Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “School”

Swear Jar

Captain Haddock swearingWhen I was in primary school, we had a pretty good idea what would get us in trouble, language wise. Bum wasn’t ok. Bloody was out of the question. I didn’t even know about the big three until about grade five or six.

I didn’t swear in front of my parents until I started driving. That did it, no problems. When you have the whole family in the car and you’re driving through Bendigo and you aren’t particularly confident and then someone cuts you off- well, the F bomb made an appearance.

My parents never swore in front of us either. Justin and Elise might have different memories, but I can’t remember them ever losing control and firing off one of the big ones. It might be because they were both teachers. I know it’s good for my self-control.

Nowadays swearing seems to be a lot more prevalent, especially among children.

Warning: this post will probably contain a LOT more swearing than is usual. I swear (haha) that it is in the context of the discussion. Sometimes I’ll bleep it out. Sometimes I’ll let it go. You have been warned.

A good introduction to modern speech patterns in today’s children is this:

I was doing bus duty at the end of the day, early in my teaching career when a Prep kid came screaming up the pathway after another kid, screaming “YOU F***ING C***!”

Jaw dropped, I jumped in and stopped this lovely five-year-old.

“Whoa! That’s not ok language! What’s wrong?”

“She called my mother a slut!” the girl sobbed, “and she’s not a slut. She’s a stripper!”

Well, what do you say to that? We’ve gone up a notch from not being able to say bum in Prep to this.

The swearing was so bad in my homeroom (of year 9 and 10 students) that I implemented a swear jar. You swear, you put money in the Project Compassion box. I’m pretty sure we won the charity competition that year.

Smurf YouThe follow up was to try and get them to use something else instead of the swear words. I had some pretty good success with smurfs. Smurfs use it to great effect, so I figured my homeroom could be equally as vague. Swearing dropped dramatically. Smurfing was as frequent as ever. I had to talk to them about intent after hearing “What the smurf do you want you smurfing smurfer? I will smurf you right up!”

When it comes to my own family we’re pretty good. I am a bit of an ogre over swearing. I believe that childhood should be a time of innocence, where things like swearing aren’t part of a child’s vocabulary. I am offended by kids swearing. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Given that, I’d prefer that a child finds a better way of expressing themselves. There’s plenty of time for swearing later.

That’s the background for this:

We were sitting at the table for dinner. My wife said that something was pretty shitty.

“Swear jar,” I said.

“Shitty isn’t a swear word!”

“Yes it bloody is!”

“OK then, put in a dollar for bloody!”

“Bloody isn’t a swear word!”

And so, like all good debates, I took it to Facebook. And WOW did it ever go mad from there. Ten pages in Word when I copied and pasted it to write this. Swearing is an issue wrapped up in political correctness and seasoned with the censorship debate.

Here’s what I posted:

What started it all

“Give me a list of words that would cause a donation to the swear jar. Put each word in its own comment. Like the words you agree with.

“Also point out ones you think are flat out OK in today’s society (OK for ten year olds)”

The first cab off the rank was the c bomb, followed up with “probably literally any racial slur”

“And now I wait gleefully for status comments that are just people swearing.”

And swear they did.

The first list of inappropriate swear words

  • The f bomb
  • Bugger (they need to understand what the word means)
  • Bastard
  • Bugger
  • Slut
  • Bitch
  • N*gger
  • Poofter
  • Faggot
  • Dickhead
  • Tony Abbott

Most of these from a wonderful person I had as a student teacher a few years ago. Teachers know ALL the bad words.

From here the list stopped and the discussion began. The argument was broken into these ideas:

  • Words have no specific “wrongness”. The context is what’s important.
  • Different cultures have different concepts of what is ok.
  • Swearing isn’t as bad as “inappropriate use of language”
  • Making it illegal makes it attractive.

In general, we agreed that the use of racial slurs and words that denigrate women should be out straight off the bat. They are over used in society but don’t add to society.

Insulting someone by calling them a female body part does nothing to advance the status of women in society. And still Australians complain about Muslim women wanting to wear head coverings in our country because it’s denigrating to women (yeah, that’s why you want them to stop wearing them). When you stop calling someone a whiny little bitch, I’ll listen to your argument.

Alternatives to swearing came up. My smurf idea was one. Words like ‘numpty’ and Sugar Honey Ice Tea, pickles or cheesesndwhiskers, muppet or donkey, and of course the really good ones like smeg and frack – to show that you’ve raised your child to be a proper sci-fi nerd.

Here are some of the more poignant remarks, names cut out to protect the swearmongers (some are colour linked – those who consistently got involved):

“Any word is a swear word in the right context. I think kids need to learn appropriate use not that language is bad. Shakespeare used c***. I find it less offensive than the word Muslim in some people’s mouths. Teach her respect and let her have a word for when she stubs her toe. The rest is out of your hands.”

“I love this perspective a lot! Still, I don’t think “Shakespeare used the word c***” is going to fly in front of her principle at school so it’s that odd balance of societal expectations and developing a good respectful kid.”

“Truly, swearing is about context and culture. The utterance of a culture’s deity in one geography wouldn’t raise an eyelid, yet would condemn you to death in others.”

“Is a list of words really what you need here? At 10 she is most likely smart enough to know when she’s offending someone, which should probably be all the criteria she needs. A simple ‘inappropriate use of language’ jar should suffice, with you being the judge of what is inappropriate in the given context. I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if one of my kids dropped an f bomb after a big fright or something, but have definitely pulled them up for referring to a sibling as a bitch.”

“And with that criteria you can handle all those violations of the Queen’s English too.”

“Take each instance on merit. Stubbed toe and swear, we all do. Walking around peppering her speech with cussing to get a reaction, explain why it’s not really the done thing and leave her choose. Don’t demonize words though. As soon as you make anything naughty it has appeal. Making swearing taboo could also limit her feeling she can come to you with issues surrounding language… like body shaming or slut shaming as it’s not swearing but the language is really more inappropriate than a good ‘Oh shit’. If adults have an issue with the use of a word, that’s about them. Take the power away from the word, give the power [to your child] and back yourselves in, because we’re all human, we all pick our nose, fart, chew with our mouth open and swear.”

Me: “No we bloody don’t! There are plenty of ways to express ourselves that don’t involve swearing. She has the rest of her life to swear. For now, she can make an effort and find better ways to respond to situations. It’s about control. If you have enough control over a situation that you can choose a response, that’s a step in the right direction.”

“I completely agree with you Daimo on this one. It is all about self-control and also respect. [We as parents] could swear til the cows come home but we choose not to and I expect the kids to learn the same self-control and respect. That’s not to say I don’t utter certain words under my breath out of earshot at times.”

“Any word can be a swear word. Learning where, rather than what, is what I’d aim for.”

“When followed by a snigger, any of the following might be inappropriate: moist, 69, erection, hard, hump… gotta love the english language”

“Oooh ‘language, #snigger”

Do you allow exceptions for extenuating circumstances:

Warning: Explicit content

Warning: Explicit content

This you’d get a timeout from game. It’s gratuitous swearing and bad sportsmanship. This can be controlled. Damian this is where the respect comes in, not the inevitable slip up we all make at times.

Me: There are slip ups, which is why we have the swear jar. That’s “oops, put a dollar in the jar”. Then there are blatant uses like above, which require a more specific consequence.

I think it should be less a “swear jar than an “unimaginative words jar” – there are much better words you can use to express yourself than these, these are nasty and no one should use them. I like the idea of having a list of other more useful words. In science at school I always make my students write out the lab safety rules, but they have to write them out without using negative language – they can’t use the words don’t, no, prohibited, etc. So the rules become things they can choose to do, safe choices to make, rather than just things not to do.

Research into the hypoalgesic effect of swearing has shown that the use of profanity can help reduce the sensation of pain. This phenomenon is particularly strong in people who do not use such words on a regular basis.

I swear like a trooper as you know Damo but the kids still know not to, at least in front of adults, teachers etc, I’m not sure if they swear to their friends.

P.S My parents never swore, I’m calling it a social experiment to see how the kids end up but at 8 and 10 no probs yet.

I’m against f**king censorship ??

Me: Then don’t f**k it

At this point in the conversation my wife wanted me to explain that our daughter is wonderful and doesn’t swear at all and this is more about us parents. More specifically, she thinks shitty is ok and I think bloody is ok and we both think the other person’s word should go in the swear jar.

Can I add “gay” and “retard” – those four words (including the two in the comments above) are the words that I find most offensive (and I have a fondness for the expletive).

Gay is a perfectly reasonable word to use, even when describing a person’s sexuality, unless it’s done in a negative way.

Unfortunately, “gay” is more likely used in an offensive manner these days, than in its correct form. As per above – it isn’t the word, it is the way in which it is used.

Damian Perry: Seriously, what you just said was totally gay.

Damian Perry: By which I mean totally spot on and fantastic.

Damian Perry: …I’m taking it back.

LOL

Yes, the word gay is misused but if you stomp on its usage completely then I think you have made a mistake. My kids sometimes pull me up when I use the word black to identify a person with dark skin. I ask them “why? Is it bad to be black or something?”. Same with the word gay – are you banning its usage because it is bad to be gay? I would simply stick to objecting to when the word is used in a negative way, and embrace it when used correctly.

I like that idea on principle however, I have lost track of the number of times I have heard kids referring to everything they don’t like or agree with as “that’s so gay” (cue eyeroll)

I’m not into swearing but refuse to make it attractive by making it naughty to the kids. It’s hard enough getting them to clean their rooms without having to clean their mouths too. (My giving them permission has worked well but I still try to lead by example.)

F**kin' Swear JarIt was a fantastic discussion. Most importantly, in the end, I’m pretty sure that the consensus was that, if we were allowed to have a swear jar at all, bloody would be ok and shitty would be a dollar in the jar.

So that’s bloody brilliant.

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2015

Everybody has to write one of these, don’t they?

Let’s see. What happened in 2015? It might be just writing at this time of the year, but in my head, the year was categorised by stress. Which is weird, because in 2014 I:

  • wrote two plays,
  • performed in two productions,
  • published and launched my first novel,
  • completed a certificate III in Game Design,
  • holidayed in Halls Gap,
  • turned 40 and was painted into the TARDIS,
  • created a CGI opening for the school production which almost killed me,
  • saw my daughter perform at the Melbourne Arts Centre,
  • had our first cancer scare with our dog Amy and then
  • lost my grandfather to cancer (which doesn’t seem that long ago).

2015They were huge things, and very draining. And still, I finished this year completely shattered and I’m just getting out of it now, after a good few days down at Dromana soaking in the ocean (my calm down place). My 2015 list on the face of it is much longer. This year I:

  • Wrote a book starring my daughter as a werewolf
  • Saw They Might Be Giants (again)
  • Watched my lovely wife graduate from university
  • Ran the school radio show and podcast for a year
  • Spent a week in Sydney
  • Ramped up the school 3D printing program
  • Started learning to program in Python
  • Got my debating team into the finals
  • Had a number of articles published in educational journals
  • Had a reunion of the Five
  • Fixed the shower head
  • Ran the sound for Macbeth
  • Wrote half a dozen stories for a sequel to Dwarves in Space and found them mostly awful
  • Discovered Netflix and Stan and Presto
  • Had a Marvel Universe movie marathon
  • Went to a number of art galleries
  • Attended a few Guides functions
  • Started an educational blog
  • Read the Harper Lee sequel nobody thought would ever happen
  • Flew in a very old bi-plane
  • Finished my wedding video – three years on
  • Celebrated Grandma’s 90th

And that’s just the ones that come to mind going back through my photo gallery. Of those, they were all incredibly positive, life affirming and creative pursuits, which didn’t bring me down in the slightest. So why am I so mentally exhausted?

I think all that I can say is: don’t get involved in politics in the workplace. Just do your own job as well as you can and let what’s up top run itself.

I just wish I believed that was a good idea. Anyway, as always, I promise I will write more in 2016. And I have actual things in place to make that happen. AND I did actually write a lot in 2015 – just not on FindingDamo.

He said, She said…

Last night I was exploring first person POV, the unreliable narrator and differing perspectives on the same situation with a student I tutor. To illustrate the situation I presented the following YouTube clip:

I then asked her to write the piece from the boy’s perspective in first person, followed by the girl’s perspective. While she wrote, I did the same. It was an interesting exercise. Here ‘tis.

She

My stomach turned over as I saw him. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation. It was either the nerves. Or the baby.

Oh yeah, I’m pregnant.

How would he react? In these situations, I tend to get defensive. My back was up as we met and I’m sure I was sulking as I matched his step.

Finally, he stopped and confronted me.

He looked tired. Tired and annoyed.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

Already he’d annoyed me. He knew, but he wouldn’t be the one to say it.

“What do you want me to say?” I asked. His expression was part of the reason I was glad the baby wasn’t his. God, how could I have been with him?

“Well,” he said, his voice flat, “clearly you’re acting like this for some reason -”

Like this? Like my life had been thrown into turmoil? Like my future had just become that of the single mother?

“- so what’s up?” he asked. He was pretending to be Caring Guy. I was having none of it.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

You really want to know? I thought. “I’m pregnant.”

His surprise was genuine. Hell, maybe he hadn’t known, after all.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” And then he said the words I’d been dreading:

“Is it mine?”

I didn’t want to have this conversation. I didn’t want him to be a part of my life. My baby’s life.

“I dunno, maybe.”

“Maybe?” Oops. No guy wants to hear that. But, looking at his stupid face, I figured I was better off without him. I sighed.

“Probably not.”

The look of pure relief on his face said it all.

“Thank God!” he said, and he almost sprinted from the room. I left in the opposite direction.

Good riddance.

He

She was bugging me. She’d been moody for days. When she called me and said we needed to talk, I gigured that the inevitable break up talk was imminent. And frankly, that was fine by me.

But now that we were together, she wasn’t saying anything. I decided to make the first move.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you want me to say?”

I hate you? I’m sick of this? It’s over?

“Well clearly you’re acting like this for some reason, so what’s up?”

“I don’t know.” This was harder than I thought. She was withdrawn. Maybe it wasn’t the breakup conversation. I looked at her more closely.

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Whoa. That was not one of the possible options.

“Really?” No, not really, I’m just fooling. What a stupid question. I saw contempt in her eyes.

“Yeah.” Ok, next stupid question. I was on a roll.

“Is it mine?” I mean, really, who wants to know the answer to that, one way or another? I didn’t love her, didn’t even like her much. I definitely didn’t want to have a kid with her. But although I was pretty sure she’d been cheating on me, I had no desire to know for sure.

“I dunno, maybe.” My stomach lurched. Maybe was a confirmation of the cheating. I’d almost have preferred a “How could you ask that?” blowup, not this sulky quiet. My heart grew cold.

“Maybe?”

“Probably not.”

I was furious. I was ecstatic. I mourned the loss of my brief, ten-second child. I celebrated my freedom.

“Thank God,” I snapped.

And then I sped out of the room so she wouldn’t see the tears.

On a lighter note:

This YouTube clip was obviously part of an exercise for a film school or something. These two did a pretty good job. But I found another one which you might find amusing, although they would fail the sound check:

School is Hell?

First up: WordPress got annoyed at me because I haven’t logged on in 180 days. I have no excuse. This year has been one of extreme lack of creativity. I’ve still achieved a great deal, but I’ve actively avoided anything involving writing. This is the first year since I learned to write that I haven’t written any number of stories. And I think my brain needed the break.

But now my brain is itching to create again. I’ve already started extending some chapters of Finding Damo and outlined a few short stories and plays. Come the summer (if Melbourne experiences summer at all this year) I’ll be up to my eyeballs in creative juices and spitting out new stuff left right and centre.

Can you believe that I just taught a class on not using clichés?

The overt reason that I stopped writing was the below entry. I wrote it. I planned on using a heap of pictures I drew over my high school years. I wanted to discuss it with a couple of people who had joined me in the hell that was Kyabram Secondary College.

And then I left it. I’d thrown out the pictures. The responses from my friends confused me.

And now 180 days have passed.

At about 90 days, I wanted to just post something. But by that time, anything that I wrote would have to be spectacular to justify the delay. A number of what could have been very interesting blog entries have died because they didn’t match up to the gap.

But now I’m done with school for the year. My brain itch is forcing me to write. I have a dozen topics I want to discuss. So I’m going to post this entry, fantastic or not, pictures missing, and then get on with my life.

So, here goes:

School is Hell.

I wonder if anybody actually enjoyed going to high school. Primary school, for the most part, is fun. There’s a heap to learn, and the teachers usually present it in a way that involves making posters and dioramas. Even the bullies don’t hit as hard.

I’ve been thinking almost constantly about my feelings towards high school. If anyone asks me how my high school years were, I instantly respond with “Oh God. I hated them. Worst years of my life. I was bullied constantly from year 8 onwards. It was Hell.”

In Year 8, a knob called Stewart decided to draw on my pencil case with a permanent texta. I didn’t want him to and knocked the texta away, causing it to draw a line across his shirt.

“You bastard. Don’t you know that our family is poor and I can’t afford to buy a new shirt?”

And that, to me, was the catalyst. His friends jumped on his side. And suddenly school was a horrible place to be.

And to be sure, that statement is a bit reductive. Is reductive a word? I’m sure that there were a number of reasons, slowly building, that would have had me excommunicated from my social circle around that time. But at the time, it seemed like a pretty slim excuse to get me thrown out of my friendship group.

They jumped on my “attack” on this kid as an excuse to ditch me, and it spread through the year level.

The best thing that could have happened to me was my trip to Canada in 1989. Dad worked out an exchange and we were going with him. A year’s break from Kyabram was just what I needed. The students even had a (grudging) going away party for me when I left at the end of Year 8.

I’m getting to a point, but hear me out.

When I was in Year 10, my issues were more with a couple of absolute tools than with the school in general. One moron who promised me that he would “push your head through the wall and watch your brains leak out.” His name is Joel and I’m really hoping he’s in prison being stabbed with a shiv. He’d lay in wait for me, so that I had to take the long way around the school buildings to get out without him seeing me.

The other was a dropkick whose name I really should remember. He would casually push me around for the hell of it. He was… Shannon? I wish I’d picked on him for his girly name. He was a burly lad with a good following of hangers-on and a desire to make my life difficult. Issues with him came to a head when I was on the Central Australia camp. He pushed me to the ground because the concept of me was annoying to him.

Hamish was a good friend of mine in Primary School and Year 7. Seeing as I’d come from a catholic school and moved into the state system, he was my link into the group of friends I had in high school. His turning on me was one of the more hurtful things that happened to me. Honestly though, he turned out to be an absolute dick, so I’m probably better off without him. I caught up with him at a night club when I was in university with Scott something-or-other, another “good” friend from those early years. They were belligerent and bullying, something I thought I’d left behind from school. But neither of them actually accomplished anything with their lives, so I’m not overly fussed by their opinions.

So, the point: I have some incredibly strong negative associations with school. But if I list all of my memories of school in two columns, I’m pretty sure my positive associations will be stronger than the negative.

Let’s give it a shot, remembering the fact that these are all pretty specific, and you might be lost. Bear with me. I’m unburdening.

Damo’s list of school memories, separated by positive/negative bias:

 Negative

  •  Bullied by Joel. of course, this went on for most of a year, so it’s up there.
  • Bullied by Shannon. Not a major memory. just that one incident on camp that sticks in my mind.
  • Ostracised by friends in year 8.
  • Calculus
  • Zoe Kennedy – always looking to pick on a kid for something.
  • Mr Ryall, who I annoyed on a Biology camp and who took it out on my brother. He’s a lot nicer now, btw.
  • That evil cow… what was her name? She was doing the production instead of Lance Twentyman (he’s another blog completely!). And we just bumped heads from the beginning and it ramped up as  the production went on. And I’m sure, through a teacher’s eyes, that I was a difficult prima-donna, but she was evil.
  • The Year 10 city camp. A couple of kids got done for shoplifting. One girl got pregnant while her friend watched from the bottom bunk. And my friends weren’t talking to me after my breakup with Shereen.
  • All the zits and the medication for the zits. And the mood changes caused by the medication for the zits.
  • Fighting Jason – the only fight I’ve ever been in in my life. It lasted less than 10 seconds. I didn’t win.
  • Attempting to sing Time Warp at a school social and the DJ turning off the music and kicking me off the stage.
  • Being put into a remedial PE class.
  • PE class in general.

And that’s pretty much it. There is probably a lot more, hidden away and popping up as I remember, but considering my dislike of the institution, that’s a pretty short list.

 Positives.

  •  The Year 7 Pram Drag – we always ended up being completely covered in mud.
  • School productions. Again, this is probably a different blog. A happier blog. But highlights included:
    • Bats – dressing up as Dracula
    • Pippin – King Charles
    • Roll Over Beethoven and being a member of Kiss and the Beatles.
  • Vanessa Walker, who I’ve never been able to find through cyber-stalking, but who was a vibrant, happy personality, and who left at the end of … Year 7?
  • Shereen and Nat and that group. Happy, cheerful, fun-loving people.
  • Amanda and Grant and that group.
  • Justin Thompson, Jason Morris, Jason D and Lyle, who were my main social group in Year 11 and 12.
  • Craig Grummit, who introduced me to Queen and showed me what you could do with computer programming.
  • Debating
  • Georga Evans in Year 8 and Year 10. And linked to that:
  • Being asked to be a deb partner, but better still:
  • Not having to actually be a deb partner (she had to have an operation on her foot).
  • English class.
  • Literature. With Julienne Sinclair – an absolutely marvellous individual.
  • Biology and our two male Guinea Pigs that were meant to breed.
  • Photography class – for the week I did it.
  • Getting copies of Wired World of sport on copied cassette tape.
  •  The computers – the first IBMs I’d worked on. I hacked the password and replaced all of the software links with games.
  • Maths tutoring with Mick Walsh.
  • Graphic design and my In Line for the Dole Queue VCE top design (which wasn’t taken up).
  • Going out in Shepparton.
  • A VCE Info Tech weeklong camp looking at Technology and my first taste of the Internet.
  • The school library, which was a haven and a constant source of books.
  • Playing foursquare.
  • Chatting with Nick, who was weird but very knowledgeable.
  • Piano lessons with Sharon Leppard.
  • Home economics. Learning to cook is something I will never regret.

The positive list is way longer than the negative list. I had some very positive experiences at high school. Being bullied is hell for anybody. And it coloured my perception of high school for years. But now I can look at the experience as the growth experience that it was. I’ll never forgive the idiots who felt the need to torture me through high school. But I can now realise that it wasn’t all bad.

Epiphany!

Post epiphany:

I emailed this to a couple of people I went to high school with to see if they had the same perception of what I was going through. This led to a very interesting conversation. Part of that was “You realise that nobody’s going to get anything out of this, because it’s all incredibly specific?”

The rest of it is below. Names removed to protect the innocent.

Friend 1: I asked him what he remembered of my experiences in High School, as I might have blocked out some of the worst stuff.

“We went to high school?” he said. His experience was as traumatic as mine. He was surprised and upset to find out that I’d had this experience in high school. He told me about his own experiences – beatings and pranks and humiliation throughout primary school that still upsets him. He went to a school reunion hoping that things had changed to find that these people were just as ignorant and juvenile as they had been in primary school.

He has good memories of high school as well, but they are also overshadowed by the crap that happened alongside them.

I went to a reunion. I think it may have been 10 years. I enjoyed myself immensely. Most of the people I didn’t want to see didn’t show up and the people that were there were all very nice. It was a pleasant evening. The people at the reunion were people who didn’t get involved in the bullying. Of course, they didn’t actively stop it, but that’s pretty standard for high school.

The other comment from my friends was that it was good to know that even though we were in our own bubbles, not knowing what was happening to the others, that there was someone else out there who knew how we felt.

And finally, that it was sad that we travelled together through this journey, but also completely alone.

Send more exorcists!

This blog started off being something strange and quirky and quickly became a quite deep conversation on religion. Ive done studies into the Church and the Catholic faith over the years, being a Catholic school teacher. Ive taught Religious Education and try always to approach it from the point of view of acceptance and tolerance first, as the best priests Ive known have also preached. Below are some of the thoughts Ive had. The scholarly writing Ive put together has always gotten me into trouble, but it seems to be based on solid research and interpretation. Enjoy. Or dont.

Draw Something 2 ExorcistSend more Exorcists!

So the pope apparently tried to perform an exorcism on a disabled man during an appearance (1, 2 3). Exorcism experts say that he was reciting prayers for ridding a person of evil spirits. The pope’s peeps insist that he was only praying over the man, as he usually does when meeting sick people.

However, a spokeswoman for the church in Madrid says that exorcism is real and there is a plan to train up more exorcists to fight the devil in Spain. The devil came down from Georgia and just kept on going.

I posted this on Facebook and a friend immediately came up with these statements:

“Hmmm… I might give Madrid a miss until they have their demonic possession problem sorted out.”

‘Or maybe it’s a trap? “Our demons are hungry. Please send more exorcists.”‘

Catholics are weird. I should know, I am one. But the church in general, being the starting point for the Christian religion, has just held onto all of the things the other flavours have given up on.

Celibacy for leaders of the church.

Disappeared in most denominations when they realized that it was completely untenable and caused more problems for the community than a holy man who dared to love someone else apart from God.

Reconciliation (confession)

People sin. A sinner can’t get into Heaven. But if you have a priest absolve you of your sin, that’s all good. Tell the priest what you did. He’ll give you some Hail Marys and Our Fathers, and send you on your way, blameless as a newborn child.

That’s an insultingly simplistic view of the rite. You have to want and ask for forgiveness. You need to repent. And if you’ve wronged someone, often the priest will suggest as part of your penance that you tell the person and ask for their forgiveness as well. It depends on the priest. But for years, I went to confession, sat in the booth, very aware that the priest knew exactly who I was, and confessed that “I took the Lord’s name in vain. I had impure thoughts. I fought with my brother and didn’t respect my parents”, took the penance of prayer and went on with my life. I’m pretty sure confession only works when you’re confessing to a priest you don’t have to deal with every Sunday as an altar boy.

That reminds me of a joke, the punchline being: “A Mars Bar and a can of Coke”. You’re not getting any more out of me here, that’s for sure.

No women priests.

I’ve actually done research on this one. And although hundreds of church leaders and scholars came up with a different interpretation, I can’t find any reason why women can’t be priests. So, to finish off, here are some excerpts from an essay I wrote on the subject:

Modern scholars and Christologists interpret the Gospels and the life of Jesus from the basis of their own world views. There is no such thing as objectivity. Our world is not Christ’s world and our culture is not His culture. Having said that, we can still take valuable lessons from the words and deeds of Jesus. We can definitely use his actions as written in the Gospels to provide examples on how to react to certain issues in contemporary society.

In society today, one of the greatest issues is the equality of the sexes. The equal treatment of men and women in the workforce and in the minds of the people. Part of that equality should be the ability for both men and women to be ordained in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church makes an illogical argument for not ordaining women and ignores the message of Christ’s actions as set down in the Gospels.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994, p394) tells us that women cannot be ordained because:

“The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose the collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.”

Taking the argument that anyone not chosen by Christ* cannot be ordained as a priest can lead us in a terrifying direction. No Asians were chosen. No people of colour. No disabled people. The negative argument is far too limiting. We need to look at the intentions of Christ and his Ministry, as well as the world that he lived in.

The Jesus Christ of the Gospels was all-inclusive. He dealt with and welcomed thieves and tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick and foreigners.

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:3)

He had a special place in his heart for children.

But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Luke 18:16)

Most importantly, he always treated women equally to men. In a society where women “had no official place in religion”**, the Gospels make a point of mentioning Jesus’ interactions with women, especially in Luke’s Gospel. Women were clearly important in Jesus’ eyes.

Jesus called upon women to be disciples, as well as men. His message was that the call to discipleship and the “message of the kingdom” was to come before “social and family patterns” (Notes, p33). Women such as Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha and Joanna were called to follow him and pass on the message he was preaching. More significant is the fact that it was Mary Magdalene and a number of women who brought the Good News of Christ’s resurrection to the Apostles***. The angels at the tomb reminded the women of Jesus’ words, “that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:7) The women went to the apostles and others to tell them. It is hard to claim that women cannot preach the Good News when it was women who were the first to do so.

And, being that this is a blog with research, here is the research that I did! Proud of me?

News Sources

Man in Pope Francis Exorcism Story Says He’s Still Possessed by Demons

Did Pope Francis perform an exorcism?

Pope Francis denies performing exorcism on wheelchair-bound boy in Rome

 Bibliography

  • *“The Arguments from Scripture” London, UK: Women Priests. Accessed 16 April 2007. Available from http://www.womenpriests.org/scrip_ac.asp
  • ***Carrol, Elizabeth (1975) Theological Studies 36, quoted in “Women and Ministry” London, UK: Women Prists. Accessed 16 April 2007. Available from http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/carroll3.asp
  • **Goosen, G & Tomlinson, M (1994) , Studying the Gospels: an introduction, Newtown: EJ Dwyer (Australia) Pty Ltd.
  • (1998) The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, London: HarperCollinsReligious
  • Hall, Rev G (1996), Course Notes, Certificate of Religious Education (NSW), CEO Sydney

Imagination and the post-y generation

tripodLast night we went to see Tripod: Men of Substance. It was a vaguely depressing show, as the boys (men, now) addressed turning 40 and sixteen years of performing. Shereen thought it was hilarious. I looked at us, 16 years ago, drinking at the Prince Pat and watching Tripod doing Open Slather. Each of them had their own coloured shirts. It was fresh and funny and we’d drink too much and stagger home afterwards.

This show started at 8.45 and we were home by midnight. Sad sad sad.

I’ve always liked Tripod. They write for my generation and my type of person. There are references to Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars and Commodore 64s. One of their songs last night was called “Waiting for the Game to Load” after putting the tape in, typing load and pressing play. Ah, the memories.

People magazine

Builders had good taste

At one stage they commented on having to go to the tip to get porn. When I was a pre-teen living in Kyabram, we used to hunt down building sites. There we would find the builders’ stash of People (tame) and Picture (less tame) magazines. I had no idea that there was anything stronger available until  high school and my introduction to working life as a paper boy. With 20 boys and 1 adult supervisor, suddenly we had illicit access to a whole new class of porn –Penthouse and Playboy at the tame end, Hustler and other plastic-baggers catering to whatever your particular fetish was at the other end.

But still, getting access to it required a bit of effort and some ingenuity. And of course, you had to outsmart your parents in the hiding. A regular rotation shift of location and the occasional emergency ditching to a friend seemed to work.

Now of course, the Internet has killed all creativity in that area. I teach a Cyber Safety unit at school. When I talk to the students about safe and unsafe uses of the Internet, I almost always have to take notes, as they list off incredibly thorough listings of sites with free access. Of course, they don’t tell me that these are porn sites. I ask them for popular web sites and they will say something like “Oh, I’m always on RedTube, sir, do you know it?” and then watch my expression closely. I have mastered the blank expression, but often I don’t need it. These students know more about free porn than I ever will (holding out wedding ring).

I got really side-tracked here from where I was going in this post. What was I going to say?

Oh yes, imagination.

Tripod’s other little gem was that boredom is the catalyst for imagination. My brother and I never got up in the morning thinking that today was the day that I would almost cut off his thumb. We would eat breakfast, sit around a bit, and then say “OK. I’m bored. What do you want to do?” And one of us would remember that there was a hatchet in the back shed, and a stack of wood that could be cut up. And of course, Justin would have to hold the wood still. And then there was the hospital trip and another experience arising out of boredom and imagination.

I’m not saying it right.

We would sit around, nothing better to do. And then Justin would point out that we could jump off the roof, onto the trampoline, and from there to the cushions and mattresses from the caravan. Mostly, he was right.

This is why I’m not in sales.

OK, last try. Dad would bring home a video camera. It was a massive thing, with a shoulder strap to hold the player, attached by a cord to the camera itself. We would spend hours creating film. We figured out how to do stop motion and would drive chairs around the backyard. We realized that if the camera was on a tripod (not a Tripod) we could do special effects, turning Elise into Dad and making people disappear. We would do David Attenborough specials through the wilderness of our backyard, and rope in our friends to create advertisements for made up soap and pet food. We let our imaginations run wild and rarely came back to earth.

bored is good

bored is good

I’m not even sure that teenagers today would get Calvin and Hobbes. “Is he playing some sort of a computer game?” “Is it something like Inception?”

Of course, there are still the precious few – those children and young adults who can live inside their minds and find the hidden worlds that exist all around the bored and the inquisitive. And imagination exhibits in other ways. The special effects that abound in today’s movies are incredible. And someone had to imagine that. Computer games are pushing the boundaries between interaction and storytelling, to great effect. Only two percent of novels are published, which means that for every novel on the bookshelves, there are … um, more (199?) that have been written, but not published, which is an amazing output of imagination. Imagination isn’t dead.

But:

Kids who spend all of their time playing Clash of Clans. Kids who don’t know the meaning of boredom due to being given iPods at the age of four. Parents who turn on the tv or the computer or the console whenever a child says “I’m bored.”

These people are giving imagination a damn good thrashing. I’m sure our creativity is diminishing as a species. And what does that mean for humanity as a whole?

It’s the dreamers, the bored and the curious who have gotten us to where we are today. If nobody is allowed to be bored, they won’t dream, they won’t have a need to ask “What will happen if I mix these two…” BOOM.

And may the gods help us then.

PS. A side not that I couldn’t fit in anywhere else: Film studios need to get past remaking films from other countries and other decades, or adapting nostalgic television into nauseating and forgettable cinema.

PPS. Today was the bored. Next week will be the dreamers. Does that mean I now have to write a curious blog post about skinning cats?

PPS. Finding Damo word count tomorrow. I’m also writing a new one-act play.

 

When you can’t say something nice…

A quarter of the year has gone by. Finding Damo has been dead silent. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is: I forgot the first rule of being a writer.

Write.

30 Years of DiscworldThat being said, I have been incredibly creative over the past few months. As publicity officer for Nullus Anxietas IV, I’ve written a couple of scripts, a couple of articles, many many press releases, maintained four different social networks and sang Who Will Buy (from Oliver) with completely different words (for Dibbler). I’ve done a lot of film work. And I worked with Pippa to create a Discworld cake that would feed over a hundred people. With gluten free extras.

My family loves having me around again. Shereen called herself the “Convention Widow”, so when I am home, I am loathe to hide myself in a room to write.

I have also (shock horror) spent a good deal of time doing my actual job. I’m teaching History for the first time in five years and in my brain, Australian History has always been “marked for Deletion” in case anything more important entered my head – like for example a quote from a Harry Dresden novel. Whoops, there goes the Eureka Stockade! Gone.

So I’m filling my head with useful facts, getting the Golden Pen writing club back up (stay tuned for more short stories because of that one) and trying to field a successful debating team.

And with the debating competition come the debating topics. Ah, the wonderful topics. Always something to comment on. Should we ban streaming classes in schools? Should stay-at-home parents be paid a wage?
Why don’t we just let sports figures take whatever drug they want?

ooooOOOOOooooo. Excellent topic.

It just begs to be taken to the illogical extreme. Sports people are doing drugs. The ones that aren’t are obviously at a disadvantage. Why not just let everybody take performance enhancing drugs, level the playing field and look forward to an infinitely more entertaining sporting experience?

There is, of course, the matter of rich nations immediately having an advantage (that’s where the good drugs are), especially in international events like the Olympics.

But really, I’m more interested in events like Football, boxing, wrestling. Events where we can expand the sport beyond the limits of our puny human bodies into something truly awesome.

Just imagine it: the Pharmaceutical Games. Who cares what that athlete’s name is? He has nothing to do with how well he’s going to perform!

bayer contestant“Coming into the arena now is the Bayer contestant. Whoa but he’s a beauty. The medical boffins have turned him into a mean (literally) green fighting machine. I’m assuming that has something to do with his chlorophyll count. Dr. Heckyll, would you care to comment on your creation?”

“Yes, Jim. Thank you. As you have guessed, we have genetically modified this specimen to take energy directly from the sun. It no longer has to worry about anaerobic pain, as individual cells are constantly fed oxygen from every pore on its skin.”

“And how do you think it will compete against the Johnson&Johnson competitor? Oh, he’s coming out now. Wow. He’s almost twice the size of your creation.”

“I’m not worried in the slightest. The J&J beast is big, but they haven’t had a winning fighter since the Blob, back in ’28!”
If you weren’t worried by little considerations such as ethics and the well-being of competitors, sport could be something I might even tune in to watch! Who cares about fairness in sport? Sport was created as a way for lords to observe the fitness of their soldiers outside of proper warfare. It was war without the death (mostly). In that situation, the person who wins is better and the reasons why they win stop being so important. Fairness? Pah. All is fair in love and sport!

I think the Death Race model is one of the better ones. Take convicts who have been sentenced to death. Give them the opportunity to win their freedom in the arena. Make them sign their body over to whichever pharmaceutical company came first in the draft. And let them have a field day.

Of course, we could never let these hulks loose on society afterwards. But they don’t have to know that, do they?
Where’s the drawback? I see no way that this could go horribly wrong, only to be resolved in around 120 minutes of bloody action!

I think I should take a break now. Gain some perspective. I’m back on the weekly blog schedule, and have some keen insights in store for 2013.

BTW, I’ve started writing again. This week was a one-act play and a short story. Finding Damo (the novel, not the blog) is calling to me. I’ll post word counts next week.

Happy Easter everyone!

Exams

One of the great things about being a teacher is the paperwork. Everything has to be documented. Every piece of work should be carefully covered in red scribble and returned to the student, for them to scrunch it up and stick it in the bottom of their bag. We need to write lesson plans and unit outlines and day-to-day summaries and meeting minutes and assignment sheets…

… and exams.

We have exams for all core subjects in Years 7-10 at our school. Twice a year, for one week and at least six subjects, the students traipse into the hall or the auditorium and sit in neat little rows with papers in front of them and write or doodle for two hours. We supervise them, wandering up and down the aisles, answering questions (“When it says ‘write your name here’ does that mean my full name, or just my first name?”) and handing out tissues.

Oh gods, the sniffing! It’s like a convention of cocaine addicts sitting in a hall. All is silent except for the rustling of paper and then a symphony of sniffs. Sometimes you can tell it’s deliberate. There’s a pattern. The ringleader will give a hearty snort, followed by the gleeful snuffles of his underlings. But mostly it’s just the disgusting habits of teenagers in a world where handkerchiefs are no longer a required item.

It isn’t my place to debate the usefulness of exams. Well, it is, but it is more than my job is worth to do so. But they are very stressful, both for teachers and students. And I don’t even teach VCE (for the overseas readers: the Victorian Certificate of Education is the endgame for high school education in Victoria – Years 11 and 12). So many times I want to grab a kid and say “You’re only in Year 7! It’s not that big a deal!” But it’s probably a good thing that they have four years of learning that you don’t talk in exams and, No, you cannot go and get a drink you doofus!

Speaking of stress, my favourite (?) story from my own VCE exam days might very well be an urban myth, but it freaked us out at the time. I was going into a Literature exam, when one of the other students told us this:

“So this girl was really unprepared for her Psych exam. And on the day she came into the exam, really calm. She sat down, got all her stuff out, and waited for the exam to start. She opened her exam paper, stared at it for a few minutes, and then, very calmly, picked up two pencils, inserted one in each nostril, sharp side up, and then, without warning, slammed her head down on the table. She was dead instantly!”

This, just before we went into an exam. And exams at that point meant everything. They were our entry into university. They were a status symbol. They took over every part of our lives for those final weeks of school. And they were unbelievably stressful.

But I can’t imagine being overly worried about them in Year 10. I don’t even think I was overly traumatised by them in Year 12, although that story didn’t help. I know I was, but that sense of terror isn’t lodged in my brain the way dealing with bullies and everyday school life is. I remember clearly a slick, feral kid promising he’d push my head through a wall as soon as the teacher wasn’t watching. I don’t remember sleepless nights awaiting exams in highschool.

By university, exams had taken on a malevolent evil force that allowed them to get under my skin and bring me to breaking point. Or maybe it was the booze and late nights that did that. But suddenly, exams meant something. Friends would come to my room in tears, sure that they were going to fail miserably. We would do week-long cram sessions. We would stay up all night before an exam, trying to get one tiny piece of information to stick. We would eat mountains of doughnuts and experiment to see whether studying drunk was better than studying sober. Nothing helped.

I hate exams. They aren’t a fantastic example of learning. They are a fantastic example of a certain type of student’s learning. But until universities realise that, we’re stuck with it.

And so the symphony of sniffing will continue.

Who does that voice look like?

I started writing this three weeks ago, and ended up having to split it into three blog posts to have it make sense. I started on an evening when the Mists of Pandaria update prevented me from playing, but couldn’t find my voice, so ended up writing about Super! instead. I tried again this morning – a post about stereotypes and teachers, but again, it wasn’t coming out right. So I’m giving you the first part of that post – a comment on stereotypes in TV and movies. I’ll get into the rest as soon as possible. I know I’m a few weeks behind, but we just moved into our new house, and hopefully my busy days are done. Here goes:

A few weeks ago, I talked about the American school system and the extremist schools that are going to teach the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, proving the existence of God. At that time I went down the road of supernatural interest and ghost stories. I did, however, mention that in another reality, I might have talked a little about teachers and stereotypes and why the stereotypes exist.

So here we go, rolling the dice again and heading into another reality:

That one was all of the realities in one. Very amusing if you’ve seen the episode. If not, belated SPOILERS!

And the die lands, and Damian decides to talk about teachers. (edit:  But that was too much work, so he’s left it with stereotypes)

I was going to write about teachers last week, but then something happened that would have meant I spent most of the time bitching about one particular teacher instead of talking about teachers in general. I’m plenty mellow tonight, so here goes…

In case you care.

I was listening to the Friday Night comedy podcast from BBC Radio. Tim Minchin was interviewing Caitlin Moran, and she sounded very cluey and it was a very amusing interview. And I realised that I had no idea what she looked like. And then I realised that I couldn’t even guess with any real accuracy. My reasoning goes as follows: if you watch a lot of American TV and movies, you start to match voices to faces. Americans love typecasting people. And when you hear someone on the radio in America, there is a good chance that they look how they sound. I know that this is incredibly generalistic (if generalistic is a word) but try it some time.

When I listen to British people on the radio, there is no typecasting going on in my head. I can’t picture them. I had no idea what Caitlin Moran looked like.

OK, here’s my theory: in America, there are a vast number of people who audition for every acting/media part. Given that excess of talent, producers/casting agents choose people who NOT ONLY can act/sing/talk, but who ALSO fit the concept in their head. A concept that is a stereotype drawn from generations of other casting agents doing the same thing. Types change. New types are added, but in general, they’re a little bit predictable.

In the UK, with far less people to draw from, the really talented people don’t necessarily fit a mind model. And this is just me being slightly nice to the Americans. I’d prefer to say that the British are just less shallow and pick people for true talent rather than what they look like. But there’s a chance that the population excess could be true too.

Either way, although there are types in British tv, they aren’t as fixed in stone as in America. Who would have thought of Katherine Tate as a companion for the Doctor?

I’m currently watching Episodes, with Matt le Blanc (actually, I’m watching Episodes with my wife, but Matt le Blanc is on the show). A British writing team are conned into coming to America to write an American version of their hit British show, about a school headmaster. It’s very funny and pokes a lot of fun at shows like American Coupling, Red Dwarf or Men Behaving Badly. But that’s not my point. It’s funny because we all know that when an American production company gets hold of a British property, they change it so that it fits in with an American audience.

They don’t take into account the reason why so many Americans watch the show (making it viable for a remake) is the humour in the British way of thinking about life. And probably the fact that the Brits don’t just hire pretty people and stick glasses on them to make them ugly.

OK. Do my job for me. Episodes is about the creation of a sitcom at a high school. It will feature a number of different stereotypes, because we all think back to our school days and remember:

– the militant PE teacher.

– The Maths teacher in his sandals and socks.

– The IT teacher who wouldn’t come out into the light and

– The hippy English teacher who would quote poetry at you and be disappointed when you didn’t burst into tears at the very words entering your head.

Or maybe not. Which types of teachers did you encounter over and over? I’m halfway through my teacher blog. Back on track next Wednesday.

Oh, and no new Finding Damo – the Novel as yet. But the show was a ripping success.

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