Monthly Archives: March 2008

Teaching The Hats We Wear

A teacher’s job goes well beyond the curriculum. It actually doesn’t even start with the curriculum. It starts with something a lot simpler. But simple things are often the hardest things to teach. Math is easy in comparison to the lessons that I want my students to leave my classroom with at the end of June.

I want my students to be able to function in society. I want them to be able to develop academically and personally. I want to help them develop aesthetically. And I want them to realize their full potential.

One of the ways to do this is to educate them about the hats that we wear. For instance, we all speak and behave differently depending on where we are and what situation we are in. A lot of students don’t think this is the case.

I have a lot of different hats but my students only seem to see me as a teacher who knows everything. By Grade 4 they need to realize that I don’t. I admit to making mistakes, and believe me, I certainly have made them in the classroom.

Role-playing is a great way to show students about the hats we wear. We can role-play how we would act for the queen, the prime minister, the reverend, our best friend, a police officer, the mayor, etc.

I think kids are actually looking for very specific guides and they often don’t get them elsewhere. I try to teach how to problem solve, how to resolve conflicts, and how to get along with people. These things may take away from my time teaching math, science, and social studies but they are equally important. They don’t need to be marked but they do need to be taught.

Year Two of My Five-Year Mission

So I guess today officially starts year two of my five-year mission. I had a plan when I started this blog. I wanted to develop my name as a writer. I wanted to write as much as I could over a five-year period with the goal to have some of my work published at the end of the five years.

Here is how I made out so far.

1) My Blog

My blog is going strong. I have maintained my posting schedule and have gotten a fair amount of comments and traffic. My blog isn’t blazing up the Internet. It isn’t a super popular site but that wasn’t my goal. I just wanted to have a vehicle to write and develop an audience. I think I have done that. It doesn’t need to be huge.

2) A Screenplay

I wrote a screenplay entitled Stealth about a young college kid who gets into some trouble when he decides to paint a tribute to his mom on the side of a store. I would love to see it produced someday. I am proud of this story.

3) A Verse Novel

I also wrote a 24,000-word verse novel entitled After the Fact. It is about a man who has a hard time getting over the demise of his relationship. I really like how this one turned out and have had a few positive responses from some family and friends who have read it.

4) A Young Adult Novel

I then wrote a young adult novel entitled 4 Wheels and a Piece of Maple. It is about an aboriginal boy in a Northern Ontario reserve who wants to become a professional skateboarder. He has many challenges to overcome, mainly the fact that there is no pavement on his reserve. He works hard and doesn’t give up and starts a movement that extends well beyond his small community.

5) I am currently working on my most ambitious project to date. It is a novel about a wanderer and I am currently about half way through it. I have written 130 pages and it is about 47,000 words long so far. This story is a bit of a challenge to write. I don’t want to get into any story details about it. I’m keeping that close to my chest for now.

It has been an amazing year. I surprised myself with how much I have accomplished. I am hoping that I will be able to get something published soon. This summer, I am going to look into publishing more seriously. So far, I have just been enjoying the writing. I already have an idea for my next book too. I think I can fairly call myself a writer now. I’m glad that I found this outlet.

Blog Birthday

Silent Cacophony turns one today. Happy Birthday!

It’s almost hard to believe that it has been a year since I made my first post. I really enjoy blogging. I hope you enjoy reading it.

I want to thank everyone who has ever supported me or left a comment. I don’t think I would be doing this still without all of you. My sincerest thanks go out to;

ECD, Silverfish, Leese, Alexis, Chipazoid, Karen, Amarpreet, Stephanie, Anonymous, Lisa, Secret Simon, Vienne, Dawn, Kat, Laura Stamps, Lizzy Dizzy, Em Soden, HeiressChild, Mended Meanderer, DA, Melissa, and Ammietia.

And if there is anyone else I forgot to mention, please forgive me.

And to the other readers who never leave a comment but continue to show up and read, Thanks.

Thanks to all the great blog writers who I have visited and commented on your blogs. Blogging has been a great experience that I plan to continue for quite some time.

Happy Birthday Silent Cacophony!

First Time on The Winter Road

People who don’t live in the far north probably have no idea what a winter road is. The truth is there are a lot of communities in northern Ontario that do not have a road running into them. These communities have airstrips and for most of the year, this is the only way into the community.

In the winter when the lake freezes, a winter road is maintained and operated so that people can drive out of their communities. So for a few months every year, the people who live in these communities have another way out of town. Driving is cheaper and allows the residents to transport heavy and bulky objects that would be really expensive to ship by air. Communities depend on the winter road to bring up all the fuel and building materials they will need for an entire year, until the road is reopened next season.

Being from southern Ontario, I was always cautioned to stay off the ice. I wasn’t allowed to play on the ice or to walk over it. I had heard stories about people falling through the ice and drowning. So when I decided to go visit some friends up north this long weekend, I was a little leery of going on the winter road. Driving over a frozen lake just didn’t sound like a good idea to me. Fortunately, I was in the passenger seat for this trip, and my friend told me that it was perfectly safe. So we set off over the frozen lake in his pickup truck.

It was quite unlike anything I had ever seen before. There aren’t any road signs and the road can be a bit bumpy in places. You cannot go too fast on it either because that can create waves under the ice.

The road is maintained and plowed. The snow that has fallen all winter makes it look like the road is actually lower than the rest of the lake. You need to be careful to stay on the road so that you don’t get stuck in a snow bank on the side. You come across big eighteen-wheeler trucks, such as this one I snapped a picture of as we passed it.

My friend let me drive for a few kilometers too. It felt a lot different than just driving on a snow covered road. I’m sure that I’d get used to it if I had to do it all the time, but the truth is, it was a bit scary. If I wasn’t with a good friend who drove on it often, I don’t know if I would’ve been comfortable at all. But it is seasonal life for a lot of people. And it was beautiful being out there in the middle of nowhere on the frozen lake.

Jericho – Perfect Television

I have satellite television and was thus able to watch the season finale of Jericho last night. This is television at its finest. It was absolutely perfect.

The writing on this show has been stellar since the very first episode last season. The story has been compelling and the action and suspense has risen with each new episode. I can’t say enough good things about this show.

Season 1 is now on DVD. If you haven’t seen this show before, go out and buy it. You won’t be disappointed. I know that I was ecstatic to see that we fans were able to save this show from cancellation last season. They sure did right by us too.

This second season told the next chapter of the series perfectly. It wrapped up the story line in a great way and still left us wanting more. I hope and pray that there will indeed be a third season. The story can definitely continue for another season or two.

The show airs again tonight and on the weekends on Space here in Canada. If you missed it last night don’t fret. I won’t give away any plot information or spoilers. Just support good television. Watch it. Buy it. Demand more of it.


Improving Self Through Others

When I was younger, I used to put myself down at every available opportunity. I did it in what I thought was witty and funny ways. I did it so much that it actually became a problem. I then found a girl that I really liked and a relationship developed. She wouldn’t let me put myself down anymore. I kept trying but she wouldn’t put up with it.

In teacher’s college, I was placed inside a great teacher’s classroom. He really challenged me to change as well. I first went into his classroom talking like I did in everyday life. He told me that as teachers we need to model good English and that it was important to do so. At the time, I thought he was just harping on me. He would actually count how many times I said, “gonna” in the course of a lesson instead of the proper “going to.” I tell you it was quite illuminating to see the ridiculous amount of tallies he showed me. I couldn’t believe it.

I tried to stop saying “gonna” in the classroom. I tried to stop putting myself down in other aspects of my life. Both my ex-girlfriend and my associate teacher helped me to do so. They wouldn’t put up with anything less. At the time, I absolutely hated it but now I can see that they did me a favour.

I don’t say “gonna” in the classroom anymore or “wanna” or “guys” or any other number of slang words and mispronunciations that many teachers seem to use. I want to thank my associate teacher for that. I don’t put myself down anymore either. I need to thank my ex-girlfriend for that.

Both of these people helped me better myself. I didn’t appreciate it at the time because it was hard. It was difficult for me to change. I didn’t want to change. But when I thought about it, it made so much sense. These things didn’t help me at all. They needed to go. And they did.

I couldn’t have done it by myself. I will forever be indebted to you both. I hope you know how much these two little things helped me. I want to thank anyone else who helped influence me in positive ways and to see a better side of myself. You might not know the good that you did for me. Those little things were not little at all. They were huge.

A Brief History of Hip-Hop Conclusion – Hip Hop is Alive and Well

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
9 10 11

When Nas came out with Hip Hop is Dead last year it sparked a lot of debate. Some people were angry that he could say such a thing. I understood where he was coming from and agreed with him. It seemed like there was no music of any substance being produced anymore. The songs that were hitting on the charts were all empty, soulless songs that did not appeal to me in the least. That’s not to say that quality rap did not exist, it is just to say that the culture was not being properly represented in the mainstream. Hip-hop did seem like it was dead.

I think this song lyric describes it all,

“If my partners don’t look good, Malik won’t look good
if Malik don’t look good, the Quest won’t look good
if the Quest don’t look good, the Queens won’t look good
but since out sounds are universal, New York won’t look good”
– A Tribe Called Quest Oh My God from the album Midnight Marauders.

For a while hip-hop did not look good. Too many rappers were focusing on materialism. Videos seemed to be all about drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Hip-hop forgot about all of the progress it had made. It forgot about the important contributions of the pioneers that made this art for great. This mind state and artists that didn’t really have a heart for this culture hurt it terrible. They made us all look bad.

I think that Nas helped bring hip-hop back to its roots by focusing on this and by naming his album Hip Hop is Dead. He seems to have kick-started a revival here that we are finally starting to see the effects of.

Hip-hop is not dead. It has been alive and well since its inception in 1969. I would argue that the culture didn’t official come together and solidify until 1972 but that’s up for debate. Nonetheless, it is clear that hip-hop is not going anywhere. It has a rich cultural history that cannot be ignored. It’s time that we built a hip-hop hall of fame so that everyone can be familiar with this great culture.

I hope that you enjoyed this series as much as I did putting it together. Thanks for all your comments and support!

A Brief History of Hip-Hop Part 11 – East vs. West

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
9 10

Since its very beginnings, hip-hop has had distinct regional sounds. The art form was born in the Bronx but even then there were distinct styles in three different sections of the town. In the late 1970’s DJ’s three DJs were representing the sound of their respective neighbourhoods. Kool Herc held down the west side of the Bronx, Afrika Bambataa was influential in the southeast, and Grand Master Flash took over the center portion of the city.

The Bronx is the undisputed birthplace of hip-hop. Its popularity took it worldwide but there were some growing pains along the way. MC Shan came out with a record in which rapped with pride about being from the neighbourhood of Queensbridge. BDP came out with The Bridge is Over, a battle record, to make sure everyone knew that The Bronx is what hip-hop was all about.

In time, all areas of New York became accepted in hip-hop. Rappers could claim that they were from any of the five boroughs and they would be accepted without question. It was harder for rappers to come out from any other region of the country. New York was hip-hop and it wanted to keep the music to its own.

When rap became popular, it would not be held to the city boundaries. Rappers came out from the South but didn’t get much acceptance until recently. One area where rappers were more widely accepted was from the Los Angeles area. It made sense too. LA has a lot in common with the Big Apple.

In 1994, Bad Boy Records owned the New York sound. The record label was home to one of the biggest rappers of all time, The Notorious B.I.G. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Death Row Records had a hot star by the name of 2Pac. These two MCs used to be friends. They had a falling out and it became public. Since Biggie was the biggest thing in New York and 2Pas was the biggest thing in LA, the media hyped up the beef between the two as an East Coast vs. West Coast battle.

The East Coast vs. West Coast was akin to a hip-hop civil war. It was almost expected that you needed to chose a side and remain loyal to it. The sounds coming from both coasts were quite unique and had a lot to offer. Hip-hop should not be dismissed because of geographical reasons. But the media fueled this battle, the regional mindset that hip-hop sprang forth from fueled this battle, and the fans bought into it.

Hip-hop history had always been intricately tied to battling. It didn’t feel wrong at the time. Unfortunately, it went horribly wrong and both generals of this civil war fell victim to it. 2Pac was murdered and a few months later Biggie was murdered as well. Both murders have gone unsolved for over ten years.

Hip-hop has learned to be more accepting of regional sounds now in light of the tragedy of losing two of the best rappers ever. We can hear distinct regional sounds now not just from the East Coast and West Coast, but also from the South, the Midwest, Chicago, Atlanta, Canada, and many, many more. The sounds are often distinct enough that you can tell where a record was made from the vibe of it. While this isn’t always the case, the regional influences have had quite an effect on the music being produced today.

Next up – The Conclusion of this 12 part series

Too Attached to Image

I find a lot of people are taken aback or surprised by the fact that I am so passionate about hip-hop. I don’t seem to fit the typical audience. It throws people off.

I love hip-hop music and culture but I try to remain open to other forms and genres of music. I think that this is important. I remember that I used to declare, loudly, to anyone who would listen, that music I did not like, “sucked.” I don’t do this anymore. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to music.

I think I know why people have a negative view towards hip-hop. I have blogged about this several times but I think it really boils down to this one thing. People are critical of musical genres because they have a stereotype about the audience and they don’t see themselves as fitting that image.

Students have often asked me why I don’t look like a rapper. To that, I always say, “And what does a rapper look like?” It sparks an interesting discussion. I can show them photographs of me as a teenager when I very much did fit the image of a rapper. Now that I am older and a professional, I make sure I dress the part. I think teachers should look nice and dress well.

Of course, I have also been asked why I dress up for school. I like to wear ties to work. I think it puts forth a good image for the school, students, and staff. I don’t really think about it. It seems like the right thing to do.

Maybe we are all too attached to the image we have of ourselves. I dress well at school because I am working. If I were to be on stage and performing some of my rap songs, I might dress differently, I might not. I don’t think that fans of a musical genre need to fit into an image of the stereotypical audience. Like what you like, and don’t be afraid of the image you perceive to be associated with it.

I listen to rap, I live and die for hip-hop but you would never know it from how I dress. Is that okay? Is that acceptable? I think it is.

Album Spotlight # 6

2Pacalypse Now by 2Pac

This is the debut album from “the greatest emcee to ever touch a mic,” at least I have been proclaiming that ever since I was first introduced to this amazing artist.

There is something intangible about his music. It could be the raw emotion that he seems to evoke on every single song he appears on. It could be the intensity in which he delivers his music. It could be his versatility to rap about anything and make it sound like it is near and true to his heart. He can do some of hardest ganster rap you could think of and then turn around a do a song uplifting woman, as he did in Keep Your Head Up.

From the first time I heard him on Digital Underground’s gem This is an E.P. Release, 2Pac shined. Shortly thereafter, I saw the debut video from this album, Trapped. The video was striking for a few reasons. Number one, I was a fan of Digital Underground and Humpty Hump was signing the hook on this new song. Number two, I was already a 2pac fan from his appearance on Digital Underground’s Same Song and love to sing along with it. Number 3, the video had a grainy look to it, great lyrics, and was completely different than anything I had heard from Digital Underground.

This was 2Pac’s first offering and I know plenty of people who can’t understand why I love this album so much. 2Pac did grow as an artist and you can hear that growth in his later recordings. But this record will always be special to me. Trapped remains one of my all-time favourite songs. This album is a classic to me.

I think there is still a great debate over the greatest rapper of all time. I don’t think we necessarily need to crown anyone. I just think that it is important to acknowledge the greats. 2Pac has had a long and successful career. He has shown longevity in a field where not many artists can. He has released album after album of great material. He has witty wordplay, great delivery, and covers a wide variety of topics in his songs. He has been and continues to be an influence to rappers everywhere.

This album introduced us to a great talent. Had 2Pac’s life not been cut tragically short, I am sure that he would still be on top of his game. He was just beginning to show us his amazing talent on the big screen as well. There would have been no denying his stature as one of the best of all time on record, the stage, and the screen. His presence is still felt and I know that I still mourn our loss. Rest in Peace Tupac Shakur! You are missed.