Category: CBC (Page 2 of 9)

Remembering Steve Starchev

Steve Starchev

Looking through the Wayback Machine just now I stumbled upon a bit I’d posted about my friend and colleague Steve Starchev. The old version of this blog imploded a few years after posting about Steve, rendering these memories inaccessible, so, because Steve was a special guy, I thought I’d dust them off and get them back out into the light of day, where they belong:

Life is Fleeting

Filed under: LifeThe CBCGenius Friends — February 20, 2006 @ 11:13 am

I got this in my inbox this morning:

It is with great sadness that I write to you today to inform you that our colleague Steve Starchev passed away this weekend after a long illness.

Steve will be greatly missed by both his friends in the SRC/CBC radio services and by the music community of Toronto to whom he gave so much delight over the years.I worked closely with Steve for four and a half years up in the French department of CBC Radio. He was charming, affable, a really pleasant person to work with, and he introduced me to a lot of great music. He was also young, older than me but damned young, too young to die. They diagnosed him with kidney cancer this past August and now, six months later, he’s gone.I didn’t even get to say goodbye, which is my fault, because I didn’t make the time. Shame on me.

Goodbye, Steve. You will be missed.

8 Comments »

  1. Palmira:
    February 23rd, 2006 @ 7:15 pm It’s been nice to see such lovely things written about Steve Starchev…amazing isn’t it? I am his aunt and there seems to be an entire life he led that I didn’t know about. I knew about his radio program and his love of music, of course. But the vast number of people that he knew is something I was not aware of. Many members of Steve’s large family are also musicians and so his love of music was not a surprise to anyone of us.Steve, his sister Lili, my brother Rudi (also his uncle) and I grew up together, as only four years separated the oldest (me) from the youngest (Lili). We were more like brothers and sisters than an aunt, uncle, nephew and niece. I visited Steve in the hospital and told him he had to get better, that any other alternatives were unacceptable. He said no problem….he’d just bought a new pair of shoes and he planned to wear them. Good I thought, that’s the right attitude. His passing has left a huge void in our family, especially in his Mother’s heart. He fell out of line. It should not have been his turn. Not yet. There is a natural order to life and when that goes awry, hearts are broken and lives are changed forever. Because of his suffering, Steve’s passing was a blessing at first, but now it just hurts to know he’s gone. I hope he’s in the good company of the many musicians who have gone before him and I also hope that he’s playing whatever instrument he can get his hands on at full volume and wearing those new shoes. Steve, you are missed.
    P.
  2. Kendal:
    February 25th, 2006 @ 10:35 pm I am Steve’s oldest niece. It’s so nice to know that my uncle was loved by so many people. I lived in Toronto for about a year, and coming from a small town, I didn’t know much. He was such a caring person and was always there when no one else was. That’s the way he was, though. Obviously not only for me, but so many people I didn’t know about. I miss you so much.
    Love Kendal
  3. Leslie Soos:
    February 28th, 2006 @ 4:09 pm I knew Steve since our days at Central Tech. He was a good friend, and I will always remember him as a kind, intelligent individual. I regret not keeping in closer touch, but sometimes we don’t realise how quickly time progresses.If anyone can please put me in touch with his sister, Lili, or his family, I would greatly appreciate it. I know email addresses are not displayed on this site, but would request that mine be given to Steve’s family, or vice versa, so I can pay my respects.
  4. Syl Lebar:
    March 2nd, 2006 @ 11:42 pm I am Steve’s youngest uncle. In fact the only uncle that is actually younger than he was…by 3½ years. We used to talk about how odd that was and the fact that it was due to the nature of our large family. There was a time from the late 70’s going into the late 80’s when Steve and I were more buddies than family. We did everything together…concerts, girls, a beer, and often sitting and listening to great music together, and discussing it. One thing I will never forget Steve for was his constant encouragement in my musical endeavours. He was one of the few family members that would sit and listen to me play the piano. His comment was often, “what I’d give to play like that!” His sense of humour was for me one of his most outstanding features…he’d have me in stitches with a mere glance. We were in a video arcade once and I started playing a ‘disco’ pinball game. Steve put on an act of embarrassment with simply a facial expression, and even at 20 paces his ever so sideways glance had me laughing so hard I was in tears. I remember many a time when he got me laughing so hard it literally hurt. My son happens to be the youngest grandchild while Steve was the eldest. I got a great picture of them together at his Mother’s place over a Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the moment vividly when Emil went and stood beside him, and the thought suddenly occured to me that these two were cousins at opposite ends of the age spectrum. 41 years to be exact. My son believes that Steve is playing his Hurdy-Gurdy for St. Peter right now. Knowing Steve that’s probably right, and he most likely has St. Peter in stitches too! Steve, you will be fondly missed. Thanks for leaving me with such great memories of the times we spent together.
  5. Lili (Starchev) Brands:
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 2:35 am Hi, I am Steve’s sister. It is so wonderful to know that Steve was so well thought of by those whose lives he touched. I miss him so terribly already, and feel so very privileged that I was able to be there with him and for him during his last peaceful moments. I remember all the fun times we had as kids, and the many friends we shared due to being only 14 months apart. Steve is forever embedded in my heart and I am so thankful for the time I had with my “big brother” Thanks to everybody for your kind words and condolences it means a lot to me and to his family.
    Seka (Little Sister)

Here’s Steve performing

Steve Starchev performing Fortune My Foe/Salterello with the Early Music/Folk band Fools Dance at the Mill Race Festival in Cambridge Ontario in 1994. Fools Dance are: Steve Starchev-guitar, Michael Franklin-flute and recorder, Ben Grossman-drum and tar, Laurence Stevenson-fiddle and bodhran.

How to Make an Audiobook

How to make a Soufflé. I mean, an audiobook.

Et voila.

How to make an audiobook.

A version of this roughly half hour presentation was originally delivered to The Creative Academy for Writers. Why? Because my esteemed brother-in-law, Brian Wyvill (author of the highly entertaining time travel/seafaring novel The Second Gate), asked me to whip this up. And who can say no to Brian? I mean other than his wife, my sister Shawna. Well, plenty of people, maybe. But not me, he’s just too charming, so I created this, and presented it to the academy. And then I thought, why not just make it available to everyone?

So here it is.

Make of it what you will.

Now look. I don’t pretend to be the last word in creating audiobooks. This is just some general advice based on my experience as a sound guy and someone who’s recently turned a novel and a bunch of short stories into audiobooks. My goal is simply to provide a practical overview of how to make an audiobook, based on my experience.

I talk about the equipment you need, the preparation required, how to record your audiobook, a bit about editing and mastering your audiobook, and a bit about what distributors like Audible are looking for in terms of quality control.

Here’s hoping it’s of some help.

Neil Munro and Barry Morgan

I stumbled across the following recently which had appeared on an early version of this blog (July 14th, 2009, to be precise), before the blog self-destructed shortly afterward (one of a handful of blog implosions over the years). I like to recapture this sort of thing for the modern incarnation of Assorted Nonsense so that it doesn't get lost to time and also because it keeps alive the memory of some important, interesting people in my life. 

Neil Munro

aka “Inspector Nickles” (Photo by David Cooper, Shaw Festival.)

Neil Munro has passed away at 62 years of age.

I was fortunate enough to work with Neil off and on over the course of two or three years. Although they don’t mention it in the notice at CBC.ca, one of Neil’s many accomplishments was starring as Inspector Quentin Nickles in The Investigations of Quentin Nickles , for CBC Radio’s Mystery Project.

Working on these plays I had the opportunity to observe Neil’s craft up close.

You had to be a skilled actor working on these shows. Producer/Director Barry Morgan was a one take wonder. Rarely did we ever make it up to take two. So the actors had to get it right the first time, and they almost always did. If we had to do a second take it was usually because one of us technical types had screwed something up, or one of the sound effects engineers was caught on tape snoring during a brief siesta (that actually happened once).

Neil also wrote/adapted several radio plays; I remember recording and mixing two or three wild and crazy examples of his work. The names escape me now, but I recall them as full of mirth and inventiveness.

I remember Neil Munro as not only a consummate professional but as a genuinely warm and friendly man. He deserved better than to have died at 62, it seems to me. As Truman Capote said, life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.

In Neil’s case, I’m afraid someone eliminated the third act altogether.

So long, Inspector Nickles.

My friend and colleague Barry Morgan, whom I referenced in the post, responded with a comment which I thought was gently chiding in nature. I realized that I may have irked him slightly with my remark about doing everything in one take. I hope not, because Barry was a great guy and I hate the thought that I might have annoyed him.

Anyway, here's what he wrote in response:

Barry Morgan

Writer, Producer, Director, All Round Nice Guy

 Joe, a really nice appreciation of Neil.

Perhaps I can clarify the “one take” reference.

It was because Neil brought his incredible energy and focus to the rehearsal session before we ever got to the studio floor. The work was already done. And beyond that his electricity energized his fellow cast members to the point that the performance bar was raised far above the level of `excellent`.

We have enjoyed a long history of fine radio actors from the days of John Drainie, Jane Mallet, Frank Perry and a great many others. Neil Munro was certainly among the front rank of those incredible talents.

It was a great privilege to have him around to make all of us look better.

I will always treasure his friendship.

Black Lives Matter

“If you ignore the problem you are part of the problem.”

Yasin Osman, photographer, cartoonist and founder of Shoot for Peace, as quoted in the toronto star

I’m a white guy. They don’t get much more white than me. I grew up white, in a white neighbourhood, in a white town, in a pretty much white province, Prince Edward Island.

I am the embodiment of white privilege.

I’ve been stopped by the cops a few times in my life for speeding, once because I had a taillight burned out. I never thought the police would beat me up or hurt me, let alone kill me. Never crossed my mind. Once a cop in Quebec asked me to get out of the car and walk in a straight line (I’d told him I’d drunk a glass of red wine six hours earlier). I walked the line perfectly fine; he still made my wife drive instead of me . This cop was an idiot. Still, it was a peaceful encounter. I imagine now that had I been black it wouldn’t have been as peaceful.

This is just one example of how I have benefitted from being white. I could list many others. Here’s a fairly trivial one: flesh coloured band-aids. The colour of whose flesh? My flesh.

Here’s another one: growing up, I read positive portrayals of people like me in books, watched shows about them in TV and in movies. This was reflected in my own writing. Reading an early draft of a novel I was writing, I was shocked to learn that I hadn’t included any black characters. Even the final draft is not satisfactory. There is one overtly brown character and another character that I deliberately made ambiguous. My thinking was that she could be interpreted as either black or white or anywhere in between. I should have just made her black.

Here’s another one: if a white person does something stupid, or is lazy, or commits a crime, that fact will not be used against me and others who share our racial identity.

Here’s another one: did you know that lighting black people in movies and TV has long been problematic? Cinematographers would just light for white people. If a white person was in the frame, they’d light for that person and leave the black person in shadow. Not cool.

There are many other examples of white privilege. For other examples I suggest you do your own research. You can start with this essay by Cory Collins. The thing is, it’s a subject that requires some thought to really understand the nuances. I certainly didn’t get it right away. I probably still don’t fully understand the implications. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I will never fully understand, because I’m not black, and I can never truly understand the lived experience of being black, no matter how much I talk to people who have lived it, or how much I read about it. I can only try to deepen my understanding as much as I can.

Here’s an example of me not getting it.

Once I was in a leadership course. The subject of hiring came up. I was a hiring manager at the time. I spoke up: “I will hire the best person for the job,” I declared, “because the corporation needs the best people it can get in these jobs. I don’t care what colour they are. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m colourblind. All that matters is that we get the best person for the job.”

I was ignorant. I didn’t know any better (not that that’s any excuse). There are at least two things wrong with what I said.

First, when I went to hire someone, I would get about one hundred candidates for a single position. I’d whittle those down to about twenty and then someone would pre-interview the rest. I’d wind up personally interviewing about eight. Most of those candidates would wind up being white. Why? That’s a deeper, more complicated question. My guess is that black people weren’t getting into the schools we were looking at because of other systemic racism issues, or weren’t doing well there because of systemic racism, and so on. The fact is the deck was stacked against black candidates as a result of systemic racism. I thought I wasn’t being racist. I didn’t have to be: reality was plenty racist enough without me. So when I went to hire my “best candidate for the job”, often it could only be a white person because a black person didn’t even have a seat at the table. For me not to be racist, and to counter the systemic racism, I needed to make sure that there was equal representation amongst my candidates.

The other problem with what I said during that leadership course was the business of me being colourblind. I used to love to tell people that I didn’t see colour. We’re all the same colour, I would say. I’ve done this up until recently, I’m sorry to say. As I learn more about racism and white privilege and systemic racism, I learn more about not just how I’ve benefitted from being white, but how I’ve been hurtful and damaging as a white person. Saying that I’m colourblind is, first of all. absurd. It’s denying reality. We are all different colours. Insisting that we’re not is refusing to accept the lived experience of the people around us. It’s ignoring the reality of race and when we ignore the reality of race how can we talk about it, and if we can’t talk about race, how can we talk about and defeat racism?

I have to admit that I was afraid to write about this subject. I was afraid of getting it wrong. Of writing the wrong thing, missing some nuance and being called out on it. I was afraid that it would come off as virtue signalling. That’s why I placed that quote at the top by Yasin Osman. It spoke to me, reminding me that I have a voice, and a platform, however small, and that I had an obligation not to ignore the evil of racism, and an obligation to speak up against racism in all its forms. And more than that, an obligation to do so as a white person, even if I don’t fully understand it yet, even if I do get parts of it wrong.

I continue to learn. I don’t want to be racist. I don’t want to perpetuate systemic racism. I don’t want to see black people treated unfairly. I don’t want to benefit at their expense. I don’t want to see black people hurt and I sure as hell don’t want to see them killed.

White privilege is, in part (as Cory Collins writes), “the power to remain silent in the face of racial inequity.”

I choose not to exercise that power.

I denounce racism in all its forms.

Black lives matter.

Reflections on The Mermaid’s Tale by Den Valdron

The Mermaid’s Tale
by Den Valdron

This is both a review of Den Valdron’s book The Mermaid’s Tale and a reflection of sorts. Because The Mermaid’s Tale is a thought-provoking book. I mean that literally—it has provoked many thoughts. But before I get into those thoughts, a few disclosures. I share a publisher with Den, Five River’s Publishing, and I’m a tiny bit acquainted with him, virtually at least. We’re both members of SF Canada, Canada’s National Association of SF professionals. And editor Robert Runte edited both our books when he was Senior Editor of Five Rivers. I don’t believe any of those factors has influenced my opinion of The Mermaid’s Tale.

I’ve been curious about this book for a while because there is some buzz about it. People are talking about it, writing about it. I first heard about it the weekend Robert Runte signed me to Five Rivers. He didn’t mention the name of the book, but during our conversations that weekend he mentioned that he’d signed another book that he was quite excited about, that he thought was challenging, and now I’m fairly certain that he was talking about The Mermaid’s Tale.

After The Mermaid’s Tale came out, I read comments by others that suggested this book was a cut above. On Goodreads and in emails. On the SF Canada Listserve over the years I’ve read emails by Den in which he has proven himself to be eminently readable. When Den writes an email on a list-serve you generally read it. He’s thoughtful and considered. Smart. Reflective. Only natural to expect those qualities in a book written by him. So I went into this book with high hopes. I wanted to like it. I wasn’t disappointed.

I have many writer friends. Some are professional, at the top of their game, successful. Others struggling, or just starting out. I have bought books from many of these folks over the years. Some of the books are good, some not my cup of tea. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it and I won’t review it. If I like it, I’ll finish it. Usually, I’ll rate it on Goodreads. Sometimes I’ll write a review as well. If I know the writer, I try not to give a book less than a four or five star review. This is because I know how hard it is to write and sell books, and I know that a three star review won’t help sell books. If you’re reading this and thinking, wait, I gave one of Joe’s books a three star rating, don’t feel bad. It’s okay. I want you to be honest. I’m just explaining how I operate, not how you should operate.

Sometimes when I give a book a five star rating it’s not because I think it’s the best book ever written. Sometimes I’m employing other criteria. Maybe I think it’s a five star book for that author, or there’s some other quality about the book that elevates it to five star status. You may not agree with this approach. I don’t care—it’s my approach, refined over time. Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that in this case I’m giving The Mermaid’s Tale five stars because I think it actually deserves five stars. I think it’s a five star book.

A confession based on a fragment of memory. Years ago, when I was working in a certain capacity for CBC Radio, somebody sent me some chapbooks. I think they were about zombies, and I think it was Den who sent them. I might be misremembering. I got sent a lot of books at that time because of the projects and shows I was involved with. I didn’t have time to read all the books I was sent. The CBC gets sent a lot of stuff. When I worked on the show Q we had a table that we called “The Table of Shit.” It wasn’t all shit. It was just stuff we got sent that we set out so that people could pick through it. Eventually a lot of this stuff winds up lining the shelves along the atrium. I hung onto the chapbooks for a while, then, like much of the rest of what I was sent, they made their way to those shelves. I never read the chapbooks. They were snatched up pretty quickly by someone else. I hope they found a good home. Now I wish I’d read them, because if they were in fact from Den, I’m pretty sure they were worth reading.

Even if they weren’t from Den they’re worth mentioning because like I said, if I recall correctly, they were about zombies. The Mermaid’s Tale has nothing to do with zombies, but it’s all part of the same continuum. The Mermaid’s Tale is about orcs and dwarves and goblins and hobgoblins and vampires and giants and trolls. Now, I love science fiction and fantasy, and I’m not generally a snob, but even I, when confronted by books and chapbooks about zombies and the like, become instantly suspicious. I suspect that what is before me is probably not very good. It’s probably poorly written, poorly thought out, poorly edited, shallow. In other words, I’m prejudiced against the subject matter. Whoever wrote those chapbooks about zombies produced them before zombies hit the mainstream. I saw zombies and pretty much dismissed them. A few years later, Walking Dead hit comic book stores and the airwaves and zombies became huge. Mainstream. I saw that stories about zombies could be compelling. Yeah—I wish I still had those chapbooks.

Now here we are with mermaids, orcs, trolls etc. I already knew this wasn’t going to be your usual mermaid, orc, troll story because it’s Den and because of the buzz around the book. This book contains these sorts of fantasy/horror cliché characters, and that might make it sound juvenile, but I assure you it’s not. One of the many strengths of the book is the spin it puts on all of that. These aren’t the mermaids, orcs and trolls we grew up with. They serve a purpose. They have much more depth. We feel for them. Boy do we feel for them.

The book is from a small independent publisher. Like I said earlier, it’s one that I share with Den. A publisher like this can’t afford to publicize its books the way a large publisher can. It’s print-on-demand so individual print copies are a bit more expensive than we’re used to. (I actually bought this book twice: first the inexpensive e-book version, then, because I realized I don’t like reading e-books, the print version. I’m glad I did. The print copy looks and feels great and was a pleasure to read.) Some people might be inclined to look down their noses at independent publishers. I have had people in the industry smile indulgently, somewhat patronizingly when I told them I was published by one. But thank God for the existence of such a publisher, because they find and publish quality books like The Mermaid’s Tale. Look up Five Rivers back catalogue. They have published many fine books by many fine authors. And they must be doing something right because they continue to do so.

You might be asking yourself: who is Den Valdron? This is a bit of a problem for Den and authors like him. When you’re not a name author, few are going out of their way to find books by you. So who is Den? He’s an aboriginal rights lawyer originally from the Maritimes in Canada. A man who’d probably rather spend most of his time writing but can’t because you can’t make a living writing these days, with rare exceptions. So he can’t pump out as much material as required to make an impression. He could be a Stephen King but he’s not as prolific and hasn’t pulled off a Carrie yet. But he might—just give him time.

Den won’t break out with this book, I expect. It’s special, all right, but it’s got a jaw-dropping act of violence near the beginning that I suspect some people won’t be able to get past. I can imagine it would be pretty triggering for some. It reminded me of a scene in one of Stephen R. Donaldson’s books, Lord Foul’s Bane, that I first read when I was about seventeen, and that almost made me stop reading that book, I was so outraged. The scene in Den’s book did not make me stop reading it, but I wondered about it. I wanted to understand its place in the book. It’s not random, it’s not gratuitous, it’s ugly and horrible. It’s integral to the plot, to the characters, to the theme. It would not be the same book without it. It’s referenced later in the book. It speaks directly to the characters’ pain. It’s tragic and awful and something that happens in the real world and therefore merits inclusion. How do we deal with such violence if we simply bury it, refuse to acknowledge its existence, and don’t talk about it in our art?

The Mermaid’s Tale deals directly with such violence. This is a story about characters who live in a violent world. It’s a story about the impact of that violence on them. It’s a story about characters who must live with the knowledge that they are reviled by everyone around them. Everyone, even themselves. It’s a story about the corrosive impact of that terrible knowledge upon them. But this isn’t just fantasy; all of that violence and hatred exists in our own world too. This is a reflection of that, and forces us to reflect upon that fact.

I should probably also mention that it’s a murder mystery, but, although important and well executed, and it’s the mystery that provides the scaffolding, that aspect is almost incidental. It’s the story, but not what the story’s actually about. The Mermaid’s Tale is greater than the sum of its parts.

We live in a world saturated with art and entertainment. It’s a golden age for television. A century’s worth of films to choose from. Hundreds of thousands of books published every single year. Much of this art and entertainment is very good, some of it sublime, created by gifted people know what they’re doing. We can’t possibly sample even a fraction of it. Like the unnamed protagonist in The Mermaid’s Tale who doesn’t stand much of a chance in her world, a violent book about an orc by an unknown author from a small publisher may not stand much a chance in this world.

And that’s a shame, because a book of this calibre deserves to be much more widely read.

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