Big Name Pagans

Once upon a time I had to weather the indignity of appearing before a magistrate on false allegations because a certain puerile wannabe set about to disparage a BNP who then mistakenly attempted to acquire intervention orders against people who were not involved and also far better prepared to prove as much.

Except for the actual perpetrator who was named but could not be found to be served a summons.

It’s not a thing I’d like to re-live and in itself is a small matter now. But I feel it would be remiss to not draw attention to the fact that this same pretentious little git is now advertising himself as a “master” of all things incense related (quite the achievement after a couple of years on the job) amongst his considerable résumé, designed, one can only assume, to propel himself from the role of agent provocateur to Big Name Pagan.

Update: the individual in question, let’s call him “Gunnar” (because of his habit of starting things he is gonna finish one day) has an Etsy shop from which one can purchase the master’s wares! Tremendous excitement!

What maybe never was

What is trust? What is love?


The old pricing paradigm

It’s been a while since I ventured to write on this topic, but a recent revelation has brought me to the point where I must ask a question:

In an industry for which there are no discernible standards of any kind, how does one arrive at a price for their services?

I learned from a friend that somebody that I used to know has, despite frequent and vehement protestations to the opposite, taken up with a certain BNP and is charging $160.00 per hour for Tarot readings. Granted, that breaks down to $80.00 per half-hour session, but most industries base their data upon hourly rates, and so shall I.

I suppose in some respects the actual amount of money is not the point of my query, but it is worth noting that $160.00 per hour is a phenomenal rate of pay. According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an anaesthetist earns on average $124.10 per hour, and that’s pretty much the highest rate of pay in the country. Perhaps I should add legitimate rate of pay. I understand that there is an award rate for anaesthetists.

No, the point of my query is how one arrives at that specific rate for that specific service. What paradigm or point of comparison was used to arrive at the rate of $160.00 per hour?

I can’t speak for other people, of course, but I am of the opinion that in order to justify the outlay of a significant quantity of money there needs to be some sense of value in the transaction. I might pay a little more for better seats at an event, for example. I might pay more for additional features on a motor vehicle. But when it comes to services such as Tarot readings, the concept of value for money becomes a little blurry. In days of yore one might have crossed another’s palm with silver in exchange for their divinations. That, in today’s money, translates to a few bucks, as far as I’m concerned. I personally have been the recipient of this particular individual’s tarotic deliberations and can attest to their mediocrity. I’ve had a number of readings done over the years and very few have been particularly impactful. I suspect that this person will sex things up a bit when there’s hard cash in the offing but does that represent value?

It is my contention that people in the business of making a career out of their (or others’) spirituality feel as though they can charge whatever they like for their services. In my previous articles I have made clear my view on these practices. I believe it is unethical to charge $80.00 to spend 30 minutes talking about one’s interpretation of the Tarot. People who save lives for a living don’t have the audacity to ask that much of their clients. People who have earned the highest qualifications and dedicated their lives to the betterment of themselves and other people don’t charge that much. To my knowledge the only others who feel as though they can charge whatever they like for whatever they do are criminals, CEOs of large multinational corporations, record company executives and charlatans. They all conform to the “old pricing paradigm”:

There’s one born every minute

My poor neglected blog.

It was such a nice day today I sat out on my porch and enjoyed Spring at its finest. I experienced a flash of inspiration and started to write. I suppose it could be described as poetry, which is not something I indulge in too frequently. I love poetry, but as a rule, only other people’s. Here goes:

I listened and I heard them

Your whispers on the wind.

I listened and I heard them

And took their meaning in.

From your words and through them

I came to comprehend

Your sadness, frustration, anger and sense of loss

Your arrogant self-belief, injury and insult

Your unedifying lustful spite, your desperation and despair.

Then comprehension’s grasp loosened

And your words again became as air

And from the East the wind

propelled them somewhere, anywhere

To fall as rain upon the earth

But not anyone who cares.

Running for the covers

I invite you all to visit my mate Rob’s blog, Run for the Covers, to read an article I contributed. It’s a great concept for a blog and makes for very entertaining reading. Cover versions of songs are compared and evaluated against the original versions, with a tally being kept as to which version is better. Some claims are contentious, and discussion is welcome.

The thesis of my contribution is that the Steven Wilson version of Alanis Morissette’s Thank U is…

Actually, you can read it here and find out for yourself.

This is a comprehensive and thought-provoking list of films and television with occult, pagan and witchcraft themes. Most excellent!

Galloway & Friends

There are loads of them! But I will discuss 10 here that are worthy of a bit of attention. Firstly, I won’t mention the commonly popular witchy ones – ‘The Craft’ and ‘Practical Magic’ in this run-down. This list will comprise some rather obscure films that many of you may never have heard of due to their age. At the end of this post, I’ll list a few more that fit in the themes.

1. The Wicker Man, 1973

Yeah I know. Let’s get this one out of the way. But I can’t go past without mentioning it, coz really, it’s a masterpiece in my opinion. It’s perhaps one of the most famous pagan films out there and now has a cult following. People even tour the sites where it was filmed. A 30th anniversary DVD was released in 2003 into a lovely Director’s Cut – this year it’s…

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More about teaching

So this morning we had the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Chris Bowen MP, and the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett MP announcing what they called “The National Plan for School Improvement” as part of their broader “Better Schools” initiative. The idea is that they believe the way to improve Australian educational standards is to address shortcomings in the teacher training process. They acknowledged that there is a high turnover of young teachers in their first few years of teaching and that they want to attract the best people to the job. Mr. Garrett specifically stated that they wanted teachers who are “likely to stay”. Which raises the first question: What are the factors preventing people from staying in teaching?

In order to improve the standard of teachers coming out of our universities, the ministers are proposing that candidates are tested in two important ways. Initially, they will be run through a raft of “emotional tests” (similar to the kind of things applicants to degrees in medicine are subjected) prior to commencing their studies, so that candidates are demonstrably the kind of people the public might want to have teaching our children. Towards the end of their studies – which will also involve some kind of improvements to and standardisation of practicum experience, of which the details are yet to be revealed – teacher candidates will also have to complete a national literacy and numeracy test. Candidates who fall outside of the top 30% of results will not be able to proceed with their qualifications until such a time as they can achieve the required result. Which raises the second question: Surely people who qualify to enter tertiary degrees in Education have already demonstrated sufficiently high abilities in literacy and numeracy?

The so-called Gonski Report into school funding, which was a report into Australian school funding by an independent expert panel headed by David Gonski, highlighted a large number of flaws in the education funding model used in Australia and made dozens of recommendations to address these flaws. There has been a popular movement to support the recommendations of the report, with the catch-cry “I give a Gonski” enabling people to feel as though they are striking a blow against the rapidly diminishing prospects of Australian students. The recommendations can be largely summarised into one statement: Education funding in Australia should be equitable for all students and be based upon logical, common-sense principles. There is a strong focus on the notion of equity, specifically with regards to “disadvantaged” students. The report’s 19th finding states, “The key dimensions of disadvantage that are having a significant impact on educational performance in Australia are socioeconomic status, Indigeneity, English language proficiency, disability and school remoteness.” Finding 20 goes further, “There are complex interactions between factors of disadvantage, and students who experience multiple factors are at a higher risk of poor performance.” Time to editorialise: If the Gonski recommendations into school funding are based upon logical, common-sense principles and are designed to deal with inequity and disadvantage in our society then they are doomed to failure because in order for them to be implemented they must first pass through Parliament. There are too many conflicting ideologies and interests at play in the world of politics for common sense to prevail, let alone logic. Which raises the third question: Is being seen to try and address issues in education by targeting teachers simply a convenient means by which to side-step the more significant, societal issues that are evidently having a far heavier impact?

I’ve raised the questions, now I will offer my answers (whilst furiously editorialising).

What are the factors preventing people from staying in teaching? Well, it would appear as though there are many factors. There has been quite a bit of research done into the topic, because it is actually a worldwide phenomenon. One report claims that anywhere up to a third of teachers will leave during the first three years of a teaching career. That figure can climb up to 50% within the first 3-5 years for teachers at schools  in low socio-eonomic areas. The report found two major factors to why teachers leave the profession early – lack of support on the job and workplace conditions. I would add to that in the state of Victoria at least the lack of job security and the constant fiddling about with curriculum imposed by the government. Work conditions don’t necessarily relate to salary, by the way. It’s actually pretty low in the list of priorities for teachers, despite the recent industrial action. Teachers are expected to take on workloads that are huge, not only in terms of hours per week (including unpaid hours) but also in terms of the scope of practice. Teachers are frequently expected to not only teach but generate curriculum content, conduct and supervise extra-curricular activities, attend several meetings per week, patrol school grounds during breaks, deal with parents’ concerns, provide pastoral care and counseling advice both formally and informally to large numbers of students, deal with the emotional needs of students and other staff, occasionally intervene in violent altercations, suffer physical, verbal and emotional abuse and that’s all on top of what you’re trained to do at university. Couple that with having all these expectations placed upon you without any additional remuneration and often without any guarantee of a job next semester or next year, and you wonder why teachers find their jobs difficult?

Surely people who qualify to enter tertiary degrees in Education have already demonstrated sufficiently high abilities in literacy and numeracy? Well, see that’s just the thing. I don’t see how the government hopes to address issues in the quality of teachers coming out of education degrees without first having addressed the issues inherent in those tertiary institutions that offer education qualifications. Surely the people educating the educators must also be of the very highest standard? I wonder how many people working in university education departments are ex-school teachers who just had to leave and returned to the nice, safe world of academia? I really do wonder that. I suspect it’s quite a lot. This comes back to my previous musing on the topic of teaching – being highly educated or highly intelligent doesn’t mean you’re a good teacher.

Is being seen to try and address issues in education by targeting teachers simply a convenient means by which to side-step the more significant, societal issues that are evidently having a far heavier impact? Oh, of course it is. The 17th finding from the Gonski Report says,

“New funding arrangements for schooling should aim to ensure that:
• differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or
• all students have access to a high standard of education regardless of their background or

Neither of those statements have anything to do with teacher performance. Indeed, teacher performance is a secondary issue in the Education debate, but it’s being brought to the fore because a) it enables politicians to pull tricks like suggesting that  performance-based pay bonuses are the means by which to motivate teachers to their best efforts; and b) it’s easier to appear to be solving teachers’ problems than actually fixing real societal problems. The government needs to do more to address the division in society between its “haves” and “have nots”. It needs to address the attitudes of its citizens towards education and teachers generally. It needs to address the deficiencies in service provision to disabled, indigenous and disadvantaged people. These are the serious issues. Issues in Education exist, but fixing them now can only hope to serve a cosmetic purpose (especially in an election year).

Time to end this rant. Conclusion: Education is, once again, which is to say for the third consecutive election, being kicked around like the proverbial football in a vain attempt to lure voters. If you’re unsure of how you feel about the issue, may I suggest talking to some teachers? If you have kids at school, talk to their teachers. Get involved in your kids’ education. Be interested in what they’re doing. Role-model for them a healthy attitude to learning. Raise concerns with your kids’ school. Don’t wait until reports come home to give a shit about what’s going on. That way you’ll be doing what you can to help your kid succeed. Believe me, that will be more effective than any about of governmental meddling.

Teaching and what is becoming

Both of my parents were teachers. I swore blind that I would never become a teacher, and yet here I am.

I swore blind that I wouldn’t become a teacher because I didn’t like school when I was a kid. The main reason why I didn’t enjoy it was because I was quite bored. Under-stimulated by the matters to which I was required to turn my attention. I say to students now that there is no such thing as a boring topic, only boring people. It’s a poverty of the imagination that leads one to conclude that something is “boring”. I say that, but I don’t really expect that many, if any, of my students will take me seriously. Because I know that when you’re at school, under normal school conditions, loads of things are boring. Even exciting things.

One of the hardest things a teacher is asked to do is make being at school an interesting occupation. It’s easier for me now that I’m a music teacher, because my students want to come to my lessons. I had the gratifying experience of a Year 8 girl tell me that my lessons were one of only two that she actually really enjoys at school. The other one was Woodwork. When I was a History teacher, and my students were required to attend compulsorily, it was a much more difficult task to engage students in the topic at hand. As an adult, it isn’t hard to see the value in learning about and discussing the important events from history. As a child, however, it isn’t about the value of the study of History, it’s about the topic at hand. It simply isn’t possible to have such amazingly good fortune that your entire class of diverse young individuals just happen to think that the lives of Australian pioneers is really interesting. That would be like expecting everyone you know to read the same newspaper you do, or watch exactly the same television programs. The best you can hope for is maybe 50% interest, with a possible 15% level of feigned interest included. The other 50% are probably not enjoying themselves very much and would rather be doing something else. Anywhere up to 5% of them may actively seek to sabotage lessons for their own amusement. The rest are asleep inside.

The mark of a good teacher, we’re told, is one that can make any topic interesting to the majority of students in their class. Very often, in order to achieve this, many hours of additional work are required, and very few of them will be acknowledged by anyone else. The first rule in making any topic interesting is to know the subject matter very well. Students are adept at sniffing out the teacher’s weaknesses, and they will know if you’re relying too heavily on a textbook or Googling on the fly. Obviously it’s not reasonable to expect teachers to know everything about everything (although many people do have this expectation) and a good teacher, when faced with an unfamiliar topic, will make the experience of learning about it something they include their students in. I’ve had to do it before, and the only thing that kept me from losing my sanity was an openness to possibility. My students and I shared the burden of learning something new. I would like to say it was an unmitigated success, but it wasn’t. It was a success, but mitigated by the inevitable few students who didn’t come along for the ride, for whatever reason.

The New South Wales government announced this week that they were raising expectations for teachers in that state. They want to raise the standard of tecahing – and hence learning, they believe – by making it easier to sack teachers that “under-perform” and by requiring teachers to pass literacy and numeracy tests before earning registration to teach. They really want the most intelligent people to become teachers. Seems fair enough, I suppose, except that one of the things we learn in teacher-school is that intelligence is a multifarious thing. Being a proper wizard at Maths won’t make you a great teacher. Being any kind of expert doesn’t necessarily equate with success in teaching. People who aren’t teachers don’t understand that. Those of us whose experience of education is only as a student seldom have any real insight into what it is that teachers actually do. This is one of the reasons why teachers get cranky when politicians in election years start up with lots of hoo-hah about education reforms.

I won’t bother getting into the political aspects of the Education debate because I find politics is never a satisfying topic to investigate in detail. I will make one observation, which is that all of the argument about teachers’ pay and entitlements being centred around “performance” is ridiculous. There are no universal standards against which to make comparisons between teachers, and far too many uncontrolled variables to make sense of any statistical information the government/s like to bandy about when teachers arc up about money and conditions. It is interesting to see a government suggest minimum standards of erudition for teachers, though. Especially when they can get by on popularity alone.

Smoking and what should not have been (again)

Last year I wrote a response to the media debacle surrounding the prank phone call made by a couple of Australian radio presenters to the hospital in which the Duchess of Cambridge was staying.

Reading the news yesterday, I learned of another debacle worthy of mention. Another radio presenter in Australia, Chrissie Swan, was put in a difficult situation when a photographer took some shots of her smoking a cigarette whilst alone in her car. The reason it was difficult is because she is currently pregnant. She apparently attempted to bid on the photographs to prevent their being published but lost to a women’s magazine. So to pre-empt the inevitable, she went on radio and television and tearfully admitted to having struggled with her nicotine addiction with this, her third pregnancy, and was having a sneaky cigarette once a day, unbeknownst to her family, colleagues and friends. Her positive slant on the story is that at least now the shame of the whole experience has put her off smoking altogether. But she also said people are “rightly disgusted” by her actions.

There are so many things wrong with this story it’s hard to know where to begin. So I will begin with profanity:

Why the fuck don’t people mind their own fucking business?

I mean really, just because someone is recognisable by their public persona it shouldn’t follow that their private life is a topic open to scrutiny by one and all, especially against their will. Chrissie’s losing bid was allegedly $53,000. She was prepared to pay  that much to protect her privacy. But what’s really disturbing is when the women’s magazine outbid her at the last minute by $2000 she felt her only recourse was to go out and publicly debase herself before anyone else got the chance. How is that acceptable?

Why is a pregnant woman having a smoke such a big deal anyway?

It’s not as though it hasn’t been going on for as long as tobacco has been in use, is it? Obviously if a man smokes alone in his car whilst his spouse is pregnant it’s not exactly newsworthy. So what made this story newsworthy was the fact that a woman was doing something that is seen as being WRONG. Medical science tells us that smoking when pregnant can cause a range of things to happen to the unborn child that may result in health problems later in life. Most pregnant women will be aware of the facts about smoking during pregnancy. A lot of them will attempt to quit, and many of them may succeed. But quitting is hard. Nicotine is a bastard of a drug, horribly addictive. Not to mention easy to obtain and perfectly legal. If a pregnant woman struggles to quit, then that makes her no different to anyone else who attempts to give up smoking. Being either pregnant or a woman should have no bearing on that discussion.

Most importantly, being pregnant does not make a woman’s body public property or the object of public inquiry.

Well, I suppose in reality people seem to think it does. What’s important is that more of us refuse to agree with them.


It had all the hallmarks of being a real doozy: The lights before my eyes, blurring of the vision, searing pain that arced across my cerebral cortex like lightning. I think I managed to catch it with analgesia and willpower before it really set in.

So that’s something.

My mind, however, is a complex and multifarious thing that at times delights and astounds.

Today, it was being a real prick.

When I’m trying to keep my shit together the last thing I need is an earworm. I pretty much always have some tune booting around in there and most of the time it’s something I like. Some of the time it’s completely improvised. Like earlier this morning I was grooving along to a jazzy little number that unfolded into something very pleasing. But when the headache kicked in things went a bit nasty.

Mash-ups are a strange but compelling musical phenomenon that have really taken off in recent years as editing software has become more readily available. A friend of mine will sometimes intentionally create them to irritate me. Occasionally he takes requests. Today my mind mashed up two pieces relentlessly in some kind of hateful, masochistic orgy or wrongness. Here are the two tunes:

I really liked the first couple of Coldplay albums. Their more recent offerings are not up my street. Repetitious and drab, is how I’d describe this piece. On its own it would be a diabolical earworm. Its companion in this ungodly meeting of muses was:

From about 1:54, anyway. I’ve managed to cling to my sanity, but only just. I hate Gilbert & Sullivan.

I welcome you to imagine how I managed to combine the two. Add a comment with your suggestion to how it’s done and I’ll let you know how close to my actual pain you are. This is called empathy.

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