Monday, 26 September 2016

Entertainment Monday: Weird Al Yankovic (Monday, September 26, 2016)

Entertainment Monday: Weird Al Yankovic

On September 17, my family celebrated my oldest brother Robert's birthday by going to see Weird Al Yankovic perform live at Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady, New York as part of Weird Al's Mandatory World Tour.  Of course, Weird Al has been a brand name performer since that 1980s when his first musical parodies of Michael Jackson and Madonna bought him fame and a unique brand that has never really been matched by any artist since.  Make no mistake about it either, Weird Al is a musical artist.  His band and he are true musicians and performers.

I wanted to share some of the songs we got to hear Weird Al perform at his Mandatory World Tour concert. Weird Al's entrance was one of the coolest aspects of the concert, there is a big viewing screen set up on stage for the concert and concert goers watched as he walked through the hallways of the concert hall, down through the main lobby past workers and late arrivals and into the performance hall and up to the main stage, while performing his opening song. I have heard tale of him doing this at other concerts, so while it was not an overwhelming surprise it was none-the-less a unique and cool way to kick off the show.

The song Weird Al came into was Tacky, his parody of Pharrell's hit song Happy!

Weird Al performed his classic parody of Coolio's Gangster's Paradise, Amish Paradise, dressed in full Amish regalia.

One of the great things about Weird Al's parodies is that they are of songs that are really popular, so almost everyone knows the tunes and the music, even if they don't always know the parody lyrics.

Party in the CIA, pardon of Miley Cyrus' Party in the U.S.A.

Part of the performance was a shortened compilation of songs that Weird Al has parodied.   There were also songs where parts of Weird Al's video's were played on screen in the background while he performed live on stage. One of the songs that he performed while the video played on the screen behind him was his parody of Chamillionaire's Ridin', White and  Nerdy.

I really thought the entire concert was amazing and one of the best concerts I have been to.  The only drawback for me was that I enjoy dancing at concerts (even though I do not dance well) and being we were in a seated auditorium it was not the most convenient venue for dancing in, without causing a distraction for other concert-goers.

As a big alt music fan one of my favorite songs was Weird Al's Inactive, his parody of Imagine Dragon's Radioactive.

I also loved his song Foil which parodies Lorde's hit song Royals.

If you are considering going to a concert but have a limited budget, I think going to see Weird Al is a great choice, especially for families.  His parodies cover so many genres and it's a light hearted and fun evening for everyone. If he does chose to tour again I would definitely go to see him again.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Good things in term 3

I’m a first year teacher teaching in the outback. Term 3 was a series of ups and downs but I wasn’t so harried so I had time to enjoy myself and be present. Here are some good things that happened in Term 3.

Variety Bash

The Variety Bash is a charity event where drivers travel around Australia to raise money for disadvantaged children. Anyone can participate in the Variety Bash, as long as they raise $7600 and have a car that is 30 years old. The cars usually get outlandishly decorated for fun and the participants dress in costumes. This year, the group travelled from Melbourne to Darwin. They visit rural towns along the way and my town was one of them.

The children look forward to the event as the Bashers had visited the town before. They bring in a lot of business to the town and it’s good to meet new people. The group stayed in the caravan parks, motels and in people’s homes. I would have liked to have hosted someone but I didn’t have a spare bed. My school hosted the group for breakfast…. all 300 of them. I volunteered to help with breakfast. So on a cold Saturday, we served hot breakfast items such as eggs, bacon and savoury mince as well as toast, muffins, cereals and fruits.

The cars were beautifully decked out, each one having a theme and most seemed to be sponsored by companies. Most of the Bashers were in costume much to the delight of the children. It was like trick or treating in reverse as the adults were dressed up. They handed out treats to all the kids who had come and the children walked away with bags full of goods. Some kids had two or three bags. The kids received sweets and toys. I was given a usb in a shape of a racing car and stickers!

Career Week

The last week of school was career week for the high school students. The juniors had an in school incursion where people from various professions came to visit them. They also visited places in town and did work experience. I was lucky enough to accompany the seniors on a four day excursion out to a major city.  Some of the kids had not much exposure to the outside world and they had their first experience going to restaurants and hotel. We spent our time looking over the universities and colleges as well as taking tours of some companies. It was also a shopping trip as well as we stopped over at malls to have lunch. The children brought a lot of money with them to buy things they couldn’t get back home. On the trip,  I experienced laser tag for the first time! It was fun and I loved running around.

I was invited to a country wedding for a staff member. She had a barn wedding and it was gorgeous.  The wedding was held in the backyard followed by a reception in a barn.  The barn was beautifully decorated with fairy lights and there were hessian table settings to suit the country theme.

I am looking forward to next term which will be final one for the year.  I’m looking forward to the end of year activities like Christmas carols, prom and graduation. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Entertainment Monday (19 September 2016) Pants on Fire

Pants on Fire is a made of tv movie by Disney. It’s a story about Jack Parker (Bradley Steven Perry) , a 15 year old boy who lies to get out of trouble and to impress people. His biggest lie is that he helps an underprivileged boy named Mikey by being his friend and tutor. Jack made up Mikey so that he could have an excuse for being late and not doing things. Jack’s principal nominates Jack for the Student of the Year award for being an upstanding student. The Student of the Year gets their dream internship and Jack wants to be a bat boy for the Red Sox.

After Jack’s nomination Mikey (played by Tyrel Jackson Williams) appears as well as some other people he lied about such as his hot long distance girlfriend and aliens that had tried to adbuct him. Jack and his friends try to solve whether Mikey has magically come to life or if he’s just another liar trying to con them.
Bradley Steven Perry’s acting was satisfactory for a kids movie. Jack is a likeable character despite being a liar. His lies never hurt anyone but he was starting to become a compulsive liar. All the rest of the cast are okay too rather than outstanding but I expected as much. The roles were one dimensional and typical for kids movies. Jack had two friend, one goof ball and one intelligent one that exist just to support him,  two clueless parents, an resentful sister and a cute love interest.

I really liked the premise of this movie and working out the truth about Mikey. It’s not a clever mystery and it’s not supposed to be as it is a kid’s movie. I thought Tyrel Williams was excellent as Mikey. He played him eccentrically like he was alien in human form which added to the mystery. There were a few cute and funny moments as Jack tries to find out about Mikey. The best part being when Jack sneaks into the house of the girl he likes because she had invited Mikey over. There are some near misses where he almost gets discovered by her family members which I thought was amusing.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Entertainment Monday: Water (Monday, September 12 2016)

This weeks Entertainment Monday focuses on songs about Water.  It's been something of a dry Summer here in Upstate New York and I figured perhaps I could invoke a bit of rain our way by sharing some new songs and some not so new songs that feature Water in some capacity in their lyrics.

There is a wonderful new song from the band Maybird, called Turning into Water!

Released in 2015, I really like the old time sound to Pokey LaFarge's Something in the Water.

Easily my favorite song from the past year about Water, Ra Ra Riot and Rostam's song titled Water.

Even though her video kind of freaks me out.  Bishop Briggs shows off her impressive vocal talent in her song River which really put her on the map as an artist this past year.

Here Comes the Rain Again is classic 1980s song that features the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics.

I could very easily do an entire post on David Gray songs that I love, and while he does not typically do instrumentals, this strictly instrumental piece titled January Rain is a song I love listening to in a quiet and reflective moment.

The final song I wished to share is a song titled Riverman from the extremely amazing artist Nick Drake who sadly ended his own life in 1974 at the age of 26.  His music lives on though as a beautiful legacy and tribute to his talent.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Entertainment Mondays: Charlie Puth (5 September 2016)

I don’t keep up with new music anymore but I sometimes stumble across new songs through Youtube auto-play. One song that has been on my replay list is We Don’t Talk Anymore – Charlie Puth featuring Selena Gomez.

 I love duets and I love the laid back vibe of this song. It’s about a couple who have broken up but still miss each other. I’m a fan of Selena and I particularly like the live version of this song.

I listen to a few other Charlie Puth songs and I like One Call Away. My students sometimes sing it too. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Entertainment Monday: Monday August 29, 2016 The Secret Life Of Pets (WITH SPOILERS)

Entertainment Monday: The Secret Life of Pets (WITH SPOILERS)

The Secret Life of Pets follows the antics of a New York City dog named Max, who revels in the attention of his owner until the day she adopts and brings home a rescue dog named Duke.  Max and Duke's relationship gets off to a shaky start when Max feels threatened by the new dog on the block.  Duke is a rather large dog relative to Max, who is a terrier. Duke begins to bully Max once he realizes that he is not welcome in Max's home, but Max uses blackmail against Duke to reassert his dominance of the household.

When the dog walker that Max's owner has hired comes to walk Max, Duke and the other neighborhood dogs, Max uses his power over Duke to manipulate him and demean him.  Duke is not one to take Max's orders laying down though, so he tricks Max into a situation that ultimately results in the two dogs being separated from the dog-walking party.

Once separated from their friends, Max and Duke face a variety of trials, tribulations and adventures in their attempts to return home to their owner.  Their primary adversary in their efforts to return home are the dog catchers who are constantly chasing them and an (literal) underground network of stray pets who's ring leader is a brash, take no prisoners, bunny rabbit named Snowball.

 Max and Duke are doing all they can to return home but somehow they keep ending up further and further away from home.  In the mean time a search and rescue party made up of a variety of the apartment buildings pets, led by Gidget a Pomeranian who holds a secret crush on Max, is formed to find the two missing dogs.

Duke who was saved from an Animal Shelter is in particular danger from the dog catchers because he fears if he is to be returned to the Animal Shelter that he will be put down.  Over the course of their efforts to get back to their owner Max and Duke form a bond and embark on a side journey to find Duke's former owner whom Duke loved very much and misses since he got lost and placed in the dog pound.

Sadly Duke and Max are not able to find Duke's former owner and ultimately they are tracked down by Snowball and Snowball's henchmen who were deceived into helping Max and Duke the first time they had met.  Max and Duke had lied about being stray pets to get out of a compromised situation with the dog catchers when they needed the assistance of Snowball and the stray pet organization he ran.

Snowball and his cronies, motivated by revenge for the deception, are able to track down Duke and Max just after the two dogs become prisoners inside the Dog Catcher's truck.  Just as Snowball was about to get his revenge against Max and Duke for their deception, Gidget and the band of Pets come to the rescue in an epic battle of Household Pets vs. Stray Pets.  During the battle Duke, who is trapped inside the dog catcher's truck is thrown from the Brooklyn Bridge and into the East River where he will drown unless he is saved.  Max does all he can to try and rescue Duke but he does not have the key he needs to unlock Duke's cage.  Snowball whose hard shell is cracked by the dire situation dives into the East River with the keys needed to help Max rescue Duke.

After the rescue Max, Duke and all the Pets are able to return to their apartment homes in Manhattan. Max now realizes just how much Gidget likes him and they end up together.  Duke and Max are reunited with their owner and have a new found respect for each other, even becoming good friends.  Snowball is spotted by a child who abducts him off the street, taking him away from his band of Stray Pets.  Even though Snowball is angered by the abduction, as soon as the little girl expresses how much she loves him, Snowball's cold heart melts and he is able to let go of his bitterness and jealousy.

There is a lot of good action in the Secret Life of Pets, as the story never drags.  Even most of the bad guys are likable characters who really just want to be loved by an owner. I think most kids and adults would really enjoy the movie.  Despite the fighting there is not too much violence in the movie, and it is not as suggestive to adult subjects/themes as some cartoons can be.

I loved The Secret Life of Pets.  I think it is one of the best cartoon movies I have seen, and rank it second only to Zootopia out of the cartoons I have seen in the last 5 years. It is absolutely worth going to see in the theaters and later buying on DVD to enjoy over and over again.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

My life in the Outback 5 months on

I’m now 5 months into my stay as a teacher of the Outback.  Not everything has gone according to plan but I’m making the best of it. I’ve recently changed my position in the school which wasn’t something that I wanted to do. However, it has given me new opportunities which will be good for my career. Instead of being a classroom teacher, I am now a learning support teacher. It means that I help students from various classes who are struggling with literacy and numeracy. It is a rewarding job to teach students who are falling behind. They don’t always want to be helped but I keep trying anyways.

Besides school, I have grown very comfortable in this town. It rained heavily a few months ago so the desert is a nice green. Well… as green as a desert can get. It will never be lush in the desert and while the plants are green, they are still rough sparse and pointy looking things. It’s almost spring and I look forward to anything that will bloom here.

Another thing I am looking forward to in spring is Spring Break! I’ve learnt my lesson when it comes to school holidays and that is to have all my work finished before I leave for vacation. The last time around, I decided to go on vacation in the first week and then finish my work on the second week. It was a mistake as I had unexpected delays.  I ended up doing all my work during the weekend before school would start. I nearly had a breakdown.

I will have my 30th birthday in the holidays. I am planning to go back to Brisbane and have a big night out with my girlfriends. I was thinking about doing a spa day.

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