Ru (//) Cercle -a magical night around a campfire

Sometimes life throws up these little idiosyncrasies, these serendipitous moments that suggest there is more to this world than what we can see, that we are all performers on God’s stage.

Tonight I went to a fringe show. The last time I saw tonight’s performer was roughly a fortnight ago when he and I were in the audience of a poet who was, in turn, in the audience tonight. I’m a big fan of both of these people but I never expected to see the other when I arrived at each venue – I only expected to see (or even know) the performer.

There’s more to this. Tonight’s performer was Zal, an ex-student of mine, operating under the pseudonym Ru (his musical moniker). When I arrived at the show I bumped into another ex-student who had also come to see him. This ex-student was Chloe, the girl (young lady) who designed the cover of my poetry anthology. It was at the launch of this book that the three of us were last in the same place at the same time – I read some verse, Chloe explained her design and process, and Zal performed during the intermission. It’s like we’ve come full circle (or Cercle in this case).

Zal went by his own name then. He was part of a close knit trio named Kids With Wolves and their music was phenomenal; each time I heard them play I would walk away uplifted and inspired to write. Creative differences saw the band split and two of them formed The Woods but they eventually dissolved too and Zal reinvented himself under the stage name Ru.

I think I’ve been to seven of his gigs now, tonight’s fringe show included. I wasn’t sure, initially, if I would be able to see him perform this time around but I’m so glad that I managed to go because tonight’s performance was vastly different to all I’ve seen him do before. I’m hoping, in my description of what I witnessed tonight, my lack of musical knowledge doesn’t take away from the quality of the event.

Prior to the final song, Zal imparted some of his world view on the audience. He reminded us that while we are chasing our dreams all those around us are also chasing theirs and we should not seek to better ourselves at their expense, rather we should bring them up with us. Whether he did it intentionally or not (and I’m thinking he did), his stage design reflected his ideals. Traditional band set ups involve the musicians standing at the front of the venue with the audience before them while on stage the band members form a visible hierarchy with those deemed more important (e.g. the lead singer) closest to the front of stage.  Tonight’s set-up was far more intimate and far more equitable. In the middle of the room was a fake fire and the four performers stood around this with the audience circling them. No one had a prominent position; it was Zal’s show but all of the musicians had equal footing in the eyes of those in attendance.

With regards to those musicians, Wayan “Billy” Biliondana played the double bass. Alongside Zal’s guitar, this was the main source of music for the evening (with shakers coming out late in the set). Billy also added his vocals to a couple of songs and, when he did so, it added another dimension to them that wasn’t present in the other pieces. This isn’t a slant on those songs (or the vocalists), merely an observation and a comment on his deep voice. Speaking of vocalists, Anikka Moses seemed to be loving life and was a joy to watch. Anikka looked genuinely excited not just to be there but to sing each line, even for the occasions where she had no lyrics, per se, and was just crooning. She would also channel the other musicians, often staring at them intently as she was harmonising with their voice or instrument. Laura Strobech, the other vocalist, was equally amazing. At times her singing reminded me of Kate Miller-Heidke, at other times she was so much like a Disney princess I wouldn’t have been surprised if cartoon birds landed on her shoulders, then there were other times when her voice was unlike anything I’d heard before.

Then there was Zal: guitar-playing, song-singing, story-telling, soul-sharing Zal. The songs we heard were his babies, brought to life by a variety of experiences that we are blessed to experience a fragment of. Musically he is part Newton Faulkner, part Paul Simon and all Zal.

Tonight’s gig was the end of a journey but Zal is a man of the earth and there are many more roads to walk – I look forward to seeing where his music takes him next.

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PS – there was a weird part during the performance tonight where the fire alarm started sounding for no reason and we had to wait for the State Theatre staff to confirm it was a false alarm before the show could go on. Anyway, while we were waiting Laura gave us this classic joke:

  1. How do you titillate and ocelot?
  2. Oscillate its titalot.

I hate Harry Potter

LOL jk (rowling)

 

But I did. When I first read The Philosopher’s Stone I couldn’t suspend reality enough to enjoy it. Specifically, I couldn’t suspend the reality that I was an adult reading a book that was written for children. The first Harry Potter book was written for adolescents and, as such, is a little simplistic. I was also late to the party. I was reading it based on the numerous recommendations that had come from kids and adults alike and, to me, it failed to live up to the hype. I thought the concept was cool and I liked the inclusion of mythological creatures but I was bored by the writing style.

I wish now that I’d listened to people’s suggestions to read The Chamber of Secrets despite my first impressions. If I had picked up the second book then I would have realised my hesitations were unfounded earlier and I could have been swept up in the euphoria of each new book/movie release. Instead, I waited until I was in my late 30s and have had to settle for the diminished fanfare that escorted the release of the scripts of The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Ultimately, it was daughter who got me to give Harry Potter a second chance. She’s an avid reader but, at seven years of age, most of the books written for her year level don’t offer enough of a challenge so I gave her my old copy of The Philosopher’s Stone. I’d ask questions after each chapter to see if she was grasping what was happening (while I skim read chapter summaries online to remind myself what happened). When she finished the book we watched the movie – which got her younger brother hooked. Well, that and the Lego Harry Potter games on the Playstation. From there our house became a second Hogwarts with witches and wizards becoming key characters of their role playing games.

I knew that my daughter would want to continue reading the series so I picked up The Chamber of Secrets and began reading so we could continue to bond over the events therein. Then, when I finished that book I went out and bought the next one and the next one and the next one and so on. I was hooked. More than that, I am overjoyed by the fact my daughter is hooked too. Thus far she’s read the first four books but we’ve asked her to hold off on the next one until the next school holidays. As a family, we’ve also watched the first five films – I’m sure we’ll see the others soon.

What makes the books so engaging? Why am I excited to have my kids engaged in that world? There are a number of reasons. Here are three of them:

 

  1. Girl power

The protagonist, his best mate, the headmaster, the tormenting teacher, the nurturing gameskeeper, the villain and a slew of other important characters are all male but it is the supporting cast of females that steal the show.

  • Minerva McGonagall is a sass queen and a total bad-ass while also being a fair and nurturing mentor for the students at Hogwarts.
  • Hermione Granger is intelligent, fierce compassionate, independent yet loyal, and is possibly the only reason Harry and Ron ever lived long enough to graduate.
  • Luna Lovegood is kooky and off-beat but she is one of the most observant and empathetic characters in the whole series. Yes, she can often be tactless, but she is a loyal and true friend to Harry and his crew.
  • Bellatrix Lestrange is cruel and unpredictable. She is supremely talented, amazingly powerful and downright scary.
  • Ginny Weasley is a force to be reckoned with despite her age and stature. Like many women who grew up in a house full of brothers, she definitely knows how to take care of herself.
  • Nymphadora Tonks brings light and laughter into dark and dire situations. She is unconventional and damn proud of it.

In each of these women is something for my daughter to aspire to (yes, even in Bellatrix) and something for my son to respect, admire and love.

hermione

 

  1. Oh… What a world, what a world!

In Harry Potter’s London, both the muggle and the magical world are incredibly detailed. Such is the beauty of Rowling’s descriptions that it is easy to imagine what each setting looks like. But when I talk about ‘the world’ in the books I mean more than just the locations. The planning that has gone in to each book and the hidden details that hint at later events that you don’t notice until you return to the ones you’ve already read make the series that much more enjoyable. Here are some of my favourite foreshadowed moments and subtle clues:

  • Remus Lupin’s name is a dead giveaway. “Remus” comes from the Roman tale of Romulus and Remus who were raised by a wolf and “Lupin” comes from the Latin word for wolf. Other characters also have names that hint at their nature.
  • When Arthur Weasley takes Harry to the Ministry of Magic the secret entrance is a phone-booth in which Arthur dials 62442. If you were ‘lucky’ enough to grow up in a time when letters and numbers shared the same keys on your phone, you’d realise this spells out the word “MAGIC.”
  • The Vanishing Cabinet (so important late in the series) first appeared in The Chamber of Secrets, Sirius Black is first mentioned at the start of The Philosopher’s Stone, in the same book Snape’s mind-reading abilities (revealed in Book 5) are alluded to, and the relationships between Bill and Fleur, Hermione and Ron, and Harry and Ginny are all hinted at much earlier than you might first think.
  • The Marauder’s Map is signed by Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs who die in the exact reverse order of when their name is listed.
  • Shaun of the Dead fans know that the whole plot of the film is encapsulated in a conversation at the start of the movie. Well… The Goblet of Fire does this too. Harry’s made up prediction that “on Monday I will be in danger of, er,  burns… Tuesday, I’ll… erm… lose a treasured possession” coupled with Ron’s addition of “Why don’t you get stabbed in the back by someone you thought was a friend?” mirrors the events of the Tri-Wizard tournament.
  • 3s – 3 Deathly Hallows, 3 Unforgiveable Curses, 3 friends (Ron, Harry, Hermione), 3 bullies (Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle).
  • Harry is a horcux – hinted at by Dumbledore in The Chamber of Secrets and Trelawny in The Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • In The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Trelawney refused to sit at the table where she would be the thirteenth person sitting as she believed that the first person to stand up from that table would be cursed and die which eventually happens to both Sirius and Lupin.

But enough of the spoilers. The point is, Peter Pettigrew sized plot holes aside, J.K. Rowling is a genius.

snape

 

  1. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

I have always loved Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies; the tales of their heroes and the fantastic beasts they fought. As such, the Harry Potter universe is an absolute delight with all the allusions to these myths and creatures. There are a number of other parallels that can be drawn too – Voldemort is Hitler, Dementors are depression and the effect mental illness has on a person, Hermione and S.P.E.W. represent various human rights movements, muggles/wizards/goblins/house-elves/giants and so on represent different races, Hogwarts (with its bullies, exams, homework, tormenting teachers, nurturing teachers, relationships, etc.) represents the typical school experience.

Naturally, with all of this real-world reference, there is also real-world relevance. The Harry Potter series teaches us so much about what it means to be a good person and about what it takes to survive in this cruel world of ours. Don’t believe me? Check out this link.

voldemort

 

Maddie Godfrey’s body IS a poem

and her fringe show is a body of work that is definitely worth seeing. I first met Maddie on the 18th of March, 2015 – I know because I blogged about it and I’m only really mentioning that this is when we met because I want it known that I knew Maddie before she became an internationally acclaimed, kick-ass poet. And kick-ass she does. She’s won slams in Australia and the UK, performed at the Sydney Opera House, competed in New York and featured in multiple festivals.

 

Anyway, today is the first day since our first meeting that I’ve seen her perform live. If My Body Was a Poem is 45 mins of intimacy. Yes, she performs in short shorts and a bra and does these little sexy dances between poems but that’s not the sort of intimacy I’m talking about. Maddie invites you into her life, tells you the details of her birth, shares (with nostalgic reverie) aspects of her childhood and spills the secrets only her body knows.

 

She opens with some provocative dancing before welcoming the audience into her show, telling the story of how it came to be a seamlessly blending into the titular poem. If you’re happy to have this spoiled for you, a video of this particular poem can be found on her Facebook page. We clap at the end of this piece but it’s one of the few times we do. Often tonight I found myself so awestruck by the power of Maddie’s words that I literally forgot to applaud; I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor that by the time it was back in place it was no longer the right time to clap. At other times, clapping was just not appropriate. When I said earlier that Maddie spills the secrets only her body knows, she spills all the secrets and some of them are pretty dark.

 

Not that it’s all doom and gloom. There were genuine laughs from the audience. My favourite one of these (SPOILERS) was when the words “my dad” were uttered directly after some sultry dance moves and the juxtaposition of these two ideas brought nervous laughter out of everyone in attendance.

 

Beyond the words themselves, Maddie is an expert performer. Her shadow is deliberately cast onto the wall behind her in such a way that it becomes a persona of its own. It is a powerful image. She also uses silence in a manner that makes the absence of sound carry its own meaning and its own weight. As for the words themselves, they’re beautiful. I said after the show that you would hear an image so striking you wanted to commit it to memory but before you could do so there’s another line equally as poignant. I wanted to keep so much of what was said so I could share it with people but there was too much gold to try to hold on to.

 

When I caught up with Maddie afterwards I said I chose to come to opening night so I could see the hiccups. There were some, apparently, but I didn’t see them – only those involved in the production and rehearsal would’ve noticed the missing pieces or muddled parts. Honestly, even if Maddie did mess up, how could you be upset by it when one of the messages you’re meant to walk away with is the notion that we should embrace our imperfections? And not just our own. Maddie encourages her audience to acknowledge people’s body shapes as being like various flavours of ice cream; we all have different tastes. Likewise, she expresses ideas about sexuality and feminist ideologies and the need for encouragement beyond acceptance.

 

Anyway… this isn’t even what I wanted to write. I feel like I’ve undersold it. Maddie’s show was phenomenal and I don’t feel as if I’ve given it justice. What I want to say is you should see it. I don’t know what I paid for my ticket but I would’ve gladly paid double. It was worth it. I don’t care that the carpark’s sign said there were 500+ bays available and when I drove down to the boomgates they wouldn’t open because it was full. I don’t care that I walked past the venue and continued walking for several hundred metres before realising my mistake. I don’t care that the two main roads I use to exit Northbridge were closed and I struggled to find my way back to the freeway. I had a bloody good night and I wouldn’t change a thing because I got to see the magic that is Maddie.

 

Bravo, Miss Godfrey!

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Rogue One: a belated review

Growing up, one of the jobs I dreamed about having as an adult was a sports reporter because it combined two of my favourite things – sport and writing. Following close behind was the idea of being a video game or movie reviewer. Obviously that didn’t eventuate but it appears it may not be too late. Sanity is looking for reviewers.

 

If this fits into your interests, the link is HERE. Meanwhile, here’s the review I’m sending in – I’ll let you know their response when I get it.

 

swro

Rogue Wonderful

 

A long time ago in cinemas pretty much everywhere George Lucas introduced the world to a galaxy full of royalty, space knights, aliens and loveable rogues. In 2015, J.J. Abrams took us back to this world with (essentially) an updated version of the original Star Wars film. The success of The Force Awakens erased the memories of the much maligned prequels and paved the way for a slew of new Jedi movies. The first of these is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s marketed as a stand-alone film but there’s a ton of Easter eggs for the hardcore fans. If that’s not you, don’t worry – you could have zero knowledge of this universe and still have an enjoyable time.

 

Is it perfect? No.

 

The exposition is really busy. Honestly, you don’t want to arrive late to this movie. The opening sequences have you planet hopping at an incredible pace meeting all the key players so you’ll need to be concentrating. Comparatively, the middle of the film is quite slow (perfect for a toilet break).

 

Is it great? Yes.

 

Our protagonist, Jyn Erso, is an independent woman who don’t need no man. She follows a tradition that began with Ripley in Alien and has found a home in YA dystopias. In doing so, she also mirrors the role Daisy Ridley played in The Force Awakens. As the father of a daughter, I’m hoping powerful women that kick ass will continue to light up our screens. Anyway… back to the review. The action sequences are phenomenal. Air and land battles are brilliantly shot, really putting the audience in the moment, but it is the smaller scale fights featuring Darth Vader and Donnie Yen’s blind ninja that steal the show.

 

Obviously, because it’s set just before A New Hope, people who love the original films know how it’s going to end but that shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm. In fact, the denouement is the best part.

 

To borrow from Marvel, this is the “All New, All Different” Star Wars. It’s a war movie, it’s a heist movie; it’s space opera on a grand scale. Rogue One sets lofty targets but, unlike stormtroopers, it doesn’t miss.

 

By Ron Barton

 

Death be not proud

Things happen every day, both extraordinary and horrendous, to regular human beings. Despite this, western society has a fascination with the comings and goings of anyone the spotlight has hit – regardless of whether they have bathed in it or simply been grazed by it. Tabloid magazines dominate the newsstands, seemingly covering every movement celebrities make.

 

I hate it.

 

I hate that the media focus on the exploits of famous people when the very same thing happens to ordinary people on a regular basis. People outside of the spotlight fall seriously ill, have marriage breakdowns, have babies and fall in love. And, it’s not just that we report on these things that aren’t newsworthy – mainstream media follow these developments at the expense of real news. We are ignorant to so much that is happening in our world.

 

Beyond that, I feel sorry for the families of celebrities. Nobody deserves their childhood tainted by constant exposure and pestering; no parent should see their child dragged through dirt. I have less sympathy for the celebs themselves who, generally, enter the profession with an understanding of the industry but their loved ones have no choice in the matter.

 

Where am I going with this?

 

I hate the fascination with famous people when ordinary lives are enriched and destroyed on a daily basis but… this year appears to have taken more celebrity lives than any other in memory.

 

And so, for a short while at least, I’m happy to indulge in fandom.

 

I’ve seen social media posts boasting, “for those hating on 2016 I imagine _______ was worse,” with the blank replaced by years decimated by plague or warfare but I can’t empathise with these. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic towards the people affected by these catastrophic events but the posts themselves are not written with any emotion, they are just sarcastic digs aimed at people lamenting the deaths of those they admire. Likewise, there is another post that says “RIP every ordinary person who died this year” that is devoid of feeling.

 

Here’s the thing, when a non-famous person dies it impacts the people who have known them. With celebrities and the amount of exposure they receive people feel as if they do know them to an extent and so, when they die, it is natural to be upset. Compound that with the sheer number of famous people who have died this year and it’s easy to see why people are grieving.

 

It is easy to label these people as TV/movie stars, musicians and writers but that diminishes their impact. These people were role models, humanitarians, activists and icons. Many of them – through their lyrics, their novels and the various characters they have played – have helped shape the people we have become.

 

I direct you now to Perth performance poet Scott-Patrick Mitchell who said:

#deepthoughts // every person listed here has taught our society & culture an aspect of humanity that we have, collectively, resonated with. mourn them, yes, but more importantly learn from their abilities, carry that in your heart and use their strengths to make yourself stronger. they were here for a reason. so are you.

January 10
David Bowie, 69 Rock icon

January 14
Alan Rickman, 69 Actor

January 18
Glenn Frey, 67 Eagles rocker

January 23
Jimmy Bain, 68 Rainbow rock star

January 30
Frank Finlay, 89 Acting great

January 31
Terry Wogan, 77 TV & radio legend

February 3
Maurice White, 74 Earth Wind & Fire star

February 19
Harper Lee, 89 To Kill A Mockingbird author

February 28
Frank Kelly, 77 Father Ted star

February 28
George Kennedy, 91 Movie great

March 1
Tony Warren, 79 Coronation St creator

March 8
George Martin, 90 Beatles producer

March 11
Keith Emerson, 71 ELP rock legend

March 15
Sylvia Anderson, 88 Lady Penelope

March 16
Frank Sinatra Junior, 72 Sinatra’s singer son

March 17
Paul Daniels, 77 Comedy magician

March 24
Gary Shandling, Comedian

March 29
Patty Duke, 69 Child star

March 31
Ronnie Corbett, 85 Comedy legend

March 31
Denise Robertson, 83 TV agony aunt

April 6
Merle Haggard, 79 Country legend

April 12
David Gest, 62 TV personality

April 20
Victoria Wood, 62 Comedy genius

April 20
Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, 46 WWE wrestling legend

April 21
Lonnie Mack, 74 Blues guitar great

April 21
Prince, 57 Pop icon

April 21
Guy Hamilton, 93 Bond director

April 24
Billy Paul, 80 Chart star

May 17
Guy Clark, 74 Country legend

May 19
John Berry, 52 Beastie Boys star

May 19
Alan Young, 96 Mister Ed TV star

May 21
Nick Menza, 51 Megadeth drummer

May 24
Burt Kwouk, 85 Pink Panther star

May 31
Carla Lane, 87 Liver Birds writer

June 3
Muhammad Ali, 74 Boxing legend

June 14
Henry McCullough, 72 Wings guitarist

June 19
Anton Yelchin, 27 Star Trek’s Chekov

June 24
Bernie Worrall, 72 Funkadelic star

June 28
Scotty Moore, 84 Elvis’s guitarist

July 2
Caroline Aherne, 52 Comedy actress

July 16
Alan Vega, 78 Suicide punk pioneer

August 13
Kenny Baker, 81 Star Wars’ R2-D2

August 15
Dalian Atkinson, 48 Villa cup hero
Bobby Hutcherson. 75 Jazz musician

August 22
Toots Thielemans, 94 Jazz musician

August 29
Gene Wilder, 83 Comic genius

September 11
Alexis Arquette, 47 Transgender actress

September 17
Charmian Carr, 73 Sound of Music’s Liesl

September 25
Arnold Palmer, 87 Golfing legend

October 12
Thomas Mikal Ford, 52, Martin Sitcom

October 14
Jean Alexander, 90 Corrie’s Hilda Ogden

October 23
Pete Burns, 57 Dead or Alive chart star

October 24
Bobby Vee, 73 1960s teen idol

November 7
Leonard Cohen, 82 Iconic singer & writer

November 11
Robert Vaughn, 83 Veteran actor

November 13
Leon Russell, 74 US rock legend

November 24
Colonel Abrams, 67 80s chart star

November 25
Florence Henderson, 82 Brady Bunch star

November 26
Ron Glass, 71 US TV star

December 1
Andrew Sachs, 86 Fawlty Towers star

December 6
Peter Vaughan, 93 Game of Thrones star

December 7
Ian Cartwright, 52 Wolves midfielder

December 8
John Glenn, 95 First to orbit Earth

December 8
Greg Lake, 69 ELP legend

December 10
AA Gill, 62 Writer & critic

December 10
Ian McCaskill, 78 TV weatherman

December 12
Walter Swinburn, 55 Derby winning jockey

December 13
Alan Thicke

December 18
Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99 Actress

December 24
Rick Parfitt, 68
Richard Adams, author of Watership Down

December 25
George Michael, 53 Singer
Ricky Harris aka Taadow, 54 Comedian

December 26
Liz Smith, 95 Actress

December 27
Carrie Fisher, 60 Actress

 

Sadly, that list is now incomplete with at least two more celebrity deaths that have occurred since it was posted.

 

May they rest in peace.

5 movie references NOT to use during sexy time

Movies are an integral part of the fabric of society and the lines delivered by the stars often become part of our everyday dialogue.

I have heard many a person say “I’ll be back” in their best (which is probably also their worst) Arnie impression and how many of us have stood arms outstretched claiming to be “king of the world”?

But there are some situations where specific movie references are best avoided. Here’s 5+ examples you (men) don’t want to use in the bedroom:

scarface.jpg

1. Say “hello” to my little friend.

 

Imagine this, you’ve wined and dined and now you’re hoping to get your leg over so you invite your prospective sexual partner in for some “coffee”. The lights are dimmed, the music is on and you drop your pants citing this classic Scarface line…

While it seems witty, it’s doubtful any man wants their partner thinking that their penis is “little”. Plus, the line brings out connotations of a coked-up gangster shooting all over the place… hardly romantic.

 

2. Here’s Johnny!

 

Again, the scene is set – there’s candles and flowers, dinner was home cooked and served with a glass (or three) of wine. You take her in to the bedroom, unzip your fly and quote this line from The Shining as you stick your penis through the gap like a head through a door that’s been hacked to pieces by a homicidal maniac.

Classy!

Sure, you might’ve been making a more harmless reference to the 1995 hit song of the same name, or Johnny Bravo or The Tonight Show but what’ll come to mind for most people is that all work and no play leads to stabbing not sex.

 

3. Free Willy

 

Ok, so this isn’t a quote per se but if you’re inclined to call out the title of this film while removing your underwear you’re an immature man-child with delusions of grandeur. No self-respecting adult calls their penis a willy and if you’re comparing your manhood to a whale you’re going to bitterly disappoint someone.

Plus, all I can think about is the clip from The Simpsons where the whale doesn’t make it over the rocks and ends up killing the child protagonist. More connotations you don’t need.

 

 

4. Grab your stick! Heat ’em up! Make ’em hard!

 

If you’re in a homosexual relationship, this Ghostbusters line might actually work. It probably won’t, but it makes more sense than in any heterosexual dalliance. For the most part, it just sounds like you’re wanking – and possibly doing so too often if you’re getting friction burns. Any mention of “heat” when talking about your “stick” is probably worth a trip to the doctor.

 

 

5. Open the pod bay doors

 

So you’ve read the first few points on this list and recognised that their all in reference to your Mills and Boon style “throbbing member” and you’ve thought to yourself that maybe film quotes only work when you’re talking about a vagina. Wrong! They don’t work there either.

This 2001 line is a prime example. Likewise, upon penetration, don’t think it’s a great idea to get all Ace Ventura and say it fits “like a glove”.

Sure, maybe lines from porn movies might work. The ones with a scripted plot. They still make them, right? But your Hollywood blockbuster isn’t going to give you the goods.

No woman is going to be turned on by being informed she “can’t handle the truth” and no man should call his cock “the truth” anyway.

 

If there’s other film quotes you think shouldn’t be used in sexy time scenarios, let me know in the comments.

 

And, if this blog post proves popular, tune in for the follow-up where I refer to TV shows to tell you it’s not a good idea to walk up to women in nightclubs with your penis out asking “have you met Ted?” and so on…

When the master becomes the… spectator

A lot of teaching is about control. Or at least it seems so.

First of all you have to control student behaviours. Gone are the days where you can expect students to respect you or do as you’ve asked simply because you occupy an authoritarian position, today’s teachers are taught and re-taught behaviour management strategies throughout their degrees and their career.

Then there is the expectation that we are controllers of content, keepers of knowledge. This stereotype is one born out of traditional practice and perpetuated through years of ‘chalk and talk’.

There are a number of teaching strategies that are currently popular that involve giving up some of this control, an exercise which frightens some teachers both old and new/experienced and inexperienced. These methods include flipped learning, SOLE and PBL among others.

I’m about to walk this path. Again.

A few years back I was a lot more proactive in this space. A colleague and I pushed each other to continually provide students with authentic learning experiences. We ran TEDx events, we had students create film trailers that were commented on by professional film-makers, we published student creative writing, we collaborated with other schools, we entered students in competitions, we had students perform poetry to each other and also in a public forum; we went beyond the four walls of our classroom and the learning experiences were richer for it.

Unfortunately, the school climate changed and we lost our mojo.

So why am I back trying it again? Mostly it’s because I’m going on long service leave and will only have my students for two weeks. In trying to come up with something ‘cool’ that could be completed in this short time-frame I remembered the work of Bianca Hewes, who I used to follow closely on Twitter when I was more engaged in this space.

One of her blog posts was about a class coming together to collaboratively write a novella and I was considering following this line of thinking, scouring NaNoWriMo resources and the Write-a-book-in-a-day website, but we’ve already done creative writing recently and I didn’t want to drag the students through something. What I wanted, was for them to take control of their own learning.

So, I came up with this – https://goo.gl/SIH1sV

I’m not certain how it’s going to go.

The hardest part will not be behaviour management. I have a few strategies and tactics up my sleeve to monitor student progress. I’ll use exit tickets, planning and reflection documents, inside-outside circles, value lines, and other methods to measure their success. This will ensure their accountability. Beyond that, I’ll use the usual CMS strategies to keep the kids in check.

The hardest part will not be relinquishing my position as the custodian of knowledge. I don’t pretend to know everything anyway.

The hardest part will be keeping myself in check. Each time I’ve done something like this in the past I’ve gone a little stir crazy. It’s the same with supervising exams and tests. I will be there, providing duty of care, but for the most part I will just be holding myself back and trying not to intervene (or annoy).

Wish me luck.

 

 

The Think Behind the Ink: Part 3

The last time I wrote a “The Think Behind the Ink” piece I said it was probably going to be my last tattoo. It’s lucky I used the word ‘probably’ because I’ve gone and got another one.

 

This is almost definitely the last. Although, in saying that, I can’t help think of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon.

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I would have to come up with something highly significant in order to get inked again though so this is probably it.

 

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This is me; I’m a monkey.

 

Before I was born my mum always wanted a pet monkey and when I came into the world all (cherubic and) hairy, everyone joked that she got her wish. Add to that the fact that I was born in the year of the monkey and that I have always been an avid climber of random crap everywhere and you can see why I associate myself with that animal. ‘Monkey’ is also one of the nicknames we use for my son so we’re keeping the simian thing in the family.

 

Springing from this is a phoenix. The mythological fire-bird is a common symbol of renewal and rebirth. What I’ve done (more accurately, what I asked Emily to do) in the design of this one is make it look like the bird/fire is made out of ink. What I’m getting at is that, through my writing, I create and recreate myself on a regular basis. I’ve reinvented myself in real life too (but I think I’ve told that story already).

 

Until next time…

Teachers With Teeth

I was a teenage dirtbag and people have often suggested that I must be a brilliant teacher because there’s nothing the students can do that I haven’t seen or done before. If you add to that the fact that EVERY teacher I ever had said that I had the brains to be so much more then what you have is a recipe for… something.

If I knew cookery better then I’d offer a more precise metaphor but picture something that is potentially perfect but easy to mess up, prone to disastrous results. I want to say soufflé but I’m not sure if that’s right.

Anyway… what I’m really trying to get at is that I’ve walked the walk of a disengaged, disruptive teenager before and I can still talk the talk quite fluently. I match their criticism with witticism, their talk down with talk back. They bring the sass? Myeh, I’m a Sasquatch.

I don’t know what it is but students seem to respond to that as though they respect a bit of attitude. Maybe it’s just that they like teachers who show a bit of personality and humour.

There are 2 problems here.

  1. These retorts need to be immediate to be effective, thinking time decreases their effect and, so, you’re not always censoring yourself as much as you normally would. When shooting your mouth in this manner it’s possible that you’re firing live bullets.
  2. Mental health issues, depression and teen suicide are too real to ignore in today’s day and age.

I know I’ve overstepped the line before. I am truly apologetic for the words that have come out of my mouth in times where I haven’t considered their impact and I wish I could take some of those hurtful things back. But I can’t. So, I’m doing the next best thing – I’m trying to create a more supportive, positive vibe in my classrooms.

It’s not easy. This sort of thing doesn’t come naturally to me. But I’m trying. One of the things I’ve tried to encourage is the students complimenting each other. That way, when my feedback or comments are negativity geared they can pump each other up.

That’s why, when I read this poem recently, it was everything I felt but never expressed. It was as though someone was telling my life through verse and had gotten my gender wrong.

That’s why I asked them if I could share it here. It wasn’t titled where I read it so I’m going to call it “Miss Roast”. It’s by fellow WA based teacher/poet, Elise Kelly.

 

They call me Miss Roast at school

It is a title of respect that crowns my head, put there by adolescent fingers

Shouted in open school halls like a student catcall or a grudging fanfare

Every day in class I read my students a Shakespearean insult

Though they can not sift through the Bard’s English, the cloaked insult is a language they understand

And breathe it like oxygen

There is no higher art form to them than invectives injected like venom into another’s tender skin

They roast their friends and foes over the same fire and feast on the spitting crackle, hoping they will not be burned in turn

Their favourite sport is the back-and-forth banter, the tennis-match rally of roasting and boasting

And although there is room for wit, they have no time for it

Their words are crude and cruel and so naive in their poison

But they call me Miss Roast because I can speak with their forked tongue

Relief teachers get a lot of shit, and I have learned to clapback and smackdown their jibes

I have clothed myself with comebacks and stood armed with retorts like they were a shield

But I fear they have become bullets that plant guns in their half-grown hands

They call me Miss Roast, because I can leave a student who gives me lip lying in the dust after the lick of my whip-like tongue

Hold my own against the sass of asshole dropkicks

But I wonder if I should be proud of the title

Rap for them comes only in battle form

Poetry to them is uncool until it is in a slam

My words are most worth their respect when I make them weapons, and I did not mean for this to happen

Why do I teach them an insult a day when I could teach them to be kind

Fill their ears with the music of Shakespeare’s sonnets of love

Teach them the ancient art of compliments where no one is the opponent, and victory comes from raising each other up instead of breaking each other down

They call me Miss Roast

A stamp of youthful approval for the fire in my breath, leaving the ground scorched

But I would rather be the warm sun helping these little buds to bloom

I’ve got the music in me

My year 12 General class have a really naff task to complete that has great potential. Basically, they have to demonstrate how 5 songs connect to their life/experiences. Currently it is neither an autobiographical task nor a song analysis one but it could be great as both. Oh well, there’s always next year.

 

Anyway, as is often the case, I’ve created an example they can follow. Here it is:

 

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Cover design.
 
Because this CD task is somewhat autobiographical, I decided to blend photos of me doing two things I love: teaching and footy. My ‘band name’ is something I’ve used as a moniker in video games and is based off the band Run DMC (who feature on one of the tracks). While the album’s title, RONception, is based off the film Inception and plays on the idea of the image (the Ron inside a Ron), the font style and colour is reminiscent of the 1980s which represents my childhood. 
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Track listing
 
1. It’s Tricky – Run DMC
Key lyric:
“One thing I know is that life is short
So listen up homeboy, give this a thought
The next time someone’s teaching why don’t you get taught?
It’s like that (what?) and that’s the way it is.”
 
The third line of this verse is something that I’ve considered getting put onto a hoodie. Mostly, this is because I’m a teacher and I’ve had to deal with the frustration of students not listening or not retaining information. The rest of the song serves as a reminder that life is hard and we need to do as much as possible to create opportunities for success and to maintain our mental health. 
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2. Re-Arranged – Limp Bizkit
Key lyric:
“Life is overwhelming
Heavy is the head that wears the crown

I’d love to be the one to disappoint you when I don’t fall down.”
 
When I was in year 10 I told my course counsellor that I wanted to be an English teacher and she laughed at me. Since then, I’ve had similar experiences where people have belittled me and underestimated my abilities. I’ve used this as motivation and have taken great pleasure in proving people wrong. Furthermore, Limp Bizkit was one of the bands I loved when I was in my late teens/early twenties. This is a great time of angst and aggression which is fits the style and tone of Limp Bizkit’s work.
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3. Swear Jar – Illy
Key lyric:
“Now ladies and gentleman I know I’m not perfect, hell
I’m probably guilty of this shit myself
But I’ve tried, oh I try not to put myself above nobody”
 
I come from a family that has struggled with many issues and this has made me humble to the extent that I’ve always struggled with the notion that some people are incredibly arrogant. I can list dozens of people who are better poets/teachers/fathers/friends than me. That said, I do rile people up on purpose so I can see how some people might assume that I think I’m their better but I honestly don’t believe I am superior to anyone. While I admit to being racist and sexist in my adolescence, I am an advocate for human rights now that I’ve matured. 
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4. It’s Only Rock and Roll – The Rolling Stones
Key lyric:
“If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would you think the boy is strange?”
 
Mick Jagger has said that the inspiration for this song comes from critics and journalists commenting that the Rolling Stones’ new tracks and albums were not as good as their old ones. He exaggerates the lengths the band must go to in order to appease people in the industry. Aside from feelings of inadequacy that I’ve experienced in my life, I also resonate with these lyrics and their imagery. I often write poems expressing my emotions (“stick my pen in my heart”) but I’ve got a growing rejection list from publishers. 
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5. Lean on Me – Bill Withers
Key lyric: 
“You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on.”
 
This song is hugely significant for me. My best friend quoted these lyrics as part of his Best Man speech at my wedding and it brought me to tears. I never had a lot of emotional support growing up so this was a very touching moment. Since then I’ve become quite empathetic. I’m generally good at reading other people’s emotions and am actually the person most people at work come to when they need a hug.
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