When the 1980′s, Kung Fu and Bad Rap Converged

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Once every decade perhaps, a music video is produced of such low standard,  that you find yourself transfixed like a startled deer, mesmerized by the light of on-coming traffic. Don’t get me wrong, there is some utter corruption out there: Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby”, Billy Ray’s “Achy Breaky Heart” or the “Macorena” are but a few examples, and they were all really bad in their own way, but compared to the defilement I speak of, they were Grammy winning performances.

The type of music video I speak of does not just happen by sheer will-power alone, or a desire to be different. No, being quirky does not cut the mustard here. Here, serendipity plays its part. Like a diamond that needs a bit of carbon and a lot of heat and pressure at the right time and the right place, the music video you are about to view had all the elements required to create a diamond in the ruff: the tragic fashion of the 1980′s, the desire to practice Crane kicks on the beach while litening to the Karate Kid theme song  on your Walkman, and of course the emergence of rap music, when all one had to do was put a verb at the end of the verse and  make it rhyme (yes, you did hear it correctly,  Car was rhymed with Ninja….wow!). The result was… in the words of Monkey Magic…. IRREPRESSIBLE!!!!

From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side: “Resistance is Useless!”

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My family was tech savvy by ’80′s standards, we owned a Commadore 64 and would spend hours programming games, but our schooling was mostly pen and paper, with a bit of PC thrown in at tail end – closely guarded (and hoarded) by the watchful tech/geek teacher, you know the one. So our Google of the day was yesterday’s teacher, all-knowing, all-seeing, the ‘Sage on the Stage’.

Some teachers lament those days, where all classrooms were but a stage, and all the boys and girls merely players. Some teachers today are not willing to move off the stage. They feel menaced by the proliferation of gadgets in their teaching space. With swords drawn they charge bravely into the masses of hun-like techno-brats, but as cavalier as they may be, they cannot defeat the surge: resistance to gadgets in the classroom is useless. The ‘Guide on the Side’ will prosper.

Students today, weaned on gadgets and the internet, have access to information unrivalled in history. They can validate a teacher’s assertion with the click of a button. Yet we find ourselves at that strange cross-roads where there is still much debate on how to use technology in the classroom. A recent New York Times article analysed the benefits of technology in the classroom and noted, “In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.” With the focus so autogenous on how to integrate technology into measurable learning outcomes, it is sometimes forgotten that the technology is already there, not from the tech savvy educational efficiendos, but from students themselves, downloading useful apps en mass: like the Element app, the best periodic table I’ve ever seen;  HD Note Taker, which allows students to download and annotate class notes onto their tablets; Encyclopaedia Britannica, the World’s most regarded reference source.

The possibilities are limitless, but still sadly ill-defined. And until such time that someone somewhere (Sir Ken, where are you?) recognises that technology need not be organic to the education milieu, we will see confusion and frustration by the teachers, who battle bravely in the trenches. The article below, published in the Campus Review (vol.22, No.1), was written by a part-time University Lecturer Dan Kaufman, who, on being blown away by social networkers and tweeted to the point of distraction, decided that his days of being a casual lecturer are over. 

It’s 4.40pm on a Friday and ever student is staring at me attentively. They are not peering at Facebook, they are not tweeting, and there’s complete silence in the classroom.

I’d like to say this is because I’m such a great teacher but sadly there’s another reason – namely that for the first time in five years of casual teaching at universities I have lost my cool and screamed at one student to shut the frick up or get the frick out of my class.

And yes, in reality I said far worse words than frick.

A nervous tick begins above my left eye. It had begun. I have become one of THOSE teachers.

In my defence, at least I lasted five years before I snapped. Five years of seeing students feedback results that have absolutely no bearing on whether or not I get work the following semester (I have found that the better the results, the less likely it is I’ll be given the same subject to teach again).

Five years in which Facebook went from being a novelty to a lifeline for these students, and one of the banes of my teaching existence. And, five years of doing my best to help students only for them to have so little respect that they talk over me in class.

I can only hope that the twitch above my eye isn’t permanent.

When you start teaching you always think you will be different. You think that you will be the cool, down-to-earth teacher that students will like and respect, and that they’ll listen to you because you know your stuff and are there to help them. You are not like the others. Then, as the weeks turn into months and then years, you realise you are not. You’re just another chump in these kids’ eyes, teaching material that many of them in their infinite wisdom and life experience don’t they they even need to learn.

And, if you think I’m exaggerating about how little these students think of us, try searching for your name – or subject – on Twitter. It can be horrifying.

I found all this out by accident. I once had a student who seemed – well, to put it nicely, he seemed psychotic. In every class there’s always one person who asks questions that have no bearing whatsoever to the subject or who smiles in which a sinister way that you just know he understands how to use a firearm, but this particular student was so special that curiosity got the better of me and I searched his name on Twitter.

It was like opening Pandora’s box – all of a sudden I came across all of these tweets not just from him but from a range of other students bitching about the subject the lecturer and, shock and horror, myself. If you thought young children can be cruel, wait till you see what bored 19-year-olds who they are cuttingly witty can tweet.

But Twitter is nothing, not a jot, compared to that cursed Facebook.

If TV is the opium of the masses then Facebook is the crack cocaine, and I sincerely believe it’s sapped my students’ attention span to a point where my cat can focus on subjects for longer. Every time there

S a pause in my teaching, every time my students think I’m not looking – and sometimes wqhen they know I’m looking –their eyes go back to Facebook.

It’s not just me, either. When I walk pass other people’s classes I peer in to have a look, and sure enough, I always see Facebook’s sinister glow emanating from students’ mobile phone and notebook screens.

We are now educating a generation in which most successful students are the ones who can multi-task the best – and I can take it no longer. If students really believe that the minutiae of their friends’ lives is more interesting than Chomsky than [nic] I, for one, am no longer interested in teaching them.

I’m done. And at the end of the day, that’s what disheartened me the most: that many students – at least in my experience – are not all that interested in learning for the sake of learning (and thankfully there are, bless them, some fantastic exceptions in each class). They are not even interested in learning to become good at whatever profession they are interested in 0 they don’t think they need to. For me, this just sucks the air out of my sails.

You see, after years of teaching practice-based subjects, I began teaching more theoretical compulsory subjects that forced me to read texts that I became interested and sometimes even excited about. If not for the subject I would probably never have read them, and yet the ideas did, at the risk of sounding hokey, enrich me. I love ideas and I honestly did my best to encourage my students to find the ideas of interest as well.

I tried to be light-hearted in class, I gave practical examples and applications, I always tried to relate theories to their own lives, but nope – I rarely received a spark of interest from the students. Finally, I found from talking to other tutors and to some students the reason for their apathy – namely that in many core subjects the vast majority of students just don’t do the readings.

This was across the board in everyone’s classes for the subjects I taught, with students just cherry-picking specific texts for assignments only. One student told me it was an open joke across the student body that the readings were ignored, another even criticised her tutor to me for forcing students to read texts out loud in class out of frustration. I actually think the tutor hight have been onto something because by the end of most semesters I was invariably the only person in class who had done absolutely all the readings.

To be honest, I think this is a whole separate issue that academics should take seriously. Admittedly, I’ve only been teaching communications and humanities subjects, and perhaps students in other disciplines do their readings more diligently (I certainly hope medical students do!) – but I don’t believe attention spans are the same now as they were 20 years ago.

In a previous issue of Campus Review there was a comment piece by first-year students about how txting hasn’t affected literacy levels. This might be true – although hardly any of my students know how to use a comma – but there’s no doubt their attention spans are shot to hell.

People read less (except if it’s on Facebook) and for shorter periods of time, and let’s face it – academic articles are always far more convoluted than they need to be. If a simpler word would suffice instead of a longer one, a PhD candidate will always use the longer one. This might still have worked in 1990, but from my own experience it doesn’t work now.

And so here I am, a ranting casual teacher who’s packing it all in. To be honest I was only ever a mercenary casual – unlike my colleagues, I never wanted a PhD or an academic career. Instead I just wanted to teach and, to be honest, to avoid a full-time job. However, when faced with the prospect of another year staring down gossiping teens with vicious tweeting tendencies, going back to the 9 to 5 grind is starting to look good.

http://www.tagxedo.com/art/086a45ed7e8c41ad

Lunch-time Instagram Dash

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I’m experiencing a bit of an artistic surge of late. Yesterday I downloaded the iPhone application, Instagram. This little app allows you to take and share photo’s, but more to the point, apply vintage filters. So in order to try out my new piece of kit I spent lunch time walking around the office block, taking random happy Instagram Snaps.

So this is the view from my office in downtown Melbourne. I’ve got a view of the Yarra River, which is quite nice. Love the way this effect (“Kelvin”) sends my office view right back to the 1970′s. Infact, there are several photo’s within the family album that look just like this, of when my father was stationed in HK as a Naval Officer.

Good old Flinder’s Street Station. This is where 110,000 commuters and 1,500 trains pass through daily. If one ever visits Melbourne and a local tells you he or she will “meet you under the clocks,” this refers to the nine clocks above the entrance at center. I think this effect gives this picture a 1950′s feel. I’ve used the TypoInsta application to give this picture its border and its stamp. Infact, the Typolnsta application has its own effects that you can use, and then import to Instragram to share.

Saint Paul’s Cathedral is directly opposite to Flinders Street Station. Here I’ve chosen the Enhance effect, that really brings out the colours, including the sun patch reflections on either side of the stain glass windows. A different border was chosen from TypoInsta.

Here I chose a thicker border. I’ve moved the stamp down to the bottom left hand corner, and I’ve chosen to use TypoInsta’s ‘Minature’ effect, which gives it that bright, Churchy feel.


Hosier Lane, just off Flinders Street, is a photographer’s paradise, not that I have any claim of calling myself one. This is laneway art at its best, where popular culture and youth sub culture dominate, and where dilettante’s converge en mass to make their boring blogs look cool…. yes, this is a case of the critic lamenting his blog’s failings. In the montage above, I’ve used four different effects from TypoInsta and then used the PicFrame app to frame them.

So there it is folks. Some amazing iPad/Phone applications doing the rounds at the moment and turning point-and-shoot photographers like me into semi-professional artsy-fartsy types. But I promise, no self-taken portraits with pout…. ever!!!

Further to this post…. I was playing with TypoInsta last night and found in settings that you can download additional frames and labels. So I used my Dogs as models and here is a sample of the additional add-ons:

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An Education on Education – Sir Ken Robinson

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Education today is an antiquated model from an era where industrialization required industrial-sized methods of teaching. In 2012 this old system has sustained an equally old way of thinking about education, “you must do this, you must learn that, you’re smart, you’re not, I’ll read, you listen..” It’s a mess, to be perfectly frank. Here Sir Ken artfully spells out the woes with modern western teaching methods, and advocates major reform and the nurturing of passion of our children.

Why Gift Cards Suck and We’re all Suckers… but if you must.

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Well, it’s almost a month since I pledged to fledge some pud in 2012. People often ask me, “how’s that New Year’s Resolution coming along, Jimbo?” “Yeah good,” I respond. Despite the fact that this is a lie, and despite the fact that I go into a near anaphylactic-like state every time I stagger lead-footed around Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens, I haven’t given up just yet… yet. One resolution that actually wasn’t on my radar for 2012 but is now a firm feature this calendar year is to ensure that all gift cards given and received are expended to their full amount.  

Background

The other morning ago, while waiting in the car for Mrs. Wifie to exit the humble abode, I was listening to the junk radio – you know the one with the ridiculously-unfunny-disk-jockey – when the conversation caught my attention. The ridiculously-unfunny-disk-jockey stated that in 2006 U.S. retailers made $8 billion out of unclaimed gift cards!! (Wiki supports this, so it must be true) Accordingly, U.S. law-makers are moving to prohibit the limitations on gift card terms vis-a-vis expiry dates. Ridiculously-unfunny-disk-jockey then argued that if aMer’ica were doing it, then what’s with the lack of up-take down here in Oz? So I ask Dr. Google at work, who tells me that ‘Strailians (Australians) are also getting pilfered in this area, with more than $300 million worth of gift cards going unclaimed in 2011.

The Retailers: Show me the money!

“Show me the Moneeeeh,” is the retailer war-cry where gift cards are concerned. Why? Because they know that most of us will  NOT (and cannot) use the card to its full value; they know that cards get lost, stolen, forgotten, expire; they know that they can get away with offering up a card with considerable less value than the money we handed over for it; and, most of all,  they think it funny that in an age where we consumers are supposedly more educated, more aware, more mature and with more rights than ever before, we still don’t read the fine print……..

Value for Money?

So let’s think about it for a moment… let’s say I bought Cousin Alfred  an Amazon Gift Card for $50. The question being, what value might he proscribe to the $50 dollars cash, and what value might he proscribe to a $50 dollar voucher?

Cash will not lose its value unless you live in Zimbabwe, you plan on exchanging it for pounds sterling, you put it in a European bank or bury it in your backyard. What Cousin Alfred does with the money is entirely up to him. He may decide to purchase that Replica Starwars Stormtrooper  Helmet he’s always wanted, or he might decide to pay off his phone bill. Of the two examples, Cousin Alfred would almost certainly place more value on the Stoomtrooper Helment than paying off that pesky telephone bill. On the other hand, one might argue that as he is fulfilling an essential need, i.e. paying off the telephone bill, he’s deriving more value than he would if he were to go Han Solo on us.

Needless to say, we see that the value of a material good or a service is determined by the intrinsic degree to which it is needed or desired. So if I were to give the $50 Amazon gift card to Cousin Alfred  instead, it is in the calculus of probability that he would be able to purchase that Stormtrooper Helmet, but certainly not pay off his telephone bill. Thus, the value of the $50 I exchanged for the gift card has been reduced to the limits of  the product range offered by Amazon – Alfred may well be mildly dyslexic too. Furthermore, The value of the goods offered by Amazon may not be needed or desired by our bespectacled cousin. The card is then further reduced by the terms and conditions that accompany the purchase.

I’ve been ripped-off in many ways: telephone bills, tuk-tuk drivers, those pesky credit card verification checks (hey, in my younger days o.O), employers, even the God damn icecream man… but I refuse to fund lavish lifestyles of our retail rich. Sure, retail might be doing it tuff at the moment, but that’s because we all are, so don’t be a sucker. 

But, if you must…

But if you must be a sucker, be an informed sucker. Forgetting everything I’ve just said, if you must purchase a gift card in the near future then here are my 2012 tips on deriving the most value from your Gift Card purchases:

1# Check out scriptmart.com

 ScripSmart helps you find consumer friendly gift cards and avoid common pitfalls. Before you buy your next gift card, check it’s Gift Card Score® to ensure there won’t be any surprises. Here is a screen shot of what Scriptmart had to say about Cousin Alfred’s Amazon gift card:

That amazon card we bought cousin Alfred fairs pretty well. It never expires, there is free shipping, it’s redeemable in-store and online.  On the other hand, once lost it’s gone, it can only be used on one account, it’s not redeemable for cash and you need to create an online account to use it. Obviously this needs to be weighed up against the circumstances of the recipient, so someone like my 86 year old Grandmother who still remembers the U.S. troops embarking for D-Day, and wonders why she can never find a copy of Facebook at the local library, would not be an Amazon gift card contender.

 # 2 Read the fine print

Regardless of whether you’ve visited websites such as the one depicted above, a wise man will ALWAYS read the fine print. The good news about gift card fine print is that it is usually printed on the back of the card, so the consumer gets to avoid Tolstoy-sized disclaimers. Here’s an instructive clip I found on you’es tube’es.

As can be seen in the Youtube clip above, the terms and conditions of the card further reduce the value of the gift card purchase. To demonstrate this I’ve pulled the terms and conditions off the David Jones website (David Jones is a leading Australian department store).

David Jones asks its customers to “Please treat David Jones Cards as cash,” but this is a mere caveat to avoid replacing it if lost. You can’t actually exchange it for cash. No change is given (I have a $2.50 DJ Gift card somewhere). If you don’t use it in 24 months then the card becomes worthless. Your rights as a consumer are nil. You have everything to lose, and the retailers have everything to gain. Don’t spend that $2.50, or forget that Auntie What’s-her-name even gave you one…. its money for jam, at yours and the givers expense! Thus, read the fine print carefully. Don’t give your money away for considerably less value – it just makes no sense.

#3 Chosing an “open loop” or “close loop” gift card?

You can divide your gift cards into two camps: the open loop camp that consist of gift cards issued by banks or credit card companies and can be redeemed by different outlets; and the closed loop camp, which are gift cards issued by retailers such as Amazon, IKEA, Toys ‘r’ us etc, and can only be redeemed by the issuing provider. 

I like the idea of an open loop gift card. Doing my due diligence, I note however that these types of cards vary in terms of their expiry dates and charges associated with using them. Typical charges will either be a monthly fee or a purchasing fee. One of the only open loop gift cards that I found which charges nothing and has no expiry date was the American Express Gift Card. A survey by Bankrate.com found that eight out of ten open loop gift cards have fees associated with using them.

# 4 Forget about making it personal, make it relevant

Let’s face it, you can’t be arsed, and if you could you wouldn’t have bought the gift card in the first place. I have read a plethora of crap on how to make the card “personal”, from gift

Stormtrooper Helmet

wrapping it lavishly, to “find[ing] out where he or she shops”. I mean, seriously… So with all bollocks aside, try to make it relevent, or if not, purchase an open loop card so the recipient can purchase something he or she truly values, or needs.

# 5 Always purchase them from reputable outlets

A couple of things we need to look out for here:

  • With smaller business you’ve got to ensure the business going to be around long enough to redeem the gift card’s value. I’m not saying avoid small business, on the contrary, they need our support, but given thata proportion of small businesses close shop within a year of opening, I’d be wanting to see their financials :P
  •  Beware fraudulent gift cards doing the rounds online. Inspect the card before you buy it. Verify that none of the protective stickers have been removed. Make sure that the codes on the back of the card haven’t been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Avoid online auctions.

In sum, buy from stores you know and trust.

Now that you’ve agonised (but probably not) over what to purchase the gift card recipient, it’s time to make sure he or she (and you) spends the bloody thing. Here is some advice you can use yourself:

 1# Never going to use it – sell it

You’ve figured out that Cousin Alfred is mildly dyslexic. Suggest he sell the card. Many websites now exist that allow you to do this. Livehacker explains that these sites work in one of two ways: some sites, such as Card Hub, work like eBay, where you set a price and hope someone accepts your invitation to treat; other sites will essentially buy the card from you at a set price based on the demand of said card. From my brief previews of these sites, you’re usually going to sell the card at a reduced value. On Cardhub, for example, exect to make an offer at about 10% or less of the value amount. Plasticjungle.com and giftcards.com are two other sites where you can sell your unwanted cards.

2# A sprinkle of common sense

Just like purchasing the damned things, make sure the recipient is aware of the terms and conditions, has a copy of the receipt, keeps tabs on how much he or she has spent, use the card early, and for the love of God, tell them to SPEND EVERY PENNY!

Conclusion

Gift cards suck and we’re all suckers. The clear winners here are the gift card providers. Yet we buy gift cards because they’re convenient, we’re lazy, and, to be fair, totally confused by the masses of crap our over-bloated consumer markets stock . In my short little look into the world of gift cards, I would say that the Open-Loop cards are the better of the two options when in doubt, simply because the recipient can buy what he or she really wants or actually needs. Whatever gift card is chosen, some basic common-sence and due dilligence goes a long way in ensuring you aren’t given the raw deal by greedy retailers. I still think the Stormtrooper helmet is a pretty cool gift.

Australia Day: No 4th of July

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The 26 of January is Australia Day but Australia Day is no 4th of July. Infact, I have grown a mild apathy towards it bordering on hostility in recent times. Australia day celebrates the landing of the First Fleet on Australia soil in 1788, only twelve years after the American Declaration of Independence was signed. Our own “Declaration of Independence,” known as Federation, was infact signed in 01 January 1901, but as that date is already a holiday it doesn’t get much attention. Here is why my apathy is melding into a growing antipathy for this “special day”:

Bogans

When one thinks of the 4th of July one might conjure up images of family picnics, patriotic parades, concerts, fireworks and a reason to wave the American flag. Unfortunately, our 26 of January has been overrun by Bogans. According to Wiki, a bogan is usually pejorative or self-depreciating description of an Australian (pronounced as ‘straaain’ in bonan-speak) who is recognised to be from a lower class background or someone whose limited education, speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour exemplifies such a background.

An Australian Day Favorite of the Bogan

Easily spotted, they will drape the Aussie flag over their shoulders like it’s some magical cape, drink far more alcohol than is medically safe, and educate anyone within earshot on why all foreigners who come to Australia should learn to speak English – ironically.

“Aussie Day”, as they call it, is a holy day for Bogans who descend onto picnic areas en mass, and reserve large areas of prime firework vantage point by laying out numerous picnic blankets, just in case their whole neighbourhood should happen to be in the area.  Gett’n fark’n smaaashed is the order of the day, and the usual behavioural pattern will follow something along the lines of Happy Drunk, Loud Drunk, Obnoxious Drunk, Angry Drunk, Violent Drunk, Arrested Drunk. The ripped Aussie Pride shirt is almost always a certainty.

Invasion Day

Australian Aboriginals have a slightly different take on Australia Day. For white Australia, Australia day is a day marked by self-determination and high-acheivement. For black Australia, it is a day that represents the loss of nation, of dependence, and subjection under the “white fella”, and it is these different experiences that have divided our nation for so long. As White Australia slowly recognises and acknowledges this unfortunate historic reality through the process of reconciliation, the continued celebration of colonialism will do nothing to expedite the aforementioned process.

Aboriginal Australian WW2 hero "Regi" Saunders

So why not celebrate Australia on other days? ANZAC Day is a logical choice. On the 25th of April 1915 the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) experienced their baptism of fire on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula in southern Turkey, and many argue that it was on this day that a nation was forged. The love affair with King and Country also ended during the course of World War One and Australia transformed from obsequious Anglophile to proud Antepodes.  ANZAC day for me represents a day that I’m truely proud to be Australian. Not because of our “glorious military past”, on the contrary, ANZAC day that is absolutely anti-war, but it is a day we truely get to reflect on our past and learn from the mistakes we’ve made – it is a progressive day.

Sadly, I don’t feel the same spirit on Australia day. The good folk down at Juice Media have probably summed it up best in their wicked Rap-media video called “Australia Day”:

I’m just not savvy with Patriotism

William Ralph Inge once said, a nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbours. All of us are guilty of this. I’ve just tapped on Australia’s ancestry delusion above: not all ANZAC’s conveniently fitted into the forefather mould of the efficient and dependable larrikin, and in fact quite a few of the original ANZAC’s weren’t Aussies at all. What really bothers me about patriotism is when “love of country” acts as a xenophobic mantra for those blinded by ill-informed beliefs. Let it be clear that there is nothing wrong with loving your country – I love Australia for many reasons, including this wonderful lifestyle I am able to lead – but I recognise that it does have flaws and  feel equally privileged to be Australian because I can openly air my views without fear of persecution. Patriotism to me sounds a bit fanatical, tis all.

So, for me Australia Day is no 4th of July. I might celebrate it with a quiet beer and a snag (sausage), but I’m not going to demonstrate any patriotic zeal or paint the Aussie flag on my face, I’ll leave that to the bogans. I’ll leave you with Dr. Charile Teo’s Australia Day address, which is a wonderful example of love of one’s country and honest reflection. 

The many ways to be a Punk

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So I was sifting through the Reference section at the local second-hand bookshop the other lunchbreak ago when I came across Paul Dickson’s (1982) A Connoisseur’s Collection of Old and New, Weird and Wonderful, Useful and Outlandish Words. As the title aptly suggests, this book is a strange, weird and wonderful collection of words that have either been forgotten or are only very rarely called upon. After about three minutes flicking through this writers’ treasure trove of the wired and wonderful I was sold.

I now prance around the office with a wordsmith’s zeal of the likes only the mollygrubs resent and the gormless lament; and like a gun-slinging wordsmith, I’ve been finding little if any excuse to fire one away, sotto voce, of course. For instance: Bureausis, the inability to cope with even the most reasonable rules and regulations, is a favorite of mine (Man, major bureausis today – going to lunch early); Bladdercock, the use of one’s bladder as an alarm clock, just sounds cool (Dude, my bladdercock made me sleep in today, damned…bladdercock 0.o); and, floccinaucinihilipilification, meaning to estimate is worthless, and “surprisingly” the longest word in the Oxford dictionary, is just, well long (Boss, Tom’s proposal is based on….. floccinaucinihilipilification…. What, you say?….. Exactly!).

But now I’d like to focus our attention on that funny little word we all know as Punk. Today we mostly associate it with vile little twerps or Ashton Kutcher (also a homonym of vile little twerp), but Paul Dickson has dug deep and discovered a broader usage for Punk across space and time:

Punk (Army). Pre-World War One slang for a loaf of break. e.g. “You there, Private, I need a punk to chew on. Oh look, a swallow!”

Punk (Australian) Sea wood, drift wood. e.g. “Crickey! There’s enough punk here to sink the Titanic..”

Punk (Liquor) Bad or inferior liquor e.g. “I think I just got punked *hiccup”

Punk (Ebonics) Homosexual …. nope, not touching this one.

Punk (boxing) A poor or worn-out fighter.  e.g. “No one ever dare call Mohammad Ali a punk, even though he was a bit of a one.”

Punk. Bunk. Insincerity

Punk (Carnival) A toy cat used in a game

Punk (Chinese) Insect repellent. e.g. Sum dum bug chew mah bum. Where Punk hai yaaah?

Punk, Cigarette, cigar

Punk (Circus) A young circus animal, such as a lion

Punk (College) Below par.

Punk (College) A box sent from home with goodies in it (turn of 20th century usage) e.g. Mother sent me a punk full of brandy and coke. How naughteh!

Punk (Construction). New guy

Punk (Criminal) Low-level thief; apprentice hoodlum (my definition of a punk in insult terms)

Punk, a harlot or prostitute

Punk, a homosexual who travels with an older man

Punk (horse racing) an inferior rider

Punk, an insignificant person, a nobody

Punk, a new nihilism, which began in the mid-70’s; what Life termed “hip nihilism” – not so new anymore, given that this book was published 30 years ago.

Punk (photography) a photographer’s assistant

Punk (Prison speak) an informer, an inmate who can’t do his time well, a prisoners bitch

Punk, a punctured tire (late 19th century slang) e.g. I’ve just punked my tyre I say…

Punk, a stick covered with a slow-burn paste commonly used to light fireworks

Punk (culture) music, dress, hair and manner of the Punk Rock culture

Punk (Theatre) A young actor (a juve) e.g. Ashton Kutcher

Punk, to be very poor

Punk, a verb, to procure

Punk (measure) a think of no value, worthless

Punk, a young man or young Elephant.

One can surmise that regardless of the brevity of use, to be called a Punk is to more than likely to be insulted. It looks like it’s a bit unfair for the young photographer’s assistant and actor, but that’s life. Punk up or Punk off.

The Curmudgeon Traveller: Battle Plans, France

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Gone are the days of wanderlust, where I’d pack my bags and set off on an adventure with a wish, a prayer and a plane ticket. The haggling over change, the squabbles to turn on the taxi-meter, the inevitable Bali-belly and the self-medicated ‘more alcohol’ cure that never seemed to work have all but lost their shimmer in recent times.

I guess I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon traveller. When I was younger everything was so novel and exciting: Wow, the different smells, so exotic; the cultural cuisine, so yummy; the language, I so want to understand. These days the heterogeneity just vexes me: the smells usually mean a lack of appropriate drainage; the food will lead to inevitable toilet hugging; and I find it unreasonably frustrating that no one speaks a lick of Engrish.

Anyway, the ‘old days’ would be an impossible venture with my new wife, who thinks roughing it means sleeping in a 3-star hotel; and when it comes to travelling she’s like the proverbial German passenger - Zee train must run on tyme. But Elsa has trustingly, and a little naively, left the non-city arrangements up to me in planning for our European Sojourn in June. We have agreed that I get the hinterlands and she gets the cities – she follows me on battlefield tours, I follow her into Luis Vuitton, no complaining. Tuff ask.

For my leg of the French expedition we’ll be spending most of our time in Normandy. So here’s what I’ve managed to organise. Let me know your thoughts or ideas. I haven’t included Paris as this is her turf and I’ve been told to ‘back off”.

Day 1: Bayeux

We arrive to Caen in the morning via Ferry from Portsmouth England, which leaves the previous night – I booked a two-berth cabin with en suite (probably more like a toilet of the likes you find on aircraft). Anyhoo, we will arrive at Bayeux around 730am-830am’ish. We check into the quaint Hotel Reine Mathilde, located in the heart of everything it would seem.

The main attraction of this day will be to take Elsa to Mont Saint-Michel, a place Elsa particularly wants to visit. As you can see from the picture, St. Michel is the mother of all Sand Castles and it looks beautiful. Apart from taking in all the sites and filling up our memory stick with photo’s, a friend tells me that to sit in the local town with cheese, bread and wine of a type unpronouncable in English, is simply devine. No tour required. We’re going freestyle on this one.  If time and energy permits, I’ll take wife to the famous Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the events leading up to the Norman invasion of England, and the Museum of the Battle of Normandy – it begins…

Day 2: Normandy Battlefields Tour – American Sites

Oh, Elsa’s going to “love” this, all nine hours of it :) We’ll get picked up at our hotel and visit the American D-Day sites, including Utah beach, Omaha beach, the Airborne Museum of Saint-Mere to name but a few. It also happens to fall on the anniversary of the landings, which, for any dilettante military historian, is better than porn. The tour website seemed like the most updated of all I visited and the feedback it receives appears quite praising of the tour guides’ knowledge and insight.

Day 3: Rouen and Amiens

This is where I’ve made somewhat of a boo-boo. We’ll be leaving by train from Caen to Rouen first thing in the morning, the only problem being that we’re not staying in Caen, we’ll be staying in Bayeux. Given the time of the train, public transport is not an option. Journey by car is only about 25 minutes but Dr. Google has informed me that the cab fare is horrendous. Lesson learnt here.

We arrive at the city of Rouen around midday. And this is where it gets a bit personal. My Great Uncle, who was killed in the Great War, is buried in Rouen, so Elsa and I will spend the morning at his grave and check out the city itself. Then we train it to Amiens, where I plan on giving Elsa a deserved break from battlefields, graves, Museums etc, and she can do whatever she pleases – as long as it involves battlefields, graves or museums (only kidding 0.o.)

So the next day I’ll coax her into checking out the local countryside and spend some time in a small village called Villers-Bretonneux, which coincidently is where my Great Uncle was wounded by shrapnel, which ultimately lead to his demise. In the afternoon we board a train to Paris, where I am sure Elsa will exact her revenge.

2011 in review – hoping to increase followers in 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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