Category Archives: Radio

Technology, Creative Culture, and the Gap in Between

I spend my working nights around people who have ideas.

They’re always running their mouths about politics, art, music, religion, and regularly reaching an audience of one. Or two or three. Maximum.

“Why don’t you blog this or post this kind of information somewhere?” is what I respond with, pleading. But I know it will not happen, not unless I install computer terminals in the bar, at my cost, and eventually take these brilliant people over to the device, create accounts for them, and maybe even toss their hands at the keyboard. Like trying to start a motor-boat, it might take a couple of tries.

I, for the life of me, can not understand why, in Windsor, there is such a huge disconnect between the creative class and technology. Is it this way in other places?

I’ll give you another example of where I have been faced with hurdles of disbelief when trying to communicate in tech terms.

Bands rumble through Phog Lounge, where I work and book bands. There’s a disproportionate amount of Mac computers accompanying them on their journeys. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a PC brought in by anyone except my business partner Frank. And if he heard I was Twittering, he’d make a pee-joke.

I came to learn that a major reason they have Macs is because they have some fairly fantastic musical applications, allowing bands to do all sorts of things they could not do otherwise. It wasn’t as if they were doing any open source programming, or anything (which I have never and will never do myself). I just assumed that because they had a superior product, they’d be a little more forward thinking technologically, and maybe even be keeping tabs on the web applications being designed monthly to make their lives easier.

When I started reading about Twitter, Pownce (now dead), Digg, Skype, Google Reader, YouTube, Blip.tv, Seesmic, WordPress,  (the list is unending) I clearly saw how those tools could help my business, and possibly even my freelance writing/radio career (whenever that comes). Where did I hear about these tools? My friends and family primarily told me, as they saw the same usage I did. Dan Misener (good friend) has told me about tons of new programs, and my brothers Rodd and Todd have dumped LOADS of web apps on me in the past year alone.

Without discussing the usefulness of these apps, or how quickly they become obsolete, moved out by better apps, there is really no excuse for musicians and promoters, artists, and designers to be so clueless. Aside from Facebook, Myspace, and Flickr, there’s an incredible self-handicapping happening locally on the web and about the knowledge of the web.

“Twitter? What the hell is that?” I have heard countless times, or at least they make crooked, pained faces of confusion.

“Well, let’s put it this way…you sign up under the name of the band, and you then get people you know (that love your band) to join and FOLLOW YOU, much in the same way they do on Facebook and Myspace…and when you send a micro-blog (140 characters or less) everyone who cares…can see it. Soooooo, if you have a show starting, you can let people know that you’re going onstage in 25 minutes. Forgetful fans can make a snap decision and run out to your show. Or you could use it to inform people that you just finished writing a new song, or that you’ve just posted live footage from that concert you played last month in Montreal. It’s another way to connect. You know your Facebook status? Yeah? Well, you can set up your Twitter account to update your Facebook status WITH your Twitter posts so ALL of those people are getting the crucial updates you feel worthy of sharing.”

This is usually followed by a body-posture that tells me this is WAY too much work to engage fans. And within a week of this chat, they will be back in front of me, bitching that the turnout for their show was less-than-desired. I just say, “Twitter? No? Oh.”

I’m no tech-freak either. I just use the stuff that’s useful. And with my arcane knowledge, I remember telling musicians about Flickr a couple of years ago, WAY after it was a regularly used web app, and these wonderfully gifted photographers were looking at me like I had two noses. How does the arts community live in a vacuum related to tech? Shouldn’t they be pioneers? Early adopters? Shouldn’t they be gentrifying these programs like they do with low-rent, start-up communities? Aren’t the creative class a grassroots movement, known for doing things BEFORE everyone else? Aren’t the creative classes of other cities kicking our technologically-atrophied asses!

I would think that connectivity would be the rule, THE RULE, for someone trying to share their talents, gifts, and ideas for change. I mean…Obama’s people were on Twitter before my underground-ers. And it isn’t like it’s a secret that Obama’s web presence was a huge factor in reaching undecided (independent) voters. But then again, if my customers aren’t hearing about Twitter, I have a feeling they aren’t hearing about (or tuning out) when the news shares info of Obama’s tech prowess.

Anyone have ideas of how I could be helping these bands increase their profile, even if it’s just to connect to its current fans, without trying to become “the next thing”?

I see so much opportunity for the unique, clever, useful, and brilliant ideas, art, and concepts to get into the masses, but I am having the toughest time bending anyone’s ear toward tech.

Should I have a technology night at Phog? Should I get a presenter for each of these ultra-useful web apps to come in and walk people through registration, use, and upkeep on the projection screen? Would people come to get informed? Maybe they would. Then they could weed out all of the superfluous apps they have no current need for, and go home and get going on the ones they could actually use!

Yes.

This is going to happen.

Stay tuned for dates.

Broken City Lab on NIMBY

picture-41In what will likely be one of many posts about Broken City Lab, I will simply leave you with the content I have collected.

What is Broken City Lab? Well…

A collection of artists/activists who see a broken city in front of them, and use their creativity to interact with the people, groups, bureaucracy, items, places, and mediums necessary to make things less broken. It’s art-through-action. When speaking to Justin Langlois, the guy who decided to get this group together, I was astounded, amazed, proud, and appreciative of the concept and eventual action this group represents. Langlois said something like, “I began to realize that my art could be this…this action…this sharing of concepts to make things better instead of making paintings…” I’m paraphrasing. But if you watch the videos below and listen to his interview on this week’s installment of Not In My Backyard (Tuesdays at noon on CJAM 91.5FM in Windsor/Detroit), you will hear him communicate this clearer.

Here’s the CJAM interview on Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)!

And as usual, there is a TON of extra content on the videos where Justin is able to talk about some of the other projects Broken City Lab is looking at starting.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1565756&dest=-1]

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1566332&dest=-1]

To find out more, go to brokencitylab.org where there is a regularly updated blog with awesome info.

As a further added bonus, check out the blog post that Justin made after taking part in the Big Walk.

Another Saturday Knight on NIMBY

picture-4Adam and I finally got back into the swing of recording Not In My Backyard for CJAM.

Again, we are live to air every Tuesday at noon on 91.5FM in Windsor/Detroit, or you can stream it to your computer, OR go to the archives and check it out.

I interviewed Chad Howson of Another Saturday Knight. His band released a new CD (their first) and I felt it was worth asking what it was like to do such a thing…being a non-musician. I strayed away from the “What does your music sound like?” kind of questioning, because you an go to his website and listen for yourself (I’ll post the link). I wanted to delve into the excitement, worry, and thoughts of someone releasing something new.

For your benefit, I recorded video of the interview, in two parts. The batteries in the recorder died, so I had to kill the video until I located some new batteries.

Here’s the radio interview link, and the videos are below.

I love how, as soon as the audio recorder is off, we get relaxed. We start speaking less formally. I think I like that feeling more than the feeling of the interview. I will begin trying to speak loosely DURING interviews instead of only on EXTRA FOOTAGE which is not on the interview.

By the way, there’s about 4 minutes of relaxed (extra content) that would not fit on the CJAM interview. Well worth seeing.

Also, you should listen to the CJAM version because Adam’s interview with Dianne Clinton (participant at the upcoming Made in Windsor Craft show). It’s a great connection to someone who conveys the importance of spending money with local artisans.

Click this link to hear the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) version on CJAM.

Turn up your computer volume to hear the audio from the video. It’s a little quiet.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1548753&dest=-1]

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1548987&dest=-1]

www.myspace.com/anothersaturdayknight

Scott Knowles: Interview

24 Hrs. New Orleans map from Good Magazine.

24 Hrs. New Orleans map from Good Magazine.

A 24-hour walk.

Along with Scott Knowles, two guys named Kurt Braunohler and Calvin Johnson have created a series of psychogeography projects called 24 Hrs., of which I am a huge fan.

I read THIS article in Good Magazine (a wonderful mag you should check out).

In short, these guys take a group of 30-40 people and they walk around the city (New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, etc.) for 24 hours, mimicking a 24-hour road trip, visiting unique businesses, cultural hot-spots, eating, drinking, performing tasks (cleaning a cemetery for an hour) until they are tired, disoriented, and experiencing their city in a mindset and time that they are unaccustomed to.

Since then, I have been having meetings about hosting a walk like this in Windsor. I want to make it a little different though. I want it specifically to be an orientation or re-introduction to our fine city of Windsor. I want it to run from 8am until midnight instead of being 24 hours.

The idea struck me so fascinating that I decided to find one of the organizers and interview them for Not In My Backyard, the new radio show on CJAM.

Scott Knowles, a professor of Urban History at Drexel University in Philadelphia, was an incredible person to talk to, and I felt a kinship to a man who has an explorer within him that has successfully reached the surface in the form of many psychogeographical projects like 24Hrs.

Before and after the recording, we spoke a little longer about the area of Windsor/Detroit and how I hoped his group would come and offer a walk in the Detroit area. Scott encouraged my participation in having a walk of my own, which was a fairly uplifting suggestion.

We discussed liability, which was a concern for the walk, and he offered his experience as an example. He tells his groups what’s a stake with their physical health, but he does not require a waiver to be signed. Why? Well, he feels similar to me on this, as the legality that people jump to when they are simply going on a friendly, organized walk is part of what ruins events just like this. It’s a sad commentary on society as a whole when the first thing you have to consider on a walk that will find you immersed on a ground level to your dwelling is liability waivers.

We talked about his other projects, including disorienting groups of blindfolded people by dropping them off in the middle of an urban centre, in the middle of a park or parking lot, and asking them to find their way back, as a group, to a particular spot. It is mostly a unnerving time when they first remove the blindfolds and try to figure out where they are. Secondly, it is a challenge to envision the city and the easiest route to the final spot. It’s a wonderfully fun idea I also plan on borrowing after the Big Walk.

Another event involved people keeping track, on paper, of every single minute that passed (in a given time frame of an hour or two) while walking through the city. It was an experiment and observation of the passage of time. The amount of things that occur in a given minute that we don’t bother consciously recognizing because of our haze of hurry we immerse ourselves within.

The last event he told me about was equally incredible. Artists, urban planners, etc. go to a venue (restaurant, coffee shop, McDonald’s, whatever) with tons of drafting paper and pens and markers. Then they decide, individually or in groups, what SHOULD be in the place of the building they are sitting in. They tape up the designs and ideas on the front of the building and debate the worthiness of their designs/arguments. It’s a beautiful concept because it’s an imagining. It allows those capable of envisioning better, to dream. It encourages wild-eyed hope and appreciation for a city, a surrounding that we want.

Talking with him was as uplifting an experience that an interview can be because of the clarity of his intentions and penchant for the less ordinary.

My interview with Mr. Knowles will run on October 7th at noon.

As it stands, with some unexpected and expected obstacles, the Big Walk will happen on Saturday, November 8th. I am only taking 25 people on this walk, and it will be first-come, first-serve. Interested? E-mail me at phoglounge@gmail.com

New Radio Show on CJAM: Not In My Backyard

I’m always running my mouth. In one of my bouts of loose-lippedness I disclosed to someone that I had th desire to do another talk radio show on CJAM.

Reading articles about the world, technology, etc., can be a little insular. It’s a LOT insular actually, because I don’t really get to discuss the  topics I read. I know there are people out there who would love to get into the topics, but most of the time, they’re too heavy to discuss at work…a downer.

So I thought I’d do a show and invite calls, feedback.

As I ran my mouth one night about this desire to do a show, in front of one L. Adam Fox, he replied, ” I was ust going to fill out a program request form for a show like that…wanna do the show together?”

Well geez.

Adam is FAR more experienced with radio, and is kind of “in charge” of stuff with regards to CJAM 91.5 FM here in Windsor/Detroit. To do a show with him would be a great learning experience for me, and it would be done correctly. He told me his idea for his show. It was clearer, smarter, and better than my original vision. We would cover local stories regarding culture, arts, music, whatever…and report it professionally, while also being ourselves. Cutting loose a little bit here and there.

The first show arrived in a flash. The first thirty-minute episode of Not In My Backyard (Adam’s idea for a name that I liked immediately) was a bit clunky, but aimed toward a place I am happy heading toward. Adam interviewed the people responsible for the (now) successful Fahrenheit Fire Festival. My story was a post-event look at the FAM Festival with the creator, Murad Erzinclioglu. FAM Fest found scores of bands, artists and film-makers and organized them on display at several venues in downtown Windsor.

The second episode of the show was much cleaner, and smooth, and I am far more confident in having you hear THAT one. In that show, I interviewed Tony Gray, a local artist who has become a syndicated cartoonist with not one comic, but TWO! Yeah, he sits next to Garfield and strips of the like. Adam spoke with local music marvel Johnny West. Awesome interview. Especially because no one really knows ANYTHING about this guy who has been impressing people with his music for years almost anonymously

If you live in Windsor or Detroit and you want to hear our show when it airs, it is on every Tuesday at noon. If you would rather live stream it or listen to archived versions of the show, you can do so at cjam.ca by finding the archives, clicking on the Tuesday you want to hear, and selecting the 12:00pm start time.

In parting, I want to give you a heads-up that this awesome community radio station is having its annual pledge drive in a couple of weeks, and I invite you to contribute to see that the station makes it’s goal of $25,000. The programming is top-notch whether we’re talking about spoken word or music programming. It is a station that represents a lot of what’s great about radio, commercial-free radio. That’s a beautiful group of words, commercial-free radio. If it’s something you believe in, like I do, you can contribute with Pay Pal on the CJAM site, or you can call in and pledge during the drive.

It’s a station I believe in, and am genuinely proud of, and I think it is a treasure that needs to be nurtured.

More about that in a later post.

CBC Radio 3…wow.

Do you know what it’s like to be a radio-hopeful like me when you get an e-mail, unsolicited, from a CBC radio producer?

It’s pretty much the best thing that can happen, professionally. Period.

That’s what happened to me the other day when Chris Kelly sent me a message asking me if I’d like to be a guest (interviewed) on Grant Lawrence’s internet Radio 3 show. I nearly imploded.

Grant Lawrence has been the host of Canada’s most downloaded music podcast. So, you may understand that his internet radio show gets a nice collection of live listeners. I can’t blame people for tuning into web radio with the options slimming more and more on commercial radio. Not everyone is as lucky as Windsor/Detroit to have a community station like CJAM to bring good music to your life.

Chris told me that the show was focusing on beer. And, I kind of deal with the stuff, a lot. So I was totally geeked for this interview, ran a hundred errands the day of the interview, and when I got home there was a message from Chris, wondering if I was ready for the interview!

“Did I screw this whole thing up or what?”

I was panicking. I called back, left a message, and waited.

Minutes later the call came, and I was slotted into the show to discuss beer with Grant during a music break.

You see, I’ve been a huge fan of Radio 3 because of what they do for Canadian music. I’ve sent several messages (audio and e-mail) to Grant and Craig Norris (the host of CBC Radio 3’s R3-30 podcast). These guys, along with their team of producers, are the exact people I wish to be working with, in that medium I love…radio.

The interview was fun, fast-paced, and concise. These are the kinds of things I could do every day until I cease to be. So when this interview was done, I was short of breath, gasping (I guess) on the inside, for more opportunities like this.

I have decided to give you the recording I made (a crude one) of the audio I collected with my Zoom H4, laying it next to my computer speaker. It’s a little noisy in the background, but if you focus, it’s fun.

CLICK HERE FOR RADIO 3 WEB RADIO WITH GRANT LAWRENCE

Get Lit Up

Big cities are home to lots of people.

More people, more ideas. Simple math, I think.

I like keeping an eye on the “ist” sites of big cities. Torontoist.com, LAist.com, SFist.com, Bostonist.com, etc. These sites go out of their way to tell readers about the happenings of the cities, the news, the events, profiles of prominent inhabitants, festival profiles, TV schedules for the region, restaurant reviews, public transit news, architectural news, music listings, etc.

I love seeing what’s going on in the cities where the numbers are up above Windsor’s. Why? Because in those towns, when you float a crazy idea, you are not the only one standing there looking around, listening to crickets. In big cities, there are others who share the taste for flair.

In particular, I like taking these ideas and using them.

I did just that yesterday evening. I saw a night of book-appreciation in San Francisco and Toronto, where authors come in to discuss books, or the topic of their book, but NOT TO DO A READING. At Phog, we have had plenty of readings, and we’ve had good results. The idea of a book discussion spoke to me because it was more than the same old praise for the ACTUAL words being spoken. I wanted to know more about what these authors had to say about books.

In connection to this, I cleaned out my house. Began at least. The books were the first thing to be culled. Then what? What was I going to do with them? I decided to build the event around the sharing, and ridding of books into the hands of more appreciative readers. From there, I thought about getting some local authors to give their take on books on a panel at the front of the bar, on stage. Thirdly, I compiled a short list of people who read every time I see them, and I asked them to list their top five books. I then printed these out to give to the attendees of the event, so they had something to take with them as a referral to new, influential books.

What happened?

I was nervous as hell, and I figured the turnout might be slim, but to my surprise, there were about 35 people in all who attended, maybe more, plus the hundreds of books brought by the literati attendees. While I expected a book trade and sale, it turned out that people were more willing to give them away en masse. There was a free-for-all after the discussion period where people grabbed books they wanted, didn’t know they wanted, and books they knew someone else wanted.

The pride of the evening, aside from the awesome people who brought books, was the discussion. My guests were mentors of mine from days past and present. Here’s who spoke:

Paul Vasey, author of several fiction and non-fiction, ex longtime host of CBC Windsor’s morning show, and ex-columnist for the Windsor Star. He, alone, shaped my writing to be exactly what it is today. He told me to write the way I talk. I tell stories well with my voice, but it needed to be translated to paper. Ever since then, I think of him when I finish writing anything.

Bob Monks, who has had two books published about how to make art, or about his journey into his life as an artist. Monks was also the editorial cartoonist for The Windsor Star for YEARS, and he was a TV personality with CBC News. He’s a total pro, and is now 81 years old (you’d never know it). He was a mentor in my cartooning career between the ages of 16 and 20 (another story). He taught me composition, editing, humility, and honour.

Mary Ann Mulhern is a very successful narrative poet, who admits her attachment to the dark imagery in her stories, and she taught me once a week in a “special class” when I was in grade 7. She’s extremely artistic with her view on books, writing, and expression. She’s a great inspiration.

Scotty Hughes is graphic designer who has helped lay out and produce MANY local nature books, reference books, children’s books, etc. He is a hugely gifted guitar player, idea guy, inspirational presence. I love having him stroll through the door, because it means I will be having meaninful conversation before the night is through.

The panel took off and never looked back. Paul Vasey, co-moderated the discussion, with me, but not out of request but out of habit. He saw gaps where I was not pushing people to express a little more in their answers, and he made the discussion SO MUCH better because of it. It was a lesson in interviewing and moderation for which I will forever be grateful. All the panelist answers were intelligent, true-to-themselves, expressive, un-rushed, un-forced, free-flowing, and fun. Monks had quick, perfect answers that left people laughing, while the others had reflective stories that put the life of a writer and book lover into perspective.

An hour and a half later, I needed to end the discussion, and try to properly thank the panelists. Still, I do not know how to properly appreciate their contribution.

Good news for those who could not go and wanted to go; I recorded the entire thing.

This link will take you to where you can download the file for free! You may want to skip all the parts where I talk, it really doesn’t help. Also, some people are reporting some trouble with this link. If it doesn’t work, check back again later. I will try to fix it.

This night was a huge success, shedding some light on the under-appreciated literary arts in Windsor. I am proud, and I am anticipating the next Get Lit Up event…but I need to focus the discussion. That’s not going to be an easy thing to decide.