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A Conversation with George Stroumboulopoulos

September 27th, 2009 @ 4:49pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

This morning I sat on the steps of the Terry Fox Plaza in downtown Vancouver with George Stroumboulopoulos and chatted about the city, music, hockey, and his greatest passions in life; radio and motorcycles.

Photo credit: John Bollwitt on Flickr

I first met George at the David Suzuki Foundation/Vancouver Fashion Week wrap up party earlier this year and introduced myself since our paths had crossed on Twitter. Fresh off the plane from Ireland, and on his way back to Toronto, George hosted last night’s Edge of the Fest at the Vancouver Comedy Festival and will also be on stage with Steve Martin tonight.

With a nickname like “Canada’s Boyfriend”, Strombo has a dedicated following across the nation and his visits to Vancouver are always a treat. It’s no Toronto (aka centre of the universe) but what our city lacks in 24-hour dining it makes up for in with its moderate climate and friendly locals. On Twitter I can observe people sending him their best wishes, offering directions to the nearest sushi joint, or talking about how they saw him on the street and got tongue-tied.

Photo credit: John Bollwitt on Flickr

Sitting out in the sunshine, our conversation moved into the realm of radio and having John “I grew up on NPR” Bollwitt on my left and George “I want to bring awesome music back to the masses” Strombo on my right was truly delightful. George got his start at a radio station in Kelowna and from a young age had a passion for music. He told us his mother used to take him to the local park and play songs for him on her acoustic guitar, which is something that could truly make me passionate about music as well. Although his first years in broadcasting were during what he called a “dark age” of commercial radio (1987 – the early 90s) he hasn’t lost his love of the medium.

I think that George would have loved to live in Vancouver during the days of the Smiling Buddha and what warmed my heart was when he mentioned something along the lines of DOA and Skinny Puppy being the best bands to ever come out of the West.

Photo credit: John Bollwitt on Flickr

While making a single motion with his finger as though pressing the “power” button on a boombox, he said that he believes radio is the ultimate way to communicate and connect — it doesn’t get much easier than that. George said that it’s the element of surprise that has been lost in the iPod generation; you never know what’s going to come up next on the radio and you don’t want to miss it since it’s only there for a few minutes until it’s gone again. Listeners can look up songs or be sent on mass internet scavenger hunts based on a note or a riff of interest they heard for a brief moment that a song was on the radio.

Then there’s the “driveway moments”. These happen when you get home in your vehicle and even though you’ve turned off the ignition, you can’t turn off the radio. Great dialogue, a thought-provoking discussion, or your new favourite song just make you pause and put your life on hold until you’ve had your fill. Or, in George’s case, flip off the ignition and race as fast as you can into the house so you can turn the radio on in there to pick up where you left off 10 seconds ago in the car.

This isn’t to say that radio as we know it is perfect. It must evolve, it must move forward, and it must celebrate the music of our past while introducing us to the tunes of our future. Podcasting is in, social media is in, and all of these tools can simply augment your sound and connect your audience even further.

Photo credit: John Bollwitt on Flickr

Unfortunately my own recording gear (our trusty iPod non + Belkin Tune Talk combo) failed on me so I have 45 minutes of silence instead of our banter (hence this text-heavy post). The only thing I can remember word for word is when he quoted a broadcasting mentor of his, Bob Mackowycz, who he worked with at The Fan in Toronto. Mackowycz, currently of Vancouver’s Shore FM, told George “never talk down to your audience, and f*ck ‘em if they don’t get it.” This wisdom is something he takes to heart every day and applies with each episode of his television show, The Hour.

Although we could have chatted about music all afternoon, the subject matter of our chat did move into the realm of hockey as we were sitting mere blocks GM Place. Fearing that Toronto-dwelling George was a Maple Leafs fan I was pleased to hear that the Habs are his team. However, he suffers from a type of game-day social media fear as do many others I know. When you cannot catch a game live it is imperative to avoid all internet communications, especially Twitter, otherwise someone somehow will spoil the outcome for you. As far as the Canucks go, George’s only opposition to the team lies with their jersey choice — and I believe a strong representation of Vancouverites may be with him on that one.

Photo credit: John Bollwitt on Flickr

Since I had learned a few months ago that George was a Sherlock Holmes fan (and has read the entire Canon), I had to ask a question on behalf of my mother who is the President of the Vancouver Sherlock Holmes Society. She wanted to know who he thinks would make the best Sherlock Holmes in film today, especially since Robert Downey Jr is Holmes in a soon-to-be-released movie. Strombo said that Basil Rathbone was the best of all time but Hugh Laurie — especially as House — embodies Holmes. Side note for those interested, the Sherlock Holmes group in Vancouver is called The Stormy Petrels of BC and in Toronto, they have The Bootmakers.

Strombo & MeAlthough it was intimidating to interview Canada’s best interviewer, it was such a pleasure to simply sit and chat with someone who is so passionate about their work. It’s something that is deeply inspiring and I believe there are only more great things on the horizon George, who has got to be one of the hardest working individuals in Canadian entertainment. The next time he’s in Vancouver (which will hopefully be for more than 72 hours) I said I would show him around a bit. I’m not sure where I would start on a personal tour of our city although I can say that there will not be a steam clock involved at all.

You can keep up with all of Strombo’s travels, activities, and wicked music recommendations on Twitter @Strombo and you can catch him every night in your living room at 11pm on the CBC. Canada’s only late-night talk show, The Hour featuring George Stroumboulopoulos, kicks off its sixth season tomorrow night and George will spend the full hour with Burnaby’s own Michael J Fox.

Vancouver Peace Summit 2009

September 25th, 2009 @ 3:03pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Photo credit © Dalai Lama Centre

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is in town over the next few days to participate in the Vancouver Peace Summit as well as Free the Children’s We Day.

Discussions and presentations are taking place Sunday September 27th at the Chan Centre over at UBC and then at the Orpheum Theatre downtown on September 29th. The Vancouver Peace Summit will feature the following:

  • World Peace Through Personal Peace (sold out)
  • Nobel Laureates in Dialogue: Connecting for Peace (sold out)
  • Educating the Heart: Creativity and Well-Being and Heart-Mind Education (tickets still available)
  • Women & Peace Building (tickets still available)
  • CTV will be providing online webstreaming of the events and the Dalai Lama Centre will be posting updates to their blog, Flickr, and Twitter @DalaiLamaCenter. I will also have live coverage from the Summit on Sunday as well as We Day on Tuesday. You can follow conversations online using the hashtag #VPS09 on Twitter.

    Vancouver Film and Television Forum 2009

    September 25th, 2009 @ 2:37pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    vftfThe Vancouver Film and Television Forum is happening September 29th until October 2nd at the Vancity International Film Centre.

    This is the 24th edition of the Forum and this year’s sessions include discussions about the changing face of media and storytelling. Each day there will be a theme, from Film Talk on Tuesday, TV Talk on Wednesday, Storyville Vancouver on Thursday, Doc Talk on Friday and New Filmmakers’ Day on Saturday.

    I’ll be there for TV Talk which will featured the following sessions:

    R.I.P. Conventional TV
    Moderator: Andra Sheffer (Executive Producer, Independent Production Fund)
    Speakers: Steve Billinger (General Manager, Digital Programming and Business Development, CBC), Sue Biely (Independent Media Consultant), Michael Ghent (Creative Director, Film and TV Forum), Chantal LeBlanc-Everett (Head of Production & Development, Lifeforce Entertainment), Chris Van Noy (VP Digital Strategies, Jumpwire Media)

    LOL – Comedy Rules
    Moderator: Roman Danylo (Writer, Comedy Inc.)
    Speakers: Greg Garcia (Creator, My Name is Earl) & Jennifer Celotta (Writer/Consulting Producer, The Office)

    Speed Dating Sessions – TV (each day features a speed dating session relevant to its theme)

    No Due Date: Keeping Dramas Fresh
    Moderator: Helen du Toit (Program Director, Palm Springs International Film Festival)
    Speakers: Laurie Finstad Knizhnik (Co-Creator, Durham County), Molly Newman (Executive Producer, Brothers and Sisters), Dahvi Waller (Writer/Co-Producer, Mad Men)

    Co-ventures in TV Land
    Moderator: John Ritchie (Partner/Exec. Producer, Force Four Entertainment)
    Speakers: Nancy Cotton (SVP Scripted Programming, Fox Television Studios), Ben Davis (Director of Development and Current Series, AMC)

    Registration is still open if you would like to attend the Vancouver Film and Television Forum next week.

    West End Photowalking and the Grouse Mountain Wind Tower

    September 25th, 2009 @ 2:11pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    A few weeks ago I explained the nature of a “photo walk”, which is to basically go for a stroll around town and snap photos along the way. This morning John and I headed deep into the West End to enjoy a little breakfast and a leisurely walk through English Bay and around Lost Lagoon. Since John got a lovely new Nikon D90 for his birthday yesterday, I thought it would only be fitting to feature his photos.

    You can see the new wind tower on top of Grouse Mountain, in view on the photo above. The reactions so far have been pretty mixed. Some say it’s an eye-sore and others think it’s fantastic that the mountain is finding a new way to harness energy. I’m curious to know what other opinions are out there. You can view more photos of the wind tower being assembled in the Grouse Mountain Flickr set.

    Thursday Link Fest: Event Roundup

    September 24th, 2009 @ 1:42pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    With all that’s going on around the City this month it’s been tough to keep up. Luckily, I have plenty of material for this week’s Link Fest which is dedicated to these many events.

    Vancouver Art Gallery – Photo credit: Duane Storey on Flickr
  • The Vancouver Giants have begun their regular season and are hosting giveaway nights. Tomorrow is “Magnetic Schedule Night” and October 10th is “Vegas Night”.
  • Capilano University students in the IDEA program are hosting an art show on Sunday September 27th. The theme is “Streets & Scenes Vancouver” and the exhibit will run until October 17th.
  • The CEP (“Connecting Environmental Professionals“) will be running a series of workshops. The next is September 29th and will be about “Fisheries and Global Warming Impacts on Marine Ecosystem and Food Security”.
  • The Arts Umbrella’s fundraising event, Wine Arts, takes place tonight and also October 29th.
  • RIPE is happening October 1st.
  • Liberty Wine Merchants hosts a Port & Chocolate event at the Vancouver Rowing Club on October 1st as well.
  • Literacy BC’s annual wine tasting gala, Literacy & Beyond, is Monday September 28th from 6:00pm – 9:00pm.
  • Translink’s Ride-Share Week is happening October 5th to 9th and they’ll be running a photo contest online. You can follow them on Twitter @BCRideShare.
  • The West End Harvest Festival is happening October 3rd at Nelson Park.
  • The CIBC Run for the Cure takes place Sunday October 4th around False Creek.
  • If you’re a blogger, or your company has a blog, consider participating in Blog Action Day 2009, happening October 15th.
  • This isn’t immediate (although spots may fill up quickly) but the Vancouver Food Bank is hosting a Mexican Riviera Cruise. You can buy your way onto the cruise and partial proceeds will support the Food Bank.
  • Quick reminder as well, the Vancouver Comedy Festival is currently running and the Vancouver International Film Festival kicks off in just over a week.
  • To wrap up the Link Fest, I’d like to give away FOUR passes to the Vancouver Art Gallery‘s exhibit, “Expanding Horizons: Painting and Landscape Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918″. I’ll award these to one person (so you can take family or friends). To win, simply enter any comment you like on this post. I’ll draw the winner October 5th and mail you the passes.

    Best of Vancouver 2009

    September 24th, 2009 @ 10:05am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    For 14 years the Georgia Straight had put together an annual Best of Vancouver issue.

    The BOV combines dozens of reader’s choice categories with staff selections and editor’s picks. This morning I headed to the steps of City Hall to accept my award for “Best Local Blog”, as voted upon by the readers of the Straight.

    Best Local Blog
    1. Miss604
    2. Lainey Gossip
    3. Vancouver Is Awesome

    I have read the issue front to back and would really like to highlight some of my favourites and friends of Miss604.com who were also honored.

    National Digital Media Day 2009 Dance Party Flash Mob

    September 23rd, 2009 @ 8:28pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    Last year’s National Digital Media Day saw me travel across the Lower Mainland, blogging along the way to spread the digital media vibe. This year, I’m slightly less involved in NDMD however I am pleased to announce a dance party flash mob that will be taking place.

  • What: Show up and dance like crazy
  • When: Friday September 25, 2009 @ 6:00pm
  • Where: Powell and Carrall
  • For a lesson in dance party flash mobs, YouTube has plenty of resources (from “Random MC Hammer Can’t Touch This” to “The Chicago Dance Flash Mob“). Here in Vancouver our flash mobs usually involve waterfights, pillow fights or zombie walks.

    Photo credit: donnaidh_sidhe on Flickr

    To fuel up for the public dancing, there is also Appy Hour at The Diamond on Powell Street from 4:00pm – 6:00pm. Appy Hour is a new form of meetup event in Vancouver, “that combines mobile applications and a whole lotta networking.” Presenters on Friday will include Michael Ferguson (CEO of Ayogo), and Jonathan Carrigan (Product Development Manager, CBC).

    Campaign to Save Bear Creek

    September 23rd, 2009 @ 12:40pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    A proposed road development to expand 84th Avenue in Surrey right through the Southern tip of Bear Creek Park has residents up in arms.

    Bear Creek Park

    Bear Creek Park in Surrey is a pillar of the community featuring a playground and pool, 5 acres of gardens, a track, forest trails, meadows, and the Surrey Arts Centre. Bear Creek itself flows right through the park and across much of the City of Surrey. A proposed development to expand 84th straight through the park (instead of stopping at King George Highway) is meeting some strong opposition.

    The two-hectare park hosts Bear Creek and with this proposal, the nearby King Creek will also be affected. Both spawning channels for Sockeye Salmon and some even call Bear Creek Surrey’s own “Stanley Park” [Surrey Leader]

    Photo credit: nikon3100 on Flickr

    “Coun. Linda Hepner said she tentatively supports the idea because it does not make sense to have such a large area in the middle of the city without a road through it.” [CBC] This plan has been “on the books” for the last 20 years and this is the fourth time council has considered the extension of the road. [Surrey Leader]

    There is an online petition that currently has 2545 signatures and local papers have been receiving Letters to the Editor for months about the issue. Council will be taking their final vote October 5th.

    Should the City of Surrey expand 84th Avenue through Bear Creek Park?

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