Basic Radio Anatomy: The Sound of Spencer Mansion

Show: Culture with Robert Bound
Episode: 320 – Make a house a gallery
Broadcaster: Monocle Radio 24, London, England
Original broadcast date: November 27, 2017

Around the third week of November the producers of Culture were searching the world for a unique art gallery that is based in a home and they dropped me a line to see if I had any ideas.

There are a number of these houses/mansions in Victoria and I considered several ideas with help from some friends. After narrowing down possibilities (about an hour of research), the most easily accessible, The Spencer Mansion at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, also had an intriguing history “built on gold dust” (Robert Ratcliffe Taylor’s The Spencer Mansion: a House, a Home, and an Art Gallery). Originally named Gyppeswyk — the Old-English name for the Suffolk town of Ipswich, their English home — it was constructed on the proceeds of the Australian and American Gold Rushes of the 1800s.

I won’t ruin the rest of the story that comes out in the extended interview, but the mansion was donated to the citizens of Victoria by Sara Spencer. One part that had to be cut in both interviews, but is a nice little detail, is that the BC Government rented the mansion in the early 1900s to house consecutive Lieutenant Governors after a fire in Government House.

One of the aims of the AGGV is to use the Mansion and not turn it into something people can only look at. As if to underline this vision, I arrived to gather some room sound and a busy Winter Market was in full swing. Victoria duo Ocie Elliott was playing that night, and I ended up using a song of theirs to open the extended interview. Thanks very much to them for letting me use it. The music, mixed with the din of the crowd, high ceilings and wood paneling really brings the Mansion alive.

The next morning I interviewed the soft-spoken Chief Curator of the AGGV, Michelle Jacques. We visited every room, talking about the on-going history of this Italianate villa. We ended our chat out back of the Mansion where a unique Shinto Shrine and Japanese Garden are set. Michelle describes them both beautifully and I love the birds in the background. Very “fall in Victoria.”

It was a fascinating visit and the bonus interview is well worth listening to for those extra tidbits that had to be cut from the broadcast version.

Total production time: 9.25 hours
Number of emails to organize: 33
Visits to the AGGV: 2
Revisions to this post: 43

Listen to the broadcast segment (4:00 listen: begins at 12:50)

Listen to the Editor’s Cut (12:30 listen)

Photos © Darin Steinkey

Unless You Possess Extraordinary Discipline and Clear Productivity Goals, You Shouldn’t Be Doing Work in a Coffee Shop

In order to properly gauge how much work you will actually get done, and for what actual purpose you are going to a coffee shop for, consider these three Rumsfeldian factors:

There are the seen seens. These are the times when you’re doing work in a coffee shop in order to be seen. You want to run into someone, or perhaps you just need a little human contact or inspiration. Generally, this means that you’re sitting in a high-traffic area, you’re not wearing headphones, and there may even be room for other people to sit at your table. GSD (Getting Stuff Done) Scale: 2/10.

There are the seen unseens. That is to say that people may see you, but you are controlling who you interact with. If you’re wearing ear buds, sitting in a low-traffic area, and only making eye contact with people you want to talk to, this is a seen unseen. You might engage in a conversation with a client if they happen to walk in, but you will avoid a social interaction with your body/tech language. GSD Scale: 5/10.

Finally, there are the unseen unseens. That is to say, you actually want to get some work done and you have no other choice but to do it in a public space. Perhaps your office is flooded or infested with rodents. Maybe a family of raccoons moved into the bathroom. I don’t know. The point is that if you really must get work done, don’t do it in a coffee shop. However, if factors force you from the office, your body and tech language is important. Essentially, this means you’re sitting in a low- to no-traffic area. Your back is to the door that most people enter (if that’s safe). You’re wearing gigantic, ear-muff-style headphones that shut out the world. I call these “don’t talk to me headphones” — they’re a not so subtle hint. You also don’t look up from your work, lest you be interrupted. Ever. GSD Scale: 8/10.

The most important practice is to assess the reason I’m going to do my work at a coffee shop and adjust my goals for productivity accordingly.

There Are Times When You See the Northern Lights and It Isn’t the Coming of the Lord

The first time I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour was in the summer of 1985.

I was at Camp Chestermere, in southern Alberta. One night, while we warmed our feet by the fire and ate our s’mores, Fletch, the Head Counsellor and my cabin warden, painted an Old Testament picture of human confusion, hell fire and humanity’s only true chance for redemption. He seemed to command the fire to intensify as he reported that Jesus would descend in glory from the sky in a spectacular light show, judge us, and burn the guilty (of whom I would be one unless I signed up with the righteous).

As I was quite focused on my snack, I didn’t think much of his story nor his technique — it all seemed rather stage-y and wide-eyed, if you know what I mean. My Road to Damascus moment was when Aurora Borealis exploded through the dark on our late-night walk back to the cabin. Having never seen the Northern Lights, I mistook this rare natural phenomena for the Rapture. My terror manifested as a pragmatic decision to cover my ass and I “asked Jesus into my heart” with a mix of fervour and adrenaline while cowering under my sleeping bag on my wooden bunk bed.

Do you want to turn some of your own stories into something like this? Contact us, it’s what we do.

Man Whom Seems Like a Cliché, Is


Local entrepreneur Darin L. Steinkey sat at a coffee shop Friday around 2pm wondering whether he’s a cliché.

If he were to step back from the scene, it might be more obvious.

An empty espresso cup confirms he likes his coffee pure and strong. The soda water he ordered on the side: cold. He’s reading a book of letters exchanged between two moderately obscure authors. Translated from Norwegian.

“Sometimes, I’m just a little too much to take,” he said. “I mean, for God’s sake, I’m taking notes with a tool from the 16th Century,” he said, waving a blue pencil. “Who writes with these anymore?”

Further investigation revealed a Radiohead song moaning about fame on the turntable, and several novelty beards in the area.

His plans for the weekend include The London Review of Books and going to a concert by a band named after a utensil one would use at breakfast. He’ll sample artisan drinks and food before the show and, although the band is one of his favourites, will show restraint in cheering for them.

“I guess I am a bit of a cliché,” he said. “But it’s how I enjoy living, so I’m not sure what to do with that. I’m not one to change my habits so I don’t look as discerning, intelligent or snooty as I think I look. Does that even make sense?”

In a move that surely confirms his clichéd status, as of August 31, he is full-time with his Cascadia-based company Aldridge Street Print & Media. Plans for the launch of a magazine, a suite of podcasts and several short documentaries are afoot.

We will update you as news breaks.

– Aldridge Street

Ideas, Surfacing.

The Terroir of an Idea

The manuscript I’m currently editing uses journal entries to move the story forward and, instinctively (or so I thought), I decided to edit them lightly, if at all. A journal is meant to be thought put to paper without a filter; it shouldn’t be subject to perfect grammar. Do I edit my journal? ‘Course not.

Reflecting on my editing decision over lunch, I was somewhat self-congratulatory that the idea was more instinctual than it was a product of hard thought and consideration. I felt I was cultivating my instincts and beginning to trust them more. I didn’t know “where” the idea came from, just that it did and I liked it.

That evening I picked up my summer edition of The Paris Review. I’d been reading it off and on for the last week and was about halfway through. I didn’t use a bookmark so as I flipped through to find my spot, I passed several articles I’d already read, mentally reminding myself what the article said and whether I enjoyed it.

About 100 pages in there’s a piece called Life, Death & Trousers: Eight Found Stories, in which writer Alexander Masters has taken diary entries (by a domestic worker, Laura Francis) that he found in a dumpster and pulled them into a completely different narrative without editing the text. As I flipped by I recalled that I wasn’t that fond of the piece and hadn’t finished it.

My mind immediately clicked back to my own work and I realized that I hadn’t come up with the journal editing idea out of thin air. I had read parts of Masters’ piece two nights before and disregarded it — again, so I thought — because I didn’t find it all that interesting. In fact, the idea had taken root in my mind along with all the rest of my experience, and was waiting to peek out of the ground when it was ready.

It underlines the importance for me to read as widely and freely as possible. Our brains soak up everything we read and it feeds the roots of all the ideas that are going on underground.

Enjoy your weekend.

School Is In: Beer Historian Greg Evans

As the thirsty prepare for the 2nd Annual Victoria Beer Week, I sit down with Beer Historian Greg Evans. In this short chat, Greg previews Beer School Volume 2: Brewing Since 1858, on Sunday March 8.

Topics covered include:
The Drake
How he got such a rad job
Member of Parliament and pioneer brewer “Bag o’ Wheat” Bunster
Greg’s Czech grandmother

Listen to Victoria brewmasters Matt Phillips, Clay Potter, Paul Hadfield and others talk about the state of craft beer in Victoria at Victoria Beer Week 2014.

Old tinderbox

One Hundred Years Later: Perspectives on World War I

Aldridge Street Print & Media is pleased to be a media sponsor of “The First World War: Transnational, Local and Interdisciplinary Perspectives One Hundred Years Later” at the Bay Street Armoury on October 2nd and 3rd.

From history repeating itself in Ukraine, to Nellie McClung’s ambivalence, Nietzsche’s reception in the popular British and American press, the creation of the modern Middle East, and 89,000 Indian troops in France, I am really looking forward to this event. The best part is that almost the entire conference is comprised of academics from the University of Victoria, my alma mater.

In addition to the video below, here is a short look at some of the guests and topics.

Serhy Yekelchyk is a Professor of Slavic Studies and History. He’s a man in demand right now as he has written books on Ukrainian-Russian relations during the Soviet era, and on the birth of the modern Ukrainian nation. He is currently writing a book for the Oxford University Press on the Ukrainian Revolution, but not the present one — the one in 1914. We talked about how the events of World War I echo today.

Misao Dean’s talk is called “Every Woman’s Battle: Nellie McClung on War”. Ms. McClung once said that if women ran the world there would be no war because no woman would send her son. Ms. Dean, a professor of early Canadian literature and English Canadian culture, is the author of several books on the subjects. Her paper for this conference argues that, although women gained more relative freedom at the end of WWI, many involved in the women’s movement at the time were conflicted about the war.

Andrew Wender focuses on the interconnections between politics and religion, the politics of history of the Middle East, political theory, and world politics and history. He will participate in “The Neverending ‘War to End All Wars'”, a Roundtable discussion with Mr. Yekelchyk and the Landsdowne Lecturer Michael Neiberg. His particular interest is in the significance of the World War I centennial in the making of the Modern Middle East.

Chandar Sundaram is a scholar of the military history of colonial South Asia and a co-organizer of the conference. His new book, on the Indianization of the colonial Indian Army’s officer corps, will be published in 2015. The focus of our discussion was the 89,000 troops that came from India to hold the Allied line in WWI.

Matt Pollard, a conference co-organizer and Assistant Teaching Professor in the Germanic and Slavic Studies department at UVic, will focus on Friedrick Nietzsche’s reception in the popular British and American press during and after the war. His research reflects his interest in cultural stereotypes and is concentrated on Nietzsche, Leni Riefenstahl, the Olympic Games and the city of Berlin.

For more information, go to the conference website. As well, please take a listen to some of the academics talk about the conference in the video below.

For more Aldridge Street productions on war and conflict take a look at our series on a World War II codebreaker or the history of the Navy League in Canada.

The Cult of (Radio) Personality: Ken Wiley

This is part one of an occasional series on radio hosts and DJs that influence my style of radio.

Ken Wiley: “The Art of Jazz”, KPLU FM in Seattle

I used to drive around picking up donations for a charity in the late 90s. Often I would be in the car for 4-5 hours at a time and, being a radio lover, I had no problem with that. I enjoyed flipping stations to get the best mix I could and distract myself from traffic and all that comes with the road. One show I never flipped away from was The Art of Jazz. Ken Wiley has hosted the show since 1982. The rumour is he uses his own collection of vinyl and hand-selects everything that will play on his 3-hour weekly show. I’d post a picture of him or a link to his bio, but he’s elusive. In fact, I can’t find a picture of him anywhere on the Internet. That’s ok. I’ve been told that I am only good looking enough for radio as well…

Anyway, the part I enjoy most is the social history he lays down. He can talk about what was happening in New York City, Chicago, LA, Kansas City, Montreal, Stockholm, Paris or any jazz hub in any decade of the 20th Century. The key is that he’s subtle. It’s not facts, it’s stories, it’s the history of music and how it changes history. He colours a set with an anecdote and allows the music to speak. Dizzy Gillespie writing “Night in Tunisia” on the bottom of a garbage can… that kind of stuff.

His gravely jazz voice (you know the one…) explains how the Blues and Jazz have developed over the years. One of his trademarks is to “chase” a song. He’ll play 3-4 versions of the same song, back-to-back, so you can hear the difference and possibly identify what the musician wanted to emphasize. Recently he featured a song Robert Johnson recorded (but probably didn’t write) called “Sweet Home Chicago”. I caught his version and then Taj Mahal with the Pointer Sisters. They were so different, but both held that same soul that only comes from living the song. Taj Mahal is often compared to Robert Johnson and you can really hear it in his version, but hearing Johnson first really sets the stage.

Ken’s show is the soundtrack to my Sunday afternoon. No matter where I am, I try to catch at least a piece of it because it grounds me for the week ahead. When I worked overseas, it would come on in the morning before I went to work (Thanks Internet!) and it made me feel less than the 3000 miles away I was. I highly encourage you to tune in at KPLU FM Sunday afternoons at 3pm Pacific.