Thursday, March 31, 2011

Life storage

We live in a one-bedroom apartment. It's roomy for what it is, but it's still limited. It has a storage room that measures (approximately) 7 ft x 8 ft with a 10 ft. ceiling, which ended up being one of the key points in favour of our initially renting this place. Try as we might to avoid the inevitability of having things in storage, we realized that it would be necessary, and I'm certainly glad we have the space. It holds our deep freeze, and my old-school video games, and our CD and DVD cases, and the pictures we don't look at very often, and our childhood memories, and our extra appliance boxes, and our suitcases, and all that other stuff that we need space for but doesn't either fit or need to be in our everyday lives. Because of my packing and stacking skills (developed through years of playing Tetris and Dr. Mario and moving frequently), I get to manage the organization of the room. That means that I am the one who gets to take things out and make sure they go in, as well as making sure that the things that need to be accessible are easy to reach. We end up in our storage room all the time, but it's not very often that we (I) end up actually sorting through the items in there and reorganizing. Sometimes, that means that we get a build-up of things to go into the storage room in our living area; because of the layout of our house, that usually ends up being in our bedroom (which doubles as our office in one corner) because it's the room between the storage room and the living room/kitchen, which is our public space. As a result of our limited space, one of the guidelines we have developed is that as we bring things into the house, things must leave. Of course, that can prove to be a little overly idealistic, as can our intent to keep our spaces clean and clear of clutter. When it starts piling up in our bedroom, I am reminded to then spend some time transporting the goods to the storage room, which then often leads to taking time to sort through that space. The last time I spent a significant amount of time in there was just over a month ago. I was initially frustrated because the lack of space dictated my ability to reorganize, but I realized that I actually had to go through the materials more indepth and get rid of some old boxes and things in order to make it work. We are slowly working our way through each room in the house to try to sort our stuff, and we are not far away from getting to the storage space, which will probably be the most difficult of all because it represents the "deepest" level of stuff. But the point of this post is not simply to talk about our sorting and organizing process; after all, I don't think it's that noteworthy or unique, as most of you probably have similar struggles and/or processes that you work through as you sort your stuff. The point of discussing this is because I've been realizing how much sorting through the stuff in my life is like how I deal with my storage space. I'm usually pretty good at managing the superficial level - the "public" space that consists of daily interactions, small talk, and presenting myself to others. But sometimes things build up, and I have to use my other life space to accommodate that junk. Of course, it only postpones the inevitable, and I have to deal with the emotions and relationships eventually, whether that means cleaning them up or putting them into "storage." Then there's that deep level of emotional and personal cleansing that I often don't get to because it takes "too much effort" to really go through it and evaluate those things to which I have at some time attached value. As I've written before, it feels like this year is meant to provide the time and space to work through not only my physical storage space, but more importantly my personal "life storage". I've managed to make it through some things - like reconciling relationships that were damaged in last year's school situation - but I know I still have more to do. It's a long, tedious, draining process at times, but it's worth the result: freedom.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The writ has dropped

It's official: May 2 is the day that democracy will officially be declared dead in Canada. Or so Michael Ignatieff might have you believe. With the "success" of the three opposition parties toppling the Conservative minority government in a non-confidence vote (a first in Canadian history), Canadians are now preparing for their fourth election in seven years. Although there has been some framing of this election as an issue of ethics or accountability, it really seems to stem more from Michael Ignatieff (in particular) attempting to seize the momentum than it does an injustice in democracy. Regardless of the initiative in inciting the election, we Canadians are now subjected to over a month of bickering, bantering, blustering, debating, mud-slinging, oversimplifying, analyzing, and prognosticating. So, with that in mind, here are my ten predictions for the campaign and election.

1. Stephen Harper will continue to serve as Prime Minister of a Conservative minority government. I don't see that Canadians will see Michael Ignatieff as a capable PM, and I don't see that the Conservatives will gain the 12 seats needed to gain a majority government. Two more years of the status quo (if it can last that long).

2. The Conservative plurality will be lower than the last election (perhaps by as much as 10-15 seats), but the shift will not be significant enough to swing the power to the Liberals. With the Globe and Mail predicting that there are about 90 seats (just under 30% of the 308 total seats) that could swing, with only 50 of those deciding the election (including mine), it seems like the 40 or so seats the Liberals would likely need to take a plurality are not there.

3. Despite the accusations and committee findings about contempt of Parliament, the Conservatives will be given the opportunity to govern (unless the Liberals unexpectedly form government with a plurality of votes, which as aforementioned seems unlikely). "Coalition" has already been bandied about as one of the buzzwords of the election, and it seems unlikely that Governor-General David Johnston would prefer to allow a two or three party coalition to govern over the incumbent party.

4. This election will feature the lowest turnout in Canadian electoral history. The 2008 election holds the current record, at 59.1%, and it only seems that that number will go down. It seems that as long as the seat-holding parties are led by old white men that many Canadians feel increasingly disenfranchised with the system. Big surprise.

5. The proposed (and already approved) electoral reforms will resurface this election. Fixed elections, which are already supposed to be part of the Canadian electoral process, and the bill to increase the number of seats to reflect more accurate representation in BC, Alberta, and Ontario, will both be discussed, even insomuch as they both affect the outcome of this election. Most of the underrepresented areas lean Conservative, which seems to be why the bill was squashed. It seems that partisanship actually has taken precedence over democracy, and it will be interesting to see how this discussion evolves.

6. The fact that the Green Party may actually have a higher percentage of the popular vote than the Bloc, despite winning 50 fewer seats, will continue to encourage discussion of proportional representation. It is no secret that our current "first-past-the-post" system is almost irreconcilably flawed, especially with a party like the Bloc securing a significant portion of a regional vote. It's not likely anything will change, but the movement will be stronger than ever.

7. This election's results will cause the change of the leader of at least one party. My vote is on Jack Layton resigning his leadership, with the NDP looking forward by bringing in a younger, more vibrant figure to lead them ahead.

8. We will hear the names of former Prime Ministers Alexander Mackenzie (1873-1878), Arthur Meighen (1920s), and Joe Clark (1979) repeatedly from the media, as they will look for different angles to portray in this election. Mackenzie was the beneficiary of John A. Macdonald's Pacific Scandal, Meighen was involved in the King-Byng Constitutional Crisis of 1925-6, and Clark's Conservative minority government was toppled by the other parties. I don't know if any of the comparisons fully work, but they will be used liberally in observing the current government.

9. The Greens will not get a seat. They'll come close, but I don't think they'll break through.

10. At least one of my predictions will be incorrect. (I'm guaranteed to get this one right, because even if my other predictions are all correct, this one wouldn't be. I'm brilliant.)

So, there you have it. Despite my general fatigue with the malaise of partisan politics, I'm still interested to see what will transpire over the next five weeks, and I'm sure I'll be coming back to this topic on occasion, even as I sort out how to vote in my own constituency. I'm looking forward to the discussion, at least, and I hope that you're willing to join me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Black is the new pop

"Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today"
- Rebecca Black, "Friday"

With 16 million hits and counting in the past week, 13-year-old Rebecca Black is arguably the biggest internet sensation in the two-decade history of the world wide web. Videos go viral all the time, but this is an unprecedented level of fame; even Bieber fever did not spread this far and fast. While much of the discussion about this "hit" has focused on a superficial evaluation of the song's listenability, I think there are several different issues that arise from Black's meteoric rise to public consciousness. But before examining the cultural ramifications of "Friday", we need to look at the song and video on its own merits.
"Friday" is unashamedly a saccharine pop song; it has a catchy chorus, simple lyrics, and an unfortunately unforgettable pop hook. I suspect that the music was composed independently of the lyrics, because although the beat is undeniably (and not dissimilar to Bieber's "Baby"), the lyrics are absolutely terrible, even for a pop song. It's a stream of consciousness, Facebook-status-style line of lyricism befitting a 13-year-old's journey through a day. The main conflict Black has is whether she will sit in the front or back seat of her friend's car, which is quickly overtaken by a focus on "partyin'" and "fun fun fun fun", as well as an explication of the weekly calendar fit for six-year-olds. The video fares poorly as well, as it primarily features Black attempting to engage in said "partyin'" in what appears to be a group of like-minded pre-teenage peers. Aside from a somewhat engaging introduction that includes a famous song lyric for each day of the week (ie. "Friday I'm in love) and a mid-video break for a stop-motion sketch Rebecca singing along to the lyrics quoted earlier, the video is all about Rebecca and her frie-e-ends. Even for a tween's developing sensibilities, it seems intellectually demeaning. There is little of substance in either the song or video, other than its exponentially increasing infamy.
Now to the interesting part: the issues raised by Black's rise. There is the obvious growth of the tween market in the past decade and the fact that this video is entirely pointed at that demographic. The popularity of Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Hannah Montana, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber, among others, have demonstrated the sheer buying power of this demographic, but it seems like Black's attempt marks a new level somehow. I was reminded of the discussion which originated in Douglas Rushkoff's eerily prescient documentary "The Merchants of Cool", which aired closer to the beginning of the tween craze. Rushkoff's explanations of "cool hunting", the "mook", the "midriff", and the "giant feedback loop" of mega-corporation-driven entertainment ring truer now than a decade ago, and the program provides a necessary guide to navigating the new realities of corporate consumerism. Of course, Rushkoff was not able to predict the shift in viral internet culture, which is another significant issue that is raised in Black's rise. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and the like have now become the foreground for artists to enter the market and maintain their presence. Even ten years ago, "Friday" could have remained in the realm of nostalgic home videos created at a sugar-fueled slumber party and revealed years later in an embarassing montage at a wedding; now, these are the kinds of videos that anyone with an internet connection can access.
I find that perhaps the most interesting issue that is raised lies within the identity of the agency behind producing Black's song and video, Ark Music Factory. A cursory glance reveals that Ark is almost entirely devoted to developing tween talents (or singers whose largest market is tweens), and that their entire mission is to take girls with a dream of stardom to the next level. Black's parents seemingly paid a lot of money to help their little girl's vision become reality, and Ark is all to happy to reap the benefit. Ark seems to have provided a good service; the song, although as aforementioned is lyrically unbearable, is catchy, and the video, despite its inherent flaws, compares to other similar entries in the pop industry. Ultimately, Ark wants to help expose their artists to the world, both for the artists' sakes and for their own; the unfortunate thing for Black is that it does not matter if it is positive or negative press. Black seems to be a very poised, mature, talented teenager, but even Autotune cannot disguise some of the areas of growth that she needs to pursue in order to walk the path of a popstar. But it seems that rather than mentoring Black into a place where she could enter the market with more talent, Ark was more concerned with producing a video that had the possibility of generating revenue. Black seems to be taking the negative reviews well, but it is hard to imagine that any 13-year-old's psyche could handle the kind of attention that has been given to her, whether positive or negative. Unfortunately, it seems that Black's infamy and Ark's success in exploiting her will only continue to encourage similar agencies to pursue their operations all the more vigorously, to the detriment of kids with stars in their eyes and money in their parents' bank accounts. Black's foray into pop may represent a future in which artists rise and fall based on the fate of a tweet, and whether we like it or not, more artists like her will come. Hopefully they will contain some slightly more intellectually challenging lyrics.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A substitute teacher's lament

I have been fortunate enough to have almost a full week of employment as a Social Studies teacher this week. I have enjoyed being at the same school, developing relationships with students and other staff, and teaching in my subject areas. It has been so fulfilling to actually get to expound on material with which I am familiar and about which I am passionate, such as Canada's involvement in WWII. (Today's lesson was about the Conscription Crisis of 1942. So good.) But as much as I have been revelling in my reclaimed vocation, I have struggled with the temporary nature of my experience and the restrictions therein. I am in someone else's environment with someone else's guidelines, expectations, restrictions, and assignments, and though I may try to develop a sense of individuality in what I am doing each day, there is a limitation to how much of "Mr. Turner" I can be in another teacher's classroom. So much of teaching is based in relationship and continuity, and they are almost impossible to achieve as a substitute. So the bottom line is that, as much as I do enjoy some of the perks of not teaching (not working on Sundays, not having piles of grading, not having to function in the morning), I would gladly take on a teaching job again. It really does not feel like a whimsical wish or something I'd like to do if I could; it feels like a crucial part of my identity and being to be a teacher. I struggle with the idea of not teaching in the fall, because it seems like I need to be teaching to be fulfilled. It may not be in a typical classroom or school environment, but I really feel the need to teach. I am very glad that I know that I'm good at what I'm trained to do, and that I do love it; I can only hope that someone else recognizes my ability and desire and helps make my dreams a reality by realizing how awesome I am.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Creative constipation

Last week, I watched a documentary on TLC about Dominique, a 600-pound woman and her struggle to lose weight in order to receive necessary life-saving weight reduction surgery. She was only forty years old, and she had grown to her obese size through eating four thousand calories a day throughout much of her adult life. She thought she could solve her problems by not eating, so she reduced her food intake to one small meal a day. But in doing so, she created a different problem: she all but eliminated her metabolism, had very little movement of bodily fluids and solids, and her body was not able to process the calories and lose weight despite the fact that she was eating only 20% of her daily caloric intake. I'm not sure how her story ended, but it's not required to understand the way in which her story applies to what I have been reflecting on lately. Stay with me now: I think that Dominique's experience is similar to what happens to people creatively sometimes. For much of the past year, I have felt that my creative metabolism has slowed to a crawl, and now I often feel "creatively constipated". Allow me to explain.
Whatever our chosen vocation or circumstance, I believe that creativity and generatively must necessarily be part of our experience. It may come through our profession, through our relationships, through our hobbies and activities, through our entertainment, or even through creative management of our necessary tasks and "to-do" lists, but we need to have some outlet for creativity. Sometimes, we are able to manage this well and have a healthy level of creativity; sometimes, we gorge ourselves and end up being unhealthily creatively obese either because we haven't exercised our creatively well or because we're consuming too much "junk". (My apologies if the metaphor seems somewhat laborious or overextended, but please bear with it.) The bottom line for me is that, when we are not exercising our creative nature in a healthy fulfilling manner, our creative metabolism suffers, and we struggle with our creative health. My metabolism is off this year, and although I feel like I have had instances of healthy behaviour, I don't feel well in the creative sense. I think a large part of my struggle has been in the lack of engagement in activities in which I can have vision, as well as the overwhelming nature of the emotionally draining nature of my ongoing circumstances. I have struggled in having vision for my personal growth, and substitute teaching is (despite what Holly Holliday and Glee might assert) primarily stultifyingly mind-numbing. As a result, I have not been able to engage creatively in my vocation or relationships as I had hoped I would. So, what's the answer - perhaps a metaphorical laxative or enema? I'm not sure I want to expound on what that might look like, but I know that part of the process will be for me to pursue solutions that allow me to live, work, and play in a creative environment. I just need to figure out what that might look like in real life - and that might just take some creativity. And I do apologize for those of you who engage creatively through visualization, although I do take some enjoyment in your suffering.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Love Wins?

It's official: the end of the world has begun, and Rob Bell has been revealed as the Anti-Christ. Or so say members of the Gospel Coalition (not in so many words), who have been very vocal about their opinions of Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins, whether they had read it or not.

As the book is being released today, more reviews have been posted, and though there is a mix of opinion among the larger Christian Evangelical community, there is an overwhelmingly vitriolic and even mean-spirited response from the contingent led by Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Driscoll, et al.

Their response, in essence, questions Bell's theological stance in the book, which is intended to be a thought-provoking dialogue on how the generally accepted view of Hell fits in with the character of Christ, and accuses Bell of universalism and heresy. Christianity Today has some great theological resources, including a explication of perspectives on Hell including universalism and annihilationism, but I have found that it is interesting that most of the dialogue seems to have focused on theology and doctrine when this issue is more ideological than doctrinal.

I'm not sure how many of the talking heads involved would acknowledge this fact, but allow me to explain. Bell's theology is not necessarily questionable, but he is content to remain outside the boundaries of traditionally conservative evangelicalism. Throughout his time as a leader in the North American evangelical church (the past decade or so), Bell has continually asked questions that few are willing to ask in ways that few are willing to approach.

He has, on occasion, in my opinion, pushed some limits that I would question his intent in pushing, but for the most part, I find Bell to be an informed, clear, non-conformist thinker who presents interesting arguments in a fresh way. He is not a dogmatist, theologian, or doctrinal expert, and as far as I can tell, he has never presented himself as such; his heart seems to be more pastoral, and he is attempting to contribute to a conversation.

What Bell (again) seems to be coming up against is a school of thought that does not allow for that conversation to happen. To oversimplify it (as I think Brian McLaren occasionally does) by labeling it "modern vs. post-modern" is perhaps a tad rash, but there are certainly elements of that schism in this attack against Bell. I think a more appropriate ideological divide is the difference between knowledge and relationship. Bell's intent is to guide readers pastorally through an issue, not to deliver a theological treatise; the Gospel Coalition is not willing to engage in that pastoral relationship, but are treating Bell as if this is a theological text in isolation from relationship.

It seems that this divide speaks more to a different way of looking at faith than it does core doctrine or scriptural interpretation. Bell, it seems, would point to Jesus as the Word of God; the GC would point to the "word of God" as the Bible. The problem that I see is that the conversation cannot be resolved as long as the GC are approaching it from their perspective.

Take, for example, Kevin DeYoung's comprehensive review. I have not read the entire review, not having yet read the book, but I have read DeYoung's explanation of his opinion on the emerging church, Why We're Not Emergent. Written within what appears to be a reasonably composed introduction in which DeYoung works through some of the possible arguments and discussion points (including some to which I have alluded) is this allegation: "The emerging church is not an evangelistic strategy. It is the last rung for evangelicals falling off the ladder into liberalism or unbelief."

Apparently, he has worked through it and is able to authoritatively state the true nature of the emergent church; putting aside the ridiculously callous nature of this statement, never mind that Bell has seldom identified himself as emergent, or even that what DeYoung perceives as emergent is nebulous and tenuous at best. DeYoung is emblematic of a movement to "reclaim the gospel", to return to the roots of scripture, and to eradicate false teaching; what the GC fails to account for is that there can be different theological interpretations that can be equally valid, and for their own ideological prejudices.

It saddens me that this has become a theological issue, but it has merely revealed the underlying ideological tension that pre-dated this mess. It might be too much to hope that there could be a resolution between Bell and the GC, but I think this has inspired me to work through continuing to be open with my community about how I work through my theological and ideological beliefs.

I am looking forward to reading the book (though I will likely wait for the paperback) and processing what Bell actually says. I am entirely prepared for either the possibility that I will find his thoughts compelling, or that I may disagree with him and find his conclusions suspect; either way, I am willing to engage in the dialogue with both "sides" and to work through it in my community. In that way, I think that love will win where debate fails.

Monday, March 07, 2011

"Sick"-necdoche

As many of you are aware, I was sick last week. I don't know the cause of my affliction, but I do know that whatever it was took me down hard. It was mainly sinus and throat stuff, but I was out of commission for the full week. Most days, all I could really do was wake up and watch TV or movies; I wanted to do a lot more, but I was limited by my circumstances. I was frustrated particularly in the final two or three days, when I felt a lot better but I was still limited by my weakened body. So in the wake of my week of illness, I was feeling agitated last night; I knew that I would have to take some time this week to regroup and get some things done, but I wasn't sure how that would happen. Then it hit me: this week of illness was a synecdoche for this year of my life (a synecdoche being a metaphor in which, in one manifestation, a part represents the whole); as soon as that clicked, it all made sense as to why I was feeling agitated. This has been a difficult year for me, and my journey into this year started almost one year ago. I have been unemployed, and I've had to work through what it means to be limited by my circumstances. I came into this year not knowing why I needed time to recuperate, but knowing that I needed time to heal and work through some stuff. Much like my recent illness, I couldn't fix it or skip it; I have had to go through these life experiences for a purpose, and I don't always understand the why, how, or what is happening. And I know I'm starting to get to the point when I'm antsy to get back into "regular" life, even though I know I still have some more recuperating to do before I can be back at full speed. The funny thing is that I'm not concerned about money or provision in this; it's more about being somewhere meaningful and significant than about earning or wages. So I'm still waiting, wondering, working through what this looks like, and processing what it means to "get better". Just don't ask me what the next step is; I don't have a clue.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A memoir of intelligence

Over the past month, I have been thinking about thinking - the human brain, to be more precise, and particularly how it works (and doesn't). My recent spurt of thought has been inspired primarily by Daniel Tammet, a British savant who is the subject of a documentary entitled "The Boy With The Incredible Brain" (find the first clip embedded at the end of this post), as well as an autobiography called Born On A Blue Day. Daniel has many amazing skills and abilities, including number memory, linguistic acquisition, and synesthaesia (the ability to see numbers and/or words as colours and/or shapes), and his truly unique skill is that he can convey his awareness of his abilities and live independently, which is not common to many savants. I thoroughly encourage you to both watch and read his story, as it is incredible. I also recently read Mark Haddon's book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which is told from the perspective of a 15-year-old autistic savant named Christopher, which further made me think about the way we think and how what is considered "normal" really isn't. I'm not an expert on autism, so I don't want to spend a lot of time working through those texts, except to say that I found them very enlightening, I'd recommend them to anyone wanting to know how autistic people see the world, and to use them as a preface to the heart of this post. That is, how I remember seeing the world differently as a child.
I always knew I was intelligent, but it was not just that I could do well in school. My first word was "Why"?, and I was reading by age 3. I was in Kindergarten by age 4, and I've been reminded that my teacher kept me occupied through having me read the books to my classmates. Unfortunately, I was not always "street smart", and my intellectual prowess did not often translate into social acuity; rather, I often became the target of bullies, and sometimes my haughtiness and precociousness, when combined with my intellect, invited antagonism toward me. I knew that I was seeing things differently than most of my classmates and friends, and occasionally I succumbed to interpreting that difference in an elitist mindset due to the value system that we place on our education system. By the time I was in Grade 5, I had the vocabulary and spelling skills of a first-year university student; I was reading complex books and thoroughly enjoying the thematic nuances of shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation. Although I was in a class of academically advanced students starting in Grade 5, it wasn't until I was in Grade 8 that I started to work through my elitism and be able to connect with my peers; I had been convinced that I didn't have anything in common with them, so I chose not to associate with them. Then something clicked, and I started applying my talents to different areas of interest, with two in particular: sports and music. Sports provided a vast array of data to assimilate, comprehend, and apply, as well as providing a place of emotional catharsis; music provided a similarly complex network of connections to understand, and I could enjoy a lot of it along the way. Both of these passions also were helped by the fact that they tapped into my primary areas of intelligence: verbal/linguistic; logico-mathematical; and musical. I went through high school and university never really encountering something I couldn't comprehend; my challenges came primarily through expanding myself artistically (drama and music) and interpersonally in group involvement and (almost inevitably) leadership. I could probably go on, but I feel like I've made the point: I grew up differently because of my intelligence, and a lot of things around me didn't make sense to me. I could easily remember phone numbers, so I rarely scrounged for paper to write things down; I never had to have spell-check ready on my computer because I knew 99% of the words; I could freely and easily consult my ever-growing mental rolodex of actors to place a face, even if I had never seen the movie. My skills alienated some people, fascinated others, and irritated many (although that could have been the delivery, too). The fact is that I have grown up with a different perspective due to my intellect. As it turns out, many of the people that have become my best friends share similarly high intellectual abilities, which I have realized is often due to shared interests. I have considered applying to join MENSA several times, but I just haven't gotten around to it, mainly because I have a community that features many people with above-average intelligence; maybe I'll try for real soon, just to do it. I know there's a lot more that I could (and perhaps someday will) unpack in this abbreviated observational memoir, but I think this account will serve for now. Thanks for listening to my ramblings, and enjoy the video.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Take five years of...

I was listening to the Pirate Radio soundtrack a few weeks ago, and a thought struck me: if I could choose only five consecutive years of music to which to listen, which years would I pick? My immediate thought (seeing as music from 1966-67 was the inspiration for my hypothetical query) was the "best" answer would be 1966-1970: the best of the Beatles, the Stones, Pet Sounds, the Who, the Woodstock generation, Cosmo's Factory, etc. There are, of course, other arguments to be made, depending on your generation: 1976-1981 might be the key for punk aficionados; or perhaps somewhere in the 1987-1993 era to get a wide variety of genres, including metal, glam rock, hip-hop, indie, and grunge. I think my answer, which is a little bit of a cheat, would be November 1998 to November 2003. I'd get both of U2's "Best Of" albums, 1980-1990 and 1990-2000, as well as All That You Can't Leave Behind, early Coldplay, some rockin' Collective Soul, early Muse and Thrice, Project 86's Drawing Black Lines, Moby's Play, some Johnny Cash, Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, plus a lot of guilty favourites from my latter years of high school.
Then I started wondering how I would apply my hypothetical dilemma to other spheres of media: movies, TV, and video games. Here's what I came up with as some of the best possible answers.

Movies: 1939-43 (The Golden Age) - Wizard of Oz, Fantasia, Citizen Kane, Casablanca; 1967-71 - The Graduate, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and a host of other edgy auteur pics; 1977-1981 - for fantasy/sci-fi geeks, you get Star Wars, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, plus there are some other great pics in that period (Apocalypse Now). I think my answer, oddly enough, might be 2006-2010. I know that seems shortsighted, but a lot of my favourite movies come from the past five years.

TV: this one is a little tougher in some ways; even though TV shows last longer, their primes seem seldom to overlap. I went about it by thinking of which shows I would find it most difficult to live without, and worked from there. I think I've decided on 2002-2006, which gives me all of Arrested Development, a significant portion of Corner Gas, Firefly, some Futurama, some great seasons of Survivor, a good chunk of The Shield, and both Joe Schmo Shows for good measure.

Video Games: I've decided to not go the cheater's route on this one, because I could claim that Virtual Console titles re-released count. I'm not for the purpose of my argument. So do I go for the classic NES era, 1987-1991? Probably not. I think I have to include Ocarina of Time (1998), and working from there I'd go backward to feature the best of the SNES, Genesis, and N64. 1994-1998 includes Super Metroid, all three Donkey Kong Country games, Super Mario World 2, Super Mario RPG, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye 007, and even Wario's Woods for the NES. It's the time that I most often return to in my retro game playing, so that's what I'd choose.

Now, of course, I put the question to you. Choose any of those fields, and try to decide which five year span you would pick. State your case!

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