The Order of the Golden Boot attained at last

golden-bootQuitNet speak: “Our version of the Oscars, awarded at the 2 year milestone.” Not exactly the one on the right, but let that be a symbol. Because of the time zone difference, QuitNet is still in yesterday, so these figures are a few hours out.

731 days, 12 hours, 49 minutes and 29 seconds smoke free. 36577 cigarettes not smoked.

$27,778.00 saved.

This also means it is two years since I was carted off to Wollongong Hospital in one of these.

 wollongong ambulance

… to spend the next nine days in the cardiac ward and get stented. Here are a couple of my fellow sufferers at the time.

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Talking about the weather

This morning in West Wollongong:

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Looks pretty, eh!  But we should perhaps take heed. “Red sky on the morning, shepherd’s warning./Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight.”  That is the version my father taught me. But see Wikipedia on it: quite fascinating.

A similar adage appears in a poem by William Shakespeare. He said something similar in his Venus and Adonis (1593):

“Like a red morn that ever yet betokened,

Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field,

Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds,

Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.”

The perils are foreshadowed using the archaic word “betokened”; some versions use the archaic term “Wrack” (for the word “Wreck”).

In the Bible at Matthew 16:2-3, Jesus is quoted as saying, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.” However, some scholars have questioned the authenticity of this passage, suggesting that it is a late interpolation.

According to Yahoo Answers: “A red sunrise reflects the dust particles of a system that has just passed from the west. This indicates that a storm system may be moving to the east. If the morning sky is a deep fiery red, it means a high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain is on its way.”

We are still amazed by the events of early Monday morning when not one but four tornados, apparently, ripped through areas just to the south of here.  See galleries here and here.

Although Kiama was worst affected by the intense weather event, pictures are now emerging of damage in other areas.

Andrew Treloar, the bureau’s manager of weather services NSW, yesterday told the Mercury that the tornado that ripped through Seven Mile Beach National Park, near Gerroa, had been even more intense than the destructive Kiama tornado.

Jamberoo was also hit by strong winds at the weekend, causing damage to a number of roofs and toppling enormous headstones from their resting places. 

The scale of damage in Albion Park was less severe, although some homes reportedly lost roof tiles.

Back in November there was this too, further south:

This does get so boring…

It seems we are having another attack.  Herald economics writer Peter Martin pointed out something rather amusing about it all.

In launching a new school literacy program the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, appears to have committed a statistical howler.

Declaring that about 75,000 students failed to meet national minimum standards in the NAPLAN test last year she said, ”without improvement that number could climb to more than 150,000 by 2025”.

The doubling is the result of extrapolating forward the change over one year for 13 years.

Responding to Fairfax Media’s questions on Sunday, the Education Minister’s office said: ”The calculation is a Commonwealth analysis based on year 3 NAPLAN data and assumes the change seen between 2011 and 2012 continues out to 2025.”

But extending forward only the most recent change in a statistic is widely regarded as bad practice, likely to produce nonsense.

”One change does not a trend make,” the Deloitte Access director Chris Richardson, a former Treasury economist, said.

If, for example, the Commonwealth had extended forward only the most recent change in employment, between December and January, it would have looked as if employment was on track to climb 124,800 in the coming year. But if it had extended forward the previous change, between November and December, employment would have looked on track to slide 45,600.

”It’s good practice to use all of the comparable data, not just one change,” Mr Richardson said. ”The trend is your friend. To construct it, you should use all the comparable data.”

NAPLAN data from 2008 shows reading, spelling and grammar on an improving trend. The proportion of year 3 students failing to meet minimum reading standards fell from 7.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent. The proportion failing to meet minimum spelling standards fell from 7.5 per cent to 6 per cent.

”We will make this reading blitz one of the aims of our school funding reforms,” Ms Gillard told parents and children at the launch. ”We want to make sure that every child is assessed, every child’s strengths and weaknesses on reading are known and every child gets the opportunity to become a great reader.”

The government will ask all schools to sign up to an intensive four-year program in which teachers from kindergarten to year 3 maintain a running record of each student’s progress and set out a reading plan that includes the sounding out of words as one of the teaching methods…

A reading blitz? I would have thought “blitz” is a touch destructive, and there is every chance this one will lay waste the teaching of reading rather than actually improve matters – and there is more than a touch of panic about that as well. More assessment. More plans. Oh my God!

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I actually was involved in another “blitz” 20 years back. If you can get hold of a copy, you may read The teaching of reading in the Botany Cluster / [compiled by: Neil Whitfield].  I tell you a bit about this 1993 project in my 1998 essay on Literacy.

My mind and my teaching practice are archaeological sites. Some exploration of those sites seems a good way to focus the development of my present approach to literacy education, primarily but not exclusively in English in secondary schools. So far as this article has a thesis it is this: that, despite the sometimes combative rhetoric of those advocating one model or pedagogy or another (as when Martin [1993:159] pillories whole language approaches as ‘benevolent neglect’), an informed, dynamic eclecticism is a viable stance. (Compare Anstey and Bull 1996:52-53, Brock 1998:11 on the ‘either/or myth’.)

Thirty years have deposited approaches beginning with the very traditional mainstream English teaching of 1966, not much changed from the 1950s.

THE ETERNAL CRISIS

Throughout these thirty years literacy has apparently been in a state of crisis. In the late 1950s and early 60s certain Science professors at the University of Sydney lamented the ‘illiteracy’ of their students. In the 1970s, even before any rational person could have detected any impact on school leavers of the various ‘progressive’ developments of the early 70s, many commentators (such as Professor Crisp of the Australian National University) discerned a rapid decline in literacy and numeracy between 1970 and 1975 (Watson 1994:1).

Even today successful adman and potboiler writer Bryce Courtney (speaking in a good cause against tax on books) can claim:

This country is facing a serious literacy problem. We could very easily by about 2020 have a country where 55pc of the population is illiterate. (Sun-Herald 23 August 1998.)

Just what Courtney means by literacy and how he arrived at this alarming prognostication is anybody’s guess. Such critics usually have in mind one or more of the following: that phonics and other skill-centred pedagogies constitute ‘real teaching’ as opposed to trendiness or left-wing subversion; that traditional grammar is the same; that spelling is in a parlous state; that our white Anglo-Saxon Protestant heritage is being systematically white-anted; that teachers are responsible for crime, drugs and youth unemployment; that infinitives are being split–and so on.

Nearer the mark is Mem Fox who observed on Margaret Throsby’s ABC-FM program on August 24 1998 that we think literacy standards are falling because more people’s literacy is exposed; in other words social demands have changed…

1998 is a long time ago now, but the frustrating thing is that before and since – probably for well over a century – we have kept on having what are essentially the same arguments. In 1922 (pdf), for example. By the way, there are some more fascinating documents from NSW and from other states in   Schooling Australia: A curriculum history of English teaching, teacher education and public schooling from Federation to World War II.

Some good letters on this oh so boring political “blitz” of Ms Gillard in today’s Herald.

I often wonder just what it is that people think teachers do (”Gillard’s maths fails data test, says economist”, February 25). All proficient kindergarten teachers will, as a matter of course, assess each incoming pupil for prior skills and knowledge, as will teachers of any year and in any subject area.

Our Prime Minister appears to believe that keeping records ”of each student’s progress” and ”setting out a reading plan”, are something new to teachers of K-3 classes. The only specific method mentioned, ”the sounding out of words”, is, again, one that is often used, if needed, as a strategy. Teachers will generally use any and every reasonable strategy in an effort to teach their pupils.

Reading and writing, like so many skills, are best learned by doing. The practice of these is best encouraged by developing a love of reading from a very early age – most definitely long before school begins. One very important aspect of this development is, in addition to reading to and with the child, for parents/carers to set an example of valuing reading as an enjoyable activity in their own everyday lives. Love and immersion are great educators in all areas.

Kathleen Chivers Vincentia

Smarten up, teachers. Rip up those literacy programs. This is a ”reading blitz”. Until September, you will spend the time allocated for literacy mostly on reading. You will emphasise phonics because I have said so. You will teach phonics, test, record, read, phonics, test, record, test, test, test. I expect a noticeable improvement in scores by NAPLAN time in May. I am serious. You will do as you are told. The election is in September.

The Macquarie Dictionary says a ”blitz” is ”a war waged by surprise, swiftly and violently”. That certainly describes what Gillard is inflicting on teachers.

Phil Cullen Banora Point

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The effect of a blitz – historic photo

Pathetic really. And don’t expect better from the other mob when they get in. Pollies just never seem to learn. Perhaps THAT is a literacy issue?

Seriously, though, the situation of Maths seems a bit parlous: see Boys and girls divided on maths. But I am the last person you should talk to about Maths or Maths education!

On the other hand, another great #QandA last night, with some really tricky questions.

My own private Mardi Gras Film Festival

Noticed this in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Queer characters take centre stage in a Mardi Gras television film festival, writes Steve Dow.

IT HAS taken half a century, but the international movie world has progressed from rendering gay people invisible to embracing arguably a post-gay world of centre-frame queer characters whose sexuality is often a side concern.

Now the evolution broadens its reach: a week of same-sex-themed feature films from the US, Canada, Italy and Britain as well as Lebanon (standing in for Iran) on national television, the World Movies channel, before Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade on March 2.

As far back as 1978, the year of the first Mardi Gras – when revellers were arrested and homosexual acts still illegal across most of Australia – there was a gay and lesbian film festival in Sydney, so it might be said TV has come a little late to the party. World Movies has signed an official partnership deal with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

But studio-driven Hollywood itself moves at a glacial pace, despite the town’s liberalism.

Gay characters’ early depiction was straight from the script of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In Rope, in 1948, for instance, Alfred Hitchcock had two brilliant young ”aesthetes” – code for homosexuals – commit murder capriciously and stuff the body in a trunk, then carry on being debonair.

In The Children’s Hour (1961), an accused lesbian played by Shirley MacLaine hanged herself in the final reel.

Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was a hit in 2005 – an entire film that dealt tenderly with a cowboy-on-cowboy romance, even if Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist met a grisly end…

World Movies general manager Chris Keely sees Mala Noche, the 1985 black-and-white feature debut of American director Gus Van Sant, as a watershed that helped ”create the genre of queer cinema”. The film features on February 27 as part of the station’s week of six ”queer” films.

”He was depicting the love affair between two guys, and it wasn’t stigmatising gayness by showing a gay story,” Keely says.

This writer, however, found Mala Noche the weakest of the six Mardi Gras-week films, given its Jean-Luc Godard-style affectations. It’s probably best seen as a formative work of the director who went on to make queer classics My Own Private Idaho, starring River Phoenix, and Milk, starring Sean Penn as real-life assassinated gay activist Harvey Milk. The movie is a central element in the best of the six films, Circumstance, by director Maryam Keshavarz (see story, below), which begins the series on Monday, February 25.

In the latter film, set in Iran but made in Lebanon, young characters struggling to articulate human rights – including two teenage girls experimenting with their same-sex attraction – have the job of dubbing Milk into the Farsi language. ”What they were doing to the gays 30 years ago, they’re doing to you now,” a young Iranian man tells them…

Looking around YouTube I found a few short films ranging from the downright brilliant to the rather ordinary.  Excluding porn, of course… The following are all good, but the first two are brilliant, the third very good, and the fourth has a very interesting cross-cultural base but does not quite deliver on the acting of the two male leads.  The fifth is pure poetry.

Best is this gem from Northern Ireland, 2009. The kid  is terrific, but the whole thing is and puts into very necessary perspective quite a few things we get screwed up about.

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All the pics are linked to more information.

Speaking of perspective, the following is a classic joke with a rather serious point to make. I guess you could call it “queer” but not “gay”…  The teacher is excellent.

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“In Silver Road, lifelong friends Danny and Mark, both seventeen, struggle with the awkwardness of saying goodbye the night before Danny leaves for university in the city. Mark will stay behind to work his father’s farm, hoping someday to buy some land of his own.”  It is from Canada.

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Also from Canada is Cuong Ngo’s The Golden Pin (2009).

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Finally add in one from Utrecht (2008) – a lovely use of silence. A bit of a ring-in, too, as it really is just a lovely human story.

 

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Related: When I was young, and you were my street tutor…; SameSame’s “10 gay films you must see”.

Yudum was really good last night…

Remember More surprises from NITV – and a rare bit of election comment a few days back? Well, Yudum proved to be well worth seeing last night – very well acted, authentic, and rather well made given the low budget. Great soundtrack too featuring music by Seth Dodd.

Meanwhile here on the east coast it has been wet, wet, wet. Not so bad here in The Gong compared to other places.

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The neighbourhood this morning.

Update

I only heard about this in Woolworths this afternoon, speaking to a woman from Jamberoo: Kiama in lockdown following intense storm.

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So we were lucky here in West Wollongong.