Showing posts with label high school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label high school. Show all posts

Saturday, November 10, 2007


As a lark, I mapped out my travels with a few tools over at My World66.

First up, Canada. Apart from the great Route 66/Trans-Canada roadtrip of 2003, this map should only show Ontario and Quebec. I often ponder a trip down east, but have yet to take the plunge.

Here's the USA. The Route 66 roadtrip rule applies for anywhere west of Lansing, Michigan. Note the that sections of the lower 48 I haven't been through (with the exception of Rhode Island) are neatly divided into three chunks: the upper midwest, the south and the Pacific coast. I'm planning on remedying at least one of these segements in '08. As for states most visited, Michigan wins hands down. I suspect Ohio is still in second place, based on childhood vacations and annual runs to the Libbey glass outlet, but New York must be coming close.

Finally, the only other continent I've ever been to, Europe. That white speck in the middle is Luxembourg.

Outside of the UK, I've only been to the Old World once, on a two-week tour in high school, back in '92. The trip consisted of several schools from Essex County and was a mixed experience. The other guys who went from my high school drove me bonkers and I ended up with solo accomodations for the second half of the trip. The breaking point came in Paris, when they decided to make up for their disappointment in the older women on display in the Pigalle by boozily jumping up and down on their beds all night, accidentally landing on me a few times.

Later in the trip, they asked why I hated them.

Paris was an all-around dreary experience, not just because of the weather. The highlight was seeing a middle-aged man get whacked in the head with a 2x4 while entering the Metro (our guide told us to move right along). We only had an hour in the Louvre, which meant everyone rushed to the Mona Lisa at the expense of everything else. The high school that shared our building back home had as many parents along on the trip as students, who proved to be a difficult lot, especially during one meal at a steakhouse. Despite their kids' best efforts to explain the menu, the parents drove the waiters up the wall with expectations that the food and presentation would be exactly the same as they were in North America. Throughout the trip, they displayed classic "ugly American" behaviour in regards to appreciating their surroundings. I wasn't the only one who noticed - Dad told me that the teacher who went from their school was equally charmed by the bunch. I felt sorry for their kids and vowed never to impose myself on any journeys taken by future offspring.

Mind you, I would have made an exception for my parents. Dad and I probably would have split off and found a tasty dive. Mom would have been fine as long as the food tasted good or gone and found something else, since our tolerance for fools is equally low.

The trip improved once we reached the south of France...but that's a story for another day. - JB

Saturday, January 17, 2004

motivational malarkey

Sitting with some friends the other night, brainstorming for ideas on short films we could make. One subject that came up was the strain of lame motivational speakers that darken the nation's school gymnasiums and corporate theatres. Plenty of comic potential with the speakers we've seen over the years who failed to inspire any of us, except for laughs.

There are genuinely good speakers out there who make impactful speeches that cause the brain to go for a workout, but they are rare birds. The majority fail. especially if the audience they're working for is jaded high school kids, who already have ideas on how the world works. I hated going to these assemblies back at General Amherst, whether it was a fancy multi-media show or a humble pep rally.

I had a trick to escape these assemblies in high school. My father was a teacher there and he enjoyed them as much as I did. By grade 12, we worked out a plan to dodge them (unless he was suppose to supervising the halls or, if he was unlucky, forced to endure the proceedings). He had two rooms, one for teaching, the other for half of his newspaper clippings collection.

(Aside: my father's newspaper clipping collection was the salvation of many students for over 30 years. Based on a collection one of his profs had, rather than toss out papers and magazines, he hacked out articles of interest. The earliest samples were from 1962, but the collection didn't begin in earnest until the '68 election and Trudeaumania. It braodened over the years to include any subject under the sun - history, politics, literature, music, geography, etc. Before he died, he started to parcel it out among other teachers, but the majority sat idle for a year. Some wound up at a private school, while I suspect the rest was recycled. A tragic end, but it's hard to say what could have been done otherwise - at the end, it took up three rooms).

I'd go into the clipping room, out of view from the slit-window on the door until the halls emptied out. I'd remain there for the rest of the afternoon, doing homework or shooting the breeze. My sister soon joined in, as did several friends. It was better than whatever was going on down in the gym.

One that the board loved was a roadshow put on by Pepsi. A triple-screen set out showed scenes that were supposed to inspire the audience to move on to better things in life, to the strains of Van Halen's Right Now or other uplifting power ballads. The key lesson? Life was better if you tried hard, especially if you tried hard with Pepsi at hand.

Keys to the world of motivational speakers, high-school division:

1) If there is any musical element to their presentation, it is usually 10 years out of date, in that strange state where it's not close enough to revival time, not far enough to be remember with fondness or a post-modern viewpoint. Hello break-dancing melodica players.

2) Unless it's graphic, it ain't going to have an impact. Even then, the kids will think blood and guts is cool.

3) If it's sponsored by a corporation, the underwriter will make damn sure they get their 10 cents in.

4) Yelling doesn't make your message sink in any further - you look like a fool or a zealot.

I was lucky in that I never had to endure travelling troups of happy young people or quasi-religious assemblies. At work, I've been spared speakers, other than short sections of quarterly state-of-the-company meetings. I don't remember these parts, since I'm asleep in the cushy Silver City chairs by the time that part rolls around. My sister was less lucky, but she'll get to that subject someday, or send me her memories.