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.

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