Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another Stealth Music-T, Barenaked Edition

Fridays are tricky, it's turned out. Most school Pro-D Days are scheduled for Fridays so the blog tends to miss out on the Music T posts. Tomorrow, another Pro-D Day, is concert day for the Barenaked Ladies here in Vancouver, playing WITH the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre. Jeff's not a BNL fan (?!? I know, right?) but when we found out his best friend's wife bought tickets for THEM as part of an office event, he agreed to come and hang out.

Like many things I probably couldn't imagine my pop culture world without today - Buffy, C.S.I., Amanda Palmer - BNL was more my brother's thing than mine. Between the two of us, he tends to be the earlier adopter in the family and his youthful BNL fandom knew no bounds. There was a summer in Saskatoon when I got tickets for an outdoor, multi-band music festival where BNL was playing and sent my boyfriend at the time with Arthur as he was about... oh, twelve years old ... at the time. I had to work that day but I believe that they had a pretty good time. Arthur asked me later if I remembered The Simpsons episode "Homerpalooza" where they go to a Lollapalooza-inspired music festival and Lisa comments,"It smells like Otto's jacket!". My pre-teen little bro smiled at me when I said I did and declared proudly,"I know what she meant now!" Now that I think about it, he might've actually known that particular concert scent before I did too.

It's the quirky nature of memory that I cannot pinpoint when it was that I sent Arthur to that concert. Even Arthur's not sure exactly. He says that it was the year they released the "Born on a Pirate Ship" album so that dates it around 1996. And it goes to show that life before the Internet is truly the modern Dark Ages in that I cannot find a record anywhere online that the Barenaked Ladies played any concert festival in Saskatoon that summer or the next.

So for the fun of it, here's a video made a little over ten years ago where the boys of BNL pay tribute to the wonderful booth known as "Speakers Corner" where they brought their music and faces to the public for the first time ten years before THAT.

Wow, I'm feeling old now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Power of Place

Today's shirt isn't exactly exciting or eye-catching but the memories of my visits to Oxford always thrill me a little. The thought of walking the same lanes and seeing the same vistas as Tolkein, Shelley, Wilde, and Adam Smith boggles... and I mean BOGGLES... my mind.

Geography is so much more than co-ordinates on a globe. In the movie Collateral, Jamie Foxx's character has a photograph of the Maldives tucked into the sun visor in the taxi he drives. When things get rough, he takes a little holiday by looking at that picture and thinking about that beach. That power of place depends on the depth of feeling associated with the memory or the dream. We never recapture a specific moment but we do try, don't we? And being in a place that has deep meaning for us can invoke the memory of that moment so that we can choose to relive it, reflect on it, even re-evaluate it through our more experienced lens. Returning year after to year to the same restaurant to celebrate an anniversary. Spending Christmas morning with family in the same living room every year. Stopping at the same viewing point every time a road trip passes by it. It's where nostalgia and deja vu have a love child and produce the essence of a place. Those little snapshot moments in our minds' eye give us solace and respite, maybe even resolve and motivation.

And then there are places where we've never physically been to that still resonate with us. For me, that was most keenly felt in Florence, Italy. The first day I woke up in that city and stepped out of our crazy amazing fabulously-priced hotel and onto the via that runs along the banks of the Arno, I felt as though I had returned to a well-known and long-loved place. I traced this feeling back (past my multiple screenings of A Room With a View) to my undergrad degree spent buried in multiple courses on medieval history. Dante, Boccaccio, the Medici family... I studied their writings, their art, their politics. I lived, breathed, and dreamed their legacies for four years. It shouldn't have surprised me that their stomping grounds would seem familiar. But it did. And that's the power of place. 

Anyone have an example to share?

**Now that I'm thinking about Florence, I gotta share images from the hotel.

Those paintings are the DOORS to the rooms
That's the front lobby and the check-in counter

And THAT's a typical room. Not even kidding. The ceiling had LED "stars" and you could signal "Do Not Disturb" by pushing a button on the bedside console.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Play Is Pay

Not a real post today, sorry. I'm still humming from last night's Springsteen concert and then there was the little matter of a final project that isn't *quite* finished yet and needs to be presented online at 5pm.

Today's shirt was a Teefury (maybe Redbubble?) gift from Mitch and J and marries the raison d'ĂȘtre of Firefly's Mal and Jayne with the joie de vivre of Calvin and Hobbes. Fittingly, graphic artist Karen Hallion titled her work "Malvin and Cobbes". It's a whole series. Bonus points for clever...

**Addendum (28Nov2012)**

With grateful thanks for Steven Rubio, here are videos of my three favourite moments from the Springsteen concert:

Now THAT is a rock star, people! 63 years young and trusting his fans enough to crowd surf. Have to admit that I was afraid at times that Vancouver would be the city that dropped The Boss on his head but he made it back to the stage okay.

I hope that the little girl he brought on stage to sing with him will NEVER EVER forget that moment.

From young to the young at heart, I'll wager that every woman in Rogers Arena fell in love Monday night.

The one other stand-out memory for me Monday night was the moment of tribute for Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons during "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out". Of course, the video from the show would be five to ten minutes of pure applause... which is impressive but you really need to be there.

Hope you all are humming now too. Jeff had no idea what he was in for when he agreed to come with me but he was seriously impressed.

Oh, and my presentation when well even though I forgot to turn on the webcam. *shrug* the mic worked and no one seemed to mind that they couldn't see me as they were all operating their own link to my slideshow. Briefly, I'm taking a course on "Highly Able Learners" (once labelled "gifted" but the term has fallen out of favour) and the assignment was to create a document that explains the learning needs of these types of students and present an ideal environment in which to support them. As the document needs to be thorough without me there to interpret, some of the slides are a little wordy. Being a course run by a fairly optimistic instructor with a sense of humour, I went a little over-the-top with my ideal school. Being me, I've included the Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory in my Prezi (which, btw, is a really fun way to make a presentation). Take a look if you're inclined.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Magical Wrecking Ball Builds a Dream

Wearing a stealth concert tee today in honour of The Boss' show at Rogers Arena in Vancouver tonight. The city's still a-buzz from last night's Paul McCartney show at BC Place. Apparently, there was no Springsteen guest sighting as had been rumoured but it certainly sounds like everyone had a good time. When Jeff and I were arriving home, we could hear the bass and crowd and SEE the fireworks in the finale as they rocketed above the roofline of the stadium.  From. Our. House. (aka no where near BC Place)

As a woman on the bus with me this morning was describing the concert to her friend, I took the opportunity to ask if the roof stayed open for the entire show. She assured me that the roof was closed for the entire show. I assured her that there was no way that it was closed for the finale as there is no way I could've seen those fireworks if it had been. She pulled out her camera and showed me pictures she took of the finale. 

"See," she said,"there's the fireworks!" 

"See," I responded, pointing,"that's the night sky."

Yeah, she had no idea if the roof had been open all night or not.

I bought this shirt at Springsteen's last concert in Vancouver - March 31, 2008 - part of the MAGIC tour. In thinking back, I have to marvel at how much things in my life (as well as the E Street Band) have changed. Hence, the mangled amalgamation of concert tour names in this blog post's title actually has meaning.

Since March 31, 2008, I have seen the end of one long-term relationship and the beginning of a life-long one. I have traveled to Scandinavia, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Montreal. I have witnessed my close friends' families expand and grow and learn to walk/run. I'd like to think that I have established myself in my classroom, my school and, somewhat, within my profession. I have celebrated my friends' professional achievements - book publications, art exhibits, show openings, contracts, promotions, athletic competitions, new businesses - as well as a few lives ended to soon but celebrated nonetheless.

So take this crazy mental Flux-Capacitor-driven Delorean ride with me and tell me where you were and where you've been since March 31, 2008. Nothing is mundane. Nothing is too detailed. Everybody's journey deserves a souvenir snapshot. Let this be yours.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Defining By the Negative

It's sometimes hard to know what something or someone IS right away. It's an easier exercise to eliminate what IS NOT. 

Shirt sourced from RVB - Quote citation: Pvt Donut

Canadians often define themselves as "not American" probably because a general definition of "American" is so widely recognized. I find myself describing myself as "not an English teacher" often (mostly because I balk at claiming to be able to keep up with the amount of work they do -- just not happening). And my fellow teachers often feel it necessary to remind non-teachers (and students) that "teaching" does not equal "baby-sitting" nor does school take the place of social work, counseling, a finishing program, hygiene centre, laundromat, or dating service.

The problem with defining through elimination is that eventually someone wants a positive, affirmative statement of what actually IS. When hour-long television comedies appeared without laugh tracks and with long-game story arcs, the term "dramedy" followed shortly afterwards. When novels of contemporary manners and social foibles became popular in the bookstores and libraries, "chick lit" became a thing. Terms like "bromance" and "pwn", often with esoteric origins, now serve a purpose or become appropriated to fill a definition niche. It may be a previously undefined melded category. It may be a needed superlative. Language is magical because it can be changed and challenged in so many innovative ways. 

Defining by the negative is the first step in giving name to your world but if it's your only strategy, you may end up like the kid who only knows what he doesn't want to eat - grumpy and hungry for something you can't name.

So... how do you define yourself as AND as not?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Team Colours

Today is Jersey Day at the school for Spirit Week. I know, I know, I really pick and choose the days I participate. For example, tomorrow is "What Not To Wear" Day. The ambiguity of the name is a little scary when you think about it.  :S

Anyhow, my shirt is obviously not a jersey. It's a team tee I bought at Canadian Tire of all places. It is, however, my preferred Canucks logo ("The Flying Skate" '78-'97). Actual jerseys are costly investments to make. Especially in Vancouver. Especially if you want a hockey jersey. I went ahead and splurged years ago on a blue home Trevor Linden Canucks jersey but ended up selling it at a loss to a colleague since it was massively too big for me. Then, this September, best buddy Kerri came to visit Vancouver and brought my birthday parcel with her. Before handing it to me, she stated very clearly,"Don't worry. It wasn't expensive." With that enigmatic statement ringing in my ears, I dug in and found several little prezzies and, at the bottom, a classic WHITE home Captain Linden jersey. When I later showed another friend who knows the value of such things and asked him to guesstimate a price, he ballparked it at four or five hundred dollars. Kerri, clever deal hunter that she is, scooped it up (in mint condition, tags still attached) for $10.99 back home in Saskatoon. I swore that I wouldn't wear it (it's a perfect fit, btw) until the NHL dispute ended and the Canucks were playing again. So my beautiful jersey sits, neatly folded, tags still attached, in my dresser drawer waiting for the millionaires and billionaires in NYC to finish their ridiculous squabbling so that we can have our game back again and Rogers Arena can go back to gouging fans on ticket prices.

I could go on a tangent here about the strange psychology of the Canucks fandom but it's not a topic I relish. I like the game. I like having a team to cheer. I like that this city gets really invested in every Cup run. However, I still think that it's meant to be a fun pastime and when it stops being fun, I'm not interested in passing the time that way anymore.

Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Stompin' Tom Connors...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stuff That Shirts Are Made Of

Bamboo, in this case. Which is a great t-shirt fabric, btw. 

This was my first Cirque du Soleil shirt, bought in Vancouver at Quidam, I believe.

Attending a live Cirque performance is one of those experiences that can't really be explained to those who haven't been. It's visually spectacular, totally immersive for the senses and taps into the imagination with music, movement and feats of physical prowess. Although there are CDs and DVDs available with which the music and actions can be surveyed, the live performance adds another element that is not captured in any sort of contemporary media.

I've seen Cirque shows in Vancouver, London, Las Vegas, and (most recently) in Montreal this summer, where Lesley and I experimented with whether her toddler could be entranced enough to sit through an entire show. She definitely made friends with some of the performers before the show but seemed determined to join the show. There was a lot of chase and retrieval involved in that particular performance.

Cirque will be back in Vancouver with Amaluna (same show as we saw in Montreal) at the end of this month and, on a whim, I convinced Jeff's mom that she and Jeff's dad should come take a look "at the circus" with us.  Not sure she understands that Cirque shows and circuses are two entirely different things but I'm hoping they all enjoy it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Music T Friday: Musicality

Robert Allen Zimmerman was born a Gemini in 1941. Before he turned 25, he had already been credited with "radically altering the parameters of popular music". Drawing on politics, philosophy, and literary sources, his music melded and redefined musical genres from rock to folk to jazz. Since 1962, his legal name has been Bob Dylan.

Last month, I saw Dylan perform live in Vancouver and was reminded that innovation and change are strange and novel beasts, especially in music. Dylan's catalogue of songs is incredibly diverse and constantly evolving in sound and style. His songs have enormous popular appeal but more so when covered by artists with more mainstream appeal. Like his one-time tagline stated,"Nobody Sings Dylan like Dylan."

As I watched people leaving the concert early, I wondered if some of them had only ever heard Dylan through the filter of a cover artist. Granted, Dylan today is a completely different songster from 1960s or even 1980s Dylan. People's voices continue to change, usually deepening, as they age. Just ask Dennis Quaid or Leonard Cohen or Kathleen Turner. But Dylan's never been tuneful in the Peter, Paul and Mary sense of musicality. So why would you buy a ticket to a show for someone who has chosen to change and grow their songs beyond the point of recording? I know that many people in the audience that night were disappointed by their experience but, for me, it was more about how I felt being there than what I heard coming from the stage. Hard to describe it more clearly than that and harder to explain it to those who don't already get it.

To bid you all a fantastic weekend, I'm embedding the credits to the 20079 movie Watchmen where they eschewed any number of cover versions of The Times They are A-Changin for the original Dylan version. This soundtrack, by the way, is one of my favourites - I know most of the songs by heart - but on Oct 12th, Dylan was halfway through Track 3 before I realized that that's what he was playing. Beating the odds, I'm sure I heard the lyrics "There's a battle outside / And it is ragin' / It'll soon shake your windows / And rattle your walls" clearly in my inner ear for a brief moment. Otherwise, it was utterly unrecognizable. For realz.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pop! Goes the Art

I generally try not to analyze art as I really know nothing about it. Furthermore, I've always harboured a suspicion that, like our taste buds, the rods and cones that detect light and colours fire differently person to person.

"Pop Art", on the other hand, I will claim an appreciation of as I usually understand the "pop" aspect of it and have an admiration for those clever and creative enough to take iconic images and apply new meaning.

My shirt today with from Amanda Palmer's "reclaiming the ukulele" campaign. Not an actual branded campaign but a side product of Palmer's really amazing application of the li'l instrument to all the world's problems. In fact, she's composed and recorded this five and a half minute "Ukulele Anthem" (all the lyrics are on the linked page and def worth a read) wherein this "wand of thunder" can free the repression and save the humanity of our world.

The re-emergence of the British wartime propaganda "Stay Calm and Carry On" slogan has been a bit of commercial pop culture genius really. The chaos of the Second World War is very different from the uncertainty of today's world but the result is frighteningly similar. Stress, fear, anxiety and depression are overwhelming sometimes when taking a good look at where our world is heading. The anxiety my students exhibit is almost physically debilitating and very much an obstacle to learning. Studies show that for some people, just living a day-to-day existence is resulting in symptoms of PTSD. Furthermore, strategies for resilience and relaxation need to be explicitly taught now where they were once naturally stumbled upon by most. And even those of us who are good at self-monitoring for stress levels, need a reminder now and then.

The inside of my front door
So, like Dory in Finding Nemo, we need to "Just keep swimming" and, like Pearl Jam sings...

 "Just Breathe"

My good buddy, and newly-minted hubby and papa, Sonny Assu makes art. In fact, he creates Art. He brings into existence amazing works, in a variety of media, that marry a sense of his past and history with his present-mindedness. He incorporates popularly recognizable images and historically commercial icons in his pieces that address personal and contemporary issues of race, environment, society and governance. Last week, the Vancouver Art Gallery added his work (along with the work of six other "young B.C. artists") to their permanent collection, years after the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC acquired his work. ;) So it's about freakin' time.

What I really get out of Sonny's accomplishments personally is that his exhibitions remind me that spending time in art galleries can't be rushed. Thanks to his ever-impressive successes, I make time to go and admire and think about the works in the galleries. And, sometimes, when Life feels like the brake-line's been cut, a moment of beauty will make me stop, really STOP, and just breathe it in and hopefully that image will be there later when I need a internal moment of calm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Splitting Infinitives in the Spirit of Exploration

Well, I said I would so I did. No sightings so far ...

The shirt is a prezzie from Kerri, my intrepid supplier of awesome stuff and eggnog tea, and has been coveted by a couple of different co-workers today.

I enjoy the Trek-verse, growing up watching Next Gen and the Next Gen movies mostly. The bro was more of a DS9 guy. I don't think either of us has ever taken a serious stance on Voyager or Enterprise (although I have an enormous soft spot for Scott Bakula in ANY role...)

Until this summer, I had never taken part in any of the cosplay associated with the franchise but friends of Jeff's were adamant that costumes were a REQUIREMENT for admission to their Roddenberry's birth-versary party and I gotta admit it was a lot of fun.

Note the Command:Science officer ratio
(there's another one on the red bean bag too)
There's a liberating joy in the experience of cosplay. The immersive aspect of wearing a recognizable uniform or the implicit permission to take on the mannerisms and attitudes of established characters let "grown-up"s remember how to let loose and PLAY. If we forget how to play, we forget how to imagine and dream and recognize the sheer absurdity of the things that stress us out. We forget to explore. Not just space and time and the past but our backyards, ourselves, our own abilities. So in the spirit of boldly going places, why not try something new today? Play a little. Grow a little. Laugh a lot. Come back and tell me what you did.

Make it so.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


***apologies for the late posting... it's been one of those days, more to follow***

I grew up watching Quincy M.E. and Murder, She Wrote on television with my mom. She was also a huge fan of Columbo. Little did I know that my Scooby-Doo episodes were really cut from the same cloth.

My brother was the first to turn me on to the original C.S.I. on TV. Initially, I didn't enjoy the formula of the series but once I bought into the premise and characters, I was pretty much hooked. I still tune in to see who from the original cast is still around and who has been imported to boost ratings but the show hasn't really been up to par since Billy Petersen (Gil Grissom) left and my favourite character in the show was the occasional entrepreneur and always entertaining Lady Heather (played by the lovely Melinda Clarke of Xena, Firefly, and Nikita allure) who, seemingly, ended her stint in Vegas with the 2011 episode "Unleashed" where she'd gone legit as a sex therapist. Without Grissom's tidy, subtle intellect to play off of, it just wasn't the same.

So, ANYWAY.....

Time and time again while writing this blog, I have been a little startled at how Life enfolds to create deeper meaning to these posts that I start in my head when I choose my shirt in the morning. I actually had a hard time picking a shirt today and just thought that I'd write a little post on mystery/cop shows that make forensic science look pretty with sexy camera angles and cool lights. Hence, the reminiscing about 80s primetime TV at the top of the page.

My day at work proved incredibly busy and I didn't have much of a break even during my breaks to write so I put it off to write when I got home. Didn't get in until after 6:30pm and started making some tomato soup for dinner. Just before 7pm, the neighbour's smoke alarm went off. I walked around my house carefully first to make sure it wasn't one of my alarms. (Since we share a wall with the next unit, Jeff and I have been fooled into thinking an alarm was next door when it was actually ours.) Establishing that it was definitely coming from next door, I went back to cutting cheddar cubes for my soup.

A few minutes later, I heard a knock on my door. The family from the other side of the squealing unit were trying to see if the neighbour was home. At their insistence, I phoned the landlady to see if she could call our neighbour on her phone (although why she'd hear the phone and not the crazy loud alarm doesn't make a lick of sense). After phoning her, I called the Vancouver Police non-emergency line to report the alarm. They put me through to the Fire department who asked me to vacate the premises until the fire fighters could take a look around. Next thing we knew, our street had a fire truck on it, lights swirling bright, and firefighters toting axes were circling the building. Because that's procedure. (See what I did there? ;)

Thankfully, there was no actual fire. Our neighbour had put a roast in her oven to cook and then headed across the street to visit a friend. The tasty, tasty fat of the pork roast meanwhile dripped onto the heating element and smoked up her house. By the time the firefighters were standing by her front door, axes still in hand, waiting for our landlady to come unlock the door, she came running. Soon afterwards, the tenant from the last unit in the complex arrived home, having been called by our landlady. As he came down the block, having already seen the fire engine and firefighters, what catches his attention? The back of MY t-shirt emblazoned with the giant "C.S.I." letters. Poor guy (whose townhouse was broken into and burgled the first summer Jeff and I lived here) had a moment of terrifying panic.

Our tiny little landlady was in quite the tizzy as well when she arrived with her daughter. By then, the firefighters had finished their paperwork and given the building the "all clear".

Now I'm thoroughly exhausted by all the excitement and suspicious of what may happen if I put my Star Trek shirt on tomorrow... First contact, anyone?

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Day For Remembrance & A Wish for Peace

No t-shirt today. It's the only foreseeable day where I see it necessary to break my blog mandate. Today was our school's Remembrance Day ceremony and I had neither a t-shirt appropriate for the day nor the desire to dress in anything other than the white top, black bottom and the poppy that we, in Canada, wear to commemorate the day.

My family has no documented connection to the wars as they are studied in Canada and my parents, both of who escaped to Taiwan from Communist China as refugees as small children, have never really discussed what their memories might be of that experience. My father's father fought against the Communist takeover at some point but my paternal grandmother never told me those stories before she passed away and I heard only snippets third hand from a cousin. My maternal grandparents have nothing to say on the topic either and time is running short on chances for us to ask, I guess. Somewhere along the way, though, I developed a deep sense of the privilege that my generation enjoys in the peace we have always known. I have good friends who are directly involved in Canada's military presence around the world and I have students who are barely able to stand in silence for two minutes between bugle calls. Today, it feels like there is more of a sense of the global landscape but a deeper disconnect between how we live and how we are able to live this way.

I learned the words to the poem "In Flanders Fields" in my Grade 2 class as a recitation that we performed as part of the service that year and have never been able to forget them. John McCrae's life was far removed from mine in space, time and experience and yet his words bring peace to my heart whenever I hear or speak them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Tesla Versus Edison - contemporaries, visionaries, geniuses, rivals.

Edison's name is, arguably, the more recognizable but Tesla's is more fun to say.

Today's t-shirt is the product of ThinkGeek (note Timmy the TG mascot on the label) and confuses the heck out of my students whenever I wear it.

Some of the most fascinating books, movies, and television arcs are driven by well-matched rivalries. Sherlock & Moriarty, Neo & Agent Smith, Gandalf & Saruman, Batman & Joker, Nina Sayers & Lily in The Black Swan (I'm assuming on that last one based on what I know about the movie)... An intelligent villain is far more interesting than the typical thug. I'd go as far to say that some villains are far MORE interesting than the supposed "hero" of the story. (Man, I do like to dump on heroes, don't I? First sidekicks, now villains. Not that Tesla is a villain... except maybe on Sanctuary. Anyhoo...) 

One of my favourite novels from my Arthurian adaptations phase is The Forever King by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy. Cochran and Murphy collaborated in writing three books altogether before they divorced, personally and professionally - The Forever King, its sequel The Broken Sword, and a standalone Atlantis-based, story-within-a-story World Without End (not to be confused with Ken Follett's 2007 novel of the same name but greater exposure) - and their collective writing style was the first instance where I realized that the villain(s) was/were far more developed and intricate than the hero(es) of the stories. Where I could easily visualize every scar and shadow on the face of their villains, their protagonists remained faceless and generic. And, yet, all three books are intensely good reads. Now, in teaching English classes, the contrasting of protagonist and antagonist is protagonist-centred. The antagonist exists only to stand in the way or cause problems for the protagonist. The logic stands that the protagonist would be worth reading about even without the antagonist. That logic doesn't pan out in a lot of contemporary lit/media. I would much rather watch Renard than Nick on Grimm, much rather read about HAL's journal than Dave's, and think Jean Grey was more interesting after the M'Kraan Crystal fell into her life.

It's a sad but true trope that too often in our commercialized and mainstreamed world, "good" = "boring". J.K. Rowling is on record as cautioning fans from romanticizing her darker characters like Malfoy, Riddle and Sirius Black (my personal fave).

Reader participation time: Anyone have a favourite rivalry? Instances where it's more appealing to root for the "baddie"? Situations where these immortal words hold true?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

IMHO: The Right Guy Won


It still seems like the race was far closer than it needed to be but President Obama's win last night was a gratifying and satisfying conclusion to months and MONTHS of ridiculous television ads. Jeff and I celebrated with ice cream.

Now, about getting the rest of the world right.... Please take a look at my friend Evan Fraser's new video:

The official website for Evan's research is not yet running but I'll post about it once it is. Meanwhile, please share the video as the information is important, accurate, and fun to watch. Also, I've added a little video bar on the left so you won't need to come looking for this post again when you want a refresher. Hopefully, it'll do what it's supposed to do and update whenever Evan et al add a new video.

Today, I was debating between a couple of shirts and decided that "BLUE ARMY" was a fun little wink at the Democratic win. The shirt is actually a piece of Red vs. Blue merchandise that I quite like. The character of Caboose is insane ... and really, really dangerous to be around. But I appreciate the fact that his voice actor once stated that the motivation for playing Caboose is that Caboose is "the only character who is aware that he's in a video game." The meta nature of that statement holds a lot of appeal to me. Often, when working with a student, it pays off enormously to take a step back and realize that we are all playing a game and, even if that game is necessary (student needs to pass Math), we have to take a perspective break once in a while (how important are exponents REALLY?).

Yesterday, we watched a momentous event of great importance happen but that great importance is very much qualified by the moment, even if that moment extends over the next four years or to the end of the next decade. A century from now, who the political leaders today are won't matter. What will matter is what we as a species create and start for our descendents to carry on with. And if they have anything to eat that isn't Soylent Green.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Necessary Evils

Compromise is an art, a craft, and a slippery slope. We, as individuals and as communities, make compromises everyday to make life work. Successful endeavours rely as much on adaptability as ability. Having firm values and morals may define us as humans but pragmatism earmarks our species. The facade of civilization is held up by a scaffolding of compromise.

Shirt from Threadless. Yes, it's pink.

So, for example, butchering animals in order to eat meat meets every definition of murder in our society. It ends the life of another living thing. It is premeditated (unless you're into scavenging roadkill). It is not in self-defense. And we are pretty much guaranteed to offend again. PossibIy that very same day. It is not really necessary for our basic survival but it *is* in our nature. Humans are omnivores. Our teeth tell us so. And our brains have made us top of the food chain... and probably the ultimate demise of the planet but that's another compromise we make.  We can claim ignorance and indulgence and urban-living but I don't. I know where my steak comes from (in theory). I recognize that the chickens from whence the succulent thigh meat in my slow cooker comes from don't get pensions or wheelchairs or amputee benefits. My continued existence means that other creatures will cease to exist. That's a truth I accept. But, to be fair, I am a serial killer of fruits and vegetables too.

Which doesn't mean that I am anti-vegetarian. Some of my very close friends are vegetarian, even vegan. It's a choice I respect and a lifestyle I admire but don't aspire to. However, even within the vegetarian population I find compromise and diversity. To generalize, I find people who live the vegan life to be more values-driven. They do not consume animal products as a matter of principle. Vegetarians who are not vegan are more likely in my experience to make their decision based on health-sourced arguments. And many of my vegetarian friends put aside their dietary restrictions when they travel whereas my vegan friends ... well, mostly they lose a lot of weight when they are living abroad. But that's a choice too.

The fact that choice is a double-edged sword, the ultimate necessary evil, is probably the most important point I want to make today. Consciously knowing why you made the choice you made is a close second. And respecting other people's right to choose for themselves pulls in to show on the radar too. Today, Americans have a chance to make a choice by voting for their president. Many will choose not to and that's kind of sad but that's also a kind of choice and remains a compromise our society makes in order to maintain our freedom to choose.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Remember, Remember

It's interesting how November has a general connotation of remembrance or observance of times gone by. Whether it has something to do with the time of year - after the traditional business of harvest time - or because of the lull that sets in before real winter hits, November events have a dramatic, bordering on desperate, flair ... and I don't just mean the American Presidential Election. The nature of November just makes for strange happenings.

I'll write more about Remembrance Day later in the week but today's connection to remembrance has been made more generally accessible by the 2005 film V for Vendetta and the appropriation of Guy Fawkes by the Occupy Wall Street movement last year. The Fifth of November is celebrated in the UK (and some British offshoots) as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night. The celebrations involve fireworks, the obvious bonfires and the burning of the "Guy" in effigy. The begging of a "penny for the Guy" is another (now mostly ignored) tradition where children would parade the effigy/scarecrow they had made to be burned and ask those they passed for a penny to spend on firecrackers or sweets. (A more straightforward version of Trick or Treat, I guess.) I first heard about Guy Fawkes when studying T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men" which starts with a reference to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness ("Mistah Kurtz - he dead") followed by "A penny for the Old Guy". Juxtaposing the two iconic personalities - the mad tyrannical ivory trader and the failed political bomber - seems to reflect Eliot's dim view of humanity.  Today, we're much more into the bang than the whimper.

Speaking of bangs... Today's shirt is from the best bangs for a buck around. Back in January this year, the mastermind duo behind the Mythbusters show, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, held a couple of live performances here in Vancouver. It was an incredibly fun way to spend an evening, educational and personal and entertaining. Jamie and Adam were wonderfully forthcoming about their inspirations, their method and their madness.

So, in honour of Mister Fawkes who could only dream of the explosiveness we take for granted today, enjoy a minute of the best ka-blooies the Mythbusters ever orchestrated.

For my smarty-pants readers out there, try this quiz put together by the NY Times last year.  (I say again, November is strange times.)

And for those of you with your heart set on setting some(one)thing on fire tonight:

Remember, remember!
    The fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder treason and plot;
    I know of no reason
    Why the Gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot!
    Guy Fawkes and his companions
    Did the scheme contrive,
    To blow the King and Parliament
    All up alive.
    Threescore barrels, laid below,
    To prove old England's overthrow.
    But, by God's providence, him they catch,
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
    A stick and a stake
    For King James's sake!
    If you won't give me one,
    I'll take two,
    The better for me,
    And the worse for you.
    A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
    A penn'orth of cheese to choke him,
    A pint of beer to wash it down,
    And a jolly good fire to burn him.
    Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
    Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
    Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Music T Friday: When I'm Up I Can't Get Down

The universe conspires against me. Just when I make the conscious decision to really buckle down and become fiscally responsible (stop laughing, you), Barbra Streisand decides to perform in Vancouver for the first time EVER, Paul McCartney returns to perform for the first time since the Beatles played Empire Stadium in 1964, and Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan also book dates here. Leonard Cohen is scheduled to play here on November 12. And the Barenaked Ladies are playing with the VANCOUVER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA *sigh*

Vancouver is far from the no-fun city it once sported the reputation as. Nowadays, it's more like "no funds" city. Interestingly enough, the seat I had at the Streisand concert on Monday would've gone for $1500 in Toronto. Made me feel better for spending $100 on it. For the record, I passed on McCartney, Young and Cohen. And, yes, dammit, that's me being all mature and restrained and stuff.

Today's shirt is quite possibly my first Vancouver concert tee. It's definitely the oldest one still in my wardrobe and it's in fantastic nick for being AS OLD AS MY GRADE EIGHT STUDENTS. Yup, in fact, I bought this shirt on November 1st, 1999, at the Vogue Theatre, a fact that didn't occur to me when I picked it this morning. Happy buy-day, GBS "Turn" shirt! Sadly, the plaid PJ pants I bought at the same concert have been reduced to scraps years ago but they were gorgeous and comfy and served me well.


The b'ys from The Rock are celebrating their 20th anniversary next year and touring the continent with their "XX" album. They'll be at the swanky Orpheum Theatre here in Vancouver on March 10th next year. Of course, I bought my ticket already. One more seat at the wedding reception or a night with three fabulous Newfoundlanders? Pfft.

Like most of the musical acts that I follow, I appreciate that Great Big Sea has never lost that feeling of camaraderie and fun that made them so great to listen to when they first emerged on the scene. Furthermore, their salt-of-the-earth NewfoundLANDer personalities have never failed to strike a genuine note with their audiences. The b'ys have found individual as well as group success over the two decades and their fans are the first to flock to a solo show or tune in to a TV show to catch a cameo appearance. Pretty sure that Alan Doyle's stint on Republic of Doyle (no relation, haha) saw a ratings boost for those episodes. Mind you, Russell Crowe showing up might deserve some of the credit too...

To sign off on topic, enjoy a video of Alan, Sean, and Bob playing their unreleased single "Great Big World" in studio. 

And to sign off slightly off-topic, I've been edumicated recently on the existence of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month), an homage offshoot of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This was exciting news but, unfortunately, because I only write on school days and NaBloPoMo requires you blog everyday for the month of November, I don't think I technically qualify. I've sent a note to the organizers to see if I can still participate. As of sometime yesterday on Google-Time, I crossed the 2000 pageviews milestone and I don't THINK me checking my own page accounts for more than half of those so.... yay! Thanks, readers, commenters and especially you lurkers because I've really been enjoying this exercise and even when there isn't a lot of chit-chat, the stats show that you're all sticking around. :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

When a Plan Comes Together

A lot of successful endeavours in life are a direct result of having a team of individuals that pull together in a cinch. I grew up watching The A-Team on TV and when the movie version idea first came about (with the dream team of Mel Gibson, Ving Rhames, Jim Carrey and some pretty boy, I think it was Matt Damon at the time) I couldn't wait. Of course, the dream team never emerged but the cast they assembled for the 2010 movie was solid (and the cameos were stellar) and sold the concept in an appropriately over-the-top manner.

My maid-of-honour, Kerri got me this shirt years ago when she discovered the joy of custom-made shirts. I wore it to every final exam I had after getting it (I believe in the power of subliminal learning, especially for professors that mark their own tests) and often donned it during exam week at the high schools I worked at to get the kids thinking positively.

In terms of plans coming together, the wedding's less than 200 days away now. Might sound like a long run-up but considering the countdown started at over 400, it feels very close by comparison. Kerri's a part of my A-Team for the execution of this production even if she's supporting from a distance. My mom is excited but strictly hands-off and Jeff's mom has been cautiously helpful. The strangest thing I find about this whole scenario is being asked "How are the plans coming along?" NOW. STILL. In my mind, the plans were done within a month of deciding to get married. Everything else has been implementation. Being asked about plans NOW borders on the ridiculous. 

Still, knowing who my main players are is helpful. It is a team effort and being able to delegate duties early is a relief. Friend Lesley provided me with some official-sounding army terminology yesterday like "battle procedure" and "operations order" that I'll try to work in to my "war council" (<< my preferred term even if it isn't accurate) of wedding party members that I want to call in the early spring. After all, I got to design my team's uniforms, they might as well be the uniforms of the victors, right?

Sometimes it's a daunting task ahead of us and I'd much rather be a cog in the machine than the owner/operator/engineer but the choices we've made so far feel right and, ultimately, it's about sharing a wonderful day with friends and family and making good memories to start a life together with.

I was trying to figure what motto (related to today's post) I could reference when describing the process of planning this day and, funnily enough, the only line that resonated was: 

Overkill is under-rated

Of course, that has to do with the planning not the aesthetic. :)