Month: March 2014

Revisiting Suicide 20 Years Later

It’s been twenty years since Kurt Cobain’s death. Cobain was only 27, my age, when he committed suicide in 1994. I was too young to have remembered, but I’ve listened to his work throughout the last decade or so. What an artist and what a tragic way to go.

Today the Seattle Police Department released new never-before seen photos of what they found at the scene of his death.

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They wanted to reinvestigate the case, but sadly, there were no new developments and the verdict remained the same. The rock legend had taken his own life. The photos above send me chills: his suicide note stabbed with a red pen into soil; the area where they found his body and even a cigar box filled with drug paraphernalia. A devastating April morning that must have been for fans all over the world.

Kurt Cobain lived a hard life, from what I could tell by reading his Journals. Yet, he wasn’t just a scarred artist. There was more to him. He was raw, in a world that found it difficult to accept the truth.

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He stuck to what he believed in, even if it pissed people off.

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Most importantly, he could sense that there was change to be made — that the world was corrupt and it was important to challenge authority.

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He pushed people to question the status quo.

I just wish he had listened to his own advice.

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February 20, 1967 –  April 5, 1994

What would the world be like if Kurt Cobain were here today?

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Kensington Market in the 50s

Gina Lollobrigida was one of the most popular actresses in the 50s and early 60s, but I had seen her for the first time on a plaque in my grandparent’s basement. The plaque featured a black and white photo of the star with my grandfather proudly sitting next to her. “You know data lady? Shesa famous… teacher. No, no… actress,” he said as he pointed to the photo.

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LIFE magazine

He spoke to Gina Lollobrigida in Italian when he met her at Kensington Market. That’s where the photo (above) was taken, along with his other pride and joy that is mounted up on the basement wall. My grandfather is the man to her left wearing a white sleeveless tank. This was one of the most exciting experiences for my nonno. He said that it lasted only a few minutes as she stopped over to buy some fruit. She came right up to his stall, where he was working as a fruit vendor at the time.

Both of my grandparents worked at the “Jewish Market”. As Italian immigrants they worked hard to make a living in a new country. When reflecting on their past, my grandparents have only good things to say about how they were treated while working there.

Kensington market looks a lot different today, yet it continues to remain a popular spot and a memorable piece of Toronto’s history.

Vintage Toronto

I was rummaging through the Toronto Archives and saw these really great vintage photos of Spadina street in 1957. Toronto, my hometown, has a history that has always interested me. Both my mother and father grew up there and I’ve heard countless stories about Kensington market, the rags and bones man and even the shoeshine boy.

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 These snapshots (and the one below of the shoeshine boy) take me back a few years to when I wrote this article, originally published by A Canadian Curriculum Theory Project, titled:

Trans/forming Life into Narrative: Auto/biography as Currere

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My jaw dropped and eyes widened as Nadine[1] shared part of her shocking life narrative as a child immigrant. “I can remember crouching under the kitchen sink with my cousin. We held our hands over our ears as the bombs went off,” she said. I had been friends with Nadine for nearly six years. I had asked her to participate in a small research project on child immigrants for a course I took at York University. This was the first time that I heard of her struggle. Nadine and her family are from Lebanon. Her father came to Canada with a few dollars, began working at Pizza Pizza, and slept on park benches for months until he could afford to send money for the rest of the family to join him. Nadine retells her experiences in school. Before coming to Canada she attended a school run by nuns. She challenged authority by buying candy from outside the school because it was cheaper and when she was caught, was forced to kneel on rocks and endure painful slaps with a wooden panel. When she came to Canada her first grade teacher bought her a winter jacket because she could not afford one. As a child immigrant she faced much adversity[2]. “Why had I not been aware of this until now?” I thought.

In turning to Carl Leggo’s (2010) “Writing a Life: Representation in Language and Image” some of my questions are answered: inquiry and reflection are essential in telling our stories, as well as having our stories heard. Leggo writes beside a hospital bed, with little time left, and eagerly listens to his father’s life stories. However, as Leggo delves deeper into his father’s memories, death creeps up quickly and a brain tumour takes his father’s life. Leggo’s poetic and touching work ensures that his father’s life story remains, even though he is no longer here. I tear up as I read each of Leggo’s ruminations, considering the time and opportunity I had taken for granted, never fully hearing my grandmother’s story before her death in 2009. We need not wait for a ‘right time’ because that time may never come.

Leggo suggests that we story ourselves (p. 47). His memories are half real and half made up experiences, which are trans/formed into poetic verse. I often joke about my Italian grandmother and her stubborn, yet endearing, character. Well into her eighties she still continues to make tomato sauce, manage the garden and lecture her five sons. When I project her story, I understand that I am retelling the half-real and half-made up interpretation that I have of her. My close relationship with my grandmother, however, is unique because I listen. I sit and listen to her escapades in the village as a young girl. I hear about her ongoing memories of food and family. While these stories have grown to bore many of my family members I always find them to be intriguing, imagining my life as a twenty-five year old woman during her time. Initially the stories seem boring, but as she digs into her past, beautiful treasures unfold.

Recently, I have come across albums of photos on a Facebook group called ‘Vintage Toronto’. One image, Shoeshine Boy (appendix), sparks my immediate interest. A Facebook user comments on the post, asking if the image is of a boy who was murdered on Yonge Street in 1977[3]. I distinctly remember my parents discussing this and my father mentioning that he had been a shoeshine boy. I spend hours scrolling through hundreds of photos and send them to my parents. They reply via email with an attempt to share their snippets of past memories, but I realize that this inquiry is an ongoing process and I always feel that there is another story or memory that will eventually emerge. I feel as though my narrative is constantly unfolding and I must, through currere, recursively reflect (Ng-a-Fook, 2011).

Since “the study of currere… involves the investigation of the nature of the individual experience of the public: of artifacts, actors, operations, of the educational journey or pilgrimage” there are many questions we must work to answer surrounding the nature of our educational experiences (Pinar 1975/2000, p. 390-391, as cited in Ng-a-Fook, 2012). This type of life writing, of recursive questioning, is essential for interpreting our familial relationships.

Earlier in this course, presenter Barbara Brockman made us aware of the benefits of oral histories and how they can be incorporated into practice. During the presentation, Brockman elaborated on so many incredibly fascinating stories that her students wrote about. We should inquire and we should be willing to share our stories and experiences. In these stories we can transform perception into understanding and judgment into peace. “In order to live with wholeness and love in the world,” as Leggo (2010) reminds us, “we need an ongoing commitment to exploring the places of dreams and visions, including the precocious psyche, the inimitable imagination and the ineffable heart” (p. 54).

Leggo argues that a curriculum of love is essential. It involves living poetically, honing our imagination and creativity (Leggo, 2005, Leggo, 2010). Similarly, Dewey suggested at the turn of the last century that “the imagination is the medium in which the child lives” (1909, p. 61). Therefore, personal narratives have an important place in school curriculum, not only in the Language Arts classroom, but spanning across all disciplines. But what is this curriculum of love? Perhaps it is an avenue within the multifaceted, yet topographic, field of curriculum studies which involves more exploration. I wonder if this curriculum of love is part of the null curriculum, one which is never taught. Ng-a-Fook’s recollection of being othered on the schoolyard (2012, p. 175) allows me to reconsider my own educational experiences where (my understanding of) Leggo’s curriculum of love was completely obsolete.

Though a/r/tographic research I desperately want to answer many of Pinar’s curricular questions (as cited in Ng-a-Fook, 2011, p. 7). But often, I think my stories may be considered petty and unnecessary. Chambers (1999) suggests that “… as Canadians, we may not recognize our own… uniqueness – our own curriculum and its theory – even when we are living in the midst of it” (p. 140). Nadine and many other Canadians are called to tell their stories. Stories can write history books, create curriculum policy and control our lives. Autobiographical narratives guide us to question and understand our place and identity. In an attempt to advocate voice and diminish silences, educators must facilitate a learning environment which enables students to write, share, constantly reflect on and often revisit their life narratives.

References

Chambers, C. (1999). A topography for Canadian curriculum theory. Canadian Journal of Education, 24(2), pp. 137-150.

Dewey, J. (1902/1990). The School and Society, pp. 6-178. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Leggo, C. (2005). The heart of pedagogy: On poetic knowing and living. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 11(5), pp. 439-455.

Leggo, C. (2007). The syntax of silence. JCACS (Journal of the Canadian Association of Curriculum Studies), 5(1), 94-101.

Leggo, C. (2010). Writing a life: Representation in language and image. Transnational Curriculum Inquiry 7(2) http://nitinat.lubrary.ubc.ca/ojs/index.php/tci.

Leggo, C. (2011). Living love: Confessions of a fearful teacher. JCACS (Journal of the Canadian Association of Curriculum Studies), 9(1), pp. 115-144.

Ng-A-Fook, N. (2011). Provoking a Canadian curriculum theory project: A question of/for currere, denkbild and aesthetics. Media: Culture: Pedagogy, 15 (2), (pp. 1-26).

Ng-A-Fook, N. (2012). Navigating m/other-son plots as a migrant act: Autobiography, currere, and gender. In Stephanie Springgay and Deborah Freedman (Eds.), M/othering a bodied curriculum. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press.

[1] Pseudonym used
[2] Nadine will write her BAR exam this year. Her family owns a successful Lebanese bakery in Vaughan.
[3] The boy was twelve year old Emanuel Jaques: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_Jaques

Postcrossing

Two years ago I was in school, corresponding by mail with one of my best gals, Rachel. She was living in Korea at the time and I was back home really missing Seoul. Rach suggested that I sign up to Postcrossing, an online project that allows people to send and receive postcards from all over the world. So I did. I never thought that I would have been this committed. To date, I have collected over three hundred postcards from forty-five different countries.

You might be wondering what the point is to all of this. Simply, I enjoy getting surprises in my mailbox. Everyone gets bills and junk mail, but it’s nice to get a greeting once in a while — even if it is from a complete stranger. Another reason is that it connects me to the lives of many different people. It gives me the opportunity to share a bit of my life, memories or moments with people that I don’t know. I can write freely, knowing that the receiver isn’t likely to judge me.

Some may say that the internet has made letter writing a thing of the past, however, Paulo and the post crossing team have used the world wide web to connect people and inspire them to write to each other more often. In our fast paced lives it’s difficult to keep up with relationships. People often wonder how I have the time to write postcards or why I’d even want to. I make time for it because it’s a sort of therapy for me. Call me crazy but there is something very special, something human, about writing to someone.

What I love most about this project is that it’s based on kindness.

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Some may call it a hobby, others might consider it a breath of fresh air, but it’s become a part of my daily life. As I scroll through old sent and received postcards it feels like I’m reviewing a timeline of my history. I remember points when I selected and sent certain cards, what they meant to me at the time and how I felt as that person. The four postcards above, for example, were sent while I was living in Korea. Now, as a changed person, I am ready to continue sending new artifacts out into the world.

Sending lots of love to all my fellow Postcrossers out there!

Support Network of Wellness

Some incredible words here. What inspires you to run?

The North Face Whistler Half Marathon

Running is a very individual and solitary pursuit. Although some people run in a group, with a partner or dog; the activity lacks the dynamics of a team sport.

Regardless of how solitary the sport can be, it is important to reflect upon the individual support network that motivates you to run. In other words, the group of people who support your overall wellness. I have the amazing opportunity to work for community services in Whistler as an Outreach Worker. Through this position, I am afforded the chance to attend numerous workshops and educational seminars on topics regarding the betterment of one’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

This past week, I attended a session that focused on mental health and depresssion. The facilitator of the training used an acronym – N.E.S.T.S – that I began to highlight in bright pink marker as I recorded my notes from the seminar. It…

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Well-being Tea Samples

A few weeks ago I requested some free samples from Yogi.

I clicked the link, added my info and got this wonderful card in the mail. Who doesn’t love mail? And who doesn’t love free tea?

Yogi will send you two bags free to try!

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 When filling in your information be sure to indicate your flavours of choice. I decided to try ginger and green tea kombucha.

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These well-being teas are 100% natural, organic and support digestion.  The options are endless, with a ton of other flavours that’ll be sure to meet your needs. Ingredients? Herbs, spices and botanicals that promote healthy living. Need I say more?

Sip away, friends!

Crayon Lipstick

This DIY project has been circulating and I’m not gonna lie, the first thing I wanted to do was go out and get a pack of fab coloured crayons.  It seemed like fun and I wanted to try it out. But the more I got to thinking… the less I wanted crayon wax on my lips.

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So, what are crayons made of?

Crayons are made of paraffin and colour pigment. Paraffin wax is derived from coal, wood or petroleum. This wax is mixed with many chemical pigments to make the coloured crayons.

Although the box says “non-toxic” that doesn’t mean it’s okay to ingest.

Crayola issued this craft safety warning:
“Food-related crafts—Art materials should not be used on food, such as egg shells, if these foods are intended to be eaten. Art materials should not be used to make or decorate containers intended to hold edible food if the food would be in contact with the art material.”

That made me believe that crayons definitely shouldn’t be used as lipstick. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Why am I so worried about the negative effects of crayon on my lips when our makeup products are filled with stuff that’s far worse?

Yes, safe cosmetics are hard to come by but they do exist. If you are that health conscious there are better alternatives out there.

Would have been fun but I’m gonna have to stay away from this DIY. I’ll opt for the pigmentless look and wear sheer coconut oil instead.

What are your thoughts?