Monthly Archives: July 2011

Karma for the Comma

I love that visual pun.

It’s brilliant.

I also love the song that inspired it. Let’s listen to it and then look closely at that often misused and abused piece of punctuation that is the comma.

The comma has a few basic functions and rolls to play in a sentence, but today I would like to look at just one of its many uses.

Commas help separate items in a list.

I went to the store and bought apples, marshmallows, cookies, and milk.

Whenever you write a list, you need to include a comma after each item. In the above example, I used what is called the Oxford Comma.

Wars have been fought over this little comma. I should know. I just had a huge fight with my girlfriend about it.

She argues that you do not need to include a comma before the “and.” It seems that there are a growing number of people out there who agree with her. They believe that the Oxford Comma is redundant.

I can’t understand this reasoning at all. If the last comma is omitted, I invariable read those last two items as being naturally together. Sometimes, that just doesn’t make sense for the sentence. Leaving out the Oxford Comma just creates confusion.

Let’s look at an example where this is the case.

They had a choice between croissants, bacon and eggs, and muesli.

In this above example, we can see that there are three items in this list. No comma is needed between bacon and eggs since they are naturally grouped together. It makes sense.

Here’s a hilarious example of what can happen when the last comma is absent.

This newspaper caption reads, “Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.”

The Oxford Comma is missing and to great peril. The way it reads, it sounds like two of his colleagues were, in fact, married to him at one time. This is not the case, and this confusion could have easily been avoided with the correct placement of the Oxford Comma.

I rest my case.

What are your thoughts?

Do you use the Oxford, or serial comma? 

Do you think it’s redundant? 

Please leave a comment and extend this argument debate. 

Everwood is Now Complete

Everwood is hands-down the best television series I have ever seen.

I watched it during it’s original run and was captivated for all four seasons. When I saw that it was available on DVD, I ran out and bought the first season.

I then waited, and waited, and waited.

The other three seasons never came to DVD and it saddened me that I would not be able to rewatch this brilliant television series in its entirety.

I had to wait a few years but I managed to find an unofficial box set of the series. There were 20 discs containing all 98 episodes of the show.

Whoever put this set together, did a really good job with it. As you can see, the discs are screen-printed and numbered. They came in a box with a nice cover as well.

The only problem was the quality of the episodes themselves. They were taped from the original television broadcasts.

I spent a fair amount of money on this set but it certainly was worth it. I was happy to have the complete series and I actually watched it all the way through three different times.

Now that the studio has officially released the other seasons, I have bought them again. Season 3 is my latest addition to the collection. Season 4 comes out next month and I have already pre-ordered it.

My girlfriend and I have been working our way through the entire series this summer. She will get to watch the official versions with picture-perfect quality. That is how this series should be seen after all.

More Everwood Posts

Chasing Content – July 3 Years Ago

Let’s take a moment to look back at what we were doing here three years ago at this time.

You can read all of the posts from July 2008 or just these favourites. 
Thanks for Chasing Content with me, otherwise these posts may just end up buried in the archives.

The First Silent Cacophony – I came up with the idea for this blog when I was a teenager. This was well before blogs came to be. I still had a Commodore 64 as my computer. But I had a really cool idea to write a book called “Silent Cacophony” and I wrote a few short items that I have unearthed for all of you.

How Many Elements – We used to believe that there were only four elements and that everything was comprised of either; earth, air, water, or fire. With our modern thinking and technology we now know that this is not the case. Scientists can list hundreds of elements. I propose that there is only one.

Love at First Sight – Here’s another story from my teenaged years. What do you think? Do you believe in love at first sight?

My Window Works – My dad and I got a book from the library and tried to fix my car. We’ve never really worked on a car before together either.

Alone in a Crowd – I went to a huge festival and noticed that it was possible to feel alone in a crowd. I also noticed that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.

Something Had to Go – I stopped paying for television three years ago and I haven’t had cable since. I haven’t really missed it either.

Think, Leave, Cook, Write or TCLW – Here’s my personal recipe for writing fiction. It has always worked for me. 

Know Your History: Episode 16 – Ladies of the 80s

Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. You can download this show for free, stream it with the player below, or just continue reading.

This is Part 2 of our 3-part series on female emcees. We put together eight hours of radio in tribute to the Women in Hip-Hop for DOPEfm`s broadcast on International Women`s Day earlier this year.

As we discussed in the last episode, women have been involved in hip-hop since its very humble beginnings. We looked closely at only first decade of this art form last time. Today we will be focusing on the second decade and shine a spotlight on the Ladies of the 80s.

Our discussion today needs to start with Roxanne Shanté. Back in the early 80s, she was a fierce emcee. She didn’t need to write rhymes, she was able to just start rapping and improvise entire songs. In hip-hop culture, this is called freestyling and it is a difficult skill that some rappers simply cannot do. It means you have to be in the moment and capitalize on what is happening, what is coming next, and how it all fits together.
Roxanne Shanté was able to do just that to start kick-start her career and forever change the face of hip-hop culture. Pretty impressive for a fourteen-year-old girl from Queensbridge whose name strangely enough was not Roxanne. She just happened to be in the right place at the right time one day when she overheard some men discussing a cancelled concert by the rap group UTFO.
At the time, UTFO had a hit song entitled “Roxanne, Roxanne.” The song was about a fictional girl who would not respond to any of the advances from the guys in the group. As such, they called her “stuck up.” They couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t respond to their fame, raps, or charm. They even go on to insult her family in the song. It was a catchy song not aimed at anyone in particular. It was a story rhyme and wasn’t meant to start any kind of war.
What happened was, legendary producer Marley Marl, radio personality Mr. Magic, and Tyrone Williams were angered over the cancellation of the UTFO show. Shanté overheard their discussion, and knowing who they were, suggested that she could record a song in response to “Roxanne, Roxanne.” They all agreed it was worth a shot.
Shanté assumed the persona of Roxanne and acted like a woman scorned by what they men had said about her on the record. As legend has it, Shanté recorded the song in one take. It was laced with profanity, had a real street edge to it, and was unlike anything we had heard from a female emcee up to that point.
The song was rerecorded with a new beat and less profanity so it could be released as a single. Both versions of this song came out in 1984 but I want to play you the original right now.
Listen to this song, and we’ll be back to explore how this record sparked an interest in female emcees and paved the way for some legendary female rappers. This is Know Your History’s dedication to the Ladies of the 80’s. This is Chase March for DOPEfm. This is “Roxanne’s Revenge” by Roxanne Shanté. We’ll be right back.  
That record right there sparked what is known as the Roxanne Wars. It made Roxanne Shanté a bonafide hip-hop star and also established the tradition of the answer record. Tons of people tried to follow in her footsteps by releasing their own response songs. It got so convoluted that there were over one hundred such songs. I haven’t heard them all, and quite frankly, I don’t have any desire to. Roxanne Shanté did it first and she made a memorable record, and made her mark on the industry.
Of course, UTFO didn’t like this at all. They manufactured their own Roxanne, much like Shanté and Marley Marl had done, to bring the Roxanne Wars to an end. In my humble opinion, The Real Roxanne wasn’t as strong a track as the one Shanté did. However, it did make The Real Roxanne a star as well.
I plan on dedicating an entire episode of Know Your History to the answer record and will focus on the Roxanne Wars some more in that show. So today, I won’t play that track for you. Instead, I will play her biggest hit. This song was released in 1986 and reached number 24 on the Billboard. It’s called Bang Zoom (Let’s Go Go) and features the production and DJ skills of Howie Tee.
Listen to this song and we will continue our coverage of the Ladies of the 80s with some true hip-hop legends who have managed to have lengthy careers and pave the way for female rappers. This is Chase March, stay tuned because, “You better Know Your History!” We’ll be right back.  

I have a hard time calling her The Real Roxanne since she most definitely wasn’t the first Roxanne. Roxanne Shante put a record out a year earlier and kept it pretty real in the process. She was a writer, an avid freestyler, and she adopted the persona of Roxanne in a real and honest way. In my humble opinion, she deserves the title of “The Real Roxanne.”

Of course, this little battle and controversy that started with one UTFO record, helped call attention to female rappers in a brand new way. There had always been female rappers but up until about 1984, none had managed to sell a lot of records.

That all changed with a group that originally called themselves Super Nature. There were three ladies in this group; 2 MCs and 1 DJ. Coincidentally, they established themselves with an answer record as well. “Tha Show Stoppa” was a response record to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s “The Show.”

The group I am talking about went on to release 5 very successful albums. They were the first female rap group to earn a platinum record, and they did so with their debut “Hot, Cool, and Vicious.” They sold millions of records worldwide over their careers. Their 1993 release even went 5-times platinum. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here.

This program is dealing with the Ladies of the 80s. So, let’s play the song that launched their career. This is “Tha Show Stoppa” by Salt N Pepa.

That was “Tha Show Stoppa” by Salt N Pepa from their debut album “Hot, Cool, and Vicious.” It was the first commercially successful album from a female hip-hop act.

Women have been part of hip-hop since its very inception. But for some reason, up to this point, they had been conspicuously absent from the world stage.

Plenty of parties in and around the New York area featured some amazing rappers. The only reason we don’t know their names and celebrate their music is that hip-hop culture had to be experienced back in those early days.

It was a community event to go to a show. People taped the shows on cassette and played those tapes until they wore out. Some of those tapes survive and I’d like to thank the people who have taken the time and effort to share them on the Internet.

We can hear theses strong female voices that never made it to a recording studio on those homemade tapes. In the last episode, I played one that feature the Inner City Disco and The Mercedes Ladies.

Of course another reason females weren’t heard in the early days of hip-hop is that rap was seen as a fad. It was expensive to get to a recording studio to produce rap music and not a lot of females had the opportunity to do so.

Fortunately, things changed in the 1980s as the records started to sell like crazy, big tours made a lot of money, and hip-hop was now seen as a hot commodity.

For a lot of people, hip-hop was associated with masculinity. However, hearing a female on the microphone never used to be unusual. The Inner City Disco and The Mercedes Ladies were accepted by their peers and could rock stages in New York without having a record out. They put on amazing shows and concerts and there didn’t seem to be a gender barrier there at all.

Everyone saw them as equals. It wasn’t unusual to see them on stage. It wasn’t unusual to see a female rapper. This changed with the advent of recorded rap music for some reason.

When hip-hop became a business, the men dominated it and it took a while for the women to break through. Fortunately, we had groups like Salt N Pepa that really cracked that wide open to show that there was an audience for female hip-hop. All of their albums were very successful, going gold, platinum, or better. This helped pave the way for what was to come.

Of course, any show focusing on the Ladies of the 80s in hip-hop would be remiss not to include MC Lyte and Queen Latifah. Unquestionably, they are two of hip-hop’s biggest and brightest stars. They will be the focus of the very next episode of Know Your History to conclude this three part series on the Women in Hip-Hop.

Remember that you can download this show for free or stream it with the player below.

Thanks for tuning in. See you soon for the nest installment of Know Your History!

Music Playlist at

Shredding With Tony Hawk

Check out my latest skateboard.

You’ve seen the one at the top before. The one on the bottom is my brand new one and I’ve already logged several hours of intense skating on it.

I know. It doesn’t have wheels. But it doesn’t need them.

It’s actually the controller for a really cool video game.

As you can see, the skateboard that comes with this game is the same shape and size as my actual board. It’s comfortable and feels quite natural to stand on and ride.

The game looks gorgeous. The characters you can skate as are life-like, the moves are realistic, and the scenery is amazing.

I really like how easy this game is to pick up and play. You don’t need to know anything about video games or skateboarding. You can simply hop on the board and start playing right away.

There are great tutorials in the training mode that teach you how to pull off dozens of tricks.

There are four modes of steering that you can select as well. In the first mode, you don’t have to worry about steering. You follow along a lighted pathway and you can choose to branch off and connect to other routes as you progress through the various levels. This helps you to learn to pull of the various tricks without the pressure of crashing.

Once you get good at that, you can switch to three more difficult modes that slowly let go of any of the steering assistance.

As you can see in this picture, you control the game by lifting the nose or the tail of the board into the air. You can lean to turn. You can do spin tricks by actually moving the board to the left or right while it is elevated. You can do kickflips by tilting the board while your character is in the air.

As you play through the levels, you can unlock all sorts of new environments, characters, and goodies.

There is a party mode that allows you to take turns pulling off specified tricks, racking up the most points you can, and several other challenges. This is great if you have a bunch of people over.

As you can see from the above photo, it is best to play on carpet while wearing shoes. If you don’t have carpet though, it comes with felt stickies you can attach to the bottom of the board. 
You wouldn’t think it, but you actually get a workout while playing this game. It’s not exactly the same as actually riding a skateboard, but it is damn close. I always manage to work up a sweat equal to that of when I’m outside at the skatepark.
This game is absolutely amazing! 
I highly recommend it for everyone!

Worse Ways to be Stuck Inside

So I’d been hobbling along for a few days. Days that just happened to be amazingly beautiful and sunny. Days that practically called me to get out and be active. Days that teased me because my bruised and swollen ankle prevented me from doing so.

The good news is that my girlfriend was doing some house-sitting for a friend. The house was equipped with digital cable and a widescreen television with surround sound. Dana brought her Wii over as well, hoping that we could play some video games together to give us something to do other than simply watching television.
The problem is that I’m really not that in to video games. We played Mario Kart for a while but I quickly lost interest. I also had no desire to play Zelda, or the other few games that we on hand. So we went to the video store to rent a game that we would both enjoy. 
We decided to pick up Lego Batman. It sounded like something I’d enjoy. I was looking forward to trying it out but we were both deterred by what they wanted to charge us to rent the game for a week.
$11.00 seemed a bit ridiculous. Especially considering that you could buy the game for $19.99 just down the street. 
So we headed out to go and buy the game elsewhere. That was the plan at least. 
But when we got to the store, I saw this.
I’d seen it before and even played it once. It was the class Christmas party and one of my students brought in his X-box and the skateboard controller for the Tony Hawk game. We all had a lot of fun playing it that day. 
So here I am at the store holding the box like a little kid in a toy store. “Please! Can we get it? Please?”
“It comes with a skateboard. You stand on it to do the tricks. It’s really cool!”
Of course, we weren’t planning on spending that much. We went from thinking $11 was ridiculous to “Woah, let’s spend $50!”
But the $39.99 price tag was definitely a good deal. I remember seeing it for $99 about a year ago and some games without the hardware were actually that much alone. Plus, we both knew I’d enjoy this game.
So Dana and I pooled our money together and bought it. Our first joint purchase. That’s commitment right there. 
We’ve had so much fun playing it these past few days. I’m sorry that we have to move out today. It was like a mini-holiday house-sitting here. I’ve enjoyed the widescreen television, surround-sound, cable, and this super-cool video game.
Next time on Silent Cacophony, we take a closer look at Tony Hawk: Shred for the Nintendo Wii and how awesome it is.
See you then!

Battered and Bruised By a Trail

It’s amazing how easy it is to hurt yourself.

Last week, I went for a run on a fairly flat course. It wasn’t a difficult run at all. There weren’t an abundance of tree roots or rocks to watch out for along the route either.
I don’t know how I did it. But ten minutes into my run, I somehow twisted my ankle. I came down on it hard. I swore. I then realized that this wasn’t just a little twist or sprain. It really hurt.
The problem was that I was now ten minutes down a trail and I was in no position to continue running. I should have gotten right off my feet, took it easy, and put some ice on the injured ankle. Of course, that was impossible to do because I was alone on a trail with nothing on my person except one single, solitary key in my pocket.
I was pretty much screwed. The only thing I could do was limp back down the trail. I quickly noticed the mosquitoes drawing in on me as I had finally slowed down enough that they could attack me with ease.
I didn’t want to get eaten alive, so I hobbled and limped as quickly as I could to get out of the woods. It was a slow process. It took me over twenty minutes to cover the same distance that I had run in only ten.
I got home and put ice on my ankle. By now, it really hurt. Walking three kilometers on it after a sprain probably didn’t help much, but what could I do.
I took it easy for the past four days, in hopes that it would heal. I went to the beach, the cool water seemed to make it feel better, but water just seemed to bring out the bruising. 
I could now see the full extent of my injuries. I had three distinct bruises on both sides of my ankle. Some of them were quite large. My whole foot was swollen and appeared to be twice as fat as my other one.
I’ve sprained or twisted my ankle several times over the years but I don’t think I’ve ever done such a number on it as I did last week.
It was starting to go a bit stir crazy by staying off my feet too. I’m an active guy who loves getting out and enjoying the summer. So I . . . 
Wait, I think I’ll tell that story next time. See you all on Monday.

The Truth is Hidden Within Us

Remember when I used to feature a quotation on this blog every week?

That was a long time ago.

Today, I thought I’d share a nice quote with you all here.
I really like this one. It shows a connection that I feel is present among us all. It speaks a truth. And yes, it is from fiction. Just one of the reasons I love writing and reading fiction.

“Maybe there is a universal truth embedded in everyone’s soul.

Maybe we all have the same story hiding inside
like a shared constant in our DNA.

Maybe this collective truth is responsible for the similarity in all our stories.

Truth has a power
and if we all gravitate towards similar ideas,
maybe we do so because those ideas are true,
written deep within is
and when we hear the truth,
even if we don’t understand it,
we fell that truth resonate within us,
vibrating with our unconscious wisdom.

Perhaps the truth is not learned by us,
but rather




as that which is already inside us.”

– transcribed from the audio book presentation of “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

What started as a weekly feature on this blog, quickly spun into a separate blog at the start of 2008. If you love quotations, please visit Thoughtful Cacophony to view my ever-growing Commonplace Book Blog.


It’s All Uphill, Both Ways (Visual Trail Run)

I first ran part of the Lafarge 2000 trail two years ago. At the time, I thought it was so named because it was about 2000 meters long. Turns out I was wrong.

Last week, I found that this trail is continued a little further down the road. I grabbed my camera and eagerly hit the trail for another segment of my Visual Running Tours. Enjoy!
This trail starts on Safari Road in Flamborough and it is a challenging run right from the get go. 
It’s always nice to see some hilly terrain. This looks like it will be a great spot for a trail run. 
That first hill was tough. 
Wait a minute, it’s still going.
And around the corner, the hill is still going. 
Wow, this is a tough way to start a run. 
Finally, I’ve reached the top of Hill Number 1. 
The sounds of the city have fallen away and it is quiet and peaceful up here. 
But as I ran down the hill, I heard the sounds of nature – farm animals. 
I heard them well before I saw them. On one side of the trail were these sheep. On the other side, there were cows. They seemed to be quite vocal as I passed them. Not too sure how many people they see on this trail. 
The trail ran alongside a swamp and stayed on a flat plain for a few hundred meters. 
But then Hill Number 2 stood in front of me. It seemed even harder and taller than the last one.
The view from the top of Hill Number 3 was spectacular. 
There was also a plaque with some trail information on it. 
“The Millennium Trail is approximately 22 kilometers long and provides a north/south trail link between the Hamilton Rail Trail and the Township of Puslinch in the County of Wellington.” *Ontario Trails Council 
The nature trail comes to an end at the 6th Concession in the small town of Westover.
Apparently the trail continues along the road and links up to the trails in Dundas Valley. 
Here is what it says on the website, 
“The Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail is part of the Trans Canada Trail System. Of the 22 kilometers, 16.4 kilometers are located on existing road surfaces, while the remaining 5.6 kilometers consist of sections of unopened road allowance. The Lafarge 2000 Trail passes through a Niagara Escarpment re-entrant valley, along the reservoir at Christie Conservation Area and through glacial moraines, drumlins, and wetlands.”
This was quite a tough run. I think it was about three kilometers one way, but the trip back along the trail was just as tough. I swear, it felt like it was uphill both ways. I was so drained by the time I finished it. 
Well, I hope you enjoyed this Visual Running Tour. So far, I have documented 20 different trails in this lovely province of Ontario, Canada.
More Running Tours

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Eternia Live TONIGHT

I was surprised to see this in the newspaper this week. They gave a third of a page to one of the best emcees doing it right now, Eternia.

She’s playing TONIGHT! Here’s what you need to know.

When: Saturday July 9, 2011

Where: APK – 340 Wellington St. London, Ontario.

Unfortunately, I am not able to go to this show. Hopefully you can though. Eternia puts on an amazing live show. She is a fierce MC and has a spectacular album out right now called “At Last.”

You can check out the interview I did with her last year. Download it for free, or stream it with the player below.

If that doesn’t make you a fan, go to the show and pick up the CD. I guarantee you will be one after that.