Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Next week I begin four weeks pratical teacher training at the low decile (aka poor) college, Hill Fort High.
What I hate about being a student? Classes are too structured for those of us who had early 80s university educations. Now, I'm not saying that the old days were perfect but they were certainly less organised, less structured, more on the fly. Now every lesson is supposed to have an 'achievement objective' and a 'learning outcome.' Fine. But this is a very bizarre approach to learning, very pseudo-scientific. There’s little room for passion, improvisation, winging it, free-play. My own pedagogy is geared around experimentation and mutual exploration—this is what the arts offer unlike the sciences. In the sciences, knowledge and mastery is all. But aside from technique, the arts explores modes of inquiry, communication, exploration. What I want are more spaces, open discussions, less forms and structure.
My time spent training as a secondary school-teacher takes away energies that could be used to write a book on Autism and Popular Culture. But I’m not quite in the right space to pursue this project. I feel sometimes that I even hide my Doctorate, as if having a Ph.D was a scarlet letter—how bizarre is that? Oh well, perhaps some of us just stayed at school too long. There’s this sense at Te Col that we are jumping through hoops. And I feel better about my own somewhat patchy teacher style that really encouraged students to decide for themselves what their projects would be and what they would write on and even how they would write. The model was always secondary to what was being explored. The essays and final projects they created were never perfect and always somewhat less refined than my colleagues who spelt out every step of the way—but often, I thought, my students’ projects seemed more authentic and if wrong then wrong for all the right reasons. I feel better now for using a student directed pedagogy when I taught as now I feel so much like a battery hen.
“Is that all there is…
I feel kind of blue today. Indigo here we go go…On the cusp of something…it’s the hassle sorting out child care for Rory and Roishan, all the schools' after school programmes are full—which makes me realise why some folks just stay on benefits. I mean, we need five weeks child care while Kiran’s folks go back to India. Hardly the moon.
And please, no more Bush…good on the New Yorkers for getting out there today.
Monday, August 30, 2004
John Kinder. Watercolour.
Just a quick blog as the Olympics close on TV as I'm rushing to get to college. Went with wulfraed to Te Papa Tongawera to see the John Kinder exhibition. Kinder was an amateur artist, as were all European settlers in NZ in the 19th century, who painted idlyllic landscapes, featuring churches, blokes smoking pipes, ships in the harbour, lovely wooden colonial houses and not a Maori in sight. If you've seen Tolkien's illustrations for The Hobbit then you get the picture (arf). Actually, I found the watercolours quite tranquil and while I saw colonial ideology at work--yawn--I also wondered if Kinder saw some spiritual quality in the landscape. Well, perhaps. In France, impressionism was raging while here we have dinky little watercolours. What I'd like to see now are some early NZ Romantic oil paintings--say Van der Velden. Now, I must go and make Kiran a cup of tea and bring it to her in bed. One of my little duties that I enjoy....
Saturday, August 28, 2004
The peanut crunching crowd
We watched Slyvia last night on DVD. Both the Plath and Hughes estates had the good sense to be opposed to this film and according to Kiran didn’t allow any of their poetry to be used—though you get a couple of sound bites from ‘Daddy.’ Horrible, abhorent movie. The direction is cold, impersonal, aloof; the script wooded and there’s this choppy cut to this camera then that camera then this camera at certain key scenes as we suffer from long Bergmanesque silences while Arcite hunts for a beer can. Avoid at all costs. I’m not going to pick at the acting as the whole project is stale and lifeless but I cringe at the idea that this might be the first exposure for some to Plath whose work is difficult, cruel, excessive, sinister, political, erotic, exuberant, vividly sensual and full of nature often all at the same time. She’s brilliant, man—and Hughes whose poetry in my view is a little more inconsistent was also a fantastic writer. He’s reduced to a northern accent and a big dick and she’s just a pretty American neurotic. Fiddledee.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Read the lads Dahl's The Twits and planned a lesson on using costume to develop a character. God, I hope we don't have another high-energy performance arts class tomorrow. I'm not fit enough with this cold.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
I completed two assignments yesterday and have two due at the end of the week. Quelle drag. My presentation on Nonsense poems to the English class went down well. My only frustration at present is that school work takes me away from the book which crawls along. I'd just forgotten how much time students spend dreaming in classes and now have some feeling for what Aurora Floyd must be going through.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Which one is the NZ flag?
Yea, yea, & we got a gold! I can't pretend not to be pleased because I was feeling, well, somewhat disappointed. Don't you think we need a new flag? I can hardly tell it from the Auzzies: their govt. is run straight oudda Washington; ours is not. (OK, enough of the diatribes, but somedays I get up and feel just so pissed off with the news.)
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Song of the day: Maybe. Amar. Over the Indian drums an unsettled, wobbly, angst-ridden woman speculates on the possible consequences of the non-extinction of the dinosaurs and how these nail on blackboard thoughts are gobbling all her powers. The track sort of sneakes up on ya after the xth listening when it snaps to grid and you see what the hell it's all about.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Flooding, Hutt Valley.
Terrible weather here--a full storm, flooding, roads closed, airport closed, no ferries, blow wind blow.
My second observation day. I'm beginning to like the school. Hill Fort High has gone from a low role of 350 to 800 in a couple of years. Students are perfoming better on tests. There's a friendliness about the school, a suprisingly upbeat atmosphere. The teachers laugh and joke a lot in the staff room. Not what I expected at all.
The lessons go well but I'm lost in reverie working on a poem called 'English Lesson' (or ' Blown Away') or whatever it might end up being called. I dream it for hours, doodling and copying it into my book without really thinking about it. Such a foolish thing. But writing poetry makes me feel so calm; it's the bloody editing and polishing that's the hard graft.
And then, in the afternoon, with two minutes notice, I'm asked if I'd like to teach the Year 1o (14 yr olds) drama class. We have been told by the college to refuse all offers to teach. But I think 'sure' So we do a mime exercise, then improvise a scene and think of an ending and they teach me drama games. All done totally on the fly, unprepared, off the cuff. The only way really to approach a first time. The class are just so enthusiastic and supportive--it's really quite incredible how much they love these drama games.
I'm just a little reluctant to go back to College when I'm much rather just stay at the school. And I wonder if the more practical side of arts: writing, performing drama, getting kids to write poetry and the like might appeal to me more than university work. I have no real interest anymore in 'literary criticism' even if I'm researching autism in fiction and film. So a pretty bloody satisfying day. Now tonight I have to meet with classmates and video each other teaching a mock lesson. How stupid is that?
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
I've just come back from my first Teaching Observation day from Hillfort High. Terrible day to drive up the Hutt Valley as there's a bone-chilling cold wind and hail. I go with Andee, a young science teacher to be who is dressed in a bizarre outfit: he looks like one of The Strokes, black pants, black jacket, white shirt not tucked in, big 70s new wave lapel badge, gelled hair. I kind of admire him for responding in this way to the call for professional dress (I'm wearing smart blue jeans, no tie. Nearly everyone else is in a suit and a tie. Why?). But I wonder how he thinks he looks.
We get up the Hutt and there's along staff meeting about pay increases. The Union is strict about who counts as a teacher and I'm a little reassured as I've had all up about 7-8 years teaching at Varsity and thought has crossed my mind that learning how to give a presentation is frankly a waste of time. Well, maybe some of it is but that little certificate does appear to count.
Hillfort High ain't no rich college, er, no way. It looks very run-down. But the kids seem ok, boisterous but alright. One of my teaching experience's is going to be there!
The third form (13 year old) class was boisterous and rowdy. The drama (13 and 14 year old) classes were better. My kids & Kiran have come through the door so I must fly....more later.
My love is a rose
Monday, August 16, 2004
do you speak tongue?
do you speak, tongue--
God of the Ocean
I still support the revolution
Actually, dyspraxia if not used as a club to beat people with can be a very useful term that helps explain why so many kids with ASDs find it difficult to catch balls and have so many accidents. (I was in hospital all the time as a kid and was clearly dyspraxic). But, hey, it's a developmental condition. Your kid might look a bit weedy and not want to play team sports. Big bloody deal.
Grrrrr. Just wait till I get in those bloody schools. The revolution starts here, baby! And we must get on with that book. How dare a teacher blame low achievement on 'dyspraxia'? Sheeeeesh.
Got to go to Teachers' College.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Good entry in the Literary Encyclopedia on Paul Muldoon. Yes, he is a difficult poet but I can't be alone in finding a great deal of humour in Quoof. Heaney on peyote, surely. But these twists and turns can be frustrating at times.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
I haven't got into the full Olympic swing yet. I read The Economist's story on Singapore's New PM.
Friday, August 13, 2004
women hunting connies with ferrets. red skirt or blue skirt and a
broach at the throat? tussock. do not forsake me oh my darling. do
the do. begin the beguine.
There's a lot of messing around learning curriculum documents and
discussing 'wot iz a gud teachur' (the first two hours of my six
hours of in-class time today) at college but in today's four hour
class I really feel like I'm learning. This morning we had two hours
of music: we're taught rhythm, tempo and beat and then told to get
into groups of three, grab some instruments and compose a piece of
music for a two and half minute film. No mucking about, no excuses.
Lots of fun really even I wasn't in a musical group. It's so hands on
that you can't help but hear music differently and I did a lot better
than I expected.
In drama we did role play, voice control and working in groups to
create a scene and 'red chairing.' You create a character and sit in
a chair as that character while the group interviews you. Then our
rather formidable drama teacher gave us very set instructions for a
scene in which we're police beating up protesters and while she
sketched the dramatic arc of the scene it was up to us to impro the
lines and action which she shot on film.
you deserve a break today. the rabbit bitten hills.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Dropped working on chapter 1 for now and worked on chap 2 with Kiran on the history of autism. Also worked on the long poem ‘last & first knocks’yesterday.
Anyway, this afternoon we had a break and I drove to Tawa to one of the cut-price stores to buy trainers as I can’t do my Performance Arts class in Doc Martins. I wanted black trainers but all they had in my size were these quite smart black Nikes. But I couldn’t buy them, I quipped to the assistant “If I bought these I’d be another middle-aged guy in Nikes” which she thought amusing. I can’t wear them because I think of sweat shops even though I know other brands use the same sweat shops. And I remembered, when I lived in Singapore, this leadership guru jerk who once hosted a leadership forum we were all forced to attend for an entire weekend prancing around in his stupid Nikes. So I couldn’t get over my Nike bar and we finally found a cheaper, less branded pair of sneakers for me to wear. Made in China, of course.
beyond the beyond. the transcend
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
We went to the 6.30PM performance of Macbeth at Circa theatre. The whole theatre was packed with not a spare seat in sight. I didn't enjoy this production that much as it was too formal and wooden for my taste--there was not enough movement on stage. The glass of Stoneleigh 02 Pinot Noir beforehand, though, was divine. Kiran was terribly bored.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Off to see Macbeth this evening at Circa and we're waiting to see if Kiran has got either of the two jobs she has applied for. And I have an assignment to write this afternoon on 'wot iz a gud teachur.' Yes, well....
Sunday, August 08, 2004
Good brief essay on the phrase "et in arcadia ego."
Saturday, August 07, 2004
This is Basil Brush. I'm a huge fan of this fox.
On a darker note, readers of this blog will have noted my dismay at the current massive lunge to the right in New Zealand. In the early 90s we had a National, conservative party government that espoused free-market economics. I didn't support that government but it would be crazy to call it a 'racist' government--in fact, it was National under Bolger who made major recompense to Tanui and there was progress, in my view, on treaty issues. They were tories, I didn't like them, but I didn't hate them either--I just disagreed with them over policies.
The current National leader Don Brash is a nasty piece of work. He's trying to win an election by playing the race card. As a result, NZ media has felt the need to 'air' the race and immigration issue and has made the chronic mistake of allowing the racist National Front to speak and espouse their views. In fact, the media has been far too tolerant and polite to the NF. We are meant to feel comforted that by being polite to skinhead, racist, homophobic louts NZ practises tolerance and so the grand high-ground of liberal democracy is maintained. And the NF make great television--they are weird and compelling, a real spectacle. Nazis make good ratings and that's the problem--but the media should remember that these guys go out and beat people up, they condone mass-murder, and they should never be given time on national televison and radio.
Such lofty notions of free-speech all help spread the now newly fashionable anti-semitism and so it comes not as a complete surprise that a Jewish cemetery, not ten minutes drive from our house, has been vandalised and a prayer-house burned. This is the second attack on a Jewish graves in Wellington this year. Jeez.
Thursday, August 05, 2004
I almost wish I was there--convention idol? Ha , ha.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Very cold but clear last night. I watched an episode from the melancholic Sex and the City then popped outside for a star watch. Scorpius was right over the house and my eye picked out Sagitarius, a constellation I know 'half-know'. I know where it is, sure, but I don't see the shape. Then, after consulting my map, I saw this gorgeous little constellation Corona Australis, a little Tiffany tiara of stars.
Good news: the first printing of 1,000 copies of the book have sold and we're checking with the publisher to see if a second run is on the cards. Now all I have to do is find time outside of the 20 hrs a week of time in class to do some writing on the next book.
Although I was tired I worked on tweaking a few poems 'Alice, I Said' and 'War against liberty.' I've deciced to shelve liberty for a while although I do enjoy the rhythm--it's really a rock lyric.
Song of the day: 'I'm straight' by The Modern Lovers. "Why always stoned? You, hippy Johnny. I'm not stoned & I want to take his place." The excellent sleeve notes to the CD re-issue of The Modern Lovers contains a shocking piece of rock lore: Jonathan's love of the old world, parents, the modern world, niave romanticism and adolescent straight-guy notions of 'girlfriends' (rightly observed as also 'chivalrous') first appeared in 1971 amid long-hair progressives, smug hippies, the new orthodoxy of guys and 'old ladies.'
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Funny moment: a young student says "where are you from?" with that 'I hear an accent in your voice' intonation and I say "Wellington but I was born outside of Manchester" and she says "Manchester--I'd rather go there than London!" "Why?" I ask. "Coz I love so much of the music that comes from there Happy Mondays, New Order..." To which I confess that I left the North before these bands appeared--though I have been back a few times. Old?
Monday, August 02, 2004
Worked on yet another revision of 'In Flight.' Looking better, though.
Nice email from the Poetry society. Would I be interested in being a reviewer for the newsletter? I say 'yes' to one review. And would I be interested in sending some poems and/or reviews to a Taranaki magazine called Bravado? I say OK to some poems but hold off from the reviews. poetry reviews are difficult and while one might be fun, two could be a chore.
Classes start this morning at 8.30 Am. Back to school! Remember Rodney Dangerfield? Confession: in a list of ten favourite films I would most certainly included the clownish Easy Money despite some slow moments in the film.
Sunday, August 01, 2004
I’m over at a girlfriend’s apartment (by girlfriend I mean woman who is a friend rather than partner) with my Dad. The girlfriend is explaining to us her financial problems—she’s broke, has mounting debts and faces eviction. Yet she has this very wealthy suitor who wants her to marry him and thereby solve all her problems. The way she tells the story is oddly-enough all in the third person “She could do this but she won’t!” Dad doesn’t understand why she doesn’t marry the guy and solve her problems: surely this is the most sensible course of action. “But Dad” I say “Can’t you see that it’s exactly this pressure and these difficulties that make her cherish her freedom even more?” Girlfriend—whose wearing cute black Betty Gable shorts—seems to be enjoying the attentions of her Mr Big and she picks up a quaint, ornate telephone and announces that Suitor is coming over. At which point I realize that I am lying in a sleeping bag on the floor of Girlfriend’s apartment wearing just boxer shorts while Dad reclines on an enormous sofa. I don’t want the suitor to get the wrong idea about me and girlfriend—Girl friend is cute and attractive but friends are all we are and all we shall ever be.
Girlfriend then announces that we need to meet suitor at the tube station. So we pile out of the apartment and—voila!—we are suddenly all walking down a brightly-lit subway, posters on the wall, stalls and concessions stands abound, walking to a train. At this moment, I have the blinding insight that I am in a movie, a character on screen, and that furthermore the film will end in exactly minutes. “Eight minutes to go!” I rather smugly and cheerfully announce as I give a little tap on a passing poster. “We have eight minutes to go!” And I turn to girlfriend, whose face I never see in the dream, and suddenly launch into to lecture on post-modernism to her and Dad: “You know this all so very PoMO. One way of thinking about post-modernism is as a crisis in modes of representation and the relation between these modes of representation and knowledge. There is no realism outside of conventions of realism and so by drawing attention to the status of the representation as representation one claims a certain realism by foregrounding the representation as artifice. In doing so all claims to absolute knowledge or to a sublime are lost to the overarching power of representation.” I’m on a roll, we’re moving towards the station, the movie is going to end and the audience is going to love this! I continue my lecture to my unseen companions who are walking with me. “Another way of thinking about postmodernism is the mediation of everyday experience. Our lived experience comprises of representations and media—you could say that our experience is made of lights, sounds, effects—so very true especially as we are in a film! Mediation is all around us! There is no unmediated experience, I’m afraid.” I laugh and turn to look at the subway lights, the adverts for mobile phones, the stalls, the subway lights, the sounds of people walking, stomping, the subway lights…I’m going into a full-blown migraine/autistic shutdown. The lights are far too bright, the sounds are deafening, I can’t shut it out! I whirl and fall in terrible searing pain. Shut it out! Shut it out! And then, as I do in chronic migraine bouts, I fall asleep for a few minutes. Out, out, out…
I wake up on the station floor which is now less crowded. There is vomit in my mouth and down my chin (I sometimes vomit if I have bad migraine). Where is Dad and girlfriend? Surely I’ve been asleep for just a few minutes?
I get up and walk outside the station. It’s a bright and sunny day and I’m somewhere in the Northern US. Boston? I can tell it’s the north because the air is brisk and chilly. Lovely weather. My vision is a little blurred and I look at the time on my old Fossil watch. 12.30? But it was evening when we walked to the station and I must have crashed for a few minutes. Where am I? Where’s my ID? I need to cross the highway and ask for directions.
And then I remember. I was due at the College at 8.30 AM this morning and that’s in NZ, a different country. Oh god….I shouldn’t even be here and where am I? I’m stranded and this all strangely real…
I awake. I’m not in the film now. Right? Right. Such relief at waking.
And in the morning? I get up and clean the house and listen to The Modern Lovers. I start crying during ‘Old World’ and ‘Hospital’ because the songs are so sad and pathetic and beautiful. I’m really quite upset so I close the bathroom and just cry while I’m cleaning the loo. I’m allowed to cry, I’m a poet. Ha ha. I feel a bit wrecked.