Monthly Archives: January 2013

Self improvement: Where teachers fear to tread…

Self improvement? Moi? Ce n’est pas possible!*

But if you really think that I do have some slight scope for enhancement (and please, no spam emails about, er, that kind of enhancement) then I’d better start watching more short clips like this one.

It’s one of the many enlightening, inspirational and entertaining TED talks. This one is about how to improve teaching in places that good teachers don’t want to go – or in ways that teachers cannot do themselves. The speaker is Indian educationalist Sugata Mitra. It’s his “hole in the wall” experiment.

What do you think? Can teachers be replaced so easily?

Futurist Arthur C Clarke is reported to have said: “A teacher who can be replaced by a machine, should be.”

If you have any teaching experience, does the impact of this experiment ring true to you?

This self-improvement idea came in a roundabout way from Helen and Adventures of an Unfit Mother. She’s funny. You should read her stuff.  (This made me laugh.) That’s Continue reading

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Cheer up

It’s cold. It’s damp. But cheer up. Watch this. (It’s quick.)

It’s actually not bad. It came from here.

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I’ve struck it rich in the movies…

The Big Steal trillion dollar noteIt’s finally happened. I’ve really made it this time. I’ve invested in three films and one of them has really paid off.

I’ve just received my first huge return. I’ve taken a photo of it in case you’re sceptical.

Yup. There it is. A trillion smackers. $1,000,000,000,000. My good intention has been rewarded.

I’m thinking of buying a few trips on the space shuttle – or maybe 2,000 of them. Nah – something closer to my heart. I think I’ll spend it on Ireland. With Turkey thrown in too, if I can’t get change from a trillion dollar note.

Trillion dollar noteWhatever I do, I can’t let the larcenous crew who got us into this financial mess get their grubby paws on my cash. Who? The bankers of course, according to The Big Steal.

Because my $1tn note is my return from my friends’ movie The Big Steal. They’re Julian Darley and Celine Rich, of Mysterious Movies – just two of the many outraged at the greed of the banks and the cynical way taxpayers’ money has been transferred to dodgy banks and then moved offshore or transformed into bonuses. So what? Lots of us are cross about it – but what can you do? Well, you can turn it into a film. That’s what they’re doing. The film will be called The Big Steal – but unlike most heist movies, this time the thieves are behind the counter, not breaking in. Can anyone stop them? Watch the film and find out.

But before you watch it – they have to make it. And they need help. They’re looking for lots of mini-donations, from a dollar upwards, to crowdsource the film and take it to the Cannes Film Festival this year.

So if you’re looking to bash the banking system and get a bit of retaliation in – here’s a way of doing it. Lots of good perks too. Being part of the film, getting your name in the credits Continue reading

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Reading list: Tudors, Nazis and Detectives

reading in the showerTime off = reading. Though to be honest, with me, any time = reading. Including in the shower. (Aah, maybe that was an admission too far. Anyway…)

All this time reading, when I should be WRITING, DAMMIT! But hang on. All is not lost. Stephen King is riding to the rescue of my beaten, bedraggled, often ignored but unbowed writer’s conscience.

In his excellent and useful book ON WRITING – A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, Stephen King says this:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. there’s no way round these two things thast I’m aware of, no shortcut.

I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft: I read because I like to read.

Phew! I’m at least halfway to being a writer. And this is what else I’ve been reading in the past fortnight and recommend to you.

ALONE IN BERLIN, first published in 1947 as JEDER STIRBT FUR SICH ALLEIN by Hans Fallada (real name Rudolph Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen). He died the same year. The story is of a couple who, when their son is killed on the Russian front, begin to write and drop postcards attacking Hitler across the city.

Be This Guy: August Friedrich Landmesser, a worker at the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, refusing in 1936 to make a Nazi salute at a mass party rally. (However, I can now reveal the true story of his so-called heroic gesture. Too stingy to buy deoderant. Underarm sweat stains. Too embarrassed to raise his arm. This story is really all about personal hygiene. Don't be this guy.)

Be This Guy: August Friedrich Landmesser, a worker at the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, refusing in 1936 to make a Nazi salute at a mass party rally. (However, I can now reveal the true story of his so-called heroic gesture. Too stingy to buy deoderant. Underarm sweat stains. Too embarrassed to raise his arm. This story is really all about personal hygiene. Don’t be this guy.)

An insignificant gesture of resistance perhaps, but one that provokes a concerted Gestapo campaign to find and kill them. It’s an exciting and moral story and paints a vivid picture of Berlin and Berliners during their days of complacency and then anxiety as the war begins to turn against Germany.

It also addresses those questions like – What would I do? What could anyone do? What did anyone do?

We don’t tend to hear much about the small ordinary acts of heroic resistance by Germans to Nazism. Perhaps because it conflicts with the idea that all Germans were complict – along the lines of Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen. Or perhaps because it undermines the defence that the masses were swept along, ignorant and innocent of the evil deeds of a few – along the lines of the film The Nasty Girl (Das schreckliche Mädchen). People did know – some acted with honour and humanity. Bit like today.

An inspiring read.

I also enjoyed RATLINES by Stuart Neville, who also wrote the ingenious Ghosts of Belfast (published as The Twelve in the UK). I’ve clearly got Nazis on the brain, because this is about Nazis and their fellow travellers who have fled defeat and holed up in the Republic of Ireland. And now someone is hunting them done and killing them. It could wreck the upcoming visit of President John F Kennedy. It’s clever, imaginative and pacey.  The author’s note at the front had me hooked:

These things are known to be true: dozens of Nazis and Axis collaborators sought refuge in Ireland following the Second World War; in 1957, Otto Skorzeny [the German paratroop leader who dramatically rescued Mussolini]  was welcomed to a country club reception by the young politician Charles Haughey; Otto Skorzeny purchased Martinstown House in Kildare in 1959; in 1963, in response to a question by Dr Noel Browne TD, the Minister for Justice Charles Haughey told the Irish parliament that Otto Skorzeny had never been resident in Ireland.

The rest is just a story.

And it’s a good story Continue reading

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The dream isn’t everything…

You got a dream? Well dreams cost...

You got a dream? Well dreams cost… But more importantly, scroll down for a very cute clip below.

Sure, I have dreams. Since you ask, Maria. And I work on making them happen. (Not as much as I should or could, but still…)

But what if your dream requires such singled-minded determination as to leave no room for anything else? Is that dedication? Just what it takes?

Debbie Allen as Lydia Grant laid out the deal thus: You’ve got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying … in sweat.

Fair enough. But I hope – I believe – that you can get to walk the dog and still splash in the puddles. (That’s why this clip is here, but you have to click on the quote to see Fame.)

I hope I’m right. This Continue reading

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WWJD – What would Jesus…

What would Jesus drive?Most people assume WWJD is for “What would Jesus do?” But the initials really stand for “What would Jesus drive?”

One theory is that Jesus would tool around in an old Plymouth because “the Bible says God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden in a Fury.”

But in Psalm 83 Continue reading

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Happy New Year

As the women said – Happy New Year.

(Not sure about that party in the video.)

But as for 2013? Could it possibly be anything other than epic?

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