Monthly Archives: October 2007

Commonplace Book # 7

“All kinds of prison, and I’m stuck in the worst: the prison of doubt” Twice in a Lifetime. TV episode.

Twice in a Lifetime is a hard show to explain. It is a feel-good show that gives people a second chance at their life. A character dies at the start of every episode and is then given the chance to go back and make some changes in their life. The catch is that they only have three days to make the change and that they must do it as a third and outside party. The soul is sent back to earth as a “free agent with the blessing of God almighty.” Thus starts the show every week.

I wrote the quotation down from one episode a long time ago because it spoke to me. I thought that it was a good metaphor because doubt can be debilitating. Another quote that relates to this topic is…

“If you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right.” – Henry Ford.

Both of these quotes illustrate the power of belief. If you truly believe that you can’t do something and if you let doubt stand in your way, you will be stuck. You won’t be able to accomplish anything. Of course, the reverse is also true. If you believe that you can do something and work hard to make it happen, it will happen.

Belief is a really strong power. It can keeps us trapped or give us complete freedom.

Canadian T.V. is not an Oxymoron!

I know many people who dismiss any television show simply because it is a Canadian production. These people will make negatives comments and say that a show sucks even without seeing a single moment of it. I can’t really understand this way of thinking.

Canadians have just as much talent as Americans. We have had several hit television shows that have either had Canadian writers, producers, or actors. And believe it or not, we have some excellent homegrown shows as well.

Every year Canadian television is celebrated with the Gemini Awards. Last night’s award show was a succinct affair, clocking in at 64 minutes. It was hosted by George Stromboulopolis and was a great celebration of Canadian talent.

My favourite Canadian show of the moment, Little Mosque on the Prairie, was honoured with the highest award of the program, and deservedly so. It is absolutely hilarious and makes me laugh out loud every week. It is set in a small town and focuses on a group of Muslims and their place of worship. The show is also making inroads in several different countries. It has begun to be shown in Turkey, France, and Israel. It is well written, has excellent acting, and great production standards.

My second favourite Canadian show is Shaye. It is a reality show that follows the trio of singers as they launch their second album and hit the road. I never paid much attention to this band before, but upon watching this show a few times, I was hooked. I bought their latest album and am listening to it right now. These are three very talented ladies.

Other great Canadian shows are Air Farce Live, The Rick Mercer Report, and The Hour (which I have written about before on this blog.) Great shows of the past include The Red Green Show, The Newsroom, The Tom Green Show, and SCTV. I don’t want to bore you with a lengthy list here, but there are certainly more.

You may not have heard of any of these shows, especially if you are not from Canada. But if you are flipping around channels one day and happen to see any of these titles, do yourself a favour and stop for a moment. Give these shows a chance. Let’s appreciate the talent we have in this country and support it.

Hip Hop in Final Jeopardy

The night before last, I was watching Jeopardy as I often do. The Final Jeopardy category was sports documentaries. The clue said something to the effect that “He was cited as creating “rap” in the 1960s in an ESPN documentary .”

Huh? What?

I know the history of hip hop and I know where it came from and when. I sat there dumbfounded because I could not figure out what the question was to this clue. My roommate got the answer right away and said, “Who is Muhammad Ali?”

I thought about that for a minute. It made sense, in a way. He did trash talk his opponents in a rhyme singsong style. He had quite a persona and he was always poetic. But come on! He didn’t create rap.

Yesterday I did a bit of online research on this documentary that the sports channel aired. Quite a few influential rappers spoke on the documentary and in the book about this sports icon.

Chuck D is a legendary hip hop artist and historian. This is what he said about Ali, “He was able to engage his social surroundings into his whole persona. That’s what hip-hop was able to do — to be an antenna for social reflection. He’s one of the few black people to get on TV in the ’60s and speak their minds — thank God – and also back up what he talked about.”

So, while I don’t think anyone can truly say that Ali created rap, he sure was an influence. I never really thought about this before. I had never heard about this documentary until the Jeopardy clue. I think I will have to get a hold of it someday and watch it. It sounds interesting.

Hip Hop cannot be ignored. The music genre has been around since 1974 when Kool Herc created it in the Bronx. That is when the movement began and it shows no signs of letting up. Hip hop is here to stay and it is significant. It showing up on Jeopardy is a sign of that. This was not the first time hip hop has been on Jeopardy and I guarantee that it will not be the last either.

Recommended Reads # 4


I just finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I wanted to read it because it gets referenced in so many other works of art. Even rap songs mention this literary classic. Upon reading it, I can see why. It is a very poetic and touching book. I could barely put the thing down.

Normally I read a few pages of a book a night before bed. While I was reading this book, I would lie in bed, finish up a chapter and say to myself, “Come on, one more chapter.”

Often I would find myself unable to stop reading at one more chapter. It was easier to continue reading than to put it down. I ended up staying up a lot longer than I usually do while I was reading this book. At least now that I am finished reading it, I should get more sleep.

Set in the early 1900s, the novel focuses on a family that scrapes by the best they can. The main character is the small girl in this poor family. Since the story takes place over several years, we can see the idealistic young girl come to some harsh realities. We effectively get to see her grow up. I like how the author lets us into her life in such a personal way. It’s a moving story and moves along at a good pace.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a long book that clocks in a 483 pages but by the time it is finished, you will wish it were longer.

Always a Scapegoat

Hip Hop gets made out to be a scapegoat a lot. Last night though, I laughed out loud at the latest problem that someone pointed the finger at this genre of music that I will forever champion.

I was channel surfing and flipped onto MTV Live (Canada). They were talking about environmental issues in a frank and open way. This has been the hot topic for some time now so I stopped to see how they would cover this issue. The interview was your typical fair about how we as individuals need to do something about this problem and how serious it is. The discussion was actually entitled, “Are we screwed?”

The in-studio interview was inter-cut with some footage of the host discussing this problem with individuals. He asked one of the ladies if they noticed the trends in hip hop. He said that in the last fifteen years hip hop has grown to such a level that it is ruling the charts and influencing culture heavily. He then added that in this same fifteen-year period we have seen a dramatic increase in global warming. He paused, “Coincidence?”

LOL!

Of course, this host wasn’t finished with the joke. He pulled out a graph that was set up on an easel to show his data. I tell you I was immediately sold. He must be right. Hip hop is responsible for global warming. It was right there, clear as a bell on the line graph.

Of course, any idiot can tell you that graphs can be made to illustrate anything that you wish to prove. Even if you use the same data on a scientific experiment, people can make a graph to prove completely opposite points of view.

This is one reason I was completely unimpressed with “An Inconvenient Truth.” It was a horrible movie that showed us graph after graph of nonsense. And yet, Al Gore is getting accolade upon accolade thrown on him because of it. I don’t get it. Obviously MTV doesn’t get it either and did a great send up of it today. Bravo! And thanks for the laugh.

Truth in Joking?

“Off-comments are, often, painfully on.” – Chase March. 2004

I wrote that line in a journal a few years back. I had gotten into a bit of a disagreement with my girlfriend. I was trying to be witty and funny and made what I thought was an off-comment. I didn’t mean anything by it. It was only a joke.

She told me that, “there is a lot of truth in joking.”

Maybe she was right. I think sometimes when people make jokes, they might be trying to be hurtful or speak their mind. I wasn’t trying to do that. I was trying to get her to laugh. I loved her laugh. But I ended up offending her and I never wanted to do that.

What she said has stuck with me. My quotation from my journal has stayed with me as well. That is why it has become entry # 6 in my commonplace book.

Play to Learn

It seems to me that children have forgotten how to play. They sit for hours and hours in front of the television. They let video games show them imaginative worlds and mindlessly press away at the buttons. They watch all the newest movies and seemed starved for the latest releases. Do children go out and just play anymore? It seems to me like the answer is no.

I watch children out at recess time and they have no idea what to do with themselves. Once the basketball nets and four square courts are taken up, no one seems to know what to do. Swing sets have been unceremoniously taken away from schoolyards, apparently because of the administration’s fear of liability issues. Climbing structures don’t seem to be found in the newer schools. It is almost as if, we are afraid to let the children play.

Neighbourhood parks seem to be empty more often that not. Seesaws and carousels are no longer to be found, no matter how hard you look. Children will play hackie sack, soccer, basketball, roller blade, and other such sport activities but imaginative play seems to be a thing of the past. We seem to be addicted to the media and rely way too heavily on it. Adults are guilty of this too. Hobbies and sports activities seem to be few are far between for many adults.

What has happened? Have we forgot the importance of play? Play gives us all a chance to use our imaginations. Play helps children learn how to socialize. Kids learn about rules and working together through games. Play helps children to learn problem-solving skills. Games always seem to have their share of drama and this helps children to deal with their problems.

So let’s encourage the children in our lives to turn off the media devices and to go out and play. As parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbours, whatever, let’s play with the children. Let’s encourage children to play with each other. Let’s keep play inside the classrooms well beyond kindergarten.

Best Concerts Ever!

I can’t resist a great concert. Music is meant to be experienced live. CDs, and radio are great but nothing is better than live music.

Hamilton is a great city for musical events. When I was a teenager and young adult, I would go out to shows every weekend. It was amazing. Unfortunately, I don’t get out to shows as much I used to anymore.

The proximity to Toronto is also a major plus to living here. Most concerts have a Toronto date on their tours. Since, it is just a hop, skip, and jump away, music events are pretty limitless here.

So here is a list of the Best Concerts I have ever seen.

1) DE LA SOUL – They played at Toronto’s Wake Stock this summer. It was quite frankly the best show I have ever been to. This group is legendary in hip hop. I was so looking forward to seeing them and they did not disappoint. They put on an energetic show that showed the innovation that they are known for. They had the audience captured from start to finish.

2) RUN-DMC – They played in Toronto in 1994 in a small club. These guys are the reason I got into hip hop. They are my favourite music group ever! I was such a groupie-type-fan that I made a sign that read, “Run-DMC Kings of Rock!” and held it up for them to see. I stood right in the front row and was leaning on the stage as these legends performed their hits. DMC took the sign from me, held it up and threw it back into the crowd. It was amazing.

3) superGARAGE – I caught this power pop group quite by accident one night at the X-Club, a now defunct but legendary hole-in-the-wall night spot here in Hamilton. They won me over with catchy tunes and an energetic live show. I am still a huge fan.

4) THA ALKAHOLIKS / XZIBIT – You probably know Xzibit from the T.V. show Pimp My Ride but you might not know that he is an excellent rapper. I was fortunate enough to see him live at the X-Club when he first came out in 1996. He wasn’t even listed on the bill. I was there for the Alkaholiks and their show was amazing. I didn’t even mind when they sprayed the whole crowd with their booze. The show was so amazing, and then Xzibit’s hit song started to play and the club went nuts. I have never seen that much energy from a small club audience before and I don’t think I will again.

5) THE ROOTS / DREAM WARRIORS / THRUST – This show at the CNE was free. It only cost $9.00 to get into the exhibition and the show as phenomenal.

6) EMC – I caught this new supergroup in a small Toronto Club this summer. I wrote about this already in the blog. Check the link.

7) AVRIL LAVIGNE – She surprised me. I love her music but I didn’t know that she was so talented. She did an acoustic number, played the grand piano for a few songs, and even switched places with the drummer and hit the skins while the drummer sang. It was an amazing show!

8) MOIST – The first rock show I ever went to. Once again, it was in Toronto.

9) HEADSTONES – I have seen them play several times. They always rock the place.

10) 54-40 – Legendary Canadian rock group. They always kill it!

11) SMOOTHER – If you’re not from Hamilton, you probably don’t know them. They were huge in the underground and got signed to a major label. They didn’t really go anywhere after that, which is a shame. I can still rock out to their first two CDs and their indy cassette.

12) BELLY – This group is amazing and it is a shame that they only lasted two albums. Tanya Donelly has had a successful solo career since then, but I miss the days of Belly. They came out, played their songs, and then left the stage. It seemed way too short and wasn’t the best show I’d ever seen. But I was a huge fan and enjoyed myself immensely.

I bet that I could go on and on. I could mention TLC, A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, BUSTA RHYMES, BASS IS BASE, CYPRESS HILL, SPEARHEAD, THE FUGEES, SWOLLEN MEMBERS, MOKA ONLY, THE KILLJOYS, BIF NAKED, YOUNG M.C., THE ODDS, and many, many more.

I could probably write a book. I hope that these entertainers know how much they have touched my life. Their music is amazing and their shows were just inspiring. I will always be a fan. I want to thank you all for the music and the memories. Thanks!

Character Counts

Next week is National Character Counts Week. As a teacher, I strongly believe in character education. It is important to teach children these ethical values; Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship. The Character Counts website calls these traits the six pillars of character.

I have signed up with the website and they have some excellent resources for teachers. They send out email newsletters too. I received this one this morning and would to share it with you.

“Here’s a list of quick and easy ways to show good character-and make your corner of the planet a better place to be. Pass it to all your friends for CHARACTER COUNTS! Week, then use these ideas to practice good character all year long.”

Be sure to say please, thank you, and you’re welcome.

Don’t speed, even a little bit.

Give blood.

Tell someone they look great today.

See how many people you can compliment in a day.

Smile at someone who looks like they need a little cheering up.

Tell three people you haven’t met to have a good day.

Let someone go ahead of you at the grocery store.

Share your lunch.

Conserve energy by turning off the lights.

Don’t honk.

Don’t cut in line.

Send a thank you card just because someone did something nice.

Be extra-pleasant to a food server.

Recycle-put plastics, glass, and cans in their proper bins.

Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth.

Recycle grocery bags or bring your own canvas bags when shopping.

Ask to speak to a manager when you get good customer service.

Smile, even when you don’t know someone.

Let someone know how much you appreciate them (family, friend, colleague, boss, employee, law enforcement, cleaning crew at your job, security personnel, local mail person, day care provider.).

Offer a babysitting night.

Thank someone who allows you to change lanes in front of them.

Let someone pull out ahead of you.

Pick up something that fell down in a store (even if it wasn’t your fault).

Call a friend after going out with him/her and say you had a great time and appreciated their company.

Say “please” as many times as possible in one day.

For today, analyze the cost of being right.

Offer someone your help before being asked.

Say something nice to every person you meet in one day.

Donate to an organization you believe in.

Invite someone new to lunch.

Tip unusually well.

Ride, walk or carpool to work.

Buy coffee for the person behind you in line at your favorite café.

Pay for an extra toll at the toll booth for the person behind you.

Do your sibling’s or spouse’s chores for them.

Write a letter to a prisoner or soldier.

Tell your parents that they’ve done a great job.

Give someone a hug who really needs it.

Bring in coffee, donuts, or bagels for your coworkers.

Send your grandma flowers just because she’s special.

Be the first to say you’re sorry.

Use non-toxic cleaning supplies to help protect the environment.

Honor someone’s privacy by NOT sharing with anyone that juicy bit of unflattering gossip you learned about them.

Commit to making it through one whole day without saying one unkind word about anyone.

If that was easy, can you make it a week?

Find a way to show compassion for someone you don’t like or agree with.

Bring some paper goods or toiletries to a shelter.

When you take your dog for a walk, pick up someone else’s dog mess…while you’ve got that bag in your hand anyway.

Make it a point to vote.

Reading, T.V., and Sleep

I like to watch a couple of hours of television a night. On Tuesdays I like to watch Reaper, which is a light-hearted and comical show where the devil interacts with a young man. Sam has to work for the devil because his parents sold his soul before he was born so every week he returns escaped souls to hell. Despite the premise, the show is actually not scary.

Another show on Tuesdays is Pushing Daisies. I have only caught this show once but it wasn’t bad. It is about a man who has the power to resurrect people from the dead with a touch. They only enjoy this rebirth for a short amount of time however and a second touch sends them back to death. Once again, this is quirky drama and is not a horror show.

I also like to read before bed. I have been reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I can’t seem to put it down. It is a great family drama. It is set in the early 1900s and it is just approaching the time of WWI. Normally I like to read a chapter in bed at night. I then turn out the light and go to sleep. Lately, I seem to be reading two, three, or four chapters and staying up much later than I usually do because of it.

I don’t know how but these three things, T.V, reading, and sleep all interacted last night in such a way as to give me horrible dreams. I don’t want to get into the details of it.

I know that when we dream we often dream of things that we have thought about before going to sleep. I probably was thinking about death because of all three of these influences. I am so caught up in the novel that I care about the characters so maybe I was thinking about the death of someone I care about. All I know is that I had a terribly upsetting dream about it last night.

Fiction That Tells the Truth

A lot of my commonplace book quotations have come from works of fiction. When I read, I keep a pen close by my side. If I come across a passage that speaks to me, I write the page number down and the first few words. I then get back to my reading. Once I have finished a book, I comb through it and add the passages to my commonplace book. I have found that this doesn’t distract me from my reading at all.

I am currently reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am just past the halfway mark now and I must say that it is a great read.

I found a passage this weekend that ties in to my entry yesterday. In it, a mother is giving advice to her child on becoming a mother. She tells her to let the child believe in angels, fairies and Santa Claus and her daughter objects.

“I know there is no Santa Claus.”

“Yet you must teach the child that these things are so.”

“Why? When I, myself, do not believe?”

“Because,” explained Mary Rommely simply, “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.”

“The child will grow up and find out things for herself. She will know that I lied. She will be disappointed.”

“That is what is called learning the truth. It is a good thing to learn the truth one’s self.”

This passage was inspiring to me. It is a few pages long and I have only included the middle portion of this exchange between mother and daughter. I like how the wise mother has learned the importance of story and is able to communicate this so clearly to her daughter. It is also striking because Mary is illiterate. She has learned things from living and wishes to pass them on to her daughter and granddaughter.

This passage is now number 282 in my commonplace book but I couldn’t wait that long to share it with you. It’s food for thought. Enjoy!

Reclaim Myth

I find it a bit frustrating that in popular culture and society that the word “myth” has become synonymous with the word “lie” or “falsehood.” I think we have all forgotten the power and truth of myth. We need myth in our lives. It is as essential as oxygen.

So let’s debunk this definition of myth. A Myth is a traditional story that attempts to illustrate the worldview of a particular people, or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.

I think that when measured against science and reason, we have come to believe that many cultural myths are not scientific or logical. However, the details and scientific facts of the story might not be pivotal as we wish them to be. The story might be the most important aspect of myth and we have overlooked it for quite some time now.

Marshal McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message.” He believed that the content of any message was not as important as the way it was delivered. He was originally talking about radio, television, and print. Although, I think each of these mediums all share one common element. Story telling. If I were to take this one step further, I could paraphrase his saying a bit and say that the story is the message.

I think many of the problems faced in society today are a result of or distrust and disbelief in story. We all frame our lives in story. We build narratives of our experiences every day, even if we never write anything. You hear it in the way people speak. We are story-driven creatures. And yet we seem to shake off important stories that try to explain hidden truths and deep meaning. Why do we do this?

Myth as a word has been stolen from us now. It has been turned into a bad word. Yet we all consume storytelling every day. We tell stories, we read stories, and we watch stories on television and in the cinema. We believe in characters and series and hold heated discussions about them.

If the medium truly is the message than I think we might be missing the story behind the story. And just because a story isn’t logical or “true” doesn’t negate the fact that it can hold certain truths. All stories do.

So stop using the word “myth” when you mean to say commonly-held-false-belief. And don’t be so quick to throw those words around either. It’s time to reclaim “myth.”

Fantastic Grade 4

I love playing with words and I love comic books. One day last year, it suddenly occurred to me that my class could be described as “Fantastic Grade 4” to play on the popular superhero team.

I covered the classroom door with butcher paper and decided that we should paint our door so that it announced to the whole school that we were indeed the Fantastic Grade 4 class. I decided to paint the leader of the superhero team, Mr. Fantastic. He has the power to stretch and bend his body as if he were made of plastic. We worked on the painting together as a class for an entire morning. This is what the finished door looked like.

This year, I knew that I had to try this again. The great thing is that since the Fantastic Four team has four members I would not need to repeat myself. I chose to paint The Thing this time. He is basically a rock creature, which ties in well to our science unit on rocks. It seemed like the logical choice this year. It once again took us half of the day to complete this painting. Here it is.

And next year, I think we will do the Human Torch. And then we could do the Invisible Woman. And then we could paint all four members of the team. I won’t run out of ideas for years!

Morbid Pleasantries

I don’t like to lose touch with my friends but it is so hard to remain close when life gets in the way. I wrote about this yesterday and it really got me thinking about my blogging friends.

I had been thinking about this for a while now. I imagined one of my favourite blogs just up and going silent. It would be heartbreaking for me to lose touch with a friend and not really know what happened to him or her. I imagined visiting a silent blog every day and praying for a new entry. It would eat at me not to know what happened to a loyal and daily blogger.

I then thought that I wouldn’t be able to contact my favourite bloggers in any way, shape, or form if this did happen. Many of my favourite bloggers don’t reveal their real names. I don’t know where they live. I actually don’t have any information that would help me to inquire about them. It would sadden me to lose touch with them and not know what happened to them.

I then took precautions to make sure that my blog doesn’t just go silent. I know this sounds morbid but I wrote a final entry. I saved it as a draft and asked my cousin to post it in the event of my death. This will give my blog some closure. It will be my final act of friendship to my readers and friends. Don’t worry though; I don’t plan on going anywhere for a long time. I just want to be prepared.

Anonymous Friends

I have had some great friendships over the years. Sooner or later though, life seems to get in the way of friendship. A job offer takes a friend off to a far away city or province. Another friend gets married and moves to his wife’s hometown. Friends start to have other commitments and obligations and they seem to just slip away. Sometimes they seem to move in different directions and we just lose touch.

I value my friends, even the ones I haven’t spoken to in some time. If any one of them called me up out of the blue, I would be there in a second to help them out. It’s unfortunate that I don’t know how to contact some of my friends anymore. I guess we have moved on with our lives. It’s sad but it’s just the way life goes.

Recently, I have started to make new friends. Anonymous friends. I value my new friends as much as I do my old ones. The strange thing is that I really don’t know who they are. I read their blogs daily and reply as often as possible. I get to know them through their writing and the interaction we have from commenting on each other’s blogs, but I really don’t know who they are. I don’t even know their real names. But I consider them friends. If a blogging friend were in need, I would go out of my way to help them out.

The Internet allows us to have anonymity and I think we need that. Blogging can be an extremely personal thing and sometimes it isn’t safe to be completely open. I understand the need to remain anonymous but I have posted my actual email address in my contact information on my profile. It is there if you need it, dear reader. If not, we can remain anonymous and still be good friends.

Cheers!

Seriously Addicted

It was a long weekend, Thanksgiving up here in Canada. It came at a good time too. I have been battling a cold all week so I took the long weekend to recuperate. I watched football, read, and just took it easy all weekend. I drank lots and lots of orange juice too. It seems to have helped. I actually feel a lot better today. I’m still congested but the time off was exactly what I needed.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get on the Internet all weekend. I longed to log on too. I then knew that I was addicted to it. I don’t spend inordinate amounts of time online, just about an hour a day but I find that I really need that hour. I’m a junkie for blogging, checking email, and playing internet chess with family and friends. All I need is an hour to do this. If rushed, I can do it in half an hour.

If I had the Internet at home, I think I would be online a lot more than one hour a day. I really enjoy reading and responding to blogs. I love writing my blog too and have found that I can write it on my old outdated computer. I write entries in MS Word and save them on a flash drive. I can then just copy and paste them to my blog and save myself precious time.

Thanksgiving helps me to remember what I appreciate most in this life. Here is my short list, in no particular order. I am thankful for
family,
friends,
hip hop,
blogs,
email,
board games,
my health,
my career,
my class,
well written books,
beautiful art,
great food,
junk food,
orange juice,
wireless headphones,
whiteboards,
refillable water bottles,
and many, many more things.