Monthly Archives: February 2010

Some Trek is Better Than No Trek

I remember the excitement and energy back in 1991 surrounding the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek. I was really excited about it.

Back then, The Original Series was on the air pretty much every day and new movies were coming out regularly. Star Trek: The Next Generation had also really come into its own. Star Trek was a global phenomenon that seemed unstoppable.

I remember going to the Skydome (now the Roger’s Centre) in Toronto to watch the series finale of ST:TNG. It was amazing to see a crowd sharing a television series together like it was a football game. It was history in the making and it was cool to be a part of it.

Star Trek: Voyager kept up the legacy until 2001 after that. The new series Enterprise then took over the reigns but wasn’t nearly as strong and faded from the airwaves in 2005. We were facing, for the first time, a drought in new Star Trek adventures either on television or on the movie screens. That hadn’t happened since 1987.

Fortunately, we were teased with announcements of a prequel film, which would have William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy reminiscing on their old days before they served together on the Enterprise. New characters would be playing their younger selves. I am such a Star Trek purist that I couldn’t really see anyone else playing these iconic characters but as long as Nimoy and Shatner were involved, I was willing to give it a chance.

When I found out that the studio had instead decided to do a reboot and recast the entire crew for a new series of movie adventures, I wasn’t sure it would work. I avoided all the press so that I wouldn’t be biased going into the theatre to watch it. I lowered my expectations and really gave them the chance to pull this off.

My first impression was that they actually did it. I enjoyed myself in the theatre and was impressed with how well some of the actors really nailed the characters. Bones was bang on, the mannerisms, the voice, everything.

I understand that the story involved a change in the timestream that wouldn’t be corrected during the course of the film. This gave the writers and producers the freedom to create a new world with new rules and allowed them to reboot the franchise without having to worry about a lot of the Star Trek lore and loyal Trekkies like me.

For the most part, they succeeded. The film felt like a Star Trek film. They kept the essence of Trek and it was a fun ride.

However, upon a closer look the film falls apart. (Spoiler Alert)

First off, the timeline before the events in the story are way off base. In the original Trek, the Enterprise went out for 11 years under the command of Christopher Pike. Spock actually served under Captain Pike before Captain Kirk. Yet, in the movie, the ship is still being built and Pike is assembling his crew.

This didn’t bother me too much until I saw Chekov. He was the youngest member of the original crew. According to what we know of Star Trek lore he would have been like nine years old at this time. It really didn’t make sense to have the Enterprise still being constructed if they wanted to introduce all the characters we love from the original series. But whatever, I’ll give them that, I said to myself as I watched.

If you can get past those inconsistencies, you could enjoy the story. That’s what I had hoped for anyway. However, the story was full of holes and lazily written.

Hole # 1 – Kirk gets ejected from the ship and just happens to land on the planet the older Spock was marooned on. This seems way too coincidental. Spock fights off huge creatures that were trying to kill his old friend. They take refuge in a cave and Spock reveals himself to the younger Kirk.

Hole # 2 – Spock was supposedly ‘marooned’ on this planet so he could witness the destruction of his home planet of Vulcan. In fact, he does witness it shortly after Kirk arrives. But the hole in the story occurs directly after that as Spock takes Kirk to an outpost that is only 14 kilometers away. Here they meet a younger Scotty and Spock instructs him on how to modify the transport beam so that Kirk can get back aboard the Enterprise.


Spock could have beamed off that planet whenever he wanted to, wherever he wanted, but he just chose to stay there and watch his planet get destroyed. How does that make any sense?

Hole # 3 – The bad guys in the film are the Romulans and in the Original Series Kirk made contact with them in the middle of their five year mission. Yet at the start of this film, at least 15 years earlier, everyone already knew who the Romulans were.

My Verdict – The New Star Trek movie doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny. The old films do, even Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which also deals with time travel, does so in a way that makes sense. This new movie even stole some material from that earlier one, but the other franchises and films have always done that.

In conclusion, I think some Trek is better than no Trek and I have high hopes that they will make a much better sequel. The Original Motion Picture wasn’t that good way back in 1979 but its sequel is one of the best Star Trek films ever. So here’s hoping that the New Star Trek II can recapture that magic.

Know Your History: Episode 2 Part 2

Know Your History is a monthly radio segment I produce for DOPEfm.

If you missed Part 1 go and read it here. And don’t forget to download the podcast for free.

Without any further ado, here is Part 2.
“So far we have had a song about the history of the culture, how it started with the DJ, how emcees weren’t ruling. We talked about the break of the record and how that sprang forth from DJs playing the part that people liked to dance to, which spawned forth into break dancing and of course, emceeing. And when we talk about emceeing and we talk about great MCs, one of the first names we have to say is Rakim. Eric B and Rakim.
You gotta give it up for the old school Rakim. He’s gotta be one of the most sampled and quoted lyricists. Say what you wanna say about him. He may have lost some of the earlier hunger. His later stuff might not be as good. But this is definitely a classic that I’m gonna drop for you right now. “I Know You Got Soul” and we wanna talk about all the rhymes he’s got in there about emceeing and about writing rhymes as opposed to writing your name on the wall.
So let’s go back to the third element, emceeing. This is Know Your History. I’m Chase March. We’ll be right back after this song.
Yeah, that was Eric B and Rakim “I Know You Got Soul.” Rakim on the microphone. Eric B on the production / DJ tip. And you know what, Rakim has to be one of the best emcees out there. Just going by how many times he’s been quoted by other rappers is one thing. But I wanted to play this song in particular because he talks a lot about the writing process and about what it means to be an MC.
I like in the second verse he says, “Picture a mic, the stage is empty, a beat like this may tempt me,” going back to how the DJ sparks everything. The DJ plays a break. it’s gonna tempt the break dancers to get up and dance to it and it tempts the MCs to  get up and rhyme to it. So Rakim wants to grab the mic “like I’m on Soul Train,” which was a popular television show that featured dancers and live performances.
Interestingly enough, a little bit later, he says, “I’mma make an encore. Take the mic, make the people respond for, The R, ‘cause that’s the way it’ll have to be.” So he’s talking about how he hypes up the crowd. In another lyric from a different song he says. MC means to “move the crowd.” So he takes the whole jon of MCing, meaning Master of Ceremonies and take it so that he’s moving the crowd. This kind of shifted the importance from the DJ to the emcee and that’s kind of where it is, still now, in hip-hop culture.
Speaking about the writing process, I really like how he talks about it. And this is a very, very well-known line.  Mos Def spit it to pay homage to Rakim, and it’s just beautifully poetic so I want to quote that here too. Rakim says, “I start to think and then I sink into the paper like I was ink. When I’m writing, I’m trapped in between the lines. I escape when I finish the rhyme.” Man that is beautiful right there.
It’s pretty interesting to talk about right there too because he’s trapped by the rhyme. And that just goes to show you what MCs do at their best. They’re just in the zone, it’s just all about rhyming, entertaining the crowd, and you’re not done until you’re done. Amazing!
He talks about how MCs obviously don’t want to go on after him because he just wrecks it. He says, “Think about it. Wait. Erase your rhyme. Forget it and don’t waste your time. ‘Cause I’ll be in the crowd if you ain’t controlling it. Drop the mic, you shouldn’t be holding it.”
Now I’m sure anyone new to hip-hop, anyone familiar with hip-hop knows that line. I’ve heard that scratched by plenty of DJs plenty of times over lots of MCs tracks.
It’s nice to see the passion that Rakim had. Later in the song he said, “Eager to emcee is my theme. I get hype when I hear a drum roll. Rakim is on the mic and you know I got soul.”
So just talking about the whole job of emceeing is to be able to say something powerful to move the crowd, to say it in a rhyme, to put together word play, and make it sound nice. Of course, a little bit later he says, “I write my rhyme while I cool in my mansion, then put it on tape and in the city I test it. Then on the radio, The R is requested. You listen to it, the concept might break you ‘cause anyone can relate to.”
That’s the whole job of emceeing right there. You want people to relate to what you’re saying, you want them to be able to feel your lyrics, but to understand what you’re saying. And that is what I think hip-hop is about. It’s about understanding. It’s about communicating as a culture and as a community. It’s about getting your message heard, and that’s why hip-hop is powerful. we have a lot of power in this culture.
Voices that wouldn’t normally have been heard, have been heard. Silent voices that would never have been heard have been seen. It’s about connecting with the audience and whether you’re doing that loud because a DJ’s scratching and turning the sound system up, whether you’re doing it loud because the MC is screaming the DJ’s name over the track to hype up the crowd, or whether the rapper is rapping about himself or the way he rhymes or about anything else that he sees or experiences, or whether you’re doing it silently by painting your name in graffiti wherever you can find a spot. 
It’s great to see that names can travel out of the community because not only can we see graffiti online and in magazines, but now we can see it on trains and a lot of other different venues, which is very, very cool. So once again, what have we learned today?
We’ve learned that hip-hop is based around four elements. Those elements are DJing, the Dj was the one who started this whole culture. The DJ liked to play the break and that was “the part where the record broke down where it was just a drum and a couple of sounds,” as Murs said at the top. The DJs noticed that people like to dance to that so therefore break dancing sprung from that. And as DJs got a little more intricate with their tricks, they needed an MC to hype up the crowd. DJs didn’t really have time to get on the mic anymore. They were so busy with their hands on the turntables, using it as an instrument and using the mixer to manipulate sounds. The MCs got on and started hyping up the crowd. And then pretty soon, MCs rhymes got longer and more elaborate and focus shifted from the DJ who was the original to the emcee. Hip-hop still kind of has that focus right now.
We need to remember these four elements and we really need to celebrate them because it’s amazing what graffiti writers can do and what break-dancers can do. I know I can’t do that. I can DJ, I can MC, but I respect the other two elements that I can’t really do and I love the artistry behind them. I think you should too. It’s really important to celebrate what we have and what we’ve accomplished with hip-hop.
I hope you’re enjoying this series. Remember that we come to you every week on DOPEfm with the best hip-hop mix shows and artist interviews, and I’m coming to you once a month with the history segments. This has been Know Your History: Episode 2 – The 4 Elements.
I’ll see you next week on DOPEfm and I’ll see you next month for Episode 3.
This is Chase March and you better know your history.”

Know Your History: Episode 2 – The Elements

Know Your History is a monthly segment I do for DOPEfm. 

This is the transcript for Episode 2. Please go and download the show for free. 

If you missed Episode 1 – Hip Hop is a Culture, you can download it for free here.

I hope you enjoy the show. I look forward to hearing your feedback.
“Hey Everybody, this is Chase March and thanks for tuning in to Know Your History. This is your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge, where we get to celebrate all that is hip-hop. Last episode we talked about how hip-hop is indeed a culture. This episode I would like to talk about the four elements that comprise this culture. I know you probably know them. Some of you might say that there are more than four, but, indeed, this culture was based around these four elements.
I’d like to start off with a track. This track is by Murs. It’s off his album Murs for President and it’s totally fitting for a history show because he goes through hundreds of years of history in here. I don’t know if I agree with everything that he is saying on this track, but it’s really interesting when he gets to the part about the birth of hip-hop culture. So listen to it, and we’ll talk about it when we come back. This is Murs “The Science.”
“Yeah! That was “The Science” by Murs. Really dope track right there. I gotta give it up for him. I really like how he talks about the whole origin of rap and it’s pretty interesting. He says, “It was us making the best out of a bad situation,” and just taking what we had, which was really not a lot and making a whole art form and a whole culture out of that. So that’s what he’s talking about there.
I like how he really touches on the history behind these four elements. He says, “there was a mic but emcees weren’t ruling. It was more about what the DJ was doing.” So, yeah, the DJ is the first element of hip-hop. He even talks about how DJs did their craft, by extending the break. He says, “the break is the part where the record broke down, where it was just a drum and a couple of sounds.” ‘Cause DJs figured out that was the part that people like dancing to the best.
And since it’s called the break, that’s why we have break dancing. So the first two elements of hip-hop are DJing and break dancing. That leaves the fourth element of hip-hop, which is Graffiti art.  Graffiti art was popular for a little while and then it seemed to fade away from mass media attention. So, it’s probably the least understood of all the elements that comprise hip-hop culture. But it is a major one that can’t, can’t be left out.
There was a group in the early 90s called The Artifacts that talked about graffiti art quite a lot in their rhymes and you can hear some shaking of spray paint cans in the background. So graffiti art is part of hip-hop and it is part of the culture. Now, I know myself that I can DJ a little but, I can emcee pretty good, I can’t dance, and I certainly can’t do graffiti art. So ebing part of the culture doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do all four things.
And like I said before, some people say there are more than four elements of hip-hop. But for today, we’re sticking with these four.  These four are the foundation of hip-hop and let’s focus on the fourth one for a little bit longer, graffiti art. I want to play this song. It’s called “Wrong Side of Da Tracks” by The Artifacts and we’ll be back with more Know Your History after this.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely an anthem for all the graff writers out there. And yeah, they were called writers and some of the terminology you can hear in that song about graffiti art. Tame One, one of the two members of the group starts off saying, “I’m about to bomb like Vietnam under the same name Tame One.” What he’s really saying right there is ‘I’m about to paint a wall with my name, Tame One.’
In his next line he calls himself “an ink flow master. I tags up quick and then I step to the exit.” So tags are quickly writing your name on a wall and obviously you wouldn’t use your government name so Tame One would be his name and he would get well known from having different styles of his name up all over the city. Of course further in the verse he says that, “They know my name from cruising in the Jeeps so yo, grab a can, put your man up and stand up.”
Nice! right? So he basically telling you, ‘You know my name so why don’t you go out there so we can know your name.’ And then he goes along about dissing the people that can’t really do the graffiti art or who are just tagging up wack stuff. Because once again, it is an art. There’s a whole aesthetic vibe to tagging. You can’t just write your name up sloppy. You gotta use colour. You gotta have style. You have to have your own style, and if you don’t have that, you’re called a toy. So they diss toys up there like we diss wack emcees.
It’s interesting because they talk about how they use the spray paint, there’s spray paint sounds in there, and all the terminology. Tame One says “tagging up a train” because that was one of the best ways to get your name known. Not only that, the trains travel out of where you were, and go across the town. Every time I get stuck by a train, I look to see if there’s tags, and there still is. And there’s some great, great art that zooms by you on the train. It’s really nice to see that.
Also, this probably should be a hip-hop anthem because these guys are really living the four elements of hip-hop. Tame One says “breaking was my thing, I used to spin the back. I never thought I’d spin the wax with tracks to make your hands clap.” So, he’s a graffiti artist. This whole song is about the visual artistic process, while he’s rapping it.  So he’s visual arts – graffiti, and he’s talking about break dancing there. So far he’s got the three of them and he says “I’d spin the wax” so I have to check in to that further to see if Tame One actually is a DJ as well. But he is living the culture and he’s familiar with all four elements and he’s talking about it.
So, even if you’re not into graffiti art and you just like the DJing or the rapping or the dancing, I really think you should look at graffiti a little more closely. I love the way writers, that’s what they call themselves, I like the way writers can play with the letters. They can bend them almost so they’re not recognizable anymore. You almost have to look really, really closely to be able to see what’s going on there.
El Da Sensei raps in here too, He says he burns his name up quick and talks about his black book because artists sketch a lot with marker in their black book before they would bomb or tag a wall. Very interesting track that tells us all about hip-hop and the graffiti culture.
So far we have had a song about the history of the culture, how it started with the DJ, how emcees weren’t ruling. We talked about the break of the record and how that sprang forth from DJs playing the part that people liked to dance to, which spawned forth into break dancing and of course, emceeing. And when we talk about emceeing and we talk about great MCs, one of the first names we have to say is Rakim. Eric B and Rakim.”
The transcribed text will be continued in Part 2 tomorrow. If you can’t wait till then, download the podcast (right click and ‘save as’) and listen to it right now. It’s free. Let me know what you think about it as well. I look forward to your feedback. 

Amazing Beauty and Grace on the Ice

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have been absolutely breathtaking to watch during the Winter Olympics this year. They capped off an amazing journey last night by winning Gold in Ice Dance.

These two skaters met when Tessa was only seven years old and Scott was nine.  I saw them both being interviewed on Olympic Morning today and Scott said that they train so hard together than they are rarely apart for more than a week at a time. They have been working towards this goal together since 1997. 

Tessa Virtue thinks “that the longevity of our partnership works to our advantage . . . there is a level of comfort and trust between us that has grown over the years.”

“We are best friends. I think our personalities balance one another extremely well – plus we know how to interact positively and productively with each other. We work hard at maintaining our partnership, but to be honest, it’s just what we’ve come to know and depend on. I hardly remember my life without Scott.” ( 17 Sep 2007)

They had such an amazing routine last night. It was breathtaking.

It was an emotionally charged night and it didn’t finish up till after midnight local time. However, I was glad that I pulled a late night to see these two win Gold. It is the first Gold medal in the event for a couple from North America.

They are from Southern Ontario so we can claim them as our own.

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, you made Canada proud last night. Congratulations on all your hard work. Bask in your success. You two deserve it.

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Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Black History Month

I came across this great site last week that I wanted to share with you for Teaching Tip Tuesday. Debbie DeSpirt has written quite a few articles and lesson plans that will appeal to primary school teachers.

I like her lesson for Black History Month and how it deals with some of the every day inventions that we just take for granted. I think the students would be really surprised to find out about the inventors of things that we use every day without giving it a second thought. Here is the link to the lesson plan.

Here is the hook activity,

Show students a tub of ice cream and an ice cream scooper. Ask students what they have in common? Write their answers on the board. Students will give a variety of answers but most likely none will know that both of them were invented by African-American inventors in the 19th century. Tell students they should be thankful to Augustus Jackson who invented ice cream in 1832 and Alfred L. Cralle who introduced the ice cream scooper in 1897.

And here is the method,

Teacher tapes pictures of different inventions created by African-American Inventors that students can relate to such as the doorknob, supersoaker, toilet, and clothes dryer on the blackboard. Teacher has an open discussion on the purpose of the invention and how it impacts our lives. Students may brainstorm in small groups about a specific invention and then share their ideas and opinions about the invention with the class.

Purpose of the lesson is to highlight African-Americans who quietly made a difference in the past and continue to in the present. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King are household names, but Otis Boykin, inventor of the pacemaker which has saved lives of every race, is not. Students are to choose an African-American inventor, research their invention and conclude if the invention is a success.

I found this great list of inventors to help you out as well if you plan to try this lesson with your class.

When I went to the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, I was pleasantly surprised at the display of famous inventors. The SuperSoaker. I’m sure a student would love to find out more about that.

Here are some other inventors we should know about.

George Grant invented the golf tee
Oscar Brown invented horse shoes
J.L.Love invented the pencil sharpener
Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light
J.A.Burr-lawn mower

I know that there is only a week left of Black History Month but there is no reason why we can’t celebrate that history every month.

I think it is important to realize that all races and cultures have contributed to things we just take for granted today. Black History month helps us to focus on things that we don’t often find in textbooks. I think that is probably the greatest legacy of this designated month.

Who Has The Best Traffic Lights?

Traffic lights seem to vary from region to region. I don’t why this is the case. I think the design of them is so much better here in my province but perhaps it’s just that I am accustomed to them being this way.

Let’s look at a few different designs I have come across.

This one seems to be popular in the United States. I can see how it takes little in the way of materials to put up. It is suspended on a wire and serves every direction of the intersection. As such, I’m sure it’s cost efficient.

The problem I find with this design is that if there is a strong wind, the traffic light can bounce around or be pushed back on an angle so that it is difficult to see.

I came across this one last week during my trip to Winterlude. Quite a few of the events were held in the province of Quebec. It’s amazing that all you need to do is simply cross a bridge and end up in a completely different world. All of the signs are in French and their traffic lights seem to be mounted sideways.

The problem is see with this design is that it relies mostly on colour. You can tell what colour the light is from the top example by colour and position a bit easier, I think.

This is the design I am most familiar with. I like how the traffic signal is mounted on an arm and not just a wire. I like how the lights are lined up vertically with red on the top and green on the bottom.

So what do you think?

Are the traffic lights different where you live?

Which design do you like best?

Or should we try to get rid of them and replace them with these, which seems to be the new trend in suburb areas?

I don’t know if I like roundabouts either. I think I much prefer the regular vertically mounted traffic lights.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think. If your comment doesn’t post the first time, please try it two or three times. It should work.


Winterlude Fun!

Snowflake Kingdom is a gigantic snow playground that it is constructed every year for Winterlude.

Apparently, it takes weeks for them to make enough snow to construct these huge slides.

But the time spent in constructing them is sure worth it. The line ups were huge and everyone seemed be having a great time. 

I’ve never seen a maze made out of snow before. 

This is obviously made for the kids though since the adults could easily see over the walls and navigate the maze with little difficulty.

This tube slide looked like a lot of fun as well.

Oh, to be a kid again. This little ski course looked like a lot of fun.

Especially this cool-looking conveyor belt ski-lift.

Another cool thing you can do here at Jacques-Cartier Park is to go for a dogsled ride.

Everything else you could do at the park was absolutely free. But it’s worth spending some money to go for a dogsled ride. You can’t do that every day.

This weekend is the final one for the 2010 Winterlude celebration. If you are anywhere near Ottawa, Ontario or Gatineau, Quebec you really should go and check it out. 
I had a lot of fun over the past two weekends. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and posts about all of the great things that happen each and every year for this annual celebration of winter. 

Castles in the Snow

These snow sculptures were constructed by teams from all across the country for this year’s Winterlude. They are on display at Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, Quebec.

I think this is my favourite.

Team Manitoba did a great job on it.

This one shows a group of kids tobogganing. 

Team Alberta made this huge pair of ice skates. The detail is absolutely amazing.

This one is a take on global warming.

The placard explains what it is all about. 
This sculpture shows traditional dog-sledding in a climate where the snow just becomes slush. The dogs are in a boat instead of pulling the sled.
This one shows kids playing under the moonlight.

Here’s a miniature of the snow sculpture that depicts an Inuit man ice-fishing.

I talked to one of the artists and he told me that it took four days to complete the huge snow sculpture you see below.

These works of ephemeral art are really amazing. I don’t know how they get such detail our of a pile of snow. I have a hard enough time just trying to make a realistic snowman. 
This shot just goes to show you the scale of these sculptures. They are absolutely huge and incredibly detailed. I’ve never seen anything like it before. 

Olympic Medals on Display

This is the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa, Ontario.  It is the place where they make the money but it is also the place where this year’s Olympic Medals were constructed as well.

Security was really tight. You could only take photos of the medals and nothing else.

These are the moulds that were designed by artist Corrine Hunt. I was surprised to see that the medals aren’t flat. They have a wavy shape to them.

The tour guide said that there are 40 steps involved in creating each medal. Each medal is unique as well and they actually fit together to form an image.

Apparently there are over a thousand “different designs that are laser-etched onto the metals uneven surface.”

“Each athlete will also receive a silk scarf printed with the complete image so they can see where their medal fits.”*

Cameras of any kind are normally banned from the Royal Canadian Mint. I was glad that the ban was lifted this past weekend so I could take these photos.

It was cool being that close to an actual Olympic medal. Too bad we weren’t allowed to try them on or touch them. I guess these photos will have to do.

I took the tour of the mint but couldn’t take any more pictures. I did learn that not all coins are stamped. Some designs are cut into the coin by lasers.

Another interesting fact is that we produce some currency for other countries that do not have their own mints. There were about 40 different countries on a display wall showing which coins we have produced for them here in Canada.

* from Impression Winter 2010 pamphlet available from the Royal Canadian Mint. 

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Letter Writing

Hilary gave me a great idea last week. She wrote a post about the history of mailboxes.

I commented that I couldn’t remember the last “actual letter” that I had mailed. I’m not talking about sending off bill payments, or cards. I mean an actual letter.

She answered my comment and stated that “a real letter or nice appropriate card might amaze and please someone hugely.”

So I thought that it would be a good idea to send each student in my class a hand-written letter. I’m going to start working on them this week and then I will send them through the mail. I will include a stamped envelope in the letters so that the students can just address the letter properly and send it back to me in the mail.

This week I will teach lessons on letter writing so that the students will be familiar with the different parts of a letter and how to write and answer one correctly.

This will be a required homework assignment. That is why I am going to include a stamped envelope in each letter I send. I know some students might have a hard time getting a stamp and I don’t want that to stand in the way of them completing the assignment.

I think this is a great way to get a real-life application to what we learn in the classroom. Letter writing is often included in standardized tests including the EQAO. Students need to be familiar with it.

I’ve also heard of a teacher that allowed students to pass notes in class as long as they were written in proper letter format and in full sentences. The thought behind this was that any writing the students are doing should be encouraged. I don’t think I’d try this with my class. Perhaps it would work better with an older class.

The key thing here is that we should be writing letters in our classroom. Thanks for the idea Hilary!  I love it when I can get inspired by other blogs and comments. So please leave a comment below or if you are a teacher and have a great tip to share, please consider writing a guest post. Please contact me, I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t forget to check the “new” table of contents page where you can easily find all of the tips I’ve published. They are grouped by theme as well so you can find what you need to easily.

Winterlude Ice Sculptures

These sculptures were all made out of ice for this year’s Winterlude Celebrations in Ottawa, Ontario.


This one is a Transformer. You can see the robot at the top and the car below.

Pretty cool work by Jerry Perun from Auburn, New York.

This next one is from local artist Evher Coronel.

I like how the placards give you a drawn image of the sculpture as well.

The enchanted forest.

I guess that explains the presence of Big Foot.

Benjamin Rand won a first place ribbon for this work of art.

The detail here is absolutely amazing!

It’s hard to believe that these are all made out of ice and will have melted in a few short weeks of being in the sun.

I like this piece. It’s hard to tell but it stands about eight feet in height.

Fire Fight by Gordon Matkun looks really cool on the placard.

And even more amazing in the cool, hard ice.

Just look at the detail here. The fire coming from the dragon’s mouth looks incredible as it hits the knight’s shield.

This sign tells about the mythical creature that some say actually does inhabits Okanagan Lake in British Columbia.

And here is the huge artist rendition of Ogopogo.

I hope you enjoyed this display as much as I did. It was really cool to see what can be made out of ice, a chainsaw, various tools, and a lot of time.

Great work to one and all who contributed.

Heart Crushing Day

Valentine’s Day
is hard to ignore
and crushes my heart more often than not.

This day isn’t supposed to hurt,
I know that,
but it only highlights what I don’t have
like a fluffly cloud in the air,
untouchable and impermanent.

But that cloud reminds me
that love floats above us
and around us
and within us.

We might not even see it
if we don’t take the time to look
but it is there
clear as a bright sunny day.

So there’s no need to feel alone
even on this,
stupid yearly date.

– Chase March

Winterlude Graffiti

Graffiti artists were invited to add some much needed colour to the Rideau Canal Skateway for this year’s Winterlude celebrations.

It’s great to see that our capital city has made sure to include hip-hop culture in this annual event.

As you can see this outdoor gallery is set up so people can skate or walk by the works of art. Each cube holds four different pieces.

Ahhh! The Abominable Snowman is attacking the Parliament Building.

There were a lot of different styles of art to see from landscapes to characters to…

the traditional way of tagging your name in bright letters where each letter is stretched and bent almost beyond recognition.

This is a nice piece that really establishes the spirit of Winterlude. It shows skaters going down the canal and it features hip-hop style lettering in the foreground and the capital city landscape in the background. Amazing piece.
This painting shows the skaters passing by the confectionery huts that are set up along the route. Here you can stop and get a hot chocolate, a Beaver Tail pastry treat, and have a washroom break.

There were a lot of people out this past weekend. It really was something to see this many people skating down a canal that carries watercraft during the summer. In fact, the building you see here has paddle boat and canoe rentals during the summer months.

This shot gives you some scope of the outdoor gallery.

Here is some more of this great art.

I think it’s amazing that this temporary outdoor gallery was set up. I was really hoping to meet some of the artists and talk to them. I would like to do a segment on my radio show about graffiti art. So if you are one of these artists please contact me either below in the comments, by email, or on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.

Winterlude Bed Races

No this isn’t Hoth.

It’s Dows Lake. The frozen over lake where the Bed Races were held at this year’s Winterlude.

It was great to see so many members of the community participating in it. This is the Paramedic team.

And the race is on.

It was hilarious to see the teams try to manoeuvre their beds across the frozen water. Every now and then someone would slip or lose their footing. With the loss of one person pushing the bed would veer to the side. There were a few near misses this Saturday afternoon as well.
This team won for the best decorated bed and it was well-deserved. I love how it looks like an actual Team Canada Bobsled.

This scary entry in the race put on a great show for everyone. One person lost his footing and shortly there after his entire team collapsed on the ice.
Then one member of the team started CPR on one of the fallen. The victim’s feet when flying in the air with every compression.
The team had obviously planned this routine. They were too far back in the race to advance to the next round so they had some fun with everyone.

It was a great afternoon of Bed Racing on Dows Lake just off of the Rideau Canal.

New Reason to Love Curling

I found a good reason to watch curling.

Her name is Geri-Lynn Ramsey

and she plays for team PEI.

I’ve seen curling before but I don’t ever remember seeing players this young and beautiful.

I felt a little guilty rooting for another province over my own but I cheered PEI on all weekend long. They played a great game on Saturday and made it to the championship final on Sunday.

They had to play an extra round to break the tie and unfortunately, these lovely young ladies lost to the defending champs of Team Canada.

But I have found a favourite new athlete. (Geri-Lynn Ramsey, on the left)

The Scott Tournament of Hearts will be held in their hometown next year. It would have been nice for them to win this weekend and to come home as champions but my fingers are crossed that they will win it at home next year.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Phys. Ed & Health

In a perfect world, every school would have a gym teacher. Each class would go to the gym four days a week to learn skills, build muscle, and have fun. On the fifth day of the week, this teacher would come to your classroom to deliver an intensive health program.

However, in many schools this does not happen. More and more we classroom teachers are being called upon to teach our own Health and Physical Education.

Fortunately for those of us in that position, we have OPHEA (Ontario Physical and Health Education Association)

All schools in Ontario should have copies of the OPHEA documents. These are a series of grade-by-grade curriculum resources that are absolutely amazing.

Each document should be stored in a thick binder in your school. There should be one binder for each grade starting from Kindergarten and going all the way up to Grade 10.

The best thing about this resource is that everything is there for you to go into the gym and teach right this very minute. The lesson plans are sequential and fit nicely into units. They show you how to teach each skill and feature warm up and cool down activities. Each lesson is detailed and timed out so well that you do not need to add anything else to it.

I usually just take the page for the lesson out of the binder and put it on my clipboard. I look over it quickly before the class to make sure that we either have all the materials needed or that I can scrounge them in time.

Other than that, there isn’t much thinking or planning needed. You can teach directly from this document without knowing anything about volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, or any of the other 19 units in the text.

If your school doesn’t have these amazing documents, you can order them. If you live outside of Ontario, I believe that you can purchase them. I highly recommend these documents.

You could use some of the warm-up activities or games in the middle of a long school day to give your students a quick exercise break. A 5 minute physical break often helps our students get back to work and helps them to focus.

Here is a link to a sample of the Grade 6 document.

Ordering information can be found here.

The OPHEA website also has a lot of other free documents and resources that are worth checking out.

Please note that you can click on “Teaching Tips” under the header of my blog to quickly find my posts in the order they have appeared on this site. They are also grouped by theme for easy reference.

I hope you find this series helpful. If you have a tip to share, please consider writing a guest post. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.

Winterlude Lights Up the Night

Winterlude is an annual event where Canadians get together to celebrate Winter.

I know a lot of people would rather huddle up inside and hide under the covers just waiting for it to be over. “Who celebrates winter?” they say.

That being said, I’ve always heard good things about Winterlude so this year I made my way up to Ottawa to check it out.

The celebrations kicked off Friday night with a spectacular fireworks display.

I went into Quebec to the Canadian Museum of Civilization to see the musical display.

I don’t think I’ve seen a better fireworks demonstration in my entire life. It started with what you normally expect of the grand finale. The pacing of the fireworks was amazing. It let up a little in the middle of the show and the music slowed down in perfect syncopation.

The bridge was entirely lit up and at one point, it looked like it became a waterfall as the fireworks arced off of the bridge. It was cool to see the fire extinguishing as it hit the ice below.

After the fireworks, a DJ Misstress Barbara played some energetic records to get everyone to dance and warm up.

It was a pretty nice welcome to Canada’s capital region. I spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the other attractions that Winterlude had to offer and will be blogging about them later this week.

Twitter Tip – Creating a Threaded Discussion

One of the most frustrating things about Twitter is trying to have a conversation with someone.

When you reply to a tweet, it isn’t threaded at all. There is no subject heading so it can often be unclear as to what post you are commenting on.
I know there have been times when I’ve stared at my @replies and had to decipher what it was this person was trying to say to me. I’ve had to scroll back through my tweets to see what I said and which particular thought started the discussion.
Well today, I came up with a way to thread a conversation so that my readers will be able to follow it without confusion.
I’ll show you what I did.
As you can see. The original tweet is at the top of my Twitter page and my two part reply is directly below it. This was any of my followers will be able follow the entire discussion quickly and easily.
The first thing I need to explain here is how use multiple tweets to get a point across because sometimes 140 characters is simply not enough.

Simply type the entire message you want to post. Twitter automatically does the counting for you and even tells you how many characters you have gone over. Then split the message into two parts and number them (1/2 – means that this is message 1 of 2)

The trick here is to post the last message first. Do this by highlighting the first tweet (1/2) and copying the text (Control C)

Once you’ve copied the text, click delete and post the second part of the message. Once it appears on you Twitter page, immediately paste the first part of the message and hit “update”

Now on your Twitter page, people will be able to scroll down and read your message in the right order.
The next thing to do is to go and retweet the original message to which you are replying to.
I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier. It solves the problem about threaded discussions in Twitter for not only myself but for all of my readers as well.
I hope you found this tip useful and I hope to have some discussions with you either here in the comments of on Twitter. Thanks.

Recommended Reads – Table of Contents

Welcome to Recommended Reads.

These are books that I hold dear to my heart.
Please click on the button right under the header page to get the up-to-date Recommended Reads list. I will continue to update it with books that I have read and enjoyed.
Chase’s All-Time Favourites

Heartbeat by Sharon Creech
This book sounds amazing! It is a verse novel and at first glance it seems like a collection of poems, but it is a novel. It tells a great story about a 12 year old girl who likes to run. It is my favourite book and if you can get a hold of the audio book, do yourself a favour and get that too.

Ender’s Series by Orson Scott Card

This book is a science fiction classic and the follow up Speaker for The Dead is equally amazing. Card has written seven books in this series and they have all been produced as stunning audio books. The audio books have sound effects, music, and full cast narration. He lists those audio books as the definition collection. He believes that they are the best way to enjoy this series, and I totally concur. They are spectacular.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

This book is part autobiography part writing manual. It is an excellent read for anyone who anyone who writes. King shares his story and advice on how to write. He examines many aspects of writing that he finds essential to the craft. I learned a lot from this book and his advice.

Story by Robert McKee

This is a must have for any writer. Read it with a pencil in your hand. Make underlines and notes. Study it, memorize it, and apply it to your works. It is the best book I have ever read on the craft of writing and I know many writers in several different genres that sing its praises. If you don’t already have a copy, you NEED to go get one.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This is a great story and a terrific read. It deals with finding your place in the world and realizing the connections we have with the world itself. This story is very touching and it tells us to follow our hearts. It is a modern classic.

Watchmen by Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons

This is a graphic novel which revolutionized the comics industry. It showed the real human side of superheroes and told a serious story that dealt with mature subject matter. It was the first graphic novel to ever win a Hugo award for fiction. It is a classic.

Chase’s Great Reads

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.

forget about it by Caprice Crane
A twenty-five year old who doesn’t really like how her life has turned out so far, starts thinking about a do-over. And then, as if the universe heard her request, she gets into a car accident and decides to use it to fake amnesia. This way she can have a fresh start and make some changes in her life.
Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
In this story, the narrator recounts a love affair with music and his wife. It’s a really well told story and is quite compelling.
Michael Chabon’s The Escapists by Brian K, Vaughan

Max Roth loses both of his parents. He discovers that his dad was an avid collector of the merchandise of the comic book character from the 1930’s called The Escapist. Max decides to use his inheritance to buy the rights to the long forgotten character. He hires two friends to help him create new comic adventures of the Escapist.

Animal Farm by George Orwell
A classic in all aspects of the word. Farm animals rise up and take over the ownership of a farm. This story is an allegory that works on so many different levels.

The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
This book stands alone as a great story but is also part of a four book series. In this first book, the residents of the City of Ember live in a completely dark world. They are running out of resources and are forced to live on smaller and smaller rations every day. The residents don’t really know what to do about these problems and carry on with their day-to-day lives as if nothing is amiss. However, two recent graduates realize that something is terribly wrong with their city and try to do something about it.
We All Fall Down by Eric Walters

Will is a grade nine student who isn’t too excited about spending a day with his father at work. It’s a school assignment that he would rather not do. He’s upset that his dad has a boring job on the eighty-fifth floor of the World Trade Center. His teacher tells him that tomorrow “might be an experience that changes your entire life.” Of course, no one at the time knew how much truth there was in the small statement. Tomorrow is “Take your kid to work day” and it just happens to be September 11, 2001.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin

Ged is a reckless youth who does not know that he will grow up to become the greatest wizard in all of Earthsea. In his thirst for knowledge, he accidentally sets forth a terrible evil upon the world. He learns how to control himself and his powers over the course of this and subsequent novels. This was Harry Potter before Harry Potter.

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

The captive animals in the Baghdad Zoo have fantasized about escaping for some time now. Most of the animals don’t seem to trust each other enough to band together and plan a break out. The head lion is well respected and tells wide tales of his life on the outside of the zoo walls. During the Iraq war, the zoo is bombed and people look to him for guidance when they do finally escape.

The Centre of the Universe: Yep, that would be ME by Anita Liberty

Description: Anita tells us the story of her years in high school in her own words. She shares with us her personal journal, poems, charts, words of advice, her witty observations, and even dictionary words as she studies for her SAT.

White Girl by Sylvia Olsen

Fourteen-year-old Josie finds herself living on a First Nations Reserve after her mother marries an aboriginal man. They move in with him and his son. Josie was used to blending in and finds it difficult to be the only white kid in school and to adjust to her new blended family. She moves from feeling like an outsider to experiencing the richness of her new life and community.

Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred
This is a great graphic novel. The story centres around a gorilla mechanic aboard the starship Fist of Earth. Humans and the gorillas work together on the starship but it is obvious that there is a little bit of distrust and fear between the two groups. What really makes this book a winner is the pacing and humour. The story draws you in right away. The characters are believable and real.
Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers created and written by Bill Willingham
Well known fairy tale characters live among us in the modern world, except we don’t know it. This graphic novel series lets us see a new side to the characters we know and love. The characters aren’t one-dimensional like they were often presented in the old stories we know. The series is very well done and worth checking out.

The Best Comic Books

I have compiled a short list of comics that are definitely worth reading. Many of these titles can be found at your public library in the Graphic Novel section. This is how I discovered many of these titles.