Monday, August 27, 2007

how a poster reduced me to tears: confession of a hopelessly romantic educator

one of the great things about being a teacher is that every year you get to reinvent yourself again. you have a blank slate on which to create a new self, assume a new attitude and have another, more informed go at imparting those crucial nuggets of learning that form the backbone of your programme.

geek that i am, i love attending summer workshops that fill my head with new ways to push the limits of learning. love reading professional literature that will help focus my ideas. love getting to select the colour of the walls and the arrangement of the furniture. love creating centres and establishing a vibe for the room.

among the gems i found at a teacher store today, (159 bucks later!) were some motivational posters. so great. kind of helped to get me in mode for remembering that it's more than just academics i impart in that room. here are the ones that made their way to my walls:

watch what you think, thoughts become words

watch what you say, words become actions

watch what you do, actions become habits

watch your habits, they become your character

watch your character, it becomes your destiny

another, accompanied by a visual of a dull pencil among sharp ones, reads

surround yourself with who you want to be

another, with a football player looking tired holding a helmet

never, never give up

my favourite, which i posted in a place of prominence on the bulletin board above the chalk board reads: enthusiasm creates greatness

was floored by this one. love it. love it as it pertains to my life and my sense of defeat at the naysayers who bring me down throughout the year. hope it will serve as a mantra of sorts for me, too, when i feel my positivity wane.

feeling lucky today. grateful that shaping an environment for personal growth is one of the things i get paid to do. love the sense of possibility that septmber brings. can't imagine the mental gymnastics i'd have to do to keep myself motivated if i were working at any other job.

am off to do some reading for my literacy program! hope you are finding a way to bring something of yourself to your work.

Monday, August 20, 2007

an affair to remember

much has been said of rage in our culture in recent years. films and investigative reports have focused on episodes of citizens gone mad in traffic, at hockey games and in line at the grocery store.

last night i bore witness to one such episode at the bloor cinema.

upon entering the theatre, my friends and i were still catching up with one another, animatedly sharing a story as we walked through the doors of the almost empty theatre,when a voice bellowed "gotta keep it down ladies, talkin too loud. gotta be quiet in here"

an older man with indiscernable features stood in one of the back rows, his belongings spread out across a number of seats, arms splayed across a couple of seats as he issued his warning.

we turned to one another,grinning,somewhat amused by the unexpected etiquette lesson and took our seats. this got us talking about previous experiences with noise nazis at the theatre. between us, we'd been on both sides of the fence at some time or another. nothing drives me crazier than a talker during a movie. i remember the first (and last!) time that i went to see a film at the rainbow cinema(chain of divey discount theatres). it was a screening of the passion of the christ and among my fellow moviegoers were children on booster seats in the back row, teenage kids on dates and a row of saggy-ass pant wearin' youth. while i knew i was in for a less than peaceful viewing i was not prepared for the pimplefaced savant to my right who read all of the subtitles to his girlfriend as they were posted to which she responded, "oh it's just like in the bible,..."

i remember thinking to myself...who were these people? did they really think no one could hear them?

anyway, back to last night...we were watching paris je t'aime, a series of short films by a myriad of directors who were each given a different neighbourhood of paris to serve as an inspiration for their film. not long into the film, our own personal mr. manners started to laugh inappropriately during the quiet bits of a moodier piece. then he started responding to the dialogue in french. his voice was a bit slurred sounding but it resonated loudly.

now the rep theatre is a different beast than a multiplex. patrons of these hallowed halls dig their flicks and have a collective understanding of the old school approach to moviegoing. you don't show up late, you get your snacks before you settle in and once the lights go down, you don't say a word.

true to form, mr. commentaire's contributions to the experience were not appreciated and a couple of voices replied "shut up" and "be quiet". this seemed to be effective and for awhile, his verbalization was simply comprised of louder than normal laughter to the funny parts.

now, the shorts were not all great. they weren't conventional in terms of narrative and some went in odd directions, had unresolved ideas. but, considering the number of shorts in the film, most of us were willing to endure the bad in anticipation of more good.

not so for mr. noisy pants. during a short featuring maggie gylenhaal he shouted "this movie sucks". some laughed but one guy boomed in a voice that screeched somewhat "shut up!". my friends and i were a bit taken aback. mr. noise repeated his displeasure again and the same guy yelled "shut up or get out". it was a guy on a lawn in a cops episode kind of yell that you don't hear in public often. it was full on rage. it hung in the air like a cloud, more dramatic than anything on the screen in front of us could have been. was odd to have this drama within a drama going on, very surreal, like edgy performance art.

anyway, the defender of the sanctity of the movie theatre's girlfriend seemed to sense that he wasn't going to let things go and she got up and left the theatre, we assumed to get management involved. in the meantime, a dialogue between the two where noisy pants started saying he wasn't going anywhere along with other slurred phrases with hints of french intermixed. we all sat there, tense, waiting for someone to intervene.

sure enough, moments later we heard mumbling and shuffling. he was being escorted out.

couldn't help but think about how stressed we all are and how scarily close to the surface the resultant quick to be pissed offed-ness it creates. know something of it myself, have almost taken out a couple of grannies on the left side of the escalator during rush hour in the subway. am always shocked by how visceral the anger is and how hard pressed i am to find a reason as to why it should bother me so much.

took about two shorts to get back into the film. odd to just continue watching as though nothing had happened when he had gone.

never wanted to talk during a movie so much in my life!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

crossing off all of my bullets instead of dodging them!

woke up this morning and knew that i was going to have a productive day. had an energy that has been stored in my reserves and made good use of it.

love these kinds of days. love making lists and crossing them off. love making decisions and seeing them through. love being mobilized and busy. (see ryan gosling doing crunches after weeks of lethargy in the film half nelson for best encapsulation of what i am talking about) in one day i: did my dishes and cleaned the bathroom, met a friend for lunch, bought a new bed, arranged for its delivery, got a duvet and pillows for it and purchased storage bins to clear out my pine chest that serves as my coffee table, bought binders and plastic report covers for my upcoming research project, caught up with correspondence, arranged my finances on telephone banking and made myself dinner instead of ordering out!

since arriving home from my trip i have felt a real urge to purge. as a highly aesthetic person, my visual surroundings have a huge impact on my mental health. really want to clear house, literally and reinvent my space so that it matches where i am mentally. am craving colour and space and more tangible traces of my recent experiences. i move every three to five years and am starting to feel the itch. love sitting with a drawer and sorting through its contents, filling garbage bags and boxes for donation. clean sweep is one of my favourite shows for a reason!

i have always been a collector of sorts. like to revisit memories through objects and surround myself with my own life artifacts. funny thing is, the artifacts have a shelf life that is determined by my place in the world. when i have big life decisions to make a makeover of my space usually follows. i remember taking great pains to bring all my posters and memorabilia from all of the shows i did i highschool with me to university. after a couple of months my personal landscape had shifted so much that i was almost physically ill at the sight of it whenever i came into my room. it simply wasn't me anymore and i felt fraudulent and weighed down by it.

life really is cyclical. really do need to slough off the dead skin every once and awhile to let the healthy stuff shine through. comforting to be propelled by it, to know from repeated experience that an upward spiral is paired with a downward one. thank god.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

a date with dylan

just finished watching don't look back, a documentary like film made in 1965 and released in 67 which follows Dylan on tour in england. am watching it because i want to give the guy a chance. once again am trying to round out my musical education and to see what the hype is all about. i have been able to appreciate his influence and his gifts as a writer but i just never really liked his voice or his persona. found him full of himself and off putting. couldn't warm to him.

the film is insane, in a good way. apparently the seminal film in the realm of cinema verite. camera to be able to pull it off brand new and style of being fly on wall also innovative. feel so close to all who are alive in the black and white and gray. get a very intimate sense of knowing them, love the small moments, the silences, the hanging out in between the snapshots of the scene they were in musically and historically.

bob himself if a bit of an enigma, both to us as viewers and apparently, to himself. speaks out of both sides of his mouth often, as twenty somethings do. is in one moment intense, waxing philosophic about nothing meaning anything, about him not being a folk singer, his lyrics, candid, astute, well observed and biting. in the next moment, he is reading and basking in, his own press, joking with friends, checking himself out in the mirror, toying with the power that comes with celebrity.

i loved the scenes with the interviewers. poor souls. bob absolutely eviscerates the poor sods. gave them absolutely nothing that they were looking for. turned all questions as opportunities to launch into lectures about their futility as a means through which they could ever hope to come to truly know anything about him. makes a great case for the ridiculousness of celebrity and the whacked way that people deify musicians, looking to them for answers to life's questions.

while i was impressed by his incredibly articulate arguments i was equally pissed at the little upstart. was being a real dick for the sake of being a dick at one point. showed no feeling for them and dismissed them as misguided idiots. again the two sides of the coin. the man that devotes himself to highlighting the social ills of the world is an asshole to his fellow man in his daily life. funny how want the words to do more than provoke. want them to be tied to behaviour and action so can fully fall under his spell.

of course that's the point i guess. that we are, human. that these are ideas after all. that if you want true change can't expect a prophet to make change for you. that idealists can't help but also be cynics. hard to look in the face of truth and not be daunted and defeated by it. keep coming back to this idea that we want to put a different face on things to make them more palatable. like the way that i struggled with france's historically bloody streets being so gorgeously maintained and beautifed, beatified.

was impressed by dylan's musicality. one scene where he was playing the piano. very bluesy and deeply rich. so musical that i feel like i got an answer to the question, why sing? why not be a poet? why choose to be a musician where you esentially do little more than just strum and strain as a singer. his ear was great, his taste, true, many scenes of him playing country tunes and bluegrass ditties he loved with joan baez. this feeling, this sound, full and rich, was driving him internally as he spewed through his own shaky instrument. now that i knew what he was hearing in his own mind as he played i found myself forgiving him his foibles as he performed throughout the film and started really hearing him.

find myself wanting to go and read lyrics to his tunes. am a fan of poetry and this is the real deal. images and phrasing so great. it's a kind of stream of consciousness that provides you with more of a paddle than most.

am rewatching it with the commentary as i write. so great. love the extra layer to the tale.

all in all i still wouldn't want to have him over for dinner but the guy had a whole lotta somethin goin' on.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

blast from the past

feeling lazy. have slipped into crazy sleeping habits and the weather, shifting between thick and humid and overcast is triggering my instincts to cocoon rather than to explore.

have been spending a lot of time on facebook lately. randomly plugging in names of old friends. so odd that in a few strokes of a keyboard that 3D human being who shares communal memories of a snapshot of your past, is suddenly present. by nature i tend toward the habit of closing doors once i have passed through them, so it feels a bit strange to be backward focused. am discovering, however, that, for the most part, i am re-energized by the contact.

had a pretty rough university experience emotionally, so my memories of the experience are pretty hazy. now that i have made contact with some people from that phase i find that new, more positive memories are emerging that got lost in my own biased translation. scary how powerful perspective is on shaping your sensed reality.

anyhoo, am loving seeing the different paths that people have taken. i have never been one of those people who draws inspiration from celebrity. my role models have often been people in my social or professional sphere. am so jazzed to see my friends take great risks in their choice of place to call home or in their pursuit of translating what turns them on into something that can also come with a paycheck.

the sobering aspect of taking part in the facebook phenomenon is that it brings the census statistics home in a very real way. bad enough that i am only one of three single women in my immediate circle of friends, with every new friend request i discover i am the only single (and childless) person in an extended circle of friends ranging from people who lived on my street to people who have ever taken a seat in a place of higher learning with me!

hard not to feel that you have missed the boat somewhere along the way. at the same time, have led a really full life. guess my trajectory has been more laterally focused than forward focused. ah, who cares. it is what it is. we all got where we are cause it was where we were ready to be at the time, right?

am also loving the way that chatting with the true friends after many years is simple and immediately intimate. tend to surround myself with people who know who they are and who live honestly. don't really see something like that as clearly as you can when there's been some distance. am grateful for it.

gotta run, am off to see a friend who's been on mat leave!