Friday, February 27, 2009

The Neighbourhood Parade Project

For those of you who don't know, this is a taste of the Kensington Parade that takes place every year. This is the inspiration for the Neighbourhood Diaries opening parade. I haven't told Harbourfront yet, but I envision 20-30 people from each Toronto neighbourhood that's willing, perhaps the Toronto Island community with the Shadowland Theatre, Dufferin Grove, Trinity Bellwods, Parkdale, Riverdale, Cabbagetown, The Annex - I think that totals about 200. We need a volunteer project leader for this and a sponsor for material costs.

DAY ONE: Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The first Neighbourhood Diaries Workshop is on Wednesday, March 18 2009 - 6:30 to 8:30pm. 15 young hopefuls, approximately 10 years of age and 15 writers/mentors at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Strategic Innovation Lab on the 6th floor. (Thank you to Lenore Richards, a supporter and friend.) Juice and cookies are free. My hope is simply to enable an enjoyable and fruitful experience, observe and learn. My wife has offered to assemble the children and now I need to find the writers.

Marc Sullivan, designer extraordinaire, has offered to participate. I hope to begin developing the 'face' of Neighbourhood Diaries with he, Carolyn White and with the ever-vigilant Gillian Lind to keep my honest. Marc has offered up this great example of visualization as a possibility - very interesting.

Patrick Keenan sent this suggestion over as a result of my dissatisfaction with the the way technology tries to deal with dialogue. Unfortunately it is called DEBATEGRAPH. Very interesting though. I continue to try to imagine how the active community will be aware of itself.

Thanks to the input of others I have begun to reflect on the obvious, writing is essential to plays, songwriting, puppet shows, Shakespeare, newspapers, animations, documentaries, television, as well as books. Is my face red? Each of these can be a different dimension of Neighbourhood Diaries. While I know for a fact that some of the children are quite content to write for writing sake, they will all be quite engaged by each or any of these forms. My first thought is, to isolate each vehicle and find someone to champion the project type if there is a interest. that said, it is clear to me that there are other organizations that already have initiatives that mentor children and I would be interested in any of these if you know of them. For example, Robin Sokolowski at the Canadian Playwright association has done great work with children for several years now.

Does anyone know how to get in touch with Sean Cullen?

Is there something wrong with our math?

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Watch this video at the Rocky Mountain News. Clearly, this was more than a business idea (and no apologies are necessary).

It seems to me all of us have put too much emphasis on financial and physical capital. Where did our attention to social capital go? In the words of Robert Putnam "By 'social capital', I mean features of social life--networks, norms, and trust--that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives." Somewhere along the line we lost sight of the first piece of the capital in the equation.

social capital + (financial capital + physical capital) = value

The financial crisis has become a social crisis because the latter is distinct and contingent on the former. I'm not proposing socialism, I am just suggesting that social capital is worthy of being part of the real value equation. Economists would like to interpret jobs as a measure of 'the social', when if fact 'the social' should be some kind of measure of the job. For example, I would like to think that writing is an important social act, first and foremost.

So if the numbers don't make a business, if I can't get a bigger car, if the newspaper doesn't get enough advertisers because of an economic downturn, if inflation makes premium education inaccessible, if you can't pay me..., then the idea is by definition "of too little value", it fails and another good thing comes to an end.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuba's rock

The concert is a half an hour away and the children are in chaos in their makeshift playground. Parents are trying to accommodate the anxious children when a man with a tuba appears out of nowhere with a stool in his hand and he proceeds to position himself at the top of a low rise in the hallway. The children are fluttering at his feet like butterflies on a branch as he readies himself. My 4-year-old son is perched on my shoulders, he is the head and I am his legs, and I walk toward the musician in anticipation as he puts his lips up to this gleaming monster. Deep uncommon tones, soft and deliberate caresses, each one begins to fill the expansiveness of the space as if the rooftop is beginning to breathe with each new note. As he plays I can feel the sounds on my chest and the vibrations are resonating as if from the inside of my heart out into the room. Instantly I think of my son and I look up at the wonderment on his face. I knew he could feel what I could feel, it was the first time for both of us. I thought, this is what it is to be alive my son and I cried in the lobby of Roy Thompson Hall.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Neighbourhood diaries in summary

Well, this is how things will look from 30,000 feet. We will be prototyping the mentoring sessions to begin the process with writers and children. Our intention will be to document these sessions using a video camera. The participants will be asked to comment on their experience on the facebook site. Neighbourhood diaries/facebook will capture the writer's comments for the purposes of improving the experience and recruiting other interested participants. Over the following months we will be addressing the development of the event, the exhibit and the experience. Of course fund raising will begin as soon as we have some material to share from the prototype sessions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cute baby

Watch this video at your own risk. If you begin to feel viewing this will cause you permanent psychological damage I have included the full transcript below.

Oah. Oah.
Come heeeere.
Stand up again.
Yeaaaaah. (adjustment for safety)
Big boy.
Heeee’s walking.
Do it again.
Hehehe. Getting’ tired huh?
You can do it.
Yeaaaah. Come heeere.
Look at you.
Oh that’s a most efficient way of getting here.
Come here (unintelligible)
Come on. Come on big boy.
Yaaaaah. So exciiiiting.
Yeeees. (clapping)
That’s Camilo walking for the first time by himself.
It is June 29th, 2008.
He’ll be 14 months old next week. Mhm.
Ooooh. What a big guy.
You’re makin’ us proud.
Whoop. (adjustment for safety)
He stands up by himself.
Good boy.
Your so gooood.
That’s exciting. (mother hugs and kisses him)
Hmmmmmh. (check out the mother’s toes)
You got bit by the bug Camilo. Now you’re gonna wanna walk all the time. We’re gonna have to be on guard.
Hey smiley guy. You gonna walk over here.
Come on let’s walk.
Oh ya. Heheheh.

I count 51 phrases/sounds of encouragement give or take a few, 2 actions of care and safety, 1 overt display of physical affection and 1 indication of empathy over the course of 4 minutes and 5 seconds.

Parenting aside, here’s my point. When was the last time someone encouraged you? When was the last time you encouraged someone else? Why is this thought so unfamiliar and so uncomfortable? For those of you who are still pondering these questions, may I suggest that you make a point of encouraging one person, once-a-day. For those of you who already do, my hope would be that your words of encouragement sound nothing like this baby’s father.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Qwerty Toronto 3.0

OK, so I think this is pretty close now. As I mentioned before I am trying to use existing applications to accomplish a variety of things. I wish this was easier but is it appears that different circumstances require different web inventions. If anyone has a way to return to the world of simple, easy and effective let me know.

Do schools kill creativity?

I urge you to watch this video of Sir Kenneth Robinson at TED. I think you'll find his delivery engaging and his observations rather inspiring.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Qwerty Toronto 2.0

Here's the revised version of the web structure. The red lines signify access to members only. (My son has emailed one of his favourite writers, comedian Sean Cullen, asking him to participate) thanks for the support Lucas. Lucas' blog is called Lucas'Blog and his chosen theme is EVERYTHING.

Note: IDEA HOUSE - the secure blogging for kid's component. I see this as the standard blogging tools with addition of a closed community feature. Does anyone know how to do this? is being approached to be the online publishing partner. I think this will be the most expedient way of ensuring the delivery of a book in time for the event.

Am I missing anything?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Internet thoughts

I am not an information architect but I have tried to assemble the internet requirements for Neighbourhood Diaries. is the umbrella for the public-facing information and activities. It will also serve as the not-for-profit company and the name of the final location. is the development reservoir for ideas, strategic alliance and sponsorship possibilities. This will be limited access for people who are invited to the core development group. There is no obligation beyond positivity and anything else you can bring to the project when you feel it is appropriate.

Neighbourhood Diaries will accumulate writers and other friends who wish to volunteer and it will be used for interim initiatives such as prototype dates and any future arrangements with the Toronto Board of Education students.

Publishing will be online (hopefully). easy and on demand.

My kids yearn for fellow bloggers with similar interests. This will have to be a secure platform of some sort. Does anyone know how this could be done?

Any other thoughts, suggestions just comment.


Monday, February 2, 2009

One laptop per child

What if we create a relationship with One Laptop per child? When the location is up and running I would like to have the flexibility to offer laptop borrowing to any child who shows an interest in writing but does not have a computer. They are $200. US each. (Of course a plentiful supply of paper and pencils will be in the cupboard too.)

I also like Lenore Richards at Ontario College of Art and Design may be able to help us get to Bob Young to ask for support.(thanks Michael) The idea of publishing on demand makes a lot of sense. At least in the short-term.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Friday's Meeting

Thank you for attending everyone.

I would like to invite each of you to participate on this site. Please comment on this post if you have anything from the meeting you would like to share. In the future feel free to post if there is a need to iron out a detail or present an important idea.

All of you heard Jake say it, "I would consider buying a building for the school."

Regarding Damian's call for a name - I'm thinking of calling the not-for-profit company QWERTY TORONTO (My 10 year old son laughed at qwerty, then I showed him what it meant and he laughed again - a good sign I think). Amazingly the domain was available. I'm going to begin planning the prototype for the writing tutoring session on Damian's suggestion.

Robert - there is a possibility we will need to guide the writers in their role as mentors and offer constructive support when the need arises.

Kelly - Gillian, Carolyn and I will work toward a description of the event at Harbourfront and the interim events. Once I establish a date and place for the 'prototype' I will let everyone know. Your assistance would be appreciated. I would like to see this blog as an ongoing gathering place for people who are open to contributing in any way possible.

Here's an interesting video I found on the 826 site.

I have linked the 826 sites and the TED Talks video of Dave Eggers. Have a look, they're very inspiring. I should reiterate, I do not feel that the success of our project is contingent on being part of the 826 concept, that said, clearly we recognize the value of learning from their experiences. I contacted them last year and they were extremely generous with their guidance. I will remain in contact them and it is my intention to get Dave Eggers up here for our opening.

I will keep you informed as things develop.