Lockdown The Logic

As I write this it’s currently minus 20. Toronto has a naturally built in lockdown season; it’s called January.

Ain’t no need for vapid political machinations to shut down pop culture as an attempt to look they’re doing something. Politically something is always better than nothing, right? That’s like hitting the side of a TV to make it work.

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231 | Will Di Novi (Hot Docs Podcast Festival)

My Summer Lair Chapter #231: What Makes You Push Play On A Podcast?

Growing up we had TV hosts. MuchMusic and MTV had classic VJs and even now though it’s been years since they’ve been on the air the connection to these individuals runs deep. Lots of children’s TV shows have popular hosts Mister Rogers, Mr. Dressup and others.

A connection was forged through intimacy…we invited these people into our homes and into our lives. And that love was reciprocated; they shared their lives and told us stories. It’s a different relationship than what we had with celebrities. Yes we had a connection…or wished we did with a celebrity but they were often playing a character stuck in unrealistic situations.

A music VJ was authentic…they had the same enthusiasm for the bands I liked. They were excited about a new album…or an upcoming tour.

So podcasting as a form of media intimacy isn’t entirely new. We’ve always had digital friends; we respond to strong or distinct personalities. Though the medium has changed we know this experience; just as we know the hosts of our favourite podcasts.

And on January 25 through January 28 some of those familiar hosts will be coming to the Hot Docs Podcast Festival.

We got Michael Lewis in conversation with Ira Glass, yo! Moneyball means This American Life. Full Release Live with Samantha Bee will have a surprise guest. I asked Will Di Novi, co-curator of the Podcast Festival, for a hint.

You’ll hafta stay tuned for that.

And there’s informative panels for podcast creators: from editing to crafting a good talk show to networking with decision makers from the CBC, Amazon and Wondery and lots more.

Will is gonna get into all of this and lots more. His enthusiasm for podcasting and his vision for what it could be is infectious. As he shares in this conversation: “At Hot Docs our main MO is to celebrate the art and craft of nonfiction storytelling.” And with the Hot Docs Podcast Festival they’ve done just that.

Go to HotDocs.ca for the schedule, ticket prices and to check out the full lineup.

Though as you’ll listen Will and I chronicle this incredible podcast festival.

Oh! And even though it’s based in Toronto you don’t hafta be: this is all online and you can sign up anywhere you got wifi. How sweet is that…a no pants podcast festival. (#DownWithPants!)

Chilling on your couch and hanging out with Ira Glass. Behold the power of the podcast medium.

Hot Docs Podcast Festival @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Recorded: Friday January 21, 2021 at 2:30pm (EST)

Stress free pop culture tastefully harvested for your divine delight. Once a week a carefully curated edition of My Pal Sammy goes directly to your inbox. Sign up for my newsletter because the F in FOMO doesn’t stand for Fun.

228 | Henry VanderSpek (Old World Shoes)

My Summer Lair Chapter #228: It’s Gotta Be The Shoes…Right?

So: as a science fiction fan I enjoy photography.

Because photography exists at different times exactly like a time traveler.

A photo is taken in the present but the photo is viewed in the future so often the viewer is looking at the past. And it’s only when we look at the past—sadly we can only document the past obviously we can’t document the future I think—that we must make choices. We can’t document everything.

Thus knowing we can document the past the question then becomes what do we document?

Enter Henry VanderSpek AKA Culture Snap Photography and when it comes to documenting his photography subject matter is Old World Shoes.

His latest photography exhibition recognizes some of the talented individuals behind the shoes. Old World Shoes profiles individuals and owners of independent shoe and shoe repair businesses in Toronto.

Armed with a camera and an open heart Henry visited several shoe stores talking to shoemakers about their craft, about their customers and sometimes about the future. In the exhibition hosted at the Daniels Spectrum art gallery in Regent Park you can see photography testaments and videos to cobblers, to a rare and unique skill set and the strange environments where these creative individuals bloom.

Old World Shoes is lively: it is a compelling photo exhibition that celebrates Toronto, a city powerfully populated with immigrants and hustlers, talented individuals who have dedicated themselves to their craft. And among the crafty ones is Henry.

From Jamal Shabazz to Arnold Schwarzenegger to finding your vision to honouring his Dutch heritage with all those bicycles, this My Summer Lair episode is as comfortable as an old shoe.

Culture Snap Photography @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Recorded: Friday November 26, 2021 at 11:30am (EST)

Stress free pop culture tastefully harvested for your divine delight. Once a week a carefully curated edition of My Pal Sammy goes directly to your inbox. Sign up for my newsletter because the F in FOMO doesn’t stand for Fun.

213 | Fanny Curtat (Beyond Monet)

My Summer Lair Chapter #213: When I Say Monet What Do You Picture?

I wish the audio was a bit better for that conversation but it happens sometimes being on the road. Still fun to talk about Claude Monet with art historian and one of the people behind Beyond Monet: Fanny Curtat.

This immersive experience happening in Toronto Beyond Monet is fantastic and totally worth pants. It’s PantsWorthy.

The pandemic allowed us contemplate still life…a life where we all slowed down; we not only got to reorgnize our houses but also our lives and our values.

Hopefully one of those new values includes making time for the contemplation of art, the connection of art.

Making art and engaging with art are two of the most human things we do. And it doesn’t hafta be Monet…it’s just as special when a 5 year old runs up to you with a painting they swear is a turtle.

Even if there’s not such thing as a purple turtle.

Beyond Monet is called an Immersive Experience which makes it an invitation. I haven’t described a lot of the show or told you what to expect…go into it without the trailer. See it for yourself. Shake off the still life and bring yourself to life.

Like noticing or even slowing down your breathing. Don’t just rush from one breathe to the next. Pause for the cause. Be human. Be creative.

Beyond Monet @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Recorded: Wednesday August 11, 2021 at 1:30pm EST

210 | Virginia Abramovich (Between Waves)

My Summer Lair Chapter #210: Are You Ready To travel Between Dimensions?

We got a sci-fi movie for today’s My Summer Lair conversation. Or is it? About 14 minutes into my conversation with director Virginia Abramovich she reveals Between Waves: “It’s a love story, but then it’s like this weird love story where there’s very little love.” Hah. There’s lots to love actually.

There’s also a mystery in the middle, a disappearance with unique sci-fi elements such as the ability to travel between dimensions. I wonder if that’s responsible for one character’s disappearance? He’s not gone, he’s just not…here.

More than just Between Waves Virginia and I discuss the original Star Trek series which introduced us to the Mirror Universe, Brian Greene a theoretical physicist and telling Toronto stories in film.

Brian Greene’s fifth book Until the End of Time came out in 2020 and I’ve sadly not read any of them. I got homework to do. So do you!

Check out James Gleick’s Time Travel: A History which deftly documents this wonderful phenomenon including our relationship to time, the origins of the concept and more. This non-fiction book is fantastic: it’s sweeter than a TARDIS and funner than a DeLorean.

That’s your homework.

As for the various on demand platforms you can check out Between Waves on I recommend Hoopla the Toronto Public Library streaming service. Like Netflix for pop culture via the library.

Surf’s up! Let’s get into Between Waves.

Between Waves @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Recorded: Wednesday September 22, 2021 at 11:30am EST

Morning Tea: FilmLA vs FilmToronto

“Los Angeles Filming Hit Record Lows Due to Pandemic.”

Sigh. I guess this means more Toronto shooting: nothing destroys suspension of disbelief like lying about the city. The fastest way to ruin suspension of disbelief is with lies.

Lies: going to LA’s “City Hall” when the actors are just heading into the ROM. I can accept time travel and guns with limitless bullets: but yo get the city right.

Yo: Read The Rest: Here.


181 | Corey Ross & Svetlana Dvoretsky (Immersive Van Gogh)

My Summer Lair Chapter #181: What’s Your Favourite Van Gogh Painting?

As you may know Van Gogh a Dutch was a post-impressionist painter born on March 30 1853 and tragically passed away on July 29 1890. It was not even an easy life. It was however a productive life and if his life wasn’t good well thankfully his paintings certainly were.

He was mostly discovered after he died and that’s still true today: you are invited to the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit which as I speak is happening in Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco. (Though sadly the coronavirus has interpreted our arty fun: so be sure to check the sites frequently for rescheduled dates.) Do check the sites for Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco or perhaps additional cities for dates, times and prices.

As the title suggests this is Immersive. Traditionally you go to an art gallery, wander room to room enjoying the art and murmuring slightly sarcastic comments. That’s a traditional art experience: look but don’t touch.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit is a special experience and worth attending.

As Van Gogh said in a Doctor Who episode: “Well look around. Art. You know, it seems to me there’s so much more to the world than the average eye’s allowed to see. I believe, if you look hard, there are more wonders in this universe than you could ever have dreamed of.”

Yes: look around.

I believe one of the unusual aspects of the exhibition is that an artist—a successful artist—is defined by the way that he sees the world and so the best thing about this atypical exhibition is that it is immersive. By being in a car it represents a movement…a motion you don’t feel static sometimes when you’re in an art gallery it can feel static this is a radical engagement with the work and life of Vincent Van Gogh.

With Immersive Van Gogh you drive your car into this large gallery. And for 35 minutes the paintings are digitally splashed all around you…on screens, on the floor…on your car: projections coupled with subtle ambient music. The paintings come alive…you can see the sunflowers sway in the gentle breeze…a train goes by…the stars in Starry Night twinkle with bright mischief.

This isn’t still life anymore this is life and movement and a celebration of Vincent Van Gogh whose works burst with colour and brightness.

It’s a fantastic experience so worth putting on pants. It’s Pantsworthy!

Van Gogh 3.JPG

Immersive Van Gogh @ WT F

Host & Photography by Sammy Younan

Recorded: Thursday December 17, 2020 at 5pm (EST)

159 | Lulu Wei (There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace)

My Summer Lair Chapter #159: When I Say Honest Ed’s What’s The First Thing You Think Of?

Honest Ed’s is physically gone but it’ll always be in our Scott Pilgrim comics and movies.

There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace is a documentary about the demise of Honest Ed’s. It turns out we want museums rather than stores: people adore Honest Ed’s but shop at Walmart. So…that doesn’t make sense. Even if you’re not familiar with the Toronto retail institution, then know this documentary is about gentrification, displacement, redevelopment: significant issues that affect all of us as stores close due the pandemic.

Though sadly for all of the Honest Ed’s memories that fill this documentary absent is the Mr. T book signing in 1984. For reasons lost to time he was at the time touring Toys R Us and yet he came to Honest Eds for his Toronto stop.

And. I. Never. Went. Single Tear.

Homer Simpson: “You’re right, Marge. Just like the time I could have met Mr. T at the mall. The entire day, I kept saying, “I’ll go a little later, I’ll go a little later…” And when I got there, they told me he just left. And when I asked the mall guy if he’ll ever come back again, he said he didn’t know. Well, I’m never going to let something like that happen again!

There’s No Place Like This Place @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Recorded: Saturday May 30, 2020 at 2pm EST

156 | David Sax (The Soul of an Entrepreneur)

My Summer Lair Chapter #156: Why Are You An Entrepreneur?

The description on the back of The Soul of an Entrepreneur: Work and Life Beyond the Startup Myth says: “This book is the real story of entrepreneurship. It confronts both success and failure, and shows how they can change a human life. It captures the inherent freedom that entrepreneurship brings, and why it matters.”

David Sax’s gift as a writer is the ability to identify and reveal the undercurrents flowing through our culture. The Soul of an Entrepreneur is a compelling follow up to his excellent and thought-provoking book The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. In a sense, he is a writer who operates like a magician with a ta-da! though in his case he isn’t pulling a rabbit of his hat…he is revealing the unrecognized hustle that fuels the engine of our economy.

It’s odd however events like this Coronavirus pandemic are useful for teaching us to live with uncertainty. This entire response to the virus hasn’t been linear or smooth, you cycle through a variety of emotions: some people are doing well; some people are not doing well…this is what business and entrepreneurship are like.

I find one of the more fascinating conversations once everybody was put under house arrest was this debate on productivity. I think for the first time in a long time people had to figure out what that actually means. And I understand employees are juggling work demands while teaching their kids school but we took productivity for granted. Just as we failed to personalize success or question what entrepreneurship truly means or looks like.

Cue David Sax and his book The Soul of an Entrepreneur. Is it a good time to start a business? Yes if only because it is today. Entrepreneurship is a wonderful thrilling adventure…why wouldn’t you want to get started today?

156_David Sax_POST.jpg

David Sax @ WT F

Host by Sammy Younan

Recorded: Thursday April 30, 2020 at 3pm (EST)

146 | David Ben (Illusions: The Art of Magic)

My Summer Lair Chapter #146: Do You Know What The Council For National Policy Is?

This magic moment is brought to you by the AGO: The Art Gallery of Ontario. One of my all time favourite AGO exhibitions was David Bowie Is… back in the fall of 2013: basically Bowie’s work and life and books and clothes and photographs of the sonic illusionist.

Similar to David Bowie Is… Illusions: The Art of Magic on right now is a show business exhibition celebrating the Golden Age of Magic (roughly 1880-1930) featuring more than 55 colourful posters from the Allan Slaight Collection plus photographs, films, documents and cool magic gear like handcuffs and Houndini’s straitjacket. Yes!

Before talking to David Ben I visited the AGO during lunch: that’s right I decided to get all cultured (it happens occasionally…don’t tell anybody or else my street rep will be ruined…).

In the second wing from the entrance there’s a LARGE Harry Houdini poster really simple; really stylish of just his face with some marketing blah blah at the bottom. As I gaze into Harry’s fiery eyes an older woman (fine…a senior) shuffles up behind me and to my left exclaiming: “Oh My!”

Thinking she must be equally mesmerized by Harry Houdini she turns to me: “He’s so handsome! And talented. He is so handsome and talented.”

And that right there is a totally different type of magic. Though he died in 1926 it’s great to see Harry Houdini is still making magic happen in 2020.

What’s amazing about Illusions: The Art of Magic at the AGO is that you get to see real magic as part of your admission! The magic is supplied by the Toronto Magic Company; one of the performing magicians is Jonah Babins…you have to go when he is performing!

Jonah was my guest on My Summer Lair Chapter #118. Jonah is delightful and generous and witty and magical all in that order. Like David Ben he is an avid magic enthusiast; like if you listen to that interview I did with him it concludes with him performing a magic trick; you can follow along at home. Like he prepared that for the podcast. So cool.

Take your time with this exhibition: enjoy it…go through it slowly. The My Summer Lair episode following this is with Joe Posnanski for his outstanding book The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini which you can buy in the AGO’s giftshop.

146_David Ben_POST.jpg

David Ben @ WT F

Host & Photography by Sammy Younan

Recorded: Wednesday March 4, 2020 at 1pm (EST) at AGO

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