Monthly Archives: March 2011

300 Tapes

This crate of cassette tapes had been tucked away in the bottom of a storage closet for quite some time. This weekend, I decided to unearth these old gems.

I have hundred of tapes here, many of which are hip-hop mix shows that I recorded straight from the radio.

I decided that I wanted to digitize these tapes for posterity. Tapes tend to wear out after a lot of plays or a long period of time. I also wanted to turn some of them into MP3 files so I could play and share them more easily.

I started out with the first tape I recorded from The Mastermind Street Jam which aired on the now defunct Energy 108 radio station. This was a weekly hip-hop show on commercial radio. Most of the other times, they played dance music but each and every Saturday we got a great hip-hop mix show.

The Mastermind Street Jam was required listening in the 1990’s. If I couldn’t listen to the show on Saturdays, then I would just put in a tape and let it roll so I could listen to the show later.

It originally was on Saturdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and the first tape I have is one from the October 22, 1994 broadcast.

Mastermind is still deejaying on commercial radio and can be heard on Flow 93.5. He is active on Twitter and I think he appreciated me spinning his old show today.

I know that there are several people who would love to hear these old radio shows. I would take me some time but I could digitize what I have and start up a podcast of these gems. That would be cool.

I’ve lost some tapes over the years but I’ve still got a pretty good collection here.

I even have two different versions of Run-DMC’s Raising Hell.

Why you ask?

Because the tapes looked different. The one on the left has the old school paper label and the one of the right has the more modern printing done directly on the cassette.

I am such a die hard fan of Run-DMC

and cassette tapes

and mix shows.

It was actually a lot of fun multi-tasking this weekend. I was formatting old cassettes to MP3s while I was writing an article about hip-hop, a couple blog posts, and doing laundry.

Hope you had a good weekend too. Leave a comment below and we’ll chat. Thanks!

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5 Word Study Strategies to Use in Your Classroom

1) Scrabble Nab-It

I really like this variation of the famous Scrabble game. It is especially effective to use for the primary or junior classrooms since it doesn’t use a game board and the students don’t have to calculate scores.

Each player gets a tile bag with letter tiles of that same colour. Unlike the regular version of Scrabble, these tiles connect to each other and can even be stacked on top of each other.

You nab an opponents’ word by placing a letter or letters on top of any word to create a new word.  For example, “game” can be turned to “name.” The next player could place a “t” on top of the “n” to spell “tame.” This allows the students to think of rhyming words as opposed to just new words to add to the famous crossword game.

One of the best things about this game is that each tile back only contains 25 double-sided tiles. Once a player has used up all of his or her tiles, the game is over. A game can literally be played in 15 minutes which is about the perfect time for a Word Study Centre.

2) Scrabble Slam

This is another variation of Scrabble that is even more fast-paced than the one above. The first thing you do is spell a four letter word and place the cards into the tray. You then deal out the cards to each player until you have completely exhausted the deck.

Players then spread out their cards in front of them and get ready to start the game.

The game is played by placing one letter card down on the tray to form a new word. For example, placing a “B” on top of the “C” makes the word “boat” or placing an “L” over the “T” would spell “coal”

Players don’t have to take turns in this game. You can play words as quick as possible. You just have to say the word out loud as you play your single card each turn.

Once again, this is a quick-paced game that fits well into a Word Study Centre.

3) Word Ladders

This is a great book with 100 reproducible worksheets. Each work sheet has a word at the bottom of the ladder that is related to the word at the top. The students climb the ladder by changing the word each step of the way. Sometimes they need to change a letter, sometimes they need to rearrange the letters, and sometimes they need to drop a letter.

There are also clues written for each step of the way to help the students figure out the new word.

4) Making Words

There are several books available to buy that use this strategy, or you can make your own quite easily. Along the top of the page are letter tiles that the students can cut out. They then rearrange their tiles to spell words.

I have used this strategy two different ways. Let the students spell as many words as they can in a set amount of time, or instruct them to spell specific words. You can make it more difficult by saying, “I am thinking of something you would wear, instead of asking them to spell “coat.”

For an extra challenge there is always one big word that uses all of the letters. The kids always love trying to figure out the “mystery word.”

5) Spill and Spell

This is an older game but it is also available in a few different formats. It’s a bit like Yahtzee except instead of numbers, you get letters or word parts. The students then arrange the dice so as to spell words.

Have fun and play some word study games in your classroom! 

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Junos Failed to Represent

When the nominations for tonight’s Juno Awards were announced way back in February, I was very excited to see how well hip-hop had been represented. I looked forward to a great show.

Now that the closing credits have rolled, I feel the need to vent my frustrations. The Junos didn’t live up to their incredible potential. They talked the talk but failed to walk the walk.

My biggest frustration was that the rap award was not televized. I have never seen such an impressive list of nominees since the rap category was added back in 1991. D-sisive, Drake, Eternia and Moss, Ghettosocks, and Shad were all up for the award.

I was really pulling for Eternia. I would have loved to see her receive some Juno love. She deserves it! I was tweeting about that yesterday when it was announced that the award had already been handed out.

It’s a shame that the rap category was left off of the television broadcast. We should have seen that a woman was actually up for the rap award, whether or not she won. We should have seen D-sisive, who has been dropping amazing records at a breakneck pace for the past few years. We should have seen underground sensation Ghettosocks. We should have seen the amazingly talented Shad. If any of these artists had won, I would have been happy. But it would have been even better to see them all recognized on national television.

It turns out that Shad won but he was given the award at a small gathering the day before the actual award ceremony. Didn’t we learn anything from 1998? That was the year the Rascalz refused to accept their award due to the lack of public acknowledgement of rap music and hip-hop culture from the Canadian Academy of Recorded Arts and Sciences.

The show did have a few nods to hip-hop but it really wasn’t enough. Drake tried his best to represent hip-hop culture every time he took to the stage for his hosting duties, which was nice to see.

A montage was aired a few times that showed Maestro Fresh Wes, the very first recipient of the rap award. He also introduced a performance with fellow rapper Classified but it was a rock performance and not a rap one. A tiny video clip featured a few seconds of Michie Mee as well.

I was impressed to see K’Naan win single of the year for the great rendition of his song “Waving Flag” that included a who’s who of Canadian talent billed as Young Artists for Haiti. The song is absolutely beautiful.

I watch the Juno Awards every single year and I appreciate the celebration of Canadian Music. I always pay special attention to the amazing talent we have in this country.

I also understand that some awards need to be handed out prior to the broadcast, otherwise the show would go on until everyone had to start work in the morning. But I find it completely unacceptable that rap music is often swept aside.

Hip-hop should have received a special tribute on this 40th edition of the Juno Awards. After all hip-hop is nearly that old itself and has a rich history in this country. We should have seen a medley of rap hits like the one put together for the folk and rock songs of the 1970s.

I hope more people will be this vocal about this lack of hip-hop at the Junos. I hope this never happens again.

Battle Scars

Remember what my skateboard looked like two weeks ago when I first bought it?

Here it is after some March Break skating.

It’s normal for your skateboard to get a bit scratched and banged up after only a few rides.

They are built to take some major punishment.

You can see that I’ve scraped some of the paint and design off the bottom and put a wheel divot under the top wheel.

But I have no idea how this crack got there.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I tried to get some air out of the quarter pipe. That is the ramp in the middle of the above picture.

I don’t know why I tried that trick. I don’t like this particular ramp. The incline is pretty much vertical. It is way too steep and I rarely use it.

But I was feeling pretty good about my new board and the tricks I was pulling off that day, so I tried it. I entered the ramp with a fair amount of speed, pumped my legs, and did an ollie at the top. However, I lost control and my board went flying into the air. I jumped back and landed on my feet but I did stretch out my back a bit.

I laid down on the concrete for a while and took a bit of a break after that semi-wipe-out.

I started skating again and didn’t bother to stop and check out the condition of my board.

I only noticed the crack the next day after I had skated for a while. I think my board went pretty high up in the air and came crashing down the day before.

Skateboards are made in several different plies. This crack only went through the first one. It should hold up to a bit more punishment though. I hope.

Next up: Skateboarding in My Living Room

My Logo is Everywhere

My logo now adorns the skate park in glorious colour.

It is also there is stunning red.

And in cool black!

I made this stencil out of cereal box card. I love the way it looks against the blue sky.

I made a few more improvements to the park as well.

I really hated going to the skate park and seeing all of the crudely drawn pictures of male genitalia. So I covered over a large inappropriate piece of graffiti with this,

And another one with this,

I might not be that skilled with the spray paint but I think what I did makes the part look a whole lot better.

10 Effective Ways to Get Around Writer’s Block (Guest Post)

Sometimes, it’s hard to be a writer. You get the best and worst of both the “artsy” and “practical” worlds. You use the building blocks of language to communicate with other people, often about very specific thoughts, ideas, emotions, plans, instructions, and many other things. 
You also use language to create art, which is a much different process with a product that doesn’t usually fit within the practical realm. Fiction and nonfiction are two very different things, but sometimes, the line between them can start to blur – especially when you’re suffering crises from both worlds.
As you probably know, one thing that bridges the gap between fiction and nonfiction is writer’s block. No matter what you’re working on, it’s easy to get stuck in a situation that seems to rob you of the ability to think clearly and express yourself well in writing. 
It’s always stressful to be stuck in the vicious cycle of writer’s block, but the good news is that there are plenty of strategies you can use to get yourself out.  The following are ten of my favorite ways to banish writer’s block, so I hope they’ll be useful to you the next time you’re struggling to put words on the page.
1. Free Write

If your brain is swarming with ideas and you feel too addled to decide how to organize them as you write, put them down on paper in a mind map format. Your ideas can be isolated – they don’t have to form a cohesive body of writing in your head. Write them down to help you wrap your mind around the big picture, then devise a strategy for incorporating your “free write” material into a solid piece of writing.
2. Exercise

Go for a run, do some yoga, or simply stretch in your office for a few minutes before you try writing again. The physical act of moving can increase blood flow to the places that need it, and it can also give your mind a much-needed rest from focusing on writing.
3. Work on a Different Piece

When you have a variety of writing projects at the same time, you can switch to a different one while you give your brain time to recover. As you write a different piece (preferably in a different style), your mind will continue to work on the problem you encountered. This gives you the opportunity to keep working while you subconsciously generate more ideas.
4. Work Somewhere Else

Get out of the office for a little visual inspiration. You might try working at a coffee shop, in a park (for as long as your laptop battery lasts), or at the local library. Being somewhere quiet that isn’t your regular work space can help you get past stress and boredom.
5. Motivate Yourself with Time Tricks

There are two time tricks that work for me, and one might work better for you than the other. The first is to tell yourself that you only have to write for five minutes. Once you start writing, it’s easy to keep going, and soon you’ve forgotten all about having writer’s block. The other strategy is to limit yourself to a reasonable period of time, such as thirty minutes, and work hard to finish your piece of writing during that time frame. Doing this can help you write what’s already in your head without having to tease it out slowly.
6. Talk Instead of Writing

If you can’t write, start talking into a voice recorder. You can go back later and type the good parts of what you dictated, which can easily be turned into a solid piece of writing.
7. Work Toward a Reward

Give yourself a treat once you’ve finished the task you’re struggling to complete. You might get yourself a special drink, pick up some ice cream, or even buy yourself an inexpensive reward such as a new book.
8. Take a Nap

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to relieve stress and give your mind a break is to take a nap. Even if you have an important deadline approaching, it can be helpful to invest fifteen or twenty minutes in a power nap. There are times when it’s the only solution.
9. Read Something Great

Most writers are inspired by great authors, so pick up one of your favorite books and read a chapter. Reading a favorite poem or short story can also break you out of writer’s block.
10. Write Another Way

If you’ve been typing, try getting out a pen and paper to help you get past writer’s block. Changing the medium of your writing can help your brain relax and improve your ability to focus. You can also open a blank email and start typing “to a friend” if it helps you get your work done (you can copy and paste your work into a word processor later). By helping your mind relax, you’ll decrease the amount of stress you’re feeling as you regain the ability to write efficiently.
Bio: Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she’s been researching art scholarships as well as disability scholarships. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.

It Takes 5 Years To Become a Teacher

10,000 HoursImage by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

As I started my fifth year of teaching, I felt a confidence I had never felt before.

Something just clicked and I realized that I finally knew what I was doing.

Up until that point, it felt like I had been treading water.

I went in to the classroom early every day, I stayed late, and I often brought work home with me. I put in so many hours those first few years of my career that I barely had any free time. I was quite simply, just getting by.

This weekend I read a blog post on Daily Writing Tips that mentioned the 10,000 Hour Rule. This post was directed at writers but the principle behind this rule holds true to teaching as well. It basically states that “most people who become highly accomplished at one endeavor or another have worked at it for 10,000 hours.”

As soon as I read that sentence, I stopped and figured out how many hours I had been teaching before I felt my new found confidence. Here’s what I came up with,

There are roughly 200 instructional days each school year. I put in at least 10 hours a day of work. So that makes for about 2,000 hours each year. I know that this number is even probably a little bit low. New teachers live and breathe their job for the first year and usually the next three as well.

So 2,000 hours a year times 5 years = 10,000 hours.

The 10,000 Hour Rule was developed by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success” and it should be a comfort to new teachers.

In other words, “Hold on, it gets easier.”

I have been proclaiming for a few years now that it took me 5 years to actually figure out what I was doing in the classroom. Now I know why.

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Women in Hip-Hop Set 4

I hope you’ve enjoyed DOPEfm’s tribute to the Women in Hip-Hop.

You can download this final mix set for free, or stream it with the player below.

Daddy J, Gamma Krush, and I put a lot of effort into this show. We compiled eight hours of quality radio to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

Women have been actively involved in hip-hop since its very humble beginnings in the 1970s. That is something that often gets overlooked. It really shouldn’t.

We need to hear female voices in this male dominated genre, otherwise we are really only getting half of the story.

I think it is disrespectful to put women rappers in a different category than their male counterparts. This happens all the time. Case in point is the term “femcee” that is now often used. This term combines MC with the word “female” to call attention to gender.

However, an MC is an MC and the sex of that performer does not need to be distinguished with a term. Quite frankly, good music is good music whether it comes from a male or a female. That is why “femcee” is not a term that you will ever hear us use here at Silent Cacophony or at DOPEfm.

Kadyelle had a lot of great things to say on this topic during our exclusive interview with her. She said,

“I also think the general consensus to hold females to a far lower standard than males is also a part of it. Women don’t aspire to be greater that what they possibly could be because they are expected to be bad, I think, to be honest.

It’s a shame that I am constantly being told that if I want to be out there touring and putting out releases that I just have to accept it. It’s the kind of criticism that you get that not a single person will comment on your songs, they’ll comment on the fact that your skirt maybe isn’t short enough, or your top isn’t low-cut enough, or maybe there is another female rapper out there that happens to be skinnier than you or hotter than you. It’s pretty ridiculous.

I don’t know why there’s so much tolerance for that kind of behaviour in hip-hop culture. I don’t know why it exists. It’s a shame and I hope over the next decade or two we see the last of that. It’s a ridiculous, out-dated situation that really needs to end if people want to see more females in the industry be successful.”

Wise words from an amazingly talented artist and songwriter. If you missed the Kadyelle interview, please do yourself a favour and read, stream, or download it now.

The player below will give you a stream of the final mix set that Gamma Krush did for the show last week. He put together over four hours of tracks with each and every song blessed by either a woman deejay, rapper, or producer.

I still have three episodes of Know Your History to bring to you as well, so if you’ve enjoyed what you have heard so far, please stay tuned to this blog for more over the next few weeks.

You can download this mix set for free or stream it with the player below. And don’t forget to go back and download the other three mix sets as well.


Music Playlist at