Thursday July 31st, 2008

The exercise:

The Sea-to-Sky Highway has been blocked by a rather large rock slide, leaving my sister, her husband and thousands of others unable to get to Vancouver unless they want to go the long way 'round. With that in mind today's topic is: trapped.


The darkness reeks of earth, rock, dust. My steady breaths fill the air, my only companions. They were ragged and full of panic at first but calm has descended upon me and I rest now in its embrace.

Images begin to float by in the darkness, shining with their own light like televisions in an unlit living room. Family, friends, lovers all stopping by for a visit; a childhood scene, long forgotten, playing with our black lab Jessie in the backyard; hikes in the mountains of the world; sky diving in California; the sudden, shocking appearance of boulders on the highway; the tortured metallic screams of the truck as it was tossed about that rocky sea...

No, that sound is now. Have they come to dig me free at last? Will the light of day blind me, the fresh air drown me? Can anything ever be the same again...

Wednesday July 30th, 2008

The exercise:

The starter for today is: unwanted noise.


Scooter driving up and down the lane,
Louder than a locomotive train.
I don't think the engine is quite right,
It's like it's losing the will to fight.

I would be happy to end its pain -
The clamor is driving me insane.
And when that damn scooter sees the light,
I have to admit: it'll make my night.

Tuesday July 29th, 2008

The exercise:

Find an object in your home that has a story. Tell that story.


My Cheshire Cat sits on the bookshelf in the bedroom - two inches tall, pink and purple stripes, grin from ear to ear, stuffed with sand and memories.

It was a gift from the owners of the hostel I spent my Kiwi Christmas in. They bought all their guests little stuffed toys and even though there were probably seventy of us there they tried to make sure everyone got something appropriate. They told me I got the cat because I had a great smile.

My three weeks at that hostel in Waipu hold some of my favorite memories from the six months I spent exploring New Zealand from top to bottom. The great people I met, fishing off the beach, biking the countryside, countless puzzles and boardgames, being among the first people on earth to see the sun rise for the first time in 2004, watching two cars get married...

But that's a story for another time.

Monday July 28th, 2008

The exercise:

Today marks the 50th consecutive day of my Daily Writing Practice, so to "celebrate" the starter for today is: your 50th birthday. How would you/did you celebrate it? What would be the perfect way to turn fifty? Or would you rather skip that one altogether?


I'll start the day with a little lie-in because I'm pretty sure that in twenty years I'll still find sleeping in to be a treat. I don't want to envision a future where I don't enjoy lying in bed for half the morning.

The afternoon will be spent outside... maybe a nice hike in the mountains or forest. On the way back home I'd say a stop for ice cream would be in order. Oh, did I forget to mention I'll be in New Zealand? It's actually warm there in October, so getting ice cream would be a reasonable course of action.

I'd be happy to finish the day with a nice dinner out, somewhere with a view of the ocean and a great glass of wine. And of course Kat would be there throughout it all and we'd watch the sun go down together. That sounds just about perfect to me.

Sunday July 27th, 2008

The exercise:

More fun with homonyms! To be honest, I'm surprised I managed to wait this long before doing this one again.


Me, you and the ewe - Ewe protection agency slogan

Hi from up high - Mountaintop greeting

Come see the sea - Mediterranean tourism slogan

Do you know what's due? - A worried student on the way to class

I know she'll say no - A pessimistic suitor

Can we lessen the length of the lesson? - Oft heard in my three hour evening classes in university

The motor whirred louder at his word - voice-activated engine

Saturday July 26th, 2008

The exercise:

The theme for this week's four line poem is weddings.


So, how did the wedding go?
Oh, you know, it was okay.
Really, why only so-so?
My girlfriend caught the bouquet...

Friday July 25th, 2008

The exercise:

Welcome back to Def Poetry Jam Friday. I'm off to a wedding this afternoon and that's got me wondering if Kathy and Ian's beginning was anything like Paul Mabon's Toothbrush.


A light-hearted reminder that love and relationships cannot be planned, cannot be seen coming. They sneak in the back door when you're not looking, make themselves at home while you're reading the newspaper.

Then one day you look around and it seems like they've always been there. But you can't say when they arrived, you just know they're here to stay.

So Kathy and Ian, I hope the years before you find you together, happy and with all the good fortune you both deserve. And may love always have a place in your home.

This appears to be Paul Mabon's only Def Poetry Jam appearance but he does have his own account where's uploaded other performances. So far my favorite is this one.

Thursday July 24th, 2008

The exercise:

Emergency vehicles have been heard all around here all day, so the theme du jour is sirens.


The ambulance speeds around the corner, siren blaring, tires screaming. The driver's eyes are locked on the cars before him, his thoughts on the hourglass spilling sand in his head.

Every call is the same for him - as soon as he gets his destination the hourglass is turned over and time starts ticking away. The only thing that ever changes is how much sand is inside and there's never any way of telling how much is there until it runs out.

And when the hourglass is emptied before he arrives, another light is extinguished, another mother, father, son or daughter is lost.

Wednesday July 23rd, 2008

The exercise:

The Celebration of Light kicked off tonight, so let's talk about fireworks.


It's pretty nice being able to watch the fireworks display from our balcony. This is our second summer here and I have to say that I don't miss the crowds at all.

I don't miss struggling to find a clear view or a spot devoid of loud-mouthed, chain-smoking idiots. I don't miss being herded through the streets at one block per hour with drunk frat boys.

I love the five second commute from living room to balcony. I love the privacy and intimacy. I love sharing the experience with friends and knowing that we're far enough away from the main viewing areas that they won't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic on their way home.

I still love the mystery and spectacle of the fireworks themselves. I've seen so many displays over the years but I still get surprised by new shapes, movements and colors.

I was very impressed with the Canadian effort tonight, they really got the Celebration of Light off to an excellent start. The timing and choice of music were brilliant and I'm eager to see if either of the two remaining countries will be able to match their showmanship.

You'll find me waiting for their attempts in my new favorite spot, which I also happen to call home.

Tuesday July 22nd, 2008

The exercise:

All my poems lately have been in the aabb rhyme scheme so I wanted to get some practice in on the abab scheme. Take a topic of your choice and go!


Looking for the perfect beat,
Searching for just the right rhyme.
Why is this such a hard feat?
It's like I've become a mime.

How long until the words come?
Where is the button to push?
Overnight I've become dumb,
My brain says nothing but shush.

I guess it won't be today,
So there's no use in trying.
I can't find the words to say
The truth, no use in lying.

Monday July 21st, 2008

The exercise:

Your theme for today: shadows.


I'm at my most natural during the day. But a flick of a switch at any time can bring me out to play. I was born a mute so I never get a say. Sometimes I follow but I prefer to lead the way.

I'm very good friends with the ground, although on the wall I can also be found. I'm really one of the most flexible guys around!

One thing of which I'll never tire: dancing around an open fire! More, more, stoke the flames higher! Make me a giant, a monster most dire.

Ah, the sun is down, the lights are off, time to go to bed. But I do not rest, I stay busy in his head - for all over his dreams I shall lightly tread.

Sunday July 20th, 2008

The exercise:

The starter for today is "If I had a dime for every..."


If I had a dime for every time I was given flowers, I would never see the Bluenose. But guess what - I like flowers. Yes, a straight guy who likes pwetty wittle bwossoms. Go figure.

My question, though, is this: am I in the vocal minority, or am I part of a mostly silent majority? Is this just another symptom of insecure machismo running wild? Probably.

Guys, let me let you in on a few secrets here: when someone sees you walking down Broadway with a big bouquet of daisies they would never think it's yours; flowers are pretty and smell nice, just like girls except they only need water and a bit of sun to be happy; and having flowers around your apartment makes you more secure in your masculinity, not less.

No, this is not a plea for flowers. Yes, I would be thrilled if I did receive some as a result of this. Yes, I fully expect to get crap from my male friends about this. No, I won't care.

And for God's sake don't call me a metrosexual - that term is offensive to homosexuals, heterosexuals, and the entire human race. Just call me secure.

Saturday July 19th, 2008

The exercise:

Grab a dictionary and find a word that starts with the first two or three letters of your first name and use that word as the topic or theme of your four line poem.


Word - Marketplace

Snow swirls slowly around my feet
As I wait for my warming treat.
The cup of mulled wine stings my hands,
The steam distorts this German land.

Friday July 18th, 2008

The exercise:

Def Poetry Jam Friday brings you Shihan's This Type Love.


I wrote something in a similar vein for Kat for our third anniversary, so that's going to be my writing for today.

Your second Shihan performance can be found here.

Thursday July 17th, 2008

The exercise:

Another go 'round the "random cd" exercise.


Cake - Comfort Eagle - Love You Madly

I don't want to wonder if this is a blunder. I don't want to stress over every paragraph, every sentence, every single word. I just want to write.

I don't want my Creativity to be mugged by Indecision and his buddies Self-Criticism and Self-Doubt. I want my words to run across the page like carefree children, too innocent to know any better.

I don't want to fear a blank page, I want to be thrilled by it. I want to paint these empty pages with tall trees of truth, mountains of mania and clouds of cacophony.

I don't want to wonder, I want to know. And in knowing, I shall be free.

Wednesday July 16th, 2008

The exercise:

Pick a number that has some significance to you right now and use that number as your topic.


Kat and I celebrated our third anniversary today... as well as we could, considering I'm here in Vancouver and she's over in Quebec. Three years is by far the longest relationship either of us have had but our secret to making it work isn't staying three thousand miles apart.

Kat is coming back home on Friday after almost three weeks in Quebec doing a French teachers training course. This has been the longest we've been apart since we began dating (aaallll the way back in 2005) and it's been pretty strange for me.

We've been living together for just over a year now and having the place to myself for the last few weeks has been quite the adjustment. There's been no splitting chores, no sharing the garden work (or harvest), no you do the cooking and I'll do the dishes, no one to watch TV and read books or magazines with, and no one beside me in bed each night.

I'm not going to claim that the time apart has made me realize I've been taking Kat for granted because I know I haven't, but I guess it has renewed my appreciation for her company. And it's going to be damn good to see her again in two days.

Tuesday July 15th, 2008

The exercise:

My ultimate team has now lost six games in a row over the last four weeks and that has got me thinking about momentum. So that's the topic of the day.


I really don't understand momentum in sports - winning streaks, losing streaks, a string of points within a single game, whatever. Okay, so you lost your last game... so what? This is a new game, it starts out 0-0 like every other game, it's against a different team even!

I find the psychological aspect of momentum fascinating in this context - I wonder if anyone has done a proper study on it. I guess it would be similar to athletes who get into a "zone", or teams having the "home field advantage"... which I also don't get, but we'll leave that alone for now.

People respond to momentum differently - some try harder if their team is on a losing streak, some give up; some start to coast during a winning streak while others play with more and more confidence and skill. I would love to know the words that could transform the coasters and quitters into the motivated and confident.

I guess if I ever get it figured out I could make some serious cash as a motivational speaker for professional sports teams. Maybe I should go look into that right now...

Monday July 14th, 2008

The exercise:

We all know there are some truly terrible commercials out there - sadly, some of them are for products we actually enjoy using. Are bad commercials really that easy to create? Let's find out - today's exercise is to devise the worst possible advertisement (TV or radio, up to you) for a favorite product or service.


Product: Ibuprofen (seriously, it's an ultimate players best friend)

Type: Radio spot

Voice Actor 1 (VA1): Say there Bob, that's a pretty nasty cut on your side.

Voice Actor 2 (VA2): Yeah Jim, it sure is. That mugger really got me good.

VA1: Do you want me to drive you to the hospital?

VA2: Oh, there's no need for that!

VA1: Are you sure? There's really a lot of blood and you're looking a little faint.

VA2: I don't need a doctor Jim, I've got Ibuprofen!

*Sound of a pill bottle being popped open, pills rattling around and a gulping noise*

VA1: Wow Bob, is there anything Ibuprofen can't fix?

VA2: There sure isn't Jim, there sure isn't.

Voice Over Guy (spoken very quickly and quietly): Side effects may include: permanent loss of hearing, tooth decay, stomach cancer, chronic pain killer addiction, drowsiness, teen pregnancy, and irresponsible gambling. Please use responsibly.

Sunday July 13th, 2008

The exercise:

Just got back from watching Hancock, a rather unorthodox take on a superhero to say the least. So today's exercise will be to create your own unique superhero - name, background, superpower(s?), the whole deal. Indulge your crazy side and have fun!


Name: Mountain

Background: Mountain was one of the Ancients that inhabited the Earth long before man arrived to screw everything up. The Ancients came in all shapes and sizes but Mountain was by far the largest, the most powerful and the most gentle. He could have ruled them all but he had no interest in that - he enjoyed the peace and quiet and kept mostly to himself, as much as that was possible for a being whose head almost reached the clouds.

Unfortunately while Mountain lived quietly on his own, the other Ancients were not so peaceful. Inevitably war broke out among the Ancients and their numbers steadily grew smaller year after bloody year. Mountain grew more and more despondent by the actions of his brothers and sisters and when he could no longer bare to watch, he lay down and waited to die.

But he would not die. He did not grow hungry, he did not thirst, time continued to pass and he was still aware. At long last, he fell into a deep slumber and he knew peace.

Today, humans rule the world but a new threat is emerging as we slowly begin to understand that we are not alone in the universe. Mountain is our only hope for survival... but once woken will he help us, or leave us to our fate?

I got a bit carried away there, but I had fun. Oh, in case you're wondering which superhero you'd be, the ever-reliable internet has your answer. Apparently I'm Spider-Man.

Saturday July 12th, 2008

The exercise:

Grab a book, magazine or newspaper and open it to a random page. Use the first word that jumps out at you as the topic of your four line poem.


My word: Stockades

Those fools think these bars can hold me in,
Can protect them from my so-called sins;
But when they wake from feverish sleep,
They know my promises I will keep.

Friday July 11th, 2008

The exercise:

This weeks Def Poetry Jam Friday features Rafael Casal's Barbie & Ken 101 (I'm just going to go ahead and put an adult language warning on this one - it's profanity with a purpose though, trust me).


Doesn't it just make you feel good to know that there are 19 year old males out there that feel this way? That the media hasn't completely destroyed the real female ideal for at least some of us? Because, honestly, on the rare occasions I turn on the TV I certainly have trouble believing that.

When I heard about various fashion shows banning the use of overly thin models I hoped it was the beginning of the end of this terrible fashion trend. But has anything really changed? Between the constant bombardment of new diets and cosmetic surgery and exercise machines it doesn't seem like the message is any different.

It's truly sad because the things that will truly make you healthier and look your best will never be mentioned by runway models and infomercial hucksters - eat right and get off your ass. It's really that simple, but you can't make a buck off people growing their own vegetables and going for walks, so let's just keep it quiet people!

So much love for Mr. Casal, and may his message reach every corner of the mass market; may every little girl hear the words that will let them know that skinny is not the ideal, healthy is.

I'll leave you with another piece by Rafael, this one written and performed at the much older and wiser age of 21.

Thursday July 10th, 2008

The exercise:

Write about that big burning thing in the sky that we take for granted - today we pay tribute to the sun.


Such a fickle fellow, the sun;
A few clouds come along, he runs!
He slinks slowly away each night,
To rise rather late, just as bright!

After missing my sun for days,
I've been burned by his white hot rays!
Such a fickle fellow, the sun;
I'm so thankful there's only one!

Wednesday July 9th, 2008

The exercise:

Write the first paragraph of your next great novel, short story, article, whatever you like. It might be the start of your next finished work, or it could be nothing at all.


Ryan Johnson began the last day of his old life the same way he had begun every day for the last ten years - by wishing his next breath would be his last. Ryan didn't care about the hows or whys, he just knew dying would be better than having to go to work again. Sadly, though this day would be unlike any other, it began like all the rest: air filled his lungs, air left his lungs, one long, overly dramatic groan and out of bed he crawled.

Tuesday July 8th, 2008

The exercise:

Take a line from a favorite poem and use it as your starter.


Robert Frost - Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. I stand teetering on their edge, the trees before me and the meadow at my back. The shadows call out, daring me to come reveal their secrets, to see what no other man has laid eyes on.

I raise the heel of my right foot, then pause. I do not sway from side to side; I am still grounded and there is no wind to buffet me. My toes dig in to the earth and I realize that I am barefoot, but I do not look down. I have eyes only for the shadows hiding in the woods.

I listen to the water playing in the rocks of the riverbed in the meadow. It is calming, melodic, almost cheerful; my heel returns to the earth. But still I do not look away.

Time passes by but I cannot say how much as there is no sun in the sky. Yet it is bright enough to be midday here at the edge of the woods so lovely. This is most odd, but still I search the shadows.

Am I looking for someone? Yes, that feels right. A friend who is lost, perhaps. I remember the grass in the meadow did not go beyond my knees, so they cannot be back there. They must be in the woods. I take a single step forward and the shadows fall upon my toes warmly.

Or perhaps they fell in the river and the current carried them away. I try to collect my thoughts, one foot in the darkness, one in the light. Which way, which way...

I hear a voice from far, far away. From the meadow? It sounds so familiar, I turn away from the woods to find the speaker and the spell is broken.

I shake my head to clear my foggy mind and begin to walk back to the meadow, back into the light.

Monday July 7th, 2008

The exercise:

Todays starter is "a quick look back." Go!


A quick look back is the difference between conscientious and self-absorbed, between a good citizen and a waste of space. It can be surprising how big a gap is created by such a small action but when I'm out and about on the town it's the sort of thing I notice regularly.

Obviously there are plenty of instances in life where a quick look back can be very important, but the one time I notice more than any other is when people are going through swinging doors. Anyone with more than half a thought for anyone else will take a glance backwards as they go through the door to see if someone is close behind them. If there is, they hold the door, and if there's not, they let it swing shut after them. Self-absorbed pricks just keep their eyes front and don't spare a thought for the poor granny three steps behind them who's about to get a door in the face.

And this is by no means a male or female thing. I've seen just as many women on cellphones with their eyes on the prize allow a door to swing closed into someones face as I've seen men too busy admiring their own watches to hold the door for a fellow businessman. Ignorant behavior is color, gender and age blind.

The funny thing is, what actually sparked this topic for me was seeing a man on a cellphone exiting a building check over his shoulder to see if there was anyone behind him to hold the door for. It was an unexpected reminder for me that there is still some civility in this civilization.

Sunday July 6th, 2008

The exercise:

I haven't decided what I'm going to write about yet. Yes, even as I'm typing this. So I'm just going to write whatever I think of first - feel free to do the same!


I still couldn't think of anything to write about after writing the above and I needed to go to the bathroom so I did, since that's where I do some of my best thinking. And while in there I decided to write about why that is. So, with all due apologies, here we go:

I guess the main reason I can do my best thinking while sitting on the can is because at this point in my life it just doesn't require a lot of thinking to get the job done in there, you know? I think I've gone to the bathroom enough that I can safely put it on autopilot and allow my thoughts to wander elsewhere. And since I never read while on the can (ew, germ infested magazines, books, and newspapers anyone?) there's not much else to focus on. So my thoughts go to the far away land of Creativity.

The only other time that happens for me is when I'm doing the dishes and I suppose it's for a similar reason. My hands are busy washing and rinsing and putting dishes on the drying rack, my mind zones out after about thirty seconds and away we go.

At pretty much all other times in my life I can find something to distract myself with, whether it's a book or the computer or whatever. Is it still cool to blame my non-existent attention span on MTV? Or in our case, MuchMusic? I know for sure it's still not cool to place any sort of blame on ourselves, so I'll just avoid that.

Now back to aimlessly surfing the internet...

Saturday July 5th, 2008

The exercise:

It's the return of Four Line Poem Saturday! I know you all missed it as much as I did, so go ahead and write a quick little poem about your mood over the course of the day.


I roll out of bed to my alarm's warning,
Oh how I hate, how I despise the morning!
But the bright sunshine of the day clears away
My morning fog so I may go out and play.

Friday July 4th, 2008

The exercise:

Welcome back to Def Poetry Jam Friday. In recognition of our neighbors to the south celebrating their independence, today's piece is by the amazing Smokey Robinson - Black American.


In a year in which Americans just might elect their first black president, this is an especially moving performance by Smokey Robinson. His message of "we're all in this together" is needed now more than ever; that what's on the outside means nothing and what's on the inside means everything.

It's very sad that race is still an issue in 2008. It's equally depressing that gender is too. I guess it made for some great TV for America to have a nomination race between a black man and a woman, but it would have been a lot more empowering if it was simply a race between two people.

Smokey's thoughts on the ever-changing label for Black Americans are insightful, funny and loaded with the weight of truth. Why are labels like that even needed? Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a world in which we don't see white, black, yellow or brown, we just see each other? If we're so civilized, why can't we manage that? And if not now, when exactly can we hope to live in that world?

Since this is Smokey's only Def Poetry Jam performance I thought I'd share a link to one of his classic hits. Happy long weekend to our American neighbors!

Thursday July 3rd, 2008

The exercise:

Write some haiku (I had to look it up, but apparently the plural of haiku is haiku... who knew?) - serious, silly, sombre or sly, it's up to you.


I went to Europe
Just long enough to get
Second hand cancer

Watch the bunny hop,
Stop to play in the garden;
The carrots are for her.

Me in Vancouver?
In two years, a new event -
Olympic escape!

Wednesday July 2nd, 2008

The exercise:

I really enjoyed the 'random cd' exercise from a couple weeks ago so I decided to do it again. This time I took out the Johnny Cash cd from the options and rolled the dice to select from those that remained. It ended up taking me someplace I had no intention of going once again so I think I'll continue to bring this exercise back regularly.


Beck - Guero - Missing

I prayed heaven today would bring its hammer down on me. To drive the nail that is my body deep into the earth so that I would be grounded at last; my thoughts no longer scattered, instead tied to one solid base.

I begged for clarity, wisdom, voracity. I asked for eyes to see the truth of my life and ears to hear the beauty of it; for lips to taste the sweetness and fingers to touch the blessings all around me.

And in prayer, in supplication, in the asking of these questions I saw my answers and was humbled and made grateful.

Tuesday July 1st, 2008

The exercise:

I just finished playing ultimate with no substitutions in very hot weather. It's also Canada Day. In my slightly delirious state, I decided to combine the two - so here is my take on why there is no substitute for Canada.


Because Canadians can be proud of where they're from when they travel abroad.

Because we have the population of California in a country larger than the United States.

Because when we go to the hospital the first question we are asked is not "do you have insurance?"

Because 'eh' and 'aboot' are the worst things people can think to say about us.

Because I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.