Monthly Archives: August 2011

Camping Adventure Part 1

I pull up to my girlfriend’s apartment and park right in front of the building. The area is marked as a “fire zone” but most people park there to unload or pack up their cars or moving trucks.

I didn’t think anything of parking there as it would only take us about twenty minutes to load up the car for our camping trip, and we’d be on our way. 
I was surprised at how much stuff we actually packed for a week of camping. The car was completely packed. It would have been impossible to squeeze one more thing in. 
We got in the car. I looked at the load in the back, turned to Dana, and smiled. 
She said, “Let’s do this! Let’s go camping!”
I start the car, smile, and then . . . 
The gear shift would not respond. 
The button was stuck. The handle would not shift into gear. 
“You gotta be kidding me!” I said. 
I called the dealership, which happened to be only a few blocks away, and they said they could look at it as soon as I got there. 
I called CAA (the automobile club) and they told me they’d be about an hour and a half. I’ve relied on them several times throughout the years and they often get there a little faster than they estimate. They always call a few minutes before they get there so you don’t have to wait in the car for all that time. 
So I pop the hood, put on the four-ways, and we lug the coolers back upstairs. We put the perishable stuff back into the freezer and fridge and then wait. 
I go on Tumblr and find a few interesting Doctor Who videos. I’m basically just wasting time. 
Dana looks out the window and says, “There’s a moving truck out front now.”
I look through the window and notice that the loading ramp is directly in front of my car. I’m afraid that they’ll scratch my car. 
Then I look closer, and see that it was not a moving truck at all. It was a flatbed tow truck and the driver is attaching the chains to my car. 
“I’m getting towed because I’m in the fire zone!”
Dana doesn’t even think. She runs down three flights of stairs to tell her building not to tow the car. I quickly follow her and we discover that it was indeed the CAA. This is the first time they have never given me the warning call, “Our driver is on his way and should be there in ten minutes, please meet him at your car.”
We’re pleased to see him and he does an excellent job diagnosing the problem. It turns out that we still need to go to the dealer, but he can rig the car so that I can actually drive there. 
He goes under the hood and manually puts the car into “drive.” 
It was strange driving when the gear shift was still locked into park. But fortunately, the dealership was only five minutes away. 
It took a couple of hours, and over $400, but the car got fixed, and we were finally on our way to the campground. 
Of course, this was only one of a few interesting camp adventures. Stay tuned to this blog for a few more stories and pictures. 

The 6 Things You Really Need For Back to School

I am an elementary school teacher. I teach in schools that range from Kindergarten to Grade 8.

Every year around this time, I get outraged by all of the commercials, flyers, store displays, and advertisements suggesting that parents need to spend hundreds of dollars to prepare their children to go back to school.

I think the schools should supply pretty much everything your child needs to be successful this school year.  That means; pencils, notebooks, loose-leaf paper, pencil crayons, crayons, markers, rulers, dictionaries, calculators, etc.

I don’t like to ask the parents of my students for any money. I don’t want to give them a list of things they should buy. Yet some schools do just that.

Apparently, it is now common for Canadian families to spend $300 per child on back to school expenses.

I think this is ridiculous.

Here is what a primary (Kindergarten to Grade 3) or junior (Grade 4 to 6) student really needs.

1) Backpack – there are things that need to be brought to and from school every day so a backpack is essential.

2) Lunch bag – you can save money with a reusable lunch bag as opposed to the old stand-by brown paper bag. Not only that, but you are teaching your child about conservation. That’s well worth the ten bucks.

3) Gym shoes – your child needs to have a pair of running shoes to wear inside of the school. These should be in addition to the brand new pair of everyday kick-around shoes. They should stay at the school for your child to change into every time he or she comes back in from being outside.

4) Pencil case – I provide these for my students but some teachers don’t. I find that my students lose pencils without them. The good news is that you can pick up a decent one from the dollar store.

5) New clothes – I know that new clothes don’t come cheap. But I think it is important for your child to have at least one new outfit for the school year. It doesn’t have to be brand new, just new to them. You can go to thrift stores and find some excellent clothes that look new for a fraction of the price. Having a new outfit gives your child some confidence about going back to school.

6) Winter clothes – Please dress your child for the weather. They will be going outside three times a day regardless of the weather. They should have a hat, a pair of gloves, some boots, and snow pants.

And that’s it. Or is it?

I don’t think a primary or junior student needs any electronic devices. They don’t need all the bright and shiny items that look cool in the store and might appeal to them. Back to school shouldn’t be a second Christmas gift-giving season.

Many people will try to sell you things your child really doesn’t need. Get your kid what he or she needs, but don’t go overboard.

Last year’s rant – Stop The Back To School Madness

What are your thoughts on Back to School? 

Please leave a comment below. 

I’d love to hear from you. 

Doctor Who: The Mixtape

I was inspired to make this mixtape by a meme that was floating around on Tumblr. It was a 30 day challenge and Day 17 asked, “What songs would appear in your Doctor Who mixtape?”

I found this great blog post from Janine. She came up with a song for each of the major characters and justified her choices with song lyrics. The blog, Meanwher, elsewhen also offered some great suggestions for this hypothetical tape.

After reading those two posts, I was determined to make my own Doctor Who mix and to include some of their suggestions. I was unfamiliar with a lot of these songs prior to making the tape, but I got right to work, and was delighted with what I found.

I knew I had to start the tape with “Spaceman” from Bif Naked. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you will see how perfectly that song ties into the very first episode of Series 5 when Amelia Pond first meets the Doctor.

Another highlight of the tape was including Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream.” It made me think of the time stream, the relationship the Doctor has with his companions, or even the one the Doctor has with the TARDIS. I know it sounds complicated, but give the tape a listen and I’m sure you’ll get it.

I included sound effects from the show and even an audio clip from an episode. The songs are blended together and you will never hear a song fade out. I’m doing my best to preserve the art of the mixtape. That is why I’ve divided it into two-sides because I really miss cassette tapes and how each side of a tape can have its own identity and flavour.

The Doctor Who Mixtape will fit on one CD, so download it for free, burn it to disc, save it to your iPod or MP3 player, and turn up the jams. You can also stream it with the player below.

Download Side A (right click and “save as”)

Download Side B (right click and “save as”)

Or you can download the mixtape in album format.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about it. And if you enjoyed this mixtape based upon a television show. You might like to check out the other one I made last year, “The Lost Mixtape”

Spread the music, and enjoy!

Side A Stream

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Side B Stream

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Comics and Skateboarding

Two images I found on Tumblr just now that I had to post together. Had to!

Apparently the above image was taken during a break in shooting and it actually is Heath Ledger (rest in peace) doing a kickflip over Batman from the set of The Dark Knight. Very cool!


This image is fake. A faithful reader clued me in to that fact. See how this image has been altered with the post Skateboarding, Batman, and Photoshop.

The cool thing is that Heath did actually skate. So did Batman.

Check the new post for more details.

Motown Night was Electric (Literally)

It was Motown Night at the Canadian National Exhibition last night and we were very excited to be there covering it for the radio show. We had interviews set up with the headlining acts; The Manhattans, and The Spinners.

The Manhattans took to the stage in their matching red jackets and captivated the crowd with their performance.

I was really enjoying the show and looking forward to seeing The Spinners take the stage next.

Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. Before The Manhattans had even finished their set, the concert was shut down due to a tornado warning. We were advised to go inside one of the buildings for cover.

You can see how quickly this storm rolled through because the sky does not look threatening at all in the above shot.

I took this shot from the cover of the Arts and Crafts building. The rain was coming down hard and lightning was filling the clouds above us every few seconds. It was really intense!

It almost looks like I took this photo during the day time. The lightning completely lit up the sky.

It was a beautiful storm to watch but unfortunately the CNE decided to shut down the entire operation. I have never seen them do that before. That meant, we had to either buckle down where we were or make it back to the car in the pounding rain.

We waited for ten minutes. The rain let up, and we made a break for the car. The sky continued to illuminate brilliantly all the way home. Fortunately, we were spared any strong winds and made it home with no problems at all.

The good news was that we had a chance to sit down with The Manhattans for a great interview earlier in the day. Stay tuned to DOPEfm to hear it first! I will post the podcast and transcript after it has been aired.

Know Your History: Hip-Hop in Black and White

Earlier this year, I was approached to write an article for Word is Bond. The staff over there thought I would be a good choice to write about race relations in hip-hop as a guest contributor.

We thought it would be a good idea to contrast the large white audience hip-hop has to the lack of successful white artists in the genre.

I wrote a rather lengthy article on the topic and realized in the process that it would also work as an episode of Know Your History.

You can stream this show with the player below, you can download it for free, or you can continue reading.


It’s hard to believe it, but when hip-hop first started, it was not a commercial enterprise. There wasn’t a portion of the music business that showed any interest in rap music. For the first five years of its existence, the only recordings made were low quality cassette tapes of live performances.
These tapes were traded and passed around from person to person. Some of these tapes still survive and are cherished by true hip-hop heads. If you are lucky, you can find a few of these gems online or in the basement collection of a friend’s house.
It’s important to remember that hip-hop and rap music are not the same thing. Hip-hop as a culture predates rap music by a few years. Hip-hop didn’t start out as recorded music, it started out with DJs “initiating spontaneous street parties by attaching customized, makeshift turntables and speakers to street light electrical sources,” and as such these DJs effectively “made ‘open-air’ community centers in neighborhoods where there were none.” (Tricia Rose. Black Noise, pg 22)
Hip-hop is all about community. Even today, it is tied into that mentality as crews try to put their “city on the map” and overtly wear their hometown pride wherever they go.
Today, we take it for granted that hip-hop is a global phenomenon but this wasn’t always the case. It started out in the poorest black neighbourhoods of New York. It was territorial even back then as certain boroughs had their own superstar DJs to entertain them. These DJs played music for people to dance to. The DJs wanted to improve their sets and were highly competitive with each other. It wasn’t long before they employed MCs to hype up the crowd and say short pithy rhymes so the DJ could completely focus on the more technical aspects of scratching, blending, and doing tricks. 
In these old school parties. MCs would rhyme for long periods of time. Some rhymes would last for twenty minutes. The DJ would continue to blend records and extend breaks so that you would never hear dead air, silence, or a record fade out. The music was continuous and seamless.
It wasn’t long before hip-hop culture moved from party tapes and bootlegs to commercially recorded music. For the first time, rap music could be heard outside of these community events. These records traveled a lot further than the old cassette tapes ever did. They were done in a quality that allowed them to be played on the radio as well which only gave more exposure to rap music.
Rap had now moved out of the community and it had become less of an event. As such, the songs began to get formatted into a shorter amount of time. Nowadays we expect rap songs to be about three minutes long with 16 bar rhymes interrupted only by a repetitive chorus.
Early rap records were much longer and reflected more of what hip-hop sounded like at live community events. For example, the 12” single of Rapper’s Delight has a long version of the song that plays for 15 minutes. The B-side of the single contained the shorter version that clocks in at six and a half minutes, which is still much longer than most records nowadays. The shorter records we are accustomed to hearing came about due to the structure of popular western music and the nature of commercial recordings.
When hip-hop became available outside of New York, it was not easily understood by those outside of the culture. Rap music was initially seen a fad and many people tried to capitalize on this new music that obviously held appeal to a variety of different listeners.
It’s not hard to see that hip-hop is a very popular genre of music. All you need to do is look at all of the radio stations that play rap, all of the downloads (both legal and illegal) and how much of an influence it has had in advertising. Hip-hop is quite literally, everywhere these days.

As Dalton Higgins so aptly put it, “Culture . . . is not something that can be controlled and locked in the basement. Culture travels at the speed of light (or Internet cable lines) and doesn’t respect borders.” (Hip Hop World pg 51)

Hip-Hop in Black and White continues over at Word is Bond. Click through to read more, stream the entire show with the player below, or download it for free.

Continue Reading

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Moffat Creek Trail

It’s time for another installment of my Visual Running Tours. Today, we are going to Cambridge to explore the Moffat Creek Trail.

It starts off as a shared pathway and it is paved for easy access for bicycle riders or rollerbladers, but there is an area where the dirt trail becomes an option as well.

I couldn’t help but stop and take a picture of this large rock at the side of the trail.

I much prefer running through the woods on a dirt trail as opposed to the paved walkways that seem to be more common these days.

I was really surprised to see this deer behind this fence.

I’ve seen deer before during my runs through nature areas but this is the first time I have ever captured one on film. How exciting! There was also a Canadian Goose there as well.

I didn’t even realize that this trail would lead me to Churchill Park. It’s a gorgeous park that spans 27 hectares.

There is a replica grist mill here on this small pond. It looks really cool.

Here is a closer shot of the river leading up to it.

During my run, there were several bridges, like this one, to cross over.

Here’s a nice memorial to Don Rope, a two-time Olympic winning athlete. He helped Canada win a Bronze Medal in hockey in 1956 and a Silver Medal in the 1960 Winter Games.

He taught high school in Cambridge and was very active in helping develop local athletic programs. He is definitely a local hero.

This map shows some of the other trails in the area. I hope to run them all one day and document them for My Visual Running Tour series.

Chasing Content – August 4 Years Ago

I’m still working my way through the archives of Silent Cacophony to create “Best of” posts for each and every month. Today, I thought we’d take a moment to look back at what I was writing four years ago at this time.

Wow, we’ve come a long way over the years. Those posts look so small from way up here.

You can read all of the posts from August 2007 or just these few gems.

Trouble With Falling – A little poem I wrote about how difficult it is to fall out of love. The comments I received from it were very interesting. Feel free to leave one yourself.

Old and Falling Apart – I’ve since added a few more stories of personal injury since this original post four years ago. I really don’t feel that much older though. These past four years have just flown by.

I See It – Beauty is all around us. Do you see it? I had a moment where it became clear to me and I wrote about it.

Writing Chair – This was an awesome chair. Still haven’t found one like it.

What Makes a Volunteer – I have always volunteered in my community. I think it is important to give back.

Thanks for Chasing Content with me!

We All Need Free TV

Television has always been free.

All you needed was a television and an antenna.

The networks could deliver quality programming by allowing corporate sponsors to advertise on their shows. This quickly turned into commercials. Now, it is standard practice to have our programs interrupted every ten minutes so we can watch a slew of advertising spots.

But then someone had a brilliant idea – convince people to pay for something that they had always gotten for free.

And guess what?

People actually did.

A whopping 90% of Canadians pay for television by subscribing to cable or satellite services. I once counted myself amongst that hoard. A few years ago, though I cancelled my cable and I haven’t looked back.

Now, I am among the 1 in 10 Canadians who rely on free over the air reception. However, I keep seeing these commercials reminding us (the 10%) that our TVs may just show static in less than two weeks.

If we want to continue uninterrupted service, we need to buy a convertor box or subscribe to cable or satellite. Of course, these commercials have been running for over a year. I thought I was prepared for the switch that happens on September 1st because I bought this digital antenna.

It looks like a cutting board. It’s so strange, but it is designed to pick up both analogue and digital television signals. So far, it is working great for me. I hope it continues to work when the analogue signals stop.

Of course, my other big worry is that I will no longer be able to tune in the CBC.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is our national station and it is financed through tax dollars. I love watching Canadian productions and local news. I think it is an invaluable resource.

Although we don’t have a local station for each large city in Canada, those of us in Southern Ontario get a feed from the Toronto station, and that is completely fine with me.

The problem is, the national public broadcaster does not have the budget to convert all of their signal towers to digital. 16 communities that currently receive the CBC over the air, may not get any signal come the first of the month. The neighbouring cities to Toronto may be out of luck, including Kitchener and London.

I hope that the CBC will be allowed to continue broadcasting in analogue for the time being so my signal won’t be interrupted.

I hope my digital antenna will work for me as well.

But I guess I am just going to have to wait and see.

Know Your History: A Spotlight on Queen Latifah

Queen LatifahCover of Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah has achieved more than any other female artist in the history of this hip-hop. She has starred in movies, a few television series, has written books, earned a Golden Globe, two SAG awards, a Grammy award, and several other nominations for a variety of award shows. She continues to act, sing, and rap as well.

Very few rappers ever achieve the level of fame and list of accomplishments that Queen Latifah has. It’s really impressive, and to think. it all started with the success of this track. Here’s “Ladies First” featuring Monie Love.

Listen to this track and don’t go anywhere as we continue our look at Queen Latifah for our special evening dedicated to the Women of Hip-Hop. You can download this radio show for free or stream it with the player below. We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day all night long here for DOPEfm. putting “Ladies First.”

That was Queen Latifah “Ladies First” from her debut album “All Hail the Queen” that was released in 1989. Born Dana Owens, she adopted the regal sounding name because she liked the sound and meaning of it. Latifah means gentle or kind, and of course, by adding the Queen in front of that, she was saying a lot about how women should be seen and treated.
Queen Latifah showed us a strong, intelligent woman with a no nonsense attitude. She did so with style and grace as well. In her first video and several album covers, Latifah wore clothing with an Afrocentric theme. There was an entire movement in hip-hop in the late 1980s to early 1990s that looked toward Africa and the roots of these artists. They were celebrating their heritage and history and in doing so, calling attention to problems of racism, sexism, and issues of unity.
In fact, one of Latifah’s best knows songs is called “U.N.I,T.Y.” I remember being taken aback the first time I saw this music video. Queen Latifah rides a motorcycle in it and berates the hip-hop community for using derogatory terms for women. She yells, “Who you calling a bitch?” and the television network realized how relevant the content of this song was and played the video without censoring it.
Let’s listen to this inspirational track now and we’ll be back as we continue our celebration of the women in hip-hop for our tribute to International Women’s Day!
That was Queen Latifah “U.N.I.T.Y.” from her third album entitled “Black Riegn.” Classic, classic song with a great message. There is no reason for all of the misogyny in rap music. I don’t know why it is there. Queen Latifah is not the only artist to point this out and fight against it either. She does happen to be one of the best though.
Rap has the power to educate and influence a wide variety of people. At its best, hip-hop calls attention to issues and gets the listener thinking about things they might not otherwise have been exposed to.
In that song Queen Latifah talks about how she let men treat her bad and how she simply won’t allow that to happen anymore. She demands to be talked to respectfully and not to be man-handled. She talks about why some women choose to stay in abusive relationships and how they have the power to do much more than simply take it.
Queen Latifah is an inspiration for women everywhere. Even better than that, she is an inspiration for men. She used the same conventions that perpetuate sexism and misogyny and turned them on their ear. She raps with power and authority and packs a lot of social commentary into her rhymes.
Truth be told, we could spend the entire evening focusing on the work Latifah has done both on and off the microphone. She is a pioneer of hip-hop as she explored themes and issues in her music that weren’t really touched on prior to her arrival on the scene. She opened up a lot of doors for female rappers.
Of course, Queen Latifah had to fight hard to be heard and taken seriously. I still don’t understand why women are so disrespected in our culture. Why is hip-hop dominated by male artists? Why are we afraid of threatened by the success of our women? It’s really frustrating and I completely understand why “Latifah’s Had It Up to Here.”
That was “Latifah’s Had It Up to Here” from Queen Latifah’s second album “Nature of a Sista.” In it, she talks about how she is still a levelheaded person, how her success hasn’t gone to her head, how she has not sold out who she is, or compromised her ideals. She proclaims that she is all woman and doesn’t apologize for it at all.
This is a voice in hip-hop that we really need to hear.
Let’s close out the show with the DJ Premier remix of Queen Latifah’s first single “Wrath of My Madness.”
I can’t say enough about Queen Latifah’s accomplishments and the influence she has had in popular culture. She has legions of fans who cross generations, genders, and genres. She is definitely one of hip-hop’s greatest stars. Speaking of which, she actually was awarded a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame a few years back. She was the first hip-hop artist to receive that honour,
I hope you’ve enjoyed our series about the women in hip-hop. Know Your History: Episode 15 focused on the Women in Hip-hop from the 1970s. Episode 16 dealt with the first half of the 1980’s, and this latest episode focused on two of hip-hop’s biggest success stories from the late 1980’s and onward (If you missed the spotlight on MC Lyte, go back and read it now)
I hope you will pay more attention to hip-hop’s better half and realize that women continue to be involved in every aspect of hip-hop culture. We have amazing female emcees out there who need to be more readily heard. We here at DOPEfm will continue to celebrate the Women in Hip-Hop each and every single day here.

Today, though, it’s all about the ladies as we dedicate the entire overnight to the women who have blessed us with great music. Stay tuned as we celebrate International Women’s Day all night long.

You can download the entire 7 hours of our Women in Hip-Hop Special, you can stream this episode with the player below or download it for free.

Thanks for tuning in and remember to keep your dial or browser on DOPEfm each and every week.

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