Friday, August 22, 2014

Heading to the Lobby.

I'll be unplugged and out of blogging commission for a week or two. I'm attempting to go sans laptop and sans cell phone while I do some adventuring. I'll report back in September!

Here are five things you might want to check out in the meantime...
  1. Pick up a book that will actually change your life.  
  2. Literary first lines + rap lyrics mash-ups. Love this. 
  3. Just do it. Yeaaah, that "it." #sexted
  4. A reading list to make your heart swell with national pride.
  5. An oldie but a goodie - creative inspiration in less than 20 minutes.
Happy August ❤

(Image via)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mortified Nation.

Have you seen Mortified Nation yet? A couple of nights ago, I cracked a bottle of wine and settled in for a movie night with my life partner (read: Netflix), and I've not stopped babbling about this film since.

David Nadelberg started the Mortified project after unearthing an embarrassingly awful love letter he wrote (and never sent) in high school. It began as follows:
Hello, Leslie. How is your day today? Mine's quite well, I must admit. I do hope that yours is a good one, because what you're about to read may or may not add an extra color to the rainbow at day's end.

Listen up and put your mind at rest because for the few minutes...First off, let me introduce name is Dave. (Yep, that way cool guy who gave you this letter!). For quite some time I've been, I've been trying to figure out a way to meet you. The older we all get and the more the time that we include into history passes on, it has seemingly become harder and harder to get to know one another...
After reading it to his roommates, Nadelberg realized that there might actually be something to the idea of sharing our adolescent musings with the world. And lo, Mortified was born.

This film takes a look at the stage show, with excerpts from performances across the U.S. The stories range from hilarious (the white dude who describes his 15-year-old self as having "the heart of a poet and the vocabulary of Flavor Flav") to heartfelt (the woman who struggles to reconcile her desire to be loved by her destructive mother and her need to escape the cycle of abuse). 

I think what struck me the most was the absolutely glowing love that seemed to be coming from the audience - everyone can relate, in some small way, to the performers' stories of adolescent love, loss, and indigence. It would be incredible to be at one of the live shows, hopefully they'll make it to Toronto!

Watching this film made me wish that I still had some of my elementary and high school journals. I was a sporadic journaller (and frequent destroyer of embarrassing pages), but I'd love to take a look at what remains. I have no idea what became of them.

We have already established that my early fiction work was comprised mostly of lies, but I did manage to find a few school journals from my early elementary years...

In Standard One (the equivalent of Canadian Kindergarten), I was pretty focused on being a happy, pretty mermaid, and also writing run-on sentences:

November 29th, 1990: "Let's pretend I am a mermaid if I was a mermaid what could I do I can sing songs oh I am going too Flip the Dolphins party I think it will be fun don't you yes I do I am a happy mermaid pretty too bye now."

The following year, I experimented with some decidedly more daring play themes:

September 9th, 1991: "Yesterday I went to Toronto to visit my dad's cousin and my cousins. We climbed the three pear trees and we threw some pears and then we watched Home Alone. Then my cousin Charlie wanted to play Ghostbusters but me and my sister and my other cousin Lizzie dident want to play Ghostbusters then we played with bricks."

A few years passed, during which time I became quite the little revolutionary. Apparently, my left-wing roots really started to take hold in the fourth grade and I've never looked back:

February 7, 1994: "It is not ever good to be stingy. You won't have many friends if any at all. If you have old clothes or stuff you don't need, you could donate them. But if you're not donating it because you think people should earn what they have, then that is not sharing. So you're taking advantage of them. You think they should work but they can't."

March 23, 1994: "I think freedom is important. I'm reading Underground Railroad to Canada and it's about slaves and racism. (You probably know the story). But anyway, if I was around then, I might help them fight for freedom and even give up my life. Even now we still have those problems. Not so much slavery but racism. I still would give up my life for freedom."

April 11, 1994: "I agree with the Civil Rights Act. I think everyone should be treated with equal respect. When people don't treat people equally lots of fights get started. Like when 'white' people stole from the Native Americans. The Wounded Knee took place. People thought since they were a different color they didn't deserve land."

"White" people, amirite?

Do you still have old journals and letters kicking around?

Could you imagine reading them in front of a crowd?

P.S. In the film, Nadelberg talks about his love of old letters. It reminded me to spend some time combing through one of my favourite websites...

P.P.S. As a result of the internet spiral I fell down while writing this post, I found this early effort by the Duplass brothers. Love these guys. 

(Image via)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Giver Film.

The Giver film comes out tomorrow! This is a book that I absolutely loved and cherished in my youth (it has a spot on my much-neglected 100 Must-Reads list). I started re-reading it lastnight in anticipation of the film release, and man, it is still so beautiful and moving.

Will you see the movie?

P.S. Reading The Giver as an adult

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Love is a Mixtape.

A few months ago, I picked up the book Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. The book is a memoir that uses a series of mixtapes to tell the story of how Sheffield met, married, and lost the woman that he loved.

Each chapter begins with a tracklist for one of the real mixtapes that Sheffield and Renée exchanged during their time together. In addition to artists I knew, the tapes featured so many unfamiliar bands (Big Star, Interpol, etc.) that I started reading with my laptop beside me so I could tune in for context.

According to Sheffield, Renée was a feisty, free-spirited, Southern gal: "She rooted for the Atlanta Braves and sewed her own silver vinyl pants. She knew which kind of screwdriver was which. She baked pies, but not very often. She could rap Roxanne Shante's 'Go on Girl' all the way through."

The book is most definitely a love letter to Renée, but in many ways, it is also a celebration of the music scene of the 90s: "I get sentimental over the music of the ’90s. Deplorable, really. But I love it all. As far as I’m concerned the ’90s was the best era for music ever, even the stuff that I loathed at the time, even the stuff that gave me stomach cramps."

It won't surprise you to learn that Sheffield has been a columnist for Rolling Stone for nearly 20 years. In this book, he uses his life experience and vast music knowledge to weave a lovely little story about love and loss and the power of songs.

As Sheffield tells us, "the times you lived through, the people you shared those times with - nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life."

What songs make up the story of your life?

(Image via)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Free Download: My First Learning Book.

I'm always amazed when I see wee ones, some no older than two, playing around with their parents' tablet or smartphone. I don't own a tablet, so I mainly stab at the screen with one finger whenever I'm forced to navigate one. It's official: toddlers of the Western world have surpassed me. It's a brave new world, my friends!

That being said, maybe I've still got a slight edge on those tiny idiots. According to this article, while nearly 20% of kids aged 2-5 are able to operate a smartphone application, only 9% can tie their shoes. I can tie my shoes! Loop, swoop, and pull, baby.

Did you ever see this video? It made the rounds awhile ago. It shows a baby using an iPad, and then becoming confused when a magazine cannot be manipulated in the same way. It's a simple example of how our kids are growing up "digital natives" - entrenched in technology, fluent in the ever-changing language of the digital world.

Maybe it makes me a bit of a Luddite (or maybe Louis CK's soulmate), but I cringe a bit when I see parents hand over their phones to kids as if they were pacifiers. However, maybe I need to adjust my understanding of what kids are up to when they're playing with technology. When I was a kid, I was given books or puzzles to entertain me during long waits in line or my mother's experiments with us in church. Is a smartphone really so different? It's a longer read, but this article takes a close look at the so-called Touch-Screen Generation and how technology is impacting their development.

I'm wondering, parents, do you let your kids click away on your phones/tablets? What kind of stuff are they doing?

In case you're interested, the designer of my website banner, Timothy Horizon, has created a series of interactive learning books for kids to use on iPads. The illustrations are fun and colourful, and the books cover content like numbers, colours, rhyming, shapes, and opposites. The best news is: they're free! Jump over to iTunes to download them, if you're looking for kid-friendly phone/tablet resources.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A Little Library Erection.

My friend John and I go way back. Although we share the same hometown, we didn't actually meet until my first year of university. Back then, we wiled away the days singing Marshall McLuhan-related ballads, competing in multi-hour two-person cribbage tournaments, and trying to comprehend the inner-workings of the beautiful mind that is Randy Constan.

Today, John is an upstanding citizen with a lovely wife and wee baby. He majored in Electrical Engineering, so - based on the one word I know related to that field - I can only assume his current job involves semiconductors. I am thrilled to introduce his guest post today, as it combines my love of Little Free Libraries and jokes about penis synonyms.

Wow, my first blog post! (Unless you count the blog I kept back in university in which I mostly just posted cool names I found in the company global directory on a co-op term, e.g., Layla B. Nono...). This is awesome! And the first non-family-member entry at Oh, My Word? What an honour!

Right, little libraries….

I first came across the idea of the Little Free Library on this very blog and, if I’m being honest, was marginally interested at best (Editor's note: Thanks for the support, John.). While our property is bound on one side by a footpath to a schoolyard, we live on a cul-de-sac and we don’t have a sidewalk. There's not a lot of foot traffic, so our house didn't occur to me as a prime micro-library locale.

Some months later, my wife expressed interest in putting one up after reading about them in the paper and seeing the odd one around town. I poo-pooed the idea at the time, seeing an analogue in the child who asks for a puppy, gets the puppy, and then promptly forgets the puppy, saddling the parent with puppy-minding duties. Who’s going to perform building maintenance? Who wants to mow around yet another obstacle on the lawn? Also, are people actually going to use it? Will it just get emptied out of all our books and that’ll be the end of it? How long before a ruffian spray paints it/smashes it to bits/knocks it over/lights it on fire/steals it? (Editor's note: Youths!). So much uncertainty surrounding the whole concept.

However, some time after that, my wife’s birthday was approaching and I was plumb out of ideas. Then I remembered that people like homemade things. They eat that stuff up. The Little Free Library seemed about the right level of complexity, and I knew she’d be thrilled with it.

I’d made up my mind – the little library was going in.

After a bit of research (read: one Google search), I came across a simple plan at Little Libraries of KW. The shed style looked a little too outhouse-y for me, so I settled on the gable box. I already had most of the materials in the garage, so I was sold. A quick trip to the local building centre to fetch a 1x12 piece of pine and I set to work.

First things first, cut a bunch of pieces and nail/glue them together to form the box:

The next bit required a couple of isosceleses…a couple of isosceli…two triangles with two equal-length sides to support the roof. Rather than fashioning a sophisticated jig to make it properly, I decided to freehand the cut on the table saw. This decision would yield the only injury sustained throughout the project:

And that, kids, is why you don’t freehand little narrow pieces of wood on the table saw.

A bit more cutting, a bit more nailing and gluing and I had this:

The main structure was in place. Due to the imprecision of my table saw, however, there was a minute gap on the roof where the two boards met - not good for a little outbuilding designed for year-round storage of paper. To rectify and weatherproof, I squeezed a bit of caulk into the gap (Editor's note: that's what she said?).

Now for the door. This I managed to make entirely out of pieces reclaimed from our home: a piece of wood from the 1960’s era, pine-paneled basement, and a grungy old piece of Plexiglas that sat under the old freezer to catch thawed meat juices during extended power outages.

Next step: beautify. After a good sanding, putting putty in the nail holes, and some more sanding, it was ready for a paint job. I let Heather decide on the colour, because it was, after all, for her, and she’d unlikely be satisfied with the utilitarian grey/brown I’d inevitably have opted for. She decided on a two-tone motif, with red house and brown underroof. The roof itself I planned to finish with unvarnished cedar shakes, for that rustic look.

So, mask off the roof, paint the house, mask off the house, paint the roof, and I have this:

To mount the door, I picked up some antique bronze hardware at the local building centre. Nothing fancy, but it does the trick.

Finally, the roof. Since actual cedar shakes are rather enormous relative to the size of this roof, I opted for cedar shims. One pack from my local building centre contained enough for probably 10 minuscule libraries. I ripped a bunch into similar widths and cut them to length, short enough for four rows, and then glued them to the roof with some construction adhesive.

To cap the peak, I used a scrap piece of cedar 2x4 from a friend, and cut a v-channel into it on the table saw. I don’t have a picture of this, but to give you an idea, imagine a regular scrap piece of 2x4 with a v-channel cut into it. Now imagine that that regular 2x4 was made of cedar. Bingo. Slap that puppy on with some more adhesive and it’s done!

The library was ready for erection. Shortly after I completed the library, we had a three week sojourn in Thunder Bay. As such, I decided to wait until after the trip to install the post and mount the library, lest the aforementioned ruffians show up in our absence and leave my retired neighbour a giant mess to deal with.

I also had to wait on a locate of gas and water lines before breaking ground. Schedule your own locate through Ontario One Call here. The last thing you want to do is blow up your neighbourhood while erecting a little library. “Sorry, neighbour, for (causing) the loss of your home. Perhaps you can find some solace within the pages of this copy of Mr. Midshipman Hornblower whilst waiting for it to be rebuilt?”

To install the post, I went with a ground spike. This is a large metal spike that you drive into the ground and then bolt the post to. Much less work and mess than digging a post hole. 

Erection day! Attacking the ground spike with a sledgehammer and aplomb. Note the proper safety footwear.

While watching my brother-in-law and I install the library, my retired neighbour yelled from across the street “Would you hurry up and get that thing in? I’m comin’ over for a book!” It is now three days post-erection and he has still not come over for a book.

To secure the library to the post I used some more scrap wood – a piece of 2x6 cut to the width of the library, and two pieces of 2x4 with 45 degree cuts on either end. These were screwed to the post to form an inverted peace symbol. The post was then bolted to the spike, and the library screwed to the support piece.

Done and done!

Final step: register the library here. This has been done and now we’re waiting on our official placard with branch number.

So far I’ve seen a few passersby eyeing it up, but without proper signage I think they’re mostly just confused. No real action yet, but I’ve got great expectations. Want in on the action? Stop by Langford Place in Waterloo.

A few quick thank-yous for help on this project: Heather for having a birthday; my dad for helping with the painting, roofing, and door installation; my brother-in-law Iain for helping with the erection; Wally, the previous home-owner, for supplying some of the materials; and Zara for inviting me to write this piece for her blog. Thanks, guys!

P.S. My sister's guest post - an introduction to anime.