Sunday, November 28, 2010

Margin Notes: Grey 3D Calvacade of Public Radio

Fireworks lit up Toronto, Ontario's City Hall during the Cavalcade of Lights on 27-November-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The Christmas (er, Holiday) tree in Toronto, Ontario was lit last night during the Cavalcade of Lights in Nathan Philips Square. Because of construction, the tree is in a new location on the eastern side of the space, near Bay Street. The real highlight of the event, though, was the fireworks display around City Hall. Traditionally a multi-night event, this year the fireworks were last night only, and as a result the display was rather extended and spectacular; there will be more coverage of this event in a future blog post.

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If one prefers holiday atmosphere in one's own home instead of from a special event, there's always the Yule Log Channel. While WPIX in New York, New York has been running a two-hour show of only a Yule Log and holiday music since 1967, usually on Christmas eve, it took the digital era to introduce an entire Yule Log channel to bring the fireplace into one's home whenever it was desired. For Comcast, even that was not enough--this year, The Yule Log Channel is going 3D. At some level, I understand the Yule Log Channel as background--but 3D programming is, by its very nature, designed to be engaging. How long can one actively watch a Yule Log?

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Some would say background programs are more appropriate on the radio than in 3D, and in the realm of radio holiday traditions, the Poultry Slam on This American Life has to be one of the strangest ones. This week, the program replayed perhaps the best of its Poultry Slam programs, the 2003 Poultry Slam. For those not acquainted with this tradition, listening to "Fish," old episodes of "Chicken Man," and an account of photographing chickens may be the only way to figure it out.

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This American Life has become such an iconic public radio program in the United States that it is not surprising that cultural references to the medium now inevitably feature it in some way. This month, a rap about public radio by a fan in Corvallis, Oregon has gone viral on YouTube, and besides programs like All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and Fresh Air, it features This American Life. Conspicuously absent, though are references to On Point, Diane Rehm, or the CBC, so only those in the United States or United Kingdom will appreciate it, not those of us in Canada.

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Festivities surrounding the Grey Cup had taken over the area around the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario including Roundhouse Park as seen on 25-November-2007

As I type this, most Canadians are likely watching the Grey Cup, the championship game of the Canadian Football League, this year in Edmonton, Alberta between the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Rough Riders. The event is quintessentially Canadian--fans from all the teams, not just those playing, show up and actually interact with each other in surprisingly friendly fashion in the week before the game. I experienced the phenomenon three years ago first-hand when the game was played in Toronto--several interactions that might have led to a fight outside the Superbowl in the United States resulted in nothing more than a bit of verbal sparring here. This week's Cross Country Checkup on the CBC explored the topic of Grey Cup culture and taught me something I didn't show--the Atlantic Schooners are the only CFL team with a perfect record--they've never lost a game because they never actually played a game before folding.

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