[w] I am the face of my country / Expressionless and small

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The temporary newscaster cut in late, his introduction reduced to a simple "--we fry."

Frank Fry isn't a bad newsreader. He's no Bernie MacNamee or Judy Maddren, but he's more listenable than Bob "CBC! Rrrradio!" MacGregor. Even so, he's a little bit uncomfortable with his presentation. His voice is masked, but still tight and uneasy.

The thing is, this isn't his job. Fry is almost certainly one of the managers who have taken over programming for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as of 12:01 AM today. The CBC's contract negotiations with the Canadian Media Guild ran up to the last available moment, then broke down. Producers, technicians, and presenters have been locked out of CBC offices across Canada, and are now picketing. (Workers at studios in Moncton, New Brunswick, and the province of Quebec are still around; they belong to a different union. Radio Canada International remains unaffected for similar reasons, although they obviously can't rely on any new programming from the CBC until this is over.)

The CBC website has been stripped down. It's not as bad as it was during the Toronto blackouts, but it's pretty bad. Subsites dedicated to individual shows are completely missing; don't expect to watch old episodes of The National online this week. The Arts section, which had recently undergone a fantastic turnaround from clunky to vibrant and engaging, now looks like a half-dismantled Blogger template. News is plainly all wire reports, all the time.

CBC Radio One has always made for fascinating listening when regular programming is suspended for one reason or another. The trick is to come in early, when few people are expected to be listening, and nothing is actually happening yet. In the wee hours of the morning, after the first bombs fell on Baghdad, Anna Maria Tremonti and Bernie MacNamee filled time by swapping anecdotes about Saddam Hussein's bizarrely customized bed. When the Toronto blackouts fell, Andy Barrie walked several hours across an utterly darkened city to reach the studio, and told us all about it as the morning show began. During times of conflict, Michael Enright has been known to find some of the strangest emails from listeners, and to read them without comment.

Today, the quiet bafflement came during the replacement morning show. Unable to generate any regional programming whatsoever, Radio One is reduced to a single national broadcast for the drivetime broadcasts, not unlike those aired at Christmastime. (The music is arguably better today, at least when it's not fourth-rate jazz.) In between blocks of two or three songs, a sweet-voiced manager abased herself. "I'm sorry. I know that I'm not who you expected to hear this morning," she'd say, then explain that there was a lockout and the managers were running the show. "Most of us actually started out as producers," she mentioned, but it didn't seem convincing. The poor woman. One wonders if, as the lockout continues on, she'll get to develop any patter.

We already knew the situation from the brief news reports, and from the hourly apologies. Every hour on the hour, and also at the half-hour should recorded programming break, Radio One and Radio Two run a prerecorded apology for the unavailability of "regular progreeeaaahhhming." This, I explained to a friend by email this afternoon, is how you know it's a Canadian labour dispute: they apologize. At length. Repeatedly. Every hour. And then, if they get a chance, they apologize some more, just to be on the safe side.

It's not a dire programming situation, at least not from the listener's perspective. Outside of the drivetime music shows, the reruns are arguably more engaging than much of the regular summertime programming Radio One had been offering. Shelagh Rogers is in her element, shortly after her much-needed move to Vancouver. Full episodes of Quirks and Quarks are on instead of highlights. There's a strong likelihood of Grooveshinny reruns. Hell, they're running Richardson's Roundup instead of Tetsuro Shigematsu. (Unfortunately, Sounds Like Canada is still being padded out by the confessional sonic-collage mishmash OutFront. Even during a lockout, we can't get away from that condescending bitch who believes that we care if she has a story to tell.) As with the television schedule, major news coverage will be handed over to the BBC World Service.

Even so, it's the little things. Losing Radio Overnight, say, which is a ridiculous move when you can't generate your own shows. Or the general sense that no one is really home anymore. The hockey and Canadian football will run on CBC Television without any commentary whatsoever, should the lockout last that long; the silence in the face of ambient noise is alarmingly similar.

The National Research Council Official Time Signal was wrong today. This never happens. At the sound of the long dash, following ten seconds of silence, it was 1PM -- 1:30 in Newfoundland. Except for that this was on the Ogg Vorbis feed, which pulls from Toronto. It seems obvious that the signal is running at 1PM in each major time zone (Newfoundland is not a major time zone); the resources to air it synchronized, in the usual fashion, plainly aren't there right now.

Still, until all of this is resolved, it will be 1:30 in Newfoundland five times a day.

25 Comments

Unfortunately, they're also running Radio Two's Disc Drive. Goodness gracious, it's like listening to college radio on Sunday mornings with this guy.

"Aaaaand we're going to... listen to sooooome music? Some...Queeeebecois *folk* music? And some *marches!*"

"I have an album here of symphonies, aaaand overtures by [missed it] and, ummmm... he said that..."

BRING BACK APOLOGY WOMAN.

yikes! I have to turn the CBC on NOW, just to hear this stuff (i'm in vancouver,bc)

:)

Wow. I've listened to amateur internet radio stations that were more professional then that.

I would never have guessed that I'd stumble on Spirit of the West lyrics anywhere on the net, much less here. Maybe I should have.

I think I'll give Go Figure another spin today. Not that it'll be very hard to find. I'm so Canadian, my CDs are organized alphabetically.

"I'm so Canadian, my CDs are organized alphabetically."



Why would that be a particularly Canadian trait?

(The music is arguably better today, at least when it's not fourth-rate jazz.)

Since you distinguish, I'll not infer that your intention was the suggestion that all jazz is fourth-rate.

Paul: Oh, heck no. Most jazz irritates the hell out of me, but I recognize that some of it is better than the rest.

Why would that be a particularly Canadian trait?

I don't know. It seemed like a Canadian thing to do at the time. Maybe in how it doesn't make that much sense (in the effort/benefit angle) but looks pretty neat if you happen to pay attention to it?

...I'm actually French-Canadian, so forgive me if my interpretation of being Canadian is just a little off the norm. Heheh.

I organise my CDs alphabetically by artist and then chronologically, and I'm almost entirely certain that I'm not Canadian.

I also apologise a lot, although that's a trait endemic to a certain kind of Briton as well as to Canadians.

No commentary for CFL Football?

And none for Hockey?

Okay, they have exactly 5 days before I march in and start kicking butts. (That's when the next CFL on CBC game is, for those wondering why its five)

(And for the record, the CFL is a much better league than the NFL. Give me the excitment of 3 downs over the boring, lets play it safe, NFL).

"I organise my CDs alphabetically by artist and then chronologically, and I'm almost entirely certain that I'm not Canadian."

That's nothing, my CDs are broken up by "genre/style" (as defined by me) then alphabetical, then chronological.

Of course, when you have as large and varied collection as I do, it is kind of manditory.

True Canadian CD arrangement is alphabetical. That is, utterly fair and democratic.

Oh, but things that start with "C", those come first, because the letter C is a distinct society and demands equal treatment.

Oh, and the letter T, which there is more of than any other letter, is sprinkled throughout the rest (except in the C section, of course, as that would be imperialistic) because it's clearly better more commecially viable. The rest of the letters don't have an inferiority complex, no.

Erm, the letter M seems to be getty a bit boisterous, too. Demanding equal treatment to C. We may have to move those CDs forward in the alphabet soon.

I've always thought it would be interesting to pull a "High Fidelity" move and order my CDs by purchase date or some such archaic method. One that only I could figure out. Then again, I'd soon forget the system, and then have a bitch of a time finding old CDs that I haven't listened to in years. Leaving me to rely on my iPod and my vinyl collection to get me through life.

BTW, if you have any record geek tendancies, you really should read High Fidelity. Pay no attention to the movie, though it wasn't half bad, but deffinetly read the book.

And if you feel depressed because you are to much of a record geek, go read Vinyl Junkies, and realize that you are in fact a very normal, well-adjusted person. Or discover that there are people just as bad off as you are. Either way you win.

My only encounter with Nick Hornby thus far has been About a Boy, which I threw away in disgust after getting a small but horribly painful way through.

Oddly enough, I didn't know about the CBC lockout until now and I don't organize my CDs alphabetically. I don't organize them at all in fact.

I'm sorry I'm not a very good canadian.

Very sorry.

Sorry sorry sorry, so very sorry.

(Yes, this is sarcasm -Me)

Do you have to put the Qs on another shelf, or do you just not give a crap about the Qs?

SeanH - Then you MUST read High Fidelity. I watched the movie (I can't remember why) and I laughed. Then I read the book. The book is oh so much funnier.

And there are sometimes that I want to order my albums Autobiographically. Just cause. But it would be so much cooler to have actual records. CDs just don't have the right feel.

And is it bad that I'm Canadian and don't give a crap about the CBC? I mean, I just never listen to it and I pay for it with my tax dollars. Souldn't it at least be interesting to me? Maybe I'm just not plugged into the right programming. Too late now I guess.

Re: Outfront

"we can't get away from that condescending bitch who believes that we care if she has a story to tell"

Garvia will be SO upset. She's such a sweety and really DOES have QUITE a story to tell.

And as for Outfront being a 'confessional sonic-collage mishmash '...well, we're working within the mandate that was given to us....i.e.to be NOTHING like 'that nice Sheilagh Rogers'.

And remember, we don't think these stories up. They walk in the door and we choose the best ones..... If you don't like 'em, blame your fellow Canadians for not having interesting lives.... And,of course, you might consider raising the bar by contributing yourself....

I'm sure that Garvia is a wonderful person, but the "I have a story" thing at the beginning of the show is one of the most jarring, aggravating things I've ever heard in my life. Teeth, edge, set. For the listener's purpose, the people in the opening theme begin and end with their soundbite, and that's all that I have to go on. That particular clip doesn't just hit a button, it mashes the button repeatedly in the hopes of making the elevator get to its floor faster.

I understand the position you're in with the mandate, and I've tried to become accustomed to the execution pretty much since Outfront started up on day one. (I can't say as I've heard every single one, but have probably heard about half of the shows at some point or another.) It's never worked for me at all. (Which is odd; notwithstanding the various tiny shows which ran as part of the first version of SLC, I've generally been a fan of Radio One's attempts to engage listeners my age and younger.)

Most people aren't very interesting, Canadian or otherwise. Edgy presentation can only do so much for that (and, truth be told, some of those stories might benefit from a more conservative approach; more interview, less narrative -- I realize there's nothing you can do about that). The one story I could pitch to Outfront is actually pretty pathetic from an outsider's perspective, and wouldn't even be practical to offer up (I live in England). Why would I contribute to the complaint by passing along more of the same?

Anyhow, my apologies for coming off as slagging Garvia. I can't pretend that my opinion of what I'm hearing is any different, I'm afraid. Still, the chalkboard-nail reaction is to "anonymous soundbite woman," a cipher, a character, and I'm sorry I wasn't clearer about that.

I actually like Hornby's writing (I've read two or three of his novels). His stuff is fairly light, not hard to follow and is a fun diversion now and then from more serious stuff. In my mind he's perfect for things like long plane rides, waiting in line at the DMV, etc. I can definitely understand why someone wouldn't care for him though.

That said, HF is easily his best work as far as I'm concerned. Though I'm not sure how that'll transfer to other people. The thing is that HF is a story that just goes to town ripping apart record geeks. It works because it is extremely obvious that it is written by a record geek and is acctually full of a lot of love for the culture. From his inside knowledge of the culture to the pseudo wish fulfillment that he creates through the lead character (record geeks do not date women like Charlie, though they really wish they did). His character is so dead on that the writers of Vinyl Junkies, which is mostly made up of interviews with hardcore record geeks, were forced to reference the novel several times, pointing out the similarities and differences with real record geeks. If you arent a record geek or dont know any record geeks, the book might fall flat for you. If you are a record geek though, or know one, youll see yourself/them somewhere in that book (Im Dick)

"And there are sometimes that I want to order my albums Autobiographically. Just cause. But it would be so much cooler to have actual records. CDs just don't have the right feel."

So go get some vinyl. Record players are not that expensive, though finding a tuner with a phono jack is way more involved them it should be (and no, a regular jack doesn't work. Record players need more amplification then tape decks or cd players. So plugging your record player into the tape deck jack produces only very very quiet sound, even with the volume turned all the way up) Any decent size metro area should have some used LP stores. And there are plenty of labels that are still releasing material on vinyl, both new and reissues. Vinyl is deffinetly a better medium when it comes to the look and feel of the physical product. I've also found that the fact that you have to physically put the needle in the groove, and the record only plays for about 20 minutes, means I'm much more likely to really listen to the recording, instead of just putting it on as background noise.

I'm not a vinyl purist, but there is deffinetly something to the medium.

Well, I must admit to a clear bias on the opening for Outfront.

I'm solely responsible....

The thinking was to establish a clear brand logo (the 'whoosh') and to try and give some idea of what was to come i.e. a show wherein non-broadcasters get to tell a story.And maybe even indicate that it's a story that they are the best person situated to tell that story.

It's bit of a tall order, I think you'll admit. And, yes, we may just have gone overboard in hammering it home. But we ARE only a little 15 minute show....so some overcompensation seemed to be called for.

Do you think that 'the whoosh' and 'This is Outfront' might suffice? (I have NO idea who that lady is. We just went into the street and got half a dozen folks to say that phrase into the tape machine. Talk about anonymous....)

Anyway, it's getting time to change the theme a bit again, so all contributions grate(!)fully accepted.

And I'm not going to get into the the Hornby/HF debate. That too is my life. It's too sad.

The whoosh and a plain old "This is Outfront" would work fine. The whoosh on its own is a sharp, distinctive attention-grabber, and the music (probably with the little drum machine loop, especially on less serious days) is perfectly fine on its own. The random soundbites are cluttersome and distracting, and that's been thrown into sharp relief for me by the days when it's just the whoosh and slow/atmospheric music leading in.

By this point, Outfront has been around long enough that I'd be surprised if people didn't know what they were getting into just from the whoosh.

(The 50 Tracks theme had the same issues going on, in a slightly different way, for comparison -- nice, distinctive, catchy bass line as an introduction, and then all these random punters start blithering on about what's "*got* to be on the list." The first couple of times in a limited series, that might be useful, but it grates once the listener is hooked. I can't speak for other listeners, but I'm keyed to expect new information when someone starts talking over radio theme music, and to have that music background itself gently until that person's done.)

Is any of this useful?

Yup!

I'll bring this up the next time the team get together. Maybe on the picket line.....

But Thank You. Any and all opinions are valued. (As far as we're concerned, your voice has just as much value as any one of us...well, maybe Senior Producer Neil might quibble with that...but who ever listens to him anyway.......)

And, as you've noted, the template already exists. (We tend to use that one for 'heavy' subject matter...but there's no reason we can't wheel it out on a more regular basis. I know I do anyway every now and then...just because.........)

As I think about it, I might propose a compromise with just Garvia and the 'This is' lady at the start. That'll keep the principle alive. And then I'll see what the crew feel about ditching the rest of the voices.

(This might mean that you'll catch a glimpse of the Inuit throat singers I mixed low in the background!!! They've been pretty much masked so far.)

Shelagh Rogers is in her element, shortly after her much-needed move to Vancouver.



Unfortunately, that element resides somewhere near the eighth circle of Hell.


I cannot stand this woman. I don't know what I find more irritating about her: the repugnant smugness, the disingenuous self-satisfied cackling, the infatuation with her cornball caricature of Canadiana, or her shameless fawning and guest worship.

The splitting of Rogers' morning show with the addition of "The Current" with Anna Maria Tremonti was a godsend. And Bernard St. Laurant's presence during Rogers' absence due to "health" concerns was a welcome respite.

That is all.

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