Saturday 28 February 2009


“The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication.” - Aristotle

Has it happened to you that you haven’t heard a song for years and years and then suddenly quite by chance you get to hear it again, not once, but twice a day? The song in question is “Popcorn” and it takes me back to my youth when it was “so cool”… The version I had was on an old 45 rpm vinyl record, in the 1972 version recorded by the dance group “Hot Butter”. It got quite a few plays until a scratch across the surface ruined it.

Here is the one I wore out, courtesy of the ever reliable YouTube:

The original was recorded by Gershon Kingsley in 1969 when the moog synthesizer was just about the coolest thing around. This “electro” sound with its hypnotic rhythm and mesmerizing melody captivated the imagination of people and spawned a myriad of versions.

Here is a techno dance mix by Koruption

A Gwen Stefani Yummy?Hot Butter Popcorn mashup mix?!

And to finish off with some pathos, here is the composer himself in 2007 playing the same tune on a grand piano as if it were a requiem…

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday 27 February 2009


“I take it that what all men are really after is some form or perhaps only some formula of peace.” - Joseph Conrad

It’s been a difficult week with quite a great deal going on at work and home. It was good for Friday afternoon to roll on and on the train home this evening I relaxed and luxuriated in the feeling of the weekend coming. A quiet night at home and for relaxation, a special treat:

1 measure vodka
1 measure Cointreau or triple sec
0.5 measure lime juice

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine all of the ingredients. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Tomorrow I have work to do – great how our work follows us home with the modern technology! So I was grateful for that R&R tonight…

Have a good weekend!

Thursday 26 February 2009


“Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.” - Abraham Lincoln

I am no hero. I am the first to admit it and I live by the maxim, “Discretion is the better part of valour”. However, I must say that when the need arises, when circumstances dictate it, I will be courageous, I will speak out, I will stand up for myself or others. It seems that in our days, the situation for this to be tested happens more often than not. We live in times when even if you are meek and mild, even when you obey the laws, even if you take every care to protect yourself, you can still be attacked, robbed, mugged, come to an inch of losing your life, or even in many cases getting murdered, in fact.

Violence has become a fact of life nowadays. We see it on TV everyday, we read about it in newspapers, we are assailed by it in our literature, the internet, the video games our kids play. And unfortunately, how many of us have been victims of it… Perhaps even more disturbing than the violence itself is the syndrome of the “guilty bystander”. Those people that turn a blind eye, those who ignore it, those who allow it to happen without lifting a finger to stop it. Those who walk away from it, not wishing to become involved.

How many of us ignore screams for help? How many of us choose to close our eyes to one of our fellow human beings who is being assaulted? How many of simply shrug our shoulders and say “it’s none of my business”? And thus violence is allowed to proliferate. In such a way we learn to live with it and it increases itself in our existence like a growing cancer.

There was a bashing of an innocent young man on the morning of the 24th February by three cowardly thugs in Sunshine railway station, here in Melbourne. The whole event was captured on CCTV and the pictures are truly sickening. The young man offers no resistance, gives up the bag he carries readily but the criminals keep on kicking and bashing him. A couple walks by and doesn’t stop, says nothing, doesn’t notify the police. The thugs keep on bashing him and finally leave the young man senseless on the ground. This is the society we live in. Violence, apathy, indifference, a cancerous plague of self-perpetuating hate and selfish arrogance.

I should say do NOT watch this video if you are easily shocked or if violence disturbs you, but perhaps then you are the person who should see it first and foremost…

apathy |ˈapəθē| noun
Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern: Widespread apathy among students.
ORIGIN early 17th century: from French apathie, via Latin from Greek apatheia, from apathēs ‘without feeling,’ from a- ‘without’ + pathos ‘suffering.’

Tuesday 24 February 2009


“A poem begins with a lump in the throat.” - Robert Frost

The moon inspires the pessimistic poet, while the sun inspires the optimist to write more prosaic pieces. The night invites the insomniac to stay up and confront the ghosts of thoughts and traces of old emotions too strong to sublimate completely. Day lights up the crannies of our soul and bright sunlight is a potent disinfectant for old festering wounds. The moon inspires the poetry of love, and love unrequited is strong inspiration for the spurned poet. Night revives old corpses that vampire-like come to prey on our weakened mind.
Drinking Moonshine

Tonight the moon fell into my cup
Was drowned; and dissolved all up.
The stars fell down as golden rain
To assuage my loneness and the pain.

Tonight, I’ll drink the fallen moon
And sup on stars with silver spoon,
To make the blackest night less dark,
Less silent, as I try to clear your mark.

Tonight the clock seems stopped
As minutes drag, the hours dropped.
I drink the moonshine, swallow stars
In hope the potent mix will heal my scars.

Tonight, your absence all the more acute
My thoughts run after you in vain pursuit.
The drink burns more than any spirit neat
In deep swallows it’s drunk, my pain to cheat.

Tonight is black; of moon, of stars bereft
As dregs of moonshine are in my cup left;
My sweet star-meal has a bitter aftertaste
My empty night has my soul embraced.

Tonight I’ll stay awake, despite my drink
My mind too full of you to think;
My heart too empty, and my bed too cold,
Tonight I feel deserted, frozen, old…


“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” - John Cotton Dana

This afternoon I had a visit from an old student of mine, who was in my classes about 20 years ago. She had seen my name in our College’s website and as she was in the City she came and visited. It was rather good that I still remembered her (having taught several tens of thousands of students over the years it is difficult to remember each and every one of them!). It was also rather touching to be told that she still remembered my lectures with fondness and that she had kept all her lecture notes, which she still referred to. We had quite a long chat and it was pleasing to hear that she had made good progress in her life, had travelled, worked in several of the large hospitals in Melbourne and also has a clinic of her own.

Teachers tend to do what they do concentrating on the tasks at hand and often forget the degree of influence they can have on people’s lives many years hence. A good teacher can turn around a young mind and plant a seed in it that will blossom and fruit in the future. Sometimes teachers can have even a greater influence than a child’s home environment and a few well-spoken words at the appropriate time can make a student’s mind awaken and strive for knowledge. A smile of encouragement, a few extra minutes explaining something, or listening to what the student has to say can make all the difference in the world to someone whose mind is just ready for its great adventure into knowledge.

Teaching in primary school is of course very different to teaching in secondary school and then again teaching in a tertiary setting is a different kettle of fish altogether. I have taught in all settings, primary and secondary while I was still studying at university and then for the major part of my working life teaching as part of being an academic at a university. I must say that enjoyed teaching at all levels, but the greatest satisfaction for me was the teaching at university. I found this the most stimulating and the most challenging. I had to deal with adults whose mind had gelled, whose preconceptions and opinions and personalities were very strong and where in order to impart some knowledge I had to win over the person first.

One gets to meet all sorts of students at university, the good ones, the bad ones, the indifferent ones. The ones who want to be there, the ones who wish they weren’t. The introverts, the extroverts, the studious types, the party-goer types, the conformists and the non-conformists. The nerds and the jocks, the sporty ones and the bookworms. The dowdy and the flashy ones, the leaders and those whom they lead, the honest ones and the cheats, the achievers and the failures. A microcosm of the society they soon will be part of. One’s task as educator in dealing with such diversity in one’s class is so difficult, but also satisfying at the same time. The thrill of getting the class involved in active discussion, seeing those mental cogs turning and engaging, hearing the nascent thoughts being articulated, witnessing that spark of understanding in their eyes, there’s nothing like it!

In my new job I do not teach any more, but rather have a role that fosters good teaching and learning in our institution. This is even more challenging and I guess it is now a step beyond what I was doing previously – meta-teaching if you like. Inspiring the teachers to teach better so that the students learn better. A whole new set of strategies and a new set of problems to resolve. I am enjoying this also, but also fulfilling is the planning and the strategic goal setting, the macro view of the organisation I am part of. The development work that needs to occur on a national level is something I take pleasure in greatly too. Quite exciting! I guess you can tell I’ve always enjoyed doing my job!
What are your own memorable experiences in education, either as a student or as a teacher?

Monday 23 February 2009


“Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up.” - Jesse Jackson

I guess it would be remiss of me not to mention the 81st Annual Academy Awards on Movie Monday, even though there were few surprises. Most people had predicted the Best Picture Oscar, as well as Heath Ledger’s posthumous one. Sean Penn and Kate Winslet were also favourites, while Penelope Cruz’s surprise may not have surprised her fans. The big winner, however, was Danny Boyle’s 2008 UK/Indian film “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008).

“Slumdog Millionaire” is the story of Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old boy who grew up in the slums of Mumbai and who suddenly finds himself as a contestant in the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”. He astounds everyone with his accurate answers to some tricky questions that bring him close to winning the grand prize of 20 million rupees. When the show breaks for the night, Jamal is arrested under suspicion of cheating in the game as none can believe that this fellow knows the answers to such recondite questions that have stumped richer, more intelligent and more seasoned players than himself. During the police interrogation learn of Jamal’s miserable life, which nevertheless explain why he knows the answers to the questions.

The film is fresh and new in terms of plot, the direction is engaging and immediate, the cinematography dynamic and involving, while the young actors do justice to this piece of excellent cinema. One cannot help but become emotionally involved in a very human story that makes us question our values and priorities, while at the same time entertains and amuses us. The Indian location both enchants and repels, the images and stories displayed awaken within us pity, compassion, admiration, sympathy, good humour, hope and humanity. Jamal’s story is one of poignancy, and the admixture of comedy and drama resembles our every day reality. The film may be a love story, but it is not a cliché. It may be a social commentary but it is not moralistic or didactic. It is confronting and violent, but is easily seen in a family context and well worthy of discussion with one’s children.

The film is aided in its impact by the music score, the cinematography and the seamless direction. It is not often that a “Best Picture” Oscar is also a crowd pleaser as well being a movie that does well in the indie circuit. I guess one can summarise the film by saying it has wide appeal, artistic merit and also is one that can open our heart and mind to lives that before seeing it seemed so very far from our own, but at the film’s conclusion have proven once again to us how close we really are to each other, all of the earth’s children…

Sunday 22 February 2009


“It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

We had a great Sunday today, going to the house of some friends of ours up in the Dandenongs. The weather was warm, but not excessively hot and the cooler hills with their deeply shaded gullies were just the thing. On the way there we passed by some burned out areas near Dandenong foothills, a very jarring reminder of the bushfires, some of which are still burning. Tomorrow will be another hot day and fire restrictions have been in force throughout the state. Melbourne’s Mount Dandenong, about 50 km from the city centre is wonderful place, full of trees, wild flora and fauna and many communities, small village-like settlements amongst the towering eucalypts, many beautiful houses and villas, as well as the magnificent Mount Dandenong National Park.

Our friends live in Tremont right in the middle of a beautiful forest setting and they have been worried sick with the bushfires. They are dreading when they will be told to evacuate and they have their suitcases packed, ready to leave. It’s heart-breaking as they have a beautiful garden, a lovely house and wonderful paintings, antiques and books. They are seriously considering selling the house and moving as the ever-present threat of bushfire has suddenly become a chilling reality with our recent deadly ones.

We visited a beautiful garden and nursery close to our friends’ house and even with the drought and high temperatures, Cloudehill was magnificent. It is a formal garden laid out in “rooms” (about 20 of them), all on different levels and linked by paths, steps and avenues lined by herbaceous borders and clipped hedges. Water features, art pieces and well-laid out plantings make this an experience not to be missed when visiting the Dandenongs.

Cloudehill garden dates about 100 years ago and is inspired by the famous arts and crafts gardens of England such as, Sissinghurst, Hidcote and Tintinhull. These, in turn, were derived from the renaissance gardens of Italy such as Villa D’ Este and Villa Lante. Art works are dotted within the gardens giving a contemporary twist to the classic design.

Walking through the forest and the gardens today, seeing the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountain made us all the more aware of the fragility of these places. How a single match can transform this little slice of heaven into hell. How many people live in fear of their lives. How all the beauty they have created can be so easily destroyed…
Enjoy your week!