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Protected: The Yellow Stigma: The Unwanted Demographic

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Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter – Review

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“Jon, a raven came from the citideal; a white raven… Winter is here.”
“Well, father always promised didn’t he?”

[MAJOR SPOILERS]

Whilst there are certainly lulls in season six of HBO’s record breaking, culture changing franchise; Game of Thrones, the final two episodes; Battle of the Bastards and The Winds of Water were absolutely magnificent.

As film director Rolf de Heer famously said “Sound is sixty percent of the emotional content of the film” and the music in season six was breath taking. So whilst, the season finale was a celebration to how amazing the actors and actress are in this franchise, not enough credit gets given to Ramin Djawadi; the lead composer for Game of Thrones. Without Djawadi’s magical touch, this franchise would only reach a fraction of its true potential and the awe-inspiring scores helps elevate this piece of art so much more. Kudos to a true musical genius.

JON TARGARYEN

“Listen to me Ned, his name is… If Robert finds out he will kill him, you know he will, you have to protect him… Promise me Ned… Promise me.”

Rejoice Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark theorist, today is our day! Today our goblets shall be filled with wine, we shall sing merry songs and we shall dance in the hall of the kings!

This was perhaps my favourite scene from such a splendid, action packed, violence packed episode. For the last two seasons, Jon Snow Targaryen has been my favourite character, he is one of the only currently living characters (along with Ser Davos and possibly Daenerys) which acts as the moral compass of the franchise. Whilst Daenerys has her compassion for the slaves and her desire to liberate the Free Cities, Jon is really the only character that constantly demonstrated his beliefs through his PHYSICAL actions, to the point he was ready and willing to die for his beliefs, I always respected him for that.

So, my heart was pounding during Lyanna and Ned Stark’s final conversation. This series had been teasing out this reveal since episode one and to the disappointment of the fans, the directors seemed to have completely forgotten about this plot during the middle of the season. However, the exchange was every bit as sad, emotion and epic as I could have hoped for. The transition from the little baby opening its eyes to Jon Targaryen sitting at the head of the Stark house, as the music crescendoed, sent shivers down my spine.

I’ve also grown particularly attached with Lady Mormont of House Bear, her confidence, wit and Ayra-like charm won me over the moment she appeared on television. But the scene after Jon’s heritage was revealed, completely cemented my love for her.* In a moment which mirrored the original ‘King in the North’ christening of Robert Stark, the great Lords of the North pledge their allegiance to Jon Targaryen. However, despite the similarities, there was clearly a tonal shift from the conclusion of season one; those were simpler, more innocent times. This christening didn’t have the glamour or the glory which accompanied Robert’s affirmation, instead it foreshadowed even greater conflict and death as the North prepares for the war against the dead.

Jon Targaryen, first of his name, the King in the North, the Lord Commander, the blood of old Valyria, the Dragon and the White Wolf.

*I was nearly in tears at that point, for a character who had suffered the shame of being a bastard, the shame of being abused by Ser Alliser Thorne and even being betrayed by the Night’s Watch. It felt amazing that finally, finally, his fate was turning.

Ayra Stark is also finally in the game again, the Starks have really bolstered their position compared to the beginning of this season. As much as I enjoy Ayra’s tomboyish traits and her confrontational charms, it is slightly concerning to see a teenager display such a ruthless desire for revenge. Whilst the audience has always supported Ayra avenging her family and having a goal to work towards, it is slightly unnerving to see the awe and joy in her eyes after slitting Walder Frey’s throat.

QUEEN CERSEI LANNISTER

“This is Ser Gregor Clegane… He is quiet too… Your gods have forsaken you… This is your god now… Shame… Shame… Shame.”

A Lannister always pays their debt. After close to two whole seasons of being lurking in the shadows, Cersei is ready to become a major player in King’s Landing again. In one suspenseful scene, Cersei managed to destroy most of her opponents in one single blow with wild fire under the Great Sept of Baelor.

Cersei is back, with a vengeance, except this time she is without any of her children, her only link to sanity, the only things which were able to humanise such a vicious woman. Cersei was always power hungry, yet she always seemed to symbolically cover that up with beautiful floral dresses and sparkling jewelry, as if to distract from her less than stellar personality. But it seems Cersei has no time for such trivial fancies. As she ascends the Iron Throne dressed in a dressed in a beautiful black dress, perhaps to foreshadow her fall into madness, Cersei begins to resemble Aerys II Targaryen; the Mad King even more. Shockingly, it was not the Dragon which burnt King’s Landing with wild fire, but instead the Lion. Isn’t it even more symbolic that her most trusted adviser Qyburn was an former maester who was shunned by the order for practicing forbidden arts?

In many ways, the scene of Cersei preparing herself for the explosion at the Great Sept reminded me of the infamous baptism scene in The Godfather. Where Michael Corleone stands completely stoic at the altar after ordering the assassination of the rival families, his unflinching stare making the audience question whether or not he had become an emotionless monster. This time it was Cersei who failed her child, her kinder traits seemed to have been blackened after Tommen declared that trial by combat will be outlawed specifically to handicap his mother’s only trump card; Clegane. Cersei wasn’t at Tommen’s room trying to comfort the naive boy after he had lost his wife and his faith. In fact compared to her reactions when Joffrey and Myrcella, she seemed cold and aloof. No one crosses Cersei and lives to tell the tale, not even her own children.

The question remains, how does Mad Queen Cersei aim to keep not only her Iron Throne, but also the love of Jaime Lannister? The cold glare between the two signaled a clear shift in their relationship; she had become the very monster he killed to protect the city. How does a woman who has isolated all her allies and supporters maintain the crown against Daenerys Stormborn, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons?

Will Jaime Lannister be adding the Queen Slayer to his long list of titles?

DAENERYS TARGARYEN

“What is my heart’s desire?”
“Vengence… Justice.”
“Fire and blood.”

I am so glad that Daenerys finally got out of Meereen, she was a big fish in a small pond. It is time for Daenerys to leave her isolated world and join the rest of the cast in the battle for Westeros. It is time to announce to the world that the Dragon is back.

I thought that Meereen was rather dull this season and it was only Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Jacob Anderson (Greg Worm) and Nathalie Emmanuel’s (Missandei) performances which were keeping this narrative afloat. After all the entire point of the unrest and the emergence of the Son of the Harpies was to teach Daenerys how hard it is to rule and that the crowd is fickle, particularly if you do not know the city’s culture. I thought season five really effectively showed us the pains of leadership with Daenerys facing the first real test of her queenship; public backlash. However in season six, Daenerys was completely missing from Meereen, her absence meant that the rise in tension lead to more character development for Tyrion than the Mother of Dragons, thus I just wasn’t very emotionally invested Meeren during this season. The Free Cities always felt like a stepping stone to Daenerys’ true purpose and I’m glad she has is on her way to her true goal.

Whilst the main theme of Daenerys’ character growth has been her becoming more stern and less forgiving, changing from a beautiful, soft young lady to the authoritative and inspiring queen. It was very touching to see Daenerys display a more compassionate side of her personality with Tyrion. His emotional reaction, shows just how much his past has shaped him and despite having killed his father and been exiled from Westeros, Tyrion belongs in the western continent. He will never be able to undo his love for Shae, he will never be able to forget his brother or wash away the emotional scars caused by his father.

The ending sequence was also breath taking, the transition from Theon Greyjoy standing alone to Grey Worm standing proudly to the rest of the immense fleet was breath taking. The sheer scope of this production combined with Djawadi’s perfect composition ended the season in a manner befitting on of the greatest television series ever to grace the screens.

Valar Morghulis. Westeros, doesn’t know what is about to hit it.

CONCLUSION

In general, I find that the later seasons of Game of Thrones haven’t been as ‘lean’ or ‘sharp’ as the first three to four seasons. Part of this is because they lost George R.R. Martin as a key editor on the show and also because David Benioff and Daniel Weiss have started to drift into territory which isn’t covered by the novels. In particular I felt this season dragged on from episode six to eight (straight after Hordor’s death to before the Battle of the Bastards). There were a few questionable decisions, such as why bring Sandor Clegane back if he is not going to spar with his brother during the Trial by Combat? Why reestablish the Brother Without Banners so many seasons after they were first introduced?

So this wasn’t a ‘perfect’ season, but the final two episodes in particular was one of the best pairs of episodes I have ever seen. It reminds me of Avatar Wan’s double episode in The Legend of Korra for raising the bar in animation and television respectively. Most of all, I am hyped for season seven already and it pains me to announce that we as the fans, have to wait another ten months before we can get our weekly fix of this show.

THE KING IN THE NORTH.

Professional Teaching Relationship with the Community

“My classroom is my castle, and the sovereigns of other fiefdoms are not welcome.”
– Palmer, 1998.

Teaching is one of the most privatised public professions and this isolation has a lot of negatives effects on this occupation and how teaching relates to the wider public at hand. In Australia, one of the pillars of teaching culture is individualism, the ability for the teacher to make choices in their classroom without the collective scrutiny of the staffroom or their peers. Not only are many teachers disconnected from the wider community such as parents and carers, often many teachers teach without the support of their colleagues though this isolation has been interpreted as ‘academic freedom’. Yet many teachers recognise the importance of interacting with the wider community to support their students. The teaching profession must better integrate itself into the wider community, not only because it results in better academic benefits, but because teachers also stand to benefit from this transparency.

Whilst the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” does hold merit, teaching is a profession where often the teacher is the only adult in the room. Unlike many other professions where teamwork is an essential part of success, it is possible for a teacher to shun cooperation and yet be an ‘effective’ teacher in the classroom. However, this creates many issues, by not embracing the wider community; consisting of other staff members and parents/care takers, teachers are isolating and further ‘mystifying’ the occupation.

In my first practicum, I experienced firsthand the consequences of teachers allowing their pride to stand in the way of collaboration. The teachers of the English staffroom had to hold a lunch meeting to decide whether or not they should share notes and handouts with each other. Not only did this disadvantage the students, resulting in classes being given an uneven amount of help, it also meant that teachers could not improve their craft due to a lack of constructive criticism. The lack of teamwork added another variable which contributed to whether or not students were successful. Socio-economic status is already such a big factor in academic success and by not providing an equal opportunity for all students at learn at the same quality, this further entrenches the possibility of success. When teachers are not willing to question the teaching practices of their colleagues due to an unspoken rule to just absentmindedly respect their peers, this leads to the privatisation of the craft. Without the ‘supervision’ of other teachers, this leads to a profession which is very divided since ‘universal’ academic standards cannot be established.

By isolating the teaching profession from the wider communities, teachers are harming themselves by unconsciously hurting the development of the occupation. When the profession is removed from the wider community, what rises to take its place is stereotypes and uneducated guesses. The privatisation of teaching has resulted in many unrealistic and unfavourable depictions of teachers in western popular culture and also a lack of influence within the political spheres.

Whilst a lot of teachers lament the fetishisation of statistics and the focus upon data as an over simplistic measurement of quality teaching. How else will the general public be able to evaluate the profession when teachers have not been the most vocal about what they do in the classroom? A big reason for the shift towards statistics is because the public has an outdated perception of education, that creativity isn’t as important as regurgitation or that written texts are still the ONLY important text in the English curriculum. Whilst, part of this blame falls upon the general populace for not keeping up to date with such an important public institution. Teachers must also shoulder the burden, for creating an ‘us versus them mentality’ and failing to educate the wider community about the shifting demands of 21st century education. John Holt summarised his concerns with the shift towards neo-liberal, economically driven education in the quote “The more we concentrate in trying to teach all the content, the less our students tend to learn.”

In the 2015 PISA tests, which are used to measure a national standard level of education, 9.1% of 15-year-olds Australians failed to achieve the basic levels of reading, maths and science literacy. The more Australia begins to slide down the international education hierarchy, the more the public begins to latch onto an ‘easy fix’ solution. This has generated the wave behind the shift towards neo-liberal education and the focus upon standardised testing and statistics by the wider community. And these changes to the general mindset has had negative impacts upon Australian education but it also has further cemented the negative perceptions of teachers in this nation. One of the most common criticisms of modern day university courses is that it is too focused upon the theoretical and academic aspects and thus when new teachers are finally placed in the workplace, they are insufficiently prepared to deal with the emotional burdens.

Thus the isolation of the teaching profession creates a vicious cycle; the public reacts by insisting that teaching returns back to something which can be easily measurable. Instead of embracing more ‘intangible’ skills which are necessary for a modern economy built on human capital, thus teachers are cornered to teach an outdated syllabus. For most teachers, this change is demoralising, as statistics dehumanises the complex and emotionally charged task that we’re required to perform. For many students, teachers are the most stable adults in their lives and their professionalism and attention may inspire or motivate; intangibles which cannot be measured. Yet these relationships become undervalued and instead classrooms have become more competitive as standardised testing ingrains regurgitation but at the price of creativity or passion. And when education becomes standardised to only reflect and emphasise white middle class values, then questions have to be asked whether education is fighting or creating inequality.

However, on the bright side, this rift between teachers and the wider community can be reversed, and I was fortunately enough to see the teaching staff, at my second placement, actively go out of their way to bond with the parents. Whether or not the teachers were aware they were following the Proficient Professional Teaching Standards (PPTS), a lot of the positive forms of communication between the two parties fell in line with these guidelines. Dot point 7.4 of the PPTS states that a ‘lead’ teacher will “take an active role in establishing community networks and provide external learning opportunities.”

Due to the high levels of refugee and English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) families at my second placement, the school provided weekly English lessons which were headed by a learning support teacher and a teacher who was bilingual in English and Arabic. Many parents were thankful for these opportunities to learn and this further allowed them to become more connected and active in the schooling life. These English classes would also provide opportunities for parents to get a translation on permission notes that get sent home and also a chance for parents who are not that familiar with the Australian education system to get some firsthand experience. Dot point 7.3 of the PPTS summarises the positive actions and attitudes displayed by this school in its goal of engaging with the wider community: “Build opportunities that engage parents in their child’s learning and the priorities of the school.” A lot of the miscommunication and uncomfortableness in parent-teacher relationships are marked by the factor that the welfare of a student is a very emotionally charged topic and because both parties involuntarily enter this relationship. Yet by providing these chances for parents to become more involved, the school is transforming from a simple educational institution to a trusted pillar of the Middle Eastern/ Islamic community.

In general, studies have drawn a link between increased parental involvement in schools and increased academic success; however questions must be asked whether this is ‘correlation and not causation’. Increased involvement may be because the parents are fluent in English or that one parent stays at home because they are middle class, all signs of social-economic and cultural capital. Those who argue that parent, teacher relationships are important state so based on two premises. The first premise is called the Pygmalion effect, where positive views of a student’s background and family members directly translates to better and more enthusiastic interactions with said student. Hughes, Gleeson and Zhang found that teacher’s perceptions of students accounted for 6.9% of variance in the academic rating of students. Likewise this is supported by Domagala-Zysk’s study  which found that 73% of students who are experiencing academic success, believed their teachers trusted them outside the classroom environment. Likewise, teachers were significantly more likely to rate a student’s social skills as positive or engaging if they perceived their own relationship to the student’s family in an optimistic light. Thus if it is a teacher’s job to help student’s succeed academically, the profession needs to shed the idea that it can ONLY help students within the classroom, instead more focus must be placed upon networking with the community.

Secondly, by unifying the school and the home environments, the student will be more exposed to positive views about schooling and learning. The reinforcing of these positive attitudes to school will not only give the student more incentive to succeed but also make it a lot easier to tackle issues which might transcend both the home and school environment. For an example, on issues of drug abuse, bullying and sexual health, the involvement of the parents and the wider community shows the importance of these topics but also relays to the students that this is an issue which occurs outside the safety of a school. My high school was very active in trying to establish a channel of communication between the parents and the teachers with many situations and opportunities for for meetings. On Saturdays mornings, my peers and I would complete in school sport together against other schools, allowing parents a chance to interact with teachers outside a ‘tense’ academic environment; like parent-teacher nights. This is a good way to build chemistry between the two parties since many parents feel that teachers only contact them with negative information about their child and rarely to compliment or to motivate. Dot point 7.1 of the PPTS states that ‘lead teachers’ will “model exemplary ethical behaviour when dealing with students, colleagues and the community” It is this desire to engage the parents and caretakers, to go beyond the ‘call of duty’, which separates a good teacher in the classroom from one whose influences will ripple across the community.

Because teaching is a very emotionally charged profession, it is important to collect evidence to become reveal the weaknesses in one’s abilities, but also as an insurance blanket to protect rookie teachers. Dot point 5.5 of the PPTS details the importance of amassing information not only to relay to the parents but so teachers can better understand how to improve their craft: “Monitor, evaluate and revise reporting accountability in the school to meet the needs of students/ parents.” In order to rationally explain why you assigned a student a certain mark, it is important that teachers, particularly rookie teachers, assemble model responses which demonstrate the difference between an A, B, C and D mark. These scaffolded examples will make parent-teacher nights a lot smoother as teachers will be readily able to highlight their thinking behind a certain mark with a physical reference at hand. This preparation shows that you’re merely following a rationale structure when marking, and that any poor or low marks you’ve assigned are not because of bias. And this sense of professionalism is something which rookie teachers need to embody in order to protect themselves against questions of ability from parents and students alike.

Furthering emphasising this point of protecting one self, I also think it would be helpful if teachers collected assessments off students, this is getting easier and easier in an increasingly technological world, since a lot of the assessments are now submitted electronically. However, even for writing in-class examinations, I think it would be wise to maintain either a physical or electronic copy. If a school wide system is implemented, the documenting of student work can become a routine. For an example, when it is time to hand back assessments, write the feedback on a separate card and then go through the questions about the assessments with the class. When the class is done reflecting on their efforts and they understand how or why they scored well or poorly, collect back the assessments but let them keep the feedback card. This a written example of what the strengths and weaknesses of the class are, but also allows teachers a chance to reflect on how they need to improve their teaching: For an example, what were the specific topics most students tended to forget and why? Did they understand the literacy requirements of the discipline? As the education system becomes more and more academic and there is greater focus upon students excelling at their studies, teachers must collect this data in order to open the channels of communication with parents about their child’s grades. Dot point 6.3 of the PPTS requires teachers to do more than just teach in the classroom, they must be constantly trying to improve their craft and devising new methods to further engage the students and their parents. Yet this is a tall task if the teacher does not have any data to reflect back upon, and without such information, the teacher’s opinions of how to improve usually don’t move past the stage of speculation.

It is time for the teaching profession to drop the belief that teachers ONLY work within classroom. In an increasingly digital world, technology has opened many new doors of communication which do not require a lot of time or energy. It is up to the teachers to reach out to the wider community in order to educate them about what and how exactly the teaching profession has changed within the 21st century. Not only does interacting with the parents and carers have been shown to have a positive academic and social effect upon the students (the primary concern of any teacher), it can also dispel the misconceptions which plague the teaching profession. By being more vocal, perhaps teachers can accumulate more social and political capital needed to shift education away from standardised testing and towards ‘intangible’ values like creativity and technological literacy. Teaching has always been a ‘public service’ and it is time that the occupation truly embraces this title.

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
– John Dewey

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Protected: Top 25 Most Important Songs Part 2

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The Legend of Korra & Update on the Blog.

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MAGNUM OPUS WATER DRILL.

This beautiful piece of art work can be found at the website http://swade-art.tumblr.com/ all credit goes to them/him/her/alien/cow.

Firstly and most importantly, the last season of Korra is airing tomorrow, hopefully the creators Konietzko and DiMartino will be drawing the curtains on the Avatar universe with a bang. I have high hopes for this season and possibly a few tears will be shed when a large portion of my child hood and adolescence ends.

Secondly, I wanted to tell everyone that I am close to finishing my review on Korra book three, it’s an essay where I try to not only to give my opinion on how successful or entertaining the season was but hopefully some analysis on the themes or characters. It’s quite a long read, though I didn’t want to release something which was lack luster especially for a piece of art that has touched my heart so dearly.

See you space avatar.

This Pale Blue Dot.

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Life is fragile, but that’s what makes it extraordinary and such an incredible blessing to be alive. The chance of us actually being here and alive is impossibly small, and a small rupture in history could of made all the difference.

Think of the consequences if your grandpa broke his leg the day he met your grandma, imagine if your mum left the country before she fell in love with your dad? Imagine life without your best friends because you choose to play soccer instead of basketball, or if you decided to attend a different highschool… Choices like this impact our lives and our future everyday. You are a one in a trillion sperm cells, and despite how fragile the past is, you are still here, reading this.

If that’s not a blessing then I don’t know what is? So fear nothing, don’t be scared to express yourself because nothing else matters apart from living this incredible journey to the fullest. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, you’ll make incredible friends and lose some, you’ll age and you’ll eventually disappear forever. I know I want to hold my head up high proud that I tried to take every chance life gave me, regretting nothing. What an incredible opportunity it is to live upon a single pale blue dot. This special blue dot.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

14 Questions for 2014, Part Two.

There’s a common misconception that God almighty took a  rest on the seventh day of creation, that’s false, instead he sat down and wrote 14 QUESTIONS FOR 2014 PART TWO. Get some while it’s hot!

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“Is Dwight Howard’s legacy tainted forever because he’s a bitch.”
Dear Lord, I almost sound like a bitter Laker fan, I’m going to take one of those long depressive baths you saw in the Hurt Locker and cleanse myself from the Laker infection. Let’s get some facts straight, from 2009-2011, (2009) in particular, Dwight Howard was an absolute beast on defense, his worth and value were much more than just numbers, he made every player scared to attack the paint, he made them hesitate because a 6’10 locomotive was waiting in the lane. Give me 2009 Dwight Howard’s defense along with 10 points over 18 points and 2013 Howard any day. Give him another 3/4 uninjured years and he would of solidified himself as one of the greatest defenders of all time. Shame shame shame. Then two things happened, Dwight Howard decided to star in his very own reality television show!!! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself) and Dwight Howard hurt his back injuring a herniated disk in his spine.

He’s never been the same.

I had Howard ranked 15 in 2013’s top 30 list and as the second best center after Marc Gasol, does he really deserve to be around the 15 position? Not really the Lakers failed miserably in the playoffs and his goofy, fun loving attitude wasn’t exactly productive to team chemistry especially since Kobe is trying to equal Jordan in rings. My biggest surprised was the fact Kobe didn’t start an all out brawl at the Staples after Howard goes 4/14 from the free throw line for the third time in consecutive nights.

So how does D12 blend in with Houston Rockets, firstly I don’t think Howard is built for the big cities, he just doesn’t give the impression that he lives or dies for basketball the way a DRose, KB24 or even a Carmelo Anthony gives off. That 3/15 from the free throw line with that big smile even after a 30 point spanking just doesn’t fly in Los Angeles. Unacceptable. Now he’s teaming up with James Harden, a HUGE step down from Kobe Bryant in terms of competitive fire also Harden isn’t as alpha as Kobe so they should gel decently well, better than Howard and Kobe bonded anyway. The quick pace the Rockets love to play is also going to highlight Howard’s strength and downplay his weakness. Firstly no center can keep up with Dwight Howard, his physical gifts should really shine in Kevin McHale’s system. Secondly Dwight Howard still has yet to get more than two post moves (Running hook with both hands and shifting to a face up position and blitzing past the defenders.) in such a guard dominant system, Howard wouldn’t have to occupy the post as much, he just needs to grab rebounds, defend and score easy buckets. Shouldn’t be too hard right? After all he led a mediocre Orlando Magic team to the finals based on the same philosophy.

So is Howard’s legacy tainted forever? No, not really, he still has a chance to be one of the greatest defenders of all time with 7 All Star appearances and 3 DPOY awards. Will he surpass David Robinson and Patrick Ewing in the second or third tier of great big men? Probably not. His legacy has been dented but not broken.

“Should we the most attractive cheerleader in every NBA organisation perform a one minute solo during the half time break and then the world can answer the critically important question of which team has the hottest cheerleader bro? Dude are they wearing underwear or shorts? Allowing male audiences to systemically rank each organisation not on wins but on boobs.”
MAKE THIS HAPPEN DAVID STERN 2.0 (Adam Silver)

“Will the New York Knicks be better than the Brooklyn Nets?”
One important aspect of basketball that the 2013 Lakers highlighted, you just can’t throw a bunch of big names together and expect them to gel you have to factor their age (Steve Nash, I’m looking at you) and their personality (Dwight Howard) and you need a coach that knows what a post move is. (D’Antino) On paper Nets have a better team, the starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez looks ferocious on paper, it includes 3 players which are in my top 30 and 2 other players in my top 50 players for the 2013 season. Throw in Jason Terry (Sparkplug), Reggie Evans (Homeless version of LeBron James with better rebounding skills) and Kirilenko and that’s some serious fire power. Jason Kidd remains to be a mystery but he was one of the five smartest players of the 2000s along with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Chris Paul and Tyrus Thomas in an alternate reality. There’s no way he becomes a horrible coach? Right? Maybe especially with a lot of talent around him…. But then again my mind flashes with Bill Russell (Coached a poor team to a poor record), Willis Reed (Meh) and Wes Unseld made everyone in Washington suicidal and don’t tell me Bill Russell wasn’t a basketball genius. Just don’t.

The Knicks have a forever injured Stoudamire, Andrea Bargnani whose excelled so much as the Three-Pointer-Shooter-No-Defense role I’m surprised Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t popped the question, Tyson Chandler who did not look like himself in the playoffs (Neither did KG but KG’s passion is infectious, how many times has Carmelo Anthony thought “Hey I should rebound because that’s what Chandler wants me to do?” Not many times) and the second best scorer in today’s game; Carmelo Anthony. I’ve always been a believer in a great scores will always win you one game in a playoff series’ll throw up 42 points (Think Harden against the Thunder) and only a few guys in the league can do this; Kobe, Carmelo, LeBron, Durant, Westbrook, Chris Paul, Curry, Harden and MAYBE Parker that’s it. Sorry Wade, Nowitzki and Paul Pierce.

So who’s going to be better? Probably Brooklyn… Am I going to discount the Laker’s crash and burn failure of 2013? Some what, Brooklyn just has so much talent on paper, their disgraceful collapse at the hand of a Bull team without Rose, Deng and an injured Noah whilst allowing Nate Robinson to look like a midget version of Durant was unacceptable. But that should probably be fixed with Garnett’s addition to the team, he’ll install a competitive fire under Deron William and Lopez’s ass because he’s a maniac, a psycho that lives and breathes basketball and then eats little children after games. Speaking of which can we get Kevin Garnett to play in international beach volley after he retires, the image of a 7 foot Zulu tribe leader playing on white sand is too funny.

14 Questions for 2014.

It’s the first installment of Chingy’s 14Qs to start off the 2014 season where we ask the real questions, so gather your little children around the campfire, roast your mash mellows and proceed to share all your hair in ecstatic delight this is 14 Questions for 2014!

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“Will Miami Heat 3-peat?”
Yes. I hate this and I’m probably going to be become an alcoholic in 2014. The Miami Heat are still the best team in the east despite the addition of Derrick Rose back to the Bulls (HELL YEAH!), despite the Nets acquiring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and despite Indianna Pacers trying to desperately rip off a Bad Boys impersonation. The Heat have the biggest advantage in the whole league right now, LeBron James, who is experiencing his greatest stretch of basketball since Michael Jordan’s peak years of 1988-1993. There are two reasons and only two I have to doubt the Heat.

1. Dwyane Wade’s knees which have a ridiculously large amount of mileage and he can no longer consistently  perform like he did in 2009 where he was just an athletic freak of nature that was guardable on the fast break, and an unguardable slasher, someone who could will himself to get 10 free throws a game just by charging into the paint recklessly. Apart from losing the Zydrunas Ilgauskas award (Hardest name to spell in the NBA) to Nikoloz Tskitishvili of the Phoenix Suns, Wade has also lost a lot of the explosion in his knees. It seemed the sports world had a little bit of an orgasm after Wade produced one or two good games in the Eastern Conference Finals and one or two good games in the 2013 finals. Should we really be surprised that the fourth greatest shooting guard all of time is able to perform under pressure? Should we be surprised when 7 years ago he had one of the greatest finals performances of all time with O’Neal as his second in charge and the referees as his sixth man? (Sorry, too soon) A performance where he averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds (WHAT), 3.8 assists and had a crazy 33.8 PER? Probably not… Yet Wade’s game hasn’t evolved he has yet to get a consistent jumpshot and let’s not even start about his three point shooting. Wade also had a Gary Payton/Jason Kidd kind of post game he would switch too if he had little munchkins like Nate Robinson or Chris Paul guarding him, he definitely didn’t have that in the finals.

2. Mental fatigue. It’s my biggest issue, Wade’s a warrior he’ll come back he may no longer be the high flying death machine he was from 2006-2011 but he’s still a good player. Mental fatigue is the biggest killer on this team, it’s hard to still motivated after so much basketball, after the world criticises every action and word you say, after you go to 3 finals in a row and LeBron James played at the 2012 Olympics, that’s seriously a lot of ball. Will Norris Cole and Haslem be able to stay motivated? Especially since they’re already wearing two rings? Will LeBron James be able to consistently enter Boston game 6 where he ripped out the throats of his defenders? Do the Heat still care enough after winning 27 in a row and cementing themselves in the history books? Hmm…

“Which team is most likely going to have an all out brawl in practice.”
See I’m telling you, I’m asking the questions that really matter! Well I’m definitely going to throw the Sacramento Kings in at one number, they’ve been an absolute disgrace as a basketball team, why did I still have to ask the following questions in 2013, how come Tyreke Evans IS STILL shooting anything from 20 feet and beyond, why is Boogie still death stares the referees without running back to play defence, why does Michael Malone (coach) look like he wants to kill himself on most days. Legitimately any team that features Boogie, Isiash Thomas or Travis Outlaw deserves to make it to Chingys-All-NBA-Brawl-Team of 2014.

I have the Clippers finishing at second, there’s already beef between Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (Runner up for most ghetto first name with Marshon Brooks coming first) and it’s documented. Griffin dislikes how much sway Paul has, he dislikes he isn’t relied upon more to close and he dislikes how everyone thinks he’s a bitch around the league. Paul doesn’t trust Griffin to close, he doesn’t like it how Griffin and Jordan seem like they love dunking more than winning and Jordan is pissed off for some reason. Can’t you totally see CP3 flipping out at Jordan after he rubs him on the head like Pau Gasol? I can, sign me up for the Clippers-WWE-Match! Make it happen David Stern/ Adam Silver!

“Will the LeBron James win MVP”
Yes. LeBron James is a monster right now and he knows it, you know the scene in Terminator 2 where Arnold Schwarzenegger enters the bar, destroys everyone, steals the biker’s clothes, impresses every female with his long penis and rock the sunglasses like an absolute boss with Bad to the Bone playing in the background? That’s LeBron James, he’s Scarface after a mountain of Cocaine, he’s Michael Jackson after Thriller, he’s king of the world right now. Who else in HISTORY can defend the 1,2,3,4 and 5 like James? Pippen? Not strong or athletic enough (Read that statement again, Pippen not athletic enough? Dear Lord is James a cyborg?), Magic Johnson? He isn’t close to the on ball defender that James is…. Who else? No one. LeBron James is the first person in history to create the Power-Guard-Defend-Every-Player position. He’s the second greatest passing Small Forward behind Larry Legend, his on ball defence deserves mention in the league with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Michael Cooper. Athletically he’s up there with Chamberlain, MJ23 and prime O’Neal, he’s a gust of wind and we’re the leaves. He’s the best player in the world and only Jordan from 1991-1993, O’Neal (2000-2002), Larry Bird (1985-1987) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-1995) have submitted a matching three year crescendo of basketball dominance. Wilt’s statistics meant every little in the playoffs as he’s performance dipped and he often shrunk underneath the pressure, Elgin Baylor’s and Oscar Robertson’s greatness likewise produced nothing when it came to rings, Kobe Bryant’s 2006-2008 stretch had one finals appearance. Fun fact, if I had the second pick in the Greatest Basketball Draft of all time, I would pick LeBron James (2013) second. Who else can be your point guard, your defensive anchor, your lock down perimeter defender, can guard every position, can destroy you on fastbreaks and overpower you in the post and to top it off be athletically invincible? No one, that’s who. I respect greatness when I see it and LeBron James is great.

Chingy out.

PART ONE OF 14 QUESTIONS.

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My love-hate relationship with Kobe Bryant.

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Kobe Bryant is the most polarising basketball player of all time no other player has some many fans or haters, no other player is considered the second greatest player of all time whilst left out on half the population’s top five. Behind him stands two battle hardened legions, the Kobetards, who defend Kobe like he was their mother or the Kobe haters who attack him as if he was responsible for world hunger. My perception of Bryant has really evolved and changed through out the last year in particular, it was a journey from being a bias, dismissive Bryant hater who saw number 24 as an embodiment everything wrong with basketball today, from being a shoot first, second and third player to being the golden child. But Kobe Bryant’s strength, resilience and hunger for the game has started to grow on me, his hunger for victory shines even more distinctly today in a league filled with huge egos, fame hungry players who view money as the most vital element of being a basketball player. Kobe Bryant is a great players whose strengths are also responsible for his flaws.

Being a Point Guard and someone with a natural pass first mentality and approach to the game of basketball and life in general, I found Bryant’s style of play very hard to swallow, Kobe is a scorer at heart. Apart from Bryant’s turn around fadeaway or his numerous game winners, Kobe’s most iconic play is the isolation followed with a few jab steps. I viewed his constant reliance upon his one on one skills as detrimental to the team chemistry, insert former players like Smush Parker, Shaquille O’Neal and Andrew Bynum. His signature isolations near the top of the key allowed defenses to recover, stops the momentum of the Lakers and when over used hurts the development of younger players. As someone who worships Larry Bird and John Stockton it was just impossible to stomach the amount of poor shots Bryant has taken in his career, sure no one in the league apart from Carmelo makes more difficult, off balance, out of control shots but he’s not young anymore, surely there is a better use of his energy? The most frustating thing about all this was Kobe could be a great passer, his basketball IQ is off the charts, his understanding of the game is what has allowed him to remain a top 5 player and scorer even at 34. Many defenders of Kobe point to his career average of 6 (Check) assist, but that’s not the point, to Kobe it seems getting his team mates involved is a secondary priority and it doesn’t seem like he has an issue with taking 8 dribbles before throwing up a heinous fadeaway. I rarely see Kobe screening for the ball handler and then working off the his penetration, or feeding the big man in the post and working off Gasol or Bynum’s dominance in the post. Bryant has always been a volume player, he never had Jordan’s accuracy as a scorer, someone who hit 50% of his shots on the field, the only reason Bryant is in the discussion with Jordan is because he’s played a few more years and taken a lot more shots, volume over consistent excellency. This is most obvious through the differences in their scoring mentality, Kobe relentlessly fires away attemptings to launch enough shots until he finally finds the spark and catches fire, Jordan however was able to work more within a designed offense and could still be aggressive without holding the ball, someone who could change games through defense alone.

The Mamba’s defence these past few seasons has been poor, his off ball defence in particular during the 2013 season was horrendous and lazy, it was clear he reserved most of him energy for scoring. This lack of defensive hustle from Kobe along with Dwight Howard’s injured shoulder and back clearly had a negative impact upon the defensive intensity of the purple and gold. Do I necessary blame Kobe for his defensive flaws? Not really? He’s 34, trying to pull a disorganised Lakers team under D’Antoni to the 8th seed, he’s going crazy on the offensive side scoring well into the high 20s with increased efficiency. Nor do I blame him for the slew of injuries that have crippled any signs of momentum building amongst the Lakers, however that doesn’t mean the media show give their golden child a pass, defence is 50% of the game. 50%. Another issue that has really divided me is Bryant’s leadership, I see him as a flame; a flame that burns brightly and can be the leading torch on any team towards a championship, however get too close or misjudge yourself and that flame is just as likely to burn an ally. Clearly Bryant is an alpha male, he quickly dismissed any notion on the 2013 Lakers being Howard’s team on and off the court with the air of a army general. Bryant’s constant obsession and drive to become the greatest player of all time combined with his inhuman work ethic installs respect and almost fear amongst his team mates. Would Pau Gasol of responded with a monster game 7 in the 2010 finals (19/18/4) if Kobe didn’t tell him to metaphorically put on his big boy pants in the post game conference? Probably not. Kobe’s personality blended well with Derick Fisher’s, which was Fish’s biggest contribution of the purple and gold, he was able to play good cop whilst Kobe played the ruthless field marshall that accepted nothing short of perfection, almost in a Michael sort of way.

Whilst Bryant’s attitude can be an inspirational flame, consequences such as breaking the most dominant team in the 2000s are by products of Kobe’s personality, often isolated, introverted and someone who early on didn’t aim to build connections with his team mates. That’s why even now we hear back handed comments from Smush Parker, Andrew Bynum and the freestyle of “Tell me how my ass taste” from the Big Aristotle. That’s also the biggest reason why I see Tim Duncan as the greatest player of his era, he’s one of the greatest most loved team mates to ever grace the court. Someone who will never rock the Spurs boat, who will never challenge the authority of the coach and a player that can successfully channel the energies of the team into one thing; victory. We’ve never heard of Duncan calling out a team mate, calling out the staff or requesting a trade. In fact the only signs Duncan gets frustrated is how his eyes bulge after the referee makes a poor call. Duncan plays the role of the loving big brother as well as anyone and has allowed the Spurs to remain relevant since the conception of the twin towers featuring Duncan and David Robinson. So whilst a team mates may gravitate towards Kobe for his firey passion, they may also shun away due to his obsessive, dominant and demanding personality. In fact a few years ago I had become so fed up with watching Bryant I ranked him 13th or 14th behind Karl Malone on my greatest of all time ladder. (It has enjoyed massive renovations since then.)

But that’s really where my beef with Kobe Bryant ends and I have grown to appreciate and respect one of the greatest of all time. Kobe Bryant rightfully so is a top 10 player, he’s the second greatest Shooting Guard behind Jordan,(Yes he’s better than Jerry West.), he stands as one of the most creative scorers of all time, with even more scoring options and moves than Michael himself. He has a menu of ball fakes, clockwise and anti-clockwise spins, fadeaways, hop steps and jab steps which he can constantly reach into to string together the most ridiculous combinations for better or worse. When Bryant catches fire there is literally no way to prevent the ball ending in his hands or the barrage of money fadeaways and penetrations that follows. He has also entered the pantheon of “Don’t-Talk-Trash-To-Them-Or-He’ll-Murder-You” along with Jordan, Bird, O’Neal, Olajuwon and Iverson. Likewise Bryant has also entered the greatest all around players a
group of players that can affect the game in every way on the highest level, including LeBron James with Oscar Robertson as the captain and co captain, with Bird, Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Kobe, the Logo and some Magic Johnson (He couldn’t shoot.) In some ways Bryant is this generation’s Pearl Monroe or Pistol Pete, someone with an unlimited and dazzling offensive arsenal and a natural knack at drawing a foul or creating space. Not to mention Bryant is fearless in the closing moments of the game and I genuinely mean that, Kobe’s hand does not shake in the final possession of the game, instead he relishes in his ability to put the final stamp upon the game (He had basically four game winners in the win against the Raptors this year) For better or worse, this has led to Kobe having the second most game winners in NBA history despite his mediocre field goal percentage (Volume, volume, volume.) Also Kobe HAS to take the last shot, he won’t accept anything else. So even if Metta World Peace has a wide open jumper or Gasol has a hopeless victim defending him around the post, expect the Black Mamba to throw up a 20 footer. Bryant’s shoot first mentality really solidified during the 2005-2007 stretch when he was saddled with game changing allies such as Kwame Brown, a young Bynum, Chris Mihm and featured the deadly pick and roll of Luke Walton and Smush Parker. And even if Kobe has a much better approach to the game now, someone who is more willing to share the ball and rely upon the strengths of his team mates, but I can still see the moments when he’s unhappy about the ball game and something clicks turning KB24 into a one man army.

Where does Kobe Bryant stand on my greatest players of all time? He’s not better than Michael Jordan who has basically every advantage over Kobe excluding the three point jumpshot, but that’s more a difference in context than Jordan’s flaw. Today’s league stresses the importance of three pointers more and more to stretch the floor against improved and more sophisticated defences. Defensively it’s not close, Jordan was the Bill Russell of Shooting Guards, whose athletic ability allowed him to shut down constantly opponents from the 1,2 and 3. Here’s a few more numbers to buffer my argument, 5 MVP (Should of won the 1993 and 1997) against Bryant’s single MVP award in 2008. (Chris Paul should of won that year and Bryant should of won in 2006), Jordan averaged 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assist shooting 50.5% from the field, Kobe for a career averaged 27.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.2 assist and 45.5% (I’ll ignore his first three years because he was too young and his statistics were not that great.) So basically Jordan still retains his position of greatest in my opinion. Is he better than Kareem Abdul Jabbar? I don’t think so, Kareem was a rock defensively and offensively, someone who could successfully anchor a team’s defence and the scorer of the most points in NBA history. Throw in his longevity, his ability to create his shot at ANY time because of that magnificent skyhook and it’s hard to argue for Bryant, maybe the fact Kobe is more clutch? Meh, not strong enough. Nor is Bryant better than Bill Russell (3) or Magic Johnson (4), two individuals who forever transformed the game of basketball. Russell throw being the first revolutionary defender, the first big man who put fear into the hearts of scorers and the anchor of the first great basketball first break featuring Cousy, Heinsohn, Sanders and Sam Jones and winner of ELEVEN rings within a thirteen year time span.

Magic and Larry were able to break through the belief that MVPs could only be awarded to big men, (Chamberlain, Russell, Wes Unseld, Jabbar) pionering an era where players like Derrick Rose, Iverson and Michael Jordan could win MVP. Their tremendous passing abilities injected new life into a sport which was plagued by image problems, (Coacine and more coacine.) However defensively Bryant was clearly superior, he also has the longeivity element on the previous two players. Now it’s getting closer and closer, I have Duncan at 6 who in my opinion is the greatest player of his generation, for reasons explained before. O’Neal is thrown in at 7 for being absolutely unstoppable in his prime, Jordan, Pippen or LeBron James could of defended a 2006 Kobe, but not even 1967 prime Chamberlain could of stopped 7’2, 315 pound monster from unleashing the “black tornado.” At eight falls Wilt the Stilt, for being the second most unstoppable force unleashed but he gets marks deducted for being a horrible team mate until hepaired with West, for being the main reason he played for 9 coaches in 14 years (Dwight Howard anyone?) for prioritising statistics over victories (The SELFISH season when he turned into Bob Cousy, maintaining the never foul out rule which costed his teams many games.) So why would Chamberlain rank at 8 despite his obvious flaws? His individual dominance was unparallel, even Bill Russell couldn’t defend him in a one on one matchup, he dropped a 50-28 season which ranks in the top 5 most dominanting events ever in NBA history along with O’Neal averaging around 40 points against the Pacers in the finals and Kareem Abdul Jabbar going for 38-17 in the 1977 postseason. Chamberlain gets extra points for creating the mold of a physical overpowering centre which O’Neal so blatantly ripped off he should be paying royalties (He even stole hisfreethrow numbers.) a mold which Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are trying to implement all these years later. Kobe Bryant had a lot of people to shape his game after (A lot of Jordan, some Drexler and a touch of Pistol.) thus he loses points in the “originality” category. So there Kobe Bryant sits at number 9, though he’s a few seasons or events away from swinging infront of Tim Duncan, the gap between them is shrinking and shrinking as Bryant still manages to exlude father time for now…

I guess that’s what I will remember Kobe Bryant for when he finally hangs up his sneakers and decides to play in an Italian league routinely draining 6 threes, taking every game over after once the fourth quarter starts and giving scared shitless Italian players the “Mamba Face.” Kobe was a shooting guard that gave everything to the game, a man who like his idol could not, would not settle on anything other than victory and perfection. A player who could of been a fantastic passer but instead settled for the more appealing and glamorising role of a scorer, A team leader that could inspire with his irrational confidence and his work ethic yet destroy team chemistry in a swoop with one misplaced comment. An individual that trusted in his own supreme abilities and would do anything to secure a win from shooting 30 times in one game to being the Lakers’ playmaker for three quarters, yet in doing some wouldn’t understand that he had isolated other some
players who became frustrated when Kobe wasn’t “on.” Yet despite all this criticism, hatred, love, passion and milage, everyone knows Bryant will go out there every night as long as his heart still beats and he will give everything to the sport. It’s funny that the Archilles tear happened to Kobe Bryant so late in his career, but I feel like if any players can recover from that at age 34 their last names would have to end it either Jordan or Bryant. As a 35 year old veteran, Kobe Bryant’s resume speaks for itself and the scary thing is…. It’s still continuing to grow.

1 X MVP (2008)
5 X Championship Ring (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)
2 X NBA Finals MVP (2009, 2010)
15 X NBA All Star (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
4 X NBA All Star MVP (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011)
2 X Scoring Champion (2006, 2007)
15 Season Averaging 19.9 or over
1459 Games (Regular and Playoffs)
11 X All NBA First Team (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
2 X All NBA Second Team (2000, 2001)
2 X All NBA Third Team (1995, 2005)
25.5 Points, 5.3 Rebounds, 4.8 Assist, 45.4% Field Goal, 33.6% Three Point Percentage
9 X NBA Defensive First Team (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
3 X NBA Defensive Second Team (2001, 2002, 2012)
NBA All Rookie Second Team (1997)
NBA Slam Dunk Contest Winner (1997)
Los Angeles Lakers All Time Leading Scorer
28 Game Winners
Being the face of the Lakers from 2005 to 2013