Sorry I don't have a new episode up by now. There's been work stuff that has had me uncomfortably busy, and a couple major technical snafus in the past week have not helped. If I don't get something up in January, an early February episode is very likely. I hope.

While I'm checking in, I'll say a little something about this initiative CBC Radio 2 has been doing which is now in its final day: voting for a playlist of 49 songs ("from North of the 49th Parallel") for incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to listen to (likely around the time he visits Canada soon) so he can get a better idea of Canada through its music. It's unlikely the guy will have time to listen to all this, but it's a nice exercise and probably beats giving him a polar bear statue or something.

Nominations came in from all over the place, and CBC settled on a shortlist of 100 tracks. Again, this the last day of voting from those lists - I say "lists," because there's one for pop/rock, one for classical, one for Francophone and one for jazz - and one can vote for just one track per list per day. So being late, I had to decide on one for each. In the end, I voted for "The Canadian Dream" by Sam Roberts in the big pop/rock list, although my other choices would have been "Bobcaygeon" by the Tragically Hip, "Crabuckkit" by k-os, "Democracy" by Leonard Cohen, "Four Strong Winds" by Ian & Sylvia, "Ordinary Day" by Great Big Sea (which I know I've played here way back), "Rise Up" by Parachute Club, "Try" by Blue Rodeo and "Soobax" by K'naan. In classical, I went for "I'm Going Up a Yonder" sung by the very awesome Measha Brueggergosman; my Francophone pick was the previously-featured "Dégénération" by Mes Aïeux (though I would have also gone for "Montréal -40C" by Malajube); for jazz, I had to go with "Hymn to Freedom" by The Oscar Peterson Trio.

If you have a chance, head over to that shortlist and vote if it's not too late, or just check out the list of pretty amazing music (with samples and iTunes links), all Canadian, and all just really scratching the surface.

In these heady days prior to the inauguration (not to mention the impending re-opening of Parliament here, and we should mention it a lot), if I could nominate a recent song for Obama that is not Canadian, it would be the title track off the album Join With Us by the British band The Feeling, an album I was looking for in Description 55 (I still don't have the damn thing, btw). I've said in passing how much I love these guys, and I first heard the song when I saw them play in Wolverhampton UK a couple years ago. It took that long for it to grow on me, possibly in part because of the way the world is now.

While I love the crunchy bits in the last minute, what matters are the lyrics, which include "The world is in your hands / The world is in your hands / The world belongs to those of us who still believe we can / And it matters what you do / Though they all look down on you / Cuz it's better that you've come from nothing / Than nothing comes from you"

Join With Us - The Feeling