Category Archives: 2016 reads

DJs Run It and Run With It

Playing With Something that Runs

Playing With Something That Runs by Mark J. Butler

This book focuses on DJ and laptop performers in the EDM (electronic dance music) realm. I thought it was worth exploring even though that isn’t really my genre of music. I was sure there would be tie-ins to hip-hop and what I do as a DJ. I was right.

Recorded Music is Its Own Thing

Hip-hop music spread and became popular due to recordings (singles and albums.) They sounded different from the live performances too. The author talks about this in relation to rock music.

“rock spread and became popular through recordings . . . [and] is essentially dependent on recording technology for its inception and dissemination . . . rock embraces a host of performance styles, but most have some basis in African American popular music, are rooted in song, and paradigmatically exist as recorded music.”

Hip-hop started with deejays taking breaks from existing sound recordings and extending them. When hip-hop started to get recorded, it wasn’t simply a live performance being recorded. It became its own thing.

“recordings have conventionally been understood as ‘snapshots of live performances’ [but] records were conceived of as goals rather than by-products of artistic endeavors.”

The Third Record

When a deejay mixes two records together, he is essentially creating a third record. When two songs match up perfectly in time, they create new song or sound that had never been heard before. The deejay essentially creates a new song that has been labelled “the third record.”

Butler explains it this way, “this combination of texts produced something that did not exist in material form.”

Borders Dissolve and Songs Become Fluid

The deejay present songs in a way to make the set something exciting and new. The mix is what is important, not just the individual songs. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

“The works contained in the recordings that constitute a DJ set are rarely presented in their entirety; instead, they are truncated, altered, and combined with other works. The borders and seams of the original work dissolve; it no longer functions as a unitary, bounded entity. The stability, fixity, or permanence that is classically associated with the work slips away, and any authorial value that might have been accrued with the work is seriously weakened. At the same time, aspects of the original work’s essence remain, and its former identity is not irrelevant. These ontic elements, however, become part of new, larger entities – the third record, and ultimately the set.”

The Power of Recognition

When deejays play a snippet of something that the audience can recognize, it energizes the crowd and makes the set memorable.

The sample, which presents a brief chunk of material – often recognizable – from a preexisting recording .. . is “performance quotation” because of the highly specific way in which they point back to the unique ‘aura’ of the original recording.”

Time Constraints 

“Perhaps the most obvious and global constraint of improvised musical creativity is the requirement that it proceed inexorably forward through time. . .  Steve Lacy, quoted by Borgo, highlights this limitation: ‘In fifteen seconds, the difference between composition and improvisation is that in composition you have all the time you want to decide what to say in fifteen seconds, while in improvisation, you have fifteen seconds.”

Timing is essential for deejays. We have to take the record as it spins and mold it or form it so that it meshes with the song before it and the song that comes next. This is a constraint that helps foster creativity in the DJ set. I love how improvisational all of this is. But improvisation takes practice and experience. It’s a challenge that I enjoy trying to overcome every time I get behind the turntables.

More to Come

I enjoyed reading this book and learned a thing or two about my craft. I have more notes too that I’d love to share. Stay tuned for a follow-up post soon!

 

Conscious Men – Why We All Need to Wake Up!

Conscious Men

Conscious Men by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh

It’s nice to see a book like this. I think far too often in the world, men go around blind to what it means to be a man. We don’t think about the gender roles we play in our daily lives. We are not conscious of things that we can do to improve and make changes.

“We feel that there are a number of simple things that a man can recognize about himself that radically increases his sense of wellbeing as well as his positive impact on those around him”

What a great mission for a book. Here is some of the advice they offer . . .

“… stress is a byproduct of doing things that are not right for you.”

They authors suggest that when you live your life according to a mission or sense of purpose, you can feel comfortable and strong with yourself and stress won’t be as much of an issue.

The title of this book helps us to think about some of the drives that motivate and cause us to act in ways we don’t think about. Becoming conscious of these thoughts and drives, help us to overcome then and live a more purposeful life.

I identify with this quote . . .

“… couples  fall in love but lose their passion quickly because they don’t create enough distance between themselves to maintain attraction. A conscious man is able to recognize that he has a need for intimacy, but he also has a need for solitude and silence.”

It all comes down to balance,  in my humble opinion. That is one of the reasons I go for trail runs. I need that solitude, isolation, and alone time. It benefits everyone.

Here is a key point; what works for you might not work for someone else. We can’t assume that  it every will. If we do, we will get frustrated and not truly understand the other person.

The authors tend to make some blanket statements in this book. Here is an example . . .

“Men take things more literally than women do and are not always so intuitive about anticipating another’s needs.”

I’m not sure this is always the case, but it does stimulate thinking. And that is the point of the book. To get us thinking about being a man, to recognize the masculine and feminine way of dealing with things, and to understand that we have access to both.

Here is another key point,

“In order for a man to feel motivated and to achieve and accomplish his soul’s mission,l he needs to be able to make promises that he can keep . . . 

Following feelings is fine, but you also need the part of you which can be analytical that can ask, ‘Why am I doing this? What are the things I want to accomplish and achieve in the long term. This means choosing long-term satisfaction over short-term pleasure.”

Here are some closing thoughts . . .

“… conscious masculinity is all about epigenetics: allowing conscious choices and understanding to override automation and instinct.”

and . . .

“A conscious man is aware of the pressures imposed upon him . . . he is aware of his reaction and rebellion against those pressures, and so he wakes up to doing the right thing, no matter what.”

Words to live by, that is for sure!

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed, personal reading log with links to every title I have read over the course of the year.

From the Graphic Novel Aisle

I love scouring the graphic novel section at the public library. It often leads me to titles and issues I never knew existed. And I get to read to great comics for free. What is better than that?

Here are the latest graphic novels that I have read.

Ant Man - Second Chance Man

Ant-Man – Second Chance Man

I didn’t know a lot about this character prior to seeing the movie last year. The film was incredible and I really enjoyed it. This comic pretty  much picks up right from there. If you saw the movie and liked it, I would recommend checking this one out.

Star Wars - Skywalker Strikes

Star Wars – Skywalker Strikes

This is my Star Wars. The comics are getting the characters, the universe, and the story right. Not like the latest film version, which was horrible, in my humble opinion.

I am enjoying how the writers of the on-going Star Wars series have filled in the gaps between the original film trilogy. This is the second title I have read in this series and I look forward to reading more.

Daniel Clowes - Mister Wonderful

Mr. Wonderful – A Love Story

I picked this up from the shelf and the story captured me right from the first page.

An older man is waiting in a coffee shop for his blind date. She’s late and his mind wanders. You can see his thought process throughout the story and how, at times, it takes him away from what is actually happening in front of him.

My girlfriend was with me when I picked this one up from the library. She read it before I did and also got into the quirky storytelling. When she got to the end though, she exclaimed something along the lines of “What? It ends there?” I guess she wanted more. I actually think it ended poetically.

Let me know what you think if you have read any of these titles.

Happy Reading!

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed, personal reading log with links to every title I have read over the course of the year.

March – An Illustrated History

March Book 1

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

This is the first part of a trilogy of books that tell the real-life story of John Lewis and his fight to end segregation in the United States.

The book opens a peaceful demonstration that is only met with violence. The civil rights activists are subjected to tear gas, batons, and arrests. And with the very real threat of violence always present, these brave souls never gave up.

They continued to fight unjust rules and customs by simply asking to be served in restaurants and conducting non-violent sit ins. If they got arrested, the refused to pay any fines and completed the jail time.

The violent time of the past is contrasted with the induction of America’s first Black President. Lewis tells his story on this day and it is illustrated beautiful and well-paced.

March Book 2

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

This book continues the real life account of the Civil Rights Movement and how peaceful protests were met with extreme violence. It covers the years 1961 to 1963. You can see how the buses were targeted right on the cover art. The story opens with a particularly brutal church bombing as well.

It’s hard to believe that racism was so rampant back then and that people targeted regular people who only wanted to be seen, heard, and valued.

This is an important story and part of our history. I am glad that it has been told with such care and accuracy.

Book Three will be released this fall

My 2016  Reading Log – every single title I read over the course of the year will be compiled here. I have lots of books to catch up on and write about still. Stay tuned!

The Inner Game of Work

the-inner-game-of-work-timothy-gallwey

The Inner Game of Work by W. Timothy Gallwey

I started a research project to see how we could let students choose what they want to learn in school and it led me to some very interesting books, articles, and videos. I will be sharing some of that with you over the course of this year as I continue this exploration.

As some of you may know, I quit teaching last year. There is an educator in me that just won’t quit, however. And so when I read this passage, I immediately identified with it.

A New Approach

“My first career was as an educator, a profession still notorious for being slow to embrace real change. Ironically, education is supposed to be about learning, and thus about change. It should provide insight and wisdom about change as well as set a good example. Yet it was not until I left the corridors of institutionalized education that I began to discover a profoundly different approach to learning and change.”

The distance away from teaching, as well as my continued research into finding a better way to teach and for schools to operate, has given me a new perspective. I am convinced that I am a much better teacher now because of that.

I love how Gallwey address my thesis topic in this passage too.

“I had to learn to give choices back to the student. Why? Because the learning takes place within the student. The student makes the choices that ultimately control whether learning takes place or doesn’t. In the end, I realized that the student was responsible for the learning choices and I was responsible for the quality of the learning environment.”

I think if students had more choice in school, there wouldn’t ne this lack of engagement and motivation that I see time and time again. School could actually be a fun place for kids to come and learn. There need to be some major changes in the public education system and the way we teach. We need to embrace change, as Gallwey contests.

Let Our Students Make Mistakes!

We also need to let our students flounder, to make some mistakes, and to discover things on their own. Here is why . . .

“Probably our parents, eager to be “good parents,” solved some of the problems that should have been left to us to solve so that we could gain skill and confidence. We come to expect this kind of help from the coach or parent. We may get an answer, but we don’t develop the skill or self-confidence to cope with similar problems in the future. In turn, we tend to validate ourselves as parents and coaches by solving the problems of our children or clients.”

We Can’t Solve Our Students’ Problems!

“Once you realize it’s not the job of the coach to solve the problem . . . for the most part the job of the coach is to listen well, but there’s more to it. Effective coaching . . . holds a mirror up for [students], so they can see their own thinking process. As a coach, I am not listening for the content of what is being said as much as I am listening to the way they are thinking, including how their attention is focused and how they define the key elements of the situation.”

Teachers as Coaches

Teachers should aim to be more like the coaches Gallwey describes in this book. In fact, if you substitute the word teacher in every place he uses the word coach in this book, the message becomes all the more clear on what we should be doing in schools to truly help and reach all of our students.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – inspiration and ideas for classroom teachers (an on-going series)

My List of 2016 Reads – an on-going reading log with detailed posts about each title

Scott Pilgrim’s London, ON. Connection

Scott Pilgrim Vol 1

Scott Pilgrim Vol 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley

I saw the film, Scott Pilgrim vs The World a few years back and I was impressed with the quirky writing, hilarious scenes, and original story. I knew that it was based on a book but I knew nothing about the print version of it whatsoever.

I saw this book in the library last week and decided to pick it up. After reading it, I must say that the movie stays true to the source material. I haven’t read the entire story though, it continues on in a few separate graphic novels, but so far everything that has happened on the page, pretty much happened in the film too.

Reading the afterward was especially enlightening. I knew the story was uniquely Canadian but I didn’t know of the London, Ontario connection.

Scott Pilgrim Afterward

My radio show, Word is Bond, is on the very same station the author mentions in the afterward. I’ve been to concerts at Call the Office, a local venue. And I have shopped at Sunrise Records in Westmount Mall.

It was cool to see that Bryan Lee O’Malley was inspired to write this story from his time spent in London, Ontario.

This story was told so well on the screen that I can honestly say that the film version is better than the book. It’s hard to say that about any movie. In fact, I have only had one other film, in my opinion, that surpasses the book. Ironically, it was a comic as well. I am talking about V for Vendetta. 

The afterward is fairly long. It includes character sketches and information about how each character came to be. It shows how the author used real locations and photos to draw the scenes. It even includes the original pitch he made to get the series green lit. It is a nice window into the entire creative process.

I think you should check out both the film and print versions and get to know Scott Pilgrim. You won’t be disappointed.

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed and continually updated reading log

Darth Vader lives on . . . In Comics

Darth Vader Vol 1

Darth Vader: Vol. 1 – Vader

This story takes place right after Star Wars IV: A New Hope and is the start of Darth Vader’s own on-going series.

Darth Vader has been demoted in the wake of the Death Star fiasco. He was the one who ultimately got blamed for the rebellion being able to take it out. The Emperor expects him to atone for this mistake.

Darth Vader isn’t one to simply take this all lying down. however. He starts to build his own army of battle droids. The Emperor gets wind of his plan and sets him up to battle against another hopeful apprentice. Vader must prove his worth to the Empire, but it all leaves a bit of a sour taste in his mouth.

Darth Vader Volume 2

Darth Vader: Vol. 2 – Shadows and Secrets

Darth Vader turned to archaeologist and droid expert, Dr. Aphra to help him build his droid army. She proved her allegiance to him and even though he is a little reluctant, Vader accepts her help and they become a team, of sorts.

Film Version Please

This was a really great story. I would love to see a film trilogy made that focuses solely on Darth Vader. It would be great to see things from his point of view and in all of his fearsome glory.

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin

Darth Vader had a few mini-series before getting his own title. This one focuses on a father who wants to avenge his son’s death at the hands of Vader. He enlists some very bad men to get the task done. But eight others have failed before. Will this ninth assassin be any different?

Darth VAder and the Lost Command

Darth Vader and the Lost Command

Darth Vader is haunted by his past. We are treated to some of the moments that the prequel trilogy didn’t touch on. We see some sweet scenes between Anakin and Padme that really make this graphic novel stand out.

Darth Vader and Cry of Shadows

Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows 

I’m not sure why this one was billed as a Darth Vader title. The story focuses on a clone trooper who is abandoned during a battle. He seeks to gain the acceptance of Darth Vader and works hard to prove to him that he is the ultimate warrior. It was a very good read, however.

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed reading log for my entire year

Thor – Who’s Worthy?

Thor - Goddness of Thunder

Thor – Goddess of Thunder

What a brilliant concept for a story about Thor.

The title has always been built around the theme “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”

Unfortunately, Thor is no longer worthy to wield the hammer and as such Mjölnir is stuck without an owner. Every one tries to lift it and fails. Even Thor himself.

But some mysterious woman is able to pick up the hammer and wield it’s power. She becomes the new Thor.

Spoilers Below – I won’t reveal who the new Thor is though. I’d hate to do that to you.

Thor - Who Holds the Hammer

Thor – Who Holds the Hammer

The new Thor is trying to figure out how to be a hero like the previous Thor. She has a few hilarious run-ins, but is clearly capable of coming into her own and being the all-powerful super-hero we would expect Thor to be.

Meanwhile, Thor has come up with a list of people who could possibly have succeeded him in becoming Thor. He tracks each and every one down, hoping to find a way that he can regain his power and title.

When he finally does meet up with the mysterious Goddess of Thunder, he realizes that he still isn’t worthy to wield the hammer. He endorses her as the new Thor and we finally get to see who she is.

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed personal reading log. Please share and comment if you have read any of these titles too.

The Kick-Ass Writer

Kick-Ass Writer

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig

This is a book for writers who don’t have time to read a book for writers.

You can dive in and out of the book with ease. If you want to learn something about the fundamentals, the craft of writing, or about presenting your final work, just go to that section and find some tips and advice.

Wendig admits thagt his book is “just a bucket of ideas that are at least half-nonsense. A bucket of ideas that serve as tools. And not every tool is meant for every job. And not every craftsman finds the value in every tool.”

Basically, take what you can from this and apply it how you see fit. Ignore the parts that don’t fit with your methodology. And get writing.

Here are the notes I took when reading it . . .

From 25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story

Write three paragraphs, each detailing the rough three acts found in every story: the inciting incident and outcome of the beginning (Act I), the escalation and conflict in the middle (Act II), the climatic culmination of events and the ease-down denouement (Act III)

I don’t normally plan or outline my stories, but I like to go back and make sure these things are apparent.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Dialogue

You can use dialogue to set the pace of your story or scene.

If you want your story to read faster, you use dialogue to move it along. . . dialogue reads easy . . . a reader gets to it, they zip forth fast, fancy and free. Want to slow things down? Pull away from dialogue. Speed things up? More dialogue.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Editing, Revising, and Rewriting

Wendig advises that you don’t start your rewrite or edit without a plan.

How do you know what to fix if you haven’t identified what’s broken?

He also suggests only fixing one thing at a time. Go through your work in progress and do a dialogue pass. Then go back and look at your use of description. Then take a pass for plot, sentence variety, and anything else you need to look at.

Tracking revisions is also important.

Keep a record of them all. . .  Any time you make a revision change, mark the revision and save a new file. I don’t care if you have 152 files by the end of it. You’ll be happy if you need to go back. 

And last but not least in this list, you should read your work aloud

When you read your work aloud, you’ll be amazed at the things you catch, the things that sound off, that don’t make sense, that are awkward or wishy-washy or inconsistent.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Getting Published

Even if you want to go the traditional route, Wendig suggests self-publishing one thing that might not be the best fit for conventional publishers.

Walk both paths to gain the advantages of each. 

Know your story very well so you can explain it in a variety of ways.

Learn how to sum up your work in a single sentence, a single paragraph, and three paragraphs. 

The publishing industry cares about genre, so figure out what you story is so it doesn’t get mislabeled or misrepresented.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Self-Publishing

Find ways to experiment with format such as “transmedia initiatives, app-novels, stories told across social media,” etc.

Do not me constrained by the formats that exist. Story does not begin and end with a physical book. It doesn’t stop at e-books either.

That was me

I bet if you read this book, you will take away different things from it. So, if you do read it, please write about your experience with it, and link to it in the comment section.

Happy Writing!

My Detailed Reading Log for 2016

The Death of Wolverine

Wolverine Three Months to Die Book 1

Wolverine – Three Months to Die: Book 1

Wolverine has lost his ability to heal. He goes on like nothing has changed, but he knows that everything has.

He confided to Ms. Marvel that it was the only power really worth anything.

Healing Factor

Wolverine needs his healing ability. Every time he uses his claws they pierce his skin and when then retract, they could potentially expose him to infection. I love how this comic series addresses how much of an issue that is for him right now. It’s scary.

Wolverine Three Months to Die Book 2

Wolverine – Three Months to Die: Book 2

Wolverine confronts Death himself in this story. Death seems to help him get over his fear of continuing to be a hero despite losing his super-powers.

When things look bleak, Wolverine calls for a little bit of back up. Nick Fury shows up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and The Avengers to help save the day. He says, “You know what your best super-power is, old man? That you’ve got so many friends.”

Wolverine Friends

Unfortunately, in the end, Wolverine is going to die alone.

Death of Wolverine

Death of Wolverine

This is Wolverine’s final battle. Even without his healing ability, he continues to fight like he is immortal. He puts everything on the line to protect the lives of others and to stop a terrible evil from being unleashed.

This four issue mini-series was a fitting end for our Favourite Canadian Super-Hero.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title and book review