I Ran in a Race and now I suffer from anxiety

So much has changed in a generation or two. Feminist movements and the push for women in the workplace, the invention of the smartphone and the rise of video games, and the tendency to wrap the modern child in cotton wool have had a detrimental effect on our kids.

Working in a school I get a close look at the home lives of our teenagers and how it impacts on their schooling. This year more than any other, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of young adults with health issues that stem from stress and anxiety. So what have we done to create this problem?

Chronologically, this started when women moved into the workplace. It sounds sexist but I don’t intend it to be. What I’m trying to say is that the nuclear family used to consist of a working male and a stay-at-home female and the byproduct of this was that parents were more involved in the lives of their children. Nowadays, many adolescents go home to an empty house. If they’re fortunate enough not to come from a split family then, chances are, both parents are still at work when their children finish school for the day. As such, teens are often left to their own devices for extended periods of time. 

Speaking of devices, the modern teenager spends countless hours on their smartphones. So do many adults for that matter. We have a blanket ban on mobile phones at our school but the moment that final siren sounds they’re straight out of their bags and into their hands. I’ve known kids to message people that are sitting at the same table as them. If they’re not texting or engaged in social media then they’re playing games. In fact, gaming in general has become a major problem for some adolescents as they have become addicted to video games, playing them to the detriment of other aspects of their life. 

Perhaps the biggest change is in the way we perceive children and the world around them. Parents used to kick their kids out of the house and tell them to be back before it got dark, now the media has made us fearful that some sex pest will abduct our children the moment they are out of sight. It’s irrational. Yes, paedophiles and predators exist but it’s ignorant to think that they weren’t around before. We have also removed competition from our youth. Junior sports are done without scoring, students receive certificates for participating. Even our education system has experimented with this philosophy. 

So what am I saying? What I’m suggesting is that today’s youth have developed a preference for electronic rather than face-to-face communication. Absent and/or overly concerned parents and electronic devices have limited their physical interaction with others and, as such, they lack confidence in a variety of social settings. I’m also suggesting that in shielding our kids from failure we increase the impact it has when it inevitably comes.

Obviously this doesn’t cover all of the factors nor is it based on scientific fact or research. This is simply an observation made by one bloke in a very specific context.

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Killer Cover Songs  

A friend noticed recently that I’m right into my cover songs. It’s true. But I think the interest goes beyond the musical. I was a big fan of the TV show, Sliders, (especially seasons 1 and 2) where the protagonists would visit alternate realities and learn how this parallel universe differed from the Earth they knew. This premise was followed in the Marvel comic, Exiles, and I loved seeing the different versions of established characters this time displaced band of warriors would encounter. I think my interest is piqued by the idea of the ‘what if?’

What if the Earth was to face a second ice age?

What if Mary Jane Watson was a lesbian Spider-Woman?

What if the song you like was sung by someone else?

We sometimes forget Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” is actually a cover song. The original, written and performed by Otis Redding, is a different beast all together. Redding’s version depicts a desperate man who wants a little ‘respect’ (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) when he gets home while Franklin’s version is a staple of the feminist movement and shows a strong, independent woman who wants R-E-S-P-E-C-T. One of the songs that was huge when I was younger was Soup Dragon’s “I’m Free”, itself a cover of a Rolling Stones song. “Valerie” is best known as an Amy Winehouse track, produced by Mark Ronson, but it was originally sung by the English indie rock band The Zutons.

So what do I look for in a cover?

Generally, I’m looking for something different. If I wanted to listen to the original, I’d listen to the original – so straight covers bug me. Sometimes it’s enough for the lead singer to be of a different gender but often I want more spin. Below are five covers I’ve been listening to lately…

  1. Get Low – cover by Dan Henig

What I love about Dan Henig is his ability to take a song like “Get Low” or “Move Bitch” and strip them back so they sound as if they were born acoustic. I find these covers even more catchy than the originals and have to be wary of getting them stuck in my head or else I might find myself singing them at inappropriate times.

  1. Billie Jean – cover by The Civil Wars

Joy Williams and John Paul White are possibly the most attractive people on this planet. It saddens me that they have disbanded as they are wonderfully talented. Their covers of “Billie Jean”, “I Want You Back” and “You Are My Sunshine” are phenomenal – sweet, soulful and hauntingly beautiful. The Foghat cover joked about at the start of this clip is something I would pay to download too. If only…

  1. Smells Like Teen Spirit – cover by Daniela Andrade

Such a beautiful voice! I’ve spent the last few days checking out Daniela’s channel. Many of her covers offer that spin that I was talking about, personalising a song and making it her own. Possibly the best example of this is her take on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” but I wanted to save that for –

  1. Crazy – cover by Groove Spoon 

It’s hard not to get caught up in the energy of the lead singer here – it’s infectious. It probably helps that this is one of my favourite songs of all time but this cover makes me smile every time I listen to it.

  1. Me and Bobby McGee – cover by Lauren Tate 

15 year olds should not be this talented. It’s hard to fathom how someone with such a soulful, gravelly maturity in her voice can be so young. I regularly come back to Lauren’s covers of “Landslide”, “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Whole Lotta Love” but this is definitely my go to song.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I seriously considered putting Noah’s version of “Sexy and I Know it” on the list but figured it was too well known. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you check it out. I could have also put up heaps of tracks from Triple J’s ‘Like a Version’ segment – in fact, while browsing my YouTube history I found so many artists to share I struggled to keep the list to 5; looks like a sequel post might be springing up in the future.

Hercules vs. Heracles

I’m teaching this again after a long hiatus. This post is brilliant in it’s humour and approachability, clearly outlining the differences between the film and the original myth.

Disneyfied, or Disney tried?

hercules conclusion image Set in Ancient Greece, Hercules is by far one of Disney’s most happy-go-lucky films. It’s about Zeus’ mortal son Hercules, who seeks to regain his place among the other gods on Mount Olympus by becoming a true hero. Helping him along the way are his trainer Philoctetes (voiced by Danny De Vito), love interest Megara, and his trusty steed, the winged horse Pegasus. All the while, Hades, Lord of the Underworld, seeks to destroy him as he is the one obstacle in his plan to take over the universe.

If you are even remotely familiar with Greek mythology you are probably pulling a face already, but are equally unsurprised at Disney’s deviations from the original myths – you are more likely asking yourself why on earth they chose these stories in the first place, which are usually crammed with murder, betrayal, tragedy, and the other kind of family friendly entertainment…

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Free Comic Book Day

Today is Free Comic Book Day so I took my daughter down to the local comic store – Cosmic Comics in Rockingham.

The store puts on a great event. There were raffles, colouring competitions, cosplay, show bags, stalls, signings, a sausage sizzle and (most important of all) free comics!

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While my daughter spent 30 minutes colouring in a huge Avengers picture I wandered the store, picked up a showbag and had a laugh with Batman.

Scene: Batman is flicking through stacks of old comic books.

Me: Looking for yourself?

Batman: Yeah, I’m 75 now, the memory’s not what it used to be. I have to look through my back catalogue to remind me of my adventures.

Anyway, when I bought my show bag I was asked which of the free comics I would like. It was a tough choice. There were so many options and heaps that matched my interests but I ended up passing on The Tick, Teen Titans and a host of others to walk away with the Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter and an All New, All Different Avengers. There were a couple of comics in the show bag too. Plus, I grabbed copies of Marvel’s Previews.

When my daughter finished colouring she took her picture up to the counter and payed for her lucky dip (which ended up being a Batman key-ring she’s attached to the zip on her bag). She was also offered free comics – she grabbed a Ninja Turtles one for herself and a Raving Rabbids for her brother.

Both kids benefited from my purchase too, claiming the temporary tattoos, sticker, balloon and toys from my show bag for themselves.

All up, it was a great experience and I’m looking forward to next year’s event.

Hopefully you’ve all gotten into your local comic store too. Happy reading!