Archive for demand better

Australia’s disgrace (in which others rant better than I)

Posted in Not good enough, rampant stupidity with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2010 by drawingdad

So I’m not really back, and not really having a rant. Not here, anyway.

I had a little rant in the comments section of my friend Naomi’s latest blog. She wrote a heartfelt and intelligent piece about the recent shipwreck tragedy that stole the lives of a boatful of asylum seekers. And I agreed with every word she wrote. The comments, as you will see, were mostly sympathetic for the loss of life. While acknowledging this, I went for the political side of it. My rant was short and only scratched the surface, but I needed to get at least some of it out. I didn’t even get started on the media side of it, which is just as well, given there’s another lengthy rant in that.

In my comment I also missed the opportunity to make a scholarly and relevant reference to George Orwell. I had planned to, but when I finished it wasn’t there.

Now go and read this. And the comments too, if you want to read my contribution. But first and foremost, read the article, think and feel, and share it.

A response to Christmas Island by Naomi Pritchard-Tiller

While you’re at it, read these other blogs and articles, which Naomi has been gathering links to and I have shamelessly stolen to share here. Naomi and all of the writers below articulate themselves far better than I could on this tragedy and the issues surrounding it:

Boat tragedy: How Australians became complicit in the horror of Christmas Island by Richard Flanagan, writing in the UK’s The Guardian.

10 things you need to understand about asylum seekers by Rick Morton, via Mia Freedman at Mama Mia.

How Labor wedged itself into a bad policy on boat people by Joe Hildebrand at The Punch, about the government’s lack of backbone.

Are your hands clean of blood, Andrew? by John Birmingham, writing in The Brisbane Times about the filthy hypocrasy of right-wing Herald-Sun & Daily Telegraph “journalist” Andrew Bolt. I referred to Bolt on Twitter as a motherfucker, and I firmly stand by that statement.

Here’s Bolt’s own article about it in the Herald-Sun, Blood on their hands. Yes, it’s the government’s fault, but it’s not all on Gillard’s shoulders, Andrew. Your hero John Howard doesn’t just have blood on his hands, it’s all over his suit. Blame him, too, for the appalling heartlessness this country has adopted.

There is bound to be more written about this, which I might post in updates here. Please read and THINK about it and TALK about it. We should be better than this.

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A shift in priorities

Posted in Life stuff, Not good enough with tags , , , , , , on November 6, 2010 by drawingdad

So, it’s been nearly two weeks since my last rant. When starting this blog I had intended to post new entries perhaps twice a week, because, let’s face it, there is so much to rant about. But I’m not going to. Not for a while. Those rants about how only 20% of people consider changing banks despite being routinely screwed by theirs yet will turn against their government before its first term is even over which is so backward it’s ridiculous, or telemarketers, or the overuse of the word “journey” in reality TV contest shows, or Oprah, or those annoying bloody Windows 7 ads, or my inability to stay awake if I sit still for more than two minutes, or Facebook, or fugly room makeovers in lifestyle TV shows that are supposed to champion good taste, or house-and-land package housing estates, or 3D TV and Apple’s hyperactive updating of brand-new products that encourage us to buy buy buy lest we be left behind in the entertainment dark ages, or brain-fucked parents and grandparents who thoughtlessly abandon their child and grandchildren for a romanticised retirement abroad, will all have to wait. Or perhaps never be written at all. I’ll find other things to rant about, I doubt it not, when I return.

I know this is just a fledgling blog, and posting infrequently then disappearing for a while after only five entries is not a good way to start building a readership. And I really would like to build a readership. Eventually, I hope, I’ll do so.

In previous entries, I have been preaching that we should Demand Better. While I completely stand behind those comments, it would be hypocritical for me to do so without demanding better myself. Demanding better of myself.

I have responsibilities. I have three people in my life who need me to be a responsible adult. Who need me to get myself sorted out to be a better partner and a better father. I need to make some changes, important changes, changes that challenge some deeply ingrained behaviours. I need to work towards the life I want to have with these three most precious of people. I need to get my arse into gear and chase the career I want. At the age of 35, it’s  long overdue.

To do all of this, I need to focus. I need to pitch all of my energy into getting myself and my life sorted out.

To focus, I need less distraction. And as much as I enjoy blogging, at the moment, it’s a distraction. I’ve been spending precious thinking time composing blog rants in my head, along with other diversions, instead of thinking about the things that matter most. Instead of meeting my responsibilities. I have more important things to do right now.

The problems I’m facing are what has kept my other blog, Sketching Life, dormant since April. So now The Odd Rant joins it on hiatus, for the time being. I may be back occasionally, when I have something to rant about that I must get off my chest lest I explode.

I’ll be spending less time online in general. I’ll be tweeting, mostly from my mobile phone (username @shirleyschmidto if you’re interested) and if I know you, I might write to you on Facebook from time to time.

I’ll be back, in time. And ranting like nobody’s business. (I don’t really understand what this means, but I’m sure you get the idea.)

Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you here again. In the meantime, keep demanding better. You deserve it.

Why cant sum teacher’s spelling right?

Posted in Education, Not good enough with tags , , , , , , , on October 24, 2010 by drawingdad

So, a couple of days ago I dropped my kids off at school. I went upstairs into the open-plan grade 5/6 area to talk to my daughter’s teacher. Projected onto one of the walls there was a page of text, presumably for the teacher to work through with the students that morning. It was entitled “What are Hero’s?” I stopped in my tracks to stare.

Hero’s.

Not heroes.

This was not, thankfully, the work of my daughter’s teacher. Nevertheless, I did find this grammatical and spelling boo-boo quite alarming.

This person is supposed to be teaching our children. How is a teacher going to teach our children properly if they don’t know how to do something this utterly basic themselves? Misuse of apostrophes is rife in our increasingly, it seems, illiterate society.

Just to be clear:

An apostrophe is used in a contraction in place of missing letters (ie. do not = don’t) or when signifying ownership (ie. Michael’s blog…).  Not when making a word plural!

Additionally:

The plural of any word ending in O has an E before the S. For example: heroes, potatoes, dominoes, banjoes, etc.

Why is this hard for so many people to understand?

The real problem here, as I see it, is that teachers are severely undervalued in Western society. Seems a rather big claim, no? But it’s true. Every day, we entrust teachers to educate our children. They teach our kids facts and figures and how to do things, but most importantly, they are supposed to be encouraging and teaching children how to think. Rote learning won’t get you too far, but knowing how to use your brain, processes for working things out and understanding the world, these are the tools that will get you through life. The better you are at it, the better stead you stand in to live a fulfilling life. We all agree, at least in principle, that education is vitally important.

But this agreement in principle doesn’t often translate into action. Teachers hold what should be one of the most respected positions in society, but they are underpaid, overworked, and are rarely provided with all of the resources they need to do their jobs well. Class sizes swell; schools, particularly state-funded ones, are always underfunded; teachers find their work hours bleeding out beyond school hours into their evenings and weekends. Governments at both state and federal level prattle on about the importance of education but don’t put enough resources into it. More often they are seeking ways to cut back.

Don’t they realise that the future of the state, the nation, the world is in the hands of today’s children? And if those children are not smart, the world is buggered?

From the highest levels, education and educators are not seen as very important. So not enough people want to become teachers. It doesn’t look all that appealing. This means that when it comes to teacher-training courses, lower demand means that tertiary entrance scores for the courses are lower. Which means that some dimmer bulbs get into the course. Which means that some really bloody stupid people are entrusted with teaching the new generation of fresh young minds.

Do you see the problem here?

I am in a position to pontificate about this because I studied alongside such people. In the early to mid Nineties, I completed a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) at one of Australia’s most highly-regarded universities. And believe me, I knew some complete and utter morons who were in that course. (No, I’m not looking at you, “Nana”.) Some of them were incapable of spelling their own name legibly. And these people are expected to bring out the best in our children?

A good teacher and especially a great teacher can inspire a child to go on to amazing things. A great teacher can change a student’s life, setting them on a path that takes them through the rest of their lives. Alternatively, a bad teacher can ruin a student’s experience, rob them of drive and confidence and change their lives in a detrimental way. Our kids deserve the best, don’t they?

My argument now branches out in two directions…

Firstly, it seems sensible for our teachers to know what they are doing. So they should be fully and comprehensively trained. My course was a four year one, and by the time I’d finished (after five years) I still didn’t feel all that confident in what I was doing. Maybe that was just me. These days, teaching courses seem to be shorter. You can get another unrelated degree and tack on an extra year to become a teacher. This seems inadequate to me. Would teachers who get qualified this way be prepared for the responsibility, and do it well? And if the most basic of things, like spelling, is not addressed in these courses (it certainly wasn’t in mine), then are we doing the right thing by our kids?

Then there’s the question of how well educated are the students who will become teachers in the future? Spelling is one area in which they are failing. The prevalence of TextSpeak has ruined the written word. Just look at any teenager’s profile on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Incomprehensible! It’s bad enough that the words are lost – I do understand the abbreviations – but the syntax is buggered beyond all belief.

When I was interviewed for my last job, the recruiters had to specifically bring up the issue of the use of TextSpeak in business. As in “it has no place in any professional communication yet half the people here can’t help themselves; we hope you can do better, having a degree.” It quickly became apparent that a higher level of literacy was expected from me. By higher, I mean at about the level I was writing in Year 7. My team leader put it quite succinctly when he said “if you can write two sentences without making a spelling mistake, you’re doing better than most.”

All of this is avoidable! Let’s encourage better education. Let’s expect a better standard from students. Let’s give teachers the respect (and pay) they deserve and better equip them to do their jobs. Let’s take the pressure off them and let them get on with the teaching. Let’s make sure only the best and brightest are entrusted with that job. We owe it to the good teachers, and to the students, and to our future. Demand better!

“By Public Demand”

Posted in Bollocks, TV, Unwanted Comebacks with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by drawingdad

So Hey Hey It’s Saturday returns to our televisions screens tonight. “Ask and you shall receive!” says Channel 9’s advertising, because this time, the show is actually on Saturday night. Was I the only one shaking my head in bewilderment when they put the show on Wednesday nights earlier this year? (Which fuckknuckle at Channel 9 was responsible for that one?) Was I the only one then, and the only one now thinking “why the fuck is this steaming pile of old manure back on TV in the first place?!?”

Eleven years. We had eleven years of Saturday nights free of this crap. By the time it was finally, oh-so-belatedly axed in 1999, the show was as tired and bloated as a beached whale with PMS. Host Daryl Somers was at least 10 years past his prime, finding it necessary to over-explain his lame retread jokes to the audience just in case we didn’t get them. We got them, Daryl. They just weren’t funny. I’ve found funnier jokes in Christmas crackers. By the end, the man had become a parody of himself. But that wasn’t funny either, it was just sad.

And after the, in my opinion, disastrous reunion specials last year, apparently made due to “public demand”, the show came back on an ongoing basis. Did Somers and his crew take the opportunity to improve upon the worn-out old format? Hell no, it’s all exactly the same as it was back in 99. How else can you explain the infamous blackface skit that made worldwide headlines for all the wrong reasons? Somers and co seem to think there was nothing wrong with it, and apologised only because of pressure from international guest Harry Connick Jr. It’s a different world these days, Daryl.

Who really wants to see this shite all over again? There are good reasons the show was given the chop in 99. The public didn’t want to watch anymore! So why now does this same public apparently want the show back?

One word: Nostalgia.

Look, I’m as nostalgic as anyone but I’m at least smart enough to know that having happy memories of something from bygone years probably won’t translate into that something being any good today. Just look, for example, at the recent crop of TV remakes that failed because they were pathetic attempts to recapture old glories: 90210, Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, Melrose Place… Thank god they haven’t tried to bring back Baywatch yet.

Enough already! Why waste our time with this bullshit? Why not think of something new, something original? Something worth watching?

The current series of Hey Hey is supposed to run for 7 episodes, I believe. Let’s all hope that it doesn’t come back after that.

***

Speaking of unwanted comebacks, John Farnham has returned with a new album, Jack. Wasn’t he retiring in the early 2000’s? Yet here he is yet again, rising like some wailing phoenix to pollute the airwaves with bland middle-of-the-road elevator music. Note the title Jack – an allusion to Farnham’s most successful album, Whispering Jack. Hoping to recapture old glories too, are we John? Who would listen to you anymore, aside, maybe,  from menopausal women? And for fuck’s sake, your mullet may be shorter these days, but it’s still a fucking mullet! Hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back no more no more no more no more.*

*Perhaps ironically, Farnham actually sings this song on the new album. Wish he’d take his own advice.

A substantial post concerning a lack of substance.

Posted in Bollocks with tags , , , , , , on October 1, 2010 by drawingdad

So early yesterday morning, I found myself in a comfy armchair browsing through a copy of the latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine while Channel 7’s irritating breakfast show Sunrise played quietly in the background. Not my usual morning and Cosmo certainly isn’t my usual reading material.

As I flipped through the mag I found myself alternately laughing and shaking my head in disbelief at the utter rubbish contained therein. Then, as I was reading some absurdly inane fiction-disguised-as-advice article, perhaps “Why you’ll never eat lunch at your desk again” or “The Perfect One-liner For Every Occasion”, Sunrise host David “Kochie” Koch announced a segment entitled “Which milkshake are you?”

According to Kochie, new research (by the Institute of Complete Bollocks, no doubt) has found that your favourite flavour of milkshake says a lot about your personality. Those who drink chocolate shakes, for instance, are ‘friendly, punctual and obedient’, while caramel drinkers are ‘conscientious and responsible’. One member of a panel that Kochie was discussing this with wisely pointed out that between the milkshake research and the “Which coffee are you?” findings and the “Which handbag are you?” findings and so on, she’s pretty confused.

I was dumbfounded. I already knew, of course, that the show has, for the most part, the substance of a ball of fairy floss. But this, on top of the magazine I had in my hands, was just too much.

Which milkshake are you? Seriously? This warrants expensive airtime on national television?! Based on research? Perhaps their own research, looking up time-sucking quizzes on Facebook. You know the ones: Which fruit/Teletubbie/Smurf/human organ/Bejewelled jewel are you? All of these made up, of course, by vampiric morons with nothing better to do with their time than leech off yours.

Cosmo, meanwhile, was sucking my time and lowering my IQ with journalistic gems like “50 things to try… just because you can!” This article, written by one Katherine Bebo, seems to be composed of a mish-mash of the bucket lists of perhaps half a dozen different women, four of whom are of the Eat Pray Love ilk. The other two would be aged somewhere between 13 and 18. The Carpe Diem-encouraging article contains such sage advice as:

11. Get a map of the world, close your eyes and point to a place. Wherever your finger lands, book a holiday there. [Never mind if it’s, say, Baghdad.]
30. Kiss a celebrity. If you really can’t find one, anyone who has ever tried out for Australian Idol counts.
34. Blag your way into a VIP party and say “Don’t you know who I am?”

I suggest number 51. See a doctor for your mental diahorrea.

While reading Cosmo, of course, you can’t escape reading the sex advice. This issue promised “Sex Moves That’ll Rattle His Thoughts For Days!” What you actually find inside is “The real reason it’s called making love” which is a mild article based on a pop-biologist’s understand of body chemistry. The apparently long-awaited return of the famous Sealed Section contains no more than a match the face to the boobs/bum activity and some advice on oral sex. The front of the sealed section promises “The new oral sex techniques that’ll keep a good man down!” New oral sex techniques? Wow! Alas, the piece itself is a page of Q&A with a panel of four sex “experts” who do not impart any advice you won’t have read before if you’ve ever read Cosmo or, indeed, ever given or received oral sex.

The real kicker for me was the horoscopes. Dodgy and unreliable at the best of times, but Cosmo has ditched the vague platitudes that can cover a great variety of events in favour of some very specific predictions. At the same time, they have ditched all pretence at any kind of authority or authenticity. Take, for instance, this month’s predictions for Gemini (my sign). Bear in mind these are written for women…

The social Moon has you organising a black light party near the 23rd. Replace your bulbs with black lights, hand out highlighters and cheap white tees, and let guests write messages on each other’s shirts.
>>Dating tip: Put your seductions skills to use after the 17th, when Venus sends an onslaught of male attention your way.
>>Love advice: Passionate Saturn compels you to treat him to a commercial-break BJ on the couch around the 8th.

Other planets apparently will urge other signs to so all sorts of naughty things. That’s urge though, as opposed to being compelled like Gemini. What. The. Fuck?!?

More and more, I’m finding that entertainment is becoming even more vapid. A mag such as Cosmo, which claims to be offering good advice on all matters love/sex/fashion/health/cosmetics is as convincing as Weekly World News. At least with that tabloid, you know what you’re getting.

The proliferation of completely meaningless programs and periodicals is increasing faster than the locust population that is apparently going to blight most of Australia this summer. And like locusts obliterate crops, they eat away at your time and intelligence. And we accept it. We promote it. We tell the people who make and peddle this bollocks that it’s okay, we like it, we want more! How else can Cosmo continue to be published, month after month? How else could a show like Australia’s Funniest Home Videos have survived for 20 years? How else could a show like 20 To 1 exist at all?

How else would the Wayans family be able to make a shitload of money for making such shithouse movies?

We should demand better. I know entertainment is mostly for the purposes of escapism. Believe me, I do like my escapism. However, does that mean it has to be so utterly devoid of substance? And so fucking condescending? Because that’s what it comes down to. We are being treated like idiots and for buying into it all, we are idiots.