Saturday, July 4, 2015

E is for Eric's Trip and for Kathleen Edwards

     When the annals of Alternative rock or, more specifically, Grunge rock are written, bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam usually given much of the credit and deservedly so.  However, nothing ever happens in isolation. In music, bands gain their influences from many sources. In the Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven, he is quoted as saying that one of his big musical influences was a band called Sonic Youth.  In their heyday, Sonic Youth recorded a song called, Eric's Trip.   That song was heard by a couple of kids from Moncton, New Brunswick who, in turn, were profoundly influenced by it. So much so that they decided to form their own band and called it, Eric's Trip.
     In the annals of Canadian musical history, Eric's Trip are revered. They recorded many songs which sounded unlike anything being played on Canadian airwaves at the time. Their music had a pop sensibility but, it wasn't pop.  It could be loud but, it really wasn't classic four-chord rock n' roll, either.  Much in the same way that Dream Warriors, Devon and Maestro Fresh Wes were pioneers in the Canadian Hip Hop scene, Eric's Trip helped bring Alternative music into the mainstream of Canadian radio, too.  At one time, they were even noticed south of the border, signing a recording contract with grunge label Sub Pop in Seattle.  They are as influential to today's legion of alternative artists as bands like Sonic Youth were to them.  Ladies and gentlemen, from Moncton, New Brunswick, I proudly present, Eric's Trip!





     Kathleen Edwards, the daughter of former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leonard Edwards, had seen a lot of the world before ever finishing high school.  Spending much of her youth shuttling back and forth between Europe and Canada, Edwards had plenty of exposure to a variety of music styles and genres. Drawn as she was toward the literate, classic rock poetry of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, it is not surprising that Kathleen Edwards has gained acclaim as a story teller and a creator of memorable characters in her songs.  She has been nominated numerous times for Juno Awards in the categories of Songwriter of the Year, Roots Album of the Year and Adult Alternative Album of the Year.  Her songs are deeply personal and, as well, uniquely Canadian.
     I am leaving a video for the song, Hockey Skates, for you. This song title makes you think that it is a stereotypical Canadian song about hockey but, as you listen to it, you will easily see that she is singing about much, much more than a game at the rink.  AS well, you will notice that she is a bit of a cheeky monkey when it comes to her wit.  I follow her on Twitter. She goes by the Twitter handle  @kittythefool  for those who are interested.


    A tip of the hat is extended to a small but, talented group of "E"-list Canadian performers:
Rik Emmitt, guitar virtuoso and member of the band, Triumph, 70s star, Edward Bear, performance artist, Eva Everything and 90s rockers, Econoline Crush.

Friday, July 3, 2015

D is for Celine Dion, Dream Warriors/Devon and Aselin Debison

     Quite simply, Celine Dion possesses one of the purest, most beautiful singing voices in the world!  We are all very proud of everything that Celine Dion has been able to accomplish throughout her singing career, which started when she was barely a teenager in Quebec.  Her voice, which seems to flow almost without effort, knows few peers (Barbara Streisand?  An early Whitney Houston, perhaps?)  As much as Celine Dion is to be commended for her talent, she is equally well-respected for the classy manner in which she lives her life.  Family-oriented, altruistic, compassionate....Dion has lived a relatively private life for someone so squarely in the public eye.
     Celine Dion has won virtually every major singing award for which she is eligible.  Her first award came way back in the early 1980s when she won the Eurovision song contest, entering under the banner of the Swiss flag.  From there, she began expanding her repertoire of English-language songs and soon began to achieve success that won her Juno Awards, as well as, her first Grammys. But, it was with the main love song for the movie, Titanic, that Celine Dion achieved her greatest level of success.  Sales from My Heart Will Go On soared to record levels on a worldwide scale.
     Whether it is her family life, her music or her charitable interests, Celine Dion pours her heart into everything she does and, as a result, has become one of the most popular and respected musical artists the world has ever seen.  We are happy that she calls Canada her home.


    It isn't always easy to go first.  Being a pioneer or a trailblazer can be lonely work. But, sometimes, an artist will come along and not see their style of expression evident in their surroundings or among their peers. However, part of being an artist is remaining true to the vision that exists within your heart. So it was in the early 1980s with Rap and HipHop artists.  "Street poetry" was not something pouring forth from Top 40 playlists.  In the United States, the rappers of today can point to the like of Run-DMC and Public Enemy for helping to bring Rap and HipHop to a wider, more mainstream audience.  In Canada, along with Maestro Fresh Wes, we can point to the emergence of "D"- name legends Dream Warriors and Devon, for helping to raise the awareness of what a potent art form Rap can be.
    All three pioneers honed their skills in the Jane-Finch housing complexes of Toronto.  Their songs spoke to the politics of oppression felt by those affected most by Race and by Poverty and by Injustice.  Their lyrics were often be fuelled by anger but, also, by hope for a better deal from Life.  In any case, being original is never easy. Standing up and standing out, never comfortable......unless you are utterly comfortable and confident that yours is a message that simply has to be heard...on your terms....in the loudest, funkiest possible voice imaginable.  That was what Devon and the Dream Warriors accomplished during their time on Canada's HipHop throne.  Their contributions are respected by an entire nation, as a result.



     Finally, I would like to introduce you to a young performer who holds a special place in both, Keri's and my heart....Aselin Debison.   When Keri and I were first dating and the time came for Keri to meet my mother on Cape Breton Island, we had no idea that we would become part of a live concert taping and that the eleven year old performer would end up impacting our lives for.....well, forever.   Upon arrival in Glace Bay, my hometown, my mother informed us that there was to be a special concert taking place down by the harbour and asked if we were interested in going.  We agreed to go and ended up listening to a young celtic singer named Aselin Debison singing a variety of Cape Breton favourites, all the while, the seagulls swooped and the fishing trawlers sailed in and out by the wharf.  The concert was taped by the local CTV affiliate and later aired on national TV in Canada.  In the video, you cannot see us but, trust me, I was sitting there, holding Keri's hand, along side my mother who had hoped I would propose to Keri at the concert, with the Celtic music as a backdrop to our union.   Sorry Ma.  Didn't turn out that way.
     However, flash forward few years.  We were awaiting the birth of our first daughter and were discussing names.  We had decided that we wanted our child's first name to be something uniquely hers but, that her second name should have some family meaning.  Eventually, after much back and forth discussion of this name and that, we settled on our daughter's first name being, Leah.  For her middle name, we decided not to go with any of our mother's or grandmother's names but, instead, to acknowledge where we had gotten married (which was in Glace Bay, not far from the sight of the Aselin Debison concert.)  So, when the hospital officials had us fill out the birth certificate, we proudly wrote our daughter's name as Leah Aselin MacInnes.   "Aselin" after Aselin Debison, the young lady who sang of Cape Breton on our first date with Ma.  :)



     As always, a proud shout out to the following "D"-list musicians:

Rick Danko, from the legendary group, The Band, modern pop star, Shawn Desman, Techno/Electronica superstar, Deadmau5, R&B sensation, Fefe Dobson, Denny Doherty, from the Mamas and the Papas, Rap megastar, Drake, Pop star, Victoria Duffield, Singer/songwriter, Damhnait Doyle, Broken Social Scene co-founder, Kevin Drew , Crooner, Matt Dusk, Alt-rockers, The Dears, Current chart-toppers, Death from Above 1979 and, of course, no list of Canadian "D"-listers would be complete without punk pioneers, The Diodes and, of course, D.O.A.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

C is for: Cold Specks and, of course, the incomparable, Leonard Cohen.


     When it comes to music in Canada, it really does begin and end with one man....Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen is one of the world's great cultural titans; with a artistic canon that is recognized and respected around the planet!  He is a national treasure to those of us who call Canada our home.
     His works of poetry have earned him a seemingly endless series of awards such as the Governor General's Award (which he declined because, "the world is such a callous place and I will accept no reward from it.")  His novels have won prize after prize, as well.  For music, he has won Juno Awards and Grammys, too.  He is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, as well as, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the U.S.   His singing style can best be described as that of a raspy-throated crooner. He is sexual and romantic to a fault; adored by men and women with equal zeal and conviction.  His lyrics, pure poetry.   

"Now I've heard there was a secret chord That David played, and it pleased the Lord But you don't really care for music, do you?"


    Despite having many hits of note, it is "Hallelujah" that he is most famous for writing.   This song has been covered to great acclaim by many great singers such as Jeff Buckley and by K.D. Lang, (as sung during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.)  But, hearing the song as sung by Leonard Cohen, himself, is to hear it as the writer intended it to be heard. His interpretation, while lacking in the power and range of a K.D. Lang, for instance, never-the-less, is incredibly soulful and is my favourite rendition of a truly classic song.  Please enjoy the words and music of Canada's great treasure, Mr. Leonard Cohen!







     I was channel-surfing one night, a couple of years ago, when I happened across a trendy new show on the nation's broadcaster called The George Stroumboulopolus Show.  Normally, I avoided "Stroumbo", the self-declared, "Canada's boyfriend" but, as luck and timing would have it, I found the show just as a feature on Cold Specks was starting.
     Cold Specks is a Somalia-born Canadian resident who is carving out a place for herself on the national music scene.  Also known as Al Spx, Ladan Hussein, opted for the moniker of Cold Specks after reading James Joyce's Ulysses and, in particular, the line,

     "Born all in the dark wormy earth, cold specks of fire, evil, lights shining in the darkness." 

     Needless to say, Cold Specks writes with a literate bent that belies her young age. Her songs are soulful, sometimes jazzy but, always lyrical and imaginative.  She was awarded the title of "Best Female Artist" at the 2012 Polaris Music Prize Awards
     Since that night, watching her sing on the CBC, I have been transfixed by Cold Specks. She is my go-to performer whenever I need to get into my "writer's head space". Her words and music take me to where I need to be and, for that, I am indebted to her.  I hope you will enjoy and appreciate Cold Specks as much as I do, too. 



    Here, as always, is a tip of the old chapeau to the following great Canadian "C" talents:  
Let's begin with a one-hit wonder who defined Canadian music for a generation, Crowbar, East coast legend, John Allan Cameron, Guess Who lead singer and successful solo artist, Burton Cummings, Broken Social Scene co-founder, Brendan Canning, Singer/producer, Jarvis Church (of the Philosopher Kings), Singer and performance artist, Meryn Cadell, Comedian, Tommy Chong, modern-day Country singer, George Canyon and Country legend, Wilf Carter, Indie rock darlings, The Constantines,  Singer turned Politician, Andrew Cash, R & B stars, Keshia Chante and Deborah Cox, Hip-Hop trailblazer, Choclair, Canadian legend, Tom Cochrane, Jazz superstar, Holly Cole, Singer and activist, Bruce Cockburn, the one and only, Stomping' Tom Connors, Oshawa's own, Cuff the Duke, the cerebral Cowboy Junkies,  Alternative stars, City and Colour, Crash Vegas (Thanks, David Antrobus) and, finally, Maritime songwriter, J.P. Cormier.     

    What a list of talented performers!  Any one of these ladies and gentlemen are worthy of the full treatment in this post and, as such, I urge you to explore their musical catalogues further.  It will be well worth your while to do so.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

B is for: Breau, Broken Social Scene and Bahamas.

     Wow!  When I embarked upon this little musical journey through the Canadian musical scene, I had no idea how vast the talent ran.  There are a ton of excellent musicians from all genres that have names that begin with a "B".  So many so, that it was difficult to know where to begin.  So, here is what I decided upon......I took an influential "B" performer from the past, a "B" band that ranks among my top five favourite bands of all time and, to end, a "B" performer who happens to be sizzling hot right now on the music charts across Canada and the U.S.   No disrespect intended toward all those who will merely get a tip of the old hat at the end of the post; there is simply too much talent in this great country.


     I will begin with one, Lenny Breau.   Lenny Breau is a guitarist extraordinaire!   Technically speaking, Breau was born in the United States but, he and his family summered in New Brunswick and, eventually, he moved to Manitoba in his teenage years, where he lived the majority of his life.  Lenny Breau has been indicted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and for good reason.  He began his career as a member of his family's band.  They played country and western style music.  Lenny was quite accomplished, even as a young player and soon caught the attention of big names such as Chet Atkins and the like.  But, while in Winnipeg, Breau came in contact with an iconic Canadian "B" performer by the name of Randy Bachman.  At the time, Bachman was just a young lad looking for musical mentors. He found one in Breau.  The two formed a fast friendship and, as a result of Breau's willingness to teach Bachman all that he knew, Bachman developed the skill and confidence to form two of Canada's most famous bands, The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive.  Breau began as a country and western guitarist but, over time, he began experimenting with different styles of playing and, as a result, ended up as well known for his Jazz work as anything else he managed to do in his long and illustrious career.
    So, because of Breau's virtuoso-type talent and for his role in helping Randy Bachman become who he eventually did, I give you the master, himself, Mr. Lenny Breau.



     Broken Social Scene is one of my favourite bands. Period!   The mainstays of the band are Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning but, to say that these two guys are BSS would be misleading.  The cliched term for this band is that they are a "collective", meaning that it is a loose association of many members who come and go, as side projects and touring demands.  Musicians such as Leslie Feist, Emily Haines (Metric) and the band members from Stars, have all contributed to the success of records and live performances from time to time.  Broken Social Scene first came to my attention when a friend our my wife's and mine, who was moving from Ontario to San Fransisco, raved about a new show called "Queer as Folk".  On his recommendation, we checked the show out and, sure enough, it was, essentially, a "gay soap opera".  We ended up becoming hooked on the show. Aside from the storylines and the humour woven into the plots, my favourite part of the show was the excellent music!  Everyone from Pete Townsend, to techno rave pieces, to gospel and soul was sprinkled throughout the course of each episode. But, for me, my favourite scene was when the two main characters, who had been having an on-again/off-again, decided to admit their love and get married.  As they loved, Broken Social Scene's, "Lover's Spit" played and I was hooked on the band from that moment until today.  Please enjoy a great song from a great band!




     I will wrap up my "B" list chat by shining the spotlight on one of Canada's rising stars, Bahamas.  Now, Bahamas is really all about one man, the lead singer/songwriter named Afie Jurvanen.  Jurvanen was born in the big city of Toronto and has played with many of the main players in the Toronto indie scene such as Feist, Jason Collett, etc.  He won the Juno awards in 2013 for Adult Alternative Album of the Year called "Barchords".  He, also, won the Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year, too.   Jurvanen is an excellent songwriter and a lovely balladeer, as you shall soon see for yourself in the video to come.


    It is not always advisable to read the comments section for any artist's videos because of the extreme views that are shared so liberally. However, the comments with the Bahamas video are instructive because, person after person, is lamenting the fact that he is more popular and more widely heard.  Exactly!   Maybe now, with my little bit of push, a few more people will be aware of this great Canadian talent and will give his music a listen.

     Hats off to these other "B"-list Canadian performers who did not make my cut but who are, just the same, deserving of a pat upon the back:

Country music legend, Carroll Baker, the legendary The Band, Clever popsters, Barenaked Ladies, Ruby-throated singer/songwriter, Basia Bulat, Alt-rocker, Billy Talent, Funky Bedouin Soundclash, Rockers Big Wreck and Big Sugar, Classic hitmakers, Blue Rodeo, Gospel/soul superstar, Salome Bey, some kid from Startford, Ontario named Justin Bieber, Queen of the classical guitar, Liona Boyd, Country star of modern times, Paul Brandt, Opera star, Measha Brueggergosman, Crooner Michael Buble, Rapper and radio personality, Buck 65 and alternative pioneer, Moe Berg.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A is for Alvvays and for the Arkells

     July 1st is Canada Day.  There is much to celebrate in this great country of mine. So, with the A-to-Z Challenge in mind, I am going to spend the next few weeks showcasing some of the best and brightest musical talents that ply their trade from sea to sea to sea in Canada.   Some names may be recognizable around the world but many will not.  In either case, I hope that you discover some hidden gems and/or reacquaint yourself with some old favourites.
     
     First up, the letter, "A".

     Hailing from the east coast of Canada, I am proud to present a band called, Alvvays (pronounced "Always").  The lead singer is a young woman named Mollie Rankin.  In Nova Scotia and, specifically, on Cape Breton Island, the Rankin name is associated with musical royalty.  Mollie's father was the late John Morris Rankin who, along with his brother Jimmy and sisters, Heather Raylene and Cookie, formed The Rankin Family.  The Rankins, as they were known, were in the forefront of a national resurgence in Celtic music.  So, it was quite common for young Mollie to find herself at ceilidhs (kitchen parties) with the likes of Buddy and Natalie McMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, the Barra McNeills and, of course, the queen of Cape Breton Island, Rita McNeil, all in attendance.  Mollie's musical upbringing was rich and helped form a solid foundation for her to begin building her own career.

     Alvvays has been gaining steady ground in the Canadian Indie and Alternative music scenes.  The song that I am showcasing in this post has been received warmly across North America and has charted on University radio stations in Canada and the U.S.   Please enjoy, "Archie, Marry Me" by Alvvays.



     The Arkells are the rising stars of the Canadian music scene.  They won the Juno Award (Canada's music award) for Best New Group in 2010, as well as, for Group of the Year in 2012 and in 2015.  They originated in Hamilton, Ontario and are named after a street that most of the band members lived on as children.  The Arkells have built a solid fanbase by relentless touring across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.  They are now headlining their own tours and are forging a social media presence; especially on Twitter, where they caused a recent stir by circulating a rumour that their lead singer was slated to replace a departed member of boy band, One Direction.   In any case, their current hit is "Come to Light".  This video was from their performance at this year's Juno Awards where they were named Group of the Year.  Please enjoy.


    A tip of the hat goes to other great Canadian "A"-list artists of varying degrees of renown:

80s Metal Queen, Lee Aaron,  Canadian icon, Bryan Adams, hugely talented, Jann Arden, the first great northern star, Susan Aglukark, current super group, Arcade Fire, infamous rockers, Anvil, Pop and Alternative darlings, Apostle of Hustle, hard rockers, Alexisonfire, the Talented Alanis Morrisette, classic rock band, April Wine and the "A" name who put Canada on the musical map, Paul Anka.    

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

G is for the Importance of Giving a Damn!

     At schools all across Canada, there is a day set aside each year that has become known as "Pink Day".  It is a day when everyone, male and female, don pink clothing to symbolize their belief that discrimination according to gender is wrong.  Pink day had its origins in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The story is that a male high school student wore a pink shirt to school and was subsequently assaulted by other boys who found his pink shirt (and the lifestyle that they assumed went with it) offensive.  The next day, as a means of showing support for their friend, dozens of people, boys and girls, all wore pink shirts to school.  The news coverage that resulted from this show of solidarity caused the Pink Day movement to be born and to spread across our country.   It has become a big part of anti-bullying education in all schools across Canada, as you can see from the video below.



     Obviously bullying is a bad thing and being opposed to it is a good thing.  However, Pink Day tends to bring out some mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I adore the energy, the enthusiasm and the optimism possessed by all these terrific kids.  You can tell from the video that they are feeling the rapture and, having drank the Kool-aid, truly believe that they are changing the world.  How wonderful it is to see young people mobilized in such a positive way!  How beautiful their souls are as they, quite literally, wear their hearts on their sleeves.

     As an adult, my mixed emotions come into play as I wonder what is it that causes us to lose that fervent belief that we can change our world, too?  When do we begin the process of compromising with Life?  Why do so few of us fight that good fight our whole lives? When do we start to grow tired?

     I am as positive a person as there is but, even I, acknowledge that righting wrongs and lifting others up is burdensome at times.  There are moments when I wish for a break from the hectic pace of life so that I can retreat inside of myself and just be alone with my thoughts and my interests.  But, fortunately for me, one of the biggest benefits to being a teacher is that on those days when I am feeling pessimistic and lethargic and, worst of all, apathetic, I have the kids to turn to for help.  Their innocence is such that they don't yet realize that the world will very soon view them in sexual terms or that greed exists on a global scale or that mankind is a very violent species. What they think is that the world is awesome and that playing is fun and that I am a good person so, giddy up, let's go!

     Is it really as simple as the fact that we adults have lost the joy of being able to play and frolic and to imagine and daydream as a regular part of our day?  Would our world be better served if we stopped for a part of each day to paint or to putter in a potting shed or garden or to sing and dance? Why have we allowed our spirits to be waylaid by the petty and the pressing events that so dominate our time?  Why does playfulness hold no currency in our bottom-line world?

     I am my own best/worst example of this.  When I finished last year's A-to-Z Challenge, I was full of ambition and determination to continue writing daily, semi-weekly, consistently, whatever. But, a variety of events in my personal and professional life popped up and suddenly, I had stopped writing completely.  I was working harder than ever but feeling little satisfaction from my efforts.  I was listless and drifting. Where was my Joy?  But now that I am writing again, I feel more alive, more content....better.  For me, writing is play. Writing makes me feel young and vital and better connected with the world at large. I find my voice carries farther and resonates more when I write and that elevates my soul.  Perhaps, taking the time to write/play is the key for me to re-connecting with the much younger idealist who used to inhabit my body.

      There are many lessons that we, as adults, can learn from children.  Foremost, that childhood innocence and optimism is a powerful thing and that it has great value.  For that reason, I like my shirts and, my kool-aid, as pink as pink can be.  Happy Pink day, everyone!  Looks like I still give a damn!

 

My own daughters playing in leaves in our backyard.


 

Monday, April 6, 2015

F is for a Short History of Fame

     I was famous once.  It was just for the requisite fifteen minutes but, just the same, famous I was.

     The year was 1981 and I was in Grade 11 at the time.  As you can see from the photo from my high school yearbook, I was deep in the throes of teenage nerdiness and gawkiness.  I am in the centre of a "club" photo; not a sports club or an acting club or even a debating club no, it was a club for nerds named after a television quiz show for high school students called, Reach For The Top.

    The world was a much different place in 1981 than it is today.  Back home, in my little fishing town of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, there was no internet. Cable television had not made its appearance yet.  There were no MTV music videos.  There were no such things as personal computers or computers in school classrooms.  Back in the day, we received our news and information from our local newspaper, our small town radio station and, of course being Canadian, two TV channels; the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) in English and in French.  

     Our understanding of the world came through the filter of the CBC.  Our understanding of local news often came from the local CBC news casts and shows.  It was on one of the local CBC shows, Reach For The Top, that I rose to prominence in the eyes of my community.  Here is how it happened.

      Reach For The Top was a quiz show that pitted two teams of area high school students against one another in a competition of general knowledge.  The show used to draw respectable ratings; especially in the towns and villages who had teams competing in a given week.  Well, as you can see from my high school glamour shot, I made my high school's Reach For The Top team.  We were all good friends outside of the team, nerds of a feather, if you will.  Without girlfriends to distract us, we all had lots of time for trivia which left all four of us feeling pretty cocky about our chances during the regional tournament that was upcoming.

     Reach For The Top was filmed in Halifax, the provincial capital of Nova Scotia.  Halifax is a four and a half hour drive from Glace Bay so, going there on an overnight excursion was very exotic to us all.   The format was simple: sixteen high school teams squared off in a round-robin, single-elimination style format.  All of the games were filmed in one day, even though the matches would be aired over the course of several months on local TV.   So, my friends and I arrived at the studio, early on a Saturday morning and were escorted straight into the make-up room. It is the only time I can every recall having make-up applied to my face but, apparently, we were too pale to go on just as we were.    
     
      Our first match was against a school from the southern reaches of the province.  We were taken to the actual set. After having watched so many Reach For The Top episodes over the years, actually being there was like being at the Taj Mahal or the Empire State Building.  The studio lights were far brighter than I expected.  It was hot there. Studio hands ran us through the technical aspects of pressing the buzzer to ring in our answers and how it was critical to avoid profanity because there was no five-second delay feature at that time. The show was live to tape.  When all was good,  signs with our names on them were placed in front of the chairs we were to sit it. The announcer came out and shook our hands and then, it was time to start taping.
Couldn't find a photo from my tourney but, the set looked a lot like the one in this photo.

     We did extremely well during our first match and set a provincial record for points at the time.  We  shook hands with the defeated squad and then, returned to the "studio audience" to watch the other matches.  Our second round match was against a local high school team and, whether it was over-confidence on our part or the fact that we just came up against a group of nerds even nerdier than us, we lost and the tournament was suddenly over.

     However, here is how I was the one out of the four of us who became famous.

     The most popular show on CBC during my youth was Hockey Night in Canada, which aired every Saturday night.  Everyone who owned a tv set watched Hockey Night In Canada.  Immediately after the conclusion of the game, the national arm of the CBC would turn the broadcast over to the local affiliates who, in our case, would air a five-minute free-time political broadcast by one member of the local legislature. Immediately following those five minutes, the local CBC channel would air a promo for the upcoming Reach For The Top episode.  So, whether you were really interested in the show or not, the huge Hockey Night In Canada audience was often still watching their tv, awaiting the local newscast, and, as such, they would see the Reach For The Top promo by default.


     Well, small things become big things in small towns and word soon spread that my team had set a provincial record during our match and that our match was going to be the one featured in the promo after the hockey game. So, everyone from my area sat glued to their sets and watched as the announcer stated, "...And coming up this week on Reach For The Top........."  The camera cut quickly to a close-upof the show's announcer asking, "Which Major League Home Run Champion once pitched a no-hitter?" The buzzer sounded immediately. Quick cut to a close-up of me answering, "Babe Ruth" and then the announcer says, "That's correct!"  The theme music played and the promo ended.

    Right then and there, I became the face of a great victory for my school and, by extension, my community.  That we subsequently lost, didn't matter.  I became a celebrity who brought home victory to our little town, even though, truth be told, I didn't answer as many questions as some of my teammates had. That was inconsequential.  There I was, before the eyes of my community, right on their tv screens, uttering a correct response.......a provincial record-setting response.

    The reaction was swift.  I was someone who was, and still is, fairly shy and quiet. I wasn't part of the in-crowd and never got invited to parties or asked out on dates.  But now, I couldn't walk anywhere in Glace Bay without car horns honking, people rolling down their windows to congratulate me and, best of all, girls.......girls actually wanted to talk to me. Sometimes, even girls from other schools who only knew me from that ten-second promo.  I was known everywhere by everyone....for a week or so.   Then, news of our loss leaked out and people moved on with their lives and I retreated into the silence of my solitary teenage world.

     I tell this story because it harkens back to a far more innocent time when it came to instant celebrity. I never had fan pages created for me on Facebook. I had no official followers. No one clicked Like beside a status update. The episode didn't air in perpetuity on Youtube. No internet trolls sought to sully my name simply because they could.  My life never reached the dizzying heights of having instant fame and money and groupies nor, did it reach the depths of being a cartoon meme, uttering "Babe Ruth!  Babe Ruth!" in any number of GIFs that would spring up like weeds.  Instead, I became popular. The feeling felt odd but, funny at the same time.  Then, it all went away, like it never even happened and life returned completely to normal.  I had nothing shameful to haunt my future, unlike so many young people today who have their fifteen minutes of fame in front of a world-wide audience.

     We live in times that are no longer innocent and, for that reason, education is so very important for children when it comes to social media.  Media literacy is now formally taught in schools but, as we all can attest, the real lessons for many of today's youth still come the hard way via the viral nature of our networking world.  If you have your own children at home with you, please help them to practise safe internet usage.  If you wish to learn about some basic safety rules for the internet, you can click here and here.  The internet is a wonderful invention and is allowing us, as a species, to communicate in ways that can positively impact our world....but, only when it is used with knowledge and an understanding of the potential dangers that exist.