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!

Click here to subscribe
Click here to download directly

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.

Click here to subscribe
Click here to download directly

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.

Click here to subscribe
Click here to download directly

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.