So, you’re thinking about going back to school?

April 16th, 2011 No comments

It’s been awhile since I perched here to chirp, but now that school is done and I’m finding myself with some free time, I’m sure I’ll be fluttering by these parts more frequently.

Speaking of school, I’ve heard of a few folks I know talking about returning to the academic world. I thought I’d write a bit about my experiences with returning to school. A bit of background could probably set the stage here.

Immediately after high school I entered college and pursued an Advertising and Public Relations degree. My thoughts, at the time, were that I wanted to make lots of money and I figured that something creative in the business world would allow me to fulfill my desire to make money, while pursuing something that didn’t bore me to death. I’m sure it was amusing for my then classmates to see me enter those business classes all decked out in my goth gear (yes, I was one of those). To make a long (and rather tumultuous) story short – I quickly realized that I wasn’t meant for the business world and left that two year program (after two years) by flunking out in my last semester (aside from the A I pulled off in Video Broadcasting – apparently I had a knack for film… go figure). So, there I was with two years of post-secondary education and absolutely nothing to show for it. It was what I dubbed, my “almost” diploma – sans four credits.

After several months of floating from retail job to retail job, I eventually landed in Toronto where an event registration company hired me. I quickly became immersed in the event marketing world and there I remained for almost 15 years. I spent numerous years working as a freelance event marketer and when the jobs started drying up, I started to think about going back to school. My biggest reason was because I honestly wasn’t happy “working for the man”. I felt stifled, bored and like I wasn’t doing something that was meaningful to me.

I started researching going back to school and I can say without a doubt that it was one of the most daunting experiences. It’s a lot of information to wade through and finding the answer to a simple question can be a frustrating endeavour. I eventually learned that it was much easier to find one or two key contacts in administration and just email them directly, instead of trying to decipher institutional lingo in pages and pages of documentation.

It was a long process, but after filling in all the application documents, contacting every school I had ever attended for transcripts and writing an essay about why I hadn’t successfully completed my Advertising & Public Relations program, I submitted my application and then waited.

The rest is history, as they say. I’ve been studying part-time, primarily through distance education (DE) for about seven years now. I completed my three year general psychology BA in 2010. I studied year round, one to four courses a semester, and managed to finish in a respectable amount of time.

So, how does DE work? First, most of your courses are available online, where you watch lectures, submit assignments, interact with other students, and take tests. Midterms and final exams are usually done at a school in your hometown on a given date or through a proctor you hire to supervise your examination.

It’s not a mode of learning for everyone. You have to have a lot of discipline to make yourself stick to a routine of studying and completing assignments. It’s pretty easy to get sidetracked. There’s also a huge social component that is missing. You don’t get the face-to-face interaction with professors and other students. Instead this is supplanted with online communication that can sometimes be hard to interpret. Group work is also a bit awkward because you essentially are working with other students who are on their own study schedules as well. So you are often waiting for days for a reply to a question that could be answered in 30 seconds in face-to-face meetings. Finally, the breadth of courses just isn’t the same for DE. You just don’t have the same variety. So, while registering you may see this really cool course that you want to take – but you won’t be able too because it isn’t offered via DE.

There are a number of benefits to DE. You get to study on your own schedule. So that means you can fit studying around work, family, and your social life – you just have to fit it in some time. For me, I’m a morning person so I spent every morning studying and then I had the afternoons to catch up on other things. I’ve known other students who are night owls and they study after putting their kids to bed. You also have the advantage of being able to pause, rewind, and re-watch lectures. When I first started I had no idea how to take notes during a lecture, and I often found myself pausing the lectures to frantically write down every word the lecturer spoke. Finally, you can study from just about anywhere. I can remember taking my school on the road numerous times. As long as I had an Internet connection I could get my studies done.

Oh, and for those of you wondering, a degree/diploma through DE is no different than one obtained from on-campus studies. In some ways, it’s more difficult to complete a program via DE because you are responsible for structuring your class time and study time. It’s an added component that many students don’t have to deal with when studying on campus, but it certainly allows you more control over your academic career.

I am a big advocate of continuing education. I also believe that it’s never too late. Here I am, a thirty-something chick who is still in school and I’m not sure when I’ll be done. I returned last fall to pursue a combined honours in psychology and religion and the plan is that I’ll make my way into a Masters program in religion. I still study online, but I also have to go on campus now because most schools have residency requirements for upper-level degrees. So, I’m combining the two, until they won’t let me any longer.

If you’re thinking about going back to school, I say go for it! It’s an amazing experience! It opens new worlds and changes the way your perceive the world around you. Happy Studying! Cheers! M. xo


IFCO – Celluloid Junkies 2011 – Revisited

March 26th, 2011 1 comment

One of my main reasons for starting to blog – other than it gives me a forum to hen-peck and squawk about things that ruffle my feathers  – was to open some dialogue and learn from the masses that might just perch here for a bit.  I really enjoy engaging in conversation with others.  I’ve been honoured in my short time blogging with some great feedback from reader Doug Smith (check out some of Mr. Smith’s comments).  Most recently a friend of mine, Patrice, sent me an email regarding some of my comments concerning independent film.  With her permission, I’d like to share her comments because they are insightful, educational and provide some counter-commentary to my musings.

I’d like to make the following observations of my own for clarification as well, which if you approve; I’d like to post on your blog.

  • Super 8/16mm/35mm are ORIGINAL filmmaking technologies, they’re not just “traditional film-making technologies”, because a significant amount, actually most movies nowadays that make it to mainstream cinema screens, most dramatic content, commercials, music videos on television, are still predominantly shot on FILM; Super 16 and 35mm to be exact.  Most reality television, daytime soaps, talk shows and news serials continue to be digitally shot.  Also, there are ONLY but a few dramas on television that are shot on digital, case and point; the new season of HOUSE;
  • Also digital filmmaking does not really exist.  digital is a technology, just as film is its own technology; they’re both completely separate mediums as such.  So I’d venture to say that there’s digital cinema/digital production, but there is no film that is made from digital and vice versa.  digital is either tape or memory cards; film is celluloid based; a very intricately constructed material with endless stock options and possibilities;
  • Digital media is consuming the mainstream consumer markets, which means that the technology is more readily available to the average consumer, and there are a lot of festivals and online options for digital producers to exhibit their works; although I would warn against this, if artists are focused on developing a more professional portfolio, and also if they’re hoping to be compensated for their work.  Digital media has made significant headway in certain commercial industries as well; but I’d caution for viewers to pay close attention to the fact that again the overwhelming technology used in the Oscar and Genie Award nominated and winning films, is still film Super 16mm or predominantly 35mm;
  • Digital projection is steadily being phased into mainstream cinema chains, but still today ONLY about 5%-6% of the world’s screens actually have digital projectors installed; so that also means that most of the screens on the planet, are still using 35mm projectors.

In closing, I would say that IFCO’s filmmakers are actually cognizant of just how extremely viable FILM as medium is in contemporary society.  IFCO’s filmmakers are using FILM because they’re excited by the medium and its possibilities, and not so much because they’re “protecting a threatened art form from slipping into obscurity”.  Audiences need to be more active viewers and not such passive viewers; they need to be better informed as to the creative processes involved in bringing a piece of art to the screen, be it digitally produced/film based imagery.  Yes, digital technologies have attempted to sell the possibility to the average consumer that digital camera in hand, immediately gives them credibility as a filmmaker.   We really as a society however, have to be cautious about prescribing social pressures on art and artists to jump on bandwagons so to speak.  Just because the technology is cheaper, and more accessible, doesn’t make it any more or less relevant than existing technologies.  Filmmakers should also be happy to know that through a centre like IFCO; they can produce mostly short films at really affordable rates, in an extremely supportive environment.

“The medium is the message.” – Marshall McLuhan”

Thanks to Patrice and all my readers who comment via email, Facebook and in the comments section of this site.  I truly appreciate the dialogue and hope we can have many more virtual conversations in the future!

Cheers, M. xo

Categories: Society and Culture Tags: ,

When pets live better than you do…

March 22nd, 2011 No comments

I’ve always said that if I had to be reincarnated as an animal that I’d want to come back as one of my cats.  Why?  Mostly because I think my cats rock, but also because they are spoiled rotten (which I’m sure has something to do with the fact that we don’t have children and they’ve been relegated to our “fur babies”).

People love their pets and businesses know how to tap into that adoration.  Recently, while spending some time in the pet aisle at our grocery store (because I do spend a lot of time and money in that aisle) I stumbled across this tantalizing tidbit for my felines:

Needless to say I was quite amused, and immediately had to buy the treat for our kitties.  Seems despite having a background in marketing and psychology that I, too, succumb to the messages that my pet deserves the absolute best.

While I agree that we may spoil our kitties, we haven’t gotten to the point of investing in cat spas that boast chauffeur service, private verandas and bird watching or cat cottage retreats offering private suites, adjoining suites for multiple cat families, “extreme bird watching”, and organic catnip.  Maybe our cats do live a bit more of a humble existence than some with wealthier “pet parents”.  Certainly, they live more humbly than those cats and dogs who have the title of being Pet Millionaires.

Pets have steadily become a windfall for businesses capitalizing on our love for our furry family members.  It’s little wonder that in our consumer-driven society that even our pets are keeping up with the the furry Joneses next door.

I’d love to hear what the most extravagant gift was that you ever bought your pet.  Incidentally, ours was a 9 foot cat perch made from bamboo and rattan.  Quite impressive, and quite loved by our three kitties.

A kitty by any other name is still just as cute… cheers to our kitty families!

Osiris aka “Wusser-Si” aka “The Cat from Hell”

Buddy aka “Monkey Boy” aka “Boo Boy” RIP

Bijoux aka “Fluffernut”

Kalifornia aka “Kali” aka “Monkey-Bits”

KatStevens aka “Brat Cat”

Yums aka “Yum Yums” aka “Yummies” RIP

Miss Missy aka “The Real Miss Missy”

Valentine aka “Val” – honourary cat, and because she’s a jealous doggie…


God is so… what?!?

March 14th, 2011 4 comments

I struggled with whether to share this video via my blog because frankly I don’t think ignorance like this should be acknowledged; however, this is exactly the kind of cancerous commentary I have been blogging about that is infecting religious and spiritual dialogue.  Make no mistake, tamtampamela is clearly not representative of the majority of Christians.  She’s in the same category as the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of our society.  In my opinion (and I’m sure many others would agree), these apocalyptic doomsayers have perverted and distorted an ideology that for all intents and purposes was founded on love, compassion and community spirit.  I hardly think that Jesus had this kind of message in mind when he was prophesying  to his disciples.  Further, I find it unfathomable that any G-d, or creator, would destroy and cause the suffering of thousands of innocent souls merely to prove some sort of divine point, despite what might be written into many religious myths/legends.  Clearly, the woman has a pretty skewed vision of God – made all the more dangerous by a self-righteous ideology that has little to do with love, compassion or community spirit.

I realize that attempting any type of dialogue with this breed of religious fundamentalist is pointless, but this kind of fanaticism is exactly what is fueling the poisonous discussions that perpetuate ignorance and misunderstanding among different religious/non-religious adherents.  These discussions often escalate into verbal assaults and in some cases violent attacks on the “other” group.

And one final comment – let’s not start labeling this as a problem with the religion itself.  This kind of hatred isn’t indicative of the religion, but rather of an ignorant human being who clearly has a distorted view of what it actually means to be human.   It certainly ruffles my feathers when I come across this kind of unenlightened discourse, but more than anything it makes me very sad that one person can be so callous toward the plight of fellow human beings in a time of great tragedy.  Using the events in Japan as propaganda for a holy war is just inhumane…


Source: YouTube

Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

IFCO – Celluloid Junkies 2011

March 13th, 2011 1 comment

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Independent Filmmaker’s Co-operative of Ottawa (IFCO) 19th annual gala, Celluloid Junkies.  IFCO is an artist-run centre that assists its members in cultivating the art of traditional film-making using Super 8, 16mm and/or 35mm films, hence the reference to celluloid for this year’s gala.

If you live in the Ottawa area, and haven’t checked out this annual event, you’re missing out on a opportunity to experience a different side to this oft-labeled sleepy city.  You’ll experience the work of some talented filmmakers, some of whom are presenting their work for the first time to an audience.  All the films are unique and are testaments to the individual spirits of each of the filmmakers .  They’ll be films that will stir base emotions, such as joy and sadness.  They’ll be other films that will make you uncomfortable with their content and themes.  And, there will be films that will leave you so perplexed that you’ll feel like your mind has just been on an all-night bender and it woke up next to some stranger.  Guaranteed though – you will experience something different than your usual Saturday night out at the movies.

With the advent of digital media consuming the film-making industry, artists such as those found exhibiting their work at IFCO’s gala,  are rebels protecting a threatened art form from slipping into obscurity.  I’m quick to support artists that are brave enough to hone a craft that takes, I’d argue, a lot more patience than its modern derivative.  Working in this medium also isn’t cheap.  It’s substantially more expensive than working in digital formats; however it seems to me that there is more raw honesty and integrity in these films than in some of the digital counterparts I’ve seen.

I also fully support the rise of digital films, but I think it’s important for consumers and future artists to stay connected to the roots of the art form.  Inexpensive and easy-to-use digital cameras have made it such that anyone can easily record, edit and screen (via the Internet) a film.  This fast and easy approach should make movie goers, and movie makers, all the more appreciative of artists, such as the IFCO group.  These folks nurture and keep alive the predecessor to modern day film-making that has made everyone a critic, director and producer. Clearly, there is something extremely valuable in keeping a piece of history alive.  We learn to understand where we’ve come from and the strives and struggles made in making art more accessible to the masses (whether that’s a good thing is entirely another discussion).

Kudos to the staff, volunteers and artists at IFCO on another memorable evening of films!  This chick can’t wait to see you next year!


Categories: Society and Culture Tags: ,

Religion vs. Law – Revisited

March 8th, 2011 1 comment

A few weeks ago I blogged about how religion and the law don’t always play so well together.  I meant to provide some follow up comments on this much sooner; however I became sidetracked with work, midterms and my other hobby – painting.  Now that I’ve provided sufficient enough explanation for denying you – my adoring readers – your weekly peck of squawky goodness, I’ll move forward with a promise not to make promises about when I’ll post next.  That being said, I promise to post at some point in the future – always 😉

I have many thoughts on the subject of law and religion.  So many that I think this is going to be an ongoing conversation.  Where I’d like to start is on the subject of polygamy.  There’s been a lot of debate in the last year about whether polygamy should be legal or whether it violates the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman.  This sounds awfully familiar to me.

I appreciate that many religions hold that marriage is a sacrament; however I don’t believe it’s fair to attest that marriage is exclusively a religious institution.  Sure, it may have been that way long ago when society was essentially bound by religious notions; but I’d like to believe that we’ve evolved as a society.  We are no longer bound by a single religious ideology – at least those of us fortunate to live in “free” (more on this later) societies.  Plenty of non-religious people marry.

If anything, marriage has become a government institution.  It allows two people to be intertwined such that they reap financial and legal benefits of being married.  In some countries, two people don’t even have to be legally married to enjoy the same benefits that those who sign the paperwork do.   Merely living together, as a couple, for a prescribed length of time allows for reaping some of the advantages that legal marriage does.  So, if marriage really isn’t a religious institution the idea of any faith holding exclusivity over it falls flat.

Where does this leave polygamy?  Is there anything fundamentally wrong with plural marriage?  There are arguments that women and young girls are exploited, but I fail to see how this is mutually exclusive to plural marriage.  Wouldn’t more protection be afforded to those women and girls who may be being exploited by plural marriage if it were somehow legislated like more traditional marriages?  As it stands now, a woman who is in a plural marriage and not legally married has little in the way of protection should she choose to leave that marriage.  Through making plural marriage a legally accepted practice, I believe we’d be making it more transparent and thus actually protect more people.

Truthfully, this conversation could go on at great length.  I’ll leave it here for now, so you can digest it.  Often those things that are unusual or unfamiliar to us make us uncomfortable.  I think we’ve got to break out of our bubbles and realize that there’s a bigger world that doesn’t necessarily conform to the nice little confines of our bubble.  It’s time to burst out and start seeking out grander truths.

I’ll close with comments from My Dad that sum up rather nicely how I feel about these matters we’ve been discussing:  “Marriage is a man made institution created by religion to support it. I say marry whom ever you want, pray as you choose to. Protect childhood at all cost, stand up for what you feel and try to keep an open mind”. So glad to have a Dad that taught me to burst out from my bubble and experience a grander world.

Categories: Religion Tags: ,

Fore… the love of G-d

February 28th, 2011 No comments

With the snow beginning to melt and the promise of warmer temperatures and green grass beckoning, I’m reminded of a Sunday ritual in my family. No, it’s not Sunday service at the local church, but it’s something that bares a remarkable similarity to that ritual activity. The ritual of Sunday golf among the men of my family has steadily become entrenched in our collective consciousness. As such, whenever my husband and I make a trip back home during the warmer months, we know it will culminate in Sunday golfing.  Given that golf season is almost upon us and that last week one of my friends made a comment about how these posts hurt his head, and couldn’t we just talk about the Leafs’ trades — I thought I’d compromise with a post about sports as religion.

My family’s Sunday golf ritual begins with a quorum of usually four men booking a tee time for the morning. There’s a bit of unease if the quorum of four isn’t found – seems four is the sacred number; however, the game still goes on with two, three or even five. Where else can you find a quorum for ritual? The Jewish minyan is the requirement of ten adult males for special prayers and rituals. In fact, numbers seem to play an important part in many religions:  twelve apostles, ninety-nine most beautiful names of God, five elements, etc.

Special attire is a must for the Sunday golf ritual. All the men dress in khakis and golf shirts, and some don special golfing hats. Many religions also have specialized attire for specific ritual, prayer or meetings. In Judaism, there’s the tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl; the tefillin, small, black, leather boxes containing verses from the Torah (first part of the Hebrew Bible) that are strapped on the forehead and forearm; and the kippah. Practically every religion has some sort of ritual clothing that is used in worship, and sometimes everyday life. There’s also widespread practice in Christian communities of donning your Sunday best for congregation. Some religious attire can also appear quite unusual to the outsider and this is also true of some sports fans outfits, as these funny sports fanatic photos will attest too. So, evidently both religion and sports make use of specialized attire to enhance the ritual experience.

The metaphor of sports as religion is also paralleled when you examine other elements such as congregants of fans versus congregants of worshippers. There isn’t much difference between worship and fanaticism, given that they both clearly revolve around revering something or someone deemed worthy. Sports stars are often seen as outside the realm of the ordinary, and the same can be said about saints, prophets and other notable religious figures. What about the church/temple/house of worship and the stadium/arena/field? Clearly, devotees of both religion and sport find something sacred or special at these places. Here the community is brought together for participation in the rites that bind them.

Arguably, the binding of a community is central to both religion and sports. People are loyal to their faith and loyal to their teams. This binding works to not only bring the respective communities together, but also to create division from those outside the community. Just as a Christian may never truly understand the Hindu world view; a Leafs fan is just as unlikely to comprehend the loyalty of a Habs fan.

While the men in my family may be in search of a hole in one, instead of the holy grail – it’s worth noting that maybe the two aren’t so different.  Clearly, both groups are brought together in a ritualistic form, to bond with their respective communities, uplift their spirits, and share in an experience that may not be completely understood by outsiders.

Whether you choose to shout praise at the tee with a resounding “Fore!,” or pronounce praise at the pew with an emphatic “Amen!,” may the spirit of your community bind you together in joy.

Categories: Religion Tags: ,

Which Kill More Birds, Oil Sands or Wind Turbines?

February 20th, 2011 No comments

Lately, I’ve been becoming more interested in policies surrounding environmental issues – in particular the idea that we can reverse climate change. There have been many scientists suggesting that government policies surrounding climate change are based on flawed data. Those policies are costing us money – lots of money – so, I’m naturally going to be curious as to how the government is spending my tax dollars.
For example the notion that we can somehow reverse climate change seems like a bit of a daunting, if not impossible task. We’d be right in that assumption because the climate has and always will change – that’s the one thing that’s constant about our climate. We don’t and can’t control it.
We’ve also been led to believe that clean sources of energy are better for us and our environment, and well, that doesn’t entirely seem to be the case either. Wind energy is being touted as a renewable, clean, and safe source for us. Turns out there’s questions about the health implications to humans, and implications to birds and other avian animals. Who knows what the real cost will eventually be to us? Sure, the oil sands may not be the best solution for our energy needs, but if the below video is any indication, I’m not sure that wind turbines are the better alternative.
Clearly, we have some more research to do before we start investing billions of dollars into energy sources designed to lower our carbon emissions. Understanding the science behind why these initiatives need to be undertaken, in addition to the real cost to us, is of paramount importance. We may discover that those choices lead us to different issues that cost us far more.

Warning: video is not meant for the squeamish.

Source: FrontierCentre


Religion vs. Law

February 19th, 2011 No comments

Religion and the law seem to frequently collide. In secular societies, religion is supposed to be separate from the law. Law is meant to provide everyone in society with certain guarantees and protections, including the freedom of religion. So, there’s the rub. What do we do when freedom of religion directly contravenes the law of the land?

There are numerous headlines that attest to this delicate balance. Recently, a group of Muslim immigrants petitioned a Manitoba board of education to remove their children from music and co-ed physical education classes. Last week, the Quebec legislature banned Sikhs from wearing a kirpan (ceremonial dagger) in the legislature. A private member’s bill has been put forth that would require Muslim women to unveil before voting. Arguably the biggest tango between religion and the law currently in Canada is the case regarding the polygamous sect in Bountiful, BC. A hearing is underway to determine whether Canada’s 1890 anti-polygamy law violates freedom of religion.

Clearly, the protection of citizens must be paramount for the legal system to be purposeful; however, what does that protection entail? If a fringe group of minority Muslims want to remove their children from certain classes, should they be allowed? Is it any different than allowing Catholic parents to remove their children from sexual education classes? How is the anonymity of veiled women voting different than the many Canadians who mail their votes in or show up to the polls without photo identification? Why have we suddenly decided that after years of allowing Sikhs to wear the kirpan in the legislature to suddenly change it? Is it the widespread suspicion of any religion that doesn’t posses a specific Judeo-Christian ideology? If three or more consenting adults want to marry, should they legally have the right? Clearly, the exploitation of minors should be rigorously investigated and persecuted; however, are child exploitation and polygamy unequivocally mutually exclusive? In our secular society, can marriage even be defined as exclusively religious?

I have a lot of thoughts concerning these topics, which I’ll share in next week’s Incubation follow-up post. For now, I’d like to hear from you.

Categories: Religion Tags: ,

Sacred Exemption Revisited

February 19th, 2011 3 comments

Last week I posted some questions on whether religion should be exempt from critique and satirical commentary. My Facebook status update generated some interesting comments. The overall consensus was, yes, religion is fair game for critique, satire and debate. Now in all fairness, I suspect that most of the discussion was generated by folks who are not part of some organized religion. I’d be curious to hear from those who are members of a specific religion.

There were two discussion points that I found particularly poignant. The first was the idea that both the staunchly religious AND non-religious could be equally hostile and stubborn when defending their beliefs. Each side seemingly claims to know a certain truth and will unabashedly vocalize to the other side the folly and error of thinking otherwise.

The second was that there needs to be discussion/debate surrounding religion, especially in light of growing multi-faith societies and ever increasing global connectivity. As a religious scholar, I’ve visited many Web sites of both a religious and secular nature and the comment boards are often the most insightful sections of the site. If many of the comments are an indication of the state of religious discussion in mainstream society, then we’ve got a lot of work to do. Clearly, there are some huge misconceptions and sweeping generalizations that are poisoning these discussions.

As Rabbi Adam Jacobs summed up in his An Open Letter to the Atheist Community “We still have a lot to discuss. Let’s do it with a caring heart, and open mind and a spirit of appreciation for our shared humanity”.

Categories: Religion Tags: ,