Friday, June 14, 2013

Music T Friday: Oh the Divine Ms. Jones...

I'm always amazed by how seemingly random things turn out to have significance. Picking a music tee for today was a process centred mostly on "I'm wearing black slacks today. I don't want to wear a black tee as well". So I pulled out the Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings shirt I picked up at the Commodore Ballroom show in 2010. It's also a very nice fit still. At the time of the show, I was a contributing freelance photographer for the Guttersnipe website (rebranded The Snipe News a little while ago) and parked myself up close to the stage to get my shots in.

There are certain shows where the tableaus are the thing, where the act holds a still frame in the audiences mind, where there are certain iconic "flashbulb" moments. Those photog opportunities are all about timing, and have a generally satisfactory pay-off because if you can capture that one definitive picture, you've done your job. This was not one of those events. The SJDK performance was all movement, all energy, all power and verve and not at all suited to the fairly pedestrian still photography that I was capable of. Instead, it was all I could do to get a series of images in focus that might one day make a good flip-book recount of the evening. The gallery I submitted to Guttersnipe/The Snipe News is still up (sorry, the browsing function is a little slow) and still doesn't do justice to the fantastic performance Ms. Jones and her Kings put on for Vancouver. There are 26 pictures in the gallery. There are 153 in my Facebook album from that night.

The fangirl and Ms. Jones

The next day, the show was touted one of the best of the year by several industry friends and music concert aficionados, many who had attended with no idea what to expect of the show. The next time Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings played Vancouver, the show was in Malkin Bowl, an outdoor amphitheatre venue and Stanley Park came alive with their unique sound which claims the "territory between ’60s soul and ’70s funk".

Live video of "Let Them Knock" (2007)

I haven't followed the SJDK news over the last half year, being otherwise distracted by life events, so it was a sombre revelation to me today (in researching this post) to discover that, as of June 3, they had had to cancel their most recent tour appearances (and the August CD release) due to Ms. Jones seeking treatment for stage-one bile duct cancer. Her message to fans on the website was hopeful and spirited as the doctors had deemed her situation operable and curable. According to her Twitter-feed, she went in for the surgery on this past Tuesday. She was out the same day, all "tubed up" and tweeting on Wednesday and declaring Life to be good yesterday. Sincerely, I send her best wishes for a speedy and total recovery.

So, there you have it, a seemingly trivial morning shirt selection leads me to a contemplative post on life, cancer, and the joys of music - making it, appreciating it, photographing it. All our lives are all soundtracked by our internal orchestras. It's when we recognize our soundtrack in the music around us, in front of us, that we know we are where we are meant to be.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Let Freedom Ring...

In the lingering aftermath of 2010's Arab Spring and the current state of affairs in Turkey, it seems almost surreal to hear high school students in our school bemoaning their "caged and de-liberated" lives as the end of the school year approaches. And yet, moan they do. Mind you, it's not just the kids that are eyeing the exits with increasing anticipation. I guess when there is a perceived barrier, any freedom is deemed sweet.

Less than 75 years ago, the island of Newfoundland was an independent nation-state termed a "dominion" (which is, arguably, a step up from "colony") with its own flag, coat of arms, prime minister and CURRENCY. Becoming a province of Canada in 1949 was a coup for Canadians, a feather in the cap of first premier Joey Smallwood, and a point of contention for the 47.7% of the population who voted against confederation with Canada in 1948. As today's t-shirt (from my ever-generous Newfoundland family, Brian & Lori) demonstrates, Newfoundland's independent spirit and sense of humour (and entrepreneurism!) continues to thrive today.

For those who live in hope of true freedom - whether it's domestic, political, financial, global, or emotional - I offer up a little New Country prayer sung by Martina McBride in duet with special guest who knows better than anything that Love is a (fill-in-the-blank). ;)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Teacher Humour: Part 2 - Appropriateness

Wearing the hoodie to cover up is more necessary with today's stealth funny tee than yesterday's as the slogan was deemed "inappropriate" by the Faculty of Education the year after I finished my Education Degree. Apparently, teachers can have a sense of humour but teachers of teachers are another level of stuffiness.

I did wear the shirt to school once. A student called me on it by asking "Is that supposed to be dirty?" I thought about it for a second before answering and said,"No, I was in the Bachelor of Education program so that what it was in reference to." Student bought it. And why did she buy it? Because to high school students, TEACHERS AREN'T FUNNY.

And then there's appropriate humour. Appropriateness, like humour, is very subjective. When living and teaching in the UK, it was accepted and even expected to run into teachers in the pubs after school, having a drink or dinner. In my current school district, there are "code phrases" for meeting at the pub after school. Most often, "library meeting" is used. Again, kids completely ignore this because if teachers aren't fun or funny, librarians are even less so to their thinking. Funny how stereotypes can be so wrong...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teacher Humour: Part 1

It's that time of year when teachers of all ilks either trot out their wackiest, most surreal, and ephemeral humour or grab an early ticket to the funny farm. Last week of classes for high schools. Weather's (more or less) nice out. Holidays are on the horizon. Who needs to worry about final exams? Herding cats would be a walk in the park compared to trying to get a class of teenagers to focus on essay-writing, math formulae, and scientific principles.

Two of my favourite shirts are the ones I picked up while attending UBC in the Faculty of Education. For the most part, I wear them stealthily to school, usually covering the back by wearing a jacket or hoodie.

Today's shirt amuses me because the term "teacher voice" has such a negative connotation. The "teacher voice" most people think of comes from the gut, projected loud and strong, and is expected to be an admonishing diatribe or instructional monologue that brooks no negotiation.

The thing is: most teachers I know and respect don't need to use that voice on a regular basis. Yes, the successful ones have it in their toolkit but it's a band-aid solution for the occasional moment of mob insanity in the classroom. A teacher who is always using the "teacher voice" soon discovers that it loses its effectiveness as students develop a tolerance for it.

Teachers' voices are powerful things but they don't need to be loud to be heard, they don't need to be nasty to be corrective, and they certainly don't need to be condescending to educate. Getting students to think often needs a productive silence as much as a trivial lecture. More than mastering the "teacher voice", an effective use of wait time can be the key to classroom management, more engaged students, and successful learning.

Of course, having a sense of humour (whether or not your students truly appreciate it) is ultimately the secret to sanity as the school year wind down. For example, when I taught academics, nothing brought a smile to my face as much as a major exam in the last class of the year. No bazinga about it.

I've got a Part 2 in the works for this but thought I'd end this post with one of my favourite videos by a teacher for teachers and anyone who has ever known/loved/feared teachers. Now this guy, Taylor Mali, has a TEACHER VOICE.

Monday, June 10, 2013


I remember being underwhelmed by the 2003 suspense film by this title. Good twist at the end tho. Mostly, I want to write about the Game of Thrones finale but that's not really fair to people who haven't read the book... O_o ... who don't want spoilers so I'll hold off on that too.

I love this shirt. Have bought it multiple times for myself and once for my brother. It used to be a great excuse for going to Harrison Hot Springs. When we were up there for the wedding, however, I noticed that the store that sold this shirt is no longer there anymore.

The quiz on the back has garnered comments from strangers... mostly folks who get sucked into reading it while lined up behind me and REALLY want to finish reading it despite the fact I need to move along. 

By the way: Number 10 is a trick question and most people get tricked. So don't feel bad.

When I teach the Grade 10 Socials curriculum, we spend a lot of time discussing identity. It works in the English curriculum discussions too when focussing on voice and motive. I always play this video once (despite it being a beer ad) and sometimes a Tim Horton's or Canadian Tire ad too. Eventually, some smart kid wonders aloud whether "we are what we buy" more nowadays. And I give that kid an "A" most times.

So, in order not to spoil any Game of Thrones stuff, I'll tie this back in to the title with one word and let DANGER:SPOILER discussions ensue in the comments section if it is to be:


Friday, June 7, 2013

Music T Friday: U2: Overcoming Aversion

In my second year of university, there was a group of girls living on my floor in residence who had a regular Wednesday routine of finish class at 3:30, start drinking at 4, and blare U2 tunes on repeat until 6:30 when they would start getting "dressed" for Pit Night at the Student Union Building pub, all the while singing along tunelessly and at the top of their lungs to their Bono soundtrack.

For nearly 10 years after that, I had a knee-jerk "ick" reaction to U2's song "One", the most frequently played track by that group of girls.

Happily, I had outgrown the aversion enough by 2009 to find my way into the stadium when U2 came through Vancouver.

Some aversions are biological. I'm lactose-sensitive and allergic to cilantro. Milk and most Thai/Mexican/Indian and some Chinese food will make me physically ill although, thank goodness, not dead. Ginger isn't my friend either.

Other aversions are based on personal taste: I've never liked bell/green/red peppers and can't stand the texture of eggplant. This is not for trying. I know the health benefits and nutritional value of these things and have made considerable efforts in the past to incorporate them into my diet but as much as I talk them up in my head, it just doesn't get past the gatekeepers in my mouth. There's a point where you just have to give it up. Or at least a prolonged rest. Tastes do change, after all. I once heard the fact stated once that every cell in a person is completely replaced every seven years (qualified by a biology student later that brain cells to not regenerate) and that includes taste buds. This explained why eight-year-old me, all of a sudden, no longer liked McDonald's Filet-O'Fish sandwiches (when previously, that was the only sandwich I'd eat) and stole my mother's cheeseburger instead. Spinach is another taste aversion that I've grown past. Other sensory choices that I think fall into this category are not so much from an aversion to one thing but a strong preference for another.

And then there are the aversions based on prior bad associated (like the U2 example) or perceived associated evils. I recognize that these are illogical and irrational aversions. In my case, a lot of these have to do with movie, television, music, and literature. My on-going aversion to the work of actress Charlize Theron is rooted in her slamming of Canada in an interview during the filming of Reindeer Games. Won't listen to Chris Brown (not that I ever did before). Boycotting Glee because of the Jonathan Coulton thing. These aversions are psychological and I realized awhile ago that if I were to collect and hold on to these aversions, I would be limiting my world a lot. So, like green peppers and eggplant, I try to re-evaluate my dislikes every so often. I got over Tom Cruise's "crazy" period that way and really quite enjoyed his recent movie Oblivion (it helped that Morgan Freeman was on board for that one too). I've mostly forgiven Kirsten Dunst for portraying a stoopid and useless version of Mary Jane Watson in the Raimi Spider-Man franchise and pretty much exhausted my ire with Sam Raimi for NOT killing her off on the bridge in the first movie (err.... SPOILER ALERT). Mind you, Raimi also had some good-will currency in the bank for his involvement with the Xena and Herc enterprises and his general connection to Bruce Campbell.

So, anyone got an aversion - past or current - to share? 

Interesting N.B. : Didn't get much return on my comment fishing expedition yesterday ... although page views took a massive jump. Might've been related to the labels I used. Will have to investigate that...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How We See Ourselves

Conan: Part 2, in a way. I bought this at the same Conan O'Brien show as yesterday's tee.

I was curious as to why an Irish-Catholic family like O'Brien's would name their son Conan (with the obvious pop-culture connotation - see shirt image) so I looked it up and it turns out the name is Gaelic for "little wolf hound" and Breton for "high, mighty". So there, I've learned something today and you might've too. My "job" here is done. On to the introspective stuff...

Fact: Self-image is a truly messed up aspect of human psychology. Culture, family, media and life experience all feed into it. And it is a visceral judgement, difficult to override with the most cogent of logical arguments. To top it all off, the brain is wired to focus on the negative, meaning that human nature is a glass-half-empty sort of party-pooper. We criticize far more readily than we give meaningful praise... and that applies as much to ourselves as to others.

So today, comment on this post with what you like BEST about yourself. And pick something from the category that you're most likely to criticize. I'll start. For me, the category would be physical attributes and:


Your turn. Don't leave me hanging here, folks.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Picking Sides and Sidedoors

Back in 2010, I was on Spring Break in Hawaii with a couple of girlfriends when Conan O'Brien announced his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour on his Twitter-feed. Specifically, I was in a line at an airport towing my luggage when the announcement was made and I immediately tweeted my frustration at being nowhere that I could feasibly buy a ticket from. To my rescue swoop my Newfoundland friends, Brian and Lori (THIS is why technology is awesome), who speedily bought me an e- ticket for a Vancouver show (the sold out #conezone one) which they forwarded to me through email (again, technology = awesome) and which is why I am now able to sport the Team Coco branding.

It is beyond fitting that technology provided a loophole for me to acquire a ticket for this show in particular as the whole tour was a giant loophole through which Conan evaded the illegality of him being funny in the public arena. In a nutshell, when he split with NBC in early 2010, he was not allowed to perform on broadcast television until September 2010. Live performances and any subsequent photos, recordings, or streamed videos resulting from said performances were not covered by the contract however and thus, the tour was born, fed on a steady diet of social media/networking until it grew to the mammoth proportions of a Self-Pleasuring Panda.

err... yeah, not exactly sure where I can go from that link so that's all I got for today but I may decide to wear the other Conan shirt tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

With a Little Help

Short post today. 

I'm not the world's authority on any specific band. Instead, I tend to gather general (some would deem it trivial) knowledge on a wide range of music and musicians. However, while living in the UK, I made the pilgrimage to Liverpool almost specifically for the Beatles-value of the place. (For full disclosure, Liverpool also had a Hard Rock Cafe at the time). In my memory, it was a dynamic weekend of incidental experiences. Aside from the grumpier hostel lifers (who SNORE), I met a group of extremely friendly Irish students who were determined to treat me to the craic (a good thing) and, although I did not get the chance to take the "Ferry Cross the Mersey", I did spend a lovely afternoon exploring the revitalized waterfront and its shops and historical interest points. There was no footie on that weekend but I took some pictures around the Liverpool FC stadium, Anfield, while humming "You'll Never Walk Alone" (It occurred to me then that hockey lacks a lot of the singalong interactiveness that soccer has.)

Of course, I had a meal at The New Cavern Club which isn't EXACTLY where the Beatles were discovered but very, very close (and built with many of the same bricks as the original club) and took the Magical Mystery Tour with the amazingly knowledgeable tour guide (I want to believe his name was also John) who was a born and bred Liverpudlian and not only attended school with a couple of the Beatles but has chatted with Sir Paul in the past about the fact the tour has stopped at McCartney's childhood home more times than McCartney himself ever did.

By strange coincidence, my visit to Liverpool happened just after a tragic accident claimed the life of Vancouver musician Paul "Lolly" Lawton. A friend of Lolly's knew where I was heading and asked me to pick up an Everton F.C. scarf from the team shop while I was in Liverpool as Lolly had been an avid Everton supporter. It was a trick to find the shop as it was the most unassuming little hole-in-the-wall but I was happy to do it as it gave a rather frivolous jaunt some meaning in the big picture.

All in all, it was an interesting weekend getaway but traveling alone always reminds me of how much more fun trips can be when made with friends. Of course, it depends on the friends in question - some travel better than others - but experiences like exploring an unfamiliar city are often made richer for being shared.

Monday, June 3, 2013


It finally happened. I lost my place in my wardrobe. I had to go through ALL of my previous posts on this blog because at some time during my hiatus, my system of moving blogged shirts into a "done" drawer had broken down and I couldn't honestly remember if I had worn this shirt already or not.

Turns out I hadn't. Whew.

I believe that this is the last of my Red Vs. Blue/RoosterTeeth shirts. Tex was a mysterious character introduced late in Season 1 and, although affiliated with Blue Team in Blood Gulch, maintains a freelancer/mercenary status for the rest of the series (according to the Wiki). Tex is also the first female character brought into the series (besides Sheila, the tank) and, to begin with, the most lethal, competent, and relentless agent. This becomes a common set of traits among the freelancers. In a way, the Freelancer Project in RVB is the perfect device to illustrate the difference between agents with team connections and those working without social supports or safety nets.

I can't say that I've ever been a proper freelancer. I think to make a claim to that, I would have to be gainfully (and solely) employed as such. I do stuff I like to do to some net benefit but, whether it stems from an inherent fear of failure or a practical need for traditional, reliable employment, I've always relegated these activities - writing, acting, knitting, photography - to a category more akin to an organized hobby than a life priority. It doesn't mean that I don't try to create something meaningful when I do make the time for these things, just that I like to keep the things I do for fun, "fun".

Besides, although I consider myself to be a fairly optimistic person, I don't think that I could handle the rejection, criticism, and rebuilding that seems to be a given in the world of freelancing.

These sorts of ouroboros-like existences hold no allure for me and that's probably the best indication that I'm not cut out for that life.

Now, my quandary for readers today is: if we were to remove the requirement of cost-of-living monetary compensation or viable career from the definition of "freelancer", how many of us could call ourselves "independent [fill in the blank] contractors" or a "freelancing [fill-in-the-blank]? If you could monetize a hobby, what would it be? What skill is it that your friends look to you for?

For example, in certain contexts, I am a fairly organized person (although not in terms of my t-shirts today, obviously) and to a large extent, I really enjoyed planning my own wedding (the largest and most involved event I've ever planned) so the hubby and I discussed what my life as an event planner could look like as we drove back to Vancouver from the Valley a few weeks ago. After weighing a number of factors, we figured out it could never work as a business because I would have to insist on a "no-crazy" clause, even (especially) temporary-totally-caused-by-upcoming-event crazy. With this deal-breaker in place, I would be setting an impossibly high standard for most brides, grooms, and their families. But I still like event planning. So I'll help friends out, problem-solve with them, and brainstorm themes, decor and all sorts of DIY awesomeness if called upon. This approach also deals with the second issue we identified in the business plan - pricing. I could see event planning as one of those past-times that I'd feel awful to be charging for if I was having a great time doing it and which no amount of money could compensate me for if it all goes sideways. Getting paid isn't enough. Satisfaction is the key. Just off the top of my head, I know people who could realistically be identified as freelance chocolatiers, herbalists, florists, model designers, pastry chefs, artists, composers, therapists, or editors ... IF we determine that getting paid isn't a requisite. They pursue these avenues because it's what they do, it's what they need to do. In re-defining the term, "freelancing" isn't about freedom from a commitment to an employer or workplace, it's about a commitment to yourself.