Monthly Archives: December 2007

Best Christmas Gift

One of the best television shows ever has finally come to DVD. My So-Called Life is a classic show in all aspects of the word. It was released earlier this year and I had to fight with myself not to run right to the store and pick it up. I put it on my Christmas list instead and waited.

It was well worth the wait. This is the best Christmas gift that I got this year. The boxed set comes with a 40 page booklet full of information and photos from this ground-breaking series. There are plenty of bonus features on it as well. A few key episodes even have commentaries on them.

If you have never seen this series, do yourself a favour and look it up. It has amazing writing and performances. It is brilliantly shot as well. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I am not the only one. The show was only on for one season but it has managed to stay in pop culture and has become a phenomenon. Deservedly so.

You can check out this great site for more information.

Best & Worst of 2007

Here it is. My year-end Best & Worst list.


Best new T.V. show – Torchwood

My favourite T.V. shows on the air right now all debuted last season. I have tried watching some of the new shows this season but there aren’t really many that capture my interest. I didn’t stick with any of the new shows except for Torchwood. It is a spin-off of Doctor Who. It brilliantly written, dark, and mature. It is perfect Friday night viewing.

Best song – Rihanna “Umbrella”

This song is amazing. I love the lyrics, the delivery, the beat, Rihanna’s voice, and the video. This song has been everywhere this year. Hands down, this gets my pick for song of the year.

There are a few songs that came close and I still have in Heavy Rotation – Sean Kingston “Beautiful Girl,” Akon “Blame it On Me,” Bone Thugs and Harmony “I Tried,” Alicia Keys “No one,” and Beyonce “Irreplaceable”

Best album – Common –Finding Forever

Common still has it. He makes hip-hop albums for mature for listeners that just bang. Intelligent lyrics, great beats, and great delivery.

Other albums that I spin quite regularly; Buffalo Tom – Three Easy Pieces, Kanye West – Graduation, Classified – Hitch-hiking Music, and Avril Lavigne – Best Damn Thing

Best Artist – Akon

Akon has appeared on so many hit records this year. His own album is banging and it seems like he can do no wrong musically.

Best book – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling.

This book wrapped up the series beautifully. I really enjoyed the entire series.

Best music video – Classified “Hard to be Hip Hop”

This video is amazingly done. It sends up hip-hop stereotypes in a very humorous and entertaining way.


Worst Movie – Transformers was the movie so many people my age were looking forward to. I was a huge fan of the cartoon show when I was a kid. I saw the animated movie in the theatre. I started collecting the comic books a few years ago when they relaunched the title. They have been amazing books with great writing and character development. Unfortunately, the movie was horrible. It tried too hard to appeal to a mainstream audience and lost everything that Transformers was about. The series has always been about the robots. The movie was about a boy, his new car, and his hot girlfriend and some flashy effects. Thumbs down.

Worst Album – Remy Ma “The BX Files.” She went from being the hottest MC to have on your remix, to dropping a great debut album, and then to falling victim to the sophomore slump. Too bad.

Worst T.V. show – The Bionic Woman – It looked like it would be worth watching. I gave it a good try but after about four episodes, I realized that it just wasn’t going to get any better.

Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas everyone! I wish you all the best this holiday season. I will be taking most of the next week off from blogging to enjoy the holidays. I will post a farewell to 2007 entry and maybe another entry or two.

I will start my regular posting routine again when school starts back up in January. I will also be officially launching my new commonplace book blog at that time. Until then, all the best!

Lots of love,


Sad Drive Through the Valley

I took a trip on a new thoroughfare today and it was a really depressing trip. The ride was quick and uneventful. I made amazing time. I drove from Grimsby to the Hamilton Mountain in minutes. I had been avoiding this new expressway as a silent protest. But today, with the pressures of Christmas shopping looming over me, I decided to drive on the Red Hill Valley Expressway.

When I started running in high school on the cross country team, we ran in this valley. It had nice trails that looped through hills. There was a nice waterfall coming off of the escarpment as well. It remained one of my favourite places to run anywhere. I absolutely loved this valley. Now it has a highway running through it.

Apparently the city “needed” this thoroughfare and maybe it did. Although, we did live without it before, and we had a great green space that ran from the escarpment all the way down to the Queen Elizabeth Way. It was beautiful.

I could still see the beauty today as I drove through it, but it wasn’t the same as walking or running through it. I think we have lost something really valuable here and that we won’t ever get it back. It’s sad.

Of course the highway is now here. It links up the expressway on the mountain to the main 400 series of highways in Southern Ontario. It is a vital link in infrastructure.

Perhaps it is a necessary evil, although today I think that that is only half right. But ignoring it and not using it won’t do any good. At least we still have Princess Point and the Royal Botanical Gardens here. Hopefully we won’t pave over any more of our beautiful green space. That is my Christmas wish.

Rap Music Isn’t Music

I come across this mind state all the time. This latest instance was at a small Christmas get together at a colleague’s house. Almost everyone there was a teacher. I was in one of those small conversations that start up at these things. There was a first year teacher, a high school principal, a veteran teacher with 18 years of experience, a high school teacher, and myself. The high school teacher made the comment that “rap music is an oxymoronic term.” He said, “Rap music isn’t music.”

I think this is an ignorant mind state and I can’t believe that people think this way. When I asked him why he doesn’t think that rap is music, he said because there isn’t any melody to it. We were then arguing about the definition of music.

I talked about the talent to write lyrics that rhyme and how rappers are quite clever in how they manage to do this. They rap in cadences, in the middle of lines, and in multiple syllables. I argued that the artists actually do have melody in the way that they deliver the lyrics. In hip-hop we call this flow.

I tried my best to change his mind but I don’t think I did. I didn’t get much support from the other teachers either. They shrugged their shoulders most of the time during our heated exchange. I was trying to have nice debate with him but he kept coming back to his narrow definition of music as something that had beat and melody. I argued that anything with beat is a song. You can’t have a song without beat and rhythm. I don’t think the limited definition of melody needs to be added to these two key ingredients. In fact, he admitted that drum troupes make music.

In the end, he did admit that rap is poetry and a form of art but he would not budge on his original statement. He said that he can appreciate it but to him, rap is not music because it has no melody.

I know he might not read this, but I want to continue this argument.

Rap is music because

1)It is delivered and consumed in the same way as any other music genre
2)A rapper does the exact same things any other songwriter does. He or she writes lyrics and decide how them fit together with music.
3)I could take any song from any genre and rap it and I bet that I could make it sound good.
4)The instrumental track or “the beat” can be very musical. Rap is not just about simple drum patterns and loops.
5)Rap singers use inflection, dynamics, accents, many other musical devices.
6)Music is anything that we listen to.
7)It is acknowledged as a music from by Billboard
8)Rap has the two components to any form of music, beat and rhythm
9)Rapping is a talent that needs to be practiced and developed just like any other form of music performance

There are so many people who don’t understand rap music and hip-hop culture and won’t even try. To those people, I will always have something to say. Hip-hop is a valid form of music. It is poetic and beautiful. And it isn’t going anywhere. It has been around for close to thirty years now. It is time that it was accepted as a legitimate art form. I won’t stand for any less than that.

A Teacher on the Front Page – And It’s Good News!

I was pleasantly surprised to see a teacher on the front page of the newspaper this morning. The story is about how Dino Crapsi has made a difference in his classroom and community.

This is the picture of Dino Crapsi that appeared on the front page today. It is a bit hard to tell from the picture, but he is wearing a vest that is accurate map of the world. Right away you can see the passion that he has for his subject. He teaches high school geography and incorporates technology in an amazing way.

Mr. Crapsi uses Geographic Information System or GIS in his teaching. It is a computer application that allows the user to map out all sorts of data. His students have won awards using it. It sounds like an excellent program.

Click on the link below to see the full story.

Ecophobia – We Are All Doomed!

I came across the term “ecophobia” recently while reading an article about “green classrooms.” Now being green is the politically correct thing to do. I have nothing against conserving and being respectful to the planet. I have done so since I was a child. I have always recycled. I don’t litter. I don’t waste water. I have even tried to cut down on the amount of driving I do. I am doing my part. Yet everyday, we are bombarded with news stories about climate change and global warming.

We are told over and over again that something needs to be done to save our planet. In fact, I have heard on television that we only have five years to do something about it or it will be too late. I don’t see anything really happening. We haven’t heard any good news. It would seem that we are doomed. Scary stuff. No wonder that some kids are scared of nature.

Ecophobia is the new term to describe the fear that many people have for the earth’s future. The doom and gloom that we are bombarded with on a daily basis from television, to movies, to news, to books, etc, is enough to frighten little children. And some people think fairy tales are too much for the youth.

The article “Classrooms are Going Green” in this month’s Instructor magazine encourages educators to teach children to love and appreciate the natural environment. Samantha Cleaver writes, “once children enjoy the outdoors and understand how the environment works, teaching them about environmental issues can empower them.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Scaring people doesn’t seem to work. Giving people facts and education, and then letting them make their own decision is the only way. This is something that I try to do in the classroom every day. The ideas in this article require us to take the learning outside. This is hard to do for a lot of reasons, but it is worth exploring more. I think my classroom could be greener.

Destroying Our Sense of Closure

Why do Networks do this? Why do they destroy our sense of closure? I quite frankly have had enough of this!

I enjoy watching television. I need it some nights. After a long day of work, I like to come home, lie down on the couch and relax. I love watching hour-long drama series and actually getting into the stories. My beef with television stations is that it seems to have become common practice now to run a commercial before the show is even over.

I know that you have seen this. You are watching a show and really enjoying it. It comes to an end and you want to sit there for a moment and just take it all in. You need to have a sense of closure. You watch the credits roll and just think about the show you had just seen. It is a much needed moment sometimes. But what happens, more often than not now? The credits get squished all up so that they take up only half of the screen while we are subjected to a commercial of another show that the network in pushing.

This interruption of my favourite programs is really annoying. My other pet peeve about network television is that they will run commercials during the show. Usually when show gets back from commercial, we see an animated flurry at the bottom right of the screen. It may tell us what show we are watching now and then the image will flip to tell us what comes on next. You know what? I don’t care and I don’t want to see this commercial. I want to see the show.

I also don’t need to see the station identification in the corner of the screen for the entire episode either. Is there anything we can do about this? I know that most of the times I can just ignore these extraneous stimuli. I can focus on the program and not the advertisements thrown at me. Although, sometimes these ads have come at crucial moments and have obscured an important clue on the screen. I have missed foreign language translations that were written in captions on the screen because of this practice. I have missed small details that were crucial to the mystery I had been watching.

All of the practices interrupt my viewing pleasure. I think it is time for networks to realize that most people do not appreciate these practices. It is time for a change. I might also add that it is easy enough for anyone to change the channel and you may lose a viewer.

Musical Triumph

Last night was the annual Christmas concert at my school. It was amazing. After a month and a half of struggles, trials, and tribulations, it seems that all our hard work paid off.

We combined the Grade 3 and 4 classes this year to do one song. We sang “Up on a Housetop” but we added some instruments to our performance during the chorus. It sounded like this,

“Ho Ho Ho, who wouldn’t go,” some kids were shaking jingle bells along with the rhythm.
“up on a housetop,” the kids tapped on drums to simulate the reindeer walking across the housetop.
“click, click, click,” and students tapped rhythm sticks together.
“down through the chimney” – students struck the inside of triangles
“is Good St. Nick.” – everyone struck their instrument three times.

During practice, this never worked so well. Someone always played at the wrong time or was talking. We worked so hard to coordinate this but last night, they blew me away. It was absolutely perfect. Everyone sang with enthusiasm, played at the right times, and got a loud cheer from the audience. It was an amazing feeling to see all the hard work pay off like that.

The choir got to close out the show. We sang, “On Christmas Morning,” and “Old Toy Trains.” Once again, they really impressed me with their enthusiastic singing and projection towards the audience.

I think this was the best Christmas concert I have ever performed in. I didn’t even perform. All I did was organize the choir, hold lots of practices, and conduct them on the big night. Yet, it still feels just as good to lead a great performance as it does to be up on stage delivering one. It’s a great feeling and I love it!