Monthly Archives: August 2013

My Name is Memory

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting to see all of the ways that the two characters connected throughout the years. The timing or circumstances were never quite right for them to finally come together to live happily ever after. But that notion of fairy-tale love is what keeps the main character going throughout the centuries. That’s right, centuries.

Daniel Gray knows that he is in love with Sophia. He met her briefly in 520 A.D. and he has chased her through all of his subsequent lives. She can’t remember her past lives so it is really hard to connect with her in each new life. That doesn’t stop him from trying though.

In 2009, it seems like he might finally be able to make that connection and be able to have a long and fruitful relationship with Sophia, who now goes by the name of Lucy and has no idea who Daniel is.

This was a nice read, right up until the ending. As the pages ahead of me started to dwindle, I started to get worried that this story wasn’t going to tie up neatly.

When I got to the last page, my fears were realized. I actually swore loudly at the book as I came to the very end. I rarely do that. This wasn’t the end of the story. I needed to know what happened.

I need closure when reading a novel. This one didn’t give that to me.

It seems that this book was originally planned to be a trilogy but even so, the ending should have wrapped up a little but better. And what if a sequel doesn’t actually happen? Then I will be let down by a book that I enjoyed right up to the ending. That’s not cool.

Check out My 2013 ReadsA Complete List of Every Title Have Read This Year

Stratford’s All-Wheels Skatepark

Grab your skateboard and head to Stratford’s All-Wheels Skatepark.

It’s time for another visual tour.

This park doesn’t look like much. The ramps look kind of worn down. The concrete isn’t completely smooth. And the area looks like it used to be an industrial parking lot.

But the metal ramps are a nice touch. The park has a good flow to it and is really well-designed.

This launch ramp is wide enough to give several skaters some speed to hit the various obstacles.

The pyramid is nice as it has areas to grind, jump, and transfer.

The curvature of the ramps are perfect as well. I have seem some parks that just can’t seem to get that right. They are either too steep or too shallow. Theses ones are nice!

And of course, this is my favourite feature – the half-pipe. I would prefer that it be a bit wider but I’m not going to complain.

This is a nice park. I really enjoyed my early morning skate today.

More Skatepark Tours

Breathtaking Sidewalk Art

David Zinn magically transforms the sidewalk and immediate environment into breathtaking works of art. And he does it in chalk. Absolutely incredible!

I love how he makes three-dimensional drawings that are fully immersed in reality and fantasy at exactly the same time.

This piece might just be my favourite. It really looks like Sluggo is lifting up the sidewalk to hide the leaves he has raked.

It’s a big job . . . but fortunately there are plenty of sidewalk blocks to utilize.

Maybe this is where Sluggo sleeps at night.

And it looks like he has friends underground.

Here is what David Zinn has to say about his art . . .

“I am an inveterate doodler and a shameless word nerd, always looking for new opportunities to use art as a problem-solving tool, whether the problem is a complicated global concern or a sad-looking crack in the sidewalk.”

Connected by Books

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler

I’m sure that we’ve all heard of Six Degrees of Separation – the theory that everyone is connected in six or fewer steps. That means you could be connected to me even if we have never met. Perhaps your friend knows my cousin’s neighbour’s barber. That links us in 6 steps:

ME – cousin – neighbour – barber – friend – YOU

This theory has become quite popular over the years. There is even a party game known as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon where you try to link any actor to Kevin Bacon in less than 6 steps. It’s a fun game and I am often surprised on how so many actors can be linked to Kevin Bacon this way.

The authors of this book propose a new theory they call Three Degrees of Influence, which basically means that we can influence and be influenced by people we don’t know if they are only three degrees removed from us. In other words, our friends’ friends’ friends can have a influence on us and vice versa.

That is an amazing discovery! It sounds like it might be a bit far-fetched though. How can we be influenced by people we don’t even know? The authors share all sorts of examples of where this is the case.

I know that I have been influenced by something I’ve seen on Tumblr or Twitter that was originally posted by my friends’ friends’ friend and it made its way to my dashboard, made me pause, share it myself, and steer me in a certain direction.

It’s interesting to see all the ways we are connected. These connections might not be visible all the times but we are pretty much all connected in some form or another. If we lived our lives with this in mind, perhaps we would be better to each other, friendlier, kinder, and more helpful. That’s a great closing thought.

My Complete List of 2013 Reads

Historic St. Marys, Ontario

Thomas Ingersoll built mills at the Little Falls of the Thames and proclaimed a fair amount of land in the process. The community of St. Marys was established and it continued to grow and develop.

It’s pretty cool to see that the Mill Wheel still exists even if the industry that was so important to the town only two hundred years ago does not.

This is where the Grist Mill was built in 1843 and continued its operation until the mid 1970s. The wheel that still stands in this location isn’t quite that old. It was installed in 1910 and still stands as a monument to the life of an early settlement town.

I always wondered how these things work. I’ve never seen one in operation but I have seen many of the ruins. I just haven’t taken enough time to stop and read the historical plaques.

I remember the first time I even heard the term “Mill Race.” I thought it had to do with an organized running event. Boy, was I wrong.

A mill race is the current of water that turns a water wheel. The water races down a channel and provides the power for the mill.

These small waterfalls are gorgeous, right in the downtown core of St. Marys.

But that isn’t the only water wonder in this town.

The Lind Sportsplex is home to a beautiful fresh water pool that is housed by the old quarry. It is Canada’s largest outdoor swimming pool.

Arthur Meighen was the Ninth Prime Minister of Canada and he was born on a farm in Historic St. Marys. His old house is one of the featured attractions along the Loop Trail route.

That’s my brief tour of the township of St. Marys. You can explore even more of it with the two trail runs I posted in the photographic tours section of this blog.

Thanks for exploring with me!

Two Back-to-Back Scrabble Wins

I played two games of Scrabble with my mom this week and something really unusual happened.

I got the exact same score at the end of both games.

Here’s the proof . . .

The first two columns are the score card for Game 1. You can see that I won with a total of 287 points. You can also see that it was a very close game. We were exactly tied right in the middle of the game too.

When I finished tallying the unused tiles in Game 2, I was shocked to see that I received the exact same score from the game before.

My mom is a tough Scarbble opponent and might have won this second game it it weren’t for some brilliant wordplay by yours truly. I spelled “acquire” with the “Q” tile on a double letter score and the entire word falling on a double word score. One play – 50 points. Very nice!

I then played three words in one turn by added an “S” to form “acquires” while also spelling “seed” and connecting the “D” to the end of a third word.

It was a nice series of Scrabble games this week. It really is my favourite board game.

The On-Going Scrabble War

The New Adventures of Jack

I am continuing to blog about every book I read. It’s a lot of fun having this yearly reading log. 

The latest additions to the list are three trade paperbacks from the on-going Jack of Fables series. 

Jack of Fables: Volume 5 – Turning Pages by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Russ Braun, Tony Akins, Jose Marzan Jr., and Andrew Pepoy.

Story tale characters are immortal even outside of the pages of their books. Jack of Fables has lived a very long time. This issue retells a story from 1883 where Jack is a bit of an outlaw. The Big Bad Wolf is tracking him down to bring him to justice.

Jack of Fables: Volume 6 – The Big Book of War by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Russ Braun, Tony Akins, Jose Marzan Jr., and Dan Green.

The Bookburner wants to erase all of the storybook characters. He is an evil of such that the Fables have never before faced. It’s a good thing that Jack is elected as battle commander in an epic war, or is it? The comedy is this issue is ramped up and so is the action.

Jack of Fables: Volume 7 – The New Adventures of Jack and Jack by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Russ Braun, Tony Akins, Jose Marzan Jr., and Andrew Pepoy.

The series takes a strange turn here. It seems that the legendary Jack of Fables, aka Little Jack Horner, Jack B. Nimble, Jack the Giant Slayer, and countless other aliases has a son named after him. And after a tragic turn of events, the son takes over as the main character in this series.

Jack hasn’t always been the most noble character, but I find it hard to believe that his story has come to an end with this volume. Can’t wait to read the next one to see what happens.

Here’s My Complete Reading List of 2013

Grand Trunk Trail

It’s time for another Photographic Tour!

This time we are exploring the Grand Trunk Trail in St. Marys, Ontario.

I accessed the trail via Milt Dunnel Field and ran up these stairs to the bridge.

This high bridge over the Thames River was first constructed in 1857.

Trains continued to use the bridge right up until 1988. A few years later, the old railway line was converted to a multi-use trail for hiking, biking, and of course, running.

I’ve run plenty of rail trails and most of them are fairly boring. The courses are mostly straight and seem to go on forever.

Fortunately, this trail wanders through all sorts of different terrain. (See what I did there?)

And it loops up with the trail I ran last week.

Portions of this trail were along side streets as well.

But it did loop up to the waterfront. I passed a few historical sites along this route. I will be blogging about them next week. Stay tuned!

More Running Trails

Know Your History – Storytelling Rap

Today, I want to look at one of the most difficult things a rapper can do throughout the course of a song – tell a story. Doesn’t sound very difficult, does it? After all, we tell stories all the time in our daily lives. But I am sure you have a friend or two who just can’t seem to tell a story well. Their yarns simply don’t hold your attention. They leave out key details. They rush through parts. They give too much information. It’s boring and you quickly change the subject to keep things moving. Am I right?

I find that we have the same thing in hip-hop. For some reason, not all rappers can craft a good story rhyme. It’s an art unto itself. It requires a precision to detail in a way that other songwriting does not. Rappers need to be able to establish the story in a rhyme that holds attention, sets up the scene, builds anticipation, and has us yearning to see how it all turns out. That is easier said than done.

I’m sure we have all heard storytelling in rap songs. Some rappers will tell a quick story in a verse or part of a verse. For today’s purposes, I am not going to look at those ones. Today, we will focus on songs that complete one story. Songs that are built around a narrative with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Songs that are perfect short stories told through rhyme.

And of course, a hip-hop history lesson on the power of storytelling has to start out with this artist. He is the undisputed king of storytelling rap. He is a veteran who has been dropping hip-hop since its inception. In fact, his family moved to The Bronx in 1977 and he began his rap career almost immediately.

This song is one of the finest examples we have of a storytelling rhyme. This is “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick from the 1989 album “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick.” This is Chase March for Know Your History on DOPEfm and The Word is Bond Rap Radio Hour. Don’t go anywhere. We will be back to continue our discussion on storytelling rap in this 43rd edition of Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Now, it’s time for Slick Rick to do what he does best. Tell us a story.

That was Slick Rick, a track called “Children’s Story.” And quite possibly the best storytelling rap song ever. Slick Rick is a master storyteller. There aren’t many emcees who can match what he does on the mic.

By the time this album came out, Slick Rick was already a star. He worked with Doug E Fresh and released a single in 1985 entitled “The Show” but it was the b-side of that track that got the most attention. I could have featured that song here as well since it tells a day-in-the-life story and does so in a very memorable way. Snoop Dogg even covered the song in his 1993 solo debut album “Doggystyle.” And up until that point in time, I really hadn’t seen many rappers covering someone’s song in such a straightforward way.

Rappers often pay homage to other rappers with shared lines but rarely do they remake a song. Cover songs are rare in hip-hop. And the fact that Slick Rick has been covered more than once just goes to show how respected he is in this genre, and more specifically in this sub-genre of storytelling rap.

The song I just played was called “Children’s Story.” It isn’t exactly your all ages tale, but it does start out that way. We hear young children asking their Uncle Ricky to tell them a story. It sounds like Slick Rick is going to tell them a fairy tale, especially when we hear the opening, “Once upon a time” but the tale quickly becomes a dark one. It is about a boy who turns to a life of crime. He tries to rob an undercover cop and a chase ensues. He then steals a car and eventually holds a pregnant woman hostage. He lets her go and at several points in the story we can see that he tries to do the right thing. Slick Rick even says, “Deep in his heart, he knew he was wrong.”

The character in the story doesn’t shoot the cop when he has the chance and he doesn’t hurt the hostage he took either. He was a petty thief for the most part who was just mislead. Unfortunately though, he meets a tragic end.

But Slick Rick concludes this story with a moral like all good fairy tales. He says, “This ain’t funny so don’t ya dare laugh / Just another case about the wrong path / Straight ‘n narrow or yo’ soul gets cast. Good night”

And with that, he leaves the story for the listener and the children he was entertaining to contemplate its meaning. He doesn’t beat us over the head with the narrative. He simply mentions how it’s best to stay on the straight and narrow path and to avoid a life of crime.

In this song, a life of crime caught up with the main character. In the next story rhyme we are going to feature the culprit is a bit more sinister.

This is Chase March and you are listening to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Today, we are exploring storytelling in rap songs. We started out with the undisputed king of this form, Slick Rick, and we will be featuring many more examples and analysis over the course of the show.

So, the sinister culprit I mentioned just now. It’s something that can catch up with all of us. It something that will get ‘cha if you’re not careful. And it’s something that Boogie Down Productions explore in this song, “Love’s Gonna Getcha.”

That was “Love’s Gonna Getcha” by Boogie Down Productions. It isn’t a sad break-up song either. Krs-one weaves a story about how the love of material possessions can lead people astray.

In typical rap style, this song is told in a first person account. The main character gets good grades in school and tries his best to stay out of trouble. He acts tough when need be so he can stay on the straight and narrow. Maybe this kid listened to the moral of the first song we played today.

The next character we meet in this story is Rob, a drug dealer, who owns a fancy car. The main character greets him quickly and then heads home where he hugs his mother and punches his brother. Sounds like a pretty normal kid so far. But then the sounds of gunfire break out from down the street and he narrates that this happens almost every day where he lives.

He also tells us that he doesn’t have much money for clothes. In fact, he only has three pairs of pants, which he has to share with his brother. He gets teased about it in school too. He has just enough to eat and he sees that his mom struggles to give his family the meager existence that they do have.

He makes a bad choice one day and does a run for the drug dealer. He gets paid $200 for it. It is quick and easy money. So he does it again. He shares the money with his family and treats them to a nice dinner. It’s been a while since they’ve ate so well. Mom is nervous about it but accepts his generosity.

The boy gets deeper in the drug game and enlists the help of his brother. Three months later and they are big players in the game. “My family is happy. Everything is new. Now tell me what the f- am I supposed to do.”

Things escalate. He and his brother take up arms for protection and to help keep their new empire strong. They have all the material possessions they could possibly want. They get to relax and watch big screen televisions while their foot soldiers do the work.

Things get heated when his brother gets shot. And it looks like it was Rob, the original drug dealer from this story. He tracks down Rob and shoots him but the cops surrounded them and kill two of his men and take him off to jail.

And just like Slick Rick in “Children’s Story,” Krs-One ends his tale with a message. He says, “It’s alright to like or want a material item, but when you fall in love with it and you start scheming and carrying on for it, just remember, it’s gonna get’cha.”

It’s a good story that keeps our attention for an entire song. It’s got setting, character, a rising action, a climax, and a resolution. It’s a mini-movie told in verse. Very nice stuff.

Telling short stories in rhyme is a difficult skill. It’s easy enough to write a short children’s book in that style but rap listeners are a lot more discerning.

The stories we have heard so far in this episode have had unhappy endings. I think it’s time to brighten things up a bit. This is one of my all-time favourite songs. This is “It was a Good Day” by Ice Cube and this is Chase March focusing on the master storytellers we have in hip-hop culture for this edition of Know Your History. Don’t go anywhere, we’ll be right back right here on DOPEfm and The Word is Bond Rap Radio Hour.

I love that song. Ice Cube starts out his narrative with some foreshadowing. He only just woke up but has a strange feeling that it’s going to be a good day. The neighbour’s dog isn’t barking, there isn’t any smog, and his mom is cooking exactly what he wanted to have for breakfast. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic day.

He goes out and about his business for the day and doesn’t get stopped or harassed by the cops once. He plays an amazing game of basketball at neighbourhood park. He doesn’t get into any confrontations with rivals. He watches an episode of Yo! MTV Raps, wins a game of Bones, and takes home some money for it. None of his friends get shot or injured that day either. He finally gets lucky with a girl he’s had his eye on for a while. He is a Lakers fan and they win the game that night. He goes home and declares “It was a Good Day.”

Several people have tried to determine the exact date of this good day. Donovan Strain painstakingly went through all of these details to conclude that Ice Cube’s “Good Day” was January 20th, 1992.

According to his research, the Lakers did in fact beat the SuperSonics on a clear and smogless day when Yo MTV Raps aired an episode. Sadly, though, no statistics for Cube’s local basketball game were available to confirm his triple-double. Maybe if Twitter had been around back then instead of just beepers, we would all have known about it.

Mike B, expanded on Strain’s research by looking at biographical information from a variety of sources to conclude that this “good day” had to be earlier in Ice Cube’s career. It makes a lot of sense for Ice Cube’s “Good Day” to be November 30th, 1988.

But I’ll argue that they are both wrong. This was pure fiction. Ice Cube was telling a story of a hypothetically perfect day. He wasn’t relating a specific day anymore than Slick Rick was at the top of the show. We can come to this conclusion with the line “Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp and it read ‘Ice Cube’s a Pimp.’” That’s highly unlikely to have actually happened. Goodyear runs advertising on their Blimps but I doubt they would display praise for rap artists for no reason whatsoever. But kudos to these fellow hip-hop historians who did all that research and were able to peg down Ice Cube’s “Good Day” to two possible dates.

I love how creative rappers can be with their storytelling rhymes. So far, we have heard from three master storytellers; Slick Rick, Krs-One, and Ice Cube. But a show on storytelling rap would not be complete without another great storytelling emcee. This rapper has told all sorts of stories in rhyme. One such song even earned him an Academy Award. That is a huge moment for storytelling rap and for hip-hop in general,

I am sure we are probably all familiar with “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. It is a great song. It’s inspiring and uplifting. It truly deserved the Oscar for best original song in 2003. The song is about overcoming obstacles, pursuing a dream, and never giving up on it. And it is the song we are going to end off our show with today.

That was “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. A great song about going after your dreams and not letting anything stop you. It was featured in the movie 8 Mile which was a semi-autobiographical tale starring Eminem as an aspiring young rapper named Rabbit.

The song you just heard starts out moments before he is to take the stage in a rap battle. He is really nervous and the whole scene is a little too much for him. He forgets the rhymes he worked on for this battle and ultimately gets booed off stage. But he doesn’t let this one failure stop him. Instead, he redoubles his efforts, goes back home and writes, practises, and improves.

In the second verse, he imagines what life would be like as a successful rapper. He is living the dream but doesn’t like that it has taken him away from his family. He says, “He’s no father. He goes home and barely knows his own daughter.” That’s a sad tale of the road when you have young children. They really do grow up fast.

He then talks about the poverty he is still dealing with and makes a decision. He is tired of just barely scraping by. He has the talent and a dream. He is going to go after a music career. Success is the only option and he’s taking his shot.

What a great song. Eminem is a master storyteller. He touches on a variety of topics in quite a few of his songs.

This brings an end to the 43rd edition of Know Your History – Storytelling Rap.

If you like what you heard, remember that we do this once a month. Of course, The Word is Bond Rap Radio Hour is broadcast every single week. We bring you the best in real hip-hop music and talk with artist interviews, hip-hop history segments just like the one you just heard, contests, guest deejays, and of course great music. Tune in live every Saturday night at midnight to hear the program on DOPEfm.

Download Know Your History – Story Hour

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Once Upon a Time VS Fables

I just finished watching Season One of Once Upon a Time.

Once Upon a Time Season One

I really had no interest in watching the show, and it’s not because I’m not interested in fairy tales. In fact, just the opposite. I love the idea of exploring these characters within a modern world and I love the themes within the stories.

The reason that I never gave this show a chance before now is that I was loyal to the a different series.

Fables comic book series

Fables is an award-winning comic book series that has captured my attention ever since I got wind of it. I have read all of the issues and am currently working my way through some of the spin-offs.

The series has all of the storybook characters we know and love together in the modern world. However, the rest of society has no idea that these characters are indeed real.

So, when I heard that a television series was being developed around the same premise, I had no interest in watching it. The comics had done such a great job with this story. I would have loved to have seen an adaptation of this story on my television screen, but I didn’t want to see another take on it.

I’m glad I gave Once Upon a Time a chance, though. It is not the same story, but it is still a good one. In this version, the storybook characters are sent to a land that has no magic. They are banished there with no memory of their past and are torn apart from their families and loved ones.

I love the fact that this season ended on a happy note. It was a fairy tale unto itself. It was well done with great performances. Rumplestitskin is absolutely brilliant.

Once Upon a Time VS Fables

Why choose? They are both great.