Thursday, 31 January 2013

10 things that should happen in all primary school classrooms

  1. Read to them.
  2. Read them fairy tales.
  3. Read them nursery rhymes.
  4. Read them poetry.
  5. Read them myths and legends.
  6. Read them tales from around the world.
  7. Read them picture fiction.
  8. Read them Maths and Science-based picture fiction.
  9. Read factual text, newspapers (not Andrew Bolt, though).
  10. Read to them with expression and commitment.

Films that scared the shit out of me as a kid

  • Darby O'Gill and the Little People  (probably saw it in 1960, made in 1959) the wonderful special effects like the Banshees and the Death Coach were a bit of a worry for a four year old.
  • I only saw the trailer of Psycho (1960) when I was four and a half. I refused to go back to the same cinema the following week, regardless of what was playing.
  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth (the giant reptiles wedged in the caverns spooked me, the Bernard Herrmann music didn't help.  Scared shitless at the old Rosebud Cinema in 1960.)
  • The chase through the woods, Scout wearing the Thanksgiving costume in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).
  • Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear (1962). My parents took me to the drive-in. Were they mad?
  • The Haunting (1963) also at the drive-in. Is there a theme developing here?
  • The Innocents (1963)  the scene with the gamekeeper at the window, Peter Wyngarde?
  • Zulu (1964) - nasty spearing scene caused me to dash off to the toilet and vomit on the shiny floor - a disgruntled cleaner gave me a mop - mother and usherette were royally pissed when they saw me white faced and mop in hand. I may have had the mumps. Memory hazy.
  • The baboon scene in Sands of the Kalahari (1965).    
  • A Man Called Horse (1970) I could not watch the complete Indian 'Vow to the Sun' ritual sequence when Richard Harris (Morgan) is suspended by his chest skin.  Grossed out rather than scared.     

 LATER....Two Dan Curtis TV movies:  The Norliss Tapes (1973) and Karen Black's African fetish doll in Trilogy of Terror (1975), see top right.

Image Copyright 1975 Dan Curtis Productions/ABC.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. Or is it?

Cleaning out a top shelf at my dad's place today I found a blast from the past. My old toy drumsticks. God knows why they were in the pantry. 1960 flooded back to me - prep year, my old house in Ivanhoe, watching Disneyland on the "ADMIRAL" telly. Admiral was one of the first words I wrote - staring at the box for hours each day. A true "TV kid". And proud of it.

 Objects can be powerful. Not sure what I'll do with the drumsticks. Beat it.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Dogs change your life

Like having children, having a dog changes your life. Before we got a dog I thought the dog would live outside in the disused cubby house, that changed to - in the laundry, that changed to in the kitchen under the table, that changed to on our bed (or daughter's bed).
How I have mellowed!
I have a (one way) conversation with the pup, admire the consistency of his poo before I bag it in the local park, open the back door each morning so he can bark at the passersby on the way to work, give him non-doggy food like cheese and smoked salmon, spell out the word W-A-L-K to the wife so pooch doesn't hear the W-word too soon and get excited.

Speaking of that, it's nearly 9 am in Melbourne so  it's definitely time for his W-A-L-K.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The A-Z of pop culture (a 56 year old's version)

A  The Armstrong Miller Show, funniest sketch show in the last 10 years.
B  Beautiful People, TV series, another gem.
C   Countdown, Sunday 6pm required viewing for baby boomers in 70's and 80's.
D  Django Unchained, just perfect movie - the KKK scene with Jonah Hill will become a classic.
E   E! channel, home to the best 22 minutes on US TV: Chelsea Lately.
F   Fashion Police (see E).  Also the stylish and funny singer F is for Paloma Faith.
G  Ghost - punchy sea shanty-like song by The Presets.
H  Hitchcock, patchy movie from 2012, a better bio is HBO's The Girl.
 I   IMDB, now what do I do with my old Leonard Maltin MovieGuide?
J   Joy FM, always interesting, less crap commercials, good chat, fun music, an alternative to Triple J. Not only for gay listeners.
L   The Late Show, God I miss it, my daughter can quote sketches from the DVD. Thanks Tony Martin, Mick Molloy, Jason Stephens, Judith Lucy and the Working Dog powerhouse (Tom, Santo, Jane and Rob). 
M  Margaret and David ... best movie couple after "Two on the aisle" with Ivan Hutchinson and Jim Murphy in the 1970's.
N   Nesbo, Jo - Harry Hole series.
O  Off colour and non-PC humour in Family Guy. Seth MacFarlane is an encyclopaedia of media kitsch from last century. Naughty genius.
P   The Project, underrated in more ways than one. Charlie Pickering for PM. Panel has great chemistry - I won't mention S. Price. 
Q  Q, the new one, Ben Whishaw. He is also great in BBC's The Hour.
R   RRR 102.7 FM broadcast a great show on Sunday evening in the mid 80's called EEEK! Thanks Philip Brophy and Bruce Milne.
S      Skyfall, the scene with the old DB5 brought a lump in my throat. (Watch that red button on the gearshift, M).
T   Tennant, Neil (half of The Pet Shop Boys), still going strong.
U  Upside down jet in Flight, fabulous fifteen minute sequence - never to be shown on inflight entertainment.
V  Vampires - Let the right one in, great book, two good movies.
W -but use in conjunction with tripadvisor reviews.
Y   Youtube - thanks theblackholebowl and nickfulham for your hard work.
Z   Zero Dark Thirty, okay I was desperate for a "z"

Monday, 28 January 2013

New stuff on TV, brief reviews

  • Please Like Me Who knew Josh Thomas could act? Bittersweet, endearing, naturally funny. Thomas is a self-deprecating writer/comedian. Well directed, talented cast of old pros and new faces. This show is a winner. ABC 2 Thursday 9:30. It puzzles me why ABC put on double episodes on the first night. Hope it builds an audience. Perhaps ABC 1 will repeat it.
  • New Qi Series 11 "J" - why doesn't ABC play the 45 minute (XL) episodes?
  • Another ABC grizzle ... bring back Friday Night Dinner! You dropped it after 3 episodes on a Friday night for more Qi repeats. Some are 7 years old! ABC's answer to Big Bang Theory/2 and a Half Men overuse.
  • Ripper Street (BBC produced for first 2 seasons) - set 6 months after Jack the Ripper murders. Great characters beautiful art direction. Classy and strangely informative. Update: Series 3, Amazon is now producing. Bigger budget, great characters, intriguing situations, set 4 years later.
  • Banshee (FX) a "guilty pleasure" series - Peyton Place meets Billy Jack meets Witness with a sprinkling of Twin Peaks. Silly but fun. Produced by Alan (6 Feet Under, True Blood) Ball. 
  • American Horror - Asylum (Eleven) Glee creators /writers but galaxies away .... oh, it does have aliens...and Nazis doctors....and crusading lesbian journalists.....and possessed nuns ....and Jessica Lange doing a 60's dance number ....and the kitchen sink. Stylish direction and buckets of blood. You have been warned. Guilty pleasure No 2. Watch all 13 episodes with the lights off and your brain in Neutral.
  • The Following (Nine). Pilot was great. Think Seven/Silence of the Lambs I had to look away once. Kevin Bacon is great. Written by Scream's Kevin Williamson. Beware commercials and late night programming because of gore. Gets a bit repetitive, who is NOT in this serial killer cult, but Episode 6 was a knockout. Stick with it, but I prefer Banshee.
  • Elementary (Ten). We have watched 12 episodes and haven't tied of it, quality is consistent. Inventive scripts. I have no time for US rip-offs of UK shows, BUT THIS WORKS. Remember Johnny Lee Miller from Trainspotting? Trivia: both Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) played Frankenstein/the Creature in Danny Boyle's stage production last year.They used to swap roles each night.
  • Parade's End Nine has bought it because of Benedict Cumberbatch and to get some Downton Abbey like ratings but they will murder it with commercials. Gorgeous to look at, but a trifle slow for Nine viewers. That sounded snobby.... tough.

In praise of dogs .... and a word of warning

Soon after my wife and I retired we adopted a RSPCA rescue dog. He was only 10 weeks old so he has grown up with us. It was an 18th birthday present for our daughter.  Langly was named by our daughter (her Lone Gunmen tribute, a short-lived The X-Files spin-off series). He is a win-win for whole family.
I never had a dog before so I didn't realise the delight of having a dog. Great company and a great way to get daily exercise for all concerned. Here are two recent photos - Langly is nearly 2 years old.

Just a word about pet insurance...
We used Woolworths Pet Insurance accidental  injury cover for 12 months. READ WORDING OF POLICY CAREFULLY. You have to be a lawyer. Investigating the meaning of the word "fall". Dodgy. We discontinued policy this year. Buyer Beware.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

I am a hypocrite ....using the F word.

I vowed never to use the dreaded word (Facebook) but yesterday I did. Only to get an audience for this blog. But I did contact a few old work colleagues from Brandon Park Primary School. I must admit it was fun doing your profile - favourite movies, music, etc. I found some boxes were very inflexible, somebody can't "LIKE" something, it's not a valid answer to insert, so you can't mess around and write flippant responses to "Language spoken" or "Married to".
I friended my daughter, then realised you can read her posts....very creepy. I suppose some parents use this to track their kids. It is a quick way of communicating with her, Facebook chat beats using your mobile phone.
Yesterday a friend I hadn't seen for 30 years contacted me through Facebook. So Facebook has its uses. You just don't let it rule your life. I have less than a dozen Facebook "friends", this is enough. Call me anti-social (media). Less notifications, less status updates. I don't "like" products or services - less crap advertisements.

Friday, 25 January 2013

The A-Z of why I don't miss teaching

For 35 years I have had much satisfaction from primary school teaching. However here's my negatives....

Boys Education lobby (they get too much attention and class interactions as it is
Cliques, staffroom politics and backstabbing
Ditherers and procrastinators (you know who you are)
Education Week smoke and mirrors/colour and movement - artificial situations to impress the customers
Flocking to the latest fad
Getting to school early for a meeting that could have been achieved through group e-mails
House sports
Inquiry Learning - it's been done to death
Know-alls - graduates who view themselves as the fountains of knowledge and pedagogy
Meetings, meetings, more meetings, meetings about holding more meetings..... Usually a one-way affair.
Older teachers viewed as relics from a bygone era. I went from Cuisinaire to computers. Sure, I can adapt!
Parent-teacher interviews that are structured and choreographed
Questionable practices - jumping on the bandwagon of every new trend, then realising it's not so new
 Regimentation - everyone has to teach the same way - but we all have different personalities and strengths
 Style over substance
 Term reports
 VELS or the new National Curriculum implemenation
 Wankers (educational consultants, guest speakers, teachers who blow their own trumpet)
 Yard Duty
 Zeroing in on the attention-seeking student rather than giving attention to the quiet child.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Baby names rant. Weird name = Child abuse???

Poor kids who have to put up with weird first names. The trend is pick names of places or adjectives to make the child stand out, unique and special. Flash forward 40 years. Having to spell out your esoteric name countless times in myriad situations - you would want to change it by deed poll. As an ex-teacher I have heard some doozies. Example: Girl's surname was Bux. Mum went with "Star". Gloria Jean is easier but not as funny. Will it be as funny in 40 years? It's like getting an extravagant tattoo as a teenager and be stuck with it when you have kids. But I won't get started on tats.
Traditional names LAST (endure). My daughter's name is May. We have never met another May. Popular as a middle name though. When my wife was pregnant we were looking for a Christian name. I flicked though my trusty copy of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide tome. The page fell on a Mae West movie and we had our name. Others in the running were Grace and Ruby. I heard today Dave Hughes's new daughter is named Tess Clementine. Love it.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

How embarrassing! Goodbye the (old) Pole House

I am looking at the quality of blogs, full of slick stuff - do I go with style over substance ... I have neither at the moment so I decided to change my blog name. It used to be "I am retired.. now what?"  Very overused, so I turfed it. New name is more appropriate.  I look at bloggers like Charlie Brooker and witty rants of David Mitchell.... I am over my head.
One last thing
Read in paper today that "the pole house" on Great Ocean Road (Fairhaven Beach, Victoria, Australia) is being demolished. Great shame. Inside it looked like Austin Power's pad but for 40 years every driver on that coastal road would look up and marvel.

UPDATE May 2014
The Pole House has been remodelled, the interior is radically different. Here's some images (Courtesy
Photo: Matt Lord & F2 Architecture to read more of my Icelandic crime.... Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason. Not bad so far.

Post update, novel mentioned a few days ago is too slow - I'm half way through, still full of cyclic conversations, book moves like a glacier, hope it gets better. Will persevere, wife read it a year ago.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

What this blog is NOT....

This blog is not about my friends, my achievements, my travels, my children. I will mention them in passing but I would update you to "blow my own trumpet". I think this is self indulgent but tell that to hundreds of millions of Facebook and Twitter users. My blog will be simple. Oh, I don't do DRAFTS either. It will be straight off the top of my head, for better or worse.
In the spirit of being a grumpy old man (of 56 years), here's more negativity......


1. Facebook dependency and self-indulgence (see above).
2. People who buy bottled water in Australia, particularly the eastern states. Melbourne's tap water is of a high standard. It's disheartening to see empty plastic bottles dropped everywhere - ending up in stormwater drains and ultimately our waterways/oceans.
3. Parents in the supermarket who hold up a cereal, biscuit packet, etc and ask their young ones sitting or hanging off the trolley, "Would you like this?" "How about this one?" Don't pander to the kid, don't give 'em a choice for God's sake, just buy the generic/cheapest brand or the healthiest one. Too many choices, kids want/need structure in their life not more decision making.
4. The current breastfeeding in public debate cooked up by the media. David Koch (google him, if needed) used the wrong adjective, rather than saying mums should be more "classy" in the way they breastfeed in public, he should have used the word "discreet". Class has nothing to do with it.
I must say, male eyes often go straight to the boob - it's in our DNA. It's not creepy, it's just the way it is.Breastfeeding is the best - my daughter was for nearly 18 months. No allergies now either.
5. Maccas ...let's face it, it's a global monolith, nothing Australian about it, don't patronise me.
6. People drop junk takeaway wrappers from their cars (see No.5).
7. Smokers who think their butts aren't classified as rubbish so they stub them out/drop them anywhere.
8. Smokers in general.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


I view this blog as mere musings - shit what a tosser. Well, you were warned by the title.If I were you, I'd read later posts, they might get better. This first post is pure prattle, straight off the top of my head.

This is a mental exercise and I couldn't care less if it is read or commented on by one or one thousand bods. Although feedback would be appreciated.

This is all new to me so I am just going to jump in the deep end, they say you learn by doing... well that's what I used to tell my kids. I am an ex primary school teacher. I retired in April, 2011. I taught in Melbourne, Australia for 34 years. My wife also jumped last year. There is something magical about still being in bed at 8:55 when you hear a distant school bell or.... reading the junk mail catalogues' "Back to School" Sales. I hope my apostrophes are in order - a bugbear of mine..... if you don't know where to put 'em.... don't use 'em.
I hope this blog isn't going to be a bitter rant about what's wrong with teaching today and how sunny and simple it was before student-centred learning and researching Pokemon or One Direction instead of James Cook or Caroline Chisholm for a class assignment. Shit, I just sounded bitter, and it's also a crappily constructed sentence. Educationalists will tell you: it's not the end product of research - it's the process, "the journey" that is important. Well yes, I agree up to a point (a wanky point), but "the journey" sometimes gets derailed by purposeless distractions.

So I will stop and prattle on later.