Insights & Art

Straight from the dome to the plate.

Tag: Life

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

The Second Blog Update

The 18th of May, 2015 has been chiseled into history. Many generations on, my descendants will commemorate this day with a feast. The great songs shall echo through the grand hall of the Ching dynasty, the wine shall flow like the Nile and the ancient kings will rise from their tomb to herald the changing of the new age.

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Ask not what the blog can do for you, but what you can do for the blog.

ONE THOUSAND, EIGHT HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SIX VIEWS IN A SINGLE DAY.

Note that my previous record was 49 views in a full 24 hours, the jump to 1886 represents a net increase of… 3748.9796%. I was completely stunned when I first saw this, believing that either I instantly needed to get corrective eye surgery or that I had taken one too many shots of Vodka that night.

Now you as the audience must be asking, “How on Earth did you get such an explosion in views?” and secondly “Did you threaten the slaves in the basement your friends to continuously press F5 at gunpoint?” After donning my thinking cap and investigating, I found that my website was linked several times in a Norwegian forum dedicated to academia. Many students used my piece analysing the rhetoric in Obama’s Yes We Can speech (which you can found by clicking here) as a scaffold for their own writing.

The Peloponnesian War cemented the greatness of the Spartans in western lore, the 13th belonged to the ferocity of the Mongols, the year 1788 signified the start of the French Revolution and the solidification of modern day European ideals. But the 18th of May, 2015 heralds the triumph of humanity, the forging of the human spirit. But most of all, the 18th of May will forever be the swan song of the Norwegian nation, they rose like a Phoenix from the ashes, dashing away villainy and corruption in a single stroke.

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So what’s next for Insights & Ball? I’m currently completely swamped in assessments though I’m loving this semester as it is really allowed me to dive deeper in my education degree. The timetable gods have also been merciful and I’ve been able to meet some incredible like minded education peers and to strengthen past friendships that I’ve already developed.However I do have a few essays and articles which I do want to publish in the near future, I’ll be on holidays around the end of June.

Schedule

The Fifty Greatest Moments in the Avatar Franchise
This has honestly been a piece that I’ve wanted to publish for many months. I’ve already established my 50 favourite moments from the Avatar franchise in order. However I would like to re-watch The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra one final time just in case I want to make changes. This article will most likely be stretch out over a five separate post starting at number 50 to the magnum opus, I find posting 50 consecutive moments in a row to be a little extreme and very ugly on the eyes.

Tim Duncan; an Ode to Greatness
Duncan is a living legend, the embodiment of a professional, the symbol of longevity. His resume is overwhelming, 5 different championships, 2 MVPs, 3 finals MVP and a ridiculous 18 regular seasons under his belt and another 18 PLAYOFF RUNS played. However, Duncan is nearly the end of his career, how will he proceed? Will he silently exit the game, content with the legacy he has craved out, or will he strive for another championship run?

The Yellow Vicks; a Cherished Memory
The yellow Vicks cough drop will forever be associated with my childhood. My grandmother will always reward me with that delicious treat, promising that this would be the final one of the night. However she could never contain her love for me and by the end of the night, I would sit in my parent’s car with four or five cough drops happily consumed in the stomach. That was close to a decade ago and now her Dementia has cruelly stolen away her memories, ripping down her charisma and destroying her independence. I visited her in the nursing home recently, I tried to make conversation but it was hard connecting intimately with someone who was starting to forget you. As I walked out of her room, I left a packet of yellow Vicks near her bedside table, maybe for one more time she will remember me, the past laughs we shared and how much I loved her.

These are the pieces that I have lined up, however I write whenever I’m motivated and if an idea or an event catches my fancy then I’ll focus on that topic instead. Though I hope that you as the audience have a better idea of what I’m planning to focus upon and I hope that you’ll follow me as I document my life, my beliefs and my experiences before I, too, am whisked off the stage off life.

To my Norwegian viewers, I salute you.

Farvel, Chingy out.

The Gusto of Dale Peterson.

[If you are interested in reading another political orientated rhetorical piece with a similar format and style on Obama’s Yes We Can Speech, then click here]

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One of America’s foundations is its democratic political system, a system where supposedly every American citizen will have equal say in their government. These unalienable rights were guaranteed in the American constitution and thus politics is heavily intertwined with the American conscious. Dale Peterson, a Republican born in the state of Georgia, is an individual who wants to run for the mayor of Georgia and is using social media to gain supporters of his cause. Whilst his video is geared towards Republican viewers and in particular southern voters, overall it is a moderately effective piece of propaganda. There some questionable choices within this video which hurt Peterson’s ethos and strained his emotional connection with the audience. Like most other short political advertisements, the main focus is on establishing a positive ethos whilst using pathos to vilify opposing parties. The small amounts of logos found within this video is both a strength and a flaw and most likely a result of the time constraints since the advertisement is approximately a minute long. Whilst watching Peterson’s video, one must remember that his message is specifically aimed towards a certain demographic. Whilst I may not connect with his context or his beliefs, this should not impact my judgment of the advertisement’s effectiveness.

Fostering a positive ethos is an essential part in creating rapport between the orator and the audience; it disarms any suspicions or concerns which they might have originally held. It is obvious that Peterson derives a large portion of his identity from his sense of American patriotism, a trait that he uses to establish a common connection between him and his primary demographic; southern Republicans. In order to build up ‘good will’ with the audience, Peterson appears in a cowboy outfit thus subtly reflecting southern values through his style of dress. He presents himself as someone who is socially adjusted to the cultural values of his target audience instead of an intruder who is ignorant about the local traditions. Further attempts to reinforce his invented ethos are reflected in the non-diegetic music playing through the advertisement, it is triumphant and heroic and it is clear that Peterson is trying to attach these qualities to his persona. Part of creating a positive ethos is understanding that one’s actions or context will be linked to one’s persona or characteristics, otherwise known as the ‘fundamental attribution error’. By starting the video with a photo of the Declaration of Independence; Peterson is building a metaphorical bridge between himself and one of the most influential documents ever, a symbol of justice, freedom and liberty. This patriotic connection to the foundation of American society portrays Peterson as a strong minded individual capable who is also heavily invested in the idealism of the American nation.

On the other hand, there are many flaws in Peterson’s propaganda video and its polarizing nature means that it basically ‘preaches to the choir’ and only appeals to a selected audience. Whilst his outfit and his southern colloquialism may create a sense of familiarity to voters with a similar context, it may repel voters who cannot connect with his invented ‘redneck’ and ‘country’ ethos. Likewise at the end of the advertisement, Peterson refers to himself in third person, “Dale Peterson says click here to check out our website” which shows an extreme level of narcissism. Personally, this was the point when his ‘confidence and charisma’ became less endearing and more annoying. The presence of Peterson’s inflated ego damages his ethos as audiences become suspicious of his motives; is political power his ultimate goal or does he sincerely wish to serve the community? Aristotle commented humans are self-interested creatures and thus audiences tend to gravitate towards people or parties where mutual trust and benefit underlines the relationship. Peterson’s condescending tone caused me to question his leadership skills and his integrity.

Part of being a skilled orator involves the manipulation of pathos in order to get the audience to emotionally invest into their message. A lot of political campaigns and advertisements choose to use pathos instead of logos since I believe that with time constraints, logos is the hardest aspect to effectively incorporate into a text. This is because ethos and pathos can be conveyed through something as simple and subtle as dress and music. Logos, however, is most effective when it is supplemented by verified facts and statistics, which can be very time consuming. Thus to some extent I understand Peterson’s inclusion of unsupported premises and cheap insults towards his political opponent; Roy ‘King’ Barnes. Statements like saying Barnes associates with “thugs and criminals” and “you know why they call him King Roy? Because he thinks he’s better than everyone!” are a quick way to smear one’s character. However most viewers will notice that Peterson’s campaign is built upon his personality and that the total lack of inartistic logos removes a lot of the creditability behind his message. Peterson also tries to create mistrust between the American public and Barnes in the statement “send King Roy back to home to his castle where he can’t do Georgia anymore harm.” Personally I think this sentence is more effective than the previously insults because it is a pun on Barnes’ nickname. Also, this sentence alludes to Barnes’ commitment to aristocracy and monarchy rule, a system which is foreign to America political culture. Personally whenever I analyse Peterson’s invented ethos in the advertisement, I see the connections between him and the ‘Walt Whitman’ archetype. There is an attempt to present himself as rugged and intelligent, grounded yet active within the larger community, all values and traits held in high regard by American society.

Rhetoric and the art of persuasion were first developed over two thousand years ago but it still remains important and relevant in today’s society. Dale Peterson understands the basics of rhetoric yet lacks the subtlety of an experienced rhetorician. Peterson’s biggest flaw was catering only towards a small and specialized demographic; southern Republicans, in particular those who associated with the ‘cowboy’ persona. This may result in a large majority of the American public rejecting his message purely because of his invented ethos. Another issue within the video was the complete lack of logos and the cheap unfounded insults on Barnes’ character, giving audiences the impression that Peterson is both childish and immature. However I understand that in some cases logos is not as effective as playing upon emotions like fear, respect and prejudice, especially in a scare campaign. However an aspect that Peterson effectively exploits is the overwhelming sense of patriotism within the video, by embellishing and almost flaunting his nationalism, he is trying to build a link between himself and the American people. Unfortunately the strengths within this piece of rhetoric couldn’t undo the flaws and Peterson is no longer an active political candidate in Georgia. Also these advertisements have been transformed into viral internet jokes because of his overly obnoxious character and his over indulgence into conveying American stereotypes.

10 Pieces of Orchestral Music.

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Hip Hop has been the staple to my musical diet for the past 3 years, I’m a 5 foot 6 Asian with a slightly under average frame but if you caught out my heart you would found out I’m equipped with 50 Cent’s vernacular and Method Man’s flow. However I’m still a sucker for beautiful, peaceful music that tugs at your heart strings, gently reminding you that there’s still hope and “through every dark night there’s a brighter day.” (2Pac) 2013 was a year of discovery for me, I aimed to push my boundaries and forever leave my comfort zone, I’m glad to announce I have achieved everyone of my goals. Along the way I discovered the tranquil affect classic and orchestra music had upon me, they were a total contrast to what I’ve religiously listened to over the past 3 years. They rarely had words, allowing you to shape the meaning according to your emotions and instead of draining my energy like some hip hop songs do, I felt more mature, relaxed and generally more optimistic after listening to songs of this genre. So to share my new found love of soft and gentle music, here’s my top 10, I can guarantee you this list is far from complete, after all I’ve only started to dabble in this genre 6 months ago. I can guarantee there’s a few songs which were absolute staples on everyone’s list that I’ve left out due to sheer ignorance. But this is my list, my personal list and at the end of the day everyone’s a winner (Unless you disagree with me… Then you’re the opposite.)

NUMBER 10:
Everything’s Alright.

To The Moon is a game that deserves so much more recognition, it has a unique and quite frequently heart melting story line. We follow two scientist as they aim to give an old man (Johnny) his final dream; flying to the moon, a goal that could never be achieved due to the harsh and suddenness of life. Along the way, the audience learns about his life, his goals, his dreams and his failures and the game crescendos into an emotional explosion at the end. Everything’s Alright is a song which captures the main themes of the game perfectly, a beautiful soft voice accompanying a melodic tune. Honestly I could of easily put 2 or 3 of the songs from the game’s soundtrack on this list because they’re all so beautiful but Everything’s Alright definitely stood out. (Yes you should go check out the soundtrack, and NO I’m not getting paid for advertisement, you have to give credit when credit is due.) The lyrics are put together carefully and aim to reflect the tear jerking relationship between Johnny and his wife River.
When this world is no more 
The moon is all we’ll see 
I’ll ask you to fly away with me 
Until the stars all fall down 
They empty from the sky 
But I don’t mind 
If you’re with me, then everything’s alright

Grab the tissues children.

NUMBER NINE:
Avatar’s Love.

Bedroom eyes here, bedroom eyes there, bedroom eyes everywhere! I love Avatar The Last Airbender. I love everything about it, from the characters, the humour, the excellent story line and oh did I say the characters? This short song inspired by the budding romance between Katara and Aang and Eastern instruments symbolises the finale of my favourite series. The fire lord has been broken! The world is safe! The Avatar has returned and finally he has overcome his sense of failure and fear and fully cemented his relationship with Katara, go get him boy! It’s a short song but it ends on a triumph and proud note, it’s head held up high much like the cartoon series. You know this piece of music has touched the lives of thousands when you get comments like this on the Youtube page, “actually makes me weak. At the same time strong, it makes me remember the things that’s so good in my life that every time I make a mistake, it doesn’t keep me down. Avatar was the best cartoon I’ve ever watched. Thank you for the memories :’)” – Dom Novak and even “I want to walk down the aisle to this when I get married.” – Pevensify. 10/10 Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, 10/10.

NUMBER EIGHT:
The Promise.

You know I could make a top 10 list with only songs from the Final Fantasy series. You ABSOLUTELY know I could. Every game, Square Enix somehow is able to embed songs which we’ll remember forever. The Promise made me cry in year 9, it was just overwhelming beautiful, noble yet sad, proud yet solemn, I can’t explain it, just press play and let the genius flow.

NUMBER SEVEN:
Aerith’s Theme.

No, I never finished Final Fantasy 7, I’ve downloaded on Steam and there it sits quietly in the corner. I don’t know why I don’t play it much, it’s probably a mixture of the fact I’ve slowly but surely moved away from video games and I already know 85% of the plot from Wikipedia and just searching the net. Regardless you can tell without a doubt Final Fantasy 7 was one of the most influential games of all time, solidifying Square Enix/Soft’s legacy, thus leading to Final Fantasy becoming one of the most famous video game series ever. Personally I feel as if this songs stands as a metaphor for life, it starts off slowly and sadly and then becomes joyful and triumphant. Much like Aerith, we will eventually pass from this world, all we can hope for is that we’ve touched those we’ve loved enough so that our legacy will be remembered. All I can say is I listened to this song for 3 days straight when I was studying for my University examinations. 3 days straight! I couldn’t even watch Michael Jordan clips for 3 days straight!

NUMBER 6:
A Watchful Guardian.

The quiet before the storm. The echoing of thunder. The roar of horses and the taste of blood. That’s what I imagine when I listen to this song. I always see Theoden sitting proudly on his steed, armour gold, hair flowing shouting out his battle cry. “Arise! Arise, Riders of Theoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day… a red day… ere the sun rises! ” A Watchful Guardian sums up passion, courage and camaraderie within the song, the quick beat creates a whirlwind of movement, exciting yet dangerous. It’s a gorgeous song to listen to.

NUMBER SIX:
Time.

Easily the most haunting piece of music on this list. Whilst searching for the Youtube video to embed, I knew I had to choose the MusicVideo version, so much emotion. It successfully captures the true essence of humanity. Like the other songs on this list, Time’s melody can be shaped into whatever emotions you are feeling. Need a song to give you strength when you are weakest? Need a song to inspire and empower? Time is perfect, it’s the Swiss army knife of classical orchestra. Hats off to you Hans Zimmer and hats off to Inception.

NUMBER FOUR:
Halo Theme.

Man the turrets! Grab the ammo! Solidify the defense! The Halo Theme is an instant spark of energy, turning every day things like taking out the rubbish into an epic event for the ages. I feel unstoppable when I listen to this, it’s like sniffing cocaine and injecting moose testosterone into your veins simultaneously. The pace is fast enough to inspire courage but slowly enough so one doesn’t descend into the realm of sadness or insanity. This song takes you on an incredible high now choose your weapon, get your grenades and let’s kill some elites! WOO-RAH!

NUMBER THREE:
Journey to the West.

Just wait for it. It starts off weak and timid and then transforms into an explosion of power and strength. Princess Mononoke is also one of my favourite films of all time, it’s an instant classic for a wonderful plot with epic Japanese mythology combined with great characters. Can humans advance forward without destroying the natural environment? Will the animal spirits cling to their traditions despite a shifting landscape? The film and the musical score are both beautifully crafted and it stands as a testament to the greatness of Hayao Miyazaki. Long live Studio Ghibli, long live Totoro! Long live Chihiro! Now if only I had the courage to watch Grave of the Fireflies… I don’t want to become an emotional wreck for two days!

NUMBER TWO:
Promise to the World.

It’s just so beautiful. Fuck you Japan for being producing the most heart moving music, no I’m not crying there is just something in my eye! On a serious note, I’m 100% convinced an angel sang this. Listen to this whilst you just had an argument with a friend or family member and I guarantee you this will absolve away all tension and hatred. Once again Studio Ghibli you never cease to amaze! There’s literally nothing left for me to say, words can’t capture how gorgeous this piece of music is… Just press play.

NUMBER ONE:
Forbidden Colours.

I was literally spellbound when I held this. I was frozen with wonder, “How can music be this beautiful?” It’s music like this that makes one reflect… Why are we on this planet? Am I being true to myself? How should I better myself and thus better those around me? This song was  used in the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a film I’ve never watched and don’t plan to because this song may reduce me to a babbling and crying two year old. For me, the songs is about a relationship that will never work because it’s deemed forbidden by society, it’s about the fundamental need every human wants; love. It’s about acknowledging joy can only be experienced with sadness, that heart break only leads to true love. This will play at my funeral and my wedding, hopefully serving as a reminder that people need more than just materialism to sustain them and that life is too short to waste on trivial matters. Ryuichi Sakamoto you are my deity and I’m your disciple.

There were so many runner ups for this list and I could of easily made a top 20 or even top 25.  So here’s a few songs below which were excluded and YES, you SHOULD give them a listen… Here’s a short tip, Final Fantasy/Square Enix/Studio Ghibli/ To the Moon/ Hans Zimmer are my favourites and you should definitely check out their works.

Man of Steel.
Twilight Town. (I’m sorry Kingdom Hearts for not including you in the top 10)
My Neighbor Totoro
Married Life (From Up)
Once Upon a Memory (To the Moon)
Kairi I (Kingdom Hearts)
Born a Stranger (To the Moon)
For River (To the Moon)
Roxas Theme (Kingdom)
To Zanarkand (Which I have NO idea how it didn’t make the top 10… Should of made a top 20…)
Finish the Fight (Halo)
Into a Night Time Sky (Avatar)
Peace Excerpt (Avatar)

Ahh… Music, it’s the language of humanity, spoken by few but understood by all. It supports us at our most vulnerable and humbles us at our strongest. No doubt that I’ve fallen in love with this genre and there is still  space for one more, yes you, the one reading this right now, now be ready to be gripped and moved.

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.

Hakuna Matata.

What’s the point of life? What’s the final goal, destination or reward. This is a question that has endured since the beginning of time and humanity has long searched for an answer. Here’s where I come in, I mean who doesn’t want to hear an average teenager’s response? (Don’t answer that.)

The average life span of an Australian male is 79.5 years. I am 18, so I have approximately 61.5 years left. I will spend a few years here and there with gaining and education, chop off around 6 years. This society dictates I work and contribute towards Capitalism so slice approximately 40 years off my life. 15.5 years left, age begins to weigh upon me and soon I am a burden to the younger generation and I am quickly whisked off the stage of life. Retirement goes slowly by as the joys of life fades with your health, 15 years flies by and soon you are left with 6 months left. (For your information, I plan to spend the last 6 months of my life in Harlem Prison spitting some heavy Wu-Tang lines to war veterans, stay fresh.)

Let’s examine the regrets of the dying, those who’s brief time on this earth has expired and will fade into non-existence. Let’s see how we can learn from the past and avoid filling their empty shoes on the cycle of life.

1. “I WISH I WOULD HAD THE COURAGE TO LIVE A LIFE TRUE TO MYSELF, NOT THE LIFE OTHERS EXPECT OF ME.”

This was the most common regret of all, too many people altered themselves to fit the expectations of others. Too many times did they compromise themselves to fulfill another’s dream, people are scared of being shunned thus they accept a life of mediocrity instead of pursuing their hopes and goals. When one learns not to seek external validation for their happiness they are avoid being entrapped in a regret.

“Life is a daring adventure or nothing.
– Helen Keller.

2. ” I WISH I DIDN’T WORK SO HARD.”

There was once when I valued money more than happiness. The Asian culture places heavy focus upon wealth, education and having a stable occupation, many of you readers may recoil from this and label that culture as materialistic, backwards or wrong. But isn’t all cultures strange and bizarre to those who stand outside it’s borders? China has long been a poor nation, from the start of the 19th century, it’s been involved with in two wars with Japan, (1894-1895 and 1937-1945.) It’s had opium dumped onto it’s shores by Western nations which destroyed it’s culture and crippled it’s economy. Eight nations have invaded China since the 1900s, Austria-Hungary, France, Italy, England, Russia, Japan, Germany and the United States. So obviously values such as education, wealth and money were important, how else would you feed your family? How else could you provide for your aging parents?

But thankfully, I grew as a person, wealth was important and necessary but money can’t buy love, money can’t buy a smiling household nor happy memories. Finally all the wealth in the world would be pointless when death arrives, as an Ancient Chinese proverb states, “All are equal before death.” I asked myself would I rather be on my death bed surrounded by money or my family and friends? The answer was simple, wealth is necessary but materialism shouldn’t be one’s objective.

3. “I wish I had the courage to express myself.” 

This ties heavily with the number one regret of not limiting or compromising yourself to satisfy others. Being yourself gives you a sense of freedom in life, one does not have to be chained down by lies which served to fill their insecurities, one does not have to halt their opinion because they are afraid of the consequences. When one takes a step back and realise their time on Earth is but a blink of an eye in the scheme of this universe, we begin to understand how foolish it is to act according to society’s unwritten laws.

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

Once again notice, the regret isn’t I wish I had another few grand for a Ferrari  or I wish my house had a cinema room. These regrets reflect the true essence of humanity, that us humans thrive when we belong, we thrive on human connection. Technology has allowed us to communicate more and more but at the same time it has reduced human contact, no longer does one have to see a friend to maintain their relationship just Facebook them once in a while and watch as their friendship decays.

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
– Albert Einstein.

5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

This is what I deem to be the key, happiness melts away all other regrets and worries. You are happy when you live a life true to your own values and beliefs. (Regret 1.) You are happy when you realise consumerism can not substitute joy. (Regret 2.) You are happy when you don’t have to hide behind a mask, when you can stand for what you believe in despite opposition. (Regret 3.) You are happy when your relationships don’t fade but grow stronger as you age. (Regret 4.) Happiness is the single counter to all the regrets.

People’s perceptions and attitudes have a funny way of changing when they embrace their morality. We are a tiny speck in this vast universe so our actions will have little consequences, even the greatest kings and scholars fall before the endless march of time. Thus I have decided that the objective of my life is not to seek fame or fortune, not to have the most exotic wife nor the fastest car. It’s too be happy because 79.5 years later I want to be on my death bed, smiling, knowing that I leave in peace, knowing that I had the courage to talk to that pretty girl down the street, knowing I lived my life with fear of judgement and knowing that I lived everyday with a single phrase in mind “Hakuna Matata.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

– Dr Seuss.

Stanley out.

Chicken or the egg?

You grind your teeth, clench your fist and reach for the nearest weapon.

Yes, someone just said on of those annoying quotes we all hate.

Whether because they have land in your bad books due to overuse diminishing their significance or worth, maybe you die a little inside when you hear people mis-use it or maybe you just can’t stand the god damn quote. Everyone has pet peeves, everyone, don’t lie, so let me share a few of mine with you. So like an overweight, unemployed nerd who lives in his mother’s basements and only comes out to buy Star Trek re-runs, let the bitching/ranting commence!

“Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears.”

  • NEVER SAY NEVER.

This quote just annoyed me, obviously it’s supposed to be comical, (Ahaha, the big man said never but didn’t he say not to say never beforehand so doesn’t th- See not appealing.) but  Hollywood has taken this quote and driven the hypothetical and imaginary stake into it’s heart. I have seen way too many bad movies where the climax arrives the protagonist overcomes their inner struggles and grows strong enough to face the external forces. Everyone leans forward in the cinemas. Excited. The camera zooms up. “Never say never.”

*Pop and just like that all tension leaves the room, the director ruined the one chance he had of imprinting a lasting memory of their memory, plot and character, instead they choose a cliché and lacklustre line. It also really didn’t help that Justin Bieber released a single/album/podcast/deodorant/underwear brand labelled that which shall not be named. (Take that you muggles!)

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“I didn’t choose thug life, thug life choose me.”

  • I KNOW.

Well obviously no you didn’t, you just repeated the same mistake over and over and over again. Everyone recognise (Trying not to use “know”) a friend that shouts that phrase every time they receive constructive criticism, then they fuck up again and you need to correct them and for your efforts you get smacked with a “I know.” Then you grab an used needle and stab your friend in the eyeball and start injecting cocaine. I understand (Once again trying not to say I know…) that it’s just a reactionary response, maybe even a defensive mechanism protecting one from looking like they are not fully in control of the situation at every turn. But it’s also reactionary for me to punch/ inject cocaine into stupidity, is that acceptable? (Note don’t ring the police, I don’t have Cocaine call my lawyer for further talks.)

  • YOLO/SWAG.

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Need I say more? Drake will go back in history as that annoying little individual that introduce the most annoying statement ever. Not a quote but hey, I own this blog you’re just a visitor.

“Hey man, you need to run onto stage and bite the president’s penis. #SWAG”
“What? I can’t do that! I will get shot. #SWAG”
YOLO.”
“You’re right broski! See you at my funeral!”

I am now going to lock myself in my room, drink only cat milk, watch pornography 24/7, create a Star Wars Facebook fan page, take notes of everything that happens outside my window and own 54 cats. I just need to get away from these fucking quotes.