Friday, May 31, 2013

Spirit Week Music T Friday: Formal "Police" Report

There's an unbloggable inside joke involved in today's post but since I can't write about that I'll discuss the shenanigans involved in trying to keep up with today's Spirit Week: Formal Friday festivities and reconcile it with the "Music T Friday" habit I'd started before the hiatus. To start with, I accessorized my t-shirt with my Parent-Teacher Interview suit:

Music T = check. Formal Friday = check.

And then I tried to pinpoint moments in my life soundtracked by The Police. I've always appreciated the fact that Sting started out as a teacher and I imagine Mr. Sumner would've been a fun guy, if a little distracted. The band's music has permeated so much culture that I was immediately able to snag several flashbulb memories associated with certain songs by The Police:

1) Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic - Cupid "End of an Eros" (1998)

As I've met and become friends with more musicians, my understanding of the value of TV and film licensing of music for both monetary gain and exposure has deepened. As a television viewer, I appreciate the difference between a good song and the ideal song in pivotal scenes. At the end of episode 9 of the short-lived Jeremy Piven series, there is a mundane moment spun into love-match-making magic where a jaded and embittered cosmologist (that's space not make-up) turns to face his perfect mate under a spectacular canopy of an astrological observatory's laser show as this Police song cues. Over-the-top is under-rated. Moments like that one are what television and film were made for.

2) Roxanne - Moulin Rouge! (2001)


Because my parents' grasp of English was sketchy at best when they came to Canada, I heard a lot of music played as a kid with lyrics that went well over my head until I was older. (The best example of this is probably Cher's "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" which I tried to explain to my mother when I was in my 20s and Mom just wouldn't believe it.) I had heard Roxanne played multiple times throughout my life but the lyrics didn't hit home until the scene in Moulin Rouge! which, quite honestly, felt like it deviated from the central plot. I understand it was there to make Satine's circumstances clear (and to showcase some awesome dancing) but I've always felt it was a mis-step on Luhrmann's part.

3) Don't Stand So Close to Me - Glee "Ballads"

Like I said before, I figure Mr. Sumner would've been an ace teacher and the music video takes The Police back into a classroom to tell this Nabakov-esque story. And while I'm not a fan of Glee any longer, I was back in Season 1 and the mash-up of "Don't Stand" and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap's "Young Girl" was brilliant.

4) Message in A Bottle 

I've always loved the story of this song where one voice in the middle of nowhere receives a "hundred billion" responses. It's a bit of a metaphor for the social media of the world today. We are so used to instant responses today that it is unthinkable to have to wait a day (forget a year) for a reaction to confirm that we actually exist, that what we say and/or do matters. But we keep putting it out there, don't we?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spirit Week: Gender Bender Day

I honestly wonder if at some point we'll have a full-out, openly declared Cross-Dressing Day in Spirit Week. Sadly, it'll probably still be considered a bigger social risk for guys than girls. Today's Spirit Week gender bending was for girls to wear blue and boys to wear pink. 

With the growing recognition of Pink Shirt Day, observed on the last Wednesday of February (at least it is in Canada), which makes a stand against bullying in all its forms, you'd think (hope) that the colour pink would've be de-listed as an stereotyped indication of femininity. As a (female) child, I remember having a distinct dislike for pink myself. And I don't think I was the only girl to feel that way. Of course, being a girl, gender bending was, to a point, acceptable. I was a tomboy of a child for much of my school career to the point that my mother was once congratulated on having two healthy and strong sons AND I was once stopped from going into a ladies washroom at a restaurant. As a teen, I still preferred practical clothing to the fussiness of fashion-awareness.

The gender-fying of clothing has an interesting history. Like Coca-Cola's role in our modern day North American visual of Santa Claus (my favourite snippet from the Wiki entry: "Images of Santa Claus were further cemented through Haddon Sundblom's depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company's Christmas advertising. The popularity of the image spawned urban legends that Santa Claus was in fact invented by Coca-Cola. Nevertheless, Santa Claus and Coca-Cola have been closely associated, except for 2005 when Santa was replaced in advertising by Coca-Cola's polar bears."), advertisers and marketers had a direct influence on assigning specific colours to girls and boys. The linked article from the Smithsonian is fascinating. I especially like the comment on the rising consumerism of children.

So my bluest shirt (that hasn't already been on this blog) is not only blue but features characters known specifically for being blue, yet happy, The Smurfs. The tee is a Kerri-gift and more than just retro thanks to a film reboot in 2011. Also, a tangential point on the theme of gender-fying, Smurfette is one of those anomalies in children's programming that few people think about unless it's in hindsight. (Mind you, I vaguely remember an episode where Smurfette's origin was revealed that she was a Pandora-like trap made by villain Gargamel to ensnare/corrupt the Smurfs. I could be making it up completely but if she was a Mark 1.0 Cylon Fembot reprogrammed by Brainy Smurf and assimilated into Smurf society, it does kind of explain a few things.)

Finally, because any discussion of gender needs a Whedon connection, and because this video fell out of the sky and onto my Facebook newsfeed just yesterday, (and because he really is my Big Damn Wordsmithing Hero), here is Joss Whedon addressing the 2013 commencement class of Wesleyan University from last Sunday. He doesn't exactly address gender issues but I'd like to think that in "accepting duality to earn identity" on a macro-level, we would all recognize the inherent strength and value in every member of society - no matter their gender, age, race or creed - and, instead, work to grow the connections that really define us as individuals, collectives and communities. Wouldn't that be Smurf-tastic?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spirit Week: Colour Wars

Truth be told, I always get vestigial tremors of Miklowitz's "The War Between the Classes" when Colour Wars is declared for Spirit Week. No ranking involved here - each grade gets a colour assigned and on Colour Wars day, you wear the colour of your grade to see which grade has the most spirit. Teachers usually get neutral territory like black, white, or school colours (black & gold). We were given the option of black or white today. I went dark. And sparkly.

My Dreamgirls shirt should be a collectors' item, meaning that I should probably wear it less and with more care than I do. When the Jennifer Hudson movie opened in 2006, the studios promoted it by running it on a super limited "roadshow" release in three select cities - New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Being in Vancouver, I sent a proxy - my brother, who was whiling away his time as a paralegal in SF at the time. I bought the ticket, he attended and picked up the included souvenir lithograph and program that I coveted. Generous soul that he is, he bought me a t-shirt too. The lithograph is framed and hung in my upstairs hallway. The program is filed away safely with my Broadway and West End collection. And this t-shirt gets worn at least once a month.

Which brings me to the difficulty with dressing in all black. Like green, which the human eye can supposedly distinguish the most shades of any colour, black is hard to match and, counter-intuitively, easily clashes with itself. My well-worn black tee is tinged more grey than my cardigan which is tinged more "brown" than my slacks which are pinstriped black on black. Don't even get me started on my socks and boots. It's a good thing students barely register teachers as people, forget fashion plates.

To end on a Big Thought: this trivial clothing experiment supports a generalizable adage. Variety is good. Contrast is great. The more diversity we embrace, the stronger (and more interesting) we become. So maybe the fact that Vancouver's largest theatre company is currently staging Dreamgirls with a slightly un-Motown-looking ensemble should probably direct audiences to look for red-hot innovation rather than stone-cold imitation in this production.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spirit Week: PJ Day

The spirit is definitely moving me this week. Today took some effort. Sure, PJ Day sounds convenient: Just roll out of bed and trudge into school in whatever you sleep in. Yeah, not so much when one typically sleeps in old (non-blog-worthy) t-shirts and lives a forty minute commute away from school. And even if one were to own a proper set of pajamas, wearing them on the bus with "outdoor" shoes (in my case, my trusty Blundstone boots) and a bigger-than-usual overcoat to disguise the fact your bottoms are leopard print cotton sweats makes for a rather self-conscious and uncomfortable trip - rather like, I figure, a flasher's first deliberate escapade.

My PJ bottoms actually are leopard-print cotton sweatpants (and my go-to slippers are zebra striped so I'm killing all sorts of fashion etiquette today) so, this morning, I changed out of my PJs, packed them in a bag with my housecoat and slippers, brought them to school and changed once I got here.

Check that: I wore the t-shirt top (pictured above) rather than changing altogether. But I wore a coat over it. And I drove. Like I said, effort.

As I mentioned yesterday, PJ Day is usually the most popular day of Spirit Week at this school. That being said, only about 1 in 5 students observes/participates/remembers it. I was considering it yesterday in preparation for today and wondering why I don't remember it being a thing at all in my high school years. I came up with a couple of explanations.

1) Context is important. Wearing your PJs to school in the BC Lower Mainland fall, winter, or spring is a very different thing than in Saskatchewan where the school year is best outlined as September, SNOW, or June. I remember the last day of Grade 8, also the last day of elementary school when one classmate, who lived across the street from the school set himself a goal to be back in bed at home after signing yearbooks and picking up his report card before the sheets had a chance to cool down. He still got dressed to come to school. And that was June.

2) The acceptability of PIP (PJs In Public) has grown. I blame this in part on Lululemon(TM) and the yoga gear fad. I'd have to consult with the fashion-minded frugalista Annabelle Hepburn to be certain but I'm pretty sure by 1990, leggings and the like had been deemed beyond passé (see? I can be French-esque too) but then lululemon athletica was founded in 1998 and by 2000, it was fashionable to wear unflattering, high-priced, patterned stretchy skin in place of trousers. And those who couldn't afford $60 - $100 for a pair of stripped-down stir-up pants could be forgiven for interpreting the sudden prevalence of über-casual dress on public transit and at the workplace as a tacit societal acceptance of a comfort-first approach to clothing.

3) Loss of privacy. This goes back to discourses on social media, common sense, the diminishing of the term "friend" and crowd-sourcing. When I was in high school, you held sleepovers with maybe a half-dozen of your close friends. They were the ones who got to meet your parents, annoy your siblings, chase your pets, hang out in your room/closet/basement (whatever), and watch movies/talk/crimp hair late into the night.  It was a fairly exclusive experience that could be shared second-hand at school the next week in discussions. It allowed for safe risk-taking, potential embarrassment that was understandably manageable because of the small number of witnesses. Nowadays, if sleep-overs do still happen, they are streamed, tweeted, shared, and updated so persistently, nothing is sacred or safe anymore. And, similar to the word "friend", "privacy" in this arena has become so de-valued that the approach has become extreme - either you share everything or you share nothing at all. ever. Neither is really healthy emotional development and both can be potentially problematic socially. 

To end where I started, PJs are a source of comfort in theory. I have my winter PJs - red fleece reindeer printed ones and seafoam green fuzzies that I refer to as my Muppet-skins - and a couple of sets of cotton coordinates that appeal to my humour (see today's) and my own personality (see today's). PJs may, in fact, in their natural state (ie. not-Spirit-Week requirement), be a source of truth for how we see ourselves. I believe we sleep best when we are at ease and there is some evidence that we learn best when at ease too. However, the jury's still out on how well teens learn while asleep.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Spirit Week: "Nerd" Day

Light weight post today in an attempt to get back in the blogging groove. I have four posts from last week that I'll try to backdate/backpost

The school has "Spirit Week"s every so often. The equivalent in the high school I attended as a student would've probably been "Pep Week" wherein there were dress-up days, activities, & contests throughout the week and a pep rally on the Friday. Spirit Weeks at my current school are almost exclusively dress-up themed days, PJ Day being the most popular one. So today is "Nerd" Day and I'm wearing a Kerri-special giftie, commemorating the original Battlestar-Galactica-Starbuck-Nine-Year-Old-Me-Was-Going-To-Marry glory.

So my blog topic is mostly a semantics question. I, personally, proudly self-identify as a "geek" and still hear "nerd" as a derogatory term. I may be in the minority. Anyone out there got an opinion?

(I believe credit for my knowledge of this graphic goes to Lori Hogan)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Knowing Where You Are

*Published verbatim on 27 May 2013, tee actually worn on 23 May 2013 hence the backdate stamp*

So I'm back on the wagon (aka Canada Line) and looking to confuse folks as I have tshirts from Tues & Wed (and one from a week & a half back) to write about and will probably back-date them all for accuracy's sake.

Today's tee is a bday giftie (from this most recent birthday!) from my Newfoundlander family who travelled 7,500km (with a toddler powered by Energizer bunny power and a far-too-cute-for-her-own-good 5-month-old) across the continent/country to attend my wedding. Yes, I got married during my blog hiatus (and aged out of a marketing category two days later). It's all about timing...
For those who have never been lucky enough to visit St. John's, NL, the tee depicts the city's harbour with Cabot Tower on Signal Hill on the left. It's a beautiful vista, almost as lovely as the people who live there. And the geekery factor of the 8-bit text-game presentation is amaze-balls.
Most similar Google Image I could find to the tee graphic

Part of knowing where you are has to do with knowing who you're with and, perhaps, making a conscious judgement call as to who is and who isn't a positive influence in your life. Family is family and there is an innate acceptance where they are concerned. Everyone else is present by choice - mostly a combination of theirs and yours. Some people are hard work and there can be times where the pay-off isn't worth the investment. 

I'm living proof of this.

And then there are some precious few who belong in your life no matter how far apart you live geographically or how many changes your life goes through.

Then and Now:
You really should be focussed on how much camera technology has improved ;)

I met Brian Kidney in the summer of 1996 in Hamilton, ON, at the annual CanJAC convention (he wasn't tweeting then). He was the tallest person I had ever met. His humour, warmth, and confidence was (and is) striking and of all the people I met that week, he is the only one I have kept in contact with over the last seventeen years. We wrote actual letters to each other (and even mailed them), sent birthday cards to each other (I have the advantage in remembering his birthday as he shares the day with my brother) and made odysseys across this great country of ours to see each other (his wife, Lori, won a cross-country VIA trip and they made optimum use of it, coming to Vancouver, while I took advantage of the most skookum airfare deal ever to go see them get hitched). As is common with many of my guy friends' significant others, I learned a lot about Lori before ever meeting her - police decoy, seal enumerator, lucky horseshoe, rescue beagle delivery person - and she exceeded every expectation. Add super-mom to the mix now. 

He and Lori have travelled extensively in their work and play and never fail to generously add to my Hard Rock Cafe pin collection on every excursion. This trip was no exception. After my wedding, they packed their happy little family into the mini-van and traipsed down to Seattle and back (before the bridge on Skagit collapsed, thankfully) and I found a new HRC pin from the Seattle store tucked in with my tee (which, appropriately, smells of baby powder - the tee, that is). I should also point out (if my faithful readers hadn't already clued in) that a large section of my tee collection originates from the East Coast thanks to Brian and Lori.

Of the many, many blessings I thank the 'verse for, I cherish the good people in my life who keep my feet on the ground, my head in the game, and my heart in the right place. Whenever, I need a guiding star, they're there no matter how far away the GPS puts them physically. And that, ultimately, is probably the key to knowing where I am.